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."
Drew Bledsoe’s being asked to reminisce a lot this fall. And not exactly about fuzzy, feel-good topics that warm the heart.
Instead, it’s reminiscing about 2001, the year his heart got lacerated and he was replaced for good by Tom Brady, who went on to win a Super Bowl. Or about 2006 when -- as Cowboys quarterback -- he got yanked in favor or Tony Romo and never got back in.
This being the 15th anniversary of SB36 has caused Bledsoe’s phone to ring. And the Brady-Jimmy Garoppolo-Jacoby Brissett dance early this season has brought to the fore discussion of the Brady succession plan, especially now that it appears both players aren’t going to be disasters. How is this situation similar to the one in 2001? Meanwhile, the emergence of Dak Prescott in Dallas puts the oft-injured Romo in more immediate peril of losing his job.
In the past few days, Bledsoe’s opened up to both Albert Breer of MMQB and Michael Silver of NFL Media about the emotions of getting bumped and -- with Breer especially --– the depth he goes into discussing the situation and his emotions then and now are kind of moving.
If you think you’ve heard it all before -- and I believed I had -- you probably haven’t. The seriousness of Bledsoe’s 2001 injury was not exaggerated, as he explains in an anecdote. He acknowledges feeling entitled to a degree and admits to being bitter about the way he’s recalled.
“One thing I do bristle at a little bit is, I feel like there’s too much of me and Wally Pipp (the Yankees first baseman famously replaced by Lou Gehrig who never got his job back and birthed the verb “Pipped” for anyone who missed a day and got replaced),” Bledsoe told Breer. “I was the single-season passing leader for three organizations when I left. Unfortunately, Tommy’s been so damn good that people sometimes forget I had a pretty nice career.”
Speaking with Silver regarding Romo-Prescott, Bledsoe plumbed his experience with Brady and Bill Belichick in 2001.
"When you're young in the league -- when you're young in life -- you think you're 10-foot tall and bulletproof," said Bledsoe. "You think nobody can ever replace you, and that you're gonna be the guy forever. Eventually, you learn the lesson that it's a replacement business. Sometimes that hits you right between the eyes, which is what happened to me with [Tom] Brady, and again with Tony.
"It happens to all of us. I don't know if it's the time for Tony, but it's something that every quarterback has to confront."
In less than a week, Brady -- the best quarterback in NFL history in the minds of many -- will be back from his suspension. He will have seen in a month’s time that the NFL train rolls along without him and that, while he could never be cloned, he can be capably replaced.
Brady, because of the way he ascended to the job and the friends he’s seen get taken behind the barn in New England, has always been open about understanding he could be replaced. But now he’s got concrete evidence.
Said Bledsoe: "In our heart of hearts, we all want to feel indispensible. We all want to believe, 'There's no way the team can succeed without me.' Then you see the team going on, and winning with a young guy playing the position, and playing it well, and you do some soul searching . . . and you start to think, 'Maybe the team's gonna make that decision to move on.'
"You always want the team to do well, but it's hard. It can be [awkward]. Tommy and I are still good friends, and I text with Romo once in awhile . . . but it's hard to love 'em if they've got your job and you want it back."
Please read both.
The Bruins made it official on Monday -- mere minutes after the news had broken -- as they clearly couldn’t wait to announce an eight year, $49 million contract extension for Brad Marchand. who is finishing up his Team Canada gig at the World Cup of Hockey.
The deal averages $6.125 million per season, broken up between actual salary and signing bonus money. The Bruins were most definitely given a hometown discount by an elite player who snapped home a career-high 37 goals and 60 points last season, the most goals scored by a Bruins player since Glenn Murray in 2002-03. And everybody knows goal scorers get paid in the NHL, even if Marchand won’t be expected to score quite that many every year.
Marchand, 28, has also been the second-leading scorer in the entire World Cup of Hockey tournament, behind only Sidney Crosby, and continues to raise his profile in the NHL world beyond his customary agitator role. The “Nose Face Killah” could have waited for until free agency if he'd wanted to pick up every last nickel on the table, but it’s very clear he’s invested in the team that drafted and developed him, and with which he won a Cup five years ago.
"This is an extremely exciting day for me and my family," said Marchand, who now has a full no-move clause for the first five years of his next contract. "I would like to thank the Jacobs family, [president] Cam Neely, [general manager] Don Sweeney, [coach] Claude Julien, the coaching staff, my teammates and our fans for their continued support and belief in me. I have been a Bruin since the start of my pro career and there is no place I would rather play. I look forward to doing everything I can to help our team achieve success and bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston."
Marchand has been among the team’s leading scorers since joining the league in 2010-11, has been the NHL’s most dangerous penalty killer over the last five years, and pairs with Patrice Bergeron to anchor the top line. He’s also become much more of a leader in the last few seasons as other character veterans have been peeled away from the core group, and a hometown discount proves it one of the most meaningful ways possible.
It was clear Marchand was invested in the Bruins when he helped recruit free agent David Backes with phone calls this summer, and he was also present for the recruiting pitch to Jimmy Vesey at Warrior Ice Arena last month.
The Bruins players at training camp were happy to hear No. 63 was going to be in Boston for the long haul.
“Marchy is Marchy. I think everybody kind of knows what that means,” said Kevan Miller. “He’s been great for our organization and great for the fans and for this city. He’s been all in since Day One, and he’s been a guy that I looked up to.”
While the Bruins have confirmed the contract, Sweeney won't weigh in until later today. But one would expect there will be an appreciation for the skill of the player, and Marchand’s commitment to the organization after accepting less than he could have gotten on the open market.