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LONDON (AP) -- As the sun set on the opening week of Wimbledon, just about the only seeding that truly signified something was No. 1.

That's the number beside the names of Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, who turned in nearly perfect performances back-to-back Saturday on Centre Court to cap nearly perfect runs to the fourth round at the All England Club, while chaos reigned all around them.

In the final match of the fortnight's first half, played with the roof closed and lights glowing to make sure it would get done as darkness approached, defending champion Williams used eight aces and 11 return winners to power past 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan 6-2, 6-0 in 61 minutes.

"She didn't lose energy, and her game, I think, is getting better, day after day. Not better in general, but adapting to the surface. Everything is getting better," said French coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who has been working with Williams over the past year, when she is 77-3. "So now let's enter into the most important part of the tournament. ... Now the matches are going to get tougher and tougher."

Might not necessarily have been a fair fight, considering that Date-Krumm is ranked 84th and was the oldest woman to reach the third round at Wimbledon in the 45-year Open era. Never better than a semifinalist at a Grand Slam tournament, she played Williams evenly for about three games, before the 16-time major champion took over.

"She has so much power, speed," Date-Krumm said. "She has everything."

Williams' easy win followed the 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over 28th-seeded Jeremy Chardy of France turned in by 2011 champion Djokovic, who compiled a remarkable ratio of 38 winners to three unforced errors. The Serb's initial miscue of his own doing did not come until the third set's sixth game, when he double-faulted while ahead 4-1, 40-love.

"Everything went my way," Djokovic said. "I did everything I wanted to do."

Both he and Williams could say that about the way they handled matters throughout Week 1.

Williams has won all six sets she's played, allowing her opponents a total of 11 games. Djokovic has won all of his nine sets, dropping 29 games.

"You don't want to play your best tennis in the first round and continue to go down. I feel like I try to play better as each match goes on," said Williams, whose 34-match winning streak is the longest for a woman since older sister Venus had a run of 35 in 2000. "I try to find out something I can improve on from each match so I can do it better in the next round."

In other words: Look out, Sabine Lisicki, the 23rd-seeded German who will meet Williams on Monday for a quarterfinal berth.

Up next for Djokovic after the middle Sunday's traditional day of rest is another German, 13th-seeded Tommy Haas, the 35-year-old who is enjoying a career renaissance and eliminated Feliciano Lopez of Spain 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.

How certain was Lisicki that she would be dealing with Williams and not Date-Krumm? Lisicki tweeted a photo of her with Haas early in the second set of Williams' match, writing: "Last Germans standing" and "We both play the no1's next."

Take a glance around, and a high seeding has mattered very little, with the notable exception of No. 2 Andy Murray, Djokovic's potential foe in the final. Indeed, in many cases, any seeding at all has guaranteed nothing whatsoever. The men's Nos. 3, 5, 6, 9 and 10 are all gone, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with their 29 combined Grand Slam titles. The women's Nos. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 10 are out, too, including four-time major champion Maria Sharapova and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka.

Even during a pair of victories Saturday, both No. 4-seeded players, David Ferrer and Agnieszka Rawdwanska, looked shaky. Ferrer, the French Open runner-up this month, was treated for blisters on his right foot while coming back to beat No. 26 Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 6-7 (6), 7-6 (2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Radwanska, who lost to Williams in last year's Wimbledon final, was pushed to three sets by 18-year-old American Madison Keys before winning 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

"I'm very happy to be a little bit better," Radwanska said. "It was really close. Every set was really tight."

The highest-seeded man other than Murray on his half of the field is No. 20 Mikhail Youzhny, who will play the 2012 U.S. Open champion and Wimbledon runner-up after defeating Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4, 7-5.

Otherwise, Saturday's winners on that side of the men's draw were 130th-ranked Lukasz Kubot of Poland, who beat No. 25 Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-3, 6-4; 80th-ranked Kenny de Schepper of France, who defeated No. 22 Juan Monaco 6-4, 7-6 (8), 6-4; and 54th-ranked Fernando Verdasco of Spain, a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 winner against Ernests Gulbis.

Things have generally been less hectic on Djokovic's portion of the tournament, but No. 9 Richard Gasquet lost 7-6 (7), 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (5) to 20-year-old Bernard Tomic, whose father has been barred from tournaments after being accused of head-butting Tomic's hitting partner. No. 23 Andreas Seppi of Italy, meanwhile, won his seventh consecutive five-setter, edging No. 12 Kei Nishikori 3-6, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-4, and 49th-ranked Ivan Dodig of Croatia moved on when Igor Sijsling retired while trailing 6-0, 6-1, 1-0, the 13th player to stop mid-match or withdraw before one, equaling a tournament high.

For a moment, it looked as if there might be a 14th when No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro hyperextended his left knee as chased a ball late in his 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-0 defeat of Grega Zemlja. The 2009 U.S. Open went champion sprawling face-forward into the players' chairs and racket bags on the sideline.

"It was really painful," del Potro said. "I was a little scared."

Del Potro and Murray each own one Grand Slam title, the only two of the last 33 not claimed by Federer, Nadal or Djokovic.

There isn't a lot of company for Williams in the major championship department, either. Two women with one apiece advanced Saturday, though: 2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and 2011 French Open winner Li Na.

Otherwise, just as with the men, there are some fresh faces among the women. That includes 19-year-old Laura Robson, the first British woman to reach Wimbledon's fourth round since 1998; 19-year-old Monica Puig of Puerto Rico; and 20-year-old Sloane Stephens of the U.S., who'll face Puig on Monday.

That matchup prompted this question for Stephens from a reporter: Is there pressure for you when you're playing someone in the next round who you're older than?

"Like a year, OK," Stephens said. "No, not really."

At 31, Williams is the oldest No. 1 in WTA rankings history, but she's still more than a decade Date-Krumm's junior.

"I honestly never thought I would play until my 30s, to be honest. I don't see my stopping any time soon," she said. "However, I don't see myself playing into my 40s. That's why I have so much respect for Kimiko."

They spent a good chunk of the early evening wondering where and when they would play, because their match was scheduled to be last on Court 1, where Ferrer and Dolgopolov went to a fifth set. It wasn't until 7:59 p.m., minutes after Djokovic's match ended, that the Wimbledon referee's office announced it was shifting Williams' match to Centre Court, with the roof shut and lights on.

Williams was rather dominant serving and receiving. In the first set, she delivered seven aces at up to 116 mph, at least one in each of her four services game, and hit nine return winners, at least one in each of Date-Krumm's four service games.

When it was over, Williams wagged an index finger in the air, as if to remind all she is No. 1, then exchanged high-fives with some fans.

"Every time I go out there, I tell you, I feel like anything can happen. I don't feel invincible. I feel like anything can happen," she said. "More than anything, that keeps me completely motivated."

Saturday, 29 June 2013 22:07
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LONDON (AP) -- What a stark statistic for the nation of Bill Tilden and Don Budge, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi: It's been 101 years since no men from the United States reached Wimbledon's third round.

And the last time it happened, way back in 1912, no Americans even entered the oldest Grand Slam tournament.

By the end of Thursday, all 11 U.S. men in the 2013 field at the All England Club were gone, with top-seeded Novak Djokovic accounting for the last one by beating 156th-ranked qualifier Bobby Reynolds 7-6 (2), 6-3, 6-1. Earlier in the day, former top-five player James Blake lost to Bernard Tomic of Australia 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, while qualifier Denis Kudla was beaten by Ivan Dodig of Croatia 6-1, 7-6 (4), 7-5.

That trio joined 18th-seeded John Isner, 21st-seeded Sam Querrey, Ryan Harrison, Steve Johnson, Alex Kuznetsov, Wayne Odesnik, Rajeev Ram and Michael Russell on the way home.

"It's a tough stat to hear, but I still believe, right now, where U.S. tennis is, not too many guys are in their prime. That's why the numbers are like that. But a lot of guys are, maybe, in the tail end of their careers and a lot of guys are coming up," said Kudla, a 20-year-old from Arlington, Va., who is ranked 105th. "Maybe next year, or the year after that, things could change. You have to go through a little bit of a struggle to get some success."

Led by top-seeded and defending champion Serena Williams, the U.S. women still are represented in singles at Wimbledon this year.

Williams extended her winning streak to 33 matches, the longest on tour since 2000, by eliminating 100th-ranked qualifier Caroline Garcia of France 6-3, 6-2, while 18-year-old Madison Keys knocked off 30th-seeded Mona Barthel of Germany 6-4, 6-2.

Keys next plays 2012 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, and Williams goes from a 19-year-old opponent in Garcia to a 42-year-old opponent in Kimiko Date-Krumm, the oldest woman to reach the third round at Wimbledon since the Open era began in 1968.

"I have so much respect for her. I think she's so inspiring to be playing such high-level tennis at her age," said Williams, who at 31 is the oldest No. 1 in WTA rankings history. "And she's a real danger on the grass court, I know that. I definitely will have to be ready."

Already into the third round with a victory a day earlier was No. 17 Sloane Stephens, while yet another American, wild-card entry Alison Riske, had her match against Urszula Radwanska - Agnieszka's younger sister - postponed by rain Thursday.

"I can't put my finger on why the women are doing better than the men," Reynolds said.

He wound up facing Djokovic with Centre Court's retractable roof closed because of the first drizzles of the fortnight, which prevented five singles matches from starting and forced the suspensions of three others in progress.

The precipitation wasn't the only change Day 4 brought. After the chaos of Wednesday, when Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova were among seven former No. 1s who lost, results went mostly to form Thursday. Only one seeded man departed: No. 17 Milos Raonic of Canada, who was beaten 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (4) by 64th-ranked Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands.

There were, however, two more injury-related exits, raising the total of players pulling out of the second round to nine, which equals the Open era Grand Slam record for any round. All told, 12 players have withdrawn before a match or stopped during one, one short of the Wimbledon record for a full tournament, set in 2008.

"It was a bit strange to see so many top players either lost or retired," Djokovic said. "But grass is a very special surface. It requires a different kind of movement. ... If grass at the start of Wimbledon is still not so used and, I guess, a little bit slippery, it can be dangerous, until you really get your right footing on the court. That's probably the reason why they all felt uncomfortable and they all injured themselves, unfortunately."

Djokovic himself took a tumble midway through his tight first set against Reynolds, a 30-year-old based in Atlanta, then quickly rose and whacked his heels with his racket. About 25 minutes later, Reynolds hit a 122 mph service winner to hold for 6-all, and the crowd roared, eager to see whether this guy they'd never heard of could continue to push Djokovic, who is ranked No. 1 and owns six major titles, including at Wimbledon in 2011.

But from there, it wasn't close. Reynolds missed two forehands early in the tiebreaker, helping Djokovic take a 5-0 lead before ending the set with a 117 mph ace.

"He just puts so much pressure on you, point after point after point," Reynolds said. "He moves unbelievably well. ... You think you hit a good shot, but he's right there, crushing it back at you."

Reynolds was, in many ways, simply happy to be there, on his sport's most famous court, facing one of its best players.

"You can't put a price tag on it," said Reynolds, who went five years between Grand Slam match wins. "I'll keep so many memories from that match. I loved it. Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

One shot Reynolds most definitely will recall, ruefully, came while leading 1-0 in the second set. Up love-30 on Djokovic's serve, Reynolds lost track of the ball and sent an overhead long.

"It went in between the rafters, and then you see it, and then it hits the piping, and then it comes back out. I just mistimed it," said Reynolds, who never had break points, while Djokovic converted 4 of 18. "I guess it's lack of being in there, the surroundings."

And so, at 7:43 p.m. local time, Djokovic deposited a backhand volley winner, the last shot hit against a U.S. man at Wimbledon this year.

With 27 of 32 third-round spots in men's singles settled, 18 countries are represented, including Latvia, Ukraine, Croatia and South Africa. Five countries have multiple entrants left, led by four each for Spain and France.

"I'm looking just to see if I can get to the next round. That's basically what it is. I don't feel like I'm carrying the U.S. flag (or) `I'm the lone guy left,'" Reynolds said. "I actually wasn't aware of it at all."

American men have won Wimbledon more than 30 times. Maurice McLoughlin did it in 1913, followed by Tilden in 1920, then Budge and Bobby Riggs in the 1930s, all the way through to players such as Connors, McEnroe and Arthur Ashe in the 1970s and 1980s.

During the nine-tournament stretch from 1992 to 2000, a U.S. man won Wimbledon eight times (seven for Sampras, one for Agassi), and there was at least one - and sometimes two - in the final each year. More recently, Andy Roddick reached three finals from 2004-09, losing to Federer every time.

As it is, American men are going through their longest drought without a Grand Slam champion anywhere; this year's U.S. Open will mark exactly a decade since Roddick won the title there. That, at least, can be partly explained by this: Switzerland's Federer, Spain's Rafael Nadal and Serbia's Djokovic collected 31 of the last 33 major trophies.

But what happened at Wimbledon this week shows U.S. problems extend far below the top tier.

Why?

Reynolds offered some thoughts, including that kids are picking other sports, perhaps because of the high cost of tennis. He also believes there's simply more competition from elsewhere.

"You look back years ago, the Americans usually were very good, whether it's basketball or baseball or tennis. Sports are becoming such a worldwide thing that everybody is so good now. ... We're so used to looking back and saying, `Oh, look at all the dominance,'" Reynolds said.

"Every country has top guys playing tennis," he said. "I think that's more of what it is, rather than the lack of talent coming out of the States."

Thursday, 27 June 2013 23:31
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NEW YORK (AP) — Anthony Bennett was stunned at the start. David Stern had a big surprise at the finish.

In between, Nerlens Noel and a number of others experienced wild rides to start their careers in an unsettled first round of the NBA draft.

Bennett became the first Canadian No. 1 overall pick, and Noel tumbled out of the top five and right into a trade, the first of many moves that took a back seat to one in the works for the team that calls Barclays Center home.

The Brooklyn Nets will acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from Boston in a blockbuster deal that was still developing as the draft neared its conclusion, according to a person with knowledge of the details.

"There was a lot of activity," said Nets general manager Billy King, who wouldn't comment on the trade. "As you guys will find out, there will be a lot of trades that are announced."

His can't be until July 10, after next season's salary cap is set.

As for the draft, it was as unpredictable as expected, capped by Hakeem Olajuwon coming on stage at the end of the first round to greet Stern, dressed in the same tuxedo style he wore when Stern called his to start the soon-to-be retired commissioner's first draft in 1984.

One of the favorites to be taken first Thursday night, Noel fell to No. 6, where the New Orleans Pelicans took him and then dealt his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package headlined by All-Star guard Jrue Holiday, according to a person familiar with the details.

The Cleveland Cavaliers started things by passing on centers Noel and Alex Len, who went to Phoenix at No. 5, in favor Bennett, the UNLV freshman forward who starred for Canada's junior national teams and was the Mountain West Conference freshman of the year. Bennett led a record 12 international players who were taken in the first round.

"I'm just as surprised as anyone else," Bennett said.

There was suspense right until the end, either because the Cavs were unsure who they wanted or were trying to trade the pick. Most predictions had them taking one of the big men, with Noel largely considered the favorite for the No. 1 choice even after a torn ACL that ended his lone season at Kentucky in February.

"I thought everything was in the air, so I wasn't thinking I was the No. 1 pick," Noel said.

Stern, booed heavily in his final draft, added to the surprise of the moment by pausing slightly before announcing the Cavs' pick, their first at No. 1 since taking All-Star Kyrie Irving in 2011.

Orlando passed on both of the big men, too, going with Indiana swingman Victor Oladipo with the No. 2 pick. Washington took Otto Porter Jr. with the third pick, keeping the Georgetown star in town.

Ten years after the Cavaliers selected LeBron James to start a draft that included future NBA championship teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the top five, this one lacked star power and perhaps even the promise of stardom.

Bennett, Noel and Len are all coming off injuries and couldn't even work out for teams, but the Cavs decided Bennett's shoulder surgery wasn't enough cause for concern.

Len walked up to meet Stern and collect his orange Suns hat, then sat down near the stage to put on the walking boot he needs for the stress fracture of his left ankle that was discovered after Maryland's season.

Noel finally went to New Orleans with the next pick. He didn't seem upset at his fall down the draft board, hugging his mother and shaking hands with Kentucky coach John Calipari.

It was a good start to the night for the Hoosiers, with Cody Zeller going to the Charlotte Bobcats two places after Oladipo.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore, another player who was considered a potential top-three pick, also dropped, going seventh to Sacramento.

Headed by a lackluster class, the draft promised confusion and second-guessing, with no consensus No. 1 pick and little agreement among the order of the top five.

And with lesser-known names in the draft, veterans soaked up the spotlight in the hours leading up to it.

Yahoo Sports first reported that the Nets and Celtics were working on a trade that would complete the breakup of the Celtics' veteran core.

ESPN reported earlier Thursday that Dwight Howard was unlikely to return to the Los Angeles Lakers when he becomes a free agent next month.

The guys coming into the league were glad for the attention they did finally get once their names were called.

"It's like a weight vest you took off after running five miles," Oladipo said. "It's relaxing, man. But at the same time, you know it's just getting started."

National player of the year Trey Burke of Michigan also was traded, the Minnesota Timberwolves sending his rights to Utah for the rights to Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, the Nos. 14 and 21 picks.

Lehigh's C.J. McCollum rounded out the top 10 by going to Portland.

Stern, retiring in February, seemed to play up the boos, which turned to cheers after every pick, fans perhaps as puzzled as some of the players at the names they were hearing.

"I was just kidding my agent because he didn't bail me out," Zeller said. "He didn't tell me. I didn't know until David Stern announced it. It's a crazy process not knowing, but I'm definitely excited that I ended up with the Bobcats."

Other players couldn't get too excited about their new addresses, because they changed quickly.

Stern was announcing deals by the middle of the first round and they promised to keep coming after he called it a night and turned things over to Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver for the final 30 picks.

The flurry of trades wasn't surprising with so much uncertainty surrounding this class and so much hope in other areas. Teams such as Houston, Dallas and Atlanta already have an eye on Howard's future, needing to have necessary salary cap space to offer a maximum contract that could lure him away from Los Angeles.

The 2014 class — which could be topped by a second straight Canadian in incoming Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins — will be higher regarded than this one, with James perhaps heading the available free agents to follow.

Local fans seemed pleased with their picks, cheering loudly when the Nets took Duke forward Mason Plumlee at No. 22 and the New York Knicks grabbed Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. two picks later.

Stern made his final pick to close the first round to cheers of "David! David!" before handing things off to Silver.

Thursday, 27 June 2013 23:21
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HOUSTON (AP) -- Erik Bedard pitched six effective innings and the Houston Astros used a four-run fourth inning to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 on Wednesday night.

Bedard (3-3) allowed seven hits and walked one, but limited St. Louis to three runs. Three relievers then combined to pitch two hitless innings before Jose Veras worked the ninth for his 16th save.

Veras yielded a one-out single to Jon Jay and then walked Matt Adams, but pinch hitter Daniel Descalso struck out and Matt Carpenter flied out to end the game.

Allen Craig homered for the second straight night and Yadier Molina had a two-run shot for the Cardinals, who lost for the fourth time in five games. They dropped into a tie with surging Pittsburgh for the lead in the NL Central.

Lance Lynn (10-2) allowed five hits and four runs, walked four and struck out four over 7 2-3 innings for his first loss in four career starts in Houston.

Molina and Craig helped the Cardinals get off to a nice start. Molina followed Carpenter's leadoff single with a drive to the Crawford Boxes in left field for his sixth homer. Craig had a leadoff drive in the fourth that bounced off the lights atop the wall in left field, extending the lead to 3-0.

But Houston responded in the bottom half. Jose Altuve and Jason Castro got it started with back-to-back singles for the Astros' first hits of the game. Lynn then walked Chris Carter on four pitches to load the bases before sending a run home when he also walked Carlos Pena on four pitches.

