Top seeds Verdasco, Monfils advance at SAP Open


Top seeds Verdasco, Monfils advance at SAP Open


SAN JOSE (AP) -- Top-seeded Fernando Verdasco of Spain needed only an hour to advance at the SAP Open on Wednesday night, beating American Rajeev Ram 6-3, 6-2 in a first-round match.

The defending champion in the event, Verdasco recorded eight aces and won 88 percent of his first service points.

Verdasco meets Croatia's Ivo Karlovic in the second round. Karlovic topped American Ryan Sweeting 6-4, 6-4.

NEWS: Nadal to resume training after leg injury

In the night's other headline match, No. 2 seed Gael Monfils easily dispatched Bradley Klahn 6-3, 6-2.

In second-round matches, Lithuanian Richard Berankis beat American Donald Young 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 and Canada's Milos Roanic beat American James Blake 6-2, 7-6 (4).

The 74th-ranked Berankis, who beat the eighth-seeded Benjamin Becker in the first round, meets Roanic in the quarterfinals.

In another first-round match, American Robert Kendrick downed Russian Igor Kunitsyn 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 and will meet the winner of the late match between No. 2 seed Gael Monfils and Bradley Klahn.

Graveman takes to leadership role while Gray is sidelined


Graveman takes to leadership role while Gray is sidelined

MESA, Ariz. — Kendall Graveman feels comfortable with the leadership role that comes with being the A’s Opening Night starter, but he pointed out how all the starters will carry the load together.

“I told BoMel this morning when he told me, I said ‘I’m the No. 1 starter for Opening Night, but then whoever is the second guy is the No. 1 starter for us the next night,’ and that’s the way we have to go about it to be successful,” Graveman said Thursday afternoon.

That’s a message that Graveman says he’s already trying to spread to Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton, the starters who will follow him in the rotation. Oakland’s final two rotation spots are up for grabs.

With Sonny Gray sidelined by injury for what’s expected to be most of April, Graveman — with all of 52 major league starts under his belt — becomes the veteran leader of the A’s staff in the interim. Manager Bob Melvin gave Graveman the official word Thursday morning that he would take the ball April 3 against the Angels at the Coliseum. But shortly after Gray went down with a strained lat muscle March 7, Melvin approached Graveman about being his likely Opening Night guy.

It’s a natural fit. Graveman went 10-11 with a 4.11 ERA last season, and while those aren’t eye-catching numbers, they don’t tell the story of how valuable he was as the A’s lost starter after starter to injury.

Graveman has improved his mental preparation and his physical conditioning since coming over from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson trade. He’s become a meticulous studier to get ready for his starts. He’s picked the brain of veterans such as Gray and Barry Zito, who he played alongside with Triple-A Nashville for part of 2015.

And, not to be overlooked, his stuff and pitch arsenal have improved since he first arrived to the A’s. Though he’s a sinkerballer who relies more on location than velocity, the A’s clocked Graveman as high as 98 miles per hour on the radar gun in his last start.

“He’s kind of on a mission to be one of those guys that pitches at top of the rotation for many years to come,” Melvin said.

Kevin Durant makes strides at Warriors practice: 'It's a good sign'

Kevin Durant makes strides at Warriors practice: 'It's a good sign'

Kevin Durant has been making steady progress in his rehab.

And on Thursday, he took another step forward.

"Did a little bit more today. Went through some 5-on-0 stuff, some lateral movement," Steve Kerr told reporters after practice. "Seems like he makes a knew stride each day. It's a good sign, but the four-week mark is a week from now so that's really when we'll have our first real update."

Durant sprained the MCL in his left knee and sustained a tibial bone bruise on Feb. 28 in Washington.

The following day, the Warriors announced that he would be reevaluated in four weeks.

Kerr also said that Durant will travel on Golden State's road trip to Houston and San Antonio next week.

More to come...