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Marin Cilic defeats Sam Querrey to reach first Wimbledon final

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LONDON– The key, for both players, was to deal with the big serve. Marin Cilic did it better.

The seventh-seeded Croat advanced to his second major final by beating Sam Querrey 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5 Friday on Centre Court. He next faces Roger Federer or Tomas Berdych in Sunday’s final at the All England Club.

Cilic and Querrey, both 6-foot-6, used their powerful serves to dominate most of the match. Neither even had a break point in the first set.

“Sam came out serving huge, hitting big,” Cilic said.

Querrey took lead after a brief delay late in the opening tiebreaker. With the score 6-6, stewards entered the stands to attend to a woman who needed assistance. The break only lasted a couple of minutes, but Querrey won both points when play resumed, with Cilic missing a pair of backhands.

Cilic finally managed the first break of serve in the second set, and then went up another break in the third. But Querrey broke back to force another tiebreaker.

In the fourth set, it was Querrey who got an early break. But Cilic bounced back and then broke for the fourth time in the final game.

“After that (first tiebreaker), I was just a little bit better on the return games,” Cilic said. “I was making him (play more) on his service games.”

He finished with 25 aces and won 88 percent of the points on his first serve. Cilic also had 70 winners and only 21 unforced errors. Querrey had 46 winners and 26 unforced errors to go with 13 aces.

Cilic is now 5-0 against Querrey and 3-0 against the American at Wimbledon. Their last match at the All England Club, in 2012, went five sets and Cilic won 17-15 in the fifth.

Cilic is the second Croat player to reach the Wimbledon final. Goran Ivanisevic won the title in 2001.

Federer, in search of an eighth Wimbledon title, was to play Berdych next on Centre Court.

Federer is 18-6 against Berdych, but the 11th-seeded Czech beat Federer in the quarterfinals during his run to the Wimbledon final in 2010.

Two-time champ Azarenka gets Australian Open wild card

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka has been awarded a wild card for the Australian Open.

Azarenka, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, has been involved in a custody dispute involving her son Leo, who was born last Dec. 19.

She hasn’t competed anywhere since Wimbledon, where she lost to Simona Halep in the fourth round on July 10. The dispute with her former partner started shortly after Wimbledon ended.

Azarenka has played only six matches this year and is ranked 208th.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said on Wednesday that every assistance would be provided to the former No. 1, adding “Vika’s current situation is obviously very difficult for her and we have reached out to offer any support we can.”

The Australian Open starts on Jan. 15.

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.”