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Djokovic into Wimbledon semis like a man on a mission

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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) – Three times Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic was a man on a mission after the former world number one beat Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-2 on Wednesday to reach the semi-finals for the eighth time.

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“I feel like I’m peaking at the right moment,” declared the 12th seeded Serb after joining Americans John McEnroe and Pete Sampras in fourth place on the list of most Wimbledon semi-final appearances in the Open Era.

The 31-year-old will play either second-seeded Spaniard Rafael Nadal or fifth-seeded Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in the last four.

Djokovic had looked in control after the first set on a sunny Centre Court but lost both his cool and concentration in the second after a heated exchange with umpire Carlos Ramos.

With his 24th seeded opponent saving three break points to hold serve at 2-1, Djokovic bounced his racket off the baseline in frustration and then seethed after he was given a code of conduct warning.

“You think I ruined the court for just throwing my racket (down)? Do you think that or not? Be honest.” the Serb exclaimed, shaking his head.

Nishikori promptly broke serve and then held to go 4-1 up before leveling the match at 1-1 but any sense of a fightback, and the possibility of a first Japanese man in the Wimbledon semi-finals since 1933, was short-lived.

LOSING STREAK

Nishikori, playing Djokovic on grass for the first time and seeking to end a 12-match losing streak against the Serb, held to 3-2 in the third set before running out of steam against an opponent in merciless form.

With the Japanese serving to stay in the match, Djokovic wrapped things up after 2-1/2 hours on the first match point to secure his first Wimbledon semi-final since 2015.

“I thought it was unnecessary to get the warning,” Djokovic said as he came off court.

“I didn’t harm the grass, I know how I threw the racket. He even threw the racket in the fourth set and the umpire said he didn’t see him so I get the warning, he doesn’t,” added the Serb.

“So I think it’s not fair but it is the way it is, in the mix of emotions and a tough match it happens.”

The semi-final will be the 32nd of Djokovic’s Grand Slam career but he has had to fight to get there.

Now ranked only 21st in the world, with his career stalling since his 12th Grand Slam title at the 2016 French Open, last year’s Wimbledon saw him retire in the quarter-finals with a season-ending elbow injury.

Asked whether he was a “man on a mission” to get back to where he left off, the Serb could only agree: “Of course, that’s why I’m here,” he said.

“I’ve worked very hard and very smart to get myself in the best possible shape for the biggest events and it doesn’t get any bigger than Wimbledon. So hopefully I can keep going.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis amd Ken Ferris)

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Baez leads Cubs to win over Cardinals in first game of DH

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Javier Baez gave the Chicago Cubs the lead for good Saturday afternoon with an RBI single in the fifth inning and added a run-scoring double during the seventh inning of the Cubs’ 7-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a day/night doubleheader at Wrigley Field.

Ben Zobrist went 4-for-4 with two runs scored for the first-place Cubs, who have won two of the first three games of the five-game series and five of their last six overall. The Cardinals fell to 2-2 under interim manager Mike Shildt.

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Baez’s first RBI hit, the last of three straight singles to open the fifth, chased Cardinals starter Luke Weaver (5-9) and gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead. Kyle Schwarber followed with a sacrifice fly.

The tie-breaking hit put Tyler Chatwood (4-5) in line for the win despite another inefficient outing. Chatwood allowed only one hit – Matt Carpenter’s solo homer in the third – but walked six while striking out just two over 5 1/3 innings. He now has more walks (79) than strikeouts (78) in 89 1/3 innings this season.

The Cardinals pulled within 3-2 on Yadier Molina’s sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh, but the Cubs scored four times in the bottom of the inning, when Baez’s double was followed by Victor Caratini’s sacrifice fly and a two-run single by Tommy La Stella.

Baez finished with three hits; La Stella had two.

A quartet of relievers finished the combined two-hitter.

Carpenter has homered in five straight games. During that stretch, he is batting .526 with seven homers and 11 RBIs.

Yairo Munoz had the Cardinals’ other hit, a seventh-inning single.

–Field Level Media

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Judge powers Yankees to triumph over Mets

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Aaron Judge collected three hits, including his 26th homer as the New York Yankees survived a shaky ninth inning by Aroldis Chapman and held on for a 7-6 victory over the New York Mets on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

Judge highlighted his second three-hit game and eighth of the season by hitting a homer into the wind in the seventh off Tim Peterson. Judge gave the Yankees a 6-3 lead by lifting Peterson’s 1-1 fastball 407 feet into the visiting bullpen beyond the left-center field fence.

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Didi Gregorius hit an RBI triple and rookie Miguel Andujar hit an RBI double for the Yankees in a four-run fourth. Greg Bird drove in two runs with an RBI double and a run-scoring single while Austin Romine contributed an RBI single along with a run-scoring groundout.

New York right-hander Sonny Gray (7-7) allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits in 5 1/3 innings. Chapman allowed a bases-loaded walk to Jose Reyes in the ninth and hit Brandon Nimmo with a pitch before being replaced by Chasen Shreve.

