Wizards

No 5 Kerber out, Makarova wins again in 4th round

201301181904686422859-p2.jpeg

No 5 Kerber out, Makarova wins again in 4th round

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber has been ousted in the fourth round of the Australian Open by the woman who defeated Serena Williams at the same stage last year.

No. 19-seeded Ekaterina Makarova had a 7-5, 6-4 win in the opening match Sunday on Rod Laver Arena, taking out the highest seed to tumble so far at the season's first major.

Makarova beat Williams in the fourth round in 2012 at Melbourne Park and went on to reach the quarterfinals, which remains her best result at a Grand Slam.

Kerber and Makarova were two of only four women in 2012 to beat Williams, who finished off unbeaten post-August with titles at Wimbledon, the London Olympics, the U.S. Open and the WTA Championships.

Wimbledon semifinalist Kerber had beaten Makarova three times last year, including in the second round at Wimbledon.

``Seems like it was the same this year and last year. Unbelievable feeling,'' Makarova said. ``I really like to play here. The crowd is so perfect.''

The 24-year-old Makarova could meet fellow Russian, No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova, in the quarterfinals, at the same stage they met last year. Sharapova can advance by beating playing Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens later Sunday in the fourth round.

``Actually I really want to play against Maria because I lost here last year in the quarters and I play a lot of times against her last year,'' Makarova said. ``Now I'm pretty confident and I like my game.''

``Last year I was so surprised ... and I had so many thoughts in my mind. This year I'm a little bit used to it, so I think I'll be ready to play a good game.''

Another pair who met here last year played out a similar result on Saturday night, with No. 2-ranked Roger Federer knocking Bernard Tomic out of the tournament in straight sets to end Australia's participation in either the men's or women's singles draws.

Federer gave the 20-year-old Aussie an instant reality check by breaking him in the very first game to set up a 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-1 win.

``I elected to serve, considering I was serving really well the last few weeks,'' said Tomic, who won his first ATP World Tour title at Sydney last week and had a win over No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic at an exhibition tournament in Perth at the start of the month. ``Yeah ... that first service game was important. I lost it. Then I was like, `Oh, no!'''

Federer, who has won four of his 17 Grand Slam titles at Melbourne Park, also beat Tomic in the fourth round here last year.

``It's not my favorite part of the job beating up on the hometown heroes,'' Federer told the crowd at Rod Laver Arena, where he has won four of his 17 Grand Slam titles. ``But it's nice that you guys sort of invite me back every year.''

Federer earned his 250th win at a Grand Slam event, the milestone sprinkled with some of his classic crisp volleys and trademark one-handed backhands.

Federer won the first point of the match with a forehand winner, the first of three in that game, and Tomic only won two points before the Swiss star converted a service break in the first game.

Federer will face Canadian Milos Raonic, who had 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4 win over Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber in a matchup of two big servers.

The third round ended in the early hours of Sunday morning, when No. 14-seeded Gilles Simon outlasted fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 1-6, 8-6 in a match that finished at 12:32 a.m. local time.

Both men needed treatment from the trainer during the 4 hour, 43-minute match on Hisense Arena, with Simon struggling to shake off soreness in his elbow and Monfils fighting fatigue.

Simon and Jeremy Chardy, who ousted 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, were among the four Frenchman who advanced on Saturday.

Their compatriots, No. 7-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - who beat Slovenian Blaz Kavcic 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 - No. 9 Richard Gasquet - who ousted Croatia's Ivan Dodig 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-0 - will meet in the next round.

Del Potro's 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 3-6, 6-3 loss to Chardy left only three major winners in the men's draw, and they're collectively known as the ``Big Three'' - Djokovic, Federer and Andy Murray.

Murray, who broke a 76-year drought for British men at the majors with his win at the U.S. Open last year, advanced to the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 win over Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis.

Defending women's champion Victoria Azarenka struggled at times before putting away injured American Jamie Hampton 6-4, 4-6. 6-2 in 2 hours, 9 minutes.

