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NBC’s Derby coverage to get closer with backstretch camera

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Kentucky Derby viewers will be able to follow horses closer on the backstretch when NBC Sports introduces a new camera angle for the marquee event in horse racing’s Triple Crown.

Coverage of Saturday’s 144th Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs will include views from a camera suspended above the backstretch that will pan the 20-horse field. Similar to what the network uses in NASCAR broadcasts, the camera travels up to 80 mph.

2018 Kentucky Derby: How to Watch, Post Time, Horses and More

“This camera will bring the viewer much closer to the track on the backstretch, providing a new perspective alongside the action and showcasing the speed of the horses,” said NBC Sports coordinating producer Rob Hyland. “With the largest field (up to 20 horses) in racing, we expect that this camera will provide a unique look at the horses and their jockeys as they position themselves heading into the final turn.”

NBC will use at least 50 cameras for the Derby and provide an aerial angle of the race, as part of its record live five-hour Kentucky Derby Day telecast. The network will present more than 28 hours of Triple Crown coverage, beginning with the Kentucky Derby Draw on Tuesday.

Isner earns biggest win, beating Zverev in Miami Open final

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) John Isner won the biggest title of his 14-year career on Sunday, holding every service game and rallying past Alexander Zverev in the Miami Open final, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4.

The 32-year-old Isner previously had been 0-3 in ATP Masters 1000 finals. His breakthrough came in the last singles match on Key Biscayne before the Miami Open moves next year to the NFL Dolphins’ stadium.

Seeded 14th, Isner became the first American man to win the tournament since Andy Roddick in 2010. Isner joined Sloane Stephens, who won the women’s title Saturday, for the first U.S. sweep in the event since 2004, when the champions were Roddick and Serena Williams.

The start of the last game was delayed by the crowd’s chants of “U-S-A!” Isner then held at love, and on the final three points he smacked aces, giving him 18 for the match and 79 for the tournament.

Isner’s title run surprised even him because he arrived at Key Biscayne with a record of 1-6 this year, including losses to players with rankings of 60, 62, 78 and 91. He played an almost flawless match to beat Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals, and was just good enough against the fourth-seeded Zverev, a precocious 20-year-old German who was bidding for his third Masters 1000 title in the past 12 months.

The 6-foot-10 Isner’s serve allowed him to overcome inconsistent returning, a succession of botched volleys and shaky play at crunch time. He converted only two of 12 break-point chances and lost his final three service points in the tiebreaker.

But he gave Zverev only three break-point chances, and Isner’s serve was at its best down the stretch. He made 83 percent of his first serves in the final set.

With little margin for error, Zverev lost serve and fell behind 5-4 in the final set when he dumped a forehand into the net, and his frustration boiled over. He slammed his racket to the concrete, picked it up and slammed it again, and then tossed it gently to the stands as a mangled souvenir.

When Isner sealed the victory four points later, he also tossed his racket – but in celebration. He gave Zverev a warm hug and then skipped across the court, basking in his breakthrough.

As a reflection of the threat his serve poses, Isner improved to 6-2 against top-10 players since the start of 2017. He’ll climb to ninth in the rankings, which matches his career high.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve-Wine . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/steven-wine

Venus Williams rallies past Kiki Bertens at Miami Open

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) When Venus Williams slammed a forehand winner on the final point to win a seesaw marathon Sunday, she had enough energy left to spin in delight at the net, a triumphant fist leading the way.

Some 21 years after her Key Biscayne debut, wins at the Miami Open remain something to celebrate.

Williams squandered an early lead, fell behind late and then overcame three match points to rally past Kiki Bertens in the third round, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.

Williams blew a 5-0 lead in the first set and was down 5-3 in the third set. But she swept the final four games, holding serve at love for the victory.

“It didn’t look good sometimes,” Williams told the supportive crowd. “But that’s why you keep playing until the last point. And that’s why I love this game.”

The match took nearly three hours on the hottest day of the tournament so far, and the 37-year-old Williams now must recover quickly to next play defending champion Johanna Konta. The No. 11-seeded Konta advanced with much less drama, beating No. 22 Elise Mertens 6-2, 6-1.

In men’s play, No. 2 Marin Cilic swept Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 7-6 (4).

Williams regrouped after a disastrous opening set, which she was four times a single point from winning. In the final set she erased two match points at 5-3, and another in the next game.

The stadium was nearly full by the finish. Williams, who lives in South Florida and has long been a favorite with Key Biscayne fans, said they kept her going.

“I felt everybody behind me,” she told them. “My opponent played well. I had a lot of chances; she had a lot of chances. I hope it was really entertaining for you all.”

Williams, who is seeded No. 8, won the tournament way back in 1998, 1999 and 2001. Last year she reached the semifinal, and this year she outlasted her sister, eight-time champion Serena Williams, who was upset in the first round.

“I love it here,” Venus said. “This was my first big win. I have a lot of great memories. I hope I can get another win this year. You never know.”

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis