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2:57PM

What a 'Messi': Wimbledon starts in the shadow of World Cup soccer

By Art Spander

WIMBLEDON, England — Hot and hazy in Greater London, where the front-page headlines that aren’t about England’s chances against Belgium in the World Cup seem to be about the world’s chances against Donald Trump in political maneuvers.

The Championships, Wimbledon, which start Monday, with the usual stars, Roger, Rafa and Serena and the usual controversies — Serena Williams says it’s unfair she’s drug-tested more than other players — are being kicked around, metaphorically.  

Soon, tennis will regain the attention owed to an event that’s been played since 1877. But about the only Page 1 Wimbledon photo the last few days, not surprisingly, was of Andy Murray, who in 2013 became the first Brit in 77 years to take the men’s singles.

And then, still recovering from hip surgery in January, Murray announced Sunday he was not ready for best-of-five set matches and withdrew.

So, for the most unfortunate of reasons, he’ll be Page 1 stuff again.

On Sunday, the front pages of both the Times and the Telegraph were on soccer — yes, football here. “End of the World for Ronaldo and Messi,” said the Times about the stars of ousted Portugal and Argentina.

“Where’s the Hand of God when you need it?” was the Telegraph head, over a picture of Argentina’s Diego Maradona, who in 1986 scored to beat England and denied he whacked the ball with his hand.

And both the Telegraph and Times had the same headline in their sports sections: “Move Over Messi,” alluding to French teenager Kylian Mbappe, who scored twice in France’s 4-3 win over Argentina, and Lionel Messi, the LeBron James of soccer. Err, football.

Roger Federer is the LeBron James of tennis. He has won Wimbledon eight times and has 20 Grand Slam titles. He will be 37 in a month, certainly too old for a world-class player, but every year of the past four or five years he has been too old — and too successful.

Although only No. 2 in the ATP rankings behind Rafael Nadal, Federer is the No. 1 seed for this Wimbledon, as he has been for many other Wimbledons. The people in charge know quite well that Federer’s best surface is the grass at the All England Club, while Nadal, with his nine French Opens (the tennis purists refer to the tournament as Roland Garros), is magnificent on clay.

One of the two has won each of the last six Slams, starting with the 2017 Australian Open.

Americans never have been very good at soccer. Don’t worry about headlines; the U.S. didn’t even qualify for the World Cup. Since the early 2000s, neither have American men been very good at tennis.

The last U.S. winners in the Slams were Andre Agassi at the Australian and Andy Roddick at the U.S. Open, both in 2003.

Not since 2000 has an American, Pete Sampras, taken the men’s singles at Wimbledon. Not that long perhaps, when measured against the decades of World Series disappointment by the Red Sox and Cubs, but long enough.  

The U.S. ladies, meaning Venus Williams and sibling Serena, won when the men could not. But now Venus is 38 and was knocked out of the Australian and French in the first round. Serena is coming back from giving birth last September. She withdrew from the French before a scheduled fourth-round match against Maria Sharapova because of an injury.

Messi, arguably the best player in soccer, and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo are gone from the World Cup, if not the world stage. Sport is a constant change, constant replacement. Father Time, or Mother Time, wins every match, every move.

Federer and Nadal, Serena and Venus Williams, someday will be too old. Not that you’ll be hearing anyone tell them to move over. In an individual sport, the individual has to make the decision that it’s time to leave.

Teams and tournaments, World Cups, Wimbledons, NBA playoffs, Super Bowls, go on and on. The athlete goes out. Inevitable and, as we were reminded by the World Cup, oh so painful.

 

4:56PM

Newsday (N.Y.): Roger Federer wins 8th Wimbledon title, beats Cilic

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

WIMBLEDON, England — It was less a match than a mismatch. Roger Federer, arguably the best male tennis player ever, who was going to win another Wimbledon anyway, in the final against a man with a blister on his foot and tears in his eyes, Marin Cilic.

Federer needed only one hour, 41 minutes to become the first eight-time winner of the Wimbledon men’s singles title, gaining an embarrassingly easy 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 victory. Pete Sampras and 19th century player William Renshaw each won seven.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2017 Newsday. All rights reserved.

11:26AM

Newsday (N.Y.): Milos Raonic beats Roger Federer in five sets in Wimbledon semifinal

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

WIMBLEDON, England—For Roger Federer, it might have been a last great hurrah.

