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Marin Cilic defeats Sam Querrey to reach first Wimbledon final

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LONDON– The key, for both players, was to deal with the big serve. Marin Cilic did it better.

The seventh-seeded Croat advanced to his second major final by beating Sam Querrey 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5 Friday on Centre Court. He next faces Roger Federer or Tomas Berdych in Sunday’s final at the All England Club.

Cilic and Querrey, both 6-foot-6, used their powerful serves to dominate most of the match. Neither even had a break point in the first set.

“Sam came out serving huge, hitting big,” Cilic said.

Querrey took lead after a brief delay late in the opening tiebreaker. With the score 6-6, stewards entered the stands to attend to a woman who needed assistance. The break only lasted a couple of minutes, but Querrey won both points when play resumed, with Cilic missing a pair of backhands.

Cilic finally managed the first break of serve in the second set, and then went up another break in the third. But Querrey broke back to force another tiebreaker.

In the fourth set, it was Querrey who got an early break. But Cilic bounced back and then broke for the fourth time in the final game.

“After that (first tiebreaker), I was just a little bit better on the return games,” Cilic said. “I was making him (play more) on his service games.”

He finished with 25 aces and won 88 percent of the points on his first serve. Cilic also had 70 winners and only 21 unforced errors. Querrey had 46 winners and 26 unforced errors to go with 13 aces.

Cilic is now 5-0 against Querrey and 3-0 against the American at Wimbledon. Their last match at the All England Club, in 2012, went five sets and Cilic won 17-15 in the fifth.

Cilic is the second Croat player to reach the Wimbledon final. Goran Ivanisevic won the title in 2001.

Federer, in search of an eighth Wimbledon title, was to play Berdych next on Centre Court.

Federer is 18-6 against Berdych, but the 11th-seeded Czech beat Federer in the quarterfinals during his run to the Wimbledon final in 2010.

Duckhee Lee downplays deafness, wins ATP tournament debut

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Duckhee Lee tossed the ball into the air for his first serve in an ATP tournament match, and blasted it past his opponent with a loud pop.

The 21-year-old South Korean never heard it. He was born deaf.

The tour’s first deaf professional player says he doesn’t want to be defined by the disability that he has overcome well enough to play at the sport’s highest level.

His first appearance in a top-level tournament will last at least until the second round. Lee beat Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 7-6 (4), 6-1 in the first round of the Winston-Salem Open on Monday, earning a matchup with No. 3 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland.

As much as the opening-round victory meant to Lee and his career, it might have meant even more to hearing-impaired athletes in all sports.

“Don’t be discouraged and if you try hard, you can do anything, you can achieve anything you want,” Lee said through an interpreter, adding that he “doesn’t want people to get discouraged and get down about their disability.”

The ability to hear carries a particular importance in tennis. Players often insist on silence during points so they can hear the ball off their opponent’s strings and identify the spin in a split-second.

Lee makes up for it with his eyes, sharpening his focus on his opponent’s swing, how that player makes contact and the speed and spin of the ball as it’s racing toward him.

Complicating things further, he also doesn’t speak English, reads lips instead of using sign language, and relies on hand gestures from umpires making calls.

Because he can’t hear the score announcements, he keeps track of points and games in his head – which can be more difficult in smaller events that don’t have courtside scoreboards. It led to a hiccup early during his main-draw debut when he lined up to serve after a game had been decided.

“I think (the umpire) forgot to give the signal” at times during the match, he said, adding that he “was hoping he would give in and out signals.”

The debut in Winston-Salem marked the next step up the tennis ladder for Lee, who started playing tennis at age 7 – the year after he realized he was deaf, though doctors had diagnosed his condition as a toddler.

“People made fun of (me) because of the disability and said (I) shouldn’t be playing,” Lee said, adding that his motivation was to “enjoy (my) life by overcoming my disability.”

Lee made his debut on the ITF Futures Tour at 14 and won eight titles before he turned 18, then reached three finals of the ATP Challenger Tour, including one in June, falling to Dudi Sela at the Baptist Health Little Rock Open in Arkansas. He brought a No. 212 world ranking to the central North Carolina hardcourts.

He’ll always remember his first ATP-level victory – and not just because of the result. Lee was two points away from sealing the victory when thunderstorms forced a weather delay of nearly 5 hours. He and Laakonsen came back to the court at roughly 10:15 p.m. – and wrapped up their match in 87 seconds.

When he was asked how he spent the delay, Lee got his point across with pantomime, mimicking someone playing table tennis and shooting basketball, because there was both a pingpong table and pop-a-shot machine in the players’ lounge. He smiled as his translator said how “he loves the facility here.”

Amanda Anisimova out of U.S. Open after father’s death

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NEW YORK — American teenager Amanda Anisimova withdrew from the U.S. Open on Tuesday because of the recent death of her father and coach, Konstantin.

A statement from family members, released by Anisimova’s representatives, said: “We are shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of our father. We appreciate the outpouring of love and support during this difficult time and ask that you respect our privacy.”

The U.S. Tennis Association announced that Anisimova had pulled out of the year’s last Grand Slam tournament, where main-draw play begins Monday.

Anisimova, who was born in New Jersey to Russian parents and moved to Florida when she was 3, is currently ranked 24th and would have been seeded for the U.S. Open.

She is an up-and-coming star in women’s tennis who reached the semifinals at the French Open in June at age 17.

Anisimova upset defending champion Simona Halep in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, before losing to eventual champion Ash Barty in three sets.

Her first WTA title came in April at Bogota, Colombia.

As a junior, Anisimova won the 2017 U.S. Open girls’ title, beating Coco Gauff in the final.