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Federer gracious in praise of Sunday opponent at Aussie Open

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — As befitting his status as a 17-time Grand Slam champion and as an astute judge of the sport, Roger Federer's reply to a simple question about his next opponent was handled with the same aplomb as one of his stylish groundstrokes. The player in question was Kei Nishikori, who plays Federer in a fourth-round night match Sunday at Rod Laver Arena. 'I'm a big fan of his game,' Federer said. 'He's got one of the best backhands out there. I love how he can crush it down the line or cross-court. He's got wonderful second serve returns. He's fast on his legs. Strong in his mind. I know how tough he is as the match goes along. He finds his range and his rhythm, he's tough to stop.' Federer said he'll need another strong service game if he's going to give Nishikori some trouble. In Federer's win over Tomas Berdych on Thursday, he didn't face a break point and he won points on 95 percent of the first serves he got into play — 39 of 41, and all 16 in the third and final set. 'This one's going to be completely different to Tomas ... there's going to be more rallies, even though the surface remains fast. I said it at the beginning of the week, it's not easy to control the ball. Today again, when you serve well, it pays dividends. I hope I can keep that up against Kei.' Asked if Nishikori should be considered the favorite because of the No. 5 seeding (Federer is 17th after a six-month left knee injury layoff) Federer replied, smiling: 'Yeah, sure, he's the favorite. Maybe. I don't know.' Nishikori said he watched some of the Federer-Berdych match and was impressed. 'Roger, it's a big challenge for me,' Nishikori said. 'I'm just happy to play him because I think we needed him on the tour. Happy to see him back 100 percent.' Here are some other featured matches Sunday: ___ NO PRESSURE: Top-seeded Andy Murray plays Mischa Zverev in an afternoon match at Margaret Court Arena. Murray, a five-time Australian Open finalist, is heavily favored. The 50th-ranked Zverev, the older brother of 19-year-old rising star Alexander Zverev — who lost to Rafael Nadal in the third round — says Murray could go either way while pondering his ranking advantage. 'I don't know if it's more pressure on him or maybe it's a relief,' Mischa Zverev said. 'If someone like Novak (Djokovic) is out of the tournament, I feel like the whole rhythm of the tournament changes a little bit, so we'll see what's going to happen.' Zverev hopes to possibly rile the often volatile Murray. 'If he plays his best tennis, obviously I don't think I have a lot of chances, but it'll depend on the day,' he said. 'Let's see if I can annoy him a little bit. If I'm serving well and not missing any volleys, maybe I can do some damage.' ____ KERBER IN CONTROL?: Defending champion Angelique Kerber plays American CoCo Vandeweghe in the match following Federer-Nishikori on Rod Laver. Kerber holds a 2-0 career edge, although the last time the two played — in Wuhan, China in 2015 — Vandeweghe retired from the match with a left ankle injury while trailing 6-1, 3-1. 'CoCo is a tough opponent ... she's serving well,' Kerber said. 'I have to move good ... bring a lot of balls back, but also be aggressive.' ___ IN BRIEF: Venus Williams, who is appearing in her 73rd Grand Slam main draw — a record for the Open era — plays Mona Barthel in an afternoon match. U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka continues his quest for titles in consecutive Grand Slams — and his fourth major overall — when he plays Andreas Seppi. French Open champion Garbine Muguruza plays Sorana Cirstea. ___ Associated Press writer Justin Bergman contributed to this story. .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 21st, 2017Related News

Venus focused on tennis, not age, in record 73rd Grand Slam

JUSTIN BERGMAN, Associated Press br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — One could never accuse Venus Williams of being sensitive about her age. Not the way she keeps making self-deprecating jokes about it at the Australian Open. Case in point: Asked about the Australian great Margaret Court after her third-round win over China's Duan Yingying at Margaret Court Arena on Friday, Williams said she had a letter from the 24-time major winner hung on the wall in her room as a memento. 'It's a congratulations for me being the oldest person in the draw or something like that,' she dead-panned. The 36-year-old Williams fields more than her fair share of questions about her advanced age in the sport, how often she considers retirement, what keeps her motivated after more than two decades on the court. Indeed, she is appearing in her 73rd Grand Slam singles draw — a record for the Open era. And she is the oldest woman in the draw at Melbourne Park, though it should be noted that male players her age, such as Ivo Karlovic and Roger Federer, aren't continuously peppered with the same questions. But rather than show her annoyance, Williams smiles and patiently responds each time, sometimes with a joke. And she's made clear with her play this week that she's still a serious contender — she's reached the fourth round at the Australian Open for the 10th time in her career, and without dropping a set. Against Duan, a player who admitted she'd never seen the seven-time Grand Slam winner play, the 13th-seeded Williams only lost one game. 'Just like every player here, I have put in a ton of work,' Williams said earlier in the week. 'I'm not coming all the way to Australia for kicks and giggles. I'm here as a competitor.' Williams made clear Friday she doesn't want to get dragged into controversies, either. She declined to comment on a remark by a TV commentator during her second-round match when he described her as moving in and charging with what sounded like a 'gorilla' or 'guerrilla' effect. The commentator, Doug Adler, who maintains he said 'guerrilla' — as in, her choice of tactics — but apologized for his poor word choice, was dropped from ESPN's coverage for the rest of the tournament. 'All I can say is it's been a wonderful, wonderful career for me full of positives. That's what I focus on,' said Williams, who hasn't shied away from addressing issues ranging from racism to gender pay equity throughout her career. 'I pay attention and address situations that are noteworthy,' she added, when pressed on the subject. 'That's been my past record, clearly.' What Williams wants to talk about is her tennis. Especially as she continues to win at Melbourne Park, where she's reached the final just once in her career. Her next opponent is another player many years her junior, 26-year-old Mona Barthel, a No. 181-ranked qualifier from Germany. 'It's never enough,' Williams said. 'I've been in the fourth round before. I've tasted it before and it's always a great feeling because it means, hey, I have an opportunity for the quarterfinals. That's what I'm going to go for.' .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 20th, 2017Related News

Federer joins Murray in 4th round at Australian Open

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer showed against 10th-seeded Tomas Berdych that his first two wins against qualifiers at the Australian Open really were warmups. The 17-time Grand Slam champion, seeded a lowly-by-his-standards 17th after spending six months on the sidelines last season, only needed 90 minutes to beat Berdych 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in the third round on Friday night. This was against a rival who played the Wimbledon final in 2010 and reached the quarterfinals or better in Australia the previous six years. And he'd beaten Federer in six of their previous 22 matches. Federer hit some vintage backhand winners, one that earned a hearty applause from the great Rod Laver — sitting in the crowd at the stadium named in his honor — in the second set. He had 40 winners and won 95 percent of points when he got his first serve into play. He didn't face a breakpoint. 'Crazy how quick I got out of the blocks — I did surprise myself,' Federer said of his almost flawless performance against Berdych. 'I did feel like I struggled a bit in the first two rounds.' He next plays fifth-ranked Kei Nishikori, who beat Lukas Lacko 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the fourth round for a sixth straight year at Melbourne Park. Federer leads that matchup 4-2, winning the last three. The winner of that has a potential quarterfinal against top-ranked Andy Murray, who showed no signs of trouble with his sore ankle as he advanced to the Round of 16 for the ninth straight year with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 31 Sam Querrey. It was Querrey who ended then No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic's impressive Grand Slam run in the third round at Wimbledon last year. At that time, Djokovic had won four straight major titles — Wimbledon and U.S. Open in 2015 and Australian Open and French Open in 2016. Murray, who replaced Djokovic at No. 1 last November, said he was surprised at the six-time Australian Open champion's second-round loss to Denis Istomin the previous night. But the five-time Australian Open runner-up didn't think it changed anything for him, unless he reached the final. 'I wasn't scheduled to play Novak today, so my job's to concentrate on Sam and to go into that match with a clear head and a good game plan and try to play well,' said Murray, who lost to Djokovic in four of the five finals he has contested in Melbourne. 'I did that. 'Obviously, if you're to get to the final, then it has an effect.' Murray injured his right ankle in the second round, and said he was hesitant at first but warmed into the match against Querrey. 'I felt better and better as the match went on in terms of my movement,' Murray said. 'I was moving well at the end — it was very positive.' Murray next plays Mischa Zverev. Seven-time major winner Venus Williams routed Duan Yingying 6-1, 6-0 in less than an hour to progress to the fourth round for the 10th time since her Australian Open debut in 1998. 'It's good (but) it's never enough,' she said, looking ahead to her fourth-round match against Mona Barthel. 'I've tasted it before and it's always a great feeling because it means, hey, I have an opportunity for the quarterfinals. That's what I'm going to go for.' The last two Americans in the men's draw lost within an hour of each other. After Querrey's exit, No. 23-seeded Jack Sock lost 7-6 (4), 7-5, 6-7 (8), 6-3 to No. 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. There are no more Australians in the men's draw, either, after Daniel Evans beat Bernard Tomic 7-5, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3). U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka had 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7) win over Viktor Troicki to move into a fourth-round match against Andreas Seppi. In the last match of day five, French Open champion Garbine Muguruza closed out with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Anastasia Sevastova. Top-ranked Angelique Kerber had a straight-sets win for the first time in her first Australian Open title defense, 6-0, 6-4 against Kristyna Pliskova. She next play 35th-ranked CoCo Vandeweghe, who reached the fourth round in Australia for the first time with a 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 win over 2014 semifinalist Eugenie Bouchard. Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova held off former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 5-7, 9-7 in 3 ½ hours. Australian Open organizers were briefed by Victoria state police over an incident in downtown Melbourne where a man deliberately drove into a street crowded with pedestrians, killing three people and injuring 20. Police said the incident, about three kilometers (two miles) from Melbourne Park, had no links to terrorism. 'Be assured there is no threat to the precinct,' Australian Open organizers said in a statement. .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 20th, 2017Related News

Istomin credits coach (and mother) for upset over Djokovic

JUSTIN BERGMAN, Associated Press br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — When Denis Istomin walked off court after upsetting Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open — without a doubt the biggest win of his career — his mother had just two words for him: 'Good job.' There's a reason she's probably more measured than most mothers would be: She doubles as his coach. It's an unusual arrangement on the men's tennis tour, to be sure, but one that works well for the Uzbek player with the neon green eyeglasses and droll sense of humor. He said he wouldn't have it any other way. 'When your family is part of your team, it's great. I was lucky that my mother is coaching me,' he said, before adding with a smile, 'The (other) good thing that I don't need to pay the coach extra, you know. Everything to my mother.' Klaudiya Istomina might be due a raise after her son's stunning 7-6 (8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 win over Djokovic in the second round on Thursday. Not only was Istomin just 1-33 in his previous matches against top-10 players (the only win coming against David Ferrer at Indian Wells in 2012), he was also ranked a lowly No. 117 after a demoralizing year punctuated by frequent losses. His ranking was so low, in fact, the 30-year-old Istomin had to win a special Asian wild card tournament just to gain entry to the tournament. He was realistic when asked what he would have thought if someone told him before the tournament that he would upset Djokovic, a six-time Australian Open champion. 'I would say, 'Are you crazy or what?'' he said, laughing. 'For me, (it) was impossible to think about that I can hold it five sets with Novak, physically and mentally.' But Istomin still had the belief he could at least compete with Djokovic. The 12-time major winner's loss to Sam Querrey in the third round at Wimbledon last year showed that even the top players are sometimes vulnerable. 'I mean, maybe today (Djokovic) wasn't best,' Istomin said. 'But the level of all players is growing. So if you can see everybody's fighting, even for Roger (Federer) or other players, it's not easy to win against, like, the top 20, top 30. And more young players are coming, as well.' Istomin was nearly forced to give up tennis after a serious car accident in Uzbekistan when he was 14. He was in the hospital for three months and the doctors doubted he would be able to play at the elite level. But two and a half years later, Istomin picked up his racket — thanks to the encouragement of his coach (and mother), Klaudiya. 'I mean, it was all (these) years together. We have a good relationship. We understand each other very well,' he said. 'She was always believing in me.' .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 19th, 2017Related News

Andy's ankle, Federer's biggest test highlight Friday action

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — One big question ahead of the start of the third round Friday at the Australian Open is the state of Andy Murray's injured right ankle. And nearly as important, how Roger Federer will perform in his first major test — against Tomas Berdych — since returning from a six-month injury layoff. The top-seeded Murray tumbled to the court at Rod Laver Arena, clutching his ankle and cringing in pain during the third set of his second-round match against No. 156-ranked Andrey Rublev on Wednesday. 'It just a little bit stiff just now,' he said after the match. 'I don't think I've done too much damage.' Murray held a practice session on Court 17 on Thursday afternoon and appeared to be moving freely. He is scheduled to play No. 31-seeded Sam Querrey in a Hisense Arena afternoon match. Something that may have made Murray's ankle feel better later in the day was news that Novak Djokovic was upset in the second round by Denis Istomin. On opposite sides of the draw, they couldn't have met until the final, but Murray has lost five finals at Melbourne Park — four of them to Djokovic. Here is a look at some of the other featured matches Friday: ___ FEDERER'S BIG TEST: Undoubtedly No. 10 Tomas Berdych will be 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer's biggest challenge since returning from his left knee layoff. Federer, a four-time Australian champion, was tested from time to time in wins over qualifiers in his opening two matches. The good news is that he holds a 16-6 career edge over Berdych, including all three times they've met previously at Melbourne Park. Federer is 5-0 in their most recent meetings. 'I did feel like I actually played him quite well in recent times, thanks for reminding me,' Federer said. 'I just got to play on my terms and really be focused on my own service games to make sure I don't have any lapses there. I know I've got to lift my game a little bit.' The pair will play the final night match on Rod Laver Arena. ___ BEATING THE TWINS?: Top-ranked Angelique Kerber beat Karolina Pliskova in the U.S. Open final, and will have a chance to beat the Czech player's twin sister, Kristyna, in the next major when the pair meet in an afternoon match at Rod Laver Arena. Kerber has never played the 58th-ranked Kristyna. Asked if it was 'weird' to play twins, Kerber seemed perplexed by the question. 'I don't know if it's weird. I mean, the one is right and the other one is left-handed.' For the record, Kerber and Kristyna are both left handed. ___ And briefly: No. 4 Stan Wawrinka vs. No. 29 Viktor Troicki: U.S. Open champion and 2014 Australian winner Wawrinka beat Troicki in the second round at the Brisbane International two weeks ago, his seventh consecutive win over the Serbian player. Advantage Stan. _ No. 7 Garbine Muguruza vs. No. 32 Anastasija Sevastova: 2016 French Open champion Muguruza lost to Sevastova in the second round at the U.S. Open last year in straight sets, but returned the favor at Tokyo a few weeks later. _ No. 13 Venus Williams vs. Duan Yingying: Duan beat former top 20 player Vavara Lepchenko in the second round. She and Williams have never played, and both players said they know little about the other. Duan said she had never even seen Williams play. 'I don't really watch that much tennis, so I think my coach will do the job to try to tell me what I need to do on the court,' Duan said through a translator. _ No. 5 Kei Nishikori vs. Lukas Lacko: Nishikori is looking to advance to the fourth round for the sixth year in a row. He's made it to the quarterfinals the past two years. Lacko, a qualifier, has played nine sets in two rounds, including a five-setter in his first-round win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas. _ Eugenie Bouchard vs. CoCo Vandeweghe: After a poor second half of 2015 and most of 2016, Bouchard is playing with more confidence. The 22-year-old Canadian, who made the semifinals here and the French Open in 2014 before reaching the final at Wimbledon, beat Vandeweghe the only time they've met at Indian Wells in 2015. .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 19th, 2017Related News

Bagwell, Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to Hall of Fame

RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer br /> NEW YORK (AP) — Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Wednesday, earning the honor as Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero fell just short. Steroids-tainted stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were passed over for the fifth straight year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. But they received a majority of votes for the first time and could be in position to gain election in coming years. Bagwell, on the ballot for the seventh time after falling 15 votes short last year, received 381 of 442 votes for 86.2 percent. Players needed 75 percent, which came to 332 votes this year. 'Anxiety was very, very high,' Bagwell said. 'I wrote it on a ball tonight. It was kind of cool.' In his 10th and final year of eligibility, Raines was on 380 ballots (86 percent). He started at 24.3 percent in 2008 and jumped from 55 percent in 2015 to 69.8 percent last year. 'Last night probably the worst night I've had out of the 10 years,' he said. 'I knew I was close, but I wasn't sure.' Rodriguez , at 45 the youngest current Hall member, received 336 votes (76 percent) to join Johnny Bench in 1989 as the only catchers elected on the first ballot. '''I've been having trouble sleeping for three days,' the popular Pudge said. 'Johnny Bench was my favorite player growing up.' Hoffman was five votes shy and Guerrero 15 short. 'Falling short of this class is disappointing,' Hoffman said in a statement. 'I am truly humbled to have come so close. I hope to one day soon share a Hall of Fame celebration with my family, friends, teammates and all of San Diego.' Edgar Martinez was next at 58.6 percent, followed by Clemens at 54.1 percent, Bonds at 53.8 percent, Mike Mussina at 51.8 percent, Curt Schilling at 45 percent, Lee Smith at 34.2 percent and Manny Ramirez at 23.8 percent. Players will be inducted July 30 during ceremonies at Cooperstown along with former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, both elected last month by a veterans committee. Bagwell was a four-time All-Star for Houston, finishing with a .297 batting average, 401 homers and 1,401 RBIs. Among 220 Hall of Fame players, he is the 50th who spent his entire career with one big league team. Raines, fifth in career stolen bases, is just the fifth player elected in his final year of eligibility after Red Ruffing (1967), Joe Medwick (1968), Ralph Kiner (1975) and Jim Rice (2009). Raines was a seven-time All-Star and the 1986 NL batting champion. Raines hit .294 with a .385 on-base percentage. He spent 13 of 23 big league seasons with the Montreal Expos, who left Canada to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season, and joins Andre Dawson and Gary Carter as the only players to enter the Hall representing the Expos. Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star who hit .296 with 311 homers and 1,332 RBIs, was never disciplined for PEDs but former Texas teammate Jose Canseco alleged in a 2005 book that he injected the catcher with steroids. Asked whether he was on the list of players who allegedly tested positive for steroids during baseball's 2003 survey, Rodriguez said in 2009: 'Only God knows.' Bonds, a seven-time MVP who holds the season and career home run records, again saw his vote percentage climb, as did Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner. Bonds was indicted on charges he lied to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied using PEDs, but a jury failed to reach a verdict on three counts he made false statements and convicted him on one obstruction of justice count, finding he gave an evasive answer. The conviction was overturned on appeal in 2015. Clemens was acquitted on one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements to Congress and two counts of perjury, all stemming from his denials of drug use. 'Barry Bonds was the best player I played against in my entire life,' Bagwell said. Several notable players will join them in the competition for votes in upcoming years: Chipper Jones and Jim Thome in 2018, Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay in 2019, and Derek Jeter in 2020. Lee Smith, who had 478 saves, got 34 percent in his final time on the ballot. Jorge Posada, Tim Wakefield and Magglio Ordonez were among the players who got under 5 percent and fell off future ballots. .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 18th, 2017Related News

Federer claws back against US qualifier

Roger Federer didn’t have things all his own way as he got past spirited American qualifier Noah Rubin to reach the Australian Open third round in a tough three-setter on Wednesday......»»

Source: Tempo TempoCategory: NewsJan 18th, 2017Related News

Murray, Federer advance to 3rd round at Australian Open

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — When Andy Murray tumbled to the court, clutching his right ankle, the top of the men's draw at the Australian Open momentarily took on a new complexion. Top-ranked Murray, a five-time runner-up at Melbourne Park, was leading his second-round match comfortably Wednesday night when his right shoe caught on the surface in the third game of the third set, and he rolled awkwardly on the ground. He continued and won that game, talking to himself, saying 'It's not good news.' He saw a trainer during the next change of ends, but decided he didn't need any extra treatment on his already heavily strapped foot. Murray went on to win 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 against No. 156-ranked Andrey Rublev, later saying 'It's a little bit sore — not too serious.' ''I was moving OK toward the end, so that's positive,' he said. It was Murray's 178th win in a Grand Slam match, joining Stefan Edberg at equal eighth on the list of match winners in the Open era. The 19-year-old Rublev's first-round win here was his first in a major tournament. Murray next faces No. 31 Sam Querrey, who had 7-6 (5), 6-0, 6-1 win over 17-year-old wild card Alex De Minaur. Roger Federer's progress was more straight forward, beating 20-year-old qualifier Noah Rubin 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (3) to maintain his record of never failing to reach the third round at the 18 Australian Opens he's contested. After back-to-back wins over qualifiers, the degree of difficulty in the 17-time Grand Slam winner's comeback from a six-month injury layoff will increase exponentially. Next up, Federer faces 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, who had a 6-3, 7-6 (6), 6-2 win over Ryan Harrison. Also looming, potentially, is No. 5 Kei Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open finalist, who set up a third-round match against Lukas Lacko with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Jeremy Chardy. They're all in the same quarter of the draw as Murray. U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka advanced 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 over Steve Johnson and will next play No. 29 Viktor Troicki in the lower quarter of the top half of the draw. No. 19 John Isner, the highest-seeded U.S. player in the men's draw, lost to Mischa Zverev 6-7 (4), 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (7), 9-7 and followed Johnson, Rubin and Harrison out. Wins by No. 23 Jack Sock and Querrey ended the day on a more positive note for the American men. No. 7 Marin Cilic and No. 14 Nick Kyrgios were beaten in night matches. Cilic lost in four sets to Daniel Evans, and No. 89-ranked Andreas Seppi rallied from two sets down and saved a match point to beat Kyrgios 1-6, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 6-2, 10-8 in a seesawing match that featured a high-risk, between-the-legs shot from the enigmatic Australian. Defending champion Angelique Kerber celebrated her 29th birthday with a 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-2 second-round win over Carina Witthoeft. The crowd sang her 'Happy Birthday,' although she wasn't entirely on song. The No. 1-ranked Kerber angrily swiped her racket in the second set in a burst of frustration that momentarily threw her off her game. She had two double-faults in the tiebreaker, as Witthoeft leveled the match, but regained control in the third. Kerber planned to celebrate over dinner, then get back to work before Friday's third-round match against Kristyna Pliskova, who beat No. 27 Irina-Camelia Begu 6-4, 7-6 (8). Pliskova's twin sister, Karolina, lost the U.S. Open final to Kerber. Speaking of age, Venus Williams had to field questions about getting older after an energetic performance in her 6-3, 6-2 win over Stefanie Voegele. The 36-year-old, seven-time major winner played the first of her record 73 Grand Slam tournaments at the French Open in 1997. 'It's an honor and privilege to start that young,' she added, laughing, 'and play this old.' Venus and Serena Williams, who have won 14 major doubles titles together, withdrew from a scheduled first-round doubles match later Wednesday, citing an injury to Venus' right elbow. In her next singles match, Venus will play Duan Yingying, who beat Varvara Lepchenko 6-1, 3-6, 10-8. In other third-round matches, two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova will meet former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic, No. 11 Elina Svitolina will take on No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Eugenie Bouchard, who reached the semifinals here and the Wimbledon final in 2014, will play CoCo Vandeweghe. .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 18th, 2017Related News

Federer extends run of reaching 3rd round to 18 Aussie Opens

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer relied on his Grand Slam experience during the most important points to beat Noah Rubin 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (3) on Wednesday, maintaining his record of never failing to reach the third round at the 18 Australian Opens he's contested. After back-to-back wins over qualifiers, the degree of difficulty in his comeback from a six-month injury layoff will increase exponentially. Next up he faces 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, who had a 6-3, 7-6 (6), 6-2 win over Ryan Harrison. Also looming, potentially, is No. 5 Kei Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open finalist, who set up a third-round match against Lukas Lacko with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Jeremy Chardy. Federer didn't play after his semifinal exit at Wimbledon last year, resting his injured left knee. He returned at the Hopman Cup exhibition in Perth this month, and opened at Melbourne Park with a win over another 35-year-old veteran, Jurgen Melzer. Against Rubin, a 20-year-old qualifier and 2014 Wimbledon junior champion, the 17-time Grand Slam winner played the big points like the old pro that he is. Rubin had his chances in the third set, breaking Federer in the second game and having two set points on the Swiss star's serve when he led 5-2. But Federer upped the tempo, winning four of the last five games to force a tiebreaker, which he dominated. Rubin moved well from the baseline, and hit 11 forehand winners, but was only able to convert one of his six break-point chances. 'I definitely got lucky winning that third set. He had a couple of set points on my serve,' Federer said. There were, 'a lot of difficult points, which is what I need.' Federer has a 16-6 record against Berdych, winning the last five, but has had losses to the Czech player at the 2004 Olympics, at Wimbledon in 2010 and at the 2012 U.S. Open. 'He's caused difficulties for me in the past on faster courts,' Federer said. 'Then again, I've played him here, as well, when it went my way. I just got to play on my terms.' U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka advanced 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 over Steve Johnson and will next play No. 29 Viktor Troicki. No. 19 John Isner, the highest-seeded U.S. player in the men's draw, lost to Mischa Zverev 6-7 (4), 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (7), 9-7 and followed Johnson, Rubin and Harrison out in the second round. No. 23 Jack Sock and No. 31 Sam Querrey won in straight sets, ensuring the U.S. men finished day three on a brighter note. Defending champion Angelique Kerber celebrated her 29th birthday with a 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-2 second-round win over Carina Witthoeft. The crowd sang her 'Happy Birthday,' although she wasn't entirely on song. The No. 1-ranked Kerber angrily swiped her racket in the second set in a burst of frustration that momentarily threw her off her game. She had two double-faults in the tiebreaker, as Witthoeft leveled the match, but regained control in the third. Kerber planned to celebrate over dinner, then get back to work before Friday's third-round match against Kristyna Pliskova, who beat No. 27 Irina-Camelia Begu 6-4, 7-6 (8). Pliskova's twin sister, Karolina, lost the U.S. Open final to Kerber. 'I'm always playing on my birthday — always in Australia,' said Kerber, who had her major breakthrough here last year. 'I feel like at home here.' Speaking of age, Venus Williams had to field questions about getting older after an energetic performance in her 6-3, 6-2 win over Stefanie Voegele. The 36-year-old, seven-time major winner played the first of her record 73 Grand Slam tournaments at the French Open in 1997. 'It's an honor and privilege to start that young,' she added, laughing, 'and play this old.' Venus and Serena Williams, who have won 14 major doubles titles together, withdrew from a scheduled first-round doubles match later Wednesday, citing an injury to Venus' right elbow. In her next singles match, Venus will play Duan Yingying, who beat Varvara Lepchenko 6-1, 3-6, 10-8. In other third-round matches, two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova will meet former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic, No. 11 Elina Svitolina will take on No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Eugenie Bouchard, who reached the semifinals here and the Wimbledon final in 2014, will play CoCo Vandeweghe. French Open champion Garbine Muguruza beat Samantha Crawford 7-5, 6-4 in a night match, and Mona Barthel beat Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig. .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 18th, 2017Related News

Federer reaches 3rd round in return at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia — Roger Federer relied on his Grand Slam experience during the most important points to beat Noah Rubin 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (3) on Wednesday,.....»»

Source: Philstar PhilstarCategory: SportsJan 18th, 2017Related News

Young Americans coming of age at Australian Open

JUSTIN BERGMAN, Associated Press MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — More than 13 years after Andy Roddick won the 2003 U.S. Open, the last time an American man triumphed at a Grand Slam, the future of U.S. men's tennis appears bright. The next generation of young players, all aged between 18 and 20, is starting to emerge and showing enough promise at this year's Australian Open to suggest they may be on the cusp of a breakthrough. Seven made the main draw at Melbourne Park and three were still in contention after the first round. br /> Frances Tiafoe, who turns 19 on Friday, defeated Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-2 on Tuesday, while 20-year-old Ernesto Escobedo beat Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1. They joined 20-year-old Noah Rubin, who won his opener a day earlier to set up a second-round match against Roger Federer. The others failed to advance, but not before serving notice to the tour's old guard. Reilly Opelka, 19, lost a tight five-setter to 11th-seeded David Goffin, while Jared Donaldson, 20, lost to Brazil's Rogerio Dutra Silva after leading two sets to none. Taylor Fritz and Michael Mmoh, both 19, each put up good fights in defeats to veterans Gilles Muller and Gilles Simon, respectively. 'We're all really supportive of each other and happy to see all of us doing so well,' Tiafoe said. 'Hopefully we can keep going and not stop now.' br /> Much has been expected of Tiafoe, the son of immigrants from Sierra Leone, since he won the Orange Bowl at age 15, the youngest champion in the prestigious 18-and-under tournament's history. Tiafoe just missed out on a career-defining win at last year's U.S. Open, where as a wild card, he led the long-time top-ranked U.S. player, John Isner, by two sets to none before the match slipped away. It was a heartbreaking loss, but one Tiafoe learned from. 'I was like, the next opportunity I'm definitely going to take it,' he said after his first-round win on Tuesday, flashing a wide grin. 'Now, getting through relatively comfortable today means a lot. ... I really feel like I belong now.' He next plays another 19-year-old, his close friend, Alexander Zverev of Germany. Both Opelka and Donaldson, meanwhile, got their own tastes of Grand Slam agony in Melbourne. br /> Opelka, a 6-foot-11 (2.11 meter) former Wimbledon junior champion with a booming serve and whip-like forehand, had two break points to go up 4-2 in the fifth set against Goffin, but couldn't convert either and ultimately lost 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Opelka had never before played a five-set match and was making his debut in the singles main draw of a Grand Slam. Yet he showed grit — and no hint of nerves — deep into the fifth set against a seasoned pro like Goffin, even as he started to cramp and struggled to move. 'I've played some guys in the top 10 before so I wasn't uncomfortable,' he said. 'With the way I play, hopefully it really shouldn't matter who's on the other side of the net.' Donaldson's loss was less expected. The Rhode Island native made a stunning run to the third round of last year's U.S. Open, upsetting the 12th-seeded Goffin and Viktor Troicki, a former top-20 player. And he was well on his way to a commanding win over Dutra Silva before the Brazilian stormed back for a 3-6, 0-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory. 'Losses like this really define your character,' he said. 'So I can be upset and sulk about it or I can get back on the practice court and keep working hard and get better so matches like that don't happen again.' br />   .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 17th, 2017Related News

Federer's 17 majors stack up nicely against everyone else

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer   MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The 64 players contesting second-round matches at the Australian Open on Wednesday have won a total of 36 Grand Slam singles titles. One guy, however, has nearly half of them. Of the 17 titles captured by Roger Federer, who plays American qualifier Noah Rubin at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday, four have been at Melbourne Park. Although he hasn't lifted the trophy here since 2010. Venus Williams, who will play Stefanie Voegele to open play on Rod Laver — has seven major titles. Others in action Wednesday are top-ranked Andy Murray and No. 4 Stan Wawrinka (3 majors each), defending champion Angelique Kerber and Svetlana Kuznetsova (2 each) and Marin Cilic and Garbine Muguruza, who have each won one major. Novak Djokovic, who has 12 Grand Slam titles of his own and is on the other side of the Australian Open draw, was quick to praise Federer as the Swiss star prepared to return from a six-month injury layoff. 'With Roger, you can always see a top level and quality of tennis ... that's what he brings,' Djokovic said last weekend. 'He brings this aura of a champion on and off the court. The sport definitely missed him. He's one of the most important people that ever held the racket.' ____ Here's a closer look at some of the second-round matches Wednesday: BIRTHDAY GIRL: Kerber, who plays fellow German Carina Witthoeft, will celebrate her 29th birthday on Wednesday. She is aiming to become the first player to defend the Australian Open women's title since Victoria Azarenka won in 2012 and 2013. ___ GOOD LUCK ANDREY: Murray plays Russian qualifier and 156th-ranked Andrey Rublev in a night match at Rod Laver Arena. The lowest-ranked player to beat Murray at a Grand Slam tournament is No. 91 Arnaud Clement at the 2005 U.S. Open. Overall, Murray has a 10-1 record against qualifiers at Grand Slam events. Still, Murray will be wary of Rublev. 'I know a little bit about him,' Murray said after his first-round win over Illya Marchenko. 'I never hit with him or played against him, but I've seen him play before and he goes for it. He doesn't hold back. He hits a big ball.' Murray has lost the Australian Open final five times in seven years, and never won the title. He hopes to have another chance this year to atone for his past defeats. 'I have had a lot of tough losses here, for sure,' he said. 'I have played some of my best tennis on hard courts here. But I keep coming back to try. I'll keep doing that until I'm done.' ___ AND GOOD LUCK NOAH: Federer has not lost to a player ranked as low as No. 200 Noah since losing to 249th-ranked Sergio Bruguera at Barcelona in 2000. In terms of Grand Slam events, the lowest-ranked player Federer has lost to was No. 154 Mario Ancic at 2002 Wimbledon. ___ LONGEVITY IN MELBOURNE: Venus Williams' match against Voegele comes in her 17th appearance at the Australian Open. She has never won the title in Melbourne, but was runner-up in 2003, losing to her younger sister, Serena. And for the record, her seven Grand Slam singles titles came five times at Wimbledon and twice at the U.S. Open. ___ ONCE A YEAR: Fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori plays France's Jeremy Chardy to open play on Hisense Arena, and their meeting has become an annual thing. Nishikori has a 4-2 edge in matches which they've contested once a year for the past six years. Nishikori is attempting to reach the third round at Melbourne Park for the seventh consecutive year. He lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the Brisbane International final two weeks ago. .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 17th, 2017Related News

