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Djokovic gets by Bautista Agut to reach 6th Wimbledon final

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WIMBLEDON, England (AP) Novak Djokovic watched his Wimbledon semifinal opponent’s shot hit the net tape, pop in the air and slide over for a winner that tied things at a set apiece.

Centre Court spectators stood and cheered, perhaps thinking Roberto Bautista Agut was ready to keep this one tight, after all. Walking to his changeover chair, Djokovic nodded and waved his racket, then his right hand, at the crowd, sarcastically encouraging folks to get louder, as if to say, “Yeah, good for him and good for you. Enjoy it while you can.”

Soon enough, the defending champion was bellowing and shaking his fist after putting away an overhead to go up a break in the third set. Moments later, he was ending a 45-stroke baseline exchange – the longest on record at Wimbledon, where such stats date to 2006 – with a backhand winner to save a break point. Djokovic eventually overcame Bautista Agut 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 Friday to reach his sixth final at the All England Club.

“I had to dig deep,” Djokovic said.

In Sunday’s final, he will seek a fifth Wimbledon title and 16th Grand Slam trophy overall when he faces either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.

Those two great rivals were scheduled to face each other later Friday in their first meeting at Wimbledon since the epic 2008 final won by Nadal, 9-7 in the fifth set as darkness descended.

“Of course I will watch it,” Djokovic said of the day’s second semifinal. “My coaches will probably see the whole match. I’ll definitely see parts of it. I’m a fan of that matchup, as well. Federer-Nadal is one of the most epic rivalries of all time. So it’s fantastic to see them play today.”

The opening semifinal was played under a cloudy sky and with a breeze that topped 10 mph, occasionally bothering the No. 1-seeded Djokovic.

It was his 36th career appearance in the final four at a major tournament – and the debut in that round for Bautista Agut, who was seeded 23rd.

Even HE didn’t really expect his visit to the All England Club to last this long: The Spaniard was supposed to meet a half-dozen of his buddies on the island of Ibiza this weekend for his bachelor party. Instead, those pals were sitting in a guest box at Centre Court on Friday.

“He was not really overwhelmed, so to say, with the stadium and with the occasion. He played really well,” Djokovic said. “First set, he was still probably managing his nerves and he made some uncharacteristic unforced errors. But later on, at the beginning of the second, he established himself.”

After a flat forehand return winner off a 107 mph serve on the very first point, Bautista Agut certainly did lose his way for a bit. Djokovic won 14 of the next 18 points while pulling out to a 3-0 lead – and he didn’t need to produce much magic to do so. Just one of those initial 14 points came via his own winner; 10 resulted from Bautista Agut’s unforced errors.

But the second set saw a shift. Djokovic stopped his until-then successful tactic of offering some variety and heading to the net when he could. His forehand also became problematic, while Bautista Agut couldn’t seem to miss a shot.

Bautista Agut already beat Djokovic twice earlier this season. Could he do it again?

No, largely because Djokovic rediscovered his best abilities. He came up bigger in the longest points, eventually holding a 29-17 edge when they lasted at least 10 strokes.

Once his volley winner found the net tape and trickled over to cap the third set – turnabout was fair play, in this instance, after the way the previous set ended – the outcome seemed inevitable. Djokovic broke to lead 2-1 in the fourth, and again for 4-1, then needed a handful of match points to seal the victory.

Whether he faces second-seeded Federer or third-seeded Nadal next, it will be the 22nd Grand Slam final involving two members of the Big Three, and the seventh at Wimbledon.

One of that trio will be the champion at an 11th consecutive major tournament and for the 54th time in the past 65.

David Rudisha escapes car crash ‘well and unhurt’

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David Rudisha, a two-time Olympic champion and world record holder at 800m, is “well and unhurt” after a car accident in his native Kenya, according to his Facebook account.

Kenyan media reported that one of Rudisha’s tires burst on Saturday night, leading his car to collide with a bus, and he was treated for minor injuries at a hospital.

Rudisha, 30, last raced July 4, 2017, missing extended time with a quad muscle strain and back problems. His manager said last week that Rudisha will miss next month’s world championships.

Rudisha owns the three fastest times in history, including the world record 1:40.91 set in an epic 2012 Olympic final.

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Tokyo Paralympic medals unveiled with historic Braille design, indentations

Tokyo Paralympic Medals
Tokyo 2020
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The Tokyo Paralympic medals, which like the Olympic medals are created in part with metals from recycled cell phones and other small electronics, were unveiled on Sunday, one year out from the Opening Ceremony.

In a first for the Paralympics, each medal has one to three indentation(s) on its side to distinguish its color by touch — one for gold, two silver and three for bronze. Braille letters also spell out “Tokyo 2020” on each medal’s face.

For Rio, different amounts of tiny steel balls were put inside the medals based on their color, so that when shaken they would make distinct sounds. Visually impaired athletes could shake the medals next to their ears to determine the color.

More on the design from Tokyo 2020:

The design is centered around the motif of a traditional Japanese fan, depicting the Paralympic Games as the source of a fresh new wind refreshing the world as well as a shared experience connecting diverse hearts and minds. The kaname, or pivot point, holds all parts of the fan together; here it represents Para athletes bringing people together regardless of nationality or ethnicity. Motifs on the leaves of the fan depict the vitality of people’s hearts and symbolize Japan’s captivating and life-giving natural environment in the form of rocks, flowers, wood, leaves, and water. These are applied with a variety of techniques, producing a textured surface that makes the medals compelling to touch.

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Tokyo Paralympic Medals

Tokyo Paralympic Medals