AP

Roger Federer clarifies retirement joke at U.S. Open

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NEW YORK (AP) — Roger Federer sent something of a shock wave through the tennis world with what he thought was an obvious joke after improving to 18-0 in first-round matches at the U.S. Open.

“I’m happy I never stumbled at the first hurdle,” Federer said during his on-court interview Tuesday night. “Almost time to retire — but not yet.”

Some folks’ reaction might best be summed up as: Wait. WHAT?!

So the 37-year-old Federer was asked at his news conference to clarify his comment after the 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 victory over 117th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Why did Federer mention retirement?

Turned out it was completely harmless.

“That was meaning, like, ‘I never lost a first-round match here at the Open. I won all my 18. You don’t want that (loss) to happen next year.’ I said, ‘Maybe I could retire now, because I protect my 18 first-round wins here.’ That’s what I meant with it,” he said. “It’s a total joke, yes.”

And, then, addressing all of the members of the media in the room, just to make absolutely sure everyone understood what he’d been thinking, Federer added with a smile: “So please don’t read into it. Don’t even write that word.”

For years, actually, Federer has dealt with questions about when he might retire. In part, that’s because elite tennis players often used to become not-so-elite by the time they passed the age of 30.

If anything, he’s looked as good as ever over the past two seasons, adding three Grand Slam titles in that span to raise his men’s record to 20.

Against Nishioka, Federer delivered 14 aces and never was in any trouble.

Federer saved the first eight break points he faced before finally faltering by pushing a forehand long on the ninth, losing serve for the only time while trying to close out the match at 5-2 in the third set. By then, the match was 1 hour, 45 minutes old — and it would last another seven minutes.

“Thankfully I wasn’t too nervous tonight. I felt good. I felt like I had a good preparation week. No hiccups there. I think that settles my nerves there. When you do walk out onto Arthur Ashe, you feel like people are there to see the show, enjoy themselves. Sure, they come for the tennis, but it’s also sort of a bucket list, wanting to be there,” Federer said.

“So, yeah, there’s pressure. But, no, never gets old,” he added. “I love coming to play here. It’s been so many years now.”

The No. 2-seeded Federer is seeking his sixth title at the U.S. Open, but first in a decade.

He could face No. 30 Nick Kyrgios in the third round and 13-time major champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

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U.S. OPEN: Scores | Men’s Draw | Women’s Draw

Johnny Gregorek runs fastest blue jeans mile in history

Johnny Gregorek
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Johnny Gregorek, a U.S. Olympic hopeful runner, clocked what is believed to be the fastest mile in history for somebody wearing jeans.

Gregorek recorded an unofficial 4 minutes, 6.25 seconds, on Saturday to break the record by more than five seconds (with a pacer for at least the first two laps). Gregorek, after the record run streamed live on his Instagram, said he wore a pair of 100 percent cotton Levi’s.

Gregorek, the 28-year-old son of a 1980 and 1984 U.S. Olympic steeplechaser, finished 10th in the 2017 World Championships 1500m. He was sixth at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.

He ranked No. 1 in the country for the indoor mile in 2019, clocking 3:49.98. His outdoor mile personal best is 3:52.94, ranking him 30th in American history.

Before the attempt, a fundraiser was started for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, garnering more than $29,000. Gregorek ran in memory of younger brother Patrick, who died suddenly in March 2019.

“Paddy was a fan of anything silly,” Gregorek posted. “I think an all out mile in jeans would tickle him sufficiently!”

MORE: Seb Coe: Track and field needs more U.S. meets

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U.S. Open mulls no fans, group flights, coronavirus tests as decision looms

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Charter flights to ferry U.S. Open tennis players and limited entourages from Europe, South America and the Middle East to New York. Negative COVID-19 tests before traveling. Centralized housing. Daily temperature checks.

No spectators. Fewer on-court officials. No locker-room access on practice days.

All are among the scenarios being considered for the 2020 U.S. Open — if it is held at all amid the coronavirus pandemic — and described to The Associated Press by a high-ranking official at the Grand Slam tournament.

“All of this is still fluid,” Stacey Allaster, the U.S. Tennis Association’s chief executive for professional tennis, said in a telephone interview Saturday. “We have made no decisions at all.”

With that caveat, Allaster added that if the USTA board does decide to go forward with the Open, she expects it to be held at its usual site and in its usual spot on the calendar. The main draw is scheduled to start Aug. 31.

“We continue to be, I would say, 150% focused on staging a safe environment for conducting a U.S. Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on our dates. It’s all I wake up — our team wakes up — thinking about,” Allaster said. “The idea of an alternative venue, an alternative date … we’ve got a responsibility to explore it, but it doesn’t have a lot of momentum.”

An announcement should come from “mid-June to end of June,” Allaster said.

All sanctioned competition has been suspended by the ATP, WTA and International Tennis Federation since March and is on hold until late July.

The French Open was postponed from May to September; Wimbledon was canceled for the first time since 1945.

There is no established COVID-19 protocol for tennis, a global sport with several governing bodies.

“Everybody would agree to the fundamental principles, I’m sure: protecting the health of participants, following the local laws and minimizing the risk of the transmission of the virus,” said Stuart Miller, who is overseeing the ITF’s return-to-tennis policy. “But then you have to get down into the specific details.”

One such detail: The USTA wants to add locker rooms — including at indoor courts that housed hundreds of temporary hospital beds at the height of New York’s coronavirus outbreak — and improve air filtration in existing spaces. Also being considered: no locker-room access until just before a match. So if anyone goes to Flushing Meadows just to train, Allaster said, “You come, you practice, and return to the hotel.”

The USTA presented its operational plan to a medical advisory group Friday; now that will be discussed with city, state and federal government officials.

MORE: Olympic tennis: Key questions for Tokyo Games in 2021

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