Tagged in: playing

Top seeds Carlos Alcaraz, Anett Kontaveit won first-round matches at Hamburg European Open

Top-seeded players Carlos Alcaraz and Anett Kontaveit gained their first-round matches at the Hamburg European Open on Tuesday, while Emil Ruusuvuori had an upset win over Diego Schwartzman.

Alcaraz, 19, dropped the first set but recovered to win 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (3) versus 259th-ranked German wild card Nicola Kuhn. His second-round opponent at the clay-court event will be Filip Krajinovic.

Playing as the top-seeded player in an ATP tournament for the first time, Alcaraz stated it was difficult to adjust to playing on clay again after his run to the fourth round on the grass at Wimbledon.

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Ruusuvuori won 7-5, 6-4 versus third-seeded Schwartzman, who was coming off a 6-1, 6-0 loss in his last match against Pablo Carreno-Busta last week at Bastad. 

Tallon Griekspoor won 7-6 (8), 7-5 to eliminate eighth-seeded Holger Rune.

Kontaveit started her campaign in the women’s draw with a 6-3, 7-6 (3) win over Irina Bara despite losing her serve four times and next plays Rebecca Peterson.

Kontaveit started the season strongly but has struggled since a coronavirus infection in April and was 1-3 in her previous three tournaments including the French Open and Wimbledon.

Second-seeded Barbora Krejcikova, the 2021 French Open champion, defeated Magdalena Frech 6-3, 6-0 in the second round and will face either Anastasia Potapova or Maria Lourdes Carle in the quarterfinals.

Eighth-seeded Andrea Petkovic beat Misaki Doi 6-4, 6-3 and will play either Kontaveit or Peterson in the quarterfinals.

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Rafael Nadal enters Wimbledon on good footing after procedure to relieve pain

Rafael Nadal on Saturday stated the procedure he had on his chronic foot injury after Roland Garros has meant he is largely pain-free, but he is unsure how long the treatment will be effective.

“The feeling and overall feelings are positive, no, because I am in a positive way in terms of pain, and that’s the main thing,” Nadal said.

Nadal has been suffering with Muller-Weiss syndrome, a rare condition which causes chronic pain in his left foot. He numbed the injury at Roland Garros by injecting the nerve to allow him to play.

The injury causes him to be in pain when walking, let alone playing. After Roland Garros, Nadal underwent a radiofrequency nerve ablation, which targets the specific nerve leading to the painful area of his foot.

At the time, Nadal said the success of that procedure would dictate whether he was going to play at Wimbledon, as he was not willing to again undergo daily injections.

If the procedure didn’t work, Nadal said he then would have either required major surgery or would have looked to alternative solutions or outcomes.

However, it has proven effective enough to allow Nadal to keep his charge for a calendar Grand Slam, having already taken the Australian and French Open titles this year.

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“Well, is obvious that if I am here, it’s because things are going better. If not, I would not be here,” Nadal said. “So quite happy about the things, how evolved. I can’t be super happy because I don’t know what can happen.

“First of all, I can walk normal most of the days, almost every single day. That’s for me the main issue. When I wake up, I don’t have this pain that I was having for the last year and a half, so quite happy about that. And second thing, practicing. I have been in overall better, honestly, no? Since the last two weeks, I didn’t have not one day of these terrible days that I can’t move at all. Of course, days better; days a little bit worse.”

Nadal has won 22 Grand Slam singles titles and is aiming to win his third Wimbledon crown entering Tuesday’s first-round match versus Francisco Cerundolo.

He said he will try to park any thoughts of the foot injury over the next fortnight.

“I can’t tell you if I going to be in that positive moment for one week, for two days, or for three months,” Nadal said. “Of course, the treatment that I did, didn’t fix my injury. Not improving my injury at all but can take out a little bit the pain. That’s the main goal.

“Sometimes the things in the medical world, mathematics is not predictable 100%. But in theory that can help the foot because it’s about the nerve. You touch the nerve, so then the nerves is like asleep in some way for a while, but then recovers. So how long the nerve is going to be that way, I can’t tell you. It’s something that we need to discover.”

But this procedure is a good step, and has brought a smile back to Nadal’s face.

“Today I feel good. Happy for that,” Nadal said. “… Tennis is the second part of your life. Probably the most toughest part is having pain on your life on a daily basis. The problem that I have is I have pain walking every single day. That sometimes affects you to your happiness and in some way the positive and how the attitude is not that positive all the time.

“[It is] positive now. Let’s see what can happen in the future.”

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Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving drops 38 to beat Milwaukee Bucks, can see ‘light at the end of the tunnel’

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving stated he can finally see “light at the end of the tunnel” after playing the best game of his truncated season in Saturday’s surprising 126-123 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Irving scored a season-high 38 points to lead his undermanned team down the stretch versus the defending NBA champions. Afterward, he acknowledged the possibility of New York City ending the vaccination mandate that has kept him off Brooklyn’s Barclays Center floor all season, saying he is looking forward to “turning the page.”

“I’m glad that things are kind of settling down and there’s light at the end of the tunnel here,” Irving said. “Hopefully, I can get back on that home floor playing in the Barclays and now we can finally have that conversation that you’ve been dying to have just about turning the page and moving forward beyond this.

“But like I said, I’m not the only one. I feel for everybody that’s either in my boat or a similar boat or have dealt with some type of trauma from this. And just wishing everybody well-wishes, always.”

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Irving’s comments are his first since New York City Mayor Eric Adams told reporters earlier in the week that he “can’t wait to get it done” while discussing phasing out vaccination restrictions like other cities across the country.

“I’m following it as much as you guys are,” Irving said. “So just remaining patient and just seeing where things end up in this next week or so, next two weeks, I’m not too sure, but I know as much as you do. And I want to say this — is that I’m very appreciative of all those that are pushing behind the scenes to make our world a better place.

“And with everything calming down with the COVID cases, the most important thing for me was just making sure everyone’s OK. I’ve been on record saying this that it’s not about me, that I don’t want to feel like it’s all on me, but the circumstances this year have not been ideal.”

Irving also stated he appreciated NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s recent comments on ESPN’s Get Up, where Silver defended Irving while noting that the mandate “doesn’t quite make sense to me,” given that unvaccinated players from opposing teams could still play in New York City.

“I know his job is not easy,” Irving said. “Standing in the fire, sometimes, on behalf of our league. So my respect level went to a whole new one for him, and I’m just grateful that he did that, and he really took one for the team. And I’m grateful for that. But like I said, we want to set a great example for the world in what we’re doing, and we try to stand for what’s right and respect everyone else’s decisions and their personal beliefs.”

On top of Irving’s status, what makes the Nets so hopeful with just 21 regular-season games left to play is that star forward Kevin Durant is expected to return this week from a sprained left MCL after missing a month and a half. New addition Ben Simmons also is expected to be available in the near future as he ramps up his conditioning after waiting to be traded from the Philadelphia 76ers, although Nets coach Steve Nash stated Saturday that Simmons was dealing with “a little soreness in his back.”

For Irving, he said the victory in Milwaukee was even more special given that he injured his right ankle in Game 4 of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals versus the Bucks, prematurely ending his season.

“It was definitely emotional for me to prepare for this game,” Irving said.

“Just because — I haven’t been back in this building since then. I try my best not to wear my emotions on my face or on my shoulders, but sometimes, they can get the best of me. But it definitely felt like there was a weight lifted just being back here, being healthy, getting a win and knowing that there’s a possibility we could see them down the line again … there was nothing personal about this game, just about the team.”

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Seattle Seahawks’ Jamal Adams needs season-ending shoulder surgery

Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams needs season-ending surgery for a torn labrum in his left shoulder, coach Pete Carroll confirmed Wednesday.

Carroll stated he believed Adams’ surgery would take place Thursday and that this labrum tear isn’t as bad as last year’s, which was in the same shoulder and also required surgery.

“Unfortunately he got hit just the wrong way and he’s going to have to get fixed up. He’s been through this before. He’s really rocked by it, of course. We’re all pulling for him to come out and get out of this thing, get back as soon as possible. But really disappointed for him as well as us,” Carroll said.

Carroll said Adams “was really emotional about it last night because it means so much to him to keep playing and he’s been through this before and to have to go through it again. He was much more forward-thinking, I think, this morning in the note that I got from him. So he’s going to make the most of it.”

