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Federer comes back to edge Youzhny for 2nd 5-set U.S. Open win

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NEW YORK (AP) — Given that Roger Federer entered Thursday with a 16-0 career record against his opponent, Mikhail Youzhny, and a 16-0 mark in the U.S. Open’s second round, one might have thought that their meeting at that stage in Flushing Meadows would have been no contest at all.

Think again.

Federer set aside an uncharacteristic 68 unforced errors and what appeared to be a bad back, managing to pull out his second five-set victory in a row at the U.S. Open by coming back to edge Youzhny 1-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

It is the first time in his long career that the 36-year-old Federer has played five-setters in both the first and second rounds at a Grand Slam tournament.

“These five-set battles are actually quite a lot of fun,” Federer said in his on-court interview in Arthur Ashe Stadium, “and I feel quite warmed up by now.”

The No. 3-seeded Federer won five consecutive U.S. Open championships from 2004-08 and also was the runner-up twice, including two years ago. But he missed last year’s tournament while taking off the second half of the season to let his back and surgically repaired left knee fully heal.

That time off paid obvious dividends: He is 37-3 with five titles in 2017, including his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, then 19th at Wimbledon in July. Federer did not lose any of the sets he played in seven matches at the All England Club.

Things have been rather different so far in New York.

Youzhny is a former top-10 player who reached the U.S. Open semifinals in 2006 and 2010, but he is now ranked 101st.

His level of play dipped considerably over the last two sets Thursday as he appeared to be restricted by a leg cramp.

“I was feeling (badly) there for Mikhail,” Federer said.

Federer was not quite himself for much of the match, either. He appeared slowed by the back that he tweaked earlier in August and his strokes were not at their usual level of crispness.

He also needed five sets to win in the first round Monday night against 19-year-old American Frances Tiafoe.

Against Youzhny, who is 35, Federer surprisingly faltered repeatedly. He got broken while serving for the second set at 5-4, and then once more while serving for the fourth set at 5-3.

While Federer did drop that second set in a tiebreaker, he recovered from his slip-up in the fourth. On his second set point, he hammered a return of a first serve that came in at 86 mph and broke to force a fifth, then engaged in a muted celebration by merely shaking his right fist.

At 1-all in the deciding set, Youzhny stumbled and collapsed to the court, grabbing at his right leg as he appeared to cramp up after whiffing on an attempted running swat at Federer’s lob. Youzhny stayed down for a few moments, then grimaced and limped around for the rest of that game.

Even with Youzhny clearly compromised, Federer did not take full advantage right away.

Federer’s unforced errors continued to mount in the fifth set – 11 in the first four games alone, including a badly shanked forehand on his first break point at 2-1, a netted backhand on his second, and a long forehand to let Youzhny hold there.

The next time he returned, though, Federer raced ahead love-40 and converted on his second break chance when Youzhny double-faulted to make it 4-2.

Another break in the final game ended things, allowing Federer to improve to 17-0 against Youzhny – and 17-0 in the second round at the U.S. Open.

Wozniacki upsets Muguruza to reach Pan Pacific Open final

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TOKYO — Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki upset top-ranked Garbine Muguruza 6-2, 6-0 to advance to the final of the Pan Pacific Open on Saturday.

Wozniacki, a champion here in 2010 and 2016, converted six of seven break points to reach her seventh final of 2017.

Playing in her first tournament since earning the WTA’s top ranking, Wimbledon champion Muguruza had 29 unforced errors to drop the final 10 games of the match.

“I didn’t feel that fresh,” Muguruza said. “In the long rallies, I was struggling a little bit. I felt my energy was a little bit low, but I think she just had a good match. I didn’t make the important shots in the important moments so the match went to her side very fast.”

Sixth-ranked Wozniacki will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Sunday’s final. Pavlyuchenkova rallied from being down 3-0 in the final set to beat former No. 1 Angelique Kerber 6-0, 6-7 (4), 6-4.

Pavlyuchenkova, who is aiming for her third title of 2017, broke serve seven times and won six of the final seven games.

Pavlyuchenkova admitted her slow start in the final set had her thinking about the next tournament in China.

“I was already thinking about going to Wuhan,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “In my head I was booking flights. But at the same time, I always fight to the last point.”

Fognini, Dzumhur meet in St. Petersburg Open final

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Fabio Fognini will play for his second ATP title of the year and Damir Dzumhur for the first of his career in the final of the St. Petersburg Open.

The third-seeded Fognini eliminated top-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 2-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5 (5) in 2 1/2 hours in the semifinals on Saturday. The Italian broke Bautista Agut only once, in the second set.

Fognini also beat Bautista Agut in July at Gstaad, where he won his fourth career title, all on clay. St. Petersburg, where he was a finalist in 2012, is on an indoor hard-court.

The unseeded Dzumhur defeated eighth-seeded Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany 6-3, 7-5. In a match of vulnerable servers, Struff was the least effective in winning less than 30 percent of his second serves and losing his serves five times.

“I was making him play more, because he likes fast points,” Dzumhur said. “I won because I didn’t give him easy balls that he likes.”

Dzumhur, of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is at a career-high ranking of 55 after reaching his first career final last month in Winston-Salem.

He has a 0-2 win record against Fognini.