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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.”

MORE: Top U.S. tennis player leaning toward skipping Olympics

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Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

MORE: World’s top skater leaves famed coach

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Respectfully, Donavan Brazier believes he has a chance at legendary record

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On the night of the biggest race of his life, Donavan Brazier met the man whom he is trying to succeed and, perhaps, supplant.

David Rudisha, the two-time Olympic 800m champion and world-record holder, told Brazier before the Oct. 1 world championships 800m final that he believed in the 22-year-old American more than any other man in that night’s event.

Later that evening in Doha, Brazier proved the sidelined Kenyan prophetic, winning in a national record 1:42.34 and becoming the first American to win a world title in the event.

Brazier, in his first global championship final, also ran the fastest time by somebody that young since Rudisha’s 2012 Olympic title and world-record epic pulled that field to personal bests.

Rudisha’s mark of 1:40.91 — from a race Brazier has watched dozens of times — is still significantly faster. That hasn’t stopped followers from wondering if Rudisha’s days as world-record holder may be numbered.

Sounds like Brazier may be wondering, too.

“I think I definitely have the opportunity,” Brazier told NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey in a watchback of his 2019 Diamond League and world titles. “If we’re looking at guys that are currently racing right now, I think I might have the best opportunity to do it.”

Brazier exercised caution. He was by no means predicting such a feat.

“David Rudisha, when he first broke it, he was a once-in-a-century athlete,” Brazier said. “For someone to break it so quick and just to say it so nonchalantly, I think it’s not really giving David Rudisha the respect that he deserves. A 1:40.91 is a really dangerous record to break.”

Brazier, who took up running in middle school in Michigan rather than football because he was “terribly skinny,” quickly became a dangerous prospect. In 2016, he went into the Olympic Trials ranked third in the world as a Texas A&M freshman.

Then came the obstacles. Brazier was eliminated in the first round of trials, three weeks after winning the NCAA title on the same Oregon track. In 2017, he won the U.S. title but failed to make the world final. He didn’t race at all outdoors in 2018 due to a foot injury.

Brazier looked at 2019 as a redemption year. He hit a series of successes: an American indoor 800m record, the world’s fastest indoor 600m in history, his first Diamond League win, a repeat national title and the Diamond League Final title.

Brazier said that last victory in Zurich took him from “not a well known guy, maybe a medal contender, maybe not,” to the world championships favorite. Rudisha hasn’t raced since 2017 due to injuries.

Brazier, after meeting Rudisha and former world-record holder Seb Coe, capped the season with his biggest title yet in Doha. The feeling was more relief than happiness. Brazier, after getting knocked down repeatedly in his first two seasons as a pro, noted that Muhammad Ali also won his first world title at age 22.

Brazier mouthed “thank you” after crossing the finish line, a salute to everybody who helped him reach that point.

“I’m thanking myself, too, because I’m the one who put in all the hard work to do it,” Brazier said. “I’m not saying that this is the end of my career, but it was definitely the peak of my career and the pinnacle of it. I never accomplished anything on a stage like that.”

MORE: Dalilah Muhammad rewatches 2019 world records

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