Novak Djokovic loses for the first time in 2012

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Novak Djokovic loses for the first time in 2012

From Comcast SportsNet
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Top-ranked Novak Djokovic lost for the first time this season, beaten by Andy Murray 6-2, 7-5 Friday in the semifinals of the Dubai Championships. Djokovic had been on a 10-match winning streak that included the Australian Open title. In the final, Murray will play Roger Federer, who edged Juan Martin del Potro 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6). Del Potro lost four set points in the second-set tiebreaker at 6-2, with Federer winning the last six points. Federer will be going for his fifth Dubai title, but his first in five years. This was a big boost for Murray, who lost to Djokovic in five sets in the Australian Open semifinals. "Hopefully, that will set me up well for the year," Murray said. "Confidence in tennis and almost any individual sport is so important." Murray had lost seven of the last 11 matches against Djokovic, who was bidding for a fourth straight Dubai title. But the Scotsman made it look easy at the Aviation Club. "I was fighting for it, but, you know, Andy played a great match," Djokovic said. "He was the better player today. He was serving really well." Murray broke to go up 4-2 in the first set and saved two break points to make it 5-2. He used a stellar serve, winning 94 percent of his first service points in the first set and 85 percent overall. "The first set I served very well and was aggressive when I had my chances," Murray said. "In the second set, he started going for more and making mistakes because it's tough to always grind out matches." Murray had a 3-0 advantage in the second set and led 5-3 while serving for the match. But Djokovic broke Murray for the first time and tied it at 5-all. Murray won the final two games, breaking Djokovic to win the match when the Serb sent a forehand long. Murray felt his nearly five-hour loss to Djokovic in Australia paid dividends Friday, especially in the second set. "The thing you learn after a match like that is how much you need to sort of suffer on the court to win matches like that, and also how important it is," he said. Djokovic lauded Murray's aggressive play. "I made a lot of unforced errors when it was important," he said. "But, look, this is sport. It's normal that in some matches you can't pull out your best when you need to." Djokovic denied that his four weeks off since the Australian Open -- when he collected several awards and skied with friends -- influenced the outcome of the match. Still, he appeared rusty early in the tournament, struggling to beat 72nd-ranked Cedrik-Marcel Stebe and 74th-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky. "I thought I've been doing well since Wimbledon last year," he said. "You know, I've been having a lot off-court activities since I became No. 1, but I have a team of people that controls it well. "Obviously there is a lot of temptations and a lot of things that you can enjoy. But it's normal. You can't on one hand just be 100 percent of your life in the tennis. You are young. You have to enjoy life." Federer, who came into the match with a 9-2 record against del Potro including win in this year's Rotterdam finals, struggled early on. Both players held serve in the first set and the third-ranked Swiss squandered three set points in the tiebreaker before converting the fourth with a forehand down the line. The second set was just as tight, with del Potro winning points off his big serve and Federer dominating at the net. It went to a second tiebreaker, this time with del Potro going up 5-0 and 6-2. But Federer ran off four points to tie it and won when del Potro's backhand went long. "It was a good comeback, especially on a quick court," Federer said. "I didn't believe I was going to come back, but at least sort of make him a bit nervous. Next thing I know, I had a great point at 6-all and I was able to come through. So it was a great match for me." Federer enters the final with a 6-8 record against Murray. He hasn't played him since a victory at the ATP World finals in 2010. "I just think Andy is an amazing player, and so far he's proved that this year. He's in the finals now with a great win against Novak," he said. "I expect a really difficult match in the finals." In the doubles semifinals, Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski of Poland beat Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram of Israel 6-4, 3-6, 1-0. Erlich-Ram were hoping to become the first Israelis to reach a Dubai Championships final.

Raiders LT Donald Penn, WR Amari Cooper to skip Pro Bowl with injury

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Raiders LT Donald Penn, WR Amari Cooper to skip Pro Bowl with injury

The Raiders had an NFL-best seven players on the initial Pro Bowl roster. The number planning to play in the league’s all-star game continues to dwindle.

That total's down to three after left tackle Donald Penn and receiver Amari Cooper bowed out. Penn won’t be ready after suffering a knee injury in the regular-season finale, an ailment that kept him out of a playoff loss at Houston. Cincinnati’s Andrew Whitworth will take Penn’s place.

Cooper battled a shoulder injury late last season, though it's uncertain exactly what is keeping from from the game. 

In addition to Penn and Cooper, Quarterback Derek Carr obviously can't play while recovering from surgery to repair a broken fibula. Edge rusher Khalil Mack also bowed out recently with what is believed to be a minor back injury.

There’s a possibility a fifth Raider will also excuse himself. Center Rodney Hudson suffered an ankle injury in the playoffs. It remains uncertain whether he’ll play in the Pro Bowl.

Safety Reggie Nelson and left guard Kelechi Osemele remain firmly in the fray at this stage. 

Adam Gase: Baalke made the decision with 49ers

Adam Gase: Baalke made the decision with 49ers

Two years ago, it appeared as if Adam Gase would be hired to replace Jim Harbaugh as 49ers head coach.

But on a day in which Gase was hopeful of receiving good news, he heard from then-general manager Trent Baalke that Jim Tomsula had gotten the job.

Gase, who recently completed his first season as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, spoke candidly Wednesday on CSNBayArea.com’s “49ers Insider Podcast” to set the record straight on what occurred in mid-January 2015.

At the beginning of Gase's first interview with Baalke, 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe, and co-chair John York, it was made clear to him that Baalke was responsible for the decision.

“I knew that Trent was the final decision-maker in San Francisco heading into the interview process,” Gase said. “When we first met, when it was all four in there, that was explained to me from the get-go, that Trent ran the organization, as far as who’s getting hired for the head-coaching job. I knew that going in.”

Gase went through a second marathon interview with only Baalke, the day before the decision was made, he recalled.

“I felt like I was in good position heading into that next day,” Gase said. “I did know it was down to two of us. . . It was down to Jim and myself. I felt like going into that morning, I had a good shot. I felt like my interview went really well. But until you get that call from the GM, nothing’s ever 100 percent.

“So heading into that morning, I felt good about it. But never got that final word. The last call I got was they hired Jim. I really felt we had a great meeting and felt that I was in a good position. It went the other way.”

Next season, the 49ers will have their fourth head coach in four years. Tomsula was fired at the end of a 5-11 season. The 49ers fired Baalke and coach Chip Kelly after the club’s 2-14 season. The club is now expected to announce Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as head coach after the Falcons’ season has concluded. 

Things have worked out well for Gase, who spent one season as Chicago’s offensive coordinator before earning the Miami job. The Dolphins went 10-6 in Gase’s first season and advanced to the playoffs for just the second time in the past 15 seasons.

Gase said he was never offered the 49ers job two years ago. And when asked if he was told he had to promote Tomsula as defensive coordinator, Gase answered, “I don’t remember that being a conversation. We spit-balled a lot of different scenarios of how we were going about putting a staff together.”

Gase said he would have been inclined to retain a number of 49ers assistant coaches from Jim Harbaugh’s final staff because he already knew some of those individuals.

“It’s not as easy to get coaches as you think, because guys get locked into contracts," Gase said. "I was always told when I went into these interviews, ‘Don’t promise something you can’t come through with.’ Because you can’t control some of these things. You kind of have to have an idea of who’s available to get out of their contract or who’s up on their contracts.

“It looked like there were going to be some holdovers based on the relationships I had with a lot of those guys. It was really just trying to figure out what was the best fit for the entire group at that time.”

In a conference call with Bay Area reporters prior to the Dolphins’ November game against the 49ers, Gase confirmed Tomsula offered him the position of offensive coordinator with the 49ers. Gase turned it down to work with his previous head coach, John Fox, with the Bears.

Gase said one of the elements of working for the 49ers that attracted him to the job was the opportunity to reconnect with Jed York and Marathe, whom he got to know during his season as an assistant coach in 2008.

“I wanted to find a way to be a part of what they had really got going on there,” Gase said. “The main reason was because of Jed. I wanted to do whatever I could to help him. And felt like he knew I’d be invested in that organization because between Jed and Paraag, my relationship with them was really good with them when I was there previously. That’s why I was heavily interested in getting that job because I wanted to do something to help those guys. With them there, that was very positive for me.”