Tennis star plays her final pro tournament

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Tennis star plays her final pro tournament

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Not accustomed to losing the last point at the U.S. Open, Kim Clijsters picked up her bag, waved and bid adieu to the fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium -- summoning up a melancholy smile before making her way to the tunnel.Her stay at her last professional tennis tournament ended much earlier than she'd expected. A winner of the last 22 matches she had played at the U.S. Open, Clijsters finally dropped one Wednesday, and with that loss ended a singles career that included four Grand Slam titles and thousands of good memories."It's been an incredible journey," Clijsters said, "and a lot of dreams for me have come true because of tennis."She fell 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) to 18-year-old Laura Robson of Britain to finish with a 523-127 record, 41 titles and 20 weeks ranked No. 1, most recently in February 2011.Through the starts and stops of a career that spanned 15 years, Clijsters handled all the wins and losses with class, standing out as someone who could keep up with the powerful games and personalities that took over her sport -- and get people to like her while she was doing it."She was a tremendous athlete, a really good competitor," said Maria Sharapova, who won her match, 6-1, 6-0 over Lourdes Dominguez Lino. "I think the nicest thing you saw about her was her commitment to the sport, but also wanting to have a great family life, retiring from the sport to start that, and then coming back and achieving the things that she achieved."Already with a U.S. Open title to her name, Clijsters walked away in 2007, but returned after getting married, having a baby and realizing she hadn't done everything she'd set out to do in her sport.Now, she is nearing 30, her daughter, Jada, is 4, and it really is time to move on.Earlier this year, she announced her last event would be the U.S. Open, the tournament she won in 2009 -- only months into her comeback -- and then again in 2010. Certainly, she didn't expect it to end in the second round, but knowing the end was coming one way or another, she said there were no regrets."Since I retired the first time, it's been a great adventure for my team and my family," said Clijsters, who was 28-0 against players ranked outside the top 10 at the U.S. Open before Wednesday. "It's all been worth it. But I do look forward to the next part of my life coming up."Her last defeat at Flushing Meadows came against Belgian rival Justine Henin on Sept. 6, 2003, in the tournament final.Robson was 9 at the time.When it was over, one reporter asked the young British player: "Do you feel like the girl that shot Bambi?""I wouldn't go that far. I would say that was Becker beating Agassi here a few years ago," Robson said, referring to Benjamin Becker's four-set win at the 2006 U.S. Open that ended Agassi's career.Robson knows, though, how much 23rd-seeded Clijsters means to the game, not only as a superb player but as someone who by all accounts is universally liked -- by fans, tennis officials and even opponents."She's always been someone that I've looked up to since I started on the tour. She's always been incredibly nice to be around," Robson said. "I think we're all going to miss her."Clijsters was the only seeded woman who lost during the afternoon session of Day 3, when the winners also included No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, defending champion Sam Stosur, 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and 2011 French Open champion Li Na."The whole tour is certainly going to miss having her around. She's been a great player and a great person," Stosur said about Clijsters. "I guess she's ready to do other things. She's definitely one of those people that you can look up to and really admire with what she's been able to achieve."In men's play, No. 3 Andy Murray, who won Olympic gold in singles and teamed with Robson for the silver in the mixed doubles, defeated Ivan Dodig of Croatia, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 in a second-round match. No. 4 David Ferrer, No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro, No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic and No. 9 John Isner all advanced in first-round matches.The headliner on this day, though, was Clijsters.Less than an hour after her loss, she was hanging out in the players' garden alongside the stadium. She shared a laugh with some friends, hugs from others, and paused to pose for a photograph alongside 14-time major champion Serena Williams, who was headed out after partnering sister Venus for a first-round victory in doubles.Clijsters is still in the doubles draw, paired with another Belgian, Kirsten Flipkens, and they play a first-round match Thursday.Clijsters said she needed to focus on that. Clearly, though, the time to reflect has begun."It's not just the tennis side of things that you think about now, it's about life," she said. "We've had a lot of things happen in these last 15 years that I've been on tour. I'm able to look back at them, and I'm very happy with the progress that I've made."

Curran: Do Bledsoe's recollections give insight to Brady's state of mind?

Curran: Do Bledsoe's recollections give insight to Brady's state of mind?

Drew Bledsoe’s being asked to reminisce a lot this fall. And not exactly about fuzzy, feel-good topics that warm the heart.

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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.

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

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.

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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.