Castro came home when J.D. Martinez grounded into a fielder's choice, and Brett Wallace then hit a tying RBI single. After another fielder's choice, Brandon Barnes singled in Wallace to give Houston the lead for good.

The Astros threatened again in the fifth, putting two runners on with two out, but Lynn retired Martinez to end the inning. That was the first of eight straight batters retired by Lynn

Josh Fields retired the first two St. Louis batters in the seventh before left-hander Wesley Wright came in and struck out Carpenter.

Jose Cisnero faced the heart of the Cardinals' order in the eighth. He got Molina on a groundout before walking Carlos Beltran. He then struck out Craig and Matt Holliday to finish the inning.

 

NOTES: Molina played first base for the second time in his career and the first since 2008. Manager Mike Matheny said Molina could "probably play just about anywhere on the infield." He said playing him at first base is a good way to give his legs a rest. "He's caught more innings than any other catcher," Matheny said. "His body has been able to handle it so far, but it's going to be a tough task. We're not trying to set any records here, we're just reading his body and days like this are going to be able to keep one of the top bats in baseball in the lineup while not beating him up behind the plate." ... Both teams are off Thursday. Houston then begins a series with the Angels and St. Louis starts one at Oakland. ... The Cardinals activated RHP Fernando Salas (right shoulder) from the 15-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Memphis. ... Houston RF Justin Maxwell was meeting with a specialist on Wednesday after he got a mild concussion when he banged his head on the ground while attempting to make a diving catch. Manager Bo Porter said they'll know more about when Maxwell can return after he is examined, but said there was no way he would be available on Wednesday. ... Houston RHP Ross Seaton cleared waivers and was outrighted to Double-A Corpus Christi. LHP Wade LeBlanc also cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013 23:13
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LONDON (AP) -- As tumultuous a day as professional tennis has produced in its nearly half-century history ended in the most unforeseeable, unexplainable way of all: A second-round loss by Roger Federer at the All England Club.

The seven-time Wimbledon champion and 17-time Grand Slam champ shuffled off Centre Court with dusk approaching on the fortnight's first Wednesday, his head bowed, his streak of reaching at least the quarterfinals at a record 36 consecutive major tournaments snapped by a man ranked 116th.

His remarkable 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5) defeat against Sergiy Stakhovsky marked Federer's earliest Grand Slam exit in a decade. He lost in the first round of the French Open on May 26, 2003, back before he owned a single trophy from any of the sport's most important sites.

"This is a setback, a disappointment, whatever you want to call it," said Federer, the defending champion. "Got to get over this one. Some haven't hurt this much, that's for sure."

He had plenty of company on a wild, wild Wednesday brimming with surprising results, a slew of injuries - and all manner of sliding and tumbling on the revered grass courts, prompting questions about whether something made them more slippery.

Seven players left because of withdrawals or mid-match retirements, believed to be the most in a single day at a Grand Slam tournament in the 45-year Open era. Among that group: second-seeded Victoria Azarenka; sixth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; 18th-seeded John Isner, who will forever be remembered for winning a 70-68 fifth set in the longest match ever; and Steve Darcis, the man who stunned 12-time major champion Rafael Nadal on Monday.

"Very black day," summed up 10th-seeded Marin Cilic, who said a bad left knee forced him to pull out of his match.

The third-seeded Federer simply was unable to derail Stakhovsky's serve-and-volley style, breaking the 27-year-old Ukrainian only once.

Still, there actually was a real chance for Federer to get back in the thick of things. Ahead 6-5 in the fourth, he held a set point as Stakhovsky served at 30-40. But Stakhovsky came up with this sequence: volley winner, 111 mph ace, serve-and-volley winner.

"I had my opportunities, had the foot in the door. When I had the chance, I couldn't do it," said Federer, who is 122-18 on grass over his career, while Stakhovsky is 13-12. "It's very frustrating, very disappointing. I'm going to accept it and move forward from here. I have no choice."

In the closing tiebreaker, with spectators roaring after every point, Stakhovsky raced to a 5-2 lead, and the match ended with Federer pushing a backhand wide on a 13-stroke exchange. Stakhovsky dropped to his back, then later bowed to the stadium's four sides. He sat in his sideline chair, purple Wimbledon towel draped over his head, as Federer quickly headed for the locker room. Stakhovsky peeked out and saw Federer leaving, then applauded right along with the fans' standing ovation.

"You're playing the guy and then you're playing his legend," Stakhovsky said. "You're playing two of them. When you're beating one, you still have the other one who is pressing you. You're saying, `Am I about to beat him? Is it possible?'"

It was, and Federer was one of seven players who have been ranked No. 1 to depart the tournament in a span of about 8 1/2 hours. The others: Maria Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion, who lost 6-3, 6-4 to 131st-ranked Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal; Caroline Wozniacki; Ana Ivanovic; Jelena Jankovic; Azarenka; and Lleyton Hewitt, who won Wimbledon in 2002.

All told, five players who have combined to win 26 Grand Slam titles headed home, along with another three who have been the runner-up at a major tournament.

"Today has been bizarre," said 17th-seeded Sloane Stephens of the U.S., who stuck around by winning her match 8-6 in the third set. "I don't know what's going on."

Look at it this way: Three days into the two-week tournament - merely halfway through the second round - a total of five of the 10 highest-seeded women are gone, as are four of the top 10 men.

The beneficiaries might very well be folks such as defending champion Serena Williams, who most figured might only be challenged in a potential final against Sharapova or Azarenka, and Andy Murray, whose path to Britain's first men's title in 77 years no longer can be blocked by Federer, Nadal or Tsonga.

How, then, to decipher it all?

Let fly with far-flung conspiracy theories.

One hypothesis making the rounds: The grass is different because there is a new head groundsman at the All England Club, Neil Stubley (keep in mind, though, that he's been helping prepare the courts here for more than 15 years, albeit with a less distinguished title).

Another popular idea was that the recent weather - it's been in the 60s and humid, but without a drop of rain so far - is affecting traction.

"I don't know if it's the court or the weather. I can't figure it out," said two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka, who said she bruised a bone in her right leg when she slipped on the turf in her victory Monday and couldn't face Flavia Pennetta on Wednesday. "It would be great if the club or somebody who takes care of the court just would examine or try to find an issue so that wouldn't happen."

Tsonga, a finalist at the 2008 Australian Open and semifinalist the past two years at Wimbledon, fell Wednesday and had his leg treated by a trainer, then quit while trailing two sets to one against Ernests Gulbis of Latvia.

Sharapova managed to finish her match, at least, despite losing her footing a few times, but told the chair umpire the conditions were dangerous.

"After I buckled my knee three times, that's obviously my first reaction. And because I've just never fallen that many times in a match before," said the four-time major champion, noting that she thought she might have strained a muscle in her left hip.

"I just noticed a few more players falling a bit more than usual," Sharapova added.

The All England Club took the unusual step of issuing a statement in response to Wednesday's events - and complaints.

"There has been some suggestion that the court surface is to blame. We have no reason to think this is the case. Indeed, many players have complimented us on the very good condition of the courts," the statement read. "The court preparation has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years and it is well known that grass surfaces tend to be more lush at the start of an event. The factual evidence, which is independently checked, is that the courts are almost identical to last year, as dry and firm as they should be, and we expect them to continue to play to their usual high quality."

Like Sharapova, Federer will not be among the players who gets a chance to gauge those courts' quality the rest of the way.

He's been as good as it gets at Wimbledon for the better part of 10 years; Pete Sampras and Willie Renshaw (whose titles came in the 1880s) are the only other men to have won the tournament seven times.

"Beating Roger here on his court, where he's a legend, is, I think, having definitely a special place in my career," Stakhovsky said.

Uh, yeah, that's fair. Stakhovsky owns a losing record for his career (108-121) and at Grand Slams (12-18) and never has been past the third round at a major tournament. Until Wednesday, he was best known, if at all, for grabbing his cellphone to take a photo of a disputed ball mark in the clay during a first-round loss at the French Open last month.

Federer's consistent brilliance extends beyond Wimbledon, of course: He reached 23 Grand Slam semifinals in a row in one stretch, which also included 10 straight finals.

Not since a third-round loss at the 2004 French Open had Federer failed to reach the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam. That means he'd won 141 consecutive matches in the first through fourth rounds at the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open (he advanced four times via an opponent's withdrawal).

But given the way this week has gone so far, Wednesday in particular, this loss somehow fit in.

"There was a time where some players didn't believe they could beat the top guys. So maybe there's a little bit of a thing happening at the moment," Federer said. "I'm happy about that - that players believe they can beat the best on the biggest courts in the biggest matches."

Now the question becomes: What could Thursday, let alone the rest of Wimbledon, possibly have in store?

Wednesday, 26 June 2013 23:11
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Blues re-signed defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to a four-year contract Wednesday, and reached a one-year deal with center Patrik Berglund.

The 24-year-old Shattenkirk had five goals and 18 assists in 48 games last season. In four NHL seasons with Colorado and St. Louis, the former Boston University player has 23 goals and 86 assists in 201 games.

The 25-year-old Berglund, from Sweden, had 17 goals and eight assists in 48 games last season. In five seasons with the Blues, he has 92 goals and 96 assists in 358 games.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013 23:08
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 LONDON (AP) - Second-seeded Victoria Azarenka has pulled out of Wimbledon after hurting her right knee in her opening-round win.

 

   Early in the second set of her match against Maria Joao Koehler, Azarenka did the splits near the baseline, then crumpled to the grass, clutching her right knee and sobbing.

 

   Azarenka recovered after a medical timeout to finish out the 6-1, 6-2 victory on Monday but she moved gingerly after falling and said she wasn't sure about the extent of the injury.

 

   On Wednesday, minutes before her second-round match against Flavia Pennetta was to begin, she pulled out of the match.

 

   Considered one of Serena Williams' toughest matchups, Azarenka has won the last two Australian Opens and had reached the semifinals in her last two Wimbledon appearances.

 
Wednesday, 26 June 2013 08:31
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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- When UCLA's baseball players went to the weight room for workouts, there were reminders all around about what their program lacked.

