Redskins

Azarenka, Serena Williams in same part of draw

201301092025735259167-p2.jpeg

Azarenka, Serena Williams in same part of draw

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams are in the same half of the draw at the Australian Open, setting up the possibility of a semifinal match between the defending champion and the title favorite.

Top-ranked Azarenka has lost 11 of her 12 matches against Williams, who increased her career haul to 15 Grand Slam titles last year by winning at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Williams has won five Australian titles, more than any other woman in the Open era, and is in dominant form after winning 35 of her past 36 matches.

That run included a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 comeback victory in the U.S. Open final after being just two points away from defeat to Azarenka.

No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova, the French Open champion, is on the other half of the draw with No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 5 Angelique Kerber and No. 6 Li Na. She could meet Venus Williams in the third round.

Sharapova, runner-up to Azarenka last year at Melbourne Park, will meet fellow Russian Olga Puchkova in the opening round.

``I don't pay attention too much to the draws because we could face anyone from the first round to the finals, and you have to be ready to face that opponent,'' Sharapova said.

Novak Djokovic's bid for a third consecutive Australian Open title got a boost when No. 2-ranked Roger Federer and U.S. Open champion Andy Murray both landed in the other half when the official draw was made Friday.

Top-ranked Djokovic will face Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round and also has fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych in his quarter of the draw and fourth-seeded David Ferrer in his half.

Ferrer is the highest-ranked Spaniard in the tournament in the absence of 11-time major winner Rafael Nadal, who hasn't played on the tour since the middle of 2012 due to a left knee injury.

``He was a top-20 player before. He knows what it's like to be on the big stage. He has a lot of quality - a lot of experience,'' Djokovic said of Mathieu. ``There are expectations for someone who is in my position, but I am looking forward to it.''

Federer will play Benoit Paire of France in the first round and has a potential third-round match against local hope Bernard Tomic. Federer, a four-time Australian Open winner, could face Murray in the semifinals.

Murray, who ended a 76-year drought for British men at Grand Slam events when he won the U.S. Open last year, will start his run against Robin Haase of the Netherlands and has a potential quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Juan Martin Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion.

On the women's side, Azarenka has a first-round match against Romania's Monica Niculescu and is in the same quarter as former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki and seventh-seeded Sara Errani.

Serena Williams will play Edina Gallovits-Hall of Romania in the first round and is in the same quarter as 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens, who is seeded 29th.

Kvitova has a tough opener against 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone.

Quick Links

Joe Gibbs told Ron Rivera that Dan Snyder was never 'an interference' while he coached the Redskins

Joe Gibbs told Ron Rivera that Dan Snyder was never 'an interference' while he coached the Redskins

New Redskins head coach Ron Rivera did plenty of research before accepting the job earlier this month.

Rivera spent 30-35 hours with Redskins owner Dan Snyder before agreeing to be the ninth head coach of the owner's tenure. Additionally, he reached out to legendary Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs, and ended up spending several hours talking with him prior to accepting the job. The two originally spoke on the phone, before the three-time Super Bowl-winning head coach invited Rivera over to his home in Charlotte last month to discuss even further.

On Tuesday, Gibbs spoke on the Carol Maloney show, where he revealed some of the topics he spoke with Rivera about. One of those included the involvement of Snyder, who Gibbs spoke glowingly about.

"Where I felt like I could help the most was telling [Rivera] what it was like working with Dan," Gibbs said. "When I was there, Dan did every single thing he could do to help us win and was never, in any way, an interference. He was always trying to help in every single way he could."

Additionally, Gibbs raved about the Redskins fanbase. He explained to Rivera that fans in D.C. understand football, have been following the team forever, and are some of the most passionate in the sport.

"The other thing I could do, I felt like, was tell him about what it's like coaching in the greatest city in the world with the greatest fans in the world," Gibbs said. "I did tell him I thought it was the greatest job in the NFL."

Gibbs told Maloney that he hates making predictions, but had a strong one about the future of the Redskins fanbase.

"I think our fan base will come roaring back," Gibbs said. "I think [FedEx Field] will be full of Burgundy and Gold. They're going to be cheering their guts out."

When asked if he believed Rivera was the right man to lead the Redskins, Gibbs explained he was thrilled by the hire.

"He was certainly a great choice," Gibbs said. "[He was] Coach of the Year twice, put a team into the Super Bowl. And I think he's kind of a man's man. I think he can talk to the players. And I think he's proven that he can get the job done."

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS

Quick Links

Gerardo Parra promises the Nationals will return to the postseason

Gerardo Parra promises the Nationals will return to the postseason

Gerardo Parra will be in Japan for the 2020 baseball season, but that hasn't stopped him from promising big things from his former team. 

In an exclusive interview with the Nationals Talk podcast Parra promised that the Nationals will make a playoff run this season.

"I promise you these guys go to the playoffs this year too because these guys have a great heart. I know Rendon is not there but this is baseball and this is a great team."

His message for his former teammates is simple, "don’t lose the emotion, don’t lose the goofy we have right now in the clubhouse… we worked a lot to do that."

Want more Nationals interviews? Listen to the full podcast here:

Parra told Nationals Talk that he is so grateful for his time with the team and in the city. 

As the interview wrapped up, he asked if he could have a moment to say something directly to fans. 

He thanked D.C. and everyone who supported the team during this unforgettable season. He hopes fans do not forget how a children's song brought a whole city together, sports fan or not.  
 
 "Enjoy the moment," said Parra. "And baby shark never forget." 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: