After beating Federer, Murray reaches Aussie final


After beating Federer, Murray reaches Aussie final

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Andy Murray was sucking in deep breaths, trying to recover from his exhausting win over Roger Federer. Pain was very much on his mind.

The U.S. Open champion defeated Federer 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-2 in a four-hour Australian Open semifinal Friday night. It was Murray's first victory against the 17-time major winner at a Grand Slam event.

But with the clock about to strike midnight, Murray was already thinking about Sunday's final against two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic, who is on a 20-match winning streak at Melbourne Park. This will be a rematch of their U.S. Open final.

``Every time we play each other it's normally a very physical match,'' Murray said. ``I'll need to be ready for the pain. I hope it's a painful match - that'll mean it's a good one.''

Murray had a 10-9 record against Federer, but had lost his three previous Grand Slam matches to the Swiss star. One of those defeats came at Wimbledon last year. Murray says the disappointment of that loss triggered his run to the gold medal at the London Olympics, and then his drought-breaking triumph at the U.S. Open.

``You know, I've obviously lost some tough matches against him in Slams,'' Murray said. ``So to win one, especially the way that it went tonight, yeah, was obviously nice.''

Murray ended a 76-year drought for British men at the majors when he beat Djokovic in five sets in the final at Flushing Meadows.

He's hoping the step-by-step manner in which he has crossed career milestones off his to-do list will continue Sunday. He lost four major finals, including two in Australia, before winning a Grand Slam title. He lost three times to Federer in a major before beating him. Even then, he wasted a chance to serve out in the fourth set Friday night as Federer rallied.

``Those matches ... have helped obviously mentally,'' he said. ``I think going through a lot of the losses that I've had will have helped me as well. Obviously having won against Novak before in a Slam final will help mentally.''

Djokovic will not be the only defending champion this weekend playing for another title. Victoria Azarenka will face China's Li Na on Saturday night for the women's crown.

Azarenka hasn't added a major title since her breakthrough in Australia last year. She's coming off a semifinal victory over American teenager Sloane Stephens in which she had to answer a torrent of questions over her nine-minute medical timeout after wasting five match points and then dropping serve in the next-to-last game.

Li, who is seeded sixth, lost the 2011 Australian final before claiming her first major title months later at the French Open. She made the final with less commotion, beating No. 2 Maria Sharapova in straight sets.

The first title of the 2013 Australian Open, women's doubles, was decided Friday when top-seeded Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci of Italy beat unseeded Australians Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

That was a prelude to the night match, where 15,000 people packed Rod Laver Arena, including the great Laver himself, to see if Federer could reach a sixth Australian final. The 31-year-old Swiss has won four of his 17 titles at Melbourne Park.

He showed flashes of his customary genius, but also rare bursts of anger. Murray showed his frustration as well. The crowd started to turn on him after he challenged a call in the eighth game of the fourth set, booing each time he complained to the umpire. His unforced error into the net on the next point prompted a huge cheer.

In the 12th game of the fourth set, Federer appeared to yell across the net after Murray stopped momentarily behind the baseline during the rally.

Murray shrugged it off and seemed to dig in. He'd won that point but lost the game and was taken to another tiebreaker, which he lost.

``We were just checking each other out for bit,'' Federer said. ``That wasn't a big deal for me - I hope not for him.''

Murray said ``stuff like that happens daily in tennis,'' and added that it was ``very, very mild in comparison to what happens in other sports.''

When Federer got break point with Murray serving for the match at 6-5, the applause was so prolonged Murray had to wait to serve. And when Federer got the break to force a tiebreaker, the crowd stood and roared as Murray slammed a ball into the court in anger.

The crowd cheered for every Murray error in tiebreaker. One man yelled, ``Andy, don't choke.''

He didn't.

Rather than wilting under the pressure in the fifth set, Murray hit his stride. He allowed Federer only four points in the first three games of the fifth set, bolting to a 3-0 lead and carrying it through to the end.

``It's big. I never beat Roger in a Slam before. It definitely will help with the confidence,'' Murray said. ``Just knowing you can win against those guys in big matches definitely helps.''

Federer could see improvement in Murray's approach in the tough situations.

``With the win at the Olympics and the U.S. Open, maybe there's just a little bit more belief,'' Federer said. ``Or he's a bit more calm overall.''

Djokovic already owns three Australian titles and is aiming to be the first man in the Open era to win three in a row. The 25-year-old Serb was nearly flawless in his 89-minute disposal of No. 4-ranked David Ferrer in Thursday night's semifinal, and said he was hoping Murray and Federer would go to five sets.

``Obviously, Novak goes in as the favorite, I would think, even though Andy beat him at the U.S. Open,'' Federer said. ``Novak is the double defending champion here. He's done really well again this tournament. Obviously a tough match again, and give a slight edge to Novak just because of the last couple of days.''

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

John Wall crossed one of the biggest hurdles of his months-long recovery from arthroscopic left knee surgery on Saturday by participating in his first full practice.

That means Wall went through 5-on-5 scrimmages with teammates that included contact. He is free of restrictions.

Now it is only a matter of days before Wall is ready to return to game action.

"John did everything, he did an entire practice which was great," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he did a great job offensively and defensively."


Wall, who last played on Jan. 25 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, has missed the Wizards' last 24 games. He has been absent for 35 of their 72 total games this season.

In the months he has been out, Wall has slowly worked his way to this point. He still has to get a few more practices under his belt before the Wizards can outline a target date for his return.

Wall was aggressive in testing his knee by attacking the basket, according to Brooks. Wall was moving around well and even lost a few pounds during his time off.

"He looks great and that's not easy with time off," Brooks said. "He will be back in no time."


The Wizards have gone 14-10 since Wall went down, an impressive mark especially considering how tough their schedule shook out. Most of those games came against teams with winning records either holding playoff spots or fighting for them.

The shine, though, is wearing off. They have lost two straight games and seven of their last 11. Their offense has stalled in recent defeats and it's become more and more clear they could use Wall's presence.

"He gives us that edge," Wall said. "When you have him on the floor, you get a lot of easy shots. John creates a lot of attention when he drives to the basket... I think [his teammates] have always appreciated it, but when you don't have him around you definitely miss it."

While the Wizards continue to wait for Wall to return to games, just having him in practices helps. Brooks explained how guarding a player of Wall's caliber, a five-time All-Star, raises the intensity level of their scrimmages. If his teammates do not bring their best effort, Wall can very easily expose them.


There is also something intangible about Wall's presence. The media sees it once the doors open at practice. He is talkative and energetic on the court.

Some of his teammates even described him as "loud."

"Sometimes I tell him that he's a little too loud," guard Bradley Beal said. "But that's the energy that we've missed."

"He brings the juice. He brings the energy level up," Brooks said. "You miss his spirit. You miss the way he interacts with guys. He's fiery and competitive. He gets after guys. He cheers guys on. I like that. I like guys that show emotion and passion on the court."

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Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Following their seventh loss in 11 games and another lackluster performance in key areas, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reverted back to a critique that characterized many defeats months ago. He called into question the effort of his team, more specifically their urgency. How they could overlook the stakes at this point of the season and with so much on the line had escaped him.

Brooks wasn't pleased following Washington's 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. He didn't like their three-point defense, their inability to force turnovers and their lack of zip on offense. But overall, it was the apparent lack of realization that time is running out in the regular season and off-nights cannot be afforded.

"We have to play with more spirit [and] we have to take some pride in our home court," Brooks said. "We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game."


Pride is something Brooks has referenced after the Wizards' worst defeats since he took over. This one didn't qualify, as they only lost by eight points and had opportunities late to write a different ending. But they were playing a team fighting for their own playoff position in the opposite conference and for the most part did not match their intensity.

The Nuggets, to put it plainly, are among the worst defensive teams in basketball. They were missing their leading scorer, Gary Harris. And they tightened their rotation to just eight players.

Yet the Wizards only managed 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers. Aside from their 33-point third quarter, the Wizards' offense was effectively stalled. 

"We can’t have guys that are not going to participate with hard cuts and hard setups and good screens. We need everybody. It’s not one person, it’s all," Brooks said.


The Wizards only forced 10 turnovers on the Nuggets and only three in the first half. That held back their offense in the sense they had few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"That’s where we get most of our offense from anyways, getting stops, getting out in transition," forward Otto Porter said.

The Wizards have lost two straight games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Pacers both won on Friday night.

The Wizards are sixth place in the East and just 1 1/2 games out of fourth, but there is a huge difference in those spots. Sixth could mean meeting the Cavs in the first round and they have won three straight since Kevin Love returned from injury.


The Cavaliers could quickly become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Their record is deceiving due to Love's injury and they still boast LeBron James, the best player on the planet. No one can control a playoff series quite like he can.

An argument could be made the Wizards would be better off moving down than up, as the seventh spot would match them up with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics. The Wizards are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-seed Miami Heat.

The Wizards, though, would prefer to move up and they still have a chance to get into fourth, which would mean home court advantage.

John Wall will return at some point, likely soon. In the short-term, Brooks would like to some urgency and for his team to get back to the trademark ball movement that allowed them to go 10-3 in their first 13 games when Wall went down.

"We can get it back, but it’s not going to come back. We have to go get it. It’s time to do it; it’s time," Brooks said.

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