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Nishikori gains revenge, reaches Citi Open final; Isner next

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Nishikori gains revenge, reaches Citi Open final; Isner next

WASHINGTON -- The rematch was 334 days in the making and provided the Citi Open with a first. Never before had Washington's stop on the men's tour included a finals rematch from the previous U.S. Open.

Facing Marin Cilic also meant Kei Nishikori could gain some measure of revenge after losing in New York last September. The Japanese star took advantage.

Nishikori rallied after a slow start for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Cilic in the Citi Open semifinals Saturday. 

The first Japanese man to reach a Grand Slam final will battle American John Isner in Sunday's championship match. The eighth-seed whalloped 31 aces and survived three match points from Steve Johnson for a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (9) win to reach his third Citi Open final.

"It's good to win against a top 10 player and especially Marin," Nishikori said. "We had a battle last year at the U.S. Open. It's great to have revenge today and I hope I can keep going tomorrow."

In their only previous meeting, the 6-foot-10 Isner downed the 5-foot-10 Nishikori early this year on hard courts in Miami. 

In the women's draw, American Sloane Stephens thumped 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur 7-6 (4), 6-0 to reach her first career final. She lost her previous six semifinal appearances.

Stephens will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova Sunday. Pavlyuchenkova, a Washington finalist in 20112, advanced to the women's final after top seed Ekaterina Makarova withdrew before the third set with the match even at 4-6, 6-3. 

Despite Nishikori's revenge admission, neither player copped to thinking about the previous match emotionally, only tactically.

That certainly made sense for Cilic.

He won the U.S. Open final in less than two hours, winning all three sets 6-3.

"It was giving me a direction to think about the game, to plan what I could do in the match," the Croatian said about the prior meeting. "I think I was pretty focused to execute those things."

That is until the second seed found his rhythm in the second set.

One of the hottest players on tour, Nishikori improved to 42-9 in 2015. Only Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have won more ATP this matches (48) this year.

That winning version didn't show early as Nishikori lost the opening three games. After dropping the set, instincts kicked in.

"He was playing well so I kind of let go of the first set and I tried to hit a little more aggressive," Nishikori said. "Some of the shots I have to close my eyes and just hit the ball."

Nishikori raced out to a 5-0 in the second set despite needing medical assistance for left leg tightness.

Known for his powerful two-handed backhand, Nishikori also took a quick lead in the final set, breaking Cilic in the opening game. Trailing 2-4, the third-seeded Cilic fought back to even the match, but he lost his serve at 5-4.

Nishikori served out the match to become the first men's player from Japan to reach the Washington final. He owns two titles on tour this season and is 9-5 all-time in ATP World Tour finals. 

"I showed some good tennis, too. I think it was a great win for me," he said.

Additional chances during the hard court season remain for Cilic, including defense of his U.S. Open title. The 6-foot-6 bomber knows which part of his game needs work.

"Next matches I'm just going to try to be more focused with my serve, to be more deadly," he said.

Such a statement would be impossible for Isner after he used his powerful serve for his own revenge win. Johnson upset his fellow American in the Citi Open round of 32 last year. 

He was tantalizing close to pulling off the same trick and treat himself to his first ever final appearance on the ATP World Tour. Johnson missed a running forehand wide at 6-4. Isner erased two other match points against with aces, including one clocked at 141 miles per hour. Soon after he nailed a service winner to convert his second match point against one of his best friends,

"I'm a little heartbroken, obviously," Johnson said.

Coming off his first title this season in Atlanta, Isner aims for his first-ever championship in Washington after losing his previous two final appearances. He fell to Juan Martin del Potro in the 2013 finals.

"I'm so excited to be back in the final here," isner said. "Hopefully it will be third time lucky."

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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Capitals deal Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik ahead of the draft

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals deal Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik ahead of the draft

DALLAS—The Capitals have dealt backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer and veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round pick, the team announced shortly before the NHL Draft kicked off Friday at American Airlines Center.

GM Brian MacLellan was widely expected to deal Grubauer, a 26-year-old who wanted the opportunity to be a No. 1. As a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who was also coming off a strong season, Grubauer was due a significant raise.

“We would like to thank Brooks and Philipp for all of their contributions to our organization,” MacLellan said in a statement. “Philipp has been a consummate professional and a great teammate and we wish him all the best.”

Trading Orpik, on the other hand, was a bit unexpected, particularly considering how much 37-year-old’s play and leadership meant to the Caps during their run to the Stanley Cup.

By dealing Orpik, MacLellan shed the 37-year-old’s $5.5 million cap hit for next season—an important development given the Caps’ tight salary cap situation and the number of key players who need new contracts. John Carlson, Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek are unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Avalanche are expected to help Orpik land or a preferred spot, whether via trade or buyout. By taking on Orpik in the deal, Friedman reported, the Avs only had to give up one pick.

“Brooks,” MacLellan continued, “was a great leader and a tremendous role model for our young players in his four years with our organization. This was a difficult move, but the one we felt we needed to make in order to give some flexibility moving forward.”

Will moving out Grubauer and eliminating Orpik’s cap charge allow MacLellan to re-sign Carlson, who's set to become the top defenseman on the free agent market? That’s unclear—even with the salary cap ceiling going up to $79.5 million—but it sure helps the Caps’ cause.

Dealing Orpik also opens up a spot for a young and inexpensive defenseman such as Christian Djoos or Madison Bowey to take on a bigger role in 2018-19.

Without Grubauer, the Caps are likely to turn to Pheonix Copley as their backup next season. And if Copley, who is due to earn the NHL minimum of $650,000 next season, starts the year in Washington, that allows 2015 first round pick Ilya Samsonov to take the reins in Hershey.

The second round pick the Caps received in exchange for Grubauer and Orpik is the 47th overall selection.

MacLellan is expected to speak to reporters following the first round later Friday night. The Caps currently hold the 31st overall pick.

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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

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USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

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