AP Photo

Stan Wawrinka out in first round in Washington

Leave a comment

WASHINGTON — Stan Wawrinka’s surgically repaired left knee is just fine. What’s missing now for the three-time major champion as he goes through a rough season is the self-belief that comes with success.

Wawrinka’s latest quick exit came Tuesday night at the Citi Open, a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3) loss against 234th-ranked qualifier Donald Young of the U.S. in the first round of the hard-court tournament.

“I was missing a lot. Not feeling the way I wanted. I’m looking for confidence, for sure,” said Wawrinka, who has been ranked No. 3 but is merely 198th at the moment on account of a 6-11 record in 2018 after two knee operations last year. “It’s tough to not win a lot of matches. Then you start to think too much on the court.”

This was Wawrinka’s first match since bowing out of Wimbledon in the second round in early July; his ranking is so low that he needed a wild-card entry just to get into qualifying for his next event, in Toronto.

The only other time Wawrinka entered the U.S. Open tuneup in Washington, in 2010, he also lost his opener.

Right now, his issue is the doubt can creep up at key points in a match.

“I feel I’m really close but, at the same time, really far. The positive right now is that physically, I’m feeling good. Tennis-wise, I’m practicing well. I can put (in) a lot of work on the court,” said Wawrinka, who has won the U.S. Open, Australian Open and French Open once apiece. “I know and I’m sure I will get where I want to be. It’s just tough. It’s a long process and you have to accept (it).”

He and Young, who came into the day with just a 2-10 record this year, were supposed to play Monday night. But because of rain delays and a lengthy match before theirs, they only made it onto the court to warm up at 1 a.m., and then a downpour arrived, so the contest was postponed.

Wawrinka got broken in the first game Tuesday by dumping a forehand into the net; that turned out to be the match’s only break. Wawrinka then was two points from losing at 5-3 in the second-set tiebreaker. But a series of miscues by Young, including a double-fault at 5-4, sent them to a third set. This time, Young held on, and he’ll face 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori on Wednesday.

“Fought a lot of nerves there, but I’m happy the end result was a `W,”‘ Young said. “Closing matches is kind of like a skill you get from winning and I haven’t done that – but I was able to do that.”

No. 1 seed and defending champion Alexander Zverev was scheduled to face Malek Jaziri in the main stadium’s final match Tuesday.

In earlier action, local product Denis Kudla – who is staying at his parents’ home in nearby Arlington, Virginia, this week – collected his first victory in seven attempts at the Citi Open, coming back to beat Lukas Lacko of Slovakia 6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-4.

“This is always a place that I’ve wanted to win and I’ve always struggled here. My record was pretty awful coming into today,” said Kudla, who had been 0-4 in main-draw matches and 0-2 in qualifying at the tournament. “Today it just came together.”

Marcos Baghdatis, the 2010 runner-up, advanced with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Benoit Paire, who drew boos from spectators after a racket-breaking tantrum. Vasek Pospisil, a finalist in 2014, lost to 19-year-old Alex de Minaur 6-7 (6), 6-2, 6-3.

Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki pulled out of the women’s draw because of an injured right leg, while defending champion Ekaterina Makarova lost her first-round match to Ana Bogdan 7-6 (2), 6-3.

No. 2 seed Sloane Stephens, the reigning U.S. Open champion, moved into the second round with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Ball boy flub taints Zverev’s ATP Finals win vs. Federer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON — After pulling off one of the biggest wins of his career, Alexander Zverev was left apologizing for an unforced error he didn’t make.

Zverev denied Roger Federer a shot at a 100th career title by beating the Swiss great 7-5, 7-6 (5) on Saturday to advance to the championship match at the ATP Finals.

Federer was leading the second-set tiebreaker 4-3 and in the ascendancy of a rally on a Zverev service point when a ball boy at the back of the court dropped a ball. Zverev immediately signaled for the point to be stopped and the umpire ordered the point to be replayed.

