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Stosur analyzes mental aspect of losing at home

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Stosur analyzes mental aspect of losing at home

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Samantha Stosur felt great before things started to spin out of control.

She was playing before her home crowd at the Australian Open and she was winning - by a lot. The anxiety that had risen so often on center court seemed at bay.

Up 5-2 in the third set, Stosur was two points - just two points - from reaching the third round.

``It was close to being a great day,'' Stosur said, trying to analyze what went wrong. ``And now, it's not such a great day.''

Her tenacious opponent, the 40th-ranked Zheng Jie of China, won the next five games and won 6-4, 1-6, 7-5. The match ended with one last double-fault from Stosur - she had nine in total and 56 unforced errors.

``Obviously it's a hard one to take when you get yourself into a winning position and you lose five games straight,'' she said. ``It just kept happening, point after point after point.''

Asked how much of her problem was mental, she replied, ``A hundred percent.''

Stosur reached the French Open final in 2010. She beat Serena Williams to win the U.S. Open in 2011, becoming the first Australian woman to earn a singles major title in more than 30 years.

But coming home brings on the jitters. In 13 appearances at the Australian Open she has never made it past the fourth round. In 2011 and 2012, she exited abruptly in the first round.

Just before heading to Melbourne this month, the ninth-ranked Stosur lost in her first matches of warm-up tournaments in Brisbane and Sydney.

There have been surprising letdowns elsewhere. At last year's French Open, the sixth-seeded Stosur reached the semifinals and was headed toward victory against Sara Errani of Italy, then seeded 21, but lost in three sets.

Stosur started working with a sports psychologist in 2010 to help her deal with the pressure of playing in Australia and overcoming what she has called ``those battles in your own head during matches.''

The 28-year-old elaborated on the internal battle at her post-match news conference on Wednesday.

``At 5-2, I felt great,'' she said. ``Then all of a sudden it obviously went away quite quickly.''

``Crazy things start popping into your head,'' she said. ``You make an error and you tighten up a little bit, but you try to reset and refocus before that next point.''

But that didn't work, and her mind kept churning.

``You probably think a little bit too much,'' she said. ``It's 5-2. You don't want it to go any further than 5-3. You're desperately trying not to make it happen.''

Asked if she choked, she sighed.

``At 5-2 up in the third, double break - probably is a bit of a choke, yeah,'' Stosur said.

After Stosur packed her rackets into her bag and walked off the court, an elated Zheng Jie returned to center court for her victory interview - which turned into an apology.

``Sorry to everyone in the stands,'' Zheng said to the packed Rod Laver Arena.

Later, the 29-year-old Zheng entered her post-match news conference shaking her head and taking a few deep breaths.

``It's amazing I could come back,'' she said, and shared what ran through her mind as she was on the cusp of losing.

She told herself: ``I need to keep fighting and enjoy the match.''

Zheng became the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon in 2008. She matched that result two years later when she and compatriot Li Na both reached the 2010 Australian Open semifinals.

The No. 6-seeded Li also advanced to the third round Wednesday, beating Olga Govortsova of Belarus, 6-2, 7-5. Li faces Romania's Sorana Cirstea in the next round. Zheng plays 18th-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany.

At 5-foot-4 - Zheng is short compared to some of her opponents. Asked where she honed her fighting spirit, she recited what her coaches told her when she was young.

``I wasn't tall. I wasn't strong. My coaches told me, `If you want to go far away, you need to keep fighting for every ball - and focus on every point.''

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Injuries hit Capitals hard in 3-1 loss to Winnipeg

Injuries hit Capitals hard in 3-1 loss to Winnipeg

The Capitals were already facing one of the toughest back-to-back challenges in the NHL. Then they found out their starting goalie would not play and less than nine minutes into the game lost their No. 1 center. 

That about summed up a 3-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday. The last time an NHL team swept a back-to-back set of games against the Jets and Minnesota Wild was 2012. 

Washington played well enough taking a 1-0 lead on a Jakub Vrana goal in the first period and the game was tied until 12:51 of the third period when a shot by Ben Chiarot skipped past goalie Pheonix Copley. The Jets added an empty-net goal to seal the win. 

The loss is one thing. Winnipeg is a tough place to play and maybe the favorite to come out of the Western Conference. But injuries have begun to mount and that’s the big takeaway. 

Holtby showed up to the rink Wednesday morning and it was assumed he’d play after Copley won the game in St. Paul against the Wild. Instead, Holtby was ruled out with an upper-body injury and the Capitals had to sign an emergency goalie – Gavin McHale, a 31-year-old assistant coach for a local women’s college hockey team in Winnipeg. That is less than ideal. 

