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'He's going to be the bad guy the rest of his career,' says John McEnroe of Novak Djokovic – CTV News

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Novak Djokovic hitting a line judge with a ball has become one of the enduring images of an already bizarre season of tennis.

The 18-time grand slam winner was disqualified from the U.S. Open, a tournament he was favourite to win to close the gap on Rafael Nadal’s total of 19 grand slam wins and Roger Federer’s 20.

With the French Open set to start at the end of the month, the world No.1 still has an opportunity to add to his all-time tally during this curtailed season — but has the Serb tarnished his reputation?

Seven-time grand slam champion John McEnroe, who was famous for his on-court outbursts, believes the incident will have an impact.

“The pressure just got to him I think,” McEnroe, himself disqualified from the 1990 Australian Open for misconduct, told ESPN. “… Now whether he likes it or not, he’s going to be the bad guy the rest of his career. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles it.”

“I didn’t say he couldn’t recover,” added McEnroe. “If he embraces that role, I think he could recover, absolutely. He’s chasing history, he’s trying to pass Rafa [Nadal] and Roger [Federer].

“He’s younger, we all know that. He’s got a lot of things going for him, but this is obviously a stain that he’s not going to be able to erase, whether he likes it or not.”

Djokovic left Flushing Meadows without speaking to the media, but did write an apology on his Instagram account, saying he was “extremely sorry to have caused her such stress.”

McEnroe knows all too well how hard it is to shake a “bad boy” reputation in tennis and is surprised somebody with as much experience as Djokovic would make such an error.

“Just when you think something crazier couldn’t happen [in 2020], it does happen,” he added. “We talked before the event that the only way Novak could lose is if he beat himself.

“I didn’t anticipate in my wildest dreams that this would happen. So it’s terrible for everyone, it was a rookie mistake.”

The disqualification is the latest incident during what has been a difficult summer for Djokovic. First, he arranged a tournament in Croatia which failed to observe social distancing regulations and resulted in him and a number of top players testing positive for COVID-19.

Then, he spearheaded a new breakaway players’ association, the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA), drawing criticism from Federer and Nadal.

KYRGIOS STARTS TWITTER POLL

Nick Kyrgios, often dubbed the “bad boy” of tennis’ current generation, posted a tongue in cheek Twitter poll asking what his punishment would have been in the same situation.

“Swap me for jokers [Djokovic’s] incident. ‘Accidentally hitting the ball kid in the throat,’ how many years would I be banned for?” he asked.

Five, 10 and 20 years were the options, with 20 winning by a considerable margin at the time of writing.

“We’d be bailing you outta jail right now,” American player Tommy Paul responded.

Former British tennis player Tim Henman, who was disqualified in similar circumstances when he hit a ball girl at Wimbledon in 1995, believed Djokovic made a mistake by not facing up to the media following the incident.

“Unfortunately he’s compounding the error,” he told Prime. “He needs to face up to it, apologize and accept he made a mistake. By, in essence, running away, it’s going to go on longer.”

Billie Jean King, a 12-time grand slam winner, said the officials made the right decision.

“First I hope the line judge is okay,” she tweeted. “The rule is the rule. It is unfortunate for everyone involved, but in this specific situation the default was the right call.”

Djokovic was unbeaten so far in 2020, boasting a 26-0 record going into Sunday’s match against Pablo Carreno Busta. Former tennis player Steve Darcis jokingly gave credit to the one person who was able to break Djokovic’s winning run — the line judge.

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Steven Stamkos ruled out for Game 4 of Stanley Cup final – CBC.ca

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Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos will not play in Friday’s Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Dallas Stars, head coach Jon Cooper announced.

In making the announcement, Cooper did not rule out his star for the remainder of the series. That would include Game 5, which is Saturday — the only back-to-back games in these finals.

“He’s not going to play, but we haven’t ruled him out for the series,” Cooper said. “But he’s not going to play tonight.”

Stamkos, 30, played for the first time since Feb. 25 when he suited up for Game 3 on Wednesday. Stamkos underwent surgery in March to repair a core muscle injury. He had an initial recovery timeline of six to eight weeks, but it’s believed he aggravated the injury and experienced at least one setback since then while trying to join the team.

WATCH | Stamkos scores in 1st period back from injury:

In his daily recap, Rob Pizzo compares Steven Stamkos comeback in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals to the Karate Kid. 2:55

He scored in the first period of the Lightning’s 5-2 win in Game 3 — giving Tampa Bay a 2-1 series lead — but then did not return to the bench after the first intermission. He logged 2 minutes, 47 seconds of ice time.

“Obviously, there is an issue that I’ve been working through. We’ll see what happens from here, but I was just extremely happy to be out there with these guys and have a chance to just be on the bench and contribute to a win,” Stamkos said after the game.

Despite his limited ice time, Stamkos made a big impact on his team by simply being on the ice — with the goal an added bonus.

“He only had five shifts, but probably as efficient a five shifts as you’re ever going to see in a National Hockey League playoff game,” Cooper said. “Here we are watching a player come back, and then do what he did on the biggest stage at the biggest time of year … you have to marvel at it, and it was pretty damn cool.”

“‘Stammer’s obviously he’s our leader, he’s our captain,” Tampa Bay forward Anthony Cirelli said. “To have him with us there, you give Stammer one opportunity he’s going to make it count. Just having him there with us, the emotion was high, he got that goal there for us which was a huge, huge goal and … we fed off that.”

Stamkos finished second on the team in scoring in the regular season with 66 points in 57 games. His 29 goals were also second on the team.

Taken first overall in 2008, Stamkos has 832 points (422 goals, 410 assists) in 803 regular-season games in his 12-year career, all with the Lightning. He also has 54 points (24 goals, 30 assists) in 71 career playoff games.

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Manfred wants expanded playoffs format to continue, but with adjustments – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – Rob Manfred wants expanded playoffs to continue beyond this year with fewer than 16 teams and better rewards for division winners, a shift from the format the Toronto Blue Jays capitalized on to return to the post-season.

The current system was agreed to by Major League Baseball and the players association hours before opening day on July 23 and applies to the 2020 season only. In an interview with sportsnet.ca on Friday, the commissioner said he’s in favour of proceeding with more than the 10 teams that have reached the post-season since 2012, but with a tougher barrier-to-entry.

“I think the 16-team format was a good format for the 60-game unique season we’ve been playing in 2020. The principle reason for that is in a shortened season, it seemed like giving more teams access to the post-season was the right thing to do, the fair thing to do, No. 1,” he said. “No. 2, I do think the way things played out this year, the 16-team format has created a lot of excitement right up through the last weekend. Our biggest problem right now is that we don’t know where the heck people are going and can’t plan as far in advance as people might like. I do think it’s been really exciting for the fans.

“The third thing I would say,” Manfred added, “over the long haul, if we continue with the expanded playoffs, I think it would be fewer teams — not 16 — and I think there could be structures that are built in that preserve the incentive, for example, to win the division, preserve the incentive to play hard all the way through the 162-game season, so that the additional teams in the playoffs do not detract from the regular season. The regular season is a really important product for us and believe me, believe me, whatever we do more permanently, we will protect the value of that regular-season product.”

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Alterations to the playoff format in 2021, the final year of the current collective bargaining agreement, would require union approval.

The only advantage for division winners this year under the 16-team format is that they, along with the top second-place finisher, host all the games in the best-of-three wild-card round. Advancing clubs will then gather in bubbles in California and Texas for the division, league championship and World Series.

The Blue Jays, who clinched a post-season berth Thursday, are likely to enter the playoffs as the eighth seed — although they can still surpass the New York Yankees as the second-place finisher in the American League East.

Manfred said he’s “thrilled at the rebuild Toronto has gone through and the success they enjoyed this year,” coming after the club was denied permission to host its regular-season home games by the Canadian government, and had subsequent plans to tenant in Pittsburgh and Baltimore shot down by state governments.

That led the Blue Jays to settle on Buffalo’s Sahlen Field, a plan that initially worried Manfred but ultimately exceeded his expectations.

“My concern when the decision was finally made about Buffalo was, No. 1, timing. It wasn’t just where they were going, they didn’t have a heck of a lot of time to get organized. No. 2, look, no rap on minor-league facilities in general or Buffalo in particular, our major-league facilities are really, really nice and players are used to a certain level of facility to go to work in.

