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Zidane says Ronaldo is still a difference-maker for Madrid

div>  /div> div>MADRID (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo hasn't scored a goal from open play in three games, a run that has Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive. /div> div>  /div> div>The glitch isn't exactly a goal drought because Ronaldo did score one from the penalty spot against Sevilla. But the dry period has coincided with Real Madrid's two-game losing streak after a 40-match unbeaten run. /div> div>  /div> div>'Cristiano is fine,' Zidane said Friday. 'He might have a bad day here and there. So what? He will always be a difference-maker in my mind. /div> div>  /div> div>'We have lost a couple of games, but there is no need to go overboard. Nothing is broken. Actually, it might have been a good time to lose two straight, in order to get going again and build up some confidence.' /div> div>  /div> div>Madrid leads the Spanish league with 40 points from 17 matches, holding a one-point lead over surging Sevilla. It was Sevilla that beat Madrid 2-1 on Sunday, after Ronaldo had converted a penalty to give his team the lead. /div> div>  /div> div>Defending champion Barcelona is third in the league and two points behind Madrid, which has a game in hand because of its trip to Japan to win the Club World Cup in December. /div> div>  /div> div>The loss in Sevilla was followed by another setback on Wednesday, when Madrid lost 2-1 at Celta Vigo in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals — again raising questions about the after-effects of playing in the Club World Cup. /div> div>  /div> div>'I'm not thinking about that at all,' Zidane said. 'As in life, you can't always win in football. You are going to have some bad days, and you need to overcome them to push ahead. It happened last year. We are going to reverse this. /div> div>  /div> div>'We aren't playing worse football than before. We just had a few bad plays that our opponents took full advantage of. The locker room is fine. The good news is we have another game tomorrow (in the league against 13th-place Malaga), and we are looking forward to it.' /div> div>  /div> div>Zidane said Ronaldo has lately been playing out of position at striker, a move that somewhat surprisingly has not translated into more goals for the Portugal forward. Ronaldo has 12 league goals this season, two behind Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. /div> div>  /div> div>'He played up top against Celta, but his favorite position is on the left wing, and that will not change,' Zidane said. 'The problem is more when he doesn't score, since we have grown used to him taking over. Cristiano will always be subject to criticism. He is used to it.' /div> div>  /div>.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

A tournament without Djokovic to hit home in Australia

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The stark reality of an Australian Open third round without Novak Djokovic — for the first time in 11 years — hits home on Saturday when the remaining players in his half of the draw, Rafael Nadal and Milos Raonic among them, attempt to advance to the second week of the tournament. Djokovic was beaten on Thursday in five sets by wild-card entry Denis Istomin, the earliest that the Serbian star has left Melbourne Park in singles since his first appearance here in 2006 when he was beaten by American Paul Goldstein in the first round. 'What Novak did here is just amazing, six victories here, six titles ... so it is not possible to be every time in that situation, no?' Nadal said after his second-round win. 'So then today was probably an accident, that's all. We are athletes. We know when we are going on court we can lose and we can win. It probably was a combination that Denis played a great match and Novak didn't play his best. When this combination happens, then you are in trouble. Everything can happen. And (it) happened.' Istomin, meanwhile, plays on. He's up against 30th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta on Show Court 2 on Friday. Here's a look at some of the key matchups Saturday: ___ RAFA'S TOUGH ASSIGNMENT: Nadal plays 19-year-old Alexander Zverev in an afternoon match at Rod Laver Arena. The young German was voted the ATP Star of Tomorrow in 2015 and has mostly lived up to the hype, seeded 24th here. 'He is one of the best players in the world, without a doubt ... and one of the next Grand Slam winners,' Nadal said. 'He has a big chance to become the future world No. 1 if he's able to keep improving the way that he's doing.' Nadal has been playing well since his return to the circuit after two lengthy injury spells last year, the 14-time major winner looking almost flawless in his straight sets win over Marcos Baghdatis in the second round. Still, he's expecting to have his hands full with Zverev: 'I know I have a very tough match ... I know I need to play my best if I want to have a chance.' ___ A SERENA BREATHER?: Six-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams had two fairly tough matches through the first two rounds, facing Belinda Bencic, a former No. 7-ranked player now sitting at 59, and Lucie Safarova, ranked No. 61 but who Williams beat in the 2015 French Open final. Williams won both matches in straight sets. Her third-round match is against fellow American Nicole Gibbs, who Williams beat in straight sets at Stanford in 2012 in their only previous meeting. Williams said she feels she's better for the experience of having had tough opposition in the first two rounds. 'When I play players like Bencic and Safarova, they force me to play better,' Williams said. 'It forces my game from the very first day to be at a high level. I needed something to start really fast. I'm not going to complain about it.' ___ CONTRASTING STYLES: Third-seeded Milos Raonic plays Gilles Simon on Hisense Arena and the Canadian holds a 3-1 edge in career meetings. Their only Grand Slam match came in the fourth round of the 2014 French Open, when Raonic won in five sets, including 7-5 in the fifth. 'I know a lot about his game. I've watched him play a lot,' Raonic said. 'He's going to be there really trying to get me to play at his speed, his rhythm. Obviously he tries to slow things down, play low. I won't have the opportunity to get too many swings at many shots.' Which means Raonic, with one of the best serves in the game, will try to get points over quickly. 'I've got to serve well and I've got to be aggressive and I've got to take it to him. The last thing I want to do is get into this sort of game of playing long rallies with him.' ___ KONTA vs WOZNIACKI: Last year's semifinalist Johanna Konta and Caroline Wozniacki, a former No. 1 who made it to the final four here in 2011, meet for the first time in an afternoon match at Margaret Court Arena. Both have been playing well, Konta coming off a win in the Sydney International last week, and Wozniacki having dropped just seven games in her first two matches at Melbourne Park. 'She had a good last year,' Wozniacki said. 'But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter who is on the other side.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

