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Azarenka plans to party with Redfoo after final

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Azarenka plans to party with Redfoo after final

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Victoria Azarenka plans to celebrate with her rap star friend Redfoo after a dramatic Australian Open.

Azarenka was joined by Party Rock Crew, as Redfoo's group is known, after the winning the title against Li Na on Saturday.

The LMFAO frontman known for his wild hair and wilder music has been a colorful addition to this year's Australian Open, where he was a regular fixture in Azarenka's front-row seats. During her final, his leopard-print jacket was visible from the upper decks.

``It's a dream come true,'' Redfoo told an Australian TV station, referring to Azarenka's win. ``I came out here to support her, and I'm just so happy.''

The interviewer seemed more interested in getting the pair to talk about their relationship, which made the 23-year-old Azarenka turn bright red.

In one attempt to change the subject, Redfoo said that he and Azarenka share a love for music.

``She's actually very into music, she has a piano now on the road. In the off-season she might be my pianist,'' Redfoo said of the world's No. 1 player.

The interaction was a light moment after a heavy match.

Azarenka beat China's Li 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, overcoming a hostile crowd to win her second back-to-back Australian Open title.

Li twisted her ankle twice, needed two medical timeouts and hit her head on the hard court. When twisted her ankle the second time and fell, Li said she blacked out for a couple of seconds. That happened early in the third set after a 10-minute break for Australia day fireworks.

When Li sent the last point long, Azarenka dropped her racket and began to sob. During the trophy ceremony she thanked her coach and the Party Rock Crew.

By the end of the ceremony Azarenka was all smiles, and the interviewer asked how she planned to celebrate.

``We party,'' Azarenka said.

Redfoo added: ``We bring out the bottles'' - a subtle plug for his upcoming new single called ``Keep Calm and Bring Out the Bottles.''

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FRENCH OPEN, HERE SHE COMES: Li Na might have lost the Australian Open, but she'll always have Paris.

In a remarkably upbeat mood despite her loss, Li noted that several runners-up in Melbourne have gone on to win the French Open later in the year.

Last year, Maria Sharapova also lost to Azarenka and went on to win at Roland Garros.

The same thing happened to her, too.

In 2011, Li made an historic run to the Australian Open final but failed to deliver China its first Grand Slam trophy - until a few months later at the French Open.

In 2008, Ana Ivanovic lost the Australian final before winning the French Open.

``I don't know,'' Li said. ``I hope I can do the same this year.''

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FLASHBACK TO CHINA: Li Na joked that it seemed like the China Open with all the Chinese chants and red flags waving in Melbourne.

Chinese fans poured into Rod Laver Arena for the match and cheered Li on with shouts of ``Jai You Li Na'' - or Let's Go Li Na!

Li said she felt lifted by the support.

``I (could) hear a lot of Chinese fans,'' she said.

So could the chair umpire, who had to ask for silence as some exuberant fans cheered in the middle of points.

``Also, I (could) see them with the China national flag everywhere,'' she said, with a big smile. ``I was like, `Oh! It looks like the China Open.'''

It was a change from 2011, when Li admitted she struggled to deal with how some fans cheered during her final.

Li's success at the Australian Open in the past few years has likely increased the number of Chinese fans at the season's first major and helped the growth of the sport in China.

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Unsung LaToya Sanders’ two-way play has Mystics one game away from WNBA Finals

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Unsung LaToya Sanders’ two-way play has Mystics one game away from WNBA Finals

On a stacked Mystics team, LaToya Sanders knows her role. 

The 6-foot-2, 170-pound wisp of a center is asked to guard far bigger opponents throughout the season and still complement her teammates on the offensive end. It’s a lot to deal with. She does so without complaint. 

Sanders, the most unheralded of Washington’s five starters, did it all on Thursday night in a 103-91 WNBA semifinal win over the Las Vegas Aces at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. 

She finished with 17 points on a night when WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne (14 points, 5 of 15 shooting) struggled given her lofty standards. Sanders also played the kind of defense that left coach Mike Thibault insisting she should have been named WNBA first or second-team All-Defense. 

“My job is probably the easiest on the team,” Sanders laughed. “My job is basically to hit wide-open jumpers and lay-ups. Pretty sure I can do those two things.”

Indeed, she was efficient hitting 7 of 10 shots and all three free throws. Sanders also had to guard Vegas’ 6-8 center Liz Cambage, a big ask given their size difference. Cambage did have 23 points and 10 rebounds, but she only took 11 shots. 

Sanders and her teammates tried to make it as hard as possible for the Aces to get the ball inside for easy baskets in their two wins this week. Washington won Game 1 of the series 97-95 on Tuesday, a game that left Cambage visibly frustrated. She also earned a technical foul in Thursday’s game on a rough play underneath the Vegas basket.  

“When you’re LaToya Sanders and you’re 6-3 and you’re relying on your long arms to guard people, she takes a beating every night,” Thibault said. “She guards Camabge and [Phoenix Mercury center Brittney] Griner and [Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia] Fowles and all those people. And every night she wins a lot of those battles.”

But the really unsung part of Sanders’ game is her mid-range jumper. Thursday she was on when some of her higher-profile teammates like Delle Donne didn’t quite have their shot dropping. 

Sanders had six points in the third quarter as the two teams battled back and forth in a tight game and that set the stage for the decisive run that tilted the game toward the Mystics. She also had a hot start to the night with two baskets in the first quarter. 

“[Sanders is] a really good player. She's just on a team with so many other good players that she doesn't get as many shots,” Vegas guard Kelsey Plum said. “But she plays her role as good as anyone in the league. She's a vet. She rebounds the crap out of the ball. I just think that she does a great job for them. Everyone made us pay."

Thibault referenced a rebound Sanders grabbed in traffic to stifle a Vegas possession when they were trying to get the lead under 10 points in the fourth quarter. Instead, Washington was able to work the clock at the offensive end and score a knockout blow. It’s the little things that matter most when a team is pushing for a championship. The Mystics are one step closer. 

“Cambage is a talent, she’s a big girl,” Sanders said. “I just do what I can to try to make it difficult for her, but she’s going to hit some buckets here and there. I try to dish it out, but not take it.”  

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Orioles Roundup: Trey Mancini stays hot in 8-4 home loss to Blue Jays

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Orioles Roundup: Trey Mancini stays hot in 8-4 home loss to Blue Jays

In a fitting tribute to most games this season in Baltimore, Trey Mancini had a terrific day at the plate, but the pitching staff allowed too many home runs and the O's ended up losing.

Here's everything you need to know about the Orioles.

Player Updates:

OF Trey Mancini hasn't slowed down at all for the Orioles, turning in a 4-for-4 night to tie his career high in hits. He's hitting .286 with 34 home runs during his breakout season.

OF Austin Hays enjoyed a banner night, hitting his first home run of the season and making one of the year's highlight catches, robbing a home run well over the centerfield wall.

SP Gabriel Ynoa allowed three runs in 6.1 innings. He didn't walk anyone and allowed just six hits, but he also only struck out one batter despite pitching into the seventh inning, and two of the hits allowed were home runs.

Injuries

RP Hunter Harvey, biceps, sidelined, day-to-day

RP Josh Rogers, elbow, 60-Day IL, out indefinitely 

SP Alex Cobb, back, 60-Day IL, 2020

Coming Up:

Friday, 9/20: Mariners at Orioles, 7:05 p.m., Camden Yards

Saturday, 9/21: Mariners at Orioles, 7:05 p.m., Camden Yards

Sunday, 9/22: Mariners at Orioles, 1:05 p.m., Camden Yards