Wizards

Williams sisters do double-duty in Melbourne

201301192223805907502-p2.jpeg

Williams sisters do double-duty in Melbourne

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Serena Williams may have rolled her ankle, and whacked herself in the lip with her racket, but 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 majors they've played.

``They mean a lot to me,'' Serena said earlier this week of her doubles titles from Grand Slams.

``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 major singles titles, while Venus has seven.

Because they tend to only play doubles 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 on Sunday. ``I'm not comfortable being the leader, I don't want to be the leader.''

---

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. 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 majors. 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 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.

---

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 at Melbourne Park in 2003, will also be taking part in the men's pre-final ceremony on 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 on 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 13 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.

---

Associated Press writer Jocelyn Gecker contributed to this report.

Quick Links

ESPN ranks John Wall much lower than he should be in top 100 player list

ESPN ranks John Wall much lower than he should be in top 100 player list

John Wall is known for using perceived slights in the media as motivation and, well, he's probably not going to like the latest NBA player rankings put out by ESPN.

Like many national outlets looking to fill out the last few days of the offseason with conversation-starting content, ESPN rolled out their 2018-19 top 100 NBA player rankings this week and Wall came in at No. 32.

Despite making his fifth All-Star team this past season and despite injuries being the biggest reason for his drop in numbers, ESPN has Wall outside of the top 30.

For some context, teammate Otto Porter, Jr. was ranked No. 38 and Bradley Beal came in ahead of Wall at No. 29.

Beal, by the way, somehow dropped from No. 28 the year before despite earning his first All-Star berth in a breakout 2017-18 season.

Wall, for what it's worth, dropped from No. 15 the year prior. Those rankings were released following a 2016-17 season in which he earned All-NBA honors. Porter was ranked No. 42 on that list.

ESPN's rankings are described as a forecast of what to expect in the upcoming season and they are based in advanced stats designed to measure a player's value to their team. 

Wall, though, appears to be the casualty of some recency bias. There are several players ahead of him that are difficult to justify. 

Take a look at some of the point guards with better rankings than Wall.

ESPN ranked Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry and Jrue Holiday ahead of Wall. All three are excellent guards worthy of their All-Star nods and accolades. But, when healthy, Wall has proved to be on a different level.

Kyle Lowry, for example, is trending in the wrong direction at 32 years old and is coming off year in which his numbers fell off. If this is a forecast of his upcoming season, those things should be taken into account.

Ultimately, these lists are subjective and just made to spark debate. But Wall takes this stuff more seriously than most players and probably won't like what he reads.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Week 3 Redskins vs Packers Preview: Aaron Rodgers in the way of a much needed bounce back

Week 3 Redskins vs Packers Preview: Aaron Rodgers in the way of a much needed bounce back

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. 

That might be the opening of some famous literature, but it also applies to the first two weeks of the Redskins season. 

In Week 1 the Redskins thrashed Arizona, dominating both sides of the ball en route to a 24-6 victory. In Week 2 the Colts thrashed the Redskins, at home, as Washington could not run the ball or get key stops on defense in a 21-9 loss.  

Looking forward, what Redskins team will show up on Sunday as the Packers come to FedEx Field for Week 3?

Four Factors

  1. Start running - Against the Cardinals, the Redskins dominated time of possession by running the ball. Adrian Peterson ran for nearly 100 yards and Chris Thompson added another 65 yards on the ground. The Redskins had the ball more than 22 minutes in the first half of that game. By Week 2, Peterson ran for just 20 yards on 11 carries. The Redskins could get nothing going on the ground. Nothing. The team must run better if they're going to beat the Packers, not just for offensive balance, but to rest the defense and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. 
     
  2. Starts up front - One thing that will help the Redskins run the ball will be better play from their offensive line. That group will take a hit Sunday because starting left guard Shawn Lauvao won't play, and that means Chase Roullier moves to guard and backup Tony Bergstrom lines up at center. Regardless of what five players are on the field, the unit must produce more push against Green Bay than they did against Indianapolis. That starts on the edges, with Trent Williams and Morgan Moses, and a Pro Bowl type performance from Brandon Scherff. It's true these guys are banged up, but if they're on the field, the performance needs to be stronger. 
     
  3. Gandalf the White - Why are we writing about a fictional wizard? The ever-loquacious Josh Norman gave Packers all-world QB Aaron Rodgers the nickname of Gandalf because of the magic tricks that he pulls off week after week. One of the greatest QBs of all time, Rodgers is a constant threat on the field, literally every snap. Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said the team will be prepared for the quick snap, one of Rodgers' favorite tricks that often leads to free plays and offsides calls. For the rest of Rodgers tricks, the Redskins defense needs to be prepared for a passer with a rocket arm and the sharpest eyes in the NFL. 
     
  4. Call the play, and execute - The Redskins did not have their best offensive game plan last week. Jay Gruden admitted as much this week. The Redskins offense also did not have their best game last week. Alex Smith and the receivers cannot get into a groove, and there is a chicken or egg discussion on if Smith needs to throw the ball downfield more or if the wideouts need to make more plays. The answer might reveal itself on Sunday. 
     

They Said It

  • Jay Gruden on facing Aaron Rodgers: "I mean he can do everything. His mobility probably sets him apart from some of the other guys. He stands in the pocket. He can move. He's a winner. I don’t know. I think if any team had him on their team and you're picking, whether you're picking first in the fantasy football quarterback draft or fifth, and you've got Aaron Rodgers, you feel good about winning every game that you play."
     
  • Greg Manusky on Redskins defensive scheme: "From our standpoint, we go into each game with the plan that we have."
     
  • Alex Smith on keeping pace with the Packers offense: "I think that you can get sucked into that. In the end, of course, we want to dominate regardless of the offense we are playing."
     
  • Packers coach Mike McCarthy on facing Alex Smith: "He’s definitely an excellent addition to the Washington Redskins and he’s going to be a big challenge for a defense."
     

Numbers & Notes

  • Adrian Peterson has 100 career touchdowns, good for No. 7 on the all time NFL list. John Riggins sits at No. 6 on the list with 104 TDs. 
  • In 17 career games against Green Bay, Peterson has run for nearly 1,800 yards and 13 TDs.
  • Matt Ioannidis has sacks in consecutive games, and a sack on Sunday would be the first time in his career with a sack in three consecutive games. 
  • The Redskins have not opened a season with a 2-1 record since 2008. 
     

Want more? Listen up

MORE REDSKINS NEWS: