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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

Worth a mention: Williams aiming for record 23rd major title

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer   MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Serena Williams definitely doesn't want to talk about the No. 23. She doesn't really want to think about planning a wedding, either, while she's pursuing a Grand Slam record. Newly engaged Williams brushed off concerns about the 88 unforced errors she had in a loss in New Zealand last week in her only warmup tournament ahead of the Australian Open, which starts Monday and where she's aiming for Open-era record 23rd major title. 'I've moved on,' she said. 'I'm feeling relaxed, calm, ready and poised.' Williams responded to questions about milestone achievements last year when she had 21 Grand Slam titles, and it didn't help — she lost the final here to Angelique Kerber and to Garbine Muguruza at the French Open before winning Wimbledon to equal Steffi Graf's Open era mark of 22. She's being more superstitious this time. 'I'm not talking about that,' Williams, a six-time Australian Open winner, said as she shut down questions during a promotional activity this week. 'I said I'm not talking about that. Move on.' Another Australian title is also high on the agenda for Novak Djokovic, who already has won six. But he isn't thinking much beyond his opening match after drawing Fernando Verdasco. A first is the priority for Andy Murray, recently knighted in Britain after finishing 2016 at No. 1. He is looking at the draw from the top for the first time at a major and is hoping it comes with a change in fortunes at Melbourne Park. He has lost five Australian Open finals — the first to Roger Federer in 2010, the other four to Djokovic. Federer could again stand in his way, only at the quarterfinal stage this time. The 17-time major winner slipped down the rankings during six months off last year recovering from an injured left knee and was seeded No. 17. Williams took time off after the U.S. Open, where she lost in the semifinals for the second year running and lost the top ranking to Kerber. The big news during her break was her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian last month, when she posted a poem on the news website to confirm she'd accepted his proposal. After hitting this week with 16-year-old Destanee Aiava, who will be the first person born in the 2000s to play in the main draw of a major when she meets a qualifier in the first round, Williams said her mind was back entirely on business. 'I told (Ohanian) my main goal was to win this title,' she said. 'Yeah, it really doesn't feel like anything different.' No date has been set for the wedding, with Williams' mind on one major thing, so she's not thinking about a dress or a cake, and she's not wearing a ring to practice. 'Oh my God. I don't think about it really,' she said, responding to questions about her marriage plans. 'I'm just ... I don't know I'll have to ask him that. I have a job — I mean, he does too. I kinda gotta focus.' Kerber won the Australian and U.S. Open titles last year, so will be attempting to defend a major for the first time in Melbourne. She may be feeling pressure as the No. 1 seed, having won only one match in two warmup tournaments in Brisbane and Sydney. That doesn't take any pressure off Williams. 'I am No. 2, I guess. I definitely don't feel like anyone's saying that, 'Oh, there's no pressure on Serena,'' she said. 'It's always there, I'm used to it. 'I feel like I've been No. 1 for so long, so many times. I've done things that are amazing. Sometimes that ranking really means a lot, but also I feel like sometimes just winning events ... means just as much.' That's something Djokovic understands. His 122-week streak at No. 1 ended amid Murray's incredible finish to last season, when he won Wimbledon and defended the Olympic gold medal among eight titles he won after reuniting with Ivan Lendl as coach. Before then, Djokovic had beaten Murray in the Australian and French Open finals, his 11th and 12th major titles. Half of those have come in Melbourne, where his victory last year equaled the record six Australian titles Roy Emerson won (1961 and 1963-67). 'I'm feeling phenomenal,' Djokovic said after arriving in Australia following a win over Murray in his season-opening event at Doha. 'Maybe this is the year — 2017 for seven. I'm not a numerologist, but it sounds good.' Murray jumped on a flight almost immediately after last year's final to be with his wife, who was expecting their first child. There have been plenty of changes for him since, becoming a father for the first time, No. 1 in the world for the first time, and reuniting with Lendl. 'Each time I come, I think I've got a chance of winning but it's just never happened,' he said. 'Hopefully, this year will be different. 'I do think the last few months of last year can help me with giving me confidence — other players look at that and see you're playing well and (I) feel physically and mentally strong.' Fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka, who ended the run of wins by Djokovic and Murray when he won the U.S. Open last September, said the next generation of players such as Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic and 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori would be among the contenders for the Australian title. But he thinks it will be difficult for any new champion to emerge against the likes of the in-form Murray and Djokovic, and the returning Federer and Rafael Nadal. 'So far, last 10 years, the 'Big Four' was really strong,' Wawrinka said, 'so it's going to be interesting to see this year how Novak, Andy, Rafa, and Roger will play.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 13th, 2017

Cristiano Ronaldo wins FIFA best player award for 4th time

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> ZURICH (AP) — Capping what he called the best year of his career, Cristiano Ronaldo won his fourth FIFA best player award on Monday. The double European champion with Portugal and Real Madrid beat great rival Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann to complete a sweep of top individual awards. 'It was a year that was magnificent at a personal level and at a sporting level,' the 31-year-old Ronaldo said in Portuguese in his acceptance speech, which he began by exclaiming 'Wow, wow, wow.' Ronaldo's fourth career FIFA award closed the gap on five-time winner Messi, who has been the runner-up to each Ronaldo victory. His 34.54 percent of total voting points in a 23-candidate ballot was clearly better than Messi's 26.42 percent. Griezmann got 7.53 percent. Voting was by national team captains and coaches, selected media, and fans online. Messi did not attend after being pulled out hours before the ceremony by his club Barcelona to prepare for a cup match on Wednesday. 'Of course, I wish that they (Barcelona players) had been here tonight like in the other years. We have to respect the decision,' Ronaldo said. Yet again, Ronaldo and Messi snubbed each other on ballot papers they got as captains of Portugal and Argentina. Ronaldo selected three Real Madrid teammates headed by Gareth Bale, and Messi picked Luis Suarez atop an all-Barcelona ballot. Ronaldo's 2016 trophy haul included the European Championship, Champions League, and Club World Cup, plus individual best player awards from UEFA and France Football magazine. 'I won a lot trophies, collective and individual, so I am proud,' said Ronaldo, adding he would send the inaugural silver FIFA Best trophy to the museum dedicated to his career on his home island, Madeira. Messi's Barcelona won the Spanish league and cup double in 2016, though Argentina lost another Copa America final. Griezmann's France and Atletico Madrid lost their finals to Ronaldo's teams. Ronaldo's mentors for club and country were beaten to the coaching award by Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri, who earned the prize for a stunning English Premier League title. 'What happened last year was something strange. The God of football said Leicester must win,' said Ranieri, who was in his first season at the unfashionable provincial club widely tipped for relegation. Ranieri rose from his seat and politely shook hands with his two opponents, Madrid's Zinedine Zidane and Portugal's Fernando Santos, plus their partners before heading to the stage. The 65-year-old Italian collected his trophy from Diego Maradona, who earlier Monday played in an exhibition match with other retired greats at FIFA headquarters. Carli Lloyd of the United States won a FIFA player prize for the second straight year, despite a quarterfinals exit at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. With gold-medal winner Melanie Behringer of Germany in third place, Lloyd got more than 20 percent of the vote and five-time winner Marta of Brazil was runner-up with 16.6 percent. Behringer got 12.34 percent. 'I honestly was not expecting this,' Lloyd said. 'I know Melanie did fantastic in the Olympics.' Germany did win the women's coaching prize as Silvia Neid earned her second FIFA prize, after also winning the 2010 award. Neid beat two previous winners: last year's winner, Jill Ellis of the United States, and Pia Sundhage of Sweden, the Olympic silver medalist. The Puskas Award for best goal was won in an online poll by Mohd Faiz Subri, who scored with a wildly swerving long-range free kick for Malaysian club Penang. A players' vote organized by international union FIFPro gave a World XI of: Manuel Neuer (Germany, Bayern Munich); Dani Alves (Brazil, Barcelona/Juventus), Sergio Ramos (Spain, Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Spain, Barcelona), Marcelo (Brazil, Real Madrid); Toni Kroos (Germany, Real Madrid), Andres Iniesta (Spain, Barcelona), Luka Modric (Croatia, Real Madrid); Messi, Luis Suarez (Uruguay, Barcelona), Ronaldo. The First FIFA fan award was chosen by fans and was made to supporters of Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, who joined in singing the English club's anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' before a Europa League quarterfinal. The other nominees were Iceland fans at Euro 2016, and Dutch club ADO Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord. FIFA made its Fair Play Award to Atletico Nacional, the Colombian club which was scheduled to host Chapecoense in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final on Nov. 30. After most of the Brazilian team died in a plane crash flying to the match, Atletico Nacional asked the South American soccer confederation to present the title and trophy to Chapecoense. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 9th, 2017

