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Goffin wins Japan Open for 2nd title in 2 weeks

em>By David Hulmes, Associated Press /em> TOKYO (AP) — David Goffin atoned for his defeat in the Japan Open final last year by winning it on Sunday, beating Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 7-5. The victory extended Goffin's winning streak to nine matches, including four in Shenzhen last week when he won his first title in more than three years. He lost last year's Tokyo final to Nick Kyrgios. The Belgian stands at No. 8 in the ATP Race to London rankings. With the injured Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka ruled out, 10th place will be good enough to secure a place at the end-of-season showpiece. Mannarino started slowly in his attempt to win a first ATP title. Goffin broke in the fourth game with a forehand winner down the line, and again in the seventh. The Frenchman posted his first victory over a top-five opponent when defeating Marin Cilic in the semifinals. As in that match, he gained a foothold in the middle of the second set, breaking Goffin to lead 4-2. However, Goffin immediately broke back, and again in the 11th game before serving out to love for the title. 'I've been serving well for a few weeks,' Goffin said. 'During the rallies he was hitting the ball really flat, and that combined with the surface meant the bounce was really low. It was tough on the legs to stay with him in the rallies. 'When we started the second he became more aggressive and my return was not enough. He started to serve better so I needed to do something more aggressive because the first six games he was really comfortable. I read his serve a bit better, and then I took control of the rallies.' Goffin has 33 hard-court wins this year, joint-top on the tour with Rafael Nadal, who played the China Open final later Sunday. Mannarino leaves Japan having equaled his 2015 career-best 28 wins in a season. Also, Japan Davis Cup duo Ben McLachlan and Yasutaka Uchiyama surprised hot favorites Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares 6-4, 7-6 (1) to claim the doubles crown. .....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnOct 8th, 2017

Nadal and Djokovic to renew rivalry in Italian Open semis

By Andrew Dampf, Associated Press ROME (AP) — Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will renew their rivalry in the Italian Open semifinals — and three-time Rome champion Maria Sharapova also reached the last four Friday. Nadal, who holds a record seven titles at the Foro Italico, overcame a poor first set and a partisan crowd to beat Fabio Fognini 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. Then, four-time Rome winner Djokovic rallied past Kei Nishikori 2-6, 6-1, 6-3. Nadal and Djokovic have played each other 50 times but their last meeting came more than a year ago, when Nadal won in the Madrid Open semifinals. "Tomorrow is going to be the ultimate challenge on clay," Djokovic said. "Beating Rafa is a really difficult thing to do on this surface. But, I've done it before." Djokovic leads Nadal 26-24 overall, but Nadal holds a 15-7 advantage on clay. Nadal can replace Roger Federer at No. 1 if he lifts the Rome trophy for the first time since 2013. Federer is sitting out the clay season to prepare for Wimbledon, where he will bid for a record-extending 21st Grand Slam title. Djokovic, who is returning from a persistent right elbow injury, hadn't reached a semifinal since before Wimbledon last year. "This is what I was looking forward to," Djokovic said. "This is what I was hoping to achieve." In the other half of the draw, defending champion Alexander Zverev extended his winning streak to 12 matches with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory over ninth-seeded David Goffin. He'll meet Australian Open finalist Marin Cilic, who beat 10th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-3. Sharapova required more than three hours to eliminate last year's French Open winner, Jelena Ostapenko, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-5; and defending champion Elina Svitolina defeated Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-4 for her sixth straight victory over the former No. 1 player. Svitolina will next face 26th-ranked Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, who beat Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-1. Sharapova's semifinal opponent will be Simona Halep, who advanced with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Caroline Garcia that ensures she will keep the No. 1 ranking for another week. Djokovic has now won 12 straight matches over Nishikori and the Japanese player didn't help his cause when he landed an easy overhead into the net early in the third set. Still, it remained tight with long rallies until the end. "It was a fantastic match," Djokovic said. "We went toe to toe until the last point." Fans were decidedly behind Fognini, Italy's top player, and Nadal was under pressure when Fognini won five straight games to cancel out a 4-1 deficit and win the opening set. "He played aggressive, a great level of tennis, creating a lot of winners and taking balls earlier," Nadal said. "I felt the pressure a little bit and played a couple of bad games." But Fognini couldn't keep up with Nadal's consistency and heavy topspin on the red clay court and eventually was physically worn down. "I tried to play more with my forehand and when I play aggressive with my forehand the backhand becomes better," said Nadal, who sat out earlier this season with right knee and hip injuries. "It's important to be able to change the tactics of the match." Fognini had tape applied under his left knee while trailing 3-2 in the third set due to a physical problem that has bothered him for weeks. "The first set lasted more than an hour," Fognini said. "It's him that causes the problem." While the result meant it was now 42 years since an Italian man last won the tournament — Adriano Panatta in 1976 — Fognini was still applauded as he walked off of the court. Nadal joined in the applause for Fognini......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2018

Wawrinka has his fitness back - now he needs confidence

By Andrew Dampf, Associated Press ROME (AP) — The good news for Stan Wawrinka is that he finally feels physically fit again following surgery on his left knee. The challenge now for the three-time Grand Slam champion is regaining his confidence and fluidity of movement on the court. Playing his first match in three months, Wawrinka was more pleased than upset despite losing to 55th-ranked Steve Johnson 6-4, 6-4 Sunday in the first round of the Italian Open. "My level is really high, better than what I expected," Wawrinka said, adding that he returned to proper on-court training only 12 days ago. "I'm happy with physically where I am right now." Wawrinka committed 30 unforced errors to his American opponent's 17, was broken once in each set and failed to take advantage of his only two break opportunities. "I was nervous during the match. A lot of hesitation with my game, with my movement and everything. Quite tight with my body. And that's going to make a big difference, especially for me, the way I move and the way I play," said Wawrinka, who draws enormous power from his robust frame. "Even with that, it was a tough match. One, two points could have changed the match." Wawrinka was operated on in August — twice — and returned in January at the Australian Open, where he was eliminated in the second round by Tennys Sandgren. "When I came back in Australia, it was quite clear that I wasn't ready at all," the Swiss player said. "I wasn't at my top physically." Wawrinka then retired from a match against 193rd-ranked Ilya Ivashka in Marseille, France, in February, citing a left knee injury — and hadn't played since. "I wanted just to play a few tournaments to test the knee," he added. "I was positive to see that the knee was doing OK. But I knew I needed a lot of time to work on my fitness. "And that's what I did when I stopped after Marseille. I went back to doing fitness almost every day for like three months. ... It was some tough weeks." Magnus Norman has returned as Wawrinka's coach after leaving the Swiss player's staff in October — to Wawrinka's dismay at the time. "He's going to keep working with me, hopefully the full year," Wawrinka said. "I still have a lot of work to do. I still need a lot of time, play matches, keep trying to play week after week to find the confidence back." Three other Americans were also in action on the Foro Italico's red clay. Twelfth-seeded Sam Querrey was eliminated by Peter Gojowczyk of Germany 6-2, 7-6 (7); 13th-seeded Jack Sock beat Spanish veteran David Ferrer 6-3, 6-4; and Ryan Harrison eliminated Yuichi Sugita of Japan 7-6 (5), 6-3. Also, Italian wild card Lorenzo Sonego had strong fan support as he came back from a set down to defeat Adrian Mannarino 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3. Meanwhile, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova withdrew from the tournament citing a muscular injury that occurred during a grueling three-set win over Kiki Bertens in Saturday's Madrid Open final — her second title in two weeks after also taking the Prague Open. "After these incredible two weeks of tennis my body needs to rest and recuperate," Kvitova said. The women's tournament at the Foro Italico starts Monday. It's the last Masters 100 event before the May 27-June 10 French Open — a tournament that Wawrinka won in 2015......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 13th, 2018

Slow starters: Pats have no 1st quarter SB points with Brady

By Josh Dubow, Associated Press BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) — Tom Brady has accomplished just about everything when it comes to playing in the Super Bowl. His five titles and four Super Bowl MVPs are more than any other quarterback. He has posted the two biggest comeback wins in Super Bowl history, including last year's rally from 25 points down to beat Atlanta. He has thrown for more yards or touchdowns than any quarterback on the biggest stage. Perhaps the only accomplishment missing seems like a relatively simple one: leading a first-quarter scoring drive. In one of the more surprising Super Bowl stats, the Patriots have failed to score a single point in the first quarter in their seven Super Bowl trips in the Brady-Bill Belichick era. "We're trying to score every time we take the field," Brady said. "There's a little caveat to that in my opinion. In 2007, it was our first drive of the game, it just happened to be the first play of the second quarter. "But it was the first time we touched it. So we did score when we got it first. But I'd love to score 21 points in the first quarter if we can but obviously this defense can make it really tough for us." The Patriots did score on that first possession in their first meeting against the Giants. But because New York held the ball for 9:59 to open the game with a field-goal drive, Laurence Maroney's 1-yard run came on the first play of the second quarter. The first-quarter scoring woes in the Super Bowl led to a memorable moment from an NFL Network documentary about last year's title of linebackers coach Brian Flores addressing a banquet to honor the team. "Coach Belichick, prior to the game, looked right at Tom Brady and goes 'Tom, we've been to six Super Bowls together, and we've never scored a point in the first quarter. Can we get that done?'" Flores told the crowd. "I look around and I go, 'Man, we're going to score 30 points in the first quarter.'" Instead it didn't happen. It was another first-quarter shutout as the Patriots went three-and-out the first time they had the ball and then stalled near midfield following two sacks on the second drive. The third drive ended when LeGarrette Blount fumbled on the second play of the second quarter. Brady has been on the field for a first-quarter score when his intentional grounding penalty in the end zone against the Giants in 2012 led to a safety for New York. That was one of four scores in the first quarter against the Patriots in their seven trips with Belichick and Brady. "Look, we try to score in every game," Belichick said. "I know that's probably hard to understand, but we try to go out and score and keep the other team from scoring. That's our goal every game." It's not as if slow starts are a chronic problem for Brady and the Patriots. Since his first season as the starter in 2001, New England leads the NFL on first-quarter scoring with 5.7 points per game. The Patriots are only a tick behind that at 5.5 points per first quarter in the playoff rounds prior to the Super Bowl with Brady at quarterback. But for some reason that all changes on the biggest stage, even though it hasn't stopped the Patriots from winning five Super Bowl titles. "I would say that's the emphasis every week," receiver Phillip Dorsett said. "We play better when we start fast, and that's a big emphasis every week, not just in the Super Bowl but in the weeks prior to this. I mean, we have a better record when we're playing fast and we get out to a good start, when we get points on the board on that first drive. So, we always like to do that." ___ AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower contributed to this report.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 3rd, 2018

