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Federer advances to 3rd round at Australian Open

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Federer advances to 3rd round at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) With the sun setting at the end of a torridly hot day at the Australian Open, Roger Federer ensured he made the most of a favorable evening draw.

Wearing bright pink shoelaces, Federer advanced to the third round with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Russian Nikolay Davydenko on Thursday.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion was a winner of sorts before he even stepped out at Rod Laver Arena, having received the luck of the draw - a 7 p.m. start time after the worst of the 100-plus-degree heat had subsided.

``I'm very happy to have played so well against him,'' Federer said of his 18th win over Davydenko in their 20 matches.

Other championship contenders in the men's and women's draws, including Andy Murray, Serena Williams and defending champion Victoria Azarenka, had to withstand the high temperatures that aren't unusual for this time of year in Melbourne, but still not conducive to long matches.

A dancing Azarenka and an ankle-weary Williams played back-to-back matches, both easy straight-set victories. U.S. Open champion Murray also won routinely, beating Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 on Hisense Arena, the second show court at Melbourne Park.

``You need to be the one that's trying to dictate the points in these conditions,'' said Murray, who practices in Florida. ``Miami is the perfect preparation. It's hot and humid there, although it certainly doesn't get up to 37 degrees (Celsius; 99 Fahrenheit). It was a good match to get done in straight sets. ``

Despite the high temperatures - it later peaked at 106 F - tournament officials left the retractable roofs on both main arenas open because a combination of factors including humidity and court temperature didn't warrant making the venues a temporary indoor haven from the heat.

Ice vests and towels helped players keep their cool, and a women's tour rule allowing a 10-minute break between sets was invoked late in the day, tournament director Craig Tiley said.

``It's always the referee's discretion, but the lack of humidity helped us today,'' Tiley said. Australia sweltered through a week of record high average temperatures earlier this month, but the first three days of the Open were relatively mild.

Williams went into Thursday's match with an injured right ankle. She didn't seem troubled by the ankle, but did finish with a swollen lip after hitting herself with her racket.

``It's OK,'' she said. ``It's a war wound. I think it happens to everyone, but I have never busted it wide open like that. I was like, `Oh, no. I can't have a tooth fall out.' That would be horrible.''

Williams lifted her tempo on the biggest points, including when she finally won an 18-minute game to open the second set en route to a 6-2, 6-0 win over Garbine Muguruza.

``Usually I feel injuries after the match but, so far, so good. I felt pretty much better than I ever dreamed of expecting to feel,'' Williams said of her ankle.

She later combined with sister Venus to win in the first round of doubles, showing no signs of trouble with the ankle.

The top-ranked Azarenka pranced into Rod Laver Arena for the first match of the day, and said she's starting to find some rhythm after beating Eleni Daniilidou 6-1, 6-0 in 55 minutes.

``I felt like I'm back into the competitive mode,'' Azarenka said.

The No. 94-ranked Daniilidou only won 10 points in the first set and was shut out in the second despite having triple break point in the fourth game.

Azarenka had her friend and musician RedFoo in the stands watching and signing autographs, and said she went onto the court listening to a ``great mix of disco music and a little bit of new music.''

The heat didn't seem to bother 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm, who advanced 6-2, 7-5 over Shahar Peer of Israel. She's the oldest woman to win a singles match at the Australian Open.

Other women advancing included former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, No. 14 Maria Kirilenko, No. 16 Roberta Vinci, No. 20 Yanina Wickmayer and Elena Vesnina, who beat No. 21-seeded Varvara Lepchenko of the United States 6-4, 6-2.

Former U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova beat 26th-seeded Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan 6-2, 6-1.

Murray, who ended a 76-year drought by British men in Grand Slam tournaments with his win at Flushing Meadows last year, didn't allow Sousa a single break-point chance.

``When the sun came out, it was extremely hot. When it wasn't, it was fine. There was no humidity,'' he said, playing down the impact of the hot conditions. ``When you get the combination of the heat and the humidity is when it's normally at its worst. I've played in worse conditions.''

Among the other men advancing were sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, who beat Benjamin Becker 6-2, 6-4, 6-2, and 2008 Australian finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who pretended to do push-ups to disguise a fall during his 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-3 win over Japan's Go Soeda.