Justin Thomas holds on to beat Hideki Matsuyama at Kapalua

br /> DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Justin Thomas kept reminding himself that a one-shot lead with two holes to play is never a bad place to be on the PGA Tour. Ignoring that his five-shot lead was nearly gone against Hideki Matsuyama, Thomas thought more about the great golf that had put him in this position Sunday at the SBS Tournament of Champions. He responded by hitting an 8-iron from 214 yards on a downhill lie that was so pure he stopped to admire it before it landed. It plopped down in front of the pin and settled 3 feet away for a birdie. Matsuyama three-putted for bogey, and Thomas was on his way to a comfortable victory at Kapalua that moved him into the conversation of golf's young stars. 'The best shot I hit this week,' Thomas said. 'There's a tree that's a little slanted, and it's a perfect aiming point. I just kind of aimed it there and made sure I held onto the club, if anything, to make sure my miss was right. ... And really, I just flushed it. As soon as it came off, I knew it was going to be perfect.' Matsuyama, going after his fourth straight victory worldwide, knew he needed to make his 30-foot birdie putt to stay in the game. He ran it 8 feet by, missed the par putt coming back and was out of chances when Thomas hammered another tee shot on the par-5 18th. Thomas closed with a two-putt birdie for a 4-under 69 and a three-shot victory, his second of the PGA Tour season that moved him to No. 12 in the world. His other two PGA Tour title were at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. 'I think it's potentially floodgates opening,' said Jordan Spieth, his best friend in golf since they were teenagers. 'The guy hits it forever. He's got a really, really nifty short game. He manages the course well. He's playing the golf course the way it should be played, and honestly, he's taking advantage of the easier holes. 'It's awesome to see,' Spieth said. 'He's going to be tough to beat next week, too.' Spieth closed with a 65 and tied for third with Pat Perez (67) and Ryan Moore (71). Matsuyama, who made two soft bogeys on the front nine to fall five shots behind, made it more of a game than anyone expected. The 24-year-old from Japan holed a flop shot for eagle on the 14th hole, and then Thomas hooked a 4-iron into the hazard on the par-5 15th hole and made double bogey. Just like that, Thomas went from a five-shot lead to a one-shot lead, and Matsuyama had a 10-foot birdie putt on the 16th to tie for the lead. The putt narrowly missed, and Thomas answered with his 8-iron for birdie to end it. Matsuyama closed with a 70. 'My putter let me down there at 16, 17 and 18,' Matsuyama said. 'I tipped my hat to Justin. He played well all day long.' Thomas is the only player to beat Matsuyama over the last three months. In his last six tournaments worldwide, Matsuyama had four victories and a pair of runner-up finishes — both to Thomas, in Kuala Lumpur and Kapalua. Thomas, who finished at 22-under 270, said his immediate thoughts were booking a return trip to Kapalua next year for the winners-only event. 'It changes things going forward because I know I'm coming back here,' Thomas said. The scenery down the 18th toward the blue Pacific, where humpback whales spent the afternoon breeching and splashing their tails, was even better because his parents were watching him win for the first time. His father, Mike Thomas, is a longtime head pro in Harmony Landing in Kentucky who is still his coach. Spieth closed with a 65 to tie for third with Pat Perez (67) and Ryan Moore (71). Spieth and Jimmy Walker came down to the 18th to congratulate the winner. Thomas started the final round with a two-shot lead and no one got closer until his blunder on the 15th. One of the longest hitters in golf with his slight build, Thomas really did miss a shot until the ninth hole, and that's when he got a huge break. With the wind stiff and in his face, he got quick with his driver and hit a snap-hook into the knee-high weeds left of the fairway. He hit a provisional for a lost ball and was about ready to abandon the search when a TV spotter was summoned to give an indication where it went. They found the ball, and it was sitting up a few inches above the roots, allowing Thomas to at least hack out into the fairway. He followed with a 3-wood onto the green for a two-putt par after starting with a shot that made double bogey appear likely. Thomas wasn't so fortunate on the 15th. 'I stumbled more than I would have liked to do,' Thomas said. 'But it shows where my game is at right now. I had some woes there, but I stuck it out to still get it done.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Ronaldo favored to win his 4th FIFA award as world's best

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> Cristiano Ronaldo's remarkable run of success can continue with a fourth FIFA award as the world's best player on Monday. A European champion with club and country last year, the Real Madrid and Portugal forward is favored to beat great rival Lionel Messi and France forward Antoine Griezmann when winners of the rebranded Best FIFA Football Awards are presented in Zurich. Messi leads Ronaldo 5-3 in their career-long duel for FIFA's top individual prize. However, Ronaldo is set to complete a hat-trick of major awards for 2016 after taking home trophies presented by UEFA and France Football magazine's prestiguous Golden Ball. FIFA will also name the best women's player, and the best coaches in men's and women's soccer. Voting is by national team captains and coaches, selected journalists and — for the first time — an online poll of fans. Each category counts for 25 percent of the points. Here is a look ahead to the awards ceremony: ___ CRISTIANO RONALDO After Messi in 2015, it was Ronaldo's turn to win the Champions League in 2016 as the prolific scorer netted 16 goals in the competition. He also got the decisive penalty in a shootout after a 1-1 draw with Griezmann's Atletico Madrid. But where he really dominated Messi was on the national-team stage. Ronaldo captained Portugal to a long-awaited first title at the European Championship — two weeks after Messi's Argentina again lost the Copa America final to Chile. Portugal seemed a long way from glory, and faced a humiliating group-stage exit, before Ronaldo's two goals helped salvage a 3-3 draw with Hungary. He also netted in the 2-0 semifinal win against Wales. In the final against host France, Ronaldo went off injured in the first half, then returned to the bench for extra time as — with his knee strapped — he passionately urged teammates on to a 1-0 win. For good measure, Ronaldo scored a Club World Cup final hat trick against Kashima Antlers in December, but that was after FIFA voting had closed. ___ LIONEL MESSI Messi looks to extend a streak of being winner or runner-up in nine straight seasons since placing second behind Kaka of Brazil in 2007. Last year, Messi and won a Spanish league and Cup double with Barcelona. Yet there was another painful Copa America final loss — a third straight year Argentina lost a major final without scoring — and a Champions League quarterfinal exit against Atletico. Nearing his 30th birthday, Messi's prolific scoring rate has not slowed, and 10 goals in the Champions League group stage means that Ronaldo's season record of 17 — set in 2013-14 — is within his sight this year. ___ ANTOINE GRIEZMANN Griezmann's goals helped get France and Atletico Madrid into major finals in 2016. In the Champions League final in Milan, Atletico trailed 1-0 to its city rival when Griezmann missed with a penalty kick that struck the crossbar. Still, he confidently converted his kick in the penalty shootout. Griezmann's six goals at Euro 2016 made him the tournament top scorer. In a tricky round of 16 match, his two goals overturned an early Ireland lead, and he also struck twice — including a coolly taken penalty — against favored Germany in the semifinals. However, he missed two good chances in the final against Portugal as France 1-0 in extra time. ___ COACHING AWARD Could the coach of a provincial club side beat the men who coached European champions Real Madrid and Portugal? Yes, when that coach is Italian Claudio Ranieri and his team, unheralded Leicester City, won an English Premier League title that delighted and stunned fans worldwide. Zinedine Zidane started 2016 having never coached a senior match. The newly appointed Madrid coach won a Champions League title within five months and started 2017 riding a 37-match unbeaten run. Fernando Santos marshalled one of the less obviously talented Portugal teams of recent years to win Euro 2016 despite winning only one of its seven matches during the 90 minutes. ___ WOMEN'S AWARDS Germany's Olympic gold medal-winning team is favored to sweep the awards. Midfielder Melanie Behringer is challenging two past FIFA award winners: defending champion Carli Lloyd of the United States and five-time winner Marta of Brazil. All three coaching candidates are previous FIFA award winners: Silvia Neid of Germany, last year's winner Jill Ellis of the United States and Pia Sundhage of Sweden. ___ FIFA AWARDS FIFA has added a Fan Award to its annual ceremony, and all three candidates from an online poll are European. Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, whose fans sang You'll Never Walk Alone before a Europa League match at Anfield; Dutch club ADO Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord; and the Iceland fans at Euro 2016 for their inspirational clapping salute to players after games. A fans' vote will also decide the Puskas Award for best goal. The candidates are: Marlone of Corinthians, Daniuska Rodriguez of the Venezuela women's Under-17 team, and Mohd Faiz Subri of Malaysian side Penang. FIFA will also present a Fair Play award, and members of the players' union FIFPro worldwide have voted to select a World XI team. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

Memphis Depay hoping to bounce back with Lyon

 LYON, France (AP) — With a move to Lyon secured, Memphis Depay is ready to prove himself all over again. The Netherlands forward joined the French club from Manchester United on a 4½-year contract and will wear the No. 9 jersey. 'I just want to show everybody what I'm capable of. I did in the past and I didn't show it every time at Manchester,' the 22-year-old Depay said. 'I want to score goals and get that feeling back again, to play in a full stadium. It's a very nice stadium here and I'm so excited to play there.' br /> Depay was presented on Friday with club president Jean-Michel Aulas and coach Bruno Genesio by his side. br /> 'He can make the difference with his speed and technique and can be a real plus for the team,' Genesio said. br /> Aulas said Depay's fee was 16 million euros ($17 million), along with a further 6 million euros in incentives and another 3 million euros if he extends his contract. United also has a buy-back option of about 35 million euros. br /> The Dutch forward had a largely unhappy spell at United after joining from PSV Eindhoven in June 2015 for 31 million pounds (then $48 million). br /> Depay said 'a couple of other clubs were interested' in buying him but Lyon's enthusiasm persuaded him to join the seven-time French champions, who are currently in fourth place in the league. br /> 'It wasn't just the trainer who wanted me, but also the president and that gave me a really comfortable feeling,' he said. 'Don't forget that it's a big club with a big history.' br /> Depay has not played since coming on as a substitute in the Europa League against Feyenoord on Nov. 24. But he is hoping to play a part in Sunday's home game against Marseille. br /> 'I know Sunday's game is important,' Depay said. 'Physically, I'm good. I've been training hard.' br /> At United, Depay was given the club's iconic No. 7 jersey worn by George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, but failed to live up to expectations, scoring only seven goals in 52 games. He was hardly used by United coach Jose Mourinho, making only four league appearances from the bench this season. br /> At Lyon, Depay is likely to be used on the left wing, forming a formidable forward line with top scorer Alexandre Lacazette and Nabil Fekir. br /> 'We focused on Memphis because he corresponds to the style of play we want,' Genesio said. 'It was an extraordinary opportunity for us to get a player of international class from United.' br /> If Depay does well for Lyon, it could increase the likelihood of Aulas selling either Lacazette — who is rated at about 50 million euros — or Fekir after the season. br /> Mourinho, meanwhile, is hopeful that Depay's United career is not yet completely over. br /> 'He didn't succeed in 18 months (at United), I would say, but he is very young,' Mourinho said. 'We all wish that he plays very, very well at Lyon and why not to come back, because everyone here likes him.' br />   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Defending champ Kerber advances to 4th round vs Vandeweghe

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer   MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Angelique Kerber had a straight-sets win for the first time in her first Australian Open title defense, starting her 6-0, 6-4 third-round victory with an eight-game streak against Kristyna Pliskova on Friday. Top-ranked Kerber beat the other Pliskova twin, Karolina, in the final of the last U.S. Open to capture her second career Grand Slam title. Her first was here at Melbourne Park 12 months ago. Kerber marked her 29th birthday on Wednesday with a second-round win over fellow German Carina Witthoeft, but said she didn't celebrate much between matches and hoped to do more at the end of the tournament. She'll next play 35th-ranked CoCo Vandeweghe, who reached the fourth round in Australia for the first time with a -4, 3-6, 7-5 win over 2014 semifinalist Eugenie Bouchard. 'It will be tough,' Kerber said. 'I'm ready. I'm feeling good. I'm loving to play on this court.' Eighth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova was broken in the second and third sets when serving for the match before finally beating former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 5-7, 9-7 in a 3-hour, 36-minute match. Two-time major champion Kuznetsova will next play No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who beat No. 11 Elina Svitolina 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. Vandeweghe recovered from an early break in the third set in a tense win over Bouchard, who was ranked as high as No. 5 in 2014 when she reached the semifinals in Australia and France and the final at Wimbledon. Vandeweghe converted her only break-point chance to take the first set but Bouchard leveled the match with two breaks in a dominant second set. The 22-year-old Canadian broke to open the third set and appeared to be in control until Vandeweghe changed her approach. 'She started playing better and I got a little passive in my game plan and executing it — I was able to turn it around thankfully,' Vandeweghe said. After holding in the key eighth game of the third set, when she saved four break points in a game that went to deuce eight times, Vandeweghe had the benefit of serving first with no tiebreakers in the deciding set. She easily held for a 6-5 lead and then, after Bouchard had a game point, went on a roll to close with a big backhand winner on her first match point. Vandeweghe has reached the quarterfinals and the fourth round in the last two years at Wimbledon, but her run to the third round in Australia in 2016 was her best at any major not played on grass. 'It's just another opponent on the way to achieving my goal,' Vandeweghe said of her win. 'Anyway I could get it done — I just wanted to get the result. Achieved my goal.' Vandeweghe's new doubles partner, Martina Hingis, cheered her on throughout the match. Afterward, the American joked that Hingis might scold her for playing 'too long to be fresh for the doubles.' Bouchard has been gradually improving her ranking in recent months. She hasn't gone past the third round of a Grand Slam tournament since slipping and falling in the locker room during the 2015 U.S. Open .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Raonic continues streak by reaching 3rd round in Australia

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Third-seeded Milos Raonic ended one streak and continued another with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4) Thursday over Gilles Muller to reach the third round at the Australian Open. Raonic, who reached the semifinals here last year and the final at Wimbledon, had lost both previous matches to Muller — including one when he retired with an injured hip in the second round at Wimbledon in 2012. His win Thursday maintained Raonic's record of reaching the third round at least all seven years he has contested the Australian Open. The 33-year-old Muller entered the season's first major after capturing his first tour-level title in Sydney last week. Raonic was unable to defend his Brisbane title in the first week of the season, but is finding rhythm quickly in Melbourne — he fired 21 aces, hit 56 winners and only had 15 unforced errors against Muller. He left the court complaining of a sore throat, and will get a day off before his next match against No. 25 Gilles Simon. No. 15 Grigor Dimitrov, who beat Raonic in the semifinals before winning the Brisbane International earlier this month, moved into the third round with a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Chung Hye-on. Dimitrov will next play No. 18 Richard Gasquet. No. 32 Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Donald Young 7-5, 6-3, 6-0. David Ferrer, the former world No. 3 who has only missed the quarterfinals once in the previous six years at Melbourne Park, recovered to beat U.S. qualifier Ernesto Escobedo 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 and set up a third-round match against fellow Spaniard and No. 13-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut. No. 30 Pablo Carreno Busta had a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win over Kyle Edmund to move into a third-round match against either six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic or Denis Istomin. U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova and No. 9 Johanna Konta carried their winning form from warmup tournaments into the third round of the season's first major. Brisbane International winner Pliskova beat Anna Blinkova 6-0, 6-2 in 59 minutes, and has dropped just four games en route to the third round. She was leading 6-0, 4-0 in the opening match on Rod Laver Arena before the 18-year-old Russian qualifier, ranked 189th, held serve and later held up her arm to acknowledge the cheers from the crowd. 'It's always good to be in the zone,' said fifth-seeded Pliskova. 'It can always be a bit better.' 'I'm feeling pretty good on the court, confident,' she said. 'Also, people are talking I have a good chance to win a Grand Slam, but we are just in third round, so let's see.' She will next play Jelena Ostapenko, who beat No. 31 Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-1. Sydney International winner Konta, who made a surprising run to the semifinals in her debut Australian Open last year, advanced 6-4, 6-2 over Naomi Osaka. Konta, voted the WTA Tour's most improved player of 2016 after moving from 48th to 10th in the rankings, will next play former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki. WTA Finals winner Dominika Cibulkova held off Hsieh Su-wei 6-4, 7-6 (8) and will next play No. 30 Ekaterina Makarova, who was leading 6-2, 3-2 when Sara Errani retired because of a leg injury. No. 14 Elena Vesnina advanced to a third-round encounter against U.S. qualifier Jennifer Brady, who saved five match points before beating Heather Watson 2-6, 7-6 (3), 10-8. Andy Murray returned to the practice court for an afternoon hitting session under the scrutiny of coach Ivan Lendl, allaying concerns about his injured right ankle. Top-ranked Murray, a five-time runner-up at Melbourne Park, twisted his ankle and tumbled to the court during the third set of his otherwise routine second-round win on Wednesday night. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

Williams, Safarova in French Open final rematch at Melbourne

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — On paper, Serena Williams' second-round match on Thursday against Lucie Safarova should be no contest. The six-time Australian Open champion in search of her record 23rd Grand Slam singles title has beaten the Czech player all nine times they've met, including the 2015 French Open final. But Safarova, ranked 61st, saved nine match points in the second set of her first-round match here against Yanina Wickmayer before advancing 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1. So Williams may need to be patient, or ruthless, in the match which opens night play at Rod Laver Arena. After her win Tuesday, Safarova wasn't aware of the extent of her feat. 'I stopped counting after a few (match points), I was like, just another one,' she said. 'But I was like, 'I'm just going to go for it and if she closes the match, well OK, but I'm just going to play my game.' It was exciting.' Safarova is expecting a fast start from Williams. 'Serena's always a tough opponent,' Safarova said. 'She hasn't played many matches so that could be maybe a little bit to my advantage, but she always comes out strong. I have nothing to lose so I'll be ready.' ___ Here is a look at some other matches in the bottom half of the draw on Thursday, the fourth day of the Australian Open: CONCERN FROM RAONIC: Milos Raonic takes on Gilles Muller, who is coming off his first career tournament victory at the Sydney International last week. Muller broke down at the trophy presentations in Sydney, relieved that he finally achieved a win. Raonic lost to Muller in Valencia, Spain in 2012, although that was before Raonic developed into the third-ranked player in the world. Raonic also had to retire from a second-round match at Wimbledon in 2011 while leading 3-2 in the first set due to a right hip injury. 'I have struggled with him,' Raonic said. 'He had a great, phenomenal week last week. For him it was something very special, and obviously it was pretty special to see, as well, that final and his reaction to it.' They play an afternoon match on Margaret Court Arena. ___ MUTUAL RESPECT: Johanna Konta beat Naomi Osaka in straight sets in their only previous meeting in the semifinals of qualifying at the U.S. Open in 2015. The pair, who meet again Thursday — the opening match of the day at Rod Laver — made positive impressions on each other during that match in New York. 'I remember playing her, and she had a real good serve and a really good return,' Osaka said of last year's semifinalist. 'I think it's really awesome like how she rose so high and quickly. She's a really good player.' Konta returned the favor: 'She's improved a lot. I know she plays a big game. She has big shots. I'm definitely prepared to go in for a battle.' ___ DOMINATING DJOKOVIC: Six-time champion Novak Djokovic has beaten his second-round opponent, Dennis Istoman, all five times they have met. Two of those matches have come at the Australian Open, although it wasn't until the third round. Istoman has won only one set in those five career matches. Among other matches Thursday, 2009 champion Rafael Nadal plays 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis and No. 3-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska takes on Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Wizards get hot from beyond the arc to beat Trail Blazers

em>By Stephen Whyno, Associated Press /em> WASHINGTON (AP) — Bradley Beal scored 25 points and John Wall had 24 as the Washington Wizards took a page from the Portland Trail Blazers' playbook by hitting 13 3-pointers in a comfortable 120-101 victory on Monday afternoon (Tuesday, PHL time). The Wizards, who rely less on the three-pointer than almost any NBA team, were 13-of-23 from beyond the arc in their 12th consecutive home victory. The three-pointer-heavy Trail Blazers shot 8-of-26 on three-point attempts. After Washington coach Scott Brooks called Portland guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum as good as any backcourt in the league, Beal and John Wall outplayed them. Lillard led the Blazers with 22 points and McCollum had 12, but they combined to shoot 11-of-29 from the floor. The Wizards have won four of their last five games. On the final day of All-Star voting, Wall put on show by dunking over Mason Plumlee and hitting a step-back three-pointer from the top of the arc. He finished 10-of-17 and Beal was 7-of-11, including 3-of-3 from three-point territory. Washington opened the game shooting 4-of-5 to jump ahead 10-0 and led by 30 after Marcin Gortat's layup with 4:24 left in the third quarter. Portland cut it as close as 17 in the fourth, forcing Wall and Beal back on the floor, but lost its second game in a row. strong>MLK DAY /strong> Wearing a shirt with the message: 'His dream inspired the world. Never stop dreaming,' Beal took the microphone to address the crowd of 17,395 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Brooks said he always stops by the MLK Memorial during his walks around the National Mall. Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said about half the team went to the National Museum of African American History and Culture after practice Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). 'It's a little sobering, the African-American experience in this country and also celebrating the contributions of the African-American community,' Stotts said. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Trail Blazers: /strong> /em>McCollum's streak of consecutive games with 25-plus points ended at eight. He became the eighth player to score 1,000 points this season, joining Russell Westbrook, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant and Isaiah Thomas. F Maurice Harkless, who was questionable with a left calf injury, was 0 of 5 with no points. F Ed Davis, who had a left ankle injury, played just five minutes and scored two points. em> strong>Wizards: /strong> /em>Improved to 10-2 when F Otto Porter has at least three triples.. Their 37 first-quarter and 75 first-half points are season-highs. Their last 12-game home winning streak came in 1989 as the Bullets. F Markieff Morris had 17 points and 13 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. Kelly Oubre's 18 points were one shy of his career-high. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Trail Blazers: /strong> /em> Visit the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). em> strong>Wizards: /strong> /em>Look to extend their home winning streak to 13 when they host the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

On ballot for final time, Tim Raines hopes for Hall entry

SEAN FARRELL, Associated Press br /> MONTREAL (AP) — The 1982 All-Star Game at Olympic Stadium was the first outside the United States, the host Montreal Expos giving the event a distinctive international flair. As Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn looked on, center fielder Andre Dawson, catcher Gary Carter and left fielder Tim Raines were among five players wearing that tri-color hat of the hometown team. On Wednesday, Raines is likely to join Dawson and Carter as Expos in the Hall of Fame, expected to be voted the honor in his 10th and final year of eligibility. 'If I get in, that's the team I deserve to go in for, regardless if they no longer have a team,' Raines said in a phone interview from his home in Phoenix on Tuesday. 'That was the team I played with and I'm real comfortable with that.' Despite falling short of the 75 percent of votes necessary for election last year, Raines was named on 69.8 percent of the ballots cast by eligible members of the Baseball Writers of America. That was up significantly from 2015, when he finished seventh in voting with 55 percent. 'I was happy that I had gained a lot more votes,' Raines said. 'I was only 23 short and this is actually the first year of the 10 years that I really feel pretty excited about the prospect of it happening. But this will be the first year that I really feel that I have a legitimate shot.' An All-Star in each of his first seven seasons with the Expos, Raines is the only player to have four seasons hitting .300 or higher with at least 70 stolen bases; Ty Cobb and Rickey Henderson each had three. A switch-hitter, Raines batted .294 with 2,605 hits, including 713 for extra bases, and 1,330 walks. He scored 1,571 runs and ranks fifth with 808 stolen bases in a career from 1979 to 2002 with Montreal, the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Oakland, Baltimore and Florida. His 84.7 percent stolen base success rate is the best of any player with at least 400 attempts. Raines finished with a .385 on-base average. 'When you think about the caliber of career that Timmy had, he was an impact player,' Dawson said in a phone interview from Miami on Monday. 'You think about all the greatest leadoff hitters of all time, he measures right there.' To some, Raines' only fault was that he wasn't as great as Rickey Henderson, considered the best leadoff man ever. Carter became the first player inducted into the Hall with an Expos cap on his plaque in 2003, his sixth year on the ballot. Dawson was inducted in 2010 after his ninth try. 'I think it's a tribute to that organization that they are probably going to have three Hall of Famers that were teammates at the same time,' Dawson said. 'I do think that it's going to happen, first of all, but you didn't really get the notoriety, you didn't really get the same publicity as if you had been playing in the States. So it was a really, really tough environment I think playing across the border when it came to recognition.' Traded by Montreal after the 1990 season, Raines spent five seasons with the White Sox. He hit .444 and scored five runs in the 1993 AL Championship Series, which Chicago lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, and then won the World Series twice in three seasons with the Yankees from 1996-98. He signed with Oakland as a free agent in 1999 but was diagnosed with lupus midway through the season. A failed bid to make the United States Olympic team in 2000 fueled Raines' desire to prove he could still play, and Montreal offered him that opportunity in 2001. Raines was greeted with a standing ovation when he returned to Olympic Stadium as the starting left fielder for the Expos' home opener. The crowd of 45,183 remained on its feet all through his first plate appearance and cheered wildly when he drew a walk from Mets starter Glendon Rusch. 'The ovation that I got was really, really emotional,' Raines said. 'I remember I stole my 800th base against the Expos with the Yankees, and that was kind of emotional. The fans gave me a really big standing ovation, but the ovation I got in '01 topped anything that I could have even imagined, and at that time I knew that I was in love with Montreal.' Raines got to play with Vladimir Guerrero, who is on the ballot for the first time this year and could also enter the Hall as an Expos player if he is elected. 'Well, I think he's among the top players that ever played the game, that's for sure,' Raines said. '... He didn't really say much, but when the game started, you know who was top dog out on the field, and it was going to be him.' Late in the 2001 season, the Expos traded Raines to Baltimore to give him the opportunity to play with his son, Tim Jr., who was called up to make his major league debut with the Orioles. Raines, who retired after playing with Florida in 2002, was back with the Expos as a special coach at the end of the 2004 season when Major League Baseball announced that the team, which joined the National League in the 1969 expansion, was moving to Washington, D.C. The world's second-largest French-speaking city, which embraced Jackie Robinson when he played for the Montreal Royals of the International League in 1946, still pines for 'nos amours,' a term of endearment so profoundly French that it defies appropriate translation into English other than to say Montrealers love their Expos. 'Timmy happened to be one of those individuals that really made an impact not only with that organization but with the country for what he did, what he brought to the game, how he played the game, and how he was perceived all around baseball amongst his peers,' Dawson said. 'But I do feel that the Hall of Fame itself is the due recognition in the end.' .....»»

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

Matthews leads Mavericks to 98-87 win over T-Wolves

em>By Dave Jackson, Associated Press /em> DALLAS (AP) — Wesley Matthews scored 19 points and Dirk Nowitzki added 17 and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 98-87 Sunday (Monday, PHL time). J.J. Barea scored 15 points for Dallas, and Deron Williams had 13 points and 10 assists. Gorgui Dieng scored 21 points and Andrew Wiggins had 19 for the Timberwolves, who had their three-game winning streak snapped. Dallas broke open a two-point game by closing the third quarter on an 11-4 run, then Barea scored his team's first nine points of the fourth quarter. His bank shot in the lane with 8:01 to go extended the Mavs' lead to 88-76. Seth Curry then scored the next five points with a triple and a fast-break layup to give Dallas its largest lead of the game. Seeking their first four-game winning streak since December 2012, the Timberwolves closed a 14-point, third-quarter deficit to as little as two. Dieng scored nine points in the quarter, making all four of his field-goal attempts. Nowitzki scored 10 points in a 17-4 run at the start of the second quarter, including seven straight to finish the run. His three-pointer as the trailer on a Mavericks' fast break gave Dallas its biggest lead of the half at 44-29. They led 56-47 at the break. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Timberwolves: /strong> /em> Zach LaVine had missed the past two games with a hip bruise, but warmed up before the game and coach Tom Thibodeau declared him ready to go. He scored 11 points. em> strong>Mavericks: /strong> /em>The Mavericks announced the signing of guard Pierre Jackson to a 10-day contract. Jackson played for the Mavericks from Dec. 27 to Jan. 6 (Dec. 28-Jan. 7, PHL time), averaging three points, before being waived. Dallas also recalled forward Nicolas Brussino from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League, where he was averaging 16 points and eight rebounds. strong>PEER RECOGNITION /strong> As head of the National Basketball Coaches Association (NBCA), Dallas coach Rick Carlisle talked about the association's announcement of the Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award. The award will be the only one chosen by an NBA coach's peers and will be announced at the end of the regular season. Goldberg was the first executive director of the NBCA. 'Michael Goldberg is a beloved figure in the coaching world,' Carlisle said. 'We felt it was time to honor the work that he's done. This is a unique award because it's going to be voted on by peers only. It will have a little extra meaning for coaches. It's really time for something like this to happen.' strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Timberwolves: /strong> /em>Stay in Texas with a visit to San Antonio on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). em> strong>Mavericks: /strong> /em> Visit Chicago on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) for the first of a two-game road trip. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

Klinsmann believes US Soccer made progress before his firing

GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer br /> LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jurgen Klinsmann is proud of his half-decade in charge of the U.S. national team, and the coach believes he left successor Bruce Arena in a position to make the Americans even better. Klinsmann made his first public remarks since his firing when he spoke Friday at a convention of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in downtown Los Angeles. Klinsmann agreed to speak at the session before losses in the first two games of the final round of World Cup qualifying led to his dismissal. Klinsmann also was the program's technical director for his final three years in charge, supervising every aspect of the team's development and training. 'The results will tell in the future if it helped Bruce to achieve the goals that are set,' Klinsmann said. 'But I think whenever you have the chance to put your stamp on a program, you do it with everything you have, and that's what I tried to do. I think we achieved a lot within the system of U.S. Soccer, connecting a lot of dots — even though there are so many out there that are disconnected, which we know. But now it's there for the next group of leaders to continue that.' When his team lost at home to Mexico and at Costa Rica late last year, falling into an early hole in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Klinsmann was fired by the U.S. Soccer Federation on Nov. 21 after 5 1/2 years. Klinsmann didn't appear to agree with the decision, but he understands how it was reached. 'You have to be measured against benchmarks,' Klinsmann said. 'You cannot lose to Costa Rica and Mexico (if) that's the benchmark. Then that's the benchmark, and you have to live with that.' Klinsmann took the U.S. job after stints in charge of the German national team and Bayern Munich. The Americans won 16 games in his first year in charge, and they later claimed the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup title and a spot in the second round of the 2014 World Cup. But the program encountered several recent setbacks, and criticism grew for Klinsmann's style and strategy. The Americans still reached last year's Copa America semifinals before getting routed 4-0 by Argentina. Klinsmann wryly recalled that loss, saying it was a 'fair question' to ask how U.S. Soccer could accept such a blowout. Hyperbolizing, he said a team led by Lionel Messi 'could have given us eight' against the best American squad. Arena, who coached the U.S. from 1998 to 2006, opened the first training camp of his second stint this week, welcoming roughly 30 Major League Soccer-based players to a month-long camp. The U.S. resumes qualifying at home against Honduras on March 24, then plays four days later at Panama. Arena's roster includes several players ignored by Klinsmann, who at times seemed to preferred those on European clubs. He also engaged in public clashes with popular veterans, most notably leaving Landon Donovan off the 2014 World Cup team. Klinsmann, a World Cup champion player with West Germany in 1990, looks at his relationships with the top American players through the lens of experience now. 'I think as a player, you are kind of in a mindset where you know it always better than the coach, so you go through your career as a player and you never have the perfect coach,' he said. 'Later on, when you become a coach, you realize you were so wrong.' Klinsmann got a standing ovation from the audience of soccer coaches after his hour-long remarks during an interview and question-and-answer session. The coaches in attendance asked Klinsmann extensively about his technique and philosophy around numerous aspects of the job. 'As coaches, it's important to look outside and see, 'How do they do it there?'' Klinsmann said. 'We are always learning. I want to encourage you to understand how a better plan can be built.' As for his unfinished work with the U.S. team, Klinsmann sounded philosophical about that, as well. 'I think we all need to be aware that we're just part of a certain timeline, and then somebody else takes over and takes it to the next level in his own way,' he said. 'But a lot has been done in the last five years which I've been really proud of.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

Former England coach Graham Taylor dies at 72

ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer   LONDON (AP) — Graham Taylor, the England coach derided for failing to qualify for the 1994 World Cup after flourishing as a club manager working for pop star Elton John, has died. He was 72. Taylor, who won admiration by leading Aston Villa and Watford into the top-flight in the 1980s, died early Thursday of a suspected heart attack, his family said. 'The family are devastated by this sudden and totally unexpected loss,' a family statement said. Taylor is one of only four managers to have taken the same team from the fourth to the top division in English soccer, and he achieved it within five years at Watford. Elton John, who owned Watford during Taylor's two stints in charge, said it was a 'sad and dark day' for the club. 'He was like a brother to me,' John wrote on an Instagram post . 'We shared an unbreakable bond since we first met. We went on an incredible journey together and it will stay with me forever. 'He took my beloved Watford from the depths of the lower leagues to uncharted territory and into Europe. We have become a leading English club because of his managerial wisdom and genius.' Taylor reached the pinnacle of English management when he was hired by the national team in 1990, inheriting a side that reached the World Cup semifinals. 'His enthusiasm for life and football was incredible,' former England player Paul Gascoigne said. Taylor guided England to the 1992 European Championship, but the team was eliminated at the first stage, setting the tone for the rest of his time with the national team. After England lost 2-1 to Sweden in its final game at Euro 92, The Sun tabloid trashed Taylor with the headline: 'Swedes 2 Turnips 1.' Taylor's head was superimposed on a turnip, a caricature that led to the manager becoming known harshly as 'Turnip Taylor.' 'It hurts and that's what really, really annoys me,' Taylor recalled in a 2012 BBC documentary. 'They have no recognition about how much it hurts you. They think you don't care. 'And those people that know it hurts you, they put the knife into you so it hurts you even more.' Taylor's decision to grant behind-the-scenes access to a television crew for the qualifying campaign for the 1994 World Cup backfired when the extent of the strain of the job was exposed. In 'The Impossible Job,' Taylor was filmed complaining about a refereeing decision during a qualifier against the Netherlands, telling the linesman: 'Tell your mate he's just cost me my job.' Reflecting later on his shortcomings in the England job, Taylor said: 'I am not bitter. I am just disappointed in myself.' The failure to reach the 1994 World Cup in the United States was a blot on Taylor's accomplishments in management after a modest playing career ended at age 28 due to a hip injury. Having already become the youngest person to attain a full Football Association coaching badge, Taylor was able to move straight into management with Lincoln after playing for the team. After winning the fourth tier, Taylor moved south to Watford. With the boardroom backing of John, Taylor guided Watford from the fourth division to the first division (then the top tier), an FA Cup final and European competition in five years from 1978. John then allowed Taylor to move to Aston Villa, where he secured promotion to the top-flight and a second-place finish in 1990. He returned as club management after his England management, taking Watford back into the Premier League and enjoying one final spell at Villa before leaving the dugout for good in 2003. He was a regular commentator on matches in recent years for BBC radio. He is survived by wife Rita and daughters Joanne and Karen. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2017

