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France's Chardy bounces del Potro from Aussie Open

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France's Chardy bounces del Potro from Aussie Open

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Still smiling an hour later, France's Jeremy Chardy said he had just played ``the most beautiful match'' of his career.

The 25-year-old Frenchman staged the biggest upset so far at the Australian Open, beating No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro in a five-setter that lasted nearly four hours Saturday.

``I feel so much emotion,'' Chardy said after the 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 3-6, 6-3 win. ``It's a great moment for me. Everyone dreams of this.''

Chardy, who lost in the first round last year, frustrated del Potro with a tricky slice and a mix of drop shots, volleys and an inside-out forehand. One fast-paced rally in the third set sent the 6-foot-6 Argentine sprinting into the stands and hurdling a barricade.

Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, was seen as a potential challenger to the Big Three: No. 1 Novak Djokovic, No. 2 Roger Federer, No. 3 Andy Murray. In his first two matches, del Potro had dropped only 13 games - the fewest among all men in the draw.

But it was Chardy who dominated with 78 winners, including 44 on his forehand side. The big-hitting Del Potro had only 12 forehand winners in five sets.

``The match was really tough,'' said del Potro, who rallied from two sets down to level the match but dropped his serve in the crucial eighth game of the final set. ``In the end when he had the chance to break me, he did. I think that was key,'' said del Potro.

``Jeremy played so strong for four hours,'' del Potro added. ``He serves well. He made a lot of winners with the forehand, very good slices.''

Chardy reached the fourth round of a major once before - five years ago at Roland Garros.

``I played some tennis I never would have thought I was capable of playing,'' the No. 36-ranked Chardy said. ``Five sets, to be here in a Grand Slam. It's the most beautiful match of my career.''

He's one of four French players to reach the fourth round, matching the country's record at Melbourne Park.

Seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and No. 9 Richard Gasquet also won their third-round matches Saturday, while No. 14 Gilles Simon was playing Gael Monfils later Saturday for a spot in the next round.

Asked if a Frenchman could possibly win the Australian Open, Chardy smiled broadly.

``Maybe me!'' he said.

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IN PRAISE OF GUSSIE: Serena Williams paid tribute to Gussie Moran, the trailblazing tennis star who scandalized Wimbledon in 1949 by wearing a tennis skirt above her knees and lace-trimmed underwear.

Moran died at age 89 on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Williams, the 15-time Grand Slam winner, who has a flair for on-court fashion, said it was women like Moran who paved the way for how female athletes can dress today.

``When you look at the history of tennis, especially Wimbledon, you see these women wear these long gowns,'' said No. 3-seeded Williams, gesturing toward her feet. ``I don't know how they could have possibly played in that.''

As a 25-year-old seeded seventh at Wimbledon in 1949, Moran made jaws drop and flashbulbs pop when she showed up for her first match minus the knee-length skirt considered proper for women at the time. She lost the match, but her striking fashion statement appeared on magazine covers around the world. The British press dubbed her ``Gorgeous Gussie.''

Once ranked as high as fourth in the United States, Moran never achieved great fame for her tennis.

Perhaps in a sign of how far tennis fashion has developed, No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus said she had never heard of Moran. And Williams said she knew ``the name Gussie'' but needed a reminder about her legacy.

``Someone always has to be first. I think that obviously she made a way for not only tennis players but just women in general in sport,'' Williams said. ``Like you don't have to wear a dress to your ankles to be a female athlete playing sports.

``I think being a trailblazer is honorable.''

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BACK PAIN: In one of those ``I'll have what she's having'' moments, No. 1 Victoria Azarenka quipped she wished she had a back problem.

At times during her third-round match, Azarenka looked like the underdog as the relatively unknown 23-year-old American Jamie Hampton pounded forehands and had the crowd on center court cheering, ``C'mon, Jamie!''

Azarenka overcame the scare to win 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

Playing with her lower back heavily taped, Hampton said she began feeling pain late in the first set. She took a medical timeout before serving out the second set.

``I probably shouldn't be telling you this, but I have two herniated disks in my lower back,'' she said after the match. ``It's something I deal with day to day, and, yeah, it was hurting.''

The problem was diagnosed after last year's French Open when she hurt her back in the first round and had to withdraw, she said. After the problem started acting up Saturday, Hampton said she felt pain when she served, when she went low for the ball, ``and then just moving in general.''

During an on-court interview after the match, Azarenka said the level of play stunned her.

``She took a medical timeout but she rips winners all over the place and I was like, `Can I have a back problem?' I'm feeling great, but I'm missing every shot.''

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Associated Press Writer Justin Bergman contributed to this report.

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Now that the Lakers got Anthony Davis, could the Knicks and others turn to Bradley Beal?

Now that the Lakers got Anthony Davis, could the Knicks and others turn to Bradley Beal?

With all but one of the brick-and-mortar movie stores closed down, there are really only two instances that you hear the word 'blockbuster' these days: when describing Marvel movies and for the type of trade we saw this weekend between the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers.

The Anthony Davis deal is a blockbuster trade in every sense. It is big in the number of pieces involved and because Davis is one of the best players on the planet.

It is important because it could immediately vault the Lakers into title contention. And it provides a new superteam for the league to revolve around and for people to loathe with the Golden State Warriors currently licking their wounds.

But it is also the type of deal that will have major consequences around the league, one that will affect far more than just the teams at the top. It will force a collection of other teams to redraw their blueprints.

The obvious ones are the Knicks and Celtics, the two teams most closely linked to Davis in trade rumors. Now, it is New York that has more urgency, if not desperation, to strike in free agency. Boston to regroup and will probably need to ponder other trades if they want to reassert themselves in the Eastern Conference.

The Davis trade would be a major deal no matter the year, but it is fascinating to evaluate in the context of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson's injuries. The league went from being very predictable to a wide open pasture of possibilities.

Now, the Warriors are good still but are also a beatable team. A window of NBA parity is cracking open and surely the Lakers won't be the only team to pounce.

Houston, Philadelphia and Oklahoma City are always aggressive and will clearly be thinking big. Portland and Denver could see this as the year to go all-in.

Not all teams looking to make a splash will have money to spend in free agency. That points to an aggressive trade market this summer, but there is arguably one big problem. After Davis, it doesn't seem likely many other stars will be available.

Teams seeking stars via trade have enjoyed plenty of options in recent years between Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Paul George and Jimmy Butler. The formula is generally fairly simple: an All-Star player on an underachieving team with the end of his contract in sight. Recently, the supply has met the demand.

But currently, few fit that description. There are some like Mike Conley Jr. of the Grizzlies, and Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside of the Heat. But none of those players are All-Stars in their prime.

All of that makes it easy to connect the dots to the Wizards and Bradley Beal. They are in an interesting spot, needing to decide whether to retool for playoff contention or take the long view and undergo some degree of a rebuild.

Beal, as their best player, is the catalyst. There are logical reasons to keep him or to trade him. He is one of the best players in franchise history, is only 25 and he's on a team-friendly contract in the era of the supermax. But the Wizards are going to have a tough time improving their roster with John Wall's Achilles injury and contract, which starts at 35 percent of the salary cap. 

The Wizards have held a stance of not wanting to trade Beal and still do. They also likely wouldn't make such an important decision without a long-term team president in place.

But that won't stop teams from calling and there is already speculation around the league about whether Beal will be dealt. One front office executive told NBC Sports Washington that Beal could be the top prize in the trade market if made available now that Davis is gone. 

For a lot of these situations, trades are more likely when a player is entering his walk year. Beal is signed through the 2020-21 season and, even if he grows unhappy, will say the right things.

He won't create necessary drama. And, if you take him at his word in a February interview with NBC Sports Washington, he wouldn't request a trade himself.

Also, there is a reason to believe keeping Beal wouldn't hurt their ability to rebuild through the draft. With the new lottery system, bottoming out doesn't offer the guarantees that it used to. And even with Beal playing all 82 games last season, the Wizards still lost 50 of them and finished with the sixth-best odds.

Just like some have argued the Wizards have reasons to trade Beal, they also have reasons not to. But that won't stop other teams from picking up the phone.

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Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

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USATSI

Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

WASHINGTON -- Most baseball managers try to operate in monochromatic fashion. They see one goal each day, and it only rests in those 24 hours. Some -- like Davey Martinez -- claim they don’t look at the standings in June. His standard message is to “win today” then move to tomorrow.

Human nature often runs interference on compartmentalization. It even crept up on Martinez on Sunday morning when in the midst of an answer about Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner playing daily. 

“For me, this is a big week,” Martinez said. “We have a chance to make up some ground here. I want these guys readily available to play.”

He’s right. The claim of significance is valid for once in mid-June, not a concept drummed up by overzealous television promos or interminable Internet space. 

The Nationals have seven games in seven days against two teams near the top of the division. Damaged Philadelphia arrives Monday. The Phillies’ bullpen is hurting and ineffective. Bryce Harper could miss the All-Star Game for just the second time in his career. Philadelphia is 6-8 in June. Meanwhile, Atlanta is rolling along. Its lineup remains deep, the pitching functional and Dallas Keuchel set to make his debut here in D.C. next weekend. The Braves hold a 2 ½-game lead in the not-so-great National League East. 

“Not thinking too big picture,” Adam Eaton said. “But knowing we have an in-division rivalry, we’ve got to win those games. It’s important. We’re trying to chase at this point. Not to put too much emphasis on it, but we need to play some really competitive baseball. And we shouldn’t beat ourselves these next four games. Play good baseball and not beat ourselves. If we play the brand of baseball we know how to play, and play clean, we have a good chance.”

Washington is five games under .500. Days are clicking off the calendar. Departing along with them are opportunities to chop at an 8 1/2-game deficit in the division. Following this week, only seven games against Philadelphia remain. However, 13 with Atlanta remain on the schedule, including seven in 10 days in September. The question is if those will matter. Sink this week and they won’t. Pull off a deficit-halving six of seven and everything changes. 

This week’s ramifications will first be felt on the phone lines in a month. The non-waiver trade deadline arrives July 31. Drag back to a double-digit deficit this week and plunk down the “for sale” sign. Rocket through the week and perhaps reinforcements will be found.

Monday brings a dreaded series opener. The Nationals are 6-17 in the first games of series this season. No one knows why. It doesn’t make sense. But, here they are, incapable of winning a first game and constantly playing from behind.

Patrick Corbin will be on the mound attempting to counter the trend. He, like the team when a new opponent shows up, has been in arrears the last three games. Corbin’s ERA dipped to 2.85 following a 116-pitch shutout of Miami on May 25. He’s been bludgeoned since. His ERA is up to 4.11, he will start twice this week, and the Nationals need him to right his ills.

Friday, Corbin threw a bullpen session focused on his line to the plate. Pitching coach Paul Menhart describes what they are trying to accomplish to get Corbin back to the version he was earlier this season:

“His lines and his east-west motion have made it very difficult for him to get the ball to where he wants it to be,” Menhart said. “He needs to be more direct to the plate and have more of a north-south rotation with his upper body and being more stable lower-half wise will allow him to do that and have his deception and hide the ball better and keep that tunnel.”

Corbin agreed. He doesn’t watch much video to cure ruts. He also doesn’t want too much information. The team’s analytics trackers have informed him his arm slot remains in a good place. He thinks his body is still in a running at a high level, dismissing any correlation between his struggles and the workload against Miami. He’s also going through the most common element of reduced success: trying not to chew on it too much.

“I think when I’m away from the field, you think about it more,” Corbin told NBC Sports Washington. “You’re frustrated about it a little bit -- what the heck is going on? But when you get here, you just try to work, try to do things to get better. That’s how I approach it. I’m just looking forward to my next start on Monday going out there and trying to get back to how I know I can pitch.”

Philadelphia arrives after being thumped in Atlanta on Sunday, 15-1. Washington had the opposite day in a 15-5 win. Monday night starts a reckoning of sorts for both. The Nationals will send out their three high-end starters during the four games. Philadelphia is trying to right itself and not let the Braves get out of touch at the top of the division. So, even for the one-day-at-a-time crew, the coming seven carry significant weight, and they’re finally admitting it.

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