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Azarenka looks to seal No. 1 spot at WTA finale

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Azarenka looks to seal No. 1 spot at WTA finale

Serena Williams returns to the WTA Championships with the Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles, plus the Olympic gold medal, yet with no chance of finishing the year as the No. 1 in the world.

Williams has not played since beating top-ranked Victoria Azarenka in the U.S. Open final in September and her sparse schedule is one of the reasons she won't have a chance of overtaking the Belarusian despite dominating the major events in the second half of the year.

Azarenka needs only two wins in the elite, eight-player WTA Championships in Istanbul to end 2012 as No. 1.

Williams and Azarenka have been drawn into the same round-robin group. Play starts Tuesday.

``I don't really care who I play, when I play, as long as I can play,'' Williams said. ``I'm really happy to be here. I'm on the Red side with Victoria, it'll be good.''

Angelique Kerber of Germany and Li Na of China complete the Red Group.

French Open champion and second-ranked Maria Sharapova of Russia headlines the White Group, with former Wimbledon champion and last year's winner in Istanbul, Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland and Sara Errani of Italy completing the bracket.

Since losing to Williams in the U.S. Open final, the last of the year's four Grand Slam tournaments, Azarenka has won 13 straight matches and has held the No. 1 ranking for 34 weeks.

She won the Australian Open in January and five more titles this year.

``Every match here (in Istanbul) is tough. I obviously have great champions in the group. It's tough no matter what. It's challenging, definitely, but I'm looking forward to it,'' said Azarenka, who lost last year's Istanbul final to Kvitova.

Williams has played a curtailed schedule because of injuries and illness, but she holds a 10-1 career record against Azarenka.

The American is ranked No. 3 in the world and holds a 9-1 record this year against the other seven finalists in Istanbul.

Williams has only twice finished the year as No. 1 - in 2002 and 2009. She has played in the season finale six times and won twice, in 2001 and 2009, her final appearance at the event.

Her record this year is 53-4, with her only losses coming to Ekaterina Makarova in the fourth round of the Australian Open, to Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals in Miami, to Virginie Razzano in the first round of the French Open and to Kerber in the quarterfinals in Cincinnati.

Sharapova briefly held the No. 1 ranking after winning the French Open.

``When you're coming to the Championships you pretty much know what you're going to get in terms of the level of the group,'' the Russian said. ``With the field we have this year, I think every match no matter what group you're in is going to be pretty tough from the get go.''

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Grizzlies trade Mike Conley to the Jazz

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Grizzlies trade Mike Conley to the Jazz

A person with knowledge of the decision says the Memphis Grizzlies have traded veteran point guard Mike Conley, who has played the most games in franchise history, to the Utah Jazz.

The person says the Grizzlies swapped Conley for Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver and Grayson Allen. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because neither Memphis nor Utah has announced the trade.

ESPN.com first reported the deal, which it says also includes Utah's No. 23 pick overall in Thursday night's draft. 

Conley was the final piece of the core that led the Grizzlies to seven consecutive playoff berths, including the 2013 Western Conference Finals. Zach Randolph and Tony Allen left in 2017 as free agents, and Memphis traded Marc Gasol to Toronto in February, splitting up a duo that had been the NBA's longest-tenured teammates. Gasol went on to help the Raptors win their first NBA title.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski has since confirmed that Memphis will also be receiving a 2020 protected first-round pick, which will either convey as a late-lottery pick in 2020 and 2021 or become a lightly-protected pick from 2022-2024. 

 

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Max Scherzer was adamant Tuesday he would pitch for the Nats Wednesday night

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Max Scherzer was adamant Tuesday he would pitch for the Nats Wednesday night

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer now owns blue, brown and black eyes.

Scherzer -- who has heterochromia, resulting in one blue and one brown eye -- also now has bruising under his right eye after fouling a practice bunt attempt into his face Tuesday. He left Nationals Park on Tuesday with a splint across his broken nose, a clean CT scan and adamant he would be pitching later Wednesday.

Whether Scherzer pitches the second game of a split day-night doubleheader Wednesday is to be determined. He was still asleep, which is normal for his game-day routine, when manager Davey Martinez spoke to reporters Wednesday morning at 11. So, the last the Nationals knew, the expectation was for Scherzer to be ready for Wednesday night.

“I am convinced right now Scherzer is going to pitch the second game, and we’ll go from there,” Martinez said.

The Nationals have not played baseball since Sunday. Patrick Corbin was supposed to start Monday and Tuesday before those games were snuffed out by rain following lengthy delays. Corbin started the first game on Wednesday.

If Scherzer cannot pitch the second, Erick Fedde or Austin Voth will. Voth was brought in from Triple-A Fresno on Tuesday to be the 26th man on the roster for the doubleheader. He had a laborious trip to get to the District: Voth left Fresno on a 6 a.m. flight with a connection in Salt Lake City. He missed it because his first flight was delayed by weather and mechanical problems. He was rerouted to Detroit -- which took him out of first class and put him into a middle seat in coach -- then eventually landed in Washington. His baseball bag made the whole journey. His personal bag did not.

The Nationals hope they don’t have to use Voth as a starter. He could fill three roles: relief in the first game, starter in the second or relief in the second. He is likely to pitch somehow Wednesday in order to protect the other bullpen members during a stretch of six games in five days (should Mother Nature finally relent).

So, the Nationals are waiting on a call from Scherzer to map everything out. He’s expected to ring the team’s head trainer, Paul Lessard when he arises. The team is concerned about possible breathing complications for Scherzer both prior to and while pitching after Scherzer left the stadium with a splint across his damaged nose on Wednesday. Martinez was not sure if his $210 million right-hander would wear the splint if he pitches in a game.

What the Nationals do know is they have run into another odd situation during a strange year. A bad start, a manager on the hot seat, a recent rally toward relevancy, then back-to-back rainouts against a key opponent with an ace’s broken nose mixed in. Several players wore black “Stay in the fight” T-shirts which were draped across their clubhouse chairs when they walked in Wednesday morning. That slogan applied to Scherzer’s mentality on Tuesday night.

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