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Great Britain ends 76 years of tennis pain

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Great Britain ends 76 years of tennis pain

From Comcast SportsNetLONDON (AP) -- After reveling in a rousing Olympic summer of sporting success, Britain awoke Tuesday to another major milestone: Finally, after 76 years of waiting, the country has a male Grand Slam tennis champion.Andy Murray's five-set victory over Novak Djokovic in the U.S. Open final Monday provided the perfect bookend to a summer in which a British rider won the Tour de France and British athletes scooped heaps of medals at the hugely successful London Olympics and Paralympics.After losing in four previous Grand Slam finals, Murray outlasted defending champion Djokovic 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 after nearly five hours to become the first British man to win a Slam since Fred Perry captured the Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships in 1936.At last, for Britain, the "Fred Perry curse" has been broken -- although until Murray wins Wimbledon, it won't be fully put to rest."Thank God that's over. Thank God we can let Fred Perry lie easy. Thank God for Andy Murray," wrote the Guardian newspaper website.Fittingly, Murray's breakthrough came in a year when Britain has enjoyed its greatest sports summer of a generation -- coinciding with national celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II's "Diamond Jubilee" of 60 years on the throne.In a message posted on Twitter, Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "delighted Andy Murray is continuing a golden summer of sport by winning the U.S. Open. A truly great victory."The summer began with Bradley Wiggins becoming the first British rider to win the Tour de France. Then came the Olympics, where Britain recorded its best showing in 104 years with 29 gold medals (including Murray winning the men's singles) and 65 medals in all. Britain celebrated the close of the Paralympics on Sunday after winning 120 medals, including 34 gold.More than 1 million people lined the streets of London on Monday to cheer the nation's Olympians and Paralympians in a two-hour parade to mark the end of the 2012 Games.A few hours later, with most of the country asleep, Murray became the first man to win the U.S. Open and Olympic gold in the same year."The forecast of course was made yesterday that the great summer of British sport was over, but he's given us another immense prize to wake up to," said Cameron, speaking outside his Downing Street residence.The victory came on the exact day -- Sept. 10 -- that Perry won the U.S. title in 1936. It also came in Murray's fifth Grand Slam final, following in the footsteps of his coach, Ivan Lendl, who lost his first four Grand Slam finals before winning eight major titles.Nowhere was the impact of Murray's win felt more deeply than in his Scottish hometown of Dunblane, a cathedral town made infamous for a mass shooting in 1996, when a gunman killed 16 children and their teacher in an elementary school.A noisy crowd of about 80 people packed into the bar at the Dunblane Hotel to watch the match that ended shortly after 2 a.m. British time, cheering wildly when Djokovic hit a forehand service return long on the final point.Murray did most of his tennis training as a youth in Barcelona but remains fiercely loyal to his Scottish roots. Two other famous Scots -- actor Sean Connery and Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson -- were among those in the stands cheering him on at Flushing Meadows."Now Olympic and U.S. Open champion, Andy truly is a Scottish sporting legend and I'm certain that more Grand Slam titles will follow," Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said.The end of the match came too late for many British newspapers, but Murray's triumph made some late editions."History Boy!" blared the tabloid Daily Mirror on the front page. On the sports pages, the Mirror launched a campaign for a Murray knighthood: "Arise Sir Andy: Grand Slam Glory at Last. Oh What a Knight."British TV stations camped out early Tuesday at the modest tennis courts where Murray got his start as a young boy, interviewing youngsters who said they were inspired by his triumph.It's been a long time coming.Murray is one of only two men in the Open era, which began in 1968, to have lost his first four Grand Slam finals -- against Djokovic in the 2011 Australian Open, and against Roger Federer at the 2008 U.S. Open, 2010 Australian Open and this year's Wimbledon.It was Murray's decisive, straight-sets victory over Federer in the Olympic final in August on Centre Court at Wimbledon -- less than a month after the Wimbledon defeat -- that lifted his self-belief and provided the platform for his Grand Slam success."Ever since he won the Olympics, he has walked around with a lot more confidence," said Murray's former coach, Leon Smith. "After winning yesterday, it's going to do even more so now. For a great summer of British tennis, this is the icing on the cake."Former British player Greg Rusedski said Murray can only go higher."Having won this, he can go on to win many majors and maybe end the year as ... No. 1," he said.Murray is ranked No. 4 but is close behind No. 3 Rafael Nadal. Djokovic is No. 1 in this week's rankings, with Federer dropping to No. 2.Also crucial to Murray's success has been the influence of Lendl, the no-nonsense Czech-born coach who won two French Opens, two Australian Opens and three U.S. Opens."So much confidence has come from Andy's Olympics win and Lendl has added a great presence," said former British player Roger Taylor, a four-time Grand Slam semifinalist. "There is such a similarity (between the two). It will have given Andy more belief to see Ivan go on to win many Grand Slams and it took him five. He (Lendl) has made a great difference."For years, Murray has been considered just a rung below the "Big Three" of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, who had shared 29 of the previous 30 major titles. Now he's joined the club and Britain is rejoicing."We are all delighted for Andy," Wimbledon chairman Philip Brook said. "Winning your first Grand Slam has to be a very special moment in a player's career and it was a fantastic performance in an epic final to cap a truly memorable summer of tennis for him personally and for British tennis."Even more special would be lifting the Wimbledon trophy. In July, Murray became the first British man to reach the Wimbledon final in 74 years.The pursuit of Fred Perry is not quite over.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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