Monfils withdraws from SAP Open with wrist injury

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Monfils withdraws from SAP Open with wrist injury

Feb. 12, 2011
TENNIS PAGE

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) While Juan Martin del Potro took another step in his comeback from wrist surgery, Gael Monfils pulled out of the SAP Open with his own wrist injury.Monfils announced his withdrawal on Friday, just hours after beating Tim Smyczek 6-4, 7-6 (6) to advance to the semifinals. Del Potro also reached the semifinals for the first time since his wrist surgery last May, beating Lleyton Hewitt 6-2, 6-3.Monfils originally hurt the wrist in the first round of the Australian Open last month against Thiemo de Bakker. He played two more matches in Melbourne and then came to San Jose, where he won his first three matches and beat Pete Sampras in an exhibition.But the wrist was still painful and limited him almost to slice shots on his backhand all week. He had an MRI on Monday, then was examined by tournament and French federation doctors Friday before making his decision."I can't hit a backhand," he said. "I tried but my backhand was very soft. I have a better backhand than I showed here, more powerful. The worst is it hurts. It hurts."Monfils will be sidelined for four to six weeks, pulling out of tournaments in Memphis, Acapulco and the Davis Cup.The withdrawal sends Milos Raonic into his first career final after knocking off Richard Berankis 6-4, 7-6 (2). Raonic will play Ivo Karlovic in an exhibition on Saturday in place of his scheduled semifinal match.Del Potro will play defending champion and top-seeded Fernando Verdasco, who beat fifth-seeded Denis Istomin 6-4, 6-4.Del Potro is trying to regain the form that helped him beat Roger Federer in an epic five-setter in the 2009 U.S. Open final and eventually move up to No. 4 in the rankings. He was sidelined by a right wrist injury last year, playing just three tournaments and failing to win a match after the Australian Open in January."I'm feeling good this week," del Potro said. "But I'm still far off my level. I can play better. I'm getting better slowly, but I'm getting better and that's important. I know the way to find the solution to play good tennis."He is showing signs of his old form this week in San Jose, especially in the way he dismantled Hewitt, the former No. 1 player who won the U.S. Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002. But Hewitt hasn't been a top-10 player in more than five years and has slipped to 70th in the rankings after losing in the first round of the Australian Open.Hewitt had no answer for del Potro's powerful first serve that consistently topped 130 mph in the first matchup here between former slam winners since Andre Agassi beat Michael Chang in the first round in 2003.With del Potro getting 69 percent of his first serves in and winning 81 percent of those points, Hewitt was unable to find a rhythm all match. Del Potro lost just 12 points in eight service games, using a pair of aces to rally from a 0-40 hole in the final game of the first set."He's a quality player," Hewitt said. "I don't think anyone doubted him. It was just a matter of how long it would take. His first couple tournaments last year he obviously was struggling a little bit when he came back. He realized what he had to do."Hewitt lost his serve twice in each set, falling in early holes that he was unable to escape. He had a key double fault in the final game of the match, losing it when he sent a forehand wide.That gave del Potro his 15th straight win on U.S. soil, including the titles at the U.S. Open and in Washington in the summer of 2009.To extend that streak he will need to beat Verdasco, who improved to 8-0 at this tournament. Verdasco earned the key break in the ninth game of second set when Istomin's drop volley clipped the top of the net."I'm very confident in this tournament," Verdasco said. "I did win last year and that's in your mind in important moments."Raonic had six aces in each set and saved the only break point he faced all match. He earned the only break of the match in the third game of the opening set and came up with two aces in the tiebreaker to advance.Raonic made it through qualifying to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open before falling in four sets to David Ferrer. Raonic has been the biggest mover on the tour rankings this season, going from 152nd at the end of last year to 84th entering this tournament. He is expected to be around 75th after the San Jose stop.

Cain makes case for Giants' rotation spot in final Cactus League start

Cain makes case for Giants' rotation spot in final Cactus League start

MESA, Ariz. — The Giants still have not publicly disclosed their full rotation, but Matt Cain sure sounded Tuesday like a guy who plans to start against the San Diego Padres on April 7.

“I’ll be ready for the fifth day,” Cain said. “I’ll be ready until they’ve told me otherwise.”

Tuesday’s outing seemed to indicate that if Cain hasn’t been told he’s the fifth starter, it will happen soon. He threw 99 pitches against the Cubs, which is not exactly the workload of a man preparing to be a long reliever or take on some other role. 

Cain’s day was blurred by an ugly finish, but for five innings, he was having by far his best outing of the spring. Cain recorded five strikeouts and got four popups through four. The balls were hit further in the fifth, but three flyouts got him through five on 84 pitches. Jason Heyward greeted Cain in the sixth with a double. After Gorkys Hernandez chased down a deep liner by Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez ended Cain's day with a single up the middle. 

The lineup Cain faced was a proper test given the stakes. The Cubs started Ben Zobrist, Heyward, Rizzo, Baez and Miguel Montero, and Cain handled them well until the sixth-inning rally. His lone blemish early on was a pitch that Chesny Young blasted for a two-run homer. 

“Today was an improvement,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He did a good job out there and went through a tough lineup. He used his changeup very well today.”

Cain finished his spring with a 7.82 ERA, and in recent days, team officials have been less hesitant to plug Cain into that No. 5 spot. Ty Blach made his case by allowing two runs over six innings in his last start, but Blach also would be an easier fit in the bullpen, which will be without Will Smith for the entire season. Josh Osich’s struggles in relief of Cain on Tuesday could intensify the need for left-handed relief help. 

Bochy said last week that the Giants could use their fifth starter in a different way early on. They have a day off Monday, and Cain said he could be available out of the bullpen during the season’s first series if needed. No matter what the numbers say, Cain feels like he’s in a good place.

“I know I’m ready to throw the ball the way I need to,” he said. “I feel good and my mechanics feel good. I’m ready to go.”

Bochy expects to announce a decision on Thursday. If the staff was still waffling, Cain left the right final impression. 

“We’ll get together to discuss what to do here with the whole staff,” Bchy said. “But it’s good to see Matt get better as the spring went on.”

 

Relocation approval 'offers more clarity' when Raiders recruit future free agents

Relocation approval 'offers more clarity' when Raiders recruit future free agents

PHOENIX -- The Raiders are entering a limbo period, with just a few seasons in Oakland before relocating to Las Vegas. NFL owners formally approved a move on Monday, though the Raiders don’t want to leave the East Bay until a new stadium is ready in 2020.

While there are contingencies to leave the market early based upon how fans react to the Raiders remaining in Oakland after committing to Las Vegas, that isn’t what the Raiders want. After years of stadium uncertainty, they leave the NFL owners meetings with clarity regarding their long-term future.

General manager Reggie McKenzie believes that should help free agents considering silver and black. The uncertainty prompted questions in recent years that McKenzie can answer when recruiting veteran talent now that relocation has been approved.

“By Mark saying that the plan is for us to be in Oakland for two more years (at least), but we will be in Vegas, I think it offers more clarity,” McKenzie said. “It lets the players know. It’s better than two months ago, when everyone had questions. When you were talking to a free agent, they know we want to move but weren’t sure if it was going to pass. They didn’t know. Now they know a decision has been made by the league to let us move.”

That will help McKenzie more in the future than present. Roster turnover is high these days, meaning most currently employed by the Raiders won’t play for the home team in Las Vegas. Only David Amerson, Kelechi Osemele and Marquette King are would be under contract when the team wants to move.

The Raiders are working on extensions for Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson and Khalil Mack, with others possibly locked up down the line.

In addition to playing with Carr and Mack and for head coach Jack Del Rio, there’s another attraction to signing with the Raiders. There’s no state income tax in Nevada, meaning a contract there is worth more than the same deal in California. The Golden State generally takes 13.3 percent of significant income earned there.

There will be other issues about playing in Las Vegas, where gambling is legal, a drink can be had 24 hours per day and vices abound in a place called Sin City.

The Raiders will construct a support system to keep players focused, and are ready to handle any questions players and their families may have about an upcoming move.

“Now there are questions from the drafted guys about when they become free agents, because they might be in Vegas. That’s going to be different. There are questions that way, but it’s not going to alter the way we go after players. Some of the guys, parents and agents may have questions, but I don’t think it’s anything out of whack.”