Sloane Stephens gets text messages from grandpa


Sloane Stephens gets text messages from grandpa

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) One of the things Sloane Stephens likes about winning at the Australian Open is that her tech-savvy grandparents can keep watching her from back home.

``My grandpa texted me,'' the 19-year-old Stephens said. ``He said they stayed up again to watch me `on the machine' as my grandpa calls it.''

That's the computer.

Grandpa got to see Stephens advance Thursday to the third round, beating France's Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 6-3. It's one of many reasons to be proud of her.

Stephens is the No. 3-ranked American woman and has climbed to a career high world ranking of No. 25. Her ascent has been quick after ending 2012 ranked 38th, which made her the youngest player inside the year-end top 50.

Last year, Stephens was one of the up-and-coming players to watch. She reached the third round at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and the fourth round at the French Open. She has achieved her best result in Melbourne after exiting in the second round at last year's Australian Open.

For Stephens, Thursday's match was personal.

She has played the 19 -year-old Mladenovic on big stages before, namely the semifinals of the 2009 French Open juniors tournament, where she lost.

Asked if she remembered that match, Stephens replied: ``How could I forget?''

``That match made my career. I was devastated,'' said Stephens, who is bubbly and charmingly confident. ``I cried for like a month after that.

``But if we had never played before, it would have been super difficult to get out there and play now, so I think that kind of helped.''

By her accounting, Stephens ``didn't play that great'' on Thursday. The 98th-ranked Mladenovic was hitting big serves and big forehands and Stephens had trouble finding her rhythm. She felt her mind wander but then she steered it back to the game.

When asked how she pulled herself out of tight spots, Stephens talked more about her mindset than her tennis.

``I think it's a mixture of things. Concentration, confidence, willing to run every ball down,'' she said. ``Today I was determined to get the next ball back.''

Staying focused leads to other rewards, she smiled.

Like a pair of Jimmy Choos.

Before coming to Melbourne, Stephens had promised herself: ``If I stay focused and concentrate, then I'll reward myself with Jimmy Choo shoes.''

How much will those shoes set her back?

``You don't want to know,'' she said with big eyes. ``It's like five meals. And I eat a lot.''

Stephens' next opponent is Laura Robson, a British teenager she has known since she was 12.

The 53rd-ranked Robson upset No. 8 Petra Kvitova 2-6, 6-3, 11-9 in a 3-hour battle on center court that ended after midnight.

After the 18-year-old Robson politely thanked the crowd for staying to watch, she said she needed to check her phone.

``I think my mum is back home bombarding my phone with text messages,'' she said.


OH LA LA: Gael Monfils faced a room full of French journalists who had one probing question: ``How could you double fault 23 times?''

The Frenchman explained that he felt so tired during his match that he was desperately trying to keep points short.

``I wanted to finish with an ace, so I wouldn't have to play the point,'' he said.

Sometimes that worked. He served an impressive 29 aces.

Sometimes it didn't. Four of his double faults came in the last game as he served for the match. At one point, he stood on the service line laughing in disbelief.

Eventually, the 86th-ranked Monfils won the match to claim a spot in the third round, but it was painful.

``It's been a long time since I've felt that bad in a match,'' he said. ``I didn't feel well. I struggled physically. I was extremely tired.''

It took five sets and lasted 3 hours, 38 minutes before he overcame a valiant effort by Yen-hsun Lu of Tawian 7-6 (5), 4-6, 0-6, 6-1, 8-6.

The scorching heat on Thursday didn't help Monfils - it reached 106 degrees. But he didn't blame the weather.

Monfils entered his first Grand Slam since last year's Australian Open, and he had entered it questioning if he was fit enough because of knee injuries. The Frenchman's ranking slumped from 13th in February 2012 to 99th in January while he battled injuries and other setbacks last year.

Three other Frenchman advanced Thursday without much difficulty. Monfils faces one of them in the third round: No. 14-seed Gilles Simon.

Also, No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Japan's Go Soeda, 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-3, and No. 9 Richard Gasquet defeated Alejandro Falla of Columbia 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.


BURNING UP OUT THERE: James Duckworth said the court was so hot it felt like his feet were burning. He was sweating ``bucket loads.''

On the hottest day of this year's Australian Open at 106 degrees, the distinction of the longest match goes to Duckworth of Australia and Slovenia's Blaz Kavcic. Both struggled with cramps during the 4-hour, 52-minute match before Kavcic won 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 10-8.

``We both just were hanging on for dear life,'' said Duckworth, who won a wildcard entry to the main draw and is ranked 209th.

The 94th-ranked Kavcic needed on-court treatment from a trainer during the fourth set tiebreaker for what appeared to be a cramp in his left thigh. He tweeted after the match he had a ``total physical collapse after the match.''

Duckworth saved five match points in the fifth set despite leg cramps that made his hamstring and quads ``lock up.''

During changeovers, he downed energy drinks and had some cola for caffeine, he ate bananas for energy and tried eating salt to ease his cramps.

After the match, he got on a bike at the gym.

``Thought I'd smash out a 10k time trial,'' he joked. ``No, just a light cool down.''

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John Harbaugh talks Lamar Jackson and everything else that impressed him in 23-17 win

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John Harbaugh talks Lamar Jackson and everything else that impressed him in 23-17 win

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The 'easy' part of the Ravens schedule is over. 

They faced a team widely projected to have the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft in week one and faced the team that had the No. 1 pick in 2019 in Week 2. 

The Ravens got out of those two games at 2-0. But now, the true test of the season will happen as the Ravens head to Kansas City to face the also undefeated Chiefs. 

Ahead of one of the biggest games in the young NFL season, the Ravens have reason to feel good about how they’ve started, but also know what’s around the corner.

Here are a few things that stood out about Harbaugh’s press conference:

Lamar’s Stellar Sunday

Lamar Jackson may not have thought he had a strong day. But the statistics say otherwise. 

He finished with 272 yards passing and two touchdowns. He added 120 yards on the ground, finishing as the Ravens' leading rusher as well. He was the first player in NFL history to post those numbers in the same game. 

The Ravens also went 7-of-14 on third down, something Harbaugh credited Jackson with having the ability to do in a variety of ways. 

“I thought he was just tremendous,” Harbaugh said. “Both getting to the sticks by throwing the ball, and then when they had people covered and the offensive line did a good job sustaining the protection, by getting out and running to the sticks. He did it both ways. That’s all you can ever ask for from a quarterback to do that. Keeps a lot of pressure on the defense.”

Through the first two weeks of the season, Jackson has showcased both his arm and his legs. Now, it’ll be a matter of which poison he forces defenses to drink.

Brynden Trawick’s injury

The Ravens got relatively good news about special teams standout Brynden Trawick’s injury.  

Trawick was injured on the Ravens first punt of the second half on a block in the back penalty, which was called, and never returned to the game. On the play, he grabbed his left arm immediately and left the field in a significant amount of pain. 

“Trawick’s got an elbow/arm issue, so we’ll see,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a matter of whether or not he can deal with it. It’s not going to be a long term deal. Whether he can go this week or not is how he can deal with it, how he can operate with it.”

Trawick, a safety, played in 13 snaps on special teams before his injury. 

The team recently promoted Maurice Canady to the 53-man roster in light of cornerback Jimmy Smith’s MCL sprain and will now be down two members of the secondary.

Preparing for a shootout

The Ravens lost in Kansas City last year in overtime 27-24. This year, Harbaugh said there won’t be much new to it all.

“Our guys have been in that stadium, they’ve been in that tiny little locker room before, they’ve been on that field, stayed in that hotel,” Harbaugh said. “All those things are pluses. We played a good game, but we didn’t win. That’s motivation also.”

He said they’ll watch last year’s game, but so much has changed since then it’s hard to take much stock in it.

Last season, Jackson threw for only 147 yards in the loss. This year, he’s eclipsed that total twice — by rather large margins. 

“Of course, we’ll watch last year’s game, but teams change so much,” Harbaugh said. “They watch the game too. It’s always a new game. It’s really so important in this league in the sense of, yeah, there’s carryover always, but really it’s week-to-week. It’s game-to-game. No two games are ever going to be the same.”

Ravens make a minor move

Just after Harbaugh’s press conference, the Ravens added offensive guard Parker Ehringer to their practice squad, a former fourth-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016.

Ehringer spent 2018 in Dallas before heading to Jacksonville in the early part of the year. He was in 2019 training camp with the Cardinals.

A University of Cincinnati grad, Ehringer will fill the void of Greg Senat, who was waived last Saturday in place of Maurice Canady.

Marquise Brown’s potential meeting with the NFL

Marquise Brown hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing.

But he is, according to a report from Pro Football Talk, likely speak with the NFL about the lawsuit surrounding his cousin, Antonio Brown. 

Antonio is accused in a lawsuit filed this month of raping his former trainer, twice in 2017 and once in 2018. The accuser, Britney Taylor, reportedly was scheduled to speak with the NFL on Monday.

The lawsuit, according to Pro Football Talk, reported Marquise as the unnamed player that was in attendance on one of the nights that Antonio allegedly raped the alleged victim in May of 2018.

When asked about the report from PFT on Monday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he wasn’t concerned about Marquise’s reported place in the lawsuit.

“It’s not going to be a distraction,” Harbaugh said. “Believe me, it’s the last thing on my mind right now. Absolutely.”

Harbaugh said the team hadn’t spoken to Marquise about the lawsuit or potential NFL interview either.

“My focus is on football,” he said. “If it comes to that, if there’s something that needs to be done that way, we have people in the building that look at those things. Until it comes to that, it’s not an issue.”


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Nationals manager Dave Martinez remains in Washington for further testing

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Nationals manager Dave Martinez remains in Washington for further testing

Davey Martinez remained in Washington for further medical testing, the Nationals announced Monday. Bench coach Chip Hale will manage the team Monday night instead.

Martinez left Sunday’s series finale against the Atlanta Braves in the sixth inning because he was not feeling well. He went to a local hospital for further examinations upon the recommendation from Nationals medical staff. They said at the time they expected Martinez to join the team in St. Louis, though they did not specify when.

Hale, 54, joined the Nationals’ staff as bench coach when Martinez was hired ahead of the 2018 season. The Baltimore Orioles interviewed him this offseason for their open managerial position.

Hale has replaced Martinez following each of Martinez’s ejections this season.

Hale managed the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2015-16, where his teams went a combined 148-176. He’s also been the third base coach for the New York Mets, the bench coach for the Oakland A’s, and even a Triple-A manager. Prior, Hale was a part-time major leaguer for seven seasons.

The Nationals open a three-game series Monday night in St. Louis. They have a 1 ½-game lead for homefield in the Wild-Card Game. They are just 2 ½ games in front of Milwaukee for a postseason berth. Just 14 games remain in the season.