No. 3 Serena Williams dropped serve early in the second set before winning the last six games in her 6-1, 6-3 victory against Japan's Ayumi Morita.

Top-ranked Azarenka overcame an early break and fended off triple break point in the seventh game of the deciding set before clinching the match.

Hampton needed a medical timeout for a lower back problem immediately before she served out the second set, and winced in pain throughout the latter half of the match.

``She took a medical timeout but she rips winners all over the place,'' Azarenka said. ``I was like, `Can I have a back problem?' I'm feeling great, but I'm missing every shot.''

Azarenka next plays Elena Vesnina, who beat 16th-seeded Roberta Vinci of Italy 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Williams, aiming for a third consecutive Grand Slam title, will next meet No. 14 Maria Kirilenko, who beat No. 20 Yanina Wickmayer 7-6 (4), 6-3.

Also advancing were former U.S. and French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova and former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki. Sloane Stephens beat Laura Robson 7-5, 6-3 in a matchup between the only teenagers left in the women's draw.

That set the 19-year-old Stephens on course for a fourth-round match against Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski, who ended the run of 42-year-old Kimko Date-Krumm in the third round.

Quick Links

NBA Midseason Awards 2018: Who is leading the pack at the break?

NBA Midseason Awards 2018: Who is leading the pack at the break?

The 2017-18 NBA season has reached the halfway point with the 2018 NBA All-Star Game taking place in Los Angeles, Calif., this weekend.

But as the season shifts toward the second half NBC Sports Washington is taking at the major NBA awards and which players are positioned to bring home the hardware at the end of the 2018 season.

The season is far from over the second half is where the awards are won. Will Ben Simmons hold on to his lead in the Rookie of the Year running? Will LeBron James surpass James Harden for the MVP award?

Below are the detailed results of the NBC Sports Washington NBA midseason awards. 

The voting panel consists of NBC Sports Washington's Steve Buckhantz, Kara Lawson, Chris Miles, Travis Thomas, Adam Wise, Chase Hughes, Nick Ashooh and Troy Machir.

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

2017-2018 NBA Midseason Awards

Rookie of the Year:

Nick AshoohDonovan Mitchell, Jazz. While Simmons gets to work with another franchise player in Joel Embiid, Mitchell saw Utah's second-leading scorer traded at the deadline (Rodney Hood), and has had center Rudy Gobert miss tons of games with injuries. Mitchell is the first rookie to lead his team in scoring during a winning streak of at least 11 games and he leads all rookies in scoring, on a team that could make the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.

Steve BuckhantzBen Simmons, 76ers. Rookie of the year would be Ben Simmons, and while there are more than one outstanding young players in the game, he seems to be the most unstoppable and the one with the greatest upside, especially if he hones his shooting skills.

Chase Hughes: Ben Simmons, 76ers. Simmons has returned from injury to be a rookie sensation, consistently flirting with or recording triple-doubles. He is going to be an All-Star for a long time.

Kara LawsonBen Simmons, 76ers.

Troy MachirBen Simmons, 76ers. This is tough because Simmons 1) isn't really a rookie 2) Doesn't have any range on his jump shot, and 3) gets to play with Joel Embiid. Donovan Mitchell is the best player on his team and is doing it all without Rodney Hood (trade) and Rudy Gobert (injury). I still lean toward Simmons, but Mitchell will probably steal from him in the second half. 

Chris Miles:  Donovan Mitchell, Jazz. As Damian Lillard put it, he’s actually leading his team. Secondly he isn’t a “red-shirt rookie” like his top competitor Ben Simmons. This is a two horse race if anyone picks someone else that’s a failed drug test.

Travis ThomasBen Simmons, 76ers.  He’s the second best player on a team destined for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. His combination of size and court vision reminds me of a young Magic Johnson.

