The easiest win of Roger Federer's career

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The easiest win of Roger Federer's career

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Didn't take long for Serena Williams to show her fourth-round opponent at the U.S. Open where things were headed."The first point of the whole match," 82nd-ranked Andrea Hlavackova explained, "when I served, and she returned, like, a 100 mph forehand return, I was like, OK, I know who I'm playing. You don't have to prove it to me. I know.'"Monday's match was less than 15 seconds old. It might as well have been over.Dominant from the moment she ripped that return of an 88 mph second serve, forcing Hlavackova into an out-of-control backhand that sailed well long, to the moment she powered a 116 mph service winner on the last point, Williams extended her 2-month stretch of excellence with a 6-0, 6-0 victory to get to the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows.Those two big zeros pretty much tell the story; it's the fifth time in her career Williams won with what's commonly called a "double bagel." Some other impressive numbers: Williams won 60 of 89 points, built a 31-9 edge in winners and improved to 23-1 since losing in the first round of the French Open. That run includes singles and doubles titles at both Wimbledon and the London Olympics.Hlavackova knows this act all too well: She and Lucie Hradecka were the doubles runners-up at both of those events. Not that those 2-on-2 encounters helped prepare for the 1-on-1 match in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday."Singles is completely different," said Hlavackova, who chose the phrase "What can you do"? more than once when analyzing what it's like to face 14-time major champion Williams."My coach warned me to not go on the court and play for a score," Hlavackova said, by which she meant just trying to keep it as close as possible. "I was in the match. I was trying to figure out how to win. And when it was, like, 6-love, 4-love, 30-love, I was thinking, Well, I'm not playing for a score, but one game wouldn't hurt.'"Oh, well.Next for the fourth-seeded Williams, who won the U.S. Open in 1999, 2002 and 2008, is a match against former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, who reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time since winning the 2008 French Open by defeating 55th-ranked Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 6-0, 6-4.Williams -- who lost in the third round of doubles with older sister Venus on Monday night -- is 3-0 against Ivanovic, including a straight-set victory in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows last year. Must not have left much of an impression on the American, because when asked what she remembers most about their most recent match, Williams replied: "Was it here?"Assured that it was, in 2011, Williams said with a smile: "OK. Yeah, I remember, clearly, not a lot, but I will be looking at the film."In the semifinals, the Williams-Ivanovic winner will meet either No. 10 Sara Errani or No. 20 Roberta Vinci, doubles partners who both eliminated higher-seeded women Monday and now face the uncomfortable prospect of trying to beat a best buddy."Our friendship won't change, no matter what, no matter who wins," said Vinci, noting that she expects they'll have dinner together, as usual, Monday and Tuesday. "It definitely won't be an easy match from a mental perspective. We know each other well. We practice together often. We play doubles together. We know everything about each other."Errani and Vinci teamed up to win the French Open doubles championship in June, and now one of them is going to be the first woman from Italy to play in the U.S. Open semifinals since the professional era began in 1968.Errani, the runner-up to Maria Sharapova at the French Open, got past No. 6 Angelique Kerber of Germany 7-6 (5), 6-3.Reaching her first singles quarterfinal in 32 career Grand Slam tournaments, Vinci stunned No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 6-4."I really had the worst day," said Radwanska, who could have moved up to No. 1 in the WTA rankings by reaching next weekend's final. "She really mixes it up -- a lot of slice, then suddenly hitting very well from the forehand side, then kick serve, drop shots, volleys as well, coming to the net. It's really tough because she really had an answer for everything."Radwanska could sympathize with Hlavackova's plight, having lost to Williams in the Wimbledon final."When she's on fire, you can't do anything about it. It doesn't matter what you try to do, it's going to be a winner," Radwanska said. "It's just Serena. She's a great champion."So is No. 1-seeded Roger Federer, of course, owner of a record 17 Grand Slam titles, including five at the U.S. Open. As he attempts to add to those numbers, Federer got some extra rest Monday, because his fourth-round opponent, 23rd-seeded Mardy Fish of the United States, withdrew hours before their scheduled match for precautionary reasons, citing medical advice.The man Federer beat in July's Wimbledon final and lost to in August's Olympic final, Andy Murray, muted 15th-seeded Milos Raonic's big serve and won 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 Monday night to reach an eighth consecutive major quarterfinal."Today was by far my best match of the tournament," Murray concluded.No. 3 Murray will play No. 12 Marin Cilic of Croatia, who put together a 7-5, 6-4, 6-0 victory over 50th-ranked Martin Klizan of Slovakia, the last left-hander and unseeded man remaining. Murray has won 6 of 7 matches against Cilic over their careers, but the lone loss came at the U.S. Open in 2009.The 30-year-old Fish missed about 2 months this season because of an accelerated heartbeat and had a medical procedure in May."We are not 100 percent sure what the issue is and if it is related to his previous issues," Fish's agent, John Tobias, wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Mardy is fine and will return home to L.A. tomorrow. This was strictly precautionary and I anticipate that Mardy will play in Asia this fall."After losing a match at Key Biscayne, Fla., on March 29, Fish went to be checked by doctors because his heart started racing uncontrollably that night. He pulled out of the U.S. Davis Cup team's quarterfinal against France the following week.The walkover left soon-to-retire 2003 U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick -- who plays 2009 champ Juan Martin del Potro in the fourth round Tuesday night -- as the last American man in the field, and it allowed the top-seeded Federer to reach his 34th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal, extending another record he owns.Federer now faces No. 6 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, who eliminated No. 11 Nicolas Almagro of Spain 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-1. Berdych stunned Federer in the 2010 Wimbledon quarterfinals on the way to reaching the final there."I am really sorry for Mardy. I just want to wish him a speedy recovery," Federer said in a statement issued by the tournament. "We all want to see him back on tour soon."

