Federer looking to 1-up the rest at ATP Finals


Federer looking to 1-up the rest at ATP Finals

LONDON (AP) The world's best tennis players will be trying to one-up each other this week at the ATP World Tour Finals.

Novak Djokovic has already clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking, robbing that aspect from the season-ending tournament for the top eight players in the world. But with the Australian Open champion sharing the Grand Slams this year with Rafael Nadal (French Open), Roger Federer (Wimbledon) and Andy Murray (U.S. Open), there is still one more big title to win in 2012.

``Whoever wins this wins something more,'' Federer said Sunday, a day before the tournament opens at the O2 Arena. ``That's where I think you can feel the importance of this event.''

Federer, a six-time champion at the ATP Finals, is in Group B with David Ferrer, Juan Martin del Potro and Janko Tipsarevic. Djokovic and Murray are both in Group A, along with Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Murray will open play Monday against Berdych, with Djokovic facing Tsonga in the evening match. On Tuesday, Federer will face Tipsarevic before Ferrer takes on Del Potro.

``The crowd's going to be on his side,'' Berdych said of his opening match against Murray, who also won the Olympic gold medal this year. ``I possibly cannot get anything harder than this.''

The big name missing from the tournament is Nadal, who hasn't played since June and pulled out of the ATP Finals because of a left knee injury.

``Groups are loaded with great players on both sides and I'm sure it's going to be difficult for the three of us,'' Federer said, leaving Nadal out of the equation. ``Obviously we do miss Rafa, because he also belongs in here.''

Djokovic comes into the ATP Finals after losing last week in the second round of the Paris Masters, where he said he felt physically down.

That is likely to change in London as each player is guaranteed to play at least three matches in the round-robin stage.

``It's expected not to be always in your top form, especially at this time of year. The effects of the long season can influence you physically and mentally, also,'' Djokovic said Sunday. ``I'm sure that I will find the strength, mental and physical strength, to perform my best.''

The ATP Finals is being played in London for the fourth straight year, and Federer is looking for his third straight win and seventh overall. He'll certainly be the man to beat this week playing indoors where the warm and calm conditions suit his game better than anyone else's.

``You just try hard and hope it all works out and it falls into place,'' said Federer, who also won two season-ending titles in Houston and two in Shanghai before the tournament moved to London in 2009.

``Overall, I think I manage my schedule pretty well to make sure that actually the back end of the season doesn't feel like the back end. So it feels more like a priority, being fresh mentally and physically.''

Although Federer recently reclaimed the No. 1 ranking - and broke Pete Sampras' record for most weeks as the world's top player - Djokovic has enough points to guarantee himself the top spot once the season comes to an end.

``The real No. 1, we know who that is,'' Federer said, referring to Djokovic. ``I don't think there should be any debate around that. The rankings is something that shows you how you've played over a 365-day period. OK, it might all change again in two months at the Australian Open.''

Federer also spoke about doping tests, saying he has been tested less frequently in recent years.

He said he would welcome more.

``I don't like it when I'm only getting tested, whatever number it is, which I don't think is enough, sufficient during the year. So I think we should up it a little bit,'' Federer said. ``I think it's key and vital the sport stays clean. It's got to.''

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Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs


Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

The Capitals found out who their opponent will be for the home opener on Oct. 3 and it's not the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And you know what? That's OK. Winning the Stanley Cup was awesome and the banner raising will be an incredible scene regardless. 

Plus, the Penguins need that night off because they have to get ready for their own home opener on Oct. 4 against...the Caps?

Wait, what?

In 2016, the Capitals were in attendance as the Penguins raised their Stanley Cup banner. That had to sting considering Pittsburgh eliminated Washington in the playoffs.

It has not become a tradition to make rivals watch as teams raise banners and there's nothing that said the NHL had to schedule the Penguins for Washington's home opener. But it does seem odd that the NHL is going to make the defending Stanley Cup champions play a back-to-back right out of the gate with the second end coming against their archrivals in Pittsburgh.

