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Manic Monday at the Miami Open: Breaking down the Sweet 16 matchups – WTA Tennis

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Miami Open: Scores | Draw | Order of play

Top-ranked Ashleigh Barty and No.5 seed Elina Svitolina both pulled through in three sets Monday to become the first two quarterfinalists at the Miami Open. 

Who will join them? 

Late Sunday night, Bianca Andreescu edged out Amanda Anisimova in a tight three-set match to reach the Round of 16 at the Miami Open. 

If Andreescu was hoping to play her way back into form after missing all of 2020, her 2-hour, 44-minute battle was a good start. Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, won’t have much time to recover. On Monday evening, she will take on Garbiñe Muguruza, who also survived a three-setter in her last match.

Here are the Sweet 16 matches still to be decided. 

Top Half

Anastasija Sevastova vs. [WC] Ana Konjuh

Here’s a blast from the distant past: These two have met only once, with Sevastova taking a three-set match four years ago in Mallorca.

Konjuh has been the story of the tournament. As a 19-year-old she was ranked No. 20 in July 2017. Then a series of elbow surgeries – four, to be precise – knocked her far down the tennis ladder.

“Thankfully all of that is behind me right now,” Konjuh told reporters later. “But in those key moments where you’re sick of everything and you’re just questioning yourself like should I go back and is it worth it and whatnot, I just remembered why I started playing this sport and why I love it so much and just the feeling that I had when I was in the top and having these great results and what it meant to me.

“So, I decided I’m not going to stop until I do everything there is, every possibility to help me. Here we are.”

She had only one WTA main-draw match (a loss to Amanda Anisimova) coming in, but Miami’s tournament officials granted her a wildcard – and it’s paid off wildly. She beat No. 70-ranked Katerina Siniakova in the first round, then No.18 seed Madison Keys in the second. Her third-round victory over Swiatek represented her second straight Top 20 win and first three consecutive match wins since Wimbledon 2017.

“Obviously [Swiatek] is a great player and great champion,” Konjuh said. “I just wanted to stay mentally in it in those key moments just to be able to, you know, produce some great shots. I did that.”

Sevastova, who received a walkover from Halep, is through to the Miami Round of 16 for the first time.

No.7 Aryna Sabalenka vs. No.19 Marketa Vondrousova

This could possibly be the closest Monday match to call.

Sabalenka took care of No.32 Veronika Kudermetova 7-6 (4), 6-4.

And later, 2019 Roland Garros finalist Vondrousova upset No.11 seed Belinda Bencic 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Bencic was looking for her first Top 20 win since the 2019 WTA Finals. Vondrousova, you might recall, reached back-to-back quarterfinals at Indian Wells and Miami that same year.

The 21-year-old player from the Czech Republic scored a career-best fourth-round appearance at this year’s Australian Open and got to the quarterfinals of Miami two years ago.

Vondrousova holds a 2-1 advantage in head-to-head play, but the last match was nearly three years ago.

2021 Miami Highlights: Vondrousova edges Bencic in a thriller

1 day ago

Bottom Half

No.2 Naomi Osaka vs. No.16 Elise Mertens

Don’t sleep on this match.

Sure, Osaka has won 22 consecutive matches, but Mertens is a formidable opponent. She’s already been to two WTA semifinals this year – at Dubai and in Melbourne – and Sunday beat No.22 Anett Kontaveit 6-2, 0-6, 6-2.

Osaka was granted a walkover when qualifier Nina Stojanovic withdrew due to a right thigh injury.

Osaka leads the series 2-1, most recently beating Mertens in the 2020 Western & Southern Open semifinals.

“I mean, it’s always a tough opponent,” Mertens said of Osaka. “Yeah, I know how she plays. I mean, she’s in form, she’s winning a lot. It’s going to be an interesting match what I can do against her, but I’m definitely gonna give 100 percent.”

No.23 Maria Sakkari vs. No.29 Jessica Pegula

This is a quality match, with two players at the very top of their game.

Sakkari is 10-5 for the season, while Pegula is 14-5.

Sakkari is ranked No.25, only five spots below her best career ranking. The 25-year-old from Greece raced past unseeded Liudmila Samsonova 6-0, 6-1. The match required only 68 minutes and Sakkari won 60 of 91 points.

Photo by Getty Images

Pegula, meanwhile, is at a career-high ranking of No.33 and reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. She also made back-to-back semifinals during the Middle East Swing in Doha and Dubai. She now has a WTA-high four victories over Top 10 players this year after ousting No.6 Karolina Pliskova 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. Previous to this year, Pegula had no Top 10 victories. 

It was the American’s third win over Pliskova in 24 days; Pegula won six of the seven sets. 

Sakkari won their only meeting, on grass two years ago in Eastbourne, 6-2, 6-1.

“I think we played on grass, and I think she killed me,” Pegula said, smiling. “Yeah, I’m playing much better now. I know she’s been playing pretty well and kind of solidified her as a really good top player, dangerous, amazing athlete. It will definitely be tough. I’ll be ready for it.”

No.8 Bianca Andreescu vs. No.12 Garbiñe Muguruza

Andreescu overcame No.28 Amanda Anisimova 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 6-4.

