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Nadal, Federer advance to Shanghai final for 38th encounter

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SHANGHAI — Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will face each for the 38th time after advancing Saturday to the Shanghai Masters final.

Top-seeded Nadal defeated Marin Cilic of Croatia 7-5, 7-6 (3) in the first semifinal, and second-seeded Federer was stretched to three sets before posting a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.

Nadal, who won a tour-best sixth title of the season at the China Open last week, improved his current winning streak to 16 matches. The Spaniard, who has 16 Grand Slam men’s singles trophies, won the French and U.S. Open titles this season.

Federer, looking for his sixth title this year, won the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year to increase his Grand Slam men’s singles record to 19 titles.

Nadal holds a 23-14 winning record over Federer, but Federer has won their last four meetings, including all three this season. Nadal has won 14 of 23 finals against Federer.

“I’m not sure what the stat is because most of them, half of them, maybe, were in finals and that’s why the rivalry is so special,” Federer said. “I enjoy playing against him even if the head-to-head is not in my favor. He’s one of the guys who’s made me a better player. I don’t want to thank him for that, but it made me go back and rework my game.”

Del Potro went for an MRI on Friday night after falling and hurting his left wrist but showed little sign of the injury bothering him against Federer. The Argentine said his wrist was hurting after the match.

Federer, who lost in the quarterfinals to del Potro at the U.S. Open this year, looked shaky in the opener but found his form for the final two sets. He broke 16th-seeded del Potro on a fifth break point in a contentious sixth game of the second set. When Federer missed out on the fourth break point, the Swiss hit a ball in anger across the court. During the changeover after the seventh game, an annoyed del Potro asked why Federer wasn’t given a warning for the outburst.

“Getting that break and then holding is always key … especially with all the twists and turns in tennis,” Federer said. “If you blink at the right time your back can be against the wall.”

Nadal, who was a finalist here in 2009, has now beaten Cilic in five of their six matches.

Nadal hadn’t lost his serve in 32 service games but fourth-seeded Cilic broke him twice, in the sixth and 10th games of the second set.

At 30-40 in the sixth game, Nadal netted a forehand volley to surrender his serve for the first time, and responded by twice angrily banging his racket on his leg, just above the knee.

“Is true, sometimes I get frustrated too,” Nadal said.

Nadal failed to take advantage of his first match point when he made a forehand error at 40-30 in the 10th game, and went on to have his serve broken.

Leading 6-3 in the second-set tiebreaker, Nadal prevailed on his second match point when Cilic netted a service return.

Nadal said there were “mistakes with my serve in the second, that’s the only thing. For the rest, I am happy.”

Nadal saved three set points on his own serve when 5-4 down.

The Shanghai Masters wants to expand to a 10 or 11 day event, increase its draw size from 64 to 96, and raise prize money to more than $10 million, starting in 2019.

The ATP board is expected to discuss Shanghai’s request next month.

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.