Novak Djokovic loses for the first time in 2012

656412.jpg

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.

Earthquakes GM defends firing coach: 'I think this team can achieve more'

Earthquakes GM defends firing coach: 'I think this team can achieve more'

SAN JOSE -- There was a lot of confusion coming out of San Jose on Sunday afternoon when the Earthquakes announced they had fired Dominic Kinnear midway through his third season with the club. 

On Monday, new general manager Jesse Fioranelli did his best to stabilize a shaky situation. 

“In the last two, three months, I matured a gut feeling as to where we stand as a club,” Fioranelli said about the catalyst for his decision. “When I realized that, heading into the next season, we would not renew with Dominic Kinnear, I said to myself that we wouldn’t want to hold onto this for the remainder of the season — especially also because I have a personal relationship that I very much appreciated in Dominic. And the respect that I have in this relationship would not have allowed me to want to go for another three months knowing that we would have parted ways at the end of the season.”

The timing of Kinnear’s departure was undoubtedly the most confusing part of Sunday’s announcement. The Quakes, who sit fifth in the Western Conference standings, had just beaten Real Salt Lake 2-1 on Saturday night. According to reports, Kinnear was summoned by Fioranelli on Sunday morning and shortly thereafter, he was informed that he would no longer be the head coach. Fioranelli said that it's a decision he had pondered for a couple of months and made the week before. So, despite the win and possible perception, the new GM knew he had to follow through with his decision with conviction.

“I think this team can achieve more,” Fioranelli said. “I think that we have still a story to tell as to the young players we have on the roster. I believe we have a story to tell as to how we want to present ourselves when we play away. I believe that we will want to mature a certainty as to our identity on the field.”

It’s a lack of identity that helped Fioranelli mature the idea of making the switch 17 matches into an MLS season that, if it ended today, would have San Jose in the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

According to Quakes midfielder Shea Salinas, the decision came as a shock to players. The midfielder added that Kinnear addressed the locker room Monday morning. 

Kinnear started his second stint as head coach of the Earthquakes in 2015 and led San Jose to a 27-31-27 record in that time. Including his first term as head coach with San Jose in 2004 and 2005, his all-time record with the Quakes is 54-45-48. Kinnear led San Jose to the Supporters' Shield in 2005 and helped the Quakes break in Avaya Stadium in 2015, improving the club's point total by 17 in his first year over the previous season.

Taking over for Kinnear is first-time head coach Chris Leitch, who after retiring from professional soccer in 2011, has worn many hats for the Quakes since joining the organization in 2012. Before being named the head coach, he was in charge of the Earthquakes’ youth academy system, was the club’s technical director and even its interim general manager after the firing of John Doyle. 

“Chris Leitch is not just the bridge. He is part of the foundation of this club,” Fioranelli said. “For that reason, we did not want someone to come from abroad and take over this team We wanted someone that cares, someone that knows the players, knows the team to take on this important next chapter. He’s absolutely equipped to take on this challenge.

“All I can tell you is, the moment that I confronted Chris (with the opportunity to be the new head coach) he did not hesitate a moment. And he had not been waiting for this either. I can just tell you, when you are working day-in and day-out on several different important areas, you’ll grow a certainty as to how you will see the game, how you would like to develop the game, how you would like to see the players confront situations on the field, how you’d want to communicate.”

The learning curve will come steep and quick for Leitch. The Quakes are not only battling for a spot in the playoffs, but they’re in a middle of stretch has has them playing three games in the next eight days — a U.S. Open Cup bout with reigning MLS champion Seattle, a Stanford Cali Clasico battle with longtime rival L.A. and then a cross country trip to Atlanta.

Not a chicken-and-egg discussion: Three reasons why Giants are so boring

Not a chicken-and-egg discussion: Three reasons why Giants are so boring

To best understand what has happened to the San Francisco Giants, one must first decide whether or not they have abandoned hope, or just energy.

I mean, that is the new kneejerk position based on losing 18 of 22 games this month by an average margin of more than a run and a half per game, losing to the Phillies, Royals, Braves and Mets, falling five games behind the San Diego Padres and eight games behind the non-noisy neighbors in Oakland, and since the All-Star Break last year, they are 57-93, the equivalent of the third-worst record in franchise history.

Really, to see a happy thing in this team other than Buster Posey is an act of rankest delusion. What hope would you expend on this team?

But there’s a new element involved now, if you take Ken Rosenthal’s report for FoxSports.com on the team’s internal crises at face value.

Apparently the Giants are boring their own management.

According to Rosenthal, the almost stultifying quiet of the clubhouse has become a concern to general manager Bobby Evans and perhaps even to those to whom he reports.

In citing the contributions of such ‘edgy” personalities as Pat Burrell, Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff in 2010, Hunter Pence in ’12 and Pence, Michael Morse and Pablo Sandoval (huh?) in ’14, Rosenthal suggested that the team is too staid – something that winning 38 percent of your games for an entire calendar year will do to you.

“I don’t think I can be definitive in my answers,” Evans was quoted by Rosenthal as saying, “but it’s not lost on us that we’re maybe a little quieter clubhouse than we’ve been in the past. I can’t answer that as being a factor or not.” He then followed up with the always circuitous they’d-be-louder-if-we-weren’t-such-a-tedious-watch argument, which seems self-evident but can’t really be proven one way or another.

But Rosenthal also credited “some with the Giants” as suggesting that the team even misses Angel Pagan, who allegedly help unite the clubhouse because so few of them liked him.

And now we’ve hit the motherlode of bizarre excuses. Angel Pagan is hurting the Giants far more by leaving them than by being with them. And this is, if you’ll pardon the expression, richly stupid.

Not Rosenthal, whom we can presume did his usual diligent work and correctly quoted “some with.” No, our problem is with the thinking that inspired “some with,” because you have to go a long way to make that explanation stick.

The Giants are playing terribly because, well, they are. Their pitching, which has to be in the top sixth of the league for this plan to work, is below average in many of the important metrics. Their offense is horrendous. Their outfield is a disaster. They are 27-51 purely on the merits.

That they are also boring is coincidence rather than causation, because nobody said they were boring after the All-Star Break last year, and nobody accused them of being boring in Game 4 of the National League Division Series with Chicago.

Boring is what you seize on when every other excuse, including the Mark Melancon-doesn’t-stretch-when-he’s-supposed-to straw man Rosenthal also threw up for chewing.

The truth is this, as much as anything. They are bad. They didn’t think they would be bad. They thought the second half of last year was an aberration rather than a harbinger, and they thought they could have gone to the World Series but for one hideous inning. And they are apparently shocked by this for some reason.

So, are they moping, or are they quitting? Do they need a clubhouse visit from Brian Sabean at his most pissed? What’s the thing that makes them fun guys again – other than, say, a five-way trade that gets them Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger and Nolan Arenado?

Because there’s your problem. Yes, they certainly are boring – downright stultifying, in fact. But this is not a chicken-and-egg discussion. They’re boring because they’ve been brutal, because they were slow to address their needs after misdiagnosing their problems, and because all their calculations from years gone by have gone badly wrong.

But if you really think boring is the issue, let’s have Bruce Bochy dress in a clown suit and Pence play outfield in just a sliding pants and a derby, and have one inning per game designated as the Wild Dingo Surprise Inning, in which wild dingoes are loosed upon the field to terrorize the players and/or fans.

See how many wins you get then.