Federer joins Djokovic, Sharapova in 2nd round in Australia

By John Pye, Associated Press MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer picked up where he left off at the last Australian Open on a day when Maria Sharapova, Angelique Kerber and Novak Djokovic ensured there were all kinds of successful comebacks. Defending champion Federer beating Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in a night match, his first on Rod Laver Arena since clinching a career-reviving title here last year. He's been met on court after wins here previously by tennis greats Laver, John McEnroe and Jim Courier. On Tuesday night, he got something different. Comedian Will Ferrell stepped out of the crowd and, slipping into character as Ron Burgundy from the movie Anchorman, conducted the post-match interview. Six-time champion Djokovic and 2014 Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka stuck to business, returning from long injury layoffs with victories in their first matches since Wimbledon. Sharapova barely missed a beat in her first match in Melbourne since a failed doping test in 2016 resulted in a 15-month ban from tennis. One of just two former champions in the women's draw, Sharapova recovered from an early break in the second set and closed out her 6-1, 6-4 victory over Tatjana Maria with an ace at Margaret Court Arena. She celebrated by twirling, waving and blowing kisses to the crowd. "It's been a couple of years since I've been back here — obviously I wanted to enjoy the moment," the 2008 Australian Open champion and three-time runner-up said in an on-court TV interview. Former No. 1-ranked Kerber, the 2016 Australian Open winner, continued her resurgent run with a 6-0, 6-4 victory over Anna-Lena Friedsam to extend her streak to 10 consecutive wins. Her ranking slid into the 20s in 2017, but she's coming back into the kind of form that won her a title in Sydney last week and makes her a strong contender at Melbourne Park. "Something is going on with Australia and me," Kerber said. "I enjoy my stay, play my best tennis." Djokovic tweaked his service motion while recovering from an injured right elbow, and used it to good effect in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win over Donald Young. Djokovic lost in the second round here last year, but won five of the previous six Australian Open titles. "Obviously I wanted to start with the right intensity, which I have," Djokovic said. "I played perfect tennis, like I never stopped." Wawrinka, who had six months out after surgery on his left knee, beat Ricardas Berankis 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (2). No. 4-ranked 4-Alexander Zverev and No. 7 David Goffin advanced, but No. 20 Roberto Bautista Agut lost to Fernando Verdasco, a semifinalist here in 2009, and former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic lost 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (4) to Lukas Lacko. No. 13 Sam Querrey restored some order for the U.S. men with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Feliciano Lopez. Two other U.S. contenders, No. 8 Jack Sock and No. 16 John Isner, were out on opening day. Madison Keys also reversed a trend, becoming the only one of the four American women who contested the U.S. Open semifinals last September to reach the second round in Australia. Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and CoCo Vandeweghe were all eliminated on Monday. No. 17-seeded Keys, the runner-up at the U.S. Open, had a 6-1, 7-5 win over Wang Qiang. No. 9 Johanna Konta beat Madison Brengle 6-3, 6-1 and will meet another American, Bernarda Pera in the second round. The U.S. women had four wins and 14 losses in round one. No. 1-ranked Simona Halep was in serious trouble twice — having to save set points at 5-2 down in the first set, and badly twisting her left ankle early in the second — before beating 17-year-old Australian wild-card entry Destanee Aiava 7-6 (5), 6-1. Halep, who lost back-to-back first-round matches here in the previous two years, will next play Eugenie Bouchard, the 2014 Wimbledon finalist who beat Oceane Dodin 6-3, 7-6 (5). "It's always really cool to go up against the best in the world," Bouchard said. "You use it as a measuring stick. I want to try to play my game and go out there and do some damage." Other seeded players advancing included Wimbledon champion Garbine Mugurza, No. 6 Karolina Pliskova, No. 8 Caroline Garcia, No. 16 Elena Vesnina, and No. 29 Lucie Safarova. Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova lost 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 to Andrea Petkovic. Sharapova was banned for after testing positive for the drug meldonium here in 2016, when she reached the quarterfinals, and finished last year ranked No. 60. The five-time major winner will next play No. 14-seeded Anastasija Sevastova, who beat her at the U.S. Open last year in her return to a Grand Slam to tournament. After returning in New York, Sharapova is confident she's prepared again for a major. "I felt like I have got a lot of things out of the way physically and emotionally and mentally last year with — there was a lot of firsts again for me, playing the first tournament, first Grand Slam, and just different feelings and what it would be routinely," she said. "But it felt pretty routine today.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2018

Hamilton title chase returns to track he s dominated

By Jim Vertuno, Associated Press AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lewis Hamilton usually feels at ease in the U.S. And why not? It's pretty easy to be happy when he's usually finishing first. Yet despite his commanding lead over Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in the chase for the Formula One championship, the Mercedes driver barely cracked a smile Thursday as he dismissed scenarios that he could clinch the title with a win and another Vettel collapse. Hamilton also fended off speculation that he might take a knee when the American national anthem is played before Sunday's race. Hamilton, the only black driver in Formula One, said he supports the demonstration that began as a protest over treatment of minorities by police that has roiled the National Football League and drawn heavy criticism from President Donald Trump. But when asked if he would kneel on Sunday, the British driver said "I don't have any plans" and was concentrating on the race. "I know black and white people that live here in America, so I get quite a view of what's happening here in the States," Hamilton said, calling the protest movement "awesome." "I'm very much in support of it. But I'm here to win and that's the top of my priorities at the moment and I'm not really focused on anything else." Hamilton dismissed the notion of winning the championship in Texas as "silly." He would clinch his fourth F1 season title Sunday if he finishes 16 points ahead of Vettel. For example, if Hamilton again wins a race which he's won four of the last five years, Vettel would have to finish sixth or lower to give the title to Hamilton. Outside of the two races he didn't finish, Vettel has finished lower than fourth just once. "Sebastian, you cannot expect him to have a difficult weekend, they are going to be quick," Hamilton said. "He has been strong all year. He has had a few technical issues, but the car is as good as it has always been ... I have to continue to keep the pressure on." Yet the Circuit of the Americas would seem Vettel's last realistic chance to keep the title chase alive. He's had some success here, winning in 2013 as part of a dominant season with Red Bull when he won nine consecutive races. He finished second in 2012 when he lost a duel with Hamilton's McLaren. Hamilton has made the Austin race something of a personal playground. He cruised to wins in 2014 and 2016 and his rain-soaked victory in 2015 clinched the season championship with three races left on the schedule. Hamilton won from pole last year and from P2 in 2012, 2014 and 2015. The Briton's American success dates back to 2007 when he won the U.S. Grand Prix in Indianapolis. And he's gotten stronger through the second half of this season. Hamilton has four victories and one second-place finish over the last five races as his lead over Vettel has ballooned to 59 points. "The championship, as long as it is done in the last four races that is my focus. I honestly don't care if it is here or the last race, as long as it is done," Hamilton said. Vettel's problems struck late in the season. After two wins in the first three races, many hoped for an epic title fight after years of dominance by Mercedes. But Vettel's season has been hit by car troubles and a crash in recent weeks. In Singapore, Vettel started on pole but a first-turn crash with teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull's Max Verstappen knocked out all three. In Japan, he was foiled by the smallest of engine parts — a spark plug — that again knocked him out on the first lap. Even when he finished a brilliant drive in Malaysia, coming from the back to finish fourth, he lost ground to Hamilton. Ferrari team principle Maurizio Arrivabene has pledged the team will fight "right up to the last corner of the last grand prix." The U.S. Grand Prix will be the Formula One debut of Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley, who will be the first New Zealander on the grid since Mike Thackwell at the 1984 Canadian Grand Prix. Hartley is a former World Endurance Championship winner in 2015 and a winner of this year's 24 hours at Le Mans. Hartley said the call from Toro Rosso and the trip to Austin happened so fast he's hardly had time to meet his team. "Obviously I want to do the best I can. I'm trying not to put too many expectations on it," Hartley said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 20th, 2017

Nadal and Federer win in straight sets at Shanghai Masters

SHANGHAI (AP) — Rafael Nadal lost only four points on serve Wednesday in a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Jared Donaldson in the second round of the Shanghai Masters. The top-ranked Spaniard and No. 2 Roger Federer both advanced by winning their opening matches in straight sets. 'It was a very quick match,' said Nadal, who won his sixth title of the year in Beijing last week. 'I was happy to have that early break in the sixth game. After that I played a great match, not many mistakes, played aggressively.' Federer defeated Diego Schwartzman 7-6 (4), 6-4, winning the match with his 14th ace on his second match point. 'I knew going in it was not going to be easy because he's had a great run the last few weeks, months,' Federer said. 'He was confident. He was shaking off misses, no problems. He was serving well, making the right decisions. 'He was confident and as an opponent you can feel that. I felt that today it was going to be dangerous down the stretch of every set.' Nadal and Federer are both in contention for the season-ending No. 1 ranking, although only Nadal can clinch that honor this week. Nadal will be guaranteed to retain the No. 1 ranking through the end of the season if he wins his first career Shanghai title and Federer loses before reaching the semifinals. Earlier, sixth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov saved three match points before finally defeating Ryan Harrison 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6). The 46th-ranked Harrison led 4-2 in the third set and then 6-3 in the tiebreaker. But Dimitrov won the final five points to get through. 'I just had to be there (on those match points),' Dimitrov said. 'At (my) match point, I just had to make my first serve because I knew he would go for it if not.' Also, U.S. Open finalist Kevin Anderson lost to Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2), while Gilles Simon, Alexander Zverev, Sam Querrey and John Isner all advanced. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

Raonic wins first match back from injury; calls for a review

em>By David Hulmes, Associated Press /em> TOKYO (AP) — After returning to the ATP Tour in style by beating Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4 at the Japan Open on Tuesday, Milos Raonic called for a review of the tennis circuit. It was Raonic's first match following a seven-week absence after left-wrist surgery. The big-serving Canadian has withdrawn from five events this year, and conceded walkovers at two others. 'It's been very frustrating,' said Raonic, who started the year at No. 3 and has slipped to No. 12 in the rankings. 'I've had more than a dozen different injuries and reasons that have kept me away from tournaments. That hasn't been fun because I haven't been able to focus on tennis, I've been focusing on 'Can I play today or can't I?' rather than, 'What do I need to do with my tennis game?'' Raonic knows tennis isn't a sport that's easy on the body, and the travel and length of the season are demanding, too. 'I believe out of those of us that finished top five last year, I'm the only guy still trying to play this year, and none of the top five played the U.S. Open,' Raonic said. 'Maybe it's testament to some kind of reform being needed for the sake of players' careers, and being able to provide a certain caliber of tennis for spectators. 'Scheduling, the length of the year and how spread out — geographically and throughout the year — the tournaments are, especially the top tournaments for the top players, is something that deserves a second look. It's hard to peak four times of the year for Grand Slams, let alone for other tournaments.' The 11-month season has long been an issue for players, something the men's and women's tours have taken some steps to address. Even the biggest stars on the men's tour, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, had injury layoffs before returning to win two major titles each this season. Raonic thinks a more compact season would help the competition across the board. 'Give the players that really stand out mandatory events, give them a chance to play everything within a seven-month period so they can really focus on themselves health-wise, but also on improving, because you need that time,' Raonic said. 'We're the only sport, outside of golf maybe, that plays as spread out as we do without any time for rest.' Raonic next plays Yuichi Sugita, who took the first set 6-4 from Benoit Paire when the Frenchman retired with fatigue. Home-crowd favorite Taro Daniel was thumped by Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan 6-1, 6-3 and gave his backing to Raonic's review call. 'It's ridiculous the way the tour's scheduled,' Daniel said. 'You see how many people are injured right now. Half the top 10's out, 80 percent of players have some sort of pain right now. There needs to be a bit more space between the tournaments; there are players doing crazy stuff like playing in the U.S. one week, China the next week, and after Roland Garros playing 15 weeks in a row. 'It's a great opportunity for us to play different places around the world, and it's really exciting, but it's a little too hard. It's easy for us to say it's too much but then how are we going to change it? I don't know what the solution is, but I feel something needs to change.' Daniel said he was splitting from his coach and moving from Spain back to Tokyo. 'I was playing really well until Roland Garros, then I had a bit of a physical letdown, fatigue — a lot of matches and heat during those weeks,' he said. 'My confidence isn't great right now. I had great practices this week, felt like I could do something good here, but I got killed out there today.' Lu next faces Richard Gasquet, who beat sixth-seeded Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-6 (2) The Frenchman missed the opening five Masters events this year, following appendicitis surgery and subsequent back problems. Those back problems also forced him out of two other events. 'Now I'm feeling fit,' Gasquet said. 'I had appendicitis then everything went wrong with my body after that. The back problems came after that surgery, my recovery was very bad, and I started practicing a little bit too quickly, after five weeks — I wasn't ready. I didn't think it would be so tough to recover — of course I'm not 20 anymore, I'm 31.' Gasquet said the players outside the so-called Big Four need to play a lot of tournaments because they lose more often. 'We go to Australia, then we go on clay courts, we go on hard courts, need to change the type of balls, and you're jet-lagged,' he said. 'Tennis is very demanding — when I came on tour 15 years ago the 100-ranked player was not so difficult to beat, now they are very good so it's a big difference. 'Tennis is a tough sport. Of course there's a connection between the length of the tour and injuries, but it's a bit tough to say whether we should play more or less.'   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 4th, 2017