Hawks win seventh straight, defeat skidding Nets

em>By Jeffrey Bernstein, Associated Press /em> NEW YORK (AP) -- Dennis Schroder had 19 points and 10 assists, Dwight Howard added 14 points and 16 rebounds, and the Atlanta Hawks won their season-high seventh straight game with a 117-97 victory Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) over the skidding Brooklyn Nets. Paul Millsap added 14 points for Atlanta, which led the entire way. Kris Humphries had 13, Malcolm Delaney scored 12 and Thabo Sefolosha finished with 10. Brook Lopez scored 20 points for the Nets, who have lost seven straight and 12 of 13. Bojan Bogdanovic added 16 and Sean Kilpatrick 14. Caris LeVert (11 points) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (10) also scored in double digits for Brooklyn. Lopez's three-pointer brought the Nets to 89-78 with 9:44 left. But the Hawks responded with a 24-8 run and opened their largest lead of the night, 113-86, on Taurean Prince's two free throws with 2:02 remaining. The Nets began the third quarter on a 15-7 run and pulled to 68-58 on Kilpatrick's bucket with 6:28 left. Atlanta scored the next four points and had an 86-70 lead after three. The Hawks went up 25-15 on Tim Hardaway Jr.'s three-pointer with 5:28 left in the opening quarter. Back-to-back three’s by Bogdanovic sparked an 8-0 run as the Nets pulled within two. That was as close as they got the rest of the way as Atlanta went on to lead 35-29 after the first quarter. The Hawks increased their lead to 61-41 on Kent Bazemore's two free throws with 1:39 left in the second before settling for a 61-43 halftime lead. strong>COACHING ROOTS /strong> Nets coach Kenny Atkinson was a Hawks assistant for four years, the last three (2013-16) under current Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer. 'This is special. Relationships are what make the world go round. I learned a lot from Bud. He always challenged me. He pushed me to be a better coach,' Atkinson said. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Hawks: /strong> /em> Schroder is the only Atlanta player to start all 38 games this season. em> strong>Nets: /strong> /em> Trevor Booker, the team's leading rebounder (nine per game), did not play due to a bruised left hip. Quincy Acy, who signed a 10-day contract, played the final 1:17 and scored four points. 'I'll come out here and prove myself and try to stick around,' he said before the game. Acy took the roster spot of Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft (by Cleveland) who was waived by the Nets on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). strong>OH, WHAT A NIGHT /strong> Dec. 26, 2016 (Dec. 27, PHL time), is a significant date for both teams. On that Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time), the Hawks lost to the Timberwolves 104-90 and the Nets defeated the Hornets 120-118. Atlanta has not lost another game since then and the Nets have not won another one. strong>TWO YEARS EARLIER /strong> On the same date in 2014, the Hawks lost to Milwaukee 107-77. Atlanta immediately followed that defeat with a franchise-record 19-game winning streak. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Hawks: /strong> /em> Atlanta hosts Boston on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). The teams have not met yet this season. They will play again on Feb. 27 in Boston and April 6 in Atlanta. The Hawks won the season series 3-1 last year. em> strong>Nets: /strong> /em> Brooklyn hosts New Orleans on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). The teams have not met yet this season. They will play again on Jan. 20 (Jan. 21, PHL time) in New Orleans. The Pelicans have won the last five games in the series. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

Fun and games, Dimitrov finds a way to break title drought

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Grigor Dimitrov concentrated on fun and games at the season-opening Brisbane International, looking for something a bit different to his regular routine. It turns out, that's what he'd been missing. Dimitrov ended a title drought that dated back to 2014 when he beat third-seeded Kei Nishikori 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 in the final on Sunday. The 25-year-old Bulgarian attributed some late-night trips to the game arcades in downtown Brisbane for the change of fortunes. 'I played motor bikes, we played cars, basketball, I mean, I went there with my fitness coach and we were — I think we were the biggest kids out there,' he said. 'You know, it's something so childish, if you want to say it. 'Well, every time I was going to bed, I was, like, 'Wow, that feels so good.' It's just something so small.' Dimitrov, dubbed 'Baby Fed' earlier in his career for his style similarities with Roger Federer, lost the Brisbane International final to Andy Murray in 2013. He won three titles and reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2014 as he rose to a career-high ranking of No. 8. But his form faded and he slipped down the rankings to No. 40 by the middle of last year. That's when he had to make some decisions, refocus, set some goals. The first was to win a tournament in 2017 — he's achieved that in the first week of the season. There are other goals, including better runs at the Grand Slams — he hasn't been past the fourth round since a career peak in the Wimbledon semifinals in 2014, when he beat Murray but lost to Novak Djokovic. He entered the season-opening Brisbane event ranked No. 17 and seeded seventh, and could rise to No. 15 for the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 16. 'It's been pretty emotional,' Dimitrov said. 'This trophy means a lot.' He didn't elaborate too much on any emotional upheaval, saying it's part and parcel of touring so much as a professional player. But he did say he needed to adjust how he spends his time on the road. 'I'm the kind of guy that I cannot just lock myself in the room and just think tennis for 24 hours. It hasn't helped me,' he said. 'And since I have been here, every night I've been going to the arcades, for example, for an hour and a half, been playing arcades. It's given me tremendous joy. 'That's why I say those, I think, these 10 days that I have been here — I don't remember having so much fun, but in the same time I was very focused, played quite solid all the matches. So I was just — overall, I just felt good.' He beat defending champion Milos Raonic in the semifinals, improving his career record to 3-1 against the big-serving Canadian. He'd never beaten Nishikori in three previous matches, and he had to save break points in the first game and again in the third. After that, he went on a roll. Nishikori, who reached his first Brisbane final after losing three previous semifinals, fended off a breakpoint early in the second set and went on to break Dimitrov's serve twice in an almost reverse of the first set. But the Japanese star lost momentum after a medical timeout for a left hip problem after the second set, and Dimitrov dominated before getting the decisive break in the eighth game and then serving out at love. Nishikori said the hip pain was intense in the second set, and may force him out of a scheduled exhibition match in Sydney on Monday before he heads to Melbourne. 'Well, sort of it was OK, but yeah, a little bit sad to finish (the tournament) like this,' he said. 'But I think it was great week to start of the year. I had good four matches here. Well, I try to stay healthy next week and hope I can be ready for,' for the Australian Open. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 9th, 2017

