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Djokovic, Federer in 1-2 title match at ATP finals

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Djokovic, Federer in 1-2 title match at ATP finals

LONDON (AP) As usual, Roger Federer is looking to add to one of his many records. And as many expected, Novak Djokovic will be trying to stop him.

The top two players in the world advanced to the championship match at the ATP finals on Sunday, each looking beatable early before turning things around.

Federer, a six-time champion at the season-ending event, advanced by beating U.S. Open champion Andy Murray 7-6 (5), 6-2. The top-ranked Djokovic defeated Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

``I knew that if I lose today it's the end of the season, so I gave everything I had and couldn't be more happy,'' Federer said on court after the match.

The ATP finals is the last tournament of the season, and Federer will face Djokovic in the final match on Monday at the O2 Arena.

Federer found himself in a hole early against Murray, losing his serve in the opening game. But Murray, who lost to Federer in the Wimbledon final but beat him in the Olympic final, couldn't hang on. The 17-time Grand Slam champion broke back to even the score at 4-4, then recovered from a 3-1 deficit in the tiebreaker to win the opening set and take control.

In the second set, Federer lost only two points on serve and broke Murray twice.

``Once he gets ahead, he's incredibly hard to stop,'' said Murray, who leads Federer 10-9 in head-to-head play. ``He tends to play better and better when he gets up. I feel like I gave him that advantage the beginning of the second set.''

In the early match, the top-ranked Djokovic started playing his best tennis as soon as he appeared on his way to an early offseason vacation.

Djokovic was broken late in the first set and again early in the second, but he found his stroke and quickly rebounded.

``Well, I had a little, let's say, crisis in today's match from 4-all, first set to 2-all in the second, where I didn't feel so good on the court, struggling to find my momentum and my rhythm,'' Djokovic said. ``So you try to be positive and push myself to fight for every point and believe I can come back. That was the case.''

Del Potro took the lead late in the first set, breaking Djokovic for a 5-4 lead before serving out the set at love.

The tall Argentine, who defeated Djokovic to win the Olympic bronze medal at Wimbledon this year, then went up a break early in the second set. But Djokovic broke right back to 2-2 and then took Del Potro's serve again to take a 5-3 lead.

``He's so good,'' Del Potro said. ``Of course, he's the No. 1. In these kinds of matches, they make the difference between them and the rest of the players.''

In the third set, Djokovic decisively won 12 of 13 points over a three-game stretch to take a 3-1 lead. He broke again three games later and held at love to advance.

``I believed that I could come back,'' said Djokovic, who treated the media to chocolates during his post-match news conference to thank them for their work throughout the year. ``I believed that I could turn this match around in my favor, and I've done so.''

The victory was Djokovic's 74th of the season, tying him with David Ferrer for the most this year. It was also his seventh win in nine matches against Del Potro.

Djokovic won the ATP finals in 2008 and reached the semifinals in 2009 - the first year the tournament was played at the O2 Arena in London.

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Vernon Davis urges Redskins fans to have patience with Bruce Allen

Vernon Davis urges Redskins fans to have patience with Bruce Allen

Tight end Vernon Davis has seen the Washington Redskins go through many ups and downs since becoming a part of the organization in 2016, but the 2018 season brought a new set of challenges.

Two injured quarterbacks headlined the Redskins' 7-9 season and fans were once again calling for team president Bruce Allen's job.

In a rare media availability during Tuesday's Senior Bowl practice, Allen noted how "close" he felt the Redskins were to reaching the postseason but his continued lack of transparency is something that does not sit well with Redskins fans.

Davis, speaking Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, is standing by the team's president.

"I strongly believe, like I said before, we have the pieces to win games."

"Bruce and Dan [Snyder], those guys are constantly sitting in their office trying to find ways to win. It's not like they're not doing a great job with it. I believe in them. I believe that they're going to make the right decision to do the best they can do to help us win football games around here because that's what they're there for. Bruce is there to make sure that we're a championship team. Make sure that we're winning. Making sure that we have all the pieces when it comes to different positions on the football field. So, they're doing just that.

Allen has continued to praise the Redskins fans for their passion throughout the offseason. But if you know the Redskins, don't expect many changes to take place. 

And if it's hard for you to hang on to the little insight Allen provides Redskins fans with in regards to the future of the organization, Davis urges fans to keep holding on. 

"I wouldn't quite count him out. I just say have patience and continue to support the Washington Redskins." 

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Grizzlies putting Gasol, Conley on trade block creates opportunity if surging Wizards turn aggressive

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Grizzlies putting Gasol, Conley on trade block creates opportunity if surging Wizards turn aggressive

News that the “grit ‘n grind” era is apparently ending in Memphis effectively tips off the NBA trade deadline rumors.

No shock if the John Wall and Dwight Howard-less Washington Wizards receive a mention or two for deals involving Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. Mention and final destination are different worlds, of course.

ESPN reported Tuesday that the Grizzlies are finally open to hearing trade offers for their two franchise stalwarts. They never reached the level of other famed big man/guard tandems, but Gasol and Conley were at the center of a seven-year run of playoff appearances peaking with the 2013 Western Conference finals.

With age and injuries striking the duo, Memphis slipped in recent years. The postseason streak ended last season. After a hot start to the 2018-19 campaign including an early-season win over the Wizards, the Grizzlies have lost 12 of 13, falling to 19-28 overall. While that record would not automatically end playoff hopes in the Eastern Conference, it slots Memphis 14th out of 15 teams in the West.

As NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman noted, finding a trade partner will not come easy for the Grizzlies.

Gasol, 33, has a player option next season for $25.6 million. That’s a huge number for a center in this perimeter-oriented era on top of the $24.1 million the three-time All-Star is earning this campaign. Gasol’s highly skilled game is showing signs of decline, though his basic statistical numbers (15.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.3 blocks) remain helpful.

Conley, one of the NBA’s most underrated talents of his generation, offers lead guard, leadership skills – and a financial challenge. From Feldman:

Mike Conley will have a lot of interested parties, he is an All-Star level player (he’d make it in the East easy, but in the West probably falls short again), but his contract is bigger than Gasol’s. Conley makes $30.5 million this season and has $67 million the two seasons after that (the second is an early termination option, but Conley isn’t opting out of that money, so consider that $67 million fully guaranteed).

As Memphis’ season turned south, Washington surged, winning seven of its last 10 games to move into a ninth-place tie with Detroit. Still two games back of the eighth and final playoff berth, the Wizards could use general depth if not actual star power with Wall sidelined for the season. Howard (back surgery) and forward Markieff Morris (neck) face uncertain recovery timelines.

No disrespect to the Wall and Howard replacements, Tomas Satoransky and Thomas Bryant, but Gasol and Conley would upgrade Washington at those positions. The cost, however, keeps such grandiose thoughts on the shelf. 

During the team’s recent London trip, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis emphatically stated the team would not consider throwing in the towel despite injuries and a losing record. That is not the same as stating the luxury-tax paying team would take on significant salary or trade coveted assets for help.

Washington’s 2019 first-round selection takes on additional importance because the team already exceeds next season’s salary cap with only five players under contract.

Now, if some creative mind conjures a trade that removes the final year of Ian Mahinmi’s four-year, $64 million contract from the books without sending Washington dramatically further into the tax or deals with Wall's trade kicker, hmmm.

If the Wizards decide the overall roster needs a dramatic shake-up, perhaps a deal centered on Wall and Conley gets interesting (Thanks, NBA trade machine, though maybe include draft picks already).

Wall’s run of recent surgeries combined with his four-year, $170 supermax contract kicking in next season and that substantial kicker may end all discussion. However, he is three years younger than Conley. Memphis, set to build around 19-year-old Jaren Jackson Jr., could find that age factor appealing or use Wall/Conley to fascilitate a larger trade.

Other teams will offer more future-friendly deals for Gasol and Conley. The Wizards appear set in their belief the current roster, even with the injuries, can reach the playoffs. Therefore, it's wise setting aside the notion of a major move from Washington involving the Grizzlies’ stars or any other high profile/big salary players. Bookmark the trade machine page regardless. 

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