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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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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

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