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Serena Williams beats American teen at US Open

NEW YORK (AP) After a rough-for-her Grand Slam season, Serena Williams came into the U.S. Open with a new approach. So far, so good. Unable to make it past the fourth round at any of the first three major tournaments in 2014, Williams began her bid for a third consecutive U.S. Open title with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over American teen Taylor Townsend on Tuesday night. Afterward, Williams was asked whether she changed anything about her preparation for this tournament, which she has won five times overall. "I've decided I'm not going to overthink it. I think I've overthought every Grand Slam so far this year. It didn't really work out great for me," Williams said. "So worst-case scenario, I'm just going to stay positive and do the best I can. That's all I can do." The No. 1-ranked and No. 1-seeded Williams' best was pretty good in the all-American matchup against Townsend, an 18-year-old who is ranked 103rd and was given a wild card into the draw. Williams made only eight unforced errors and needed only 55 minutes to wrap up the victory. She is trying to become the first woman to win the U.S. Open three years in a row since Chris Evert took four straight trophies from 1975-78. Not since 2006 has Williams failed to reach at least one final at a year's four Grand Slam tournaments. But she lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open, the second round at the French Open, and the third round at Wimbledon. She'll face another American, Vania King, in the second round at Flushing Meadows. Townsend acknowledged afterward she was a tad overwhelmed by the occasion. Not only was this her U.S. Open debut, but she was facing a 17-time major champion under the lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the largest arena in Grand Slam tennis. "It was just a lot of different emotions and feelings that were coming. It was hard to deal with," said the gregarious Townsend, who beat a seeded player en route to reaching the third round at the French Open in her Grand Slam debut this year. "Being nervous," Townsend said, "I'm like, `Oh, my God, she's going to smack the ball at me in my face, so get ready."' Townsend said that she and Williams developed a rapport during the U.S. Fed Cup team's matches in Delray Beach, Florida, in April 2013. Townsend didn't play, but was invited to be with the team, and she got a chance to chat with Williams and her older sister Venus during a rain delay. "We didn't even talk about tennis," Townsend recalled. "We started talking about hair and nails, of course." After losing Tuesday, Townsend referred to her 32-year-old opponent as one of her "tennis idols." "She's an African-American woman from Compton, California, who has won 17 or 16 Grand Slam titles. Like, who would have thought? Anything is possible. She's paved the way for me and not only African-American girls but girls in general, people in general," Townsend said. "Just has changed the game of tennis. I think I've just learned, like, from her story that anything is possible." --- Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Wed, 27 Aug 2014 04:36:00 +0000
Love struck: Kevin Love pledges commitment to Cavs

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) Kevin Love's phone rang in July and LeBron James asked the All-Star forward if he wanted to play with him in Cleveland. "I'm in," Love told James. For the long haul. Getting used to a new city and new team after being acquired by the Cavaliers on Saturday, Love said he's committed to winning an NBA title with the Cavaliers - however long it takes. Love, who didn't make the playoffs during six sometimes rocky seasons with Minnesota, can opt out of his contract and become a free agent next summer. But 25-year-old Love, regarded as the game's top "spacing" forward, said he intends to stay with James and the Cavs. "I'm committed to this team, committed long term to the end goal and that's to win championships," he said. Cleveland is smitten with its newest superstar. Love was introduced Tuesday by the Cavs, who acquired him in a blockbuster, three-team trade that instantly turned Cleveland, which won just 33 games last season, into an NBA championship favorite. The deal also gives the team a star-powered trio in Love, James and Kyrie Irving. Love and James became friends two summers ago as U.S. Olympic teammates in London. It was there, while chasing a gold medal together, that James began recruiting Love, who wasn't sure what to make of the four-time league MVP's overtures. "Sitting next to me, a locker really close to me and he would always tell me how good he thought I was," Love said. "For me I would just kind of brush it off and shake it off because I was standoffish because I didn't know him well." James persisted and after more conversations, Love realized there could be a time when their careers could intersect again. "I thought that one day maybe I could play with LeBron James," he said. And now that Love is gone, the Timberwolves are left to rebuild around No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins and last year's top pick, Anthony Bennett, two young players they were able to pry from Cleveland. Love didn't leave the Timberwolves on the best of terms. He was the face of the franchise, and Minnesota is where he developed into one of the game's top rebounders and scorers, a dual threat from inside and out. But the years of losing wore on him and it was no secret that he wanted out. Still, Love said he'll look back on his first NBA home as a positive experience. "The people of Minnesota were great, the fans were great, they showed up, win, lose or draw, and I really developed a lot of relationships all the way down through the organization," he said. "It was a great six years, and I enjoyed my time, and I can't say enough good things about it." While Love was saying good things about his former team, his old boss wasn't as warm about him. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor isn't sure Love fits in Cleveland as well as many believe. "I question Kevin if this is going to be the best deal for him because I think he's going to be the third player on the team," Taylor said. "I don't think he's going to get a lot of credit if they do really well. I think he'll get blame if they don't do well. "He's around a couple guys that are awful good. I'm not saying Kevin isn't good. I think where maybe he got away with some stuff not playing defense on our team, I'm not sure that's how it's going to work in Cleveland. I would guess they're going to ask him to play more defense - and he's foul prone." The Cavs know nothing is certain, and there's risk in bringing aboard Love. But with James, Love, Irving, guard Dion Waiters, relentless rebounder Anderson Varejao and newly signed veterans Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and James Jones, the Cavs have the makings of a championship team - this season and for many more to come. "This is culmination of a year and a half of conversations to trade for Kevin," general manager David Griffin said. "This is a player that, quite frankly, fits us as well as any player could have." Love will wear No. 0 for the Cavs. His No. 42, the number he wore in college and with the Timberwolves, was worn by Nate Thurmond and retired in Cleveland. He considered No. 11, his Olympic number, but that was worn by Zydrunas Ilgauskas and also hangs from the rafters at Quicken Loans Arena. So he went with 0, the number he first wore as a kid in Beaverton, Oregon. "I thought this was a chance to start fresh," Love said, "and pick a new number that would suit me. I just decided that 0 was the right fit for me." And so was the chance to play again with James. --- AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

