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Returning Djokovic can’t wait to relight the ‘fire’

Six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic says he’s excited to be back after a long injury-enforced break, admitting he has missed the “fire and passion” of competitive tennis. The Serbian former world number one has been out of action for six months, and while he enjoyed having his first real break since turning professional, he… link: Returning Djokovic can’t wait to relight the ‘fire’.....»»

Category: newsSource: manilainformer manilainformerJan 13th, 2018

Players criticize risky conditions at broiling Aussie Open

By Justin Bergman, Associated Press MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Some weary players sat shirtless on changeovers, ice-filled towels draped around their necks. Others retreated to any bit of shade they could find on court and sought treatment for blistered feet and heat stress. Temperatures soared to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) as the start of an expected heat wave hit the Australian Open on Thursday, bringing misery to players unfortunate enough to have their matches scheduled during the day session and keeping many spectators away. "I didn't expect to play this kind of match," a thoroughly exhausted Juan Martin del Potro said after beating Karen Khachanov in a nearly four-hour, second-round match. "I prefer to watch on TV. Or stay on the beach, drinking some beer." Scorching temperatures are common at the Australian Open — so much so the tournament has an extreme heat policy that allows for the referee to close the roofs on the three main show courts and suspend play on the outer courts when temperatures surpass 40 Celsius. Matches weren't halted Thursday as the highs stayed just below 40 Celsius for much of the day, but that doesn't mean the heat didn't cause issues for the players. Gael Monfils, for one, staggered through a good portion of his second-round match against Novak Djokovic, bending over repeatedly to catch his breath between points and at one stage returning to the comfort of his shaded chair without even attempting to return Djokovic's serve. Afterwards, he called the conditions "risky" for the players, especially with the new rule restricting the time between points to 25 seconds. "I get super dizzy. I think I have a small heat stroke for 40 minutes," said Monfils, who is considered one of the fittest players on tour. "At that time, the officials have to make a move. Maybe wait a little bit, whatever, five minutes between the set. Maybe they have to do small adjustment." Djokovic agreed, describing the conditions "brutal" and some of the toughest he's ever played in. "There are certain days where you just have to, as a tournament supervisor, recognize that you might need to give players few extra hours until (the temperature) comes down," he said. "I understand there is a factor of tickets. If you don't play matches, people will be unhappy." But he said the conditions were at the point where it becomes a "danger in terms of health." There were no retirements due to the heat on Day 4, however, and some players were even unfazed by the conditions. Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei saw the heat as a benefit in her second-round upset of Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza. "I know the weather is going to be a little bit tough today," she said. "I was thinking, 'Ah, I'm from Asia. I maybe can handle it better than other girls.'" Muguruza did have to stop at one point to wrap her feet to prevent blistering from the hot court. "I think the surface of the court, I don't know how much heat, (but) it's terrible," she said. "Very, very hot." As for recovery, nearly every player mentioned taking an ice bath, but Hsieh had a different approach. "Acupuncture," she said. "Not my favorite ... but it helps a lot. And also do the massage. And eat some nice food." With the weather expected to be hotter on Friday, with highs of 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) in the forecast, Monfils had a message for players scheduled to be on court. "Honestly, good luck for the players," he said. "Just be smart. If you have to give up, you know, it's not a shame.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2018

Djokovic cruises, Federer battles, del Potro out in Shanghai

By Sandra Harwitt, Associated Press SHANGHAI (AP) — Roger Federer was stretched to three sets for a second consecutive match to reach the Shanghai Masters quarterfinals on Thursday. Nevertheless, the top seed insisted he was content with how he's playing. Federer defeated Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, a day after being taken the distance by Daniil Medvedev of Russia. "I'm actually quite happy," Federer said. "Bautista really had to raise his level of play in that second set to stay with me. I mean, he really caught fire, I thought. I served, I think, 80 percent in that second set and got broken twice." Novak Djokovic cruised through his second-round match, but Juan Martin del Potro had to retire after hurting his right knee in a fall. Federer led Bautista Agut by a set and a service break when he became entangled in a fight that lasted until the second-to-last game of the third set. Bautista Agut, a finalist here in 2016, finally offered Federer an opening to take control by surrendering his serve in the ninth game of the third set. Federer will play eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori, a finalist in Tokyo last week, in the quarterfinals. Nishikori ousted Sam Querrey 7-6 (7), 6-4 on Thursday. Third-seeded Del Potro, who has been playing with a cold throughout the week, was playing Borna Coric when he fell near the end of the first set. Del Potro had the knee wrapped but called it quits after losing the first set 7-5. Djokovic earned partial revenge when he beat Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-0. The only other time the second-seeded Djokovic played Cecchinato was in the French Open quarterfinals, where the Italian upset him in four sets. A Masters event is a level below a Grand Slam, but Djokovic was rapt to crush Cecchinato. "I was making him play always an extra shot," Djokovic said. "I was aggressive when I needed to be. The second set was perfect, really." Since Djokovic lost that French Open match to Cecchinato, he's won 28 of his 30 matches. The Serb is on a 15-match winning streak, which includes title runs at Cincinnati and the U.S. Open. He's bidding to win a record fourth Shanghai title this week. He will take on seventh-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa, whom he leads 6-1 on head-to-head. Djokovic defeated Anderson in straight sets in the Wimbledon final in July. Anderson ousted 10th-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-4, 7-6 (1). Fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany also advanced to the quarterfinals by pasting Alex de Minaur of Australia 6-1, 6-4. Zverev will play Kyle Edmund after the Briton defeated Nicolas Jarry of Chile 7-6 (5), 6-3......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 11th, 2018

One Last Dance: Wade returning to Heat for final season

MIAMI --- Dwyane Wade looked into the camera, stood alone in the middle of a darkened room and talked for 10 minutes. He struggled with his words at times, unable to control his emotions. He wept. And finally, he made what he called the hardest decision of his life. One more year. Retirement needs to wait a little bit longer for Wade,who announced Sunday nightin a video taped earlier in the day that he's returning for a 16th and final NBA season. He basically spent the entirety of the last four months weighing his options, and retirement --- even just a few days ago --- was an extremely real possibility in his mind. "I've always did things my way," said Wade, who is expected to sig...Keep on reading: One Last Dance: Wade returning to Heat for final season.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsSep 17th, 2018

