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Nishikori chops down Isner for Citi Open title

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Nishikori chops down Isner for Citi Open title

Pick your sport, though it doesn't really matter. The difference between winning and losing often doesn't come down to pure talent or skill, but duplication.

Arsenals might be different -- Sunday's Citi Open men's final between 5-foot-10 speedster Kei Nishikori and 6-foot-10 lumbering John Isner is perhaps the perfect example. Yet the overall packages often lead to miniscule distinction. It's the ability to execute consistently game to game, point to point which provides the final edge.

Isner called his win over Nishikori back in April on the hard courts in Miami his best performance of 2015. His usually dominate serve went from potent to untouchable.

The start of their rematch felt familiar as the big man blasted big serves for the early lead. Yet the inability to maintain that level, even by just a little, led to a different final result. Then again, facing one of the elite return of servers on tour makes for a challenge.

Nishikori chopped down his second straight NBA-player sized opponent and claimed his first Citi Open title with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win at Fitzgerald Tennis Center.

American Sloane Stephens closed the event by capturing her first title in her first final appearance on tour by defeating Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 6-2.

Coming off a title last week in Atlanta, Isner entered this tournament with momentum. Historically, the North Carolina native thrives in Washington. His three-set semifinal victory over fellow American Steve Johnson Saturday night put him into the final for a third time. Yet he fell to 0-3 including losses to Grand Slam champions Andy Roddick and Juan Martin del Potro.

When a reporter mistakenly stated he lost four Washington finals, Isner offered a humorous correction. "It's not that bad. I'm not the Buffalo Bills just yet."

No American man has won the Washington title since Roddick in 2007.

Isner used another sports analogy to help explain any variance in his performance compared to his previous win Nishikori. 

"Maybe I didn't get quite as much pop on my serve today. I've thrown a lot of pitches the two weeks and I threw a lot last night, too."

In their first head-to-head meeting, Isner dominated with his first and second serve. He never faced a break point in the 6-4, 6-3 victory thanks to winning a staggering 81% of his second serve points.

In the rematch, Isner won only 41% (7 of 17) of his second serve points over the final two sets. 

"I think I returned well today," Nishikori said. "I had to guess sometimes, but I was there all the time."

Meanwhile, Nishikori was lights out with his first serve in the second and third set, winning 29 of 30 points. With a high-end backhand, he was also able to keep the highest ranked American on the run. 

"I feel like he put a decent amount of first serves into the court," Isner said. "From there, he's arguably the best in the world from the baseline so it's tough."

Stephens was 0-6 in her previous semifinal matches before downing 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur Saturday night.  The American was the last of the current top 40 without a final appearance.

The famed men's doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan opened play on Stadium court by capturing their 108th career title, fourth in Washington and first since 2007 with a straight sets win. 

The first Japanese man to reach a Grand Slam - and Washington - final is one of the hottest players on tour. Nishikori improved to 43-9 in 2015. Only Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have won more ATP this matches (48) this year.

The second-seed exacted revenge for his 2014 U.S. Open final loss to 6-foot-6 Marin Cilic with a three-set comeback in Saturday's semifinal rematch.

Isner converted a breakpoint to win the first set with a blistering return of serve up the right sideline. The momentum swing had Isner turning to crowd for a series of enthusiastic fist bumps.

Perhaps that excitement led to a slight loss of focus. Nishikori immediately broke Isner's serve opening the second set. He took control with another break at 1-1 in the third.

On match point, Nishikori moved toward the net. With Isner deep in the right corner, he hit an over-the-shoulder volley into the vacated far side for his third title this year and 10th all-time.

The successful week will move the 25-year-old to No. 4 in the ATP World Rankings next week. Though pleased with that status, there are bigger goals. Like remaining consistent for the remainder of the hard court season, which concludes with the upcoming U.S. Open.

"I'm happy to be No. 4 again," Nishikori said, "but it's more important I play well and stay healthy."

The ability to execute such goals often makes the difference between winning and losing.

