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Fitter Fish advances; King, Stephens reach semi's at Citi Open

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Fitter Fish advances; King, Stephens reach semi's at Citi Open

Mardy Fishs gimpy right ankle could use a night off, ideally, a week, maybe more. Thats just not happening, not now anyway. Not in the middle of a tournament as the top seed, not with a string of events on deck leading to the mother of all hard court events, the U.S. Open.The 30-year-old did the next best thing in his second-round match: He briskly disposed his overmatched opponent in 60 minutes,defeating Ricardas Berankis 6-3, 6-1 at the Citi Open on Thursday.Fishs injured wheel, originally dinged up two weeks ago during a tournament in Atlanta and then tweaked while diving for a ball in his opening match in Washington, will simply have to tough it out. If the worlds 15th ranked player reaches the final, he will end up playing four straight days. Thats a tough thing because the ankle needs rest and Im not going to give it rest, said Fish, a six-time champion on tour still seeking his first crown this year.Dominant serving propelled No. 8 seed Sam Querrey into the third round where the American will face third-seeded Kevin Anderson, also a straight-set winner. Xavier Malisse, Fishs next opponent and a 2010 semifinalist, dispatched No. 6 Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-2.In the womens draw, laser-focused and No. 4 seed Vania King defeated seventh-seeded Coco Vandeweghe 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 in an All-American quarterfinal. 19-year-old andNo. 3 seed Sloane Stephens reached her second career semifinal with a6-4, 6-4 Stadium court victory over Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.The irony for Fish, who won two matches this week in Washington for the first time since 2006, is that after a largely inactive summer he needs the work, physical and mental. Diagnosed with heart arrhythmia, Fish underwent a procedure in May and remained off the tour for over two months. Since then he reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon, but the ankle injury in Atlanta forced a withdrawal during his first match, his last event before his current one.Fitness level, really, the confidence that I feel like I can play in any weather against anyone and come out on top, Fish said as to what hes hoping to build toward this week.Despite practicing under the stifling afternoon sun, the native Minnesotan said he naively brushed aside the heat and humidity, as his blistering serve and formidable ground strokes later did against Berankis. Sure, dealing with the elements on a single day is a minor achievement, but a necessary building block as Fish grinds out this week, then another, then another.I think were on the right track, but every match helps with that, Fish said, who finished with 10 aces in his latest result. You cant train hard enough for the matches. You play harder, you try harder in the real matches. It only comes with match play.The womens matchup between American quarterfinalists was the epitome of contrasting, well, everything. The gritty King comes out of the Chris Evert School of stoic on-court demeanor while Vandeweghe hooted and hollered at herself and officials throughout. That vocal edge only added toVandeweghe's 6-foot-1 Amazonian presence, especially compared to the petite 5-foot-5 speedster who ultimately tracked down enough missiles. In the end, precision and poise downed power and peevishness. Shes much bigger, much stronger than I am. She has a lot more power than I do, said King, a two-time grand slam doubles champion with a power of her own.(Coco) doesnt have the wheels like I do.Vandeweghe entered the match having dominated her previous two opponents this week, losing only five games over her last three sets. Against King she dropped that many before finally getting on the scoreboard. With Vandeweghes first serve iffy early,King broke it twice for a 5-0 lead. Though her opponent began using her passion for good during the second set triumph and rallying back from an early break in the third, King countered with a decisive break of her own at 4-all.Its just whether I can negate her power enough and move her serve consistently enough. At the end of the day in the third set I was able to do that, King said of her game plan against Vandeweghe. The 23-year-old California native knows a similar approach is required for Fridays semifinals against another big, strong player,top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenko, a straight-sets winner over Kai-Chen Chang. King, aiming for her first singles title since 2006, has three straight victories over Pavlyuchenkova, including a triumph at this years Australian Open.The other semifinal pits the rising Stephens against Magdalena Rybariova.After defeating Florent Serra, Anderson will next face Querrey, his doubles partner this week. Coming off a championship effort in Los Angeles last week, Querrey won all 22 points on his first serve in a 6-4, 6-3 winner over Benjamin Becker.

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Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Redskins fans were frenzied when Scot McCloughan said that Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback, but not a special one. The #KirkHive shuddered and the Kirk Haters celebrated.

