Injured Sharapova out of Wimbledon

Agence France-Presse / 06:57 AM June 11, 2017

Photo: In this May 8, 2017, file photo, Maria Sharapova hits a return to Eugenie Bouchard, of Canada, during a Madrid Open tennis tournament match in Madrid, Spain. Sharapova has pulled out of Wimbledon qualifying because of an injured left thigh. Sharapova said Saturday, June 10, that the muscle tear she got at the Italian Open last month would not allow her to compete at grass-court tournaments she was scheduled to play. AP FILE



LONDON, United Kingdom — Maria Sharapova withdrew from Wimbledon on Saturday after failing to recover from a thigh injury, dealing another blow to the superstar’s bid to rebuild her career after serving a doping ban.

The 30-year-old Russian, who was champion at the All England Club in 2004, was due to play in the qualifying event in the hope of making the main draw.

“After an additional scan, the muscle tear that I sustained in Rome will unfortunately not allow me to compete in the grass court tournaments I was scheduled to play,” she said in a statement.

“I will continue to work on my recovery and my next scheduled tournament is in Stanford from July 31.”

The former world number one returned from a 15-month doping ban in April but has relied on wildcards to get into tournaments because her world ranking points expired while she was banned.

At the moment the five-time Grand Slam title winner is ranked at 178.

She was initially banned for two years for using meldonium, with the penalty later reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which ruled she was not an intentional doper.

After her ban expired, Sharapova returned to competition in April at the Stuttgart Open, reaching the semi-finals, and progressed to the last 32 of the Madrid Open.

She failed to earn a qualifying spot for the French Open and was then denied a wild card into the main draw by Roland Garros organisers despite being a two-time champion.

She was also controversially handed a wildcard for the WTA grasscourt event in Birmingham later this month, a key warm-up for Wimbledon.

But the injury she suffered in the Rome claycourt event in May has scuppered her plans, leaving her to probably hope for a wild card into the US Open, the season’s final Grand Slam event.

She was champion in New York in 2006.

“I want to thank the LTA (Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association) for their amazing support on my return and providing me with a Birmingham wild card, a tournament which I hope many of you will be able to attend,” Sharapova added in her statement.

“I look forward to meeting you there next year.” CBB


Blue Eagles escape Green Archers behind Ravena's clutch triple

Alexx Esponga

Photo: HERO. Thirdy Ravena saved the day for the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles as he fired a three-pointer with 9.2 seconds remaining. File photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles survived their UAAP archrivals the De La Salle University Green Archers through a three-pointer by Thirdy Ravena with 9.2 seconds remaining to get away with an 80-78 thriller in the Flying V Filoil Preseason Cup, Sunday, June 11 at the Flying V Center, San Juan.

“I was just lucky,” said Thirdy Ravena who had 9 points, 5 rebounds and two blocks.

“I made sure to keep my composure and my emotions intact. I tried to stay in the moment because the game wasn’t over yet.”

"We looked a little better today. It's nice to win but still it's a lot of work to do," said Blue Eagles coach Tab Baldwin. "It was a big shot by Thirdy but we don't want to rely on big shots. Though it’s good that we get one when we need it.”

Ateneo connected 4 three pointers in the last quarter that made all difference the Blue Eagles needed to send the Green Archers’ arrows down to the ground.

Andrei Caracut performed when his team needed him the most and drained a 3-pointer with only 2:37 in the clock but Ben Mbala got into foul trouble that let Ateneo’s Duane White sink in an attack plus a free throw to put the Blue Eagles ahead, 73-68.

It was an intense and physical game as tension between the two teams were felt all throughout the game.

But the physicality exploded in the 3rd quarter when Aljun Melecio and Ateneo's Anton Asistio were given a technical foul apiece while Isaac Go and Ben Mbala were warned for taunting.

Sharpshooter Asistio topscored for Ateneo with 13 points as he also powered the blue-and-white with his 4-out-of-5 3-point attempts while Mike Nieto and Rafael Verano scored 10 markers apiece.

Big man Mbala gave all his 23 points and 9 rebounds as Melecio and Ricci Rivero scored 20 and 8 points, respectively.

Both teams started with the same intensity but Ateneo fought harder to take the first quarter, 22-18.

The Blue Eagles further displayed effort to push a 10-3 run early in the second period but Aljun Melecio answered with a triple to breathe life to the Green Archers and make it a one-point game but still wasn't enough to take home the victory.

Ateneo holds on to a 3-2 win-loss record while crowd favorite La Salle fell to their 3rd loss against 4 wins. –

Stress test: High-wire Cavaliers still alive in NBA Finals

Associated Press / 11:37 AM June 11, 2017

Photo: Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and teammate Kyrie Irving (2) celebrate during the first half against the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Cleveland, Friday, June 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND — Go ahead, back them into a corner. Call them names. Write them off.

The Cavaliers don’t care.

For the fourth time in two years, Cleveland fought off elimination in the NBA Finals by winning just when it appeared their season was over.

On Friday night, the Cavs turned anger over some comments made by Golden State’s motor-mouthed forward Draymond Green into energy and their best performance this season. They broke scoring records in a stunning 137-116 victory that shoved this “Three-match” between new-school rivals to the West Coast for Game 5 on Monday.

And while most teams would prefer not to live on the edge, the Cavaliers seem to thrive there. The only team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals, LeBron James and his buddies are basketball’s high-wire, high-risk act with no net to break their fall.

It’s dangerous, and not for the faint of heart.

“I don’t like it,” James said, drawing laughter after surpassing Magic Johnson in the record book with his ninth career Finals triple-double. “It causes too much stress, man. I’m stressed out. Keep doing this every year. But listen, at the end of the day we just got some resilient guys.”

The Cavaliers are still alive and have a chance to do what no other team has ever done in the NBA playoffs — rally from a 3-0 deficit.

It’s been done on big stages in other sports, perhaps most famously by the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who strung together four wins over the New York Yankees to win the AL pennant on the way to their first World Series title since 1918.

But in the 126 instances where NBA teams have fallen behind 3-0, none have recovered to win the series. Zero. That’s 0-126.

Maybe these chaotic Cavs are just the team to do it.

Stack up the odds, Cleveland conquers them.

“We’re a resilient group, resilient team,” said Kevin Love, who made 6 of 8 3-pointers and scored 23 points. “We have been in this situation before. Every year’s different, every playoff series, every game, but we just are a team that never count ourselves out.

“We feel like any game that we walk on the floor we have a great game plan and we expect to win. But we just continue to have that fire, continue to be resilient, but right now it’s just becoming one game at a time

“One quarter, each possession being huge for us, because that can make or break a team.”

But beyond their resiliency, the Cavs have displayed a mental toughness through all kinds of adversity. Over the past three years since James returned from Miami, the Cavs have handled injuries, constant scrutiny, drama — much of it self-inflicted— and even a midseason coaching change.

There doesn’t seem to be anything that rattles them, so it should be no surprise that on the verge of being swept by a Warriors team James called a “juggernaut” and “beast” before the Finals began, Cleveland dug down deep again.

Kyrie Irving knocked down seven of Cleveland’s 24 3-pointers — one of their three Finals scoring records — and had 40 points as the Cavs stopped Golden State’s 15-game postseason winning streak and lived to see another game.

The All-Star point guard, who made several Golden State defenders look silly with his darting moves, excels when things seem darkest. However, he can’t explain the defending champions’ ability to bounce back.

“Every game is do or die, and we understand that,” he said. “We’re ready to live in it.”

On Thursday, Green, whose suspension from last year’s Game 5 for hitting James in the groin helped swing the series to Cleveland, said he was looking forward to celebrating on Cleveland’s home floor for the second time in three years.

And while the comments didn’t come across as excessively brash given that they were from Green, Irving said the Cavs were offended and inspired by them.

