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Fed Cup a final chance for Kvitova to save season

Fed Cup a final chance for Kvitova to save season

PRAGUE (AP) Petra Kvitova regards this weekend's Fed Cup final as her last chance to salvage a year which has been a big comedown after her stellar 2011.

Kvitova led the Czech Republic last year to its first Fed Cup title in 23 years, and this weekend she will help defend that crown at home against Serbia.

Despite withdrawing midway through last week's elite WTA Championships with bronchitis, she said on Wednesday she hoped ``to be 100 percent fit on Saturday'' for the opening singles.

``We expect her to play,'' Czech captain Petr Pala said.

She and the doubles team are the keys to the Czech's chances, but Kvitova will start with question marks over her fitness and form. In a season plagued by injuries and illnesses, she has dropped from being ranked No. 2 to No. 8. She failed to successfully retain any of the six titles she won in 2011, including Wimbledon and the WTA Championships, but won two tour events and reached the semifinals at the Australian and French Opens.

``Of course, I didn't win any Grand Slam,'' she said. ``But I'm so happy that I'm here and I was able to be in the top eight in Istanbul. So, I think it's a good season and we try, all of us, to play our best and to win this trophy again.''

Kvitova has been struggling in the last two months, in particular, with just one win in her last three WTA events.

The Fed Cup, however, has been a success story for her. She is unbeaten over the last two years, claiming 10 consecutive singles victories. A year ago, she beat Maria Kirilenko and Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final in Moscow.

The Czechs have beaten Germany and Italy to set up the final in Prague on an indoor hard-court.

``We'll be under pressure because it's the final and we're the defending champions,'' Kvitova said. ``All our fans are not ready to accept anything but a victory. But at the same time, they all will be on our side.''

Serbia, meanwhile, has been enjoying its best Fed Cup season since the country became independent. It recorded first victories in the World Group with away wins over Belgium and Russia to reach its first final.

``It's a historic moment for us, a very special moment,'' said Jelena Jankovic, one of the two former world No. 1s on the Serbian team.

``We're all very thrilled,'' added Ana Ivanovic.

Pala said: ``They're both very dangerous. They're used to playing big games.''

The Serbs believe the court in the 02 Arena, where the final sold out in six hours, benefits them and could slow down Kvitova's speedy game.

``It doesn't seem to be fast, which is very good,'' Ivanovic said. ``We feel really comfortable on it.''

Jankovic added: ``The surface suits us and we have a couple more days to adapt.''

If the best-of-five match is undecided before the final doubles, the Czechs seem to have an advantage, relying on the pair of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, who reached the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, London Olympics and WTA Championships finals this season.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

Will their offensive dominance propel them to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe? Will a different player emerge as the hero of the series?

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

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