Andy Murray wins second Wimbledon title

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LONDON — Andy Murray’s first Wimbledon championship was for his country.

This one was for Andy Murray.

Dulling big serves with quick-reflex returns, conjuring up daring passing shots and playing impressively mistake-free tennis all the while, Murray beat Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) on Sunday for his second trophy at the All England Club and third Grand Slam title overall.

In 2013, Murray famously ended Britain’s 77-year wait for one of its own to win the men’s final at Wimbledon, a quest that became burdensome.

Now he wanted a victory to end his personal rut of three consecutive losses in major finals, including at the Australian Open in January, and French Open last month.

“It is different. I feel happier this time. I feel more content this time. I feel like this was sort of more for myself more than anything, and my team as well,” the second-seeded Murray said. “Last time, it was just pure relief, and I didn’t really enjoy the moment as much, whereas I’m going to make sure I enjoy this one.”

This was his 11th Grand Slam final, but the first against someone other than Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer. The sixth-seeded Raonic eliminated Federer in five sets in the semifinals Friday, and also defeated the player who stunned Djokovic in the third round, Sam Querrey.

Those wins helped Raonic become the first man representing Canada to reach a major final.

He did it, primarily, by averaging 25½ aces through six matches. But on a breezy afternoon, at a Centre Court filled with nearly 15,000 partisan fans, Murray shut down that integral part of Raonic’s game.

“This one’s going to sting,” Raonic said.

It’s been a rough few weeks for Britain, what with its vote to leave the European Union, the drop of the pound’s value, and the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, who was seated in the front row of the Royal Box on Sunday, several seats over from Prince William and his wife, Kate.

During the trophy presentation, Murray joked: “Playing in a Wimbledon final’s tough, but I certainly wouldn’t like to be a prime minister. It’s an impossible job.”

Murray, a 29-year-old from Scotland, long dealt with the expectations that accompanied being Britain’s best chance to find a male champion to succeed Fred Perry, who last won the grass-court tournament in 1936. After Sunday’s victory, Murray’s mother, former British Fed Cup captain Judy, referred to that old phenomenon as, “The constant, ‘When are you going to win Wimbledon? When are you going to win Wimbledon? When are you going to win Wimbledon?'”

But her son has dealt with that and thrived, thanks to a counter-punching game and sublime returns of serve.

It took Raonic 36 minutes and five service games to record his first ace, and he wound up with only eight. Over and over, Murray managed to get the ball back, even one that came in at 147 mph.

And while Murray only broke Raonic once, to lead 4-3 in the opening set, that was all it took, because the tiebreakers were surprisingly one-way traffic.

Murray also took 50 of 65 points he served across the first two sets, not only never facing so much as a break point in that span but also being pushed to deuce merely once.

Finally, at 2-all in the third, Raonic got to 15-40 for his first — and, it turned out, only — break points, thanks to a forehand return winner off an 82 mph second serve.

“Potentially turning points,” said Carlos Moya, one of a trio of coaches for Raonic, including John McEnroe. “If he got that break, who knows what could happen?”

But Murray stood tall, taking the next four points to hold, then wheeled toward his box, pumping his right fist and yelling.

According to the official statistics, Murray made only 12 unforced errors, two in the second set. While that’s a subjective accounting, anyone watching and listening could plainly tell that he was striking the ball cleanly and confidently, a crisp thwack resonating as racket strings hit ball, much more often than not putting shots right where intended.

“Really good stuff,” Murray said.

His opponent’s take? “He was playing much better than me off the baseline,” Raonic acknowledged.

Taking it all in from Murray’s guest box, with seemingly nary a smile, was coach Ivan Lendl. They worked together when Murray won his first two Grand Slam trophies, including at the 2012 U.S. Open, then split up, before reuniting last month.

Once again, that partnership paid off, and at Wimbledon, no less.

When he sat in his sideline chair after the match concluded, Murray wiped away tears with a tournament towel.

“To do it twice here,” he said, “an event where there is a lot of pressure on me to perform well — I’m very proud with how I’ve handled that over the years.”

Serena Williams returning to competition for US Fed Cup team

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) The U.S. Tennis Association says Serena Williams will return to competition for the first time in more than a year at the country’s Fed Cup matches against the Netherlands next month.

Williams has not played an official match since winning the Australian Open in January 2017 for her 23rd Grand Slam singles title. She was pregnant during that tournament and gave birth to a daughter on Sept. 1.

Joining Williams on U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi’s roster announced Tuesday is older sister Venus, a seven-time major champion. The siblings have not played on the Fed Cup team together in three years.

Also on the team: CoCo Vandeweghe, a semifinalist at the Australian Open and U.S. Open last year. A fourth member of the U.S. squad will be announced next week.

The U.S. won last year’s Fed Cup.

The matches against the Netherlands will be held on an indoor hard court in Ashville, North Carolina, on Feb. 10-11.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Injured Nadal out of Australian Open; Cilic into semifinals

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) An injured and visibly struggling Rafael Nadal retired while trailing in the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal match against Marin Cilic.

Top-ranked Nadal fended off five break points in the last game before Cilic broke his serve, then the 16-time major winner went to shake hands with the umpire and his opponent, and angrily hurled his headband into his equipment bag.

No. 6-seeded Cilic advanced to his first semifinal in Australia since 2010 with a score of 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 2-0, retired.

Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, will next play No. 49-ranked Kyle Edmund, who beat No. 3-ranked Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time.

Nadal limped into a news conference about a half-hour later, still wincing when he stepped up onto a platform. He said he felt muscle pain in his upper right leg in the third set but played through it. In the fourth set, chasing a drop shot, he felt the pain get worse “but didn’t realize how bad.”

“Tough moments -not (for) the first time here,” he said. “I’m a positive person, but today is an opportunity lost to be in a semifinal for a Grand Slam and fight for an important title for me.

“It’s really tough to accept.”

Nadal said he’d have medical scans Wednesday to determine the exact location and extent of the injury, which he could only describe as being high on his right leg but not in the hip.

“Unbelievable performance from both of us and really unfortunate for Rafa,” Cilic said. “He’s such an unbelievable competitor. He always gives his best … it’s very unfortunate for him to finish this way.”

It was only the second time Nadal had retired during a Grand Slam match – the last time was also an Australian Open quarterfinal, in 2010 against Andy Murray.

On Tuesday night, he needed a medical timeout after going down 4-1 in the fourth set for treatment on his leg.

Nadal returned but was clearly bothered by the injury, limping and taking as much time as possible as he tried to stretch between points.

He called the trainer again after losing the fourth set, and lasted only two further games.

Cilic had only previously beaten Nadal once in their six previous matches – in their first match at Beijing in 2009.

Nadal had a delayed start to the season because of an injured right knee, but appeared to be in good form through the first four rounds. He now hasn’t won back-to-back Australian Open quarterfinals since 2008 and ’09, the year he won his only Australian title.

“I worked hard to be here,” said Nadal, who skipped tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Brisbane, Australia, while his knee recovered at the start of the season. “We did all the things that we believed were the right things to do.”

His absence also means there’s only one of last year’s singles finalists remaining in the tournament. Roger Federer, who beat Nadal in five sets last year, is playing Tomas Berdych in a quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Serena Williams didn’t defend her title, deciding she hadn’t had enough time to prepare following the birth of her first child last September. Her older sister, Venus Williams, was beaten in the first round.

On top of that, six-time champion Novak Djokovic was upset in the fourth round.

There’ll be a British man in the Australian Open semifinals for the seventh time in nine years, but it won’t be five-time finalist Murray – who skipped the season-opening tournament to have surgery on his hip.

Edmund had never played in a major quarterfinal, had never won five consecutive matches at tour level, had lost both of his previous matches against Dimitrov and had never beaten a top five player.

He checked all those boxes on Rod Laver Arena.

“I am loving it right now, just the way I’m playing,” Edmund said. “My first Grand Slam semifinal. First time I played on one of the biggest courts in the world. To beat a quality of player like Grigor. They’re great feelings. So, yeah, I just try to enjoy it as much as possible.”

After breaking Dimitrov’s serve in the ninth game of the fourth set, Edmund set up match point with an ace. Then he had to wait before a video challenge confirmed that Dimitrov’s last shot – a floating backhand – was out.

“I just held my nerve in that last game and prayed that last ball would be out,” Edmund said. It was out. And so was Dimitrov, who lost a five-set semifinal here last year to Nadal.

“Everything went his way today,” Dimitrov said. “It’s hard to hide a disappointment. It hurts, and so it should.”

Edmund, who had a first-round upset over U.S. Open finalist Kevin Anderson, is now the center of attention for the tennis-loving British public.

“I know what it feels like to be Andy Murray the last eight years,” he said. “It’s probably the first time I’ve done well on my own, so there’s more attention there. Of course you take it in stride.”

Elise Mertens is facing a similar experience.

Mertens upset fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-0 to extend her winning streak to 10 matches, becoming the first Belgian since Kim Clijsters in 2012 to reach the semifinals here.

Mertens, who trains at Clijsters’ academy, said: “Kim, thanks for watching. I’m trying to be in your footsteps this week.”

In the semis, she’ll play either second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki or Carla Suarez Navarro.