Adam Wise: Ben Simmons, 76ers. I don't like the rule that he's technically a rookie (ahem, Blake Griffin winning over John Wall in 2010-11) but he's a triple-double threat every night and you can't ignore that. Donovan Mitchell is a close second.

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

Most Improved Player:

Nick Ashooh: Victor Oladipo, Pacers. It’s always tough to pick the MOP, because sometimes it’s more about bigger opportunity that showcases the game a player already has.

Steve BuckhantzJaylen Brown, Celtics. Every time I see him play, the results are amazing. A very close second would be Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks.

Chase Hughes: Victor Oladipo, Pacers. Oladipo went from decent to stardom seemingly overnight and has made the Pacers look very smart for trading for him.

Kara Lawson: Victor Oladipo, Pacers.

Troy Machir: Victor Oladipo, Pacers. We've always known Oladipo has elite athleticism and talent, but the change in scenery meant more opportunities to lead and develop. He's gone from a solid start to a bona fide perennial All-Star in less than half a season. 

Chris MilesVictor Oladipo, Pacers. He’s running away with this award. I taught him how to shoot over the summer so I can’t wait to get my residuals.

Travis ThomasVictor Oladipo. The local product is an All-Star now and he’s the only bright light on a team that’s overachieving, proving he’s also a leader. It’s hard to imagine the Pacers being in the Playoff picture without Oladipo.

Adam Wise: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks. Should Tim Hardaway Jr. have a say in this? Giannis has upped his "wow" factor this season and it was already among to tops in the league. He's can't-miss viewing when he's on the floor.

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

Sixth Man of the Year:

Nick Ashooh: Lou Williams, Clippers. No brainer here. "Lou-Will" is one of the top scorers in the NBA despite playing just 32 minutes per game.

Steve BuckhantzLou Williams, Clippers. He's making shots of the bench like Jamal Crawford and has had numerous game winners. I also like Terry Rozier of Boston. He's an excellent player with a huge upside.

Keely Diven:

Chase Hughes: Lou Williams, Clippers.  could have been an All-Star this year, he has been that good off the Clippers' bench. The guy is putting up career numbers and got a well-deserved contract extension along the way.

Kara Lawson: Lou Williams, Clippers. 

Troy Machir: Lou Williams, Clippers. There are several good candidates, but this is Lou Williams' award ... again. He's averaging over 20 ppg and coming off the bench AND nearly made the All-Star Game. When has that ever happened before?

Chris Miles:  Kelly Oubre, Wizards. Yep, I went full homer on this one. Dude is legit and this summer the “should Oubre start” camp is going to revolt if he keeps this up.

Travis ThomasLou Williams, Clippers. He should be every year. In fact they should rename the award, Lou Williams Of The Year. He’s averaging 23 points a game coming off the bench for a team going nowhere fast.

Adam Wise: Lou Williams, Clippers. He should've been an All-Star ... and he doesn't even start! 

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

Coach of the Year:

Nick Ashooh: Mike D'Antoni, Rockets. D’Antoni has kept the Rockets in contention for the top spot in the west, which means a true competitor to the Warriors. They’ve already had two double-digit win streaks, and now that he finally has a roster that fits his system, it’s not just Golden State that can run teams off the floor.

Steve Buckhantz: Eric Spoelstra, Heat. Just when you think they really don't have a lot going on in South Florida, he consistently keeps his squad in the game and has them poised to make a run in the post season. Brett Brown of the Sixers and Brad Steven of the Celtics would also get consideration.

Chase Hughes: Gregh Popovich, Spurs. The Spurs are third in the stacked Western Conference despite missing Kawhi Leonard.

Kara Lawson: Dwane Casey, Raptors.

Troy Machir: Dwane Casey, Raptors. The Cavs and Celtics are the talk of the East, but the Raptors are the most consistent team this side of the Mississippi River. Casey doesn't get enough credit, which is why I'm writing about him here. 