As calendar flips to October, the MLB postseason from A to Z

em>By Ben Walker, Associated Press /em> All those home runs by Aaron Judge, all those wins by the Los Angeles Dodgers, nicely done. Except none of that matters now — a sinker that bounces to the backstop, a liner that hooks barely foul, the whole script flips. October has a way of doing that. The Major League Baseball playoffs start Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium when New York hosts the Minnesota Twins in the AL wild-card game. A look at the 2017 postseason, from A to Z: strong>A: ALTUVE'S ASTROS — /strong>Generously listed at 5-foot-6, Jose Altuve is baseball's little big man. The do-everything second baseman won his third AL batting title and aims to lead the Astros to their first World Series crown. With the Houston area recovering from Hurricane Harvey, they're the sentimental favorites. strong>B: BULLPENS — /strong> Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman going long, Andrew Miller entering early, Clayton Kershaw as a closer. The old rules were out last October when it came to relief roles. We'll see what pops up in the 'pens this year. strong>C: CUBS VS. CLEVELAND — /strong>Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Corey Kluber & Crew, once more? It's been a while since a World Series rematch, when Reggie Jackson led the Yanks over the Dodgers in 1977-78. But, it's already been a ripe year for repeats — Warriors vs. Cavaliers, Alabama vs. Clemson. strong>D: DEBUTS — /strong>Strikeout king Chris Sale makes his first playoff appearance when Boston starts at Houston on Thursday in the best-of-five AL Division Series. Rockies bopper Nolan Arenado and Twins slugger Brian Dozier are postseason newbies, too. So is Nationals backup Adam Lind, after 12 years and more than 1,300 games. strong>E: EXTRA — /strong>Hmmm, anyone remember the last time a postseason game went to extra innings? Hard to top the Cubs' 10-inning, rain-delayed, 8-7 thriller over Cleveland in Game 7. The Red Sox are the experts of extras this year — they're 15-3, including seven straight wins. strong>F: FREE AGENTS — /strong>Sure, 20 teams are done. But their fans can always dream. Cubs righty Jake Arrieta, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and Rays thumper Logan Morrison are on the list of who'll soon be available. The most intriguing possibility might be Shohei Otani, a star pitcher and hitter in Japan. strong>G: GOOD TO SEE YA — /strong> Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2009, when he was 10 for 17. Twins star Joe Mauer has been absent since 2010. And Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg has pitched just once in Washington's three trips, heading into this matchup with the Cubs. strong>H: HOME FIELD — /strong>World Series home-field advantages go to the team with the best record. Thankfully, it's no longer based on who wins the All-Star Game. That means the Dodgers (104 wins) get first dibs, followed by Cleveland (102), Houston (101), Washington (97), Boston (93) and the Cubs (92). strong>I: INJURIES — /strong>Nationals ace Max Scherzer tweaked his hamstring, teammate Bryce Harper is getting over a bad knee. Banged-up All-Stars Miguel Sano of the Twins and Michael Brantley of the Indians might be able contribute this week. Might not. strong>J: JOE MADDON — /strong>A cool cat, he keeps his Cubs loose. He reveled in last year's rallying cry: 'Try Not to Suck.' The skipper became the toast of Chicago, ending that century-old drought. Funny, all those warm-and-fuzzy Wrigley Field feelings are gone now, at least beyond the Friendly Confines. strong>K: KERSHAW — /strong>He tied for the major league lead in wins and won his fifth ERA title. He's a three-time Cy Young Award winner and seven-time All-Star. But will anyone get more scrutiny in the postseason than Clayton Kershaw? Probably not, because the LA lefty is 4-7 with a 4.55 ERA in the postseason. strong>L: LOUSY WEATHER — /strong>Too bad, the temperature is often better suited for snowballs than baseballs. It was in the low 40s at Wrigley last year, and just imagine how it might feel in Denver or Minneapolis. If you want clear conditions, root for Arizona vs. Houston and their retractable roofs. strong>M: MANAGERS — /strong> Twin Cities native Paul Molitor, Torey Lovullo of the Diamondbacks and Bud Black of the Rockies are first-time skippers in the playoffs. Washington's Dusty Baker is back for his ninth try, still seeking that elusive first World Series championship. strong>N: NETTING — /strong>Fan safety has drawn special focus ever since a 1-year-old girl was recently hit by Todd Frazier's 105 mph foul ball at Yankee Stadium. Of the teams in these playoffs, three already had extended the netting to screen spectators: Houston, Washington and Minnesota. The Yankees say they'll have it next year. strong>O: OCTOBER — /strong>Of course. But if the World Series goes to Game 7, they'll go beyond Halloween and play on Nov. 1. strong>P: PUERTO RICO — /strong> Carlos Beltran, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa are among the many players from Puerto Rico trying to raise money and awareness for the damage done to their island by Hurricane Maria. Look for messages on caps and shoes over the next few weeks. strong>Q: QUICK? — /strong>Extra mound conferences, longer TV commercials, more pitching changes, they all contribute to slowing down the pace in the playoffs. MLB wants to speed up the action and avoid a repeat from last year, when postseason games averaged almost 3 1/2 hours. Not a good sign that regular-season games this year took more than 3 hours, 5 minutes on average, the longest ever. strong>R: ROOKIES — /strong>Yankees behemoth Aaron Judge broke the major league record with 52 home runs by a rookie, Dodgers surprise Cody Bellinger set the NL mark with 39. Other newcomers who could make an impact: Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, Cubs outfielder/infielder Ian Happ and 33-year-old Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel. strong>S: STREAKS — /strong> Jose Ramirez and the Indians set an AL record by winning 22 straight, the Dodgers dropped 11 in a row for their worst skid since moving from Brooklyn. A year after winning its first six postseason games, and in this season of streaks, Cleveland hopes to do it again. strong>T: TRADES — /strong>Justin Verlander (5-0, 1.06 ERA for Houston), J.D. Martinez (29 homers in 62 games for Arizona) and Jose Quintana (7-3, 3.74 for the Cubs) are some of the stars who were acquired in midseason trades. Yu Darvish, David Robertson and Eduardo Nunez also gave their new teams a boost. strong>U: UMPIRES — /strong>It won't be long before some team is hollering about an ump's strike zone. Those calls can't be contested, but others can. Some teams are very good at getting them overturned (Joe Girardi and the Yankees won 72 percent of their challenges). Others, not so much (the Nationals were right only 36 percent). strong>V: VOTING — /strong>All ballots for MVP, Cy Young and other major awards must be sent before the playoffs begin. These honors will generate plenty of debate before the winners are announced in November. Altuve or Judge, Kluber or Sale? strong>W: WILD CARDS — /strong> Madison Bumgarner and the 2014 Giants are the only wild-card team to win the World Series since MLB went to a one-and-done format in 2012. Before that, five wild cards took the title: Cardinals (2011), Red Sox (2004), Marlins (2003, 1997) and Angels (2002). strong>X: XANDER BOGAERTS — /strong> Perhaps the Boston shortstop might be the next infielder to really break out in postseason. Think Javier Baez, Daniel Murphy, Ben Zobrist and Alcides Escobar in recent years. strong>Y: YANKEE STADIUM — /strong> The playoffs begin the Bronx, with Yankees youngster Luis Severino starting the AL wild-card game, taking on Ervin Santana and the Twins. strong>Z: ZACK GREINKE — /strong>The Arizona ace is set to throw the first pitch in Wednesday's NL wild-card game at home against a familiar opponent. He's 2-1 in five starts vs. Colorado this year. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 2nd, 2017

Curry, Durant lead Warriors into Western Conference finals

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry had 28 points, Kevin Durant scored 24 and the Golden State Warriors advanced to the Western Conference finals by dismantling Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans 113-104 in Game 5 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Klay Thompson added 23 points for the Warriors, who with a 15th straight home playoff win tied Chicago for an NBA record. The Bulls did so from April 27, 1990, to May 21, 1991. Davis had 34 points and 19 rebounds for a Pelicans team that overcame the loss of DeMarcus Cousins to a season-ending torn Achilles tendon three months ago to make this strong run. The Pelicans shaved the lead to seven points with two minutes left on a basket by Davis before Draymond Green's turnaround fadeaway moments later. The Warriors advance to play the top-seeded Houston Rockets in what has long been an anticipated Western Conference finals matchup — with a Finals feel, perhaps — and one Golden State will start on the road Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). The teams didn't meet during the 2017 postseason, but the Warriors won a five-game series in the first round of the 2016 playoffs. Houston eliminated Utah in its Game 5 earlier Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). Curry, who returned for Game 2 after nearly six weeks out with a knee injury, knocked down an open three-pointer midway through the third and raised his hands to get the crowd going, then made another less than two minutes later. He converted three free throws at the 6:25 mark following a hard foul by Jrue Holiday. In the second quarter, Holiday shoved Curry hard into the basket, enraging the two-time MVP who let the officials know how upset he was by the push and no call. Holiday contributed 27 points and 11 assists, but even with better shooting, New Orleans couldn't stay with deep, score-at-will Golden State. The defending champions are serious about a repeat title, and took one step closer to that goal. So far this postseason, with Durant and Green leading the way, the Warriors have admirably defended the slower San Antonio Spurs and now the imposing, push-the-pace Pelicans. Green had another superb all-around night on both ends with 19 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and two blocked shots. The Warriors came out of halftime with a 10-0 run over the opening 1:54, forcing two Pelicans timeouts and taking control for the rest of the game. Thompson hit back-to-back three-pointers midway through the first to put Golden State up 17-10, the second right in front of his own bench as teammates erupted in celebration. He began 6-for-9 and had 14 points by the 4:10 mark of the first. Durant became irate when Nikola Mirotic made a late, hard bump on a three-point try with 5:23 left in the first — a play that was reviewed and Mirotic received just a common foul. As Durant took free throws, Green tried to listen in on the Pelicans' huddle before official Josh Tiven pulled him away. CURRY'S SERIES Curry went 10-for-16 in 37 minutes playing his fourth game back from a sprained left knee he hurt March 23 (Mar. 24, PHL time). His minutes have increased each game he plays, up to 31 in Game 4 and 37 on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). He added eight assists and seven rebounds in Game 5. He was 32-for-67 with 15 three's in the series. On a side note, he went 0-for-5 on his signature tunnel shots before the game. TIP-INS Pelicans: New Orleans made 6-of-9 three's in the first and finished 10-for-24 from long range. ... New Orleans got back in it with an 11-0 run in the second. Warriors: Golden State shot 4-of-14 from deep in the first half. ... Durant scored 20 or more points in a 17th straight postseason game. His first five points moved him past two players — Chris Mullin (685) and Harrison Barnes (687) — into 10th place all-time for the Warriors in postseason scoring. ... Curry (366) passed Paul Arizin (364) for second place on the franchise postseason list for made free throws. ... Curry (19) and Thompson (16) have made all of their free throws this postseason. ... The Warriors are 9-1 in Game 5's since 2015. They also clinched their first-round series with San Antonio at home in Game 5. ... Durant received the Al Attles Community Impact Award in a pregame ceremony. The Warriors Community Foundation will donate $15,000 to the charity Durant chose, Oakland Elizabeth House, which provides residences to women and children who have been homeless or faced violence or addiction. QUOTEABLE Steve Kerr on whether he needed to check in with his players on the urgency of closing out the series: "I dial people on my rotary phone. Nobody seems to answer, though. Nobody answers a home phone anymore. No texts necessary. Our guys know what's at stake.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2018

Draw of another title lights postseason path of Warriors

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst One of the Golden State Warriors’ people, walking out of Smoothie King Center Sunday (Monday, PHL time), summarized the team’s season so far in detailing Kevin Durant’s 38-point performance against the Pelicans in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals. “Sometimes, people forget,” he said, a wry smile on his face -- and, yes, they do. With all that has gone on around the league this season, the Warriors’ storyline hasn’t been quite as eyeballed nationally this season compared with previous years. (Not that they should care. It’s just an observation.) The Cleveland Cavaliers blew things up last summer and reformed in the fall, blew it up again in the winter and reformed again in the spring. The Boston Celtics are displaying amazing resilience through seemingly devastating injuries to put themselves on the brink of another conference finals. The Philadelphia 76ers have their Fun Bunch. There was Paul George’s trade to Oklahoma City (and all that entailed, now and later) and the Toronto Raptors’ dramatic and successful changes throughout the year. And, at the forefront, there was the Houston Rockets’ rise as a legit and serious challenger to the Warriors in the Western Conference. During the regular season, the Warriors’ energy and productivity dropped off ever so slightly, like the planet killer in “The Doomsday Machine,” one of the all-time best original “Star Trek” episodes, after the doomed Commodore Decker drove a Shuttlecraft right down its throat. (Of course, Captain Kirk figured out to destroy it. Dude, come on. This is James Tiberius Kirk we’re talking about.) And at the end of the regular season, they were hit with a series of body shot injuries: Stephen Curry’s MCL strain, Durant’s ribs, Klay Thompson’s thumb injury, Draymond Green’s hip, and on and on. Those all sapped their continuity and made them look mortal down the stretch of the 2017-18 season, and the Warriors went 7-10 as the season waned. But, after dispatching the Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs in five games in the first round, and taking a 3-1 lead on the Pelicans now, they’re again on the precipice of the Western Conference finals. A date with Houston is looming and a chance at a third title in four seasons is still on their racket. “I think as the playoffs go on, every series requires a different intensity level,” Green said last week. “I think we met that standard that it takes to win playoff games at the level we’re at right now, which is the second round. It’s not our first rodeo. We’ve been here a lot of times and we know what it takes.” Steve Kerr rolled the “Hamptons Five” lineup out Sunday (Monday, PHL time), the Lineup Formally Known as Death -- Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Green and Durant. It’s been their trump card for almost two years, the lineup that can’t be solved by the opposition, even as it’s chipped away at most of Golden State’s other conventional units. Durant went for 38, and the Warriors rolled to a 118-92 win and a 3-1 series lead. They didn’t use it much this season -- that quintet only played 127 minutes together this season, after logging 224 minutes last season -- because of all the injuries, because they tried to limit their biggest players’ minutes and because using Iguodala as a starter thins out Golden State’s bench. The Warriors’ most frequently used five-man unit this season featured Zaza Pachulia at center; among five-man units leaguewide that played 200 minutes or more together this season, per NBA.com/Stats, that quintet was third in the league in Offensive Rating, at 118.6. But Pachulia hasn’t played a minute in the playoffs, and if the Rockets are the Warriors’ next opponent, he may not play much then, either, against Clint Capela. Kerr often points out that the Warriors have six centers on the current roster, and most of them have gotten at least a little run at various points. But after JaVale McGee was ineffective in Game 3 against New Orleans Friday (Saturday, PHL time), Kerr pulled his trump card. It’s still a game-changer, and when a season comes down to a best-of-seven series, one game can be the difference. “We all bring the best of each other,” Curry said of the Hamptons unit. “We increase the pace of the game, but the versatility [is] at the defensive end -- Andre, Draymond, KD shoring up the paint, switching a lot of the screens and the action from the offense and Klay doing what he does on the perimeter. I think the biggest thing offensively is that we’re all playmakers, try to look for the best shot, stay within ourselves and just make the right play.” Going back to the old playlist may give the Warriors comfort in what has been another drama-filled season, with the contretemps about being disinvited from the White House by President Trump in September getting things off to a rollicking start. But the end of the season was what raised eyebrows around the league. Curry’s absence down the stretch combined with a teamwide ennui -- “I really don’t like talking about it,” Thompson said -- that gave potential playoff opponents hope they might be able to catch Golden State napping. The Warriors’ boredom showed up most at the defensive end. After being in the top seven in both unadjusted and adjusted Defensive Rating in each of the last four seasons -- including first in the league in both categories in the first championship season of 2014-15 -- Golden State fell to 11th and 12th, respectively, in the regular season. They came out of the All-Star break focused -- they were fifth in the league in Defensive Rating on March 1. But all the injuries blunted their momentum, and the scariest of all -- a serious injury to second-year guard Patrick McCaw in Sacramento March 31 (April 1, PHL time) -- shook the team more than people on the outside realized. “Throughout that time, we had spurts,” Durant said. “We played a great OKC team. We went in there and won. Then we lost to Indiana by 20, and then it’s like, when you’re riding just on emotion a lot, you tend to go up and down. It’s like a roller coaster. I think that’s what it was. We had those spurts where we played well and played a focused game, but then Patty goes out, boom, and there was just so much that went on with that. Then Steph goes out with a freak injury. So much went on with that. I think we were just so up and down emotionally it kind of blinded us from our goal, which was to be good every single night as basketball players.” McCaw’s injury -- a bone bruise suffered when he fell after a dunk attempt against the Kings, which required him to be carried off the court in Sacramento on a stretcher -- hit everyone hard. “When Pat got injured, I think that took a little bit out of us,” Durant said. “It took a little bit out of Steve as well. You could just feel it, when Steph went out, then I went out, then Draymond, then Klay. Our emotions were so up and down. When your emotions are, you have too many emotions in the game of basketball, it can kind of blind you from what you really have to do. This is a technical game. So when you put too many emotions into it, it kind of took us away from what we wanted to do.” McCaw, who played in 57 games this season, was not only a part of Kerr’s rotation. He is also a well-liked person who was getting better on the floor. He was re-evaluated last week and will be checked out again in a month. Though he’s been traveling with the team during the playoffs, his season is almost certainly over. And as his injury came during the Warriors’ many injuries down the stretch, its chilling effect was multiplied. “It definitely got to everybody,” Green said. “Kind of the uncertainty of not knowing what’s going on with him. The rotations. Everybody’s like, ahh, kind of tiptoeing around, trying to make sure you get to the playoffs healthy. A lot of that makes a difference. I mean, that’s our brother. To see him down like that, not be able to walk off the court under his own power, him not being around us for two or three weeks, it was kind of like the unknown. It sucked. And I think it definitely had an effect on everything.” But Durant doesn’t like the metaphor of the proverbial switch being turned on at playoff time explaining the team’s improvement the last couple of weeks. “I don’t like when you call it a switch,” he said. “Because guys come in and get extra work in every single day. They work on their bodies every day, they get treatment. You come in here any time, you see guys in here working on their games. I think when you say ‘a switch turned on,’ if guys went cold turkey on everything as professionals during the season, and just tried to pick it up in the playoffs, I think that’s turning on a switch. Mentally, focus-wise, game plan-wise, I think you can turn on a switch, because you can lock in on an opponent, you know their tendencies, you can just focus in on one group of players instead of one day it’s San Antonio, the next day it’s Phoenix, next day it’s Sacramento. You’re going so up and down. If that makes sense. “So I think everybody’s putting in that work individually all year, and as a team, you know, stuff has to come together. We have to focus in on what we need to do, game plan wise, tendency wise, just try to take away things. I think that’s where you kind of turn it up just a bit.” Golden State has performed in fits and starts in the first two rounds. The Spurs didn’t have enough firepower to be a serious threat, but they played hard and were increasingly effectively on defense as the series went on. The Warriors didn’t really have an answer for LaMarcus Aldridge after Game 1. New Orleans had, until Sunday (Monday, PHL time), been more and more successful at making the Warriors shoot contested shots. That certainly gibes with Curry’s return after five weeks. He’s healthy, but rusty. After his adrenaline-filled return last Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) in Game 2 against the Pelicans, he made just 14-of-33 from the floor in the two games in New Orleans. There was talk afterward about breakthroughs for Curry cardiovascularly. The next few games will tell whether Curry is truly recovered and ready to be two-time Kia MVP Steph … or will he just be on the floor (as he was for long and important stretches in the 2016 playoffs after returning from a Grade 1 knee sprain). The Warriors still made The Finals, but Curry wasn’t Curry against Cleveland, and everyone, starting and ending with LeBron James, knew it. No one in NBA history has changed the geometry of basketball more than Curry, and when he’s on the floor, the ball starts flying around. “Our formula is simple: if we out-pass people, we win,” Warriors forward David West said. “Ball movement. With guys going in and out of the lineup, it causes moments where guys try to carry the load, maybe try to shoulder the load individually. But the strength of the group is the group.” But the Warriors can still throw so many different things and people at you. Iguodala shot a career-worst 28.2 percent on three-pointers in the regular season. He’s at 39.3 percent in the 2018 playoffs. Does anyone doubt he was biding his time until the postseason? No one wearing an NBA uniform is in better shape than the 34-year-old Iguodala, no one is smarter about the game or matchups, and no one is a prouder, fiercer competitor. The 2015 Finals MVP brings his bag of intangibles with him on the road even more than at home, as he did Sunday. In that game, he was making life miserable for the Pelicans’ Nikola Mirotic, creating deflections, making the right reads and impacting the game despite scoring just six points. Kerr likened him to Scottie Pippen after Game 4, but Iggy wasn’t buying it -- “Steve just does that to make sure I don’t get mad ‘cause I don’t shots,” Iguodala quipped. He may be right. But Iguodala and Green have a mind meld defensively that’s at the heart of the Hamptons’ effectiveness. “Andre and I, we’re usually on the same page,” Green said. “Two guys who really think the game, especially on that side of the ball. Sometimes we can talk things out and it works perfect and not say a word, and know what each other’s going to do. It definitely helps our team out defensively kind of having two coaches out there on the floor on that side of the ball.” Whether it’s switching to guard each other’s man, running at an open shooter to close before the ball gets there with the other man rotating, they know what the other guy is going to do. And that second or so the Warriors save defensively keeps them from being broken down. “How fast can you make that decision?,” Green says. “How demonstrative are you going to be about that decision? Are you going to second guess that decision? That’s usually when it doesn’t work; if you’re going to go, just go. That’s kind of the motto that Andre and I go by. If you’re going to go, just go; everybody else fall in line and rotate, and we’ll work it out from there.” And while Green and Rajon Rondo have been exchanging pleasantries throughout this series, Green didn’t pick up his first postseason technical foul until Sunday (Monday, PHL time). He’s been under control, coming up to the edge without going over. Someone without access to the internet asked Kerr if he’d ever played with anyone who instigated or tried to get under the skin of opponents. It’s a testament to Kerr’s comic timing that he actually did wait a beat before answering. “I did play with Dennis Rodman,” he said. Never be fooled by Kerr’s overall pleasant disposition and quick-with-a-quip acuity, though. He is a fierce competitor that wants to win big, the same as his current point guard, who is similarly underrated on the competition scale. Kerr has seven rings as a player and coach, and it’s not a coincidence he’s frequently been around teams that got it done in June. But the Warriors are playing for even bigger stakes than just winning the 2018 title. Legacies are created this time of year. A third title in four seasons, with four straight Finals appearances, would put Golden State in very rarified air in the modern game. San Antonio won three titles from 2002-07. But the Spurs, famously, never have won back-to-back titles. The Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal-led Lakers, which won three straight from 2000-02, are the closest modern-day team to pulling off what the Warriors are trying to accomplish. Before then, you’re talking about the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, with six titles in eight seasons -- the two non-title seasons coinciding with Jordan’s sojourn to the minor leagues of baseball. Moreover, the Warriors are the hub around which the modern NBA now spins. And that is an even bigger legacy. Almost everyone (hi, Thibs!) tries to play the way Golden State does now -- the quick hitters, ball movement, pace. Teams do it in different ways. The 76ers look very different than the Warriors, with Joel Embiid their centerpiece of operations, and with 6'10" Ben Simmons taking up so much space with the ball in the halfcourt. The Rockets look different still as there’s not a ton of ball movement. There’s just an unending series of screen and rolls with Chris Paul and James Harden with the rock, looking for the inevitable open man in the corner or way, way behind the three-point line. A lot of things have happened the last 15 years to lead us where we are now. The league changed almost all the rules regarding zone defense, and got rid of almost all defensive contact on the perimeter. Rockets GM Daryl Morey and others led the burgeoning analytics movement, which championed shooting more and more three-pointers as a primary means of scoring, not as a novelty. Mike D’Antoni’s Phoenix Suns went with Amar’e Stoudemire at center, surrounding him with four smalls that could all shoot it from deep, and scoring came out of its coma leaguewide. Kerr and Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry have always been quick to credit D’Antoni’s influence on the modern game, starting in Phoenix and working through his current team in Houston. “He’s the guy that just eliminated the center position -- let’s just go small and fast and shoot more threes,” Kerr said of D’Antoni. “I was inspired by Mike, but I was also inspired by Pop (the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich) and Phil Jackson in terms of basic ball movement, screening. But pace is the name of the game these days, and people go about it in different ways. Ironically, Mike’s team (in Houston) is the slowest team in the league now. I didn’t see that coming.” But no one has put all of it together -- pace, small ball, shooting and defense -- like the Warriors have the last four seasons. The Rockets are the closest thing we’ve seen to Golden State, and they’re hungry, and they’re coming. And the Warriors and Rockets are just a win apiece away from seeing the clash of the Western Conference titans. They are in the middle of it, so they can’t stop and think about what it all means. We get that. But everyone wants to put a marker out there that’s hard to catch. LeBron is chasing a ghost. The Warriors have already made their mark on the game. They’re almost in position to do more. History is forever. “It’s important, because it’s what’s right in front of us,” Curry said Sunday. “We don’t think about the historical context of anything. For us, we have an amazing group of guys, amazing coaches sitting behind us. We’re appreciating the moment. That’s really all it is. You have tunnel vision for Game 5 at home, then a new series, hopefully (after that). The historic context doesn’t really seep into the locker room when it comes to what that means. It’s just about this year.” Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 8th, 2018

Foreign teams, organizers impressed with Filipino crowds, hosting of FIVB World Tour Manila Open

The Philippines proved to the world that it can host a magnitude of an event such as the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Manila Open.  Beach Volleyball Republic co-founder Charo Soriano was delighted that as first-time hosts, the country was able to hold a successful international beach volleyball tournament.  "I'm very much humbled and very happy. It's was very fulfilling to see the number of people watching and the amount of support that we are getting for beach volleyball -- not only for the Philippine team but even for other athletes as well," said Soriano.  Playing in front of a big appreciative crowd that packed Sands SM By The Bay, Japan’s Ayumi Kusano and Takemi Nishibori won their first World Tour women's gold medal following a quick 21-14, 21-18 conquest of Spain’s Maria Belen Carro and Paula Soria in the final. Germany’s Max-Jonas Karpa and Milan Sievers also snatched their first-ever FIVB World Tour men's gold, beating Russia's Petr Bakhnar and Taras Myskiv in come-from-behind fashion, 15-21, 23-21, 15-9. Filipino fans were treated to and spoiled with world-class beach volleyball action in the four-day, one-star tournament.     "Hopefully this is the start. This can be the catalyst for what we really want, which is beach volleyball to be here in the Philippines. And it’s a sport for the masses talaga. A sport that people can enjoy and that everybody can learn to love as well," Soriano said. Among the four Filipina pairs that competed, Sisi Rondina and Dzi Gervacio advanced the most, making it to the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, reigning BVR national champions Karen Quilario and Lot Catubag secured a round-of-12 spot and were just a point away from advancing to the top eight. Both feats, Soriano considered to be a breakthrough for the sport in the country.  The Filipinas defied tremendous odds - especially with Rondina and Gervacio beating much taller and experienced pairs from the United States and Canada, and Quilario and Catubag, who pushed reigning Asian U19 champions Thailand to three extended sets before losing in a valiant effort.  "It's a very momentous event, this one," said Soriano, who herself competed along with Bea Tan. "First, because a lot of the Philippine teams really didn't have programs prior to this event. We have BVR, we have regional tours, we have national championships. But in terms of having a proper national training pool program, it's still non-existent. But despite that, we were able to garner wins in the first-ever FIVB tournament that we are entering as national team.   "Napakasaya po kasi we are very proud of the rest of the Philippine delegation. Even though our men's teams didn't really win, you can really see that they were competent. They were competitive."  The FIVB World Tour is a good gauge for those vying for slots in future beach volleyball tournaments like next year's Southeast Asian Games that the Philippines is hosting.  Soriano thanked Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas Inc. acting president Peter Cayco and secretary-general Ricky Palou for their support and overseeing the event. The event is supported by Dataland, Dataland Residentials, The Olive Place, Rebisco, Creamline, Globe, Maynilad, Gatorade, Tryp and Hotel 101. "We just need the proper support and of course, continous programs in time for SEA Games next year. That's really the goal and that's why we wanted to push for an international tournament as well in preparation for next year's SEA Games," said Soriano.  With the way the Manila Open has turned out, another one-star tournament in the coming years is not far fetched. "For sure, it won't be the last," said Soriano. "Being the first-time hosts and speaking as an organizer, we had setbacks as well, we had problems, but nothing that teamwork cannot fix.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 7th, 2018

Japan duo bags FIVB beach volley diadem

Japan’s Takemi Nishibori and Ayumi Kusano stamped their class on Spain’s Paula Soria and Maria Belen Carro, 21-14, 21-18, to capture the women’s title in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Manila Open at SM Sands by the Bay yesterday......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMay 6th, 2018

Japan wins gold in FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour

Japan's Ayumi Kusano and Takemi Nishibori scored a two-set sweep over Spain's Paulo Gutirrez and Maria Beln, 21-14, 21-18, to take the gold medal in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Manila Open Sunday at SM Sands by the Bay. The Japanese pair managed to get to the 21-15 match point but the Spaniards put up three straight points to keep their faith alive. Nishibori, however, has had enough and delivered the knockout blow off Kusano's perfect pass. "We're so happy, this is perfect," said Kusano who, with Nishibori, went on a perfect 6-0 run in the one-star event. Paraguay's Erika Bobadilla and Michelle Amarilla won the bronze medal after brushing off Japan's Shinako Tan...Keep on reading: Japan wins gold in FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMay 6th, 2018

Japan, Germany emerge victorious in inaugural FIVB Manila Open

Despite coming from countries which experience the cold confines of winter, Japan and Germany sizzled and came out as the Queens and Kings of the sand court at the conclusion of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Manila Open at the SM Sands by the Bay. The Japanese tandem of Nishibori Takemi and Kosano Ayumi defeated Spain's Paula Soria Gutierrez and María Belén Carro Márquez de Acuña despite the scorching bayside afternoon heat in straight sets, 21-14, 21-18. With the victory, the gold medallists have gone undefeated in the tournament, 6-0, while the silver medalists ended the tournament with a 5-1 slate.  Meanwhile, their countrymates were not as lucky in the bronze medal match, as the top-seeded Paraguay tandem of Erika Bobadilla and Michelle Amarilla managed to eke out a 21-17, 21-16 victory over Tanaka Shinako and Sakurako Fujii in the preceding match. Takemi and Nishibori advanced to the Finals after beating Tanaka and Fujii, 21-13, 21-16, in the semis while Bobadilla and Amarilla won over Soria Gutierrez and Carro Márquez de Acuña, 21-16, 21-15. #FIVBManilaOpen Women's Division Podium Finishers: 1st: Japan 🇯🇵 2nd: España 🇪🇸 3rd: Paraguay 🇵🇾@abscbnsports pic.twitter.com/PLxetGh9aN — Philip Matel (@philipptionary) May 6, 2018 In the men's division, the Germans defeated the Russians as they came back and won a grueling three-set affair,15-21, 23-21, 15-9, to be crowned the kings of the Manila sand court. Max-Jonas Karpa and Milan Sievers took advantage of the visibly tired Russian duo of Petr Bakhnar and Taras Myskiv, finding open holes in the defense and winning jousts to take home the gold an a $1000 cash prize.  Meanwhile, Switzerland's Michiel Zandbergen and Gabriel Kissling won third after stifling Spanish brothers Javier and Alejandro Huerta Pastor in a thrilling match, 22-20, 19-21, 15-13. It was a see-saw third set which saw both teams exchanging leads. However, it seems the final change of the sides of the court did wonders for the Swiss nationals as Zandbergen emphatically rejected two straight attacks to clinch the third spot.  Bakhnar and Myskiv went to the finals by defeating the Huerta Pastor brothers, 21-18, 17-21, 21-18, while Karpa and Sievers won over Zandbergen and Kissling in the semis, 21-17, 21-16. #FIVBManilaOpen Men's Division Podium Finishers: 1st: Germany 🇩🇪 2nd: Russia 🇷🇺 3rd: Switzerland 🇨🇭@abscbnsports pic.twitter.com/hwwXsj5w75 — Philip Matel (@philipptionary) May 6, 2018  The four-day tournament, which featured teams from 23 different countries, featured eight teams, four each for the men's and women's bracket from the Philippines. #FIVBManilaOpen winners celebrate at the podium with champagne @abscbnsports pic.twitter.com/VdVEvPU3Ew — Philip Matel (@philipptionary) May 6, 2018 UAAP beach volleyball veteran Sisi Rondina and Beach Volleyball Republic founder Dzi Gervacio, used their wit and skill up to the quarterfinals, where they bowed to Japan's Shinako Tanaka and Fujii Sakurako, which went to three sets and went in the favor of the Japanese, 13-21, 21-17, 11-15, Saturday afternoon. READ MORE: Kaya nating sumabay, kaya nating manalo -- Rondina “Sana ito na talaga ang reason why the Philippines should have a good, long term and continuous program for beach volleyball,” said Gervacio to ABS-CBN Sports' Mark Escarlote after their loss against Japan. “Kita naman natin na with just two weeks of practice, never ko ‘tong naging partner si Sisi and never ko itong naging teammate kahit saan but we’ve managed to play until the quarterfinals.” The former Ateneo Lady Eagle also hopes that this will be a springboard for the development of the popularity of the sport in the country. "Sana ito na ang heads up to everyone na, ‘Tara let’s start a beach volleyball program.’ We’ve won against USA and Canada and I think that’s a good turnout for someone who’s very young and a young team in beach volleyball." With the win in the one-star tournament, the participants recieved a $1000 prize for first, $700 for second, and $500 for third, coupled with their corresponding FIVB ranking points.       -- Follow this writer on Twitter, @philipptionary.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2018

