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Federer laments blown chances in US Open final loss

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NEW YORK —¬†Roger Federer wonders what might’ve been if only he’d converted any of those three break points in the last game of the U.S. Open final.

The crowd roaring, Federer rolling, Novak Djokovic reeling – maybe he could have come all the way back from down two breaks in the fourth set to win in five.

But the Swiss great knows one thing for certain.

“I should have never been down in the first place two sets to one and 5-2,” Federer lamented late Sunday night, still stuck on 17 major titles for at least 4 1/2 more months.

He fell so far behind because his opponent was simply better in the biggest moments. The top-ranked Djokovic was 6 for 13 on break points; Federer was 4 of 23.

“Surely I am very disappointed,” Federer said. “I had my chances on my racket.”

Djokovic won 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in a match that followed a similar script to their Wimbledon final – Federer wins the second set but falls in four.

His serve was shaky in the early going Sunday. Federer’s coach, six-time Grand Slam champ Stefan Edberg, said the conditions contributed to that. After a rain delay of more than three hours, the air was cooler and the court slower.

“That’s the way it goes,” Edberg said.

In the fourth set, Federer got one break back the first time Djokovic tried to serve out the match. He had three break points in Djokovic’s next service game to potentially even the set at 5-5. But it was only appropriate that the match ended with Federer creating break-point chances and Djokovic saving them.

“He’s always going to be out there making you play your best if you want to win,” Djokovic said.

After 33-year-old Flavia Pennetta announced her retirement during the women’s trophy presentation Saturday, it was hard not to speculate about the 34-year-old Federer’s future. He quickly answered that question during Sunday’s award ceremony, telling the crowd: “I’ll see you guys next year.”

The fans in New York badly wanted to see him get No. 18. They even cheered Djokovic’s missed first serves Sunday.

“They kept me going, and that’s definitely one of the reasons I still keep playing, because of these moments, goose bump moments,” Federer said later.

He hasn’t felt the goose bumps of a major title since 2012 Wimbledon. But everything the second-ranked Federer sees in his game and his results offers encouragement that he’ll eventually add to his record.

“You still cannot count him out,” Edberg said. “If he keeps playing at this level, he’ll get another shot.”

Nadal, Muguruza win ITF player of the year awards

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LONDON — Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza have won the International Tennis Federation’s player of the year awards.

At 31, Nadal becomes the oldest ITF men’s world champion after a season in which he won a 10th French Open and a third U.S. Open.

The Spaniard also became the oldest player to finish the year at No. 1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973.

Muguruza dropped only one set en route to her first Wimbledon title and finished the year at No. 2 behind Simona Halep.

“Becoming ITF world champion in such a competitive year is amazing for me,” said Muguruza, who is also Spanish. “(Nadal) is a great role model for all of us, so it is a great moment for tennis in Spain.”

Kuznetsova out of Australian Open after left wrist surgery

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova has withdrawn from next month’s Australian Open after having surgery on her left wrist.

Tennis Australia on Friday said No. 12-ranked Kuznetsova and China’s Sasai Zheng, with a right knee injury, were the only players ranked in the top 100 who are confirmed as not playing the Jan. 15-28 tournament at Melbourne Park.

Serena Williams, who was pregnant while winning the 2017 Australian Open title and gave birth to her first child in September, “is anticipated to return,” Tennis Australia said.

Williams could equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles with another win at Melbourne Park. Serena Williams’ ranking has dropped to No. 22 during her break from the tour.