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Vasek Pospisil on helping lower-ranked players, revising ATP rankings and punishing the French Open – TSN

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The All England Club announced Wednesday that the Wimbledon Championships, scheduled to start June 29, will not be held this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the first time since the Second World War in 1945 that the world’s premier grass-court event won’t be staged.

“I wasn’t really too surprised,” said ATP Player Council member Vasek Pospisil. “It was one of those decisions that was expected, especially with all the tournaments being cancelled left, right and centre. It doesn’t look like there will be tennis anytime soon so it was an announcement that was bound to happen … there’s no doubt it’s the right call.”

It was an expected decision taken for the right reasons, but it still hit hard for Pospisil, who won the 2014 Wimbledon doubles title alongside Jack Sock and also made the singles quarterfinals in 2015, his best result at any major. 

“It’s the biggest tournament in the world,” he said. “It’s the most prestigious tennis event out there with so much history. For me, it was a dream to play Wimbledon. I don’t want to overstate it, because there’s four grand slams, but when you think of tennis you think of one tournament and it’s Wimbledon. Like, Wimbledon is tennis. You know, for me at least, that’s kind of how I look at it.”

Also on Wednesday, the ATP and WTA announced all events at all levels have been cancelled through July 13. Tennis is a global sport with players from all over the world converging at different tournaments in different countries so it may be one of the last sports to return to regular events.  

“To be honest, I would be surprised if there was any play at least before the fall or late summer just with the way things are going,” Pospisil said. “I feel like even in a best-case scenario, let’s say this pandemic really starts slowing down and there’s fewer cases and the curve starts to flatten, there will still be a very long period of caution that I would expect the governing bodies around the world to take into consideration. I’m a very optimistic person in general, that’s my nature, but I also try to be pretty realistic … I’d be pretty surprised if there was any tennis this summer.”

It will be up to Pospisil and other Council members to help the ATP Tour move forward in these uncertain times. Among the pressing concerns, how to support lower-ranked players dealing with economic hardships. Also on the docket, devising a new rankings system to take into account the season pause. Pospisil spoke to TSN via Skype on Wednesday from Whistler, B.C., and shared some insight on what the Council is considering at the moment. The 29-year-old also reflected on a strong start to his season, which saw him surge back into the top 100 with the help of some maple syrup.

The following is an edited transcript of the interview. 

What’s life on the Player Council like right now? How busy are you? 

“You have guys ranked below 100, let’s say 100 to 300 or lower even, that suddenly are really struggling to kind of get by. The guys who are ranked top 100 and a little higher, we at least have financial security, so that’s an issue that’s pressing. That’s something they need to take into consideration very quickly and I think that is where we can give a little bit of feedback and ideas, because we’re representing the players and looking out for their best interests. 

“On top of that, I can’t imagine all the moving parts logistically and how complicated this matter (tour suspension) is and they’re dealing with that internally and we’re giving very little feedback for those matters as should be the case, because that’s not our speciality, that’s not what we do and I don’t think our opinion on those internal matters are valuable. So, we’re not actually having too many calls. Our last one was seven or eight days ago and it was specifically on the player matter side so I expect our next call to be in a few days or maybe next week. I get a lot of people who are like, ‘You must be so busy with all this,’ but actually we’re maybe even less busy, because the ATP is just dealing with so much more than some of the player matters.”

What are some of the ideas to help players in financial need? 

“I know the ATP is coming up with something. They’ve been telling us, ‘Guys, standby, we’re going to have something for the general player group, some ideas that we’ll share with you shortly.’ So we’re waiting and giving them time, because we understand this is not an easy situation. I’ve had some some conversations internally and there’s different ways we can approach it. Maybe something from the pension plan, maybe the ATP has some funds that we’re not even aware about that are for extreme cases, we’re not sure, or maybe it’s from the ATP Tour Finals. I’m not sure we’ll even have an ATP Finals even if the tour does start again. The whole concept of that event at the end of the year is that you have a full season and the best eight players duke it out for a lot of money and points, but if you only have a few months of the calendar maybe then suddenly that event doesn’t have as much credibility, because it would only be based on a few months of events so maybe there’s some funds that could be taken from that and given to the lower-ranked guys. So, there’s a lot of different ways you can approach it, but it’s all pending right now.”

Will the French Tennis Federation face any penalty for unilaterally moving the dates of Roland Garros?

“The discussion about a penalty is being had right now, for sure, full transparency on that. The issue that we had and when I say ‘we’ I mean the tennis community … is not the actual postponement of the event. I think it went without saying that nobody was expecting the French Open to be played at the time it was initially scheduled so postponing was always going to be something that was discussed. The issue was they took the decision unilaterally and went on their own without discussing things with the governing bodies in tennis, the other grand slams, the players or anybody. I mean, they just did it themselves and my theory is, and it’s relatively logical, they figured they’d ask for forgiveness rather than permission, because they think they may have never gotten that slot and maybe other tournaments wouldn’t have agreed to it so they didn’t want to take that risk. They were looking out just for themselves and weren’t worried about everybody being on the same team in this situation. It was a very surprising … and definitely doesn’t set a good precedent so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some fallout from that decision.”

Is it possible the ATP won’t award points for the French Open? Is that something being considered? 

“That would be one approach, for sure. This is not something the players are discussing, to be honest. Everybody has their own opinion. I have my own opinion and, of course, I’m all about fairness, transparency, working together so I do feel there has to be a penalty. Whether it’s about points, I don’t know. Whether it’s financial, I’m not sure … this is something the ATP, I’m sure, is dealing with. I’m sure they understand the kind of precedent a decision like that will make so I’m sure it’s on their radar and we’ll see what comes from it. There have to be some kind of repercussions for that, for sure.”

When it comes to the rankings is it just the freeze is the freeze and everybody stays put until play resumes or are there other ideas for that? 

“This is probably where we’re most involved in giving feedback from the player side and the Council and that was, specifically, what we were discussing on the last call, floating around ideas. The ATP had done a lot of work to come up with their three best formulas and options so they have three we’re all looking at right now. There’s no rush to make a decision on that since there’s no tennis and the rankings aren’t moving around right now, they’ve put a freeze on them until it’s decided how they’re going to calculate the rankings moving forward. Obviously, there’s so many variables depending on when tennis starts up again. The No. 1 most important thing is that it’s fair all across the board for all the players, because different players could be hurt at different ranking levels and different parts of the season depending on what option you go with. There’s an option there that seems to be the most fair across the board, but for now it’s internal and we’ll hopefully come up with something soon.”

OK, let’s talk about some actual tennis. You’ve raised your ranking 53 spots since play opened in January. What’s clicking? 

“Pretty much since my comeback (from back surgery last summer), I’ve really been playing great tennis. When I took eight months off tour, I didn’t hold a racquet for five months, I just had a little reset in my life. I came back fully healthy, no issues and that’s the first time in five or six years I felt that. I had a new team around me, a fitness trainer. And then, also, just I came back with a new perspective on the sport and my life. I was very busy during the time that I was injured so I gave myself security and confidence so when I came back on the court I was a little more relaxed.

I was more relaxed because I feel like I have my identity and I know what I’m going to do after my career so I put less pressure on myself on the court. Also, just being so excited to be on the court, because I didn’t know if I’d ever be playing at a high level, all those different variables come into play. I feel like I’m playing some of the best tennis I’ve ever played and hopefully I don’t gain too much weight and I’m able to stay fit (smile) and obviously I will and I’ll be ready to roll again once the tour starts. But that’s not something on my radar now, because of what’s going on and there’s other priorities that need to be taken care of world-wide and even for myself so tennis is on hold and there are more important things than sport, obviously.”

You created quite a buzz on social media by drinking maple syrup during matches. Were you surprised how much attention you received? 

“Totally surprised. I’ve had people ask me, ‘Oh, that was hilarious, did you script that?’ And, honestly, the story behind it is I just ran out of energy gels in my semifinal match (in Montpellier), because I used like 10 of them and I was playing the finals on Sunday and everything was closed in France. I thought I’d be able to go out and buy something. I travel with maple syrup and I use it religiously on everything almost, but never actually used it on the tennis court. My physio and I were brainstorming and we’re like, yeah, I can use my maple syrup, no problem. And I didn’t think anything of it, because I’m just used to using it on everything. I’m Canadian and it’s maple syrup, no big deal. It wasn’t until after the match and it went viral, it wasn’t until then that I realized it was pretty hilarious. It was a funny time. I wasn’t expecting that to happen.”

You hinted on Twitter before Indian Wells got called off that you’d be playing doubles with Sock for the first time since 2016. Whenever tennis returns will the PopSocks doubles team be reunited? 

“Yeah, I think so. We planned to play Indian Wells and Miami, we were excited about it and made a little announcement on social media. We didn’t have any concrete plans in terms of playing throughout the season. We were just going to play Indian Wells and Miami and see how it goes, but now that we’ve built some hype, at least in the doubles world, it’s pretty safe to say we’ll definitely come back and play a couple events and take it from there. I’m excited to play with Jack again. Obviously, we had an amazing run and had a great time when we were on the court and I was away from the doubles court a little bit the last few years, because my singles ranking dropped a bit so I’m hoping I can play more doubles.”

TSN is airing some classic matches to fill the time until the tour returns. Certainly, your Wimbledon championship match with Jack against the Bryan brothers in 2014 may be on the list. What matches would you want featured? 

“Good question. Definitely that one would be one of them. I would say when I beat Andy Murray when he was world No. 1 at Indian Wells a few years ago. I think when I played Tomas Berdych at the Rogers Cup, that was my first top-10 win, back in 2013 before my little run and then some of the Davis Cup highlight reel, I’ve had quite a few great Davis Cup moments, playing doubles with Daniel (Nestor) and singles wins, even this last Davis Cup. Those are my top picks off the top of my head. It’s been a wild ride and hopefully there will be more of those kinds of matches to come.”

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Never mind the disallowed goal, Flames couldn’t keep up with the Oilers’ track meet – Sportsnet.ca

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The Calgary Flames built their reputation on Darryl Sutter Hockey – that heavy-forechecking, quality-defending style that smothers opponents and wins back pucks, which makes the burden of creating offence a struggle for their opposition. On the backs of that plan, the Flames allowed the third-fewest goals during the regular season. They were a force.

The Edmonton Oilers can be given no greater compliment than the way the Flames were reduced to playing in the Battle of Alberta, chasing more and more offence to try to keep up with an Oilers top-six that simply could not be stopped. There was a desperation there that we hadn’t seen from the Flames, and by Game 5 I kept thinking, “Just catch the pass and shoot it” rather than trying to rush a one-timer on a hot pass or on one that was in a bad spot. Their usual poise disappeared.

A look at a few of those fanned one-timers in Game 5:

By the end, little of the Flames’ identity was left, not the physical play, not the elite goaltending, or the line of Gaudreau-Lindholm-Tkachuk, which was arguably the best in the league in 2021-22.

The Flames played with offensive impatience, which left room for the Oilers to fly back the other way. Too often it became a track meet, and with that style imposed on the series, the Flames, ironically, were cooked. Rush chances were 11-3 for the Oilers in Game 5.

Apparently, there was also a goal disallowed, but the things below are about how the Oilers got the Flames in a position where one play not going their way could mean the end of the series, and their season.

How did the Oilers do it?

McDavid-Draisaitl

I was tempted to skip over this obvious point because you, the reader, are well aware of what Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl do. But I just couldn’t. How could I? Everything about the Oilers hinged on this, with two players combining for **checks stats** – no, that can’t be right – **checks again** 29 points in five games. They set all kinds of records.

The Flames got much better at slowing down McDavid in Games 4 and 5, but it took all their focus and attention, which opened them up everywhere else.

Depth contributions from Kane, Hyman, RNH

In Game 5, Zach Hyman had one goal and two assists for three points, he was plus-4, he had seven shots, he played nearly 24 minutes, he led the team in hits, he had a big blocked shot, there’s just not much more I can say about this guy.

In the summer, I use a plastic oar to stir my kids’ kiddie pool and get the water going in a “whirlpool,” and that’s what happens when Hyman is on the ice. He’s an oar, and he gets the play going in the direction he’s skating whenever he’s out there.

With McDavid and Draisaitl sucking up all the attention – as they have in years past – the question was asked of the Oilers depth: when those guys see all the best defending, can you capitalize on your extra space or weaker opposition?

Hyman said yes. Evander Kane said yes; he’s on pace to threaten the all-time playoff goals record of 19 (he has 12, so if they Oilers play two more rounds … ?). Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had six points in five games; the Nuge said yes too.

McDavid and Draisaitl were like a collective boxer doing so much damage to the body in the early rounds that their opposition starts to drop their hands, while these guys were suddenly free to take shots at the head.

Good coaching

I thought Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft showed a willingness to be flexible and go away from what’s worked if it wasn’t working on a given night. Case in point: Kane had been on an unbelievable run alongside McDavid, as mentioned above. It would’ve been easy to leave him in that role, no matter what. This is speculation on my part, but I don’t think the Oil loved how Kane defended a Flames set breakout early in the game, followed by his positioning on the Andrew Mangiapane goal. Whether it was that or something else, Woodcroft bumped Kane off that line for Hyman, who did … all the things I mentioned in the section above. It was the perfect change in a game McDavid didn’t have an inch of room and couldn’t create much or drive play. Hyman did it for that line at times.