Every other sport at the famed school had at least one national championship recognized on the wall.

"We've got to get our name on that board," Nick Vander Tuig remembers coach John Savage telling his players last fall.

Finally, baseball is represented among the NCAA-record 109 team national championships in Westwood.

The Bruins secured their first title Tuesday night with an 8-0 victory over Mississippi State that completed a two-game sweep in the College World Series finals.

"We believed we were the best team in the country from the get-go," second baseman Cody Regis said. "We had that mindset that we weren't going to stop until July 1. That's what Coach always said: `Season ends July 1 when the tournament is over. And I think we are here because we believed throughout in the process."

That process focused squarely on pitching and defense. The Bruins were among the best in the nation in both. The offense produced just enough. On Tuesday, though, the offense stole the show.

Eric Filia drove in a career-high five runs for the Bruins, who collected 12 hits and scored their most runs in 18 games, and Vander Tuig limited Mississippi State to five hits in eight innings.

"They had a great year," Savage said of his players, "and it was one of those situations where it was our time."

Adam Plutko, the Bruins' No. 1 starter, was chosen the CWS Most Outstanding Player. He beat LSU in the Bruins' first game and was the winner in Game 1 of the finals. He allowed two runs in 13 innings.

Vander Tuig held off the Bulldogs (51-20) when they threatened in the fourth, fifth and eighth innings to record his fourth win in the NCAA tournament. Vander Tuig (14-4) struck out six and walked one. David Berg pitched the ninth.

Filia produced runs with a sacrifice fly, squeeze bunt and two base hits.

"To beat us like they did today, and to do what they did to our pitching staff, which I think is one of the best in the nation," Bulldogs right fielder Hunter Renfroe said, "we didn't do what we were supposed to do. We didn't put up run support like we should have."

Bulldogs starter Luis Pollorena (6-4) lasted one inning. Jonathan Holder, the closer, came on with one out in the fourth inning and went the rest of the way.

UCLA allowed four runs in five games to set a CWS record for fewest in the metal-bat era that started in 1974.

The Bruins' .227 batting average in the CWS also was the lowest since teams went away from wooden bats. Their 19 runs in five games were the fewest by a champion since the CWS went to eight teams in 1950.

After Arizona's title last year, the Pac-12 has now won two straight and 17 titles overall in baseball - the most of any conference.

Mississippi State was playing for its first national title in a team sport and was the sixth straight Southeastern Conference team to make it to the finals.

"What we did was knock on the door, and UCLA has knocked on the door before and they knocked down the door, and we didn't do that," Bulldogs coach John Cohen said. "It bothered me we didn't play well the last two days. We played 15 postseason games and didn't play well in two of them."

Vander Tuig, who won his fourth straight postseason start, gave up just one earned run in 21 1-3 innings over his last three outings.

"I think back on all the experience I've had in three years and how it really helped me," Vander Tuig said. "I also think of just how many wins this team has had and the opportunities we've had. It's what has gotten me to where I am, trying to keep things simple, making pitches and letting my defense work."

The Bruins won their first title in their third CWS appearance in four years and fifth all-time. They had made it to the finals in 2010 and were swept by South Carolina. Last year they went 1-2 in Omaha.

This season they finished third in the Pac-12, behind Oregon State and Oregon, and then got hot in the postseason.

They made magic with an offense that started Tuesday 264th out of 296 teams in batting (.247) and 215th in scoring (4.7 runs per game), but was among the national leaders in sacrifices, walks and hit batsmen.

UCLA won three straight at home in the regionals and went on the road to upset No. 5 national seed Cal State Fullerton in a two-game super regional.

Once the Bruins got to Omaha, they made themselves at home in spacious TD Ameritrade Park. UCLA produced just enough offense to support its superb pitching and defense in bracket play, and again in Game 1 of the finals.

The pitching and defense showed up again in Game 2, and this time so did the offense.

"We've been capable all season long," Savage said. "We have good players. I said that all along. They started to believe, and they used the whole field. Fortunately, we had some hits tonight."

UCLA was up three runs early - a lead that has been insurmountable for every team in this year's CWS.

The Bruins used a hit batsman, a bunt that produced two Mississippi State errors, and Filia's sacrifice fly to lead 1-0 in the first. It was 3-0 in the third after Brian Carroll scored on a safety squeeze bunt by Filia and Pat Valaika's RBI single.

By the time the Bulldogs were forced to call on Holder, it was pretty much game over.

"As far as Mississippi State goes, they'll be back," Bulldogs shortstop Adam Frazier said. "Coach Cohen is doing the right things, the coaching staff has it going in the right direction. I trust coach Cohen will get it to what it is supposed to be, and I've got a feeling this team will be back in the future."

Wednesday, 26 June 2013 08:16
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NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was taken from his home in handcuffs Wednesday morning, more than a week after a Boston semi-pro football player was found dead in an industrial park a mile from the player's house.

Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-pro football player for the Boston Bandits, was found slain June 17. His relatives said he was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee, that the two men were friends and that both men were out together on the last night of Lloyd's life.

Officials ruled the death a homicide but did not say how Lloyd died.