Zverev served an ace before going on to close out the match moments later.

“I want to apologize for the situation in the tiebreak,” said Zverev, who was booed by some members of the crowd during his on-court interview. “The ball boy dropped the ball so it’s in the rules that we have to replay the point.

“I’m a little bit upset about the whole situation because this is not how I wanted it to end.”

Zverev is the youngest player at 21 to reach the final since 2009 and the first from Germany since 1996. He will next face Novak Djokovic or Kevin Anderson, who are in the other semifinal later Saturday.

Federer, 37, was seeking a record-extending seventh title, but was unable to cope with the pressure created by Zverev’s power and precision at the O2 Arena.

“He (Zverev) apologized to me at the net,” Federer said. “I was like, `Buddy, shut up. You don’t need to apologize to me here. Congratulations on a great match and a great tournament so far. All the best for the finals.’ And you move on.”

An inspired series of shots earned Zverev the first break points of the match in the 12th game and Federer sent a forehand wide to fall behind.

Federer willed himself to a break for 2-1 in the second set, but Zverev quickly composed himself to hit straight back in the following game.

Zverev overcame the freak interruption to establish a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker, and Federer netted the simplest of forehand volleys to bring up match point.

He saved the first, but Zverev confidently put away a backhand drive volley to set up a shot at the biggest title of his career and leave Federer waiting until next season for his 100th title.

“Overall, I’m happy how the season went,” said Federer, who picked up his 20th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. “There’s many positives. So I’m excited for next season.”

Despite having reached only one Grand Slam quarterfinal, Zverev is the only active player outside the Big Four of Djokovic, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray to have won three Masters titles. But victory at the tour’s flagship event would exceed those achievements.

“Novak right now is the best player in the world,” said Zverev, who lost to Djokovic in the round robin. “No matter who it’s going to be, I’ll be ready.”

Federer advances to record-extending 15th ATP Finals semi

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON — Roger Federer advanced to the last four of the ATP Finals for a record-extending 15th time with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Kevin Anderson on Thursday.

Six-time champion Federer needed only a set to advance and produced his best performance at the season-ending tournament to end the round-robin stages with a 2-1 win-loss record.

Dominic Thiem’s 6-1, 6-4 victory over Kei Nishikori earlier had left Federer with a modest task and ensured that Anderson became the first South African ever to reach the semifinals.

Federer looked as if he was about to give up a break advantage for the second time in as many service games when he dropped to 0-40 attempting to close out the opening set at 5-4, but the 20-time Grand Slam champion found his first serve when it mattered most to hold.

Anderson hadn’t faced a break point in winning his first two matches. Federer, though, broke him twice more in the second set to claim top spot in the group and likely avoid a semifinal meeting with top-ranked Novak Djokovic.

Having struggled in an opening loss to Nishikori and relied mainly on his serve when defeating Thiem, Federer finally found some timing with his ground-strokes to apply consistent pressure on Anderson’s serve.

The previously impenetrable Anderson serve wilted, with two double faults gifting Federer a 4-3 lead. Much to the surprise – and disappointment – of the partisan crowd at the O2 Arena, the Swiss great handed the break straight back with a series of errors.

However, Federer steadied himself and made a delicate drop volley to break once more in the following game, before eventually closing out the set to maintain his record of having only missed the semifinals once in 16 appearances at the tournament.

Federer lost just four points on serve in the second set. He used a backhand slice to break for 4-3 and the same shot brought up two match points at 3-5, 15-40.

Having saved a match point on his way to securing a five-set quarterfinal victory over Federer at Wimbledon, Anderson threatened another comeback as he won a 21-shot rally to get back to deuce, but there was to be no repeat this time.

Two more Anderson forehand errors ended the match and Federer won the group by virtue of their head-to-head record.

With Djokovic clear favorite to top his group, which concludes Friday, Federer has boosted his chances of avoiding the in-form Serb until the final.