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Roger Federer says Laver Cup will be a tough competition

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PRAGUE — The new Laver Cup team tennis tournament is supposed to be a “tough” contest, not an exhibition, according to Roger Federer.

The competition will pit a team of the best six European players against the top six from the rest of the world. The inaugural edition is scheduled for Sept. 22-24 at the O2 Arena in Prague. The following year, it moves to the United States.

“The idea is to absolutely have a tough tournament, tough matches, the better man wins, that’s the idea of the Laver Cup,” Federer said Monday.

To promote the competition, Federer played some rallies against Tomas Berdych on a boat cruising the Vltava river to a crowd watching from the famed Charles Bridge.

Bjorn Bjorg will captain Europe while John McEnroe will do the same for the opponents. The tournament is to honor Rod Laver, an 11-time major champion who won two calendar-year Grand Slams.

No ATP rankings points will be awarded, but Federer insisted that an exhibition “is not how the captains see it, that’s not how Rod Laver sees it. He wants us to represent our part of the world with pride and try our very best and also win for our teammates.”

The teams won’t be named until after the U.S. Open, but it’s not clear yet if all players who will formally qualify via the rankings will be available.

What is for certain, organizers said, is that Federer and Rafael Nadal, the finalists at this year’s Australian Open, will be on the European team.

With Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka possibly on the team, Europe seems to be the one to beat.

“On paper, we look as the big favorites,” Federer said. “We have more depth in Team Europe that we can choose from.”

The tournament will include three singles and one doubles match every day. Federer was clear about his choice of his possible partner for the doubles.

“I guess I would love to play with Rafa just because of our rivalry has been so special,” Federer said.

Victoria Azarenka misses direct entry for U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — Two-time U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka is ranked just below the cutoff for direct entry into the year’s last Grand Slam tournament.

Azarenka, a former No. 1 and twice the champion at the Australian Open, is No. 108 this week, seven spots outside of an automatic spot in the main draw.

The U.S. Tennis Association announced Wednesday that defending champion and top-ranked Rafael Nadal is one of six past male singles champions in the U.S. Open field, along with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic. Another past title winner at Flushing Meadows, Stan Wawrinka, is ranked 199th this week.

The women’s winners with direct entry based on this week’s rankings are six-time champion Serena Williams, two-time champ Venus Williams, defending champ Sloane Stephens, Maria Sharapova and Samantha Stosur.

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.