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.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Blue Jays ownership involved in bringing Bautista back

ROB GILLIES, Associated Press   TORONTO (AP) — Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said ownership got involved in the re-signing of veteran Jose Bautista. Atkins said Thursday the desire of Edward Rogers, the controlling shareholder of Rogers Communication, to help was 'abundantly clear.' He said thanks to Rogers, they don't have to rebuild. The free agent slugger looked like he might sign elsewhere but agreed to an $18.5 million, one-year contract this week that includes mutual options for more years. A longtime fan favorite, Bautista hit 22 homers with 69 RBIs last year while batting .234 in an injury-slowed season. The Blue Jays' failure this offseason to re-sign fan favorite Edwin Encarnacion didn't go over well in Toronto, which led the AL in attendance last year. Atkins expects Bautista to perform more like the 2015 season than the 2016 season.  He hit 40 homers and had 114 RBI in 2015. He blamed injuries for Bautista's subpar 2016. He said they've seen the 36-year-old work out this offseason and expect him to play right field for the bulk of the 2017 season. 'I would expect him to be a defender that we can rely on,' he said. Bautista gets an $18 million salary this year, and the deal includes a $17 million mutual option for 2018 with a $500,000 buyout, payable if either side declines. There is a $20 million option for 2019 that becomes guaranteed if Bautista has 300 games played during the next two seasons and doesn't have a physical impairment that would prevent him from playing in 2019. Bautista also could earn $1.5 million annually in bonuses based on home attendance: $150,000 each for 3.5 million and 3.6 million, $250,000 apiece for 3.7 million and 3.8 million, and $350,000 each for 3.9 million and 4 million. Toronto drew 3.39 million at home last season. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

Needing a part-time caddie, Westwood calls on familiar face

STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer   ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Lee Westwood needed someone to carry his bag for him at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week when his long-time caddie dropped out following the death of his father. With his options limited at such short notice, the former No. 1 called on someone close to home. His girlfriend, Helen Storey, has wanted to try out the job for a while and was happy to help out, especially since she had the week off from her day job as a personal trainer. With the par-72 National Course at Abu Dhabi Golf Club measuring long at 7,583 yards, it wasn't easy to replace usual caddie Billy Foster. 'I wouldn't want to carry the golf bag around six miles in this kind of heat,' Westwood said. 'Every credit for doing it.' It was a valuable experience for Westwood, too. 'She doesn't play a lot of golf so she can't do too much about that (side of things),' Westwood said. 'It was good for me, doing the yardage, reading the greens, and taking a bit more responsibility. You sometimes lose touch with your game when you haven't got that responsibility.' Westwood, now ranked No. 45, shot a 4-under 68 in his first round of competitive golf in nearly two months and was tied for 10th place, four strokes behind leader Henrik Stenson. 'I didn't advise him,' Helen said at the back of the 18th green at the end of Westwood's round. 'Just keeping up: That was my job. And I made sure he was hydrated. 'I managed to get round in one piece. He's very even-tempered all the time with me. It was good fun.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

No practice, no problem: Stenson leads in Abu Dhabi

STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer br /> ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Henrik Stenson chipped in from 30 yards and had seven more birdies Thursday to open the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with an 8-under 64 in his first competitive round of 2017. Showing no rustiness from an offseason of little practice, the fourth-ranked Stenson led by two strokes midway through the first round. Three-time winner Martin Kaymer, Oliver Fisher, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Marc Warren were next. Stenson will do well to top 2016 — he won the British Open for his first major title and finished the season as Europe's No. 1 — and he prepared for the new year by mostly ditching his clubs, preferring to spend more time on the ski slopes with his family in Utah. Even his build-up to the Abu Dhabi event wasn't ideal, with two overnight flights in three days from his home in Orlando interrupted by his attendance at an awards ceremony in Stockholm where he beat Zlatan Ibrahimovic, among others, to win Male Sports Athlete of the Year at the Swedish Sports Awards. All Stenson needed was a few buckets of balls and some good putting sessions to get him back on track. Playing in an early-morning three-ball with two more current major champions in Dustin Johnson and Danny Willett, Stenson birdied four of his first five holes after starting at No. 10, completing the hot streak with the chip-in after leaving his approach five yards short of the green. He curled in a birdie putt from 15 feet on No. 17 and tapped in at the par-5 18th to pick up another shot before making birdie on two of his last three holes to end a round in which he was never in trouble. 'Very limited preparation,' said the 40-year-old Stenson, before adding with a smile: 'So that might be the way forward.' 'I was quite amazed how good the game felt coming into today. But again, I feel like I scored better than I played.' It was Stenson's second best round at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, only bettered by his course-record 62 in 2006 when he was runner-up to Chris DiMarco. It is a long course that suits Stenson's eye, and the same could be said of Kaymer. The two-time major winner from Germany mixed eight birdies — three coming on his final three holes — with two bogeys for his 66, his latest low score at an event where he usually excels. He won in 2008, '10 and '11, and should have won in 2015, only to throw away a 10-shot lead with 13 holes to play on the final day. 'The golf course, for me, doesn't feel like I need to do a lot of special things in order to play well because I usually putt well on those greens,' Kaymer said. 'Doesn't feel like a hard-working day.' Johnson, at No. 3 the highest-ranked player in a strong field after Rory McIlroy's withdrawal on Monday, shot 72 in his first appearance in Abu Dhabi. Defending champion Rickie Fowler also was at even par. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

Put the pedal to the metal

With their playoff hopes fading fast, Mahindra is just out to take everything it can out of the last three games in its Philippine Cup schedule. Losing to TNT Wednesday, the Floodbuster seem like a longshot of crashing the quarterfinals of the very first PBA conference this season. However, that doesn't mean Mahindra has taken everything for a loss so far in its All-Filipino campaign. “We’re still going game to game right now. We really have a nothing-to-lose-everything-to gain kind of attitude. It’s either we’re going to tank mode or we lift ourselves up from failure,' top deputy Chris Gavina said. 'I’m a big fan of believing that your failures lead to your success, so we’ll build off of this,' he added. After going on a mini two-game winning streak that put life to their otherwise woeful season, the Floodbuster looked primed for an upset after taking over the KaTropa at halftime, erasing an early 10-point deficit to post a six-point lead. Mahindra just wasn't able to sustain in the second half, leading to yet another disappointing defeat, it's sixth in eight games. 'It was a tough loss. We had the momentum for sure,' forward Alex Mallari said who ended up with a game-high 19 points for the Floodbuster. 'We had the momentum going into the second half and I don't know, we took off on the gas pedal. We Weren't aggressive,' he added. Basically looking for a miracle to make the playoffs at this point, Mahindra need not look far to find recipe for success. 'At this stage for us, it's all about team basketball,' Mallari said. 'Just go back to our last two games where we succeeded. Just be aggressive. If you're open, shoot it. Get some threes up. Keep assists coming. We need a lot of it. And defense as a group -- me, including everybody. So we'll get back on the drawing board and try to get another win,' he added.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8 .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Packers-Falcons NFC matchup expected to produce big offense

CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer br /> FLOWERY BRANCH, Georgia (AP) — The high-scoring offenses of the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers appear poised to provide a memorable send-off for the Georgia Dome in Sunday's NFC championship game. The Falcons led the NFL in scoring. Even so, they know it won't be easy to keep up with the scoring pace set by quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. 'It's obvious they've got a stud at quarterback,' Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews said Tuesday. 'We've played a lot of great teams with great players at quarterback... Whatever it takes, we just have to put up as many points as we need to.' Matthews said the weekly message from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is 'I don't know if we're going to have to win 6-3 or 40-37.' Of those alternatives, 40-37 appears to be the more likely target, in part because the Atlanta and Green Bay defenses don't dominate the statistics like their offensive counterparts. The game will be the Falcons' farewell to the Georgia Dome, which will be demolished in the offseason. The Falcons will move into the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium next season. The Falcons and Packers finished the regular season ranked 28th and 31st, respectively, in pass defense. The Falcons allowed 25.4 points per game to rank 27th, only a few spots below the Packers (24.2) at 21st. Atlanta led the NFL with 33.8 points per game. Green Bay linebacker Nick Perry said the goal will be to prevent big plays. 'They are very explosive,' Perry said. 'When we look at the film, we have to make sure we don't give up those explosive plays. Everything lives off that. They are good at what they do. We are going to look at the film and go over it and make sure we prevent as much as we can of those guys giving up explosive plays.' The Falcons advanced with a 36-20 divisional playoff win over Seattle last week. Green Bay's offense also rolled in a 34-31 win over Dallas. Despite the unimpressive season totals, Atlanta allowed fewer than 20 points in four of its last six regular-season games. But none of those games were against Rodgers. The Falcons have faced Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Drew Brees in their past three games. Asked who compares with Rodgers, Falcons linebacker De'Vondre Campbell had a quick answer. 'Nobody. It's just that simple,' Campbell said. 'The things that he can do, it's just amazing to see. There's no one I can compare him to.' The Falcons are led by MVP candidate Matt Ryan, the All-Pro who ranked second in the NFL in yards passing and TD passes. Atlanta's offense featured depth, as Ryan threw scoring passes to a record 13 players during the season, and balance with running back Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Atlanta's offense provides nice support for its defense, but cornerback Jalen Collins insisted Tuesday he doesn't want to have to rely on that strength. 'You don't go in the game thinking you're going to give up hundreds of yards and a bunch of points,' Collins said. 'We're looking forward to trying to limit the points as best we can and give our offense an opportunity to put points on the board.' Falcons cornerback Robert Alford said expectations for a high-scoring game gives the defense reason 'to have a chip on our shoulders.' Added Alford: 'We're all going to have something to prove. I love it.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Patriots happy to be home for latest trip to AFC title game

KYLE HIGHTOWER, AP Sports Writer br /> FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts (AP) — The New England Patriots have had what seems like an annual spot in the AFC championship game over the past decade. But the fact that this year's game is at home could factor into whether they are able to make a return trip to the Super Bowl. The Patriots became the first team since the 1970 merger to advance to the AFC title game in six straight seasons with their win over the Houston Texans last week. The Patriots are 5-1 at home in AFC championship games, with their lone loss coming in 2013 against the Ravens in Ray Lewis' final trip to Foxborough. While being at home doesn't guarantee victory, playing the game at Gillette Stadium is welcomed by a team that has been on the road in two of their past three trips to the AFC title game. Both of those road games ended in losses to Denver, including a 20-18 defeat last season. 'It's the energy. You get out there and everyone is really energetic. The fans are really intense,' receiver Chris Hogan said Tuesday. 'At the end of the day, it's another football game, and I just have to approach it like that, just the way I've been approaching every single game this year. Go out there, play my best, play good football and try to help this team win as much as I can.' Special teams captain Matt Slater acknowledged that New England's performance against the Texans could have been better, but said no one is taking anything for granted about this latest shot at a Super Bowl berth. 'Anytime you win a playoff game, whether you play well or not, if you win the game that's all that matters,' Slater said. 'I think we all appreciate the opportunity that we have. Could we have played better? Certainly. But we could also be at home.' The Steelers — and coach Mike Tomlin specifically — can expect to get an even more hostile reception than usual from the Patriots fans. This comes after Tomlin was broadcast using a derogatory expletive to describe the Patriots during a postgame speech to his team following Pittsburgh's divisional-round win over Kansas City. Unbeknownst to Tomlin, the speech was aired on a social media livestream by Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown. Tomlin apologized for his use of 'regrettable' language on Tuesday. But he said he's not worried about it having an impact on his team's preparations this week. 'We are in the AFC championship. You aren't going to creep in the back door of New England and win a football game, and creep out of there with an AFC championship,' he said. 'I am not worried about our team's ability to deal with the potential distractions.' Slater said he continues to have respect for Tomlin and didn't think his comments would serve as any extra motivation. 'At the end of the day the only thing that is gonna matter is what we do in between those white lines on Sunday,' Slater said. 'What is said or what is done off the football field it really doesn't matter. It's about executing on Sunday.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

LA2024 committee proposes venues for 3 more Olympic sports

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The committee seeking to land the 2024 Summer Olympics for Los Angeles would stage archery at a new football stadium, mountain biking in a regional park and modern pentathlon at a stadium, with all three locations away from the downtown core. LA2024 announced on Tuesday its proposed locations for the three sports in completing a list of existing, planned or temporary venues for the Games. The committee has stressed the city's bid doesn't require any permanent venue construction. Archery would be held in the new football stadium in Inglewood, 12 miles from downtown Los Angeles. The stadium is currently under construction and set to open in 2019. It will be the home of the NFL's Chargers and Rams. It would also be the site of the opening and closing ceremonies, with gymnastics across the street at the Forum. Mountain biking would be hosted at Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park in suburban San Dimas, 30 miles from downtown. The venue would be upgraded and allow for future World Cup races to be held there. Modern pentathlon would be at StubHub Center in Carson, 17 miles from downtown, with all five of the sport's disciplines held within a single stadium. StubHub is the proposed venue for rugby during the first week of the games, and modern pentathlon would be held the second week. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Bite the bullet

The Duterte government is committed to pursuing a tax policy reform program that will not only generate additional revenues, but will also provide for a more.....»»

Category: financeSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

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. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

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. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

Jokic scores career-high 30, Nuggets beat Magic

em>By Pat Graham, Associated Press /em> DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic scored a career-high 30 points, Emmanuel Mudiay dished out a career-best 13 assists and the Denver Nuggets followed up their 'home' win in London with another at the Pepsi Center, beating the Orlando Magic 125-112 on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). Jokic also grabbed 11 rebounds and Kenneth Faried scored 20 points for the Nuggets, who certainly packed their surging offense with them when they returned home from London. They routed Indiana 140-112 last Thursday (Friday, PHL time) in England and remained on that sort of shooting streak, hitting a season-high 58.4 percent from the floor. They also had 33 assists. Elfrid Payton scored 20 points and had 12 assists as the Magic fell to 1-4 on their current six-game trip. Denver arrived home from London late on Friday (Saturday, PHL time), took Saturday off (Sunday, PHL time) and then went through an intense practice Sunday (Monday, PHL time) designed to shake any sort of lingering jet lag. 'Now, it's mental,' Nuggets coach Michael Malone said before the game. 'Can you push all that tiredness and fatigue and jet lag out of you mind?' They certain did. Up 69-63 early in the third quarter, the Nuggets pulled away with a 16-2 run. The Magic cut into a 22-point deficit, but Faried put the game way with an emphatic dunk with 1:28 remaining. The officials operated with a two-person crew after Nick Buchert was a late scratch for personal reasons. It really didn't seem to be an issue for Tom Washington and Justin VanDuyne, who were never really out of position. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Magic: /strong> /em> G/F Evan Fournier was out with a bruised right heel. C Nikola Vucevic scored 17 points, and the Magic had seven players in double figures. em> strong>Nuggets: /strong> /em> G Gary Harris suffered a sprained right ankle early in the first quarter and didn't return. X-rays were negative. Jokic had five assists. He entered the game averaging 3.9, which is fourth-best among centers. strong>ALL-STAR ATTENTION? /strong> Although Jokic is averaging 13.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists, Malone doesn't expect his big man to be in All-Star consideration just yet. That has to do with Denver's sub-.500 record and not his play. 'Unless you're winning, I don't think you're going to be in the conversation,' Malone said. 'With that being said, everybody in the NBA knows Nikola and what he brings to the table. He's probably one of the most fun players to watch.' strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Magic: /strong> /em> At New Orleans on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) for the sixth and final game of this trip. em> strong>Nuggets: /strong> /em> At Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). The Nuggets are 1-6 in the second game of a back-to-back this season. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

Hold the panic button, TNT remains confident despite slump

At the end of 2016, TNT was primed to make a run at the top-2 spots in the Philippine Cup. But after two weeks of play in 2017, the KaTropa suddenly find themselves in a crowded pack where one is surely to be eliminated in about a month. Stuck at 4-4, TNT is tied with four other teams for the 5th-9th spots after a loss on Sunday. A win would have put them tied for second with three games to go. 'Lahat ng teams nasa gitna. Lahat may chance na maka-abot sa twice-to-beat, sayang yung opportunity,' rued TNT star guard Jayson Castro after dropping a 77-88 decision to the Hotshots, their second straight for the new year. Despite the unusual situation they are in right now, no panic buttons have been pressed on the part of TNT. With eight teams separated by only one game in ythe standings, things can certainly chance with three games to go in each of their respective schedules. 'Hindi naman [alarming]. From day one, I've been telling them that there has to be changes. I've been calling out their attention, their names, yung mga dapat nilang baguhin. Change doesn't happen overnight. It's not just letting you know of your mistake and the next day, iba na agad,' head coach Nash Racela said. 'Mindset is to still get as much wins because your position after the eliminations, you don't have control over. Sa amin lang, subukan natin ipanalo every game and kung saan tayo malagay, you just have to prepare for the next battle,' he added. Instead of being worried, Castro shares his head coach's sentiment and remains confident of their chances moving forward. 'Confident pa rin kami kasi alam naman namin na ginagawa namin yung mga kailangan namin gawin,' the Blur said.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8 .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

