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Vegan Venus Williams talks about food and tennis

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Vegan Venus Williams talks about food and tennis

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Venus Williams has made the dietary leap from steak lover to vegan but admits that in times of weakness she is a ``cheagan.''

That's Venus-talk for a cheating vegan.

``If it's on your plate, I might get to cheat. If you're sitting next to me, good luck. You turn your head once and your food might be gone,'' Williams said, in good spirits after starting her Australian Open campaign Monday with a quick 6-1, 6-0 win over Galina Voskoboeva.

``I think it's pretty well known I'm a cheagan, ``the seven-time Grand Slam winner said, laughing. ``I'm not perfect, but I try.''

On her website the 32-year-old American refers to this phase of her life as ``Venus A.D.'' - Venus After Diagnosis.

Food is not the only difference between then and now, but it is one of the big lifestyle changes Williams has made since being diagnosed in 2011 with an immune system illness that had caused her years of mysterious symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue and muscle pain.

Williams went public with her illness after withdrawing from her second-round match at the 2011 U.S. Open and then took seven months off tennis, skipping last year's Australian Open as she learned how to manage the disease known as Sjogren's syndrome.

Her website, www.venuswilliams.com, says Williams' vegan diet is designed to decrease inflammation in her body and reduce the energy-sapping symptoms of the disease ``by not overloading her body with excess calories, pesticides or sugars.''

``No more of her favorite cherry pies, as sugar is strictly,'' forbidden, the website says, adding that Williams also has changed her training regimen to allow more rest days.

Her comeback has been impressive. Williams had the biggest jump of any of the top players in 2012, moving from outside the top 100 to finish the year at No. 24.

``She's back and she's fiery!'' the announcer told the crowd as the 25th-seeded Williams warmed up on Hisense Arena, the second of the main show courts at Melbourne Park. Fans welcomed her back with extended applause and cheers.

Playing with power and determination, Williams took command of the match early with a steady stream of winners and powerful serves.

She served two back-to-back aces - both over 180 kph (112 mph) - to take a quick 5-1 lead and then broke to win the first set in 31 minutes.

The next set went faster. Williams didn't drop a game, wrapping up the match in an hour flat with a beautiful backhand passing shot.

``Obviously it's nice to spend less time on the court, and not be in long sets,'' Williams said after the match. She was happy with match statistics that included a first-serve percentage of 70 percent. She also took advantage of six of 11 break-point opportunities.

``I don't think my opponent quite got the hang of - you know, it's hard to play the first match in a major, first thing of the year, and that can be a lot of pressure.'' Williams said about the 80th-ranked Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan. ``I did my best to just close it out.''

At 32, Williams is a veteran on the women's circuit. This is her 13th Australian Open and her 58th Grand Slam tournament.

She is regularly asked when she plans to retire, and routinely says not yet. Despite her star power, Williams has not produced the results lately that she did a few years ago. She hasn't made it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam since the 2010 U.S. Open.

It's been a decade since Williams' best showing at the Australian Open, which came in 2003 when she lost the final to her younger sister, Serena, who is a favorite to win this year in Melbourne. Still a powerful pairing, the sisters won gold at the London Olympics in doubles.

No. 3-ranked Serena cheered her sister from the stands on Monday. The younger Williams won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and an Olympic gold in 2012.

Now that the elder Williams sister is back on the tour and feeling fit, she hopes to extend her career, which started in 1994, into a 20th season.

``Yeah, trying to celebrate the 20th anniversary,'' she said. She reflected on her illness, which she said has helped her to ``to focus on the things I can accomplish and not to think about the things that I can't do.''

She also reflected on her career, and the difference between her teenage mentality and now.

``When you're a young person, you just don't think it's ever going to end, and you're on top of the world,'' Williams said. ``Now, I realize, all these opportunities, I try to make the best I can of them.''

Her focus for now remains on tennis, starting with a second-round match against Alize Cornet of France and possibly a third-round match with reigning French Open champion Maria Sharapova, who is ranked No. 2.

``I love the game,'' she said, ``and while I'm here, I'm going to go for it.''

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Check out the names on the Wizards' Summer League training camp roster

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Check out the names on the Wizards' Summer League training camp roster

NBA Summer League is right around the corner. While the Washington Wizards continue a search for a new president, they do have one thing pinned down: the Summer League training camp roster.

The Wizards open Summer League play in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 6, when they take on No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Mini camp begins Tuesday and runs through Thursday. Players will participate in a two-hour practice each day.

Here is the training camp roster:

Noah Allen, G/F, Hawaii (Capital City Go-Go)
Armoni Brooke, G, Houston
Elijah Brown, G/F, Oregon (Grand Rapids Drive)
Troy Brown Jr., F, Oregon (Washington Wizards)
Dontay Caruthers, G, Buffalo
Troy Caupain Jr., G, Cincinnati (Orlando Magic)
Corey Davis, G, Houston
Dikembe Dixson, F, UIC (Capital City Go-Go)
Kellen Dunham, G, Butler (Capital City Go-Go)
John Egbunu, C, Florida
Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga
Vince Hunter, F, UTEP (AEK Athens Greece)
Garrison Mathews, G, Lipscomb
Tarik Phillip, G, Ukraine (Petrol Limpija Ukraine)
Admiral Schofield, F, Tennessee
James Thompson IV, F/C, Eastern Michigan
Jeff Withey, C, Kansas (Lavrio B.C. Greece)
Tony Wroten, G, Washington (BC Kalev-Cramo Estonia)

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Free Agency Bracket: Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

Free Agency Bracket: Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin, and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s matchup:

Region: Fourth line forwards

Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

 

2018-19 stats

 

Noel Acciari (27 years old):72 games played with the Boston Bruins, 6 goals, 8 assists, 14 points, 12:59 TOI

 

Playoffs: 19 games played with the Boston Bruins, 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, 13:10 TOI

 

Marcus Kruger (29 years old): 74 games played with the Chicago Blackhawks, 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points, 10:25 TOI

 

Playoffs: None

 

Hockey-Graph contract projections

 

Noel Acciari: 2 years, $1,180,934 cap hit

 

Marcus Kruger: 1 year, $861,030 cap hit

 

The case for Noel Acciari

Plays a lot bigger than his 5-foot-10, 205-pound frame. A perfect fit at right wing on the fourth line for Washington. The native New Englander, who played at Providence, is a home-grown Bruin and might not want to leave home, but Boston also might not have the cap space to give an obvious fourth-line player a decent raise. The Capitals might not, either, but for now, they really only have to add in RFA Jakub Vrana’s new contract and figure out what they’re going to do with RFA Andre Burakovsky. 

 

Acciari is renowned for his character and toughness. He was a college captain for Providence and helped the Friars win an NCAA title in 2015. There’s never been a shot he’s unwilling to block. Acciari sustained a broken sternum in the second round against Columbus and a blocked shot with his right foot in Game 7 of the Cup Final left him in a walking boot.  

 

Acciari’s offensive upside is limited, but he did have 10 goals in 2017-18. He was a key player for the Bruins in the past two Stanley Cup playoffs and chipped in two goals in this year’s playoff run that came within a game of a championship. Acciari would help on Washington’s penalty kill, too. In 111:52 he was only on the ice for 11 power-play goals against. Only two Boston forwards were on the ice more short-handed.  

 

The case for Marcus Kruger

 

A different skill set here for the smaller Kruger (6-foot, 186 pounds). Don’t expect even double-digit goals from him, either. But Kruger will likely cost less than $1 million and can be a valuable penalty killer, where Washington needs help. That’s huge for a team that is now dealing with an $81.5 million salary cap, which is $1.5 million less than expected. Add in the overage bonus for defenseman Brooks Orpik from last season and you’re in trouble at just over $80 million.   

 

Kruger played seven seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and one disappointing one with the Carolina Hurricanes. Kruger has plenty of Stanley Cup experience, too, playing for Chicago’s 2013 and 2015 Cup winners. He has 87 postseason games and a triple-overtime game-winner in the Western Conference Final to his name in 2015 in Game 2 of that series against Anaheim. 

 

A defensive specialist, only two Blackhawks forwards played more short-handed minutes than Kruger (132:46) last season. There is risk here. Kruger was traded to Carolina in 2017-18, but was placed on waivers after 48 games and spent the rest of the season in the AHL before being traded to Arizona and then back to Chicago. But part of that stemmed from how much he was making on a $3.08 million cap hit. At a bargain-basement price, Kruger is more palatable. 

 

Who’s your pick? Vote here.

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