Hey Caps, it's the NHL here. Congrats again. Vegas is a hell of a city, am I right? So, listen...we thought about it and decided you won't get to raise your banner against your rivals. Sorry about that. We tried and we couldn't get them for your first game. Good news though, we moved it all the way up to the second game, we just couldn't get it any sooner than that. You'll be playing them the second game of the season...the night after your home Pittsburgh...for their home opener. Anyway, good luck on the repeat.

Makes sense.

Look, if Washington can't have Pittsburgh for the home opener fine. It would have been nice, but it's really not a big deal. Raising the banner will be special regardless of who the opponent will be. But don't turn around and make the Caps play in the Penguins' home opener the very next day.

The schedule makers did the Caps no favors with this one.


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Redskins schedule preview: Week 15 vs. Jaguars

Redskins schedule preview: Week 15 vs. Jaguars

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the game against the Jaguars. 

Week 15 December 16, TIAA Bank Field

2017 Jaguars: 10-6, First in AFC South, lost AFC championship game 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 9

Early line: Redskins +8

Key additions: G Andrew Norwell, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Donte Moncrief, 

Key losses:WR Allen Hurns, WR Allen Robinson

Biggest questions: 

  • QB Blake Bortles was very inconsistent during the season and there was talk of the team looking for a replacement for him prior to their run in the playoffs. Does he have what it takes to get the team back into serious contention. 
  • The team also got an inconsistent season out of RB Leonard Fournette, the No. 4 pick in the draft. Can he put together the monster season that would justify his draft status and help elevate the Jaguars to elite status. 
  • The Jaguars went from 25thin scoring defense in 2016 to second last year. Will they fall back to the pack this year?

Series history

The Redskins lead the all-time series 5-1. The Jaguars only win against them came in 2002.

Series notables

The first time: September 28, 1997, Jack Kent Cooke Stadium—In the second game ever played at the Redskins’ new stadium, Jacksonville took a 9-0 lead in the second quarter, but then-Jags QB Mark Brunell threw a pair of interceptions that set up two Washington touchdowns and the Redskins won 24-12. Gus Frerotte threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns and Terry Allen gained 122 yards on 36 carries. 

The last time: November 14, 2012, FedEx Field—Jay Gruden got his first win as the Redskins’ head coach in this one. Robert Griffin III went out of this game early with an injury and Kirk Cousins passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns in his place. It was the defense that dominated this game, racking up 10 sacks, tying the team record set in 1977. Ryan Kerrigan got four of those sacks, tying the team individual record for sacks in a game. The Redskins won 41-10.

The best time: October 1, 2006, FedEx Field—A taught, exciting game came to an explosive end when Santana Moss snared a pass that Mark Brunell perhaps should not have thrown and streaked to the end zone, giving the Redskins a 36-30 overtime win over Jacksonville.

The reason the throw was risky was that two defenders were near Moss as Brunell fired it to the speedy receiver. Somehow both of them missed it. Moss grabbed it, spun around and bolted the rest of the way to complete the 68-yard game winner.

It was Moss’ third touchdown reception of the day. In the first quarter, he caught a long pass from Brunell and executed a nifty spin move near the goal line to complete the 55-yard touchdown play. An eight-yard Moss TD catch early in the third quarter put the Redskins up by 10 but the Jags battled back to tie it with six seconds left. That set up Moss’ overtime heroics. 

The worst time: November 10, 2002, Alltel Stadium—The Redskins came into the game riding a two-game winning streak and at 4-4 they were squarely in playoff contention. A strong running game had been their best asset during their surge to .500 and, with the Jaguars sporting the worst run defense in the NFL, there was every reason to believe that the Redskins would take the land route to another win.

But coach Steve Spurrier had different ideas. "I was dumb enough to think we could throw it up and down the field," Spurrier said. "We ran a little bit here and there. We had a little success there early, and I got away from it too much. The second quarter, I kept thinking at midfield, we could throw the ball from there. But we didn't do it very well. So, looking back, I called a lousy game."

His defense didn’t play very well either. The Redskins scored first but the Jaguars scored 26 unanswered points and came out with a 26-7 win.

Redskins schedule series

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page,  and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS  and on Instagram @RichTandler