Tue, 26 Aug 2014 21:51:00 +0000
Sarkisian: USC looking into Shaw's heroic story

LOS ANGELES (AP) Southern California coach Steve Sarkisian says the school is investigating defensive back Josh Shaw's claim that he injured both of his ankles jumping off a balcony to save his nephew from drowning. Sarkisian said USC has received several calls contradicting Shaw's story about the circumstances leading to his two high ankle sprains. Shaw's story was told in a detailed post on the Trojans' website Monday hailing the team captain's heroism, but Sarkisian acknowledged USC isn't exactly sure what happened. "We're looking at it," Sarkisian said after practice Tuesday morning. "Josh is adamant with what occurred, and we'll continue to vet some of the other stories that have come across our desk or across our phones, and see where we can go from there." Lt. Andy Neiman of the Los Angeles Police Department also said Tuesday afternoon that a man named Joshua Shaw was mentioned - but not as a suspect - in a report involving a Saturday night break-in at a downtown apartment building. Sarkisian said he had "no history to not believe Josh and his story," but acknowledged the situation was increasingly murky. The first-year USC coach declined to discuss the discrepancies in detail, or the identity of the callers who contradicted the story. Shaw, a fifth-year senior, wasn't made available to reporters, and he didn't return a phone call. Shaw apparently told the school he was at a family party in Palmdale, California, when he saw his 7-year-old nephew, Carter, struggling in a pool. According to the website post, Shaw jumped from a second-story balcony onto concrete before dragging himself into the pool and rescuing his nephew, who doesn't know how to swim. Although Shaw's injuries aren't expected to keep him out for the season, Sarkisian still wants to know exactly how they happened. "I think it's important to know your players," Sarkisian said. "Josh Shaw has been a good leader for us. He's given me no reason not to believe what he has told us that occurred, but we do need to know. I think it's important to know in the direction we're headed." In another layer to the confusion, Neiman said LAPD officers answering to a report of a woman screaming in a downtown apartment complex Saturday interviewed a woman inside and several witnesses. USC is on the south end of downtown. "There is a mention of a Joshua Shaw in this report but not in terms of him being a suspect," Neiman said. "To make any link at this point would be premature." The woman told officers that someone had pried open a window, entered the third-floor apartment and fled, but nothing was taken, he said. "The victim acknowledged that she had a relationship with a Mr. Shaw," Neiman added in an email. The 15th-ranked Trojans open their season Saturday at home against Fresno State. Shaw, a starting cornerback, is widely regarded as a solid teammate who leads by example, although several Trojans recalled a handful of fiery in-game speeches from Shaw last season. The Florida transfer is a key component of USC's secondary, considered one of the nation's best groups. Shaw had four interceptions while starting 14 games last season, his second with the Trojans. He has played both safety and cornerback, moving around a defense with little depth due to NCAA sanctions. Shaw is out indefinitely, but Sarkisian said X-rays and MRI exams on the defensive back's ankles all showed no structural damage. Chris Hawkins and Kevon Seymour will fill in for Shaw during his absence, with freshman Adoree Jackson likely serving as the third cornerback.

Wed, 27 Aug 2014 01:51:00 +0000
Man United signs Angel Di Maria for $99 million

MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United broke the British transfer-fee record by signing Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid for 59.7 million pounds ($99 million) on Tuesday, extending a summer spending spree that was sparked by its most disappointing season in a generation. The 26-year-old Di Maria joined on a five-year contract, taking United's spending to about 130 million pounds ($215 million) in the summer transfer window as England's most successful club seeks to revive its fortunes under new manager Louis van Gaal. Di Maria was one of Madrid's key players last season when the Spanish team became European champion for a 10th time, but rejected the offer of a new contract during the offseason and asked to leave. "I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Spain and there were a lot of clubs interested in me, but United is the only club that I would have left Real Madrid for," Di Maria said. "Louis van Gaal is a fantastic coach with a proven track record of success and I am impressed by the vision and determination everyone has to get this club back to the top - where it belongs. I now just cannot wait to get started." Di Maria's transfer fee breaks the previous British record of 50 million pounds (then $81 million), set in 2011 when Fernando Torres joined Chelsea from Liverpool. Four players - Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez and James Rodriguez - have cost more than Di Maria in world football, while Zinedine Zidane moved from Juventus to Madrid for a similar fee in euro terms in 2001. "Angel is a world-class midfielder but most importantly he is a team player," Van Gaal said. "There is no doubting his immense natural talent. He is a tremendously fast and incisive left-footed player who puts fear into the most accomplished defense. "His dribbling skills and his ability to take on and beat opponents are a joy to watch. He is an excellent addition to the team." The left-footed Di Maria, who can play anywhere across the midfield, will provide United with an injection of pace and technical ability in that area. Both attributes were lacking last season under David Moyes, when the team slumped to a seventh-place finish in the Premier League, and in the first two games of this season under Van Gaal. It is also a statement by United that the club can attract one of the world's most talented players despite not being in the Champions League this season. United isn't even playing in the Europa League. Critics say Van Gaal hasn't addressed the team's biggest weakness - a defense that lost three pillars in Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra this summer and has looked vulnerable in a 2-1 home loss to Swansea and a 1-1 draw at Sunderland in the two games so far in the Dutchman's reign. But it is the kind of marquee signing United fans have been craving. The prospect of Di Maria linking up with attacking trio Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata is an enticing one as the team bids to return to the league's top four and get back in the Champions League. Di Maria was man of the match in last season's Champions League final against Atletico Madrid and one of Argentina's best players at the World Cup in Brazil until he hurt his thigh in the quarterfinal win over Belgium, forcing him to miss the semifinal and final. He joined Real Madrid from Benfica in 2010, when he was an out-and-out winger. At Madrid last season, coach Carlo Ancelotti also played him as a central midfielder. Under contract until 2018 at Madrid, Di Maria faced increased competition in midfield following the signings of Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, and had been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain. Left back Luke Shaw, central midfielder Ander Herrera and defender Marcos Rojo are the other players to have moved to Old Trafford this summer in deals worth around 70 million pounds.

Tue, 26 Aug 2014 18:40:00 +0000
American Bellis, 15, upsets Cibulkova at US Open

NEW YORK (AP) American teen CiCi Bellis became the youngest player to win a U.S. Open match since 1996 - almost three years before she was born - when she stunned Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova. The 15-year-old Bellis rallied from down a break in the third set for a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 first-round victory Tuesday over the 12th-seeded Cibulkova. With an overflow crowd at a cozy side court roaring, she broke Cibulkova's serve to clinch the match. "I never thought I'd come out like this," she said in an on-court interview. Anna Kournikova was also 15 when she won at the U.S. Open in 1996. Bellis' title at the USTA Girls' 18s National Championship earned her a wild card into her first tour-level main draw. The Californian was the youngest champion of that event since Lindsay Davenport also won it at 15 in 1991. When Tuesday's match was over, Bellis ran across the court to hug members of her cheering section. She's the youngest American to win at the U.S. Open since a 15-year-old Mary Joe Fernandez in 1986. Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova fared far better than the last time she came to New York after winning at the All England Club. In 2011, she lost in the first round; on Tuesday, she beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-1, 6-0. The player Kvitova defeated in the Wimbledon final, Eugenie Bouchard, was back to her winning ways in her return to the Grand Slam stage. The seventh-seeded Bouchard routed Olga Govortsova 6-2, 6-1. The last time she played at a major tournament, the 20-year-old made history: the first Canadian to reach a Grand Slam final. In the Wimbledon title match, though, she was swept away by Kvitova 6-3, 6-0, and things didn't go much better in her three hard-court tuneups for the U.S. Open. Bouchard won just one of her four matches, including an upset loss in her opener in her home tournament in Montreal. But against the 117th-ranked Govortsova, she had little trouble. Govortsova, who has been ranked as high as 35th, had won just two main draw WTA matches this year. Ana Ivanovic was feeling good about her game coming into the U.S. Open, and it showed Tuesday. The eighth-seeded Serb beat American Alison Riske 6-3, 6-0. Ivanovic has won 48 matches this year, more than anyone else on tour. The 2008 French Open champion has struggled to get back to that level but finally seems to be inching closer. She returned to the top 10 this month for the first time in more than five years. The 24-year-old Riske made a breakthrough at last year's U.S. Open, reaching the fourth round after an upset of Petra Kvitova. She reached a career-high ranking of No. 40 this summer. Samantha Stosur, the 2011 U.S. Open champ, also quickly dispatched a young American, beating Lauren Davis 6-1, 6-4. The 49th-ranked Davis fell to 0-3 at her home Grand Slam event. Svetlana Kuznetsova lost her first-round U.S. Open match for the first time since 2005, the year she was the tournament's defending champion. Kuznetsova, seeded 20th this time, was beaten 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (3) by 82nd-ranked Marina Erakovic of New Zealand. Roger Federer and Serena Williams play the night session at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Williams faces American teen Taylor Townsend, who's making her U.S. Open debut. John Isner, a former top American college player, beat this year's top American college player. The 13th-seeded Isner won 7-6 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (2) against Marcos Giron, who earned his first spot in a Grand Slam tournament when he won the NCAA title for UCLA in May. Fellow American Sam Querrey improved to 3-9 in five-set matches with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Argentina's Maximo Gonzalez. Another American, Jack Sock, retired from his match because of a right calf injury. Sock was trailing 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to Pablo Andujar of Spain when he decided he couldn't continue. Fourth-seeded David Ferrer beat Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2. Tenth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan cruised to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 victory over American Wayne Odesnik, showing no apparent effects from a toe injury that hampered his preparations. The 176th-ranked Odesnik earned a wild card into the U.S. Open, his first appearance in five years. He served a yearlong ban after pleading guilty for importing human growth hormone into Australia. Victor Estrella of the Dominican Republic earned his first Grand Slam victory at age 34, beating Igor Sijsling 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Estrella hadn't played in a major tournament until this year.

Tue, 26 Aug 2014 21:48:00 +0000
Donovan to play final match for US team in Oct.

CARSON, Calif. (AP) Landon Donovan says he will make his final appearance for the U.S. national team Oct. 10 in a friendly against Ecuador. Donovan announced the plan Tuesday. Donovan is the top scorer in U.S. history with 57 goals and 58 assists in 156 appearances, but he wasn't chosen for his fourth World Cup roster earlier this summer by coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Earlier this month, the 32-year-old Donovan announced he will retire from the LA Galaxy after the season. The five-time MLS champion is the North American league's career goals leader. The U.S. team will face Ecuador at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. Klinsmann expressed excitement about Donovan's final appearance in a post on his Twitter account.

Wed, 27 Aug 2014 01:36:00 +0000
UNC probing report of alleged hazing incident

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina is investigating a report of an alleged hazing altercation that left a walk-on receiver with a possible concussion. "We are aware of an incident involving members of the UNC football team that took place earlier this month," team spokesman Kevin Best said in a statement Tuesday. "We take this allegation seriously and the university is conducting a thorough review." The statement was released in response to a Yahoo Sports report which stated that the alleged hazing involved several players and resulted in redshirt freshman Jackson Boyer being injured. Yahoo Sports reported the incident occurred in Boyer's room at the hotel where the team stayed for preseason camp. Boyer is from Chapel Hill. His father, Rob, declined to comment when reached by Yahoo Sports. The school did not identify any players it is investigating and did not confirm it was a hazing incident. Best declined to reveal specifics of the incident in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday evening, though he said Boyer has been practicing with the team. The No. 23 Tar Heels open their third season under Larry Fedora on Saturday night against Liberty. It marks the first time UNC has opened the season ranked in the Top 25 since 2010.

Wed, 27 Aug 2014 00:51:00 +0000
Redskins' Meriweather to appeal 2-game suspension

