Capitals

Serena wins Brisbane title, Murray into final

201301050036021617008-p2.jpeg

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.

Quick Links

NHL Power Rankings: No, the Capitals' season is not over

NHL Power Rankings: No, the Capitals' season is not over

Things have not been going well for the Capitals as of late. They have lost eight of their last 11 and five straight games for the first time since October-November 2014. They can’t score and are porous defensively. That’s not a good combination.

As a result, people are despairing. The team has no talent, the coaches have no idea what they’re doing and you can kiss the playoffs goodbye.

In this day and age, we all tend to be prisoners of the moment. Will the Capitals come close to winning the Stanley Cup the way they are playing right now? No, of course not. They look terrible.

B ut let’s not forget, it’s not like last season was without its challenges.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE 

On Nov. 14 and 16 in 2017, Washington suffered consecutive blowouts at the hands of Nashville and Colorado to drop their record down to 10-9-1. There was talk of whether Barry Trotz would even survive the season. But the Caps rallied.

F rom Feb. 2 on, Braden Holtby suddenly couldn’t stop a beach ball. He wasn’t even the Caps’ starter the first two games of the playoffs. He got back in net in Game 3 and was brilliant the rest of the playoffs.

D id anyone think Washington would win the Stanley Cup after getting blown out against the Predators and Avalanche? Did anyone think they would win when Holtby was struggling to stop anything in February?

No.

Heck, if you’re mad about how the Caps lost Sunday’s game in Chicago, they lost even worse to the Blackhawks last year 7-1 in February. I sure didn’t think I was watching a Cup winner at that point.

Washington is hardly the only team to suffer such a low point in their season. Look at some of the other contenders across the league. The Caps are only one point behind Toronto which has lost four of its last five, Pittsburgh went through a stretch in which it lost nine out of ten in October/November, Nashville lost six straight from Dec. 17 through Dec. 29, San Jose lost five out of six from Nov. 20 to Dec. 1 and Vegas started the season 9-12-1 before they finally turned things around. No one thinks those teams are done. So why should we write off the Caps?

Looking at the playoff race, Washington is only one point ahead of Pittsburgh for the last wild-card spot…but five points ahead of ninth-place Buffalo. The season is not lost…yet.
Every team has low points during the season, but it’s January.

There’s still a lot of hockey left to play.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE 

Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

  • The return of Barry Trotz came at a bad time for Washington. Because of how he has turned around the Islanders and how the Caps have struggled, that has led many to simply dismiss Todd Reirden as a head coach. Here’s what Reirden has had to deal with to start the season: A 20-game suspension (later reduced) to Tom Wilson, a lineup that has not been 100-percent available at any point this season, simultaneous injuries to Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Braden Holtby, a second injury to Holtby and prolonged injuries to Brooks Orpik and Christian Djoos. Plus, he’s had to navigate his team coming into a season as the defending champions for the first time in franchise history. The book on Reirden as a head coach is not going to be written based on a January slump. It’s going to be written based on what he does this season as a whole and, even more importantly, on what he does in the playoffs.
     
  • I have seen a few people wonder if the Caps should recall anyone from Hershey, but the simple fact of the matter is that the solution to Washington’s problems is not in the AHL. There are just no difference makers with the Bears right now and adding anyone would be a headache. The Caps have no cap room and two extra forwards already on the roster. To add anyone would mean sending someone back down and exposing them to waivers. Adding Nathan Walker or Shane Gersich to the bottom six is not going to make any difference if Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie can’t score.
     
  • Dmitrij Jaskin needs to stay in the lineup. He can’t finish, but no one can right now. Specifically, among bottom six players, Travis Boyd and Brett Connolly have only one goal in 12 games, Andre Burakovsky has not scored in his last 13, Nic Dowd in his last 16 and Devante Smith-Pelly in his last 23. So really, what offense are you losing by dressing Jaskin? Jaskin, Dowd and Boyd was a very solid line earlier in the season. While Reirden has the line blender out, why not try this one again?


It may be too early to give up on the Caps’ season, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sinking the rankings.

Find out where they land here in this week’s NHL Power Rankings. 

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

When is Super Bowl 2019? Date, time, location, odds, TV channel, halftime performer

belichick_mcvay_usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

When is Super Bowl 2019? Date, time, location, odds, TV channel, halftime performer

For the third straight year, the New England Patriots are in the Super Bowl. After beating the Kansas City Chiefs, 37-31, in overtime in the AFC Championship game Sunday, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have the Patriots in position to win their second Super Bowl in three years and third in five years.

And for Washington Redskins fans, there will be a familiar face on the opposing sideline trying to stop the Patriots from adding another title to their already extensive resume. In just his second season with the Los Angeles Rams, Sean McVay has his team playing in the Super Bowl against the Patriots. The Rams beat the New Orleans Saints, 26-23, also in overtime Sunday in the NFC Championship game.

Led by the 32-year-old former Redskins offensive coordinator, the Rams are in their first Super Bowl since 2001, when the franchise was still in St. Louis. The Rams have not won an NFL title in Los Angeles since 1951, 16 years prior to the Super Bowl era.

The 2019 Super Bowl is also a rematch of the title game from the 2001-2002 season, when the Patriots beat the then-St. Louis Rams, 20-17.

The AFC champion Patriots and the NFC champion Rams will face off in Super Bowl LIII on February 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. 

Now less than two weeks before the matchup, here's everything you need to know to prepare for the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl LIII Key Information

When is Super Bowl LIII (53)?

Super Bowl Sunday in 2019 is February 9.

Who is playing in Super Bowl LIII (53)?

The New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams are playing in the 2019 Super Bowl.

Where is Super Bowl LIII (53)?

The 2019 Super Bowl is at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

How can I watch Super Bowl LIII (53)?

The 2019 Super Bowl will be televised by CBS.

How can I stream the Super Bowl?

You can stream Super Bowl 53 via CBS All Access, CBSSports.com and on the CBS Sports app. 

Who are the announcers for Super Bowl LIII (53)?

Jim Nantz and Tony Romo will do the play-by-play and color commentary, respectively, while Tracy Wolfson and Evan Washburn are the sideline reporters. James Brown will host the pregame show, and Bill Cowher, Nate Burleson, Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms will do the postgame show.

Nantz will also do the trophy presentation after the game.

Who is performing the Super Bowl LIII (53) halftime show?

Maroon 5 is the headliner for the Pepsi Super Bowl LIII halftime show and will be joined by rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi.

Who is singing the 2019 Super Bowl national anthem?

Atlanta-native R&B legend Gladys Knight is singing the national anthem at Super Bowl LIII.

What are the betting odds for Super Bowl LIII (53)?

The New England Patriots opened as 1.5-point favorites in the 2019 Super Bowl over the Los Angeles Rams. The over-under for the 2019 Super Bowl is 58.

MORE NFL