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Djokovic is a man bearing titles, and chocolates

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Djokovic is a man bearing titles, and chocolates

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Novak Djokovic wrapped up his victory at the Australian Open on a sweet note.

A master at playing to his audience, Djokovic came with several boxes of chocolates to his post-match news conference and then played host as he distributed them to a room packed with journalists.

``Please, take two,'' Djokovic said, offering his box of treats to one reporter at a time.

``I see nobody's on a sugar-free diet,'' he joked as the chocolates began to disappear.

The No. 1-ranked player became the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian titles when he beat Andy Murray 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 in Sunday's final.

Djokovic has won four of his six major titles at Melbourne Park, and likes to give a little something back to the crowds who cheer him.

An entertainer on court and off, Djokovic is known for celebrating hard-fought victories at Rod Laver Arena by ripping off his shirt. He kept his clothes on for this final, but did bare his chest after winning a five-hour thriller over Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round.

``It's definitely my favorite Grand Slam,'' Djokovic said during his victory speech on center court. ``It's an incredible feeling winning this trophy once more. I love this court.''

To mark the national holiday on Saturday, Djokovic pinned a fuzzy koala to his sweat shirt and walked into his pre-final news conference saying, ``Happy Australia Day!''

He was asked on Sunday if his good humor was a conscious effort, which made Djokovic turn philosophical.

``I try to enjoy what I do, and every moment of the life that I have is a blessing,'' he said. ``What else can you do but to be happy and try to bring that joy to the other people around - especially in the tournaments.''

``Everybody has bad days,'' he added. ``I'm not always funny or laughing.''

He then apologized to reporters for canceling the winner's traditional day-after news conference scheduled for Monday. He said he wanted to get back to Europe to begin practicing for the Davis Cup, which starts next weekend.

That's when he brought out the chocolates, as a consolation prize.

``Let's keep it sweet,'' he said.

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TRIBUTE TO ANDRE: Andre Agassi made his return to Rod Laver Arena in a suit and tie.

Now 42, Agassi was invited back to the site of some of his greatest tennis triumphs to present this year's trophies.

``It was obviously a big pleasure and honor for me to receive the trophy from him,'' Djokovic said.

By winning his fourth Australian Open, Djokovic matched a record set by Agassi who won the tournament in 1995, 2000, `01 and `03.

``He's a legend of the sport,'' Djokovic said. ``He won everything.''

An eight-time Grand Slam winner, Agassi won at each of the four Grand Slams and owns an Olympic gold medal from the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Agassi watched the final from the stands and then presided over the trophy ceremony. It was his first trip Down Under in nearly 10 years.

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MIXED DOUBLES: It started with a long-distance text message.

Australia's Matthew Ebden picked up his phone and sent a message to Jarmila Gajdosova to see if she would play mixed doubles with him at the Australian Open.

``I got hold of her number from a secret person, and she was over in America,'' Ebden said. ``And I just texted her hoping that she would she would be available to play or wanted to play.''

She said yes and they won a wild-card entry to the mixed-doubles draw.

On Sunday, the Australian duo combined to win the mixed-doubles title with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Czech pair Lucie Hradecka and Frantisek Cermak.

They ousted second-seeded Elena Vesnina and Leander Paes in the second round and fifth-seeded Nadia Petrova and Mahesh Bhupathi in the quarterfinals.

Gajdosova praised her partner's strong serve and ``his Ninja skills on the net.''

Asked if they plan to play together in the future, Gajdosova said: ``Hopefully, he doesn't ditch me for somebody else.''

``No,'' Ebden said. ``I've already signed her up for next year.''

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Caps come out on top after crazy third period in Chicago

Caps come out on top after crazy third period in Chicago

The Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks exchanged five goals in the third period, but it was the Caps who came out on top on Sunday in a 5-3 win. The game is the first of a five-game road swing for Washington who have now won three straight.

Here is how the Caps beat the Blackhawks.

Special teams

Washington held a 2-1 lead at the end of two periods with one power play goal and one shorthanded goal. Chicago was firing pucks at the net from everywhere with 84 total shot attempts for the game at 5-on-5. The Caps did not appear to be getting outplayed, but clearly Chicago was getting more pressure at even strength. The special teams definitely gave the Caps the edge with one power play goal while yielding none to the Blackhawks.

Both units the power play and shorthanded were perfect on the night, the power play converting on its lone opportunity and the penalty kill fending off all four of Chicago’s power plays.

Great work on the power play

This is how you draw it up.

Alex Ovechkin came charging in on Jonathan Toews to force a turnover off the faceoff. Nicklas Backstrom chipped the puck into the corner away from the penalty killers. Evgeny Kuznetsov won a puck battle with Duncan Keith to take possession of the puck. T.J. Oshie then came charging into the slot for the pass from Kuznetsov and fired the shot high glove side for the goal.

That was a beautiful all-around play by the top unit.

Two quick responses

Drake Caggiula tied the game at 1 in the second period and suddenly the momentum was all on Chicago’s side. Just one minute later, Chandler Stephenson was given a double-minor for high-sticking Kirby Dach. This was Chicago’s moment to take control of the game. Instead, it proved to be the turning point for Washington. Patrick Kane turned the puck over on the power play and Carl Hagelin picked it up and was off to the races, sparking a 2-on-1 with Nic Dowd. Hagelin made the pass to Dowd who fired a shot. Crawford was beaten glove-side for the second time for what was Dowd’s second goal in as many games.

Chicago was given the double-minor power play exactly one minute after tying the game. Just 28 seconds after that, the Caps retook momentum with the shorthanded goal. The Blackhawks’ power play, which had looked dangerous to that point, completely fizzled through the rest of the double-minor.

Washington dominated most of the game, but a Patrick Kane goal in the third period tied the game at 3 and once again, momentum seemed to be entirely in Chicago's favor. Once again, the Caps responded.

Lars Eller took the puck in the offensive zone, wheeled around behind the net and fired a puck on the sharp angle at Crawford. He made the save, but it went right to Hagelin. He centered the puck to Wilson who roofed it into the net for the game-winning tally.

Wilson's goal came less than two minutes after Kane had tied it at 3.
 
John Carlson’s brilliant pass

A slap shot from Michal Kempny went wide of the net and curled around the wall back towards the blue line. Carlson collected it and immediately fired it on the first touch cross-ice to Ovechkin for the one-timer. The assist gave Carlson his 18th point of the season which makes him the NHL’s sole leader in points.

Braden Holtby

Chicago was throwing a lot of rubber around in this one. They finished with 84 total shot attempts. Only 44 of those attempts made it on net, but Holtby was brilliant and turned aside 41 of those shots.

Until the shorthanded marker that took the wind out of the power play’s sails, Holtby was Washington’s best penalty killer with nine saves on the man advantage. Again he tracked the puck well in a game in which the Blackhawks were showing off their puck-moving skills with great passing plays and a lot of shots.

Holtby looks much improved after his brief reset and now has strung together two strong starts in a row.

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Lamar Jackson stymies Seahawks' defense, runs wild in 30-16 road victory

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Lamar Jackson stymies Seahawks' defense, runs wild in 30-16 road victory

Lamar Jackson was incensed coming off the field at the end of the third quarter. 

His most reliable offensive weapon, Mark Andrews, had just dropped two passes, and Jackson’s rush on third down only left the Ravens with fourth and two. So coach John Harbaugh asked his quarterback if he wanted to go for it on 4th down. The answer was a definitive yes.

The offense trotted back onto the field and Jackson scored a touchdown on the ensuing conversion as the Ravens, from that fourth down on, ended the game on a 17-3 run to pull out a 30-16 victory against the Seahawks in Seattle.

“I decided to stay with the field goal, play it safe a little bit,” coach John Harbaugh explained. “He came off, you could just see it in his face. I asked him, ‘You want to go for it?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, I wanna go for it.’ I was told that Marshal (Yanda) said, ‘If he wants to go for it, I want to go for it.’ I felt the same way. If he wants to go for it, I want to go for it, too.”

Jackson’s run on a quarterback power — and his confidence in the decision — inspired the rest of the team.

"I was just charged up,” Jackson said. “I was tired of not scoring."

But while the fourth down was where the game turned on its head, Baltimore’s next drive was its most impressive of the afternoon.

The Ravens, more specifically Jackson, drove 96 yards down the field on 13 plays and used nine minutes of game clock as a Justin Tucker field goal put the the team ahead by 10.

“He’s a competitor,” Harbaugh said. “This guy is a competitor of the Nth degree. I don’t know how to describe what a competitor Lamar Jackson is. He wants to win at everything all the time. We feed off that, he carries that. I think that’s who we are as a team, I think that’s why he fits us so well.”

On the following Seattle drive, Marlon Humphrey picked up a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown to put an exclamation point on the Ravens’ biggest win of the season

The Ravens defense played its best game of the season against the MVP favorite through six weeks of the season. 

Still, the story of the game was Jackson and his ability to seemingly drag the Ravens offense down the field by himself for first downs. 

“People just don’t really want to give Lamar the respect he deserves,” Humphrey said. “But what I saw today, I felt like football is a game of a lot of aggression, a lot of emotions. We had the little snap count infraction with our center, when I saw Lamar...I felt like from there, it was something different that came out of Lamar. That’s a quarterback I really like to see.”

Jackson finished with 116 yards rushing on 14 carries and 143 yards through the air. But while his passing numbers weren’t eye-popping, his runs were what extended the game and gave the Ravens a chance to win. 

In just his 15th career start, Jackson is rapidly growing into the quarterback the Ravens hoped they were getting they drafted him in 2018. And through seven games this year he’s on pace to place fifth all-time in total offense, with a projected 5,088 total yards. 

Jackson went into perhaps the toughest venue in the NFL and escaped with a convincing victory, a win in which no one will dispute who was the best player on the field. 

He’s also just 22-years old.

“We have yet to see the best of Lamar Jackson,” Peters said. “I don’t know how to stop him.”

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