May 31, 2012

By HOWARD FENDRICH | Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — Used to be that Venus Williams was the one who was highly ranked, the one considered a title contender, the one who would dominate foes so thoroughly that matches would be tidily wrapped up in an hour.

Now 31, and figuring out from day to day how to handle an illness that saps her strength, Williams was on the wrong end of a lopsided 60-minute defeat in the second round of the French Open on Wednesday.

Looking glum and lacking the verve that carried her to seven Grand Slam titles, Williams barely put up any resistance and lost 6-2, 6-3 to No. 3-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland at Roland Garros. Coming a day after her younger sister Serena was stunned in the first round by 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano of France, the early exit marked the first time in 43 major tournaments with both in the field that neither Williams got to the third round.

“I felt like I played,” Williams said after making a hard-to-fathom 33 unforced errors, 27 more than Radwanska. “That pretty much sums it up.”

This one was not exactly an out-of-nowhere upset, considering that Williams is ranked 53rd now, never has been as good on clay as on other surfaces, lost to Radwanska 6-4, 6-1 two months ago, and is learning how to be a professional athlete with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that can cause fatigue and joint pain.

Still, the meek way Williams departed was striking, considering that she has been ranked No. 1, has appeared in 14 major finals to Radwanska's zero, and from 2008-10 won 10 of the 11 sets the two played against each other.

“I don’t know if I ever asked myself, ‘Why me?’ I mean, obviously it’s frustrating at times. I don’t know if there’s anything mental more I can do at this point, but there’s a lot of stages to go through with this kind of thing,” said Williams, whose fastest-in-the-game serve was broken five times Wednesday. “There’s a lot of people who have it a lot worse than I do. I'm still playing a professional sport, so I have to be very positive. And I’m going to have ups and downs. I haven’t gotten to the ‘Why me?’ yet. I hope I never get to the ‘Why me?’ I’m not allowed to feel sorry for myself.”

It’s hard to know, however, how much energy she’ll have from one day to the next.

Whenever the alarm goes off, Williams starts to find out what the next 24 hours will be like.

“Every morning is different. Some mornings, I don’t feel great, then it’s a better day than I thought it was going to be. I can’t automatically be discouraged. When I wake up, I just have to see how it goes. Sometimes I get a second wind,” she explained. “It’s just so hard to know.”

Williams revealed her diagnosis in late August at the U.S. Open, when she withdrew before her second-round match. She skipped the Australian Open in January, before returning to the tour in March in a bid to earn a berth on the U.S Olympic team. Spots are awarded based on rankings — the top 56 get in automatically, with a maximum of four per country, so Williams should be OK.

“This tournament, for me, was all about getting to the Olympics, as I have said a couple million times,” she said. “If that happens for me, and I think the chances are good, then I come out a victor. So that’s why I was here.”

At changeovers, Williams would slink to the sideline, then sit on her green bench with hands clasped, staring straight ahead, expressionless and motionless.

She was far more animated afterward, laughing often while discussing her condition and graciously complimenting the play of Radwanska, a 23-year-old who is coming into her own this season.

“Of course, when I saw the draw, I wasn’t very happy, because Venus as a second-round opponent, it’s not easy,” Radwanska said. “Maybe she just had a bad day here.”

While never advancing past the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam tournament, Radwanska has shown signs of being ready for a major breakthrough, with three lesser titles and a tour-high 38 victories in 2012. Of her seven losses, six were against No. 1-ranked Victoria Azarenka.

On an easy day for the top-seeded players, Azarenka breezed into the third round with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Dinah Pfizenmaier of Germany 6-1, 6-1, while the No. 1 man, Novak Djokovic, extended his Grand Slam winning streak to 23 matches by beating Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia 6-0, 6-4, 6-4.

“Being No. 1 is a difficult job, because everybody want to catch you, everybody want to move you from the spot,” said Azarenka, pushed to three sets in the first round. “Nothing is going to come easy just because you’re No. 1.”

For years, Roger Federer managed to make things look easy at the top. Now No. 3, he went through a bit of a glitch and dropped a set Wednesday before earning his record-breaking 234th Grand Slam match victory, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-3 against 92nd-ranked Adrian Ungur of Romania.

“I have been around for so long that, even though I expect myself to win, I can still manage to do that,” said Federer, on course for a semifinal showdown with Djokovic. “Whereas in the beginning, when you think you’re good but you’re maybe not that good yet, you get many more surprise losses.”

Before rain cut play short in the evening, all 10 seeded men whose matches ended won, including No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, who acknowledged his bandaged left knee is a “constant bother.”

