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Nadal sues former French minister who accused him of doping

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MADRID (AP) Rafael Nadal filed suit Monday against a former French minister who accused him of doping, saying he needs to defend his integrity and image as an athlete.

The Spanish tennis star said his lawyers lodged the defamation suit in Paris against Roselyne Bachelot because of her “offensive remarks” on French television last month.

Bachelot, France’s former minister for health and sport, said on TV show Le Grand 8 that the Spaniard’s seven-month injury hiatus in 2012 was “probably due to a positive doping test.”

“Through this case, I intend not only to defend my integrity and my image as an athlete but also the values I have defended all my career,” Nadal said in a statement. “I also wish to avoid any public figure from making insulting or false allegations against an athlete using the media, without any evidence or foundation and to go unpunished.”

He said that if he wins the case, any compensation awarded by the judge will be “paid back in full to an NGO or foundation in France.”

Bachelot’s remarks upset Nadal and outraged Spaniards, including many fellow athletes who quickly came out to defend the tennis star. The Spanish Olympic Committee and members of the Spanish government also loudly criticized the former French minister.

Nadal’s coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, called Bachelot “an imbecile,” according to Spanish media.

A 14-time Grand Slam champion and the gold medalist at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Nadal is one of Spain’s biggest sports idols.

The president of Spain’s Olympic committee said he would like to see Nadal as the country’s flag bearer at the Rio de Janeiro Games, in part to make a statement after the recent accusations made by Bachelot.

Alejandro Blanco said Nadal “is a reference” and deserves the honor “after how he has been treated” by the former French minister. Nadal had been selected as Spain’s flag bearer for the 2012 London Olympics but missed the games because of an injury.

Nadal expressed his “complete trust in the French justice system” which will handle the lawsuit and said that he will not make any further statements about the case.

Bachelot’s allegations came in the wake of Maria Sharapova’s failed doping test.

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.