Dominic Thiem joins Novak Djokovic in Australian Open final after delays

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Dominic Thiem overcame Alexander Zverev and brief rain and lighting delays to become the first male Australian Open finalist born in the 1990s, setting the stage for a match against Novak Djokovic on Sunday.

The Austrian Thiem dispatched the German Zverev 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4) in a semifinal between two of tennis’ next-generation stars looking to break up the Djokovic-Rafael NadalRoger Federer grasp on Grand Slam titles dating to the start of 2017.

Zverev dropped two set points on Thiem’s serve in the third frame. Thiem then raced out to early leads in both tiebreaks to win a three-and-a-half-hour semifinal.

Thiem has been the most consistent recent challenger to the Big Three, reaching the last two French Open finals (and losing to 12-time French Open champ Nadal each time). He beat Nadal in a four-hour quarterfinal in Melbourne and didn’t go to bed until 5 a.m. on Thursday.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Thiem won four of his last five meetings with Djokovic, but three victories came on Thiem’s preferred clay. Thiem did take their last match on an indoor hard court at November’s ATP Finals, rallying from a set down in a best-of-three.

But Djokovic’s most successful stage is Rod Laver Arena. He is 15-0 in semifinals and finals and seeking a record-extending eighth Australian Open crown.

“He’s the king of Australia,” Thiem said of Djokovic. “I’m always facing the kings of this certain Grand Slam in the final.

“If I walk off the court as a loser in two days, I still have to be patient, still have to trust the process.”

Thiem ended a streak just by reaching the final. The last time the Australian Open had a male finalist not born in the 1980s was in 2003, when Andre Agassi earned his last Grand Slam title.

The Australian Open continues Saturday with the women’s final between American Sofia Kenin and Spain’s Garbine Muguruza. It’s the fourth straight women’s Slam final without a top-five-ranked player. Sunday will mark the fifth straight men’s Slam final where both players are ranked in the top five.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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