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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Defending champ Kerber advances to 4th round vs Vandeweghe

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Warriors rout defending champions Cavaliers in Finals rematch

em>By Janie McCauley, Associated Press /em> OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors certainly looked ready to trade some more blows with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers come June. The two-time reigning MVP hit five three-pointers and had 20 points while matching his season-best with 11 assists in Golden State's 126-91 rout of the defending champs Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). Klay Thompson scored 26 points with five three’s, and Curry made four steals. Draymond Green produced his third triple-double of the season with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, while matching his career best with five blocks — and had another dustup with King James in the process. James had 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting and eight rebounds, and he and Green became the talk once more as their relationship turned even more testy. Kevin Durant added 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and three blocks for the Warriors in a much-hyped matchup merely weeks after Golden State lost 109-108 in Cleveland on Christmas. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

Pursuing a record 23rd major title, Williams opens with win

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer   MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — For the first five games in the second set, Serena Williams played almost flawless tennis in her first-round match at the Australian Open. Then came the rustiness that tends to follow a lengthy layoff, giving Belinda Bencic a glimmer of hope, before Williams regained her composure to win 6-4, 6-3 on Tuesday. The six-time Australian Open champion improved her impressive record in the first round of Grand Slam tournaments to 65-1. The No. 2-ranked Williams' priority here is an Open era record 23rd major title. She's one win down — beating a player who was seeded 12th here last year and reached a career-high No. 7 ranking last February — and is targeting six more at Melbourne Park. 'She was just recently in the top 10. I knew it would be one of the toughest first-round matches I've ever played,' the newly engaged Williams said. In round two she'll meet Lucie Safarova, who beat Yanina Wickmayer 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1. Bencic got one service break in the first set, but only took two points in the first three games on Williams' serve in the second. Serving for the match at 6-4, 5-1, things changed. Williams finished her 2016 after the U.S. Open, resting injuries. And started 2017 with an error-prone loss in Auckland, New Zealand. Williams served only her second double-fault of the match to give Bencic a break-point chance, and Bencic converted it with a crosscourt winning forehand. The Swiss teenager held at love and then faced a match point, when Williams double-faulted again. The 35-year-old Williams made no mistake on her second match point and pumped her first in celebration. She finished with 30 winners and 30 unforced errors, eight errors and four double-faults. Karolina Pliskova and Johanna Konta both had their Grand Slam breakthroughs last year, both prepared for the season's first major with title runs in Australia and both advanced with straight sets wins. U.S. Open finalist Pliskova following her title win at the Brisbane International with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Sara Sorribes Tormo. The fifth-seeded Pliskova, who beat Serena Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals before losing the final to Angelique Kerber, has never advanced past the third round at Melbourne Park — losing at that stage in the last two years to Ekaterina Makarova. Pliskova is feeling more confident this time. 'I feel good on the court, especially when I win my first title in the first week of the year,' Pliskova said. 'So I'm ready for the tournament.' Konta, who won the Sydney International title last week, had a tougher time in beating Kirsten Flipkens 7-5, 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena. 'I definitely love playing here. It's a dream. A lot has happened in the last year, but I'm just enjoying playing and getting better each day.' Ninth-seeded Konta was a surprise semifinalist in her debut at the Australian Open last year, starting with a first-round win over Venus Williams and sparking a strong 2016 season which ended with her in the top 10. In other early results, No. 21 Caroline Garcia beat Kateryna Bondarenko 7-6 (4), 6-4 and No. 30 Makarova had a 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 win over Ekaterina Alexandrova. On the men's side, No. 25 Gilles Simon beat U.S. wild-card entry Michael Mmoh 6-1, 6-3, 6-3. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

Curry, Warriors ready for another Cavs rematch

Curry, Warriors ready for another Cavs rematch.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

Tennis stars look forward to start of Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Two days before the Australian Open begins, a stream of top players fronted news conferences Saturday to talk about their chances in the first Grand Slam tournament of the year. Here are excerpts of what they said: ___ — Novak Djokovic handed out dairy free, gluten free healthy sweets at the end of his opening news conference, something of a tradition of his at the Australian Open. Here's Djokovic on his confidence at the Australian Open, where he's won six of his 12 major titles: 'Nobody is invincible. I never thought of myself as a superior player on the court, even though, of course, at times, I was very confident. I was winning a lot of matches. But knowing how it feels on the court if you get overconfident, that's why I don't want to get into that kind of state of mind. I still want to put myself in a position where I'm quite even to other players, fight for this trophy as anybody else, even though I'm defending champion.' ___ — Serena Williams on her first-round match against Belinda Bencic, a former top-10 player: 'I didn't come here to lose in the first round, or the second round, or at all. If I can play the way I've been practicing, it will be fine. I know she's been playing well, so it will be good for both of us.' — Serena Williams on her recent engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian: 'It's almost a little unreal right now because I haven't taken it in. I'm being rather selfish and focused on my career.' ___ — Belinda Bencic on how she first discovered she'd be opening against Williams, against whom she has a 1-1 record: 'My Twitter was blowing up. I was like, 'What's going on?' That's when I saw it. My first reaction was actually really happy. I think I'm super pumped, excited I get to play on the big court.' ___ — Roger Federer on his physical readiness to play 5-set matches at a slam again after his lengthy injury layoff: 'I guess it's slightly the unknown. I trained as hard as I possibly could, so I will be ready for it. I did numerous sessions where I trained over 2 ½, three hours. I feel I'm ready.' ___ — Andy Murray on how hard he'll have to work to retain the No. 1 ranking he took from Djokovic at the end of 2016: 'I do think it is a mindset thing, because I think it could be quite easy that once you get to No. 1 that you think, 'Well, actually, I just need to keep doing what I'm doing.' The reality is, in sport, that things obviously keep moving on, the game will get better. I'll obviously get older, the young guys will continue to improve, and also Novak (Djokovic) and Roger (Federer) and Stan (Wawrinka) and Rafa (Nadal) and all the guys at the top are still going to be wanting to get there. ... I need to continue to improve. I for sure need to keep working hard.' ___ — Kei Nishikori on whether he can break through and win his first Grand Slam title: 'I hope I can get a Grand Slam title sometime. But I haven't got a big title yet, even the Masters tournaments. That's something I need for my confidence and experience. Yeah, my goal this year is to win a big tournament.' ___ — Milos Raonic on hiring former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek as his coach in the off-season: 'It's really to help me be more efficient going forward. I believe you have these two guys (Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic) that are phenomenal right now at the top of the game covering the baseline. It's really hard to get by them, especially with the way they move. I can't expect to move like they do. I've got to be at least 20, 25 pounds heavier than them. It's going to be about moving forward.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 13th, 2017

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 9th, 2017

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Two-time major winner Kuznetsova wins opener in Sydney

SYDNEY (AP) — Two-time Grand Slam singles champion Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania 6-1, 6-4 Sunday in the first round of the Sydney International tennis tournament. Defending champion Kuznetsova broke the Romanian's serve in the ninth game of the second set, then held serve to advance to the second round of the ATP-WTA tournament. The Sydney International is one of several Australian Open Series warmup events ahead of the first Grand Slam of the year beginning in Melbourne on Jan. 16. Earlier, Brisbane International finalists Karolina Pliskova and Alize Cornet withdrew from their next scheduled tournaments due to injuries. Pliskova, who beat Cornet 6-0, 6-3 at Brisbane on Saturday evening, withdrew from the Sydney International with a left inner thigh injury. Pliskova, who would have been seeded fourth in Sydney, was replaced by lucky loser Roberta Vinci of Italy. Sydney officials also announced seventh-seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine withdrew due to a viral illness. 'I've had constant headaches for the last two days and unfortunately in today's hot weather it got even worse when I was warming up and my body wasn't ready to compete,' Svitolina said. Svitolina was scheduled to play Olympic champion Monica Puig on Sunday, but Puig will now play a lucky loser from qualifying on Monday. At Hobart, defending champion Cornet withdrew from the tournament with a back injury, a Tennis Australia official said. American Shelby Rogers posted the first upset of the tournament in the opening match, beating second-seeded Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. In a men's tournament at Auckland, New Zealand, top-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut and second-seeded John Isner headline the entries. Bautista Agut, Isner, third-seeded David Ferrer and No. 4-seeded Jack Sock have first-round byes in the tournament which begins Monday. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

Wawrinka, Nishikori to meet in Brisbane semifinals

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori will renew a growing rivalry when they meet in the semifinals of the Brisbane International. Wawrinka dropped the opening set in a tiebreaker against unseeded Kyle Edmund on Friday but recovered for a 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4 win, reaching the last four in his first trip to the Brisbane tournament. In the previous three years, Wawrinka won the title in Chennai in the first week of the season before heading to Australia for the season's first major. 'Was a tough match, for sure. Long match. Quite humid, also. Also tough physically. But, in general, I think I'm feeling good and ready (for the semifinals),' Wawrinka said. 'For sure, I want to win more matches here and not stop now.' Wawrkina has a 4-3 lead over Nishikori in career head-to-heads, including the semifinals at the U.S. Open last year, but Nishikori won two of the three meetings in 2016. 'We always play a really tough match,' Wawrinka said. 'We played each other few times already last few months, so it's going to be interesting to see. We practiced here this week. I'm sure it's going to be a good match.' Nishikori has now reached the semifinals four times in seven visits to the Brisbane International, needing just an hour for a 6-1, 6-1 quarterfinal win over Australian wild-card entry Jordan Thompson. Thompson beat former top 10 regular David Ferrer in the second round but against Nishikori, he only managed to hold serve twice. Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open finalist, only made 11 unforced errors and didn't face a breakpoint. 'He was, I guess, a little bit tired, for sure. Against David, he was playing great match and maybe he wasn't 100 percent today,' Nishikori said. 'But for me, I think I played one of the best matches so far, really dominating from the baseline and serving good today. Everything was working well.' Seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov had a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over No. 4 Dominic Thiem and will meet either defending champion Milos Raonic or 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. In the women's semifinals, French Open champion Garbine Muguruza retired with a right thigh injury while trailing Alize Cornet 4-1 in the first set. Cornet advanced to a final against either U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova or sixth-seeded Elina Svitolina, who ousted No. 1-ranked Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals. 'When she decided to stop, I was a little bit surprised, but a little bit of luck never killed anybody,' said Cornet, who finished last year ranked No. 46 but now expects to be seeded at the Australian Open. 'I'm just going to take it. I really enjoy the fact that I'm in the final. It's a big day for me, yeah.' Muguruza has had a run of injuries in Brisbane. She retired after one set last year and withdrew entirely in 2015. She didn't think the latest setback would trouble her at the Australian Open. 'It will not stop me. I just felt a little bit exhausted on the court,' Muguruza said. 'Cornet was playing good. I couldn't match her level today. I had some pains, and I thought it was more smart to take care of my body.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

Isi-shave (ang buhok) kapag natalo pa kami -- Lady Blazers

The College of St. Benilde players sported a new look. Nope, the girls of coach Macky Carino aren’t following a new hairstyle trend for 2017. The reigning champion Lady Blazers are using it as a motivation for the 92nd NCAA women’s volleyball. Some sort of self-flagellation.  Players of the Taft-based squad decided to cut their hair short as punishment after their five-set loss to Lyceum of the Philippines University last month.   “Kasi parang sugal nila ‘yun eh. Kapag natalo ng isang game putol ng buhok sila-sila,” said Carino Thursday after CSB’s 12-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-19, win against the San Beda Lionesses at The Arena in San Juan. Coming into the season, the Lady Blazers set a goal to sweep the tournament in their bid for a back-to-back.   “Usapan na nila ‘yun kasi ang target namin this season, kami-kami lang, sweep talaga,” Carino said. “So kapag ‘di namin na-sweep at natalo ng isa, putol ng buhok.” Carino welcomed the decision of the team, seeing it as sign of unity and dedication among his players.  “Sila-sila kasi ang nag-uusap eh. Nagulat na lang ako a few days after ng game namin against LPU pagbalik ko putol na ang buhok nila,” he said. “So sabi ko at least nakikita ko na buo ang team ko. Sila-sila gumagawa ng paraan para ma-motivate.” Third-year middle Ranya Musa, who had 11 points, explained that it was the decision of the whole team to trim their hair each time they drop a match. The Lady Blazers had their first trip to the salon a few days after CSB dropped a 22-25, 26-24, 18-25, 25-20, 10-15, decider against LPU. They sported a shoulder-length haircut in their bounce back win against Emilio Aguinaldo College but then decided to crop their tops a bit more during the holiday break.         “Actually usapan namin ng teammate namin na si Rachel Austerio na ‘pag hindi namin na-sweep ay magpapagupit kami ng short hair, super short hair,” said Musa, who had to part with her long flowing hair. “Kasi kaming lahat na babae ayaw talaga naming magpa-super short hair. So nung natalo kami nada-down kami kasi nga natalo kami and then ‘yun parang nagpa-short hair kami. Doon naming na-boost ang confidence namin para manalo kami sa EAC at ngayon sa Beda.” The Lady Blazers, now at solo second with a 6-1 card, still have two games left in the elimination round against Arellano University on Wednesday before the Finals rematch against unbeaten San Sebastian College (6-0) on January 25. But what will happen if ever they lose again?    “Ewan ko kung ano ang gagawin nila kapag natalo pa kami ng isang game,” said Carino. Musa answered, “Isi-shave na namin kapag natalo pa po kami, hindi ko alam? Magsi-shave daw ‘yung next step kapag natalo kami, so dapat hindi.” So, good luck girls.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2017

Lady Blazers take solo second, near semis spot

strong>Games Wednesday: /strong> (The Arena, San Juan) 8:30 a.m. --- AU vs. CSB (jrs) 10:00 a.m. --- AU vs. CSB (m) 11:30 a.m. --- CSB vs. CSB (w) 12:30 p.m. --- Perpetual vs. CSB (w) 2:00 p.m. --- Perpetual vs. CSB (m) 3:30 p.m. --- Perpetual vs. CSB (jrs)   Defending champion College of St. Benilde recovered from a sluggish start to take down the San Beda Lionesses, 12-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-19, Thursday to move to solo second spot in the 92nd NCAA women’s volleyball competition at The Arena in San Juan. The Lady Blazers improved to 6-1 win-loss record and inched one step closer for a semifinals seat. Rachel Anne Austerio exploded for 13 points while team captain Jeannette Panaga and Jan Daguil scored all their points from kills for the Taft-based squad. Ranya Musa also had 11 markers for CSB, which won their second straight match after a painful five-set loss to Lyceum of the Philippines University a month ago.  Lady Blazers head coach Macky Carino admitted that his team played too tight and was out of sync in the opening set.  “Sobrang bagal ng first set naming,” he said. “Sa sobran focus ng team ko nakatingin na lang sila sa kabila (San Beda). ‘Yung team namin, ‘yung iginagalaw namin ‘di na namin pinansin.” “So ‘yun ang ni-remind ko sa kanila, na alam natin ang gagalawin ng kabila pero dapat laruin din natin ang laro natin,” Carino added. “So ayun pagdating ng second set buti nagbago.” The Lady Blazers will wrap their elimination round campaign against Arellano University on Wednesday before the Finals rematch against unbeaten San Sebastian College (6-0) on January 25. Francesca Racraquin had 17 points while Nieza Viray scored 14 for the Lionesses, who dropped their third match in eight outings and are in danger of missing the cut in the semifinals race. In the men’s division, the Blazers climbed to solo top spot with a 25-19, 25-23, 25-17, victory over the Red Lions. CSB improved to 6-1 slate to secure at least a playoff for a Final Four ticket behind skipper John Vic De Guzman’s 11 points. Isaah Arda and Francis Basilan scored 10 markers each for the Blazers, who handed San Beda its second loss in eight games. The Red Lions despite the loss are also assured of a semis seat playoff. In the junior’s match, San Beda avoided a shutout after the Red Cubs clawed the Junior Blazers, 25-16, 25-20, 25-15, for a 3-4 card. CSB-La Salle Greenhills remained winless after five games.         --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles        .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2017

Djokovic wins, then poses for selfie, Murray advances

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Defending champion Novak Djokovic and top-seeded Andy Murray posted straight-set wins on Wednesday to reach the Qatar Open quarterfinals, but only Djokovic was asked to pose for a selfie by his opponent after the match. Djokovic, a 12-time Grand Slam champion, honored the unusual request of Horacio Zeballos of Argentina after his 6-3, 6-4 win. 'I just have to mention making a selfie after the match was over, that was the first time that I ever had this kind of experience in my career,' Djokovic said on the court. 'So, Horacio, well done. Very original.' Murray had a challenging outing against Gerald Melzer of Austria, the younger brother of former world No. 8 Jurgen Melzer, before advancing to the quarterfinals with a 7-6 (6) 7-5 win. 'He played great, great tennis and was dominating large parts of the match,' said Murray, who was on the defense through much of the match. 'He made it extremely, extremely difficult. I was a bit lucky to through in two sets today. 'I think he's playing much better than someone ranked 69 in the world,' Murray added. In the first set, Murray required nine set points before Melzer mis-hit a forehand to surrender the set. In the second, Melzer saved two Murray match points on his own serve in the ninth game, and then broke for 5-5. Murray broke Melzer's serve on a fourth break point in the 11th game and then sealed the victory on a third match point when Melzer blasted a shot long. 'Today was a perfect example of the depth in the men's games just now,' Murray said. 'I actually played pretty good, but he was hitting the ball huge from both sides. You need to be ready for every single match.' Murray, a two-time champion in Doha, will face Nicolas Almagro of Spain in the quarterfinals. Djokovic never offered Zeballos a break point opportunity, but could only carve out one service break in each set against the Argentine's serve. 'Credit to Zeballos for playing some fearless tennis,' Djokovic said. 'He was stepping in and trying to go for his shots. He wasn't backing up to the baseline.' Djokovic will play qualifier Radek Stepanek of Czech Republic, in the quarterfinals. At 38, Stepanek, who ranked a career-best No. 8 in July 2006, is the oldest ATP Tour quarterfinalist since a 42-year-old Jimmy Connors reached the final eight at the 1995 Halle tournament. Stepanek defeated wildcard entrant Arthur De Greef of Belgium 6-3, 6-2 for his quarterfinal berth. Spaniard Fernando Verdasco needed six match points, three in the second set tiebreaker, to upset fourth-seeded David Goffin of Belgium 6-1, 7-6 (6). Verdasco will play sixth-seeded Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in the last eight. The other quarterfinal will pit third-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic against fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, who beat Dustin Brown of Germany 6-1, 6-3. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2017

Mag-isip sila sa laro -- coach Gorayeb on Lady Stags

strong>Games on January 4: /strong> (The Arena, San Juan) 8:30 a.m. --- EAC vs LPU (jrs) 10:00 a.m. --- EAC vs. LPU (m) 11:30 a.m. --- EAC vs LPU (w) 1:00 p.m. --- Arellano vs JRU (w) 2:30 p.m. --- Arellano vs JRU (m)     San Sebastian College may be just three games away from completing an eliminations sweep to earn a free ride straight to the Finals but head coach Roger Gorayeb is still doubtful if the Lady Stags can make a repeat of their last year’s feat. The multi-titled mentor said that there’s a lot of things that his team needs to improve on heading into the final stretch of the 92nd NCAA women’s volleyball tournament.  “’Yung kasing kilos nila kung oobserbahan ko ngayon, ‘yang kilos nilang ‘yan hindi 'yan pang-straight (elims sweep) na panalo,” said Gorayeb, who wants to end a six-year title drought. “Wala, ang dami pa nilang butas.” SSC-R won its first six games to remain the only undefeated team but will next face Perpetual Help, Lyceum of the Philippines University and a championship rematch with defending champion College of St. Benilde to wrap up their elims campaign. Gorayeb said that he’s not thinking about the Lady Stags completing a sweep of the elims, but what he wants to see is for his team to play as a team and his players to do their roles and not rely too much on reigning back-to-back Most Valuable Player Grethcel Soltones, who is averaging 16.17 points per game.    “Actually 'di ko na tinitingnan ang sweep. Ang gusto ko lang manalo ng manalo,” said Gorayeb, whose team swept last year’s elims to advance in the Finals outright only to fall at the hands of CSB in four games. “Hindi rin naman pwedeng umasa na lang ng umasa kay Grethcel,” he added.  Gorayeb pointed out that his team should work harder both on offense and defense and must be the side dictating the tempo of the match. He added that he wants his wards to think and adjust inside the court. “At this point in time marunong na silang maglaro,” he said. “Ang problema hindi sila marunong mag-isip during the laro. Nagre-rely sila dun sa sasabihin ko sa kanila. Ayoko na ngang magsalita para kumilos na lang sila ng kumilos.” SSC-R will resume action on January 11 against Perpetual Help (3-2) before taking on LPU on January 23 while the Finals rematch against CSB is scheduled on the 25th. In case of a sweep, SSC-R will advance to be the Finals with a thrice-to-beat advantage. The next three teams after the elims will play in the stepladder semifinals with the no. 2 seed enjoying a twice-to-beat incentive.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 2nd, 2017

Goal transformed into art: Wenger lauds Giroud's 'scorpion'

ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer br /> LONDON (AP) — With Alexis Sanchez's cross floating into the penalty area behind him, Olivier Giroud only had one choice: A back-heeled overhead flick. 'I was a bit lucky but it was the only thing I could do,' Giroud said. 'The ball was behind me and I tried to hit it with a back heel.' The ball hit the underside of the crossbar, came down and went over the line to produce one of the most exceptional goals witnessed by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. 'That could be remembered as the 'Giroud goal' that nobody forgets,' Wenger said after Arsenal's 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace in the English Premier League. 'Olivier transformed that goal into art,' Wenger added. 'Art because of the surprise, because the beauty of the movement and because the efficiency of the movement — the ball went in.' Giroud's previous touch before the 'scorpion strike' was also a back-heeled flick — the fourth touch in a flowing move launched by Arsenal inside its own half. Giroud squared to Granit Xhaka, who released Alex Iwobi to continue the advance before threading the ball through to Sanchez. Giroud then completed the counterattack in an exquisite manner in the 18th minute. 'It was an exceptional goal because it was at the end of a fantastic collective movement which our game is about,' Wenger said. 'After that it was a reflex. Any goal scorer is ready to take any part of his body to score a goal.' And when such a goal is executed so perfectly, it can light up a stadium — even on a rainy, freezing day. '(Giroud) brings the unexpected and we all come to football to get the unexpected,' Wenger said. Inevitably it overshadowed Iwobi's 56th-minute header which enabled the hosts to relax against a Palace side one place above the relegation zone. The victory took Arsenal above Manchester City into third place, nine points behind leader Chelsea. Tottenham also took advantage of City losing at Liverpool on Saturday by beating Watford to go into the fourth Champions League place. ___ WATFORD 1, TOTTENHAM 4 Harry Kane and Dele Alli both scored twice as Tottenham won a fourth consecutive match ahead of Wednesday's game against Chelsea. 'Chelsea arrive in very good shape - us too after the last few games,' Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said. 'It will be a very tough game and a great opportunity for us to try to stop them and try to reduce the gap. 'It's important, I think it's important for us and for the Premier League to try to win and try to stop them and reduce the gap.' Kane has now scored 59 goals in 100 league games, while Alli has 18 from 51 games. Younes Kaboul scored the stoppage-time consolation for Watford. ___ MONDAY'S GAMES In the packed festive program, 12 teams who played on Friday or Saturday are back in action on Monday. Liverpool can trim Chelsea's lead with a victory at relegation-threatened Sunderland, Manchester City hosts Burnley, Manchester United is at West Ham, Everton takes on Southampton, struggling champion Leicester plays at Middlesbrough and Hull faces West Bromwich Albion. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 1st, 2017

