Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Sports

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer reach Wimbledon men's final

LONDON — Roger Federer was on the decline — or so the thinking went.

He was past 30. Had back problems. Tried experimenting with a larger racket. Was a family man, a father to two sets of twins now. Slid down the rankings. Reached zero Grand Slam finals over the past two years. Started losing before the quarterfinals at majors, including in 2013's second round at Wimbledon, of all places, to a guy ranked 116th.

Look at him now. Federer is one victory from a record eighth Wimbledon championship and 18th Grand Slam title overall.

Asked how much it would mean to add to his trophy collection, Federer, who turns 33 next month and would be the oldest Wimbledon winner in at least a half-century, said: "A lot. I know I don't have 10 left, so I'll try to enjoy it as much as I can."

Could he have imagined 12 months ago, after his startlingly early exit, being in this year's final? "I wasn't sure," Federer replied. "I hoped."

After so much buzz about the rise of a new generation to challenge the supremacy of the "Big 4" — a quartet that includes Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray and that will have won 36 of the past 38 Slams — Federer and Novak Djokovic turned aside up-and-comers in Friday's semifinals.

No. 1 Djokovic, the 2011 champion, went first, overcoming dips in his play to beat 11th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (9-7) and reach his third final at Wimbledon and 12th major final in the past 16.

Federer, tied with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw with seven Wimbledon titles, followed with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over 11th-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada. Returning serves that topped 130 mph, he broke Raonic once in each set and took 61 of 80 points on his own serve.

"Just seeing Roger around, seeing his persona, his aura — you know that a lot of people could have, and have, written him off in a lot of ways," Raonic said, "(but) you knew this was very (possible) for him."

Dimitrov (who beat defending champion Murray in the quarterfinals) and Raonic (who beat the man who beat Nadal in the fourth round) are 23 and made their debuts in a Slam semifinal. Federer was in his 35th; six-time major champion Djokovic was in his 23rd.

It was sunny, 77 and windy, and Djokovic and Dimitrov found themselves slip-sliding around the worn Centre Court, especially along swaths of brown dirt. Djokovic appeared ready to run away with a win, one point from leading by a set and two breaks. But Dimitrov, cheered on by girlfriend Maria Sharapova, hit an ace to erase a break point and reeled off five consecutive games to grab the second set.

Djokovic was volleying poorly — something that surely bothered one of his coaches, three-time Wimbledon champ Boris Becker — and generally struggling to find his strokes. After one botched forehand, Djokovic threw his racket end-over-end in the air and caught it.

"It was a roller coaster," Becker said of his man's up-and-down performance. "It doesn't have to be pretty and perfect all the time. You have to play perfect when it matters most."

Comments
For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

Rays manager Kevin Cash's commitment to rest players and rotate playing time resulted in an unusual lineup combination for tonight's series and roadtrip finale vs. the Astros.Such as having rookie Willy Adames at second base, Joey Wendle at third, Ca...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Phil Mickelson apologizes four days after hitting moving ball at U.S. Open

Phil Mickelson apologizes four days after hitting moving ball at U.S. Open

NEW YORK — Phil Mickelson has apologized four days after intentionally violating golf rules by hitting a moving ball on the green at the U.S. Open, saying his frustration got the best of him. The apology came Wednesday in a statement released by his ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox Sr. was watching the NFL draft 24 years ago when the phone rang. Buffalo coach Marv Levy was on the other line."Marv said they were taking me," said Knox Sr., a standout receiver at FSU.Soon after, Knox Sr. saw his name scroll across ESPN'...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tough questions are mere child’s play for Kevin Knox

Tough questions are mere child’s play for Kevin Knox

Growing up, Kevin Knox II watched videos or listened to motivational tapes during car rides to and from school so he could learn how to expand upon answers in interviews.That was all by design.His father, Kevin Knox Sr., knew about the spotlight as a...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lightning announce home opener: Oct. 6 vs. Panthers

Lightning announce home opener: Oct. 6 vs. Panthers

The Tampa Bay Lightning will announce their full 2018-19 schedule on Thursday, but the league announced each home opener Wednesday, with Tampa Bay playing host to the Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena on Saturday, Oct. 6.The Lightning will know their ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Florida State will host Florida Gators to open this basketball season

Florida State will host Florida Gators to open this basketball season

For the first time in almost two decades, Florida and Florida State will open the men's basketball season against each other.The Seminoles will host UF on Nov. 6, both programs announced Wednesday morning. FSU has won four in a row in the series."Any...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Kevin Kiermaier returns to the Rays

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Kevin Kiermaier returns to the Rays

Times sports columnist Tom Jones joins Rick Stroud to discuss Kevin Kiermaier's return to the Rays, whether Victor Hedman should win the Norris Trophy for the NHL's best defenseman, Bucs expectations for this season and Barry Trotz's next c...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-Hillsborough County girls basketball team

Tampa Bay Times’ all-Hillsborough County girls basketball team

Player of the Year: Kaliah Henderson, Jr., RobinsonFirst teamG Brylee Bartram, Jr., Seffner ChristianG Jacquelyn LeVay, Sr., AlonsoF/G Tarriyonna Gary, So., Carrollwood DayF Tiasia McMillan, So., Carrollwood DayC Kendal Cheesman, Fr., PlantSecond tea...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-Pinellas County girls basketball team

Tampa Bay Times’ all-Pinellas County girls basketball team

Player of the Year: November Morton, Sr., CountrysideFirst teamG Paris Williams, Sr., LakewoodG Summer Quigley, Jr., East LakeF Toi Smith, Sr., LakewoodF/G Carrie Lee, Sr., ClearwaterC Macey Zeh-Arndt, So., LakewoodSecond teamG Misha O'Neal, Sr., Cou...
Updated: 7 hours ago
How the Rays really won Tuesday’s game over Astros

How the Rays really won Tuesday’s game over Astros

There was some interesting inside baseball elements that factored into the late innings of Tuesday's 2-1 Rays win.* First, on Matt Duffy's double off reliever Hector Rondon to lead off the eighth.Duffy said he doesn't like "to guess" what a pitcher i...
Updated: 8 hours ago