“I was really concerned about our ability to deliver that,” said Manfred. “On both of those topics, the Toronto Blue Jays management team, Mark (Shapiro), Marnie Starkman, what they accomplished – and I did go to Buffalo, I saw it myself – is unbelievable, literally unbelievable.

“Not only was it playable, and serviceable, but the work they did actually created that feeling of this is the Blue Jays’ home, which I think is really important to the psyche of the team and the ability of the team to perform, and an unbelievable accomplishment given the tight timeframe.”

Livestream Toronto Blue Jays games all season with Sportsnet NOW. Plus, watch marquee MLB matchups, the post-season and World Series.

Whether the Blue Jays will be allowed to return home next season is far from certain and Manfred doesn’t know whether baseball’s rebound from early-season outbreaks among the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals is enough to change the Canadian government’s outlook.

“The one thing I can say is that we will do everything humanly possible to convince the government that the Blue Jays should play in Toronto next year,” added Manfred, who also answered questions about how adapted protocols helped save the season, considerations for next year, the future of expanded rosters and whether the pandemic has impacted the Tampa Bay Rays’ dual city plan with Montreal.

Sportsnet: After the outbreaks on the Marlins and Cardinals, which of the mid-stream changes you implemented do you feel helped turned the tide and allowed you to reach this point?

Rob Manfred: I would point to two things. First, after the, and as a result of, particularly the Cardinals situation, we realized that the key consideration was not when could you play again, but instead, what do we have to do to make sure the virus doesn’t spread among the team. You saw a change in approach after the Cardinals where immediately when we found a positive, we shut everybody down and just waited it out until we were sure we didn’t have spread. That was really important.

The second thing is kind of nature. Throughout the year we asked a lot of the players, we asked them to change the way they play the game on the field, we asked them to change the way they lived their private lives, to tell you the truth. The two early incidents just drove home to everybody involved, us, our managers/coaches, front office personnel and the players, that attention to detail, the masks, the distancing is just absolutely crucial.

SN: Hopefully the world is a safer place next year as it relates to COVID-19, but if things level off where we’re at right now, could the protocols currently in place be employed over a 162-game season?

Manfred: That’s too much of a crystal ball for me. Obviously the longer you go, the tougher it is to maintain the (current) model, the more likely it is you’re going to have lapses. All I can say to you about that is what happens next year is going to be dictated by the course of the virus.

SN: The Blue Jays, among others, really leveraged expanded rosters this year. Given all the injuries experienced this year, the shortened body of work for pitchers, and interrupted player-development supply, can a season be safely conducted with only 26 on the roster next year?

Manfred: I think it’s realistic that at some point next year, we could get back to 26. What I would say to you is I suspect, depending on the course of the virus, that there would be a number of operational issues that we’ll have to work through with the MLBPA.

Even if we have a vaccine and everything is good on the health front, there are going to be some results from 2020 that are going to require us to have those kinds of conversations and to continue to show some type of creativity and flexibility to put a quality product out there.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

SN: What’s your sense at this point of what the minor-leagues are going to look like in 2021 between the expected cutting of teams and the need to restart some wider scale player development?

Manfred: Too early to tell on that one. The only thing I can say on that is we recognize that player development is the long-term lifeblood of the industry and whatever form it takes, there probably will be more activity next year than there was this.

SN: For baseball fans in Montreal, how has the pandemic impacted the Rays’ dual-city plan and MLB’s outlook for potential expansion?

Manfred: The Rays process, probably not significantly affected given the timing of that process. With respect to expansion, it’s hard not to admit that, to the extent that there was a certain timeline where expansion was going to be considered, I would say that the pandemic has probably pushed that timeline back.

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Lakers' Davis questionable for Game 5 – TSN

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Los Angeles Lakers superstar centre Anthony Davis is questionable for Saturday’s Game 5 against the Denver Nuggets after suffering a sprained left ankle late in LA’s Game 4 win Thursday night.

Backup shooting guard Dion Waiters is also questionable with a sore left groin while Alex Caruso (sore right wrist), Danny Green (Volar plate injury, left ring finger) and LeBron James (sore right groin) are probable.

The 27-year-old Davis has been one of the Lakers best performers in the postseason bubble, averaging 28.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists over 14 games, including hitting a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Lakers can advance to the NBA Finals with a win on Saturday.

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