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Djokovic reaches championship match at ATP finals

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Djokovic reaches championship match at ATP finals

LONDON (AP) Just when it looked as if he was headed for his offseason vacation, Novak Djokovic started playing his best tennis.

The top-ranked Serb was broken late in the first set and again early in the second, but he then found his stroke and quickly rebounded to beat Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 Sunday and reach the championship match at the season-ending ATP finals.

``Well, I had a little, let's say, crisis in today's match from 4-all, first set to 2-all in the second, where I didn't feel so good on the court, struggling to find my momentum and my rhythm,'' Djokovic said. ``So you try to be positive and push myself to fight for every point and believe I can come back. That was the case.''

Djokovic will face six-time champion Roger Federer or Andy Murray in Monday's final. Federer and Murray play in Sunday's other semifinal.

``Whoever I play against tomorrow, it's going to be very open,'' said Djokovic, who beat Murray in the group stage. ``I think there is not really any predictions about who's going to win.''

Federer and Murray are playing each other in London for the third time this year. The Swiss star beat Murray in the Wimbledon final for his seventh title at the All England Club, but Murray bounced back to defeat Federer in the Olympic final on the same Centre Court grass.

Del Potro took the lead late in the first set, breaking Djokovic for a 5-4 lead before serving out the set at love.

The tall Argentine, who defeated Djokovic to win the Olympic bronze medal at Wimbledon this year, then went up a break early in the second set. But Djokovic broke right back to 2-2 and then took Del Potro's serve again to take a 5-3 lead.

``He's so good,'' Del Potro said. ``Of course, he's the No. 1. In these kinds of matches, they make the difference between them and the rest of the players.''

In the third, Djokovic decided things by winning 12 of 13 points in a three-game stretch to take a 3-1 lead. He broke again three games later and held at love to advance.

``I believed that I could come back,'' said Djokovic, who treated the media to chocolates during his post-match news conference to thank them for work throughout the year. ``I believed that I could turn this match around in my favor, and I've done so.''

The victory was Djokovic's 74th of the season, tying him with David Ferrer for the most this year. It was also his seventh win in nine matches against Del Potro.

Djokovic won the ATP finals in 2008, and reached the semifinals in 2009 - the first year the tournament was played at the O2 Arena in London.

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In wake of video controversy, Brian MacLellan says he is disappointed but it was lesson learned for Kuznetsov

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USATSI

In wake of video controversy, Brian MacLellan says he is disappointed but it was lesson learned for Kuznetsov

When you are a general manager preparing for the draft and free agency, seeing a video of one of your most prominent players in a hotel room sitting next to lines of an unidentified white powder is about the last thing you want to see.

That was how the summer kicked off for Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan when video of Evgeny Kuznetsov began circulating on social media.

“We're a little disappointed that he had put himself in that situation that could be interpreted in a number of different ways,” MacLellan said on a conference call Thursday in his first availability with the media since the incident.

The video was alarming not just because of the presence of the unidentified substance, but also because it came off a down year for Kuznetsov, one in which he managed only 21 goals and 72 points after scoring over a point per game in the 2018 postseason. That one could have had an effect on the other was an easy conclusion for fans and critics to jump to.

Kuznetsov, however, denied ever taking drugs and after an investigation by both the team and the league, it was determined he would receive no discipline. He also released a statement apologizing for the incident.

MacLellan said he was ultimately satisfied with Kuznetsov’s explanation and the findings of the investigation surrounding the video.

“I think we had a pretty thorough investigation by both the league and the club and a number of discussions with Kuzy about what happened and how he got in that spot and how to handle that going forward,” MacLellan said. “I think at the end of the day, we're comfortable on all the conversations we've had, we're comfortable what the league had to say about it.”

While Kuznetsov may have avoided any discipline for the incident, MacLellan still feels confident that it was a lesson learned for the dynamic center and noted that he has high expectations for him heading into the next season.

Said MacLellan, “I think Kuzy learned a lesson about putting himself in certain situations and we're going to move forward and we expect Kuzy to have a good year this year.”

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Nationals extend protective foul ball netting

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Nationals extend protective foul ball netting

The Washington Nationals will become the latest MLB team to extend their protective netting down the first and third base lines, team owner Mark Lerner announced on Thursday. A new netting will be installed at Nationals Park during the MLB All-Star break. 

The new netting will extend from the end of the dugout, where they currently end, and go to the left and right field corners. It will be designed with certain sections that can be raised to allow for fan interaction before the games. 

In his announcement, Lerner stated "I could not help but become emotional last month watching the Astros-Cubs game when a four-year-old little girl was hit by a line drive. I can’t imagine what her parents must have felt in that moment. And to see the raw emotion and concern from Albert Almora Jr. was heartbreaking. Further extending the netting at Nationals Park will provide additional protection for our fans."

This announcement comes fresh off the heels of a national conversation about the importance of netting in ballparks and more that needs to be done to protect the fans. As Lerner referenced, a young fan was hit by a foul ball during an Astros-Cubs matchup in May. The girl was rushed to the hospital and left those in attendance paralyzed in shock, especially Cub Albert Almora Jr. 

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said he did not expect the league to step in this season for a league-wide change. However, he did mention that it would continue to be discussed and stressed the importance of fan safety. 

As a result, some teams are taking matters into their own hands. The Chicago White Sox became the first team to announce an extension of their current protective netting to the foul poles. 

Preceding the White Sox announcement, both Chicago and the Nationals experienced a traumatic foul ball situation. Chicago's Eloy Jimenez ripped a foul ball down the line and hit an unsuspecting fan.  

The first game with the new netting with be on Monday, July 22 against the Colorado Rockies. 

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