Djokovic sets sights on elusive French Open


Djokovic sets sights on elusive French Open

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) In years past, Novak Djokovic marked his victories at the Australian Open with rowdy late-night celebrations and bleary-eyed photo shoots the next morning in downtown Melbourne.

This year's win made history but inspired a more sober reaction.

After beating Andy Murray to become the only man to win three consecutive Australian Open titles, the No. 1-ranked player didn't feel the need to celebrate immediately.

Instead, he booked an early Monday flight home to start preparing for his next challenge: the clay courts of Europe.

The Serb has the Davis Cup next weekend and a few months away is the French Open - the one major that has eluded him. Djokovic now has six Grand Slam tournament trophies, four overall from the Australian Open and one each from Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2011. He came close last year at Roland Garros, but lost in the final to clay-court master Rafael Nadal.

``Of course, I want to go all the way in the French Open,'' Djokovic said at his post-match news conference just after midnight.

His goal for the year is a big one, he said, when asked if he would choose a Roland Garros title over his No. 1-ranking.

``I'll take everything,'' the 25-year-old Djokovic said. ``I have no reason not to be confident in myself.''

Djokovic never lacked self-confidence and his dominating performance at the Australian Open showed just why.

The elite group Djokovic heads includes No. 2 Roger Federer, No. 3 Murray and Nadal, whose creaky knees caused him to sit out this tournament and yield his No. 4 ranking to David Ferrer. Djokovic beat Ferrer in an 89-minute semifinal he said he played ``perfectly.''

Federer, a 17-time Grand Slam-winner, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray have combined to win 33 of the past 34 majors.

``I have a great feeling about myself on the court at this moment,'' Djokovic said after beating Ferrer.

His 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 victory over Murray on Sunday night showed his mental toughness and supreme fitness in a match that contained riveting rallies between two of the best returners in the game.

The win deprived Murray of his chance to capitalize on his breakthrough year in 2012, when he won an Olympic gold and his first major title at the U.S. Open.

``I'm full of joy right now,'' Djokovic said. ``It's going to give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season, that's for sure.''

The season resumes next weekend with Serbia's Davis Cup tie against Belgium, which was why Djokovic flew home early so he could celebrate with the people closest to him.

``In life you don't get many opportunities to win Grand Slams. As a tennis player, that's a pinnacle of the ambitions and of the success,'' he said. ``So I (will) try to enjoy it for a few days with the people I love the most - family, friends and team.''

Djokovic apologized to reporters for skipping Monday's traditional post-victory news conference.

``The main reason is because I want to get to Europe as quick as possible so I can be ready for the Davis Cup tie,'' said Djokovic, who led Serbia to its first and only Davis Cup title in 2010. ``I hope I find your understanding for that.''

After he wrapped up his media obligations, he went online at about 4:30 a.m. to post a note of thanks to his fans.

``My dear friends,'' he wrote in a personal blog post that he also tweeted. ``(I'm) laying in bed now and thinking `Novak, you are 4 times AO champion,' That's quite something, right? I will have to repeat it in my mind for a while to sink in.''

``This is just the start of the year!'' Djokovic wrote, ahead of catching his flight. ``Plenty of things ahead of us, starting from tomorrow morning. ... Stay tuned.''

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

The Washington Capitals had not beaten the Dallas Stars at home since 2006, Alex Ovechkin's second season in the NHL. That streak ended on Tuesday in a 4-3 Caps win.

Here's how the Caps were finally able to down Dallas in Washington.

Oshie still hot

After going 19 straight games without a goal, T.J. Oshie has been red-hot of late with four goals in his last four games. He scored Washington’s first goal in what would become a three-goal period for the Caps as they battled back from a 1-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes. Oshie also added an assist as he won a power play faceoff that John Carlson fed to Alex Ovechkin for the goal.


Ovechkin victimizing his favorite target

You knew Ovechkin would score given he was playing against one of his favorite targets. With his second period goal, Ovechkin now has 22 goals against Kari Lehtonen in his career, tied with Henrik Lundqvist for the most goals he has scored on any netminder. Lehtonen has not been in the Eastern Conference since the 2008-09 season. When he goes to sleep at night, Ovechkin is who he sees in his nightmares.

The Carlson-Klingberg duel

Carlson and John Klingberg entered Tuesday’s game each with 59 points, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. Carlson downplayed the matchup both before and after the game, but it was clear that both players were playing at another level all game long. While both players tallied two points on the night, you have to give the win to Carlson as he had the most significant point, a game-winning goal in the third period.


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Redskins make contract offer to pass rusher Pernell McPhee, per report


Redskins make contract offer to pass rusher Pernell McPhee, per report

Free agent pass rusher Pernell McPhee visited the Redskins on Monday, and by Tuesday night a report emerged that Washington offered the veteran outside linebacker a contract.

Last week, Trent Murphy signed with the Buffalo Bills and things remain uncertain between the Redskins and Junior Galette. That means the organization has a need for an edge rushing linebacker, and that's exactly the role McPhee can play. 

A 29-year-old that played the last three seasons with the Bears, McPhee posted 14 sacks while in Chicago. Prior to his time with the Bears, McPhee was a solid contributor on some good Ravens teams. 


His best season in Baltimore came in 2014 when he posted 7.5 sacks. That's also the last season McPhee played a full 16 game schedule. He's missed 12 games over the last three years in Chicago. 

McPhee could provide the Redskins with solid veteran depth at outside linebacker, and he's also considered a plus defender against the run. With Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith cemented as the starting outside linebackers, if signed, McPhee would pair up with Ryan Anderson on Washington's second unit. At 6-foot-2 and 275 lbs., McPhee carries more weight on his frame than either Kerrigan or Smith. 

Pro Football Focus gave McPhee a strong grade for the 2017 season. He notched a +11.5 and ranked 13th out of 46 outside linebackers graded. For comparison, Broncos star Von Miller ranked 1st at +57, Kerrigan ranked 8th at +22.9 and Galette ranked 10th at +16.2.

It's unclear what a move for McPhee would mean between the Redskins and Galette, but it's hard to imagine it helps.

Free agent Johnathan Hankins also visited Washington on Monday, and while he plays an interior defensive line position different from McPhee, it's also unclear what this offer would do to any negotiations between the Redskins and Hankins. 

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