Nationals

Azarenka, Serena Williams in same part of draw

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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.

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It's been 13 years since Ryan Zimmerman hit his first career walk-off HR

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It's been 13 years since Ryan Zimmerman hit his first career walk-off HR

On June 18, 2006, a 21-year-old Ryan Zimmerman beat the New York Yankees with one swing. The once rising star who would later be nicknamed 'Mr. Walk-Off' launched his first career game-winning home run 13 years ago today. 

The blast marked the 10th long-ball of his big league career and came on Father's Day with his dad, Keith, in the stands. 

Fast forward to 2019 and the now 34-year-old owns a .279 career batting average with 267 home runs. 

But 2019 hasn't given him much of a chance to add to those totals, seeing how he's played in just 22 games after being placed on the 10-day Injured List April 28 because of plantar fasciitis

His recovery, though, is well underway. NBC Sports Washington's Todd Dybas reported Tuesday that the first baseman ran the bases and will do so again Wednesday. If these drills go well, look for the veteran to begin a rehab assignment as part of his continued efforts to return to help the Nationals make a run in his 15th season. 

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Nassir Little is top of his class, in the draft and in school

Nassir Little is top of his class, in the draft and in school

Check out Chris Miller's full 1-on-1 interview with UNC's small-forward, Nassir Little down below.

The draft order has been decided, teams are hosting final workouts, and the NBA Draft is just a few days away. On June 20, the Washington Wizards will pick 9th overall with the hope to add some help on defense. The team has hosted workouts and invited players such as University of Noth Carolina's, Nassir Little.

NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller sat down with Little after his workout with the Wizards. His skill on the court is not the only thing that should impress people.

Little graduated from Orlando Christian Prep as salutatorian in 2018. Miller joked on the latest episode of the Wizards Talk Podcast that he should be referred to as "Nassir Little the science guy." 

The 19-year-old has a passion for science and learning. "I just really like learning about everything and how stuff works, it's what I was into." Little broke down his play style "scientifically" calling himself a player that is extremely athletic, able to guard multiple positions and "a guy with a 40 inch vertical."

Miller noted that the Wizards have been the only team that has highlighted his abilities in the classroom. 

Little's graduation rank is quite uncommon. However, he is not the only draft pick to graduate near the top of his class. Grant Hill graduated as the valedictorian and was drafted 3rd overall in 1994. Both Little and Hill wore blue during their time in college. Little sported Carolina Blue for one year while Hill spent four years in Duke blue. 

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