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Novak Djokovic, injured, ousted by Stan Wawrinka at U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — The term Big Four faded from tennis over the last three years. Novak DjokovicRoger Federer and Rafael Nadal combined to win each of the last 11 Grand Slam singles titles. Andy Murray dropped out of the band with hip surgeries.

It is now Big Three. But Stan Wawrinka, the last man outside that group to win a Slam, looks closer to being ready to rejoin the fold.

Wawrinka, a major champion in 2014, 2015 and 2016, upset top-ranked and defending champion Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 2-1 in the U.S. Open fourth round on Sunday, with Djokovic retiring with his recent left shoulder injury. He received some boos leaving the court and refused to say how much and when it began affecting him during the match.

“I don’t want to talk about my injuries,” said Djokovic, who received treatment on the shoulder before the third set. “I did a lot of different treatments and diagnostics and everything the last couple of weeks. Obviously, I have to do it again and see how the shoulder reacts.”

Still, Wawrinka deemed his level of play “superb.”

“I was quite confident with the level I was going to bring tonight,” he said, “but against the No. 1 player you never know if you’re going to win or not.”

Wawrinka was ranked No. 3 when he played for the final time before two left knee surgeries — against Daniil Medvedev in the 2017 Wimbledon first round. (Medvedev, the hottest player on tour leading up to the Open, is Wawrinka’s quarterfinal opponent Tuesday.)

He missed the rest of 2017, plus two more months early in 2018. His ranking dropped to No. 263, due significantly to inactivity but also a year in which he went 4-4 at the Slams.

But Wawrinka showed grit at age 34, getting back into the 20 at the French Open three months ago. He outlasted 20-year-old Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in a 5-hour, 9-minute epic at Roland Garros, the longest match of his career. Two days later, he took a set off Federer and forced two others to tiebreaks. The knee held up.

“Maybe confirmed to you guys that I can still beat some top guys,” Wawrinka told media in Paris. “I know where is my level. I know what I have done to come back in that level physically.”

Djokovic’s shoulder has been volatile in New York. He said he was pain-free in Friday’s third-round win, but before that had some days of higher intensity pain.

“The pain was constant for weeks now, some days higher, some days with less intensity,” he said Sunday night.

His defeat has ramifications for the other Big Three members.

Djokovic, with 16 Slam titles, is closer to the totals of Nadal (18) and Federer (20) than ever. Now he will likely drop farther behind one of them. And faces uncertainty with that shoulder after winning four of the last five majors coming back from elbow surgery.

Federer’s path to a potential final with Nadal (they’ve never played at the U.S. Open) now no longer includes Djokovic. The three men left in his half are a combined 3-33 against him (the only three wins were by Wawrinka on clay).

Earlier Sunday, Federer needed just 79 minutes to take care of No. 15 David Goffin 6-2, 6-2, 6-0. That came two days after Federer advanced in 80 minutes out of the third round. And after he dropped the opening set of his first two matches at a Slam for the first time.

In Tuesday’s quarterfinals, Federer gets Grigor Dimitrov, who as he climbed to his peak (world No. 3 in 2017) gained the nickname “Baby Fed” for having a Federer-like game.

But Dimitrov is into his first Slam quarterfinal since the 2018 Australian Open and into the second week here after losing in the first round of three of his previous five Slams.

Federer is 7-0 against Dimitrov.

“I’m aware of the fact it’s a big match for him,” Federer said. “Yeah, I’ve done well against him in the past. But new match, new Grigor, new me.”

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1. The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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