Time and a young Canadian caught up with Federer on Friday in the Wimbledon men’s semifinals, with Milos Raonic scoring a 6-3, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 win in what appeared to be a changing of the guard.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2016 Newsday. All rights reserved.

12:22PM

Federer, Venus keep beating time Father Time — and opponents

By Art Spander

WIMBLEDON, England — It’s the old guy who’s taking the beating. Not Roger Federer. Not, on the ladies side, Venus Williams. It’s Father Time — Mother Time, if you will — getting smacked around like one of those official Slazenger balls they use at Wimbledon.

We keep hearing about the next generation, about the youth movement, about the future of tennis. So far this Wimbledon, future is very much of the past, of two players who, as Federer’s former coach Paul Annacone said about his onetime pupil, “wrestled Father Time to a stalemate.”

Federer did better than that against Marin Cilic, Thumped him but good. Came from two sets down in their quarter-final Wednesday, came from a situation where we were hoping Federer, a month from his 35th birthday, wouldn’t be embarrassed by Marin Cilic.

But it was Cilic who was not so much embarrassed as stunned. Federer saved three match points, beat Cilic 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3, and now will face the Canadian Milos Raonic in one of Friday’s semis.

Venus, of course, advanced Tuesday. Her semi is Thursday against Angelique Kerber, and because Kerber — the Australian Open champion who beat Venus’ sister Serena in the final in January — is eight years younger than 36-year-old Venus, you’d think Kerber would win.

But we also thought Cilic, after winning the first two sets, would win. Especially because we thought Federer was too old. On the contrary, he’s too good. Maybe he doesn’t win an eighth Wimbledon. Maybe he doesn’t win an 18th Grand Slam. What he’s done is enough. Now and forever.

Federer saved seven breakpoints out of eight. Three of those were match points. Against Cilic, who won the U.S. Open in 2014, against a man with a huge serve and a big forehand. Against a player who had Federer off balance and out of sorts.

“Yeah, I mean I remember just being in trouble the whole time,” agreed Federer.

What others will remember is that Roger Federer somehow won a match even he was unsure he could win. “It’s not like, ‘Oh my God,’ all of a sudden there’s match point, all of a sudden there’s a breakpoint to save," he said. "It just was continuous, for an hour or two. After I lost the second set, anything you touch and do is crucial.

“You always know at that point, as well, he’s going to have his chances.”

Chances mean little unless they can be used to one’s advantage. “Huge disappointment for me losing this way,” said Cilic. How many times do you think that thought has appeared after matches against Federer? You have him beat. Then you don’t. All the magic without a rabbit or a hat.

“I managed to hit pretty good shots,” said Cilic, “but he ended up hitting great passes. Nothing that I could do there.”

In another semi, Raonic made Sam Querrey feel much the same. Querrey, who was born in San Francisco and grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, was the first American male to get to the Wimbledon quarters since Mardy Fish in 2011. Querrey had upset top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the third round. Against Raonic, he was always trailing — other than the third set.

“I felt like I had some momentum there,” said Querrey. “Had a breakpoint the first game of the fourth set. If I can somehow get that point, it might change the match around, move it more to 50-50. He threw in a good kick serve as a first serve, which he hadn’t done. Then I was back on my heels a little bit, kind of always playing catch up.”

Then Raonic was headed for a 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 victory and a battle against Federer. “I’m happy to have another shot at him,” said Raonic. So, of course, was Cilic.

“He plays at a great level most of the time,” said Cilic of Federer. “His physique allows him to play an aggressive game. From the back court, players can’t hurt him.

“He’s not superhuman. But I don’t believe he’s slowing down. He possesses great speed. That’s something you’re born with.”

Whether he was born with a fighting spirit doesn’t matter. He has it. So does Venus Williams. They keep beating the old guy.

4:35PM

Los Angeles Times: Marcus Willis, a tennis teacher, falls to Federer in straight sets at Wimbledon

By Art Spander
Los Angeles Times

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — He looked across the net, this tennis player with a dream but no reputation, this Englishman who somehow made it not only to Wimbledon but also Centre Court, and there he saw Roger Federer.

“It was a bit surreal,” he confided.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times