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No 5 Kerber out, Makarova wins again in 4th round

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No 5 Kerber out, Makarova wins again in 4th round

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber has been ousted in the fourth round of the Australian Open by the woman who defeated Serena Williams at the same stage last year.

No. 19-seeded Ekaterina Makarova had a 7-5, 6-4 win in the opening match Sunday on Rod Laver Arena, taking out the highest seed to tumble so far at the season's first major.

Makarova beat Williams in the fourth round in 2012 at Melbourne Park and went on to reach the quarterfinals, which remains her best result at a Grand Slam.

Kerber and Makarova were two of only four women in 2012 to beat Williams, who finished off unbeaten post-August with titles at Wimbledon, the London Olympics, the U.S. Open and the WTA Championships.

Wimbledon semifinalist Kerber had beaten Makarova three times last year, including in the second round at Wimbledon.

``Seems like it was the same this year and last year. Unbelievable feeling,'' Makarova said. ``I really like to play here. The crowd is so perfect.''

The 24-year-old Makarova could meet fellow Russian, No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova, in the quarterfinals, at the same stage they met last year. Sharapova can advance by beating playing Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens later Sunday in the fourth round.

``Actually I really want to play against Maria because I lost here last year in the quarters and I play a lot of times against her last year,'' Makarova said. ``Now I'm pretty confident and I like my game.''

``Last year I was so surprised ... and I had so many thoughts in my mind. This year I'm a little bit used to it, so I think I'll be ready to play a good game.''

Another pair who met here last year played out a similar result on Saturday night, with No. 2-ranked Roger Federer knocking Bernard Tomic out of the tournament in straight sets to end Australia's participation in either the men's or women's singles draws.

Federer gave the 20-year-old Aussie an instant reality check by breaking him in the very first game to set up a 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-1 win.

``I elected to serve, considering I was serving really well the last few weeks,'' said Tomic, who won his first ATP World Tour title at Sydney last week and had a win over No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic at an exhibition tournament in Perth at the start of the month. ``Yeah ... that first service game was important. I lost it. Then I was like, `Oh, no!'''

Federer, who has won four of his 17 Grand Slam titles at Melbourne Park, also beat Tomic in the fourth round here last year.

``It's not my favorite part of the job beating up on the hometown heroes,'' Federer told the crowd at Rod Laver Arena, where he has won four of his 17 Grand Slam titles. ``But it's nice that you guys sort of invite me back every year.''

Federer earned his 250th win at a Grand Slam event, the milestone sprinkled with some of his classic crisp volleys and trademark one-handed backhands.

Federer won the first point of the match with a forehand winner, the first of three in that game, and Tomic only won two points before the Swiss star converted a service break in the first game.

Federer will face Canadian Milos Raonic, who had 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4 win over Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber in a matchup of two big servers.

The third round ended in the early hours of Sunday morning, when No. 14-seeded Gilles Simon outlasted fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 1-6, 8-6 in a match that finished at 12:32 a.m. local time.

Both men needed treatment from the trainer during the 4 hour, 43-minute match on Hisense Arena, with Simon struggling to shake off soreness in his elbow and Monfils fighting fatigue.

Simon and Jeremy Chardy, who ousted 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, were among the four Frenchman who advanced on Saturday.

Their compatriots, No. 7-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - who beat Slovenian Blaz Kavcic 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 - No. 9 Richard Gasquet - who ousted Croatia's Ivan Dodig 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-0 - will meet in the next round.

Del Potro's 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 3-6, 6-3 loss to Chardy left only three major winners in the men's draw, and they're collectively known as the ``Big Three'' - Djokovic, Federer and Andy Murray.

Murray, who broke a 76-year drought for British men at the majors with his win at the U.S. Open last year, advanced to the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 win over Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis.

Defending women's champion Victoria Azarenka struggled at times before putting away injured American Jamie Hampton 6-4, 4-6. 6-2 in 2 hours, 9 minutes.

No. 3 Serena Williams dropped serve early in the second set before winning the last six games in her 6-1, 6-3 victory against Japan's Ayumi Morita.

Top-ranked Azarenka overcame an early break and fended off triple break point in the seventh game of the deciding set before clinching the match.

Hampton needed a medical timeout for a lower back problem immediately before she served out the second set, and winced in pain throughout the latter half of the match.

``She took a medical timeout but she rips winners all over the place,'' Azarenka said. ``I was like, `Can I have a back problem?' I'm feeling great, but I'm missing every shot.''

Azarenka next plays Elena Vesnina, who beat 16th-seeded Roberta Vinci of Italy 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Williams, aiming for a third consecutive Grand Slam title, will next meet No. 14 Maria Kirilenko, who beat No. 20 Yanina Wickmayer 7-6 (4), 6-3.

Also advancing were former U.S. and French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova and former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki. Sloane Stephens beat Laura Robson 7-5, 6-3 in a matchup between the only teenagers left in the women's draw.

That set the 19-year-old Stephens on course for a fourth-round match against Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski, who ended the run of 42-year-old Kimko Date-Krumm in the third round.

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The baffling exclusion of John Carlson from the Norris Trophy finalists

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USA TODAY Sports

The baffling exclusion of John Carlson from the Norris Trophy finalists

The finalists for the Norris Trophy – awarded to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability in the position – were unveiled on Sunday. Somehow, John Carlson was not among them.