Wild-card Dolphins draw Steelers in 1st round of playoffs

STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer br /> MIAMI GARDENS, Florida (AP) — As the Miami Dolphins trudged to the locker room after a 35-14 thumping by New England, fans stood and cheered the home team, losers on Sunday but playoff-bound for the first time since 2008. The crowd was looking at the big picture and the Dolphins were, too. Miami (10-6) clinched an AFC wild-card berth a week ago and will play next weekend at Pittsburgh. 'All you want is the opportunity,' guard Jermon Bushrod said. 'You know where we want to go and we've got an opportunity.' Still to be determined is whether quarterback Ryan Tannehill might contribute to any playoff push. He missed the final three regular-season games with a sprained left knee and Matt Moore has gone 2-1 as a replacement. Coach Adam Gase was noncommittal about any timetable for Tannehill's return. 'I don't even know where he's at right now,' Gase said. 'I'm going to make the call on it. If I don't feel comfortable with it, then Matt will stay the starting quarterback. I need to get a lot of information. I have to see him practice and I have to see him move around and I have to feel really good about it. I'm not going to jeopardize his career.' Moore went 24 for 34 for 205 yards and two scores and an interception against the Patriots and has eight touchdown passes in his three starts. 'He has done a great job,' Gase said. 'He has protected the ball and has operated the offense very well and has led those guys. We just have to build on what we've done in the last 3½ games with him.' If Moore starts next weekend, it will be his first playoff game. His only other postseason season experience was as an inactive backup for the Carolina Panthers in 2008. 'It's a big deal,' Moore said. 'It's hard to get there.' And harder to win there. The Dolphins are bidding for their first playoff victory since 2000. Their game at AFC North champion Pittsburgh will be a rematch. Miami won at home in Week 6 against the Steelers, 30-15. 'We beat them here in the heat,' Bushrod said. 'Now we've got to go up there and beat them in the cold.' The win over the Steelers in October helped the Dolphins turn their season around after a 1-4 start. 'We're a different team; they're a different team,' Gase said. 'Both of us have different players. That's what makes this part of the season interesting.' If the Dolphins win next week, they'll face New England again. The Patriots swept the regular-season series between AFC East rivals for the first time since 2012. The Dolphins are in the playoffs even though they have been outgained by 798 yards and outscored by 17 points this season. But in games decided by a touchdown or less, they've won nine in a row, despite a slew of injuries. Gase's players sounded confident of their chances against the Steelers. 'They're a great team,' receiver Jarvis Landry said. 'So are we.'   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 1st, 2017

Retire or fight back? MMA stars offer advice to Ronda Rousey

div>GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer /div> div>  /div> div>LAS VEGAS (AP) — Ronda Rousey is taking time off to ponder her future after her 48-second loss in her comeback fight at UFC 207. /div> div>  /div> div>Amanda Nunes thinks Rousey must retire. /div> div>Jon Jones believes Rousey should fight again. /div> div>  /div> div>The UFC's biggest names offered strong opinions about Rousey's future Saturday, a day after Nunes punched Rousey into submission in less than a minute. Rousey (12-2), once the most dominant fighter in the sport, has now lost two straight boutss 13 months apart, looking unprepared and overmatched against both Holly Holm and Nunes. /div> div>  /div> div>After Nunes easily defended the bantamweight belt once held by Rousey, the champion encouraged Rousey to move on. /div> div>  /div> div>'That's it for her,' Nunes said Friday night. 'For sure, she's going to retire. She can't take it anymore. If she wants the rematch, I'm going to do the same thing, because she can't take my punches.' /div> div>  /div> div>Other major figures in mixed martial arts disagree. /div> div>Jones was arguably the most feared fighter in the sport before failing a drug test last summer. The suspended former light heavyweight champion took to Twitter on Saturday to encourage Rousey. /div> div>  /div> div>'My advice to Ronda would be to pick yourself up and try again,' Jones wrote. 'I think it's important for Ronda to show her fans how great she truly is by displaying her courage and giving it another try.' /div> div>  /div> div>Rousey declined to promote her comeback bout, and she refused to discuss her loss with fans or reporters after making a guaranteed $3 million along with undisclosed millions in bonuses and pay-per-view revenue from the UFC's year-end show. She issued a statement to ESPN on Saturday. /div> div>  /div> div>'Returning to not just fighting, but winning, was my entire focus this past year,' Rousey wrote. /div> div>  /div> div>'However, sometimes — even when you prepare and give everything you have and want something so badly — it doesn't work how you planned. I take pride in seeing how far the women's division has come in the UFC and commend all the other women who have been part of making this possible, including Amanda. /div> div>  /div> div>'I need to take some time to reflect and think about the future. Thank you for believing in me and understanding.' /div> div>  /div> div>Nunes acknowledged feeling sorry for Rousey after landing 27 punches on the former champion in just 48 seconds. Nunes believes the cumulative stress of Rousey's first loss, her acting career and numerous outside-the-cage responsibilities combined to 'pressure her too much.' /div> div>  /div> div>Nunes spoke directly to a bloodied Rousey in the cage after the loss. /div> div>  /div> div>'I told her, 'You did a lot for this sport,'' Nunes said. ''Thank you so much. Now, take some time to rest and maybe do something else.' Why should she keep doing this? She's a millionaire already. Why would she want to keep doing this? She'll hurt herself.' /div> div>  /div> div>But Jones sees a ferocious competitor in Rousey behind the acting jobs and modeling gigs. /div> div>  /div> div>'What she does next will truly determine her legacy,' Jones wrote. 'I really hope she chooses to be ... unbroken. Her story doesn't have to be over here. I also still believe she beats 90 (percent) of the division. Lots of ass kicking still to be done, lots of money to be made. /div> div>  /div> div>Jones also joined Nunes and innumerable MMA figures in questioning the effectiveness of Rousey's coaching. /div> div>  /div> div>Edmond Tarverdyan, Rousey's coach, was widely criticized for his uneven, unusual coaching methods even before Rousey's career faltered. /div> div>  /div> div>Even Rousey's mother, AnnMaria De Mars, has ripped Tarverdyan, but Rousey has remained fiercely loyal to her longtime guru. /div> div>  /div> div>Jones is based at the Albuquerque gym of respected trainer Greg Jackson, the mastermind behind several UFC champions. Rousey's striking has long been a weak spot for the Olympic judo medalist, and she was utterly unable to cope with Nunes' punching ability, showing little growth in the past year from the weaknesses exposed by Holm. /div> div>  /div> div>'Maybe she just needs to complement her coach with an MMA family,' Jones wrote. 'Maybe she should join one of the bigger MMA teams. ... Being around other bad asses and constantly sharing your spotlight could be good for you (in) so many ways. They can improve on your humility.' /div> div>  /div> div>Rousey turns 30 years old in February, with several years of her ostensible athletic prime before her. While she has circled several major acting jobs after playing three supporting roles in recent years, she doesn't appear to have any major film commitments. /div> div>  /div> div>But Rousey took several months off after her first defeat, and she seems likely to be deliberate again. De Mars, who cradled Rousey as the fighter left the T-Mobile Arena cage, took to her blog Saturday to offer support. /div> div>  /div> div>'She cares DEEPLY about winning to an extent that I don't believe the average person can wrap his/her head around,' De Mars wrote. 'I am very proud of my daughter.' /div>.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 1st, 2017