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AP source: Ruff to become Devils coach, Fitzgerald stays GM

AP source: Ruff to become Devils coach, Fitzgerald stays GM

The New Jersey Devils are hiring veteran coach Lindy Ruff to take over one of the NHL's youngest teams and removing the interim tag off Tom Fitzgerald's title as general manager, a person with knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press on Thursday. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team has not confirmed the moves. The team scheduled a 1 p.m. conference call. NHL Network was first to report the Devils' plans to hire the New York Rangers assistant coach on Wednesday night. Ruff would replace interim coach Alain Nasreddine, who guided the team to a 19-16-8 record after John Hynes was fired on Dec. 3. Fitzgerald had served as interim general manager since Ray Shero was fired on Jan. 12. The Devils posted a 28-29-12 overall record, missing the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years. Their season was halted by the coronavirus pandemic in early March and they were not among the 24 teams chosen to compete for the Stanley Cup when NHL play resumes. During the pause, the Devils interviewed Nasreddine and former head coaches Gerard Gallant, Peter Laviolette and John Stevens. The head coaching job will be the third in the NHL for the 60-year-old Ruff. He coached the Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars, leading the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Final in 1999. He was hired by the Rangers before the 2017-18 season. He has a 736-554-78-125 record. A former defenseman, Ruff played in 691 NHL regular-season games and had 105 goals and 195 assists. He also appeared in 52 playoff games. ___ More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Tokyo Games face skeptics, 1-day COVID-19 infection record

Tokyo Games face skeptics, 1-day COVID-19 infection record

The spokesman for the Tokyo Olympics expects the postponed games to go ahead in 2021 despite a recent poll in Japan in which 77% of respondents said they did not believe the games could be held next year. The poll by the Japan News Network said only 17% thought it could be held next year in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Masa Takaya, the spokesman, was speaking Thursday on remote hookup on a day of contentious news for the Tokyo Olympics. Tokyo's city government reported a single-day record of 224 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, surpassing a high of 204 in April. Though low by many standards, it marks a steady increase over the last week in the Japanese capital. Japan has recorded about 1,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19. Takaya said the way the polls are constructed “may result in very different messages.” He said Tokyo’s only plan was to open the games on July 23, 2021. Also, Takaya did not flatly deny a leaked report in almost all Japanese media that said organizers were on track to secure all venues for next year's Olympics. “Tokyo 2020 is aware of these media reports,' Takaya said. “I need to be very clear that this is not something that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government or the organizing committee has made a formal announcement on.” Details of any progress are sure to be presented next week at scheduled meetings of the Swiss-based International Olympic Committee. Organizers had previously said that 80% of the venues had been secured. Few expect local venue owners to defy the Japanese government, or the IOC, particularly if there are incentives in the new contracts. Estimates in Japan put the cost of delay at $2 billion to $6 billion. The IOC and local organizers have not given any estimate. A poll published last month by Japanese news agency Kyodo and a Tokyo television outlet found that 51.7% did not think the games should be held next year. But 46% wanted to see the rescheduled Olympics go forward. Among those opposed, 27.7% said they should be canceled altogether, and 24% said they should be postponed again because of COVID-19. The IOC and local organizers have ruled out another postponement and say they will be canceled if they don't happen in 2021. Takaya also dismissed a recent comment attributed in Japanese media to Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee. Mori reportedly said April was the deadline for deciding to go ahead with the Olympics. “We don't know in what kind of environment he might have made' such a comment, Takaya said. “In that respect, we don't even know if he made such a comment.” Takaya added: “We do not have any such deadline.” ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

AP Was There: Nadal edges Federer 9-7 in 5th at Wimbledon

AP Was There: Nadal edges Federer 9-7 in 5th at Wimbledon

-EDITOR’S NOTE — Tennis history is filled with wonderful rivalries, and so many are remembered because of matchups in Wimbledon finals. The Associated Press is republishing stories about a handful of such matches while the canceled grass-court Grand Slam tournament was supposed to be played. One memorable head-to-head rivalry is Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal, who have met in nine Grand Slam title matches, an Open era-record for men. Three were at the All England Club, in 2006-08. The following story, about their third final there, was sent July 6, 2008. —- By HOWARD FENDRICH AP Tennis Writer Rafael Nadal, grass stains on his white shirt and a Spanish flag tucked under his arm, scampered through the Centre Court stands to celebrate his first Wimbledon title with hugs and handshakes. Roger Federer sat in his changeover chair, protected from the night’s chill by his custom-made cream cardigan with the gold “RF” on the chest. Alone with his thoughts, alone with the knowledge that he had come so close to becoming the first man since the 1880s to win a sixth consecutive championship at the All England Club. Two points from victory, the No. 1-ranked Federer couldn’t pull it out, instead succumbing to No. 2 Nadal 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7 Sunday night in a 4-hour, 48-minute test of wills that was the longest men’s final in Wimbledon history — and quite possibly the greatest. Even Nadal felt sympathy for Federer. “I am very happy for me,” Nadal said, “but sorry for him, because he deserved this title, too.” Through rain, wind and descending darkness, the two greatest players of their generation swapped spectacular shots, until, against a slate sky, Nadal earned the right to fling his racket aside and collapse on his back, champion of the All England Club at last. “Is impossible to explain what I felt in that moment, no?” Nadal said after accepting the golden trophy that has belonged to Federer since 2003. The first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win Wimbledon and the French Open in the same year, Nadal stopped Federer’s streaks of 40 victories in a row at the All England Club, and a record 65 in a row on grass, thereby stamping his supremacy in their rivalry, no matter what the rankings say. “Probably my hardest loss, by far,” Federer said. “I mean, it’s not much harder than this right now.” No man since 1927 had come back to win a Wimbledon final after losing the first two sets, and none had overcome a match point to seize victory since 1948. If anyone could, it figured to be Federer, especially on this particular lawn. He hadn’t lost a match on grass since 2002, and he hadn’t lost a set during this tournament before Sunday. He also hadn’t faced anyone nearly as talented and indefatigable as Nadal. “Look, Rafa’s a deserving champion,” Federer said. “He just played fantastically.” Indeed he did, earning Spain its first Wimbledon men’s title since Manolo Santana won in 1966. Nadal managed to regroup after blowing a two-set lead, managed to recover after wasting two match points in the fourth-set tiebreaker, managed to hold steady when Federer needed only two points to end the match while ahead 5-4 in the fifth. He earned his fifth Grand Slam title, but first away from the French Open, by showing fortitude on his serve, saving 12 of 13 break points. He did it by breaking serve four times — twice as many times as Federer lost serve in his previous six matches combined. And Nadal did it by being better from the baseline, winning 24 of 38 points that lasted 10 or more strokes, according to an unofficial AP tally. “He was rock-solid, the way we know him,” said Federer, who hit 25 aces. “He’s definitely improved his game.” Borg and Santana watched from the front row of the Royal Box at Centre Court, which next year will have a retractable roof. Perhaps Mother Nature wanted one last chance to leave her mark, delaying Sunday’s start by 35 minutes with rain. Showers again caused a delay of 1 hour, 21 minutes late in the third set, then another of 30 minutes at 2-2, deuce, in the fifth set. When action resumed at 8:23 p.m., it already was tough to see, and the players traded service holds until 7-7. That’s where Nadal finally broke through, as Federer’s forehand really began to break down. A forehand into the net gave Nadal his fourth break point, and a forehand long conceded the game — the first break of serve by either man since the second set. Nadal still had to serve out the match, though, and he still had to avoid the sort of nerves Federer noticed when his opponent led 5-2 in the fourth-set tiebreaker. “I played terrible there,” said Nadal, who double-faulted to 5-3. Down 6-5 in that tiebreaker, Federer erased a match point with a 127 mph service winner. Down 8-7 — again, one point from losing — Federer hit a backhand passing winner. A forehand winner put Federer ahead 9-8, and when Nadal missed a backhand return, the match was even. Federer jumped and screamed, and the crowd of about 15,000 joined him. “Rafa keeps you thinking, and that’s what the best players do to each other in the end,” Federer said. “That’s what we both do to each other.” It was their sixth Grand Slam final, already more than between any other pair of men in the 40-year Open era, and there could be several to follow. Federer is only 26, after all, and Nadal is 22. Federer has led the rankings for a record 231 consecutive weeks, and Nadal has been second for a record 154. Nadal defeated Federer at the French Open en route to each of his championships there, in the 2005 semifinals and the past three finals, including a 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 rout last month that was Federer’s most lopsided loss in 180 career Grand Slam matches. But the Swiss star kept reminding everyone this week that he has had the upper hand on surfaces other than clay. Not this time. Nadal lost to Federer in the 2006 Wimbledon final in four sets, and the 2007 final in five. Although the latter was certainly suspenseful, it featured neither the drama nor the all-around excellence of Sunday’s encounter, which ended at 9:15 p.m., when Federer pushed a forehand into the net on Nadal’s fourth match point. Federer made clear afterward he was not pleased that play continued despite the low visibility at the end. “It’s rough on me now, obviously, you know, to lose the biggest tournament in the world over maybe a bit of light,” he said. Said Nadal: “In the last game, I didn’t see nothing.” Both players figured that if Federer had broken back to 8-8 in the fifth, play would have been suspended until Monday because of darkness. “It would have been brutal,” Federer said. It didn’t happen. Nadal came through. Afterward, the new champion was asked if it was the greatest match he’d ever played. Plenty of others around the grounds, including John McEnroe — whose five-set loss to Borg in 1980 gets many votes — already were calling it the greatest match they’d ever seen. “I don’t know if it’s the best,” Nadal said. Then he thought about it for a moment. “Probably,” he continued. “Probably the best, yes.”