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

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
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LONDON – Former top-10 player Fernando Verdasco accepted a voluntary provisional doping suspension of two months after testing positive for a medication for ADHD, the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Verdasco, who turned 39 this month, said he was taking methylphenidate as medication prescribed by his doctor to treat ADHD but forgot to renew his therapeutic use exemption for the drug. The integrity agency said Verdasco has now been granted an exemption by the World Anti-Doping Agency moving forward.

He tested positive at an ATP Challenger tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February.

The integrity agency said in a news release that it “accepts that the player did not intend to cheat, that his violation was inadvertent and unintentional, and that he bears no significant fault or negligence for it,” and so what could have been a two-year suspension was reduced to two months.

Verdasco will be eligible to compete on Jan. 8.

The Spaniard is a four-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, reaching that stage most recently in 2013 at Wimbledon, where he blew a two-set lead in a five-set loss to eventual champion Andy Murray.

Verdasco reached a career-best ranking of No. 7 in April 2009 and currently is No. 125.

Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov give Canada 1st Davis Cup title

Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports
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MALAGA, Spain — Felix Auger-Aliassime fell to his back behind the baseline, then waited for teammates to race off Canada’s bench and pile on top of him.

A few minutes later, the Canadians finally could lift the Davis Cup.

“I think of us all here, we’ve dreamt of this moment,” Auger-Aliassime said.

Canada won the title for the first time, beating Australia behind victories from Denis Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime.

Auger-Aliassime secured the winning point when he downed Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-4 after Shapovalov opened the day by rolling past Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4.

Seven years after leading Canada to the top of junior tennis, Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov and their teammates finally got to lift the biggest team trophy in their sport.

“We wanted to grow up and be part of the team and try to help the country win the first title,” Shapovalov said, “so everything is just so surreal right now.”

Shapovalov had dropped both his singles matches this week and needed treatment on his back during a three-set loss in the semifinals to Lorenzo Sonego of Italy that lasted 3 hours, 15 minutes. But the left-hander moved quickly around the court, setting up angles to put away winners while racing to a 4-0 lead in the first set.

Auger-Aliassime then finished off his superb second half of the season by completing a perfect week in Spain. He twice had kept the Canadians alive after Shapovalov dropped the opening singles match, and he replaced his weary teammate to join Vasek Pospisil for the decisive doubles point.

This time, Auger-Aliassime made sure the doubles match wouldn’t even be necessary. After his teammates poured onto the court to celebrate with him, they got up and danced around in a circle.

Canada had reached the final only once, falling to host Spain in Madrid in 2019, when Rafael Nadal beat Shapovalov for the clinching point after Auger-Aliassime had lost in the opening match.

But with Auger-Aliassime having since surged up the rankings to his current spot at No. 6, the Canadians are a much more formidable team now. They won the ATP Cup in January and finally added the Davis Cup crown to the junior Davis Cup title Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov led them to in 2015.

Australia was trying for its 29th title and first since current captain Lleyton Hewitt was part of the title-winning team in 2003.

But it was finally time for the Canadians, who were given a wild card into the field when Russia was suspended because of its invasion of Ukraine.

“Look, I think we were very close today,” de Minaur said. “Just wait until the next time we get the same matchup. Hopefully we can get the win and prove that we can do it.”

But Canada will be tough to beat as long as Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov play.

Shapovalov is just 23 and Auger-Aliassime 22, but both already have been Grand Slam semifinalists and Auger-Aliassime ended 2022 as one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour. He won all of his four titles this year, including three straight weeks in October.

He also beat Carlos Alcaraz in the previous Davis Cup stage in September, just after the Spaniard had won the U.S. Open to rise to No. 1 in the rankings. That victory helped send the Canadians into the quarterfinals, which they started this week by edging Germany.

“They’re not kids anymore, that’s for sure. Not after today – well not after the last couple of years,” said Pospisil, the team veteran at 32. “They’ve been crushing it.”