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather will appeal the two-game suspension for his latest helmet-to-helmet blow, a hit his coach called a "legitimate football play" while teammates stood up for him with much stronger words. Coach Jay Gruden said Tuesday he hopes the team can get the NFL to revoke or reduce the sanction for the hit on Torrey Smith in Saturday's preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. It is the sixth time Meriweather has been cited for a violation of player safety rules. "Unfortunately, for Brandon, he's got a history of these types of events," Gruden said. "Whether or not it was significant enough to warrant a suspension is what they decided. ... He tried to lower his target, I thought. I thought it was a legitimate football play, but the NFL didn't see it that way." Meriweather was suspended for two games last year for a pair of helmet-first hits in game against the Chicago Bears, but the penalty was reduced to one game after an appeal. Gruden and Redskins players argue that Meriweather couldn't avoid the helmet-to-helmet contact on Smith because both players lowered their heads at about the same time on an incomplete pass over the middle. "The stuff they ask us to do as a defender sometimes is unreal," linebacker Perry Riley said. "When you're playing the game at this speed and at this level, it goes so fast. You don't have time to break on the ball and then try to put your body in position to get a man the correct way. It's bang-bang. "You can sit up there in the air conditioning and replay a play and slow it down as much as you want and say what he should've done, but if you're not out there going at full speed, you don't know. It's not as easy as they try to make it seem." Second-year cornerback David Amerson said it's just the latest setback for defensive backs, on top of this year's new rules emphasis on downfield contact. "What else do you want him to do?" Amerson said. "I love the way Meriweather plays, fast and physical, that's what football is. That's what defensive players try to get to, or live for. They're making it get to a point where it's just like, man, we got our hands tied behind our back. You can't touch receivers. You can't hit `em, now you can't touch `em. What's going to be next? We can't intercept the ball? It's getting crazy, man. It's a hard time to coming in to the league right now for a DB." Meriweather declined to comment, shaking his head at a reporter as he walked out of the locker room. Smith said on Twitter that he doesn't think Meriweather should be suspended, but he added he might feel differently had he ended up with a concussion. If the suspension stands, Meriweather would miss the first two regular season games. Gruden said second-year player Bacarri Rambo, who had tackling issues as a rookie, is the "first option" to start in Meriweather's spot. Rambo said he's worked on taking better angles in the open field. "I have matured a lot," Rambo said. "I see the game a lot differently." --- AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL --- Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:46:00 +0000
NBA unveils new rules to make baselines safer

The NBA is expanding the area that must be clear behind the basket and cutting the number of photographers along the baseline in an effort to improve player safety. The new regulations, calling for an extra foot of open space on both sides of the basket stanchion, were sent to teams Tuesday by league president of operations Rod Thorn and executive vice president of team marketing and business operations Amy Brooks in a memo that was obtained by The Associated Press. Thorn says clearing the congestion behind the playing area was planned even before Indiana's Paul George broke his right leg when he crashed into the stanchion last month during a USA Basketball exhibition game. "The conversations about this topic preceded Paul's injury by several years," Thorn said. "As a matter of fact, at our league meetings in July we informed our teams this was the direction we were going. But of course when an injury occurs like the one to Paul, it reaffirms the changes we have made and the need to continue to evaluate our policies." The "escape lanes," the unoccupied area on either side of the stanchion to the closest photographer spot, will increase from 3 to 4 feet. Only 20 camera positions, 10 on each baseline, will remain, down from 24 last season and 40 during the 2010-11 regular season. Each baseline can have six photo spots on one side of the basket and four on the other, and dance teams or other entertainers cannot be stationed along the baseline. "We have been studying this issue consistently over the last four years and these are just the latest adjustments to make the baselines an even safer area for our players, our team attendants and the photographers," Thorn said. "Many of the incidents of contact between players and photographers are around the basket area, so we felt it made sense to increase the open area between the baskets and the first photographer to four feet." Players have often been at risk of crashing into a camera when tumbling out of bounds behind the basket. The NBA experimented with limiting photography spots during last season's playoffs before deciding to make those changes permanent and mandating the bigger escape lanes. "We will continue to examine this to ensure the safety of our players while at the same time allowing for the networks and media to properly capture images from our games," Thorn said. "We feel we have balanced those needs very well but will continue to review our processes throughout the season."

Tue, 26 Aug 2014 18:22:00 +0000
Top-seeded Djokovic coasts in US Open opener

NEW YORK (AP) Top-seeded Novak Djokovic breezed past a U.S. Open novice in the first round Monday, beating Diego Schwartzman 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in a match that finished a few minutes before midnight. Djokovic was never in trouble against a 22-year-old opponent from Argentina playing in his first main draw at Flushing Meadows. Djokovic's final shot hit the net, and popped over to clinch the win. Djokovic is always popular at Arthur Ashe Stadium, and fans kept yelling out to him from the far reaches as the hour ran late. Djokovic has made it to the U.S. Open final in each of the last four years. The 27-year-old from Serbia won the tournament in 2011.

Tue, 26 Aug 2014 04:04:00 +0000