It's unclear why Hernandez was being taken into custody Wednesday around 9 a.m. and put into the back of a police cruiser. He was wearing a white V-neck T-shirt, with his arms inside the shirt and behind his back. He casually spit into some bushes on his way to the car.

The Associated Press emailed a message to his attorney, Michael Fee, who hasn't discussed the investigation beyond acknowledging media reports about it. A message also was left with the Bristol County district attorney's office.

State police have searched in and around Hernandez's home in North Attleborough several times. At least three search warrants have been issued in connection with the investigation.

Reporters have been camped out for days at Hernandez's sprawling home on the Rhode Island line, not far from the stadium where the Patriots play. They reported Tuesday that Hernandez got a visit from Boston defense attorney James Sultan.

The Patriots drafted Hernandez, who is originally from Bristol, Conn., out of the University of Florida in 2010. Last summer, the team gave him a five-year contract worth $40 million.

Patriots spokesman Stacey James has said the team did not anticipate commenting publicly during the police investigation.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013 08:08
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HOUSTON (AP) -- Allen Craig homered and had a season-high four hits with three RBIs, and Carlos Beltran and David Freese both added a homer as the St. Louis Cardinals got back on track by rolling to a 13-5 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

The Cardinals managed just seven runs combined in a three-game sweep by the Texas Rangers, the first time they were swept this season. On Tuesday, they piled up the same number of runs in the fourth inning alone, powered by a three-run triple by Matt Carpenter.

Jake Westbrook (4-2) didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning and yielded four hits and four runs in six innings in his third start since coming off the disabled list.

Matt Dominguez got Houston's first hit of the game on a towering home run to left field. Brett Wallace added a two-run triple in that inning in his first game back from Triple-A.

Houston starter Lucas Harrell (5-8) entered the game with a 1.73 ERA in four starts this month, but things went wrong quickly. He allowed seven hits and seven runs with four walks in 3 1-3 innings.

Craig extended his hitting streak to seven games with a single to start the second before Matt Holliday ended an 0 for 11 slump with a single. Adams grounded into a double play before Harrell walked Freese. He escaped the jam when Jon Jay grounded into a force out to end the inning.

Harrell struck out the side in the third before trouble began in the fourth.

Beltran opened the fourth with a double and scored on a single by Craig to make it 1-0. Holliday and Matt Adams walked before a one-out, bases-loaded walk by Jay made it 2-0.

Pete Kozma's RBI single pushed the lead to 3-0. Carpenter's three-run triple sailed just out of reach of a diving Justin Maxwell in right-center and left St. Louis up 6-0. Maxwell crashed violently into the grass on the play and was taken out of the game and replaced by J.D. Martinez. The team said Maxwell had a concussion.

A run-scoring single by Yadier Molina wrapped up the scoring for that inning and chased Harrell. He was replaced by Dallas Keuchel, who struck out the next two batters to end the inning.

Chris Carter walked to start the second inning, but Westbrook got back on track after that, retiring the next 12 batters. The Astros didn't have another baserunner until the homer by Dominguez to start the sixth.

Barnes walked and Jose Altuve singled before the triple by Wallace scored them to make it 9-3.

Houston got within 9-4 on a sacrifice fly by Jason Castro. Carlos Pena doubled with two outs, but Westbrook limited the damage by retiring Martinez.

Beltran launched a 73 mph curveball into the Crawford Boxes in left field for a two-run home run - his 18th of the season - to make it 9-0 in the sixth inning.

Freese pushed the lead to 11-4 when he hit his fifth homer of the season off Travis Blackley in the seventh.

Craig's two-run homer off Josh Fields made it 13-4 in the eighth.

Houston added a run on an RBI single by Ronny Cedeno in the ninth.

NOTES: The two-game series wraps up on Wednesday when Houston's Erik Bedard opposes Lance Lynn. ... Cardinals manager Mike Matheny moved Holliday out of the No. 3 spot on Tuesday for the first time and into the fifth spot in the order. Matheny said he had a couple of conversations with Holliday before making the change. "It's just a matter of trying to get some things going in a positive direction," Matheny said. "I think we need to be proactive in trying to make it happen. Not that that changes his approach or anything else but we're going to try to make some changes to see if we can jumpstart it." Beltran hit in his place. ... Matheny said he has had a couple of good talks with ace Adam Wainwright since the pitcher lost his cool after being pulled in the seventh inning of a loss to Texas on Sunday. He said he was never mad at him and that he appreciates the intensity Wainwright shows on the mound. "I understand the whole dynamic," Matheny said. "I think he was frustrated and I think he kind of let his emotions get the best of him. That once again led to some great opportunities for us to have conversations together, and for him to have conversations with some guys on our team and some of the younger players about this." ... The Cardinals will skip Joe Kelly's spot in the rotation because they have two days off this week. The rest of the rotation will remain the same. ... The Astros also changed their rotation because of two off days and will skip Keuchel. ... The Astros recalled infielders Wallace and Jake Elmore from Triple-A Oklahoma City. They take the roster spots of shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, who was optioned to Oklahoma City on Monday, and left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who was designated for assignment.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013 23:40
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