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Novak Djokovic ousts Roger Federer, makes Australian Open final

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Novak Djokovic swept a less-than-100-percent Roger Federer 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-3 to reach the Australian Open final on Thursday. After, Federer said he went into the match believing he had a three percent chance to win coming off a groin muscle injury.

Djokovic will face Friday’s winner between Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s final, seeking his record-extending eighth Australian Open title. Djokovic owns 16 major titles overall and can move within three of Federer’s male record total of 20. Rafael Nadal has 19.

Saturday’s women’s final pits American Sofia Kenin against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza. More on their matchup here.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Against Federer, Djokovic battled back from a 1-4, love-40 deficit on his serve in the first set to keep his record perfect in semifinals and finals at the Australian Open, his most successful Grand Slam.

“It could have definitely gone a different way if he wins one of those break points,” Djokovic said. “He started off really well. I was pretty nervous at the beginning. I just want to say respect to Roger for coming out tonight. He was obviously hurt and wasn’t at his best, even close to his best in terms of movement. Respect for him coming out and trying his best all the way through.”

Djokovic said in an-court interview that Federer was “obviously hurt.”

Federer had two five-set marathons in his previous three matches. He took a medical timeout with a groin muscle injury during a five-set quarterfinal win against American Tennys Sandgren on Tuesday.

He went for a scan later that night and didn’t practice Wednesday. He took another medical timeout against Djokovic but refused to retire from a match for the first time in a career of more than 1,500 matches.

“Nice entrance, nice sendoff, and in between is one to forget,” he said. “Once you can see it coming, that it’s not going to work anymore, it’s tough.

“I didn’t have any pain in the daily stuff. That was a positive sign.”

Federer said he believed he still has the ability to win a Grand Slam, which he last did at the 2018 Australian Open.

“Same as last year,” he said about his future outlook at age 38. “You never know what the future holds, especially at my age you don’t know. But I’m confident. I’m happy how I’m feeling, to be honest. Got through a good, nice training block. No plans to retire, so from that standpoint, we’ll see how the year goes and how everything is with the family, and we go from there. So, of course, I hope to be back [at the Australian Open].”

Djokovic, the No. 2 seed, improved to 27-23 in his head-to-head history with Federer, the No. 3 seed.

Thiem or Zverev will become the first man in the 1990s to play an Australian Open final. No man born in the 1990s has won a Grand Slam. Djokovic, Federer and Nadal combined to win the last 12.

“Dominic and Alexander Zverev are some of the best young players that play this game and definitely have high goals and ambitions, without a doubt, and definitely the potential to be there,” said Djokovic who lifted his first Grand Slam title at 20, then waited another three years until his second. “But I think one thing that I was probably lacking a little bit when I was younger was patience and trusting the process a little bit more.”

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Salwa Eid Naser, world 400m champion, provisionally banned

Salwa Eid Naser
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Salwa Eid Naser, the world 400m champion of Bahrain, was provisionally suspended for missing three drug tests in a 12-month span.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” Naser, 22, said in an Instagram live video. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.”

Naser said “the missed tests” came before last autumn’s world championships, where she ran the third-fastest time in history (48.14 seconds) and the fastest in 34 years.

“This year I have not been drug tested,” she said. “We are still talking about the ones of last season before the world championships.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for track and field, did not announce whether Naser’s gold medal could be stripped.

“Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened,” she said. “It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Naser, the 2017 World silver medalist, upset Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas for the world title in Doha on Oct. 3.

The only women who have run faster than Naser, who was born Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu in Nigeria to a Nigerian mother who sprinted and a Bahraini father, were dubious — East German Marita Koch (47.60) and Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99).

“I would never take performance-enhancing drugs,” Naser said. “I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent.”

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When Laurie Hernandez winked at the Olympics

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Blink, and you may have missed one of the social-media-sensation moments of the Rio Olympics.

Laurie Hernandez, then 16, was the youngest woman on the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. She was about to start arguably the most important floor exercise routine of her life.

So, she winked.

“The amazing thing about the Olympics is that you feel so many different emotions in the span of a few days, and they are all intense,” she wrote in her 2017 book, “I Got This,” a nod to what she told herself before her balance beam routine earlier that night. “So it was nice to have at least one totally playful moment.”

The U.S., on its fourth and final rotation, already had the team gold all but locked up. Knowing she was nervous, Hernandez’s teammates confirmed to her that they were a few points ahead.

Then Hernandez heard the beep, and it was time to go. She was in the view of an out-of-bounds judge at the Rio Olympic Arena.

“Well, I looked straight at her and suddenly felt this surge of confidence to wink,” she wrote. “Later, a woman came up to me while I was watching Simone [Biles] and Aly [Raisman] compete in their all-around finals and she said, ‘Wow, I just want you to know that when you winked at the judge, it really worked.’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just said, ‘Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.’ That’s when she told me she was the out-of-bounds judge! All I could say was ‘Oh my goodness.'”

Hernandez, a New Jersey native, finished the Olympics with a team gold and balance beam silver.

She took more than two years off before making a comeback in earnest last year, announcing she planned to return to competition this spring under new coaches in California. Now that’s on hold given the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

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