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Qualifier Jones upsets Melzer in Auckland

Qualifier Jones upsets Melzer in Auckland

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) Australian qualifier Greg Jones upset sixth-seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria 7-6 (7), 6-2 Tuesday in the first round of the Heineken Open for his first ATP victory.

The 373rd-ranked Jones matched the 29th-ranked Melzer shot for shot in a first set that contained no breaks of serve. He rallied from 6-4 down in the tiebreaker before closing out the second set in only 30 minutes, belying a ranking that had slumped from 187th.

``It's a pretty good feeling,'' said Jones, who won three matches in qualifying. ``I had a pretty rough year last year, which my ranking shows. I trained really hard in Melbourne with a couple of guys, a couple of fellow Aussies during the offseason, and physically I'm just feeling a lot better on the court.''

Another qualifier to win was Igor Sijsling, who beat Robin Haase 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in an all-Dutch match.

In other first-round matches, Lukas Lacko of Slovakia beat Paolo Lorenzi of Italy, 6-3, 6-3, and Santiago Giraldo of Colombia swept past Go Soeda of Japan 6-1, 6-0.

Alejandro Falla of Colombia was leading Grega Zemlja 6-4, 3-1 when the Slovak retired with an unspecified injury, while Canadian qualifier Jesse Levine beat New Zealand wild card Dan King-Turner 6-2, 6-2.

Gael Monfils rallied past Benjamin Becker of Germany 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4. The Frenchman, ranked 99th, entered the main draw on a wild card and looked in good form ahead of the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 14.

Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan beat Benoit Paire 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 with the Frenchman appearing to struggle with a hamstring injury.

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The Redskins will face Kirk Cousins in prime time, which is something fans should look forward to

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USA TODAY Sports

The Redskins will face Kirk Cousins in prime time, which is something fans should look forward to

The Redskins will play some very famous quarterbacks in 2019, from Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers to Carson Wentz.

When it comes to the opposing signal callers on the schedule, though, one name stands out above those and all the rest. And no, it's not Ryan Fitzpatrick.

It's Kirk Cousins.

The ex-Redskins QB will host his former team in Week 8 for a Thursday night matchup. It's one of Washington's two scheduled primetime games, and that's something that should make Burgundy and Gold fans happy.

That's because — and of course, it's not all on him, but he's certainly a part of it — Cousins tends to falter on the biggest stages.

For his career, the 30-year-old is 5-13 in primetime contests. That's a winning percentage (do you still call it that when it's so low?) of .277. 

As already mentioned, it's unfair to peg that record entirely on Cousins. In fact, ESPN pointed out late last year that his completion rate, yards per attempt, passer rating and TD-to-INT ratio are either slightly better or just barely worse under the lights compared to other kickoffs.

The sample size is big enough, however, to believe there's something there. 

"I certainly don't treat them any differently when I play," Cousins said when he stood at 4-12.

The pricey passer will get five total chances to suit up in prime time for the Vikings in 2019, meaning he can really do a lot to turn around his reputation OR solidify his reputation to the point where fans will hope his team starts playing on Wednesday mornings.

The Redskins, on the other hand, haven't exactly thrived outside of Sunday afternoon either, meaning someone should leave US Bank Stadium in October having reversed a trend.

Of course, this means they're probably going to tie. That'd be equal parts fitting and depressing.

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Caps rookie Jonas Siegenthaler ready for playoff debut

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USA Today

Caps rookie Jonas Siegenthaler ready for playoff debut

RALEIGH — Jonas Siegenthaler’s friends and family back in Zurich should take a long nap today and drink plenty of coffee. 

The rookie Swiss defenseman makes his Stanley Cup playoffs debut when the Capitals play the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of their first-round series at PNC Arena on Thursday. 

The 7 p.m. puck drop will be at about 1 a.m. in Switzerland due to the six-hour time difference, but it’s a dream for the 21-year-old. He replaces Christian Djoos in the lineup. The Capitals still lead the series 2-1. 

“Not everyone is able to play a Stanley Cup Playoff game,” Siegenthaler said. “Next to my debut this year, I think it's probably one of my biggest days in life.”

Siegenthaler will skate with veteran Brooks Orpik to start. That will help calm any nerves. But Siegenthaler is in for two reasons: His ability to take physical contact and still make a play (he’s 6-foot-3, 206 pounds) and his poise under pressure. He isn’t the skater that Djoos is, but the Capitals hope he can withstand Carolina’s intense forecheck pressure better.

Just do that and they’ll be fine with it. It’s unlikely Siegenthaler plays much more more than 10 minutes anyway. Djoos never broke 8:40 in his first three games and had a bad turnover in the first period of Game 3 that led to a goal and opened the floodgates for the Hurricanes. 

One added bonus: Siegenthaler can kill penalties. That was something he showed during 26 games with Washington as a rookie. He spent the first 14 games in the minors with AHL Hershey. Then he was in and out of the lineup from his recall on Nov. 9 until Feb. 7 when a numbers crunch on the blueline sent him back to Hershey. Siegenthaler was back in the NHL on March 26, but has only played once since: The regular-season finale on April 6 against the New York Islanders. 

“The guys here kept me in shape on the ice, off the ice,” Siegenthaler said. “I didn't play the last two weeks, but I don't think it should be too bad. I feel ready. My body feels ready and my mind feels ready too.”

The Capitals hope so because they need everyone working together to get the puck out of their defensive zone. That didn’t happen near enough in Game 3, a 5-0 loss. A video session that Orpik called “kind of trash” made that obvious. But it gives Siegenthaler an opportunity. 

Reirden said Siegenthaler could move around some as the Capitals continue to try to find a fix without Michal Kempny (torn hamstring) available. It’s a different look. It remains to be seen how he handles it. 

“It's pretty physical. It's a lot faster,” Siegenthaler said. “I think it's going to be a challenge from the first minute on, for me. I've got to match the pace and everything so I know I'm capable to do that and I've just got to be ready.”

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