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Adams suffered the injury in the second quarter of Sunday’s 30-23 victory versus the San Francisco 49ers.

When he returned to the sideline wearing street clothes in the third quarter, he shared a long embrace with his position coach, Andre Curtis.

Carroll initially referred to the injury as a “sprain” after Sunday’s game. Adams suffered a similar injury to his left labrum last season but continued to play through the postseason prior to having offseason surgery.

Adams, 26, had yet to record a sack in 2021 after setting an NFL record for a defensive back last season with 9.5 in 12 games. He had two interceptions in a three-game span this season, including one off Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Week 10 that was his first with the Seahawks.

His 87 total tackles are third on the team, while his four tackles for loss are tied for second.

The Seahawks got Adams in July 2020 in a blockbuster trade with the New York Jets, giving up a package of picks that included their next two first-rounders in arguably the boldest personnel move the franchise has made under Carroll and general manager John Schneider.

They signed Adams to a four-year, $70 million extension this August that made him the NFL’s highest-paid safety.

The package of picks the Seahawks sent to New York included their 2021 and ’22 first-rounders. Seattle also gave up its 2021 third-rounder, threw in veteran safety Bradley McDougald and got a 2022 fourth-rounder along with Adams.

In defending the early returns the teams has gotten from the trade, Carroll noted that Adams made an immediate impact last season and was continuing to do so this year, whereas a 2021 draft pick would have been an unproven player finding his way. With the Seahawks at 4-8, the 2022 first-round pick they gave the Jets is currently No. 5 overall.

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Anett Kontaveit, Karolina Pliskova win opening matches at WTA Finals

Karolina Pliskova overcame a slow start before defeating Garbiñe Muguruza 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6) on Wednesday in her opening match at the WTA Finals.

In a contest between two former No. 1-ranked players, the third-seeded Pliskova struggled early adjusting to the nearly 5,000-feet altitude of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city.

Pliskova is playing the WTA Finals for the fifth time, having reached the semifinals in 2018 and ’19. The 2020 tournament was canceled.

She didn’t win any titles in 2021 but kept a high ranking by reaching the finals at Wimbledon and Montreal, and the semifinals at Cincinnati.

Pliskova now has a 9-2 record versus former Wimbledon and French Open champion Muguruza, who won the Chicago and Dubai titles this year and is making her fourth appearance at the season-ending event.

Muguruza dropped her opening service game but then won four consecutive games to take a 4-2 lead and eventually clinched the first set in 38 minutes. Pliskova settled down in the second, breaking Muguruza’s serve in the second and eighth games to level the match.

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The third set lasted more than an hour, with Muguruza saving three match points to force a tiebreaker, and another in the tiebreaker before Pliskova sealed the win.

Earlier, Anett Kontaveit extended her hot streak with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over second-seeded Barbora Krejcikova.

Kontaveit had early breaks in both sets to beat the French Open champion in just 75 minutes for her 11th consecutive victory.

Kontaveit has won 27 of her last 29 matches, which include her title run at Ostrava where she beat Paula Badosa and Maria Sakkari, both of whom are competing here.

“I think throughout my career, I’ve been in sort of top 30 for a lot of years,” Kontaveit said. “During the summer I was on a bit of a losing streak, then I started working with Dmitry (Tursunov) and was really hoping to get a few wins. I managed to win Cleveland, then it just sort of started rolling from there”.

Tursunov a former world No. 20, started working with Kontaveit at the Cincinnati Masters, where the 25-year-old Estonian lost in the first round. Since then, Kontaveit has soared from No. 30 into the top 10.

After top-ranked Ash Barty of Australia opted not to defend the title because of travel restrictions in her country, Kontaveit edged out Ons Jabeur for the last spot in the season-ending championship by beating Simona Halep in the final of the Transylvania Open.

“I’ve been believing in myself a little bit more, and the game definitely has clicked from just getting more wins and playing a lot of tennis and really feeling comfortable,” Kontaveit said.

Krejcikova, the only reigning major winner in the field, started the year ranked 65th but captured three titles to qualify for the WTA Finals.

“It’s just difficult because a couple days ago I was actually playing in Europe, now I’m here,” Krejcikova said. “It’s really, really, really difficult.”

In doubles, the Japanese pair of Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara had a 6-0, 6-4 win over Darija Jurak and Andreja Klepac.

