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Roger Federer upset at U.S. Open; no Rafael Nadal showdown

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NEW YORK — The U.S. Open was denied a Roger FedererRafael Nadal match yet again. Juan Martin del Potro wasn’t having any of it, just like in 2009.

The Argentine bounced Federer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4 in the quarterfinals on Wednesday night, handing the Swiss his first loss in a Grand Slam since the 2016 Wimbledon semifinals.

It also meant that, for the sixth time, Federer and Nadal missed the first U.S. Open meeting of their storied rivalry by a single match.

Del Potro’s play under the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof brought back memories of 2009, when he routed Nadal in the semifinals and came back to overpower Federer in the final to win his first and (for now) only Grand Slam title before four wrist surgeries set back a promising career.

Federer had a pair of double faults on Del Potro’s first two break points, and the mistakes piled as midnight beckoned. Federer said that in two weeks in New York, he didn’t once play with the feeling of the Australian Open in January and Wimbledon in July, when he won his first Slams in five years to reach 19 for his career.

“If I ran into a good guy, I was going to lose, I felt,” he said. “I don’t want to say I was in negative mindset, but I knew going in that I’m not in a safe place. Might have depended too much on my opponent, and I don’t like that feeling. I had it, you know, throughout the tournament, and I just felt that way every single match I went into.”

Now, a tested and determined Del Potro gets Nadal in Friday’s semifinals. The rested Spaniard schooled Russian teen Andrey Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in a 97-minute quarterfinal Wednesday afternoon.

“He will have a better chance to beat Rafa, to be honest,” Federer said. “The way I played or playing right now, it’s not good enough in my opinion to win this tournament.”

In the women’s bracket, it’s an all-American final four at a Slam for the first time since 1985 Wimbledon and the first time at the U.S. Open since 1981.

Venus Williams will play Sloane Stephens in one Thursday semi, while Madison Keys gets CoCo Vandweghe in the other.

But the anticipation since the draw release two weeks ago was for a semi between Federer and Nadal, the icons having resurgent seasons.

In the middle of the Federer-Del Potro match, the cheapest StubHub men’s semis ticket price was $745, more than twice as much as a men’s final ticket and 10 times the cost of a women’s semis pass.

“I honestly was only thinking about tonight,” Federer said. “My head didn’t even wander during the match.”

Federer and Nadal have played 37 times (Nadal leads 23-14), including 12 at Grand Slams, but never at the U.S. Open (or the Olympics). They were also one match away from meeting in New York in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013.

“It’s something a little bit strange that we never played here, no?” Nadal said on ESPN, after his match and before Federer’s. “I think it will be much more special if that can happen in a final, but it’s not possible this year. We’re going to try to come back and make that happen.”

They’ve combined for 34 Grand Slam singles titles, but bagged none for nearly three years until Federer beat Nadal in the Australian Open final in January.

Nadal won his 10th French Open in June. Federer captured his eighth Wimbledon in July. They are fighting for the year-end No. 1 ranking, boosted in part by season-ending injuries to Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

“In some ways I’m actually happy I made the quarters, so I’m not disappointed, because it’s been a good run this year already,” Federer said. “It’s all a bonus at this stage.”

Nadal was pressed to wax poetic on his rivalry with Federer, or just about the Swiss himself, in a news conference after Wednesday’s mismatch.

“I don’t want to look like I gonna be his boyfriend, no?” Nadal joked.

The other semifinal pits two first-timers — South African Kevin Anderson and Spain’s Pablo Carreño Busta — who would be clear underdogs to Nadal or Del Potro in Sunday’s final.

Federer, a 36-year-old with five U.S. Open titles, was forced to five sets in his first two matches last week while fighting off a pre-event back injury. Federer swept his last two opponents before Del Potro but is tired.

“When I walked off the court, I was, like, finally, I can rest,” he said. “Because I’m tired. I put a lot into it. I was not sure I could play, to be honest, so I’m happy I get a rest now.”

Nadal, a 31-year-old with two U.S. Open titles, has dropped two sets in five matches, all against men ranked outside the top 50.

Now he gets Del Potro, a man ranked No. 28 but with the game of a top-10er. The big Argentine isn’t sure what he has left after overcoming illness to win a five-setter in the fourth round and coming from behind to take out Federer.

“Playing against Rafa in my favorite tournament, I will try to enjoy the atmosphere, the game, and I know if I play my best tennis, I could be a danger for him,” he said.

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Roger Federer: Tokyo Olympics too far away for decision

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Now that Roger Federer has a record eighth Wimbledon men’s singles title, what about the biggest prize lacking from his trophy case?

An Olympic singles gold medal.

Federer finished fourth at his first Olympics in 2000, was upset in the second round as the No. 1 seed in 2004, fell in the quarterfinals in 2008 and earned silver in 2012. He and countryman Stan Wawrinka took doubles gold in Beijing.

The 35-year-old Federer was asked how many more years he planned to play after his Wimbledon semifinal win Friday.

