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American teen Keys looked up to Venus as a toddler

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American teen Keys looked up to Venus as a toddler

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) As a 4-year-old she watched Venus Williams playing on TV and fell in love with her dress.

So began the tennis career of Madison Keys.

``I really wanted a tennis dress,'' said Keys, now 17. ``My parents told me that if I played, they would buy me one. I was like, `Hey, I'll try it.'''

Keys now has a closet full of tennis dresses and enough talent to have reached the third round at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

Ranked 105th and playing as a wild-card entry, Keys powered through the second round beating 30th-ranked Tamira Paszek 6-2, 6-1 in just 56 minutes - drawing accolades from people who are now watching her play.

One of them was retired three-time Grand Slam winner and fellow American Lindsay Davenport, who thinks that Keys has ``incredible potential.''

``Best hope I've seen for U.S. since Williams,'' Davenport tweeted, not clarifying if she meant the 32-year-old Venus - who owns seven Grand Slam titles - or younger sister Serena who has 15.

Keys broke into a big smile and blushed when told of Davenport's appraisal.

``It makes me really happy,'' Keys said. ``I've been working really hard. I think it's starting to show.''

After her match, Keys was ushered into the main players' news conference room at Melbourne Park, which is usually reserved for top players or the people who beat them.

A bit awe-struck by the attention, Keys explained that her introduction to tennis was ``complete luck.''

Both her parents are lawyers and nobody in her family plays tennis, but she loved it from the moment she picked up a racket, she said.

``Every single day, my parents fed me balls. Eventually it turned into having a coach, and then it went to being at an academy,'' she said. ``You know, it worked out pretty well.''

Keys turned pro on her 14th birthday, Feb. 17, 2009, and made her debut at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., where she became the seventh youngest player to win a main draw match and the youngest since Martina Hingis in 1994.

At 16 years old she played her first Grand Slam at the 2011 U.S. Open, becoming the youngest and - at 455th - the lowest-ranked woman in the draw. She made it the second round and then won a wild card into last year's Australian Open, where she lost in the first round.

This year's Australian Open is her third Grand Slam and her best result so far.

She faces a tough test in the third round against Wimbledon semifinalist and No. 5-seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, who beat Luci Hradecka in the second round 6-3, 6-1.

Unlike the jitters she felt at the U.S. Open, Keys said she feels more confident now.

``My first U.S. Open main draw, it was a big stadium and I wasn't really used to it,'' she said. ``But I feel good about this one so far.''

Her former idol, 32-year-old Venus Williams, had a good day, too, advancing to the third round after beating Alize Cornet of France 6-3, 6-3.

Asked what it feels like to have younger players look up to her, Venus laughed.

``I'm fighting the wrinkles and I'm fighting the battle of the bulge and everything,'' Williams responded. ``I'm still slim and trim, thank you God.''

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BATTLE FOR NO. 1: The women's No. 1 ranking will be decided at the Australian Open.

The contenders are top-ranked Victoria Azarenka, No. 2 Maria Sharapova and No. 3 Serena Williams.

Azarenka needs to reach the final to have a shot at staying on top. She first claimed the top-ranking after winning last year's Australian Open and is guaranteed to keep it for her 48th week until the tournament ends.

Sharapova and Williams need to reach the final to have a shot at unseating Azarenka.

Four-time major winner Sharapova made a four-week return to the No. 1-spot in June after completing a career Grand Slam by winning her first French Open title. She became the first Russian to reach the top-ranking in August 2005 and has held the spot for 21 non-consecutive weeks during her career.

Serena is well-acquainted with the top spot, having spent 123 weeks during her career at No. 1. The 15-time Grand Slam winner is seeking her fifth Australian Open trophy.

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BOWLED OVER: When he wasn't playing tennis, India's Somdev Devvarman ducked over to the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The 551st-ranked player described himself as ``a huge cricket fan.''

``Obviously growing up in India, we didn't have a choice but to watch cricket,'' the 27-year-old joked.

On his rest day after winning in the first round at Melbourne Park, Devvarman popped across the railway tracks to the 100,000-seat MCG for a photo shoot at a place he'd seen many times on TV.

``There's a lot of history over there,'' he said, adding that he had fun visiting one of cricket's most famous venues and the on-site museum where be browsed through the old bats and balls and saw statues of some of his favorite cricket players.

There was one thing missing among the statues, he said: ``I wish there were a few Indians over there, too.''

Devvarman exited in the second round after losing a four-hour, four-set battle against No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland, 6-7 (10), 3-6, 6-1, 6-0, 7-5.

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Don't expect a big role for Ramon Sessions with Wizards after signing as free agent

Don't expect a big role for Ramon Sessions with Wizards after signing as free agent

When Ramon Sessions was last with the Wizards, he was the primary backup point guard behind starter John Wall. Now back with the team on a 10-day contract, he is expected to play a much more muted role.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks spoke of Sessions as the fourth-string point guard, not only behind Wall who remains out to recover from left knee surgery, but also behind Tomas Satoransky and Tim Frazier. The presence of Sessions should not affect Satoransky's minutes as the replacement starter and it doesn't sound like Frazier is in jeopardy of moving down the depth chart, either.

"I don't know how many minutes or opportunities he will get, but with the way he holds himself I feel comfortable if we need him in a pinch," Brooks said. "We have some coverage now if one of our guards goes down or gets in foul trouble."

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

Brooks mentioned Sessions' ability to play some at shooting guard if needed. He also praised Sessions' penchant for getting to the free throw line. Sessions has averaged 3.9 free throw attempts in just 23.5 minutes per game. That's highest among active players who have averaged 24 minutes or less in their career.

Sessions played well for the Wizards down the stretch of the 2014-15 season and in the 2015-16 campaign. As a member of the Wizards, he averaged 9.2 points and 3.0 assists per game.

RELATED: 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT RAMON SESSIONS

He has played for eight different teams, but has always felt a connection to Washington.

"It just always felt like a place I could end up back one day," he said. "People always ask me, being on so many teams, 'what's the home team to you?' I always come back to the Wizards. It was a place I was only here a year-and-a-half, but it feels like much longer than that with the run we had and the fans and the support I get when I come here."

Exactly how long Sessions will be here is unclear. He couldn't crack the Knicks' rotation earlier this season and has a lot to prove. Still, he's excited for the opportunity.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

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Kevin Durant commits $10 million to Prince George's County public schools

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USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant commits $10 million to Prince George's County public schools

Kevin Durant continues to give back to the community that raised him. 

Durant, who calls Prince George's County, MD., home, recently announced a partnership with Prince George's County public schools. 

The partnership, which comes with a $10 million dollar commitment from Durant, will help fund a program called College Track. Essentially, it's a 10-year program that provides basic infrastructure — test prep, tutoring, college selection and how to get financial aid — that kids from less-advantaged families often times don’t have.

Durant's money will go towards building College Track's Maryland center. There are nine other College Tracks across California, Colorado, and Louisiana, and the program has helped over 3,000 students get to college and beyond. This Maryland center will be the first of three that are planned to go up in the DC area. 

You can read the entire article about Durant and College Track right here. 

RELATED: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR TOMAS SATORANSKY