Tagged in: reach

Casper Ruud first man from Norway to reach Grand Slam semifinal; will face Marin Cilic for berth in French Open final

Casper Ruud has become the first man from Norway to reach the semifinals at a Grand Slam tournament, getting that far at the French Open by defeating 19-year-old Holger Rune of Denmark 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

The eighth-seeded Ruud’s 3-hour, 15-minute triumph at Court Philippe Chatrier began Wednesday night and ended after midnight.

Ruud, 23, leads the ATP with 65 wins in clay-court matches since the start of the 2020 season. That includes defeating 2019 French Open junior champion Rune four times.

Ruud ended up with just one more winner than the big-hitting Rune, 55-54, and that edge arrived on the very last point with a forehand that originally was called out before the chair umpire overruled and said the ball touched the line.

The big difference: Ruud made only 24 unforced errors, while Rune had 46.

Their match got a bit testy, with Ruud telling Rune he didn’t appreciate him questioning an obvious officiating call.

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“I told him, ‘What, do you need to check every mark?’ and he told me to be quiet. I asked him, ‘Maybe that’s not the greatest thing to tell your opponent to be quiet when I’m talking to you?’ And he said it once more. So that was all that happened. And I didn’t exchange any more words with him after this,” Ruud said. “So that’s what he wants to say and behave? That’s up to him.”

Rune confirmed Ruud’s account of their interaction.

Rune had never attained a Grand Slam match until last week.

“Obviously disappointed that I couldn’t do better today. But still I have to look at the two weeks — it was great,” Rune said. “I mean, I played some good matches. A lot of positives to take.”

Ruud will meet 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic on Friday for a berth in the final. The other men’s semifinal features 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, who eliminated Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, versus No. 3 Alexander Zverev.

Cilic is 33, nearly eight seasons past his one Grand Slam title at the 2014 US Open — and, until Wednesday, more than four full years removed from his most recent trip to the semifinals of a major tournament.

If he keeps serving like this, there’s no reason to think about quitting tennis anytime soon.

Cilic delivered 33 aces to get to the final four at the French Open for the first time, edging No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (10-2) in a 4-hour, 10-minute test of strength and will.

“Andrey played incredibly well. One had to go down,” the 20th-seeded Cilic said, “and today was my day.”

The Croatian is the fifth active man to complete a full set of at least one semifinal run at all four Slam events, joining Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, each of whom has been ranked No. 1 and won multiple majors.

Cilic was the runner-up to Federer at Wimbledon in 2017 and the Australian Open in 2018; the latter had been Cilic’s most recent trip to a Slam semifinal.

He might be a decade older than his next opponent, but Cilic feels good these days.

When he had a physical exam at the end of 2021, he said, his doctor told him: “Your body’s like 25.”

Continued Cilic: “Don’t tell my wife I’m saying this, (but) I might be playing another 10 years.”

All kidding aside, he said: “How long? We’ll see. But definitely three, four years, if I can be competitive like this.”

He dropped Rublev’s career mark in major quarterfinals to 0-5. That was thanks in part to Cilic’s overwhelming ability to strike serves and groundstrokes for winners — 88 in all, more than twice as many as Rublev’s total of 35.

“It was hard emotionally, because he played some games very well,” Cilic said. “When you play this long, there’s always be some ups and down, so I had to keep my focus.”

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Minnesota Vikings reach deal with free agent linebacker Jordan Hicks

The Minnesota Vikings have reached a deal with free-agent linebacker Jordan Hicks, the team revealed Tuesday.

Terms were not released, but multiple reports said the two-year deal was worth $12 million.

The Arizona Cardinals released Hicks last week in a move that saved the team $6.5 million on their salary cap. Hicks, who turns 30 in July, has started 51 consecutive matches, the third-longest active streak among all NFL linebackers.

He played at a high level last season, registering 116 tackles and four sacks, but the Cardinals made the move to give fellow inside linebacker Zaven Collins, drafted in the first round last year, more playing time.

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The Vikings already have veteran middle linebacker Eric Kendricks on their roster, but new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell has said he plans to use both the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. Hicks thrived in the Cardinals’ 3-4 and wore the green dot on his helmet, which signaled he was calling defensive plays.

Hicks signed with the Cardinals in 2019 and posted more than 100 tackles in all three seasons with Arizona, including a career-best 150 his first year there.

He spent the first four campaings of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, who selected him in the third round of the 2015 draft.

He missed 21 regular-season games due to a variety of injuries during his time with the Eagles but didn’t miss a game (all starts) in three seasons with the Cardinals.

Hicks has career numbers of 638 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 11 interceptions.

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Noah Syndergaard, Los Angeles Angels reach 1-year, $21 million deal

Right-hander Noah Syndergaard and the Los Angeles Angels have agreed to a one-year, $21 million deal, pending a physical, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

Syndergaard, 29, spent the first seven campaigns of his career with the New York Mets, making one All-Star team and displaying perhaps the nastiest array of pitches for a starter in the major leagues.

Having pitched only two innings since 2019 because of Tommy John surgery, Syndergaard will join an Angels rotation that was among the worst in the big leagues last season.

The Angels’ pursuit of starting pitching this winter was their top priority, with two-way star Shohei Ohtani coming off a season that will end with the American League MVP award and outfielder Mike Trout returning from an injury-plagued 2021.

The cost is hefty: Beyond the $21 million, the Angels will forfeit their second-round draft pick in 2022 because Syndergaard had been tendered a one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer by the Mets. They will receive a pick after the draft’s competitive balance Round B (around 70th overall).

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While some in the industry expected Syndergaard to take the qualifying offer, the market proved healthier. The Angels, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees were among the teams that showed the greatest interest in Syndergaard, sources told ESPN.

All of them saw enough in Syndergaard’s late-September return, which involved a pair of one-inning outings in which he didn’t throw his slider or curveball. Though Syndergaard’s average fastball velocity during the outings was down more than 3 mph from his 2017 peak, the promise of plenty more prompted the Angels to pay a premium.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Syndergaard’s deal, by average annual value, is the largest doled out by the franchise for a pitcher. C.J. Wilson signed a five-year, $77.5 million deal ($15.5 million AAV) prior to the 2012 season.

The Angels’ need for pitching is no secret.

Ohtani led the team with 130.1 innings; no other Angels pitcher exceeded 100. Syndergaard has never pitched 200 innings in a season; he’s made 30 or more starts in a season twice (2016 and 2019).

However, a rotation that includes Ohtani, Syndergaard and left-hander Patrick Sandoval has the makings of something good — particularly if general manager Perry Minasian can complement it with a top-of-the-rotation arm like free-agent right-hander Max Scherzer.

Syndergaard, a 6-foot-6 leviathan nicknamed Thor, looked superheroic early in his career, constantly ripping off 100-mph fastballs and pairing them with 93-mph sliders.

During the Mets’ run to the 2015 National League pennant, Syndergaard was among their best pitchers, and the next year he was even better, posting a 2.60 ERA, striking out 218 in 183.2 innings and looking every bit a star.

When Syndergaard was healthy, he was typically excellent, pairing his strikeout stuff with a tendency to generate groundballs. Over 718 career innings, he has a 3.32 ERA and has struck out 777, walked 166 and permitted just 64 home runs.

His return from elbow reconstruction in March 2020 hit roadblocks and culminated with the September showcases, during which he allowed two runs in two innings. That was enough for the Angels to see — and pay.

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Carolina Panthers, Robby Anderson reach 2-year extension

Wide receiver Robby Anderson didn’t waste any time during Tuesday’s practice showing why he deserved the two-year extension the Carolina Panthers gave him earlier in the day that sources said is worth $29.5 million.

First, the 28-year-old made a one-handed snag of a scrambling Sam Darnold pass that — while just out of bounds in the end zone — was spectacular.

Later, he made an even more impressive catch of a deep pass from Darnold that went off his hand, off the back foot of cornerback Donte Jackson and back into Anderson’s hands for a touchdown.

As hot as it was outdoors with the heat index right at 100 degrees, Anderson was even hotter in the team’s indoor practice facility.

“Since I came here I felt like I was finding my dream,” stated Anderson, who signed a two-year deal with Carolina last season after spending his first four seasons with the New York Jets.

“Early on in my career, I was kind of lost in a sense and trying to find my way. “I wouldn’t call them mistakes. I would call them lessons that I learned, putting me where I need to be around people I need to be around for me to learn from those things and grow into a better man.”

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That Anderson gets the opportunity to reunite with Darnold figured into his decision to sign the extension of which $20.5 million is guaranteed, according to sources. Anderson was Darnold’s favorite target with the Jets in 2018 and 2019. He had 102 catches for 1,431 yards and 11 touchdowns during that time.

“That’s a big factor, too,” Anderson said. “Being back with a quarterback that I’m confident in, that I know is going to be here as well … everything across the board it was all checkmarks.”

The Panthers traded for Darnold during the offseason, then picked up his fifth-year option that locks him down through 2022.

Keeping Darnold surrounded by skill players such as Anderson, the Panthers believe, gives him the best chance to succeed after struggling for three years in New York. They’ve already picked up the fifth-year option on wide receiver DJ Moore for next season and still could sign him to an extension.

They also have running back Christian McCaffrey locked down through 2025 after signing him to a four-year, $64 million extension last year.

“I’m excited for this season, and also excited for the future,” Anderson said.

Anderson is coming off a career-high 95 catches for 1,096 yards in an offense that was missing McCaffrey for 13 games. He believes he can be even better moving forward.

“The main goal is to win,” said Anderson, referring to the Panthers going 5-11 last season. “I’m just glad to have the opportunity for us to accomplish what we’re really working for.”

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Jadeveon Clowney, Cleveland Browns reach one-year deal worth up to $10M

Free-agent pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney has signed a one-year deal with the Cleveland Browns, it was revealed Wednesday.

The deal is worth up to $10 million, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Clowney will have an opportunity to thrive playing opposite fellow former No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett.

“I’ve been getting double-teamed an awful lot in this league, in my career,” Clowney said during his virtual news conference. “I’m looking forward to playing with somebody dominant on the other side in Myles Garrett who can draw a double-team. Maybe I can go one-on-one more.”

The 28-year-old Clowney visited with the Browns last month, sources told ESPN, but left Cleveland without a deal. General manager Andrew Berry also heavily pursued him last season to pair with Garrett, but the three-time Pro Bowler reportedly rejected Cleveland’s multiyear contract offer and ultimately signed a one-year, $13 million deal with the Tennessee Titans.

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“We’re excited to add Jadeveon to our defensive line,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said in a statement. “He’s a disruptive force that will help us against the run and the pass. We’ve been able to make some nice additions to our defense throughout free agency and we are looking forward to getting to work, so we can improve our team.”

Clowney struggled in 2020 with Tennessee, ending with 19 tackles and zero sacks in eight matches before suffering a season-ending knee injury in November.

He had surgery in December and is expected to be at full health for the start of the 2021 season.

“I feel great now,” Clowney said. “I’m looking forward to this season to prove to guys that I’m back healthy and I can still dominate in this league.”

Over the past three seasons, Clowney has ranked fifth in the NFL with a pass rush win rate of 25%, according to ESPN Stats & Information. During that span, Garrett ranks third, at 26%.

“We love his relentless style of play,” Berry said in a statement. “He’s one of the more disruptive players in the game and we think he’s going to add an element of ruggedness along our defensive line and will pair nicely with many of the guys we have on the roster already. The other thing we love about Jadeveon is his versatility, his ability to play all across the front and impact the game regardless of his alignment.”

Cleveland already bolstered its pass rush in free agency last month, signing Takk McKinley to a one-year deal. McKinley struggled with injuries last season but ranked seventh in pass rush win rate in 2018, one spot behind Clowney and four behind Garrett that season.

The No. 1 overall selection by the Houston Texans in 2014, Clowney can play any position along the defensive front, which makes him valuable to teams wanting scheme versatility. He is a disruptive player as an interior pass-rusher or coming off the edge.

Clowney has 255 tackles (75 for a loss), 86 quarterback hits and 32 sacks in his seven seasons. Over his career, he has dealt with various knee injuries in addition to groin, elbow, back and Lisfranc injuries.

The Browns now have three of the past seven No. 1 overall draft picks on their roster, involving quarterback Baker Mayfield.

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Minnesota Vikings, safety Xavier Woods reach 1-year deal

The Minnesota Vikings agreed to a contract with free-agent safety Xavier Woods, the team revealed.

Terms were not disclosed but a source confirmed to ESPN on Saturday that it’s a one-year, $2.25 million deal that contains $1.75 million guaranteed.

The 25-year-old Woods, who developed into a versatile safety with the ability to cover the slot over his first four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, is expected to fill the Vikings’ opening at free safety opposite Harrison Smith after Anthony Harris’ departure in free agency.

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After concluding the season ranked 29th in points allowed and 27th in yards allowed, Minnesota has focused its efforts on the defensive side.

In addition to Woods, the Vikings have acquired only defensive players in free agency — defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, linebacker Nick Vigil and cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander as head coach Mike Zimmer looks to revamp a unit that allowed 29.7 points per game in 2020 (third-worst in the NFL).

A sixth-round draft pick in 2017, Woods became a full-time starter in his second season with the Cowboys and started his last 44 matches, missing four games over three seasons because of injury.

Heading into 2020, he was viewed as a cornerstone piece to the Cowboys’ secondary, but he struggled despite finishing second on the team with 72 tackles. He had just two tackles for loss, did not record a sack and had just two passes defended while not intercepting a pass for the first time in his career.

Woods can play both safety spots and also played as a nickel cornerback as a rookie.

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Tottenham suffer late draw but reach Europa League last-32 stage

Tottenham Hotspur earned the point they needed to reach the Europa League knockout stage on Thursday as they were held to a roller-coaster 3-3 draw at LASK Linz after Mamoudou Karamoko grabbed a stoppage-time equalizer for the Austrians.

Royal Antwerp lead Group J on 12 points after five games with Spurs second on 10 points. LASK are third with seven points and Bulgarian side Ludogorets are bottom without a point. Tottenham host Antwerp next week to decide the group winners.

Spurs struggled to settle in the first half and LASK went ahead in the 42nd minute as defender Matt Doherty slipped and Peter Michor finished a counter-attack by whipping a bouncing drive into the net which beat keeper Joe Hart at the far post.

The visitors leveled when Andres Andrade was penalized for handball in the area and Gareth Bale slammed home the resulting spot kick in first-half stoppage time before Son Heung-Min put Tottenham ahead 11 minutes into the second half.

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LASK equalized with a shot from Johannes Eggestein in the 84th minute but again they quickly conceded a penalty which substitute Dele Alli dispatched to make it 3-2.

Spurs looked set to win until Karamoko picked up the ball on the edge of the box and curled a fine shot past Hart to snatch a late point but the visitors had done enough to make the last 32.

Spurs manager Jose Mourinho was left to stew over the dropped points.

“Not good [performance]. The result better than the performance. The second half better than the first half,” Mourinho stated after the match.

“Some players individually had very good performances but some players individually had very poor performances. The only good thing I take from the game is that we are qualified.”

Spurs were without club captain Harry Kane for the game, with Mourinho saying he rested his star striker ahead of a pivotal North London derby versus Arsenal this weekend.

“I believe [Kane] is going to be fit. I’m not sure. He’s having treatment but I could be doing some bluff and pretend he’s in trouble, but he’s not and I think he’ll play [against Arsenal],” Mourinho stated.

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