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Murray to meet Raonic in Japan Open semifinal

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Murray to meet Raonic in Japan Open semifinal

TOKYO (AP) Defending champion and top-seeded Andy Murray moved into the semifinals of the Japan Open with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win over seventh-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland on Friday.

The U.S. Open champion and Olympic gold medalist will play sixth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada in the semifinals on Saturday. Raonic outlasted third-seeded Janko Tipsarevic 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (7) in a match that took nearly 2 hours, 45 minutes.

Second-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic will take on local favorite Kei Nishikori, the eighth seed, later Friday in another quarterfinal, while Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus will meet qualifier Dmitry Tursunov of Russia in the other.

Murray broke Wawrinka in the opening game of the match, but had to battle to hold serve in the next game, staving off three break points before finally going up 2-0.

Murray, who beat Wawrinka in the first round on the way to winning the gold medal at the London Games, came to the net successfully several times in the first set and broke again with an overhead smash after a lengthy rally to take a 4-1 lead. He closed out the set with an ace.

Wawrinka, ranked 16th, broke Murray in the fourth game of the second set to move ahead 3-1 and then held serve to take the set. Playing primarily from the baseline, Wawrinka blasted several winners to level the match.

In the deciding set, Murray broke in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead, after Wawrinka staved off three break points. Murray's deep returns and some timely passing shots proved decisive in the final set as he closed out the match with another break.

Raonic closed his hard-fought victory with his 24th ace of the match. It was just the second time he played Tipsarevic, with the first being a similarly closely contested match in Chennai earlier this year.

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NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy

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USA TODAY Sports

NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy

NFL owners have unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that allows players to remain in the locker room if they prefer but requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance.

This new policy subjects teams, but not players, to fines if any team personnel do not show appropriate respect for the anthem. 

Teams will also have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction separately though. 

The NFL Players Association released it's own statement after the news was made official.

 

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In a surprise twist, Barry Trotz takes The Hot Lap ahead of Game 7

In a surprise twist, Barry Trotz takes The Hot Lap ahead of Game 7

TAMPA—Head Coach Barry Trotz skated the hot lap prior to Wednesday’s Game 7 at Amalie Arena, taking over the superstitious tradition from captain Alex Ovechkin.

Why the change?

The Caps lost Game 5 here on Saturday. And when the Caps lose on the road—the only place where the morning-skate-starting hot lap takes place—a new skater is selected.

The weird tradition began in the first round at Nationwide Arena in Columbus when Jay Beagle grew tired of waiting for the ice to freeze over following a fresh Zamboni cut. Beagle's teammates implored him to wait a little longer for the ice to cure, but he grew impatient and took it upon himself to kick off the skate by racing around the rink, a la the fastest skater competition at the All Star Skills competition.

Ovechkin took it over prior to Game 6 in Pittsburgh because the Caps had lost Game 4 at PPG Paints Arena.

Ovechkin proudly carried on the tradition as Washington won three in a row—Game 6 in Pittsburgh and Games 1 and 2 of this series vs. Tampa Bay.

Following the Caps’ 3-2 defeat in Game 5 here, though, it was expected that a change would be made.

And on Wednesday morning the baton changed hands, with the least obvious of all the Caps busting his 55-year-old hump around the rink much to the delight of his players and assistants.

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