Del Potro ready to challenge tennis' Big 4 in 2013


Del Potro ready to challenge tennis' Big 4 in 2013

LONDON (AP) Juan Martin del Potro is hoping to turn tennis' Big Four into a quintet in 2013.

The big-hitting Argentine's season ended Sunday when he wasted a one-set lead against Novak Djokovic to lose 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals of the ATP finals. But his strong end to the year has made Del Potro confident he can once again challenge the sport's biggest names for Grand Slam titles next season - like when he won the 2009 U.S. Open before a serious wrist injury caused a lengthy layoff.

Since then, Djokovic and Andy Murray have joined Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in dominating the sport - and those four have shared every Grand Slam title since Del Potro's victory at Flushing Meadows.

Judging by his recent form, the Argentine may be ready to break into that group again.

``I'm getting closer every day,'' Del Potro said. ``Maybe that could be my big challenge for next year, my big goal, trying to fight (for all the Grand Slams) with this group. You know, they are winning all the Grand Slams - Novak, Federer, Rafa and now Murray. I would like to be part of those names in the Grand Slams.''

Many thought he would permanently be part of that group after beating Federer in the U.S. Open three years ago. But he missed most of the next season because of wrist surgery, and has struggled to re-establish himself at the top since. He wasted a two-set lead against Federer in the French Open quarterfinals this year, and then lost to the Swiss star again in an epic Olympic semifinal that ended 19-17 in the third set.

But he rebounded to beat Djokovic in the bronze-medal match and then defeated Federer in the final of his hometown tournament in Basel last month. He beat Federer again here in London on Saturday to clinch a spot in the semifinals, becoming the first player in 10 years to defeat the Swiss great in back-to-back indoor events.

And his booming forehand had Djokovic in trouble, too, before the top-ranked Serb found his stride in the second set. Djokovic, for one, has no doubts that Del Potro will be back to fight for more major titles.

``He's definitely one of those players behind the big four that can challenge for winning a Grand Slam,'' Djokovic said. ``Next to him it's obviously (David) Ferrer that had a fantastic year, the best year of his career. So there are players, and he's probably one of them.''

While Del Potro couldn't end the year with another title, his latest results bode well for next year.

``These kinds of matches give me illusions (dreams) for the next season,'' Del Potro said. ``I beat Roger yesterday. I was close to beat Nole (Djokovic) today. ... I think I'm playing good. I don't know if I play better or not than 2009. But being (in) the semifinals in this tournament is so big for me. It's still Federer, Djokovic, Murray and me. Was the same four players (in) the Olympics and in the U.S. Open.''

Nadal missed those events, and the ATP finals, with a knee injury but is hoping to be fully recovered by the start of next year. Del Potro is also looking forward to some rest after another grueling season.

He said he wasn't planning on even watching Monday's final in London, or any other tennis over the next few weeks for that matter.

``I will be watching soccer,'' he said.

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Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

LAS VEGAS—Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom weren’t expecting to lose their head coach less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup.

But business is business, Ovi said, and Barry Trotz is handling his by attempting to capitalize on claiming the championship.

“It’s sad,” Ovechkin said on the red carpet at the NHL Awards, where he accepted his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy on Wednesday night. “Obviously, we won together.”

The Caps’ captain also thanked Trotz for directing him—and his teammates—to new heights.  

“First of all, [I want to] thank him for a great job to be our coach, to be our dad, to give us a chance to win,” Ovechkin said. “But then again, it’s a business. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be fine and I wish him luck.”

Backstrom, meanwhile, said he was caught off guard by Trotz’s decision to step down over a contract stalemate with the team. Trotz asked for $5 million per for five seasons; the Caps balked over the terms Trotz’s camp sought.   

“I was a little surprised, obviously,” Backstrom said. “I heard the scenario.”

Like Ovechkin, though, Backstrom praised the job Trotz did during his four-year tenure.

“He’s done a great job in Washington,” Backstrom said. “We obviously have him to thank for a lot. He’s done a tremendous job of schooling us and winning a championship. No one is going to take that away from him.”

Trotz’s next move is unclear, but he’s a free agent and currently eligible to negotiate with any team. The Islanders are the only team with an opening for a head coach.

As for Washington, GM Brian MacLellan said that associate coach Todd Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz.

Ovechkin said he thinks Reirden would be a good fit.

“We all respect Todd,” Ovechkin said. “We all like him. Again, it’s not our thing to say who’s going to be head coach, but if it’s going to be Todd, it’s going to be fun.”


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A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

Daniel Duffy on Twitter/@RealArtOfWords

A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

How do you make a photo of Alex Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time even more memorable?

You make it out of all the Capitals' game scores this year, of course.

Capitals fan and artist Daniel Duffy (@RealArtOfWords) posted a phenomenal finished piece commemorating the Cup win on Wednesday, June 20. It's a little meta and astounding to look at, but very fun to try and read. If you want to relive the glory that was the parts of the 2017-18 Capitals season, check out the piece.

The piece, which appears to be done in a traditional medium like pen or marker, holds the team faced, arena played at, and final score of every game. It uses six colors and over sixty lines of text. Ovechkin roars as he holds the Stanley Cup overhead, the white away jersey shaded with bits of grey text. It takes a skilled eye to sort text and colors into shapes and shading, but Daniel did a fantastic job! It's awesome to see a fanbase create different interpretations of iconic moments. We'll surely see more of Ovechkin in this moment.

Just as we thought we were going to get tired of the celebration, fans find new ways to surprise us. Stay creative, Caps fans!