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Nadal, Federer win opening matches at Rogers Cup

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MONTREAL (AP) Top-seeded Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Roger Federer cruised to easy victories Wednesday in their opening matches at the Rogers Cup.

Nadal breezed past Borna Coric of Croatia 6-1, 6-2 to advance to the third round, while Federer routed Canadian Peter Polansky, 6-2, 6-1 in 53 minutes.

Nadal, a three-time Rogers Cup winner who is back in the hunt for the No. 1 ranking after winning his 10th French Open title this year, will play Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov, who downed 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin De Potro 6-3, 7-6 (4) in a second-round match on a gusty Wednesday afternoon.

The 18-year-old Shapovalov became the youngest player to reach the round of 16 of a Master Series tournament since Nadal in 2004 at Miami.

Federer, a two-time Rogers Cup champion ranked third in the world, has had a surprise resurgence this season by posting his 18th and 19th career Grand Slam wins at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. He played his first match of the hardcourt season that leads to the U.S. Open.

“I think this tournament I’m trying to play with confidence that I gained through the grass-court season,” Federer said. “I have to adjust my game a little bit just because the bounce of the ball is so much higher here than at Wimbledon, and there’s wind, which in Wimbledon we didn’t have much of.

“It’s just really to see how it goes this week, and then learn from this week, how I need to then play in Cincinnati (next week) and the U.S. Open.”

The Swiss star, who turned 36 on Tuesday, next faces Spain’s David Ferrer, a 7-6 (7), 3-6, 6-1 winner over 15th-seeded American Jack Sock.

Polansky, ranked No. 116 in the world after some strong results in challenger events, upset No. 75 Vasek Pospisil of Canada in the first round on Monday.

It was his second meeting with Federer. At the 2014 Rogers Cup, he lost 6-2, 6-0.

“Even though I lost, this is one of the most memorable experiences of my life along with the match I played against him in Toronto,” Polansky said. “His transition from the baseline to the net, it’s a joke.

“You blink and he’s at the net. You hit balls pretty hard at him and he’s handling them like it’s no problem. Guys I’m used to playing, if I hit really hard, they’ll kind of block it but he’s constantly moving forward like a freight train.”

Sixth seed Milos Raonic, another Canadian, faced France’s Adrian Mannarino later Wednesday.

In other results, third-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria was upset 6-4, 6-7 (7), 7-5 by Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, and fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan, a finalist last year, was ousted 6-7 (4), 7-6 (7), 7-5 by Gael Monfils. It was the Frenchman’s first win in four meetings with Nishikori.

Seventh-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov topped German Mischa Zverev 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. No. 12 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain downed American Ryan Harrison 7-5, 6-2, and Robin Haase of the Netherlands defeated lucky loser Ernesto Escobedo 6-4, 6-1.

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.