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9:41AM

S.F. Examiner: Here’s how you spell Djokovic: B-E-S-T

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

WIMBLEDON, England — They know his name now, know that he’s the best men’s tennis player in the world. They know his quickness, his return of serve and his ability to react, sprinting from one end of the court to the other. They even know his tendency to take tumbles as he reaches for balls beyond his reach, but not his hopes.

Novak Djokovic was always somewhat of an outsider, not so much an oddball but unusual — at least to Americans. Djokovic had a talent for mimicking other players, men and women — he knew every Maria Sharapova twist and move — and a talent for fading in big matches.

Read the full story here.

©2015 The San Francisco Examiner

10:03AM

Newsday (N.Y.): Roger Federer will play Novak Djokovic for Wimbledon title

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

WIMBLEDON, England — He was Michael Jordan hitting jump shots. He was Jack Nicklaus driving golf balls. He was Roger Federer, out of the past and securing a future because he again will be playing in a Wimbledon final.

At 33, Federer served as if he were 23, with 20 aces and a bunch of serves that Andy Murray just couldn't handle. "He served fantastic," an awed Murray said. "I really didn't have any opportunities."

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2015 Newsday. All rights reserved.

9:07AM

S.F. Examiner: Federer, Nadal remain compelling through nature’s obstacles

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

WIMBLEDON, England — One is too old — at least we think so, even if Roger Federer doesn’t — and the other is too worn out. Tennis is a sport for the young, isn’t it? And the physically fit, which Rafael Nadal seems to be only occasionally. But there are no logical parameters for either of these two.

Federer should have retired a couple of years back. The man will be 34 in a few weeks, ancient for running backs or guys running down backhands. Nadal should have fallen apart a few years ago. First there were the troublesome knees, then the back. He seemed to spend more time in rehab than on court.

Read the full story here

©2015 The San Francisco Examiner

9:42PM

Federer’s longevity was well-planned

By Art Spander

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The temperature was 89 degrees when Roger Federer finished another match without figuratively working up a sweat.

The man seemingly never grows old. He’s 33, which in tennis age is somewhere between remembering what used to be and reminding yourself to retire.

Unless you’re Federer, who said he planned his career to last and not flame out.

And, despite traveling with a wife and two sets of young twins, he figuratively carries no baggage.

Doesn’t carry his opponents either. On Sunday, he beat some poor kid named Diego Schwarzman, 6-4, 6-2. That’s a problem for tennis: the nobodies — Schwarzman, a 22-year-old Argentinean is ranked 63rd — get sent in like cannon fodder to face the stars.

It’s like a high-school kid trying to guard Stephen Curry. You lose confidence as quickly as you lose matches.

Yes, everyone started down there. In his postgame musings to the big crowd at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden’s 16,100-seat Stadium Court, Federer recalled his first appearance 15 years ago in the tournament now called the BNP Paribas Open.

“I was way out there,” he said pointing to an unseen court of the desert complex east of Palm Springs, “in a sandstorm.”

Once a player breaks through, finally gets beyond the first and second rounds, earns enough points to get matched against someone of, for that moment, his or her own skill, it all changes.

For Federer, an emotional player as a teenager in his native Switzerland, the great leap was when he defeated Pete Sampras, a seven-time champion, in the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2001.   

Suddenly Federer was the player the other guys had to get past. And they rarely did.

He took Wimbledon seven times. He has a men’s record 19 Grand Slams. And if he’s still not at the summit, occupied now by Novak Djokovic, No. 2 is impressive. And reassuring. 

“I’m very happy,” said Federer. “I was feeling good in practice. Today I was moving well, which is the key on this surface (slower hard courts) because the easy shots and easy points are not going to happen here like they maybe do in Dubai or Australia or the indoor season.

“So I always have to adjust my game accordingly.”

It was Justin Gimmelstob of the Tennis Channel, a one-time ranked player, who asked Federer if he were surprised by his longevity.

“I organized my career this way,” said Federer, who later in the mass press conference went into greater detail.

“The idea,” explained Federer, “was always trying to be around the game a long time.”

To his satisfaction, to the satisfaction of tournament organizers, the idea was realized.

If the fault of tennis, using an unintended play on words, is that it’s difficult for the young players to move ahead, the other side is that fans cheer for the favorites, not the underdogs. They come to see the stars, to see Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, all winners on Sunday.

Without team loyalty, tennis needs individuals who not only are champions but are famous. Federer meets that requirement.

He does Mercedes commercials. He does espresso machine commercials (for the Swiss company Jura Capressa). And he did in Schwarzman in 1 hour 3 minutes.

“Whatever we do, we will plan long-term,” Federer said, alluding to a template designed by him and his advisers. “Sure we can chase money or more tournament victories. We can play more frequently, more often, train harder.

“But we decided to stay around 20 tournaments a year, which is a lower number . . . I want to play good. I want to play injury-free if possible. Of course, we all play hurt. But the goal was to stay around a long time. I think I did get inspired by seeing 32-year-olds, 35-year-olds. They almost did a favor that I could play against them. Would they have retired at 28, I would never have seen them on tour.”

He saw them. Now we continue to see Roger Federer, graceful, elegantly smooth, popular. Every point he scored drew an overwhelming roar. You felt sorry for Schwarzman.

The Tennis Garden is owned by Larry Ellison, and does he need to be identified? (A couple of nights ago, in the first row, John McEnroe sat between Ellison and Bill Gates. Nobody was diving for dropped change.)

“He likes to talk about tennis,” Federer told Gimmelstob about conversations with Ellison, “and I like to talk about other things. He doesn’t just sit there and act like, ‘Uh, I own the tournament.’ He really knows the details.”   

So, in a different way, does Roger Federer, Mr. Forever.

8:23PM

Bleacher Report: Men's Tennis Begins New Era with Kei Nishikori-Marin Cilic Final at 2014 US Open

By Art Spander
Featured Columnist

NEW YORK — Up at the Stadium, they said farewell to Derek Jeter on Sunday, gave the Yankee shortstop of 20 years his special day, a couple of weeks before retirement. Twenty-four hours earlier and a few miles away, across the East River, we said goodbye to an era in tennis.

So long to a Grand Slam men’s final which had Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray. So long to what we knew. So long to what we expected.

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Copyright © 2014 Bleacher Report, Inc.