Maryland Terps

Fed Cup a final chance for Kvitova to save season

Fed Cup a final chance for Kvitova to save season

PRAGUE (AP) Petra Kvitova regards this weekend's Fed Cup final as her last chance to salvage a year which has been a big comedown after her stellar 2011.

Kvitova led the Czech Republic last year to its first Fed Cup title in 23 years, and this weekend she will help defend that crown at home against Serbia.

Despite withdrawing midway through last week's elite WTA Championships with bronchitis, she said on Wednesday she hoped ``to be 100 percent fit on Saturday'' for the opening singles.

``We expect her to play,'' Czech captain Petr Pala said.

She and the doubles team are the keys to the Czech's chances, but Kvitova will start with question marks over her fitness and form. In a season plagued by injuries and illnesses, she has dropped from being ranked No. 2 to No. 8. She failed to successfully retain any of the six titles she won in 2011, including Wimbledon and the WTA Championships, but won two tour events and reached the semifinals at the Australian and French Opens.

``Of course, I didn't win any Grand Slam,'' she said. ``But I'm so happy that I'm here and I was able to be in the top eight in Istanbul. So, I think it's a good season and we try, all of us, to play our best and to win this trophy again.''

Kvitova has been struggling in the last two months, in particular, with just one win in her last three WTA events.

The Fed Cup, however, has been a success story for her. She is unbeaten over the last two years, claiming 10 consecutive singles victories. A year ago, she beat Maria Kirilenko and Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final in Moscow.

The Czechs have beaten Germany and Italy to set up the final in Prague on an indoor hard-court.

``We'll be under pressure because it's the final and we're the defending champions,'' Kvitova said. ``All our fans are not ready to accept anything but a victory. But at the same time, they all will be on our side.''

Serbia, meanwhile, has been enjoying its best Fed Cup season since the country became independent. It recorded first victories in the World Group with away wins over Belgium and Russia to reach its first final.

``It's a historic moment for us, a very special moment,'' said Jelena Jankovic, one of the two former world No. 1s on the Serbian team.

``We're all very thrilled,'' added Ana Ivanovic.

Pala said: ``They're both very dangerous. They're used to playing big games.''

The Serbs believe the court in the 02 Arena, where the final sold out in six hours, benefits them and could slow down Kvitova's speedy game.

``It doesn't seem to be fast, which is very good,'' Ivanovic said. ``We feel really comfortable on it.''

Jankovic added: ``The surface suits us and we have a couple more days to adapt.''

If the best-of-five match is undecided before the final doubles, the Czechs seem to have an advantage, relying on the pair of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, who reached the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, London Olympics and WTA Championships finals this season.

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Maryland reacts to latest FBI investigation reports

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USA Today Sports Images

Maryland reacts to latest FBI investigation reports

The world of college basketball has been on high alert since last fall when reports first surfaced of a long-term FBI investigation into the worst-kept secret in sports: college athletes being paid to play.

News surrounding the scandal died down after the inital wave of arrests, but Yahoo! Sports released a warning of sorts recently and followed it up on Friday by naming players (both past and present) for the first time. There were dozens of programs and players implicated, including Maryland's Diamond Stone.

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon released the following statement Friday afternoon.

"Late last night we were alerted of a report associating one of our former student-athletes with an agent. We are extremely disappointed, and we will fully cooperate with any investigation. I do not have a relationship with Andy Miller or anyone from his agency, and at no time have I ever had a conversation with Andy Miller or his agency regarding any Maryland basketball player. We remain steadfast in upholding a program of integrity that reflects the values of our University community."

Stone played for the Terps during the 2015-16 season, after which he left for the NBA. That Terps team was highly-ranked entering the season but ended up losing in the Sweet 16 to top-seeded Kansas.

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

Andy Miller is the agent whose financial records were used to implicate so many players in the Yahoo! Sports report. It's no surprise that Turgeon would deny having a relationship with Miller regarding any of his players, but the question remains: What does this mean for Maryland basketball?

You can be sure that Turgeon will be meeting with both past and current assistant coaches Friday to confirm they have not had any involvement with Andy Miller. He'll also certainly be meeting with higher-ups at Maryland, as they try to cover their bases. 

That said, it seems unlikely Maryland would take an action as drastic as firing Turgeon over these allegations. There has been no evidence released so far that implies Turgeon had any knowledge of Stone's actions. Barring further information coming to light, it seems as though this is a case of Stone developing a relationship with Miller's agency separately from Maryland.

Some of the more vocal members of Maryland's fan base would like to think Turgeon is on the hot seat. The truth is, given his long-term contract and the current state of Maryland's finances, it's not currently feasible to fire him and expect to afford a more accomplished coach. Though if further reports indicate Turgeon was complicit, then all bets are off.

It remains possible the NCAA will impose punishments on the schools involved with this scandal, in the form of reduced scholarships, postseason bans, or worse. But that's likely off the table until further evidence comes out regarding how much schools and coaches actually knew. It is a near-certainty that some schools were in cahoots with Miller and other agents; the problem is identifying which schools were intentionally breaking the rules, and which were simply unaware. Ultimately, however, some degree of responsibility falls on the head coach.

For now, the biggest worry on the minds of Maryland fans should be vacated wins. If Diamond Stone was ineligible, then it's possible the victories Maryland recorded during the 2015-16 season will be erased from the record books. Unfortunately, this could include their run to the Sweet 16, which was the program's first in more than a decade.

Given the expectations surrounding the team during Stone's year in College Park, his tenure could already be considered a disappointment. Losing those wins would further dampen the memories fans have from that season.

On the bright side, at least the Terps didn't have a Final Four run to lose.

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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

Alan May knows a thing or two about the trade deadline.

Over the course of his NHL career, May was traded five total times, four at the trade deadline. He sits down with Rob Carlin on a special edition of the Capitals Extra Podcast to tell stories from his playing days about what it was like getting traded.

This one's a can't miss for hockey fans. You can listen to the episode here on the Capitals Extra page or with the player below.