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National Sports Briefs: Federer wins Australian Open

Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer held back the tears this time. He didn’t hold back much else at the Australian Open.

Federer underlined his 10th Grand Slam singles title by winning 21 straight sets, saving a set point in Sunday’s final before finishing off Fernando Gonzalez 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-4.

The last man to go through a major without dropping a set was Bjorn Borg at the 1980 French Open. The only other man to win the Australian Open without dropping a set was Ken Rosewall in 1971, although he had to play only five matches.

“Equaling records, doing something that hasn’t been done for a long time, it’s really nice, no doubt,” Federer said. “All I care about in the end is to hopefully hold that trophy. Of course, now that it’s over, it’s great to think, ‘Wow, you know, not having dropped a set.’ It’s quite amazing.”

Rosewall was in the crowd Sunday night, and Federer gave him a nod in a composed victory speech. It was the mere presence of another Australian great, Rod Laver, that reduced Federer to tears the previous year at the trophy presentation.

Laver, the last man to win the Grand Slam — all four majors in one season — said he had little doubt the 25-year-old Swiss star could beat Pete Sampras’ record 14 Grand Slam singles titles, and just about every other tennis record as well.

“The best way to beat him would be to hit him over the head with a racket,” Laver joked in a newspaper column.

Federer improved his streak to a career-best 36 wins, became the first man in the Open era to twice win three straight majors and has collected six of the last seven Grand Slam titles.

He tied Jack Crawford’s 73-year-old record by reaching his seventh consecutive final in majors.

“If somebody would have told me I’d win 10 Grand Slams from mid ’03 till today, I never would have thought there was any chance,” he said.

BASEBALL

DENVER — Todd Helton’s long run in Denver could end soon.

The Colorado Rockies and Boston Red Sox have been in trade discussions involving Helton for several weeks and those talks apparently are heating up.

The team’s most recognizable player, Helton has long been a fan favorite in Denver, but he has been beset by injuries and illness the last two seasons, and his power numbers have nose-dived.

He’s due to make $16.6 million this season on a team with a projected payroll of about $55 million, something team owner Charlie Monfort has called problematic.

NHL ALL-STAR RATINGS

NEW YORK — TV watchers didn’t exactly warm up to the NHL’s midweek All-Star game, which experienced a 76 percent drop in household viewership from the previous All-Star game in 2004.

Wednesday night’s game in Dallas drew a 0.7 Nielsen rating on Versus, the cable channel formerly known as OLN. The game was viewed in an estimated 474,298 households and by 672,948 viewers, down from the 1,985,000 households that saw the 2004 All-Star game on a Sunday on ABC.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After only two weeks on the job, newly hired Alabama assistant coach Steve Marshall has left to take a job with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said.

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