The easiest win of Roger Federer's career

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The easiest win of Roger Federer's career

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Didn't take long for Serena Williams to show her fourth-round opponent at the U.S. Open where things were headed."The first point of the whole match," 82nd-ranked Andrea Hlavackova explained, "when I served, and she returned, like, a 100 mph forehand return, I was like, OK, I know who I'm playing. You don't have to prove it to me. I know.'"Monday's match was less than 15 seconds old. It might as well have been over.Dominant from the moment she ripped that return of an 88 mph second serve, forcing Hlavackova into an out-of-control backhand that sailed well long, to the moment she powered a 116 mph service winner on the last point, Williams extended her 2-month stretch of excellence with a 6-0, 6-0 victory to get to the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows.Those two big zeros pretty much tell the story; it's the fifth time in her career Williams won with what's commonly called a "double bagel." Some other impressive numbers: Williams won 60 of 89 points, built a 31-9 edge in winners and improved to 23-1 since losing in the first round of the French Open. That run includes singles and doubles titles at both Wimbledon and the London Olympics.Hlavackova knows this act all too well: She and Lucie Hradecka were the doubles runners-up at both of those events. Not that those 2-on-2 encounters helped prepare for the 1-on-1 match in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday."Singles is completely different," said Hlavackova, who chose the phrase "What can you do"? more than once when analyzing what it's like to face 14-time major champion Williams."My coach warned me to not go on the court and play for a score," Hlavackova said, by which she meant just trying to keep it as close as possible. "I was in the match. I was trying to figure out how to win. And when it was, like, 6-love, 4-love, 30-love, I was thinking, Well, I'm not playing for a score, but one game wouldn't hurt.'"Oh, well.Next for the fourth-seeded Williams, who won the U.S. Open in 1999, 2002 and 2008, is a match against former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, who reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time since winning the 2008 French Open by defeating 55th-ranked Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 6-0, 6-4.Williams -- who lost in the third round of doubles with older sister Venus on Monday night -- is 3-0 against Ivanovic, including a straight-set victory in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows last year. Must not have left much of an impression on the American, because when asked what she remembers most about their most recent match, Williams replied: "Was it here?"Assured that it was, in 2011, Williams said with a smile: "OK. Yeah, I remember, clearly, not a lot, but I will be looking at the film."In the semifinals, the Williams-Ivanovic winner will meet either No. 10 Sara Errani or No. 20 Roberta Vinci, doubles partners who both eliminated higher-seeded women Monday and now face the uncomfortable prospect of trying to beat a best buddy."Our friendship won't change, no matter what, no matter who wins," said Vinci, noting that she expects they'll have dinner together, as usual, Monday and Tuesday. "It definitely won't be an easy match from a mental perspective. We know each other well. We practice together often. We play doubles together. We know everything about each other."Errani and Vinci teamed up to win the French Open doubles championship in June, and now one of them is going to be the first woman from Italy to play in the U.S. Open semifinals since the professional era began in 1968.Errani, the runner-up to Maria Sharapova at the French Open, got past No. 6 Angelique Kerber of Germany 7-6 (5), 6-3.Reaching her first singles quarterfinal in 32 career Grand Slam tournaments, Vinci stunned No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 6-4."I really had the worst day," said Radwanska, who could have moved up to No. 1 in the WTA rankings by reaching next weekend's final. "She really mixes it up -- a lot of slice, then suddenly hitting very well from the forehand side, then kick serve, drop shots, volleys as well, coming to the net. It's really tough because she really had an answer for everything."Radwanska could sympathize with Hlavackova's plight, having lost to Williams in the Wimbledon final."When she's on fire, you can't do anything about it. It doesn't matter what you try to do, it's going to be a winner," Radwanska said. "It's just Serena. She's a great champion."So is No. 1-seeded Roger Federer, of course, owner of a record 17 Grand Slam titles, including five at the U.S. Open. As he attempts to add to those numbers, Federer got some extra rest Monday, because his fourth-round opponent, 23rd-seeded Mardy Fish of the United States, withdrew hours before their scheduled match for precautionary reasons, citing medical advice.The man Federer beat in July's Wimbledon final and lost to in August's Olympic final, Andy Murray, muted 15th-seeded Milos Raonic's big serve and won 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 Monday night to reach an eighth consecutive major quarterfinal."Today was by far my best match of the tournament," Murray concluded.No. 3 Murray will play No. 12 Marin Cilic of Croatia, who put together a 7-5, 6-4, 6-0 victory over 50th-ranked Martin Klizan of Slovakia, the last left-hander and unseeded man remaining. Murray has won 6 of 7 matches against Cilic over their careers, but the lone loss came at the U.S. Open in 2009.The 30-year-old Fish missed about 2 months this season because of an accelerated heartbeat and had a medical procedure in May."We are not 100 percent sure what the issue is and if it is related to his previous issues," Fish's agent, John Tobias, wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Mardy is fine and will return home to L.A. tomorrow. This was strictly precautionary and I anticipate that Mardy will play in Asia this fall."After losing a match at Key Biscayne, Fla., on March 29, Fish went to be checked by doctors because his heart started racing uncontrollably that night. He pulled out of the U.S. Davis Cup team's quarterfinal against France the following week.The walkover left soon-to-retire 2003 U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick -- who plays 2009 champ Juan Martin del Potro in the fourth round Tuesday night -- as the last American man in the field, and it allowed the top-seeded Federer to reach his 34th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal, extending another record he owns.Federer now faces No. 6 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, who eliminated No. 11 Nicolas Almagro of Spain 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-1. Berdych stunned Federer in the 2010 Wimbledon quarterfinals on the way to reaching the final there."I am really sorry for Mardy. I just want to wish him a speedy recovery," Federer said in a statement issued by the tournament. "We all want to see him back on tour soon."

Sharks' depth players, Burns, snap cold streaks just in time

Sharks' depth players, Burns, snap cold streaks just in time

SAN JOSE – For at least one night, the Sharks’ depth players – most of which have been missing in action for weeks – found the scoresheet against the Rangers in a 5-4 overtime win on Tuesday.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. 

The Sharks were playing their first of what will surely be at least a few games without center Logan Couture, and are still in the hunt for a Pacific Division title with four of their six remaining games against Edmonton and Calgary – teams they are trying to fend off to earn home ice in the first round. And, of course, they ended a wretched six-game losing streak in which they never had a lead in any of the defeats.

Coach Pete DeBoer mentioned earlier in the week that the coaching staff had challenged the depth players to do more, especially now that their second line center is out indefinitely. The response on Tuesday included two goals from Chris Tierney (including a late game-tying score), one goal and one assist from Jannik Hansen, a shorthanded goal by Melker Karlsson, two assists from Mikkel Boedker, and an assist from Tomas Hertl.

Consider the challenge met.

“We want to score. All the depth guys know, and talked about stepping up,” Tierney said. “It's good that we broke through tonight, especially with Logan out of the lineup. We're going to have to keep doing it throughout the playoffs."

DeBoer said the internal challenge “didn’t involve much more than just ‘Hey, we need some contributions from you.’ We can’t always look to the big guys to get the job done. We got that tonight. Those guys got on the board. It’s never a lack of effort with that group, but we’re the sum of our parts. We need those guys to get on the board for us on a regular basis and they did that tonight.”

It was also surely welcomed that one of their big guys – perhaps their biggest – got the overtime winner. Brent Burns had been mired in a 16-game drought without a goal, but his slap shot got through Henrik Lundqvist half-a-minute into an overtime power play.

While the depth guys will need to continue to produce, the Sharks are going to need more from Burns, too, as the postseason approaches. The defenseman had been kept off of the scoresheet in nine of 10 games from March 5 – 21, but now has one point in each of his last three games. That’s a good sign.

Getting a goal was particularly nice, as was ending the losing skid.

“Yeah on both accounts,” Burns said. “That was a big win, especially coming back, staying resilient, getting that big goal there at the end.”

Still, with all that went right, the game was far from perfect. The Sharks allowed a 3-1 second period lead to turn into a 4-3 deficit in just a span of five minutes and seven seconds, indicating they’re still a bit fragile. Derek Stepan made it 3-2 late in the second with a power play goal, Jesper Fast scored on a deflection early in the third, and J.T. Miller gave New York its first lead of the night less than five minutes into the final frame.

“There’s still room for improvement, definitely,” Joe Pavelski said.

Still, the Sharks fought back for Tierney’s late game-tying goal with less than two minutes in regulation, setting up Burns’ overtime heroics. 

The captain sensed some displeasure from the home fans due to the blown lead, something he surely understood, but indicated that the energy level on the Sharks’ bench was still high.

“Whether you think, like, ‘Here we go again’ or not – I’m sure someone in this building thought that tonight,” Pavelski said. “Guys just kind of stuck with it, and we believed we would tie it up tonight.”

Getting that extra point in overtime brought a sense of relief.

“When you lose six straight, it's obviously a relief when you win one,” Martin Jones said. “But win or lose, we played a lot better tonight.”

 

Instant Replay: Sharks rally late, stun Rangers in OT to end skid

Instant Replay: Sharks rally late, stun Rangers in OT to end skid

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – Despite blowing a two-goal lead, the Sharks found a way to tie their game with the Rangers late and win it in overtime, 5-4, to end their losing streak at six games.

After New York had turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead, Chris Tierney knotted the score with just 2:15 left in regulation. Mikkel Boedker’s shot from high in the zone rattled around the slot, and Tierney was there to flip it home for this second of the night.

Brent Burns ended a 16-game goal drought with a power play goal at 3:10 in overtime, overpowering Henrik Lundqvist with a slap shot.

After Tierney had given San Jose a 3-1 lead earlier in the second period the Sharks kept up the pressure, recording seven of the next eight shots. But Patrick Marleau’s interference penalty on Jimmy Vesey gave New York a late power play and turned the game in their favor.

Derek Stepan – who was stopped on a partial breakaway midway through the first period – brought the Rangers back to within 3-2. Mats Zuccarello hummed a seam pass through Justin Braun to Stepan, who had an open net to deposit his 16th of the season in the final minutes of the second period.

In the third, Jesper Fast redirected a Brady Skjei floater at 1:24, tying the game at 3-3. A Burns tripping minor during four-on-four play offered a power play to the Rangers, and they capitalized on a J.T. Miller one-timer at 4:44, his second of the night.

The Sharks remain two points back of Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, and are tied with Edmonton for second.

For the first time in eight games the Sharks struck first. A newly configured third line of Tomas Hertl, Boedker and Jannik Hansen scored on its first shift together, as Hansen chopped in a loose puck at 1:44. Boedker and Hertl both got assists, ending pointless streaks of 10 games and 12 games, respectively.

Hansen’s first goal as a Shark also gave the team its first lead in more than two weeks, as it never led throughout its six-game regulation losing streak.

The Rangers tied it at 13:30 of the first on a goal by Miller, who took the puck from Paul Martin along the wall and lifted a perfectly placed wrist shot over Martin Jones’ near shoulder.

Melker Karlsson, returning from an eight-game absence, put the Sharks ahead 2-1 late in the first period with a shorthanded score. He whizzed a wrist shot past countryman Lundqvist at 18:01 while on a two-on-one with Tierney.

Tierney increased the lead to 3-1 in the middle frame, taking a shot from the slot and following up his own rebound at 11:38. It was just his second goal in the last 22 games, and eighth of the year.

The Rangers won the only other game of the season series back on Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden, 7-4. The Sharks finished the season with a 21-7-4 mark against Eastern Conference clubs.

The Sharks were without Logan Couture, who is out indefinitely with a facial injury.

Special teams:
Two of New York’s goals came on the power play, on three opportunities. The Sharks are 11-for-15 on the PK in the last six games.

San Jose had just one power play before overtime, failing to score. Karlsson’s marker was his second shorthanded score of the season, and the Sharks’ seventh as a team.

In goal:
After allowing a career high seven goals-against on Saturday in Nashville, Jones made 24 saves on 28 shots.

Lundqvist suffered the loss with 30 saves on 35 shots.

Lineup:
Micheal Haley served a one-game suspension for punching Nashville’s Calle Jarnkrok on Saturday.

Tierney (upper body) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (flu) both returned after missing Saturday’s game with the Predators. Marcus Sorensen came out of the lineup for Kevin Labanc, who was recalled on Tuesday morning and skated on the top line.

New York’s Skjei had three assists.

Up next:
The Sharks have six games remaining in the regular season – two each against Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

A three-game road trip against each of those division rivals begins on Thursday with the Oilers, as the clubs battle for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and continues on Friday against the Flames and Sunday versus the Canucks.