Federer expects ‘tougher’ Gasquet in US Open quarterfinal

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NEW YORK (AP) Roger Federer is impressed by Richard Gasquet’s recent play, one guy with a sweet one-handed backhand appreciating another.

The 17-time major champion remembers what Gasquet did against Federer’s countryman, Stan Wawrinka, in the quarterfinals of the previous major. The Frenchman won the fifth set 11-9 at Wimbledon with the sort of gritty performance he hasn’t been known for in his career.

Now he meets Federer in the U.S. Open quarterfinals Wednesday night.

“I’m not sure if I’ve seen maybe Gasquet play as well as he has right now,” Federer said.

At Wimbledon, the Swiss great added, “He had a good attitude. He was fighting. Good shot selection. It was nice. Now he’s backing it up.”

In last year’s Davis Cup final, Federer beat Gasquet in straight sets to clinch the title for Switzerland, part of his 14-2 record against the Frenchman.

“He kind of went away” is how Federer describes his opponent’s performance that day. At two straight majors now, the 12th-seeded Gasquet is showing signs that won’t happen again.

A one-time teen prodigy who won the U.S. Open junior title at age 16, Gasquet, now 29, is still trying to fulfill that promise.

“I feel like this could be one of the tougher Gasquets I’ve played in previous years,” Federer said, “so I expect it to be difficult.”

The winner of their match will face Wawrinka or Kevin Anderson. Wawrinka is a two-time major champion, while Anderson is making his first Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance after stunning Andy Murray on Monday. Yet the big-serving South African is the one who has won their last four meetings.

“I feel like I’m able – at least I have been in our matches – to stay with him from the back,” Anderson said. “When I’ve been aggressive, I’ve been able to keep him at bay.”

He hopes the U.S. Open fans will embrace him as one of their own. Anderson is working to become an American citizen, though he doesn’t plan to represent the United States in competition. He has lived in the country for a decade – he played college tennis at Illinois – and his wife, a former Illini golfer, is American.

At age 29, Anderson has reached a career-high ranking of 14th. His next opponent is the perfect role model for his faith that he can peak in his early 30s. Wawrinka was almost 29 when he won his first major title at the Australian Open last year. Anderson believes the late start to his pro career saved wear and tear on his body.

“He knows what it takes,” Anderson said of Wawrinka. “He’s been in that position. It’s my first time, but I feel like I’m hitting the ball very well.”

Wednesday’s two women’s quarterfinals pit a player who always seems to thrive at the U.S. Open against one who used to wilt in New York’s late-summer heat.

Two-time Australian Open champ Victoria Azarenka, whose ranking is down to 20th after two injury-plagued seasons, took Serena Williams to three sets in the 2012 and ’13 U.S. Open finals and has been giving some glimpses of that level of play. Her opponent, Simona Halep, may be seeded second, but this is her first quarterfinal at Flushing Meadows.

In the first match, 26th-seeded Flavia Pennetta is in the U.S. Open quarters for the sixth time in seven years. Asked about visiting New York, she said that “for two weeks is perfect. More? No.”

“It’s too crowded,” she explained. “Too much traffic. I am a person for a small city.”

Petra Kvitova would agree – and she has made clear in the past she doesn’t even enjoy two weeks in the big city.

Not that she had ever stayed that long. This is the first U.S. Open quarterfinal appearance for the two-time Wimbledon champ.

She didn’t expect 2015 would be the year to break the drought after she suffered from mononucleosis this summer. Strangely enough, the illness might have contributed to her breakthrough run: She felt less pressure of expectations and less fatigue because she hasn’t been able to practice as much.

And the fifth-seeded Kvitova is working harder to embrace the bustle of the Big Apple. She tweeted a photo Tuesday of herself hailing a cab with the comment: “Do I look like a New Yorker or what?!”

Nadal-Djokovic semifinal suspended after 3rd set

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LONDON (AP) It was the kind of tennis that Wimbledon’s Centre Court crowd would gladly have watched all night long.

The show being put on by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was so good it could have been an instant classic had they been able to finish their semifinal before the tournament’s 11 p.m. curfew.

Instead, the two players – and a disappointed audience – were sent home after the third set on Friday with Djokovic leading 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9) following a tense tiebreaker that had more entertaining rallies than some entire matches.

The two players didn’t even get onto the court until after 8 p.m. because of an earlier marathon semifinal won by Kevin Anderson and when Djokovic converted his second set point in the tiebreaker – having saved three of Nadal’s – the clock had ticked a couple of minutes past 11. That left organizers no choice but to call it a night, although the announcement from the chair umpire led to a scattering of boos from some fans who clearly wanted more.

