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Serena wins Brisbane title, Murray into final

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Serena wins Brisbane title, Murray into final

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) Serena Williams proved the break between seasons hasn't hurt her momentum, capturing her 47th career title with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Saturday in the Brisbane International final.

Williams has won 35 of her past 36 matches, including titles at Wimbledon, the Olympics, the U.S. Open, the season-ending WTA championships and now the first event of 2013.

She already has won the Australian Open five times, and with the season's first major a little more than a week away, she's in good shape to add another title in Melbourne.

The Brisbane final was all over in 50 minutes with Williams dictating terms from the first break of serve in the sixth game.

``I always feel like I don't know how to play tennis when I play against you,'' Pavlyuchenkova told Williams at the trophy presentation.

The pair had traveled together on a training trip to Mauritius in the offseason but didn't really hit against each other at the time.

``But this was true what I said,'' the No. 36-ranked Pavlyuchenkova, who has won three WTA titles and more than $2.8 million in prize money, later said of her post-match assessment. ``When she's on fire, well, I feel like there is not much I can do. I mean, she's a great player and she deserves to win.''

Williams said she's been concentrating on being calm and composed, and has started to feel ``serene'' when she's in her zone on court. She's been feeling that way a lot in her comeback since a first-round loss at the French Open, her earliest exit from a Grand Slam.

``I was looking at a lot of old matches on YouTube, and I feel like right now I'm playing some of my best tennis,'' the 15-time major winner said. ``I feel like I want to do better and play better still.''

Pavlyuchenkova's post-match comment, she said, was ``a great compliment and a great honor for someone of her caliber to feel that way.''

In a tournament featuring eight of the world's top 10 female players, not one match in Brisbane featured two seeded players due to a series of injuries and upsets. Second-ranked Maria Sharapova withdrew due to an injured collarbone, and Pavlyuchenkova ousted a pair of top-10 players: 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the second round and fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals.

Williams missed a chance to extend her 11-1 record against top-ranked Victoria Azarenka when the 23-year-old Belarusian withdrew a half hour before their scheduled semifinal Friday night due to an infected toe on her right foot. Azarenka was more concerned about being ready for the Australian Open.

The night off obviously didn't bother Williams, who went on a roll during a seven-game run from the middle of the first set until Pavlyuchenkova finally held serve in the fourth game of the second.

The 31-year-old Williams can regain the No. 1 ranking if she wins the Australian Open. If she does, she'll be the oldest woman to hold the top spot on the WTA tour. Chris Evert set the mark in November 1985, aged 30 years, 11 months and three days.

Williams' surge up the rankings started after the French Open, and also coincided with her starting to work with Patrick Mauratoglou's academy in Paris.

She attributes her comeback to ``spending a lot more time on the tennis court, I think, and doing a lot of things I love.''

``Everything just came together with the right timing with me wanting to do better, with me wanting to work hard, (Mauratoglou) being there and having everything to work hard, and having the same mind frame of playing matches for the way I like to play,'' Williams said. ``So I think life is about timing, and it was just good timing.''

In the men's draw, defending champion Andy Murray advanced to the final when fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori retired with an injured left knee while trailing 6-4, 2-0 in their semifinal earlier Saturday.

The Olympic and U.S. Open champion will next meet 21-year-old Grigor Dimitrov, who is starting to live up to his billing as a star-in-the-making by reaching his first ATP Tour final with a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5) victory over Marcos Baghdatis.

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Steelers will require fans to wear a mask at Heinz Field, should they be allowed

Steelers will require fans to wear a mask at Heinz Field, should they be allowed

If fans are permitted to attend Pittsburgh Steelers home games this fall, there's one item they can't forget: a mask.

Steelers' director of communication, Burt Lauten, explained the decision to require fans to wear a mask in a statement on Tuesday.

"Our goal is to still have fans at Heinz Field this year with the understanding that social distancing, as well as all fans being required to wear masks, will play a role in the capacity to ensure a safe atmosphere," Lauten said, via ESPN. "We will continue to work with the NFL and public health officials to finalize plans for fans to attend our home games."

Pittsburgh was one of the first franchises to alter its ticketing plans this season, as they decided in May to trim half of their individual game ticket sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The news comes just hours after their AFC North rival, the Baltimore Ravens, announced that M&T Bank Stadium will be capped at less than 14,000 fans this fall, should fans be allowed to attend games.

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In June, The Athletic reported that the NFL will not place a limit on capacity at games, allowing each individual team to make the decision themselves.

"Attendance will be a state-by-state, county-by-county thing," an anonymous NFL source told The Athletic. "It will not be a one size fits all."

Additionally, the NFL has said that the first 6-8 rows of lower bowl sections, including field-level suites, will be blocked off this fall to help slow the spread of the virus. Those sections will be covered with tarps, which teams can use to sell advertising, similarly to what the Premier League in England has done.

With training camp still a few weeks away, there are a lot of virus-related questions the NFL must answer beforehand.

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Howard is a finalist for 2021 five-star defensive end Korey Foreman

Howard is a finalist for 2021 five-star defensive end Korey Foreman

The Howard University football program has moved a step closer to landing perhaps its highest-ranked recruit in years, if not ever.

Five-star defensive end Korey Foreman trimmed his college choice to seven on Wednesday evening, and the Howard Bison were on the list. The other six schools were Southern California (USC), LSU, Alabama, Oregon, Clemson, and Georgia.

In Foreman's tweet, he explained why Howard, a historically Black college (HBCU), was included in his list.

"I am a young black man that is happy and proud of my race," he wrote. "The Black Lives Matter movement is and forever will be powerful and definitely never forgotten. These are the schools I will now be focusing on the most. Set the standard and .. be different."

The news comes just a week after the Howard basketball program landed five-star Makur Maker, who chose the Bison over Division I schools UCLA, Kentucky and Memphis. Maker was the highest-ranked recruit Howard basketball has landed in its history. Mikey Williams, a top-five basketball recruit in the 2023 class, has already hinted about potentially playing at an HBCU as well.

Foreman, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound defensive end, is projected to commit to USC, according to 247Sports. Foreman is ranked the No. 2 overall prospect on 247Sports recruiting rankings for the 2021 class.

However, if the last few weeks are any indication, Howard can't be ruled out.

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