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Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic will slug it out for the world number one ranking in a high-stakes final at the ATP Tour Finals after completing their contrasting paths to the dramatic showdown.

Murray and Djokovic's unprecedented clash for pole position will end with one of the old rivals finishing the year on top of the world after the Scot shattered his rival's 122-week reign at number one earlier this month.

Fittingly, they will bring the curtain down on the ATP season with both the prestigious Tour Finals title and the top spot up for grabs in Sunday's final at London's O2 Arena.

After staging a superb fightback to defeat Milos Raonic 5-7, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (11/9) in Saturday's first semi-final, Murray is just one win away from capping a dream year in perfect fashion.

But Djokovic can say exactly the same after the defending champion thrashed Japan's Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1 in the other semi.

Djokovic, who has a 24-10 lead in his head to head with Murray, said: "This is one of the biggest matches we will ever play against each other. The match everybody anticipated.

"This has never happened in the history of tennis. I'm privileged to be part of history.

"My level had been going in the right direction. Now it's coming up to the last match of the year. I hope we get a great final."

Crucially, Murray might be on his last legs after having to survive a three-hour 39-minute epic against Raonic that ranked as the longest match in Tour Finals history -- eclipsing the record mark set when Murray beat Nishikori in three hours and 20 minutes on Wednesday.

 

 

Andy Murray swept into the semifinals of the ATP Tour Finals with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Stan Wawrinka on Friday as the world No. 1 remained on course for a final showdown against Novak Djokovic.

Murray brushed aside Wawrinka in 86 minutes at London’s O2 Arena to ensure he finished top of his group and avoided a last four clash with Djokovic.

Instead, the 29-year-old will face Canada’s Milos Raonic in Saturday’s semifinals.

Wawrinka’s defeat means Japan’s Kei Nishikori qualifies as runner-up to Murray in their group, and he will take on defending champion Djokovic in the other semifinal.

Nishikori lost to Djokovic on his previous appearance in the semifinals in 2014.

The 26-year-old Nishikori suffered a frustrating warm-up for his latest meeting with Djokovic as the world No. 5 was beaten 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 by Marin Cilic in the evening session to leave him with two defeats in his three group matches.

 

 

Gareth Southgate says he wants to know within weeks whether he will be England's next permanent manager.

The former England centre-back was given the job on a caretaker basis following the Football Association's dramatic decision to dispense with Sam Allardyce, whose one-game reign was ended by controversial comments he made to undercover reporters.

Meanwhile, England captain Wayne Rooney, who returned to the starting line-up against Scotland on Friday, and defender Ryan Bertrand, an unused substitute on Friday, missed Monday's training session at Tottenham Hotspur's training ground in north London with what the Football Association said were "minor issues".

 

Southgate has been in charge for England's past three games, including England's 3-0 win over old rivals Scotland in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley, a laboured victory over Malta and a goal-less draw away to Slovenia.

 

Kei Nishikori admits he has been handed a daunting task as the Japanese star tries to finish his season on a high at the ATP Tour Finals.

Nishikori is aiming to reach the final of the prestigious tournament for the first time, but he will have to survive a tough group featuring new world number one Andy Murray, US Open champion Stan Wawrinka and former Grand Slam winner Marin Cilic.

The world number five has lost seven of his nine meetings with Murray and four of his six with Wawrinka.

He has a slight edge in his head to head encounters with Cilic, but the Croatian enjoyed the best win of his life at Nishikori's expense in the 2014 US Open final.

Nishikori, who made the semi-finals of the Tour Finals in 2014, acknowledges he will have to be at his very best to return to the last four at London's O2 Arena.

 

 

 

England's so far unbeaten year under Australian coach Eddie Jones was recognised Monday with three internationals from Saracens providing 50 percent of the nominees for the 2016 World Rugby Player of the Year award.

Goal-kicker Owen Farrell, No 8 Billy Vunipola and lock Maro Itoje were on a shortlist that also included New Zealand's Beauden Barrett and Dane Cole and Ireland back-row Jamie Heaslip.

The Saracens trio helped the London club win the English Premiership and European Champions Cup titles.

They also played key roles as England won their first nine Tests under Jones -- appointed after the hosts' embarrassing first-round exit at last year's World Cup.

England's unbeaten run included a Six Nations Grand Slam and a 3-0 series win in Australia.

Itoje, 22, had already been nominated for the 'breakthrough' player of the year award.

 

 

Eden Hazard scored twice as Chelsea exploited a slip-up by Manchester City to claim top spot in the Premier League by stylishly crushing Everton  5-0 on Saturday. Marten de Roon's stoppage-time equaliser earned Middlesbrough a 1-1 draw at City and Antonio Conte's Chelsea took advantage to move a point clear of Pep Guardiola's side at the summit.

"When you win in this way it's fantastic because we played good football with good intensity," Conte told BT Sport.

"All the players played in the right way with and without the ball. We created many chances to score and also it's the fifth clean sheet in a row, which is fantastic.

"It is fantastic to be top of the league."

Arsenal and Liverpool could also surpass City before the weekend is out, the former tackling Tottenham Hotspur in Sunday's North London derby and the latter entertaining Watford.

Elsewhere, bottom club Sunderland ended their wait for a first win of the season at the 11th attempt by coming from behind to win 2-1 at Bournemouth despite having Steven Pienaar sent off.

At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea produced one of their most scintillating performances in recent memory as the 2014-15 champions made it five straight wins without conceding a goal.

Hazard opened the scoring in the 19th minute, drifting in from the left to drill a shot into the bottom-right corner, and a minute later Pedro Rodriguez teed up Marcos Alonso for the hosts' second.

Diego Costa made it 3-0 three minutes before half-time, slamming home at the back post after Nemanja Matic flicked on Hazard's corner to bring up his ninth goal of the campaign.

 

 

The man in charge of West Ham United's London Stadium stepped down on Thursday, in the latest episode of upheaval to affect the controversy-plagued venue.

David Edmonds has left his post as chairman of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), which has been responsible for the running of London's Olympic Park since the 2012 Olympics.

It comes after London mayor Sadiq Khan announced an investigation into the rising cost of converting the arena, formerly known as the Olympic Stadium, for use by Premier League club West Ham.

"David has made an enormous contribution to the legacy of the London 2012 Games and he has helped to steer the organisation through some extremely challenging issues," said LLDC chief executive David Goldstone.

"We thank him for all his hard work and wish him well in the future."

 

 

 

New Zealand's Steve Hansen and England's Eddie Jones were among the nominees shortlisted on Tuesday for the annual World Rugby awards.

The pair will be vying for the coach of the year award along with Ben Ryan, the Englishman who guided Fiji to their first Olympic gold medal in any sport when the Pacific Islanders triumphed as rugby sevens made its Games debut in Rio.

New Zealand, since winning the World Cup under Hansen last year, have remained unbeaten and recently set a new record for a major or tier-one rugby union nation of 18 successive Test victories.

 

 

 

Australia coach Michael Cheika has urged his side to aim high during their tour of Europe as they look to finish a tough 2016 with a flourish.

Cheika's men have the chance to emulate the celebrated 1984 Wallabies that featured the likes of David Campese, Michael Lynagh and Mark Ella by completing a Grand Slam -- victories over England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales on one tour.

Australia will also play France in Paris on November 19 in a run of five internationals on successive weekends, starting with Saturday's clash against Wales in Cardiff.

Australia gave New Zealand a few awkward moments before losing last year's World Cup final at Twickenham, but 2016 has seen the Wallabies suffer some chastening defeats by the All Blacks, including a 42-6 hammering in Sydney in August.

That was a low in a run of six straight defeats that included a 3-0 series defeat at home to England, a side coached by Eddie Jones, Cheika's former team-mate at Sydney club Randwick.

 

 

Jurgen Klopp insisted Liverpool’s defensive problems were no cause for alarm after his side maintained their push for the Premier League title with a 4-2 win away to Crystal Palace.

Despite an ultimately comfortable scoreline that drew Liverpool level on points with league leaders Manchester City and second-placed Arsenal, the visitors’ shaky backline was badly exposed at Selhurst Park at times.

Dejan Lovren was at fault when James McArthur cancelled out Emre Can’s opening goal and the centre-back later allowed the Palace midfielder to head his second goal after Lovren himself had restored Liverpool’s lead.

Saturday’s result meant the Reds have kept just one clean sheet in the league so far this term, but Liverpool manager Klopp said: “We will sort the defence. When that happens, we will see (if we can challenge in the league).

“They can defend really well — it’s normal (to have lapses). But I know that everybody will talk about this.”