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ST. LOUIS – St. Louis Blues Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today that the club has extended qualifying offers to eight players including Alex Pietrangelo, Chris Stewart, Jake Allen, Kris Russell, Evgeny Grachev, Philip McRae, Cade Fairchild and Tyler Shattock.  The qualifying offers will allow the Blues to retain the negotiating rights for each player.

Tuesday, 02 July 2013 21:28
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NEWARK  – The St. Louis Blues selected four total players in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in Newark.  With their first pick overall, the Blues selected defenseman Thomas Vannelli in the second round, 47th overall.  The Blues then traded the 83rd, 94th and 113th overall picks to Edmonton in exchange for an additional second round pick (57th overall), which they used to select forward William Carrier.  In addition, the Blues sent the 203rd overall pick and a 4th round pick in 2014 to Nashville in exchange for a fourth round pick (112th overall), which they used to draft St. Louis native, foward Zach Pochiro.  With their final pick, the Blues drafted defenseman Santeri Saari in the sixth round, 173rd overall.

Vannelli, 18, split last season between Minnetonka of the Minnesota High School League (MSHSL) and Team USA (U-18) of the United States Hockey League (USHL), leading Minnetonka defensemen with 31 points (eight goals, 23 assists) in 25 games while recording two points (one goal, one assist) in 14 games with Team USA.   In addition, Vannelli appeared in five games during the 2012 USA Hockey Select 17 Player Development Camp registering six points (one goal, five assists) in six games.  In 2011-12, the Minneapolis, Minnesota native also led Minnetonka defensemen with 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 28 games.  The 6’2”, 165-pound defenseman was ranked 44thamong North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

Carrier, 18, has spent the past three seasons with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) Cape Breton Screaming Eagles including 2012-13, when he led the club as an Assistant Captain with 42 points including 16 goals and 26 assists to go along with 41 penalty minutes in 34 games.  In addition, Carrier served as the lone representative for his team at the 2012 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Canada-Russia Super Series, appearing in two games.  In 2011-12, the 6’2, 198-pound forward finished second on the team with 70 points including 27 goals and 43 assists to go along with 65 penalty minutes in 66 games.  Carrier also helped Team Canada earn the Bronze Medal at the 2012 Under-18 World Championship, dressing in all seven games.  In 2010-11, his QMJHL rookie season, Carrier posted 12 points including eight goals and four assists as well as 54 penalty minutes in 61 games.  The La Salle, Quebec native was ranked 18thamong North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
      Pochiro, 19, appeared in 65 games for the Western Hockey League’s Prince George Cougars in 2012-13, ranking third on the club with 39 points including 15 goals and 24 assists while leading the Cougars with 105 penalty minutes.  In 2011-12, the 6’1, 161-pound forward dressed in 52 games for the North American Hockey League’s (NAHL) Wichita Falls Wildcats, leading the club with 34 points including 18 goals and 16 assists to go along with 154 penalty minutes.  A native of St. Louis, Pochiro was ranked 173rd among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

Saari, 18, dressed in 46 games for Jokerit Jr. of the Finland-Jr. League in 2012-13, posting 23 points including five goals and 18 assists to go along with 34 penalty minutes.  In addition, the 6’2, 191-pound defenseman dressed in seven games with K-Vantaa of the Finland-2 League as well as two games with Jokerit Helsinki of Finland’s SM-liiga.  In 2011-12, Saari appeared in 13 games with Jokerit Jr. logging four points (two goals, two assists) and 10 penalty minutes while also registering 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) and 48 penalty minutes in 33 games with Jokerit U-18 of the Finland-Jr. U-18 League.  The Helsinki, Finland native was ranked 116th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

Monday, 01 July 2013 10:25
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LONDON (AP) -- Add Serena Williams to the list of big names eliminated early at this wild and unpredictable Wimbledon.

The defending champion failed to close out a see-saw third set Monday, dropping the last four games against Sabine Lisicki of Germany to lose 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 in the fourth round and end her career-best 34-match winning streak.

"I'm still shaking," Lisicki said in a post-match interview, covering her face with her hands to wipe away tears. "I'm just so happy."

It was the latest in a string of upsets that has jolted the tournament, with defending champion Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal knocked out in the first three days - along with Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka on the women's side.

Williams looked to be cruising after dropping the first set, winning nine straight games to take a 3-0 lead in the third. The players then traded breaks to give Williams a 4-2 lead, but the American couldn't win another game - despite having four break points at 4-3.

Those would have given her a chance to serve for the match. Instead, Lisicki held, broke again, and converted her second match point with a forehand winner.

