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12:11PM

Bleacher Report: No End in Sight to Novak Djokovic's Dominance After Career Year, US Open Title

By Art Spander
Featured Columnist

NEW YORK — He’s a man in full flight, at the top of his game, athletic, resolute, a champion whose future is no less beautiful than his present. Novak Djokovic had a rare year in tennis, a winner of three Grand Slam tournaments, a runner-up in the fourth.

But it’s not so much what Djokovic has done—adding another U.S. Open championship to his collection of titles with his win Sunday over the man who was the gold standard of the sport, Roger Federer.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2015 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

9:03PM

Bleacher Report: Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer Battle a Dream Finale for 2015 US Open

By Art Spander
Featured Columnist

NEW YORK — This is what tennis wanted, and the sport will have it on Sunday in the U.S. Open men's final: the best against the best, No. 1 against No. 2, the great server against the great returner.

It’s the dream match — the latest version of a recurring dream.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2015 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

9:53AM

Bleacher Report: The Ageless Roger Federer Is the People's Choice

By Art Spander
Featured Columnist

NEW YORK — He was finished with Stan Wawrinka, but the fans were not finished with Roger Federer. They never are. It doesn’t matter. In Australia. At Wimbledon. Or Friday night, at the U.S. Open.

Federer is the people’s choice in tennis. That was loudly obvious in the plaza at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. He had shown up in the ESPN booth for a post-match interview, where on a set with a transparent backing he was clearly visible—while the crowd was clearly audible.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2015 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

8:27AM

Nadal and Federer, the Difference Between Night and Day

By Art Spander

NEW YORK — The difference was that between night and day, between a man who mysteriously has lost his touch and one who somehow again has found his, between a player who should be better than he’s been of late and another who by all rights shouldn’t be as good as he is this late in a career.

The difference was that between Rafael Nadal, who in the wee small hours Saturday was beaten after winning the first two sets from Fabio Fognini, and Roger Federer, who in the bright glare of an early afternoon Saturday was victorious over Philipp Kohlschreiber.

It seems never to stop at the U.S. Open tennis championship, so very much a part of the booming city that never sleeps. They start early, late morning. And they finish late, early morning. But this early morning, with the clock closing in on 1:30, the Open stopped for Nadal. And the questions started anew.

Fognini, holding the last men’s seed, No. 32, was as bewildered as he was delighted with the 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 win over Nadal. “It’s something incredible I did,” said Fognini after the 3-hour, 46-minute match.

Or, considering the decline of Nadal, from No. 3 at the beginning of the year to No. 8 now, maybe something unexceptional.

“It was not so much a match that I lost,” said Nadal of the defeat, “even if I had opportunities. It’s a match he wins. Not happy, but I accept that he was better than me today.”

All four Grand Slams in 2015, the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and now the U.S. Open, some opponent has been better than Rafa. For the first time in 11 years he didn’t win a Slam. And even though Nadal only is 29, because of his aggressive, pounding style, and past injuries, he is an old 29.

In contrast, there’s Federer. Two years ago we thought he had slipped too far from his past glory. That having reached 30 — he will be 34 on Tuesday — it wasn’t so much the game had passed him by but others, Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and even on occasion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, were hitting passing shots by him. Father Time was hovering.

What do we know? While Nadal tumbled — and the dead of night, or somewhere beyond the bewitching hour, was a properly eerie time — Federer arose. The No. 2 seed in this Open, Federer blitzed Kohlschreiber, the No. 29 seed, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

Federer may not have extended his all-time record of 17 Slam victories (his last was 2012 Wimbledon), but this year and last he was a Wimbledon finalist, losing to Djokovic, currently the world’s No. 1.

Where Nadal huffs, puffs and slugs, Federer glides and swings. His style has enabled him to avoid major injuries, and in an acknowledgement that maybe he’s lost a step or a couple inches of racquet speed, he has re-invented himself, moving up to the base line at times to take second serves.

Where Nadal is disappointed, although telling us there’s been progress, mentally at last, Federer is content.  “I feel good,” he said after a match that went barely past an hour and a half. “I have had a nice schedule.  Played early the first day. It was a fast match.

“And when I played at night,” he said of his win Thursday over Steve Darcis, “I played the first slot (7 p.m. EDT). I didn’t get to bed too late. I’m still in a normal schedule, which is good to be. Because if you finish a match like Fognini and Rafa, it’s hard to go to sleep anyway. It can be 3 or 4 in the morning.”

It was later than that for Nadal and Fognini. They were doing post-match interviews well past 2 a.m.  “It was an incredible match for sure,” said Fognini. It was a telling match for sure for Nadal.

“We can be talking for an hour trying to create a reason,” said Nadal. A Spaniard, he speaks English well enough, but doesn’t always choose the proper idiom or tense.

“But the sport for me is simple, no?,” said Nadal. “If you are playing with less confidence and you are hitting balls without creating the damage on the opponent that I believe I should do, then they have the possibility to attack.

“I want the defense, a little bit longer, and hit easier winners. Have been a little bit tough for me to hit the winners tonight. But that’s it. Not a big story. Is just improve small things that make a big difference.”

Federer went to bed before the Nadal story was told, and no matter what Rafa says it’s a very big story.

“I heard the news when I woke up,” Federer said about Nadal losing. “I wish I did see the match because I didn’t expect it to be this thrilling, but that would have been bad preparation for my match today.”

A match that was as different from Nadal’s as night is from day.

9:44AM

Newsday (N.Y.): Novak Djokovic defeats Roger Federer to become new king of Wimbledon

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

WIMBLEDON, England — Novak Djokovic understood whom he was playing and where he was playing Sunday. He also understood what he had to do against Roger Federer, a seven-time Wimbledon champion.

"You know he's not going to lose," Djokovic said. "I'm going to have to win it if I want to lift that trophy."

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2015 Newsday. All rights reserved.