Capitals

Sharapova's Twitter debut; Murray's new look

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Sharapova's Twitter debut; Murray's new look

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Maria Sharapova has made her Twitter debut at the Australian Open, and she's tweeting on THE trend of this year's tournament.

``Everyone got dressed in the same closet, wearing yellow on court at the aus open,'' she tweeted Tuesday. It was only her second posting and she already had more than 50,000 followers.

Yellow is hands down the color of choice among players - or rather, sponsors - at this year's Australian Open. Yellow sneakers, yellow shorts, yellow dresses, yellow visors.

For fans in the upper decks, it can be hard to tell who's who on certain courts.

Former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki wore a white-and-pale yellow tennis dress designed as part of her Adidas line with Stella McCartney.

It was very similar to the white-and-pale yellow Nike dress on her opponent, German Sabine Lisicki. It didn't help that both wore visors over their blond ponytails. Wozniacki won and faces Donna Vekic of Croatia in the second round.

Some men were sporting yellow, too, including France's Gael Monfils whose fluorescent muscle T-shirt matched the tennis balls and was only slightly brighter than the yellow shirt of his 18th-seeded opponent Alexandr Dolgopolov.

``The colors are a joke,'' said 73rd-ranked Timea Babos of Hungary. ``It's the same for everyone - yellow, grey and white.''

She should know. Way out on Court 22, Babos played hard and lost to France's Kristina Mladenovic, 6-3, 4-6, 11-9 in a nearly three-hour battle against a player who looked like her mirror image.

The two wore identical yellow tank dresses with white and gray trim - which provided some comic relief, Babos said, smiling through tears after her loss.

``Having the same outfit was hilarious,'' she said, adding that it was the talk of the locker room. ``Everyone was joking about it. They said, `It doesn't matter, you look better.'''

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ADVICE FROM CHINA: French Open champion Li Na had some advice for her close friend and compatriot Wu Di the night before he made history by becoming the first Chinese man to play in the singles draw of a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era.

``Last night before I go to bed I get a text message from her,'' said Wu, who is from Li's hometown of Wuhan and frequently practices with her. ``She told me, `Don't be nervous. Don't think about tennis. Just go to bed. Your answer will be tomorrow, not tonight. So, don't think about anything else.'''

Li speaks from experience. She became the first Asian player to reach a Grand Slam final at the 2011 Australian Open and then the first Asian winner of a Grand Slam at Roland Garros.

Wu, ranked 186th in the world, lost his first-round match Tuesday at Melbourne Park against Croatia's Ivan Dodig, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. But he the 21-year-old who mostly plays on the lower-level Challenger and Futures circuits fought hard.

The speedy Wu kept points lively as he ran down Dodig's heavy forehands and drop shots and forced the Croatian player into countless errors. When he broke Dodig's serve to go up 5-4 in the second set, his red-clad Chinese supporters in the stands broke into a raucous cheer: ``Jia you, Wu Di,'' which roughly translates as ``Let's go, Wu Di.''

Frenchman David Moreau, Wu's coach for the past eight months, said the Chinese player has the game to compete in more Grand Slams but he needs to be more decisive and aggressive on court.

``Of course, he needs to improve his serve. He's a short guy, but he's been improving a lot already. And now it's going to be about moving forward into the court,'' he said.

Wu is aiming to qualify for the French Open men's draw next, but isn't so optimistic about his chances.

``Of course, I want to participate two Grand Slams in a row, but red clay is not my strongest surface,'' he said.

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ANDY'S NEW LOOK: Andy Murray has had to explain that his chest is not more muscular, it just looks that way because he's wearing a tighter shirt this year.

Since Murray started working with coach Ivan Lendl, he has certainly bulked up.

``Most of the weight that I put on is in my legs. But the T-shirt I'm wearing is tighter,'' said the stolid Scotsman, when told he seemed to be filling out his shirt better this year.

In his mumbling monotone, the 25-year-old added: ``It's not that I'm any bigger in my upper body. It's just because of the tightness of the T-shirt, maybe it appears that way.''

Third-ranked Murray advanced to the second round at the Australian Open on Tuesday, beating Robin Haase of the Netherlands in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.

