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Williams loses in quarters; Azarenka into semis

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Williams loses in quarters; Azarenka into semis

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Serena Williams' dominating run at the majors ended in a painful loss to American teenager Sloane Stephens.

After the biggest victory of her life, the 19-year-old Stephens is headed to the semifinals of the Australian Open.

Williams hurt her back in the eighth game of the second set, slowing down her serve, restricting her movement and causing her obvious pain.

Stephens kept her composure, blocking out the injury issue on the opposite side of the net, and rallied for a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory on Wednesday - by far the most significant in her seven Grand Slams.

The gravity of it didn't hit Stephens until she was warming down, and even then the victory had an unreal feeling.

``I was stretching, and I was like, `I'm in the semis of a Grand Slam.' I was like, `Whoa. It wasn't as hard as I thought.' But it's pretty cool,'' she said. ``To be in the semis of a Grand Slam is definitely I say a good accomplishment. A lot of hard work.''

It was Williams' first loss since Aug. 17, ending a run of 20 consecutive wins.

The 15-time major winner hadn't lost a match at a Grand Slam tournament since the French Open, where her first-round exit sparked her resurgence in the second half of 2012 that included titles at Wimbledon, the London Olympics, the U.S. Open and the WTA Championship.

After winning her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, Stephens next plays defending champion Victoria Azarenka.

In the men's draw, U.S. Open champion Andy Murray moved into the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 win over unseeded Jeremy Chardy of France.

The No. 29-seeded Stephens had been given barely a chance of beating Williams, who lost only four matches in 2012 and was in contention to regain the No. 1 ranking at the age of 31.

Williams' latest winning streak included a straight-sets win over Stephens at the Brisbane International earlier this month.

And Stephens wasn't even sure that she could beat Williams, until she woke up Wednesday.

``When I got up, I was like, `Look, Dude, like, you can do this.' Like, `Go out and play and do your best,'' she said.

It wasn't until after losing the first set and being broken in the first game of the second that she really convinced herself she could.

``I was like, `Hmm, this is not the way you want it to happen. But you just fight and just get every ball back, run every ball down, and just get a lot of balls in play, I think you'll be OK.'

``From then on I got aggressive, started coming to the net more, and just got a lot more comfortable.''

She started hitting winners, cutting down on the errors, and pushing the injured Williams around the court.

Williams walked around the net to congratulate Stephens, who then clapped her hand on her racket and waved to the crowd, a look of disbelief on her face.

She then went to her tennis bag, pulled out her phone and started checking for any text messages from her mother.

``I was hoping she had texted me right away. I thought maybe she was texting me during the match,'' Stephens said. ``I'm sure my grandparents are like freaking out.''

Stephens has said she had a photo of Williams up in her room when she was a child, and had long admired the Williams sisters.

``This is so crazy. Oh my goodness,'' Stephens said, wiping away tears in her post-match TV interview. ``I think I'll put a poster of myself (up) now.''

For her part, Williams said the bad back was just another problem to contend with at a Grand Slam event that had been ``absolutely'' her worst for injuries. It started when she injured her ankle in the first round.

``I'm almost relieved that it's over because there's only so much I felt I could do,'' she said. ``It's been a little difficult. I've been thrown a lot of (curve) balls these two weeks.''

Williams was up a set and a break before Stephens settled in. In the eighth game of the second set, Williams was chasing a drop shot to the net when she appeared to hurt her back. She needed a medical timeout after the set, and then slowly started to regain the speed in her serve.

She said her back ``just locked up'' on her.

``I couldn't really rotate after that,'' she said. ``It was a little painful, but it's OK.''

There were times when she barely concealed the pain, and had to bend over or stretch out her back. Yet the thought of retiring from the match only crossed her mind ``for a nanosecond.''

It didn't mean she wasn't frustrated. Williams smashed her racket into the court in the third set, breaking the frame and then flinging it toward the chairs on the side of the court. She looked to the sky occasionally and yelled at herself.

The racket abuse cost her $1,500 in fines.

Azarenka, with her most famous fan sitting in the crowd wearing a shirt reminding her to keep calm, overcame some early jitters to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-1 in the earlier quarterfinal at Rod Laver Arena.

After dropping serve in a long fourth game that went to deuce 10 times, Azarenka recovered to dominate the rest of the match against Kuznetsova, a two-time major winner who was floating dangerously in the draw with a No. 75 ranking as she recovers from a knee injury.

Azarenka's American rapper friend, Redfoo, returned from a concert in Malaysia to attend Wednesday's quarterfinal.

Wearing a red sleeveless T-shirt that read ``Keep Calm and Bring Out the Bottles,'' the name of his next single, Redfoo stood, clapped and yelled ``Come on, Vika!'' during the tight first set.

Asked if it helped to have her No. 1 fan wearing a keep calm logo, Azarenka said ``I was looking more at the part that says `Bring out the bottles.'''

Of her game, she added, ``I'm just glad I could produce my good tennis when it was needed.''

Williams' loss was a boost for Azarenka, who lost all five head-to-heads against the American in 2012 and is 1-11 in their career meetings.

In the men's quarterfinals, 17-time major winner Roger Federer was playing No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a night match for a spot in the semifinals against Murray.

The 25-year-old Murray had his service broken for only the second time while serving for the match. But he broke back immediately to clinch the quarterfinal victory.

``I'll watch a little bit but I won't watch the whole match,'' Murray said of the night quarterfinal, adding that he hoped ``Roger and Jo play 4 to 5 hours if possible!''

Defending champion Novak Djokovic plays No. 4-seeded David Ferrer in the other semifinal.

On the other half of the women's draw, Maria Sharapova has conceded only nine games in five matches - a record in Australia - en route to a semifinal against 2011 French Open champion Li Na.

Former Penn State guard transferred after head coach Pat Chambers made 'noose' comment

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Former Penn State guard transferred after head coach Pat Chambers made 'noose' comment

During his freshman year as a member of the Penn State men’s basketball team, guard Rasir Bolton says he was subject to “subtle repercussions” after reporting an incident in which head coach Pat Chambers said he wanted to “loosen the noose that’s around your neck.”

Now playing for Iowa State, Bolton claims that he went to the school after Chambers made the comment but never received an apology from him. He added that his family didn’t hear back from Penn State’s Integrity Office for six months while in the meantime being provided with a psychologist who wanted to teach him “ways to deal with Coach Chambers’ personality type.”

“A noose; symbolic of lynching, defined as one of the most powerful symbols directed at African Americans invoking the history of lynching, slavery and racial terrorism,” Bolton wrote on Twitter. “Due to other interactions with Coach, I knew this was no slip of the tongue.”

Bolton, who's originally from Petersburg, Virginia, and attended Massanutten Academy for high school, played 32 games for the Nittany Lions in 2018-19, averaging 11.6 points per game with nine starts. However, he says teammates informed him he couldn’t be trusted because he wasn’t “all in” on the program.

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“I didn’t realize that word would hurt him, and I am truly, truly sorry for that,” Chambers told The Undefeated in a story published Monday.

Four days prior to the interaction with Bolton, Chambers was suspended one game for pushing freshman guard Myles Dread in the chest during a timeout. Penn State finished 14-18 that season before turning things around with a 21-10 record this year.

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How does Patrick Mahomes' mega-extension impact the Ravens and Lamar Jackson?

How does Patrick Mahomes' mega-extension impact the Ravens and Lamar Jackson?

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has agreed to a massive 10-year mega-extension with the Kansas City Chiefs, a deal that ESPN's Adam Schefter has classified as the "richest in NFL history."

In Kansas City, fans rejoiced. The best quarterback in the NFL is under contract for their favorite team for the next 12 seasons.

But in Baltimore? Ravens fans likely immediately thought about Lamar Jackson and the potential deal he could command next offseason.

Jackson is entering his third NFL season and currently is in a similar position to where Mahomes was just a year prior. While they have different playing styles, the career arc through each of their first two seasons has plenty of similarities.

Both quarterbacks sat for the majority of their rookie seasons before becoming their respective team's starter the following year. In each of their first full seasons as the starting quarterback, Mahomes and Jackson led their respective squads to the No. 1 seed in the AFC while earning NFL MVP honors along the way. Both of them even graced the cover of Madden following their MVP seasons, too.

What Jackson does as a curtain call for his incredible 2019 campaign will certainly impact his future contract. Mahomes parlayed his MVP season in 2018 to a Super Bowl title and MVP last year, which confirmed Kansas City's belief in the need to invest in the QB long-term.

Baltimore is expected to be one of the NFL's best teams once again this fall, and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has publicly stated he expects Jackson to make a leap as a passer in 2020.

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As far as how much Jackson will make, it's unjust to put him in the same ballpark as Mahomes at this time -- the Chiefs passer has had arguably the best two years to begin his career as a starter than any quarterback in NFL history.

But, if the Ravens quarterback follows up his incredible 2019 season with an even better 2020, Jackson certainly could have an argument to command a deal similar to the Chiefs' QB just agreed to.

Entering the NFL, much of the knack on Jackson had to do with his arm. Well, the Ravens quarterback led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes a season ago, while also breaking the single-season rushing yards record by a quarterback. Sure, Jackson may not have the arm talent that Mahomes has, but there are also things the Ravens QB can do that the Chiefs passer simply cannot.

For Jackson, next offseason is likely the time the quarterback will sign an extension, similarly to how Mahomes did on Monday. In recent years, we've seen Jared Goff and Carson Wentz also sign lucrative extensions following their third professional season.

But as the salary cap continues to change, and now with Mahomes' record deal, the reality is that Jackson's future contract numbers are a guessing game.

Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson and Dallas Cowboys signal-caller Dak Prescott are both due for extensions, and each could happen before Jackson signs a new deal. Those future deals will likely only increase what Jackson, who has an already more impressive resume than both of them, can command.

What Jackson does as an encore to his MVP season will be crucial in contract negotiations next summer. If Jackson regresses slightly but still turns in a solid season, a deal like Goff's (four years, $110 million) or Wentz's (four-years, $107 million) could be two baselines to follow. Yet, if he improves upon his great 2019 year, Mahomes has set the bar for what the Ravens QB can ask for.

Regardless, Jackson's future deal in Baltimore won't be cheap. But, as the quarterback has proven thus far in his career, it will be worth it. Remember, good quarterbacks win Super Bowls, not cheap ones.

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