Lisicki reached the semifinals at the All England Club in 2011 but this will rank as arguably her biggest victory at the grass-court Grand Slam. It was also the fourth straight time Lisicki has eliminated the reigning French Open champion during her Wimbledon run, having missed the tournament in 2010.

"Serena played a fantastic match," Lisicki said. "She's such a tough opponent. Just an amazing feeling to win this match."

Britain's Laura Robson also lost. She couldn't recover from her missed chances in the first set and fell 7-6 (5), 7-5 to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, failing to become the first British woman in the quarters of any Grand Slam since 1984. Kanepi will face Lisicki in the quarterfinals.

Former champion Petra Kvitova and No. 4 David Ferrer also advanced. Top-ranked Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Andy Murray, about the only pre-tournament favorites still standing, played their fourth-round matches later.

Monday, 01 July 2013 10:02
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran combined for six hits, each with a home run and three RBIs, and Allen Craig added a solo home run. The rest of the lineup did not fare as well, leading to another series loss for St. Louis.

Jed Lowrie and Josh Donaldson homered and Tommy Milone overcame a rocky start to win for the first time in nearly four weeks as the Oakland Athletics held on to beat the Cardinals 7-5 on Sunday.

"In the beginning he was leaving a lot of balls up and we were hitting them," Beltran said of Milone. "After that he started hitting the corners and he was using his change-up better. And they continued to score. Good pitchers find a way to regroup and pitch a good game. He did that."

Jake Westbrook (4-3) suffered his first poor outing since coming off the disabled list and gave up his second home run of the season as the Cardinals lost for the sixth time in eight games, their worst stretch of the season.

"I just didn't have it. It was a bad game," Westbrook said. "We have to get back to making pitches that get us out of jams, to limit the damage. We have to get back to where we were winning series."

The Cardinals are 1-3-1 in their past five series after going 11-0-2 in their previous 13.

"We're playing good," Beltran said. "We're in a good division. It's not going to be easy. Baseball is pitching and we have a good staff."

St. Louis continues to lead the NL in hitting and rank third in pitching. Manager Mike Matheny is hardly worried at this point, despite the recent lack of success.

"It comes down to our starting pitchers have been so good all season long and they deserve that once in a while the offense picking them up," he said. "We set a very high bar early and I hope these still believe in that. Jake is as good as anybody when he's on. If he gets his sinker where he wants, there's not a lineup around who will do a lot against him."

The slugfest in the series finale was in stark contrast to the first two games when starting pitchers Bartolo Colon of the A's and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals put together dominant performances.

Oakland had seven extra-base hits - five off Westbrook. Westbrook (4-3) lasted just four innings and gave up six runs and 10 hits overall.

St. Louis, which began the day one game behind Pittsburgh in the NL Central, took two early leads but couldn't make them hold up.

NOTES: Cardinals 1B Matt Adams was a late scratch due to food poisoning. His replacement, Ty Wiggington, went 0 for 3. Adams struck out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. ... Cardinals RHP Shelby Miller threw an extended bullpen before the game. Miller threw 61 pitches in his previous start on Friday. ... RHP Lance Lynn (10-3) takes the mound for the Cardinals in their first-ever visit to Anaheim to play the Angels.

Sunday, 30 June 2013 21:21
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Brazil won a heated matchup of past and present soccer powers, boosting its confidence as it prepares to host next year's World Cup.

Fred scored two goals, Neymar added another and Brazil defeated world champion Spain 3-0 in the Confederations Cup final on Sunday night as protesters clashed with riot police outside Maracana Stadium.

Brazil, a five-time world champion, beat the reigning world and European champion and ended Spain's 29-game, three-year winning streak in competitive matches.

"We beat the world champions today, but we know that the tournament that we will be playing next year will be a lot more difficult," Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "Now we have more confidence. That's what we needed."

Fred put Brazil ahead in the second minute, Neymar doubled the lead in the 44th with his fourth goal of the tournament and Fred added his fifth in the 47th.

Brazil, which won its third straight Confederations Cup, has not lost a competitive home match since 1975.

Spain, which had not lost a competitive game since its 2010 World Cup opener against Switzerland, had a miserable night. Sergio Ramos sent a penalty kick wide in the 55th and defender Gerard Pique was ejected by Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers with a straight red card for fouling Neymar in the 68th.

"They were superior on every way," Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said. "They scored early. This is not an excuse but they had pressure on us all the time."

Eliminated in the quarterfinals of the last two World Cups, the Selecao entered the tournament having not played a competitive match since the 2011 Copa America, Brazil had slipped to 22nd in the FIFA rankings, between Ghana and Mali.

Spain, ranked first for the past 20 months, is the most accomplished national team of the 21st century, winning its first World Cup in 2010 between titles in the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.

But in the stadium that will host the World Cup final on July 14 next year, Brazil dominated La Furia Roja.

"The champion is back," chanted the crowd of more than 73,000 people at the renovated Maracana.

It also didn't take long before the fans - in a sea of yellow jerseys - started teasing the Spaniards, chanting "Wanna play, wanna play!? Brazil will teach you."

Spain had been unbeaten in 26 matches overall, including friendlies, since a 1-0 loss to England in London in 2011 and had outscored opponents 69-11 in competitive matches since the loss to Switzerland in South Africa.

But Spain had not played Brazil since a 1999 exhibition, and they hadn't met in a competitive match since the Selecao's 1-0 win in the first round of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Fred opened the scoring after a cross into the area by Hulk in the second minute. The ball bounced off Neymar near the far post and Fred, who had fallen while trying to reach for the cross, shot with his right foot while still on the ground.

Brazil added to the lead after Neymar exchanged passes with Oscar and then sent a powerful left-footed shot over goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Fred got the final goal from just inside the area, sending a low shot to the far corner. Hulk started the move with a pass to Neymar, but the striker let it go as Fred came running behind him.

Spain was awarded the penalty kick after Marcelo fouled Jesus Navas inside the area. Ramos, who skied a penalty kick for Real Madrid against Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League semifinals, sent this one wide.

Spain's best chance before the penalty came with Pedro Rodriguez in the 41st, when he entered the area clear from defenders on a breakaway. His low shot beat goalkeeper Julio Cesar, but David Luiz came rushing in and slid in front of the goal line just in time to deflect the ball over the crossbar.

There were protests outside the stadium during the match, with police using rubber bullets and tear gas to keep demonstrators from getting too close. A wave of anti-government protests has swept across Brazil in recent weeks, and many affected the Confederations Cup host cities as demonstrators complained of the costs of hosting the World Cup.

On the field, it was a heated match from the start, with players from both teams pushing and shoving each other a few times. Even the substitutes got into a shouting match.

Sunday, 30 June 2013 21:19
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Adam Wainwright pitched a five-hitter to become the NL's second 11-game winner, Matt Adams had his first two-homer game and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Oakland Athletics 7-1 Saturday.

Wainwright (11-5) tied Washington's Jordan Zimmerman for most wins in the NL. He struck out eight and walked two in a 112-pitch performance for his fourth complete game this year and 15th of his career.

What appeared a pitcher's duel in the making changed quickly when A's starter Jarrod Parker left in the fourth inning with tightness in his right hamstring on an unusually hot Bay Area afternoon.

Adams hit a three-run homer to highlight a four-run sixth and a solo shot in the eighth.

Josh Reddick's RBI single in the eighth provided the lone A's run on a dominant day by Wainwright.

Daniel Descalso broke a scoreless tie with a sacrifice fly in the fifth, and the Cardinals gave Wainwright plenty of support to take sole possession of the team lead in wins ahead of Lance Lynn's 10.

Wainwright appeared to have no issues this time after objecting to manager Mike Matheny's decision to pull him after 6 2-3 innings in a loss to Texas last Sunday.

After a 1-2-3 first inning on nine pitches, Wainwright was on his way. A's No. 9 hitter Derek Norris singled with two outs in the third for the first hit off Wainwright, who snapped a two-start skid.

Wainwright got through the seventh on seven pitches. The right-hander faced the A's for just the second time in his career after beating Oakland on June 19, 2010, in St. Louis while allowing one earned run in eight innings.

He had a career-high five complete games in 2010, and is now one away from that.

A sold-out Coliseum crowd of 35,067 braved the hot temperatures to watch Wainwright keep the A's batters off balance - they didn't get a three-ball count until Coco Crisp walked in the eighth as the 28th hitter of the game. Wainwright threw 21 of his pitches that inning.

While the first-pitch temperature was an A's season-high 84 degrees, Matheny is loving the lively atmosphere this series.

"It reminds me of the Dominican and Puerto Rico, a lot of drums and excitement," he said.

Parker went down after grabbing his right hamstring and stretching for several minutes with athletic trainer Nick Paparesta before throwing some warmup pitches. Jesse Chavez relieved.

Chavez (1-2), who pitched 5 2-3 scoreless innings of relief for victory in an 18-inning win against the Yankees on June 13, was done after 1 1-3 innings this time. Carlos Beltran doubled starting the sixth, and Allen Craig followed with a single to chase Chavez.

Jerry Blevins surrendered an RBI single to Matt Holliday, then Adams' first-pitch homer that broke open the game.