The 20-year-old Canadian is playing only her third tournament since the end of 2019, after missing the entire 2020 season with a knee injury.

“My game, I know that it can be better, but I’m trying to find ways to push through on my off days, and I think I’m doing that well,” Andreescu said. “I think that’s what makes a really good player, and I’m trying to be that really good player like I was in 2019. I did that today, and I just want to fight and give it my all and then the rest will come.”

Meanwhile, Muguruza rallied to defeat wildcard Anna Kalinskaya 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in 2 hours and 41 minutes. Coming off a title in Dubai and leading the tour with 20 match wins, Muguruza is now looking to advance to her first Miami quarterfinal. 

“I’m not concerned about the day of rest, because I have been playing many matches back to back,” Muguruza said. “So I feel like, you know, it’s going to be a challenge, of course, because today was a very physical match and I could feel the heat and everything. But it’s for everybody. Everybody has to play tomorrow, so all the players that play today are in the same circumstances.”

No. 27 Ons Jabeur vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo

Jabeur, the 26-year-old from Tunisia, shocked No.4 Sofia Kenin 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. For context, consider that Kenin had won their four previous WTA main draw matches – and all eight sets. Jabeur, who orchestrated her third career win against a Top 5 opponent, sits at a career-high World No.30 ranking.

“I tried to play my game and to play for revenge, because I’ve been losing a lot against Sofia,” Jabeur said. “She’s such an amazing player. But I was there, I was confident, I wanted to win. I wanted to play well and play my game. Honestly, I’m so proud that I won today.”

Sorribes Tormo defeated No. 21 Elena Rybakina 6-1, 3-6, 6-2. The 24-year-old Spaniard is ranked No.58 and is a stellar 14-4 for 2021. She beat No. 14 Jennifer Brady in second round and already has a surprising 14 main-draw wins.

READ: Why tennis-obsessed Sorribes Tormo could be the toughest out on tour

“I know that Sorribes is playing really good lately and she’s been winning a lot of matches,” Jabeur said. “She’s a good friend of mine on tour and honestly, I love playing her. I love the way she plays. I have to be ready tomorrow, especially physically and mentally, to win.”

Jabeur holds a 4-1 head-to-head advantage at WTA level, having won the past three – 2017 Shenzhen, 2018 Manchester and 2019 Rome – all in straight sets.

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Boston Bruins Add Offense With Solid Taylor Hall Trade – Boston Hockey Now

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The Boston Bruins clearly understood they had serious deficiencies on their NHL roster this season and credit them for going and doing something about it.

The B’s finished off their Sunday night fireworks ahead of the NHL trade deadline by sending a second round pick and Anders Bjork to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for top-6 winger Taylor Hall and bottom-6 forward Curtis Lazar. TSN’s Darren Dreger, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and ESPN’s John Buccigross were the first to report about the completed deal between the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres in the hours following the B’s getting stomped by the Washington Capitals, 8-1, at TD Garden.

The Buffalo Sabres retained half of the $8 million salary that Hall signed for prior to the start of the 2021 hockey season.

The 29-year-old Hall is having a terrible season in Buffalo with just two goals and 19 points in 37 games along with a minus-21 rating after he chose to sign a one-year deal with the Sabres during the offseason. But he brings legitimate offensive talent as a former No. 1 overall pick and Hart Trophy winner to a Boston Bruins team that’s ranked in the bottom third of the NHL offensively all season.

The Bruins were one of the suitors for Hall prior to him choosing the Sabres months ago, and now they get him for a deep discount while keeping their own first round picks after making their deadline deals.

Holding onto their own first round pick was a priority for Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney after spending first rounders at the deadline in two of the last three deadlines in trades for damaged goods Rick Nash and Ondrej Kase.

The 26-year-old Lazar has five goals and 11 points in 33 games as a bottom-6 forward for the Sabres this season and is signed for $800,000 for next season. It seemed clear that something was going on with the 24-year-old Anders Bjork over the last couple of weeks as he was a healthy scratch for five straight games, including Sunday night against Washington, and heads to Buffalo hoping to further develop a game built on speed and skill level that hasn’t translated into offense as of yet.

Hall should fit right into the top-6 with the Bruins as a skilled winger for playmaking center David Krejci, but it remains to be seen how he’s going to fit as another left winger on a team with Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk.

Either Ritchie or DeBrusk is going to have to play the off wing with a Krejci/Hall combo, but that’s a problem that Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will gladly figure out after being forced to piece together lineups all season due to injuries and offensive inconsistency. With the acquisition of Hall, Lazar and left-handed defenseman Mike Reilly on Sunday night, it would appear the Boston Bruins are largely done with deals ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

Interestingly enough, the Boston Bruins are set to play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at TD Garden.

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Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca

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It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.

“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.

It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.

But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.

It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.

“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”

Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.

Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.

“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”

But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.

When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.

Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.

“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.

Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?

It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.

“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.

“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”

It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.

But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.

You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.

What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.

“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?

“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”

Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.

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Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics

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(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.

For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.

The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.

Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”

The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.

Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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