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Ferrer beats Janowicz to win Paris Masters title

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Ferrer beats Janowicz to win Paris Masters title

PARIS (AP) With none of his usual rivals standing in the way, David Ferrer finally won a Masters final on his fourth attempt.

Polish qualifier Jerzy Janowicz came up short on his first try, but not before leaving the impression that he could earn another chance very soon.

The fourth-seeded Ferrer beat Janowicz 6-4, 6-3 Sunday in the Paris Masters final for the biggest win of his career and ATP tour-leading seventh title of the year. He had lost twice to Rafael Nadal and once to Andy Murray in his previous Masters finals - but didn't have to face a Grand Slam winner this time.

That didn't make the victory any less special.

As soon as he clinched the win, the normally unflappable Spaniard collapsed to the court, lying face down as he screamed in jubilation. He then sprinted over to hug his coach and girlfriend in the stands.

``I feel the pressure more than him, because I played three times in a Masters final,'' Ferrer said. ``He's a young player. It was the first final for him, without pressure. ``

Ferrer converted his first match point when Janowicz's two-handed backhand was wide. Ferrer's seven tournament titles this season is one more than Roger Federer, who did not defend his title in Paris.

The tournament was thrown wide open when both Novak Djokovic and Murray went out in the early rounds, leaving Ferrer as the highest-ranked player in the draw.

``I was very nervous because it was my chance to win a first Masters title, but somehow I knew it was my turn,'' Ferrer said. ``To me this is a dream to win here. If I won it's because I have a great team.''

Janowicz, who beat five top-20 players on the way to the final, had celebrated each of his unlikely wins wildly to become an overnight crowd favorite. But the breakthrough week finally seemed to have taken a toll.

``I was actually exhausted, almost,'' he said. ``During the last three nights I didn't sleep much. ... Also I didn't have an appetite, so I didn't eat too good.

``Today my serve and my strokes were not that accurate and not that fast,'' he added. ``At the beginning of the match my hand was really heavy, and (that) is a sign of tiredness already. But David played today really good tennis.''

The 30-year-old Ferrer says he is in the best form of his career, but still thinks he is some way from matching the game's top players.

``Maybe I won more titles than Federer, but Federer won the important titles. Federer or Djokovic or Andy Murray, not me,'' he said. ``I will try to improve my game.''

The 69th-ranked Janowicz made an improbable run to the final thanks largely to his massive serve, but his main weapon wasn't as effective in the final.

Janowicz, who had previously reached only one career quarterfinal - in Moscow last month - is projected to climb to 26th in the rankings.

He was playing in his first final and looking to become the first qualifier to win a Masters title since Albert Portas won in Hamburg 11 years ago. The last qualifier to reach the final in Paris was Radek Stepanek in 2004.

The last player to reach the final in his Masters debut was Harel Levy of Israel in 2000. He lost to Marat Safin in Toronto. Safin also beat Stepanek in the Paris final.

Janowicz, who has struggled to find sponsorship, plans to take three weeks off and enjoy his winnings of $301,000.

``For sure some party, for sure some rest, and in few weeks I will already start to prepare myself for the new season,'' he said. ``Beginning of this year my goal was to be top 100 and suddenly I am top 30 in the world, so of course I would like to be as high as possible. ... I would love to be top 10 one day.''

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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