I also given Woodcroft credit for sticking with what would give the team the best chance in the big picture: Mike Smith over Mikko Koskinen. After Game 1, he could’ve bailed on Smith and been justified. Then Game 2 starts with two softies, where you’d think he’d have a hair trigger, but he stuck with Smith yet again. The roller coaster Mike Smith Experience includes the type of highs you need to get by great opponents, and Woodcroft gave their team the chance to see that through.

An exposed weakness, and a surprise goaltending slump

Flames coach Darryl Sutter gave a telling response in a post-game when he talked about their “inexperienced defence.” They don’t have guys who’ve seen deep runs playing D for them, and, in the end, the little defensive gaffes made just enough room for the Oilers (a miscommunication with Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm on the OT winner cost them) to expose them. In Game 5, the Oilers had 18 slot shots to the Flames’ nine.

The Flames needed goaltending to bail them out, but Edmonton has had Jacob Markstrom’s number all year. He ended up posting just an .852 save percentage in the series, and the crease was supposed to be where the Flames had a clear advantage. I haven’t heard it said much lately, but McDavid is in an awkward body position on that OT winner and doesn’t get a ton on it. They needed a few more saves from Markstrom.

When all is said and done, the Battle of Alberta was decided because the Oilers’ best players had their ‘A’ games, and that dictated everything that came next from the Flames. Calgary was reduced to counterpunching, when it had been used to coming out swinging.

In the NHL, the sport’s all-time greats almost always find their way to a championship, as at some level they become all their opponents can think about and the team around them is free to rise up. That’s what’s been happening for the Oilers, and no matter who their next opponent is, that game plan has every chance of being effective in yet another round.

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Rangers focused on forcing Hurricanes to deciding game – Sportsnet.ca

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The New York Rangers return home knowing they need a win at home to keep their post-season going. The Carolina Hurricanes are still looking for their first road victory in these playoffs.

After Carolina won 3-1 on Thursday night to take a 3-2 series lead, the Rangers will be looking to force a deciding game in the second-round series when they host the Hurricanes in Game 6 on Saturday night (8 p.m. EDT, ESPN) on Sportsnet.

“We lost a game and we didn’t play as well as we could have, so I was disappointed,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said Friday. “That’s playoffs, that’s the way she goes. We’ll be ready to go tomorrow night and that’s what we’re looking forward to.

“Just worry about tomorrow and take care of business.”

A must-win game is nothing new for these Rangers. They trailed 3-1 against Pittsburgh in the first round, then won three straight — becoming the first team in NHL history to rally from a deficit in three consecutive elimination games — to advance.

“We’ve been in this position before,” New York forward Ryan Strome said. “I like our chances on home ice. … We’re familiar with the situation. Got a chance at home to push it to (Game) 7 and that’s all we’re worried about now.”

The Rangers also trailed in this series after losing the first two games in Carolina. They returned home and won Games 3 and 4 to even the series. Now, they have to win at home again to tie the series one more time.

“The feel in that dressing room is super confident at all times and I think the first series helped a little bit,” Strome said. “And having to win Games 3 and 4 (in this series), those are pretty must-win games and we did a pretty good job. We can draw from those experiences.”

And what those experiences have taught the Rangers is to have a singular focus on the task at hand, and not worry about the series or deficits.

“Well, your backs are against the wall,” Gallant said. “You go out and you play your game. You know if you lose this game there’s no tomorrow. We did that real well last series, hopefully we can do it again tomorrow. I don’t think we change anything strategy-wise. We just go out there and play our game.”

Forward Chris Kreider agreed, adding: “We’ve got to win one game. … Lot of things we could take from (Game 5 loss) and do a better job of. Learn from that and win one game. Win the first shift, win the first period and go from there.”

The Hurricanes are also trying to win one game — on the road, for the first time in the post-season. After their latest victory, they improved to 7-0 at home, but are 0-5 on the road.

Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour isn’t concerned by the team’s lack of road wins, though he acknowledges people talk a lot about it.

“That’s a non-issue,” he said. “It’s all I hear about endlessly. We haven’t played poorly on the road. Our game’s been fine. There’s a couple of things that have gone squirrelly. … We’re playing good teams. That’s how it goes.”

The Hurricanes regained the series lead with a strong defensive effort in Game 5, limiting the Rangers to 17 shots on goal — including five in each of the first two periods.

“Does it transfer over, obviously we hope so,” Brind’Amour said. “I don’t usually take a lot of stock one game into the next, good or bad. It’s always about the next game and it takes a life of it’s own but definitely the way we want to do it.”

If the Hurricanes keep up their trend this post-season, the deciding Game 7 would be Monday night at home. But that’s not something they want to think about right now.

