Nationals

Williams sisters who? Trio of U.S. women reach Citi Open quarters

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Williams sisters who? Trio of U.S. women reach Citi Open quarters

Raise your hand if your take on American female tennis essentially begins and ends with Venus and Serena Williams.Vania King says dont believe the hype. Coco Vandeweghe scoffs at the notion of there being no young American women coming up the ranks.Now, raise your hand if youre unfamiliar with Vania King and Coco Vandeweghe. The simple answer is the pair rank among the top 100 players on tour yet many have never heard of them. The precise reply for this weekis the No. 4 and 7 seeds respectively at the Citi Open. After both pulled of straight sets on Wednesday, their diverse styles are set for a stars and stripes clashin Thursday's quarterfinals. The slugging and brash Vandeweghe, seeded for the first time on tour, dismissed her second straight opponent. Brimming with confidence after reaching her first WTA final at Stanford last month where she lost to Serena Williams Vandeweghe boldly downed Aravane Rezai 6-2, 6-2.King positions herself on the court with a defensive-minded presence, though she mixed enough winners to down fellow American Irina Falconi 6-2, 7-6 (5). Another American, Sloane Stephens,reached the quarterfinal round on Tuesday. She will play 18-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard on Thursday following the second round match between men's top seedMardy Fish and Ricardas Berankis.King, atwo-time grand slam doubles champion, also went on the offensive in the post match press conference. A reporter asked whether there being three Americans this deep in the tournament with none being part of that famed sister act ran counter to the public perception of womens tennis in the U.S.I dont think the publics perception is (its only) Venus and Serena, said King, whose lone singles title came as a 16-year-old in 2006. I think thats the medias perception. I think the media groups tennis in the United States as if youre not in the top 10 or if you havent multiple grand slams than youre not a good player.If you go to any other sport in the states, people are known for being top 200, top 300...Its no small feat to be the best 100 in the world. Vandeweghe received a similar query about there being a trio of red, white and blue-ers left in the womens draw.I think its great that were all in the quarters, said the 21-year-old and one of nine Americans inside the WTAs top 100 rankings. Vandeweghe jumped from 120 to 69 after her effort at Stanford. "It's great to have all these Americans inside the top 100. With all the talk about, 'No good Americans coming up,' we've got a lot of young girls and I think we're all doing well individually and doing different things very well."Vandeweghe speaks as she plays: bold and direct. Case in point, analysis of her win over Rezai.My serve definitely shook her confidence, also with me beating her in the groundstroke rallies, said Vandeweghe, who never lost a service game and smacked 11 aces. Both those things just kind of depleted her confidence and that definitely raised my game to see that in an opponent.Truth is whatever former NBA star Kiki Vandeweghes niece lacks in terms of championship winning hardware, she makes up for with the rigid belief that any time could be her time.I didnt really have plans on going to the finals in Stamford, but going into a tournament youre always thinking about winning the tournament, beating everybody, Vandeweghe said. Otherwise, there is no real point and showing up and playing.Next time Vandeweghe shows up to play, King will be on the other side of the net. The 2010 Wimbledon and U.S. Open double champion anticipates matchup will play fast and display their contrasting methods.We dont play very similar, King said.The winner could face top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the semifinals, though the Russian struggled in her three-set victory on Wednesday. While a title win in D.C. may not adjust their Q ratings with the general public the WTA side of the event is not among the prominent stops on tour King and Vandeweghe have a chance for a much desired title run and generating additional momentum before the U.S. Open.Its what you do with your opportunities, how you take advantage of them, Vandeweghe said. NotesJames Blake, fourth-seeded Tommy Haas and No. 2 Alexandr Dolgopolov all advanced to the third round with straight-set victoriesBouchard upset No. 8 Olga Govortsova in three sets.

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3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

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USA TODAY

3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

Nationals fans are teetering on the edge. 

On one hand, the Nats are 3.5 games out of first place after a 10-week span full of injuries and underperformance. The team just acquired All-Star closer Kelvin Herrera, and their 19-year-old left fielder looks like an All-Star already. 

On the other hand, doom is imminent. The Monstars stole Bryce Harper's abilities at some point over the last three weeks, Steven Strasburg can't stay healthy, and the offense is pushing everyone's patience to the limit. 

So who's overperforming? Who's underperforming? Who's out there just trying their very best? LET'S LIST. 

Three Up

1. Juan Soto

Our large young son Juan continues to impress. He's now hitting .325/.411/.602 with a 1.013 OPS in 95 plate appearances over 25 games. That means we're mercifully starting to leave the 'fluky start' narrative behind. He's been the best hitter on the Nationals by a wide margain since he got called up - although that's perhaps more of an indicitment on the rest of the lineup than it is on Soto. Still, in less than a month he's probably earned the starting left field spot for the rest of the summer. Not bad. 

2. Justin Miller

Miller is 31, on his third team in four years, and owns a career ERA north of 4.50. Despite all of this, Miller's been the best reliever in baseball since coming up for the Nats. Of relief pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched (we hear your sample size comment and are not going to acknolwdge it), no one has a better FIP than Miller (0.64). He's striking out over half of the batters he sees and has yet to walk a single person this year. All the elite relief pitchers are already at 30-40 innings pitched, so Miller has a while to go before these stats mean a whole lot. If he stays even 75 percent as good as he's started, the Nats' bullpen looks scary. 

3. Michael A. Taylor

Have yourself a week or two, Michael A.! The centerfielder is slashing .500/.556/.583 over the last 14 days, the first of many "Maybe He Put It Together?!" runs we'll see from him this year. He also has six stolen bases during that span, more than anyone else on the team. His plate discipline has been better over the last two weeks, with a BB% a shade over 11 percent - only behind Juan Soto for highest on the team. Juan Soto, man. 

Three Down

1. Bryce Harper

A couple things here. We'll start with the admission that Bryce Harper is obviously not having a superb year. We've already briefly touched on why looking at only his batting average is a lazy way of judging his season, and we stand by that. With that said - Harper's had a bad season. The last month has been particularly painful. There's no way of dressing up a .189/.278/.400 slashline over the last 30 days. Still, his contact has been as great as his luck terrible - there's a positive regression coming, we promise. 

2. Pedro Severino 

And you think Harper's been slumping?? Over the same 30 days, Severino has hit .098/.179/.115 with a .294 OPS. He's essentially daring the Nats to put together a trade package for JT Realmuto at this point. He has six hits over his last 68 plate appearances and five of them are singles. 

3. Shawn Kelley

Kelley owns a 6.09 FIP and a 4.32 ERA over the last month (10 games, 8.1 innings pitched). He's walking close to nine percent of the hitters he's faced during that time. He has a 12.5 HR/FB over the last month. With the trade for Kelvin Herrera and the sudden emergence of Justin Miller, Kelley's role going forward isn't quite as clear anymore. 

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jerome Robinson

School: Boston College
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 21
Height: 6-5
Weight: 188
Wingspan: 6-7
Max vertical: N/A

2017/18 stats: 20.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 48.5 FG%, 40.9 3PT% (2.3 3PT/5.7 3PA), 83.0 FT%
Player comparison: Danny Green
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 29th, NBADraft.net 16th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 17th

5 things to know:

*A three-year player at BC, Robinson developed into a big-time scorer before making the leap to the NBA. He averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore and then 20.7 points as a junior while improving his shooting percentages across the board. He went from 42.3 percent from the field as a sophomore to 48.5 in 2017-18.

*Robinson turned himself into an excellent three-point shooter. After shooting just 33.3 percent as a sophomore, he got that up to 40.9 percent as a junior and on 5.7 attempts per game. That trajectory bodes well for Robinson's chances at the next level.

*He has a quick release on his jumper, giving him the ability to be effective on catch-and-shoot plays off screens. Robinson could develop into a reliable scorer who doesn't need the ball in his hands as a primary focus of the offense. He also showed the ability to throw down some powerful dunks and finish with creativity at the rim. He didn't record a vertical leap at the NBA Combine, but playing above and around the rim didn't appear to be a problem in college.

*Though it didn't show in his last season at Boston College, Robinson was adept at forcing turnovers in his first two years. He averaged 1.6 steals per game across his freshman and sophomore seasons and 16 times in his career had three steals or more in a game.

*Questions for Robinson would include his versatility and speed. Some draft evaluators wonder if he will be able to get separation off the dribble at the NBA level. Also, he put up decent rebounding and assists numbers in college but didn't exactly stand out in either category.

Fit with Wizards: Robinson would give the Wizards depth at the shooting guard position and they need that. He could help Bradley Beal pare down his minutes and offer a scoring punch off the Wizards' bench. The Wizards could use a reliable shooter to help space the floor for Kelly Oubre, Jr. and others in the second unit.

The problems with Robinson's fit would be his lack of positional versatility and what appears to be a relatively low ceiling. He's not the freak athlete that some of his counterparts are at shooting guard. If the Wizards are choosing between Robinson and guys like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker IV, they could view the latter two as more enticing because of their potential. Robinson would represent a safer pick while others could pay off big-time and have a greater impact on the franchise in the long-term.

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More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

For more on the NBA Draft, check out our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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