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No major surprises through Week 1 at Aussie Open

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No major surprises through Week 1 at Aussie Open

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Nearly a week into the Australian Open, the only major surprise is that there have been, well, not many surprises at all.

The year's first Grand Slam is historically fraught with injury withdrawals or top players not yet up to speed in the new season and losing in the first few rounds.

But with the third round complete for the leading players at Melbourne Park, only one of the first eight men's seeds did not advance: No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro. Six of the eight top women were through.

Second-seeded Roger Federer was the last of the main contenders to advance to the fourth round, beating Australian Bernard Tomic 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-1. Federer trailed 4-1 in the tiebreaker but rallied for six of the next seven points in front of a full house at the 15,000-seat Rod Laver Arena.

``I had a few more chances than he did, but I thought the tiebreaker was going to go his way,'' said Federer. ``I think overall we played a great match, he really got the best out of me tonight.''

The four-time Australian Open champion will next play big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, who beat No. 17 Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4.

Del Potro was a 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 3-6, 6-3 loser to France's Jeremy Chardy earlier Saturday in the biggest upset so far in this tournament.

Those still around have advanced fairly impressively.

Top-seeded Novak Djokovic and No. 3 Andy Murray haven't dropped a set in three matches, although Murray had his difficult moments in Saturday's 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 win over Lithuanian qualifier and sometimes hitting partner Ricardas Berankis, while fourth-seeded David Ferrer has lost just one set.

``I was struggling, he was making me feel pretty uncomfortable on the court,'' Murray said.

Chardy broke 2009 U.S. Open champion del Potro's serve in the final set to go up 5-3, then served out the match in 3 hours, 45 minutes.

``I played some tennis I never would have thought I was capable of playing,'' Chardy said.

Seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Slovenian Blaz Kavcic 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 and will meet countryman Richard Gasquet, who beat Croatian Ivan Dodig 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-0.

Andrea Seppi of Italy beat Croatia's Marin Cilic 6-7 (2), 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 to also advance to the fourth round.

In women's play, top-seeded Victoria Azarenka had her problems against injury-affected American Jamie Hampton and needed three sets to advance on Saturday, but No. 3 Serena Williams has not dropped a set despite an injured right ankle.

``There's always two ways - your opponent plays good and you can also make your opponent look good,'' Azarenka said after her 6-4, 4-6. 6-2 win.

Williams, aiming for a third consecutive major title, recovered from a break down in the second set to win six straight games and beat Japan's Ayumi Morita 6-1, 6-3. She later combined with older sister Venus to win a second-round doubles match.

Williams surprised herself with another serve at 128 mph in an afternoon match in Rod Laver Arena, matching a career best that she hit earlier in the tournament.

``I tried to hit it really hard. I hit 207 (kph) the other day and I thought it was luck,'' she said. ``But I did it again and I was like, `Whew! I'm going to try to go for 210.' We'll see.''

The other half of the women's draw, which didn't play Saturday, is more impressive: No. 2 Maria Sharapova dropped only four games in three rounds - including consecutive 6-0, 6-0 wins to start her tournament, while No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska is on a 12-match winning streak after capturing tournaments in Auckland and Sydney ahead of her three wins here.

Azarenka appeared frustrated at times, but overcame an early break and fended off triple break point in the seventh game of the deciding set before clinching the match in 2 hours, 9 minutes.

Hampton needed a medical timeout for a lower back problem before she served out the second set. She winced in pain, frequently on the verge of tears, throughout the third but still managed 41 winners to keep the Belarusian under pressure.

``She played incredible, went for every single shot. I felt it was touching every single line,'' Azarenka said. ``She took a medical timeout but she rips winners all over the place and I was like, `Can I have a back problem?' I'm feeling great, but I'm missing every shot.''

After wasting two set points on Azarenka's serve late in the second set, Hampton had to leave the court for nine minutes to have treatment on her back.

Even with the pain of two herniated disks, the 23-year-old Hampton went down swinging - making 47 unforced errors to go with the winners that caught Azarenka off guard and had her asking, loudly at one point, what she could do to counter them.

If results go according to rankings, Azarenka and Williams will meet in the semifinals. Williams has won the Australian Open five times and is on a 19-match winning streak - and she has lost only one match since her first-round exit at the French Open last year.

Considering Azarenka has lost 11 of their 12 meetings, including all five in 2012, it's a potential matchup where Azarenka will have to play better than ever. But they both have to advance to the last four, something Williams failed to do here last year when she was knocked out in the fourth round.

In this year's fourth round, the 31-year-old American will meet No. 14 Maria Kirilenko, who beat No. 20 Yanina Wickmayer 7-6 (4), 6-3. Azarenka next plays Elena Vesnina, who beat 16th-seeded Roberta Vinci of Italy 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova advanced with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 win over Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro and will next play former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who had a 6-4, 6-3 win over Lesia Tsurenko.

Sloane Stephens beat Laura Robson 7-5, 6-3 in a matchup between the only teenagers left in the women's draw.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was — Under pressure, run game woes

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was — Under pressure, run game woes

Here is what you need to know on Saturday, September 22, one day before the Washington Redskins host the Green Bay Packers  .

Talking points

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington.

Skins add receiver Michael Floyd after signing Perriman — They aren’t looking for these guys to perform like first-round receivers. The Redskins are hoping that one or the other of them is an upgrade over Jehu Chesson, who is back on the practice squad. It is unlikely that both of them will be on the roster after the bye week. One or the other is likely to be cut to make room for another running back or possibly at another position that needs help. My money is on Floyd to stay but we will see.

Five observations from the Redskins Week 2 loss — The closest thing to a "hot take" here is that the Redskins defense did not have a bad day. They did, however, give up three scoring drives. While that’s not ideal, the Washington offense should be able to outscore a team that puts up 21 points especially when the defense also gets two takeaways, both in good field position. It wasn’t a dominant defensive performance, but it was good enough to win. 

Five Redskins under pressure vs. Packers — There is a lot of heat on Josh Doctson and deservedly so. But Jamison Crowder has been marginally less productive, and he is the one who they count on to be the volume receiver. Regardless of what Doctson does, they need more out of Crowder, who has five receptions for 40 yards. 

No answers for Redskins run game trouble — The Colts were set up to stop the deep pass, which means that the Redskins should have been able to run the ball against what often were six-man boxes. The Indy defense did run some unusual alignments, but it will be a long year if they can’t get the running game working consistently, especially against defenses inviting you to run.

Tweet of the week

This is a rare case of the tweet about an article generating a lot of buzz and discussion and the article itself not ranking very high on the popularity list. Many agreed with my take that over the past 18 games, Jay Gruden has called running plays on first down more often than he should have. The Redskins simply haven’t been successful enough to warrant such a heavy dose of running. 

But some complained that “the media” bash Gruden for not running enough at times and then in this post he gets criticized for running too much. Many of those are ones who reacted to the tweet but didn’t read the article, which said nothing about overall run-pass ratio. I’m not complaining at all, happy to have anyone join in on the conversation. But reading the article does make it a more informed exchange. 

Injury report

Game status

Out: Apke (hamstring), Lauvao (calf)
Questionable: Harris (concussion), Richardson (shoulder), Brown (oblique)

Full injury report here

The agenda

Today: No media availability

Upcoming: Packers @ Redskins (Sept. 23) 1; Redskins @ Saints (October 8) 16; Cowboys @ Redskins 29

In case you missed it

 

REDSKINS TALK PODCAST:

 

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Nationals fall to Mets as postseason chances continue to slip away

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USA Today Sports

Nationals fall to Mets as postseason chances continue to slip away

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Jacob deGrom turned in a record 23rd consecutive quality start, lowered his ERA to 1.77 and boosted his record to .500 as he bids to earn the NL Cy Young Award, allowing one run in seven innings to help the New York Mets beat the Washington Nationals 4-2 Friday night.

Throwing fastballs in the 97-99 mph range, deGrom (9-9) struck out eight and walked one while allowing just one run and three hits, all singles. Bob Gibson (in 1968) and Chris Carpenter (2005) each had single-season runs of 22 quality starts, the previous major league mark.

The right-handed deGrom has given up as many as four earned runs in only one of his 31 starts in 2018, back on April 10 against Miami. He's now up to 28 in a row allowing three runs or fewer, the longest single-season streak in major league history.

So this game was pretty much wrapped up by the third inning, which ended with the Mets ahead 4-1. Jay Bruce had two run-scoring hits, and Devin Mesoraco and Dominic Smith also delivered RBIs, all off Joe Ross (0-1).

Robert Gsellman worked around Anthony Rendon's RBI single in the ninth for his 12th save.

Washington began the day in danger of being officially eliminated from contention in the NL East, which it won the past two seasons under then-manager Dusty Baker. A loss by the Nationals plus a victory by the Braves would end any chance Washington has of catching Atlanta.

DeGrom is locked in what's considered a tight race for Cy Young honors -- and perhaps league MVP consideration, too -- with Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who is 17-7 with a 2.57 ERA and 290 strikeouts. Scherzer has won the past two Cy Young Awards in the NL, plus one in the AL when he played for the Detroit Tigers.

In the Mets' 5-4 victory in 12 innings Thursday, Scherzer gave up three runs in seven innings and struck out 13.

Entering Friday, deGrom boasted a majors-leading 1.78 ERA, 251 Ks and 45 walks, and ranked No. 1 in various other categories.

"I think that it says a lot about who he is as a worker. I think it says a lot about who he is as a competitor," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "He tends to step it up when it matters the most, and this is probably mattering the most out of all his starts, and he continues to pitch just as dominant as he was before. That's the definition of a true ace."

DeGrom looked good from the outset, striking out leadoff hitter Victor Robles with a 98 mph fastball, then getting Bryce Harper to swing through a 99 mph offering to end the first inning. Harper missed a 93 mph slider to strike out again in the fourth, then grounded out on a chopper fielded by deGrom in the sixth.

Washington's only run off deGrom came on Ryan Zimmerman's sacrifice fly on a ball hit to the warning track in deep center field in the second.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mets: Mesoraco hadn't played since leaving a game Sept. 3 because of a bulging disk in his back. He was 3 for 3 with a walk.

Nationals: OF Adam Eaton was out of the starting lineup for the fourth time in five games, because of what manager Dave Martinez said was a sore and stiff left knee, the one surgically repaired last season.

WE'RE GOING STREAKING!

Nationals 3B Rendon's second-inning walk extended his streak of reaching base safely to a career-best 29 games; he came around to score.

UP NEXT

RHP Corey Oswalt (3-2, 6.31 ERA) will start for the Mets on Saturday, while the Nationals wouldn't commit to a starting pitcher before Friday's game.

 

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