The tournament, which was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, is played in a round-robin format.

The event has a total prize pool of $5 million and is being played at the Akron Tennis Stadium in Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara.

The WTA Finals are being played in Guadalajara for this year only, with the event scheduled to return to Shenzhen, China in 2022.

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Chicago Bears WR Allen Robinson resigned to possibly playing NFL season on one-year deal

Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson sounded resigned to possibly playing the 2021 NFL season on a one-year deal in advance of the July 15 deadline for franchise-tagged players to receive long-term contracts.

“I don’t have any [contract] updates or nothing like that,” Robinson stated on a videoconference call Wednesday.

“That’s not in my control, if I don’t [get a long-term deal]. That being a possibility [of playing on the one-year franchise tag], then, I mean, that is what it is and I’m comfortable with that. Obviously, that’s a possibility. That’s fine. It is what it is. As I said before, my main focus now is continuing to be better and get better.”

The Bears placed the $17.98 million franchise tag tender on Robinson after the two sides were unable to agree to an extension last year. The veteran receiver led the team with 102 catches for 1,250 yards in 2020.

Robinson, 27, skipped the Bears’ voluntary offseason workout program but reported to this week’s mandatory three-day minicamp. Robinson added on Tuesday that he will be on time to training camp when it opens next month.

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“At the end of the day, [the offseason workouts] are optional things, and I think I have a pretty good routine I’ve been working through and progressing in certain areas at the pace that I want,” said Robinson, who focused on creating more muscle endurance in the offseason to be more effective after the catch.

Since joining the Bears in 2018, Robinson has been far and away the team’s top wide receiver.

Despite playing on some of the league’s lower-rated offenses, Robinson has caught 255 passes for 3,151 yards and 17 touchdowns over the past three seasons.

“It was really good [to have Robinson rejoin the team this week],” head coach Matt Nagy said.

“You guys know I have a really good relationship with A-Rob, and anytime you have that quality of player that shows back up and gets out here in the huddle and just that experience that he brings, he just has such a quiet calm and confidence to him that you can see the guys out there throwing him the football and the things he’s doing, he just slides on in.

The one sneaky thing about A-Rob that I think is pretty cool is, No. 1, even if he’s not here, you know he’s working his tail off, and No. 2, he’s always in great shape, and we noticed that.”

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Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons discuss Julio Jones trade

As the Falcons continue to field calls from teams interested in trading for Julio Jones, the Seahawks have had conversations about a possible trade with Atlanta for the wide receiver, sources told ESPN’s Dianna Russini.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Jones have been in touch, having phone conversations to discuss the option of playing together, Russini reported.

Seattle already boasts a talented wide receiver corps led by DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, who each had 10 touchdown receptions and more than 1,000 yards receiving last season.

Sources told Russini on Thursday that the Falcons have an offer of a future first-round draft pick on the table for Jones. Atlanta has asked teams that have inquired about Jones for a first-round draft pick in return, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter last Monday.

The Seahawks do not have a first-round pick in 2022 after sending it to the New York Jets last year to get safety Jamal Adams.

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The rumor mill around Jones started last month when general manager Terry Fontenot told reporters his team would be taking calls about the All-Pro receiver.

Then, on Monday, Jones said “I’m outta there,” when asked about the Falcons in a telephone call with FS1’s Shannon Sharpe on the network’s “Undisputed” show. It is unclear whether Jones knew the phone call was being televised.

Jones, 32, requested a trade from the Falcons at the beginning of the offseason in March, but the organization was trying to protect him and work quietly behind the scenes, a source told Schefter, and has been talking to other teams for weeks. The Falcons prefer not to trade him in the NFC but would do so for the right price, the source said.

The Tennessee Titans have also discussed a trade with the Falcons, but a source described the Titans’ probabilities of landing Jones as a “long shot” to Russini on Thursday.

It is likely that Jones will not be traded until after June 1 because of the salary-cap benefits for the Falcons. Jones, whose base salary of $15.3 million is fully guaranteed for this season, is scheduled to cost the Falcons $23.05 million against the cap in 2021 and has cap hits of $19.263 million in 2022 and 2023.

If the Falcons move Jones after June 1, the move would offer Atlanta relief against the cap this season because the dead money owed to him would be split between this season and next.

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Jacksonville Jaguars expected to sign Tim Tebow as TE

It looks as if Tim Tebow is finally going to be playing for his hometown team. Just not as a quarterback.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to sign Tebow, 33, to a one-year deal later this week or next week to play tight end, a position he never played in high school, college or his previous three-year NFL career, a source confirmed to ESPN. A deal has not been agreed upon at this time.

Once he signs, he will be reunited with Jaguars coach Urban Meyer, who coached Tebow at Florida and won a pair of national championships with the Gators.

Word leaked on the first day of the 2021 NFL draft that Tebow had worked out for the Jaguars as a tight end. Jaguars GM Trent Baalke confirmed the workout but stated the team wouldn’t worry about whether it would sign Tebow until after the draft.

The Jaguars already have five tight ends on their roster: 

Chris Manhertz, James O’Shaughnessy, Luke Farrell, Ben Ellefson and Tyler Davis. Manhertz, who was signed in free agency, is a blocker who has 12 catches in 70 career games.

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O’Shaughnessy has 88 catches in six seasons with Kansas City and Jacksonville. Ellefson has one career catch, and Davis played in eight matches last season after the Jaguars selected him in the sixth round. Farrell was the team’s fifth-round pick this year.

Tebow hasn’t played football since the 2015 NFL preseason and has spent the past six years working as a broadcaster on the SEC Network and working on his professional baseball career.

Tebow was adamant about remaining a quarterback during his three seasons with the Denver Broncos, New York Jets, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles but apparently has had a change of heart now that Meyer is running the Jaguars franchise.

Tebow grew up in Jacksonville and starred at Nease High School before signing with Meyer and Florida in December 2005. Chris Leak was the starting quarterback in 2006, but Tebow got plenty of action as a short-yardage specialist and threw 33 passes to help the Gators earn the national championship.

Tebow became the starter in 2007, and he threw for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns and ran for 895 yards and 23 touchdowns to become the first sophomore to collect the Heisman Trophy. He led the Gators to the 2008 national championship, and UF went undefeated in the regular season in 2009 before losing to Alabama in the SEC championship game.

Tebow finished at UF as the SEC’s career leader in rushing touchdowns (57), touchdown responsibility (145) and passer efficiency (170.8).

He still holds the first two records but has since been passed by Tua Tagovailoa, Joe Burrow and Mac Jones in the last category.

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Kansas City Chiefs’ Sammy Watkins optimistic about playing in Super Bowl

Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins stated he is optimistic about playing in Super Bowl LV on Sunday versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after missing both previous playoff games because of a calf injury.

“Feeling great,” Watkins said Tuesday. “Still working out with the training staff and [athletic trainer Rick Burkholder], just going over everything so I can have a chance and possibly go out there and feel 100% or 95% or 85%, wherever I get at by Sunday. Feeling pretty good, very optimistic. Been having good practices.”

Watkins also missed six games during the regular season. He was fifth on the Chiefs with 37 receptions, 421 yards and two touchdowns.

In the final campaign of his contract, Watkins said he would listen if the team would like to re-sign him because he values winning and playing in Super Bowls over personal stats and money.

“I would say, let’s win this Super Bowl and see where my head will be at,” Watkins said. “It would definitely be something to think about. It would definitely be something I would talk to my wife and my kids about, to think about coming back. Would I love a third ring? For sure.

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“I would definitely not say no about it. … To come back and win a third one? Yeah. I don’t mind. I would definitely have to sit and think about it, see what my future holds.”

Watkins’ return would add another dimension to a dynamic Chiefs offense, led by last year’s Super Bowl MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“You never see him get rattled… You just see the calm guy that’s kind of like controlling the game,” Watkins said of his quarterback. “I think that’s what has taken this offense to a whole different level… I think we have an offense that understands now, if we just do the little things right, we can’t be stopped.”

The Chiefs punched their ticket to their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance with a 38-24 victory over the Bills in the AFC Championship game.

The Bills traded up to get Watkins with the fourth overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.  The team traded Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, along with a 2018 sixth-round draft pick, in exchange for a 2018 second-round pick and cornerback E.J. Gaines, who opted out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic and was released by the Bills in January.

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