Holtby’s injury might not be a big deal. You’ll know if Washington recalls top prospect Ilya Samsonov from AHL Hershey for Friday’s game in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche. 

“That was this morning. [Holtby] came over with our goalie coach and did a skate this morning and was not able to back up tonight or play,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “So he was kind of a game-time decision and he wasn’t able to participate tonight.”

Holtby will be re-evaluated Thursday after he gets continuing treatment for his injury. There has to be concern about Kuznetsov, who took an elbow to the face at 8:52 of the first period from Jets forward Brandon Tanev. Kuznetsov left the game and did not return. 

That left the Caps shorthanded most of the night with Lars Eller playing center alongside Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson on the top line. Ovechkin ended up playing 24:21. Eller played 18:48 and Backstrom 21:41. Not having Kuznetsov would be an issue. He’s not a player they can replace for long. 

“Was more precautionary,” Reirden said. “Obviously a blow to the head. We had to continue to evaluate him tomorrow, but we needed to make sure he didn’t return to the game.”

Washington, of course, could look to last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs when they missed Backstrom for Game 6 during the second round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a hand injury and the first three games against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.

Oshie was the final blow. He was slammed to the ice by Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey and the back of his head hit the ice. Reirden compared the play to a hit by Florida Panthers defenseman Michael Matheson on Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson. He was suspended two games on Oct. 15.  

Oshie certainly didn’t look right. He had to stay on the ice as the Caps pushed for the tying goal with the net empty down 2-1. But it took a while for him to get back to his skates and then he wasn’t able to jump on a loose puck in the slot moments before Winnipeg put the game away at the other end of the ice with an empty-net goal. 

The result is one thing for the Capitals (8-7-3), who are still struggling to generate multiple wins in a row. The status of their three key players is more important after a 1-1-0 start to a four-game road trip. 

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Wizards finally experience a blowout win for their side

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USA Today Sports

Wizards finally experience a blowout win for their side

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The Washington Wizards experienced plenty during this largely trying regular season. One aspect missing, being on the all-smiles end of a blowout victory. After Wednesday’s 119-95 rout over the Cleveland Cavaliers, they can now check that box.

“It’s nice to experience that as well,” Tomas Satoransky said.

Washington led from start to finish and by double figures for the final 35 minutes. It set season-highs for points in a quarter (41 in the first), the first half (73) and largest halftime margin (21). The Wizards turned 24 Cavalier turnovers into 29 points. All 13 players scored. 

Quality stretches existed this season, but for minutes, a quarter, maybe a half, but rarely over the full 48. Other than a third-quarter dip when the Cavaliers (2-12) closed within 13 points, the Wizards rolled. The romp meant John Wall only played 21 minutes. None of the starters entered in the fourth quarter. That last part happened in recent games, but this time for positive reasons.

“It was great,” Bradley Beal said of a game “[We were] able to come out and get a lead and be able to sustain it and maintain it throughout the game.”

The Wizards maintained little during the opening 11 games of the regular season other than a downtrodden vibe. Their 5-9 record reflects those struggles. The current three-game winning streak signals growth. The postgame locker room smiles and comments displayed some sense of relief.

“I think we needed that, obviously,” Satoransky said to NBC Sports Washington. The reserve point guard was part of the second quarter surge that saw the Wizards outscore the struggling Cavaliers 20-2 for a 61-34 lead.

“They were on a back-to-back and they haven’t been playing well this year. We felt like with a day off after our last win we could come out aggressively, and just keep it going,” said Satoransky, who had eight points, four assists and three steals in 17 minutes. “Trying to turn the season around.”

The Wizards aren’t naïve enough to think all problems are solved. The three wins came against teams with losing records. Victories over Miami and Orlando included shaky stretches. The big picture hole remains.

“We still have a lot of work to do – we still have to get better,” said Beal, who led Washington with 20 points. “We’re still not content with where we are. We put three [wins] together, but we still have a couple more at home that we have to take care of.”

All of that is true. Numerous gloomy statistics remind the reader of the rough beginnings. Washington entered Wednesday allowing a league-high 118.5 points per game. At least now, the Wizards can contemplate their issues without the weight of the world on their shoulders. For now, the league-wide media will find another target after pillaring the Wizards for weeks. Finally, positive momentum arrived and did so with the Nets, Clippers and Trail Blazers rounding out the homestand.

“I hope we can continue winning,” Satoransky told NBC Sports Washington. “We have three more games at home. I think it’s a good moment for us to turn things around. Brooklyn has been playing well and those two [Western Conference] teams are going to be tough, but I think we’re in a good way now.

“It’s great to experience something like that [blowout]. It helps you mentally. It helped just being able to win three in a row. You can feel it. Whenever you step on the court after that you feel more confident, so that’s good.”

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