Marin Cilic

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Rafael Nadal beats Marin Cilic, nears first Roger Federer U.S. Open match

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NEW YORK — Hope of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer playing each other at the U.S. Open for the first time was put on hold when the draw came out 11 days ago. The belief is back.

Nadal joined Federer in the quarterfinals by beating 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 on Monday night. Each must win two more matches for a Sunday final date. So far each has made it through with no panic.

And, more importantly, the man standing in the way of destiny, top-ranked Novak Djokovic, was eliminated on Sunday night. When the draw came out, Federer was placed in the same half as Djokovic, unlike at the French Open and Wimbledon, where Federer and Nadal met in the semifinals.

Now, their 42nd career meeting being their first at the U.S. Open is very possible if not probable.

Nadal is 21-2 against the other three men left in his half (quarterfinal foe Diego Schwartzman and Gael Monfils and Matteo Berrettini, all surprises in the last eight).

Federer is 33-3 against the three men left in his half, with no losses on hard courts to quarterfinal foe Grigor Dimitrov or Stan Wawrinka or Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev, the only other top-10 seed left, is dangerous as the hottest player on tour since Wimbledon.

Nadal has spent just under seven hours on court in four matches, dropping one set and getting a walkover in the third round. Federer has been more efficient the last two rounds, taking 79 and 80 minutes, respectively.

We’ve been here before, though.

Nadal and Federer have been within one round of playing each other at the U.S. Open six times. Each time, one of them lost. The destiny destroyers included other greats of this generation — Andy Murray (2008), Juan Martin del Potro (2009, 2017) and Djokovic (2010 and 2011) — and the outlier Tommy Robredo (2013).

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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Marin Cilic stunned at Wimbledon, boosts draw for Roger Federer, John Isner

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No. 3 seed Marin Cilic, the 2017 Wimbledon runner-up, was upset in the second round Thursday, leaving a major opening for American John Isner.

Cilic was also the highest seed (and only remaining Grand Slam winner) that Roger Federer could have faced before the final.

Argentina’s Guido Pella, ranked No. 82 in the world, shocked the Croatian Cilic 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5.

Cilic became the fourth top-10 seed in the men’s draw to go out in the first two rounds. Five of the top eight women have also been upset.

WIMBLEDON: Full Scores | Men’s Draw | Women’s Draw

Isner, the top-seeded American at No. 9, could benefit greatly from Cilic’s absence. Isner, who edged Belgian qualifier Ruben Belemans in five sets over two days in the second round, is the highest seed left in his quarter of the draw.

Isner gets 98th-ranked Moldovan Radu Albot in the third round. Isner has never made it past the third round in nine Wimbledon appearances. The biggest potential threats to Isner in the fourth round — No. 6 Grigor Dimitrov and three-time Grand Slam singles champion Stan Wawrinka — were already eliminated.

Isner and Cilic would have played in the quarterfinals. Now, the only seed Isner would face in a potential quarterfinal is No. 13 Milos Raonic, the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up.

Former champions Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal remained on course for a semifinal meeting in the other half of the draw.

Djokovic overcame a knee problem to beat Horacio Zeballos 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, while top-ranked Nadal defeated Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

Djokovic called for a trainer and had his left leg massaged when leading 4-3 in the third set. But he easily held serve in the next game and broke Zeballos again to close out the match.

“I’ve been doing checkups now. It seems like it’s nothing major,” Djokovic said of the injury. “When I say ‘not major,’ if it was major I’d be pulling out from the tournament. What I’m saying is that it’s most likely a twitch, you know, in the muscle or something like this that has affected the knee a little bit.”

Nadal won only 64 percent of points on his first serve and faced 13 break points — including three in the first game of the match — but he saved 11 of them and converted five of his own to wrap up the win in under 2 1/2 hours on Centre Court.

The 11-time French Open champion is looking for his third title at the All England Club and first since 2010.

Women’s No. 1 Simona Halep also advanced, winning the last 10 games to beat Saisai Zheng of China 7-5, 6-0. Saisai led 5-3 in the first set but Halep broke back for 5-5 and cruised the rest of the way against her 126th-ranked opponent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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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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