McCloughan, the former Redskins GM who's wildly popular with fans, explained what few people will say publicly: Cousins is a skilled player but probably not deserving of the money he might make in free agency. 

Let's start with the obvious: Cousins is good.

He's a durable passer in a league that doesn't have enough of them. He's started the last 49 games for the Redskins and thrown for more than 4,000 yards each of the past three seasons. 

Now more obvious: He isn't great.

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Bleacher Report's Chris Simms, speaking on the #RedskinsTalk podcast, said Cousins ranks about 12th among NFL passers. It's top half of the league, but it's not Top 5 or even Top 10. 

Cousins has had tremendous games with the Redskins, like a near perfect performance against Oakland in 2017 or a dominant performance against Green Bay in 2016. 

Cousins has also been awful, as recently as Week 17 in New York a few weeks ago, or an equally stinky Week 17 game against the Giants two seasons ago. 

While some might view McCloughan's statement as controversial — "He’s a good player. Is he special? I don’t see special," he told Denver radio station 104.3 the Fan — it's not. 

Plenty of people agree with McCloughan, including some in Redskins Park. Last year, a source told NBC Sports Washington that the team believed they could get nearly as much production from Colt McCoy as Cousins provided. 

Even this year, Washington head coach Jay Gruden offered lukewarm praise of his quarterback.

When the season ended, asked to evaluate Cousins' play, the coach said, "When you’re 7-9, it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ There’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent [Williams] when he played was a Pro Bowl-type and Brandon [Scherff] when he was healthy was a Pro Bowl-type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know, we’re 7-9."

That quote made headlines when Gruden said it, much like McCloughan's comments now are circulating faster than Beltway traffic. 

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Truth is, it's not new. And it's not news.

There are coaches that think Cousins is only scratching the surface of his capabilities. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay come to mind, but both of those coaches have other QBs likely for the long-term future. 

Cousins might end up being paid like a Top 3 quarterback in the NFL, and that might be the right move given the demand at the position. Will that make him a special passer?

Not if special is defined as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. Even Cousins wouldn't argue with that.

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

Every week during the 2017 Redskins season, NBC Sports Washington found two Redskins fans in the crowd and paired them in a head-to-head matchup on Twitter to determine the fan of the game.

And now that the season is over, it's time to take each of those winners, throw them into a NCAA Tournament-style bracket and let Twitter pick the Redskins Fan of the Year.

Starting on January 8 over on the @NBCSRedskins Twitter account, one matchup a day will be posted at 11 a.m., and fans will have 24 hours to vote for their favorite supporter by retweeting or liking depending on their preference. Week 1's winner will face off with Week 17's, Week 2's will play Week 16's, etc.

The winners will advance, and eventually, one member of the Burgundy and Gold faithful will stand above all the rest, earning the coveted title of Redskins Fan of the Year. 

Check out the results below, which'll be updated every day. To see the tweet that corresponded with each matchup, click the link after the date, but remember, retweets and likes submitted after the 24-hour period won't be counted.

ELITE 8 RESULTS

January 18: Round two, matchup one

The first Elite 8 matchup was... not close:

January 19: Round two, matchup two

The Elite 8's second tilt is underway. Vote now:


FIRST ROUND RESULTS

January 8: Round one, matchup one

This was a close one that came down to the last-minute, but at the 24-hour mark, Week 17's winner garnered justtttttttt enough retweets to move on.

January 9: Round one, matchup two

In this tournament, a giant Redskins chain is apparently worth more than a giant football hat.

January 10: Round one, matchup three

In the tournament's third showdown, we have our first winner from the Likes side:

January 11: Round one, matchup four

Was there anyway she wasn't gonna win, especially with the little Hogettes nose?

January 12: Round one, matchup five

Our fifth matchup's winner earned the most retweets of anyone up to this point:

January 15: Round one, matchup six

These three 'Skins fans had to witness Washington's Thursday night flop in Dallas, so it's only fair that they get to advance to the second round:

January 16: Round one, matchup seven

You'd think a turkey hat would be enough to capture a W, but not in this one:

January 17: Round one, matchup eight

The Elite 8 is now set with this showdown going to the retweets side: