MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 31:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after winning the Men's Singles Final over Andy Murray of Great Britain during day 14 of the 2016 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 31, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
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Djokovic captures sixth Australian Open title

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic was still walking around Melbourne Park with his trophy, celebrating his record sixth Australian title, when five-time runner-up Andy Murray was heading for the airport in a rush to reunite with his pregnant wife.

Top-ranked Djokovic maintained his perfect streak in six Australian Open finals with a 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3) victory on Sunday night, equaling Roy Emerson’s record for Australian titles. Murray continued his unwanted streak, too, slumping to 0-5 in championship deciders Down Under.

“First of all I need to pay the respect to Andy,” Djokovic said. “Tough match, tough luck tonight.

“You’re a great champion, great friend, very committed to this sport. I’m sure in the future you’re going to have many opportunities.”

The 28-year-old Murray had his share of distractions in Australia. His wife, Kim, is due to have their first child in February and stayed in Britain. Kim’s father, Nigel Sears, traveled to Australia as coach for Ana Ivanovic, and had to be rushed to hospital by ambulance while Murray was on court in his third-round match. Nigel Sears spent a night in a nearby hospital last weekend but was well enough to return home, which meant Murray could stay in Australia and try to refocus on winning the title.

“It’s been a tough few weeks for me away from the court,” Murray said in his on-court speech, thanking his support team before turning his attention to his wife.

“You’ve been a legend the last two weeks. Thank you so much for all your support,” he said, choking back tears and waving as he walked away from the microphone. “I’ll be on the next flight home.”

A little more than a half-hour later, Murray was sitting in a mandatory news conference, saying he was proud of his achievements here but was ready to get home. At 11:15 p.m. local time, Murray said he was aiming for a 1 a.m. flight – “I’ve been held on flights for it feels like five days. The first one out of here, I’m leaving.”

Hundreds of Serbian fans, many waving flags, gathered outside and cheered and screamed as Djokovic did an interview with the host TV broadcaster.

“I never experienced this much crowd and this much love,” Djokovic said, before waving to his fans. “It’s an incredible feeling especially because of the fact that I managed to make history tonight, and equal Roy Emerson’s record of six Australian Opens, that’s why this trophy is even more.”

Djokovic increased his career haul to 11 Grand Slam titles, including four of the last five, to join Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg at No. 5 on the all-time list.

Two-time major winner Murray, meanwhile, became only the second man to lose five finals at one major – Ivan Lendl lost five and won three U.S. Open finals in the 1980s.

Djokovic had won 10 of his previous 11 matches against Murray and was 21-9 in their career meetings – including four finals at the Australian Open.

Again, he was just too good.

Djokovic broke to take a 2-0 lead and, after he’d hit a perfectly placed drop shot, a fan yelled: “Give him a chance Novak!”

He didn’t, racing to a 5-0 lead and serving out the first set in 30 minutes.

The second set contained long rallies and plenty of tension. Murray was yelling at himself and swiping his racket in anger, and Djokovic waved his racket in frustration as well.

After an exchange of breaks in the seventh and eighth games, Djokovic broke again in the 11th and closed out the set before taking an early break in the third set with a forehand winner around the post. Murray broke back in the sixth game and the set went to tiebreaker.

Djokovic took a 6-1 lead, setting up five championship points, and finished if off in 2 hours, 53 minutes, with an ace on his third match point.

He dropped to his hands and knees and kissed the court, slapping it with his right hand, and went to the stands to hug Boris Becker, his coach since 2014.

© 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

Paris Olympic bid leader: Roof at Roland Garros not crucial

2016 French Open - Day Nine
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PARIS (AP) While essential for the French Open, a roof over center court at Roland Garros is “not crucial” for Paris’ bid to host the 2024 Olympics, the city’s bid leader said Monday as heavy rain washed out play at the clay-court Grand Slam for the first time in 16 years.

The French Open is the only major tennis tournament without a structure allowing play to go on during rainy days.

After years of delays, the French tennis federation is planning to have one over center court by 2020, but extension works are currently put on hold by legal action from local residents and environmental activists.

Speaking to reporters at Roland Garros, bid co-chairman Bernard Lapasset said “Roland Garros is already a fantastic venue for the Olympics. We can do more, but it’s not crucial.”

Poor weather has been playing havoc with the schedule at the French Open this year but showers are not so frequent in the summer months.

Last week, French Open director Guy Forget said delays in the construction and refurbishment work at Roland Garros could harm Paris’ bid to host the 2024 Olympics.

Environmental groups opposing the extension claim that the construction of a new 5,000-seat court at the Serres d’Auteuil botanical garden will harm the vegetation. The botanical garden’s 19th century greenhouses, a few hundred meters from Court Philippe Chatrier, host a large variety of tropical and local flowers. France’s council of state – the country’s highest administrative authority – is expected to issue a ruling in September.

“It might be easier to do the roof,” Lapasset said. “It’s more complicated for the new court, which won’t be inside (the current facilities of) Roland Garros. It’s important for us that we can propose to IOC members a bid faithful to our environmental values. The zone is protected, and it’s complicated to do something without the agreement of the people (living) around.”

Bid officials are planning to use the venue both for the Olympics and Paralympics, with tennis competitions, wheelchair events in tennis, basketball and rugby as well as five-a-side soccer matches being hosted in the western Paris venue if the city wins the hosting rights.

Paris is competing against Budapest, Rome and Los Angeles for the games. The International Olympic Committee will choose the host city in September 2017. Paris last hosted the Olympics in 1924.

A new media center will also be constructed as part of revamping of the site, the smallest of the four Grand Slam venues. Roland Garros has been hosting the French Open since 1928, welcoming about 400,000 spectators every year at the congested 21-acre (8 1/2-hectare) site.

“Guy Forget is a very good man, in terms of the values he promotes here,” Lapasset said. “But we all need to be pushing in the same direction. The zone is protected and that’s central in the discussions we are having. If we can do something, why not? But it’s complicated if you don’t have the agreement of the people (living) around.”

Serena Williams holds back Mladenovic at French Open

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PARIS (AP) Defending champion Serena Williams needed five match points after waiting out a rain delay of more than 2 1/2 hours, but she eventually moved into the fourth round of the French Open with a 6-4, 7-6 (10) victory over 26th-seeded Kristina Mladenovic of France.

In a tight, well-played match at Court Philippe Chatrier, action was suspended Saturday when a thunderstorm arrived right before Williams and Mladenovic began the second-set tiebreaker.

Once they resumed, Williams erased one set point for Mladenovic at 9-8 with a swinging forehand volley winner. Four times, Williams was a point from victory in the tiebreaker – at 6-5, 7-6, 8-7 and 10-9 – and couldn’t close it out. But on the fifth opportunity for Williams, Mladenovic pushed a forehand wide to end the match.

“She played really, really well and forced me to bring out my best tennis,” Williams said. “I’m happy I got through that.”

Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, called the tiebreaker “the only moment that I think was her good tennis.”

“Serena was really aggressive, went for her shots and took risks,” he said. “That’s her game.”

Williams, the No. 1 seed, is trying to become the first woman to win consecutive titles at Roland Garros since Henin took three in a row from 2005-07.

Next up against the American will be Elina Svitolina, who defeated Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-4.

In her seven previous matches with Ivanovic, the 18th-seeded Ukrainian had only managed to win a set. Svitolina had also lost twice at Roland Garros against the 2008 champion.

“First win against Ana, it’s huge for me,” said Svitolina, whose best result at the French Open is a quarterfinal spot last year, when she lost to Ivanovic.

The 21-year-old Svitolina, who had won just one match on clay this season before starting her campaign in Paris, said she played with a “better mentality” than during her previous matches against the Serb.

“I was really confident today,” Svitolina said. “I don’t know. Just everything was right. Today I was doing (the) right things. Even missing bad shots, I was trying to stay positive and to play my tennis.”

Svitolina, who made her debut on the tour four years ago, has added three-time French Open champion Justine Henin to her coaching team this year, hoping that the former top-ranked player would help her reach a new level.

Although an injury hampered her quick progression this season, Svitolina said Henin’s experience has helped her mentally.

The Belgian’s knowledge of Williams’ game may be a strong asset too. The now retired Henin beat Williams twice at the French Open in 2003 and 2007.

“It’s going to be a big challenge for me,” said Svitolina, who has lost her three previous matches with Williams. “I think mentally I need to stay strong, stay positive, and no more junior mentality and junior tennis.”

The 14th-seeded Ivanovic managed to hold just three times when serving and got broken seven times by Svitolina. She also hit 29 unforced errors.

“My forehand wasn’t really working today,” Ivanovic said. “I was making a lot of errors. I managed to get back into (the) match and then few disappointing errors always came in the wrong time. I felt like that was sort of throughout the match.”

Also advancing to the fourth round Saturday were No.8 seed Timea Bacsinszky, who beat Pauline Parmentier 6-4, 6-2, and No. 12 Carla Suarez Navarro.

In the men’s draw, Dominic Thiem prevailed in the duel of rising tennis stars, downing teenager Alexander Zverev 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

The 13th-seeded Thiem equaled his best result at a major tournament after reaching the round of 16 at the U.S. Open in 2014. It was the third time that Thiem and Zverev faced each other in four weeks, with Thiem extending his winning record to 3-0.

Thiem’s next opponent will be Marcel Granollers, who advanced without playing thanks to Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal with a wrist injury.

Former French Open runner-up David Ferrer also reached the fourth round, for a sixth consecutive year.

The 11th-seeded Ferrer came out on top from an all-Spanish match with Feliciano Lopez, winning 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-1. He’ll next face either seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych or Pablo Cuevas.