Chris MilesBrad Stevens, Celtics. I hate Boston, everything about it. Just being forced to pick this guy means I don’t have to write an explanation.

Travis ThomasBrad Stevens, Celtics. Boston has continually overachieved under Stevens tutelage. Despite the devastating injury to Gordon Hayward, Stevens still has the Celtics primed for a run at the NBA Finals.

Adam Wise: Dwane Casey, Raptors. Toronto seemed to be an afterthought in the East after everyone got all excited about the new faces in Boston and Cleveland. He's figured out how to use a deeper bench, while also giving ample minutes to his stars in DeRozan & Lowry. The Raptors are very well in the hunt for the top seed for that reason.

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

NBA Most Valuable Player:

Nick Ashooh: James Harden, Rockets. He leads the NBA in scoring, second in assists, and has Houston poised to give a legit push to the Warriors out West.

Steve Buckhantz: James Harden, Rockets. You can always make a case for the great players and how they elevate the athletes around them, and this is an award that's best suited to someone AFTER the season ends, but right now I'd go with Harden, who continues to play at a high level for his squad. Lebron will be there in the end, as will Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. 

Chase Hughes: James Harden, Rockets. He is the NBA's leading scorer, is second in assists and is leading the charge for the Rockets, who have the league's best record.

Kara Lawson: James Harden, Rockets. 

Troy Machir: James Harden, Rockets. LeBron James is still the best basketball player on the planet, but James Harden is the NBA MVP at the midway point. He's still the elite volume scorer he always was, but he's evolved into a player that makes his teammates around him better. Also, he scored a 60-point triple-double. 

Chris MilesJames Harden, Rockets. His 60-point triple-double should say enough. His team is also 26-1 when he has Chris Paul and Clint Capella. They also gave it to the Warriors and are in contention for the top seed in the West. Lebron James is second and could supplant Harden depending on how the season ends.

Travis ThomasJames Harden, Rockets. You could have made the case for him the past three seasons but other guys balled out of control and earned the award. This season it’s undeniable, he’s averaging  over 30 point per game and leading one of the best teams in the league.

Adam Wise: James Harden, Rockets. He's used the runner-up to the award as motivation this year. While the rebounding numbers are down (Clint Capella has gobbled them up), he's still near the top of the league in assists and he's leading the NBA in scoring. Oh yeah, and his play has elevated the Rockets into the "Could they really beat the Warriors in the playoffs?" discussion.

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

Virginia stays at No. 1, Middle Tennessee enters Top 25 for first time ever

virginia_bench_usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Virginia stays at No. 1, Middle Tennessee enters Top 25 for first time ever

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Virginia strengthened its hold on No. 1 in the AP Top 25 while Duke jumped back into the top five after a pair of impressive wins.

The Cavaliers earned 42 of 65 first-place votes in the poll released Monday. That's 12 more than last week when they reached No. 1 for the first time since the Ralph Sampson era.

The top four remained unchanged, with No. 2 Michigan State earning 19 first-place votes after rallying from 27 down to beat Northwestern. Third-ranked Villanova got the other four first-place votes after winning at No. 4 Xavier.

Fifth-ranked Duke jumped seven spots after beating Virginia Tech and Clemson despite playing without injured top freshman Marvin Bagley III.

Middle Tennessee checked in at 24th, marking its first AP Top 25 appearance in program history.

Complete AP Top 25 Poll for Week 16:

1. Virginia (42)
2. Michigan State (19)
3. Villanova (4)
4. Xavier
5. Duke
6. Texas Tech
7. Gonzaga
8. Kansas
9. Purdue
10. North Carolina
11. Cincinnati
12. Auburn
13. Wichita State
14. Arizona
15. Clemson
16. Ohio State
17. Michigan
18. Rhode Island
19. Tennessee
20. Nevada
21. West Virginia
22. Saint Mary's (CA)
23. Houston
24. Middle Tennessee
25. Florida State

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.