Bad news for tennis fans

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Bad news for tennis fans

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Rafael Nadal's Grand Slam count will stay stuck at 11 for now, sidetracked by another knee problem. The third-ranked Spaniard withdrew from the U.S. Open on Wednesday. Tendinitis has kept him out of action since his stunning loss at Wimbledon in late June. The injury already forced him out of the London Olympics, where he was supposed to defend his title and carry Spain's flag in the opening ceremony. "I am very sad to announce that I am not ready to play the US Open in NY. Thanks to my fans for their support and specially, the new yorkers," Nadal wrote on his Twitter account. Nadal is still only 26, but the withdrawals raise questions about the future of a player who has had recurring knee problems in the past. His 11 Grand Slam titles include a record seven on the red clay of the French Open, yet his hard-charging, hard-hitting style of play takes a toll on his body, particularly his knees. Roger Federer, in contrast, has played in every Grand Slam tournament since the start of 2000, a streak of 51 in a row. In 2009, Nadal missed Wimbledon because of aching knees shortly after falling in the round of 16 at the French Open -- the only time in eight appearances he hasn't won at Roland Garros. He was just the second men's champion in 35 years to decline to defend his title at the All England Club. But Nadal eventually came back stronger than ever from that layoff. After failing to reach the final at the 2009 U.S. Open and 2010 Australian Open, he won the French to start a run of three straight major titles, capped by completing the career Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows. Nadal's absence immediately leaves a trio of heavy favorites at the last Grand Slam event of the year: defending champion Novak Djokovic; five-time U.S. Open winner and currently top-ranked Federer; and 2008 U.S. Open runner-up Andy Murray, who won the gold medal in singles at the London Games by beating Federer in the final. Nadal lost in the U.S. Open final to Djokovic last year, part of a stretch of three straight defeats to the Serb in championship matches at major tournaments. But he seemed to be closing the gap, and at Roland Garros in June, he beat Djokovic in the final for his record seventh title there. Then came the stunning loss at Wimbledon, and Nadal hasn't played since. On June 28, 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol upset him in the second round at the All England Club. Shortly after that defeat, Nadal canceled a scheduled charity match against Djokovic in Spain, citing tendon problems in his left knee. The two-week U.S. Open starts Aug. 27. "Rafa has informed us that he will not be ready to compete at the U.S. Open this year and has withdrawn from the tournament," tournament director David Brewer said in a statement on Wednesday. "We hope to see him back on the court soon and look forward to his return to New York next year."

Juco transfer named Hokies' starting quarterback for opener

Juco transfer named Hokies' starting quarterback for opener

In his first game with the Virginia Tech Hokies, Jerod Evans will be leading the team as the starting quarterback, head coach Justin Fuente announced on Thursday. The quarterback competition started as a two-man race between Evans and fifth-year senior Brenden Motley before a late surge by true freshman Josh Jackson turned it into a three-way battle. In the end, however, the decision was no surprise.

Evans, a junior transfer, began his college career at Air Force in 2013. He transferred to Trinity Valley Community College where he developed into a dynamic talent. In 2015, Evans threw for 395.5 yards per game and 38 touchdowns in just eight games before a wrist injury ended his season.

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Rated as the No. 1 dual-threat JUCO quarterback in the country, Evans was recruited by Fuente while he was still at Memphis and chose to follow the head coach to Blacksburg.

New coaches are rarely afforded the opportunity of starting their own recruit in their first season at a new school. Given that and the high potential of Evans as a playmaker, it was ultimately no surprise to hear Fuente peg him as the starter.

The announcement came with one caveat, however. Evans was named the starter specifically for the opener against Liberty, but not beyond that. Granted, Evans would have to play pretty poorly to force Fuente into switching starters the week before the Battle at Bristol against Tennessee, but an opener against an FCS team should allow for Fuente to play multiple quarterbacks. If Motley outplays Evans, perhaps it could reignite the quarterback battle.

Even so, Thursday's announcement shows the starting job is now Evans to lose.

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Will Lewis win starting left guard spot over Urschel?

Will Lewis win starting left guard spot over Urschel?

OWINGS MILLS – Will the Ravens go into the regular season with two rookies protecting quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside?

“If we go into the regular season that way, it will be because I’m confident in those two guys over there,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

Those two guys are rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who already has the starting job locked down, and rookie left guard Alex Lewis. Lewis heads into Saturday night’s preseason game against the Lions making a push to be a Week 1 starter as well. Third-year left guard John Urschel hasn’t played since the preseason opener and he didn’t practice this week. Lewis has taken advantage of the extra reps.

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Ravens coach John Harbaugh has said that Urschel has a “contusion”, and was expected to be back soon. But the longer Urschel is out, the more time Lewis has to convince the coaches he should start.

That’s why Saturday night’s preseason game is huge for Lewis. He’s making a rapid adjustment from being a fourth-round pick out of Nebraska, to a possible starter in the NFL.

 “You’ve really got to focus on your technique, your fundamentals, because everyone at this level is good,” Lewis said. “You don’t have those one or two guys you game plan for. In the NFL, all 11 guys on the other side are those dogs you’re trying to get ready for.”

With Flacco starting at quarterback Saturday night, the pressure will be on Stanley and Lewis to play well as a tandem. The Ravens knew they would need a new starting left guard, after Kelechi Osemele signed with the Raiders during free agency. Urschel could still be that guy. But if Lewis plays well Saturday night, it could sway the coaching staff in his direction.

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Marc Rzepczynski excited to join Nationals in middle of pennant race

Marc Rzepczynski excited to join Nationals in middle of pennant race

The Nationals announced they had activated reliever Marc Rzepczynski to their roster at 5 p.m. on Thursday, yet at that time the lefty was 30,000 feet in the air. He was on a cross country flight, having left after a delay from San Francisco. 

He eventually landed at Dulles Airport in Sterling, Va. and made the drive to 1500 South Capitol St., where the Nats were in the middle of game against the Baltimore Orioles. Rzepczynski threw his jersey on and got right to work, even warming up in the eighth inning for a potential debut with his new team.

That debut did not happen, it will have to wait at least one more day, but Rzepczynski was thrilled to be with his new team, a first-place club, after coming over from the 55-72 Oakland Athletics.

"It's amazing. At the end of the day, with a team that's losing, your'e making plans for the offseason already. Then, all of a sudden, hopefully I have a chance to play in October," Rzepczynski said. "It was one of those where it reminded me a lot of '11 when I was with the Cardinals. Being traded at the deadline, then all of a sudden winning the World Series. So, hopefully I'll have the same thing happen here."

Rzepczynski actually found out he was traded on Wednesday. Like Mark Melancon, whom the Nats traded for in July before the deadline, Rzepczynski heard the news after awaking from a nap.

"I'm excited. Little bit in shock. I've been traded, now this is my fifth time. Three times at the deadline. This one got me a little bit. I was quite shocked yesterday. I was actually taking a nap when this happened. We had a day game, so I was just relaxing," he said. "I'm definitely happy to be here. To go from a team that's struggling a little bit to a team that's in first place. What else would you ask for at this time of the year?"

Rzepczynski joined the Nationals in a deal that sent infield prospect Max Schrock and cash to the Athletics. The Nats brought in some help for their bullpen, hoping Rzepczynski can deepen and balance out their relief staff.

Rzepczynski - who has a 3.00 ERA in 56 games this season - described in detail what type of pitcher the Nats just acquired.

"For me, it's just sinker inside or away to lefties. That's not a secret. Every lefty, now that I've been in the AL twice and the NL now three times too, they know what they're facing. I'm just going to go out there and compete and do my job. I was struggling earlier getting lefties out. I feel like I'm back now. I feel like I'm ready," he said.

Rzepczynski is likely to make his Nationals debut this weekend against the Colorado Rockies. He's arrived just in time, as the Rockies boast several dangerous left-handed batters including Carlos Gonzalez, D.J. LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon. More sinkers inside.

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