Neighbors Fish, Haas ready for Citi Open clash

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Neighbors Fish, Haas ready for Citi Open clash

Increasingly on the mens professional tennis tour, age is truly just a number. Mardy Fish and Tommy Haas are winning proof. The 30-somethings rolled up convincing quarterfinal victories, setting up a head-to-head semifinal meeting between friends and hitting partners back in Southern California. Fellow graybeard James Blakes hopes of another inspired run in Washington, dashed by a dashing shot maker while the makings of an All-American womens vanished in the night.The top-seeded Fish stayed afloat with an efficient 6-3, 6-4 win over Xavier Malisse while No. 4 Haas continued his run of straight set wins in DC, downing fellow German Tobias Kamke 6-1, 6-2.The other semifinal pits a pair of whippersnappers including power-serving American Sam Querrey. The No. 8 seed continued his recent torrid play with a straight-sets win. Second-seeded Alexander Dolgopolov ended Blakes run, 7-6 (3), 6-4.On the womens side, No. 3 seed and rising star Sloane Stephens suffered through a losing battle with her composure - and upset-minded Magdalena Rybarikova, who will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Saturdays final. The top seeded Russian overcame the afternoon heat and a one-set deficit against No. 4 Vania King.Serving served as the centerpiece of Fishs triumph, as the 30-year smacked 10 aces while fending off any change of momentum with timely winners. After breaking Malisse once in each set, Fishs attention quickly turned toward facing one of his practice partners. Certainly not the next tour stop to the North. There is somewhere else he would rather be.Were good friends. We actually live really close to each in Los Angeles and hang out a lot there, practice together a lot there, said Fish, who has lost three of four career matches to Haas with the last meeting coming in 2007. Itll be fun. Itll be one of those matches that is the reason why were out here. Winner goes to the final and the loser goes to Toronto.Haas, the last player to make Roger Federer a loser this year, never faced a break point on his serve against Kamke. Fish, rounding back into game shape after an extended absence for health matters, knows his increasingly confident pal is playing well. Seeing as this particular chum once stood No. 2 in the world and possesses a wicked backhand, dont expect any kid glove treatment when Fish sees Haas lined up across the net.Sometimes its hard to play close friends, said Fish who enters his first career Washington semifinal and is now two wins from his first tour title this year. You know, you root for them to win, but you have to put it into perspective, and say that this is the guy that is trying to take my lunch away tomorrow, and Im going to try and beat him any way I can. The 34-year-old Haas run to the semifinals followed a finals appearance in his previous tournament before Washington and a title win in Halle against Federer, the most prominent tour member of the three-decades old club that also includes Malisse, Anderson and Blake.I think it speaks to the physicality of the game nowadays, said Fish when asked of the ongoing trend of players not simply sticking around longer compared to historical norms, but also turning in winning results. It takes guys longer to develop. Its a much more physical, much more mental. And there are a lot of 30 and older guys that are playing well.This week there are also two younger guys playing well, including the 24-year-old Querrey. Coming off a championship last week in Los Angeles, Querrey has won 44 of 48 first serve points over his last two matches.Then there is the laid-back, ponytail wearing and drop shot making Dolgopolov, who beat Querrey in their only previous meeting. He also erased an early 3-0 deficit against Blake with an array of crafty winners. I knew if I concentrated and just work it, it will get better, the Ukrainian said about falling quickly behind. My game is pretty risky, so you can miss a lot of shots, but you can also make some shots, just a lot of winners. I was just trying to get myself into rhythm.Rybarikova, ranked 102 and the only unseeded player in the semifinals, dictated play against Stephens, the second seed she defeated this week. Already a two-time winner on tour, the Slovak goes for the upset hat trick against Pavlyuchenkova, who received medical attention throughout her match against King yet still powered her way into the finals for the first time this year.NotesThe mens semifinals between Fish-Haas starts no earlier than 3:00 p.m. followed by Querrey-Dolgopolov and the womens championship.

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Markieff Morris' injury puts Wizards in bind early in playoff series vs. Celtics

Markieff Morris' injury puts Wizards in bind early in playoff series vs. Celtics

BOSTON – Just as Markieff Morris appeared to right himself after a bad stretch of basketball because of foul trouble in the first round, his availability for Game 2 vs. the Boston Celtics is in question after he came down on Al Horford’s foot and injured his troublesome left foot Sunday.

Morris, who first injured the foot and ankle in a game Nov. 19, has had problems with it on and off this season.

“I honestly thought it was broke,” he said after playing just 11 minutes in a 123-11l loss. “They got the swelling to go down a whole lot. It almost was the size of a softball.”

Morris didn’t return after halftime. He was held out a couple of games by the medical staff to help him recover in season.

“That’s my injury,” he said. “This was by far the worst one.”

[RELATED: Morris suffers gnarly-looking turned ankle in Game 1]

Morris only shot 2-for-7 from the field and had five points, but like the first-round series with the Atlanta Hawks no matter what his numbers show the Wizards are a better team with him on the floor.

Because Boston plays small a lot and Horford is an undersized center, Morris can match him away from the rim or under it. He called for the ball and cleared out so he could go vs. Horford and drained the jumper.

When Morris came down, however, he crashed hard. He remained sprawled across the floor for several minutes before walking it off and taking and making the foul shot for 45-42 lead.

The Wizards got out to a 16-0 start and could’ve had an easy victory to steal home-court advantage but now they’re faced with possibly trying to get the split with Morris not at full-speed.

“It was definitely tough especially when I felt like I could’ve been out there,” Morris said of watching the rest of the game from the locker room during treatment. “We live to fight another day. … It was only one game. We plan on it going seven.”

[RELATED: PHOTO: Celtics' Thomas lost front tooth in 1st quarter vs. Wizards]

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Barry Trotz puts option of dressing seven defensemen on the table

Barry Trotz puts option of dressing seven defensemen on the table

Karl Alzner has been out of the lineup since Game 2 of the Capitals’ first-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Just who he will replace in the lineup when he is ready to return, however, has become a topic of debate as Nate Schmidt has played well in his place and the Caps need his speed against a quick Pittsburgh Penguins team.

RELATED: Trotz says Shattenkirk's play is 'mooring' Caps' third pair

It has been speculated recently that perhaps head coach Barry Trotz could elect to dress seven defensemen. That sounds like a drastic option, but it is one Trotz has experience with having utilized it at times as head coach of the Nashville Predators.

“I've done it before and done it very successfully,” Trotz said on Friday. “... I found in my previous life that I didn't have as many offensive weapons that gave me an opportunity to put an offensive weapon in there a little bit more often in a regular rotation.”

Dressing seven defensemen would mean only 11 forwards, but Trotz seems to only be utilizing that many anyway. Paul Carey skated only 5:40 in Game 2. He was playing in place of Brett Connolly who played 6:07, 5:34, 6:12 and 4:26 in his last four games.

Alzner is considered day-to-day and there’s no timetable for when he may be able to return. If he were able to play in Game 3 or 4, however, given that the Caps are facing a series deficit and seem to be in need of some sort of spark, perhaps shifting the lineup to seven defensemen could be just what the doctor ordered.

“I'm fine with the seven D,” Trotz said. “If we have to go there, we'll go there. As a coach, you have to mix and match a little bit. I don't have any problem with that.”

MORE CAPITALS: Barry Trotz commits to Braden Holtby for Game 3