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To bye or not to bye in NFL playoffs? Let's take a look

BARRY WILNER, AP Pro Football Writer NFL teams pursue byes like they are precious jewels. Are they really? Or does the road to the Super Bowl not particularly come with a rest stop? History tells us that reaching the Super Bowl, let alone winning it, after playing in a wild-card game is anything but ideal. Not impossible but just ask, in recent years, the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2007 New York Giants and 2010 Green Bay Packers. But it's certainly the most difficult way of doing things, particularly how those three teams managed it, as sixth seeds with no home games. All of them are in this postseason. Not one of them goes into this weekend wishing they didn't own a bye. Yet there are advantages — yes, really — to being active in the wild-card round. For one, the opponent shouldn't be as formidable as either of the top two seeds in each conference who are enjoying a mini-vacation. Secondly, the momentum gathered from an opening win can carry teams a long way. Again, look up what those Pittsburgh, New York, and Green Bay teams above did. 'We're battle tested,' Giants receiver Victor Cruz says, speaking not only of an early season loss at Lambeau Field, but of the team's general psyche. 'We've been through some things after that game that really set the standard and the focus for this team. That's one of the biggest things for us going into the game: Understanding that we've been through some wars and now we're ready to go.' So the Giants go to Green Bay, where in 2008 they won the NFC Championship. And, four years later, they beat a 15-1 Packers squad in the divisional round. Both times, they went on to win a Super Bowl. Eli Manning was the quarterback and offensive fulcrum of those title runs, while the pressure-first defense was masterful in negating big-time passers. The Giants entered those postseasons pretty much as afterthoughts, then got their acts together immediately in wild-card outings. Sure, they might have won it all in those seasons anyway. Yet there's no question those opening victories against Tampa Bay in 2008 and Atlanta in 2012 helped in a big way. 'You like to prove people wrong,' Manning says, knowing the Giants again are long shots to win it all. 'That is always kind of an exciting thing to do.' Under the eight-division format with 12 playoff teams that began in 2002, teams playing in wild-card games have made the Super Bowl eight times: Carolina in 2004, Pittsburgh in '06, Indianapolis in '07, the Giants in '08 and '12, Arizona in 2009, Green Bay in 2011, and Baltimore in 2013. Six of them won the title, with only the Panthers and Cardinals failing, both with last-minute losses. From 1990-92, there were six divisions, with 12 teams still advancing to the playoffs. Yes, three wild cards per conference, meaning one NFC and one AFC division winner didn't receive a bye. In that span, only four teams came out of the wild-card round to make the Super Bowl, all from the AFC. Buffalo (1993) and Tennessee (2000) both lost to the NFC champion. Denver (1998) and Baltimore (2001) won. Indeed, the Titans beat the Bills in January 2000 in the Music City Miracle, and Buffalo hasn't been back to the postseason since. One franchise that has made a habit of earning byes, of course, is New England. This is the sixth straight year the Patriots are idle for the opening weekend. Even Tom Brady gets antsy during the bye, though. 'You always want to feel great on Sunday,' Brady says. 'You'd always like to practice every day, too. Some weeks it's about prioritization. I'd like to do everything all the time, but sometimes that's not possible just based on ... practice is pretty demanding. Sometimes if you practice it might set you back a little more than you would want. 'After 17 years, I've got a pretty good balance for those things. I'm the type of person who likes to practice a lot. I've also been around long enough to know you've got to be smart, too, so it's just trying to find that right balance.' Brady can kick back this weekend while seeking that balance. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

Cardinals beat Benilde, snatch last Final Four slot

Mapua Institute of Technology bagged the last Fi-nal Four slot with a come-from-behind, 69-59 win over College of Saint Benilde in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 92 men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City on T.....»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimes_netRelated NewsSep 15th, 2016

Martin Cup: Maroons beat Blue Dragons

MANILA, Philippines – Jun Manzo hit two free throws in the last five seconds as UP edged Diliman College, 80-78, in the 14th Fr......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsSep 14th, 2016

Hendricks loses no-hit bid in 9th, Cubs beat Cardinals 4-1

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Kyle Hendricks took a no-hitter into the ninth inning before giving up Jeremy Hazelbaker's leadoff homer as the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-1 on Monday to close in on the National League Central division crown in M.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 13th, 2016

Patriots hang on minus Brady to beat Cardinals

Patriots hang on minus Brady to beat Cardinals.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 12th, 2016

Cardinals beat EAC to secure fourth spot

Cardinals beat EAC to secure fourth spot.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsSep 8th, 2016

Perpetual spikers win

Defending champion Perpetual Help overpowered Jose Rizal, 25-19, 25-22, 25-18, to jump into a share of the lead with St. Benilde and bolster its bid of clinching the twice-to-beat edge in the Final Four in the 92nd NCAA men’s volleyball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan City......»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Makarova pulls rug from under Cibulkova in 3 sets

After leading by a set and two breaks, Ekaterina Makarova needed three sets and almost three hours to finally beat WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-3 in the third round at the Australian Open......»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Nadal holds off Zverev to reach 4th round at Australian Open

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal held back time, for one match at least, when he rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2 win over German teenager Alexander Zverev to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open. The 14-time major winner is on a comeback after an extended injury layoff, yet he finished stronger in the 4-hour, 6-minute match on Rod Laver Arena as Zverev tightened up with cramping and nerves. 'I enjoyed a lot this great battle. I was losing the last couple of times in the fifth set and I said to myself, 'today's the day',' said ninth-seeded Nadal, who had lost eight of the previous nine times he'd trailed 2-1 in a best-of-five set match. His 30-year-old legs, conditioned by 236 Grand Slam matches, carried him all the way. 'Well, fighting — and running a lot,' Nadal said, when asked to explain the difference. 'I think you know, everybody knows how good Alexander is — he's the future of our sport and the present, too.' Serena Williams has done it more easily, reaching the fourth round without dropping a set to stay on course in her bid for a record 23rd Grand slam title. Williams beat fellow American Nicole Gibbs 6-1, 6-3 and didn't face a break point until she was serving for the match. Dropping serve in that game was her only lapse in a match that then extended just beyond the hour — to 63 minutes to be precise. The six-time Australian Open champion next faces No. 16 Barbora Strycova. 'I don't have anything to prove in this tournament here. Just doing the best I can,' Williams said. 'Obviously I'm here for one reason.' Milos Raonic is here pursuing his first major title, aiming to improve on his runs to the semifinals in Australia and the final at Wimbledon last year. He reached the fourth round with a 6-2, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-3 win over No. 25 Gilles Simon and will next play No. 13 Roberto Bautista Agut, who beat David Ferrer 7-5, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (3), 6-4. Nadal, who had two months off with an injured left wrist at the end of 2016, will get another veteran next after U.S. Open semifinalist Gael Monfils beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-4. In another gripping five-setter, but on an outside court, wild-card entry Denis Istomin followed his upset win over defending champion Novak Djokovic with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory over Pablo Carreno Busta. No. 8 Dominic Thiem beat Benoit Paire 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to set up a fourth-round match against No. 11 David Goffin, who ended Ivo Karlovic's run 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Zverev's creative shot-making gave the 19-year-old German a confident start. He had won his previous three matches against top-10 players, and has been widely touted as a future Grand Slam champion. But Nadal, the champion here in 2009, didn't let him get too far in front. In an exchange of breaks in the fifth set, Nadal broke to open, then dropped his own serve, before breaking Zverev again. Nadal finished with 43 winners and 34 unforced errors, while Zverev — hitting harder and trying more to find the lines — had 58 winners and 74 unforced errors. In early women's matches, Ekaterina Makarova led by a set and 4-0 but had a mid-match fade, needing three sets and almost three hours to finally beat WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-3. 'An amazing fight,' Makarova said of her first win over sixth-seeded Cibulkova, the 2014 finalist at Melbourne Park. 'I got, to be honest, a bit tight at 4-0 in the second set. But I'm still here.' She'll now take on last year's semifinalist Johanna Konta, who beat former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-1, in a rematch of their fourth-round encounter here last year. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni continued her unlikely run with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Maria Sakkari, and so did American qualifier Jennifer Brady. Before this week, the 34-year-old Lucic-Baroni hadn't won a match at Melbourne Park since her debut here in 1998. The 19-year gap in between match wins at a Grand Slam tournament broke the record set by Kimiko Date-Krumm. The 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist next plays No. 116-ranked Brady, who had never played in the main draw of a major before she qualified for this week. The 21-year-old Brady had a 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over 14th-seeded Elena Vesnina on Show Court 2. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Serena Williams reaches 4th round without dropping a set

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Serena Williams is still on track in her bid to win a record 23rd Grand Slam title. The six-time Australian Open winner beat fellow American Nicole Gibbs 6-1, 6-3 in the third round on Saturday, when she didn't face a break point until she was serving for the match. Dropping serve in that game was her only lapse in a match that then extended just beyond the hour — to 63 minutes to be precise. That made it one minute and one game longer than her only other match against Gibbs. Williams started the tournament with difficult assignments in the first two rounds, but also got through those — against Belinda Bencic, with a career-high ranking of 7, and Lucie Safarova, a French Open finalist in 2015 — without dropping a set. She has set the tone for the tournament. Williams will next play No. 16 Barbora Strycova, who beat No. 21 Caroline Garcia 6-2, 7-5. Ekaterina Makarova led by a set and 4-0 but needed three sets and almost three hours to finally beat WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-3. 'An amazing fight,' Makarova said of her first win over sixth-seeded Cibulkova, the 2014 finalist at Melbourne Park. 'I got, to be honest, a bit tight at 4-0 in the second set. But I'm still here. I love this Grand Slam.' In a momentum-swing match featuring some long streaks of games and 11 service breaks, Makarova got the decisive break in the eighth game of the deciding set and closed it next. Makarova will play either 2016 semifinalist Johanna Konta, who beat her in the fourth round here last year, or former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni continued her unlikely run with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Maria Sakkari, and so did American qualifier Jennifer Brady. Before this week, the 34-year-old Lucic-Baroni hadn't won a match at Melbourne Park since her debut at the Australian Open in 1998. The 19-year gap in between match wins at a Grand Slam tournament broke the record set by Kimiko Date-Krumm, who went 17 years between match wins at Wimbledon. Lucic-Baroni reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 1999 as a 17-year-old and captured the Australian Open doubles title a year before that with Martina Hingis. She next plays Brady, ranked No. 116, who had never played in the main draw of a major before she qualified for this week. The 21-year-old American had a 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over 14th-seeded Elena Vesnina on Show Court 2, and is making the most of the occasion. By saving five match points before rallying to beat Heather Watson in the second round, Brady effectively doubled her number of career wins. On the men's side, No. 8 Dominic Thiem beat Benoit Paire 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to set up a fourth-round match against No. 11 David Goffin, who ended Ivo Karlovic's run 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. The 37-year-old Karlovic's win in the first round set an endurance record — the 84 games in the win over Horacio Zeballos, which ended 22-20 in the fifth, was an Open-era mark for the tournament. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Baby Tamaraws send out statement, stomp on Bullpups

strong>TEAM STANDINGS /strong> br /> Adamson 8-1 br /> FEU-Diliman 8-2 br /> NU 8-2 br /> Ateneo 5-4 br /> UPIS 3-6 br /> DLSZ 3-7 br /> UST 2-7 br /> UE 1-9 Don’t look now, but coming out of the shadows in the UAAP 79 Juniors Basketball Tournament is Far Eastern University-Diliman. A week after dealing the first defeat of erstwhile Adamson High School, the Baby Tamaraws downed defending champion Nazareth School of National University. Xyrus Torres scored 20 points and the FEU-Diliman defense suffocated the Bullpups to ghastly 27 percent shooting from the field for a 61-46 decision on Saturday at the San Juan Arena. Torres caught fire from the get-go and had eight points to match NU’s entire first quarter output. In all, the Baby Tams dug a 25-8 hole for their opponents after only the opening salvo. The defending champions would be unable to recover as FEU-Diliman dared John Lloyd Clemente to beat them by his lonesome and the versatile forward fell way short in doing so. The wire-to-wire win is the Baby Tamaraws’ fourth in a row and eighth overall in 10 games, charging them onto a share of second with their vanquished foes. They may even find themselves with a share of first depending on the Baby Falcons’ result later. The Bullpups slipped out of first-place and onto an 8-2 standing. Clemente was their lone player in double-digits with 14 points. Meanwhile, De La Salle Zobel finally barged back onto the win column after shooting down University of the East, 81-59. Five Junior Archers scored in double-digits as they improved to 3-7. The loss dropped the Junior Warriors to 1-9. BOX SCORES FIRST GAME DLSZ 81 – Vesagas 13, Romero 12, Mariano 12, Terrado 12, Cortez 10, Sobrevega 8, Vista 4, Laurente 4, Carlos 2, Chavez 2, Natividad 2, Diaz 0, Santos 0, Cosejo 0, Umali 0, Damiles 0 UE 59 – Manaug 13, Gonzales 12, Angeles 11, Vinte 8, Dulalia 8, Balundo 4, Encelan 2, Canton 1, Po 0, Acuesta 0, Palanas 0, Ramos 0, Cruz 0, Morelos 0 QUARTER SCORES: 21-15, 36-29, 61-44, 81-59 SECOND GAME FEU-DILIMAN 61 – Torres 20, Roman 12, Gloria 9, Sapinit 7, Jabel 7, Alforque Roy 2, Celzo 2, Gabane 1, Gonzales 1, Baclay 0, Bieren 0, Boc NU 46 – Clemente 14, Malonzo 9, Amsali 6, Manalang 5, Penano 4, Callejo 3, Sarip 3, Coyoca 2, Atienza 0, Tolentino 0, Peralta 0, Fortea 0 QUARTER SCORES: 25-8, 31-24, 47-36, 61-46 --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Gobert's 27-25 lifts Jazz over Mavs in OT

DALLAS (AP) Rudy Gobert had career highs with 27 points and 25 rebounds, including one on his missed free throw in overtime that led to the tying 3-pointer by Joe Johnson, and the Utah Jazz beat the Dallas Mavericks 112-107 on Friday night. Gobert had just missed both of his free throw attempts with 1:50 left, but the second one ricocheted right back to him. Johnson then hit a 3 to make it 107-all. After a Dallas miss by Deron Williams and a foul in the aftermath, Joe Ingles put the Jazz ahead to stay with two free throws with 1:35 remaining. Gobert finished with his 29th consecutive 10-rebound game. Gordon Hayward had 26 points, including a big 3-pointer late in regulation. Johnson finished with 15 points. Harrison Barnes had 19 points for Dallas, which had seven players score in double figures. Williams had 16 points and Seth Curry 15. Williams had consecutive layups high off the glass in overtime, the last with 1:36 putting the Mavericks up 107-104. Hayward's 3-pointer with 1:06 left in regulation had put the Jazz up 96-95, then Gobert had a rebound that led to his layup at the other end for a 98-95 lead with 36 seconds left. That rebound by Gobert came after a missed 3-pointer by J.J. Barea, who aggravated a calf issue on the shot. Curry, who had been on the bench for a long stretch, re-entered the game for Barea and made a wide-open tying 3-pointer from the left corner with 25 seconds left that tied it. Dirk Nowitzki had a season-high 10 rebounds for Dallas, but was just 1-of-13 shooting for three points. A minute into the fourth quarter, the 13-time All-Star and MVP from 10 years ago twice grabbed his own misses before being blocked on a third try. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Hawks hold on for victory versus Bulls

ATLANTA (AP) Dennis Schroder scored 23 points, Paul Millsap added 14 and the Atlanta Hawks held back a late scare to beat the Chicago Bulls 102-93 on Friday night. The Bulls put up little resistance all night until their reserves went on a 33-4 run in the fourth quarter to pull within five on Bobby Portis' dunk with 1:08 remaining. Chicago trailed by 22 at the end of the first, by 29 at the end of the second and 30 at the end of the third. Atlanta's lead was tenuous enough that Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer brought back Schroder and Millsap, who had rested the entire fourth quarter, for the last 2 minutes. Dwight Howard and Thabo Sefolosha combined by 24 points for Atlanta, which has won 10 of 12. Jimmy Butler finished with 19 points for the Bulls, who looked uninspired most of the night. They have dropped five of seven. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Walker, Hornets drop 35-point hammer on Raptors

