Serena: Matter of time until No. 1 again


Serena: Matter of time until No. 1 again

JOHANNESBURG (AP) In the midst of the Williams sisters' first bustling visit to Africa, Serena wasn't quite sure which country she was in Saturday.

But she's certain of one thing - it's only ``a matter of time'' before she'll be world No. 1 again.

Serena and older sister Venus arrived in South Africa on an early flight from Nigeria, though Serena told reporters at a luxury hotel and casino complex how nice it was to be in Australia. She quickly corrected her slip, joking that she was already focused on next season.

``I'm already thinking of the Australian Open,'' she said, smiling. ``I'm constantly thinking of Grand Slams.''

Venus also was feeling the travel fatigue after the siblings' arrived in Johannesburg after a busy three-day stop in Nigeria that included an exhibition match against her sister in Lagos. She opened the morning briefing with ``good afternoon.''

The duo arrived more than two hours late because of flight delays. But they were applauded once they arrived.

``It's so great to be in South Africa,'' Venus said. ``It's an honor to be here.''

The sisters went to the famous Johannesburg township of Soweto to pass on some tips to a group of local children, who got to hit balls with the multiple Grand Slam winners at the township's Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre.

The biggest cheer there was for a young boy in a bright red cap and white t-shirt who hammered a forehand winner past Serena. It also earned him a wide smile and a high five from Venus.

The sisters were in Africa in support of a women's charity, but also spent time coaching young kids in Nigeria and South Africa. They'll renew their rivalry on court in a second exhibition match on the tour in Johannesburg on Sunday in front of a sellout crowd of 4,000 fans.

It's understandable that Serena wants to get to Australia and on court at a major tournament soon. She had a stellar second half of 2012, when she won Wimbledon, Olympic gold, the U.S. Open and the season-ending WTA Tour Championships.

Serena finished ranked No. 3 after a slow start to the season, which was epitomized by a first-round exit at the French Open. But the ranking didn't concern her.

``I'm not thinking about that (not being No. 1) so much,'' Serena said. ``For me, I'd rather have Grand Slams and victories. I've been No. 1 before and believe me, I'll be No. 1 again. It's just a matter of time.''

Her fifth Wimbledon title was probably the highlight of a good year, although collecting pins from other athletes at the London Olympics was almost as good as collecting the gold medal in singles and doubles, she said.

``Winning Wimbledon was really great. I'd probably have to lean towards that (being the highlight),'' she said.

Venus beat higher-ranked Serena on Friday in Lagos after Serena had gone 31-1 since her first-round loss in Paris.

``We're going to go all out,'' Serena said, promising to avenge that loss to Venus in Nigeria. ``I may make a few unforced errors, but I'm going to do my best.''

Venus said when the pair played in the past, their parents ``don't say too much,'' but always want the one who lost the last game to win the next contest.

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.


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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.


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