Four seeded women lost, including No. 8 Marion Bartoli of France, the runner-up to Williams in the 2007 Wimbledon final, when the American was near the height of her powers. 

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May 31, 2012

By | Associated Press

 NEWARK, N.J. - EA Sports predicts the Los Angeles Kings will defeat the New Jersey Devils in six games to win the Stanley Cup.

That’s the word from the NHL 12 simulation engine, the video game developer said.

In the simulation, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick continued his stellar post-season play. The 26-year-old records a shutout and does not allow more than two goals in a game against the Devils en route to collecting the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

The simulation has Los Angeles winning Game 1 by a 4-2 score before losing the next two 2-0 and 2-1. The Kings close it out with 2-0, 3-2 and 3-1 wins.

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty scores the winning goal in the final game.

The EA hockey game is developed in Burnaby, B.C.

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May 31, 2012

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP) — Charlotte Bobcats President of Basket­ball Operations Rod Higgins says the team will hire a new head coach within the next couple of weeks, but it won’t be Patrick Ewing.

Higgins said own­er Michael Jordan had informed Ewing that the team plans to hire someone other than him to replace Paul Silas.

Exactly who that is remains to be seen.

Higgins says, “Patrick has a lot of great qualities as a coach and he will one day be a head coach.”

The Bobcats have interviewed eight candidates for the job and plan to talk with more in the next week or so. A shortlist of candidates will then meet with Jordan face-to-face before a final decision is made.

 

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May 31, 2012

By DAVE CAMPBELL | Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A lawsuit filed against the NFL Players Association by retirees was dismissed Tuesday by a federal judge, who said she’s “empathetic to their concerns” but ruled they had no legal right to hundreds of millions of dollars in additional post-career benefits they claimed they lost during lockout talks last year.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson issued her order from St. Paul, Minn.

Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Carl Eller, a former Minnesota Vikings star, was the lead plaintiff in the complaint that argued current players and their attorneys had no right to bargain with NFL owners about retiree benefits because they weren’t legally a union last summer.

Michael Hausfeld, the lead lawyer for the retired players, said his group plans to appeal Nelson’s decision to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

In an interview from his office in Washington, Hausfeld called Nelson’s findings “elucidating and disappointing overall.” There were several dozen ex-players, many of them Hall of Famers, on the lawsuit who felt they were cheated by the current players. They estimated between $300 million and $500 million in additional benefits they were promised in the early stages of collective bargaining agreement talks and didn’t get when the labor dispute was settled last summer.

They contended they were pushed out of negotiations to streamline the mediation process despite a court order for their inclusion. Those labor talks led to the new CBA between the owners and players and saved the 2011 season.

The lawsuit named NFLPA boss DeMaurice Smith, New England quarterback Tom Brady and former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel. Brady and Vrabel were plaintiffs on the antitrust lawsuit filed by the current players against the NFL in March before the lockout.

The union’s response to the complaint was filed under seal, and the NFLPA has declined to comment on the case.

“The decision says it is clear that the active players took advantage of the retirees’ situations to benefit themselves, and that’s just a classical incident or consequence of the fact that they held all the marbles,” Hausfeld said. “That’s a sad commentary on the functioning of the union, and it’s an even sadder commentary on the richest pro sport in the country.”

Nelson wrote that she accepted the factual allegations by the Eller class as true but disagreed that the current players acted illegally. She ruled that since the active players were negotiating their own contract with the league, they had no obligation to take “a smaller share of the pie for themselves” in order to give the retirees a bigger slice.

The former players claimed the current players owed them a “fiduciary duty,” but Nelson denied the legal existence of such a relationship.

“And there can be no dispute that a better package of benefits was in fact obtained for the retired players in the 2011 CBA as compared to those in the former CBA. No jury could reasonably find that the active players did not do better by the retired players in the 2011 CBA,” Nelson wrote.

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May 31, 2012

ALLEN, Texas - Terrell Owens has been released by the Allen Wranglers and lost his ownership stake in the Indoor Football League team.

The team says Owens didn’t plan to play in two upcoming road games with possible playoff implications. The six-time Pro Bowl receiver also was a no-show for a scheduled appearance at a local children's hospital with other players and coaches.

Wranglers owner Jon Frankel said in a statement Tuesday that the team couldn’t keep a player like Owens when fans were noticing and commenting about a “lack of effort both on and off the field.”

The 38-year-old Owens didn’t get any NFL offers to play last season after surgery on his left knee. He had 35 catches for 420 yards and 10 touchdowns while playing eight of Allen’s 11 games.

 

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