It was his first Grand Slam match since his career-changing win at the U.S. Open in September, which came shortly after he won the men's gold medal at the London Olympics.

He attributes much of his success to Lendl. During an on-court interview he joked that Lendl is relaxed ``in front of the cameras, yeah,'' but, ``behind closed doors he works me very hard.''

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A TRUE FAN: It was a first-round match so important for Caroline Wozniacki that it kept her golf star boyfriend, Rory McIlroy, awake at night.

The former No. 1-ranked Wozniacki came back from 3-0 down in the final set to win the last six games of the match against big-hitting Lisicki 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.

McIlroy got up at 3 a.m. to watch from Abu Dhabi, where he's preparing to play in this weekend's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championships. He was coming off a busy day himself after the announcement of his lucrative multi-year contract with Nike.

Of course, the multimillion dollar golf contract became a topic of conversation.

``It wasn't really a big surprise to me. I kind of knew,'' she said to laughter in her post-match press conference. ``I felt bad for him because I think he went to bed at midnight their time and woke up at 3 and watched me and then back to sleep for a couple of hours.''

``That's a true fan,'' she added.

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Associated Press writer Justin Bergman contributed to this report.

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Referees miss blatant boarding by Paquette on Orpik

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USA TODAY Sports

Referees miss blatant boarding by Paquette on Orpik

A rough hit to the back of Brooks Orpik left him down on the ice and slow to get up. Cedric Paquette skated back to his bench and waited for the trainer to attend to Orpik and (probably) for the referees to call his number and send him to the box.

The penalty, however, never came.

You always hear in hockey that if you can see a player's numbers, you should pull up on the hit.

What that refers to is the numbers on the back of a player's jersey. You are not allowed to hit a player directly in the back into the boards.

The official definition of boarding according to the NHL rule book is, "any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously." Hitting a player "in the numbers" is a defenseless position.

Apparently Cedric Paquette didn't know that and, unfortunately for the Capitals, neither did the referees.

Someone explain to me how this is not a boarding penalty:

Sometimes referees are put in a tough position because a player turns his back right before they take the hit, thus putting themselves in a vulnerable position to draw a penalty. That was not the case here. Orpik never turned.

When Tom Wilson hit Pittsburgh Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese in the second period, the hockey world spent the next day debating whether it was an illegal hit. There is no debate here, no grey area. Just a clear board.

And no call.

You can understand referees wanting to put away the whistles for a Game 7, but you have to call the blatant dangerous plays like this. This was a bad miss by the referees, plain and simple.

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Capitals advance to Stanley Cup Final for first time in 20 years; will face inaugural Golden Knights

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Capitals advance to Stanley Cup Final for first time in 20 years; will face inaugural Golden Knights

The Capitals' magical run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs continues, moving on to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1998 after a 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 on Wednesday night to face George McPhee's expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

Game 1 of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final will take place on Memorial Day, Monday, 5/27 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. The Golden Knights ended the regular-season with four points more than the Capitals, meaning the inaugural Vegas team will have home-ice advantage.

After taking a 2-0 series lead over the Lightning, Tampa won three straight to put the Capitals on the brink of elimination before back-to-back wins helped them advance past the Eastern Conference Final. 

This wasn't even supposed to happen in many people's eyes. The Capitals trailed the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-0 in the first round, before winning four straight to then face Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third straight year. 

After winning that series in six games, eliminating the Penguins from the playoffs for just the second time ever, the Caps went into Tampa and shocked the Lightning with a 4-2 win in Game 1, following that up with a 6-2 win in Game 2

Now, the greatest expansion team in modern sports history is all that stands in the way of a Stanley Cup. Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights knocked off the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Sunday in Game 5 of the Western Conference final to advance. 

The Knights, whose historic inaugural 109-point season included a Pacific Division crown, sweeping the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, before knocking out the San Jose Sharks in six games.

The Jets had the NHL's second-best record with 114 points in the regular season. They advanced to the first conference final in the city's history with a five-game victory over the Minnesota Wild in the opening round before topping the Presidents' Trophy-winning Nashville Predators in Game 7 on the road.

Now, in the Stanley Cup Final, the Capitals will try and avoid being a part of the wrong side of history, while making their own history in the process.