I'll have the usual: Patriots advance to AFC title game

JIMMY GOLEN, AP Sports Writer br /> FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts (AP) — Short nights and short offseasons. It's the Patriot way. New England has advanced to the AFC championship game for a record sixth year in a row and the 11th time in 16 seasons. With one more win, the Patriots (15-2) would play in their seventh Super Bowl since 2001. To find out who was still in their way, they had to wait for the Pittsburgh Steelers to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 18-16 on Sunday. That's also something they've grown accustomed to in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era. 'It was a long night — or a short night, however you want to look at it,' Belichick told reporters on Sunday, about 13 hours after beating the Houston Texans 34-16. 'We have people on our staff that work on our next opponent, just like we always do. This one's a little tougher because we're working on two teams instead of one, but they've just worked harder and gotten it done.' Brady completed 18 of 38 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns in the divisional-round victory over Houston, but he also threw two interceptions — as many as he had all season. Dion Lewis had three touchdowns — one running, one on a pass reception and a 98-yard kickoff return — but fumbled another return and helped the Texans stay in the game. So the Patriots don't have to look too far to find things to work on this week. 'There are some things I could do a lot better on, protect the ball. I put my team in jeopardy,' said Lewis, who is the first player in the Super Bowl era to score on a run, catch and kickoff in the playoffs. 'We have a lot of work to do. We made a lot of mistakes. I'm glad we got a win, but in order to advance next week, we've got to play a lot better.' Brady was also focusing on improving. 'I think we've just got to learn from it,' he said. 'It was a lot of things, and then when you add our poor execution on top of that, then you add our turnovers on top of that, it doesn't feel great because we worked pretty hard to play a lot better than we played. 'I give them a lot of credit, but we're going to have to play better on offense. We expect to go out and have a good week and try to fix the things that we saw tonight, and then try to play better next weekend.' Brady, 39, overcame his four-game 'Deflategate' suspension to propel himself into the Most Valuable Player discussion while throwing for 28 touchdowns in the regular season and just two interceptions — the best ratio in NFL history. He has not missed the playoffs in a healthy season since 2002, and his 11 appearances in the conference title game is a record for any player. Saturday's win gave Belichick the record for coaching appearances in a conference championship, his 11th, breaking a tie with Dallas' Tom Landry. 'It's really a testament to this organization,' said New England defensive back Duron Harmon, who had one of three interceptions of Houston's Brock Osweiler. 'The work we continue to put in, how hard the coaches continue to push us. It's just a testament, it's very rarely done, and I'm just excited to be a part of something like this because there's not too many places that win like this.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

High-scoring Falcons to host Packers in NFC title game

CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer   ATLANTA (AP) — Matt Ryan and the high-scoring Falcons offense will have one more game in the Georgia Dome after all. The Falcons will host the NFC championship game next Sunday against Green Bay after the Packers beat Dallas 34-31 in Sunday's divisional playoff game. Ryan continued his hot streak of turnover-free passing in leading Atlanta to a 36-20 win over Seattle in Saturday's first divisional game. The MVP candidate threw for 338 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions against the Seahawks. It was Ryan's fifth straight game without an interception, leading to a five-game winning streak for Atlanta. He has 14 touchdown passes in that span. Ryan and the NFL's top-scoring offense impressed cornerback Richard Sherman and the Seahawks. 'They do a lot of things well,' Sherman said. 'The quarterback gets the ball out, he doesn't turn the ball over, so that will do it.' Ryan was in top form in leading Atlanta to a 33-32 home win over Green Bay on Oct. 30. He completed 28 of 35 passes for 288 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Falcons (12-5) have leaned on Ryan and their balanced offense in their pursuit for the second Super Bowl appearance and first championship. Ryan kept the offense moving against Seattle even as All-Pro Julio Jones aggravated a toe injury. Jones spent much of the second half on the sideline, but still had a game-high six catches for 67 yards and a touchdown in his highly anticipated matchup with Sherman. Jones' status will be closely watched this week. He missed two games this season with the sore toe. He still finished second in the NFL with 1,409 yards receiving on 83 catches, including six for touchdowns. Coach Dan Quinn said Saturday that Jones' injury was 'no concern at the moment' but acknowledged 'it'll be sore.' Added Quinn: 'I anticipate him being ready to rock next week.' Jones was not available for postgame interviews, adding to speculation about the severity of the injury. Ryan has a large list of targets behind Jones. He completed passes to eight receivers against the Seahawks. Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for seven catches for 102 yards, including a 14-yard scoring catch by Coleman. 'The ability for them to add another receiver to our offense has been critical for us. It really has,' Quinn said. Coleman had 11 carries for 57 yards. Freeman had 14 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown. Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Atlanta's run game wasn't overwhelming, but it was effective. 'They didn't run for a lot of yards today but they ran well enough,' Carroll said. 'They ran with authority, I thought. It was a very impressive component. Somewhere in the fourth quarter, they were pounding us pretty good and we couldn't stop them.' Receivers Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel each had four catches. The NFC championship game will be a dramatic final bow for the Georgia Dome. The facility, the team's home for 25 years, will be demolished as the Falcons move into their new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the 2017 season. The Falcons regularly play before sellout crowds, but they rarely open games with the stands full as fans battle Atlanta traffic. On Saturday, most in the crowd of 71,155 were there well before the opening kickoff. Late in the game, with the win a certainty, fans chanted 'MVP! MVP!' for Ryan. 'From the opening kickoff, the dome was rocking,' Ryan said. 'That's got to be as loud as it's ever been in here.' Ryan's reward is another home game with a Super Bowl berth on the line. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

