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Czechs host Spain in Davis Cup final on fast court

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Czechs host Spain in Davis Cup final on fast court

PRAGUE (AP) With Rafael Nadal sidelined with an injury, the Czech Republic team hopes to complete a rare double this weekend when it takes on defending champion Spain in the 100th Davis Cup final.

Two weeks after the Czech women secured the Fed Cup title at Prague's O2 Arena, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek will try to equal the feat at the same venue. No country has won both competitions in the same year since the United States in 1990.

``Our fans are in the winning mood and we hope that we can leave this arena in the same way (as the Fed Cup team),'' Stepanek said.

Even without Nadal, Spain is no easy opponent.

The Spaniards recently have dominated the Davis Cup and look for their fourth title in five years. One of those victories was a 5-0 sweep against the Czechs at home in 2009.

This year, the team will be led by fifth-ranked David Ferrer, who is wrapping up a year with a career-best seven titles.

Ferrer won two matches at the season-ending ATP finals in London last week, but still failed to qualify for the semifinals. He's looking forward to another chance to add one more title before the offseason.

``I'm very confident with my game,'' said Ferrer, who beat Stepanek in five sets in the 2009 final.

That, he said, ``was one of the best moments of my career.''

The sixth-ranked Berdych also qualified for the ATP finals, where he went 1-2. He and Stepanek led the Czechs to victories against Italy, Serbia and Argentina on the way to the final. They hope to give their country its first Davis Cup title as an independent nation, having split from Czechoslovakia in 1993. Czechoslovakia won its only title in 1980, when Ivan Lendl led the team to victory.

The last time the Czechs beat Spain was as Czechoslovakia in 1971. But the players said they learned a lesson in 2009 - and now have the home-court advantage.

``The final in Barcelona (in 2009) was a great experience for us that we can learn from,'' Stepanek said. ``Our two biggest advantages are that we have a choice of the surface and we have our fans behind us. And certainly, they miss Nadal.''

Nadal has been sidelined with a left knee injury since a second-round loss to Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon in June. Rosol is on the Czech team but unlikely to play if Berdych and Stepanek are fit.

A capacity crowd of more than 13,000 noisy fans is expected, after tickets sold out in a matter of hours.

The surface might even be of bigger importance.

The Czechs beat Serbia 4-1 in the same arena in the quarterfinals, but that was on clay. Now, they opted for a faster hard court to counter the Spanish clay court specialists, who haven't lost on that surface in 12 years.

Ferrer said the Spaniards have never played on such a fast court.

``We all have problems,'' he said. ``But we're ready to play, we're ready to fight.''

Spanish captain Alex Corretja is expected to use Nicolas Almagro as his second singles player, but could also opt for Feliciano Lopez, who is 4-3 against Berdych and beat him twice on hard court. Almagro lost four of his five matches to Berdych this year.

Corretja said Tuesday that ``Feliciano is here in case we need to make any chances.''

As always, Saturday's doubles match could play a key role, and Spain received a confidence boost when Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez won the ATP finals on Monday by beating Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna of India for their third title of the season.

``For us, it was a very special to win,'' Granollers said. ``We come here with a lot of confidence after winning in London. We're ready to fight for everything.''

Berdych and Stepanek are expected to team up for the doubles as well, having an 11-1 record in Davis Cup play. Their only loss came in the 2009 final.

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Aaron Holiday

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Aaron Holiday

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Aaron Holiday

School: UCLA
Position: Point guard
Age: 21 (turns 22 in Sept.)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 187
Wingspan: 6-8
Max vertical: 33

2017/18 stats: 20.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.2 bpg, 46.1 FG%, 42.9 3PT% (2.7 3PT/6.2 3PA), 82.8 FT%
Player comparison: Darren Collison
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 19th, NBADraft.net 24th, Bleacher Report 23rd, Sports Illustrated 23rd

5 things to know:

*Holiday played big minutes in all three seasons for the Bruins. As a junior, he broke out as an elite scorer, averaging 20.3 points while also dishing 5.8 assists per game. Holiday scored in a variety of ways, including at the free throw line where he averaged 5.8 attempts per game and knocked them down at 82.8 percent.

*He is a terrific three-point shooter, one of the best in this draft class based on his college numbers. He hit 42.9 percent of his shots and on 6.2 attempts per game. Holiday shot 42.2 percent from long range in his three-year college career and never shot below 41 percent in a season. He had some games where teams just couldn't stop him from long range. He made four threes or more in 13 college games. Twice he went 5-for-5 and he once made six threes against USC.

*Though he has the skillset to play off the ball as a shooting guard, his size will limit him at the NBA level. Holiday is just under 6-foot-1 in shoes and doesn't have the vertical leap to make up for it. He does, however, have a plus wingspan. At this point, Holiday seems to be solely a point guard, though as long as he's good at the position there is nothing wrong with that.

*Holiday worked out for the Wizards at Capital One Arena. He was part of their first week of predraft workouts and by all accounts had an impressive visit. He hit a lot of shots and fared well in the interview process.

*Holiday has two brothers currently in the NBA. Jrue is a former All-Star who starts at point guard for the New Orleans Pelicans. Justin is a shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls. His sister-in-law, Lauren, is a former member of the U.S. women's national soccer team.

Fit with Wizards: The Wizards already have a point guard in John Wall, so Holiday would have no long-term path to starting. That said, he would shore up a need the Wizards have been trying to address for years.

Backup point guard has been a real void for the Wizards for most of Wall's tenure. This past season they tried out all sorts of options between Tomas Satoransky, Tim Frazier, Ramon Sessions and Ty Lawson. Though Satoransky remains on the roster, the Wizards don't appear content with their depth at the position.

Holiday's ability to hit threes is very attractive to the Wizards who could conceivably play him off-the-ball alongside Wall, or even Satoransky. Given Wall (6-4) and Satoransky (6-7) are taller than most point guards, they could theoretically guard shooting guards on the other end.

Holiday would add smarts and shooting to the Wizards' bench in the short-term. In the long-term, he could help lengthen Wall's career by taking some of his workload away and also give the Wizards more options once Wall enters his 30s.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 17, 39 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The best Redskins players 25 or younger

Here is a look at the best Redskins players who have played at least one season and will be 25 or younger as of Week 1 this year. 

WR Jamison Crowder, 25 as of Week 1—Crowder hit the ground running in his first year, with 59 receptions, a team rookie record, and gaining 604 yards. He has been very dependable in his three years, averaging 64 catches, 747 yards, and four receiving touchdowns per year. 

OLB Preston Smith, 25—Since he came into the league, no player but Smith has at least 20.5 sacks, three or more interceptions, and four or more forced fumbles. His sack numbers tend to be up and down from week to week, but Jay Gruden has said more than once that Smith is very consistent in getting pressure on the quarterback even if he doesn’t always get home for the sack. 

DL Matt Ioannidis, 24—A year ago it was thought that he would face an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. Now goes into the season as a starter and key contributor. The 2016 fifth-round pick got much stronger between his first and second seasons and he took well to the coaching of new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Only a broken hand that cost him two games and had him playing with an awkward cast for a few more kept him from threatening to make double-digit sacks. 

DL Jonathan Allen, 23—The Redskins were just starting to get a hint of what Allen could do early in the season. Pro Football Focus credited him with a total of three sacks in the Redskins third and fourth games. But in their fifth game, he suffered a foot injury that ended his season. Allen was a full go for the offseason program and there is no reason to think that he won’t pick back up right where he left off. 

S Montae Nicholson, 22—Like Allen, Nicholson’s rookie season was shortened due to injuries. He took advantage of the absence of anticipated starter Su’a Cravens and made an impact from the beginning. While the 2017 fourth-round pick and free-agent pickup D.J. Swearinger were in the lineup the decade-long struggles the Redskins have had at the safety position were suddenly gone. 

Best of the rest: WR Josh Doctson (25), C Chase Roullier (25)

It should be noted that DL Daron Payne turned 21 in May and RB Derrius Guice will the 21 later this month so they could be joining this list soon. Assuming those two start, the Redskins will have nine quality starters aged 25 or younger this year. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder was born on this date in 1993. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 39
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 53
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 76

The Redskins last played a game 166 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 84 days. 

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