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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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The Kerrigans are having a baby and, WOW, this is all so very exciting

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@kerrigan91

The Kerrigans are having a baby and, WOW, this is all so very exciting

The Kerrigan family is about to make a big-time addition to its roster.

Ryan and his wife, Jessica, already have two very, VERY, very, very cute bulldogs in their household. 

But on Tuesday, the two announced in separate Instagram posts that Jessica is 18 weeks pregnant and that a third human Kerrigan will arrive in 2019.

"Can I eat dis sign aftur da picturr iz over?" George the bulldog said when reached for comment on the news.

"How did dey gett such a smawl jerzey for da baby alreddy?" Franklin the other bulldog added.

This is all very wonderful.

Come next March, the world is about to get a little precious-er.

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The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

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USA Today Sports

The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

Tuesday’s practice was a lot like every other for the Caps until the end. After working on the power play, the team gathered at one end of the ice and began working on faceoffs. It was not just the centers, but wingers and defensemen alike got into the action with every win celebrated by loud cheers from teammates.

It should could as no surprise to see faceoffs as a point of emphasis for Washington considering just how much the team has struggled with them in the early season. The Caps rank 30th in the league in faceoff win percentage at only 43.8-percent.

“Yeah, there's little details that can help our game,” Lars Eller told reporters after practice. “The more you have the puck, easier the game is gonna be for you. We have a little more time in between games than usual during the season here, so we have the time to work on something like that, which can be little things that makes the difference.”

The team as a whole watched video on faceoffs prior to practice and then worked as a five-man unit during the drill. The main point of emphasis head coach Todd Reirden wanted to drill into his players was that faceoffs are not simply the responsibility of the centers alone.

“The days of it just being center vs. center and a clean draw being won back are a rarity now so it's important to have all five guys helping, something we watched video on earlier today,” Reirden said.

“You ask any centerman if they have a good group of wingers that can help them out on draws, that makes a huge difference,” Nic Dowd said. “I've been lucky, I have [Devante Smith-Pelly] on my right and I'm a righty so I win all my draws my backhand side so a lot of pucks go his way and he wins a lot of draws for me. That's huge. You have a guy that's sitting over there that's sleeping, you could go easily from five wins to five losses and then that's your night. It makes a big difference.”

Faceoffs were always going to be more of a struggle for the Caps this season with the departure of Jay Beagle who was, by far, the team’s best faceoff man for several years. Whenever the team needed a big draw, Beagle was the player relied upon to win it. With him gone, it is no surprise to see the team struggle.

But the Caps don’t like the idea of keeping possession off a draw just 43.8-percent of the time.

“It's essentially like the ref is creating a 50-50 puck and you snap it back, you get possession, now you're forechecking and it makes a huge difference,” Dowd said. “You play against those top lines, they want to be in the O-zone. Well, if you lose the draw, now you're playing D-zone, you win the draw now you're playing O-zone. So effectively, you've shut down their shift.”

There is a school of thought suggesting that perhaps the importance of winning faceoffs is overrated and a team’s faceoff win percentage is not overly important. Eller himself admitted as much to reporters.

What no one can argue, however, is that while some faceoffs may not matter all that much, there are some that are hugely important in a game. The Caps recognize that. For them, being a strong faceoff team is not necessarily about improving the team’s win percentage, but more about being able to win those critical draws.

“It's something that for the most part the players understand and a neutral zone faceoff with 14 minutes to go in the first period is not nearly as important as one that's 5-on-6 at the end of the game,” Reirden said. “We all know that. It's important to put the right people on those situations and give them the best chance to have success.”

“A center ice draw, I could see where guys could make the argument, well you lose it you still will play hockey and stuff could still happen,” Dowd said. “But I think the game is such a possession game now that any opportunity you can win a 50-50 puck whether that's a faceoff or a board battle, it makes a huge difference.”

 

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