Li Na advances to Australian Open semifinals


Li Na advances to Australian Open semifinals

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Li Na advanced to the Australian Open semifinals for the third time in four years, bringing fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska's 13-match winning streak to a shuddering halt.

Sixth-seeded Li, who lost the 2011 Australian Open final to Kim Clijsters only months before her Grand Slam breakthrough at the French Open, had a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Radwanska in Tuesday's first match on Rod Laver Arena.

``She's a tough player. I was feeling today against a wall,'' Li said. ``She can hit everywhere, but without a mistake. I was feeling just very tough. You have to focus on every shot. Not every point, every shot.''

Radwanska came into the Australian Open with titles this season at Auckland and Sydney, where she beat Li in the semifinals, but continued her poor conversation rate in Grand Slam quarterfinals. She's only advanced further once in seven tries - at Wimbledon last year, when she lost the final to Serena Williams.

Sixth-seeded Li will play the winner of Tuesday's later all-Russian quarterfinal between No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova, who conceded only five games in her first four matches at Melbourne Park, and Ekaterina Makarova.

``At least now I'm in the semis,'' Li said. Sharapova, ``has to play, so... Right? Now I can start now to enjoy my day. She has to fight, yeah. So that's better.''

The quarterfinals on the other half of the draw will feature American teenager Sloane Stephens against Serena Williams, who is aiming for a third consecutive major title, and defending champion Victoria Azarenka against two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Stephens has heard a lot of advice from Serena Williams. Pointers on her groundstrokes, and even on her grunts.

It's been mostly gentle encouragement, occasionally spiced with headline-making comments from Williams, who has predicted the 19-year-old American will one day top the women's rankings.

As Stephens learned earlier this month, though, it's one thing to play with Williams, another to play against the 15-time Grand Slam champion.

With a comeback 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 win over Bojana Jovanovski on Monday, Stephens qualified for her first quarterfinal at a major tournament. Williams has already played at that level 34 times.

``It will be tough, obviously. It's quarters of a Grand Slam,'' Stephens said. ``There won't be that, like, first time, `Oh, my God, I'm playing Serena.' That's kind of out of the window now. So that's good.''

Williams and defending champion Victoria Azarenka advanced Monday, losing just four games between them against Russian rivals. Williams beat No. 14 Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 6-0, and Azarenka defeated Elena Vesnina 6-1, 6-1.

On the men's side, No. 2 Roger Federer and U.S. Open champion Andy Murray stayed on course for a semifinal in their half of the draw.

Federer won 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-2 over big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, advancing to the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam for the 35th consecutive time, while Murray took advantage of Gilles Simon's fatigue for a 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 victory.

Federer will face 2008 Australian finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat friend and fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Murray, who ended a 76-year drought for British men in Grand Slam tournaments with a win at the U.S. Open, will next play unseeded Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

Chardy spent some time in the offseason hitting against Williams in Mauritius, and they're both saying it has helped his game.

Williams also played Stephens at the Brisbane International earlier this month, winning their quarterfinal 6-4, 6-3 en route to the title. That night, Stephens said, she ``lost to the best player in the world.''

But there were times in the match when the American teenager was cranky, particularly when Williams unleashed some loud and long ``Come ons'' to celebrate vital points.

Stephens, looking toward her coach at one point, said the celebrations were disrespectful.

Later, she said she was just joking.

Regardless, it was a lesson. The friendly Serena from the locker room is the ultimate competitor - she's on a 20-match winning roll and has lost only once since her first-round exit at the French Open.

``Obviously every match is a learning experience,'' Stephens said. ``But, I mean, you've just got to go and treat it like another match.''

Well, not exactly a normal match, she said, but certainly no different from playing any of the other top three players.

``It just happens to be Serena. She's obviously one of the greatest players to ever play the game,'' Stephens said. ``Without the titles, with the titles, it's still a tennis match. The court's the same size. You're still playing a regular person across the net.''

Stephens and Williams ran across each other in the locker room Sunday.

``She told me I was too quiet on the court,'' Stephens said. ``Then today I was thinking to myself, `I'm really loud. Should I tone it down a little bit?'''

Williams thinks she's more like an elder stateswoman for the younger U.S. players than mentor for the likes of Stephens.

``I just feel like being the older one ... maybe some of the younger players look up to me,'' she said. ``It's hard to be a real mentor when you're still in competition.''

And as the elder stateswoman, Williams said, ``I feel no responsibility'' when it comes to playing Stephens.

``I doubt she has any expectations of me to be responsible for anything,'' she said. ``I'm here to compete and do the best I can, as well as she is. And she's been doing really amazing. I'm really happy. I have a tough match, so we'll see.''

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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens

Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Canadiens will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (43-24-7) take on the Canadiens (27-36-12) Saturday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Montreal.


The Capitals-Canadiens game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals at Canadiens
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime


You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—D-line scoop, Alex Smith's big deal

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—D-line scoop, Alex Smith's big deal

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 24, 33 days before the NFL draft.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington.

Free agency update: What's next for the Redskins on the D-line? The Redskins have been casting out lines for defensive linemen since before free agency officially started but they haven’t been able to reel one in. Part of the issue might be that they know that Vita Vea and Da’Ron Payne are likely to be available in the draft. They have to balance spending big on a lineman vs. being able to get one pretty cheap for the next five years.

Redskins make a D-line contract change, gain roster flexibility—Speaking of the D-line, the team negotiated the removal of a salary guarantee for one player to give themselves more flexibility when it comes time to cut the roster down to 53 in September. See the post for details.

Redskins guarantee Alex Smith a whopping $71 million in new contract—In the words of Joe Biden, this is a big f-----g deal. It showed that the Redskins aren’t afraid to pay a quarterback big money if they think it’s the right guy. It should be noted that whether or not they chose the right guy is something that remains to be seen. Although the post shows that it’s plausible for the Redskins to terminate the deal after three years, I anticipate Smith playing out at least four if not all five years of the contract.

Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign Scandrick—Orlando Scandrick has struggled with injuries the past few years and Redskins fans did not greet the news of his signing with great enthusiasm, to say the least. To point out the bright side, his contract is not pricey by NFL terms ($2.6 million cap hit this year, no guaranteed money beyond a $1 million signing bonus) and from what I have been able to gather it’s possible that change of scenery might give him a boost for a year or two.

Tweet of the week

Well before free agency started, I wrote that the Redskins’ top priorities in free agency should be to get extensions done for Smith, Brandon Scherff, and Jamison Crowder. They should have about $15 million to work with after a few more free agent signings and that would be plenty to get all of those extensions done. And if they do score a big free agent signing, it would be worth it to restructure the contract of someone like Ryan Kerrigan to get them done.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 23
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 124
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 169

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