Boxing: Jonas Sultan heads to US for historic world title bout against champ Jerwin Ancajas

With a little over two weeks to go before his historic all-Filipino world title bout against reigning and defending IBF Super Flyweight World Champion Jerwin Ancajas, ALA Promotions rising star Jonas Sultan has made his way stateside.  The 26-year old Zamboanga del Norte native arrived touched down in Los Angeles, California earlier this week.  "Nagpapasalamat ako na nakarating na ako dito sa Los Angeles," Sultan told ABS-CBN News' Steve Angeles. "Excited na ako sa darating na laban. Medyo kailangan ko mag-adjust sa weather so I need more practice here." The upcoming title bout at the Selland Arena in Fresno is the biggest opportunity to date for the up-and-coming Sultan, who boasts a 14-3 professional record with nine wins coming via KO. And while he's riding a five-fight winning streak with wins over former world champions Sonny Boy Jaro and Johnriel Casimero, Sultan is coming in as a heavy underdog against Manny Pacquiao protege Ancajas.  Ancajas will be looking for his fifth successful title defense.  To make sure that Sultan will be primed and ready for his first crack at a world championship, he's being joined in training camp by three-division world champion and ALA Promotions stablemate Donnie "Ahas" Nietes.  Nietes, who just recently announced his move up to the super flyweight division, will be the perfect training partner for the young Sultan.  "Tinutulungan ko si Jonas Sultan mag-ensayo dito, baka mag-sparring din kami," said Nietes.  For Sultan, having Donnie in camp is more than just getting an elite-level training partner. "Masaya ako kasi kasama ko si Donnie," said Sultan. "Inspiration ko kasi siya, world champion siya. Alam ko mabibigyan niya ako ng tips kung paano lumaban kay Jerwin." Nietes, the longest-reigning Filipino boxing world champion could have an all-Filipino world title match in his horizon as well, as the WBO has reportedly ordered a title match for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight World Championship between Nietes and fellow Negrense Aston Palicte.  While there is no official announcement yet, Nietes says that it's better to stay ready and in shape.  "Siyempre para sa akin, dapat reding-ready ako anytime, baka biglang mag schedule na." Before jumping up to 115-pounds, Nietes successfully defended his IBF Flyweight World Championship against Juan Carlos Reveco in Los Angeles last February.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2018

UAAP VOLLEYBALL: Final test for DLSU’s Big 3

It was Game 4 of the UAAP Season 76 Women's Volleyball Finals. A monstrous 21,314-strong crowd filled the Mall of Asia Arena, rocking the three-year-old state-of-the art venue in Pasay City. A do-or-die match for the four-peat-seeking De La Salle University, which a few weeks ago was the favorite to go all the way, make a flawless title run in the women’s volleyball tournament following a 14-0 sweep of the elimination round. They only needed two wins. The Lady Spikers held a thrice-to-beat advantage. They could’ve had won it all the game before. But a young and hungrier Ateneo de Manila University led by a third-year hitter in Alyssa Valdez and piloted by a newly-appointed Thai coach spoiled their run late in the fifth set. Then it all came to one final battle for the crown. Graduating Aby Marano, a feisty and vocal leader, tried to rally her teammates. DLSU was down two sets to none. Rookie Kim Kianna Dy was deployed for the first time in the series as a substitute. With her was another rookie, libero Dawn Macandili, her high school teammate at De La Salle Zobel. On the bench, freshman middle Majoy Baron, a recruit from Baguio City National High School, looked at her teammates as the Lady Eagles reached their 25th point. Tears fell almost simultaneously as the final whistle blew. DLSU lost their three-year throne. It was second stringer Baron, reserve libero Macandili and benchwarmer Dy’s first taste of the championship round. It was bitter. It was painful. They vowed for revenge the following season. But the aftertaste of that defeat lingered up until Season 77.      CHANGE OF FORTUNE   The trio under the guidance of head coach Ramil De Jesus were molded into legit stars in just three years. They finally earned the trust of the mentor, the architect of DLSU’s success the past two decades. Before Season 78, the Lady Spikers joined the Philippine Superliga under the Meralco banner during the off-season. There they became the whipping girls of the tournament, finishing fifth in the six-team field. But it was De Jesus’ way to strengthen the Lady Spikers’ minds and develop their skills. In order to build a strong team, he had to make them feel defeat. The trio of Macandili, Baron and Dy benefited from all of these. They had the weapons this time around against Ateneo in the bitter rivals’ fourth straight championship installment. Macandili’s floor defense was superb, Baron was a solid net defender alongside a graduating Mika Reyes. And Dy, the opposite who only saw action on borrowed playing time in Season 76, made her presence felt in the most important three games of the season. Dy brought down on its knees the mighty Ateneo with an average of 17 points per game in the Finals that went the full distance and earned the Finals Most Valuable Player award. Macandili won the Best Receiver and Best Digger honors while Baron was named Best Blocker. They gave the ‘Big Three of Reyes’, Ara Galang and Cyd Demecillo a fitting farewell gift. As they bid adieu to the trio, it was the time for Macandili, Baron and Dy to fit in to the shoes of DLSU’s new ‘Big Three’. SHINING MOMENT Season 79 became the litmus test for the three. DLSU lost most of its veterans save for graduating setter Kim Fajardo while hitter Desiree Cheng just came back from an ACL tear injury. The trio needed to step up. Most of the pressure was on Macandili’s shoulder. Before the start of the season, the five-foot Tanuan, Batangas defense specialist was named PSL All-Filipino Conference MVP as the DLSU-backed F2 Logistics ruled the tournament on June 2016. However, the Lady Spikers encountered a bumpy road in the UAAP, losing three games in the elims. Two against Ateneo. But it didn’t deter the three volleybelles from doing their part to carry the team back into the Finals against the Lady Eagles. It was the trio’s shining moment. Bringing in the experience, confidence and the signature swag, the Lady Spikers steamrolled past the Ateneo in two games to cap a successful season that saw Baron win the coveted Season MVP plum for her undeniable efficiency the whole tournament long. Baron was the first DLSU player to win the highest individual honor since Marano and Galang shared the award in Season 75. FINAL TEST “Iba ’yung pressure na kailangan mong buhatin ang team kasi last playing year mo na.” This was how Macandili described Season 80. Now playing on her last year, Macandili, like the rest of the ‘Big Three’ wanted to leave a winning legacy. “Siyempre gusto mong maging maganda ang exit mo and para sa team din na ma-achieve ang goal naming,” added Macandili, who a few months back was awarded as Asia’s Second Best libero during the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship. “Nandoon din ang takot na last playing year mo na and hindi mo na mababalikan ‘to. Ayoko namang mag-exit na may regrets.”   The Lady Spikers advanced to the Finals for the tenth straight year and are on the brink of handing De Jesus his third career grand slam and DLSU’s 11th overall crown after taking down Far Eastern University in straight sets in Game 1. “Siguro this is our chance to bring back the three-peat and siyempre lahat ng sacrifices namin, lahat ng pinaghirapan namin, ito na 'yung final test namin,” said Dy. One last push to return the trust and confidence given by de Jesus. “We want to show coach na sa five years naman dito, these are the players that you produced. We want to honor him,” added Dy. Baron, for her part, wanted to fulfill a promise she made before the start of the season. To keep DLSU’s winning tradition. “Ayaw kong masira 'yung record ni coach. Kaya as much as possible, parang sobrang nabilib din ako sa sistema niya at mga seniors ko before, parang ayaw ko na puputulin ko 'yung history na ginagawa nila sa time ko ngayon,” she said. “Personally, 'yun ang motivation ko.” On Wednesday, Macandili, Baron and Dy could be playing their last games as Lady Spikers. The Big Three could be making their final bow. A last chance to join their teammates in forming a circle, kneeling and posing with an arm stretched while the other bent imitating an archer ready to release a flaming final arrow.   Three more DLSU players will be leaving the lair of the Lady Spikers. A trio that gave everything they got for five fruitful and colorful years. People, for sure, will be talking about their stints for the green and white for years. The stories of their ups and downs. The glory that they made together.   But for Baron, Macandili and Dy, it was the honor of playing for La Salle under the great Ramil De Jesus that will be their most cherished college memories.     ---   Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 1st, 2018

Rafael Nadal reaches Barcelona Open semifinals

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Rafael Nadal defeated Martin Klizan 6-0, 7-5 to extend his winning streak on clay and reach the Barcelona Open semifinals on Friday. Nadal started well but needed to save three set points to close out the match for his 17th straight victory on the surface. The top-ranked Spaniard has won 42 consecutive sets on clay. "It was a good start for me, a quick one, but then in the second set everything changed," said Nadal, who had to come back from a break down. "I feel a little bit luck today to be through in straight sets again." The 140th-ranked Klizan had eliminated Novak Djokovic in the second round. Nadal will next face David Goffin, who defeated Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-2. The 10th-ranked Belgian Goffin had to come back from a set down in all of his three victories in Barcelona. In the other semifinal, Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain — who defeated second-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-3, 7-6 (4) — will play against Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 63rd-ranked Greek who got past third-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria 6-3, 6-2. Nadal needs to win his 11th Barcelona title to retain his No. 1 ranking......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 28th, 2018

