Thursday, December 14, 2017
Sports

Serena continues to give Sharapova no quarter

MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams attacked Maria Sharapova's strength, and it helped extend her complete domination of their rivalry, earning the six-time Australian Open champion a place in the semifinals.

Top-ranked Williams beat Sharapova 6-4, 6-1 today in the quarterfinals, her 18th straight victory in the rivalry and 19th in 21 career meetings back to 2004.

"It was super intense," Williams said of the replay of last year's final. Sharapova is "an incredibly intense, focused player who was No. 1 and has won so many Grand Slams for a reason.

"You have to come out with a lot of fire and intensity."

Each of the six previous times Williams has won a quarterfinal at Melbourne Park, she has won the title at the season-opening Grand Slam tournament.

Up next is fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat No. 10 Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3 to reach a Grand Slam semifinal for the fifth time. She has never won a major.

Sharapova has won five majors, including the 2008 Australian title, and has been in three other finals at Melbourne Park.

In her fourth-round win against No. 12 Belinda Bencic, she had a career-high 21 aces. Against Williams, she had three, and seven double faults.

Sharapova broke to open the match and held for a 2-0 lead.

But Williams held in the third game, closing with an ace after it went to deuce, then broke to level at 2-2.

Early in the set, points were short. As it got longer, the rallies got longer, the shrieks and grunts got louder and the emotions were fully on display.

Both players struggled with their ball toss at one end, repeatedly practicing their toss to work out the best position to serve into the sun.

Williams also had to concentrate hard to hold in the ninth game, when a baby screamed loudly for most of the game.

She was able to protect her own serve and go on the attack against Sharapova's. It cost her when she had three break-point chances in the eighth, taking the high-risk rather than the high-percentage option with her return.

But the aggressive returns finally helped Williams convert on her fourth set point, following a heavy ground stroke to the net and putting away a volley.

She went on a five-game roll until Sharapova held in the second set then finished it off in the seventh game after saving break points.

Earlier, Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai advanced to the quarterfinals after beating a limping Madison Keys 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. She'll face another unseeded player, Johanna Konta of Britain.

On the men's side Monday, Andy Murray fought through churning emotions, yelling and berating himself while having trouble dealing with Bernard Tomic's unusual style before advancing to the quarterfinals with a scrappy 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) win.

Murray's wife, Kim, is due to have their first baby next month, and he promised he'd fly to Britain at any time if she went into labor.

On Saturday, his father-in-law, Nick Sears, in Melbourne as Ana Ivanovic's coach, needed sudden medical attention in a nearby stadium. Sears had to be taken from Rod Laver Arena, where he was watching Ivanovic play, to a nearby hospital and was admitted overnight.

Murray reported that he had been released from the hospital, was feeling okay and was heading home.

Comments
NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Carson Wentz's injury drops Eagles out of top five

NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Carson Wentz's injury drops Eagles out of top five

What follows below is a ranking of all 32 NFL teams. To build this list, we consulted five objective measures of team strength: Pro Football Reference’s Simple Rating System, Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average ratings...
Updated: 4 hours ago
NFL Week 15: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

NFL Week 15: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

Week 15 starts and ends with disappointment — a Thursday night meeting of two of the more disappointing teams (Denver at Indianapolis) and a Monday night game that once had held high hopes locally (Atlanta at Tampa Bay). Once.Here's our picks f...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Former USF star Courtney Williams makes national team pool

Former USF star Courtney Williams makes national team pool

Former USF women's basketball sensation Courtney Williams is one significant step closer to becoming an Olympian.Williams, who just completed her first full season with the WNBA's Connecticut Sun, is among 29 players who have been chosen for the 2017...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Are Tampa Bay Rays going to make a major deal involving Alex Colome, others? Well …

Are Tampa Bay Rays going to make a major deal involving Alex Colome, others? Well …

Rays officials headed back across I-4 this afternoon, leaving the winter meetings while working toward resolution of "advanced" trade talks that could include some of their biggest name players.Most of the attention and speculation has been on on the...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tampa Bay Rays lose RHP Burch Smith in Rule 5 draft, keep Nick Ciuffo

Tampa Bay Rays lose RHP Burch Smith in Rule 5 draft, keep Nick Ciuffo

The Rays lost RHP Burch Smith in Thursday's Rule 5 draft but were happy to see him get an opportunity in Kansas City.They also were pleased to hang on to C Nick Ciuffo, who was left exposed but not selected.Smith, 27, was acquired from the Padres as ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 4

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 4

UPDATE, 11:09: RHP Steve Cishek, who was a very effective addition to the Rays pen last season, has reunited with pitching coach Jim Hickey, agreeing to a deal with the Cubs.UPDATE, 10:40: Like most teams, Rays officials are heading out of the meetin...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Tim Tebow wants to help throw you a tailgate wedding (sausages included)

Tim Tebow loves weddings.He apparently also loves football, tailgate parties and a good brat, which might explain why he’s lending his pitchman talents to a contest that ties all four together.In a promotional video, Tebow asks, "What happens when yo...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Measuring Jameis Winston’s progress, and Dirk Koetter’s job security

Measuring Jameis Winston’s progress, and Dirk Koetter’s job security

TAMPA — It is one of the most honest moments of the season, captured in the first Hard Knocks episode. Jameis Winston is having a frank conversation with coach Dirk Koetter, seated behind his desk in his office at One Buc Place."I just want to have a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Jones: If you were Jon Gruden, what would you do?

Jones: If you were Jon Gruden, what would you do?

What would you do?If you were Jon Gruden, what would you do?Well, you could go to Hooter’s and order a pitcher of beer and dozen wings. Then, Monday, you could go be inducted into the Bucs’ Ring of Honor.I’m talking about after that.Would you stay i...
Updated: 1 hour ago
River Ridge grad Chris Schwarz on brink of Division II title with West Florida

River Ridge grad Chris Schwarz on brink of Division II title with West Florida

Two years ago, Chris Schwarz was mulling over his college choices. The former River Ridge High standout had offers from Valparaiso, Florida Tech and West Florida. West Florida?That one baffled Schwarz, mostly because he knew nothing about the school....
Updated: 1 hour ago