Most of them will have to watch the rest on TV.

The match will resume at 1 p.m. local time on Saturday, before the women’s final between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber. At stake is a place in Sunday’s men’s final against the man who was partly at fault for keeping Nadal and Djokovic out there so late. Anderson’s win over John Isner lasted 6 + hours and went to 26-24 in the fifth set.

Djokovic-Nadal had clearly been the headline act of the day – they have five Wimbledon titles between them and met in the 2011 final while Anderson and Isner had never made the semifinals before – and their tennis was at another level from the earlier match. Even Anderson said he could feel during his match that the crowd would rather be watching the next one.

“They’ve paid to see two matches, and they came pretty close to only seeing one match,” Anderson said. “I can feel the crowd (get) pretty antsy for us to get off the court. They’ve been watching us for over six hours.”

While Anderson-Isner was mostly a serving duel with a few longer rallies thrown in, Djokovic and Nadal repeatedly slugged it out from the baseline, chasing each other around the court and coming up with spectacular winners from every corner.

Many of the best points came in the tiebreaker, including a 23-shot rally that Nadal finished off with a forehand half-volley drop shot to set up his first set point.

It was one of three successful drop shots from the Spaniard in the tiebreaker alone, but Djokovic answered with one of his own to save the second set point at 7-6.

He eventually went up 10-9 with the help of a backhand passing shot and an errant shot into the net by Nadal brought the entertainment to an end – for now.

It led to the unusual situation of both players leaving the court to a huge ovation – and applauding the fans in return – but without there being a clear winner or loser.

To be continued.

Former No. 1 Kerber tops Ostapenko; into second Wimbledon final

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LONDON – It was clear right from the opening game of Angelique Kerber’s Wimbledon semifinal how things were going to go. She was not going to dictate or control much.

She was, instead, going to employ spectacular defense and solid, steady play, while letting her opponent, Jelena Ostapenko, be the one to determine the outcomes of nearly every point.

It worked. The 11th-seeded Kerber reached her second final at the All England Club by avoiding too many mistakes and using a seven-game run to seize control for a 6-3, 6-3 victory over the 12th-seeded Ostapenko on Thursday.

“These are the matches I was working for as a young kid,” Kerber said, “and to stand here again in the final at Wimbledon is great.”

Kerber is a former No. 1 and a two-time major champion, both coming in 2016 at the Australian Open and U.S. Open. That was also the year the German was the runner-up at Wimbledon, losing to Serena Williams in the title match.

She could find herself up against Williams yet again: The 36-year-old American was scheduled to face No. 13 Julia Goerges of Germany in Thursday’s second semifinal on Centre Court.

Williams took a 19-match Wimbledon winning streak into the day. She won the grass-court tournament the last two times she played it, in 2015 and 2016, before missing it last year while pregnant. Williams gave birth to a daughter in September.

The left-handed Kerber was mainly a passive participant in the early going against Ostapenko. That first game consisted of eight points: Three were unforced errors by Ostapenko, including a double-fault to begin the proceedings; the other five were winners by her, including a 100 mph ace to close the hold.

Five games in, Ostapenko led 3-2, and the numbers were still tilted toward her. She had 14 winners and 10 unforced errors, while Kerber had three winners and – this was key – zero unforced errors.

There were no drawn-out points in the early going, no lengthy baseline exchanges, essentially because Ostapenko wouldn’t allow it. The Latvian plays an aggressive brand of first-strike tennis that carried her to the 2017 French Open title as an unseeded 20-year-old.

Kerber, in contrast, bides her time, working the back of the court to get everything back over the net, often kneeling to get low enough to reach shots.

Eventually, Kerber’s style ruled the day. She went on a half-hour run in which she took the last four games of the first set and took a 3-0 lead in the second. Ostapenko’s strokes were missing and she grew increasingly frustrated, slapping a thigh after a miss or leaning forward and putting her hands on her knees after others. By the time she flubbed a backhand while falling behind 5-1 in the second, she dropped her racket and screamed.

It took Kerber two tries to serve out the victory, getting broken to 5-2. But unlike in the quarterfinals, when she needed seven match points to win, this time it required only two, with the match ending – fittingly enough – on a forehand by Ostapenko that sailed wide.

The final tally told the story: Ostapenko had far more winners, 30-10, but also far more unforced errors, 36-7.