Australia's Bernard Tomic went through to the third round along with No. 9 Richard Gasquet, No. 13 Milos Raonic of Canada, No. 17 Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany, No. 21 Andreas Seppi of Italy and Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis, who beat No. 25 Florian Mayer 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.

Tomic beat Novak Djokovic at the Hopman Cup and won last week's Sydney International, his first ATP tournament victory. He has won 10 matches in a row and has held 76 consecutive service games through that stretch.

He'll face Federer in the third round on Sunday, a rematch of their fourth-round match last year.

``We'll know each other a bit better this time around,'' said Federer, who had two lopsided wins over Tomic in 2012.

Gael Monfils improbably advanced to the third round with a five-set win over Taiwan's Lu Yen-hsun despite the Frenchman having 23 double-faults, including three on match point. Fortunately for Monfils, he also had 29 aces in the 7-6 (5), 4-6, 0-6, 6-1, 8-6 win.

Djokovic, attempting to win his third Australian Open in a row, plays his third-round match on Friday against Radek Stepanek, while the featured women's match will be second-seeded Maria Sharapova's eighth career meeting with Venus Williams.

Sharapova holds a 4-3 edge, although Venus has won both times they've met in Grand Slams - at Wimbledon.

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Wizards fall flat in battle with young Grizzlies

Wizards fall flat in battle with young Grizzlies

The Washington Wizards lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 128-111 on Saturday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. It was just over a week ago the Wizards had their best win of the season against the Sixers. Saturday night was one of their worst.

They went into Memphis to play an emerging, but struggling team and got their you-know-whats handed to them. The Wizards jumped out to a 13-6 lead in the first, then lost the momentum and never got it back.

By halftime the Wizards were down 15. That deficit grew to 24 in the second half.

The Wizards ended up losing by 17, but it wasn't as close as the score would suggest. It was Washington's seventh loss in eight games.

Maybe it was the three-day layoff. Perhaps they weren't sharp. Whatever the reason, that was a bad one.

2. As this game went on, it became very obvious that Memphis' gameplan was to make sure Davis Bertans didn't beat them. They swarmed the Latvian Laser on the perimeter and guarded him well beyond the three-point line.

Bertans was held to nine points on 2-for-9 shooting and 1-for-6 from three. His one three was a quick release shot from about 27 feet out. Soon after that, the defense was picking him up at halfcourt.

 

This type of treatment was inevitable for Bertans, who has been the biggest surprise of the Wizards' season so far. He has turned into one of the league's best three-point shooters and the second-best scorer on the team. Teams now know it.

3. Rui Hachimura's college teammate stole the show in this one. Brandon Clarke, who played last year with Hachimura at Gonzaga, put on an impressive scoring display highlighted by a series of vicious dunks. He measured a max vertical of 40 1/2 inches and used every inch of it to dunk all over the Wizards.

He had 19 points in the first half, including an alley-oop where his head was level with the rim and a poster dunk on the fastbreak that nearly ended Ian Mahinmi's career.

 

Clarke had 25 points on 11-for-14 shooting with four rebounds. Coming out of the draft, he was considered a good defensive player but too old (he's 23) and too raw offensively without a three-point shot.

So far, he's looking like a major steal at the 21st overall pick. 

4. The Grizzlies might not be good, but they are fun to watch and have a nice young core with Clarke alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. and Morant. Jackson is a unicorn at 6-foot-11 with the ability to drive coast-to-coast and hit threes. Morant is a force of nature, able to play well above the rim despite being 6-foot-3.

Morant nearly pulled off one of the most disrespectful plays in basketball on Bradley Beal. He tried to pull a "Michael Jordan on Ron Mercer" by snatching the ball off the glass with two hands. But he clipped the rim and was called for goaltending. Still, it was impressive because of how high he got in the air.

Memphis has an exciting young team. They might contend for a playoff spot next year with a good offseason. If they were in the East, they could really make some noise.

5. The Wizards were without several key regulars once again. Isaiah Thomas missed his fifth straight game with a left calf strain and Moe Wagner was out with his left ankle sprain after playing in the past four games.

They did get back Garrison Mathews, though. The two-way guard played in his first game since Oct. 25 after sitting out due to a stress reaction in his right leg. It was Mathews' third professional game, but he made his first shot - a corner three. It happened to come in his home state of Tennessee. 

Mathews might actually get some minutes in the next few weeks because he is the second-best shooting guard on the roster with Jordan McRae out due to a finger injury.

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Samsonov shines, the bottom-six was the difference and time to Panik?

Samsonov shines, the bottom-six was the difference and time to Panik?

Ilya Samsonov had his best NHL performance on Saturday in a big 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Capitals got contributions from players all over the lineup in a big win.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the win

Everyone is pitching in

Look at Saturday's game and Wednesday's game. Whatever the Caps needed, they were able to get. Against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, they needed a key coach's challenge and the video coaches delivered. They needed someone to take over the game and T.J. Oshie delivered. They needed a big night from the penalty kill and Carl Hagelin and Co. delivered. They needed a response to Boston's tying goal and John Carlson delivered.

Now look at Saturday's game. Ilya Samsonov got the start and he delivered when the Caps had a slow start to the game. The fourth line settled everything down and Alex Ovechkin forced a turnover behind the net to give Washington the lead. The bottom-six scored twice to give Washington control, Oshie scored a quick response goal when Tampa Bay tried to battle back and the penalty kill delivered again.

The Caps are not being carried by Ovechkin, it's not a hot goalie or a dominant blue line, it is a complete team effort and it is extremely impressive to watch.

Samsonov had his best NHL game

We knew Samsonov and Braden Holtby were going to split the weekend's games for the dad's trip. I expected Holtby would get the tougher game in Tampa Bay, but instead Todd Reirden went with Samsonov. The rookie had three brilliant saves in the first five minutes of the game. Tampa Bay was the better team for the first two periods and Samsonov only gave up one goal in those 40 minutes. This was a big boy offense and some big boy hockey. Samsonov was up to the task.

Good penalty kill, too many penalties

The Lightning entered this game with the second-best power play in the NHL. Limiting penalties was a big key to the game for Washington and...they did not do that. The Caps gave up five power play opportunities to Tampa Bay, just daring the Lighting offense to take fire. Tampa Bay was only able to cash in only once.

On the one hand, it's great that the penalty kill is playing so well. On the other hand, the Caps must stop taking so many penalties.

Time to Panik?

I have stressed the importance of patience for Richard Panik who is not only adjusting to a new team, but who had an injury and missed 10 games on LTIR. Now, however, it seems like patience is starting to run out.

Panik played a team-low 8:10 on Saturday. Players who get that little ice time are usually either fourth line players or players who do not contribute to special teams. Panik is supposed to be a penalty killer, but despite five penalty kill opportunities, he registered only 14 seconds of shorthanded ice time.

Panik's offensive struggles have been well documented (he had an assist on Saturday), but if he is not contributing on the penalty kill either...well, that's an issue.

Turning point

Tampa Bay looked like the better team for the first 40 minutes. Thanks to Samsonov, the game was tied at 1 at the start of the third. These two teams boast some of the top offensive stars in the NHL, but it was Washington's bottom-six that gave them the edge as Lars Eller scored early in the third and Garnet Hathaway added a second goal just 45 seconds later.

Suddenly the Lightning were on their heels after looking in control for the majority of the game.

Play of the game

Just when the Caps took the one-goal lead, Hathaway came swooping in to make it 3-1.

Stat of the game

The Caps' PK had a success rate of only 78.9-percent last season. This is a dramatic improvement.

Quote of the game

John Hathaway, father or Garnet, stole the show between the first and second period:

"I think as parents, we try to teach them like two lessons as kids growing up. It's like, if you can dream it, you can do it and never, never, never give up. The dads are here tonight and I think they're not only so proud of their sons, but they're happy for their sons because they know that they had big dreams, they dared to dream big and they never gave up."

Fan predictions

Hey, two for two.

No Ovechkin goal, but you got the score right.

Eller with a big goal tonight assisted by Panik.

Backstrom had only two, but just a few games removed from returning from injury, he looks like he hasn't missed any time at all out there.

This bit will never get old to me.

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