Shreve got Devin Mesoraco to bounce into a double play that scored a run and ended the game by retiring pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores. It was Shreve’s second career save.

New York closer Jeurys Familia was held out for the second straight game and his trade to the Oakland Athletics was announced after the contest. He was traded for two minor leaguers — infielder

William Toffey and right-hander Bobby Wahl — plus international bonus pool money.

Michael Conforto homered for the Mets, who played the game short-handed and saw two ejections.

Yoenis Cespedes did not play after homering in his return from missing over two months with a hip injury. He said after the game that heel issues are the cause of his numerous leg problems and was held out.

Mets hitting coach Pat Roessler was ejected by plate umpire Larry Vanover for arguing balls and strikes with two outs in the top of the third. Mets second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera was tossed by third base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt for slamming his bat on a checked swing strikeout in the fourth.

Amed Rosario delivered an RBI single and Jose Bautista scored on a throwing error by David Robertson before the eventful ninth.

Mets left-hander Steven Matz (4-8) allowed five runs on nine hits in five-plus innings.

After Conforto’s second-inning homer gave the Mets a 1-0 lead, the Yankees took advantage of some defensive adventures by Mets center fielder Matt den Dekker.

Gregorius tied the game by tripling to the center field wall when den Dekker could not make a diving catch after getting a bad read on the liner. The Yankees took a 2-1 lead when Andujar was awarded a double after a fan reached over with his glove in right field.

New York took a 3-1 lead when Bird’s double soared over den Dekker’s head and went up 4-1 when den Dekker was unable to get Romine’s sinking liner.

–Field Level Media

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Golf: Spieth expecting the unexpected as second Open win beckons

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By Martyn Herman

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) – Jordan Spieth says he will “expect the unexpected” when he tees off in the final pairing at the British Open on Sunday 18 holes away from retaining the Claret Jug he won last year.

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The 24-year-old American put himself in a three-way tie for the lead with compatriots Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner after a superb third-round 65 on Saturday.

With the experience of three major triumphs, the Texan looks favorite to complete the job on Sunday. However, with only six shots separating the top 27 and a westerly wind expected to blow, Spieth is taking nothing for granted.

“It will be more difficult tomorrow in the wind for sure,” Spieth, who launched his third round with an eagle after driving the first green and then took full advantage of the perfect scoring conditions, told reporters.

“I think maybe a little bit tomorrow just to expect the unexpected. It’s ideal for Carnoustie to have a bunched leaderboard and 25mph winds on Sunday.

“It means that someone could post a score from six hours before and potentially win the golf tournament. You’re in a scenario almost like the U.S. Open this year at Shinnecock, like that Saturday at the U.S. Open-type scenario.”

Ominously for the others who will start with high hopes on Sunday, Spieth appears to have played his way into top form with impeccable timing. After a rough opening round in which he dropped four shots in his last four holes for a one-over 72, he has posted rounds of 67 and 65.

While Friday’s effort was mainly a result of his superb scrambling skills, Saturday’s was clinical.

He hit 83 percent of greens in regulation, hit 67 percent of fairways and needed only 29 putts – one of which gave him a birdie on the 16th hole that had pestered him for two days.

Spieth said that while Saturday’s round was spectacular it was his gritty effort on Friday that was “huge”.

“I think yesterday was probably tied with today, in my mind, to get back into a golf tournament from being out of it, and then today to springboard that into pole position,” he said.

“That was the combination of the two are up there in the top five for sure. But today’s round was just really, really solid.

“It can improve a little bit, but all aspects of the game got better today.”

One of the players lurking in the pack behind the three leaders is Tiger Woods — the 14-time major champion whose decline as a force has coincided with Spieth’s meteoric rise.

They will not be playing together but with Woods tied sixth – four shots back – it is the closest Spieth has got to fighting out the last day of a major with a man he used to play imaginary games against as a kid.

“I’ve always wanted to battle it out in a major with Tiger. Who hasn’t? It’s kind of a dream come true to have the opportunity,” he said.

“I think I played it out at Augusta in my head.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Golf: Spieth cards 65 to share lead with Schauffele and Kisner

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By Andrew Both

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) – Jordan Spieth has a chance to keep pace with Tiger Woods’ major championship tally after vaulting into a share of the third-round lead at the British Open on Saturday.

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The defending champion never looked back after making a “dream start” en route to a six-under-par 65 for a three-way tie with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at Carnoustie.

In perfect conditions for low scoring until a brisk breeze sprang up just as Spieth was finishing, the 24-year-old Texan drove the first green and sank a 12-foot eagle before adding four birdies.

He earned the 54-hole lead at a major for the sixth time in his young career, giving himself a chance of becoming the first since Woods in 2005-06 to win back-to-back titles at the Open.

Schauffele birdied the last for a 67, while Kisner shot 68 as the two Americans joined Spieth at nine-under 204.

They have a two-shot edge over American Kevin Chappell, and a three-stroke cushion over in-form Italian Francesco Molinari.

On a day when Woods electrified the gallery with a 66 that pulled the 14-major winner within four strokes of the lead, Spieth, with three majors already, showed again that he is the man to beat of the next generation.