Australian Open quotes: Rafael Nadal says no plans to retire

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal isn't planning to give up tennis anytime soon. Johanna Konta won't take too seriously her dominating win in the Sydney International last Friday. And Sam Stosur, who has never done well at her home Grand Slam tournament, isn't getting too down on herself after her preparation — or lack of it— for Melbourne Park. Following are some thoughts and impressions from players who spoke on Sunday, the day before the start of the Australian Open: ___ RAFAEL NADAL The takeaway: Rafa is not about to call it quits anytime soon. Nadal, a 14-time major winner, is coming off two lengthy injury layoffs last year, including 2 ½ months off after pulling out of the French Open before the third round with left wrist injury and another rest at the end of the season. Just don't ask him if he's ready to pull out a rod and reel, or a 9-iron. 'If I don't believe that I can be competitive, and when I mean competitive, is fighting for the things that I fought for during the last 10 years, I will be probably playing golf or fishing at home,' Nadal said. 'I am being honest ... I am here because I believe ... I can fight for the things that really motivate me.' Given his history with injuries, Nadal was asked if he was playing pain free. 'What do you mean 'pain-free'?' he said. 'I am not injured, no. Pain-free is a long time ago.' ___ JOHANNA KONTA The Sydney-born British player, a surprise semifinalist at Melbourne Park last year, won the Sydney International final against Agnieszka Radwanska last Friday, a victory so dominating that the Polish player, ranked third in the world, said: 'I can't remember playing someone like this on that level, that consistent for the whole match. I couldn't really say that I did something wrong. She was just playing amazing tennis.' Konta said Sunday she's not reading too much into those plaudits. 'Obviously to have beaten a player like Aga, I'm definitely very pleased with the level I played,' Konta said. 'But we all know that it's not a given. It doesn't decide how you will do in the next event. I'm taking it as a positive from the week itself, but I'm looking to, again, work hard here and really try to do the best that I can here.' ___ SAMANTHA STOSUR Competing in her 15th Australian Open, the highest-ranked Australian woman in the draw has never made it past the fourth round at Melbourne Park. Her preparation for her home major wasn't helped with first-round losses at Brisbane and Sydney 'I can't change it, it is what it is,' Stosur said of her early exits. 'I'm not going into my first round freaking out that I haven't had more than two matches. Like I said, I've done everything else that I can. Obviously it would have been really nice to have played more. But I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person in that situation from the first two weeks of the year.' The 18th-seeded Stosur has a tough first-round match against Heather Watson of Britain. ___ SIMONA HALEP The fourth-seeded Halep lost in the first round last year at Melbourne Park. This year she'll have the distinction of opening play on the main Rod Laver Arena on Monday, against American Shelby Rogers. 'I hope is going to be better this year ... it's special to open the tournament on the biggest stadium. I'm not thinking very much at that thing. I just have to go there. I know the opponent pretty well.' Halep beat Rogers in straight sets in the third round at the 2015 U.S. Open in their only previous meeting. ___ TOMMY HAAS The 38-year-old German veteran has said 2017 will be his last year on tour — he's taking over as tournament director at Indian Wells. Haas, who plays Benoit Paire of France in the first round, wants to go out with some dignity after a career of injuries. He has been ranked as high as No. 2, won 15 ATP Tour titles, reached the semifinals of the Australian Open three times and Wimbledon once, and won a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. His career has been stalled by injuries since he had shoulder surgery two years ago and right foot surgery in the middle of last year. 'I think it's important to find that right time, or that moment for you when you feel it's over and it's time to do something else,' Haas said Sunday. 'For me it's very important just to be back on tour and back here at the Australian Open. It's been a while since I've played here and I'm excited to get the opportunity to go out on the court one more time and compete.' And to keep playing, hoping that his best is once again around the corner. 'When you are a dreamer, and a lot of us are, you obviously like to play at your best level again, maybe play against some of the top players somewhere on a big stage and play a great matches,' Haas said. 'Maybe get far in a tournament one more time.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

