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. 

Nakashima takes first ATP Tour title at San Diego

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SAN DIEGO – Brandon Nakashima earned his first ATP Tour victory in his hometown, beating friend and fellow Southern Californian Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-4 on Sunday in the San Diego Open final.

“It’s super-special, something you dream of, but to have it happen in my hometown with all my friends and family here, it’s a moment I’ll never forget,” said Nakashima, who had two previous finals appearances. “I hope there are many more moments like this to come.”

Nakashima, a 21-year-old who grew up in San Diego and trained extensively at the event’s site as a junior, clinched the opening set in only 30 minutes. The second set, filled with lengthy rallies, took nearly an hour.

Giron, the No. 5 seed and former NCAA title winner from UCLA, wasn’t able to fend off Nakashima’s persistent ground strokes and well-placed serves. Nakashima had eight aces, six in the first set.

Serving at 5-4 in the second set, Nakashima tallied the match’s deciding two points when Giron pushed an easy volley into the net, followed by Nakashima’s second-serve ace.

He earned $93,090, about half of what received for reaching the third round of the U.S. Open in early September.

Nakashima, who was ranked No. 69 on the ATP Tour, moved up to 48, his highest ranking in nearly three years on tour. Despite the loss, Giron moved up to 53 from 58.

Not only was the singles title claimed by an American, the doubles title also taken by an American duo as the second-seeded pair of Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow defeated Australians Jason Kubler and Luke Saville 7-6 (5), 6-2.

The $612,00 event was held at Barnes Tennis Center, which next hosts the $757,900 WTA 500 San Diego Open, Oct. 8-16. That will feature 16 of the world’s top-ranked 20 women pros, led by No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

Frances Tiafoe lifts Team World to 1st Laver Cup win

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LONDON — The last to arrive, befitting his reputation in the locker room, Frances Tiafoe strutted into the post-match news conference after clinching Team World’s Laver Cup victory over Roger Federer’s star-studded Team Europe and shouted, “Champs are here!”

Then the 24-year-old from Maryland joined his teammates at the table where the silver trophy was resting Sunday night, put down a bottle of water, pulled a Budweiser out of his red jacket and smiled that wide smile of his.

Performing with the same infectious showmanship and crunch-time success he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open earlier this month, Tiafoe staved off four match points and came back to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8, giving Team World its first triumph in five editions of an event founded by Federer’s management company.

“I don’t like losing,” said Federer, a 20-time major champion whose final match before retirement was a loss alongside Rafael Nadal in doubles against Tiafoe and Jack Sock on Friday night. “It’s not fun. It just leaves not the best taste.”

When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end Sunday’s contest – and the three-day competition – Tiafoe dropped his racket and fell to his back on the court, where teammates piled atop him. After getting on his feet, Tiafoe cupped a hand to his ear, asking spectators for more noise, then pointed to his chest and yelled, “I’m him! I’m him!”

“When it becomes a circus out here, and I’m just using the crowd and acting like a little kid and having a bunch of reactions … I end up playing really well and I start building momentum off it,” Tiafoe said. “I’m able to play and function in that better than my opponents, it seems.”

Using the nickname other players gave Tiafoe to reflect the way he embraces big moments, Team World captain John McEnroe said: “Frances is `Prime Time.’ He loves this stuff.”

McEnroe had been 0-4 while leading his squad against his former playing rival, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg; both indicated they would be back for the 2023 Laver Cup in Vancouver, but that might be their last go-round.

This one served as a celebration of Federer and the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career.

Tiafoe responded with a quip when asked whether he might owe Federer some form of “I’m sorry” for beating him in his finale or for defeating his team, which also included Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for a total of 66 major singles titles. That, incidentally, is 66 more than Team World, a collection of 20-somethings (Sock turned 30 on Saturday).

“”I’m not going to apologize to him. He’s got a lot to apologize for after the last 24 years – after beating everybody on the tour,” said Tiafoe, who went 0-3 against Federer in singles head-to-head. “I will say thank you for having me in this amazing event, what he’s done for the game. He’s a class act. Happy to know him, happy to call him a friend, happy to call him a colleague, and best wishes in his second act. But I will not apologize.”

Team Europe entered Sunday at O2 Arena with an 8-4 lead; the first team to 13 points would win.

Each match on Day 3 was worth three points, and Team World went ahead thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He beat Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Tiafoe then made it 13-8, but it wasn’t easy.

He went a tournament-record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient Sunday.

“It’s been a long time that Frances has been playing the big guys close and losing a lot of close battles. It’s great to see lately he’s been winning,” said Taylor Fritz, an American who is the same age as Tiafoe and has known him for years. “It’s about time that he steps up and the matches go the other way. Today was a joke.”

That’s because Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker, but somehow got through that. Then, at 4-all in the concluding match tiebreaker – first to 10, win by two – Tiafoe sprinted from behind the baseline to near the net and barely got to a drop shot by Tsitsipas, somehow lunging to flick an angled winner.

While most of the 16,365 fans went wild, Tiafoe went around the net and stood still, hands on his hips, relishing the atmosphere.

“We put him in the slot that he was in today for a reason,” said Team World’s Tommy Paul, another 24-year-old American, “and he stepped up for us, big time.”