Dalilah Muhammad has another world record, plus a bona fide rival

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Dalilah Muhammad didn’t know if she had won the race, let alone bettered her own world record. She did both.

Muhammad won the marquee head-to-head of the world track and field championships in Doha on Friday, a 400m hurdles duel with fellow American Sydney McLaughlin that lived up to the hype.

Muhammad clocked 52.16 seconds, taking .04 off her time from the USATF Outdoor Championships on July 28, when she lowered a 15-year-old world record. McLaughlin was right on her tail, going 52.23 to become the second-fastest woman in history.

“I was just looking to see who won the race, and then I noticed when they said world record that I had broke it,” said Muhammad, who added her first world title to her Rio Olympic gold medal. “I did not expect to break the world record.”

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Jamaican Rushell Clayton took the bronze, but she was 1.5 seconds behind the main attractions. The Muhammad-McLaughlin rivalry is the biggest story in U.S. female sprinting going into the Tokyo Games given a lack of Olympic gold-medal contenders in the 100m, 200m and 400m.

Muhammad, 29, emerged from being unsponsored out of college after getting eliminated in the 2012 Olympic trials first round to become one of the greatest sprinters in history.

McLaughlin, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to compete at an Olympics in 44 years, continued her unprecedented ascent less than two months after turning 20. In her first global championship final, she nearly became the youngest female world champion since Caster Semenya in 2009.

“It’s the rookie and the vet,” said McLaughlin, who like Muhammad trains in Southern California but with a different coach. “Constantly being able to race against her and learn and see what it’s like to break world records. There’s not a lot of communication, but there’s a lot of watching.”

Especially at the end of Friday’s final. McLaughlin said she stuttered over the eighth of 10 hurdles. Still, Muhammad sensed McLaughlin closing in on her at the ninth.

“I wanted to make everyone in the race uncomfortable,” said Muhammad, who suffered a concussion in a practice fall two weeks before her July world record. “I had a lot of adrenaline pumping this race. I felt a little bit more determined and just kind of focused [than the previous world-record race]. And, surprisingly, it hurt a little bit more.”

McLaughlin said she was satisfied with silver, given she lowered her personal best by .52 of a second. She finishes the season, her first as a pro after one NCAA season at Kentucky, 2-2 in direct matchups with Muhammad.

“Sometimes I treat myself like I’ve been here for a while, and I would like to say that I have, but I think every day is a learning experience,” she told Lewis Johnson on Olympic Channel. “Hopefully I can take this and put it towards next year and try and do better.”

In other finals, Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto won the 3000m steeplechase by .01 over Ethiopian Lamecha Girma after eight minutes of racing. More on Kipruto extending the most dominant streak in the sport here.

Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim sent the crowd into pandemonium by defending his world title in the high jump, clearing 2.37 meters.

Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas kept the U.S. from sweeping the men’s 100m, 200m and 400m at a worlds for the first time since 2007, taking the 400m in 43.48 to make him the sixth-fastest man in history. Pre-race favorite Fred Kerley of the U.S. took bronze in 44.17, trailing surprise silver medalist Anthony Zambrano of Colombia.

In Friday semifinals, Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz needed to qualify into the final on time after placing sixth in his 1500m heat.

Centrowitz, who owns world silver and bronze medals, will look to upset Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot on Sunday. Cheruiyot, who won his semifinal, is 16-3 at 1500m or the mile over the last two years.

Both U.S. 4x100m relays advanced to Saturday finals, though the men nearly botched yet another handoff. Mike Rodgers‘ pass to anchor Cravon Gillespie was dangerously close to being out of the zone.

Gillespie slowed for the exchange, and the U.S. ended up third in the heat. The U.S. men last won an Olympic or world 4x100m in 2007.

Canada and Italy later protested for the U.S. to be disqualified, saying that exchange was out of the zone, but they were denied.

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Roger Federer saves 7 match points; next: Novak Djokovic in Australian Open semifinals

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer was not going to go gently, of course, no matter how daunting the number of match points — his opponent accumulated seven! — no matter how achy his 38-year-old legs, no matter how slow his serves, no matter how off-target his groundstrokes.

Federer still plays for the love of these stages and circumstances. Still yearns for more trophies, too. Down to his very last gasp, time and again, against someone a decade younger, 100th-ranked Tennys Sandgren of the United States, Federer somehow pulled off a memorable comeback to reach the Australian Open semifinals for the 15th time.

Despite all sorts of signs he was not quite himself for much of the match, Federer beat the biceps-baring, hard-hitting, court-covering Sandgren 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6 (8), 6-3 on Tuesday in a rollicking quarterfinal that appeared to be over long before it truly was.

“For the most time there, I thought that was it. Of course, there’s little sparkles where maybe not. Then you’re like, ‘No, it IS over,’” said Federer, who only once before had won after facing as many as seven match points, equaling his personal best from all the way back in 2003. “Only maybe when I won that fourth set did I really think that, maybe, this whole thing could turn around.”

He said afterward that it had been his groin muscle that was the problem and he couldn’t be certain whether he would be fully recovered for his next match. That will come against defending champion Novak Djokovic, who overwhelmed No. 32 Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (1) to improve to 10-0 against the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up.

“He was just too good,” Raonic said.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

It’ll be the 50th meeting between No. 3 Federer, who has won 20 Grand Slam titles, and No. 2 Djokovic, who owns 16.

Djokovic leads their head-to-head series 26-23, including their past five matches at majors.

“Roger is Roger. You know that he’s always going to play on such a high level, regardless of the surface,” Djokovic said. “He loves to play these kind of matches, big rivalries, semis, finals of Grand Slams.”

About the only thing that slowed Djokovic’s progression to a 37th career Grand Slam semifinal — Federer earned his 46th — was the medical timeout the Serb asked for at 4-all in the third set so he could put in new contact lenses.

“It was just something I had to do,” Djokovic said, “because those few games, I really couldn’t see much.”

The last two men’s quarterfinals are Wednesday: Rafael Nadal vs. Dominic Thiem, and Alexander Zverev vs. Stan Wawrinka.

One women’s semifinal was set Tuesday: No. 1 Ash Barty, trying to become the first Australian Open singles champion from the host country since the 1970s, against No. 14 Sofia Kenin, a 21-year-old American never before this far at any major tournament.

Wednesday’s quarterfinals are Simona Halep vs. Anett Kontaveit, and Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

There was a lot to live up to after the drama of Federer vs. Sandgren.

“You can’t give a good player — let alone maybe the best player ever — that many chances to come back,” said Sandgren, his voice low, his eyes looking down. “They’re going to find their game and start playing well. That seemed to me what happened.”

In truth, so much had happened.

Federer got into a dispute with a line judge and the chair umpire over cursing. He left the court for a medical timeout early in the third set, then was visited by a trainer later for a right leg massage.

Sandgren was run into by a ballkid during a changeover in the tiebreaker; was distracted by a courtside broadcast commentator.

The 28-year-old from Tennessee has never been a major semifinalist and was trying to become the lowest-ranked man in the Australian Open’s final four since Patrick McEnroe — John’s younger brother — was No. 114 in 1991.

Imagine, then, the heartbreak for Sandgren, who toiled for years on lower-level tours and was so thrilled just to share the stage with Federer.

“Maybe,” Sandgren said, “I’ll get another look, another shot.”

After rolling through the second and third sets as Federer’s serve dropped from an average of 112 mph to 105 mph — “Wasn’t popping like it does normally,” Sandgren observed — and Federer’s unforced errors totaled 30, the underdog led 5-4 in the fourth set.

That’s when Sandgren earned his first trio of opportunities to complete a career-defining victory. But he missed a shot each time. There were four more match points in the tiebreaker at 6-3, 6-4, 6-5 and 7-6.

“Honestly, when they told me seven, I was like, ‘What?!’ I thought it was three,” Federer said. “It’s such a blur.”

Djokovic’s take on Federer’s comeback: “Amazing.”

Raonic’s: “Impressive.”

When Sandgren sent an overhead smash long to give Federer the fourth set. Federer quickly controlled the fifth and ended the victory with a service winner at 119 mph, a little more than an hour after first staring down defeat.

“Just seemed like his level picked up when his back was right up against the wall,” said Sandgren, who only got the chance to serve on one of those seven pivotal points. “He just wouldn’t give me anything.”

That’s how Djokovic makes foes feel.

The key moment for him Tuesday came rather early: Raonic went into the quarterfinals having won all 59 of his service games in the tournament. But that streak ended at 5-4 against Djokovic. On Djokovic’s ninth break point of the match, Raonic missed a forehand to cap a 19-shot exchange, handing over the opening set.

Djokovic yelled and threw an uppercut. Two Raonic service games later, he broke yet again, all he would need to own the second set, too. Soon enough, he was two wins from a record-extending eighth championship at the Australian Open.

Federer has won six titles at Melbourne Park and never lost there to anyone ranked worse than 54th. But Sandgren, whose career tour-level record is under .500, played superbly. He won more points, 161-160, and produced edges of 27-5 in aces, 73-44 in total winners.

“I mean, he never gives up,” Djokovic said about Federer. “When it matters the most, he’s focused and he plays his best tennis.”

Federer knows exactly the sort of pain Sandgren experienced.

Last July, Federer failed to convert a pair of championship points in the fifth set of the Wimbledon final before losing to Djokovic.

“These ones just sting, and they hurt,” Federer said. “But … I was incredibly lucky today.”

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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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