Texans couldn't avoid mistakes in 34-16 loss to Patriots

JIMMY GOLEN, AP Sports Writer br /> FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts (AP) — Jadeveon Clowney arrived at his stall in the visitors' locker room on Saturday night to find a swarm of reporters talking to fellow defensive lineman — and former Patriot — Vince Wilfork next door. 'Excuse me!' Clowney shouted, over and over again, unable to get a television camera to move out of his way before he uttered an expletive and found another place to change out of the uniform he won't need any more this season. It was that kind of a day for the Texans, who made their presence felt but couldn't stop New England from winning 34-16 to advance to the AFC championship game for the sixth straight year. 'We held our own for a while,' Houston offensive lineman Duane Brown said, noting that the Texans trailed by four points at halftime and eight heading into the fourth quarter. 'We had a lot of self-inflicted mistakes that cost us.' Brock Osweiler threw three interceptions , the defense allowed Tom Brady to throw for 287 yards on a night he was picked off twice, and the Patriots also scored on a 98-yard kickoff return to move one win from their seventh Super Bowl appearance since 2001. The Texans return to Houston with an AFC South title and a first-round victory over Oakland but also a measure of how far they have to go to compete with the conference's best. 'Any time you don't end your season with a Super Bowl championship, you're going to be disappointed. And I'm certainly disappointed,' Osweiler said. 'The one thing I will say is that I think it's easy to point out the negative, especially on offense, of what has taken place this year. But I think there was also a lot of great things that took place that we can certainly build on in the future.' Houston coach Bill O'Brien said after the game that he had no intention of leaving, despite rumors that he is at odds with management. 'I'll be back next season. I'll be the Texans coach. I have a five-year contract. This is Year 3,' he said. 'But, like I've also said, I've got to do a better job. ... It starts with me. I don't point fingers; I look in the mirror. I look right, square in the mirror.' The Texans sacked Brady twice, with Clowney hitting him several times — always a bit too late, and once drawing a flag for roughing the passer. Brady's two interceptions were as many as he threw all season. 'That was the game plan going in, to try to hit him as much as possible,' defensive end Christian Covington said. 'At the end of the day, it didn't count for anything.' Wilfork, 35, had openly discussed retirement and received a farewell cheer from the opposing fans when he was shown on the scoreboard in the final seconds. He responded with a wave, then struggled to get off the field as one Patriot after another came to wish him well. But afterward, Wilfork said he hadn't decided yet whether he was done. 'I will take my time and think about it. I think I have played my last NFL football game,' he said. 'It doesn't change the fact that I enjoyed every bit of my career.' Wilfork spent 11 years in New England and the last two in Houston. He won two Super Bowls with the Patriots and made the playoffs in all but one season of his career. Asked if it was a special moment to get a going-away cheer from the Patriots fans, he said, 'It's never special to lose.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

Yes Sir: Andy Murray confident he can break Aussie drought

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Andy Murray has become a father, gained the No. 1 ranking and received a knighthood since he left Melbourne Park 50 weeks ago after losing a fifth Australian Open final. Stress weighed him down at the season-opening Grand Slam in 2016, to the point where he thought about quitting the tournament to head back to Britain to be with his heavily pregnant wife. But even that would have presented problems, considering his father-in-law was in a Melbourne hospital after collapsing with an illness while watching a match at the Australian Open. Clearly, he's in a better place this year as he seeks to end his Australian drought. 'I obviously feel pretty confident after the way that last season finished,' he said. 'I do love it here. I love the conditions. I have played really well here over the years, and just haven't managed to get over the final hurdle. 'But, yeah, I think I'm in a decent position, for sure, to do it. I think I have a chance to win here. I'm playing well. Practice has been good. I feel healthy. I'll give it a good shot.' Rumors circulated last year that Murray would go home before facing Djokovic, his Melbourne nemesis, in the final. As it was, he was on the first flight to Heathrow after losing in straight sets — his fourth Australian Open final defeat to Djokovic and fifth overall dating back to 2010. His wife, Kim Sears, gave birth to their first child, Sophia Olivia, the following week. He confirmed Saturday, two days before he opens the 2017 tournament against Illya Marchenko of Ukraine, that he really had thought about leaving early. 'It was a tough tournament, obviously the situation with Kim and the baby coming was tough,' he said. 'Then with what happened with Nigel during the event made it really kind of awkward because there was times ... it was like 'I want to home for the birth,' but then I'm not just going to leave while my father-in-law is also in hospital. 'It was tough, and certainly not a position I would want to put myself in again, or my wife, or any of my family really.' Murray had a stunning end to 2016 after reuniting with Ivan Lendl as coach in June, winning his second Wimbledon title, defending his Olympic gold medal, and adding titles in Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris to end Djokovic's 122-week stint at No. 1. He then clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking by winning the ATP Finals, beating the players seeded second, third, fourth and fifth. He set a record for most time between gaining the No. 2 and No. 1 rankings — seven years, and 82 days. But he has set a lot of timely records for British tennis in the last three seasons and, in Queen Elizabeth II's New Year's honors list, he received a knighthood from the British monarch for reaching the pinnacle of the sport. Roger Federer was asked if he could remember what it was like back in 2004 when he first became No. 1, and how he'd explain it to Murray. 'It definitely feels different because everybody comes up to you and says, 'You're the best,'' said Federer, who spent a record 302 weeks at No. 1. 'You start walking around a bit differently. Just feel more confident overall in your shots.' Murray said he hasn't really felt a difference yet, but it has only been eight weeks. Considering how hard it was to achieve the top spot, he's hoping it doesn't take twice the energy to hang on to it. 'It is a mindset thing, because I think it could be quite easy that once you get to No. 1 that you think, 'Well, actually, I just need to keep doing what I've been doing,'' he said. 'The reality is that things obviously keep moving on, the game will get better, I'll obviously get older, the young guys will continue to improve, and also Novak and Roger and Stan (Wawrinka) and Rafa (Nadal) and all the guys at the top are still going to be wanting to get there. 'I need to continue to improve. I for sure need to keep working hard.' One thing he doesn't really want to change is how people refer to him now that formally he's recognized as Sir Andy Murray, particularly the broadcasters. 'I'm more than happy just being Andy. That's enough for me,' he said. 'Yeah, if they call me Andy, I'd be happy with that.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017