“It’s part of the game,” Irving said. “But we knew what we were faced with. But then you add, of course, some chatter in there, and that adds some extra motivation. That taste wouldn’t have been the same if we would have lost tonight and they would have celebrated on our home floor. So I’ll just leave that at that.”

The Cavs were also well aware that in the final minutes of Game 3 that Stephen Curry stopped on the floor and squatted in what many perceived to be an insulting gesture.

The bottom line is that Cleveland has gotten these Finals to 3-1, a familiar situation that must give them a little comfort.

James, though, wouldn’t concede the Cavs have the Warriors right where they want them.

“No,” he said. “They got us where they want us. At the end of the day, we want to just try to put ourselves in position to play another game, and we did that and hopefully we can do it Monday night where we can come back here. So our mindset is try to go up there and get one.”


Valverde: Beating Froome in Dauphine time trial is pretty big

Spaniard looking strong as he begins second phase of his season


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French Open Women’s Semifinals: What the Statistics Tell Us


Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland, who has a solid backhand that could help her hold off the surging Jelena Ostapenko and her powerful forehand. Credit Christian Hartmann/Reuters..
How do you protect a weakness, or hide a strength? Certainly not on a stat sheet.



The Roland Garros women’s semifinals are set, with two high seeds clashing in one match and two delightful surprises battling it out in the other. We have spent almost two weeks watching these four players advance through the draw. What do they do well? Where are they susceptible?

The statistics have the answers.

Jelena Ostapenko vs. No. 30 Timea Bacsinszky

Through five matches, the unseeded Ostapenko has amassed 195 winners. That equates to 13 per set. That’s simply preposterous. Ostapenko hit 34 return winners in reaching the semifinals. Rafael Nadal has four. Bacsinszky has 116 winners in 11 sets, which is right at 10.5 per set. Advantage Ostapenko.

Ostapenko’s biggest weapon is her forehand. She has hit 104 forehand winners while committing 142 forehand errors. Those are actually a lot better numbers than they appear to be, as points in tennis generally run around 30 percent winners and 70 percent errors. Ostapenko’s forehand is only running around 57 percent. That’s a bonus.

How is Bacsinszky going to counter such offense? With a better backhand. Bacsinszky actually has more backhand winners than forehand winners, 49 to 44. But she has only 89 backhand errors to Ostapenko’s 141. Ostapenko’s forehand will be the biggest shot hit in the match, and it will naturally go after Bacsinszky’s backhand. Whoever wins that battle almost certainly will win the match.

Simona Halep’s Comeback at French Open Preserves Hopes of a Top Ranking JUNE 7, 2017
No. 3 Simona Halep vs. No. 2 Karolina Pliskova

Halep really shouldn’t even be here. She was down by 3-6, 1-5 in her quarterfinal against the No. 5 seed, Elina Svitolina, and saved a match point at 5-6 in the second-set tiebreaker before sweeping through the third set.

The major theme in this match will be rally length. Halep feels more comfortable in longer rallies, while Pliskova wants the point over almost as soon as it begins. Halep has played 127 rallies of nine-plus shots, while Pliskova has played only 47. In the shorter rally length of four shots or fewer, Pliskova has played 581 points, while Halep is at just 353.

These two are chalk and cheese, which creates a simple dynamic. Shorter rallies with an emphasis on the serve and return will heavily favor Pliskova. Once the rally length of a point reaches double digits, Halep becomes the clear favorite to win it.

One might think, in fact, that approach and volley is a losing proposition for all four semifinalists on the red clay of Roland Garros, but the statistics throw that logic out the window, too. Over all, the four semifinalists are winning 48 percent of their baseline points, but a significantly higher 62 percent at net.

Craig O’Shannessy is the strategy expert for Wimbledon, the Australian Open and the ATP World Tour. He runs Brain Game Tennis, a website specializing in tennis strategy.

Defending champ Djokovic in ‘whole new situation’ after Paris loss

Associated Press

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic falls as he plays Austria’s Dominic Thiem during their quarterfinal match the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium. AP

PARIS — His French Open title defense nearing an end, Novak Djokovic stumbled and tumbled to his knees on the red clay, his racket flying from his right hand as his opponent’s backhand zipped past.

Even Djokovic found it hard to fathom how far he’s fallen, only a year removed from leaving Roland Garros as a player nonpareil, the first man in nearly a half-century to win four consecutive Grand Slam titles.

That he departed this time with a surprisingly lopsided 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-0 quarterfinal loss to sixth-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria on Wednesday left everyone, including Djokovic, pondering the answers to difficult questions.

Did he give up in the last set? What has happened to his once-impervious play? Can he summon that again? Does he need a break from the grind of the tour?

“It’s a fact that I’m not playing close to my best, and I know that,” Djokovic said after his first straight-set loss at a major since the 2013 Wimbledon final. “For me, it’s a whole new situation that I’m facing.”

Since completing his career Grand Slam at the French Open 12 months ago, Djokovic has participated in four majors in a row without earning a trophy. He also lost his No. 1 ranking to Andy Murray.

Djokovic was runner-up at the U.S. Open but lost in the third round at Wimbledon, the first round at the Rio Olympics and the second round at the Australian Open.

“The win here last year has brought a lot of different emotions. Obviously, it was a thrill and complete fulfillment, I guess,” Djokovic said during an expansive and frank news conference. “I have lived on that wave of excitement, I guess, ’til the U.S. Open or so. And at the U.S. Open, I just was emotionally very flat and found myself in a situation that I hadn’t faced before in (my) professional tennis career.”

The 23-year-old Thiem next faces nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, who advanced when No. 20 Pablo Carreno Busta stopped while trailing 6-2, 2-0 after injuring an abdominal muscle late in the first set.

“I mean, it’s a joke how tough it is to win a Slam,” said Thiem, the only player who beat Nadal in one of his 23 clay-court matches this season. “Now I beat Novak. On Friday, (it’s) Nadal. In the finals, there is another top star.”

In the other semifinal, 2016 runner-up Murray will face 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in a matchup of three-time major title winners. Murray eliminated No. 8 Kei Nishikori 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (0), 6-1 on Wednesday, while No. 3 Wawrinka won 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 against No. 7 Marin Cilic.

With the wind whipping at more than 15 mph (25 kph), and the temperature in the low 50s (low teens Celsius), Djokovic was out of sorts in so many ways even before that 20-minute third set in which he won only 8 of 34 points. It’s only the second time Djokovic lost a final set by the score of 6-0 in his 937 career tour-level matches.

“It’s hard to comment (on) the third set. Obviously, nothing was going my way and everything his way,” Djokovic said. “Just pretty bad set.”

But both men thought the match was decided in the first set, when Djokovic held two set points at 5-4, 15-40 on Thiem’s serve. Thiem erased the first with a forehand volley and the other with a service winner that prompted Djokovic to roll his eyes.

Djokovic’s backhand really let him down in the tiebreaker: All seven points won by Thiem ended with that stroke.

In all, Djokovic made nearly twice as many unforced errors, 35, as winners, 18.

“More or less, all the parts of my game are kind of going up and down. I’m feeling like I’m missing consistency,” Djokovic said. “I play a great match or two in a row, and then I play a completely opposite match. That’s what happened today.”

Still, how unlikely was this result? Djokovic had won all five previous matches — and 11 of 12 sets — against Thiem, including in the French Open semifinals a year ago.

Plus, Djokovic had appeared in a record six consecutive semifinals in Paris.

Now he is at a crossroads of sorts. He just turned 30. He split from coaches Boris Becker and Marian Vajda and other members of his team, bringing aboard Andre Agassi for Week 1 of the French Open.

On Wednesday, he wouldn’t rule out some time off.

“It’s obviously tough to get out of it and figure out the way how to move ahead. At least I’m trying,” Djokovic said. “I know that I have achieved the biggest heights in this sport, and that memory and that experience gives me enough reason to believe that I can do it again.”

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