Holliday faced repeated boos while in left field and at the plate from his former fans. He briefly played for the A's in 2009, all of 93 games.

NOTES: The Cardinals are sticking with rookie Shelby Miller on schedule despite his struggles. "He's going to go back out there and do what he was doing," Matheny said. ... A's C John Jaso missed his seventh straight start with a cut on his left hand but was available off the bench. Manager Bob Melvin had hoped to get him back Friday night, but the concern is that he still can't catch or hit through a full game. ... A's C Stephen Vogt received 100-plus text messages in addition to greetings on Facebook and Twitter after his first major league hit - and home run - Friday night ended an 0-for-33 start. "It's really neat to get everybody's support," he said. ... Umpires received water between innings. ... Wainwright is 8-5 in interleague play. ... LHP Tommy Milone looks to snap a four-start winless stretch with his first win since June 3 in Sunday's finale against St. Louis RHP Jake Westbrook.

Saturday, 29 June 2013 22:09
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LONDON (AP) -- As the sun set on the opening week of Wimbledon, just about the only seeding that truly signified something was No. 1.

That's the number beside the names of Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, who turned in nearly perfect performances back-to-back Saturday on Centre Court to cap nearly perfect runs to the fourth round at the All England Club, while chaos reigned all around them.

In the final match of the fortnight's first half, played with the roof closed and lights glowing to make sure it would get done as darkness approached, defending champion Williams used eight aces and 11 return winners to power past 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan 6-2, 6-0 in 61 minutes.

"She didn't lose energy, and her game, I think, is getting better, day after day. Not better in general, but adapting to the surface. Everything is getting better," said French coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who has been working with Williams over the past year, when she is 77-3. "So now let's enter into the most important part of the tournament. ... Now the matches are going to get tougher and tougher."

Might not necessarily have been a fair fight, considering that Date-Krumm is ranked 84th and was the oldest woman to reach the third round at Wimbledon in the 45-year Open era. Never better than a semifinalist at a Grand Slam tournament, she played Williams evenly for about three games, before the 16-time major champion took over.

"She has so much power, speed," Date-Krumm said. "She has everything."

Williams' easy win followed the 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over 28th-seeded Jeremy Chardy of France turned in by 2011 champion Djokovic, who compiled a remarkable ratio of 38 winners to three unforced errors. The Serb's initial miscue of his own doing did not come until the third set's sixth game, when he double-faulted while ahead 4-1, 40-love.

"Everything went my way," Djokovic said. "I did everything I wanted to do."

Both he and Williams could say that about the way they handled matters throughout Week 1.

Williams has won all six sets she's played, allowing her opponents a total of 11 games. Djokovic has won all of his nine sets, dropping 29 games.

"You don't want to play your best tennis in the first round and continue to go down. I feel like I try to play better as each match goes on," said Williams, whose 34-match winning streak is the longest for a woman since older sister Venus had a run of 35 in 2000. "I try to find out something I can improve on from each match so I can do it better in the next round."

In other words: Look out, Sabine Lisicki, the 23rd-seeded German who will meet Williams on Monday for a quarterfinal berth.

Up next for Djokovic after the middle Sunday's traditional day of rest is another German, 13th-seeded Tommy Haas, the 35-year-old who is enjoying a career renaissance and eliminated Feliciano Lopez of Spain 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.

How certain was Lisicki that she would be dealing with Williams and not Date-Krumm? Lisicki tweeted a photo of her with Haas early in the second set of Williams' match, writing: "Last Germans standing" and "We both play the no1's next."

Take a glance around, and a high seeding has mattered very little, with the notable exception of No. 2 Andy Murray, Djokovic's potential foe in the final. Indeed, in many cases, any seeding at all has guaranteed nothing whatsoever. The men's Nos. 3, 5, 6, 9 and 10 are all gone, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with their 29 combined Grand Slam titles. The women's Nos. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 10 are out, too, including four-time major champion Maria Sharapova and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka.

Even during a pair of victories Saturday, both No. 4-seeded players, David Ferrer and Agnieszka Rawdwanska, looked shaky. Ferrer, the French Open runner-up this month, was treated for blisters on his right foot while coming back to beat No. 26 Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 6-7 (6), 7-6 (2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Radwanska, who lost to Williams in last year's Wimbledon final, was pushed to three sets by 18-year-old American Madison Keys before winning 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

"I'm very happy to be a little bit better," Radwanska said. "It was really close. Every set was really tight."

The highest-seeded man other than Murray on his half of the field is No. 20 Mikhail Youzhny, who will play the 2012 U.S. Open champion and Wimbledon runner-up after defeating Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4, 7-5.

Otherwise, Saturday's winners on that side of the men's draw were 130th-ranked Lukasz Kubot of Poland, who beat No. 25 Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-3, 6-4; 80th-ranked Kenny de Schepper of France, who defeated No. 22 Juan Monaco 6-4, 7-6 (8), 6-4; and 54th-ranked Fernando Verdasco of Spain, a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 winner against Ernests Gulbis.

Things have generally been less hectic on Djokovic's portion of the tournament, but No. 9 Richard Gasquet lost 7-6 (7), 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (5) to 20-year-old Bernard Tomic, whose father has been barred from tournaments after being accused of head-butting Tomic's hitting partner. No. 23 Andreas Seppi of Italy, meanwhile, won his seventh consecutive five-setter, edging No. 12 Kei Nishikori 3-6, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-4, and 49th-ranked Ivan Dodig of Croatia moved on when Igor Sijsling retired while trailing 6-0, 6-1, 1-0, the 13th player to stop mid-match or withdraw before one, equaling a tournament high.

For a moment, it looked as if there might be a 14th when No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro hyperextended his left knee as chased a ball late in his 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-0 defeat of Grega Zemlja. The 2009 U.S. Open went champion sprawling face-forward into the players' chairs and racket bags on the sideline.

"It was really painful," del Potro said. "I was a little scared."

Del Potro and Murray each own one Grand Slam title, the only two of the last 33 not claimed by Federer, Nadal or Djokovic.

There isn't a lot of company for Williams in the major championship department, either. Two women with one apiece advanced Saturday, though: 2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and 2011 French Open winner Li Na.

Otherwise, just as with the men, there are some fresh faces among the women. That includes 19-year-old Laura Robson, the first British woman to reach Wimbledon's fourth round since 1998; 19-year-old Monica Puig of Puerto Rico; and 20-year-old Sloane Stephens of the U.S., who'll face Puig on Monday.

That matchup prompted this question for Stephens from a reporter: Is there pressure for you when you're playing someone in the next round who you're older than?

"Like a year, OK," Stephens said. "No, not really."

At 31, Williams is the oldest No. 1 in WTA rankings history, but she's still more than a decade Date-Krumm's junior.

"I honestly never thought I would play until my 30s, to be honest. I don't see my stopping any time soon," she said. "However, I don't see myself playing into my 40s. That's why I have so much respect for Kimiko."

They spent a good chunk of the early evening wondering where and when they would play, because their match was scheduled to be last on Court 1, where Ferrer and Dolgopolov went to a fifth set. It wasn't until 7:59 p.m., minutes after Djokovic's match ended, that the Wimbledon referee's office announced it was shifting Williams' match to Centre Court, with the roof shut and lights on.

Williams was rather dominant serving and receiving. In the first set, she delivered seven aces at up to 116 mph, at least one in each of her four services game, and hit nine return winners, at least one in each of Date-Krumm's four service games.

When it was over, Williams wagged an index finger in the air, as if to remind all she is No. 1, then exchanged high-fives with some fans.

"Every time I go out there, I tell you, I feel like anything can happen. I don't feel invincible. I feel like anything can happen," she said. "More than anything, that keeps me completely motivated."

Saturday, 29 June 2013 22:07
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LONDON (AP) -- What a stark statistic for the nation of Bill Tilden and Don Budge, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi: It's been 101 years since no men from the United States reached Wimbledon's third round.

And the last time it happened, way back in 1912, no Americans even entered the oldest Grand Slam tournament.

By the end of Thursday, all 11 U.S. men in the 2013 field at the All England Club were gone, with top-seeded Novak Djokovic accounting for the last one by beating 156th-ranked qualifier Bobby Reynolds 7-6 (2), 6-3, 6-1. Earlier in the day, former top-five player James Blake lost to Bernard Tomic of Australia 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, while qualifier Denis Kudla was beaten by Ivan Dodig of Croatia 6-1, 7-6 (4), 7-5.

That trio joined 18th-seeded John Isner, 21st-seeded Sam Querrey, Ryan Harrison, Steve Johnson, Alex Kuznetsov, Wayne Odesnik, Rajeev Ram and Michael Russell on the way home.

"It's a tough stat to hear, but I still believe, right now, where U.S. tennis is, not too many guys are in their prime. That's why the numbers are like that. But a lot of guys are, maybe, in the tail end of their careers and a lot of guys are coming up," said Kudla, a 20-year-old from Arlington, Va., who is ranked 105th. "Maybe next year, or the year after that, things could change. You have to go through a little bit of a struggle to get some success."

Led by top-seeded and defending champion Serena Williams, the U.S. women still are represented in singles at Wimbledon this year.

Williams extended her winning streak to 33 matches, the longest on tour since 2000, by eliminating 100th-ranked qualifier Caroline Garcia of France 6-3, 6-2, while 18-year-old Madison Keys knocked off 30th-seeded Mona Barthel of Germany 6-4, 6-2.

Keys next plays 2012 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, and Williams goes from a 19-year-old opponent in Garcia to a 42-year-old opponent in Kimiko Date-Krumm, the oldest woman to reach the third round at Wimbledon since the Open era began in 1968.

"I have so much respect for her. I think she's so inspiring to be playing such high-level tennis at her age," said Williams, who at 31 is the oldest No. 1 in WTA rankings history. "And she's a real danger on the grass court, I know that. I definitely will have to be ready."

Already into the third round with a victory a day earlier was No. 17 Sloane Stephens, while yet another American, wild-card entry Alison Riske, had her match against Urszula Radwanska - Agnieszka's younger sister - postponed by rain Thursday.

"I can't put my finger on why the women are doing better than the men," Reynolds said.

He wound up facing Djokovic with Centre Court's retractable roof closed because of the first drizzles of the fortnight, which prevented five singles matches from starting and forced the suspensions of three others in progress.

The precipitation wasn't the only change Day 4 brought. After the chaos of Wednesday, when Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova were among seven former No. 1s who lost, results went mostly to form Thursday. Only one seeded man departed: No. 17 Milos Raonic of Canada, who was beaten 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (4) by 64th-ranked Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands.

There were, however, two more injury-related exits, raising the total of players pulling out of the second round to nine, which equals the Open era Grand Slam record for any round. All told, 12 players have withdrawn before a match or stopped during one, one short of the Wimbledon record for a full tournament, set in 2008.

"It was a bit strange to see so many top players either lost or retired," Djokovic said. "But grass is a very special surface. It requires a different kind of movement. ... If grass at the start of Wimbledon is still not so used and, I guess, a little bit slippery, it can be dangerous, until you really get your right footing on the court. That's probably the reason why they all felt uncomfortable and they all injured themselves, unfortunately."

Djokovic himself took a tumble midway through his tight first set against Reynolds, a 30-year-old based in Atlanta, then quickly rose and whacked his heels with his racket. About 25 minutes later, Reynolds hit a 122 mph service winner to hold for 6-all, and the crowd roared, eager to see whether this guy they'd never heard of could continue to push Djokovic, who is ranked No. 1 and owns six major titles, including at Wimbledon in 2011.

But from there, it wasn't close. Reynolds missed two forehands early in the tiebreaker, helping Djokovic take a 5-0 lead before ending the set with a 117 mph ace.

"He just puts so much pressure on you, point after point after point," Reynolds said. "He moves unbelievably well. ... You think you hit a good shot, but he's right there, crushing it back at you."

Reynolds was, in many ways, simply happy to be there, on his sport's most famous court, facing one of its best players.

"You can't put a price tag on it," said Reynolds, who went five years between Grand Slam match wins. "I'll keep so many memories from that match. I loved it. Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

One shot Reynolds most definitely will recall, ruefully, came while leading 1-0 in the second set. Up love-30 on Djokovic's serve, Reynolds lost track of the ball and sent an overhead long.

"It went in between the rafters, and then you see it, and then it hits the piping, and then it comes back out. I just mistimed it," said Reynolds, who never had break points, while Djokovic converted 4 of 18. "I guess it's lack of being in there, the surroundings."

And so, at 7:43 p.m. local time, Djokovic deposited a backhand volley winner, the last shot hit against a U.S. man at Wimbledon this year.

With 27 of 32 third-round spots in men's singles settled, 18 countries are represented, including Latvia, Ukraine, Croatia and South Africa. Five countries have multiple entrants left, led by four each for Spain and France.

"I'm looking just to see if I can get to the next round. That's basically what it is. I don't feel like I'm carrying the U.S. flag (or) `I'm the lone guy left,'" Reynolds said. "I actually wasn't aware of it at all."

American men have won Wimbledon more than 30 times. Maurice McLoughlin did it in 1913, followed by Tilden in 1920, then Budge and Bobby Riggs in the 1930s, all the way through to players such as Connors, McEnroe and Arthur Ashe in the 1970s and 1980s.

During the nine-tournament stretch from 1992 to 2000, a U.S. man won Wimbledon eight times (seven for Sampras, one for Agassi), and there was at least one - and sometimes two - in the final each year. More recently, Andy Roddick reached three finals from 2004-09, losing to Federer every time.

