Getty Images

Federer, Djokovic, Bautista Agut reach Wimbledon semifinals

Leave a comment

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) As Roger Federer made his way off Centre Court after moving into the Wimbledon semifinals for the 13th time, a spectator reminded him of yet another milestone.

A 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Kei Nishikori on Wednesday gave Federer his 100th match win at the All England Club, the first man to reach that total at any Grand Slam tournament.

“The fan told me, `Congratulations, Roger, on your 100th,” Federer said. “I’m like, `Oh, yeah, that’s right.”‘

Just another mark among many for the guy who is trying to add to his totals of eight Wimbledon championships and 20 Grand Slam trophies, both already unprecedented among men.

On Friday, Federer will face either his long-time rival, Rafael Nadal, or unseeded Sam Querrey of the United States, who were playing their quarterfinal on No. 1 Court.

If Nadal won, he and Federer would meet at Wimbledon for the first time since their memorable 2008 final, which Nadal won 9-7 in the fifth set as dusk descended.

The other semifinal will be No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 26 Roberto Bautista Agut.

Djokovic used a 10-game run to transform what was shaping up as an even, entertaining quarterfinal into a lopsided romp.

“I felt,” Djokovic would say later, “like I managed to dismantle his game.”

That’s a pretty accurate description of what happened. Down an early break, the defending champion grabbed control midway through the opening set and never let go, overwhelming the 21st-seeded David Goffin 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 to reach his ninth semifinal at the All England Club.

“He was everywhere,” Goffin said.

Bautista Agut, a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist, is supposed to be on the island of Ibiza right now, having a bachelor party with a half-dozen pals ahead of his November wedding. Instead, he will play on after beating No. 26 Guido Pella of Argentina 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

“Well,” the 31-year-old Bautista Agut said, “it feels better to be here in London.”

Djokovic is seeking his fifth Wimbledon championship and 17th Grand Slam trophy overall.

The eighth-seeded Nishikori jumped out to an early edge by breaking Federer in the very first game, enough to give him that set.

“The beginning,” Federer said, “brutal.”

But Federer quickly began living his best life in the second, conjuring up whatever he wanted, exactly when he wanted it.

His approach shots were beyond reproach. His volleys vibrant. His returns were timed so well, and struck so violently, that one knocked the net-rushing Nishikori’s racket plum out of his hands.

And Federer’s serve? Sure, he faced break points, but he never allowed 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Nishikori to convert another.

Goffin started well enough against Djokovic on an afternoon that was humid and sunny, with the temperature in the mid-70s (mid-20s C).

Hoping to reach his first major semifinal, Goffin claimed three of the first four points that lasted at least 10 strokes. He won the pair’s most recent encounter, on clay in 2017, and this looked a bit like it was being contested on that slower surface, too.

Goffin was able to hang in there at the baseline and his on-the-run passing shots were dialed in. He nosed ahead after 33 minutes by breaking to go up 4-3, then jogged to the sideline with a raised fist.

Until then, Goffin was playing crisply and cleanly. He hadn’t faced so much as one break point against Djokovic, generally considered the top returner in the game.

“He was dictating the play from the baseline,” Djokovic said afterward. “Most of the rallies went his way.”

But that’s when everything changed.

Djokovic did to Goffin exactly what he does to so many men on so many surfaces and at so many tournaments: He takes their best shot, deals with it and then wears them down.

“I sincerely hope that my opponent feels like he’s got to work twice as (hard as) against any other opponent to win a point,” Djokovic said.

Serving at 30-love in the very next game, Goffin double-faulted. Then he flubbed a forehand. After limiting himself to three unforced errors through the match’s initial 49 points, the Belgian made two in a row. The next point was an odd one involving a late line call and a challenge by Goffin, who lost it and faced his first break point.

Djokovic couldn’t convert that one, but moments later, Goffin sent a forehand wide to set up a second. This time, Djokovic ended a 20-stroke exchange with a drop volley winner. And soon enough, he was on his way, sliding or doing the splits along the baseline to get to balls few others would, bending his body this way and that to repeatedly force Goffin to hit an extra shot.

It’s a dispiriting brand of tennis, and it was too much for Goffin. He would wind up going about 50 minutes until he managed to win another game.

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More AP tennis coverage: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Mondo Duplantis, Sandi Morris miss attempts at pole vault records

Mondo Duplantis
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis and U.S. athlete Sandi Morris took turns attempting world records in the pole vault Wednesday at the Meeting d’Athlétsime Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais meet at Arena Stade Regional in Liévin, France, but both were unable to clear the bar.

Duplantis, aiming to set the world record for third time in February, had no misses leading up to his record attempts. U.S. vaulter Sam Kendricks, who has won the last two world championships, cleared 5.90m but dropped out after one attempt at 5.95m. Duplantis passed on that height, then cleared 6.07m to warm up for his shot at 6.19m, just shy of 20 feet, 3 3/4 inches.

Morris’ attempt to tie Jennifer Suhr‘s world indoor record of 5.03m from 2016 was more of a surprise. Morris holds the U.S. outdoor record at 5.00m but had never done better than 4.95m indoors. She won Wednesday’s competition with a clearance of 4.83m and asked to go immediately to 5.03m, or 16 feet, 6 inches.

Yelena Isinbayeva still holds the outdoor record of 5.06m, set in 2009. Morris is second on the all-time list and is the only athlete other than Isinbayeva or Suhr to clear 5 meters either indoors or outdoors.

In the men’s pole vault, Duplantis’ clearance of 6.18m Feb. 15 in Glasgow is the best vault indoors or outdoors.  Sergey Bubka still has the highest clearance outdoors at 6.14m. Bubka also held the indoor record of 6.15m for more than 20 years, finally losing it to Renaud Lavillenie in 2014. Duplantis cleared 6.17m Feb. 9 in Poland, then added another centimeter last week in Glasgow.

READ: Duplantis raises record in Glasgow

Duplantis, Lavillenie and Bubka are the only vaulters to clear 20 feet. Kendricks cleared 6.06m, or 19-10 1/2, last summer, the highest outdoor clearance by anyone other than Bubka.

Duplantis grew up in Louisiana and attended LSU for one year, setting the NCAA indoor (5.92m) and outdoor (6.00m) before turning pro, though he was upset in the NCAA final by South Dakota junior Chris Nilsen.

Also at Wednesday’s meet:

Ronnie Baker ran 6.49 seconds in the 60m semifinals and lowered that to 6.44 in the final, second only to Christian Coleman this season. Demek Kemp finished second and tied his personal best of 6.50.

Nia Ali and Christina Clemons finished 1-2 in the women’s 60m hurdles with identical times of 7.92. Ali is the reigning world champion and Olympic silver medalist in the 100m hurdles. She also won world indoor titles in 2014 and 2016.

Two Ethiopian runners set the fastest times of the season Samuel Tefera in the 1,500m (3:35.54) and Getnet Wale in the 3,000m (7:32.80). Wale was fourth in the 3,000m steeplechase in the 2019 world championships.

Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, racing in his home country of France, won the 60m hurdles in 7.47, second this season to Grant Holloway‘s 7.38 last week.

The World Athletics Indoor Tour ends Friday in Madrid. The world indoor championships originally scheduled for March in Nanjing, China, have been postponed a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Susan Dunklee extends decade of surprises for U.S. biathletes

Susan Dunklee
Getty Images
Leave a comment

When Susan Dunklee‘s time held up for second place in Friday’s 7.5km sprint, she became the first U.S. biathlete to win two world championship medals in her career and earned the sixth medal for the U.S. in world biathlon championship history.

Four of those medals have come in the past eight years.

First was Tim Burke, who had gained some fame among biathlon fans with his three World Cup podiums in the 2009-10 season and his relationship with German biathlete Andrea Henkel, who would win two Olympic gold medals and eight world championships before retiring and marrying Burke.

In that season, Burke led the World Cup briefly but faded and didn’t do well in the Olympics. But in 2012-13, he finished 10th in the World Cup overall and ended the American drought in the world championships, finishing second in the individual behind dominant French biathlete Martin Fourcade, who won his 11th non-relay world title Wednesday in the individual.

In 2017, Dunklee became the first U.S. woman to win a non-relay medal, taking the lead in the mass start after quickly knocking down all five targets in the last shooting and holding on for second. She didn’t come out of nowhere, having taken a few World Cup medals. That season, she ranked 10th overall in the World Cup.

Then came the stunner. Lowell Bailey, who had just one World Cup podium in a long career coming into the 2016-17 season, had bib 100 in the individual, a spot usually reserved for non-contenders. But he hit all 20 targets, always important in a race that penalizes athletes one minute per miss, and gutted it out through the last lap to keep a 3.3-second advantage and win the first world championship for a U.S. biathlete.

Like Dunklee, Bailey earned his medal in the midst of a strong season. The individual was won of his four top-10 finishes in the world championships, including a fourth-place finish in the sprint. He wound up eighth overall in the World Cup.

Bailey and Burke each stuck it out to compete in their fourth Olympics in 2018, then crossed the finish line together in their final race at the U.S. championships.

This season is their first in management. Bailey, also a bluegrass musician, is now U.S. Biathlon’s director of high performance. Burke is director of athlete development.

Dunklee, on the other hand, isn’t done. Her results slipped a bit after her 2017 breakthrough, but she has had some top 10s. When she shoots clean, as she did Friday, she’s a contender.

The first U.S. medal was in the first women’s world championship in 1984, when Holly Beatie, Julie Newman and Kari Swenson bronze in 3x5km relay. Swenson also finished fifth in the individual that year and returned to compete in the next two world championships after a harrowing experience in which she was abducted and shot, a story that inspired a film starring Tracy Pollan.

The only other U.S. medal in the world championships before Burke, Bailey and Dunklee was Josh Thompson‘s individual silver in 1987. The only athletes other than Burke, Bailey, Dunklee and Thompson to have World Cup podiums (excluding relays) are Jeremy Teela in 2009 and Clare Egan, who was third in a mass start last spring and is competing in the world championships this year.

U.S. Paralympians broke through with two gold medals on the first day of competition in the 2018 Paralympics.

READ: Kendall Gretsch, Dan Cnossen take gold

Wednesday saw another surprise finish for a U.S. biathlete. Leif Nordgren, whose career-best finish outside the relays is 16th, was the only athlete to go 20-for-20 on the shooting range and placed eighth in the individual.

The championships continue through through Sunday with the single mixed relay on Thursday, the men’s and women’s relays on Saturday, and the men’s and women’s mass starts on Sunday.

WATCH: World biathlon championships TV schedule

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!