Murray's return to DC ends quickly with loss to Gabishvili


Murray's return to DC ends quickly with loss to Gabishvili

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Andy Murray's return to the Citi Open sure resulted in a short stay.

Seeded No. 1 and appearing at the hard-court tuneup for the U.S. Open for the first time in nearly a decade, two-time major champion Murray bowed out in his opening match with a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4) loss to 53rd-ranked Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia on Wednesday night.

Murray had his chances against Gabashvili, who was limping between points on a bad left leg. Murray broke for a 5-4 lead in the third set and served for the victory. But he got broken right back, sailing a backhand long to make it 5-all.

"Obviously, disappointed not to close it out in the third set when I had a chance to do that," said Murray, who is ranked third. "There's things I feel I could have done better."

Then, in the tiebreaker, Murray went ahead 4-3. From there, though, he wouldn't take another point, dropping the last four against Gabashvili, who has never won a tour title and came into this match with a 9-13 record in 2015.

Gabashvili said he earned the nickname "Tsunami" in the past, because he would "play one match great, but then I could lose to anyone."

"When you win 7-6 in the third against Andy Murray, it's something special," said Gabashvili, who had won only three of 25 previous matches against top-10 opponents and called Wednesday's victory the "100 percent" most important of his career.

Murray, who received a first-round bye, was playing his first match of the North American hard-court circuit -- and in his first tournament since reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon last month.

"It's obviously a disappointing match to lose," Murray said, "but it's not like I got blown off the court."

Murray was the runner-up in Washington in 2006, and hadn't been back since. This time, he trailed 4-1 at the start against Gabashvili, got back on serve, but then was broken to end the first set. On Gabashvili's third set point, he produced a down-the-line backhand winner to cap a 14-stroke exchange, then pounded his chest with his right fist twice while shouting "Come on!"

Although Murray climbed back into the match in the second set, he was hardly at his best in the third, and his serve did not get him out of trouble in the tiebreaker.

Earlier Wednesday, 6-foot-10 American John Isner hit 17 aces, won 37 of 40 first-serve points and moved into the third round by beating Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic 6-3, 7-6 (5). The eighth-seeded Isner never faced a break point, powering serves that regularly topped 130 mph.

Over and over, Isner would smack a high-bouncing serve that rose out of reach for the 5-8 Estrella Burgos.

"When I'm playing players that are significantly shorter than me, like my opponent out there tonight, it helps," Isner said. "I hit a few serves that went into the fourth row of the stands."

In other matches, seventh-seeded Feliciano Lopez ended Lleyton Hewitt's last appearance at the Citi Open with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory. Next for Lopez is a match against Sam Groth, who eliminated ninth-seeded Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4. Unseeded American Steve Johnson defeated 11th-seeded Bernard Tomic 6-7 (7), 6-4, 6-2. Other winners included Grigor Dimitrov and Alexander Zverev.

In the women's tournament, defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova withdrew, citing an injury to her lower left leg, which allowed Sloane Stephens to move into the quarterfinals.

The Citi Open Tennis Tournament is August 1st through the 9th at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center.  For tickets and more information go to www.citiopentennis.com.

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Marcin Gortat's emotional return ends with a loss and personal vindication

Marcin Gortat's emotional return ends with a loss and personal vindication

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The “Polish Machine” who now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t quite land the Hollywood movie script ending in his return to Washington.

Don’t fret for Marcin Gortat. Sure, the Wizards, his former team, fought back from a 24-point deficit for a 125-118 win. He’s good with his new scene. Gortat also has thoughts on his former situation and the turmoil brewing.

Gortat made his first appearance in the arena he called home for five seasons Tuesday night since a June 26 trade sent him to Los Angeles for Austin Rivers. He wasn’t sure of how the local fans would react. His journey in Washington ended bumpily, but the overall ride coincided with a positive turn for the franchise. The Wizards reached the playoffs in four of his five seasons.

“Well, obviously a very emotional moment,” Gortat said of his return. “Bottom line is that we came here to get a win. Unfortunately, we lost today. …It was great to be here.”

His arrival in 2013 following a trade with Phoenix led to the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2008. Three more postseason trips followed as did Mohawks and fabulous quotes. Gortat provided the power just before the NBA veered away from hulking frontcourts. His fame and fortune increased in Washington. His affable and oversized personality attracted fans.

Fans that watched the 6-foot-11 screen-setting center consistently provide double-doubles graciously applauded for the ex-Wizard during pre-game introductions. Gortat, who started 400 of 402 games played in Washington, appreciated the gesture.

“It was weird to sit on that side of the court and play against your guys,” Gortat said. “It was tough, very emotional and weird, but it’s business.”

Gortat wasn’t immune to criticism from fans and teammates during his time in Washington. Part of the reason he now plays for the Clippers is that the relationship with former pick-and-roll partner John Wall soured. When disapproval only went so far up the Wizards’ player hierarchy, it often stopped with the man in the middle.

The Wizards entered Tuesday’s game flailing. Many of the same players from prior seasons remained. Not Gortat, meaning any blame must land elsewhere. With drama engulfing the Wizards, Gortat proudly felt vindicated. He waited for the pack of reporters to clear before expressing such thoughts.

“Listen, the way I was traded out of that team, it looked like I was the cancer of the locker room,” Gortat told NBC Sports Washington. “I think that thing was verified and it was complete [expletive]. It is what it is now.”

Pregame Gortat wondered if the Wizards would join the ranks of teams creating tribute videos for returning players. He would be left wanting.

Rivers, the son of the Clippers head coach, received one in October upon his first arrival back with the team he played for over four seasons. Gortat remembered.

As the formal postgame scrum ended, the ex-Wizard made it clear he had thoughts to share and asked to be asked about the lack of a video tribute.

“Well, what do I think about that? A lot of guys around the league are getting tributes. It ’s obviously up to the organization, but I guess Austin Rivers did enough to get his tribute, but I didn’t do enough to get a tribute here,” Gortat said to NBC Sports Washington. “A few guys around the team understand. It was kind of weird.”

Taking the court with his former teammates was more different than weird, but ultimately cordial and competitive.

“Brad (Beal) fouled me a few times. He admitted he fouled me, but I didn’t get a call,” a chuckling Gortat told NBC Sports Washington. “John, yeah, we had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day, there’s no bad blood. We spoke at the end of the game, said good luck, stay healthy.”

Ultimately, Gortat made peace with his time in Washington. The fond memories outweighed the knocks. Members of the Wizards organization stopped by the Clippers locker room for a chat and a laugh. Gortat bear hugged Wizards equipment manager Jerry Walter to the ground.

The loss stung. Los Angeles does the stinging most nights. The Clippers entered with a five-game winning streak. Their 11-6 record puts them among the Western Conference elite. Gortat’s minutes are down (18 per game). Such limits would have bothered him in Washington. 

At 34 and knowing his NBA life could be fleeting with his contract expiring this summer, Gortat is cool with his new world.

“I’m great. I’m great where I am,” the 12-year veteran said. “I get to play and help the team as much as I can either on the court, off the court, in the locker room. I’m going to try to help my team and lead us as much as I can. We have great chemistry and a great team.”


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Former Raven Ed Reed takes step closer to Hall of Fame enshrinement

Former Raven Ed Reed takes step closer to Hall of Fame enshrinement

To the surprise of no one, former Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed is one step closer to Hall of Fame enshrinement.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Tuesday that Reed was named one of the 25 semifinalist for the 2019 class. Reed, cornerback Champ Bailey and tight end Tony Gonzalez are the only first-year eligible players that made the cut.

An obvious first-year ballot Hall of Famer, the next step in the selection process for Reed will take place on Thursday, January 3 when the semifinalist are cut down to 15 Modern-Era Finalist.

Finalist then must receive 80% positive vote from the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee on "Selection Saturday," one day prior to Super Bowl LIII. No more than five Modern-Era Finalist can be elected in a given year. The finalist will be formally enshrined Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Canton, Ohio.

The Ravens selected Reed in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft, and he would go on to play 11 seasons with the organization. During those 11 seasons, he was voted to the Pro Bowl nine times, was a five-time First-Team All-Pro and started 159 of 160 games. 

On the field, Reed had 61 interceptions for 1,541 yards and seven touchdowns. In addition, the safety raked up 11 forced fumbles and 13 fumbles recovered for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Not to forget a Super Bowl XLVII championship.

Reed's enshrinement would make him the third Raven in the history of the organization to be enshrined in his first-year of eligibility alongside linebacker Ray Lewis and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden.