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Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, Murray head to Week 2 at Wimbledon

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LONDON– As usual, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray are playing well at Wimbledon, leading the way into Week 2.

“It’s their turf,” said Ernests Gulbis, who stood in Djokovic’s way in the third round but failed to present too much of an obstacle. “It’s their home court.”

Indeed, it is.

Not since Lleyton Hewitt won the championship 15 years ago has someone other than Federer (a record-equaling seven titles in that span), Djokovic (three), Nadal (two) or Murray (two) left Wimbledon with the men’s singles title. In addition, that so-called Big 4 accounts for eight runner-up finishes during that stretch.

Count Federer among those shrugging at the quartet’s success so far this fortnight, with only one set dropped among the lot.

“I thought that everybody this week was going to find their form, especially speaking about Andy and Novak. … With me, I hoped I was going to be there. Whereas with Rafa’s confidence, I thought he was also going to be there,” said Federer, who has a cold. “So I’m not that surprised. But it’s great.”

This Grand Slam season has been just like old times.

Following a period in which Djokovic, then current No. 1 Murray overtook Federer and Nadal in the rankings, and started regularly appearing in – and winning – major finals, the latter two have reasserted themselves.

First, Federer returned from missing the last half of 2016 while letting his surgically repaired left knee heal and has been as impressive as he’s been in quite some time. He won his first Grand Slam title in 4+ years at the Australian Open, beating long-time rival Nadal in the final.

If that was the first indication that Nadal, too, was truly back after his own health issues, another one came at the French Open, where he won his record 10th trophy in fantastic fashion, not dropping a set. He’s now run his consecutive sets streak at majors to 28, tying his personal best and, in the Open era, sitting behind only Federer’s run of 36 from 2006-07, and John McEnroe’s of 35 in 1984.

“Against Rafa,” said the man he defeated in the third round, 30th-seeded Karen Khachanov, “if you give him time, he can destroy you.”

As Federer alluded to, it’s been Djokovic and Murray who arrived at the All England Club having been less than their best this season.

But with Andre Agassi and Mario Ancic in his coaching corner, Djokovic seems rejuvenated. Defending champion Murray is the only member of the foursome who hasn’t won every set he’s played in the tournament: Against Fabio Fognini in the third round, he ceded one and saved five set points to barely avoid losing another.

The men’s fourth-round matchups on the top half of the draw Monday are Murray vs. Benoit Paire, Nadal vs. No. 16 Gilles Muller, No. 7 Marin Cilic vs. No. 18 Roberto Bautista Agut, and No. 24 Sam Querrey vs. Kevin Anderson. On the bottom half, it’s Djokovic vs. Adrian Mannarino, Federer vs. No. 13 Grigor Dimitrov, 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic vs. No. 10 Alexander Zverev; and 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych vs. No. 8 Dominic Thiem.

Wimbledon is the lone Grand Slam tournament that schedules all 16 remaining singles matches on the same day.

The top-half women’s fourth-rounders: No. 1 Angelique Kerber vs. No. 14 Garbine Muguruza in a meeting of the past two runners-up, two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. 2012 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki vs. No. 24 CoCo Vandeweghe, and Magdalena Rybarikova vs. Petra Martic. In the bottom half, it’s five-time champion Venus Williams vs. No. 27 Ana Konjuh, No. 2 Simona Halep vs. two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko vs. No. 4 Elina Svitolina, and No. 6 Johanna Konta vs. No. 21 Caroline Garcia.

At 37, Williams is the oldest woman left. At 19, Konjuh is the youngest.

There is an interesting age dynamic in the men’s event, too: The seven players 30 or older in the round of 16 represent the most to get that far in the 50 Wimbledons of the Open era.

Federer turns 36 in a month, Nadal is 31, and Djokovic and Murray are both 30. They’re joined by Muller (34), Anderson (31) and Berdych (31).

“I came through the juniors with all these guys. It’s nice to see them still hanging on, still enjoying the tour, still being tough out there, making it difficult for the youngsters to break through,” Federer said. “There is a bit of that clash right now – the young ones trying to push out, especially, the 35-plus guys. But then there’s a strong, strong team, as well, around the generation of Rafa and Murray and Djokovic, obviously.”

Azarenka wins first match at new Miami Open site

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Victoria Azarenka won the first match on the stadium court at the new site of the Miami Open by beating Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.

The unseeded Azarenka is a three-time Miami Open champion.

After a one-day delay because of rain, the tournament started Wednesday at the Miami Dolphins’ complex. The 13,800-seat stadium was mostly empty for the opening match, but bigger crowds are expected when seeded players begin taking the court. They have first-round byes.

Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony before the first stadium match.

“Standing here in this stadium right now, you see the magnitude, what kind of an arena this is,” Federer said. “I think it’s a big, massive moment in our sport.”

Thiem edges Federer to win Indian Wells title

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Dominic Thiem edged error-prone Roger Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 to win the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, denying Federer a record sixth title in the desert.