A guide to FIFA's options for expanding the 2026 World Cup

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer   FIFA is preparing to decide Tuesday on adding 16 more teams to the 2026 World Cup for a 48-team tournament. President Gianni Infantino's favored format would break with soccer tradition to play in groups of only three teams. Two would advance from each group to a Round of 32 knockout bracket. If agreed by the Infantino-chaired FIFA Council in Zurich, the 2026 hosting contest could formally open in weeks. A co-hosted North American bid is widely seen as the best option. Here are some things to know about overhauling the greatest competition in the world's most popular sport: ___ WHY EXPAND? A bigger World Cup was an Infantino campaign promise before his election last February, when his plan was 40 teams. It might have been key. Infantino's momentum for victory in a second-round poll was a three-vote lead over Sheik Salman of Bahrain in the first. Sheik Salman had promised only to review if more World Cup teams were wanted. Infantino also pledged to give more of FIFA's money to member federations — all 211 are now entitled to $5 million from each World Cup — and send more to continental and regional soccer bodies. So, more teams also had to mean more games, earning more revenue from broadcasters and sponsors. The '16x3' format arguably works better with only group winners advancing. But that would leave total matches unchanged at 64. Infantino also wants to create fervor in the extra countries which would qualify. In the short-term, competing national teams attract more sponsors. The long-term goal is appealing to more young people who are the future players, fans and officials. Expect to hear much FIFA talk of helping the next Costa Rica or Iceland — feelgood stories at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 — by inviting 16 more teams to the party. ___ 48-TEAM OPTIONS A near-consensus is growing around the '16x3' option revealed just one month ago. All 80 games would be played in exclusive time slots. That's more hours of TV exposure for sponsors and sales time for broadcasters in the same 32-day tournament period. By advancing two teams from each group, a Round of 32 ensures most teams still play at least three matches. FIFA's own analysis predicts this format will raise revenue by 20 percent from the equivalent $5.5 billion forecast from the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The flaw for purists is planning for penalty shootouts to settle drawn group matches. If each game has a 'winner' that guards against teams colluding on a mutually favorable result in the last group games. Previously, Infantino suggested an opening playoff round of 16 matches to decide who would join 16 seeded teams in a traditional 32-team group phase. That was unacceptable to many FIFA members federations who said 'one-and-done' teams were not part of a real World Cup. It also would stretch the tournament to 39 days. ___ 40-TEAM OPTIONS Infantino's plan from one year ago is now almost friendless. Either of two options, 10 groups of four teams or eight five-team groups, gives lopsided or weak match schedules, FIFA judged. In '10x4,' only 76 matches are played and only six group runners-up advance from a muddled tiebreaker process to a Round of 16. In '8x5,' the 88 matches include meaningless ones in a flabby group phase ripe for collusion. Also, the four semifinalists would play eight matches and that workload is unacceptable to European clubs releasing employees to national-team duty. ___ PROVEN 32-TEAM FORMAT Why fix something that is not broken? Germany, the defending champion, has publicly asked this question. The 32-team format and perfect 64-match bracket has worked well since being introduced at the 1998 World Cup in France (where Europe had 15 teams). FIFA acknowledged that it produces the best soccer — 'the highest absolute quality' of games pitting high-ranked teams against each other. Recall that former winners Italy, England and Uruguay were drawn in the same 2014 World Cup group — and yet Costa Rica finished top. Still, enough of FIFA's 211 members want change and their chance to play. ___ WHO WILL PLAY? A big question is likely not being resolved Tuesday. FIFA has yet to announce exactly how many entry slots each of six confederations would get for their own qualifying program. Quotas for a 40-team World Cup were proposed in December 2015 by a FIFA advisory group that included Infantino, then UEFA's general secretary. Some saw a cynical move to sweeten skeptical FIFA voters who were being asked to vote through modernizing and anti-corruption reforms on the same day they picked a new president. Then, assuming a single host nation would get automatic entry, the proposal for sharing 39 qualifying slots was: Europe 14; Africa 7; Asia 6; South America 5; North, Central America and Caribbean 5; Oceania 1; plus a final slot awarded 'based on sporting merits using a method yet to be defined.' Going from 40 to 48 can add at least one more from each continent. Who could those new teams be? On current form, maybe Wales and Panama, Congo and Burkina Faso, Uzbekistan and Oman, will bring something new to the 2026 World Cup. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Wild-card entry Bouchard wins 1st-round match at Sydney

SYDNEY (AP) — Eugenie Bouchard made the most of her wild-card entry to the Sydney International, beating Zhang Shuai of China 7-6 (1), 6-2 on Sunday in a first-round match. Bouchard, a 22-year-old former Wimbledon finalist, was beaten in the first round of the Brisbane International last week in her first warmup tournament for the Australian Open, which begins on Jan. 16 and where she was a surprise semifinalist in 2014. The Canadian went on to make the semis at the French Open that year before losing to Petra Kvitova in the Wimbledon final. Bouchard finished that year ranked seventh, but injuries and poor form since have seen her ranking slide to 46. Earlier at Sydney, two-time Grand Slam singles champion Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania 6-1, 6-4. Defending champion Kuznetsova broke the Romanian's serve in the ninth game of the second set, then held serve to advance to the second round of the ATP-WTA tournament. Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan advanced when Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who partnered Roger Federer in last week's Hopman Cup, retired with a toe injury when Putinseva was up 6-4, 2-3. In a first-round men's match at Sydney, France's Nicolas Mahut beat Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil 6-2, 7-6 (2). Earlier, Brisbane International finalists Karolina Pliskova and Alize Cornet withdrew from their next scheduled tournaments due to injuries. Pliskova, who beat Cornet 6-0, 6-3 at Brisbane on Saturday evening, withdrew from the Sydney International with a left inner thigh injury. Pliskova, who would have been seeded fourth in Sydney, was replaced by lucky loser Roberta Vinci of Italy. Sydney officials also announced seventh-seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine withdrew due to a viral illness. 'I've had constant headaches for the last two days and unfortunately in today's hot weather it got even worse when I was warming up and my body wasn't ready to compete,' Svitolina said. Svitolina was scheduled to play Olympic champion Monica Puig on Sunday, but Puig will now play a lucky loser from qualifying on Monday. No. 1 Angelique Kerber and third-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska remain in the Sydney draw. At Hobart, defending champion Cornet withdrew from the tournament with a back injury, a Tennis Australia official said. American Shelby Rogers posted the first upset of that tournament in the opening match, beating second-seeded Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. Lizette Cabrera of Australia continued the Hobart trend, beating fifth-seeded Misaki Doi of Japan 6-4, 5-7, 7-5. Third-seeded Monica Niculescu defeated former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 6-3. In a men's tournament at Auckland, New Zealand, top-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut and second-seeded John Isner headline the entries. Bautista Agut, Isner, third-seeded David Ferrer and No. 4-seeded Jack Sock have first-round byes in the tournament which begins Monday. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Man City routs West Ham 5-0 to reach FA Cup 4th round

LONDON (AP) — Manchester City swept aside West Ham 5-0 to reach the fourth round of the FA Cup on Friday, bringing an upbeat end to a testing week for coach Pep Guardiola. Midfielder Yaya Toure's penalty, Norwegian defender Havard Nordtveit's own goal and a strike from midfielder David Silva made it 3-0 by halftime. Top scorer Sergio Aguero and defender John Stones added goals after the break to give Guardiola the easiest of introductions to world soccer's oldest knockout competition. As well as a handsome win, it was welcome relief for Guardiola — the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach, who is still adapting to his first season in England. He has been facing criticism following some erratic recent performances in the Premier League. City scraped past a gritty Burnley side 2-1 at home on Monday, following on from a 1-0 defeat away to title rival Liverpool — City's fourth league defeat of the campaign. This rout vindicated Guardiola's decision to field a strong line-up, and he clearly showed he is taking the competition seriously by recalling two of his best players in Silva and Aguero. West Ham, by contrast, left star player Dimitri Payet on the bench and immediately found itself under pressure against a City side which is fourth in the Premier League, seven points behind leader Chelsea after 20 games. Silva's early cut-back found Pablo Zabaleta, whose goalbound shot was blocked by Winston Reid, before Gael Clichy set up Silva only for his effort to be kept out by goalkeeper Adrian at the near post. Raheem Sterling was then denied by a superbly timed Reid tackle and from the resulting corner Adrian tipped Aguero's volley over. The pressure was always going to tell, though, and in the 32nd minute Zabaleta tumbled to the floor under Angelo Ogbonna's challenge. There was only minimal contact but referee Michael Oliver quickly pointed to the spot and Toure converted the penalty. West Ham then collapsed at the Olympic Stadium. City doubled its lead in the 41st minute, as Sterling arrived at the far post and forced an own goal from Nordtveit trying to clear Bacary Sagna's cross. It was all too easy for City as two minutes later Sterling took his turn to race down West Ham's weak left flank. The winger laid the ball across goal to Silva, who from six yards (meters) out had time to take a touch and steady himself before slotting in. Five minutes into the second half, Toure rifled a shot through a crowded area and Aguero diverted the ball into the net. A chastening evening for West Ham got even worse in the final 10 minutes when Stones headed in Nolito's corner. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017