Unhappy with his swing during the first two days, the 24-year-old found a slight adjustment did the trick, and the first hole provided a massive jolt of confidence.

“I feel like I’ve been improving each day (but) I know as well as anyone that anything can happen at an Open on Sunday,” he said.

“I got a couple of good breaks but I wouldn’t say I drew on anything except the adjustments I’ve made during the week in my game to feel more comfortable over the ball.”

‘NOTHING TO PROVE’

Spieth will have four major titles before his 25th birthday if he wins on Sunday.

Woods was also 24 when he collected his fourth major in 2000, while Jack Nicklaus and Rory McIlroy were 25 when they reached the mark.

But Spieth is not focused on history.

“I felt like I had something I had to prove to other people at last year’s Open, and to myself,” he said.

“I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anyone at this point.

“I’m playing golf for me now. I’ve made a lot of progress over the year … and I’ve got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one.”

If Spieth was satisfied with his day, Woods was positively delighted to put himself within striking distance in his quest to end a decade-long major drought.

“It’s been a few years since I’ve felt like this,” he said after his best score in a major since the 2011 Masters.

He vaulted into a tie for sixth in a group that includes Rory McIlroy (70) and Tommy Fleetwood (71), who were left by the wayside on a day of low scoring.

“I’m right there. I’ve got a chance at this, which is great. I had to stay within reach,” Woods continued.

He got a lucky break at the last, where his pulled tee shot came within inches of landing in the Barry Burn.

‘TERRIBLE’ TWO-IRON

“I didn’t know if I carried it or not, if it was in the hazard or rough. It was a terrible two-iron,” Woods said.

“I really didn’t feel like I really made a bad swing until 18.”

His ball stayed dry but with 246 yards left to the hole he decided to lay up from the rough before punching a 100-yard wedge to three feet and saving par.

Earlier, Justin Rose set the tone with the lowest score in Carnoustie’s British Open history, a flawless 64 that by day’s end had lifted him within five of the lead.

(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Christian Radnedge, Neville Dalton)

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Mariners activate Hernandez to start versus White Sox

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The Seattle Mariners activated right-hander Felix Hernandez from the 10-day disabled list to start Saturday’s game against the visiting Chicago White Sox.

Hernandez (back soreness) missed just one start during his DL stint because of the All-Star break.

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The 32-year-old Hernandez is 8-7 with a 5.13 ERA in 19 starts this season. He has pitched seven or more innings on just two occasions.

Seattle optioned outfielder John Andreoli to Triple-A Tacoma after Friday’s game to create the roster opening. Andreoli, who is 1-for-5 with the Mariners this season, was recalled earlier Friday and utilized as a pinch runner in a 3-1 win over the White Sox.

Chicago made a move of its own on Saturday by activating outfielder Avisail Garcia (hamstring) from the 10-day DL. Garcia is batting .282 with nine homers and 17 RBIs in 35 games this season.

The White Sox optioned outfielder Ryan LaMarre to Triple-A Charlotte after Friday’s game. LaMarre is 2-for-8 with the White Sox after beginning the season with the Twins. He is hitting .262 in 107 major league at-bats this season.

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Stroman helps Blue Jays beat Orioles for eighth time in nine games

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Marcus Stroman struck out seven in seven innings, Randal Grichuk and Luke Maile had RBI hits in a three-run fourth inning and the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the visiting Baltimore Orioles 4-1 Saturday afternoon.

It was the second straight win for the Blue Jays over the Orioles in a three-game series that ends Sunday. Toronto has an 8-1 advantage in the season series.

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Stroman (3-7) allowed one run, five hits and two walks to win for the third time in his past five starts.

Ryan Tepera pitched a perfect ninth to earn his seventh save of the season.

Orioles starter Alex Cobb (2-13) allowed four runs (one earned), four hits and three walks in five innings. He also balked in a run.

Grichuk made a fine catch on Mark Trumbo in center field for the first out of the ninth. Tepera finished the game with two strikeouts.

The Orioles scored one run on three hits in the first inning. Tim Beckham singled and took third when Jonathan Schoop singled but was thrown out trying for a double by left fielder Teoscar Hernandez. Adam Jones hit an RBI single.

The Blue Jays took a 3-1 lead in the fourth. Justin Smoak led off with a walk and was safe at second on a bouncer to Cobb by Yangervis Solarte when shortstop Beckham was charged with an error on an attempted force out. Grichuk hit an RBI double and Kendrys Morales walked to load the bases.

Solarte scored when Aledmys Diaz grounded into a double play and Maile hit an RBI single.

The Blue Jays added a run in the fifth on a double by Hernandez, who took third on a flyout and scored on a balk by Cobb.

Baltimore’s Mike Wright Jr. pitched around two singles in the sixth.

Tanner Scott struck out the side for the Orioles in the bottom of the seventh.

Seunghwan Oh replaced Stroman and pitched a perfect top of the eighth.

Zach Britton pitched the bottom of the eighth for the Orioles and worked around a leadoff walk.

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