Thiem trailed 4-3 and 5-4 in the third set before breaking Federer with a forehand winner to go up 6-5. Thiem served out the two-hour match that ended with another error from Federer, a forehand dumped into the net.

Federer was in the final for the third straight year and lost for the second year in a row. He was beaten in a third-set tiebreaker by Juan Martin del Potro last year. Federer won his 100th career title in Dubai recently.

Thiem had lost in his previous two ATP Masters 1000 finals. But the 25-year-old Austrian’s solid serve held up against Federer as it had throughout the tournament.

Thiem was broken just four times out of 61 service games in the tournament. He didn’t lose serve during his semifinal win over Milos Raonic, facing only one break point in that match.

Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu upset Angelique Kerber 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to win the women’s title.

Thiem and Andreescu earned $1.3 million each.

Federer and Thiem had split their four previous meetings, but Federer had won both of their hard-court matches without dropping a set.

He cruised through the first set in 36 minutes while getting broken for just the second time during his run to his ninth appearance in the final. But Federer broke back in the next game and served out the set.

Thiem earned the only break of the second set in the fourth game, going up 3-1. Federer won just two more games in the set.

Both players were on serve in the third set until Thiem collected the only break. Federer tried consecutive drop shots that Thiem retrieved for crosscourt forehand winners before the Austrian hit a winning forehand to lead 6-5.

“He did very well when he got up to the ball, stayed calm, made the shot,” Federer said.

Federer won just one point on Thiem’s serve in the final game.

“Just came up against somebody who was on the day a bit better when it really mattered,” Federer said. “I have been in these positions so many times that I get over it very quickly.”

Federer advanced to the final after rival Rafael Nadal withdrew before their semifinal match because of knee pain. Thiem also benefited from a walkover, reaching the semis when Gael Monfils withdrew with an Achilles injury.

Andreescu, an 18-year-old Canadian, became the first wild-card winner and second-youngest to claim the title in tournament history.

“The fricking champion of Indian Wells,” Andreescu said. “It’s crazy.”

She overcame nerves, fatigue, arm and leg issues in the final set to earn the first title of her fledgling career.

Andreescu won on her fourth match point when Kerber netted a backhand. She broke Kerber three times in the third set, rallying from a 3-2 deficit to take four of the final five games.

Andreescu dropped her racket near the baseline and fell on her back, her legs in the air as she covered her face in disbelief. After getting up and exchanging kisses with Kerber, the teen bent down and kissed the sunbaked hard court and dropped to her back again, her arms and legs splayed, before grabbing her head.

“This moment has become a reality so it’s really, really crazy,” Andreescu told the crowd before speaking a bit of Romanian.

Born in Canada, she later moved with her parents to Romania, where she first started playing tennis.

Kerber was the last of five seeded players that Andreescu knocked off in her seven matches.

“When she had the chances, she just go for it,” Kerber said.

The Canadian followed in the footsteps of Naomi Osaka, who was a little-known 20-year-old when she won the title last year. Osaka used it as a springboard to win titles at the U.S. and Australian opens while ascending to the No. 1 ranking in January.

“No pressure,” Andreescu said, joking.

She’s projected to rise 36 spots to No. 24 in the WTA Tour rankings on Monday.

Kerber, ranked eighth, remains without a title since winning Wimbledon last year.

She was a crowd favorite, with fans waving Canadian flags and chanting “Let’s go, Bianca! Let’s go” in the second set.

They clearly enjoyed Andreescu’s fearless style of play. She alternately outpunched opponents from the baseline, tossed up high-arching shots and unleashed well-time drop shots – usually during the same point.

A smiling Andreescu was quick to correct a reporter.

“It’s not moonballing,” she said. “It’s just hitting heavy to her backhand with more spin. We’re not under 12 here.”

Her most dominant win during the 12-day tournament came in the quarterfinals, a 6-0, 6-1 rout of two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza. In all, the teen knocked out four Top 20 players.

Leading 2-1 in the third, Andreescu took a medical timeout and had a trainer massage her tight right shoulder and arm.

Kerber won the next two games, breaking Andreescu to go up 3-2.

Appearing tired and nervous, Andreescu called for her coach, who urged her to make Kerber play every point.

She did just that.

Andreescu won the next three games, ripping off powerful forehands while winning nine straight points during one stretch, including a 40-love service game.

“I just fought till the end because physically I wasn’t feeling too well,” she said.

The trainer reappeared again to ice Andreescu’s cramping legs.

The teen had three match points on her serve before trying one of her patented drop shots. Kerber raced to get it and sent a forehand down the line to get to deuce.

The German led 40-add on Andreescu’s forehand error before the teen made a low-percentage attempt at a drop shot. It landed in the net, leaving Kerber trailing 5-4.

“At the end I was not able to take my chances, but she did,” Kerber said.

Andreescu bounced back, putting away a smash to set up her fourth match point before Kerber’s backhand error ended it after 2 hours and 18 minutes.