Sampras drops SAP Open exhibition to Monfils

Sampras drops SAP Open exhibition to Monfils

Feb. 7, 2011
TENNIS PAGE

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) After one long point, Pete Sampras sat in a chair to catch his breath, while Gael Monfils dropped to the ground to do a push-up, followed by a sprint and then a sit-up.That was just one piece of evidence of the 15-year age difference between the two competitors in the exhibition match that highlighted the opening night of the SAP Open on Monday.Monfils was faster on the court, showing the ability to track down drop shots and other volleys Sampras thought would be winners. Monfils had more power on his serve as evidenced by three straight 130-plus mph aces at one point. And Monfils got the better of the 14-time Grand Slam winner, beating Sampras 7-6 (4), 6-4."I felt I played a little better than I did last year and held my own," Sampras said. "Physically, that's the most I've served and volleyed in the last seven years. Not easy. Gael is a great mover, returns well and made me work really hard on my service game. All in all, I'm very happy with the way I played. I had a few chances in the first set that I let slip away. He's the real deal."This exhibition marked Monfils debut at the San Jose tournament. He can only hope that opening his first trip here with a victory over Sampras will work out as well as it did last year for Fernando Verdasco, who followed up his exhibition victory over Sampras with a tournament win.In first-round matches played Monday, James Blake beat qualifier Jesse Levine 7-5, 6-1, in his first match since October. In other matches, Michael Russell beat Alex Kuznetsov 6-4, 6-2, Tim Smyczek defeated Robert Farah 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, Denis Istomin beat Roman Borvanov 6-3, 7-5, and Donald Young knocked off Dustin Brown 7-6 (2), 6-4.Monfils thoroughly enjoyed the lighthearted affair, playing to the crowd of 4,911 whenever he got the chance. At one point, Monfils grabbed a camera from a photographer and snapped a shot of Sampras. Then between games, Monfils fetched his cell phone from his bag and had a ball boy take a photo of him with Sampras.Monfils later filmed Sampras' postmatch interview with his phone, recording praise like this: "I've played a lot of good movers in my day. He's one of the best I've ever played."Monfils, who was just 4 years old when Sampras won his first major title at the U.S. Open in 1990,"To play against you, Pete, is a dream," he said after the match.Sampras played an exhibition here for the fourth straight year. Afterward, he said he'd like to play someone closer to his own age next year, like John McEnroe or Andre Agassi.Sampras will square off with his old rival Agassi later this month in an exhibition at Madison Square Garden and he took the opportunity to hype up that match."I always beat him in New York," he said. "I will say that."Sampras is also finally starting to embrace the technology that has taken over the sport in recent years, switching from the old Wilson racket he used during his career to the more powerful Babolat that is so popular with today's players."I need a little bit more pop," he said. "I need it if I'm going to play some tennis."Blake had not played since losing to Lukasz Kubot in the first round in Vienna last October because of shoulder and knee injuries. Blake, a 10-time winner on tour who was once ranked as high as fourth in the world, has fallen to 170th in the latest rankings.Blake has previously overcame a broken neck and a case of shingles in 2004 to make it into the top 5 of the rankings two years later. Now he's looking for another comeback at age 31.He got off to a shaky start against a player ranked 293rd in the world, failing to take advantage of early break point opportunities and falling behind 5-4 in the first set after losing serve on the only break point he faced in the match.Blake responded by breaking Levine right back to extend the set, starting a stretch where he won nine of the final 10 games in the match. He won the first set when Levine hit a forehand into the net, then dominated the second set. Blake lost just 11 points in the seven games, winning 80 percent of the points on his own serve."It's going to take a little while because I hadn't played a match in four months," Blake said. "It will take a couple of matches. This was a good step to get through this one. I was happy that once I got broken I didn't hang my head or start panicking or freaking out or anything. I got back on my horse and broke him back."I thought it might take a little while to get back to playing my best in the big time," he said. "Hopefully this is a good step and it will keep getting better."Blake will next play the winner of Tuesday's first-round match between fourth-seeded Xavier Malisse and Milos Raonic.

Stanford tops North Carolina on PKs, advances to NCAA final

stanford-mens-soccer.jpg
USATSI

Stanford tops North Carolina on PKs, advances to NCAA final

HOUSTON — For the second straight season, Stanford found itself depending on penalty kicks to advance to the College Cup final.

Like last season, the Cardinal came out on top. After each team converted its first nine attempts in the tiebreaker, Amir Bashti made it 10-for-10 for Stanford. Tar Heels defender Alex Comsia then sent his try over the crossbar to end it, giving Stanford a 10-9 win.

"They had just as many good chances as us, and it could have been a 1-0 game either way," Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn said.

Stanford (14-3-5) will face Wake Forest in the College Cup final on Sunday in search of its second straight national championship.

"It's not his fault. We could have done things in the game to have his back," North Carolina defender Colton Storm said of Comsia's miss. "It could have been any of us."

"It's the nature of the game," North Carolina coach Carlos Somoano said. "Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. Sometimes there's moments you seize the moments, and sometimes it runs away from you."

North Carolina (14-3-4) had the two best chances of the game. Late in the second half, forward Alan Winn was denied by goalkeeper Andrew Epstein, who made a nice save with his legs.

Later, Epstein made the best save of the match in the final seconds of the second overtime on a shot from forward Tucker Hume. After gaining possession in the right side of the 18-yard box, Hume unleashed a shot that Epstein deflected wide with his legs.

"He made the plays to keep the game at 0, and he deserves credit," Somoano said.

After a flurry of corner kicks and a free kick in an attacking area, Stanford had the best opportunity to score in the first overtime on a header from Drew Skundrich, but he put if over goalkeeper James Pyle, who had six saves. Foster Langsdorf, the Stanford goal leader who scored in the team's first three tournament games and has 15 on the season, had three shots and two on goal but was unable to break the deadlock before the game went to penalty kicks.

"Any result like that is going to be tough to swallow," Storm said. "Stanford's a really good team. We each had our chances. National semifinal, it's going to be tough to swallow no matter what."

While Epstein was unable to stop any of North Carolina's penalties in the shootout, his saves late in the game enabled Stanford to continue its quest for a repeat.

"Andy's never really attracted much attention, but when you're his coach you appreciate him," Gunn said. "You can depend on him."

Stanford has won 15 of its last 18 games after starting the season with three ties and a loss. The Cardinal have yet to concede a goal through four tournament games, while North Carolina's season ends after a third consecutive tournament shutout.

After winning the first national championship in program history last season, Gunn praised his team for continuing to push forward this season.

"It's incredible," Gunn said. "You've always got to be optimistic. There's no point in being anything else. We started the year so well in January. I thought, 'These players are so hungry.'"

Rewind: Sharks fall behind early again, lose 3-2 to Ducks

Rewind: Sharks fall behind early again, lose 3-2 to Ducks

ANAHEIM – Spotting a team the first two goals is a difficult recipe for winning hockey games. That’s even truer when you’re the Sharks, and you’re having tremendous difficulty scoring more than two goals on any given night in the first place.

While the Sharks hung with Anaheim in a closely contested game at Honda Center on Friday night, the Ducks got that extra necessary score. Brent Burns and Kevin Labanc answered first period goals by Rickard Rakell and Antoine Vermette, but Hampus Lindholm’s marker with 5:38 to go in the third period was the difference.

For the fifth time in their last six, and ninth in their last 12, San Jose's scuffling offense couldn’t eclipse the two-goal plateau in a 3-2 defeat.

Coach Pete DeBoer said giving up the first two scores, like they also did on Wednesday in a similar loss against Ottawa, “is not optimal, obviously. But we battled back, and I thought the game could have gone either way. 

“I give our guys credit for battling back. … We didn't hang our head, we battled, and we're just finding a way to lose right now instead of win, which, we've been winning games like that."

For the second straight game, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski had numerous prime chances but couldn’t find a way to get one. An early third period opportunity stood out among the rest, though, when Pavelski was staring at a wide open net in a 2-2 game from close range.

Typically that’s an automatic score for Pavelski, who led the league in game-winners last season. But this time, it went five feet wide.

“Kind of rolls up, catches the blade, and it’s not even close,” Pavelski said. “Those are the moments you’ve got to cash in on. I haven’t done that.”

The Sharks’ best stretch came early in the second period, when they outskated the Ducks and peppered Jonathan Bernier while trailing, 2-1. The Ducks goalie turned them all away until Labanc squeezed one through at 8:40 after the rookie was nicely set up by linemate Logan Couture.

“He didn’t give me much room. You just want to get that off as quick as you can,” Labanc said. “Just took a quick shot, and it went in the net.”

In a game of momentum swings, though, the Ducks outplayed San Jose in the third. They took the lead when Joel Ward gave Lindholm a little too much room to pick his spot on a wrist shot from the top of the circle.

After looking like they were in good shape after two periods, Labanc thought the Sharks were “a little too confident” headed into the third.

“We stopped skating, stopped dumping the puck in, and working hard in the corners,” he said.

Pavelski bemoaned the fact that for the second straight game, a regulation loss in the final minutes, that the Sharks didn't even manage to get the point in the standings for forcing overtime despite fighting back.

"The last few games you have a chance to at least push it to the end," he said. "We're not giving up a whole lot."

The Sharks nearly did tie the game with Martin Jones pulled for an extra attacker, though. After Burns made a pair of remarkable shot blocks on Andrew Cogliano bidding for an empty netter, DeMelo and Ward each had whacks at the puck, but somehow it remained out. 
 
“A bunch of chaos, really,” is how DeMelo described it. “It was really tight. I think we were just inches away from getting the equalizer.”

Again, though, they just couldn’t find a way to get that third score.

“We were close,” DeBoer said, “but not close enough."