Verdasco advances to face Raonic in SAP Open final

Verdasco advances to face Raonic in SAP Open final

Feb. 12, 2011TENNIS PAGE

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Fernando Verdasco made it to the SAP Open final for the second straight year, surviving a tough second set to beat Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals Saturday night.Verdasco will play Sunday against unseeded Milos Raonic, who advanced to his first ATP Tour final in a walkover after second-seeded Gael Monfils pulled out of the tournament with an injured left wrist. NEWS: Monfils withdraws from SAP Open with wrist injury
Verdasco improved to 9-0 at this tournament and is looking to follow up the title he won in three sets over Andy Roddick in last year's final.Verdasco was tested more than he has been all week by del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open winner who is working his way back into form after missing almost all of last year with a right wrist injury.Verdasco had his run of 37 straight service holds snapped early in the second set but responded to the early deficit by breaking del Potro's serve in two of his final three service games.He got right back into the set with a nifty forehand passing shot winner on the first point on del Potro's next service game and then earned a set point with another forehand winner. His deep return forced del Potro to hit a forehand wide and he was back on serve at 2-3.Verdasco then survived a three deuce game on his own serve to get to 4-all and came through on his fourth break point attempt in the next game to take control. He hit unforced errors on the three break chances, barely missing a forehand winner down the line. He won it with a forehand winner and then held his final service game at love, closing the match with his fifth ace.Verdasco broke del Potro's serve in the opening game of the match and was never threatened in the opening set, losing just three points in his five service games. Del Potro lost his serve three times in this match after losing it just once in his first three matches this week.Del Potro has fallen from fourth in the rankings after winning the 2009 U.S. Open to 484th heading into this week as he played only three tournaments last year because of the injury and did not win a match after January. He was looking to become the second lowest-ranked player to win an ATP Tour title since the rankings began in 1973. Lleyton Hewitt was ranked 550th when he won in Adelaide in 1998.Verdasco and Raonic have never played but will become quite familiar with each other in the next few days because of a scheduling quirk. After playing Sunday in San Jose, the two will meet again on Wednesday in the first round in Memphis.Raonic has had a strong start to the season, going through qualifying and winning three matches in the Australian Open and making it to his first ATP World Tour final. He has shot up the rankings from 156th at the end of last year to 84th heading into this week. He is expected to be 66th is he loses on Sunday and 59th if his wins the title."It's nice getting that kind of attention," he said. "But more importantly it's nice doing well at the top level of tennis because that's what my goals are."The 20-year-old is looking to become the first Canadian to win a title on ATP World Tour since Greg Rusedski won in Seoul in April 1995. He has never played Verdasco.He leads the tournament with 45 aces in just three matches, winning a staggering 87.4 percent of first-serve points. He tuned up for the final by playing Ivo Karlovic in an exhibition, losing a pair of tiebreakers to the big-serving Croat."It's nice to be in the final but it doesn't matter," Raonic said. "Tomorrow is a different match. I can enjoy that more after the tournament than during. I have to prepare for tomorrow and do what I need to do to have my best chance to win tomorrow."

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's loss despite five home runs

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's loss despite five home runs

BOX SCORE

Hit five home runs, and a team has to like its chances of winning.

The A’s simply couldn’t keep up with the Houston Astros’ bats, however, in an 11-8 loss Wednesday night that snapped Oakland’s four-game winning streak. Khris Davis went deep twice, and Ryon Healy, Jed Lowrie and Matt Olson all went deep as the A’s set their season high for home runs.

But Houston racked up 17 hits against Jesse Hahn (3-6) and four relievers and evened this three-game series at a game apiece. It was the second time Hahn has gotten knocked around by Houston inside of a week.

The A’s took an early lead, 5-4, in the third on the second of Davis’ two homers, part of a four-run rally for Oakland. But the Astros answered right back with five runs in the bottom half, and the A’s never recovered from that momentum swing.

Hahn’s struggles continue: Hahn was trying to rebound after the Astros hung nine earned runs on him last Thursday at the Coliseum. Things didn’t improve Wednesday at Minute Maid Park, as the right-hander lasted just two-plus innings and allowed six runs on nine hits. Is this a case of one team simply having Hahn’s number or do the A’s make a move and try someone else in the rotation? It bears watching.

Krush Davis x 2: It was apparent early this would be a slugfest, with Khris Davis homering twice within the first three innings as the A’s tried to keep pace. He led off the second with a shot to left field, then came back with a three-run blast to left in the third that put Oakland up 5-4. The homers were his team-leading 20th and 21st.

Reddick-ulous night: Josh Reddick filled up the stat sheet against his old team in every way imaginable. He went 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs, and twice caught the A’s by surprise by stealing third base. For good measure, he turned in an excellent running catch in right field to rob Yonder Alonso.

Strange offensive night: What to make of this night offensively for the A’s? They hit a season-high five homers but also struck out a whopping 17 times. No matter … you can’t hang this one on the offense, because …

The pitching staff just couldn’t hold things down: Josh Smith was called upon to hold down the fort after Hahn departed in the third, but Smith was tagged for three runs on four hits. Daniel Coulombe and John Axford also got touched for runs. Rookie Michael Brady did turn in 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

Cubs outfielder vows he didn't give Trump the middle finger at White House

Cubs outfielder vows he didn't give Trump the middle finger at White House

WASHINGTON – Albert Almora Jr. didn’t use Wednesday’s Oval Office photo op as a subtle form of political protest, but it did sort of look like the Cubs outfielder gave President Donald Trump the middle finger, at least from that angle in an image that went viral on Twitter.    

“There was two fingers! Look closely, there was two fingers!” a veteran player yelled across the room as reporters gathered around Almora’s locker inside the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park. 

“Guys were giving me a hard time about it,” Almora said, “but I pointed out the second finger. We’re all good.”

In another White House visit that didn’t look nearly as unofficial or informal as the Cubs said it would be, one snapshot became Almora with part of his left hand in his pocket. Almora stood near Kris Bryant – who held a 45 Wrigley Field scoreboard panel – and Trump at his desk with the World Series trophy.

“Obviously, it’s unfortunate,” Almora said with a laugh. “I’m getting ready to take a picture and I’m posing there. But you guys know that I would never do that to the president of the United States. 

“I respect everybody. It is what it is. We laugh about it now, but there’s definitely two fingers out there.”

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