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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Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman loses bet, rocks Ovechkin jersey

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USA Today Sports

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman loses bet, rocks Ovechkin jersey

Nearly two weeks have passed since the Washington Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights to raise their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

With one team being a first-year expansion project that turned out beautifully and the other a franchise that had not appeared in a Stanley Cup Final since 1998, there was obviously a lot on the line.

Those away from the ice had 'a lot' on the line, too.

Prior to the start of the series, each city's mayor agreed on a bet that would force the losing team's member to wear an opposing jersey at the conclusion of the Cup.

Well, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman followed through on her end of the bargain.

Here is proof of her wearing the jersey of a man who led what was arguably the greatest post-championship celebration in sports history.

 

The Capitals announced Wednesday that the team's home opener and Stanley Cup banner unveiling will be played on October 3 against the Boston Bruins.

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American League All-Star Game Roster Projection: AL will be loaded once again

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American League All-Star Game Roster Projection: AL will be loaded once again

The 2018 Major League All-Star Game is less than a month away. Fan votes are well underway and early frontrunners are close to locking their position in the Midsummer Classic.

Yesterday, we projected how the National League roster will play out. Today it is time to look at the American League roster projection.

For five straight seasons, the AL has had the upper hand in the MLB All-Star Game. In 2018, it does not appear that will change as the American League roster will be loaded from top to bottom.

As a reminder, here is how the process shakes out, first with the fan vote, players’ ballots, and the MLB Commissioner’s Office:

  • Fan vote: nine position players in AL (DH)/ eight in NL; plus final vote for each league
  • Player’s ballots: next 17 players in AL/ 16 players in NL; (five starting pitchers, three relievers must be chosen)
  • MLB Commissioner’s Office: five AL players (four pitchers, one position player) and seven NL players (four pitchers, three position players)

One player from each team must make the initial roster (before injury withdraws, etc.). Below is how it looks the American League roster will play out, considering the latest fan vote returns:

American League All-Star Roster Projection:

C – Wilson Ramos, Rays (Fan Vote), Gary Sánchez, Yankees (Player Ballot)
1B – José Abreu, White Sox (Fan Vote), Joey Gallo, Rangers (Player Ballot)
2B – Jose Altuve, Astros (Fan Vote), Jed Lowrie, Athletics (Player Ballot)
3B – José Ramírez, Indians (Fan Vote), Yangervis Solarte, Blue Jays (Player Ballot), Mike Moustakas, Royals (Commissioner’s Office)
SS – Manny Machado, Orioles (Fan Vote), Jean Segura, Mariners (Player Ballot),
OF – Mookie Betts, Red Sox (Fan Vote), Mike Trout, Angels (Fan Vote), Aaron Judge, Yankees (Fan Vote), Michael Brantley, Indians (Player Ballot), Eddie Rosario, Twins (Player Ballot), Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees (Player Ballot),
DH – J.D. Martinez, Red Sox (Fan Vote), Shohei Ohtani, Angels (Player Ballot)

SP – Justin Verlander, Astros (Player Ballot), Luis Severino, Yankees (Player Ballot), Corey Kluber, Indians (Player Ballot), Chris Sale, Red Sox (Player Ballot), Gerrit Cole, Astros (Player Ballot), Blake Snell, Tampa Bay (Commissioner’s Office)

RP – Edwin Díaz, Mariners (Player Ballot), Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox (Player Ballot), Aroldis Chapman, Yankees (Player Ballot), Joe Jiménez, Tigers (Commissioner’s Office), Delin Betances, Yankees (Commissioner’s Office), Chris Devenski, Astros (Commissioner’s Office)

Manager: Jeff Luhnow, Astros

Based on this projection, the New York Yankees will have the most representatives with six. The Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox will both have four.

Ensuring no snubs, there will be five players selected for the final fan vote to get one more All-Star into the game for a total of 32 for the American League. As you can see, no matter how the AL roster plays out, it will be a dominant team once again as they look for six straight All-Star wins.

Four of those five wins were inside a National League stadium and that will not change as the Washington Nationals will host this season.

MORE ALL-STAR NEWS: