Wizards

Sharapova impressive on way to Aussie Open semis

201301220119047473778-p2.jpeg

Sharapova impressive on way to Aussie Open semis

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Maria Sharapova has lost only nine games in five matches on the way to the semifinals at the Australian Open. Always the perfectionist, she sees room for improvement.

Sharapova beat fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-2 Tuesday and was asked afterward if she'd lost focus in only a few games this tournament.

``No, I'd probably say more,'' she said, ``but that's probably because I'm critical.''

If that's the case, she's a pretty tough taskmaster.

After opening with pair of 6-0, 6-0 wins, Sharapova beat seven-time major winner Venus Williams 6-1, 6-3 in the third round and Belgian Kristen Flipkens 6-0, 6-1 in the fourth.

Nobody has conceded fewer games on the way to the semifinals at the Australian Open, and her impressive streak comes after having played in no warm-up tournaments due to a right collarbone injury.

But after having advanced to the final here last year, losing to Victoria Azarenka in lopsided fashion, Sharapova is taking nothing for granted.

``To be honest, those are not the stats you want to be known for,'' Sharapova said, adding that she was more concerned about adding a fifth Grand Slam title and had spent plenty of time on the practice court.

Later Tuesday on the same Rod Laver Arena court, Novak Djokovic was attempting to stay in contention to win a third consecutive Australian Open title in a quarterfinal against Tomas Berdych. The winner of that match will play David Ferrer in the semis.

The No. 4-seeded Ferrer survived once in the third set and twice in the fourth when No. 10 Nicolas Almagro was serving for the match, holding firm to finally advance to his fourth semifinal in six Grand Slam events with a 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4), 6-2 win.

Sharapova's semifinal opponent had already been decided. Li Na beat Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5, 6-3 in the first of Tuesday's quarterfinals, breaking the Pole's 13-match winning streak to start the season.

It was the second straight year that Makarova has lost to Sharapova after knocking out a seeded player in the third round. Last year, she beat Serena Williams in the fourth round. Last weekend, it was No. 5-ranked Angelique Kerber.

Sixth-seeded Li didn't overly tax herself, either, in the quarterfinals.

The 30-year-old Li advanced to her third semifinal in four years at Melbourne Park.

``She's a tough player. I was feeling today against a wall,'' said Li, who lost the 2011 Australian Open final to Kim Clijsters only months before her Grand Slam breakthrough at the French Open.

The quarterfinals on the other half of the women's draw will be held Wednesday, with American teenager Sloane Stephens taking on Serena Williams, who is aiming for a third consecutive major title, and defending champion Azarenka playing two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova.

The first man through to the semifinals at Melbourne Park had a difficult time.

``It was (a) miracle I won this match, I think,'' Ferrer said. ``I tried to fight every point, that's my game. I always fight.''

Almagro dominated the first two sets and was serving for the match in the third when Ferrer bounced back, breaking in the crucial 10th game and then breaking his Davis Cup teammate again.

The fourth set featured eight service breaks, and Ferrer finally took control in a tiebreaker to force a fifth set.

Almagro has played 33 consecutive majors, but never reached a semifinal. This was his first Grand Slam quarterfinal on any surface other than clay - he reached three quarterfinals at the French - and he really took the match to Ferrer, the leading Spaniard in the tournament with the absence of 11-time major winner Rafael Nadal.

Almagro hurt his upper left leg late in the fourth set and needed a medical timeout before the fifth. After holding serve in a long game to open the fifth set, he quickly wilted after the first break.

On the last point, he hit a service return back into play and had already started strolling to the net as Ferrer prepared to hit the winner.

As he left the court, he gave his compatriot a friendly pat on the back as Ferrer packed his bag on the courtside chairs, then left Rod Laver Arena.

``In the important moments, I played more consistent in my game,'' Ferrer said. ``Of course, in the next round, the semifinals, I need to play my best tennis, better than today.''

Quick Links

Wizards take out Sixers to tie season series behind Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter's hot shooting

usatsi_10657233.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Wizards take out Sixers to tie season series behind Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter's hot shooting

The Washington Wizards beat the Philadelphia 76ers 109-94 on Sunday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Playoff implications: Later in the season the stakes are raised and the Wizards' win over the Sixers on Sunday night could loom large in just a few weeks.

By beating the Sixers, who had won seven straight entering the matchup, the Wizards tied up the season series with their second win. A loss would have handed Philly the tiebreaker in playoff seeding if the two teams finish with the same record at season's end.

Now that their season series is over and locked even, it will come down to their record against other Eastern Conference teams if they tie. At 22-15 vs. the East, the Wizards currently have the edge on the Sixers, who are 18-14 in that category.

The Wizards dominated the Sixers for much of the night and they did so by once again moving the ball with generosity and precision. They had 35 assists on 43 field goals. The Wizards have had 30 or more assists in five games this season and four have come within the last month.

Those four games have been part of a 9-3 surge for the Wizards since John Wall got injured. With their win against Philly, the Wizards moved to 35-25 on the season and a half-game out of third in the East. The Sixers are among several teams nipping at their heels in an increasingly crowded conference.

PODCAST: WHAT SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

Oubre put on a show: The Wizards led 67-48 at halftime and that was in large part due to Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s impact on both ends of the floor. He had eight points in each of the first two quarters, including four threes, and made several key plays on defense.

Oubre had three blocks to set a career-high by halftime, including one on Robert Covington that bounced off Covington's leg and gave the Wizards possession. He also took a charge on Ben Simmons and flashed a smile for the cameras as he sprinted back down the floor.

Oubre ended the game with 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting. It wasn't long ago that Oubre was in a significant shooting slump.

In his last 11 games before the All-Star break, Oubre was averaging just 9.4 points on 31.2 percent shooting. In three games since the break, Oubre has scored 47 points (15.7/g) while shooting 51.5 percent. It's safe to say he's put those shooting struggles behind him.

Oubre had been making his mark defensively as the Wizards closed the first half on a tear, but Sunday showed how much of a boost he can provide when he's in a rhythm offensively. He completely changed the game and helped the Wizards knock off a team that came to Washington super hot.

Porter wasn't fazed: Otto Porter did something on Sunday that likely has never been accomplished before. He hit not one, not two, not three but four buzzer-beaters all in the first half. Three of them were to beat the shot clock. Then, he hit another one to end the first half:

That shot capped an 8-1 run to end the second quarter for the Wizards and it brought a burst of energy out of the crowd. Porter had 14 points in the second quarter and shot 6-for-6 in the frame. The Wizards outscored the Sixers 37-20 in the second and Porter led the charge.

Porter finished with 23 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Much like Bradley Beal, who had 24 points in this game, Porter has thrived in this second extended absence for Wall. Both Beal and Porter battle inconsistency as they adapted to being the primary focus of opposing teams back in November when Wall first went down. But this time around, they have answers to everything teams are throwing at them.

Porter's patience at the end of the shot clock on Sunday was an example of that. His confidence seems to be at an all-time high, knowing he has enough tricks to keep his opponents guessing. That was on display with under two minutes to go when he drained a three in Covington's face, turned around to stare at him afterwards and then shook his head as he trotted down the court, as if he were saying that no one can stop him. 

Up next: The Wizards are off Monday before playing back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Bucks and Warriors. Tuesday is an 8 p.m. tipoff on TNT. We will have pre- and postgame coverage of Wizards-Bucks on NBC Sports Washington Plus beginning at 7 p.m.

RELATED: LATEST NBA MOCK DRAFT SORTS OUT LOADED CLASS

Quick Links

Dan Fegan, former agent for John Wall, dies in car crash

screen_shot_2018-02-25_at_8.43.53_pm.png
Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Caravan

Dan Fegan, former agent for John Wall, dies in car crash

NBA agent Dan Fegan, who had previously represented many high-profile NBA clients including John Wall, died in a car crash Sunday morning, according to The Aspen Times. 

According to the report, Fegan's SUV was struck by a bus while trying to merge onto Highway 82 in Colorado a little after 9 am this morning. 

The two passengers in the car - an unidentified woman and Fegan's 5-year old daughter - were airlifted to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. 

Fegan was 56.