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Rafael Nadal beats Marin Cilic, nears first Roger Federer U.S. Open match

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NEW YORK — Hope of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer playing each other at the U.S. Open for the first time was put on hold when the draw came out 11 days ago. The belief is back.

Nadal joined Federer in the quarterfinals by beating 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 on Monday night. Each must win two more matches for a Sunday final date. So far each has made it through with no panic.

And, more importantly, the man standing in the way of destiny, top-ranked Novak Djokovic, was eliminated on Sunday night. When the draw came out, Federer was placed in the same half as Djokovic, unlike at the French Open and Wimbledon, where Federer and Nadal met in the semifinals.

Now, their 42nd career meeting being their first at the U.S. Open is very possible if not probable.

Nadal is 21-2 against the other three men left in his half (quarterfinal foe Diego Schwartzman and Gael Monfils and Matteo Berrettini, all surprises in the last eight).

Federer is 33-3 against the three men left in his half, with no losses on hard courts to quarterfinal foe Grigor Dimitrov or Stan Wawrinka or Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev, the only other top-10 seed left, is dangerous as the hottest player on tour since Wimbledon.

Nadal has spent just under seven hours on court in four matches, dropping one set and getting a walkover in the third round. Federer has been more efficient the last two rounds, taking 79 and 80 minutes, respectively.

We’ve been here before, though.

Nadal and Federer have been within one round of playing each other at the U.S. Open six times. Each time, one of them lost. The destiny destroyers included other greats of this generation — Andy Murray (2008), Juan Martin del Potro (2009, 2017) and Djokovic (2010 and 2011) — and the outlier Tommy Robredo (2013).

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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Alistair Brownlee, after Ironman, leans toward Olympic return

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Alistair Brownlee is already the only triathlete with multiple Olympic titles. In July, he is reportedly leaning toward another impressive feat, to win an Olympic gold medal the summer after completing the Kona Ironman World Championships.

The Brit Brownlee said he is “definitely swinging towards” trying to qualify for the Tokyo Games, according to the Times of London. Brownlee’s manager confirmed the stance while noting that his result in the Ironman Western Australia on Dec. 1 will play into the ultimate decision.

Brownlee previously reportedly said he was “50-50” on going for the Olympics and that he had to decide between focusing on the shorter Olympic distance or the Ironman, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon.

Other Olympic triathletes transitioned to the Ironman and never went back, such as 2008 Olympic champion Jan Frodeno of Germany and two-time U.S. Olympian Sarah True.

Brownlee finished 21st in Kona on Oct. 12 in 8 hours, 25 minutes, 3 seconds, which was 33:50 behind the winner Frodeno.

Brownlee won four half Ironmans between 2017 and 2018 (sandwiched by a hip surgery), then finished second to Frodeno at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship on Sept. 2.

One other triathlete won an Olympic title after completing the Kona Ironman — Austrian Kate Allen, who was seventh in Kona in 2002, then took gold at the 2004 Athens Games.

MORE: 2019 Kona Ironman World Championships Results

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Alberto Salazar appeals doping ban

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The Court of Arbitration for Sport says it has registered an appeal by track coach Alberto Salazar against his ban for doping violations, though a hearing will take several months to prepare.

CAS says Salazar and Dr. Jeffrey Brown appealed against their four-year bans by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

After a multi-year USADA investigation, Salazar and Brown were found guilty of doping violations linked to the Nike Oregon Project training camp. USADA said Salazar ran experiments with supplements and testosterone, and possessed and trafficked the banned substance.

The case also related to falsified and incomplete medical records that disguised the work.

CAS says Salazar and Brown asked for more time to file “written submissions and evidence,” adding the hearing is “unlikely to take place before March.”

Verdicts typically take at least a further several weeks.

MORE: Mary Cain raises issues from being coached by Salazar

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