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Djokovic beats Federer to win U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — Thrilled to win a point in the U.S. Open final, and bent on proving a point, Novak Djokovic leaped and roared and threw an uppercut, then glared at some of the thousands of spectators pulling for Roger Federer.

After winning another point in that game, Djokovic nodded as he smiled toward the stands. And moments later, Djokovic shook his right arm, bloodied by an early fall, and screamed, “Yes! Yes!” to celebrate a missed forehand by Federer.

Djokovic appeared to be all alone out there in Arthur Ashe Stadium, trying to solve Federer while also dealing with a crowd loudly supporting the 17-time major champion proclaimed “arguably the greatest player in the history of the sport” by the stadium announcer during prematch introductions.

In the end, Djokovic handled everything in a thrill-a-minute final on a frenetic night. Frustrating Federer with his relentless defense and unparalleled returning, Djokovic took control late and held on for a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory Sunday to earn his second U.S. Open title, third major championship of the year and 10th Grand Slam trophy in all.

“I have a tremendous respect for Roger and what his game is presenting to me and to any other player,” Djokovic said during the trophy ceremony. “His level is always going to (force) the best out of you and that was needed from my side.”

Confronted with Djokovic’s unequaled ability to race along the baseline and contort his body this way and that, sneakers squeaking loudly as he changed directions or scraping like sandpaper as he slid to reach unreachable shots, the 34-year-old Federer found himself trying to put the ball into the tiniest of spaces. And it didn’t work. He wound up with 54 unforced errors, 17 more than Djokovic.

Another key statistic: Djokovic saved 19 of the 23 break points he faced, while winning six of Federer’s service games.

One more: Djokovic won 10 of the first 12 points that lasted at least 10 strokes, a pattern that repeated itself throughout the evening.

“Being back in a final is where you want to be,” said Federer, who last played in the title match at Flushing Meadows in 2009. “Playing a great champion like Novak is a massive challenge.”

After all the attention paid to Serena Williams’ bid for the first calendar-year Grand Slam, which ended with a semifinal loss at the U.S. Open, it’s Djokovic who wound up 27-1 in major tournaments this season, including appearances in all four finals. He beat Andy Murray at the Australian Open in January, lost to Stan Wawrinka at the French Open in June, then beat Federer at Wimbledon in July.

“An incredible season,” Djokovic called it.

The 28-year-old from Serbia also won a trio of majors in 2011, and his career total ranks tied for seventh-most in history behind Federer.

Djokovic also evened his head-to-head record with Federer at 21-all. They have met in three of the last five Grand Slam finals, and Djokovic is 3-0 in those. It is as spectacular a rivalry as there is in tennis right now, with contrasting styles of play.

Rain began falling about 10 minutes before they were supposed to head out from the locker room, and the start of the match was delayed for more than three hours, beginning after 7 p.m. Won’t happen again: The U.S. Tennis Association is in the midst of constructing a retractable roof expected to be ready for next year’s tournament.

In the third game, Djokovic slipped as he raced forward and fell, ripping skin off his hand, elbow and knee. Federer looked across the net to check on him, and Djokovic quickly motioned that he was OK. Perhaps a bit shaken, he would lose six of the next seven points, and then had a trainer treat it at the next changeover.

The cooler, damper, slower conditions seemed to help Djokovic mess with Federer’s attacking style. All of 27 minutes and four Federer service games into the match, Djokovic already had earned four breaks. That was the same total managed by Federer’s opponents in 82 service games across his previous six matches. Federer also hadn’t lost a set until Sunday.

If there were many folks in favor of Djokovic in the 23,771-capacity arena, they were tough to hear. Instead – and make no mistake, Djokovic noticed – a vast majority were on Federer’s side, even applauding fault’s by Djokovic, which is considered poor tennis etiquette. Over and over, chair umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore, the first woman to officiate a U.S. Open men’s singles final, held up a hand the way a school teacher might and asked for quiet.

The momentum, and match, shifted dramatically late in the third set, when Federer held two break points to go up 5-3 and get a chance to serve for a 2-1 lead in sets.

But on the first, Federer dumped a forehand into the net. And on the second, Djokovic ended a 15-stroke exchange by punishing Federer’s weak backhand with a big cross-court forehand winner. After holding there, Djokovic broke for a 5-4 lead when Federer shanked a forehand, then missed a backhand wide. Djokovic pointed to his right temple as he wheeled toward his guest box, where coach Boris Becker was standing in approval.

Djokovic then served out that set, saving two break points before moving out front for good on yet another backhand error from Federer.

Picking up steam as Federer seemed to wilt, Djokovic broke again and went up 2-0 in the fourth, making it a five-game run. He would take eight of 10 games there, and had a chance to serve out the victory at 5-2. But Federer broke there, forcing Djokovic to try again. The next time, Djokovic did not falter, pointing to his heart after one last forehand return by Federer flew beyond the baseline.

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.