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Roddick calling it quits after US Open

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Roddick calling it quits after US Open

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Andy Roddick's tennis career will close at the U.S. Open, the site of his biggest triumph. The 2003 champion at Flushing Meadows and former No. 1-ranked player decided to walk away from the sport whenever his U.S. Open ends, making the surprise announcement at a news conference on Thursday, his 30th birthday. "I'll make this short and sweet: I've decided that this is going to be my last tournament," said Roddick, wearing a black T-shirt and baseball cap with his clothing sponsor's logos. "I just feel like it's time. I don't know that I'm healthy enough or committed enough to go another year," he said. "I've always wanted to, in a perfect world, finish at this event." The 20th-seeded Roddick is scheduled to play 19-year-old Bernard Tomic of Australia in the second round Friday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium. "I think I wanted an opportunity to say goodbye to people, as well. I don't know how tomorrow's going to go, and I hope it goes well, and I'm sticking around," Roddick said. He was, by turns, in reflective and joking moods while speaking to reporters about his decision. "If I do run into some emotions tomorrow or in four days, I don't want people to think I'm a little unstable. Or more unstable," Roddick said with a chuckle. "So that's why I came to this decision." His title in New York nine years ago was the last time an American man won a Grand Slam singles title, and Roddick spoke wistfully -- as he often has in the past -- about coming to the U.S. Open with his parents as a present when he turned 8. He said he's "been thinking about (retirement) for a little bit," and knew for sure that the time now after his 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 first-round victory over 21-year-old American Rhyne Williams on Tuesday. "I've thought all year that I would know when I got to this tournament," he said, "and when I played the first round, I knew." In addition to winning his U.S. Open trophy, Roddick also played in four other Grand Slam finals -- three at Wimbledon and one at the U.S. Open, losing to 17-time major champion Roger Federer each time. That included a 16-14 defeat in the fifth set at the All England Club in 2009, when Roddick was saluted by spectators who chanted his name at the end of the match. Buoyed by a booming serve -- he used to hold the record of 155 mph -- and big forehand, Roddick is 610-212 (a .742 winning percentage) with 32 titles, including two this year at Atlanta and Eastbourne, England. He also helped the United States end a 12-year David Cup drought by winning the 2007 title. "Look, he's been our best player for many, many years. Do we love to have a guy like that out there? Sure. Was it great that he's American? Sure," said U.S. Tennis Association CEO Gordon Smith. "We could use another dozen Andy Roddicks, and we're grateful for all he's meant to American tennis, to the Davis Cup, to the U.S. Open." Roddick's announcement came one day after four-time major champion Kim Clijsters played the last singles match of her career, a second-round loss to Laura Robson at Flushing Meadows. "I haven't done this before. I'm sure it'll be very emotional. I'm sure I'll still be nervous," Roddick said, looking ahead to facing Tomic. "I don't know." He's been dealing with a series of injuries over the past few seasons, and in February dropped out of the top 20, then slid to No. 34 in March, his lowest ranking since 2001. A hurt right hamstring forced Roddick to retire during his second-round match at the Australian Open in January, and he lost in the first round at the French Open and third round at Wimbledon. "With the way my body feels, with the way that I'm able to feel like I'm able to compete now, I don't know that it's good enough," Roddick explained. "I don't know that I've ever been someone who's interested in existing' on tour. I have a lot of interests and a lot of other things that excite me. I'm looking forward to those." He mentioned the youth tennis and learning center that his foundation is building in his hometown of Austin, Texas, and a radio show he appears on. The latter would seem to be a natural second career for Roddick, known for a sharp, often sarcastic, wit. He's never been shy about showing his emotions on the court -- whether tossing a racket or insulting a chair umpire or line judge -- or sharing his opinions off it. Roddick grew up in the spotlight and the world watched him morph from a brash, Gen-X kid with plenty of tude to something of an elder statesman in the game. He has spoken out about tennis players perhaps needing a union to fight for their rights the way athletes in U.S. team sports do, and he emerged as a mentor to younger Americans. Up-and-coming players such as Sam Querrey and Ryan Harrison have thanked Roddick publicly for his help, whether it's offering advice about dealing with life on tour or inviting them to come train with him in Austin. "I was a little shocked. I think he kept it a very good secret," the 20-year-old Harrison said about Roddick's retirement. "Honestly, there were a lot of things he taught me, but probably the most important thing on the tennis front was the consistency of every day -- every day, working, being out there, putting in time and effort. It's 100 percent. ... If you're going to do it halfway, there's no point in doing it at all. That's what he taught me," Harrison added. "That's what he's done throughout his career and that's what he's all about." Constantly confronted with questions about why his generation wasn't as successful as previous groups of American men -- like Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi in the 1990s, or John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors before that -- Roddick did his best to keep adapting his game to try to keep up with Federer, in particular, as well as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. He improved his fitness. He added a better backhand. He worked on his volleys. Eventually, though, he found it too hard to stay at the level he once reached. "I don't know that I want to disrespect the game by coasting home," Roddick said. "I had plans to play a smaller schedule next year. But the more I thought about it, I think you've either got to be all in or not. That's more kind of the way I've chosen to do things."

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—The best- and worst-case scenarios for the 2018 Redskins

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Various sources

Need to Know: Tandler's Take—The best- and worst-case scenarios for the 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 20, two days before the Washington Redskins start OTAs.  

Best- and worst-case scenarios for the 2018 Redskins

Last week I took a stab at figuring out what the best-case and worst-case scenarios were for the key players on offense and defense. While individual stats are fun to track, it’s what the team does that really matters. What range of outcomes is realistic for the 2018 Redskins? While anything is possible, here are my thoughts on the best they are likely to be able to do and the worst. 

In both cases, I am assuming that the Redskins have reasonably good fortune when it comes to injuries and that the good and bad bounces of the ball equal out over the course of the season. 

Worst case: 6-10, last in NFC East

This is based mostly on Alex Smith having a tough time adjusting to Jay Gruden’s offense, his new teammates, and the NFC. Thinking he could struggle is not just negative thinking, there is history to back it up. 

Smith was traded from the 49ers to the Chiefs in 2013. In his first nine games, he completed just 59.7 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and four interceptions He had an adjusted net yards per attempt of 5.23. Had he finished the season there he would have ranked 28th in the NFL. His passer rating was 81.4, which would have ranked 25th. It’s safe to say he was off to a very slow start. 

But the Chiefs went 8-1 in those nine games. It is doubtful that the Redskins could survive such a slow start. In the past three seasons, with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, they were 4-17 in games where Cousins’ passer rating was under 90. If you drop the ceiling to 81, the record drops to 0-14. 

Kansas City managed to start 9-0 in 2013 because of a running game that produced at least 100 yards rushing every game and a defense that got at least one takeaway every game and got three or more turnovers in a game five times. 

Could the Redskins duplicate that and survive a slow start by Smith? It’s possible, but this is the worst-case scenario. And there is no guarantee that the Redskins will significantly improve a running attack that was 27thin the league last year or a rushing defense that was dead last. 

Offensively, the hope is that Derrius Guice will improve the running game. But rookies are, well rookies. And being a high draft pick is no guarantee of success. In the past three drafts, 20 running backers were drafted in the first three rounds. Of those players, four rushed for 750 yards or more as rookies. Maybe Guice will be one of the productive players but the odds are not in his favor. This isn’t saying he will be a bust; however, he may not have instant impact. 

One other note about the rushing game. It’s important to remember that both tackles are coming off of surgery, the right guard was injured last year, the center has all of six starts under his belt, and left guard remains up in the air. Maybe everything will hum when the season starts but that seems like a tall order. 

Improvement in the stopping the run also relies at least in part on rookies. Daron Payne will have an adjustment period as will Tim Settle. The inside linebacker spot should be stronger but it’s hard to say that it will be a strength. The rushing defense probably won’t be last again, but it may not climb out of the twenties in the rankings. 

The Redskins haven’t been awful at getting takeaways, but they have not done it at a consistently game-changing level. They have three or more takeaways in a game five times in their last 30 games. I don’t see any reason to think that this will change dramatically. 

To put the 6-10 worst-case scenario onto the schedule, the Redskins could go 2-4 in the division with splits against the Cowboys and Giants and getting swept by the Eagles. Against the NFC South, which had three teams with 10 wins or more last year, they might be 1-3. That leaves a split with the AFC South (two of the final eight teams in the playoffs last year) and of their two other NFC games for a 6-10 record. 

Best-case scenario: 10-6, Wild card, win a playoff game

This scenario doesn’t require a whole lot of explanation beyond flipping the elements of the worst case into more positive outcomes. 

Smith could pick up where he left off last year when he completed 67.5 percent of his passes and was third in the league with 7.2 adjusted net yards per attempt. Maybe the yards per attempt will drop some as he tries to find a consistent deep target.

A healthy Jordan Reed would help Smith out tremendously. If Reed can participate in most of training camp, the two could hit the ground running. Smith’s ability to connect with Josh Doctson on some 50-50 balls also will be important. 

As for the running game, Guice could break out early behind a line that gels quickly. It’s not out of the question for him to gain 1,000 yards (that’s just about 65 yards per game), maybe a little more. A healthy Chris Thompson could kick in over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. 

Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis could pick up right where they left off last year before Allen was lost for the season with a foot injury and Ioannidis missed two games with a broken hand and was hampered by the injury for a few weeks after that. That would let Payne and Settle, well, settle into the pro game. 

The Redskins also would need at least to maintain the solid pass defense they had last year. And they would benefit from fewer turnovers on offense (27 last year, 26thin the NFL) and by adding a few takeaways to the 23 they got in 2017.

So how could they pull this off? The would need to go 4-2 in the division, with a sweep of the Giants and splits against Philly and Dallas. They then would need 2-2 records against the NFC South and AFC South. That part of it is probably the toughest task. To get to 10 they would need to beat the Cardinals on the road in the season opener and then have a good day against Aaron Rodgers and get a win over the Packers. It’s not an easy road but if enough pieces fall into place it’s not out of the question. 

A 10-6 record should be good enough for a wild-card spot. If they get through their fairly tough schedule with double-digit wins, they should be good enough to go on the road and take out the three or four seed. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 23
—Training camp starts (7/26) 68
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 82

The Redskins last played a game 139 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 113 days. 

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Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

There was no tougher critic on Matt Niskanen’s Game 5 performance on Saturday than Niskanen himself.

Niskanen and his defensive partner, Dmitry Orlov, were on the ice for all three of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s three goals in the Capitals’ 3-2 loss. That was striking given the Orlov-Niskanen duo is typically Washington’s best defensive pair.

That was not the case on Saturday and Niskanen took full responsibility afterward.

“First three goals are all my fault,” Niskanen said. “I had a tough first 20:30 so I've got to be better next game.”

Pretty much no one played the first goal right.

The goal came just 19 seconds into the game. Orlov turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Evgeny Kuznetsov looked like he could have gotten the puck, but instead played the body of Cedric Paquette. Niskanen stepped up at the blue line, but the Lightning got the puck past him creating a short rush that beat Braden Holtby who was way too far back in the crease.

Yes, Niskanen got caught a bit high, but he was just as at fault as Orlov, Kuznetsov and Holtby.

The second goal happened because Steven Stamkos tripped Orlov to create a turnover and it wasn’t called.

Niskanen got in between Ondrej Palat and the puck, but Palat beat both him and Holtby on the shot. Not sure I would put this one on Niskanen.

The third goal…well, that one was a bad play by Niskanen.

When you go one-on-one with a player, a defenseman cannot allow that player to turn the corner. That’s especially true when that player is defenseman Anton Stralman who is not exactly gifted with blazing speed. This was just a complete misplay.

Regardless of how many goals were strictly on Niskanen, that’s not the point. This was a message not so much to the media but to the team. That message was this: This one’s on me, I will be better next game.

Leaders always take responsibility. Niskanen is taking the blame here and saying he will be better in the hopes the team around him will be better as well.

They will need to be to win Game 6.

“A lot of people counted us out when we were down 0-2 in the first round,” Niskanen said. “Things got hard in the last series where we could have melted and we just kept playing. So that's what we've got to do again, bring our best effort for Game 6 at home, win a game and then we'll go from there.

“But we're focused on bringing our best game of the season for Game 6 and we'll be ready to go.”

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