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Agassi makes first return to Australian Open

Agassi makes first 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 to the tournament 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 is in Melbourne to take part in a ceremony before the men's final in Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night.

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

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

``It's just a different standard of tennis,'' he said. ``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 said. ``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.''

When asked what he'd need to do 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 - 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, saying he had 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,'' he said.

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

Report: Former Terp Diamond Stone included in federal documents detailing NCAA violations

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USA Today Sports

Report: Former Terp Diamond Stone included in federal documents detailing NCAA violations

A bombshell article published Friday morning by Pat Forde and Pete Thaamel of YAHOO Sports details potential NCAA violations involving more than 20 schools and 25 players.

Among some of the biggest names and programs in college basketball includes former Maryland Terrapin, Diamond Stone.

According to documents and bank records that are part of an FBI investigation, Stone received $14,303 while a freshman at Maryland, a clear violation of NCAA rules. 

Former NBA agent, Andy Miller and his former associate, Christian Dawkins of ASM Sports were dishing out the incentives. Included were cash advances, entertainment expenses and travel expenses for high school and college prospects.

Other player's included in the documents include Dennis Smith who played at North Carolina State, Isaiah Whitehead from Seton Hall, DeMatha star Markelle Fultz who played at Washington and Edrice Adebayo who went on to play at Kentucky. 

Stone played for the Terps during the 2015-16 season before declaring for the NFL draft. He was selected 40th overall by the New Orleans Pelicans and traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. 

Stone did  end up signing with a different agency.

While this is still under investigation, large consequences for the NCAA can be expected.

The NCAA released this statement following the news. 

These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America. Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules. Following the Southern District of New York's indictments last year, the NCAA Board of Governors and I formed the independent Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, to provide recommendations on how to clean up the sport. With these latest allegations, it's clear this work is more important now than ever. The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity. We also will continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts.

RELATED: DIAMOND STONE ADMITS TO 'MISTAKES' DURING FRESHMAN YEAR AT MARYLAND

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!