No. 1 Djokovic, No. 2 Federer easily reach US Open final

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NEW YORK (AP) Roger Federer is 34. It’s been more than three years since he won a Grand Slam title. He’s been considered past his prime for quite some time.

And he might just be playing some of the top tennis of his career at the moment.

Federer moved into his first U.S. Open final since 2009 with the latest in a string of dominating performances, overwhelming longtime pal and Swiss Olympic and Davis Cup teammate Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 on Friday night.

“I’ve tried very hard in the last six years, I’ll tell you, to get back in another final,” Federer said. “Came close a few times.”

As for the quality of his play over the past two weeks – he has won all 18 sets he’s played and been broken only twice – Federer said: “It’s definitely very good. Maybe my best, I’m not sure. I’m serving very well. I’m playing positive tennis. I’m going for my shots, and it seems to work. I’d love it to work just one more time.”

Against Wawrinka, Federer saved all four break points he faced, won a “did-I-read-that-right?” 80 percent of his first serve points and limited himself to only 17 unforced errors.

Believe it or not, the other men’s match Friday was even less competitive: Novak Djokovic beat defending champion Marin Cilic 6-0, 6-1, 6-2, the most lopsided semifinal in New York in the Open era, which started in 1968.

“A lot of people are going to say it’s a little bit of (an) embarrassment to lose like that,” said Cilic, who explained that he was hampered by a right ankle injury he picked up in the fourth round and would have caused him to pull out of a lesser tournament.

Those results set up a blockbuster for Sunday’s final: No. 1 Djokovic, owner of nine major titles, against No. 2 Federer, owner of a record 17.

“There’s a lot on the line always when we play against each other,” said Federer, who beat Djokovic in the 2007 U.S. Open final but lost semifinals to him in 2010 and 2011, both 7-5 in the fifth set.

It is their record-tying 42nd career matchup overall – in the Open era, which dates to 1968, only Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have played each other that often) – and Federer leads 21-20. He won their most recent match, on a hard court last month at the Cincinnati Masters. This will be their sixth meeting of 2015, all in finals, and Djokovic has won three of those, including the Wimbledon final two months ago.

“We all know how consistent he is and how good he is in the latter stages of Grand Slams and any other big tournament,” Djokovic said. “He’s always going to perform on a high level. … He always makes you play your best.”

On the same day that Serena Williams’ bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam ended with a semifinal loss to Roberta Vinci, Djokovic made it to his fourth major final of the year. He won the Australian Open in January, lost to Wawrinka at the French Open in June, and won Wimbledon in July.

Federer won five consecutive U.S. Open titles from 2004-08, then lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the final six years ago.

For Djokovic, it’s his sixth trip to the final at Flushing Meadows. So far, though, he is 1-4, with his lone U.S. Open title coming in 2011.

Federer’s victory lasted 1 hour, 32 minutes. Djokovic’s went 1 hour, 25 minutes. So both should be well-rested by the time Sunday afternoon’s final rolls around.

Each will have a six-time major champion in his corner: Federer is coached by Stefan Edberg; Djokovic works with Boris Becker.

Edberg called Federer’s success at his current age “outstanding.”

“I retired at 30,” Edberg said. “I couldn’t take it anymore, mentally. Physically, I could’ve played another four or five years.”

Djokovic, who is 28, has won four Grand Slam titles since Federer’s last, which came at Wimbledon in 2012.

Against the ninth-seeded Cilic, Djokovic played cleanly and with just the right amount of caution, making only 13 unforced errors to his injured opponent’s 37.

“His game,” Cilic said, “doesn’t suit me so well.”

Now there’s an understatement. Djokovic has won all 14 of their matches.

His rivalry with Federer is far more intriguing.

This will be their 13th matchup at a Grand Slam tournament; Djokovic leads 7-6. It’s their fourth in a major final; Djokovic leads 2-1.

“He’s been really tough to beat, plus he’s tough mentally,” Federer said. “I like that challenge, and I’ll be ready for it.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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.