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2-time champ Nadal loses 15-13 in 5th set, eliminated at Wimbledon

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2-time champ Nadal loses 15-13 in 5th set, eliminated at Wimbledon

LONDON — First, Rafael Nadal erased a two-set deficit. Then, he erased four match points. Nadal could not, however, erase the fifth.

After digging himself out of difficult situations over and over during the course of a riveting encounter that lasted more than 4 hours, Nadal suddenly faltered, getting broken in the last game and losing to 16th-seeded Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 15-13 in the fourth round of Wimbledon on Monday.

The surprising defeat extended Nadal's drought without a quarterfinal berth at the All England Club to six years.

He has won two of his 15 Grand Slam championships at Wimbledon, and played in the final three other times, most recently in 2011. But since then, Nadal's exits at the All England Club have come in the first round (2013), second round (2012, 2015) and fourth round (2014, 2017).

All of those losses, except Monday's, came against men ranked 100th or worse. The 34-year-old Muller is not exactly a giant-killer: He had lost 22 consecutive matches against foes ranked in the top five. And he'd only reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal once before, at the 2008 U.S. Open.

But Muller managed to pull this one out, unfazed but allowing opportunities to pass him by.

Nadal served from behind throughout the final set and was twice a point from losing in its 10th game. He again was twice a point from losing in the 20th. Only when Muller got yet another chance to end it did he, when Nadal got broken by pushing a forehand long.

Nadal entered the match having won 28 consecutive completed sets in Grand Slam play, equaling his personal best and a total exceeded only twice in the Open era. He arrived at the All England Club coming off his record 10th French Open championship, and 15th major trophy overall, and seemed primed to be a factor again at the grass-court tournament.

Muller, though, presented problems. He already owned one victory over Nadal at Wimbledon, back in the second round in 2005.

That was before Nadal figured out how to bring his talents to bear on grass. From 2006-11, Nadal reached the final in five consecutive appearances at Wimbledon (he missed it in 2009 because of bad knees), winning titles in 2008 and 2010.

Muller's next opponent will be 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic.

Other men's quarterfinals matchups are defending champion Andy Murray vs. 24th-seeded Sam Querrey of the U.S., seven-time champion Roger Federer vs. 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic and 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych against Novak Djokovic or Adrian Mannarino. The Djokovic-Mannarino fourth-rounder was postponed until Tuesday; it had been scheduled to be played on No. 1 Court after Nadal-Muller concluded.

But that duo played on and on, past 8 p.m., when the descending sun's reflection off a part of No. 1 Court bothered Nadal so much that he held up the action in the fifth set. Chair umpire Ali Nili asked spectators to stand in the way and block the rays. A few games later, Nili told fans to stop doing the wave so play could resume, suggesting they wait for the next changeover to resume.

Despite playing as cleanly as can be in the opening set -- zero unforced errors -- Nadal could not solve Muller's big serves and aggressive forays to the net for crisp volleys. There was more of the same in the second set. After only 75 minutes of play, Nadal appeared to be in serious trouble.

But Nadal adjusted. He stepped a little farther behind the baseline to give himself more time to react to Muller's power. He also began to have more success with his own serve, winding up with 23 aces, an unusually high total for Nadal and only seven fewer than Muller.

Still, things were not looking good when Nadal served while down 5-4 in the fifth set. He double-faulted to trail 15-40. On Muller's initial match point, Nadal delivered a 116 mph (187 kph) ace to a corner. On the next, at 30-40, he spun a 103 mph (166 kph) second serve at an extreme angle, drawing a forehand return into the net. Nadal's four-point, game-ending, match-saving flourish ended with a 120 mph (194 kph) service winner and a 121 mph ace. He celebrated with three shouts of "Come on!" and some violent fist pumps. In the stands, his girlfriend stood and punched the air and yelled, "Si!"

The match, of course, was not yet over. It would continue for 18 more games and 1 more hours.