Federer returns with a win, joins Murray in 2nd round

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer shanked a few shots and was unsettled by how nervous he felt after six months on the sidelines, despite the familiar surroundings at the Australian Open. No other man on tour knows the way around a Grand Slam tournament better than Federer, who is playing in his 69th major and has won a record 17. He served 19 aces and had only one double-fault in a 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win Monday over fellow 35-year-old Jurgen Melzer, but dropped serve three times and experienced frustrating moments. 'I was feeling nervous once the match actually started,' said Federer, who hadn't played at tour level since Wimbledon after taking time off to let his injured left knee heal. 'In the warmup ... I felt fine. Then I hit four frames in a row. It was like, 'Whew, it's not as easy as I thought it was going to be.' 'I struggled for a while to find that groove, that rhythm.' Federer had surgery on the knee after a semifinal exit at the last Australian Open and missed the French Open, ending his streak of 65 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. He returned for Wimbledon, reached the semifinals, then didn't play again in 2016. In November, he fell out of the top 10 for the first time in 734 weeks. The 17th-seeded Federer wasn't the only highly-ranked player to find the going tough Monday. Stan Wawrinka, the U.S. Open champion, was pushed to five sets. So was No. 5-seeded Kei Nishikori. Angelique Kerber, defending champion and ranked No. 1 at a major for the first time, had some nervous moments in her 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 win over Lesia Tsurenko. Kerber won her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne last year, beating Serena Williams in the final after saving a match point in the first round. After wasting a match point before her serve was broken as Tsurenko rallied to win the second set, Kerber said her mind raced back 12 months. 'When I lost the second set, and I had match point, I was thinking about my match last year in the first round,' she said. 'First rounds are always tough.' In his first Grand Slam match with the elevated status of having a knighthood and the No. 1 ranking, Andy Murray berated himself when he made mistakes and frequently yelled during a 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over Illya Marchenko. In other words, nothing much has changed. The five-time finalist comfortably navigated what he hoped was the first step to a drought-breaking Australian Open title. Murray has lost four of the last six finals in Melbourne to six-time champion Novak Djokovic. Gaining the top ranking and receiving the civic honors doesn't change anything for Murray, who said he faces 'the same pressure, same expectations. I've never won here — I'm going to try to change that this year.' Wawrinka, who made his Grand Slam breakthrough in Australia in 2014, narrowly scraped past 35th-ranked Martin Klizan 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. In the ninth game of the fifth set, Wawrinka smashed a soft half-volley from Klizan straight back into the Slovakian's body, clipping the frame and just missing his midsection. He stepped over the net and ensured Klizan was OK, then held serve in that game and broke in the next game to finish it off. Nishikori beat Andrey Kuznetsov 7-5, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-2. Joining him in the second round are 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, 2008 Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 19 John Isner, No. 23 Jack Sock, No. 27 Bernard Tomic, No. 29 Viktor Troicki and No. 31 Sam Querrey. Also, No. 14 Nick Kyrgios returned from his suspension for underperforming in Shanghai last year and raced through a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over Gastao Elias. No. 16 Lucas Pouille was the highest-ranked of the three men's seeded players to lose. Five of the women's seeded players went out, including No. 4 Simona Halep, who lost 6-3, 6-1 to Shelby Rogers in the first match on Rod Laver Arena, and No. 15 Roberta Vinci, who lost to CoCo Vandeweghe. Seven-time major winner Venus Williams beat Kateryna Kozlova 7-6 (5), 7-5, and 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard continued her recent resurgence by routing Louisa Chirico 6-0, 6-4. Joining them in the next round will be French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig, No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 10 Carla Suarez, No. 11 Elina Svitolina and No. 20 Zhang Shuai. Sixteen-year-old Destanee Aiava became the first player born in this millennium to play in the main draw of a major, but the milestone match ended in a 6-3, 7-6 (4) loss to Mona Barthel. .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 16th, 2017Related News

PSA to fete country's top sports achievers next month

Top achievers of the year 2016 share center stage once as the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) honors them during its traditional Awards Night presented by MILO and San Miguel on Feb. 13 at the LE PAVILION in Pasay City. Hidilyn Diaz, who ended the country’s 20-year medal drought in the Olympics by winning a silver in weightlifting of the Rio De Janeiro Games, looms as the leading choice for the coveted Athlete of the Year award during the formal affair. Last year pro boxers Nonito Donaire Jr., and Donnie ‘Ahas’ Nietes along with golfer Miguel Tabuena were the joint recipients of the highest honor bestowed by the Philippines’ oldest media organization composed of editors and sportswriters from both the print and online portals. President Duterte has been invited to be the guest speaker of the night. President’s Award, Lifetime Achievement honor, Executive of the Year, National Sports Association of the Year, Mr. Basketball, Mr. Golf, Mr. Football, and Ms. Volleyball will also be handed out as part of the two-hour program backed by Smart, Foton, Mighty Sports, Philippine Basketball Association, ACCEL, Gold Toe, SM Prime Holdings Inc., Globalport, Rain or Shine, ICTSI, and MVPSF. Athletes who earned Olympic berths through qualifying tournaments are likewise to be cited, among them tracksters Eric Cray, Marestella Torres, and Mary Joy Tabal, weightlifter Nestor Colonia, Ian Lariba, boxers Roger Ladon and Charly Suarez, taekwondo jin Kirstie Alora, and golfer Miguel Tabuena. The PSA will also recognized major awardees in different sports and citations to various personalities and entities in the annual rite backed by the Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, and Federal Land. Not to be missed out are the organizations recognition to young promising achievers such as the Tony Siddayao Awards and the Milo Male and Female Junior Athletes of the Year, as well as posthumous awards to those dearly departed friends of the local sportswriting community.  .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 16th, 2017Related News

Murray wins in straight sets in 1st major match as No. 1

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — In his first Grand Slam match with the elevated status of having a knighthood and the No. 1 ranking, Andy Murray berated himself when he made mistakes and frequently yelled during his 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over Illya Marchenko. In other words, nothing much has changed in his approach. The five-time finalist, back in Melbourne trying to end his drought, started on Rod Laver Arena on Monday and took the first step in his bid for a first Australian Open title. Murray has lost four of the last six finals here — including the last two — to six-time champion Novak Djokovic. But he did take something off his long-time friend at the end of last year when he replaced Djokovic in the top ranking during a stunning finish to the season. In Queen Elizabeth II's New Year's honors list, Murray received a knighthood from the British monarch for reaching the pinnacle of the sport. Murray said the ranking and the civic honors won't change anything, and he faces 'the same pressure, same expectations.' He admits there's one thing he desperately wants to change. 'I've never won here — I'm going to try to change that this year,' he said. Two players who could potentially stand in his way — No. 5 Kei Nishikori and No. 10 Tomas Berdych — had first-round wins earlier in the day. Another, Roger Federer, was set to play his first tour-level match in more than six months when he played Jurgen Melzer in a night match on Rod Laver. There are 18 American women in the draw, and two recorded wins in the first two matches on Rod Laver. Venus Williams went onto main court right after Shelby Rogers' upset win over fourth-seeded Simona Halep, a result which sent the former French Open finalist out in the first round again. Williams also lost in the first round last year, and didn't plan to replicate Halep's early exit again. The seven-time major winner beat Kateryna Kozlova 7-6 (5), 7-5, twice recovering breaks in the first set and despite her 48 unforced errors. 'It's never easy playing the first round — you're just trying to find the rhythm,' Williams said. 'She played amazing. It's very satisfying to get through a match against an opponent who is on fire.' Rogers caused the first upset of the tournament with her 6-3, 6-1 win over Halep. Rogers made a surprising run to the French Open quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Garbine Muguruza last year, when she was ranked No. 108, but only advanced to the second round at one other tournament in 2016. But the run at Roland Garros gave her confidence. 'The biggest thing I took away from that was just that I can compete with the top players in the world and I'm good enough,' said Rogers, who was playing just her second main draw match at the Australian Open. 'So I have definitely carried that away from the French Open and just been enjoying it a little bit.' Halep, a two-time quarterfinalist in Australia, said she'd been hampered by left knee pain that was compounded by the pressure of the match. Seventh-seeded Muguruza saved a set point in the first set, needed a medical timeout and had to fend off three break-point chances at 1-4 in the second set before advancing with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Marina Erakovic. Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig raced through her opening match, beating Patricia Tig 6-0, 6-1, and No. 20 Zhang Shuai, No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and No. 27 Irina-Camelia Begu also advanced. Australian teenager Destanee Aiava's milestone match ended in a 6-3, 7-6 (4) loss to German qualifier Mona Barthel. The 16-year-old Melbourne high school student became the first player born in this millennium to play a main draw match at a major. In two all-U.S. matches, Samantha Crawford defeated Lauren Davis 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 and Alison Riske beat Madison Brengle 7-5, 6-3. Fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe recovered from a break down, and an illness, in the second set to beat No. 15-seeded Roberta Vinci 6-1, 7-6 (3). Two other seeded players lost early women's matches, with Varvara Lepchenko beating No. 19 Kiki Bertens 7-5, 7-6 (5) and former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic beating No. 26 Laura Siegemund 6-1, 1-6, 6-4. On the men's side, Nishikori needed 3 hours, 34 minutes to beat Andrey Kuznetsov 7-5, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-2, but Berdych only played a set — which he won 6-1 — before Luca Vanni retired from their match. No. 19 John Isner beat Konstantin Kravchuk 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1 and advanced along with No. 27 Bernard Tomic, No. 29 Viktor Troicki and No. 31 Sam Querrey, who beat Quentin Halys 6-7 (10), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4. .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 16th, 2017Related News

Clutch Rodgers leads Packers past rallying Cowboys, 34-31

SCHUYLER DIXON, AP Sports Writer   ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — This time it was a catch, and another win for the Green Bay Packers. Call it a 'Half Mary' from Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers threw a 36-yard pass to a toe-dragging Jared Cook on the sideline, and Mason Crosby kicked a 51-yard field goal as time expired, sending the Packers to the NFC championship game with their eighth straight win while thwarting a huge Dallas rally in a 34-31 victory in the divisional round of the playoffs Sunday. The throw on the run from Rodgers to Cook — confirmed on review — wasn't nearly as debatable as Dez Bryant's famous catch that wasn't in the Cowboys' divisional round loss to Green Bay two years ago. Cook kept both feet inbounds with a knee just above the ground out of bounds. And it came after the Cowboys tied the game twice in the final 5 minutes behind rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott in their playoff debut. It was the third field goal of more than 50 yards in the final 1:38 — two from Crosby and one from Dallas' Dan Bailey. And Crosby had to make the winner twice after Dallas coach Jason Garrett called timeout before the first attempt. Rodgers, who sparked last week's wild-card win over the New York Giants with another Hail Mary before halftime, is headed to an MVP showdown with Atlanta's Matt Ryan next Sunday. It will be his third NFC title game — all on the road. Green Bay's win was the first by a road team after 12 straight home victories in the playoffs dating to last season. The Cowboys (13-4) almost became the third team in the Super Bowl era to win in the playoffs after trailing by 15 points in the fourth quarter. The first was Dallas in 1972, when 'Captain Comeback', Roger Staubach, rallied the Cowboys for a 30-28 win over San Francisco. Instead, Dallas ended up with its fifth straight loss in the divisional round and a 21-year drought in trips to the NFC championship game. Prescott got the Dallas rally going with a 40-yard touchdown toss in the first half to Bryant, the first playoff TD for the star receiver. Then he set the stage for the first tying score on a 6-yarder to Jason Witten, also the first postseason touchdown for the 14th-year tight end. Rodgers led the Packers to a go-ahead 56-yard field goal from Crosby with a big boost on a pass interference penalty against rookie Anthony Brown that wiped out an interception from Jeff Heath, whose pick earlier in the game helped Dallas rally. The Cowboys answered with a 52-yarder from Bailey. .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 15th, 2017Related News

Federer to meet qualifier Melzer in 1st round at Aussie Open

Federer to meet qualifier Melzer in 1st round at Aussie Open.....»»

Source: Philstar PhilstarCategory: SportsJan 15th, 2017Related News

New look: Murray, Kerber start Australian Open as top seeds

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — It's new and exciting for Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber, entering a Grand Slam tournament with the No. 1 in front of their names. Both reached the top of the rankings for the first time near the end of 2016, ending long reigns by Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams. And so they'll open their Australian Open campaigns on Rod Laver Arena on day one — both against Ukrainians. Murray, a five-time runner-up, opens his pursuit of a first Australian title against Illya Marchenko in the last day match on the main show court. Kerber opens the night session against Lesia Tsurenko. She'll be followed on court by Roger Federer, who is returning from six months on the sidelines. The 'one-round-at-a-time' cliche is well worn in tennis. For Kerber, though, it's pertinent. Seeded seventh last year, the left-handed German had to save a match point in the first round against Misaki Doi. Spurred on by that, she went on to beat Serena Williams in the final and claim her first Grand Slam title. She added a second major at the U.S. Open and ascended to the No 1 ranking. 'I think this point where I was match point down, that was the important point for my career,' Kerber said Sunday, speaking of her first-round escape against Doi. 'You never know (if) I lost the match, what would have happened.' It gave her the freedom to play without pressure, and that made all the difference. 'When I'm looking back, I was feeling that I got a second chance to stay in the tournament,' she said. 'I was playing since then without expectation ... just enjoying everything.' Kerber can hang on to the top ranking by reaching to the final here, but she's already feeling there's more to defend than her title. 'It's a new challenge for me, for sure,' she said. But, 'We are starting from zero here. I have to be ready from the first round again. 'I will try to not put too much expectation and pressure on myself. I mean, I will try to do it like last year — that was the way I had my success.' Record-chasing, six-time champions Djokovic and Williams, seeded No. 2 and anchoring the bottom half of the men's and women's draws, won't be in action until day two. Djokovic is aiming to be the first man to win seven Australian titles. Serena Williams is chasing an Open-era record 23rd major title. Newly-engaged Williams hasn't wanted to talk about the record, being a little bit superstitious. Williams is concentrating on her first-round match against Belinda Bencic, who was seeded 12th here last year and who beat her in Toronto in 2015. While Serena has to wait, the Williams family will be represented on Rod Laver Arena on Monday by her older sister, Venus. The 13th-seeded Venus Williams will play against Kateryna Kozlova following fourth-seeded Simona Halep's opener against Shelby Rogers. French Open champion Garbine Muguruza starts play on Margaret Court Arena against Marina Erakovic, and U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka opens the night session on the second show court. Fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori gets things underway against Andrey Kuznetsov on Hisense Arena, where Nick Kyrgios will make his return to the tour against Gastao Elias. The 21-year-old Kyrgios finished 2016 under a ban in a season overshadowed by clashes with officials and fans and by the tanking at the Shanghai Masters which led to an eight-week suspension. The ban was reduced to three weeks when Kyrgios agreed to consult a sports psychologist, allowing to warmup for the Australian Open at the Hopman Cup. That's where Federer made his return from six months out to give his injured left knee time to heal. The 17-time major winner didn't play after Wimbledon and his ranking slid to No. 17 by this week. That resulted in him getting a tougher draw than usual at the tournament he has won four times, and where he has reached the semifinals in 12 of the last 13 years. If results go with rankings, he'll play two qualifiers before a potential third-round match against No. 10 Tomas Berdych. Nishikori and Murray are also in his quarter. Federer will open against another 35-year-old veteran, former No. 8-ranked Jurgen Melzer. 'That's the part of the draw I care most about because of having not been playing,' Federer said. Wild-card entry Destanee Aiava, a 16-year-old Melbourne high school student, is set to become the first player born in this millennium to play a main draw match at a Grand Slam when she meets German qualifier Mona Barthel on Show Court 2. .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 15th, 2017Related News

Federer: Tennis taking proactive approach to address fixing

JUSTIN BERGMAN, Associated Press br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — At last year's Australian Open, the players were caught by surprise when a report was published on the eve of the season-opening Grand Slam alleging widespread match-fixing in the sport. Every news conference felt like an ambush, a peppering of pointed questions about corruption. This year, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and other stars of the game seem better prepared. They've got their talking points ready — and they can even have a sense of humor about the subject. 'I thought we were going to finish on a good one,' Federer quipped when a match-fixing question was asked at the very end of his pre-tournament news conference on Saturday. Then he smiled. It most likely won't be the last he'll ever be asked, either. Last season's tournament began beneath a cloud of suspicion after a report by BBC and BuzzFeed alleged that tennis authorities had overlooked suspected cases of match-fixing involving some top players, none of whom were named. Federer, in response, called the situation 'super serious' and argued that anyone who engages in match-fixing should be identified publicly. In the past year, this is what tennis authorities have tried to do. Nine players and officials were sanctioned by the Tennis Integrity Unit in 2016 — the most in a single year since the body was created in 2008. In the first two weeks of this year, six more were added to the list. All of them were lower-ranked players who played primarily on the lower-tier Challenger and Futures tours, considered the most at-risk for match-fixing because of the smaller purses and lack of scrutiny compared with larger ATP and WTA events. Federer said this is where tennis officials need to be focusing their efforts. 'Clearly we have no space for that kind of behavior in our sport,' he said, adding that efforts to combat corruption have had positive spinoffs. 'The good thing is that it's really only zero-point-something percent of players that actually have done something over the course of so many matches and so many players. I think we've done actually OK.' To be exact, the TIU said that only 292 matches generated suspicious betting alerts out of more than 114,000 played last year, or about 0.2 percent. Betting alerts, on their own, are also not conclusive proof that a match has been fixed. Federer also applauded the TIU's decision to name an independent review panel to examine its operations and recommend changes. The report is due later this year. 'That's going to change the sport for the better,' he said. Djokovic also said the problem seems to be confined to the lower-tier tours, taking a subtle shot at the media for making 'a great deal about it' when a case arises. But he, too, stressed that progress has been made and he believes the sport is cleaner than it was 12 months ago. 'Ideally, we don't want to see any kind of match-fixing occurrences,' he said. 'But, unfortunately, they do occur from time to time. 'We haven't experienced too many. Generally looking I think ATP and all the authorities are doing a good job in kind of tracking down those kind of potential match-fixing matches.' .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 14th, 2017Related News

Federer to meet qualifier Melzer in 1st round at Aussie Open

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — While Roger Federer spent his time at Melbourne Park on Saturday talking about his comeback at a news conference, dozens of lower-ranked players were still at work trying to earn a spot in the main draw of the Australian Open. Austrian veteran Jurgen Melzer was among them, along with Americans Noah Rubin and Bjorn Fratangelo. Melzer's reward for his 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win over Rajeev Ram out on Court 13 was a first-round match on Monday night against 17-time major winner Federer on Rod Laver Arena. Federer has won the Australian title four times, and reached the semifinals or better in 12 of the last 13 years, but hasn't played a match for rankings points since Wimbledon. When the draw was conducted Friday, the 17th-seeded Federer landed on position 24 and had three blank slots above him, reserved for players who advanced through qualifying. Melzer ended up in position 23, while Fratangelo's 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Hiroki Moriya and Rubin's 6-2, 6-4 win over Evgeny Donskoy resulted in them finishing up in positions 21 and 22. They'll meet in the first round, with the winner advancing to the second round to play the winner of the Federer-Melzer match. Melzer and Federer are both 35 and both had significant time off in 2016 with injuries. Melzer, who reached a career-high No. 8 ranking in 2011, missed the first part of last season recovering from surgery on his left shoulder and slipped as low as No. 550. Federer missed the last six months to let his left knee recover and ended the season ranked 16th. Federer didn't know who he'd be playing when he sat down for his pre-tournament news conference. 'Yeah, it would be good to know who I play. I guess I could tell you what I think,' he said. 'Once it's out, it's actually a good thing because then you can start actually mentally preparing for the Aussie Open. Is it a lefty, a righty? It's a big deal. Is he a big server, a grinder? 'A bit of an unknown here the first round because that's the part of the draw I care most about because of having not been playing.' He won't have to do too much research. Federer has a 3-1 record against the left-handed Melzer, winning three times in 2010 but losing their last head-to-head in straight sets on clay in Monte Carlo in 2011. Czech veteran Radek Stepanek, seeded top in the qualifying tournament, had a 6-2, 6-4 win over John-Patrick Smith to reach the Australian Open main draw for the 14th time. He has a 14-13 win-loss record to date, never advancing beyond the third round. His best run at a major was reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2006. Among the other qualifiers was Alexander Bublik, who recovered from a break down in the third set to beat deaf South Korean teenager Lee Duck-hee 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Bublik will play No. 16 Lucas Pouille in the first round. Two Americans were among the women's qualifiers, with Julia Boserup winning through to a first-round match against 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and Jennifer Brady advancing to her debut in the main draw at a major, where she'll play Johanna Larsson. .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJan 14th, 2017Related News