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US has 2-0 lead over Brazil

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US has 2-0 lead over Brazil

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) John Isner and Sam Querrey each won their matches on Friday to give the United States a 2-0 lead over Brazil in the first round of the Davis Cup.

Isner earned a straight-set win over Brazil's Thiago Alves 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3.

Isner's win came two hours after Querrey earned a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Thomaz Bellucci.

The United States is one win away from advancing. Bob and Mike Bryan, the world's No. 1 ranked doubles team, will take on Brazil's Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares on Saturday, followed by Sunday's reverse singles.

Taking 2-0 leads in other first-round series were: Serbia (over Belgium), France (over Israel), Kazakhstan (over Austria) and Argentina (over Germany). Tied 1-1 were Switzerland-Czech Republic and Croatia-Italy. The other series is Canada vs. Spain.

Novak Djokovic swept past Oliver Rochus 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in Serbia's second victory in Charleroi, Belgium. Djokovic was coming off his third straight Australian Open title. Despite the switch from hard courts to slow, indoor clay, the world's No. 1 player dismissed the 127th-ranked Rochus. Djokovic had complained about the court being wet and dangerous.

Isner had to overcome a four-week layoff from competitive tennis in winning his match, his seventh Davis Cup competition but the first on American courts. It was Isner's big serve that carried him past the quicker Alves.

Isner finished with 32 aces and had 29 other serves that Alves could not return.

``I always rely on my serve. I wouldn't have such a pretty good ranking if it wasn't for my serve,'' Isner said. ``Going in every match I have to rely on my serve heavily. I wasn't as sharp in other facets of my game. I knew I was going to have to rely on my serve a lot and I did.

``Maybe it wasn't the prettiest, but I'm happy to get through. I littered up the stat sheet for sure. I know I had a lot of aces, but I had a lot of souvenirs into the crowd as well on my forehand.''

Isner had a bone bruise on his right knee a month ago at the Hopman Cup in Australia and hadn't played a competitive match since pulling out of his first-round match at the APIA International Sydney in early January.

The lengthy layoff caused some erratic shots, but Isner said the knee was not a concern during the match.

``The knee felt fine. It didn't bother me today,'' Isner said. ``I wasn't thinking about it. That's really crucial. It could be sore tomorrow morning possibly. I don't expect it to be. I'm ready to play on Sunday whether or not it's live.''

His best stretch of tennis came near the end of the second set. He trailed Alves 5-4 and had to fight off a pair of set points. Both times he responded with aces before eventually pulling even at 5-5.

In the tiebreaker, Alves jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but Isner won the next four points before closing out the set with successive aces.

He broke Alves in the fourth game of the third set to take a 4-2 lead and held on his final two service games, closing out the match by winning four consecutive points in the ninth game.

Querrey was impressive in his straight-set win over Brazil's top-rated player. He didn't finish with as many aces as Isner, but dominated all 15 of the games he served. He won 45 of the 47 first-serve points that went in and never faced a service break on his serve, winning all but 12 points on his serve in the three sets.

Querrey said he couldn't recall the last time he served as well.

``There's probably been a few, but not many,'' he said. ``The court really helps my serve. When it hits, it really skids away. I mean I couldn't have served much better out there.''

Querrey broke Bellucci in the eighth game of the first set and after holding his serve to close out the set, jumped to an early lead in the second set with a break in the first game. Both players then held serve the rest of the set, resulting in a 6-4 win for Querrey.

Querrey matched that feat in the final set, breaking Bellucci in the first game and then holding his serve the rest of the match. He clinched the victory when Bellucci hit a weak backhand into the net at match point.

The wins left team captain Jim Courier happy with his team's position in the best-of-five matchup.

``We're certainly pleased to be in this position,'' Courier said. ``We have a lot of confidence in Bob and Mike. They're going to go out and lay it on the line. It will take a really special effort to beat them.''

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NFL implementing significant changes to kickoff rules in 2018 season

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NFL implementing significant changes to kickoff rules in 2018 season

The NFL is not eliminating kickoffs altogether for the 2018 season. But at the NFL spring meetings in Atlanta, Ga., owners did agree to make significant changes to the third phase of football.

The NFL's new kickoff rules begin with having five players on each side of the ball (previously they could line up six on one side). Also, they cannot line up more than 1-yard from the restraining line, which is the line where the ball is placed on the tee. This prohibits the kickoff team from getting a running start downfield. 

At least two players must be lined up outside the yard-line numbers and at least two players lined up between the numbers and the hash mark. In years past, three players had to be lined up outside the inbounds line with one outside the yard-line number. At least eight players need to be in the 15-yard "setup zone," leaving three players outside of the "setup zone." Before, all kickoff return players had to be behind their restraining line. These changes will place players closer to where the ball is kicked in order to reduce speed and the amount of space on the play. 

Wedge blocks are no longer allowed. Players who were initially lined up in the "setup zone" are the only ones who can now come together for a double-team block. In the past, only 2-man wedge blocks were allowed and could take place on the field anywhere. The purpose of this change is to limit the possible blocking schemes by the kickoff return team. 

No player on the receiving side of the ball can cross the restraining line or block in the 15-yard area from the kicking team's restraining line until the ball is touched or hits the ground. Before, the receiving team could move past their restraining line and block as soon as the ball was kicked. This change gets rid of the "jump-set/attack" block.

Finally, a ball will be considered dead if it's not touched by the receiving team and touches the ground in the end zone. In the past, the ball was dead once it was downed in the end zone by the receiving team. This change means there's no requirement for the kickoff returner to down the ball in the end-zone. 

If that was a lot to dissect, check out the video below. 

In addition to new kickoff rules, ejections are now reviewable. In March, a rule passed that officials can make an ejection after a replay, but not they can also undo an ejection after a replay. 

The league also adjusted the official language for Use of a Helmet rule. 

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The Lighting are doubling down on stupid protocol to keep Capitals fans out of Amalie Arena for Game 7

The Lighting are doubling down on stupid protocol to keep Capitals fans out of Amalie Arena for Game 7

Remember when the folks at Amalie Arena went to great lengths to try and "block the red" during the Eastern Conference Final against the Capitals?

Well, the Lightning are doing that again for Game 7. Not that anything else would've been expected though.

Before the series, the Lightning used this tactic to try and keep as many Capitals fans out as possible, and they also enforced a dress code.

Not only could you not buy tickets through the team or its official partner, Ticketmaster, without a Florida Zip code, but the Lightning also added a clause to their ticket policy that wouldn't allow Capitals fans who were able to get tickets to wear red or anything with the team's logo if their seats are in the Lightning's Lexus Lounge.

This includes seats against the glass, or in the Chase Club luxury suites.

Neutral colors were the only thing allowed.

There are certainly ways around the ticket policy part. Whether you go through a different website for tickets like Stubhub, or as many have been suggesting on Twitter, using a prepaid gift card.

At this point though, with Game 7 closing in, you hopefully have a plan in place already if you're going to the game in Tampa.

This also isn't uncommon for teams to do anyway, with the Capitals having a similar policy.

Of course, we totally support the Caps doing this. When it's another team doing it to Caps fans though, that's a different story. 

The Capitals won the first two games of the series in Tampa, now it just takes one more win to get them to the Stanley Cup Final, where the expansion Vegas Golden Nights await

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