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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.

Sevastova beats Zvonareva in 3 sets at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Anastasija Sevastova reached the semifinals of the Kremlin Cup by beating Russian veteran Vera Zvonareva 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 on Thursday.

Sevastova, a U.S. Open semifinalist, will next face Tunisian qualifier Ons Jabeur, who upset eighth-seeded Anett Kontaveit 7-5, 6-1.

Jabeur has won six straight matches, including qualifiers. She has never before reached the semifinals on tour.

Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the men’s tournament with what organizers said was an elbow injury, giving Mirza Basic a walkover to the quarterfinals.

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Rafael Nadal will play in new Davis Cup format

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MADRID — Gerard Pique is not worried about the possible absence of some top players in the revamped Davis Cup, especially since Rafael Nadal has said he will play in the new-look competition when it debuts next year.

The Barcelona defender, who spearheads the company behind the new format of the Davis Cup, said Wednesday that Nadal has told him he will play as long as he is not injured.

“If the No. 1 in the world is playing, that’s more than enough,” Pique said in the official presentation of Madrid as host of the Davis Cup finals for the next two years. “Rafa is very positive about this event, especially because it is taking place in Madrid.”

The new event was developed in a partnership between the International Tennis Federation and the investment group Kosmos, which was founded by the Barcelona and Spain player.

Pique said he knows it will not be easy to have all top-ranked players participating.

“This is a team event, so it’s impossible to have all the top players involved. Some teams won’t qualify, not everybody will be able to play anyway,” Pique said. “Of course we would like to have the top players, but we want to focus on the teams.”

Stars such as Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have already hinted they don’t intend to play. Djokovic said the tournament could be competing with the ATP’s World Team Cup, while Federer said the revamped Davis Cup didn’t seem to be designed for him.

Pique said he already didn’t expect Federer to be playing, noting the Swiss veteran has limited his tournament schedule in recent years and might not “have the legs” to play in the Davis Cup again. He said he still hoped to convince Djokovic, though.

“I have a lot of confidence that we can negotiate and the top players will play,” Pique said.

The new format of tennis’ top team event will be a season-ending, 18-team tournament, but teams will still play matches in February to advance to the championship in November. The Davis Cup has previously been played over four weekends throughout the year.

The first championship will be held next year from Nov. 18-24 on an indoor hardcourt at the Magic Box arena, which already hosts the Madrid Masters. The ITF said players will compete for prize money that will rival what is offered in Grand Slams.

Pique said there is no “perfect date” for the tournament as the tennis calendar is very tight, but he was happy with the week they picked.

“We’ve spoken with everybody,” he said. “We think this is a week that won’t affect any of the other tournaments. We want to be well seen in the tennis world. We are here to help. We think this will be a magical week for the world of tennis.”

The 2018 Davis Cup semifinalists – Croatia, France, Spain and the United States – have already secured their spot in next year’s tournament, along with Argentina and Britain.

Defending champion France will host Croatia in the last Davis Cup final in the current format from Nov. 23-25 in Lille.