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Teenagers make statement at Australian Open

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Teenagers make statement at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Kimiko Date-Krumm is the oldest woman in the Australian Open draw at 42, with some competitors less than half her age still in high school.

Eleven teenagers advanced to the second round, compared with three in 2012. So many teenagers are moving up in the rankings that former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki feels like a veteran at 22.

``There are still a few older ones than me,'' she said after beating 16-year-old Donna Vekic of Croatia in the second round 6-1, 6-4. ``I still want to try to feel young out here. But, you know, it's the way of life, I guess - 22, it's old in the tennis world soon.''

Just not yet. The next generation of female players have made a statement at the Australian Open, but there's no expectation they're ready to hoist a Grand Slam trophy like Martina Hingis and Monica Seles did at 16 and Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova did at 17.

Of the 11 teens in the second round, only three progressed - 17-year-old American Madison Keys, who took out 30th-seeded Tamira Paszek; 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens, who beat another 19-year-old, Kristina Mladenovic of France; and 18-year-old Laura Robson of Britain, who ousted eighth-seeded Petra Kvitova.

It's much tougher than it was a decade ago for a young player to break through and actually win a major. Part of the reason is the sheer physicality of the game today, a change brought by better training and conditioning, more powerful rackets and, of course, more powerful players like the Williams sisters and Sharapova.

Stephens plays Robson next in a potential glimpse of major finals to come.

``We're the same age, I guess it's a rivalry. I mean it's not like Federer-Nadal rivalry,'' Stephens said. She paused, before continuing: ``It could be. We'll see.''

Robson, the former Junior Wimbledon champion who will turn 19 next week, enjoyed a huge upset win over Kvitova on Rod Laver Arena.

She said after her victory that she definitely feels she's closing in on the top players.

``This year, you know, I set my expectations a bit higher,'' Robson said.

The British player climbed from No. 131 to 53 in the rankings last year, thanks to her impressive run at the U.S. Open where she defeated Kim Clijsters and Li Na en route to the fourth round.

Serena Williams, who easily beat 19-year-old Spaniard Garbine Muguruza in the second round, isn't ruling out another teenage Grand Slam winner. She thinks Keys has the game and the poise to do it.

``I think it will happen again probably soon,'' she said. ``I think if the person is strong enough physically and mentally, I think it's completely possible.''

``Madison Keys is like 6-foot-2, and she's very strong and she's only 17. She has several years while she's still a teenager to win a Grand Slam.''

Vekic reached her first WTA final in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, last year at 15 - the youngest WTA finalist in seven years - and was the youngest player in the main draw at the Australian Open.

These days, teenagers are restricted in how many top-level tournaments they can play, a change enacted in response to Jennifer Capriati's troubled teen years. Capriati struggled with the pressures of the tour after cracking the top 10 at 14 and left the sport, burned out, at 17. She began a successful comeback two years later.

Players younger than 15 are mostly prevented from playing at the WTA level, while those between 15 and 18 are limited in the number of tournaments they're allowed to play. The effect is teenagers are staying at the junior level longer, making it tougher for them to eventually make the jump to the top flight.

Although most lost their second-round matches at Melbourne Park, the younger players did show tremendous potential. Under a blazing sun on Court 7, 18-year-old Yulia Putintseva, who was born in Russia but represents Kazakhstan, lost a tight three-setter to Spanish veteran Carla Suarez Navarro. She fought to the very end, pumping her fists and punctuating every point with a ferocious ``Come on!''

On the court next to her, fellow 18-year-old Daria Gavrilova of Russia was locked in a tense match with Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko. Shuttling between the two was Hingis - the youngest Grand Slam champion of the 20th century - who has been helping both players as a coach at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy outside Paris.

After her match, Putintseva alternated between giggles and confident boasts about her future. She said she was working on controlling her temper and was proud she didn't break any rackets on Thursday.

``In a match like this, I would (normally) break five,'' she said, laughing.

Putintseva also feels ready to move beyond the juniors, which she has found limiting. ``I think I have the level to play already these (Grand Slam) tournaments,'' she said. Part of the reason is Hingis, who has been helping her learn to handle the pressures of the sport.

``I hope that she'll continue to work with me and we try to win a Grand Slam together,'' she said, with more giggles.

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

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USA Today Sports

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.

RELATED: OVECHKIN HAS LITTLE DESIRE TO WATCH 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS

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Need to Know: The Redskins appear to be set at center

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Associated Press

Need to Know: The Redskins appear to be set at center

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 21, 21 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The Redskins appear to be set at center

Originally published 12/19/17

Chase Roullier might have been the Redskins’ fourth choice to play at center this year. But he could be snapping the ball for Washington for a long time.

Kory Lichtensteiger, the starter for the previous three years when healthy, retired. Veteran backup John Sullivan departed as a free agent. Spencer Long started six games this season before knee and quad problems pushed him to the sideline, elevating the rookie Roullier into the starting lineup.

The sixth-round pick started three games before breaking his right hand at some point during the game against the Saints. That’s his snapping hand and him finishing that game was an underrated act of courage this year. But he was out for three games before returning against the Cardinals on Sunday. Jay Gruden was pleased with his play. 

“Chase did good. He did good,” said Gruden. “It was good to see him back in there. His snaps were outstanding and handled the calls and play well.”

That was good but standard praise. What was interesting was what he said next.  

“I like Chase’s progress right now,” he said. “I think he is going to be a very good center for a long time here. It was a great pickup for us in the draft.”

It appears that you can at least pencil in Roullier as the 2018 starter at center, if not put him in with a Sharpie.

Where would this leave Long, who is slated to be a free agent in March? The Redskins could let him walk and go with the younger and cheaper Roullier. They also could sign him to be their starting left guard. That job has belonged to Shawn Lauvao. But Lauvao also is a pending free agent and he is 30 and he has missed large chunks of two of the last three seasons with injuries. When he missed the last 13 games of the 2015 season, Long went in at left guard and played well.

If that happens, that would give the Redskins a starting offensive line consisting entirely of players drafted by the team and with only Trent Williams over the age of 27 in Week 1 of 2018.

Regardless of what happens at left guard, it looks like Roullier will be the man in the middle for 2018 and beyond.

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

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 8
—NFL Draft (4/26) 64
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 200