As it is, American men are going through their longest drought without a Grand Slam champion anywhere; this year's U.S. Open will mark exactly a decade since Roddick won the title there. That, at least, can be partly explained by this: Switzerland's Federer, Spain's Rafael Nadal and Serbia's Djokovic collected 31 of the last 33 major trophies.

But what happened at Wimbledon this week shows U.S. problems extend far below the top tier.

Why?

Reynolds offered some thoughts, including that kids are picking other sports, perhaps because of the high cost of tennis. He also believes there's simply more competition from elsewhere.

"You look back years ago, the Americans usually were very good, whether it's basketball or baseball or tennis. Sports are becoming such a worldwide thing that everybody is so good now. ... We're so used to looking back and saying, `Oh, look at all the dominance,'" Reynolds said.

"Every country has top guys playing tennis," he said. "I think that's more of what it is, rather than the lack of talent coming out of the States."

Thursday, 27 June 2013 23:31
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NEW YORK (AP) — Anthony Bennett was stunned at the start. David Stern had a big surprise at the finish.

In between, Nerlens Noel and a number of others experienced wild rides to start their careers in an unsettled first round of the NBA draft.

Bennett became the first Canadian No. 1 overall pick, and Noel tumbled out of the top five and right into a trade, the first of many moves that took a back seat to one in the works for the team that calls Barclays Center home.

The Brooklyn Nets will acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from Boston in a blockbuster deal that was still developing as the draft neared its conclusion, according to a person with knowledge of the details.

"There was a lot of activity," said Nets general manager Billy King, who wouldn't comment on the trade. "As you guys will find out, there will be a lot of trades that are announced."

His can't be until July 10, after next season's salary cap is set.

As for the draft, it was as unpredictable as expected, capped by Hakeem Olajuwon coming on stage at the end of the first round to greet Stern, dressed in the same tuxedo style he wore when Stern called his to start the soon-to-be retired commissioner's first draft in 1984.

One of the favorites to be taken first Thursday night, Noel fell to No. 6, where the New Orleans Pelicans took him and then dealt his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package headlined by All-Star guard Jrue Holiday, according to a person familiar with the details.

The Cleveland Cavaliers started things by passing on centers Noel and Alex Len, who went to Phoenix at No. 5, in favor Bennett, the UNLV freshman forward who starred for Canada's junior national teams and was the Mountain West Conference freshman of the year. Bennett led a record 12 international players who were taken in the first round.

"I'm just as surprised as anyone else," Bennett said.

There was suspense right until the end, either because the Cavs were unsure who they wanted or were trying to trade the pick. Most predictions had them taking one of the big men, with Noel largely considered the favorite for the No. 1 choice even after a torn ACL that ended his lone season at Kentucky in February.

"I thought everything was in the air, so I wasn't thinking I was the No. 1 pick," Noel said.

Stern, booed heavily in his final draft, added to the surprise of the moment by pausing slightly before announcing the Cavs' pick, their first at No. 1 since taking All-Star Kyrie Irving in 2011.

Orlando passed on both of the big men, too, going with Indiana swingman Victor Oladipo with the No. 2 pick. Washington took Otto Porter Jr. with the third pick, keeping the Georgetown star in town.

Ten years after the Cavaliers selected LeBron James to start a draft that included future NBA championship teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the top five, this one lacked star power and perhaps even the promise of stardom.

Bennett, Noel and Len are all coming off injuries and couldn't even work out for teams, but the Cavs decided Bennett's shoulder surgery wasn't enough cause for concern.

Len walked up to meet Stern and collect his orange Suns hat, then sat down near the stage to put on the walking boot he needs for the stress fracture of his left ankle that was discovered after Maryland's season.

Noel finally went to New Orleans with the next pick. He didn't seem upset at his fall down the draft board, hugging his mother and shaking hands with Kentucky coach John Calipari.

It was a good start to the night for the Hoosiers, with Cody Zeller going to the Charlotte Bobcats two places after Oladipo.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore, another player who was considered a potential top-three pick, also dropped, going seventh to Sacramento.

Headed by a lackluster class, the draft promised confusion and second-guessing, with no consensus No. 1 pick and little agreement among the order of the top five.

And with lesser-known names in the draft, veterans soaked up the spotlight in the hours leading up to it.

Yahoo Sports first reported that the Nets and Celtics were working on a trade that would complete the breakup of the Celtics' veteran core.

ESPN reported earlier Thursday that Dwight Howard was unlikely to return to the Los Angeles Lakers when he becomes a free agent next month.

The guys coming into the league were glad for the attention they did finally get once their names were called.

"It's like a weight vest you took off after running five miles," Oladipo said. "It's relaxing, man. But at the same time, you know it's just getting started."

National player of the year Trey Burke of Michigan also was traded, the Minnesota Timberwolves sending his rights to Utah for the rights to Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, the Nos. 14 and 21 picks.

Lehigh's C.J. McCollum rounded out the top 10 by going to Portland.

Stern, retiring in February, seemed to play up the boos, which turned to cheers after every pick, fans perhaps as puzzled as some of the players at the names they were hearing.

"I was just kidding my agent because he didn't bail me out," Zeller said. "He didn't tell me. I didn't know until David Stern announced it. It's a crazy process not knowing, but I'm definitely excited that I ended up with the Bobcats."

Other players couldn't get too excited about their new addresses, because they changed quickly.

Stern was announcing deals by the middle of the first round and they promised to keep coming after he called it a night and turned things over to Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver for the final 30 picks.

The flurry of trades wasn't surprising with so much uncertainty surrounding this class and so much hope in other areas. Teams such as Houston, Dallas and Atlanta already have an eye on Howard's future, needing to have necessary salary cap space to offer a maximum contract that could lure him away from Los Angeles.

The 2014 class — which could be topped by a second straight Canadian in incoming Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins — will be higher regarded than this one, with James perhaps heading the available free agents to follow.

Local fans seemed pleased with their picks, cheering loudly when the Nets took Duke forward Mason Plumlee at No. 22 and the New York Knicks grabbed Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. two picks later.

Stern made his final pick to close the first round to cheers of "David! David!" before handing things off to Silver.

Thursday, 27 June 2013 23:21
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HOUSTON (AP) -- Erik Bedard pitched six effective innings and the Houston Astros used a four-run fourth inning to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 on Wednesday night.

Bedard (3-3) allowed seven hits and walked one, but limited St. Louis to three runs. Three relievers then combined to pitch two hitless innings before Jose Veras worked the ninth for his 16th save.

Veras yielded a one-out single to Jon Jay and then walked Matt Adams, but pinch hitter Daniel Descalso struck out and Matt Carpenter flied out to end the game.

Allen Craig homered for the second straight night and Yadier Molina had a two-run shot for the Cardinals, who lost for the fourth time in five games. They dropped into a tie with surging Pittsburgh for the lead in the NL Central.

Lance Lynn (10-2) allowed five hits and four runs, walked four and struck out four over 7 2-3 innings for his first loss in four career starts in Houston.

Molina and Craig helped the Cardinals get off to a nice start. Molina followed Carpenter's leadoff single with a drive to the Crawford Boxes in left field for his sixth homer. Craig had a leadoff drive in the fourth that bounced off the lights atop the wall in left field, extending the lead to 3-0.

But Houston responded in the bottom half. Jose Altuve and Jason Castro got it started with back-to-back singles for the Astros' first hits of the game. Lynn then walked Chris Carter on four pitches to load the bases before sending a run home when he also walked Carlos Pena on four pitches.

Castro came home when J.D. Martinez grounded into a fielder's choice, and Brett Wallace then hit a tying RBI single. After another fielder's choice, Brandon Barnes singled in Wallace to give Houston the lead for good.

The Astros threatened again in the fifth, putting two runners on with two out, but Lynn retired Martinez to end the inning. That was the first of eight straight batters retired by Lynn

Josh Fields retired the first two St. Louis batters in the seventh before left-hander Wesley Wright came in and struck out Carpenter.

Jose Cisnero faced the heart of the Cardinals' order in the eighth. He got Molina on a groundout before walking Carlos Beltran. He then struck out Craig and Matt Holliday to finish the inning.

 

NOTES: Molina played first base for the second time in his career and the first since 2008. Manager Mike Matheny said Molina could "probably play just about anywhere on the infield." He said playing him at first base is a good way to give his legs a rest. "He's caught more innings than any other catcher," Matheny said. "His body has been able to handle it so far, but it's going to be a tough task. We're not trying to set any records here, we're just reading his body and days like this are going to be able to keep one of the top bats in baseball in the lineup while not beating him up behind the plate." ... Both teams are off Thursday. Houston then begins a series with the Angels and St. Louis starts one at Oakland. ... The Cardinals activated RHP Fernando Salas (right shoulder) from the 15-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Memphis. ... Houston RF Justin Maxwell was meeting with a specialist on Wednesday after he got a mild concussion when he banged his head on the ground while attempting to make a diving catch. Manager Bo Porter said they'll know more about when Maxwell can return after he is examined, but said there was no way he would be available on Wednesday. ... Houston RHP Ross Seaton cleared waivers and was outrighted to Double-A Corpus Christi. LHP Wade LeBlanc also cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013 23:13
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