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Roger Federer beats Rafael Nadal in dramatic Australian final to win 18th major

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Roger Federer has won his 18th Grand Slam title and put some extra distance on the all-time list between himself and Rafael Nadal, the man he beat 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in a vintage Australian Open final on Sunday.

It was the 35-year-old Federer’s fifth Australian title, his first at a major since Wimbledon in 2012, and it reversed the status quo against his nemesis, Nadal.

Federer had lost six of the previous eight Grand Slam finals he’d played against Nadal, and had only previously beaten the left-handed Spaniard in 11 of their 34 matches.

Both players were returning from extended layoffs for injuries – Federer the left knee; Nadal the left wrist – and were seeded 17th and ninth respectively.

Nadal remains equal second with Pete Sampras on the all-time list, with the last of his 14 majors coming at Roland Garros in 2014.

After four sets where the momentum swung alternately from one player to the next, the fifth had all the tension and drama that these two players are famous for.

Nadal went up an early break and it seemed as if the injury time-out Federer needed after the fourth set may have been an indicator of things to come.

But the Swiss star rallied, and broke back in a pivotal sixth game and took control in a period when he won 10 straight points.

Nadal saved three break points in the eighth game but lost momentum again when Federer finished off a 26-shot rally – the longest of the match – with a forehand winner down the line.

Consecutive forehand errors gave Federer the pivotal break for 5-3, but Nadal made him work for the very last point.

Serving for the match, Federer had to save two break points with an ace and a forehand winner.

At deuce, he was called for a double-fault but challenged the out call on his second serve. The call was overturned, and he got to play two.

Not long after, he fired an ace to get his second match point and hit a forehand crosscourt winner to finish off.

His celebrations were delayed, though, when Nadal challenged the call. Federer watched the replay on the tournament screen, and leaped for joy when it showed his last shot was in. His 100th match at the Australian Open ended with his fifth title at Melbourne Park.

No two players had met more often in Grand Slam finals in the Open era, and Nadal had previously dominated. But they hadn’t met in a major final since the 2011 French Open, won by Nadal.

Three months ago, they were both on breaks when Federer joined Nadal in Mallorca for the opening of the Spaniard’s tennis academy and the pair joked about ever being able to contend for majors again.

Yet here they were, first Grand Slam tournament of the season, renewing the classic rivalry that saw them dominate tennis a decade ago.

The long-odds final – No. 9 against No. 17 – unfolded after six-time champion Novak Djokovic was shockingly upset by No. 117-ranked Denis Istomin in the second round and top-ranked Andy Murray, a five-time losing finalist in Australia, went out in the fourth round to left-handed serve-volleyer Mischa Zverev.

Federer beat Zverev in the quarterfinals and U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka in an all-Swiss semifinal to reach the championship match. The six years between his Australian titles set a record, too, longer than the five years that both Boris Becker and Andre Agassi had between championships in Melbourne.

Azarenka withdraws from U.S. Open amid child custody dispute

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NEW YORK — Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka withdrew from the U.S. Open on Monday because she was unable to resolve a custody dispute with her infant son’s father.

The 28-year-old star from Belarus gave birth to her first child in December and she returned to the tour in June. She detailed the dispute with the boy’s father in a long Twitter post last week, saying she might not be able to bring her son with her to New York.

“I am sadly unable to compete in this year’s U.S. Open due to my ongoing family situation that I am working through,” Azarenka said in a statement.

In last week’s post, Azarenka wrote that she separated from Leo’s father shortly after Wimbledon, where she lost to Simona Halep in the fourth round on July 10.

“As we work to resolve some of the legal processes, the way things stand now is that the only way I can play in the U.S. Open this year is if I leave Leo behind in California,” Azarenka wrote, “which I’m not willing to do.”

Azarenka has not played since Wimbledon, and the former No. 1 player is now ranked 204th. She was the runner-up in New York in 2012 and 2013, losing in the final each year to Serena Williams. Those were also the years that Azarenka won her two Grand Slam singles titles in Australia.

Williams, who is pregnant with her first child, also will not play in this year’s U.S. Open. On the men’s side, three top-10 players have withdrawn with season-ending injuries: defending champion Stan Wawrinka, Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori.

Wimbledon champ Muguruza beats Halep for Cincy title

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MASON, Ohio (AP) Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza added another trophy in her breakthrough summer, beating Simona Halep on Sunday for her first Western & Southern Open title.

Muguruza’s 6-1, 6-0 victory in only 56 minutes extended her streak of playing deep into tournaments and denied Halep a chance to move to No. 1 in the next WTA rankings.

The Spaniard won her first title in the U.S. and her second of the year, along with Wimbledon. In three tournaments since, she has at least reached the quarterfinals.

It was a big disappointment for Halep – the third time this season that she needed one more win to move up to No. 1 and couldn’t get it. She also finished as the runner-up at Cincinnati in 2015, losing to Serena Williams.

Halep brought a lot of momentum into the final. She was feeling good and moving well after being hampered by a knee injury early in the season. The Romanian didn’t lose a set all week until Sunday, when she was never in the match.

Muguruza broke her to go up 2-0 in the first set and was in control. Halep won only 12 points in the set, which lasted 23 minutes. Muguruza broke her again to open the second set and faced only two break points all match.

When it ended, Muguruza congratulated Halep and walked around the court with her smiling face cradled in both hands, taking it all in. Then she put her hands over her heart and reached toward the applauding crowd.

The women’s bracket was missing Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. Muguruza knocked off defending champion Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals.