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Agassi makes 1st return to Australian Open

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Agassi makes 1st return to Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Andre Agassi says one of the biggest regrets of his career was waiting until 1995 - a full decade after turning professional - to play in the Australian Open.

It took him a while to return to Melbourne after his retirement in 2006, too.

``It feels long overdue,'' Agassi said Friday when he walked into the news conference room at Melbourne Park in his first trip back since his loss to Roger Federer in the quarterfinals in 2005.

The four-time Australian Open champion pulled out his cellphone and snapped a photo of the reporters crammed into the tiny space. ``Do you mind if I memorialize this for posterity?'' he asked the room to laughter.

Now 42 and the father of two children with wife Steffi Graf, Agassi will take part in a ceremony before the men's final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in Rod Laver Arena on Sunday.

He's glad his career ended before the age of the so-called Big Four of men's tennis because he doesn't think he'd be able to compete against the group - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Murray.

The game bears little resemblance to how he played just a decade ago, Agassi said. He ``marvels'' at the athleticism of the top men and their ability to recover quickly after draining matches, such as Djokovic's epic five-setter with Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarterfinals this week.

``It's just a different standard of tennis,'' said the eight-time Grand Slam winner. ``It's different rules of engagement when guys can do what these guys can do.

``It means the game has gotten a lot better. You know, Fed raised it. Nadal matched and raised it. Djokovic, for that intense little period of time, even raised it,'' Agassi added. ``When I see those top three guys, I see what history will say is the golden age of tennis. You're talking about arguably the three best guys.''

As for Murray, who edged Federer in five sets in the semifinal on Friday, Agassi believes the Scot is coming into his own.

``He believes now, and so now you're talking about four guys,'' he said. ``They've separated themselves from the field.''

In the final, he picked Djokovic to walk away with his third consecutive title and fourth overall Down Under.

When asked how he would have tried to beat a player of Djokovic's caliber, Agassi wisecracked, ``I would have probably gotten in a fight with him in the locker room before the match. I might have had a chance.''

Agassi also touched on the question of drug-testing in tennis in the wake of Lance Armstrong's doping confession - and reflected on his own recreational drug use during his career.

In his 2009 autobiography ``Open,'' Agassi admitted to using crystal meth during his playing days in the late 1990s and lying about it to tennis authorities after failing a drug test, telling them he unwittingly consumed a spiked drink.

Agassi said Friday he believes tennis has always led the way on drug testing, but more transparency and greater accountability can only be a good thing.

``It would have kept me from destroying a few years of my life,'' he said. ``That's what I did to myself with the use of the recreational, destructive substance of crystal meth.

``Anything that can protect the integrity of the sport, and those that aren't cheating should absolutely be considered. The more (testing), the better as far as I'm concerned.''

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Wizards' 122-105 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night...

1. This was a tough one for the Wizards. For the third time this season, they got beaten by the Hornets and for the second straight time it was in a blowout.

They still had their moments, though, including this alley-oop from Tomas Satoransky (11 points) to Markieff Morris (13 points, eight assists, six rebounds). It was the second alley-oop connection for those two in as many games:

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

2. This was a play that encapsulated the Wizards' night. Jodie Meeks drew a flagrant foul on Michael Carter-Williams, but took a hard shot to the head:

3. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had a solid game with 11 points, including this big dunk:

RELATED: 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT RAMON SESSIONS

4. Speaking of Oubre, he helped the Wizards close the first half with a late surge. The real highlight was Bradley Beal stealing the ball and hitting a corner three at the buzzer:

5. Beal ended up with 33 points, six assists and six rebounds. Here's an and-1 he got to go down in the second half:

All in all, it was an ugly performance for the Wizards. To cheer you up, we'll leave you with this young fan who had a great time at Capital One Arena despite the result:

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 122-105 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Bad matchup: Despite their poor record, there is something about this Charlotte Hornets team that gives the Wizards trouble. The Wizards lost to the Hornets (26-33) for the third time in three tries this season on Friday night and, aside from a push in the third quarter, they were never really in it.

All in all, it was a dud of a game for the Wizards who were probably due for one. They had won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall got injured. They were also coming off a huge road win the night before in Cleveland, a game that started an hour later than usual.

It was a tough turnaround and the Wizards sure looked like it. It was evident in their defense and unforced errors. They did, however, have a decent shooting night. They shot 49.4 percent from the field 16-for-17 from the free throw line.

The Wizards' second unit didn't provide a lift outside of Kelly Oubre, Jr. (11 points). Mike Scott, one of their best bench options, was held scoreless.

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

Ugly first half: The Wizards only trailed by 12 points at halftime, but that score was skewed by a five-point push in the final seconds. The Hornets dominated for much of the first two quarters and did so by hitting threes and forcing turnovers. Those mistakes dug the Wizards a hole they never recovered from.

The Wizards had 10 turnovers in the first half, the same amount they had in their entire game the night before. Limiting mistakes was a big reason they beat the Cavaliers, yet the script was flipped by Charlotte.

The Hornets capitalized with 23 points off those 10 first-half turnovers. The Wizards had 14 giveaways for the games that led to 28 total points. 

Charlotte was 7-for-11 from three at one point in the first half and finished 17-for-39 (43.6%) for the game. That is very uncharacteristic for the Wizards, who entered the night second in the NBA in opponents three-point percentage.

Again, though, the first half ended well as Oubre and Bradley Beal gave the Wizards a jolt in the final seconds:

RELATED: 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT RAMON SESSIONS

Bad defense: The Wizards have played some great defense in recent weeks, but they just didn't have it on Friday night. Most surprising were the guys that hurt them most.

Dwight Howard was limited to 11 points and six rebounds and Kemba Walker didn't score his first points until the final minute of the first half. But others like Frank Kaminsky (23 points), Marvin Williams (15 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points) got pretty much anything they wanted.

For Walker, it was a tale of two halves. He was held in check by Tomas Satoransky in the first half, but broke out in the third quarter and finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. Maybe it was tired legs on the Wizards' part, but Walker just kept dribbling until he got space and once he did, he knocked down shots.

Much like Kyle Lowry did a few weeks ago, Walker made adjustments to find success against Satoransky. We haven't seen that happen much since Wall went out, but those two have given him some trouble. Both guys are considerably smaller than Satoransky and very quick. Maybe there's something to that.

Add it all up and this was one of the worst defensive games of the season for the Wizards. They allowed their most points in a game since Jan. 17 against, you guessed it, the Hornets. Only three times this year have they given up more than what they allowed on Friday.

No Sessions: The Wizards did not debut their newest player on Friday night, which was probably to be expected given Ramon Sessions has not had any practice time yet. That is part of why he didn't play, but it's also another indication that he is unlikely to play much with the Wizards. Sessions is on a 10-day contract and is not expected to supplant either Satoransky or Tim Frazier at point guard. Frazier would seem to be the guy in danger of losing minutes, but it was business as usual for him against the Hornets.

Up next: The Wizards are off Saturday before returning to action at home against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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