Worth a thousand words: NBA photographer Andrew Bernstein details his best shots

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com Andrew Bernstein knew he wanted to be a sports photographer or maybe a documentary filmmaker. Trouble was, he recalled recently, his school at the time – the University of Massachusetts Amherst – offered courses in neither photography nor film. Not exactly a well-planned start to his chosen career. So Bernstein transferred to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. And once the native of Brooklyn stepped off the plane into 85-degree sunshine, he was hooked. Thus began a professional path that has taken him around the world, yet kept him Los Angeles-centric as the NBA’s senior photographer. A part-time job as an assistant to Sports Illustrated shooters helped Bernstein score his first NBA gig as a photographer the 1983 All-Star Game at L.A.’s famous Forum. He’d eventually serve as team photographer for the city’s Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers and Kings, but it was in his work for the NBA that Bernstein made his greatest mark. In 1986, Bernstein helped create NBA Photos as the league’s in-house licensing agency, for which he served as senior director until 2011. He chronicled Team USA through its 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympic championships, and has worked 36 NBA Finals and All-Star Games. Next month, his hardcover collaboration with Kobe Bryant -- “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” -- will hit bookshelves everywhere. This week as part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, the 60-year-old photographer will be honored as a recipient of the 2018 Curt Gowdy Media Award. To shed light on his craft and share some behind-the-scenes tales, Bernstein -- prior to heading to Springfield, Mass. -- talked with NBA.com about some of his favorite and most famous images. Come fly with him ... Details: Michael Jordan soars with several Lakers in futile pursuit at the 1988 Hall of Fame preseason game between Chicago and Los Angeles at the Springfield Civic Center. Bernstein: “It was one of those crazy moments -- in those days, I could only do one remote camera. Now I can do almost an infinite number because it’s all done by radio. But back then, you had to hard-wire into the strobe [lighting] system for the big flashes, and you could only fire one. I chose the one shooting through the glass, behind the backboard. A lot of things could have gone wrong. His hand could have been in his face. He could have been out of the frame instead of just on the edge. I could only take one shot every four seconds [with the strobe] -- it’s not like I could lean on the motor drive and then pick one frame out of 10. … But it became known as “Come Fly with Me.” It did kind of define him at the time as being able to fly.” Back story: Bernstein added: “If you have a microscope, you can actually see me on the other side of the court, sitting there with a little trigger button. Then there’s the trivia question of all time -- who’s the other guy? That No. 3 happens to be [University of Virginia star and NBA role player] Jeff Lamp.” MJ: Champion, finally Details: Michael Jordan and his father, James, in the visitors’ dressing room at the Forum, after Game 5 of the 1991 Finals. Bulls 108, Lakers 101. Bernstein: “The network would do the trophy presentation in the winning team’s locker room, and the visitors’ side at the Forum was about the size of a closet. There seemed to be a thousand people in there, and all hell was breaking loose. I got up on top of a table in the middle of the room for a vantage point. When they came back live from a commercial, they wanted to have Michael on -- but they couldn’t find Michael. Some sixth sense said, ‘Look to your left,’ and there he was, in the locker, hugging that trophy, crying his eyes out with his dad next to him. I always felt, if he’d had to play that whole season for free to get to the mountain top, he would have. I knew this was a special moment. I banged a couple of frames really quick.” Back story: After James Jordan was murdered in 1993, Bernstein got a phone call from Michael’s office saying he “would love it if I made a print and sent it to him,” Bernstein said. “Which I did. I was very close with my dad and Michael Jordan knew him -- my dad was with me through the entire Dream Team experience [in 1992]. And I knew his dad. So it was a poignant moment in my career to have him request that photo. If I had to pick one photo to put on my tombstone, this would probably be it.” ‘Mamba’ coiled to strike Details: Shot from a camera suspended in the rafters at the Forum, a Hasselblad 120mm with a 350mm lens. “A heavy rig,” Bernstein called it, anchored with multiple clamps and safety cables on the catwalk, aimed straight down. Bernstein: “I love the composition of this photo and how everything just came together. The Forum had that beautiful Laker-gold ‘key.’ This was young Kobe, his first or second year, and he was a dunk machine back then. Look how he’s cocked back like that and flying thorugh the air, the basket right there. All the elements came together. When I saw this the next morning -- I had to take the film to the lab after the game, drop it off, then go back in the morning after sweating it out all night, hoping that I’d see something like this -- I was like, ‘Wow!’ All the preparation, hours and hours, setting the equipment up, and it all paid off.” Back story: It’s not common to see the top of a player’s head and the bottom of his sneakers in the same shot. Bernstein knew he had to share it and, thanks to the large-format film, he knew he could share it big. “As soon as I saw this,” he said, “I immediately made a giant print for Kobe -- I mean, like 50 [inches] by 70. Huge. I framed it and drove it to his house. He was living with his parents in Pacific Palisades at the time. I hope he still has it. I had given players like Magic [Johnson] and whomever 8x10s, but I never had framed something I was super-proud of.” Old Kobe ‘dunking’ again Details: Kobe Bryant, deep in his career, before a game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in January 2010. Bernstein: “During a long East Coast trip, the Lakers had played the night before in Cleveland and were at the Garden less than 24 hours later. Kobe was banged up that year. This was an hour and a half to game time, and he was literally willing himself to play that night. Both ankles are in ice. He’s got the finger in a little cup of ice. During my pregame routine, walking from the locker room to the training room, I just saw him there. Other guys were coming and going, but he was in this meditative state. I took one frame -- God forbid the click of the camera disturb or distract him. Phil [Jackson] called this ‘The Thinker,’ like Rodin’s sculpture.” Back story: A skilled photographer learns how quickly how to be unobtrusive, a “fly on the wall.” Said Bernstein: “You have to, to get behind-the-scenes intimate photos of players away from the bright lights, and what goes on in the bowels of the arena or during travel. In 2009-10, Phil and I collaborated on a book called ‘Journey to the Ring,’ which took the Lakers from media day to whenever their season would end. They ended up winning it all that year, which was unbelievable for the project. The photos were in black-and-white, which was a conscious decision Phil and I made.” Photographer, shoot thyself Details: Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bernstein before the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, Western Conference locker room at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. Bernstein: “This was his last All-Star Game and it was a true Kobe love-fest. I spent the entire weekend just with him, followed him everywhere he went. I mean, I didn’t cover it like I normally do for the NBA, and NBA Photos was very generous for letting me cover it through him. It was a beautiful weekend. He took it all in and was very appreciative. His humility came out -- a lot of people don’t think Kobe is humble, but I think he was. And he was very grateful, that he had an impact on all these All-Stars who were grateful to him.” Back story: The locker room was closed to the media, but as the league’s guy, Bernstein always has special access. “A couple of people were coming over to get photos with him -- Gregg Popovich, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and a couple others,” the photographer said. “And I just jumped in myself. Very, very rarely -- I mean, four times in our 20 years together -- did I jump in the picture with him. But I couldn’t resist.” Shadowing the superstars Details: Another overhead shot at the Forum, this time during the 1991 Finals, with Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan fighting for what eventually will be a rebound. Bernstein: “With this angle, it’s always a crap shoot what you’re going to get. The rim could be blocking a guy’s face. Somebody could be too far under the basket. The focus point is so critical -- you have to be right on where it’s focused. As for the shadows, if you can imagine lights in each corner of the court, way up high. It just depended on where the players were placed. If one of them is blocking the light on one side, you get a shadow off to the other side. It’s always dramatic with the strobe. But just to get these two icons in the same frame was difficult.” Back story: Just as the famous parquet court at Boston Garden looked so iconic on TV and from afar, the Forum was best viewed from a distance. The paint worn off the top of the rim by balls and hands was something few ever saw. “The Forum was a dump,” Bernstein said. “The walls were caked with dirt. Nobody ever cleaned it. They used to feed us under the stands where the rodents were. It was like a Hollywood impostor, and it’s in Inglewood, which is not your glitzy Hollywood location. But they made it look good on TV. It was a tough place to work, I have to tell you.” Brothers in arms Details: A fisheye lens captures the moments immediately after Game 5 of 2017 Finals, with Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry front and center. Bernstein: “I’ve gotten good at getting out and being the first guy in the scrum. When a championship is won, I sharpen my elbows and just go for it. I try to be right next to the TV guy and well, I guess people know me and I make my way to wherever I have to be. This particular time, I knew there had to be a moment in there where Curry and Durant had an interaction. And it was amazing -- they’re almost like one body. It’s Kevin’s first championship and Steph is so happy for him as his teammate. And the pressure that was on the whole team to win this championship. I love this picture. It shows so much about the way I work and how I think about what I need to do in the moment.” Back story: Bernstein’s camera captured Durant’s mother Wanda to the left, crying and enjoying the moment. But a few seconds earlier, he said, “his mom came up and grabbed him by the front of the jersey. She kept yelling, ‘We did it! We did it!’ That’s a great picture too.” ‘Uncoachable?’ Unforgettable Details: Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson share a moment after beating the Magic in Game 5 and winning the 2009 NBA championship at Orlando’s Amway Arena. Bernstein: “If you remember the 2008-09 season, there was a lot of pressure on Kobe. People had been saying that he couldn’t win without Shaq, Phil had actually written that he was ‘uncoachable.’ But there’s such a paternal father-son thing going on in this picture. … I know I’ve got to go to the star player immediately at the buzzer. So I ran out and found Kobe. Phil and he had just come together and they were hugging, which is a nice picture. But I knew the instant after a hug can be just as special. Something told me to wait till after the hug -- because [with the limitation of the strobe lights] I can’t shoot rapidly -- and bing! They broke the hug and Phil’s looking like, ‘Job well done, son.’ And Kobe has this amazing look of relief and sense of accomplishment and exhaustion.” Back story: Bernstein said this is the only print of his work that his wife, Mariel, allows him to hang in their house. “We have three teenagers [at the time] who basically were the same age, all within a year of each other, and when all hell was breaking loose at our house, we’d stand the kids in front of this photo. My wife would say, ‘Look at that! If those two guys can get along and be respectful, we can do it in this house.’ ” Forever linked Details: The Celtics’ Larry Bird and the Lakers’ Magic Johnson fight for rebounding position along the foul lane at Boston Garden in the 1987 Finals. Bernstein: “This is probably my most well-known image, other than the one of Jordan hugging the trophy. Remember, these guys played different positions. They never really matched up. You’d never see Magic D-ing up Bird like you would with Michael or Isiah Thomas. And you’d never, ever see Bird D-ing Magic. I had to be unbelievably conscious of when they were on the court together, where they were on the court and somehow, if they would end up in my frame. The only times, honestly, I could ever get them in the same frame was the ‘captains’ meeting’ five minutes before tip at center court, shaking hands, and a free-throw situation. When, by the grace of God, they would line up facing me. That’s what this was. Back story: Just as Bird and Johnson were linked literally, arm in arm, in this photograph, their careers were linked figuratively through the NBA of the 1980s. “It kind of defined the era,” Bernstein said. “These two great guys intertwined, neither of them looking superior to the other. Jostling for position, just like the Celtics and the Lakers did. I love this picture, and I know both of those guys love it. This picture is hanging in the Hall of Fame.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. 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 NewsSep 4th, 2018

Wolfsburg is on the rise again in the Bundesliga

By CIARAN FAHEY,  Associated Press BERLIN (AP) — From champions to relegation survivors, Wolfsburg's recent woes on the field have coincided with those of Volkswagen, the German club's main backer. However, the car manufacturer is on the rise again after its emissions scandal, and so is the soccer team after back-to-back seasons in the relegation playoffs. Wolfsburg opened its Bundesliga campaign with wins over highly rated Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen. The 2009 champions, now under coach Bruno Labbadia, are well-organized and playing with a commitment and hunger that had been lacking since 2015. That was the year Wolfsburg finished second behind Bayern Munich and won the German Cup before the breaking of the Volkswagen scandal. Results, coincidentally, suffered thereafter. The win over Leverkusen was unexpected, and the first time in 13 tries that Labbadia won against his former side. "We drew a lot of strength from the relegation playoff (against second-division club Holstein Kiel) and on top of that the team worked really hard in pre-season," Labbadia said Saturday after his team's sixth consecutive win across seasons and including the German Cup. Wolfsburg even had to come from behind after Leon Bailey put Leverkusen ahead. The players didn't panic, but combined well and fought for the equalizer, which came through an own-goal by goalkeeper Ramazan Ozcan. New signing Wout Weghorst then got his first Bundesliga goal and Renato Steffen sealed it with another. "It was really pleasing to see how much of a unit we were and how the team got the deserved reward for the performance," Labbadia said. "We hurt them with our shape. It was a good day for us." Wolfsburg also needed a bit of luck to defeat Schalke, with Daniel Ginczek getting the winner in injury time. The signing of Weghorst has added some much-needed bite to the team's attack. The 25-year-old Dutchman scored 27 goals across all competitions for AZ Alkmaar last season. Wolfsburg also appointed Joerg Schmadtke as sporting director in the offseason. The 54-year-old Schmadtke, a former goalkeeper, enjoyed notable success as sporting director with Cologne, Hannover and Alemannia Aachen. Wolfsburg fans chanted "league leaders, league leaders" after the win propelled it to the top for the afternoon, but Schmadtke said he wasn't interested in the standings "but the fact we stayed stable after conceding a goal is comforting." Wolfsburg was without injured captain Josuha Guilavogui, and goalkeeper Koen Casteels was missing to attend the birth of his daughter. Casteels is the sixth Wolfsburg player to become a father in a little over a month after Marvin Stefaniak, Yunus Malli, Paul-Georges Ntep, Weghorst and Steffen. "That can give you a push," Steffen said. "But I can't get a child every week now." BAYERN'S ADVICE Compared to previous years, Bayern Munich kept transfer activity to a minimum in the offseason, with just Serge Gnabry and Renato Sanches returning from loan spells, while Leon Goretzka's free transfer from Schalke was already announced in January. Spanish defender Juan Bernat departed for Paris Saint-Germain but it looked at one stage as though there would be more business between the sides. PSG made a reported offer for Germany defender Jerome Boateng and was also interested in taking Sanches. Neither deal came to fruition, and Bayern has hit out at the French club for not following through. Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic had already criticized PSG's "strange tactics," and now president Uli Hoeness has said the side should fire its sporting director, Antero Henrique. "I would advise Paris Saint-Germain to change its sporting director," Hoeness told Monday's Kicker magazine. "This man is not a figurehead for the club. If PSG wants to be a world club, it can't put up with such a sports director." DORTMUND'S WUNDERKIND Borussia Dortmund has developed a reputation for bringing in young players thanks to success with the likes of Christian Pulisic, Jadon Sancho and Mario Goetze, while Aleksander Isak and Dan-Axel Zagadou are waiting to follow suit. The next prospect could be 13-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko, a Cameroon-born forward who has been scoring at leisure since he joined Dortmund's youth setup from St. Pauli in 2016. Strong and direct with a clear eye for goal, Moukoko was the leading scorer for Dortmund's under-15 team - while still 12 - to help the side win the Regionalliga West title and earn a call-up for Germany's under-16 team last year. He scored the decisive goal at Bayern Munich in the final, finishing the season with 40 goals in 28 games. This season, with the under-17s, has begun as the last continued. Moukoko already has six goals from four games. "We're going to give him all the time in the world for his development," Dortmund youth coordinator Lars Ricken told Kicker. "He can't play with the professionals until he's 17. So nobody needs to start gasping because of him.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 4th, 2018

US OPEN 18: On the clock! 25-second countdown s Slam debut

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press Any discussion of the serve clocks that will make their Grand Slam debut during the U.S. Open's main draw starting Monday, and could become a regular part of tennis as soon as next year, inevitably turns to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. They are two of the greatest players in history — and two of the slowest between points. For one thing, Djokovic's incessant bouncing of the ball before a service toss delays things. So do Nadal's habitual mannerisms: the touching of the nose, the tucking of the hair, the grabbing at the shorts, and on it goes. And while neither was a big fan of introducing digital readouts on court to show the 25-second countdown before each first serve, the two men with a combined 30 Grand Slam singles titles seem ready to accept that they must abide by a change intended to add uniformity to their sport. "I just need to go faster," Nadal said, matter-of-factly. Djokovic's take: "I'm pretty comfortable with it." Both got a chance to see what this new, stricter world will look like during a test run at a handful of hard-court tuneup tournaments over the past month. "Some of the guys might think this is targeted to them," said Gayle Bradshaw, the executive vice president for rules and competition on the men's tour. Referring to Nadal and Djokovic, specifically, Bradshaw added: "They'll adjust. And I think for Rafa, it's going to be a benefit: Him wearing down the other guy." The U.S. Tennis Association, ATP and WTA are tracking what competitors, spectators and TV broadcasters make of the new system. Reviews from players so far have mostly been positive or indifferent, although Serena Williams said she's "not a fan of it at all." "You're aware of it. You certainly look at it and notice it. I do think it's a good thing," said Andy Murray, a three-time major champion. "It's one of those things in tennis that is so stupid: The players were sort of expected to sort of be counting to 25 in their head. ... How are you supposed to know how much time you're actually taking?" Wimbledon semifinalist John Isner and others noted they would step to the line to serve and still have plenty of time — sometimes 10 seconds or more — left, enabling them to catch their breath or think about how to approach the next point. "I didn't feel rushed at all, by any means," Isner said. "Maybe it can slow you down." That might have contributed to one unintended consequence during the three men's tournaments where clocks were used for qualifying and main draws: longer matches. It's a small sample size, and, of course, it's dependent on the particulars of individual contests — nearly 30 percent more matches went to 7-5 or a tiebreaker in the third set in 2018 than 2017 at those events. But third sets lasted an average of 5 minutes longer this year than last year. First sets were nearly 1 1/2 minutes longer this year while second sets were a minute shorter. Servers were warned 74 times and returners received nine warnings at the ATP and WTA tournaments with the clocks. It's possible this setup will become more widespread as soon as 2019; the ATP Board could consider that for the men's tour during its U.S. Open meeting. The amount of time taken between points has been a subject of discussion in tennis for quite a while now, just as other sports are concerned about whether events that take too long are losing viewers in this age of short attention spans and competition for eyeballs (take Major League Baseball's limits on mound visits, time between innings and movement toward a pitch clock). "This just makes it a little more transparent, a little more visible," U.S. Open tournament director David Brewer said. "North American fans are used to shot clocks. They actually expect this sort of thing." There already was a time limit in tennis, but it was entirely up to a chair umpire's discretion, because no one — most importantly players, but also folks in the stands and TV viewers — knew exactly how many seconds had elapsed. Now it will be apparent to everyone, much like a shot clock in the NBA and college basketball or a play clock in the NFL and college football. The serve clocks — along with a strict 7-minute period from when players enter a court until a match begins, also shown on digital readouts — were tested during 2017 U.S. Open qualifying. The basics of the serve clock: After announcing the score, chair umpires start the countdown (they have leeway to wait if a particularly long point merits an extra pause). If the 25 seconds expire before the service motion begins on a first serve, the server will receive a warning, then be assessed a fault for each subsequent violation (second serves are supposed to happen without delay, so clocks won't be used). If the returner isn't ready at the end of 25 seconds, first comes a warning, then the loss of a point with every other violation. The basics of the pre-match period: Clocks will count a minute from when players step on court until the coin toss, 5 minutes for the warmup, then another minute until the opening point. Delays can result in fines of up to $20,000, according to USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier. He said players already have been docked as much as $1,500 during recent tournaments. "The intent is not to fine players. The intent is to get players used to this new procedure and also to truly build consistency," Widmaier said, "so the matches start when they're supposed to start for television and for fans.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 26th, 2018

Duterte asks Abu Sayyaf to have a dialogue with him

Updated 7 p.m. President Rodrigo Duterte has invited the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to have a dialogue with him so that they could solve the problem of Muslims fighting in Mindanao. Duterte said that members of the ASG should just wait for peace and order to settle in Mindanao consdering that the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) had already been signed. "Bigyan lang natin ng panahon. Huwag tayong mag-giyera," Duterte said in a speech in Jolo, Sulu on Friday. [Let's just give it time. Let's stop making war.] The President visited Jolo to lead the distribution of relief goods to at least 5,000 families or around 30,000 individuals who were left homeless after a fire broke out last Tuesd...Keep on reading: Duterte asks Abu Sayyaf to have a dialogue with him.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJul 28th, 2018

PVL: Not a bad loss -- Valdez

Top spiker Alyssa Valdez and the whole Creamline crew kept their hopes high despite suffering a straight sets beating at the hands of the defending champion Pocari Sweat-Air Force in Game 1 of the best-of-three Premier Volleyball League Season 2 Reinforced Conference Final Four. Rust from a three-week layoff and difficulty in adjusting with their new import were obvious from the Cool Smashers, a weak point that the Lady Warriors took advantage. Valdez was the only Creamline player in double figures with 16 points in the Cool Smashers’ 23-25, 12-25, 23-25, loss Sunday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan. Creamline was taken out of their comfort zone the whole match but the Tai Bundit-mentored squad remained optimistic of their chances to advance in the championship round. “Natalo, pero it's really not a bad loss for the team. We really have to have and look for that motivation going into Game Two,” said Valdez, who added nine digs. Creamline came off an almost one-month break after claiming the outright Final Four seat. A long layoff that took its toll on the Cool Smashers momentum. “Ang tagal din naming nawala and kailangan din namin ng magfa-fire and magfu-fuel sa amin para makuha 'yung momentum na kailangan naming,” said Valdez. “Sabi nga nila, mas marami kaming matututunan sa mga talo. Hopefully, 'yun 'yung makukuha namin sa talo na 'to.” It also didn’t help that the Cool Smashers had to a adjust with returning American import Laura Schaudt, who replaced Serbian Nina Asceric. Schaudt only had one point in three sets of play. “Laura was there naman last year,” Valdez said. “She knows 'yung goal ng team namin. More than anything, we're gonna accept all the changes and adjustments na needed para maka-survive 'yung team namin.” The Cool Smashers will have their backs against the wall on Wednesday when they try to extend the series and avoid another semis meltdown – a problem that haunted Creamline since last year.           --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 1st, 2018

Solons want Duterte to fire four ERC commissioners

Lawmakers on Monday said President Rodrigo Duterte should fire the four commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) who were suspended by the Office the Ombudsman for the second time in six months due to alleged misuse of bill deposits. Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, in a press briefing, said the President should no longer wait for ERC Commissioners Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Alfredo Non, Josefina Patricia Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana to resign. "Gaya nung ginawa nila nung sinuspinde sila for one year, tatakbo na naman sila sa Korte Suprema. Kaya ang hamon natin kay pangulong Duterte ay tanggalin na itong mga commissioners na ito. Huwag nang hintayin pa na sila ay mag-r...Keep on reading: Solons want Duterte to fire four ERC commissioners.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJun 20th, 2018

England prepares for World Cup with 2-1 win over Nigeria

LONDON (AP) — England relied on goals from Gary Cahill and Harry Kane before slackening in the second half to beat Nigeria 2-1 in a World Cup warmup match on Saturday. On his first England appearance since October, Cahill headed in the opener in the seventh minute from Kieran Trippier's corner in front of 70,000 fans at Wembley Stadium. Raheem Sterling set up Kane to double England's lead in the 39th before Alex Iwobi reduced the deficit in the opening two minutes of the second half. After a week in the headlines over a gun tattoo and returning late for England duty, Sterling courted more controversy when he was booked for simulation for hitting the ground all too easily as goalkeeper Francis Uzoho came off his line to claim the ball. "I had a decision to make whether to play him after turning up late," England coach Gareth Southgate said. "But, actually, that wasn't a decision after he started to come under fire from every other direction. "It wasn't about getting a response. The most important thing I do in the next six weeks is protect the players. They respect each other and understand how important it is they support and protect each other." Sterling hopes to block out the criticism. "People will see stuff in the wrong way," he told broadcaster ITV. "If I got left out I wouldn't have had any complaints because I had to meet up at 11 o'clock, flight got delayed and I was a bit late in the morning so I completely understand where he's (the manager) coming from." England has another friendly against Costa Rica in Leeds on Thursday before Southgate's side opens its campaign in Russia against Tunisia on June 18. Nigeria, which was held by Congo on Monday, plays the Czech Republic on Wednesday before facing Croatia in its World Cup opener on June 16......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 2018

Unlike Djokovic, past French Open champ Wawrinka loses early

PARIS --- Like Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka is a past French Open champion still working his way back into form after surgery. Like Djokovic, Wawrinka is ranked lower than he has been in more than a decade. And like Djokovic, Wawrinka recently reunited with a coach who helped guide him to success earlier in his career. Both men were in first-round action at Roland Garros on Monday, but unlike Djokovic, who won in straight sets, Wawrinka could not summon and sustain the sort of high-level play that has carried him to major titles in Paris and elsewhere. Returning to a place where he won the title in 2015 and made it back to the final a year ago, Wawrinka bowed out with a 6-2,...Keep on reading: Unlike Djokovic, past French Open champ Wawrinka loses early.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMay 29th, 2018

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

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

Families run to occupy houses in Bulacan

CITY OF SAN JOSE DEL MONTE --- Close to 550 families were given keys to their new homes at a social housing project here in Bulacan province on Saturday where they were relocated after being displaced from the waterways in Caloocan City. They moved in despite the absence of an occupancy permit from the city government, which is waiting for the project developer to install emergency glass cabinets where fire extinguishers will be housed. "What else would we wait for, before these houses are taken over by Kadamay?" said Girlyn Obenza, president of the Aniban para sa Lehitimong Pamumuhay Ligtas sa Sakuna (Alpas). The Alpas president was referring to the urban poor group Kalipunan n...Keep on reading: Families run to occupy houses in Bulacan.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsApr 15th, 2018

Eight NBA Playoffs storylines to watch

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Suddenly, we’re not quite as certain that Warriors-Cavs, Part IV, Sure to be Way Better than “Jaws: The Revenge” and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”, is going to make air, are we? The 2018 playoffs are just about here, and Stephen Curry isn’t, and Kyrie Irving won’t be, and Joel Embiid might be, and Jimmy Butler will be -- if his team is, that is. And both conference champions from a year ago are equally unsettled going into the postseason, for different reasons. The Golden State Warriors are banged up, while the Cleveland Cavaliers are brand new. Golden State hasn’t looked like an offensive leviathan, while Cleveland has been one of the league’s worst defenses. And, most importantly, each has legit challengers this year in Houston and Toronto in its respective conferences -- deep, tough, elite defensively, hard to stop offensively, and tempered/hardened/driven by recent playoff failures. Which should make late May and early June even more compelling than normal. At the least, we’ll have the Warriors going for three rings in four years, and LeBron James going for an eighth straight Finals appearance -- each representing something special. The postseason, then, should provide some theatre that Meryl Streep will drop what she’s doing to watch. Among the biggest storylines: 1. The Hinkie Referendum, Passed The Philadelphia 76ers’ scintillating run to end the regular season sets up them for a glorious postseason run, that will finalize a season in which the decisions by former GM Sam Hinkie -- the successful ones, anyway -- are rightly celebrated. (The failures of Jahlil Okafor and Michael Carter-Williams to fire as stars after Hinkie took each high in the first round are not only not ignored by Hinkie’s biggest supporters, they are cited as proof that he had to do what he did for as long as he did, because you’re going to have some misses at the top of the Draft. God, I love Hinkie Stans.) It says here that a healthy Joel Embiid and an exponentially improving Ben Simmons are the one team that can give LeBron’s Cavs true night sweats in the Kyrie-less east playoffs. Embiid is a problem for any team, but especially for the defensively indifferent and ineffective Cavaliers, who have no one remotely capable of keeping “The Process” from running wild. Since New Year’s Day, only Curry (120.4), Chris Paul (116.1) and Jamal Murray (114.7) have better Offensive Ratings among point guards than Simmons’s 113.9, per NBA.com/Stats. Who, from among George Hill (6'3"), Jose Calderon (6'1"), Jordan Clarkson (6'5") and J.R. Smith (6'5") is Cavs coach Tyronn Lue going to put on the 6'10" Simmons? Yes, Lue could try James on Simmons, who is no threat to shoot from deep or run through a maze of pindowns. But that doesn’t make him any easier to slow down. No matter who Philly plays in the postseason, the Sixers are going to be a problem. 2. Indiana George and the Tempo of Doom It’s taken the Oklahoma City Thunder much longer than any of us thought, but OKC is a win from the postseason (even if the Thunder can’t beat the Heat in Miami tonight, the Cancun-bound Memphis Grizzlies will be in Oklahoma City Wednesday). And that’s when Paul George will determine whether his future is in the 405 or elsewhere. The Thunder’s up-and-down regular season doesn’t provide much clue to how far they could go in the playoffs, thought OKC looked formidable in ending the Rockets’ 20-game home win streak Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). It was a game that featured Russell Westbrook successfully taking on the challenge of defending James Harden down the stretch. When Oklahoma City plays with pace and gets up and down the floor, it can beat anyone. The Thunder will likely have to take down an elite unit like Houston at some point in the playoffs to convince George to stay. 3. A Series of Fortunate Events With Irving’s injury, the Washington Wizards’ failure to launch and other maladies to Eastern Conference contenders, the Cavaliers have an increasingly clear path back to The Finals. Doing this is best way to keep LeBron: The Sequel in town for an extended run, but the proof will be in the doing, of course. Cleveland will need Larry Nance, Jr., Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson to perform under playoff pressure, which Nance and Clarkson have never had to do and Hood did briefly in the 2017 playoffs with the Utah Jazz. 4. She packed my bags last night, pre-flight/Zero Hour, 9 a.m The Rockets have been the best team in the league most of this season -- an offensive and defensive juggernaut, the logical extension at both ends of the floor of the standards the Warriors set the last few seasons. James Harden will likely walk away with Kia MVP honors after the season and Chris Paul has been everything Houston hoped he’d be. But Houston must finish the deal with a championship to make its own mark. 5. Jurassic Park Everything is set up for Toronto, as well -- the Raptors have the Eastern Conference’s best record and are tied with Houston for the best home record (34-7) in the league. They have home court until The Finals. Their two lynchpins, All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, are healthy. They’ve diversified their offense and learned to love the 3-pointer. They’re back to guarding at an elite level. The East is laid out open for a Toronto run to The Finals. There’s no excuse for the Raps not to. 6. ‘Brow’, Beating We don’t know for sure that the New Orleans Pelicans will make the playoffs. As of this writing, they haven’t clinched yet, although beating the Warriors in Oakland on Saturday went a long way toward their getting to the postseason. But assuming New Orleans is playing next weekend, its success in the playoffs can only help the franchise as it recovers from the recent death of former owner Tom Benson. “The Brow” (aka Anthony Davis) may have got us on April Fool’s Day, but the next couple of weeks will be dead serious. What if the Pelicans manage a first-round upset? Don’t say it’s not possible with the way Davis is playing. That would go an awful long way to quieting the “How the Boston Celtics Will Get Anthony Davis in 2020, Vol. MCMLXXXVII” hot takes. 7.  The Boston Medical Group The Celtics as imagined played exactly five minutes together this season. Everything that’s transpired since has been wrapped in gauze and sutured shut. Kyrie Irving’s latest knee procedure has everyone hopping off the Celtics’ postseason bandwagon -- a mistake, unless coach Brad Stevens pulls a hammy before Game 1 in the first round. Stevens has coached up whatever 12 guys are active pretty damn well since he’s come to the NBA, and he’ll still have a lot to work with in the playoffs: Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier (the Celtics hope they can get Marcus Smart back after the first round). The bigger issue, of course, is Irving’s health going forward -- and into next season, after which he can opt out of the last year of his deal and become an unrestricted free agent in 2019. The current belief in Boston is that Irving’s knee -- the cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bones -- is sound and that he’ll have no long-term issues with it. But Irving and the team thought taking out the tension wire that had helped heal his broken patella after his 2015 surgery would do the trick. It didn’t.   There should be no doubt Boston will be all in on Irving. But after missing these playoffs after going out in Game 1 of the Finals in ’15, Irving will again have to show he’s able to handle a season-long campaign and still be able to bring his best to the postseason. 8. Bah Gawd, That’s Kawhi Leonard’s Music! We have all worked on the assumption that Leonard isn’t going to play for the Spurs any more this season as he rehabs his quad injury, even though they’ve never quite actually said he’s out for the year -- and he, as per usual, has said next to nothing. The Spurs have ridden LaMarcus Aldridge’s All-NBA-level season to the cusp of the playoffs, but no one has much expectation they’ll be there very long if they make it without their former Finals MVP. “Do I have any expectation I’ll see Kawhi?,” Danny Green said a week ago, repeating my question to him. “As of right now, my mindset is no. I’m just going to forward without him … if he does come back, great. Our mindset is this is the group we have today, this is the group we’ll have tomorrow. If somebody does come and join, we’ll have them and it’ll be great. But right now we’re moving forward with the expectation that this is who we have.” But, it’s not like we haven’t seen guys come back suddenly for the playoffs after missing large chunks of a season. A fellow named Michael Jordan played just 18 regular season games in his second season with the Bulls in 1986, recovering from a foot injury and not returning to the lineup until mid-March. True, he did get 15 games under his belt before the playoffs. But that did not prepare anyone for his showing up in Boston Garden in Game 2 of the first round against the Celtics and dropping 63 on the home team. There are, to be sure, issues between Leonard and the Spurs, and maybe they’re insurmountable. But if, somehow, “The Klaw” wakes up one morning this month and says he’s good to go, and reports for duty … who doesn’t think San Antonio can’t start assimilating opponents into its collective just like old times? 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 NewsApr 10th, 2018

Cocolife, Foton open prelims second round on a high note

Serbian reinforcement Sara Klisura caught fire to help Cocolife recover from a third set meltdown to pull off a 25-20, 25-18, 20-25, 25-22 victory over Sta. Lucia Realty on Tuesday in the 2018 Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix Pool A prelims second round at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan. Klisura unleashed 25 kills, three aces and a block for 29 points while American import Taylor Milton finished with 14 markers for the Asset Managers, who improved to 5-3 win-loss card entering the crucial phase of the classification round. Mary Jean Balse-Pabayo added nine points while veteran libero Denden Lazaro chipped in with 18 digs and 12 excellent receptions for Cocolife, which needs at least one victory in its last two assignments against Smart and Petron to secure the twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals. Ukranian Bohdana Anisova notched 20 kills and four blocks for 24 points while Canadian Marisa Field had 14 markers for the Lady Realtors, who fell to 3-5. Meanwhile, Foton banked on the late-game heroics of Dindin Manabat to pull off a 25-23, 27-25, 21-25, 32-30 squeaker over Cignal in Pool B. Manabat, who is returning from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, delivered crucial blows to lift the Tornadoes to 4-4 card. The 6-foot-2 middle hitter pushed Foton at match point on a cross court hit before closing the match with a down the line kill to hand the HD Spikers their fifth loss in eight games. New import Channon Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago debuted with 18 points and seven blocks for the Tornadoes, who replaced American Brooke Kranda midway into the conference. Canadian import Elizabeth Wendel finished with 19 points while Manabat nailed 18 markers including five kill blocks. Foton could’ve sealed the match after taking a 24-23 lead in the fourth set but Cignal saved seven match points before Manabat took matters on her own hands. American import Jeane Horton and Bosnian reinforcement Sonja Milanovic tallied 26 and 25 markers, respectively, for Cignal.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 3rd, 2018

Venus, Halep win, Wozniacki upset at Indian Wells

By Beth Harris, Associated Press INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Venus Williams defeated Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 7-6 (8), 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday as the oldest woman in the draw. The 37-year-old American was coming off a straight-set victory over younger sister Serena a night earlier, ending a three-match skid against her sibling. "It was a quick turnaround from last night when it feels like, 'Hey, this is a final to you're only in the fourth round,'" Williams said on court. Playing under cloudy skies in 80-degree heat, Williams had her hands full with Sevastova, who used drop shots, top spin, lobs and jerked her 10-years-older opponent side to side. "There were some points where she just played and it was too good," Williams said. "I thought I was in control of the point and winning the point, and she turned it around. It's just real talent." After early losses in her first two tournaments of the year, Williams hasn't dropped a set at Indian Wells, where she has yet to reach the final in six previous appearances. Awaiting Williams in the quarterfinals is 27th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, who beat American wild card Danielle Collins 6-2, 6-4. Simona Halep is on track to retain her No. 1 world ranking after defeating Wang Qiang of China 7-5, 6-1 in the fourth round. Halep is the only former Indian Wells winner left in the women's draw after No. 20 Daria Kasatkina upset No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 7-5. Wozniacki blew a 3-0 lead in the first set and was on the run most of the match before losing for the second time this year to the 20-year-old Russian. "She outsmarted me," Wozniacki said. By reaching the quarterfinals, Kasatkina is projected to surpass her career-best ranking of 17th. She has beaten all four current Grand Slam titleholders in the past year, including U.S. Open winner Sloane Stephens in straight sets this week. "I'm playing best matches against the best players," Kasatkina said. "But as I say, if you want to be on the top, you have to beat the top players. So quite simple rule." Halep improved to 17-1 this year and needs only to reach the final to stay at the top. Next up for Halep is Petra Martic of Croatia, who beat Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-6 (4). American teenager Amanda Anisimova's run of success ended in a 6-1, 7-6 (2) loss to No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. Anisimova, a 16-year-old wild card, won her first three WTA Tour matches at Indian Wells, beating Pauline Parmentier, No. 23 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova without dropping a set. "She's 16, so she's not scared," Pliskova said of Anisimova. "You can see she's hitting the ball without thinking. But everybody is playing like this when they are 16. I think this will change a little bit in the future, but for sure the game is good and not really any weakness. I think everything is pretty solid." Pliskova faces a quarterfinal against Naomi Osaka, who beat Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1, 5-7, 6-1. Halep attended Venus Williams' straight-set victory over 36-year-old sister and new mother Serena on Monday night. "I love the way that they are motivated and they are still playing at this age, Serena with the kid," Halep said. "It's a great thing what they do for sport, and it's great that tennis has them. I have many things to learn from them. That's why I'm trying just to go in to watch every time I can." On the men's side, Gael Monfils retired in the second set with a back injury trailing fellow Frenchman Pierre-Hughes Herbert 6-2, 3-1. Monfils used an eight-minute injury timeout in the second set to get his back worked on before returning to the court and getting broken in fourth game. He then walked to the net and ended the match. Herbert moved on to a fourth-round matchup with Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany, who upset No. 2 seed Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-4. Cilic won 19 of 23 points on his first serve, but failed to convert four break points against 31st-seeded Kohlschreiber, who snapped a 12-match skid against top-10 opponents. Herbert remains in contention for the $1 million bonus offered to a player who sweeps the singles and doubles titles. No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina defeated No. 29 David Ferrer of Spain 6-4, 7-6 (3) for the fifth straight time. With Cilic, Ferrer, Novak Djokovic, Monfils and John Isner all eliminated from his quarter of the draw, things are looking wide open for del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion. Top-ranked Roger Federer and del Potro are the highest seeds remaining. "I'm not thinking about that. I just want to keep winning," del Potro said. "Still far away from the final, but of course, any chance to play with Roger would be great." Del Potro's countryman, Leonardo Mayer, beat Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel 6-4, 6-1. Mayer next plays del Potro. No. 18 Sam Querrey rallied past Indian qualifier Yuki Bhambri 6-7 (7), 6-4, 6-4 and will play No. 28 Feliciano Lopez of Spain. He spoiled a potential all-American quarterfinal by beating No. 8 Jack Sock 7-6 (8), 4-6, 6-4. No. 32 Milos Raonic of Canada defeated Joao Sousa of Portugal 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 and will meet Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, who beat lucky loser Dudi Sela of Israel 7-6 (7), 6-4......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 14th, 2018

Struggling Djokovic out, Federer into quarters

MELBOURNE, Australia – Wounded 12-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic was sent tumbling out of the Australian Open by Korean giant-killer Chung Hyeon Monday, January 22, but ice-cool Roger Federer roared into the quarter-finals. The Serb, who was returning from 6 months out with a right elbow injury, was clearly in ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJan 22nd, 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

Federer deflects attention to Nadal, Djokovic in Australia

By John Pye, Associated Press MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer prefers to think of Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic as the favorites for the Australian Open title, despite entering as defending champion and coming off a worry-free preparation. "I play down my chances just because I don't think a 36-year-old should be a favorite of a tournament," Federer said Sunday on the eve of the year's first Grand Slam tournament, "It should not be the case. "That's why I see things more relaxed, you know, at a later stage of my career." The 19-time major winner can afford to relax slightly longer, given the half of the draw that he shares with Djokovic doesn't start until day two. Top-ranked Nadal will get under way Monday night against Victor Estrella Burgos on Rod Laver Arena, where he lost the final in five sets to Federer last year. All four singles finalists were 30 or older here last year in what became a tournament for the ages, and three of them are back. Serena Williams beat her older sister Venus Williams in the final to capture an Open era-record 23rd major here last year but decided against defending her title because she didn't have enough time to recover from health issues after a complicated childbirth in September. Venus Williams is seeded fifth and is second match scheduled on center court to get her 77th major under way with a challenging opener against Belinda Bencic. She's 4-0 in career head-to-heads against 20-year-old Bencic — who reached a career-high No. 7 ranking in 2016 and who helped Federer win the Hopman Cup title for Switzerland earlier this month — but is coming off an abbreviated preparation that included a loss in the second round to eventual champion Angelique Kerber at the Sydney International last week. At 37, Venus Williams among the top contenders at Melbourne Park. Others in action on Monday include seventh-seeded Jelena Ostapenko, who meets Francesca Schiavone in a match featuring current vs. former French Open champions, No. 2-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, who opens against Mihaela Buzarnescu, and U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens against Zhang Shuai. Simona Halep is the No. 1 seed in the women's draw, and one of six women who can hold the No. 1 ranking at the end of the Australian Open. Halep, who has had back-to-back first-round exits on her last two trips to Melbourne Park, opens on day two against Australian wild-card entry Destanee Aiava. Only two men can hold the top ranking in the first week of February — Nadal or Federer — regardless of what No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov or No. 4 Alexander Zverev or anybody else does in Melbourne. Federer returns in contrasting circumstances to his appearance in 2017, when he was coming off a six-month break for an injured left knee and had low expectations about ending a Grand Slam title drought that dated to Wimbledon in 2012. "This year I hope to win the first few rounds and get rolling hopefully, whereas last year I was just hoping to win," a match, Federer told his pre-tournament news conference Sunday. "It was more of a 'let's see what happens' kind of tournament, maybe similar to what Novak or Stan (Wawrinka) or others are going through this year." Six-time Australian Open winner Djokovic has been sidelined for six months with an injured right elbow, returning with a remodeled service motion, and 2014 champion Wawrinka has also been out of the game since Wimbledon after surgery on his knee. Nadal, who won the French and U.S. Open titles last year, has also had a limited preparation restricted to couple of exhibition matches last week as he recovers from a sore knee. None of that makes them any less of a threat to Federer. "Rafa, with the year that he's had, and Novak with the six titles he's had here, even if it's unknown how he's feeling, they could very well be the favorites, too," Federer said. "If you're in the draw, you give yourself a chance. That's what happened for me last year — all ended up way better than I thought it would, as you know.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2018