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American teen Keys looked up to Venus as a toddler

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American teen Keys looked up to Venus as a toddler

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) As a 4-year-old she watched Venus Williams playing on TV and fell in love with her dress.

So began the tennis career of Madison Keys.

``I really wanted a tennis dress,'' said Keys, now 17. ``My parents told me that if I played, they would buy me one. I was like, `Hey, I'll try it.'''

Keys now has a closet full of tennis dresses and enough talent to have reached the third round at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

Ranked 105th and playing as a wild-card entry, Keys powered through the second round beating 30th-ranked Tamira Paszek 6-2, 6-1 in just 56 minutes - drawing accolades from people who are now watching her play.

One of them was retired three-time Grand Slam winner and fellow American Lindsay Davenport, who thinks that Keys has ``incredible potential.''

``Best hope I've seen for U.S. since Williams,'' Davenport tweeted, not clarifying if she meant the 32-year-old Venus - who owns seven Grand Slam titles - or younger sister Serena who has 15.

Keys broke into a big smile and blushed when told of Davenport's appraisal.

``It makes me really happy,'' Keys said. ``I've been working really hard. I think it's starting to show.''

After her match, Keys was ushered into the main players' news conference room at Melbourne Park, which is usually reserved for top players or the people who beat them.

A bit awe-struck by the attention, Keys explained that her introduction to tennis was ``complete luck.''

Both her parents are lawyers and nobody in her family plays tennis, but she loved it from the moment she picked up a racket, she said.

``Every single day, my parents fed me balls. Eventually it turned into having a coach, and then it went to being at an academy,'' she said. ``You know, it worked out pretty well.''

Keys turned pro on her 14th birthday, Feb. 17, 2009, and made her debut at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., where she became the seventh youngest player to win a main draw match and the youngest since Martina Hingis in 1994.

At 16 years old she played her first Grand Slam at the 2011 U.S. Open, becoming the youngest and - at 455th - the lowest-ranked woman in the draw. She made it the second round and then won a wild card into last year's Australian Open, where she lost in the first round.

This year's Australian Open is her third Grand Slam and her best result so far.

She faces a tough test in the third round against Wimbledon semifinalist and No. 5-seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, who beat Luci Hradecka in the second round 6-3, 6-1.

Unlike the jitters she felt at the U.S. Open, Keys said she feels more confident now.

``My first U.S. Open main draw, it was a big stadium and I wasn't really used to it,'' she said. ``But I feel good about this one so far.''

Her former idol, 32-year-old Venus Williams, had a good day, too, advancing to the third round after beating Alize Cornet of France 6-3, 6-3.

Asked what it feels like to have younger players look up to her, Venus laughed.

``I'm fighting the wrinkles and I'm fighting the battle of the bulge and everything,'' Williams responded. ``I'm still slim and trim, thank you God.''

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BATTLE FOR NO. 1: The women's No. 1 ranking will be decided at the Australian Open.

The contenders are top-ranked Victoria Azarenka, No. 2 Maria Sharapova and No. 3 Serena Williams.

Azarenka needs to reach the final to have a shot at staying on top. She first claimed the top-ranking after winning last year's Australian Open and is guaranteed to keep it for her 48th week until the tournament ends.

Sharapova and Williams need to reach the final to have a shot at unseating Azarenka.

Four-time major winner Sharapova made a four-week return to the No. 1-spot in June after completing a career Grand Slam by winning her first French Open title. She became the first Russian to reach the top-ranking in August 2005 and has held the spot for 21 non-consecutive weeks during her career.

Serena is well-acquainted with the top spot, having spent 123 weeks during her career at No. 1. The 15-time Grand Slam winner is seeking her fifth Australian Open trophy.

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BOWLED OVER: When he wasn't playing tennis, India's Somdev Devvarman ducked over to the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The 551st-ranked player described himself as ``a huge cricket fan.''

``Obviously growing up in India, we didn't have a choice but to watch cricket,'' the 27-year-old joked.

On his rest day after winning in the first round at Melbourne Park, Devvarman popped across the railway tracks to the 100,000-seat MCG for a photo shoot at a place he'd seen many times on TV.

``There's a lot of history over there,'' he said, adding that he had fun visiting one of cricket's most famous venues and the on-site museum where be browsed through the old bats and balls and saw statues of some of his favorite cricket players.

There was one thing missing among the statues, he said: ``I wish there were a few Indians over there, too.''

Devvarman exited in the second round after losing a four-hour, four-set battle against No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland, 6-7 (10), 3-6, 6-1, 6-0, 7-5.

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Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

The Capitals managed to earn a point on Friday in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, but the game felt like a missed opportunity for Washington. After giving up four goals in the first period, seven power plays including two 5-on-3s, and two power play goals, the Caps knew they had no one to blame but themselves for the loss.

“We were still not quite there maybe emotionally,” Lars Eller said.

At least not for the first period. The Caps allowed four goals in the opening 20 minutes to dig themselves into a 4-1 hole. Each goal came from the slot as the Caps had no control over the front of their own net.

“Just tough to start that way, to kind of dig ourselves a big hole,” Brett Connolly said. “Obviously, it’s good to come back and get a point but we don’t need to do that to ourselves. It takes a lot of energy to get back in that game.”

Washington battled back to tie the game at 4, but penalties ultimately derailed their momentum, allowing Florida to retake the lead.

After scoring three straight goals, the Caps took three minor penalties in the final three minutes of the second period.

Alex Ovechkin was called for interference on Aaron Ekblad as he made no attempt to play a loose puck that trickled past the Florida defenseman. He was clearly focused on delivering the hit and nothing else.

Less than a minute later, Eller was caught on the ice a tad early, and Washington was called for too many men.

“I see Backy coming for a change, they had full possession,” Eller said. “I don't see behind my back, I think the guys are telling me he has one skate over so I think it was an unnecessary call, but what am I going to say? It's a tough one.”

With 1:15 of a two-man advantage to work with, Jonathan Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal late in the period.

Even after a furious comeback, the Caps could not escape the second with the score tied because of the penalties.

Just 43 seconds after Huberdeau’s goal, Washington went right back to 5-on-3. Evgeny Kuznetsov was tossed from a faceoff by the linesman and argued the call, eventually earning himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“He said something he shouldn't have said to the referee,” Reirden said of the call.

The Caps' penalty problems were exacerbated by the continued problems of the penalty kill.

Heading into Friday's game, Washington was only killing off 72.2 percent of the power plays they faced. They allowed another two power play goals Friday as they continued to struggle when facing the extra man.

“We have room for improvement for sure,” Reirden said of his penalty kill. “It’s a new system, new with the way we’re killing, its new personnel. We’re learning. We’re missing a key guy in Tom on that as well. It’s not easy, either, when you’re 5-on-3 when they’ve got talented players that can convert in that spot. It’s definitely a work in progress and I didn't expect it to go smoothly to start with. That’s one of the areas that we knew was gonna be new to our team this year and it’s gonna continue to take some work. It’s something that definitely is a work in progress.”

Mistakes put the Caps down 4-1, they put them down 5-4, they cost them a valuable point against a previously winless Panthers team before a four-game road trip through Canada, and they are ultimately why the defending Stanley Cup champions are only 3-2-2 to start the season.

And they know it.

“We’re still trying to find our game,” Connolly said. “Would we have liked to have picked up where we left off? Yes. But it’s not easy. We played a lot of hockey last year and a short summer and you come in here and there’s a lot of distractions, a lot of that kind of stuff. We’ve done some good things and we’ve done some not so good things.

"I think if you look at last season we weren't very good either at the start. We weren't at our best. Just take the positives and know that we can overcome that. It hasn’t been disastrous. We’re still getting points, we’re still above .500 right now with a tough couple back-to-backs to start the year. So not the worst start, but obviously we have another level.”

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Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

The Florida Panthers played over half of Friday’s game with five defensemen after a hit from Alex Ovechkin ultimately knocked Mark Pysyk out of the game.

Early in the second period, Ovechkin attempted to enter the offensive zone with the puck, but it was swept away at the blue line back to Pysyk. Pysyk quickly chipped the puck away and then was on the receiving end of a hit from Ovechkin.

In real time, the hit did not appear to be a big one. It wasn't even the biggest hit Ovechkin delivered in the game, as in the third period he sent Aleksander Barkov flying with a shoulder hit. But Pysyk went down to the ice after the hit and left the game soon after.

After the game, Florida head coach Bob Boughner did not mince words.

“Pysyk got a high hit to the head,” he said.

When asked if he thought the league should review the hit, Boughner said, “I hope they do because if you see the replay, it's high. It's a head shot. And the league's trying to clamp down on that. Whether there's no call, I don't blame the refs. Maybe they missed it. That happens. But those are the kind of plays that need to be reviewed.”

Based on the replay, it is hard to determine if the principal point of contact was the head. Ovechkin does not launch himself, but does appear to take an upward trajectory into Pysyk. Still, it seems like a hard sell to say Ovechkin was targeting the head.

But the hit did send Pysyk out of the game, and in today’s NHL, when head hits are a big topic of conversation and when a player is injured on a play, the NHL has shown it takes those plays more seriously.

Pysyk returned to the game for one more shift after receiving the hit, but left the game after and did not return.

“Right now we're still getting him checked out, but we'll see more in the morning,” Boughner said.

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