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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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NBA Rumors: Lakers reportedly waive DeMarcus Cousins

NBA Rumors: Lakers reportedly waive DeMarcus Cousins

After signing Markieff Morris to a contract following the former Wizard's buy out from the Pistons, the Lakers reportedly waived center DeMarcus Cousins to open a roster spot. 

Health has been a major issue over the last two years for Cousins. He hasn't played a game this year thanks to a torn ACL he suffered before the season, and he missed all but 30 games last year due to an Achilles injury he suffered with the Pelicans midway through the 2017-18 season. 

Before injuries robbed Cousins of the majority of his prime, he was arguably the best big man in the game. Prior to his Achilles injury in New Orleans, he was averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists while shooting 47% percent from the floor and 35.4% from three on 6.1 attempts per game. 

For the Wizards, Cousins could represent another low risk, high reward big man acquisition that the Lakers couldn't find any use for. Washington acquired both Thomas Bryant and Moe Wagner from LA for practically nothing and both have played well after their relocation to D.C. 

Also, John Wall played with Cousins at the University of Kentucky and both have mentioned a desire to play together again at some point. Neither player is expected to return from injury this season, so they could both go on an NBA revenge tour together alongside Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and Rui Hachimura. 

In the meantime, we'll have to wait and see what Cousins decides to do. According to ESPN's Bobby Marks, Cousins won't officially be waived until Sunday. The team who claims him will be able to offer him up to $4.2 million in salary this summer. 

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Three things to look for during the Orioles first spring training game Saturday

Three things to look for during the Orioles first spring training game Saturday

Baseball isn’t quite in full swing yet. But it’s close enough. 

The Orioles will open up their spring slate of games on Saturday against the Braves in North Port, Fla. It’s both the first game of spring training for both teams. 

The game can be listened to on Orioles.com or on the MLB At-Bat app. 

So here are three things to pay attention to during the first game of the spring: 

1. The starting pitching

The pitching was, to be frank, atrocious last season for the Orioles. 2020 doesn’t figure to showcase a large jump, either. 

Baltimore will start Chandler Shepherd against the Braves, a pitcher who started three games last season in Baltimore. He allowed 23 hits and 14 earned runs in 19 innings pitched and posted a 6.63 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP.

Ty Blach will pitch in relief of Shepherd. Blach pitched in five games last season for the Orioles and threw 20 ⅓ innings with an ERA 11.32. 

While neither will likely make the Opening Day roster, it’ll give an interesting look at what could be in store for the rest of spring training in Sarasota. 

2. How much the prospects play

For most major league clubs, there’s not much to get excited about for the first few games of spring training. The Orioles, though, are in a bit of a unique circumstance. 

In the second year of a rebuild, the Orioles are placing their future in the hands of younger prospects, meaning there’s always a chance for a few players to stand out in the first weeks of camp. 

While the lineups aren’t known yet, both for Saturday’s game and for the immediate future, getting a glimpse at some of the younger prospects like Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, Gunnar Henderson, and DL Hall is what fans have been clamoring for. 

3. The return of baseball

It’s not the return of baseball in the truest sense of the phrase.  

The Orioles aren’t going to play their top of the line prospects, or their major league club. But the first game of the spring means that baseball, officially, is back for Baltimore. 

Even though the 2020 season almost assuredly won’t be one that resembles any kind of contention, the Orioles hitting the field once again is always an exciting time.

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