US Open: Nadal-Anderson seems a mismatch, but upsets happen

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NEW YORK (AP) U.S. Open finalists Rafael Nadal and Kevin Anderson are both professional tennis players who were born in 1986. Not much else in common.

Heading into Sunday’s match – well, mismatch, apparently – Nadal owns 15 Grand Slam titles, including two at Flushing Meadows in 2010 and 2013. Anderson: zero.

Nadal has participated in 22 major finals. Anderson: zero.

Nadal has spent a total of more than 140 weeks at No. 1, his spot right now. Anderson: zero. Indeed, at No. 32, Anderson is the lowest-ranked U.S. Open finalist since the ATP began using computer rankings in 1973.

Of their previous tour-level matches, Nadal has won four. Anderson: zero.

Add it all up, and this much is certain: There are not a lot of reasons to expect Anderson to beat Nadal.

Sure, the 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Anderson, the tallest Grand Slam finalist in history, is equipped with a booming serve – he’s been broken only five times across 108 service games over the past two weeks – and so, in theory, the South African could make Nadal uncomfortable. Although even that seems unlikely, given that the 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) Nadal is among the game’s top returners and has won 43 percent of his opponents’ service games in the tournament.

“He serves so well. Playing with tons of confidence and doing it very aggressively,” Nadal said about Anderson. “I will need to impose my tempo.”

Anderson’s coach, Neville Godwin, put forth the idea that his guy, only once before even so far as a quarterfinal in 33 previous appearances at majors, should be pressure-free Sunday.

“He’s completely free. He’s completely surpassed any expectations he may have had,” Godwin said. “So he’s got to release himself and just go and play.”

Yes, there is still a match to be contested, and three sets to be won, and an Anderson victory would not be the first time an unheralded tennis player managed to beat a presumably unbeatable one.

Here is a look at some of the sport’s biggest Grand Slam upsets, a list that includes Nadal’s name:

U.S. OPEN

– Roberta Vinci beats Serena Williams in the semifinals, 2015: Williams was bidding for the first calendar-year Grand Slam since 1988, but the 43rd-ranked Vinci won 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

– Juan Martin del Potro beats Nadal in the semifinals, then Roger Federer in the final , 2009: del Potro was 20 and managed to first wallop Nadal 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, then end Federer’s 40-match, five-title winning streak at Flushing Meadows in a five-set comeback.

WIMBLEDON

– George Bastl beats Pete Sampras in the second round, 2002: Sampras was a seven-time Wimbledon champion. Bastl was ranked 145th and a “lucky loser,” someone who was eliminated in qualifying but got into the main draw because someone withdrew.

– Richard Krajicek beats Sampras in the quarterfinals, 1996: The only match Sampras lost at the All England Club from the start of the 1993 tournament to the end of the 2000 tournament.

– Lukas Rosol, Steve Darcis , Nick Kyrgios, Dustin Brown beat Nadal at Wimbledon, 2012-15: Each of those opponents was ranked outside the top 100 when they stunned Nadal, a two-time champion at Wimbledon.

– Sergiy Stakhovsky beats Roger Federer in the second round, 2013: Federer’s earliest Grand Slam exit in a decade, ending a run of 36 consecutive quarterfinal appearances at majors. Stakhovsky was ranked 116th.

– Ivo Karlovic beats Lleyton Hewitt in the first round, 2003: Hewitt became the first men’s defending champion in the professional era, which began in 1968, to bow out in the first round at the All England Club.

– Lori McNeil beats Steffi Graf in the first round, 1994: Graf became the first women’s defending champion to lose her opener.

FRENCH OPEN

– Virginie Razzano beats Williams in the first round, 2012: The 111th-ranked Razzano’s stunning win remains Williams’ lone first-round exit in 66 Grand Slam tournaments.

– Robin Soderling beats Nadal in the fourth round, 2009: Nadal was 31-0 with four consecutive titles at Roland Garros (a total he has since raised to 10). Soderling had never won even a third-round match at a major before that tournament.

– Michael Chang beats Ivan Lendl in the fourth round, then Stefan Edberg in the final, 1989: Chang was 17 and remains the youngest man to win a Grand Slam title.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN

– Mark Edmonson beats John Newcombe in the final, 1976: Newcombe was the defending champion and Edmonson was ranked 212th. He remains the lowest-ranked man to win a Grand Slam title.

Dimitrov defeats Goffin to win ATP Finals title

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LONDON — Grigor Dimitrov claimed the biggest title of his career at the season-ending ATP Finals on Sunday, prevailing on his fifth match point to beat David Goffin of Belgium 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

“It’s such an honor to play here,” Dimitrov said. “This week has been one of the best I’ve ever had.”

The sixth-seeded Bulgarian won in 2 hours, 30 minutes, 15 seconds for the longest final since the tournament returned to a three-set format in 2008.

Dimitrov won all five of his matches at the O2 Arena to become the first player to win the elite tournament on debut since 1998, when Alex Corretja of Spain triumphed in Hanover.

Goffin saved three match points on his own serve, but Dimitrov kept his cool, taking the second opportunity on his own delivery to close it out.

By reaching the final, Dimitrov had already secured a career-high No. 3-ranking to end the year. Goffin also moves up to a career-best No. 7.

The final lasted more than 11 minutes longer than Roger Federer took to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2011. It was a nervous start as both players failed to hold serve in the opening three games before Goffin settled down to control the opener as Dimitrov struggled with his timing.

However, Dimitrov fought his way back into the set. He leveled in the eighth game before breaking once more in the 12th to snatch the set in which Goffin hit eight more winners.

Dimitrov’s confidence carried into the second set, where he brought up the first break point in the sixth game, only for Goffin to produce a stunning cross-court backhand winner to save it. The momentum back with him, Goffin broke the following game for a 4-3 lead and calmly closed out the set.

Having come from behind to beat Federer in Saturday’s semifinal, Goffin had every reason to be confident and could have gone ahead. But he wasted four break points in the opening game – they would turn out to be his only chances in the decider.

Dimitrov was more clinical, striking in the sixth game to take control. Goffin tested Dimitrov’s nerve by saving three match points on his own serve, before saving one on Dimitrov’s. However the Belgian’s resistance came to an end as he netted a backhand volley, leaving Dimitrov in tears.

(This story has been corrected to show it was the longest three-set final since the tournament returned to a three-set format in 2008, not longest three-set final ever.)

Goffin ousts Federer in ATP Finals semis

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LONDON — David Goffin ended Roger Federer’s bid for a seventh ATP Finals title by stunning the favorite 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals on Saturday.

The Belgian claimed the biggest win of his career and qualified for the final on Sunday, when he will face Grigor Dimitrov or Jack Sock. They play later Saturday.

Federer looked to be heading toward his 11th final at the elite season-ending tournament when he cruised through the first set, but Goffin took advantage of a drop in his play to level.

Despite having lost all six of his previous encounters with Federer, Goffin was able to execute better in the deciding set, breaking in the third game and producing a nerveless display of serving to seal victory.