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Serena Williams opens WTA Championships with win

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Serena Williams opens WTA Championships with win

ISTANBUL (AP) With the year-end top ranking out of reach, Serena Williams will settle for the title at the WTA Championships.

In her first match since winning the U.S. Open in September, Williams defeated Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-1 Tuesday to start round-robin play in the season-ending event featuring the top eight players in the world.

``Obviously, I would rather win majors. I've been No. 1 and I would love to be No. 1 again. I think maybe one day I will. We'll see,'' Williams said. ``I just feel if I keep winning tournaments, majors, tournaments like this, and playing well and consistently, the ranking will come.''

In White Group matches, Agnieszka Radwanska defeated titleholder Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-2, and Maria Sharapova defeated Sara Errani 6-3, 6-2 in a repeat of the French Open final.

Sharapova's win means she can still wrestle the No. 1 ranking from Victoria Azarenka, who plays Wednesday.

Williams won Wimbledon this year before adding the Olympic gold medal and the U.S. Open title. Between injuries and a curtailed schedule that generally includes a break after the U.S. Open, the third-ranked American had little chance of moving up in the year-end rankings.

The winner of 15 Grand Slam titles has only twice finished the year as No. 1 - in 2002 and 2009. She has played in the season finale six times and won twice, in 2001 and 2009, her final appearance at the event.

Kerber handed Williams one of her four losses on the tour this year- out of 54 wins - in the quarters at Cincinnati.

In a match of two heavy hitters, Williams allowed Kerber to tie it 4-4 after taking a 3-0 lead.

``I am just feeling my way around, pretty much,'' Williams said.

Williams yelled in delight after firing a backhand winner down the line for a 5-4 lead. She wasted two set points before Kerber put a forehand into the net.

Williams broke for a 3-1 lead in the second and, pumping her fist and yelling ``Come on,'' she went up 4-1.

She lost the first three points of the final game, but played a superb volley to begin the rally and clinched the match when Kerber fired a forehand wide.

``I really wanted to win today, obviously. When you are playing anyone in the top five, you just are trying to play better,'' Williams said. ``She won the last time we played, so I really just wanted to do well today.''

The fifth-ranked Kerber ended last year at No. 32, but a place in the semifinals at Wimbledon and two titles have made her the first German to qualify for the year-end championship since 2001.

Kvitova entered the match with a 25-match winning streak indoors but she was in trouble early, losing the first three games. Although she recovered to draw 3-3, Radwanska broke serve again and served out the set.

Kvitova dropped her first two service games of the second, and broke back once. But the former Wimbledon champion was unable to threaten the steadier Radwanska.

``I am just happy that I could play my best tennis today and close that match in two sets,'' Radwanska said. ``It's a good start.''

It marked only Kvitova's second loss - and her first in four matches against Radwanska - in 28 indoor matches over two years. She was undefeated in winning the WTA Championships last year.

``I was nervous all match,'' Kvitova said. ``I had a lot of errors.''

Kvitova is still in contention because of the round-robin format, with the eight players competing in two groups of four.

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New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

Alex Smith in, Kirk Cousins out.

That's certainly the headline, but there are plenty of other questions for the Redskins, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

For the last two seasons, most of the questions going into OTAs for Washington came from the defensive side of the ball. After consecutive drafts with a first-round defensive lineman selection, the defense should be much improved. 

On offense, however, there are a lot of new parts. 

  1. The headliner - No position in sports is as important as NFL quarterback. This will be Alex Smith's first action in a Redskins uniform with media present. The 34-year-old veteran is coming off the best season of his career, and if he can continue that level of accuracy and play-making, the Redskins could be poised for an explosive year.
  2. The speedster - Washington's wideouts lacked separation in 2017. It was apparent through much of the year, and likely played a roll in some of Kirk Cousins' reluctance to make tough throws. Free agent addition Paul Richardson is supposed to help, immediately. He has elite deep speed and the 'Skins brass hopes he can bring a similar element to the offense that DeSean Jackson provided a few years back. Time to prove it Paul. 
  3. The injuries - There are big reasons for concern, namely two very large men in Jordan Reed and Trent Williams. Reed will not participate in OTAs, and has been dealing with a foot/toe injury for the better part of a year. Williams, who seems highly unlikely to attend OTAs, underwent knee surgery in January. Beyond Smith, Reed and Williams are probably the two most important offensive players on the Redskins. OTAs aren't important, Reed and Williams participating, or even attending, OTAs is not important. Both men being healthy and ready to go in September is quite important. 
  4. The Rookie - Has Derrius Guice become the most popular player on the Redskins? Maybe. The dynamic rookie running back, with an interesting draft weekend slide, has the charisma and ability to be a star. The "off-field concerns" that hurt his draft status seem like myths at this point, but there was some injury concern his junior season at LSU (see video above). Guice has an opportunity to be a huge part of the Redskins offense, and all eyes will be watching the rookie. 
  5. The leap? - In 2017, Josh Doctson showed flashes of the player that warranted a first-round pick in 2016. Will 2018 be the year he proves it, week after week, game after game? Getting off to a good start with Smith should help, and even more important would be an injury-free offseason. 

There are questions for the defense too, particularly at cornerback after Josh Norman, but this year, the offense has more new parts. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.

 

PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.