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Federer beats Nadal 6-3, 6-4 in Miami Open final

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Roger Federer is playing so well this year he’s even dominating his longtime nemesis, Rafael Nadal.

Federer beat Nadal for the third time this year Sunday, 6-3, 6-4, to win the Miami Open and become the tournament’s oldest men’s champion.

Playing some of the best tennis of his career at age 35, Federer also beat his longtime nemesis in the Australian Open final in January, and two weeks ago en route to the Indian Wells title.

His latest win turned back the clock – Federer also won Key Biscayne in 2005 and 2006. Nadal fell to 0-5 in Key Biscayne finals, including in 2005 against Federer.

Federer was coming off a thrilling three-hour semifinal win over Nick Kyrgios but nonetheless looked fresh against Nadal and erased all four break points he faced. Federer failed to take advantage of five early break-point chances himself but broke in the next to last game of both sets.

Serving for the championship at 5-4, Federer hit his only double-fault on the first point but quickly regrouped. The next point was the longest of the match, and Federer ended the 19-shot rally with a forehand winner in the corner.

When Nadal sailed a return long on the final point, Federer took the ball on a bounce behind the baseline and happily whacked it into the stands, then waved with both hands in jubilation. The sellout crowd was evenly divided in its support but roared for the popular champion.

Federer saved two match points in his quarterfinal win against Tomas Berdych, and earned a three-tiebreaker win in the semifinals against Kyrgios. His route to the title was made easier by the absences of six-time champion Novak Djokovic and two-time time champion Andy Murray, both sidelined by elbow injuries.

Even so, Federer’s resurgence is remarkable. He has the best record on men’s tour this year at 19-1, including 7-0 against players ranked in the top 10, and he’s the first three-time champion this year on the men’s tour. His best start since 2006 comes after he missed the final six months of last year with a left knee injury.

Federer’s vast repertoire was on display throughout the tournament. Against Nadal he won all six points where he played serve and volley, and won six other points at the net. He served well and held at love three times in a row. He played terrific defense, robbing Nadal’s groundstrokes of their power, and finished with 30 winners to only 17 unforced errors.

Victoria Azarenka misses direct entry for U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — Two-time U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka is ranked just below the cutoff for direct entry into the year’s last Grand Slam tournament.

Azarenka, a former No. 1 and twice the champion at the Australian Open, is No. 108 this week, seven spots outside of an automatic spot in the main draw.

The U.S. Tennis Association announced Wednesday that defending champion and top-ranked Rafael Nadal is one of six past male singles champions in the U.S. Open field, along with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic. Another past title winner at Flushing Meadows, Stan Wawrinka, is ranked 199th this week.

The women’s winners with direct entry based on this week’s rankings are six-time champion Serena Williams, two-time champ Venus Williams, defending champ Sloane Stephens, Maria Sharapova and Samantha Stosur.

Nadal-Djokovic semifinal suspended after 3rd set

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LONDON (AP) It was the kind of tennis that Wimbledon’s Centre Court crowd would gladly have watched all night long.

The show being put on by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was so good it could have been an instant classic had they been able to finish their semifinal before the tournament’s 11 p.m. curfew.

Instead, the two players – and a disappointed audience – were sent home after the third set on Friday with Djokovic leading 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9) following a tense tiebreaker that had more entertaining rallies than some entire matches.

The two players didn’t even get onto the court until after 8 p.m. because of an earlier marathon semifinal won by Kevin Anderson and when Djokovic converted his second set point in the tiebreaker – having saved three of Nadal’s – the clock had ticked a couple of minutes past 11. That left organizers no choice but to call it a night, although the announcement from the chair umpire led to a scattering of boos from some fans who clearly wanted more.

Most of them will have to watch the rest on TV.

The match will resume at 1 p.m. local time on Saturday, before the women’s final between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber. At stake is a place in Sunday’s men’s final against the man who was partly at fault for keeping Nadal and Djokovic out there so late. Anderson’s win over John Isner lasted 6 + hours and went to 26-24 in the fifth set.

Djokovic-Nadal had clearly been the headline act of the day – they have five Wimbledon titles between them and met in the 2011 final while Anderson and Isner had never made the semifinals before – and their tennis was at another level from the earlier match. Even Anderson said he could feel during his match that the crowd would rather be watching the next one.

“They’ve paid to see two matches, and they came pretty close to only seeing one match,” Anderson said. “I can feel the crowd (get) pretty antsy for us to get off the court. They’ve been watching us for over six hours.”

While Anderson-Isner was mostly a serving duel with a few longer rallies thrown in, Djokovic and Nadal repeatedly slugged it out from the baseline, chasing each other around the court and coming up with spectacular winners from every corner.

Many of the best points came in the tiebreaker, including a 23-shot rally that Nadal finished off with a forehand half-volley drop shot to set up his first set point.

It was one of three successful drop shots from the Spaniard in the tiebreaker alone, but Djokovic answered with one of his own to save the second set point at 7-6.

He eventually went up 10-9 with the help of a backhand passing shot and an errant shot into the net by Nadal brought the entertainment to an end – for now.

It led to the unusual situation of both players leaving the court to a huge ovation – and applauding the fans in return – but without there being a clear winner or loser.

To be continued.