Nationals

Sharapova, Radwanska advance; Stosur out in 2nd Rd

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Sharapova, Radwanska advance; Stosur out in 2nd Rd

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Maria Sharapova advanced to the third round of the Australian Open without losing a game, and No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanksa extended the best winning streak of the year to 11 matches on Wednesday.

Sam Stosur couldn't get the same traction, wilting again under the pressure of expectations at home. The 2011 U.S. Open champion twice failed to serve out the match before losing 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 to China's Zheng Jie in a second-round upset.

No. 2-ranked Sharapova, the runner-up here last year, had a 6-0, 6-0 win over Misaki Doi in 47 minutes, conceding just 15 points to the Japanese player. The reigning French Open champion hasn't seemed to be troubled at all by a right collarbone injury that ruled her out of a warm-up tournament in Brisbane earlier this month.

Sharapova beat fellow Russian Olga Puchkova 6-0, 6-0 in the first round, and has so far only spent 1 hour, 42 minutes on court in two matches at Melbourne Park.

``I've been playing really aggressively and doing the right things,'' Sharapova said. ``It's not easy to be up so much because you can have a few let-downs. You just have to try to concentrate.''

No. 9 Stosur couldn't close out her opponent. She was leading 5-2 in the third set and was only two points from advancing to the third round before Zheng, the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam semifinal when she made the last four at Wimbledon in 2008, reeled off five straight games to end Australia's involvement in the women's draw.

``Sorry everybody in the stands,'' Zheng said. ``It was a very good win for me I think.''

It extended a miserable run at home for Stosur, who lost in the first round here last year in her first major after beating Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final. Her opening win Monday was her first victory in five matches at home.

Radwanska had earlier rolled into the third round with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu and remains unbeaten this year, including titles at warm-up tournaments this month at Auckland and Sydney.

``I can play even better,'' said Radwanska, who lost last year's Wimbledon final to Serena Williams. ``I didn't really expect I could win that many matches in a row, and hopefully I can keep going.''

Her last two trips to the Australian Open have ended in quarterfinal losses to the eventual champion - Kim Clijsters in 2011 and Victoria Azarenka last year.

With top-ranked Azarenka and Williams in the other half of the draw, Radwanska's main obstacles to reaching the final are 2011 French Open champion Li Na, who beat Olga Goortsova of Belarus 6-2, 7-5 to reach the third round, and potential semifinal rivals Sharapova or No. 5 Angelique Kerber of Germany.

Kerber advanced with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Lucie Hradecka.

Williams hurt her ankle in her opening victory Tuesday, causing speculation that her bid for a third consecutive major title Open could be in jeopardy. She has only lost one match since her first-round exit at the French Open last year. Williams canceled an outdoor practice session and moved it indoors, beyond the media glare, on Wednesday afternoon.

In women's second-round matches, No. 11 Marion Bartoli beat Serbian qualifier Vesna Dolonc 7-5, 6-0, No. 18 Julia Gorges beat Romina Oprandi 6-3, 6-2, Russian qualifier Valeria Savinykh upset No. 15 Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (6), 6-4 and Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium ousted No. 23 Klara Zakopalova 6-1, 6-0 and 17-year-old American wild-card Madison Keys beat No. 30 Tamira Paszek of Austria 6-2, 6-1.

On the men's side, No. 4-ranked David Ferrer needed five match points before clinching a 6-0, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 win over American Tim Smyczek, who got into the main draw as a lucky loser from qualifying.

Fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych beat Guillaume Rufin of France 6-2, 6-2, 6-4, and No. 10 Nicolas Almagro and No. 16-ranked Kei Nishikori also moved on. No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland rallied from two sets down to overpower India's Somdev Devvarman 6-7 (10), 3-6, 6-1, 6-0, 7-5.

No. 20 Sam Querrey advanced when fellow American Brian Baker retired in the second set with what appeared to be a right knee injury and next plays No. 15 Stanislas Wawrinka.

Baker, who returned to the tour last year after missing almost six seasons with a variety of injuries, won a first-set tiebreaker and was level at 1-1 on serve in the second. He was later pushed from Court 6 in a wheelchair.

``Yeah, he's the last person that deserves anything like that with his five or six surgeries already,'' Querrey said. ``He does everything right, treats his body great, just trying to come back, and then something like that happens, it's just so unlucky.''

Williams had a moment on Day 2 when she felt like her tournament could be over.

Flat on her back, her sore right ankle raised and her hands covering her face, she tried to block out thoughts that her bid for a third straight Grand Slam title might be ruined.

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

Williams beat No. 110-ranked Edina Gallovits-Hall 6-0, 6-0 in 54 minutes, but the match may have taken a toll.

Williams expects to at least start her second-round match Thursday against Spain's Garbine Muguruza.

``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.''

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Astros players plan to make a team statement on sign-stealing scandal during Spring Training

Astros players plan to make a team statement on sign-stealing scandal during Spring Training

The Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal has rocked MLB and left a dark shadow over the league during offseason. Up until this point, despite a fired general manager and on-field manager, the players at the root of the scandal have remained silent on the subject and avoided questions from the media.

That will all change in Spring Training as the Astros players plan to make "a strong statement as a team," according to Astros' owner Jim Crane. 

"When we get down to Spring Training, we'll all get them together and they'll come out with a strong statement as a team and apologize for what happened and we'll move forward," Crane said in a media scrum.

Over the weekend the team held their annual winter FanFest where several players had to face the music as many players met with the media for the first time. Jose Altuve, who is one of the players who allegedly benefited from the sign-stealing, dodged the question as best he could. The Astros shortstop's comments coincide with Crane's, saying “I think the time to comment about that will come. It’s a little early for me to say something about it.” 

Outside of their FanFest event, there is little that has come out of the clubhouse. Their owner acknowledged the lack of communication from the players and said the players were advised to stay out of the conversation. 

"The players have been beaten up a little bit and they've been all spread out. They've just kinda getting [sic] advice to take it easy."

Already Spring Training in West Palm Beach is going to be awkward between the two teams that made the World Series last season. The Nationals, who won the World Series whether or not the Astros used their system to gain an advantage, have their facilities next door to Houston's.

And if the Astros sign former Nationals' manager Dusty Baker to the same position in wake of A.J. Hinch's firing, there will be even more tense situations at Spring Training this year. 

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Jay Gruden reportedly to join Jaguars as their offensive coordinator

Jay Gruden reportedly to join Jaguars as their offensive coordinator

Just four months shy of his last appearance on the NFL gridiron sidelines, Jay Gruden may already have his 2020 gig lined up, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero.

Gruden was head coach of the Washington Redskins for six seasons, beginning in 2014 and going 35-49-1 in his burgundy and gold tenure. Gruden pushed the Redskins to their first postseason appearance since 2012 in his second year with the team, as well as back-to-back winning seasons in 2015 and 2016, not seen in Washington since 1996 and 1997. 

In March 2017, Gruden signed a two-year extension with the Redskins. He was fired after beginning the 2019 season 0-5. 

Recently, Gruden confirmed to Rapoport that he was "itching for something to do" and seeking employment before Jacksonville brought him in to interview for the OC role. 

After playing four years at the University of Louisville and and eight more in various football leagues, Gruden held many offensive roles, offensive coordinator for the Florida Tuskers and Cincinnati Bengals. 

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