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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.

Alysa Liu rallies to win Junior Grand Prix with another quadruple jump

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U.S. figure skating champion Alysa Liu landed a quadruple Lutz for a second straight Junior Grand Prix, rallying from fourth after the short program to win an event in Poland on Friday.

Liu, who in January became the youngest U.S. champion in history at age 13, won both of her starts in her first season on the Junior Grand Prix to become the first U.S. woman to qualify for the six-skater Junior Grand Prix Final since 2013 (Polina Edmunds and Karen Chen). The Final is held with the senior Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, in December.

She won Friday by 6.63 points by surpassing a pair of Russians, a rarity in this era. Her free skate is here.

Liu trailed by 4.03 points after doubling a planned triple loop in the short program. She was the lone skater in the field to attempt a triple Axel (landing three of them, including two in combination and one with a negative grade of execution) or a quad.

Liu tallied 138.99 points in the free skate and 203.10 overall. She ranks sixth in the world this season by best total scores among junior and senior skaters, though some top skaters have yet to compete.

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Rafaela Silva, first Brazilian gold medalist at Rio Olympics, claims innocence after positive drug test

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Rafaela Silva, the judoka who grew up in Rio’s most famously violent favela to become Brazil’s first gold medalist at the Rio Olympics, reportedly tested positive for a banned substance last month.

Silva tested positive for fenoterol, a substance that can be legal to treat asthma if an athlete has a therapeutic use exemption (TUE). Silva did not have a TUE before testing positive at the Pan American Games in August, according to Brazilian media.

A possible punishment has not been announced.

Silva claimed innocence at a news conference Friday afternoon, saying that a young child with whom she had bodily contact at her training location used the substance, and she plans to compete at a domestic event this weekend, according to O Globo.

Silva, 27, backed up her Rio Olympic 57kg title by taking bronze at the world championships later in August. If she is punished for the positive test, Silva could lose that bronze medal, though she said Friday that she had a clean drug test at worlds, according to O Globo.

Silva, from Rio’s Ciadade de Deus favela, has the Olympic rings tattooed on her right bicep with the inscription “God knows how much I’ve suffered and what I’ve done to get here.”

Brazil’s top female swimmer, Etiene Medeiros, reportedly tested positive for fenoterol in May 2016 but was cleared to compete at the Rio Olympics.

In PyeongChang, Slovenian hockey player Ziga Jeglic tested positive for fenoterol and was scratched before his nation’s last game before it was announced. Jeglic was suspended from the Games and, later, was suspended eight months.

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