Nationals

Murray advances to Australian Open men's final

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Murray advances to Australian Open men's final

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Andy Murray has finally beaten Roger Federer at a Grand Slam.

The U.S. Open champion stayed in the hunt for a second consecutive major title with a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-2 win over the 17-time Grand Slam champion at the Australian Open on Friday.

Murray will play defending champion and top-seeded Novak Djokovic, who was rarely troubled while beating David Ferrer in straight sets in just under 90 minutes on Thursday night - about 2 1/2 hours less than Friday's semifinal.

Advantage to Djokovic, then, for the Sunday night final.

While U.S. Open champion Murray came into the match with a 10-9 career advantage, Murray had never beaten Federer in the three times they had met in majors - at finals at the 2008 U.S. Open, 2010 Australian Open and last year at Wimbledon.

``It's always tough against him when he plays his best tennis,'' Murray said, explaining why he was unable to close out the victory while serving for the match at 6-5 in the fourth set. ``I was obviously very nervous. He plays his best tennis when his back is against the wall.''

Federer outplayed Murray at stages of the match, but the 25-year-old Scot appeared to have the legs and stamina to give him the advantage over the 31-year-old Federer in the fifth set, including a service break to clinch the tense match.

With a capacity crowd of 15,000 at Rod Laver Arena watching, including the Australian legend Laver himself, Federer opened the match serving and was in trouble early, losing a 28-rally point to set up break point for Murray. But Federer held the game with a stunning cross-court forehand that just looped over the net from the baseline.

Murray, who had not lost a set through five rounds at Melbourne Park this year, had the first service break - on his fourth break point - to lead 2-1. It came in unusually cool summer conditions in Melbourne - breezy and temperatures of only 60 degrees during most of the match.

There were no service breaks or even break-point chances in the second set, resulting in the tiebreaker that Federer dominated early to take a 4-1 lead. But Murray fought back to level at 5-5 before Federer secured a set point with a cross-court return of Murray's smash attempt. The Swiss star clinched the tiebreaker and the 58-minute second set when Murray hit a forehand long on the next point.

The crowd was initially evenly split between Federer and Murray supporters - and at times, they were competing to be heard. At one point in the second set, a group of Murray fans wearing white shirts with blue letters spelling his nickname ``Muzza'' stood to chant Murray's name, while a group of Federer supporters with Swiss flags on their cheeks and shirts chanted Federer's name.

Murray broke Federer's service in the sixth game of the third set, clinched when Federer's attempted backhand in the left corner went long, then consolidated the break with a strong service game that included his 14th ace of the match to go up 5-2.

Federer, hampered by a 56 percent first-serve percentage through the first seven games of the set, managed to hold his service in the next. But Murray took a 2-1 set lead in the next game, clinching the game and the set with an ace.

With the crowd chanting ``Let's go Roger, let's go,'' Federer grabbed back the momentum by breaking Murray for the first time in the match, then held his next service game before Murray won the next three games.

There was some controversy in that leveling game when Murray thought he had game point on a shot to the base line, but it was over-ruled by a linesman. He eventually held to level the set at 4-4, then 5-5 before the late exchange of service breaks that sent the set to another tiebreaker won by Federer, sending the match to a fifth set.

Earlier Friday, top-seeded Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci of Italy won the first title of 2013 at Melbourne Park, beating the unseeded Australian pair of Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 for the women's doubles championship.

The 16-year-old Barty was attempting to become the youngest Grand Slam champion since Martina Hingis won the Australian Open singles title in 1997.

On Saturday, defending champion Victoria Azarenka plays sixth-seeded Li Na of China for the women's singles title. Li lost the Australian Open final to Kim Clijsters in 2011 two months before winning her first and only Grand Slam at the French Open.

``Last time was more exciting, (more) nervous because it was my first time to be in a final,'' Li said Friday. ``But I think this time (I'm) more calmed down, more cool.''

Azarenka leads 5-4 in career matches, including the last four times they've played.

``I'm really hungry to defend my title,'' said Azarenka, who needs to beat Li to retain her No. 1 ranking. ``I've put myself in the position to give it the best shot.''

Also on Saturday, American brothers Bob and Mike Bryan will play their fifth consecutive Australian Open doubles final and attempt to win their record 13th Grand Slam doubles championship. They'll play the Dutch pair of Robin Haase and Igor Sijsling.

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Beats by Scherz: Why Scherzer chose Dr. Dre song as his walk-up music

Beats by Scherz: Why Scherzer chose Dr. Dre song as his walk-up music

NEW YORK – A few constants remain during this wayward Nationals season. One is Max Scherzer.

Scherzer comes into Tuesday leading the National League in innings pitched and strikeouts. He's second in strikeouts per nine innings and third in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Scherzer's 3.72 ERA is well above his average of 2.71 since arriving in Washington in 2015. However, his FIP (fielding-independent pitching) is a league-leading 2.45, showing he has been victimized by bad defense more than bad pitching.

He hopped on a pop-up edition of The Racing Presidents podcast Tuesday in New York. Sitting in the visitors dugout a day ahead of another matchup with 2018 Cy Young Award Jacob deGrom, Scherzer touched on lighter topics, like his selection of Dr. Dre's "Still Dre" as his walkup song, and addressed who is responsible for the Nationals being seven games under .500 the last year-plus.

We're all responsible," Scherzer said. "When you wear a hat and jersey that says Nationals on it, we're all in the same position. It's frustrating to not have a winning record. It's frustrating not to be winning as a team. [Since] I've been here, we've won a couple division titles and you know that feeling of what it's like to win. You know you have the core group of players who have won here in the past that can win here again. It's just a matter of figuring out what the right chemistry is and going out there and getting it done."

Scherzer is in his 12th major-league season. He's made at least 30 starts for 10 consecutive seasons. One of the reasons for his lack of injuries and durability is not because he goes through extensive recuperation during the offseason. Instead, Scherzer keeps pushing both his arm and body. 

"I try to find a way to continue to do more, to take more on my body even as I age," Scherzer said.

And, about that walkup song, which is part-protest, part-comeback song? He was out to dinner with reliever Aaron Barrett when it popped on and Barrett suggested it as this year's entrance music.

So, click below to listen to everything Scherzer had to say in our exclusive interview. Also, don't forget to download, rate and subscribe to The Racing Presidents podcast. We're with you after every game and with marquee interviews and insight you can't find elsewhere.

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Bruno Fernando

School: Maryland
Position: Center
Age: 20 (turns 21 in August)
Height: 6-10
Weight: 237
Wingspan: 7-3
Max vertical: 33.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 13.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.9 bpg, 60.7 FG% (5.1/8.4), 30.0 3PT% (0.1/0.3), 77.9 FT%

Player comparison: Jusuf Nurkic, Bam Adebayo

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 24th, NBADraft.net 12th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 28th, Ringer 37th

5 things to know:

*Fernando tested the NBA draft waters last year before returning to school and clearly helped his stock by doing so. He went from a likely second round pick to someone who could fall in the lottery. Fernando is ranked in most mock drafts as the third-best big man in this draft behind Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes.

*He is one of the best rebounders in this class. He averaged 10.9 boards per game as a sophomore and had five games of 15 or more. That includes a 19-rebound performance against Nebraska on Feb. 6. Fernando is a strong, physical forward so there is reason to believe those skills will translate to the next level.

*Concerns about Fernando include his lack of an outside shot. He attempted only 13 threes in college and did most of his damage around the rim. But the potential for Fernando to become a reliable scorer in the NBA appear to be there. He has soft touch around the rim and can finish with power.

*Defensively, Fernando needs some work. He has the physical tools with his size and long arms, and he averaged 1.9 blocks per game in college, but some evaluatiors criticize his defensive instincts and discipline. As long as Fernando can block shots and rebound in the NBA, he should be fine on that end of the floor.

*Fernando is originally from the country of Angola and has played for their national team in several international tournaments. Angola basketball is famous for being the subject of one of Charles Barkley's most memorable quotes. During the 1992 Olympics, he said of USA's next opponent: "I don't know anything about Angola, but I know they're in trouble."

Fit with Wizards: Fernando would fit the Wizards in a variety of ways. Rim protection and rebounding are their biggest needs and he would help them to different degrees in both areas. With rebounding in particular, he could be a big plus.

But two questions about Fernando could give the Wizards pause. One is if they can justify taking him ninth when he may fall into the teens and second is what his ceiling will ultimately be. Does he have All-Star potential or will he top out as an Enes Kanter-type rebounding specialist?

Ideally, the Wizards would find someone with very high upside to give them hope for a true franchise building block moving forward. There may be better options than Fernando at No. 9, even if they play positions that are less of a need for the Wizards.

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