Roger Federer makes Wimbledon final, dream year continues

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LONDON (AP) — Roger Federer is here once more, back in a Wimbledon final for the 11th time, back on the verge of an eighth championship at the All England Club, more than any man has collected in the storied, century-plus history of the place.

Nearly 36, and a father of four, Federer continued his resurgent season and unchallenged run through this fortnight by conjuring up just enough brilliance to beat 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4 on Friday.

“Can’t almost believe it’s true again,” Federer said.

He has won every set he’s played in this year’s tournament and while he did not dominate the semifinal, he was never in much trouble. On Sunday, Federer will face 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, who reached his first final at the All England Club by eliminating 24th-seeded Sam Querrey of the U.S. 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5 with the help of 25 aces and some terrific returning.

Since equaling Pete Sampras and William Renshaw (who played in the 1880s) with a seventh title at Wimbledon in 2012, Federer has come this close before to No. 8. But he lost to Novak Djokovic in the 2014 and 2015 finals.

Now comes gets another chance.

Federer would be the oldest man to win Wimbledon in the Open era, which dates to 1968; as it is, he’s the oldest finalist since Ken Rosewall was 39 in 1974.

“This guy doesn’t seem like he’s getting any older or slowing down,” said Berdych, who wore shoes with a silhouette of Djokovic’s face on the tongue. “He’s just proving his greatness in our sport.”

Also noteworthy: This is Federer’s second major final of 2017. After taking off the last half of last year while letting a surgically repaired left knee heal, he won the Australian Open in January for his record-extending 18th Grand Slam trophy.

“Giving your body rest from time to time is a good thing, as we see now,” Federer said. “And I’m happy it’s paying off because for a second, of course, there is doubts there that maybe one day you’ll never be able to come back and play a match on Centre Court at Wimbledon. But it happened, and it’s happened many, many times this week.”

Now only Cilic stands in Federer’s way at Wimbledon. They met in the quarterfinals a year ago, when Federer came all the way back after dropping the first two sets to win in five, before exiting in the semifinals.

They love their history around these parts and they love Federer and, above all, they love watching him make history. Spectators roared at many of his best offerings against Berdych, who was seeded 11th.

Trailing 3-2 in the third set, for example, Federer faced a couple of break points at 15-40 and extricated himself from that sticky situation this way: ace at 107 mph (173 kph), ace at 116 mph (187 kph), service winner at 120 mph (194 kph), ace at 119 mph (192 kph). And in the very next game, he surged to a 4-3 lead by breaking Berdych. That was pretty much that.

There were other moments of magic. The down-the-line forehand passing winner that landed right on the opposite baseline in the second set, leaving Berdych slumping his shoulders. Or the no-look, flicked backhand winner several games later that not many players would even try, let alone manage to do.

Still, this would not quite qualify as a vintage, Federer-at-his-wondrous-best performance. He was hardly perfect out there. He even double-faulted twice in one game to get broken in the opening set. He was pushed to a pair of tiebreakers, too. And yet there never was a sense Berdych could win.

Querrey, in contrast, took the first set against Cilic under odd circumstances. Things were close as can be between the pair of 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) big servers in the early going, right up to 6-all in games and 6-all in the tiebreaker. Cilic was playing so cleanly until that moment, delivering 12 winners before his initial unforced error; he would finish with a 70-21 margin.

But Cilic seemed distracted by a delay of a couple of minutes after his first-serve fault at 6-6, when a female spectator who appeared to feel ill was helped from her seat and out of the stands. Awarded another first serve, he managed only a 113 mph offering that Querrey handled easily, and the next stroke was a badly missed backhand by Cilic. Now down 7-6, Cilic flubbed another backhand, pushing it wide to cede the set.

The fourth turned with Querrey up 4-3 and serving at 30-love. Cilic seized the next four points to break, pounding a forehand return winner, a down-the-line backhand winner, another big return that startled Querrey and led to a drop shot winner, and a massive forehand return off a 79 mph (127 kph) second serve that drew a shanked backhand. His lead gone, Querrey yelled, “No!”

“I don’t think it was anything that didn’t work for Sam. It was more Marin locking in and getting a good read on Sam’s serve,” said Querrey’s coach, Craig Boynton. “I haven’t seen someone return Sam’s serve like that in a long time.”

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MORE: Serena Williams comments on 2020 Olympics during pregnancy

Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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