Redskins

Li Na advances to Australian Open semifinals

201301202223805970955-p2.jpeg

Li Na advances to Australian Open semifinals

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Li Na advanced to the Australian Open semifinals for the third time in four years, bringing fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska's 13-match winning streak to a shuddering halt.

Sixth-seeded Li, who lost the 2011 Australian Open final to Kim Clijsters only months before her Grand Slam breakthrough at the French Open, had a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Radwanska in Tuesday's first match on Rod Laver Arena.

``She's a tough player. I was feeling today against a wall,'' Li said. ``She can hit everywhere, but without a mistake. I was feeling just very tough. You have to focus on every shot. Not every point, every shot.''

Radwanska came into the Australian Open with titles this season at Auckland and Sydney, where she beat Li in the semifinals, but continued her poor conversation rate in Grand Slam quarterfinals. She's only advanced further once in seven tries - at Wimbledon last year, when she lost the final to Serena Williams.

Sixth-seeded Li will play the winner of Tuesday's later all-Russian quarterfinal between No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova, who conceded only five games in her first four matches at Melbourne Park, and Ekaterina Makarova.

``At least now I'm in the semis,'' Li said. Sharapova, ``has to play, so... Right? Now I can start now to enjoy my day. She has to fight, yeah. So that's better.''

The quarterfinals on the other half of the draw will feature American teenager Sloane Stephens against Serena Williams, who is aiming for a third consecutive major title, and defending champion Victoria Azarenka against two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Stephens has heard a lot of advice from Serena Williams. Pointers on her groundstrokes, and even on her grunts.

It's been mostly gentle encouragement, occasionally spiced with headline-making comments from Williams, who has predicted the 19-year-old American will one day top the women's rankings.

As Stephens learned earlier this month, though, it's one thing to play with Williams, another to play against the 15-time Grand Slam champion.

With a comeback 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 win over Bojana Jovanovski on Monday, Stephens qualified for her first quarterfinal at a major tournament. Williams has already played at that level 34 times.

``It will be tough, obviously. It's quarters of a Grand Slam,'' Stephens said. ``There won't be that, like, first time, `Oh, my God, I'm playing Serena.' That's kind of out of the window now. So that's good.''

Williams and defending champion Victoria Azarenka advanced Monday, losing just four games between them against Russian rivals. Williams beat No. 14 Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 6-0, and Azarenka defeated Elena Vesnina 6-1, 6-1.

On the men's side, No. 2 Roger Federer and U.S. Open champion Andy Murray stayed on course for a semifinal in their half of the draw.

Federer won 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-2 over big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, advancing to the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam for the 35th consecutive time, while Murray took advantage of Gilles Simon's fatigue for a 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 victory.

Federer will face 2008 Australian finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat friend and fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Murray, who ended a 76-year drought for British men in Grand Slam tournaments with a win at the U.S. Open, will next play unseeded Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

Chardy spent some time in the offseason hitting against Williams in Mauritius, and they're both saying it has helped his game.

Williams also played Stephens at the Brisbane International earlier this month, winning their quarterfinal 6-4, 6-3 en route to the title. That night, Stephens said, she ``lost to the best player in the world.''

But there were times in the match when the American teenager was cranky, particularly when Williams unleashed some loud and long ``Come ons'' to celebrate vital points.

Stephens, looking toward her coach at one point, said the celebrations were disrespectful.

Later, she said she was just joking.

Regardless, it was a lesson. The friendly Serena from the locker room is the ultimate competitor - she's on a 20-match winning roll and has lost only once since her first-round exit at the French Open.

``Obviously every match is a learning experience,'' Stephens said. ``But, I mean, you've just got to go and treat it like another match.''

Well, not exactly a normal match, she said, but certainly no different from playing any of the other top three players.

``It just happens to be Serena. She's obviously one of the greatest players to ever play the game,'' Stephens said. ``Without the titles, with the titles, it's still a tennis match. The court's the same size. You're still playing a regular person across the net.''

Stephens and Williams ran across each other in the locker room Sunday.

``She told me I was too quiet on the court,'' Stephens said. ``Then today I was thinking to myself, `I'm really loud. Should I tone it down a little bit?'''

Williams thinks she's more like an elder stateswoman for the younger U.S. players than mentor for the likes of Stephens.

``I just feel like being the older one ... maybe some of the younger players look up to me,'' she said. ``It's hard to be a real mentor when you're still in competition.''

And as the elder stateswoman, Williams said, ``I feel no responsibility'' when it comes to playing Stephens.

``I doubt she has any expectations of me to be responsible for anything,'' she said. ``I'm here to compete and do the best I can, as well as she is. And she's been doing really amazing. I'm really happy. I have a tough match, so we'll see.''

Quick Links

Five of the most memorable and wild Redskins upsets from the past 10 years

usatsi_10395124_141983962_lowres.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Five of the most memorable and wild Redskins upsets from the past 10 years

Upsets get a lot of attention in March, due to the allure of the NCAA Tournament and the non-allure of everyone who loves to talk about how THEY CALLED that upset that YOU DIDN'T.

With that being said, upsets happen every month of the year, and they go down weekly in the NFL. So, how about we look back at some of the Redskins' particularly surprising wins from the past decade?

Here are five of the most memorable. 

5) 2014 - Redskins 27, Eagles 24

The Eagles came into FedEx Field late in 2014 with a 9-5 record needing a win to remain squarely in the playoff hunt. The Redskins, meanwhile, were just 3-11 and had changed quarterbacks a depressing five times.

Yet in this matchup, Robert Griffin III managed the offense well and DeSean Jackson had more than 120 receiving yards against his former team because DeSean Jackson is awesome.

Yes, the 'Skins were outproduced in nearly every major stat category. But Mark Sanchez — sorry, future Redskin great Mark Sanchez — had two costly turnovers and Cody Parkey missed two field goals (Philly fans have probably forgiven him by now), allowing the home team to squeak out a W.

4) 2009 - Redskins 27, Broncos 17

This is one of those random Redskins games you've probably forgotten about because it came in a lost season, but it was still a miraculous victory.

The most iconic play from this one was a Hunter Smith to Mike Sellers TD on a fake field goal — a fake, mind you, that came after a timeout by Jim Zorn because the unit's first fake punt attempt included only 10 players on the field.

Denver was 6-2 but lost Kyle Orton to injury at halftime. Jason Campbell, on the other hand, helped the Burgundy and Gold score more than 17 points for the first time all year.

"We've had a desert experience -- very arid, if you will -- for the last few weeks," Zorn said postgame. "So to be able to come out with a win, you almost don't know how to feel."

The Zorn Era was terrible, but you have to give the dude credit for working "very arid" into an NFL press conference.

3) 2012 - Redskins 40, Saints 32

There was plenty of hype surrounding RG3's debut, but there was no way he was going to lead the Redskins to a win over the Saints... in his debut... in the Superdome... right?

Wrong. Incorrect. Not right.

Griffin found Pierre Garcon early for an 88-yard score and the offense stayed hot all afternoon, outpacing a New Orleans squad that was favored by more than a touchdown. If you want a further reminder of how impressive this effort was, look back at what happened to this franchise in the Superdome this past season. 

2) 2014 - Redskins 20, Cowboys 17

Dallas' six-game winning streak stood no chance against Colt McCoy, as the Texas legend went into the Cowboys' house for a wild Monday Night triumph.

Kai Forbath's field goal sealed it in overtime and Bashaud Breeland dominated Dez Bryant, but McCoy was the star. On the way to his first successful start in close to three seasons, the signal caller went 25 for 30 in the air and found the end zone on the ground, too.

1) 2017 - Redskins 17, Seahawks 14

If someone in your life thinks they can't do something, just pull up the box score or highlights from this contest. They will then realize that nothing is impossible, because the Redskins beating the Seahawks on this Sunday should've been impossible, yet it somehow happened anyway.

Washington went into Seattle's harsh environment down six starters, including three on the O-line, but Kirk Cousins kept things together and found Brian Quick and Josh Doctson for long completions on a harrowing last drive to steal this result. It wasn't quite UMBC over Virginia, but it was absolutely a stunning final nonetheless. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS

Quick Links

With nine games left, where do the Wizards stand in the East and NBA Draft Lottery?

With nine games left, where do the Wizards stand in the East and NBA Draft Lottery?

At the beginning of the week, the Washington Wizards had 12 games left on the schedule and needed to win a minimum of eight or nine of those games if they hoped to make the playoffs.

It’s Thursday night and Washington’s loss to the Jazz makes three in a row.

With nine games left on the schedule, where do they stand in the East postseason race and the draft lottery order?

Eastern Conference Standings

Losing three-straight games hasn’t actually dropped the Wizards from the 11th spot in the East, where they’ve hovered the last couple weeks. For that they can thank the tanking Atlanta Hawks.

Don’t think those L’s aren’t costing Washington, though. In the same span of time, the 8-seed Heat have won three in a row.

Now Bradley Beal and Co. are a full six games out of the final playoff spot with nine games to go. They also trail Orlando (34-38) in ninth and Charlotte (32-39) in 10th.

They’re not absolutely, certainly, 100-percent eliminated from playoff contention, but they must win every game left.

Even that might not be enough.

NBA Draft Lottery

Back-to-back-to-back losses took a major toll on whatever playoff hopes Washington had left. For a silver lining, look no further than the team’s draft lottery position.

The Wizards started the week ninth in the draft lottery order, which gave them 20.3 percent odds of scoring a top-four pick (preferably in the form of a Duke freshman or Ja Morant). That ninth spot also carries a 4.5 percent chance at the top-overall pick.

While the Wiz kids were busy dropping 3 games, the two teams immediately ahead of them in the lottery order had better luck.

The Grizzlies won their only game so far this week, while the Pelicans won one of two.

Those results dropped New Orleans to number nine, boosted Washington to number eight and left them tied with Memphis at 15.5 games out of number one in the lottery order (though Memphis’s win percentage is fractionally lower and keeps them in seventh).

If the Wizards can pass the Grizzlies and climb into seventh, that’s a big deal in terms of lottery odds. Simulating the drawing, the ninth-place team gets a top-four pick once in every five simulations. The seventh-place team gets a top-four pick once in every three simulations.

Look Ahead

Washington can’t lose another game if they want to make the playoffs. This is literally must-win territory.

Even winning out is no guarantee they’ll advance to the postseason.

Up next, Washington hosts Miami at home on Saturday, followed by a West Coast road trip the following week.

Games to Watch

Heat at Wizards, Saturday 7 PM

Timberwolves at Grizzlies, Saturday 8 PM

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: