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Rafael Nadal reaches U.S. Open semifinals, carrying Big Three streak

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NEW YORK — Rafael Nadal is carrying the streak of the Big Three and trying to keep the 1990s generation smothered.

Nadal reached the U.S. Open semifinals with a 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 sweep of Argentine Diego Schwartzman on Wednesday night. Nadal squandered double-break leads in each of the first two sets before breaking again to close them out.

“Straight sets, but big challenge,” he said of the 2-hour, 46-minute match where he sweat profusely in the humidity. “I accepted the challenge.”

Nadal is the only man of the semifinalists who has Grand Slam final experience. He is the only man of the semifinalists born in the 1980s. No man born in the 1990s has won a Slam, and no man other than Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer has won a Slam since the start of 2017.

It’s all on Nadal after Djokovic and Federer bowed out injured in the fourth round and quarterfinals, respectively. Nadal’s path would appear clear to his 19th Grand Slam title, moving within one of Federer’s total for the first time in his career.

But then again, this U.S. Open has been far from predictable. Take Nadal’s semifinal opponent Friday.

No. 24 Matteo Berrettini, a 23-year-old Italian, never made it past the fourth round of a prior major. But he took out flashy French veteran Gael Monfils 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (5) on Wednesday afternoon. Berrettini has never played Nadal, but remembers watching him on TV as far back as 2005. The Spaniard won an ATP title in five sets in Rome that pre-empted cartoons.

“I saw, like, a hundred of his matches,” Berrettini said. “Who in this tour doesn’t know Rafa?”

The other semifinal pits 78th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov against Daniil Medvedev, the villainous fifth seed who had never before made a Slam quarterfinal but has been red-hot this summer.

In women’s action, No. 13 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland and No. 15 Bianca Andreescu of Canada each made her first Grand Slam semifinal. The women’s semis are Thursday night, starting with Serena Williams against No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.

Williams, eyeing a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles titles, can identify with Nadal. She is the lone woman remaining who has Grand Slam final experience and the only one born in the 1980s.

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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