This is the second consecutive year Carlson was a deserving candidate and the second year he will not even be among the top three.

The Norris Trophy is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association -- of which I am a member so I guess you can blame us -- but make no mistake, this is a snub in every sense of the word and a major oversight that Carlson cannot get the recognition he deserves.

Ballots will be made public after the awards are given out. Until then, we are not supposed to divulge exactly how we voted, but I will tell you that Carlson was in my top three, and he absolutely should have been a finalist this year.

If you had asked me prior to the 2017-18 season who the most important defenseman on the Caps was, I would have told you it was Matt Niskanen. I saw Carlson as an offensive-heavy player whose skills in his own zone were lacking. I had to eat those words later as Niskanen was injured in mid-October and missed the next month of the season. During that month, Carlson averaged 27:47 of ice-time per game, which led the entire league. He showed he could contribute offensively, defensively, on the power play and penalty kill. There was nothing he could not do.

Suddenly, the Caps’ top pairing of Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen was replaced by Carlson and whoever he was paired with. That continued into this season.

But while Carlson has reshaped his image in Washington, his reputation as an offensive first player instead of an all-around defenseman persists, and it cost him.

There is no set standard every voter sticks to when it comes to evaluating players for the Norris. You can look at whatever stats you want whether it is Corsi, Fenwick, points, PDO, defensive zone starts, high-danger chances for -- the list goes on. Here’s why Carlson was in the top three of my ballot: Not only did he play exceptionally well, but the Capitals relied on him more in more situations than any other team relied on a single defenseman.

Carlson finished the season ranked eighth in the NHL in time on ice per game at 25:04. Burns finished just ahead of him with 25:06. Both Giordano (24:14) and Hedman (22:46) played less.

Carlson was among the top 40 defensemen in shorthanded time on ice per game with 2:35, something only Giordano (2:40) could boast among the other finalists. Carlson was also first among all defensemen in power play time on ice per game with 4:05, significantly more than Hedman (3:19), Giordano (3:19) or Burns (3:17).

There is no situation in which the Caps are not comfortable putting Carlson out on the ice and no situation in which he is not expected to play heavy minutes. He has taken a bigger role defensively as the team’s top shutdown pair of Orlov-Niskanen has had a down year. Despite the heavier defensive workload, Carlson still managed to finish in the top four in points among defensemen with 70, a career-high.

I am not here saying that Burns, Giordano or Hedman are not deserving of being finalists. In fact, Carlson did not finish first on my ballot. It seems crazy to me, however, that he did not finish in the top three this season or last. All three finalists had strong seasons, but Carlson’s season was just as good and he was more heavily relied upon. He is one of the top offensive blueliners, but that’s not all he is.

Until he manages to overcome that reputation, which persists through no fault of his own, he will continue to be on the outside of the Norris race looking in. And that’s a shame considering how good he has been.

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Bruins, Sharks force Game 7

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Bruins, Sharks force Game 7

With the first round starting to come to a close, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights had a chance to advance to the second round Sunday, while the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks needed a win to hang on. It was both teams facing elimination that were able to come out on top.

Here's how Sunday's Game 6 matchups stacked up.

Bruins stave off elimination with 4-2 win

After Friday's Game 5 victory, it looked like the Toronto Maple Leafs may possibly overcome their previous woes against Boston. However, with their backs against the wall, the Bruins were able to come back and force yet another Game 7 between these rivals.

Morgan Reilly was able to put a one-timer past Tuukka Rask to put the Maple Leafs up 1-0 early, but two minutes later, Brad Marchand struck on the power play to even the score. Soonafter, Torey Krug fired home a rebound on another power-play opportunity to put Boston up 2-1 heading into the second, where Jake DeBrusk extended the lead by two.

Auston Matthews scored his fifth of the playoffs to cut the lead to one, and he now has points in four straight games through this series. The Maple Leafs continued their comeback bid as the final frame died down, but Brad Marchand was able to fight past defenders and secure the win with an empty netter.

Rask finished with 22 saves, and Frederik Anderson stopped 38 of 41 shots. The Bruins and Maple Leafs will meet in yet another Game 7 Tuesday, as has been the case between the two teams in the playoffs over the years.

Sharks stun Golden Knights in 2-1 OT win

As if the intensity of the playoffs alone wasn't enough, Sunday's thriller between the Sharks and Golden Knights put fans all over the NHL at the edge of their seats. The score was deadlocked for five periods before the Sharks finally trimphed to see another tilt with Vegas.

The game was scoreless until the final nine seconds of the first period, where Logan Couture beat Fleury with a quick shot to make it 1-0. Jonathan Marchessault struck in the second period to tie things up at one. Both Martin Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury were having strong performances that kept the game even, and the score would last to force double overtime.

Despite 59 shots on goal and a power-play chance in double overtime, Marc-Edouard Vlasic would find Tomas Hertl open on the PK, and he was able to carry the puck up ice and score shorthanded to win the game for San Jose.

Jones was easily the first star of the night with 58 saves, while Fleury finished with 27 saves on 29 shots. As Hertl promised, the Sharks will head to Vegas for a decisive Game 7 Tuesday.