“We’re going to give it our best,” Brind’Amour said. “We’re going to try to win (Saturday). We do every night. Nothing really changes. Obviously, we don’t want to come back (home) and have another game. We’re going to do everything we can to win tomorrow night.”

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Warriors top Mavs in Game 5, advance to NBA Finals – TSN

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — As the clock ticked down the final seconds, Klay Thompson began dancing on the sideline before nearly being moved to tears during a celebration with his teammates.

After two major surgeries and two years of grueling rehabilitation, Thompson is rounding back into form and shot the Golden State Warriors back into the NBA Finals.

Thompson shimmied his way to 32 points and the Warriors advanced to their sixth finals in the past eight seasons by beating the Dallas Mavericks 120-110 in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday night.

“It’s hard to put into words really,” Thompson said. “This time last year, I was just starting to jog again and get up and down the court. Now to be feeling like myself, feeling explosive, feeling sure in my movements, I’m just grateful.”

Thompson tore his left ACL during a season-ending Game 6 loss in the 2019 NBA Finals against Toronto and then tore his right Achilles’ tendon just before the start of the 2020-21 season. After Golden State missed the postseason in both seasons he was sidelined, Thompson finally returned to action in January.

The performance against the Mavericks showed he is getting close to returning to his old level of stardom.

Thompson scored 19 points in the first half, including a 3-pointer that he punctuated with teammate Stephen Curry‘s signature shake as the Warriors raced out to a 17-point halftime lead and coasted the rest of the way.

“You could see how much was missing the last couple of years,” Draymond Green said. ”We’re lucky to have the Klay Thompson we know back because we know how good he is.”

Andrew Wiggins added 18 points and 10 rebounds, Green scored 17 points and Curry had 15 points and nine assists. He was named the MVP of the series.

Luka Doncic overcame a slow start to score 28 points for the Mavericks. Spencer Dinwiddie added 26.

After missing the playoffs in 2020 and ’21 in back-to back injury-plagued seasons, the Warriors are returning to a familiar stage. They join the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls of the 1990s, Magic Johnson’s Lakers in the 1980s and Bill Russell’s Celtics in the 1950s and ’60s as the only franchises to make it to the NBA Finals at least six times in an eight-year span.

“For our team, our guys, especially the core group, to be part of that six times in eight years, I don’t even know what to say,” coach Steve Kerr said. “It just takes an enormous amount of skill and determination and work.”

Golden State will host the winner of the Eastern Conference finals between Boston and Miami on June 2 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Celtics hold a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 at home on Friday night.

The Warriors followed their pattern from the first two rounds by bouncing back after squandering a chance to end a series on the road by winning at home. Golden State is now 9-0 at the Chase Center this postseason, tying the 2017 team for the the most consecutive home wins in a single postseason in NBA history.

After making just seven 3-pointers in the first four games of the series, Thompson had eight this game for the record-setting fifth time in the playoffs.

The last two have come in clinchers the last two rounds against Memphis and Dallas, prompting the question on whether his nickname should switch from “Game 6 Klay” for his history in that game to “Clinching Klay.”

“I’m satisfied with ‘Game 6 Klay.’ I don’t need another nickname,” Thompson said with a smile. “It’s nice not having to bring him out yet.”

Thompson gave the Warriors a 13-point lead in the first half when he hit one from the corner before dancing and added two early in the third quarter for a 23-point lead.

Dallas cut a 25-point deficit down to eight in the final minute of the third quarter but couldn’t get over the hump in the fourth.

“I don’t like losing, especially not like this,” Doncic said. “I played terrible. But if we’re talking about our season, I’m really proud of this team. … Nobody had us here. But I promise we fought until the end.”

SLOW START

Doncic had a rough start, shooting 2 for 10 in the first quarter. His eight misses were tied for the most in the opening quarter of a playoff game since LeBron James missed all nine of his attempts in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against Atlanta in 2015.

Doncic was held to six points in the first half, his lowest opening half of his postseason career, on 2-for-12 shooting before finding his stroke in the third quarter.

“We need Luka to go big a lot of nights just to give us a chance, and unfortunately the ball just didn’t go for him tonight,” coach Jason Kidd said. “I think he carries the load as well as anyone, and I think for us as an organization, we’ll help lighten that load as we go forward.”

MOODY MANIA

With Otto Porter (left foot) sidelined for a second straight game, the Warriors got a big boost in the first half from 19-year-old rookie Moses Moody.

Moody scored all of his seven points in the second quarter with his 3-pointer giving Golden State a 56-38 lead. Moody scored just six points the first three games of this series for the Warriors before scoring 17 the past two games with Porter sidelined.

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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