Ateneo s Fab 5: The Fearless Underdogs of UAAP Volleyball

Newly-appointed head coach Roger Gorayeb looked at his line-up heading into UAAP Season 71. A champion mentor of NCAA powerhouse San Sebastian College - Recoletos, Gorayeb had in his hands a gargantuan task of rebuilding Ateneo de Manila University women’s volleyball program. Just a few months before, Ronald Dulay, the mentor before him landed a trio of blue chip recruits who were fresh from a successful stint in the Palarong Pambansa. Angeline "Dzi" Gervacio, Fille Saint Cainglet and Jamenea "Jem" Ferrer just joined the Katipunan-based squad. Gervacio and Cainglet were products of St. Scholastica's College in Manila while Ferrer was a gem from Hope Christian School under girl’s volleyball guru Jerry Yee. Looking at his 15-woman line-up with the season just a few months ahead, Gorayeb knew he needed to do something drastic. The roster just won’t do. Talking to then athletic director Ricky Palou and team manager Tony Boy Liao, the mentor told the team officials that he intended to cut five players from the list. One could just imagine the shock in their faces. “Nakita ko may line-up pero player-playeran lang yung ganoon bang tipo, 15 ata yun. Sabi ko ‘Magtatanggal ako ng lima then magre-recruit ako,’” he said. The three rookies were in. Middle Bea Pascual, Kara Acevedo and libero Steph Gabriel retained their spots. He needed more. “Sa mga tinira kong players, si Kara Acevedo sabi niya, ‘Coach mayroong player ang ICA (Immaculate Conception Academy) na gumraduate naka-exam na rito pasado.’ Sabi ko, ‘Sige papuntahin mo,’” said Gorayeb. It was Gretchen Ho. “Sa akin kasi ang talagang nagyaya sa akin si coach Ron Dulay. Si Kara Acevedo teammate ko and she’s been recruited by Ateneo. So one summer wala akong magawa naki-train lang ako noon tapos nagustuhan nila ang laro ko and then fourth year noong graduate na ako I passed the ACET then niyayaya na nila ako,” she said. “Then nagbago ng coach na si Coach Roger and dun niya ako nakita.”   “Pagdating ko ng March (sa Ateneo) wala na akong way para maka-recruit pa. Ang nangyari yung tatlo accepted na kaagad. Si Gretchen tinanong ko sabi ko, ‘ano ba ang laro mo?’ Sabi niya the usual panggitna, tres,” Gorayeb recalled. “So sinubukan ko pero ang laro niya tres hindi quick. Siya panggitna pero hindi quicker na gusto ko saka yung height niya (maliit). Kaya lang si Gretchen takbo ng takbo, mahilig magtatakbo so sabi ko sige pwede na yan. Wala namang player na during that time. So kinuha ko si Gretchen.” Gorayeb just needed just one more. “Ngayon nagkaroon ng STCAA (Southern Tagalog Calabarzon athletic association) eh kulang pa ako ng isa, wala akong panggitna. Ang gitna ko during that time si Bea lang tapos si Gretchen so wala akong pamalit. So naisipan ko may nakita ako sa STCAA,” he said. He spotted a lanky player from Canossa Academy-Lipa, Aillysse Nacachi. “Sabi ko kay Sir Tony pagtyagaan ko na lang ito kahit hindi naman kalakasan at wala naman na rin akong choice na makapili kasi rush ang pagdating ko dyan. Nakiusap lang sila sa akin na magbuo ako ng team kasi si Ronald nag-resign,” said Gorayeb. Another freshman could’ve had ended up with Ateneo, Hope’s libero Melissa Gohing. But a few obstacles prevented her from fulfilling her promise to join Ferrer in Ateneo. She instead chose to join the ladies in green and white in Taft.    SOMETHING PROMISING December 7, 2008. Far Eastern University Gym. Excitement filled the air. Fans, mostly volleyball purists and some who just came to support their classmates or were just curious to see a new spectacle after the basketball season ended, slowly settled in their seats for the women’s division’s second game. It was Adamson University, the previous year’s runner-up, which just visited the turf of their arch nemesis and defending champion FEU, which was led by that era’s finest and most popular volleybelle Rachel Anne Daquis. Fans wanted to see if the Lady Falcons still had the same firepower they had the previous season with the loss of top setter Janet Serafica and power hitter Sang Laguilles. A rookie-laden Ateneo squad should be easy pickings with Angela Benting, rookie Pau Soriano and libero Lizlee Anne Gata in the roster. Besides the Lady Falcons got the Lady Eagles’ number. Or so they thought. “Naalala ko nu’ng time namin sinasabi sa amin ng seniors namin na, ‘Hay naku ang lakas ng Adamson, never kami nanalo dyan,’” Cainglet, now happily married to film director Lino Cayetano and with three beautiful children, recalled.  But the Lady Eagles stunned Adamson in the opening set. The Lady Falcons took the next two frames. Ateneo stole the fourth.  “Ako naalala ko ano eh, parang alam namin na lahat kasi kami palaban. Nasa amin yun. Tapos binigyan kaming lahat ng chance to be in the first six so parang dream come true,” said Ho, now an ABS-CBN host. “Naalala ko rin na palaban kaming lahat kumbaga nothing to lose eh so ang ano namin, sumasabay kami sa laro and nu’ng nakita na namin na ‘Ay kaya pala natin ‘to guys. Kaya pala naming lumaban.’” Still, Adamson had the upper hand in experience. The Lady Falcons, used to pressure and were steady at crunch time, outlasted Ateneo.           The young Katipunan-based squad fell short, 25-22, 22-25, 15-25, 25-15, 8-15. But for the Fab 5, it was a loss that felt like a resounding victory. “Parang sobrang natutuwa kami and everybody in the crowd, kaya siguro kami natawag na Fab 5 kasi rookies kami pero kahit ganoon palaban kami,” said Ho. “Saka close game. Five sets yun.” However, it was the first of five five-set matches that Ateneo will drop that season including one in the second round against the Manilla Santos-bannered De La Salle University. “Pero ang problema di kami nananalo ng five sets. Parang ilan lang ang naipanalo namin na ganoon. Feeling ko na-overwhelm kami na ‘Uy nananalo tayo.’ May ganoong disbelief ng konti pero alam namin na may ibubuga kami,” said Ho. “Definitely, our rookie season was full of five-set matches. It was tough, we felt like we were so close, but still so far away. At some point, it gave us frustration also. We just couldn't figure out that time what is it that's still lacking because we couldn't win the five-set matches,” according to Nacachi. “People said, it was because the team was still so inexperienced. We still didn't have the tenacity unlike of those more matured teams. But we didn't take it as bad, it was a learning experience for us all at the end. We had to learn how to develop that finishing will to be able to win games like that in the future.” The Fab 5 finished their rookie season with a 6-8 slate at fifth spot.   ‘MAY MEDAL NA TAYO’ Gorayeb remembered on their second year the look on Pascual’s face in their last elimination game match against Adamson. Already wrapping up their first win over the Lady Falcons, Pascual was giddy. “Natatawa nga ako dyan kay Bea kasi papanalo na kami nu’n tapos sumesenyas na siya ng tres. Sabi ko, ‘Hoy anong ginagawa mo?’ Yun pala sobrang saya na niya kasi for the first time in 30 years magkaka-medal na sila,” he said. It was the most important match of the season for the Lady Eagles. With the Fab 5 already in their sophomore year, Ateneo was already making great strides. The Lady Eagles closed that season’s elims with five straight wins capped with a victory over Adamson. Ateneo posted a 10-4 win-loss mark to enter the Final Four legitimately. “Ang nangyari kasi nu’ng time nila Charo (Soriano) kaya sila nakapasok sa semis kasi may nag-squeal na si (Jacq) Alarca di pala naka-enroll nu’n kaya na-forfeit mga laro ng La Salle,” said Gorayeb. The Fab 5 proved that they were not just a bunch of much-hyped up pretty faces. They backed it up with their skills on court. It didn’t matter that Ateneo were swept by eventual champion University of Sto. Tomas in the Final Four.      But the podium finish of Season 72 was short-lived. Adamson got its revenge in the last game of Season 73 elims, bumping off the Lady Eagles in the podium finish. The loss put Ateneo in a collision course with the twice-to-beat DLSU, who could’ve completed an elims sweep if not only for a forfeited match against University of the East after UAAP found out that Carmela Garbin and Clarisse Yeung participated in a ‘ligang labas’ while the season was onoing, in the Final Four. Ateneo gave the Lady Spikers a scare before succumbing in another heartbreaking five-set match. The Lady Eagles finished fourth but that lone semis game gave Ateneo and its maturing Fab 5 enough experience to dream for something big – A ticket into the Finals.      ‘HINOG NA KAYO’ The first three years saw the gradual improvement for Ateneo. But Season 74 proved to be the turning point for the Fab 5. A fresh new recruit from University of Sto. Tomas high school, who just completed a year of residency, came into picture and with the Fab 5 armed with years of experience, the Lady Eagles’ fate will forever be changed. Alyssa Valdez, a highly recruited open spiker just like Gervacio, Cainglet-Cayetano and Ferrer years back, gave renewed excitement for the Ateneo faithful. “Alyssa's joining with Ateneo was a great turning point for us. We needed as much support we can get, and Alyssa's entrance to the team was a great boost to the team's morale,” said Nacachi. “The girl is a powerhouse and we felt like with her presence, the team finally became solid.” “We were able to play around with the positions and the rotations, since we had different versatile open players who can also greatly play other roles,” she added. “We were also able to formulate a lot of plays and attacks because Alyssa can generally do all kinds; open, running, quick, name it all. She gave the team the power and the versatility that we previously lacked from the past seasons.” Social media was just gaining traction then but the Lady Eagles were already on the radar of volleyball purists through online forums. For the first time, Ateneo was considered a legitimate contender.   The Fab 5 proved it by winning 11 games in the elimination round, losing only to UST once and dropping two against the Lady Spikers. Valdez’s arrival gave Ferrer an even broader option on offense. It eased the scoring load off the shoulders of Cainglet and Gervacio, who was then moved to an opposite position. “I guess sakto lang din yung dating niya because by that time Kara Acevedo graduated so someone had to fill in her spot so coach Roger decided for me to move to utility or opposite,” said Gervacio. “And then sakto Alyssa naman could fill in the spot na other open spiker.” “So timing din na we had all the pieces put together at the right time,” she added. With a good performance in the elims despite missing a legit middle in Bea Pascual and the entry of Aerieal Patnongon barred by academic problems, Ateneo finished second and for the first-time was armed with a twice-to-beat advantage in the stepladder semifinals. The Lady Eagles faced an experienced Tigresses side in the last stepladder semis stage. UST just came from a hard-fought four-set do-or-die match against FEU and were banking on their four-set win over Ateneo in the second round to force another sudden death. Ateneo’s date with destiny was sealed with a four-set win over the Tigresses, who then bid goodbye to Maika Ortiz and Judy Anne Caballejo. “Pinu-push na rin kami ni Coach Roger noon eh, ‘Hinog na kayo ngayon. Kasi dalawang taon na lang, kailangan makapasok na kayo sa Finals,’” said Ho. “Somehow senior na rin kami,” added Cainglet.  “Season 74 was really the target season for us to be in the finals and target even to win the championship,” according to Nacachi. “During this time, we were already thinking we could not afford to not go in the finals.” “So it was with our mindset and our level of commitment that we were able to finally reach our goal of reaching the finals,” she added. “We had enough experience that time already, and it was really time for us to show the level of game maturity the team had obtained from the past seasons.” But then they had to face an unbeaten team. Unscathed in 14 games, De La Salle University was poised to complete a perfect season. The Lady Eagles spoiled it. Ferrer outplayed DLSU setter Mika Esperanza, 57-42, in excellent sets as Ateneo handed the Lady Spikers its first loss after 25 straight victories in a come-from-behind 23-25, 28-26, 25-23, 25-17, Finals opener win. Witnessed by 3,002 spectators inside the then The Arena in San Juan, all of the Fab 5 produced points. Cainglet had 19 behind Valdez’s 24, Gervacio scored 12, Ho had 10, Nacachi finished with five while Ferrer had one. Gorayeb made a big gambit and it worked. “Dahil sa wala kong panggitna, yung laro namin ng La Salle, ginawa kong quicker si Alyssa. Kasi si Alyssa nakakapalo. Nagulat si Ramil (de Jesus) dun.” It was a big win. A huge upset. Unfortunately, Ateneo needed to win two more.  DLSU held a thrice-to-beat advantage.   THAT SWAG After Ateneo made a miracle in Game One, fans began to feel a new rivalry born. The attendance spiked. From just 3,000 spectators, the gate attendance more than doubled its size. The interest was there. Fans of traditional powers began to notice the Lady Eagles as a rising team. For the first time, a squad with no previous championship experience except for a title during the Marcos era in a different collegiate league, made a giant jolt. Everybody wanted to see what these girls would do next.    The Lady Eagles, still high on adrenaline after their Game 1 upset, took the opening set in Game 2. But just like in their opener, a well-experienced DLSU squad adjusted to take the next three frames to move a step closer to a repeat crown. With then Rookie of the Year Ara Galang, Season Most Valuable Player Aby Marano, an intimidating Michele Gumabao and a very efficient Finals MVP Cha Cruz teaming up for the kill, the Lady Spikers ripped Ateneo apart in Game 3 in straight sets, 25-16, 25-22, 25-13. “Sabi nga ni Dzi na nadyan na lahat eh. So I guess noong Season 74 nandoon na pero may kulang pa rin,” said Ho. “I guess we we’re able to make it to the Finals pero wala pa kaming championship experience.” Ferrer agreed. "Siguro ang kulang yung championship experience kasi nasa La Salle na ‘yun eh. Ilang years na silang nagpa-finals, nag-champion and for Ateneo doon pa lang namin sinimulan," said the three-time Best Setter. Lacking championship experience is one thing, but Ateneo during that time wasn’t ready for DLSU’s most feared weapon: the Lady Spikers’ swag.  “They have that swag,” said Gervacio. “Everyone knows about it naman. It’s really coach Ramil’s style talaga kasi as I remember when we were first year, four out of six of the players inside the court were rookies and even if we go against the powerhouses UST, FEU, Adamson, hindi sila yung nakikita nyo na kapag championship na rivalry, na swag, angas, stare down. Pero La Salle talaga kahit sino ang kalaban nila they’ll bring that attitude inside the court.” That Finals series cemented a new rivalry that will become one of the most celebrated in the sport. “I think it also helped that Ateneo-La Salle basketball didn’t face also,” said Gervacio. “Siyempre nandoon ang hunger for the rivalry eh and timely din na its been Ateneo-La Salle na rin sa volleyball.”   CLOSING A CHAPTER The Fab 5 were now in their fifth and last year. They wanted to leave a winning legacy. The pieces were already there. Gorayeb had at his disposal five seniors, a rising star in Valdez, a sophomore middle in Amy Ahomiro, a versatile Ella De Jesus, a steady libero in Denden Lazaro and a new kind of weapon – a massive crowd that can turn any venue into a sea of blue.              As expected, the second installment of the Ateneo-DLSU rivalry was set into place. Both sweeping their semis opponents. The Lady Spikers crushed National University while the Lady Eagles shot down Adamson. Game One was a shocker. DLSU heading into the Finals are on a 14-game roll but were stunned in the first two sets with Ateneo stepping on the gas. But a string of miscues, mostly from the service line, did the Lady Eagles in as they allowed the Lady Spikers to force a decider. DLSU, smelling blood, punished Ateneo to eke out a 20-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-6, victory inside the Big Dome witnesses by 17,342-strong gate attendance. Then the series transferred to a newly-built, state-of-the-art Mall of Asia Arena that drew a crowd of 18,799. The first two frames were frustrating for the Lady Eagles.   Ateneo came back to life in the third set to gain a 9-5 lead. But DLSU easily erased it with Ateneo crumbling under pressure. The Lady Spikers were on an onslaught. Sophomore Galang pushed DLSU at matchpoint with a cold-blooded ace that went in a few inches from the baseline. The score, 24-16. It was a tense moment for the Fab 5. A long rally ensued in the next play. Gervacio, with all her might pounded a kill. Her hand making a great contact on the ball off Ferrer’s backset.     Smack! The ball ricocheted off the hands of DLSU’s Wensh Tiu before falling on the same landing area of Gervacio, who tried to dive for a dig together with Lazaro. DLSU swept Ateneo, 25-23, 25-20, 25-16. Game over.          “Kahit hindi kami nanalo alam naming ibinigay namin ang lahat namin, all-out talaga kaya wala kaming pagsisisi,” said Ho. It was the end of the Fab 5 era, but they left more than what any of them could have imagined. "I remember so many people or fans telling me that they started really watching UAAP Volleyball because of our batch. And that is really touching and fulfilling to know. Knowing that you were able to leave an impact like that to people. We were not able to bring even a single championship to our school, Ateneo, but we were able to touch a lot of people's hearts despite that," Nacachi shared. The Fab 5 closed a colorful chapter of Ateneo volleyball in tears. They were there during the Lady Eagles’ birth pains. They labored. They shed tears, blood and sweat. They laid the foundation for something big. The Fab 5 planted the seeds that would eventually bear fruit and would change the course of Ateneo women’s volleyball program forever. Glory didn’t happen during their time. It started in theirs.    Amidst the roar of the crowd, the falling confetti, banging of drums and the echoing chant of ‘Animo La Salle’ from the sea of green, the Fab 5 hugged each other tight. They found comfort in each other. It was their time to say goodbye. For those who remained – Valdez, Lazaro, Ahomiro, De Jesus – the defeat added fuel to their already blazing desire to bring glory for the blue and white. They were the next in line, heirs to unfinished business. WATCH: FAB 5 Reunion Part 1 and Part 2 --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 20th, 2018

Paul and Harden lead No. 1 seed Rockets against Wolves

By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press HOUSTON (AP) — So far the trade for Chris Paul to give the Houston Rockets another superstar to help James Harden has worked famously. Now the two, who have both had their fair share of playoff disappointments, will try to carry their regular-season success into the postseason when the Rockets open a first-round series with Minnesota on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). The guards have been effusive in their praise for one another, with Harden recently joking that his relationship with the nine-time All-Star was "love at first sight." Paul didn't go quite that far, but a huge smile crossed his often serious face when asked how their pairing has worked. "Unbelievable," he said. "You just [don't] get this opportunity too often in a career to play with somebody like James ... you get a chance to appreciate greatness. "What he's doing on a nightly basis and stuff like that, it's crazy and I'm in awe," Paul continued. "I'm grateful I get to play alongside him." When told of what Paul said about him, Harden was quick to answer. "You can tell," he said. "It feels like it's been forever but it's not even been a year yet." Their work in the regular season led the Rockets to a franchise-record 65 wins, their first No. 1 seed and sixth straight playoff appearance. They are looking to win the title for the first time capturing back-to-back championships in 1994-95. For the 32-year-old Paul, it's a chance for him to finally shake off years off playoff woes after making nine playoff trips without advancing past the second round. But if he is haunted by the ghosts of playoffs past, he wouldn't acknowledge it and was dismissive when asked if he thought this was his best chance to win it all. "I don't know," he said. "I don't think about all that." What he and the Rockets do know is that they're facing a talented team in the eighth-seeded Timberwolves, who had to win their last regular-season game to get into the postseason. They ended the NBA's longest active playoff drought with their berth, putting them back in the postseason for the first time since 2004 when they lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. Getting the Timberwolves into the playoffs is a huge accomplishment for the entire team, but might mean just a little more to star Karl-Anthony Towns, who made a vow the night Minnesota selected him with the top overall pick in the 2015 draft. "It means more than I think words can express honestly," he said. "I made a promise to ... Flip Saunders and it meant a lot to me that I was able to keep my word." Some things to know as the Timberwolves and Rockets open their series: BACK HOME The series is a homecoming for Minnesota's Jimmy Butler, who grew up in Tomball, a suburb about 35 miles from downtown Houston. But he insists he won't have any time to get back out there this week. "Nope," he said. "Zero [time]. I ain't even going home. I'm here to work." But he did spend a little time on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) reminiscing about his high school days when he idolized a former Rockets star. "I used to walk around the hallways and in the gym thinking I was Tracy McGrady," he said. "I remember it like it was yesterday. He was my favorite player. I wanted to wear his number, wear his tennis shoes, all of that good stuff." Butler, who returned on April 6 (April 7, PHL time) after missing 17 games with a knee injury, said he's fully recovered from his injury and is "well-rested" entering the playoffs. PLAYOFF HISTORY This is the second time these teams have met in the playoffs. Their other meeting came in Minnesota's first trip in 1997, when the Timberwolves were swept in three games. That Houston team was led by Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley, and the Wolves featured Kevin Garnett, Stephon Marbury and Tom Gugliotta. LIMIT KAT FROM LONG RANGE The Rockets are resigned to the fact that Towns, who led the NBA in double-doubles, will get his points under the basket and plenty of rebounds. "He's going to get a double-double," Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said. "That's who he is." However, they are not OK with letting him shoot three-pointers. The seven-foot Towns ranked 14th in the league with a 42 percent average from three-point range and knocked down a career-high 120 three-pointers this season. "We [can't] leave him open or let him walk into a 3 because we're not guarding him," D'Antoni said. "We have to be aware of that. You can't take away his post-ups and his moves in there. He's going to score on anybody, but you can do a really good job on the three's." HARDEN'S MOTIVATION Despite finishing as the runner-up for MVP last season and being a front-runner for this year's award, Harden still faces plenty of criticism for some of his past performances in the playoffs, notably, a terrible performance in an embarrassing 114-75 elimination loss to San Antonio in the conference semifinals last season. But he has never been motivated by criticism, and he finds his drive in a far different place. "Just going out there and being the best that I can be," he said. "There's no negativity that someone can say that can motivate me. Some people can get motivated by that. I don't really care.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 15th, 2018

F2 Logistics, Petron clinch semis seats

Games Tuesday: (Filoil Flying V Centre) 4:15 p.m. --- Cocolife vs Cignal 7:00 p.m. --- Foton vs Sta. Lucia    GEN. TRIAS CITY --- F2 Logistics survived some scary moments down the stretch to complete a masterful 25-18, 25-18, 27-25 victory over Smart in the quarterfinals of the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix Saturday at the Gen Trias Sports Center here.  Despite playing in a humid venue, imports Maria Jose Perez and Kennedy Bryan were still impressive as they delivered the crucial blows that broke the hearts of the Giga Hitters. With the win, F2 Logistics would face the survivor between Foton and Sta. Lucia Realty in a best-of-three semifinal series starting next week.  In the second game, Petron clobbered Generika-Ayala, 25-19, 25-20, 25-22, to punch the second semifinal ticket.  American imports Hillary Hurley and Lindsay Stalzer were again impressive as they carried bulk of the offensive load for the Blaze Spikers, who will march to the next round beaming with confidence.  Petron will face the winner between Cocolife and Cignal in the best-of-three semifinals. Hurley talloed 18 hits while Stalzer chipped in 17 markers for Petron, which is gunning for its first Grand Prix crown since winning it in 2014.  Darlene Ramdin delivered 12 points, but she drew very limited support from the rest of the Lifesavers, who kissed the tournament goodbye with three wins in 11 outings. Perez, the reigning Most Valuable Player, delivered 17 hits while Bryan notched 15 kills and a block to finish with 16 points for the Cargo Movers, who effectively stopped Cuban sensation Gyselle Silva despite the absence of ace blocker Aby Marano. Silva, who erupted for a record-breaking 56 points last week, was held to only 25 points while drawing very limited support from Serbian spiker Sanja Trivunovic as well as local hitters like Genie Sabas and LaRainne Fabay. Trivunovic, Sabas and Fabay combined for only 16 hits for the Giga Hitters, who committed 20 turnovers in this match that lasted for one hour and 20 minutes. But it wasn’t an easy victory for the Cargo Movers. Despite erecting an 8-1 lead after the first technical timeout of the third set, the Giga Hitters caught fire to steal the lead, 18-17, thanks to a powerful backrow attack from Silva. Smart managed to hang on in the crucial stretch, 25-25, before veteran Cha Cruz delivered a sharp kill from the open position followed by a service ace that sealed the victory for the defending champion. “The most challenging part of this win was the weather. I find it too hot so I have to save energy all throughout the game. Every time we have an intense rally, we have to breathe and save our energy because it was too hot here,” said Perez, referring to the hot weather that soared up to 36 to 37 degrees. She added that Smart pushed them to the limit, especially in the third set where Silva waxed hot and single-handedly towed the Giga Hitters back in the thick of things. "Smart never gave up,” she said. “They always pushed us whenever we try to take the game away. And I think that’s a good thing for us.” F2 Logistics coach Arnold Laniog, however, said the job isn’t done.  “It’s still far from over,” said Laniog, who will be part of the coaching staff of the national team under the leadership of multi-titled head coach Ramil de Jesus. “We still have to work hard to improve our performance because things will get tougher in the semifinals.” Smart, which was formed only two weeks before the opening ceremonies, closed its campaign without a win in 11 matches......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018