Tagged in: second round

Serena Williams advances to second round in Toronto in straight sets

Serena Williams hadn’t won in so long, she said she couldn’t even remember the feeling.

She picked up her first triumph since the 2021 French Open on Monday, beating Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 6-3, 6-4 at the women’s National Bank Open.

“I’m just happy to get a win. It’s been a very long time, I forgot what that felt like,” Williams said.

It’s just the second tournament of the season for the 40-year-old Williams, who returned to competition at Wimbledon just over a month ago. The 23-time Grand Slam champion fell in the first round to Harmony Tan in three sets at the All England Club.

Before then, she last competed at the 2021 Wimbledon tournament, where she retired in the middle of her first match due to a torn hamstring suffered after slipping on the grass surface.

Williams, who will turn 41 at the end of September, will next face either 12th-ranked Belinda Bencic or Tereza Martincova.

Williams has acquired this tournament three times and reached the final in her last appearance at the hardcourt event in 2019, losing to Bianca Andreescu when she was forced to stop because of injury.

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But Williams has played little since and knows she needs time on the court.

“I feel good, I felt like I competed well today. I think that’s what I needed to do, is just compete,” she said. “Mentally, I’m getting there. I’m not where I normally am (or) where I want to be. Any match I play, whether I win or lose, helps me.

“I haven’t played a lot in the last year, (even) two years. I think that helps me physically. I feel much better in practice, it’s just getting that to the court. Literally, I’m the kind of person (where) it takes one or two things and then it clicks.”

Williams started out strong, taking the first two games with relative ease.

Parrizas-Diaz tied it 2-2, but despite Williams’ struggles at certain points, the 31-year-old Spaniard couldn’t find enough of a consistent flow to get ahead. Williams found her rhythm, mixing solid touch with her signature power and putting shot after shot out of Parrizas-Diaz’s reach.

Williams’ effort had the fans on their feet roaring and some even bowing.

Williams won the final three games to take the first set, then surged ahead in the second after the 57th-ranked Parrizas-Diaz took a 4-3 lead. She endured a nine-deuce game to hold serve and even the set, then broke in the next game before serving out the victory.

While Williams says the end of her remarkable career is in sight, she’s enjoying her time and staying in the moment.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet retires at age 28

In a shocking move, Buccaneers Pro Bowl left guard Ali Marpet is retiring, he revealed on Instagram.

Marpet is just 28 years old and finished off his first Pro Bowl season. He is considered arguably one of the top — if not the top — Buccaneers offensive linemen.

A source told ESPN that Marpet made the decision due to concerns for his overall health.

“After seven formidable years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I’ve come to the decision to retire from the game that has given me so much,” he wrote in his post.

“This organization and the people surrounding it have helped not only fulfill a dream, but also helped build me into the person I am today. I’ve made Tampa Bay my home and I look forward to serving this community in the coming years. To the coaches and teammates, family and friends, an Instagram post simply can’t express the profound impact you’ve had on me. I’m eternally grateful. Thank you Tampa Bay.”

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A second-round draft pick out of Hobart College in 2015, Marpet became the highest-drafted player (61st overall) in Division III history. He also became the first Division III player selected in the top 100 of the draft since 1990.

“It has been one of my greatest professional thrills to see his rapid ascension from a small college standout into one [of] the NFL’s best all around offensive linemen,” Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said in a statement.

The Bucs already face the daunting challenge of replacing future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Filling the void left by Marpet, who missed just 12 matches in seven seasons, will be another big challenge.

Marpet was due to make $10 million in 2022.

Marpet has served on the Bucs’ social justice advisory board and last summer met with Vice President Kamala Harris during the team’s visit to the White House to discuss voting rights.

In his statement, Licht lauded Marpet for providing “the vision and passion that was crucial” to the Buccaneers’ social justice advisory board’s “launch and ongoing work.”

From 2018 to 2021, Marpet registered a 93.7% pass block win rate, which ranked ninth in the league among guards, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

He became one of just six players to post a pass block win rate of 92% or higher at guard in each of the past four campaigns, joining Quenton Nelson, Zack Martin, Joel Bitonio, Brandon Scherff and Andrew Norwell.

Marpet’s most memorable play, arguably, was pulling to the outside on Leonard Fournette’s 27-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl LV, which the Bucs won 31-9 over the Kansas City Chiefs.

In addition to Brady’s and Marpet’s departures, Jensen, also a Pro Bowler, and right guard Alex Cappa, a Pro Bowl alternate, are set to become unrestricted free agents next month.

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Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark fractures left ankle

Thursday’s game did not get off to an ideal start for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. was carted off the field due to an ankle injury suffered during the team’s first drive. He incurred the setback when he was blocking during a running play and got rolled up on as the action went his direction.

The Jaguars revealed he was ruled out for the remainder of the match.  Chark had seven catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the first three games, which were all Jacksonville losses.

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The LSU product was a Pro Bowler in 2019 with 73 catches for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns in a breakout effort after the Jaguars selected him with a second-round pick in 2018.

He was solid again in 2020 with 706 receiving yards and five touchdowns and figured to be a key piece in the team’s offense this year as rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence adjusted to the NFL.

However, look for the combination of Marvin Jones Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. to see more targets while Chark is sidelined. 

It’s unclear at this point if the injury is season ending.

If it is, it could be the last game Chark plays for the Jaguars. He was in the final year of his rookie contract.

Chark missed a month of camp and preseason after having surgery to repair a broken finger on his right hand. He said recently the plate they placed in his hand still remains and the finger does still bother him at times.

The Jaguars also lost starting right guard A.J. Cann to a knee injury in the second quarter.

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Eagles claim former Lions second-round running back Kerryon Johnson off waivers

The Philadelphia Eagles have taken a flyer on Kerryon Johnson, claiming the former second-round pick off waivers from the Detroit Lions.

Philadelphia adds Johnson to a crowded backfield as the Eagles will pick up the remaining salary on his rookie deal, a cap number of $2,069,359 for 2021 (the final year of his rookie contract). 

Johnson electrified the NFL as a rookie in 2018, rushing for 641 yards and three touchdowns in 10 matches. He became just the 10th rookie since the AFL-NFL merger to average 5.4 yards per carry in his rookie campaign (minimum 100 carries).

Johnson had a chance to become the featured back in 2019, but averaged just 3.6 yards per carry while rushing for 403 yards and three touchdowns in eight games. 

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A meniscus tear in his right knee altered his season in 2019, one year after a knee strain caused him to miss the final six games in his rookie season.

Relegated to third on the Lions’ depth chart, Johnson had 52 carries for 181 yards and two touchdowns in 2020 (averaging 3.5 yards per carry). He has 1,225 rushing yards and and 527 receiving yards in three seasons (4.3 yards per carry). 

Where Johnson fits in the Eagles’ plan at running back will be determined.

Philadelphia has Miles Sanders as the No. 1 running back, but there are spots on the depth chart open for competition. 

Boston Scott and 2021 fifth-round pick Kenneth Gainwell will compete for playing time on the depth chart, but the Eagles also signed Jordan Howard this offseason on a non-guaranteed deal. The Eagles also have Jason Huntley, Adrian Killins Jr., and Elijah Holyfield on the 90-man roster. 

Johnson should find a way to make the roster and receive snaps if he’s healthy. How Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni will use him in the rotation will be one of the intriguing storylines of offseason minicamp. 

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Rafael Nadal cruises past teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid Open

In a much-anticipated clash of generations, Rafael Nadal showed he is still clearly the man to beat in Spanish tennis, cruising to a 6-1, 6-2 victory over teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz in the second round of the Madrid Open on Wednesday.

Nadal, seeking his sixth title in Madrid and looking to regain top form ahead of the French Open, was never threatened by Alcaraz, who turned 18 on Wednesday.

In the women’s draw, Paula Badosa defeated Belinda Bencic 6-4, 7-5 to become the first Spanish woman to reach the semifinals in Madrid. She will face top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, who got past Petra Kvitova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

The 120th-ranked Alcaraz was coming off his first victory at a Masters 1000 event and had called the match versus his idol a “dream come true.” He has been touted by many as the successor to the 34-year-old Nadal.

After the crowd at the “Magic Box” center court sang “Happy Birthday” to him, Alcaraz squandered a break point in the first game and then struggled to keep up with the 20-time Grand Slam champion. The wild-card entry was hampered by unforced errors, earning his lone break toward the end of the second set.

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Alcaraz needed medical attention in the third game after losing a long rally, apparently hurting his arm or shoulder while going for an overhead smash.

The two Spaniards had never played a match against each other but practiced together at the Australian Open, where Alcaraz reached the second round.

“It was a difficult match against a youngster who has been playing very well and who has an enormous potential ahead of him,” Nadal said Wednesday. “All he needs is some time. In addition to being a great tennis player, he also has great values, which is something society needs right now.”

After the match, tournament director Feliciano Lopez, who lost to Alcaraz in the Andalucia Open last month, brought out a birthday cake, and Nadal also joined the celebration.

“It’s amazing to spend my birthday playing against Rafa, learning from him,” Alcaraz said. “It could (be) better if I could win, but I really enjoy (it). I think this match made me grow up as a player.”

Nadal will next face Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin, who defeated Jannik Sinner 7-6 (5), 6-2. Fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, who lost to Nadal in the Barcelona final, advanced to the third round by beating Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-2.

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Jarran Reed, Kansas City Chiefs agree to 1-year deal

Defensive tackle Jarran Reed has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, sources told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler on Sunday.

Reed can earn up to $7 million on the deal, sources said.

Reed joins a defensive tackle rotation that incorporates Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi and Tershawn Wharton. Jones has led the Chiefs in sacks in each of the past three seasons. Nnadi plays mostly on running downs, while Wharton showed promise last season as an undrafted rookie.

But Reed, with his 19 sacks over the past three seasons, gives the Chiefs a strong interior pass rusher to combine with Jones. The Seattle Seahawks released Reed on Friday, a year after the team signed him to a two-year, $23 million extension.

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Reed, 28, has been a full-time starter since 2017, the year after Seattle picked him in the second round out of Alabama.

He was known primarily as a run-stuffer his first two seasons but then broke out for 10.5 sacks in 2018.

He started the 2019 season by serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy and finished the year with two sacks in 10 matches.

Reed, who reportedly wanted a long-term contract to stay in Seattle and couldn’t reach an agreement with the team, appeared in all 16 games for the Seahawks in 2020 and played on 74 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, per Football Reference. He had 6.5 sacks, 38 combined tackles and 14 quarterback hits, with one pass breakup and a forced fumble.

He was set to count nearly $14 million against the salary cap before he was released.

For his career, Reed has 22 sacks and 194 tackles in 72 regular-season games.

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