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Williams sisters do double duty in Melbourne

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Williams sisters do double duty in Melbourne

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Serena Williams rolled her ankle and whacked herself in the lip with her racket. That doesn't mean she needs any extra rest.

A day after winning her third-round match against Ayumi Morita of Japan - her first-injury free round at this year's Australian Open - the No. 3-ranked Williams was back on the court Sunday to play alongside sister Venus.

The Williams sisters take doubles seriously, and that can mean skipping the rest day between singles matches. Venus has joked they have so many trophies they use some as fruit bowls.

The sisters have captured 13 major doubles titles, including four at the Australian Open. They've also won three Olympic gold medals for doubles.

So dominant are Venus and Serena, they've never lost in a Grand Slam doubles final they've contested. They've reached the final in seven of the last 10 major tournaments they've played.

``They mean a lot to me,'' Serena said earlier this week. ``I mean, people that are winning a lot of singles titles, nowadays, in the past decade or two decades, usually don't win as many in doubles. So I'm almost even with my singles and doubles.''

Serena has 15 Grand Slam singles titles, while Venus has seven.

Because they tend to play doubles only in the slams, the sisters don't have high rankings in the event. This means they usually have a low seeding - much to the chagrin of the top-ranked doubles teams in the world.

The Williams sisters were seeded 12th at the Australian Open, which led to an early third-round encounter with the unlucky fifth-seeded team of Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik on Sunday. The sisters won 6-2, 6-3.

Serena may be the more accomplished singles player in the family - Venus lost her second-round singles match to No. 2 Maria Sharapova - but on the doubles court she defers to her older sister.

``She serves first. She's been the leader since we played back in the `80s when we were juniors,'' Serena said, nodding to Venus, after their win Sunday. ``I'm not comfortable being the leader; I don't want to be the leader.''

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MOVING ON UP: David Ferrer will bypass injured Rafael Nadal to reach No. 4 in the rankings after the Australian Open, but he still doesn't feel he's that close to the Big Four of men's tennis.

Ferrer, ranked fifth at the end of the last two years, is one of the best active players never to have won a major title. The Spaniard has been close. He's reached semifinals three times, including twice last year, but has never been in a final.

The Big Four - Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Nadal and now Andy Murray - have combined to win 33 of the last 34 major tournaments. Only Juan Martin del Potro has broken the stranglehold to win one at the 2009 U.S. Open.

Now, Ferrer may have his best shot.

He's coming off a career-best 2012 season in which he won seven titles - more than any of the Big Four. And countryman Nadal is absent from this year's Australian Open because of injury and illness.

After dismantling Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday to reach the quarterfinals here for the third straight year, Ferrer was asked if he believes this is his year to finally raise a trophy.

``I don't know,'' Ferrer said. ``Is very difficult to win a Grand Slam because there are the top four. In this moment, the last three or four years, they are better than the other players.''

But does he feel he's closing the gap?

``No, no. I think the top four, they are better,'' he insisted.

``You have to play your best or more than best to beat these guys,'' he said. ``Hopefully, I can beat them in the Grand Slams sometime.''

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HELPING A FRIEND: Tennis greats are teaming up for a charity auction to raise money for retired player Andrew Florent, who was recently diagnosed with cancer.

Among the items being auctioned are a private tennis lesson with Jim Courier and a doubles match against Pat Rafter and Goran Ivanisevic, Tennis Australia said in a statement.

Fans can bid for two seats at the so-called Legends Lunch on the Saturday of the women's final, which will be attended by Rod Laver and Andre Agassi.

Agassi, an eight-time Grand Slam winner who won his last major title at Melbourne Park in 2003, will also be taking part in the men's pre-final ceremony Sunday, tournament organizers said.

Among other items on the block are a pair of tickets to both the men's and women's final as well as a photo opportunity beside the men's winner Sunday.

The 42-year-old Florent, the 1988 runner-up at the Australian Open junior singles tournament, turned pro in 1990 and became a doubles specialist who achieved a career high ranking of 13th in 2001.

The statement described him as ``one of the most popular players on the tour.''

``This is terrible news, but what has heartened Florey and his family has been the outpouring of support from the entire tennis fraternity,'' said friend and former Australian player Paul Kilderry.

The online auction athttp://bit.ly/VQ3dBm. closes Thursday at 5:15 p.m. local time.

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Associated Press writer Jocelyn Gecker contributed to this report.

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The baffling exclusion of John Carlson from the Norris Trophy finalists

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USA TODAY Sports

The baffling exclusion of John Carlson from the Norris Trophy finalists

The finalists for the Norris Trophy – awarded to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability in the position – were unveiled on Sunday. Somehow, John Carlson was not among them.

This is the second consecutive year Carlson was a deserving candidate and the second year he will not even be among the top three.

The Norris Trophy is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association -- of which I am a member so I guess you can blame us -- but make no mistake, this is a snub in every sense of the word and a major oversight that Carlson cannot get the recognition he deserves.

Ballots will be made public after the awards are given out. Until then, we are not supposed to divulge exactly how we voted, but I will tell you that Carlson was in my top three, and he absolutely should have been a finalist this year.

If you had asked me prior to the 2017-18 season who the most important defenseman on the Caps was, I would have told you it was Matt Niskanen. I saw Carlson as an offensive-heavy player whose skills in his own zone were lacking. I had to eat those words later as Niskanen was injured in mid-October and missed the next month of the season. During that month, Carlson averaged 27:47 of ice-time per game, which led the entire league. He showed he could contribute offensively, defensively, on the power play and penalty kill. There was nothing he could not do.

Suddenly, the Caps’ top pairing of Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen was replaced by Carlson and whoever he was paired with. That continued into this season.

But while Carlson has reshaped his image in Washington, his reputation as an offensive first player instead of an all-around defenseman persists, and it cost him.

There is no set standard every voter sticks to when it comes to evaluating players for the Norris. You can look at whatever stats you want whether it is Corsi, Fenwick, points, PDO, defensive zone starts, high-danger chances for -- the list goes on. Here’s why Carlson was in the top three of my ballot: Not only did he play exceptionally well, but the Capitals relied on him more in more situations than any other team relied on a single defenseman.

Carlson finished the season ranked eighth in the NHL in time on ice per game at 25:04. Burns finished just ahead of him with 25:06. Both Giordano (24:14) and Hedman (22:46) played less.

Carlson was among the top 40 defensemen in shorthanded time on ice per game with 2:35, something only Giordano (2:40) could boast among the other finalists. Carlson was also first among all defensemen in power play time on ice per game with 4:05, significantly more than Hedman (3:19), Giordano (3:19) or Burns (3:17).

There is no situation in which the Caps are not comfortable putting Carlson out on the ice and no situation in which he is not expected to play heavy minutes. He has taken a bigger role defensively as the team’s top shutdown pair of Orlov-Niskanen has had a down year. Despite the heavier defensive workload, Carlson still managed to finish in the top four in points among defensemen with 70, a career-high.

I am not here saying that Burns, Giordano or Hedman are not deserving of being finalists. In fact, Carlson did not finish first on my ballot. It seems crazy to me, however, that he did not finish in the top three this season or last. All three finalists had strong seasons, but Carlson’s season was just as good and he was more heavily relied upon. He is one of the top offensive blueliners, but that’s not all he is.

Until he manages to overcome that reputation, which persists through no fault of his own, he will continue to be on the outside of the Norris race looking in. And that’s a shame considering how good he has been.

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Bruins, Sharks force Game 7

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Bruins, Sharks force Game 7

With the first round starting to come to a close, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights had a chance to advance to the second round Sunday, while the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks needed a win to hang on. It was both teams facing elimination that were able to come out on top.

Here's how Sunday's Game 6 matchups stacked up.

Bruins stave off elimination with 4-2 win

After Friday's Game 5 victory, it looked like the Toronto Maple Leafs may possibly overcome their previous woes against Boston. However, with their backs against the wall, the Bruins were able to come back and force yet another Game 7 between these rivals.

Morgan Reilly was able to put a one-timer past Tuukka Rask to put the Maple Leafs up 1-0 early, but two minutes later, Brad Marchand struck on the power play to even the score. Soonafter, Torey Krug fired home a rebound on another power-play opportunity to put Boston up 2-1 heading into the second, where Jake DeBrusk extended the lead by two.

Auston Matthews scored his fifth of the playoffs to cut the lead to one, and he now has points in four straight games through this series. The Maple Leafs continued their comeback bid as the final frame died down, but Brad Marchand was able to fight past defenders and secure the win with an empty netter.

Rask finished with 22 saves, and Frederik Anderson stopped 38 of 41 shots. The Bruins and Maple Leafs will meet in yet another Game 7 Tuesday, as has been the case between the two teams in the playoffs over the years.

Sharks stun Golden Knights in 2-1 OT win

As if the intensity of the playoffs alone wasn't enough, Sunday's thriller between the Sharks and Golden Knights put fans all over the NHL at the edge of their seats. The score was deadlocked for five periods before the Sharks finally trimphed to see another tilt with Vegas.

The game was scoreless until the final nine seconds of the first period, where Logan Couture beat Fleury with a quick shot to make it 1-0. Jonathan Marchessault struck in the second period to tie things up at one. Both Martin Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury were having strong performances that kept the game even, and the score would last to force double overtime.

Despite 59 shots on goal and a power-play chance in double overtime, Marc-Edouard Vlasic would find Tomas Hertl open on the PK, and he was able to carry the puck up ice and score shorthanded to win the game for San Jose.

Jones was easily the first star of the night with 58 saves, while Fleury finished with 27 saves on 29 shots. As Hertl promised, the Sharks will head to Vegas for a decisive Game 7 Tuesday.