Brady says he hopes to play Thursday night vs. Giants

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Brady says he hopes to play Thursday night vs. Giants

FOXBORO -- All last week, leading up to the preseason game between the Patriots and the Panthers, sports talk radio (and television) debate raged: Should Tom Brady play? 

On one side of the argument were those who believed Jimmy Garoppolo should receive every last game rep as he prepares to be the starter for the first four weeks of the regular season. On the other side were those who believed Brady needed work at some point between New England's AFC title game loss to the Broncos and this season's Week 5 matchup with the Browns. 

Now we know how Bill Belichick and the Patriots felt: Brady played four series, completing three of his nine attempts, including one 33-yard touchdown to Chris Hogan.

But now, one week later, the debate may resurface. Brady has taken preseason game snaps. That can be checked off of the to-do list. Should he play again, though? If the goal is to keep him as sharp as possible for Cleveland, should he see time against the Giants?

He hopes to. 

"I mean, [it's] always up to coach Belichick," Brady said during a press conference on Tuesday. "I wish I'd play every game. I love playing. I love playing in practice. I love playing in preseason games, regular season games, postseason games. I love thinking about football. It's just the way it is. That part, I think, would be very challenging watching those games in September, but I'll find ways to preoccupy my mind."

Brady alluded to the fact that he had to make the most of every repetition he has with the team before his four-game ban kicks in. Whether those repetitions come in practice -- Tuesday's practice will be his last with the Patriots -- or on Thursday night, they all carry importance in his eyes.

"I've got a good day of practice [Tuesday]," Brady said. "I've tried to look at all these days of practice as ways to get better. I have access to the fields, and throwing to my receivers. [I] try to use those days the best that I can, just like I always would. I got another, hopefully, opportunity to play on Thursday night, be with the team Friday, and then try to do the best that I can over the next month."

If the team decides that it is within its best interest to play Brady against the Giants, the question would then become when? Because the fourth preseason game is typically a last chance for fringe players to make their cases for roster spots, if Brady were to play late in the game, he may be playing behind players who might not be on the team soon thereafter. If he starts, it takes away an opportunity for either Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett to make a start on the road and work against what will likely be more talented defensive players. 

It may be a difficult call, something that Belichick alluded to earlier this week. 

"I’m sure," Belichick said, "you could bring up a lot of ‘If we did this, if we did that,’ those would all be good, and they would be, and we do that in the staff meeting. ‘We’d like to do this, we’d like to do that,’ OK, but what’s most important? What is at the top of the list? Or, how can we maybe do two or three things if we do take a certain approach? So, that’s what we try to figure out, so we’ll see."

Brady on Garoppolo: ‘I love being with Jimmy’

Brady on Garoppolo: ‘I love being with Jimmy’

FOXBORO – Tom Brady offered strong support of Jimmy Garoppolo on Tuesday. In probably his last press conference until after his four-game Deflategate suspension, Brady was asked if his relationship with his backup is at all similar to Brady’s relationship to Drew Bledsoe back in 2000 and 2001, which Brady said was very much a mentoring atmosphere.

“I have no idea. We’re totally on different ends of the spectrum,” said Brady, referring to Garoppolo. “I love being with Jimmy. I’ve enjoyed every day that we’ve spent with him. I wish him the very best, obviously. For our team. For [him]. When you see people that it means a lot to, you always want them to succeed as well. It will be tough to watch but I will be excited to watch and excited to learn. And hopefully when I come back in October I’ll be a better player than I am today.”

The Brady-Garoppolo dynamic has deserved close observation in recent weeks because it gives fascinating insight into how the greatest quarterback of his generation deals with his own football mortality.

The four-game sabbatical is temporary. But Brady’s distress last week after missing the Bears game, saying he “only had so many games left” to play, his discomfort with not being able to physically lead the team that day and the unbridled practice intensity he’s shown (25-for-25 on a Friday in an intrasquad scrimmage), plus his apparent impatience to get into the damn game last week against Carolina all combined to show just how hard this is for Brady.

It’s not necessarily even about Garoppolo. It’s about someone other than Brady squatting in Brady’s huddle and leading his offense. So it was good that Brady articulated his support of Garoppolo both as a person and as a player.

Brady can be both beside himself about Garoppolo playing quarterback instead of him and still like the kid and hope for the best. Ignoring the former with “all is well” blinders on is missing out an opportunity to observe the mindset of one of the NFL’s all-time greatest players and what exactly made him great.

 

 

 

Bruins come away impressed with new practice facility

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Bruins come away impressed with new practice facility

BRIGHTON – It’s been a summer brimming with anticipation for Bruins players and management alike with the prospect of moving into a new, state-of-the-art practice facility.

The Bruins contingent hosted Jimmy Vesey at their new Warrior Ice Arena home a couple of weeks ago and the B’s players christened the ice by kicking off their informal captain’s practices on Monday morning.

Torey Krug, David Krejci, Adam McQuaid, John-Michael Liles, Noel Acciari and Frank Vatrano all hit the ice to work with a local goaltender and went through skating drills for the hour-plus to get the blood pumping. Krejci left the ice after roughly 15 minutes as he recovers from left hip surgery, but was still left excited at the prospect of practicing in the new digs after spending his entire Bruins career with Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington as their practice home.

The arena doesn’t officially open until the Bruins and New Balance hold a grand opening on Sept. 8, but color several Bruins veterans impressed.

“It’s beautiful. It’s great. It’s a little bit different than Wilmington,” said Krejci. “You guys will get a chance to see it next week, but it’s pretty cool.”

The captain’s practices will continue in earnest with more Bruins players joining the group as the calendar gets closer to the start of training camp. The expectation is that all of the B’s skaters will be wholly impressed with the new facility. 

Clearly, it’s got all the bells and whistles of a new rink, and the closer proximity is a bonus for Bruins players that these days live in and around Boston rather than in the distant suburbs.

There's even the distinct possibility in the not-so distant future that the Bruins could start holding game day morning skates at the practice facility rather than at the Garden. It's something already done in Montreal, where the Habs have a similar setup with their practice rink in Brossard, just outside of the city. 

“It’s beautiful. For the guys that have been the scenes and doing all the work in Wilmington all of these years, it’s great for them to be a part of this and move into a new building,” said Krug. “I’m fortunate to be here and be a part of it. That’s exciting.”

Krug joked that being an early arriver at Warrior Arena doesn’t guarantee him one of the big lockers in the dressing room once training camp gets going: “I’m pretty sure Zee [captain Zdeno Chara] will kick me out of whatever stall I picked. It’s obviously exciting to be one of the first guys skating on this ice.”