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National

  • No 1936 references at Wimbledon this year

    LONDON (AP) — Imagine what the reception will be like for Andy Murray on Monday when he first strides onto the green grass of Centre Court at Wimbledon.

    A year ago, Murray became the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win the singles title at a tournament the locals refer to simply as "The Championships," ending a nation's long wait and sparking talk of a knighthood.

    This year, Murray gets the defending champion's honor of playing the fortnight's first match on the most famous tennis court in the world. Seems safe to say that 15,000 or so of his closest friends will greet him with a full-throated roar.

    "As the time gets nearer, and, you know, I get ready to play the first match on Monday, I'll definitely ... be excited about it," Murray said. "I will be nervous. It (is) an experience; something I have never experienced before. Players have talked about it in the past, that it's a great experience. But it can also be a nerve-racking one."

    Murray had a slow start this season, coming off back surgery, and he hasn't reached a final since Wimbledon 50 weeks ago.

    But he showed he's on the way back to peak form by reaching the semifinals at the French Open.

  • Mexico-Brazil contest ends in scoreless tie

    RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The headline from the World Cup, Day 6: Big favorite Brazil is vulnerable.
    Those who thought the World Cup host or world champion Spain — thumped 5-1 last week by the Netherlands — would walk away with this should think again.
    Proving the old adage that there are no easy games in football’s showcase, Brazil failed to beat Mexico for the first time at the World Cup, held Tuesday to a 0-0 draw in their second game in Group A.
    Belgium — a long-shot pick for the title — also struggled to break down Algeria, but got help off its bench to win 2-1 in Belo Horizonte.
    In steamy Cuiaba, an evenly matched and entertaining back-and-forth contest ended Russia 1, South Korea 1. Substitutes scored all but one of the five goals on Tuesday, proving the importance of having a Plan B.
    All 32 teams have now played at least once. The Netherlands and Germany, which scored four Monday against Portugal, are the standouts so far.
    The big surprise was Brazil’s failure to find the net in the northeastern city of Fortaleza.
    With Neymar rampant through the middle, Marcelo ever-willing to go forward and Oscar supplying passes and inventiveness, Brazil should be able to score almost at will. Time and again, Brazil’s yellow shirts swarmed over Mexico’s penalty box.

  • Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn dies

    SAN DIEGO (AP) — Tony Gwynn could handle a bat like few other major leaguers, whether it was driving the ball through the “5.5 hole” between third base and shortstop or hitting a home run off the facade in Yankee Stadium in the World Series.
    He was a craftsman at the plate, whose sweet left-handed swing made him one of baseball’s greatest hitters.
    Gwynn loved San Diego.
    San Diego loved “Mr. Padre” right back.
    Gwynn, a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest athletes in San Diego’s history, died Monday of oral cancer, a disease he attributed to years of chewing tobacco. He was 54.
    “Our city is a little darker today without him but immeasurably better because of him,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement.
    In a rarity in pro sports, Gwynn played his whole career with the Padres, choosing to stay in the city where he was a two-sport star in college, rather than leaving for bigger paychecks elsewhere.
    His terrific hand-eye coordination made him one of the game’s greatest pure hitters. He had 3,141 hits — 18th on the all-time list — a career .338 average and won eight batting titles to tie Honus Wagner’s NL record.

  • Late goal by Brooks puts U.S. on top of Ghana, 2-1

    NATAL, Brazil (AP) — After Clint Dempsey’s historic early goal, the United States spent more than an hour struggling to hold off wave after wave of Ghana attacks. It was no surprise when Ghana tied the game in the 82nd minute.
    Once again, the Black Stars — who had eliminated the Americans at the past two World Cups — were poised to ruin the tournament for the U.S.
    With two starters out with injuries, the U.S. barely threatened in the second half until a corner kick in the 86th minute. Graham Zusi lifted the ball into the penalty area, where fellow substitute John Brooks rose above the defense and headed it in for a 2-1 victory, putting the U.S. atop the group with Germany.
    “I couldn’t believe it. ...I just ran in the box and hoped that the ball would hit my head and it did,” said Brooks, a 6-foot-4 defender who is brought forward for set pieces.
    The loss put Ghana at the bottom of Group G with Portugal — the Americans’ next opponent. The top two teams in the group advance.
    At the final whistle, coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the German hired to transform the U.S. from mere World Cup participant into a potential power, threw his arms to the sky and roared.

  • Spurs have Heat on the ropes in NBA Finals

    MIAMI (AP) — Gregg Popovich called Game 3 of the NBA Finals an anomaly.
    He couldn’t use the same word to describe Game 4. It was repeat show of dominance, one that put the San Antonio Spurs one win away from ending the Miami Heat’s reign as NBA champions.
    Kawhi Leonard scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, Tim Duncan set a pair of playoff records and the Spurs controlled play throughout on the way to a 107-86 win over the Heat in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night. San Antonio leads the series 3-1, and can capture its fifth NBA championship by winning at home Sunday night.
    “They’re playing beautiful basketball,” Miami’s Chris Bosh said.
    “We’re playing Spurs basketball,” San Antonio’s Tony Parker said.
    Different sentences, same meaning. The Spurs’ game is the beautiful one right now, and the way they came into Miami and frustrated the Heat not once but twice was simply remarkable.
    “Now we’ve got to go back home and play as well — or better,” said Popovich, the Spurs’ coach.
    Hard to imagine them playing much better.
    In Game 3, the Spurs’ biggest lead was 25, while Miami never led by more than two.

  • Rangers survive elimination game

    NEW YORK (AP) — Henrik Lundqvist and some soft ice in front of his net kept the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals.
    Lundqvist made 40 saves in the Rangers' 2-1 victory in Game 4 that kept the Los Angeles Kings from a sweep on Wednesday night.
    Twice Los Angeles put the puck on the goal line without getting it all the way across.
    The last came with 1:11 left in the game when Rangers forward Derek Stepan pushed the puck out of danger after it got behind Lundqvist.
    "It's probably the product of moving a lot," Lundqvist said. "I stay deep in the net, so there's a lot of snow there."
    "I thought I had it because I felt the puck, felt like I got a good piece of it on that deflection. I was yelling at the ref to blow the whistle. Then I realized it was behind me for a couple seconds."
    Benoit Pouliot and Martin St. Louis each scored for the Rangers. Los Angeles leads the series 3-1 and will get its second shot to claim the Cup for the second time in three years Friday night at home.
    "We would have liked to finish it tonight, but having the next game back at home, that is where we are comfortable," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said.

  • Quick, Kings put Rangers on brink

    NEW YORK (AP) — It turns out Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings are just as good with the lead as they are without it.
    That leaves the New York Rangers with little hope of making much of a series out of the Stanley Cup finals.
    Quick stopped 32 shots in his best start of the series, Jeff Carter scored in the final second of the first period, Jake Muzzin and Mike Richards added goals in the second, and the Kings beat the Rangers 3-0 on Monday night to move within one win of their second Stanley Cup title in three years.
    Los Angeles leads 3-0 and can claim the Cup on Wednesday night in New York. The Kings have already survived three Game 7s on the road, so this amount of success has their confidence soaring.
    Quick hardly showed it when he took the podium wearing a black hooded sweatshirt.
    “I don’t think it would be any different if we were down 3-0,” Quick said. “We’re just trying to win a game in a couple days here. That’s the focus.”
    After the Rangers blew two-goal leads in each of the first two games of the championship round in Los Angeles, they came home and couldn’t get anything going against Quick.
    The All-Star was sharp early and in the middle when the Kings built their lead. Not even six power plays could jump-start New York’s offense.

  • Triple Crown frenzy hits NYC

    NEW YORK (AP) — Martin Panza celebrated California Chrome’s charge to Preakness Stakes victory three weeks ago like most fans at the packed Pimlico Race Course — bumping fists, slapping hands and thinking ahead to Saturday and the possibility of the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.
    And then Belmont Park’s director of racing operations thought about everything else: the tens of thousands of additional people who show up for the Belmont Stakes whenever a horse has a chance at history; the millions more in expected wagers; and the need for more of everything, from seating, concessions to bathrooms, security and about 1,000 additional workers.
    Local officials and business leaders celebrated too, seeing the race and the added interest of a Triple Crown contender as a boon of sold-out hotel rooms, dinners out and free publicity, so long as the writers and broadcasters were aware the track is actually on Long Island, as NBC’s Bob Costas noted Wednesday, and not in New York City.
    If California Chrome triumphs, it will happen on Panza’s turf — or rather, his dirt — at an marquee New York-area event that the track’s new management team reimagined earlier this year as a fusion of sports and entertainment worth attending even when the Triple Crown is not on the line.

  • Williams puts L.A. on top of New York

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Justin Williams usually saves his greatest postseason heroics for seventh games, not openers.
    And for all of his series-saving feats over the years, the two-time NHL champion had never scored an overtime playoff goal.
    When Williams got the puck on his stick with an uncontested chance to stake the Los Angeles Kings to an early lead in the Stanley Cup finals, Mr. Game 7 buried the shot and the New York Rangers.
    Williams scored 4:36 into overtime after a turnover by Dan Girardi, and Los Angeles beat New York 3-2 Wednesday night in a thrilling series opener.
    Kyle Clifford had a goal and an assist, and Drew Doughty made up for an early mistake by scoring the tying goal in the second period. Jonathan Quick made 25 saves as the Kings moved one victory closer to their second Stanley Cup title in three years — but only after another rally in a postseason full of comebacks.
    "We certainly don't want to make a habit out of this," Williams said. "That is a world-class team up there with world-class offense. There could have been a lot of story lines tonight. They had a breakaway in the end of the third period that (Jonathan) Quick made a great save on. We wouldn't be sitting here right now. A lot of things (went) awry during the game."
    Game 2 is Saturday at Staples Center.

  • Rangers, Kings set for series

     LOS ANGELES (AP) — Although the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers have played 41 combined postseason games over the previous six weeks, they still have ample energy for the big finale to their epic playoff chase.

    "No, you don't get tired right now," said Kings forward Marian Gaborik, the former 40-goal scorer for the Rangers. "All you think about is winning the Stanley Cup."

    When they meet at Staples Center on Wednesday night to begin the first New York-L.A. Cup final in NHL history, the Rangers and Kings are prepared for one more exhausting series in a spring filled with two-week sagas, nail-biting finishes and Game 7 heroics.

    No team in NHL history had made it to the Stanley Cup finals after going seven games in each of the first two rounds — until New York and Los Angeles both did it this spring. The Kings even went one longer, playing the maximum 21 games.

    Yet neither team will be satisfied without one more achievement. The Rangers haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1994, while the Kings are just two years removed from their only NHL championship. Two franchises long familiar with losing have the chance to raise the Cup again, and the players already felt the energy building when they went through practices Tuesday.