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Kemba Walker scored 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting, and the Charlotte Hornets beat the Toronto Raptors 113-78 on Friday night. Walker, who came in averaging 23 points and looking to earn his first All-Star selection, scored 16 points in the pivotal third quarter, including a four-point play as the Hornets outscored the Raptors 33-15 to build a 25-point lead. Walker didn't play at all in the fourth quarter after the Hornets stretched their lead to 30. He finished with eight assists. Frank Kaminsky had a solid night off the bench for the second straight game, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Kyle Lowry had 24 points and DeMar DeRozan added 23 points for the Raptors, who have lost two straight. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Batang Pier go for top-2 spot against champion SMB

For the seond straight week, two-time defending Philippine Cup champion San Miguel will face the number 2 team in the PBA. But with the Beermen already secured of a quarterfinal slot and a twice-to-beat advantage, this no. 1 vs. no. 2 matchup is certainly more important for the Globalport Batang Pier who currently hold solo second place in the season-opening conference. Entereing this Lapu-Lapu City matchup as winners of back-to-back games, the 5-3 Batang Pier got solo second after Rain or Shine lost Friday to Meralco. But with teams stacked up with five wins apiece, a big victory by the Terrence Romeo and co. will mean a greater chance for the Batang Pier to secure a playoff bonus alongside the Beermen. However, it's not like the chance have nothing at stake here though. Winners of seven straight and currently holding a league-best 8-1 card, one more win by San Miguel means that the Beermen will be the number one overall seed throughout the playoffs. And as winners of the last two All-Filipino tournaments, number one is something that the Beermen have grown accustomed to. Also, reigning three-time MVP June Mar Fajardo wouldn't want to disappoint his hometown crowd right? Gametime is set the the Hopes Dome in Lapu-Lapu at 5:00 p.m. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

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

Federer joins Murray in 4th round at Australian Open

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Eagerness to bounce back backfires on Rain or Shine

Losing a heavyweight bout to San Miguel exactly a week ago, Rain or Shine was obviously pumped to bounce back. The Elasto Painters looked like they had the perfect opportunity to do so as they were matched up with Meralco, a team coming in with six straight defeats Friday. However, their eagerness backfired as the Bolts scored an 82-72 upset, dropping ROS to a 5-4 record in the Philippine Cup. Now, instead of solo second, the Elasto Painters figure in a tie with at least two teams in the standings. 'Medyo nag-lack kami sa pag-follow sa sistema ni coach Caloy. Medyo gigil din kami sa talo namin sa San Miguel. Sobrang gusto namin mag-bounce back, bumaligtad,' Jerico Cruz said who was one of ROS' key pieces that struggled all game. 'Like I said after our loss to San Miguel, ang worry ko is who we will come out. And we came out flat. Give credit to Meralco. They played a great game and they play different when they’re complete. We just have to correct the wrong things we had tonight,' head coacj Caloy Garcia added. While they still have a fighting chance to make the top 2, Rain or Shine is more worried on actually staying in the playoff picture more than trying to get a twice-to-beat bonus in the quarterfinals. With teams piling up in the middle of the standings separated by only one game or so, winning out might be the only option right now for the Elasto Painters to avoid a sudden collapse. 'Ang crucial dito, hindi pa kami sure sa quarterfinals. Kapag natalo kami nang dalawang straight, baka malaglag pa,' James Yap, the only ROS player to actually play decent to finish with 17 points, said. 'As much as possible, we want to be in the Top 6. Yung Top 2, saka na ‘yan. If we have a chance, why not? Pero ngayon we’re just looking forward on winning another game first,' Garcia added.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8 .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Red Spikers survive Lady Cardinals, zoom in on semis slot

Games Monday (Filoil Flying V-Center) 9:30 a.m. - EAC vs CSJL (M) 11 a.m. - EAC vs CSJL (W).....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017