Muller's next two match points came when he had a 10-9 lead. Nadal deleted the first with a volley winner, and the second disappeared when Muller shanked a return of a 94 mph (152 kph) second serve.

The fifth set alone lasted 2 hours, 15 minutes, and Nadal could not manage to complete what would have been his fourth career comeback from two sets down -- and first in a decade.

Instead, it was Muller who was able to enjoy a win that seemed to be slipping away.

Supreme Court gives go-ahead on sports betting in New Jersey

Supreme Court gives go-ahead on sports betting in New Jersey

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal law that bars gambling on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states, giving states the go-ahead to legalize betting on sports.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The 1992 law barred state-authorized sports gambling with some exceptions. It made Nevada the only state where a person could wager on the results of a single game.

One research firm estimated before the ruling that if the Supreme Court were to strike down the law, 32 states would likely offer sports betting within five years.

"The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court.

The court's decision came in a case from New Jersey, which has fought for years to legalize gambling on sports at casinos and racetracks in the state. Then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said after arguments in the case in December that if justices sided with the state, bets could be taken "within two weeks" of a decision. On Monday, after the ruling was announced, Christie tweeted that it was a "great day for the rights of states and their people to make their own decisions."

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy shared Christie's excitement in a press release Monday.

"I am thrilled to see the Supreme Court finally side with New Jersey and strike down the arbitrary ban on sports betting imposed by Congress decades ago," he said.

“New Jersey has long been the lead advocate in fighting this inherently unequal law, and today’s ruling will finally allow for authorized facilities in New Jersey to take the same bets that are legal in other states in our country.

"Today’s victory would not have been possible without the incredible bipartisan effort from so many in our state, particularly former Governor Christie and former State Senator Lesniak. I look forward to working with the Legislature to enact a law authorizing and regulating sports betting in the very near future.”

It's possible that the first to market with sports betting in New Jersey will be a racetrack at the Jersey shore. Monmouth Park has already set up a sports book operation and has previously estimated it could take bets within two weeks of a favorable Supreme Court ruling.

Tony Rodio, president of Tropicana Entertainment, said his Atlantic City casino will "absolutely" offer sports betting once it can get it up and running. "It's been a long time coming," he said.

More than a dozen states had supported New Jersey, which argued that Congress exceeded its authority when it passed the law barring states from authorizing sports betting. New Jersey said the Constitution allows Congress to pass laws barring wagering on sports, but Congress can't require states to keep sports gambling prohibitions in place.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling is a win for New Jersey and the rest of the country," New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. said in a statement. "PASPA was clearly unconstitutional, and the ban on sports betting has now rightfully been rejected by the Court. I have long believed that New Jersey should have the opportunity to proceed with sports betting. Now that the Supreme Court has struck down this unlawful and confusing law, it is time for Congress to move the GAME Act forward to ensure that consumer protections are in place in any state that decides to implement sports betting.”

Last year, Pallone introduced the GAME Act, allowing states to legalize sports betting and online gambling if protections are also in place. The GAME Act could now act as the legal blueprint for states to adopt sports betting.

All four major U.S. professional sports leagues, the NCAA and the federal government had urged the court to uphold the federal law. In court, the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball had argued that New Jersey's gambling expansion would hurt the integrity of their games. Outside court, however, leaders of all but the NFL have shown varying degrees of openness to legalized sports gambling.

The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally wager about $150 billion on sports each year.

New Jersey has spent years and millions of dollars in legal fees trying to legalize sports betting at its casinos, racetracks and former racetracks. In 2012, with voters' support, New Jersey lawmakers passed a law allowing sports betting, directly challenging the 1992 federal law which says states can't "authorize by law" sports gambling. The four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA sued, and the state lost in court.

In 2014, New Jersey tried a different tactic by repealing laws prohibiting sports gambling at casinos and racetracks. It argued taking its laws off the books was different from authorizing sports gambling. The state lost again and then took the case to the Supreme Court.