Tag Archives: 2015

US Open 2015: Awesome Federer sets up all-Swiss semifinal with Wawrinka

New York:  Even Roger Federer is wowed by how well he’s playing at 34 — and the ease with which he’s winning at this U.S. Open.

Federer is into his 10th semifinal at Flushing Meadows, and record 38th at all major tournaments. To get back to his first final in New York since 2009, he’ll have to beat someone he knows quite well: Swiss Olympic and Davis Cup teammate Stan Wawrinka.

The No. 2-seeded Federer and No. 5 Wawrinka won quarterfinals about as handily as can be Wednesday night.

Roger Federer after his quarterfinal match. He will face countryman Wawrinka in in the semis. AFP

Federer never faced a break point, compiled a remarkable 50-8 advantage in winners, and needed less than 1 1/2 hours to dismiss 12th-seeded Richard Gasquet of France 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“It’s nice to play this way,” Federer said. “And, maybe at my age, to run through five opponents the way I have done here at the U.S. Open, I don’t consider that normal, to be quite honest, even though I expect it in some ways.”

Not only has Federer won all 15 sets he’s played, he has only dropped 44 games. He has won 67 of his 69 service games. And he’s done it while playing attacking tennis; against Gasquet, he won the point on 22 of 28 trips to the net.

“I don’t feel like I’m as old as I am. I still feel young,” Federer said. “So it’s nice to get rewarded with the hard work and (know) that, actually, I’m able to play sort of ‘fun’ tennis.”

He hasn’t won a major title since Wimbledon in 2012, losing finals there to No. 1 Novak Djokovic last year and this July.

“It’s just nice to see how he’s moving,” Wawrinka said about Federer. “You think he’s flying on the court.”

And make no mistake: Wawrinka has been watching.

He even pulled out one of Federer’s tricks — a recently developed tactic of charging to the service line for a second-serve return — while eliminating 15th-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa 6-4, 6-4, 6-0.

Moved from Ashe to Louis Armstrong Stadium because of two lengthy women’s quarterfinals plus a 1 1/2-hour rain delay earlier, the match took 1 hour, 47 minutes in all, but the third set, in particular, was dominated by Wawrinka, who won 24 of its 29 points.

Wawrinka solved the 6-foot-8 Anderson’s serve, converting 5 of 8 break points. Anderson had been broken a total of four times through his first four matches combined, including his surprise of 2012 U.S. Open champion Andy Murray.

Anderson called that victory, which put him into the quarterfinals at a major for the first time after previously going 0-7 in fourth-round matches, “a big moment.”

“I felt I did a good job of resetting myself and getting ready for this next match,” Anderson said. “Wasn’t meant to be today. Stan didn’t make it easy.”

Most of his career, Wawrinka has lived in the shadow of his older — and far more successful — countryman, Federer. Wawrinka didn’t break through with his first Grand Slam title until the 2014 Australian Open. He added No. 2 this year at the French Open, beating Federer in the quarterfinals along the way.

Still, that was only Wawrinka’s third victory in 19 career matches against Federer. They’re good friends and paired up to win a gold medal in doubles at the 2008 Olynpics.

“Stan played a wonderful match against me in Paris, and I was very happy for him that he went on to win the tournament. He deserved it. He’s been such a great player throughout his career. He always improved a lot, kept on working really hard,” Federer said.

“Couldn’t be happier to play him here, to be quite honest,” Federer added. “Two Swiss in the semis of the U.S. Open — it’s very cool for both of us.”

In Friday’s other semifinal, Djokovic will face defending champion Marin Cilic. Djokovic won all 13 previous meetings.

The women’s semifinals are scheduled for Thursday night, although there is rain in the forecast: No. 1 Serena Williams vs. unseeded Roberta Vinci of Italy, and No. 2 Simona Halep vs. No. 26 Flavia Pennetta of Italy. It’s the first time two Italian women reached the semifinals at the same major.

Halep and Pennetta advanced Wednesday by beating two-time major champions. Halep composed herself after a third-set rain break and defeated Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, while Pennetta beat Kvitova 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Williams is chasing tennis’ first calendar-year Grand Slam since Steffi Graf did it 1988.

2015 NFL power rankings, preseason edition: Seahawks, Packers start the year on top

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

A new season of football is days away. What better way to kick it off than with the first edition of our power rankings!

It’s a brand new year in the NFL. A blank slate. The over analysis of every little piece of NFL minutiae over the last seven months — draft picks, free agency, court cases, mini-camps, training camps, some player being in the best shape of his life — will finally be put to the test. NFL parity always has a knack at making preseason rankings look stupid, but we writers toil on.

Without further ado, here are the preseason power rankings for 2015. Thanks to SB Nation’s NFL bloggers for helping rank the teams to start the season.

The top of my Power Rankings this year feature a lineup of the usual suspects.

The Seahawks came within 1 yard of a second straight Super Bowl victory, but now must prove they can mentally bounce back from that devastating and humiliating last-minute loss. The offensive line is a big concern, but on paper, they appear poised to do so. Seattle added Jimmy Graham to an already efficient offense, which should boost their red zone effectiveness, and rookie Tyler Lockett looks primed to be a major factor in the field position game.

On the other side of the ball, the other big question mark is whether Kam Chancellor plans to report. Assuming he does — I can’t see him missing much, if any, time once the real games start — Seattle returns all their starters save for corner Byron Maxwell, positioning themselves for a third straight season as the league’s top defense.

Meanwhile, the Packers, who by all logic should have gotten past the Seahawks and gone to the Super Bowl last year, return most of their core players, as well — including the best quarterback in the game in Aaron Rodgers — but will have to cope with the preseason loss of Jordy Nelson. The battle of attrition has started early for Green Bay, but it’s a loss that they should be able to weather. I expect they’ll once again be among the NFC’s elite.

The defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots find themselves at No. 3 in my rankings because of the the still-lingering Tom Brady suspension uncertainty, and because of their losses on the defensive side of the ball. It’s hard to doubt that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady can work their magic once again this season and lead the Patriots to AFC East supremacy, but the path is markedly tougher with the departure of starting cornerbacks Darrelle Revis (most importantly) and Brandon Browner, plus Vince Wilfork, Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard and Akeem Ayers. Will the loss of Revis — a Defensive Player of the Year caliber player — be too much to recover from this season? We’ll find out.

The Broncos’ fate this season rests on the shoulders of Peyton Manning. Can Manning overcome injuries from the second half of last year and return to his normal form, or have we seen the beginning of the end for the legend? Regardless, I really like Denver’s defense a lot. They can rush the passer with the best of them and have a very good secondary with Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and T.J. Ward, and with a high-functioning Manning returning to a semblance of his former self this year, the Broncos should continue to dominate in the AFC. Right now, I’m not counting Peyton or Denver out.

Rounding out the top five are the Indianapolis Colts, who reloaded to take a run at it this year with the acquisitions of Andre Johnson and Frank Gore, two new pieces for the prolific Andrew Luck’s arsenal. Offensively, Indianapolis should be pretty unstoppable. The defense is the bigger question, of course, but they added Trent Cole to boost the pass rush, and expect to get Robert Mathis back to (near) full health this year. Indy’s brass hopes that these veteran pieces will put them over the 11-5 hump and past the Patriots to the Super Bowl this year.

Big question marks

It’s too early to anoint the Eagles, but I find myself very high on Chip Kelly’s crew in 2015. We’ve all overreacted to preseason play at one time or another — but a healthy Sam Bradford could be a major boon for Philadelphia. It doesn’t hurt that they replaced LeSean McCoy with two high quality backs in DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews. Of course, there’s a reason I put Philly in the “big question marks” category, because Sam Bradford and “health” haven’t been synonymous thus far. So much relies, as usual, on Bradford not getting himself hurt.

The Steelers should have one of the best offenses in the league again in 2015, but will have to ride out the suspensions of Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant early. The defense in Pittsburgh is also a major question mark.

In Arizona, the Cardinals get their quarterback back, but Carson Palmer will need to stay healthy and prove the knee won’t affect his performance. I love the hutzpah of Bruce Arians. He likes to throw the ball deep and his defense will almost surely be aggressive, but the Cardinals have a few big questions to answer.

Dallas has an absurdly stacked offensive line. The Tony Romo to Dez Bryant connection should be alive and well. The Cowboys have to replace their bell cow in DeMarco Murray, and face major questions on defense. An already depth-challenged group lost starting cornerback Orlando Scandrick to an ACL injury and may rely more than ever on their ball-control offense.

Can the Chiefs receivers score a touchdown this year? Will the Lions be the same without Ndamukong Suh? Can the Bengals get over the hump with Andy Dalton? Is Teddy Bridgewater the real deal? These are a few things on my mind heading into this season.

Parity is king

The group of teams from Nos. 15 to 25 all feel like they could go either way this year. The Chargers, Dolphins, Saints, Panthers and Falcons all have established or up-and-coming quarterbacks, but questions of balance and depth remain.

The Bills, Texans and potentially the Rams have very good defensive groups but will rely on Tyrod Taylor, Brian Hoyer and Nick Foles to truly contend.

Pretty much the entire Niners team outside of NaVorro Bowman is one giant question mark, and even he’s been off the field for 19 months.

Still, I could see any of these teams crack the top-10 this year, and I wouldn’t bat an eye.

Still too much to prove

As much as the Leaders of the pack were made up of the usual suspects in these power rankings, so too are the Cellar Dwellers. The Titans and Bucs have a good shot of climbing out of the bottom two spots because of their new signal-callers, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, but they weren’t at the bottom of this list for most of last year just because of the quarterback position.

The Jets lost their presumptive starter for the first 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw, leaving them in limbo even longer.

The Browns are still relying on a bridge quarterback in Josh McCown. Washington’s quarterback situation has been a regularly scheduled debacle, and while the Raiders and Jags look to be headed in the right direction, they still have quite a bit of ground to make up.