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Serena Williams romps on bad ankle in Australia

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Serena Williams romps on bad ankle in Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Flat on her back, her sore right ankle raised and her hands covering her face, Serena Williams tried to block out thoughts that her bid for a third straight Grand Slam title might be ruined.

After a dominating run the last six months, Williams was a big favorite to win the Australian Open. Suddenly, though, there seemed a way for her to be gone in the first round.

``I almost panicked, and I thought, `I can't do that,''' she said. ``I just have to really remain calm and think things through.''

The stats showed this was nothing more than a stroll - a 6-0, 6-0 wipeout in 54 minutes of No. 110-ranked Edina Gallovits-Hall at Melbourne Park on Tuesday. Williams conceded only six points in the second set.

But this match took significantly longer to complete given the medical timeouts. And while the score may have been painful to her opponent, there was plenty of pain to go around.

The first set was 4-0 after 19 minutes at Hisense Arena when her tumble near the baseline diverted attention on Day Two from center court, where a day session featuring Roger Federer, Andy Murray and women's champion Victoria Azarenka was under way.

After some deep breaths, the 31-year-old Willlams pulled herself together, got to her hands and knees for a few minutes and gradually to her feet.

Her already heavily taped ankle was assessed and retaped. She went back on court and won the next four points to get herself to another changeover, and more attention from the doctor. She went back and held another service game to clinch the set, giving her time for more treatment.

``A very similar thing happened to me last year, almost on the same side, the same shot,'' Williams said, referring to a fall that forced her to pull out of the Brisbane International last year and contributed to her fourth-round exit at the Australian Open.

Her subsequent trip to the French Open ended in her only first-round exit at a Grand Slam tournament, more painful mentally than physically. Stunned by the defeat in Paris, she hired a new coaching consultant, amended her training regime and won Wimbledon, the London Olympics, the U.S. Open, the season-ending championship and added the 2013 Brisbane International title to her collection.

Now she has 36 wins from her last 37 matches. And she decided that she'd ice her ankles, wait for the swelling and bruising and think about medical tests later.

``I would really rather not know,'' she said. ``One year I won this tournament and had two bone bruises in both knees. I had no idea. I just knew I was in pain. I think sometimes what you don't know cannot hurt you.''

She expects to at least start her second-round match Thursday against Spain's Garbine Muguruza, who beat Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 4-6, 6-1, 14-12 - the final set lasted more than two hours.

``Oh, I'll be out there,'' Williams said. ``I mean, unless something fatal happens to me, there's no way I'm not going to be competing. I'm alive. My heart's beating. I'll be fine.''

If results go according to rankings, Williams will meet top-ranked Azarenka in the semifinals. But a lot can happen before then.

Azarenka has lost 11 of her 12 matches against Williams, including the U.S. Open final. Even if Williams is on one leg, Azarenka is still wary of the 15-time Grand Slam champion. After her 6-1, 6-4 win over Monica Niculescu, she checked the progress in the Williams match.

``I heard she won love and love, so what kind of injury are we talking about?'' she joked.

She progressed along with former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who beat Sabine Lisicki of Germany 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, and American teenager Sloane Stephens, who beat Simona Halep of Romania 6-1, 6-1.

In a battle of two major winners, 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova defeated 2010 French Open titlist Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.

And 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm upset 12th-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia 6-2, 6-0 to set a record for being the oldest woman to win a singles match at the Australian Open.

``Some players' mothers are younger than me,'' she said, laughing.

On Wednesday, fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland won her 11th consecutive match to start the year with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania. Radwanska won tournaments in Auckland and Sydney in the lead-up to the Australian Open.

Fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany also advanced to the third round with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Lucie Hradecka and will play her next match Friday on her 25th birthday. In another early match Wednesday, Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium beat 23rd-seeded Klara Zakapalova 6-1, 6-0.

Murray, playing his first match at a major since winning the U.S. Open and breaking a 76-year drought for British men at Grand Slam tournaments, defeated Robin Haase of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.

No. 2 Roger Federer beat Benoit Paire of France 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 in his first competitive match of the season. Other men progressing included 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.

Federer reflected on learning that Brad Drewett is preparing to resign as ATP World Tour executive chairman and president after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease.

``I saw him yesterday and he told me the news,'' Federer said of the 54-year-old Australian who was a top 40 singles player before he got into tennis administration. ``Obviously, very emotional.''

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic will continue his push for a third consecutive Australian title when he meets American Ryan Harrison on Wednesday night. Venus Williams plays Alize Cornet of France for a spot in the third round, where she could meet French Open champion Maria Sharapova.

In the first completed men's match Wednesday, 10th-seeded Nicolas Almagro beat fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.

Williams has won five Australian titles, starting in 2003 when she completed her ``Serena Slam'' by adding the victory at Melbourne Park to her consecutive victories in 2002 at the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open. She's halfway to another run of four major titles.

``I've played this tournament with so many injuries and was able to come off pretty on top,'' Williams said, rubbing her ankle as she spoke at a news conference. ``I have a day to work on it. At this point it's not a lot of time. But I'm not 18 years old where I want to sit this one out.''

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Early returns show solid Redskins squad, with potential for more

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USA TODAY Sports

Early returns show solid Redskins squad, with potential for more

More than 100 days remain before the Redskins take the field in meaningful NFL action.

Any and all excitement needs to be tempered, significantly, because what happens on a practice field in May without pads does not represent what will happen in September, October and beyond. 

Still, the Redskins group that took the field this week for OTAs showed promise. 

New quarterback Alex Smith looked crisp, connecting with a variety of wideouts and commanding the huddle. New wideout Paul Richardson made the best play of the session when he streaked down the field past rookie cornerback Greg Stroman and hauled in a deep pass from Smith. The play showed Smith's ability to identify open receivers downfield, as well as Richardson's ability to go up and grab a contested catch. Even Stroman, the seventh-round rookie, positioned himself well, he just fell victim to a perfect pass and tremendous athleticism.

That was only one play in a two-hour session. Again, don't take too much from May, when players don't wear pads or engage in any of the violence that the NFL is predicated upon. But the OTAs do serve a purpose, both for players and coaches, and there were nuggets to absorb and try to project for the fall. Here they are:

  • Jay Gruden made clear he's not concerned about the health of his offensive line. Trent Williams and Morgan Moses are recuperating from offseason surgery, but Gruden believes both are on track for when things start to matter. It's a good thing the coach isn't concerned because this was the 'Skins line in OTAs (left to right): Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, John Kling. Should that lineup take the field this fall, there will be trouble. 
     
  • The Redskins lost Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland this offseason, and the secondary depth will be something to watch throughout training camp. At OTAs, newly signed veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick lined up opposite Josh Norman in the team's base 3-4 defense. In nickel and dime coverage, Quinton Dunbar lined up opposite Norman and Scandrick moved to the slot. As things progress, it will be interesting to see if Dunbar surpasses Scandrick in base coverage, and what becomes of 2017 third-round pick Fabian Moreau. Stay tuned.  
     
  • Rookie running back Derrius Guice looked every part of the first-round talent many judged him to be before draft season rumors caused him to slide to the late second round. Guice cuts with authority and is able to see holes before they form and patiently wait to hit the open space. Guice also looked fine in pass-catching drills, one area that was a question coming out of LSU (but that says more about LSU's prehistoric offense). Watching the Redskins offense work, it seems clear Guice will be the heaviest used runner this fall.
     

  • That said, don't count out Robert Kelley. He looks leaner and plenty quick, showing a few impressive runs during the session. Byron Marshall also looked good, and Gruden pointed out his success in his post-OTA press conference. The running back group will have plenty of competition all the way through Richmond. 
     
  • Jonathan Allen has switched jersey numbers from 95 to 93. Rookie Daron Payne is now wearing 95. Payne and Allen both went to Alabama, both are huge, and both play defensive line. The number switch will take some getting used to. 
     
  • Zach Brown missed the OTA session as he was moving, and interestingly in his spot with the starting defense was Josh Harvey-Clemons. The second-year pro out of Louisville showed impressive speed in coverage, and remember he played safety in college and performed quite well. He has ball skills and great size to be a coverage linebacker. Some were surprised when the Redskins kept JHC last season at the cut to 53, but his development appears to be paying off for the organization. 
     
  • Another linebacker that made a play was Zach Vigil. He impressed for the Redskins late last season and was running the Washington second-team defensive huddle. At one point, Vigil broke through the line of scrimmage and blew up a run play. That prompted D.J. Swearinger to yell from the sideline, "OK Zach. OK ZACH!"
     
  • Speaking of Swearinger, the Redskins defensive captain seemed in midseason form when it comes to yelling encouragement on the field. Nobody hypes up the defense like Swearinger, particularly when the secondary makes a big play. On one pass Dunbar made a nice diving play to break up a pass, and Swearinger and Josh Norman got very fired up, shouting and jumping around. The entire defense responded. Little stuff like that helps disrupt the monotony of offseason work. 
     
  • Jamison Crowder looks jacked and quick. The end. 

 

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

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