Giants

Federer, Djokovic set to meet in a star-studded semi

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Federer, Djokovic set to meet in a star-studded semi

From Comcast SportsNet
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- With "Murray Mania" gripping Britain, it's the other men's semifinal at Wimbledon that has many tennis fans anticipating a griping matchup on Friday afternoon. Six-time champion Roger Federer and last year's winner Novak Djokovic will face each other on the grass of Wimbledon for the first time -- in their 27th head-to-head meeting. "It is interesting that this is our first grass-court match. I'm looking forward to it," said Federer, who can win a record-equaling seventh Wimbledon title after losing in the quarterfinals the past two years. "I haven't put too much thought into it, to be quite honest, yet. I'm just happy that I'm around further than I've been the last couple years." The 30-year-old Federer already owns the most major tennis titles with 16. He completed a career Grand Slam in 2009 by winning the French Open. But his last major came more than two years ago, at the 2010 Australian Open. A win over Djokovic on Friday, and another in Sunday's final, would put Federer back at the top of the game as the No. 1-ranked player. Two more wins at the All England Club also would equal Pete Sampras' seven Wimbledon titles and tie the American's record for weeks spent at No. 1 with 286. "I know it's possible. I know I'm playing really well," said Federer, who is 14-12 against Djokovic overall but 1-6 since the start of 2011. "I am aware things are going to get complicated in the next match. I better prepare well, because it's going to be a tough match." Tough may be putting it mildly. The top-ranked Djokovic has won four of the last six major titles, and lost to Rafael Nadal in the French Open final last month. Those kinds of statistics sound a lot like what Federer did year after year not so ago. "I'm not trying to defend my title here. I'm trying to fight for it as every other player who is in last four of the men's side," said Djokovic, who beat Federer in the French Open semifinals last month. "So my mindset is very positive." After years of playing in the shadows of Federer and Nadal, it's Djokovic that is now the man to beat. The 25-year-old Serb is 43-2 at Grand Slam matches in the past two years. Very Federer-like numbers. "He has a lot of respect from me, from all the players. There is no question about it," Djokovic said of Federer. "But we are all rivals, we are all opponents. I don't think about his history or his success or whatever too much when I'm on the court. I just want to win that match." The other semifinal certainly has Britain all agog. Andy Murray reached the semifinals for the fourth straight year, and with Nadal already out of the tournament, the public is expecting more from him than ever before. "Subconsciously, I'm probably extremely stressed out right now, but I try not to feel it," said Murray, who's from Scotland. "Then, yeah, when the tournament's done there's normally a pretty big release of that. I just don't want to be on the court for a few weeks." Instead of another semifinal match against Nadal, the man he lost to in 2010 and 2011, Murray will face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France -- who rallied from a two-set deficit to eliminate Federer in the quarterfinals last year. Tsonga will have a second chance to reach the Wimbledon final, but without the pressure that is regularly heaped on Murray at Wimbledon. That kind of local fervor is saved for him when he plays at the French Open -- along with every other French player. "Here for Andy is difficult because he's alone," Tsonga said. "I mean, in France it's OK. We have many players and that's fine, but here for him it's really difficult because every eyes are on him and it's tough for him." Still, "Murray Mania" won't be slowed by Tsonga's words or his chances to win. The fans in Britain have been waiting since 1936 -- when Fred Perry won his last singles title at Wimbledon -- for a homegrown male champion. There hasn't even been a British men's finalist since Bunny Austin in 1938. "Tennis in the U.K. is not really a sport that necessarily gets followed loads for the rest of the year, but everyone gets into it when Wimbledon comes round because they understand how big a competition it is," Murray said. "The support that I've had over the last sort of five, six years here has been great. "I'm trying my best to win the tournament for myself, obviously, but also for everybody else."

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

SAN FRANCISCO — Denard Span has played enough center field at AT&T Park that he knew not to assume anything when Jarrett Parker crushed a ball to dead center. Span, standing on second, held up for a second to make sure the ball got over Nick Williams. Hunter Pence, standing on first, had a better view, and he took off with the crack of the bat. As Pence approached Span, he tried to yell over the crowd. 

“Go!” Pence yelled.

Span didn’t hear him. 

“I just felt him,” he said later, smiling. 

Span raced around third and Pence roared up on his back like the third sprinter in a 4x100 relay trying to hand off a baton. Span crossed first and Pence was inches behind him, stretching the lead to three runs. 

“It’s one of those plays that’s a little weird but it worked out,” Pence said. 

Jeff Samardzija, the pitcher of record in a 5-4 win over the Phillies, said Pence “was on a mission.” Span said simply, “That’s Hunter being Hunter.”

“I knew he was right on my heels,” he said. “I was trying to run as fast as I could. In my defense, he had a running start. It was fun, though, it was fun. I’ve never had anyone chasing me like that on the bases.”

The moment brought some levity to a season that’s been lacking it. Span laughed as he crossed the plate and the dugout was full of smiles and jokes as the two returned. But on a grander scale, it was a reminder of what Pence has been and what the Giants need him to be if they are to recover from this season. Pence is signed for 2018 at a hefty price. The odds are good that he'll be in right field, so it’s been a relief for coaches and team officials to see Pence pick it up in recent weeks. 

Pence had a hit and two walks on Thursday, scoring two runs and driving in another. He is batting .346 in August. 

“He has just been making more consistent contact and staying in the strike zone more,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

That has led to better results at the plate, and Pence has provided reminders that the physical skills are still there. After going 0-for-AT&T Park in the first half he hit a couple of homers on the last homestand. Statcast’s Sprint Speed shows that Pence is actually running faster at his top speed than in the past couple of years, when he battled injuries. Pence is at 28.2 feet per second this year, a tick up from 28.1 each of the past two seasons. 

“Baseball goes in waves,” he said. “I’ve had some tough stretches, but right now I’m in a stretch where I’m going better and I’m still trying to improve.”

On Thursday, he pushed a teammate to run just a little faster. But perhaps Pence’s good friend deserves some credit for Span’s speed, too. After stealing his fifth base a few days back, Buster Posey started needling Span. The leadoff hitter has three stolen bases in seven games since that point, getting to eight for the year. 

“He was just talking too much trash,” Span said of Posey. 

Span said Posey mentioned their equal stolen base totals two or three times. He didn’t respond because he couldn’t. Now, he has bragging rights again, and he’s enjoying it. 

“Check the tapes,” Span said as reporters started to walk away from his locker. “I think I’ve got a stolen base off of him.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants fight off Phillies for victory

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants fight off Phillies for victory

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — In a battle of the National League’s two worst teams, the Giants struck first. 

The lineup jumped out to an early lead and the new-look bullpen took it home in a 5-4 win over the visiting Phillies. The Giants scored five runs off budding ace Aaron Nola, and Mark Melancon, Hunter Strickland and Sam Dyson shut it down in the final three innings, in that (new) order. 

What a recipe for a victory. They should try that more often, in my opinion. Anyway, here are five things you should know … 

—- Hunter Pence and Denard Span combined for a funny moment in the three-run fifth. Span held up on Jarrett Parker’s ball off the wall and then took off from second; Pence had been on first, and he ran right up Span’s back as they approached the plate. Span heard him coming. He was laughing as he scored. 

—- With those runs, the Giants became the first team since June 16 to score more than two runs off Nola. The 2017 Giants are weird. 

—- Span stole second before scoring in the fifth. He has three stolen bases in seven games since Buster Posey’s mini run-of-speed. Posey had been talking trash to the leadoff hitter. 

—- Jeff Samardzija got the win, but this wasn’t one he’ll remember fondly. He needed a slick Tomlinson-Crawford double play to help get through the sixth. Samardzija was charged with four earned on eight hits.

—- Cameron Rupp flipped his bat when he hit a rocket off Samardzija in the fifth. It for sure looked like a premature bat-flip, but the ball kept carrying and landed in the arcade section above Triples Alley. Cameron Rupp is right-handed. That’s an absolute blast for a right-hander in a night game at AT&T Park. I don’t know where he would play but the Giants should trade for him.