Federer, who missed the Rio Games and 2016 U.S. Open with a knee injury, brought up the Tokyo Olympics near the end of a detailed response, though in a non-committal way:

Yeah, I mean, health has definitely a role to play in my decision-making, no doubt about it. As I move forward, I’ll be very cautious of how much I will play, how much I think is healthy.

Then, of course, it’s just discussions I always have, continuous discussion, with my wife about the family, about my kids, is everybody happy on tour, are we happy to pack up and go on tour for five, six, seven weeks. Are we willing to do that.

For the time being, it seems like absolutely no problem, which is wonderful. Then success to some extent also is key for keeping — staying out there really. This tournament, again, helps me to stay hopefully on tour longer, to be honest.

But I haven’t made any decisions moving forward, how far, am I looking at the Tokyo Olympics or anything like that. I haven’t.

Since the injury, honestly everything has been very much reset, that I just go sort of I’m planning till the end of the year, then I know what I’m going to play at the beginning of next year, so forth.

Maybe I think a year ahead, but it’s just important to stay on track with the plan.

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Roger Federer beats Marin Cilic to win 8th Wimbledon title in lopsided final

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LONDON (AP) — Roger Federer’s wait for No. 8 at Wimbledon is over.

He is once again the champion of the grass-court Grand Slam tournament, now more often than any other man in the history of an event first held in 1877.

Federer won his eighth title at the All England Club and 19th major trophy overall, capping a marvelous fortnight in which he never dropped a set by overwhelming Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday in a lopsided final that was more coronation than contest.

When it ended, with an ace from Federer after merely 1 hour, 41 minutes, he raised both arms overhead. A minute or so later, he was sitting on the sideline, wiping tears from his eyes.

Truly, the outcome was only in doubt for about 20 minutes, the amount of time it took Federer to grab his first lead. Cilic, whose left foot was treated by a trainer in the late going, was never able to summon the intimidating serves or crisp volleys that carried him to his lone Grand Slam title at the 2014 U.S. Open, where he surprisingly beat Federer in straight sets in the semifinals.

This one was all Federer, who last won Wimbledon in 2012.

That seventh championship pulled Federer even with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw in what’s still officially called Gentlemen’s Singles. Sampras won all but one of his in the 1990s; Renshaw won each of his in the 1880s, back in the days when the previous year’s champion advanced automatically to the final and therefore was able to successfully defend a title with one victory.

Federer had come close to bettering his predecessors but couldn’t quite do it. He lost in the 2014 and 2015 Wimbledon finals to Novak Djokovic, and in the semifinals last year after erasing match points to get past Cilic in a five-set quarterfinal.

With clouds overhead and a bit of chill in the air, the very first game offered a glimpse at Cilic’s apparent plan: go after Federer’s backhand. All five points won by Cilic in that opening stanza came via mistakes by Federer on that stroke. Conversely, all three points won by Federer in that game were thanks to forehand miscues by Cilic.

Understandably, there were signs of nerves for both.

Federer’s early play, in general, was symptomatic of jitters. For everything he’s accomplished, for all of the bright lights and big settings to which he’s become accustomed, the guy many have labeled the “GOAT” — Greatest of All Time — admits to feeling heavy legs and jumbled thoughts at important on-court moments to this day.

And so it was that Federer, not Cilic, hit a double-fault in each of his first two service games. And it was Federer, not Cilic, who faced the match’s initial break point, 15 minutes in, trailing 2-1 and 30-40. But Cilic netted a return there, beginning a run of 17 points in a row won by Federer on his serve.

It was as if the first indication of the slightest bit of trouble jolted Federer.

In the very next game, Federer broke to lead 3-2 with the help of three errors by Cilic and one marvelous point. Cilic tried a drop shot, Federer got to it and replied at a tight angle. Cilic got that and offered a slick response of his own but slipped and fell to the court, allowing Federer to flip a winner, eliciting roars from the crowd.

Federer broke again to take that set when Cilic double-faulted, walked to the changeover and slammed his racket on his sideline chair. Cilic then sat and covered his head with a white towel.

After Federer raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set, Cilic cried while he was visited by a doctor and trainer. At that moment, it wasn’t clear, exactly, what might have been ailing Cilic. During a later medical timeout, Cilic’s left foot was re-taped by the trainer.

Federer would break to a 4-3 edge in the third set and all that remained to find out was how he’d finish. It was with his eighth ace, at 114 mph, and he raised both arms overhead.

This caps a remarkable reboot for Federer, who departed Wimbledon a year ago with a lot of doubts. He had lost in the semifinals, yes, but more troublesome was that his body was letting him down for the first time in his career.

Earlier in 2016, he had surgery on his left knee, then sat out the French Open because of a bad back, ending a record streak of participating in 65 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. Then, after Wimbledon, he did not play at all the rest of the year, skipping the Rio Olympics, the U.S. Open and everything else in an attempt to let his knee fully heal.

It worked. Did it ever.

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