Increasingly on the mens professional tennis tour, age is truly just a number. Mardy Fish and Tommy Haas are winning proof. The 30-somethings rolled up convincing quarterfinal victories, setting up a head-to-head semifinal meeting between friends and hitting partners back in Southern California. Fellow graybeard James Blakes hopes of another inspired run in Washington, dashed by a dashing shot maker while the makings of an All-American womens vanished in the night.The top-seeded Fish stayed afloat with an efficient 6-3, 6-4 win over Xavier Malisse while No. 4 Haas continued his run of straight set wins in DC, downing fellow German Tobias Kamke 6-1, 6-2.The other semifinal pits a pair of whippersnappers including power-serving American Sam Querrey. The No. 8 seed continued his recent torrid play with a straight-sets win. Second-seeded Alexander Dolgopolov ended Blakes run, 7-6 (3), 6-4.On the womens side, No. 3 seed and rising star Sloane Stephens suffered through a losing battle with her composure - and upset-minded Magdalena Rybarikova, who will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Saturdays final. The top seeded Russian overcame the afternoon heat and a one-set deficit against No. 4 Vania King.Serving served as the centerpiece of Fishs triumph, as the 30-year smacked 10 aces while fending off any change of momentum with timely winners. After breaking Malisse once in each set, Fishs attention quickly turned toward facing one of his practice partners. Certainly not the next tour stop to the North. There is somewhere else he would rather be.Were good friends. We actually live really close to each in Los Angeles and hang out a lot there, practice together a lot there, said Fish, who has lost three of four career matches to Haas with the last meeting coming in 2007. Itll be fun. Itll be one of those matches that is the reason why were out here. Winner goes to the final and the loser goes to Toronto.Haas, the last player to make Roger Federer a loser this year, never faced a break point on his serve against Kamke. Fish, rounding back into game shape after an extended absence for health matters, knows his increasingly confident pal is playing well. Seeing as this particular chum once stood No. 2 in the world and possesses a wicked backhand, dont expect any kid glove treatment when Fish sees Haas lined up across the net.Sometimes its hard to play close friends, said Fish who enters his first career Washington semifinal and is now two wins from his first tour title this year. You know, you root for them to win, but you have to put it into perspective, and say that this is the guy that is trying to take my lunch away tomorrow, and Im going to try and beat him any way I can. The 34-year-old Haas run to the semifinals followed a finals appearance in his previous tournament before Washington and a title win in Halle against Federer, the most prominent tour member of the three-decades old club that also includes Malisse, Anderson and Blake.I think it speaks to the physicality of the game nowadays, said Fish when asked of the ongoing trend of players not simply sticking around longer compared to historical norms, but also turning in winning results. It takes guys longer to develop. Its a much more physical, much more mental. And there are a lot of 30 and older guys that are playing well.This week there are also two younger guys playing well, including the 24-year-old Querrey. Coming off a championship last week in Los Angeles, Querrey has won 44 of 48 first serve points over his last two matches.Then there is the laid-back, ponytail wearing and drop shot making Dolgopolov, who beat Querrey in their only previous meeting. He also erased an early 3-0 deficit against Blake with an array of crafty winners. I knew if I concentrated and just work it, it will get better, the Ukrainian said about falling quickly behind. My game is pretty risky, so you can miss a lot of shots, but you can also make some shots, just a lot of winners. I was just trying to get myself into rhythm.Rybarikova, ranked 102 and the only unseeded player in the semifinals, dictated play against Stephens, the second seed she defeated this week. Already a two-time winner on tour, the Slovak goes for the upset hat trick against Pavlyuchenkova, who received medical attention throughout her match against King yet still powered her way into the finals for the first time this year.NotesThe mens semifinals between Fish-Haas starts no earlier than 3:00 p.m. followed by Querrey-Dolgopolov and the womens championship.
Here are the five best plays or moments from the Wizards' 104-95 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday afternoon...
1. John Wall came out swinging in the first half with 22 points, 16 of them in the first quarter alone.
This was one of his best plays. Wall split two defenders and then flipped it in off the glass:
Wall finished with 27 points, nine assists, four rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
2. Kelly Oubre, Jr. led the Wizards' bench with 19 points, five rebounds and a block. He missed on this play, but nearly dunked on Giannis Antetokounmpo. That would have been something:
Kelly Oubre just tried to put Giannis on a poster. It didn't work out, but Otto Porter was there to help. pic.twitter.com/pHMfB8pTmS— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) January 15, 2018
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3. Oubre did get this one to go down. He popped a three at the buzzer to end the third quarter:
4. Wall had some nice passes including this alley-oop lob to Tomas Satoransky. Sato got way up there:
Satoransky also threw down this alley-oop pass earlier thrown by Bradley Beal:
5. This last play was by the Bucks and it was not something you see every day. Antetokounmpo fired an assist through his legs like a longsnapper:
The Wizards lost a close one. Now they head to Charlotte to begin a five-game road trip.
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John Wall spoke at length over the summer about race relations in the United States following the violence in Charlottesville in August orchestrated by white supremacists.
Following the Wizards' game against the Bucks on Martin Luther King, Jr. day on Monday, Wall was asked about the subject again.
Wall does not believe improvements have made in the last few months with President Donald Trump in office and he wonders how King would react if he were alive to see the current state of America.
"I think he still wouldn't be satisfied. We're still dealing with it. I think it got better for a little period of time, but with the new president we have I think things are going backwards. We've been dealing with it the last couple of years. There are some things we still need to figure out," Wall said.
The Wizards play on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day every year and Wizards players cherish the tradition. It is not lost on Wall that he plays in Washington, D.C. where King made his famous 'I Have A Dream' speech and led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.
“That’s just an honor and a blessing," Wall said.
"We are all still sticking to what he had with this dream, and we are just trying to get everything to be right with it. To be able to play in this city is an honor."
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Wall says he tries to embody King's dream in his own life. King helped lead the civil rights movement that paved the way for equal rights and Wall, an African-American, has much to thank for those who fought. Every American does.
Wall says he wants to make King proud.
“I just hope that he appreciates what I’m doing. I’m doing myself very well. I hope he’s thankful for what I’m doing. I’m striving to be a better African-American athlete, and just as a person first of all – I think that’s the most important thing," he said.
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