The Houston Texans Win Their Season Opener at Home Against the Washington Redskins, 17-6.

In many ways, this was the battle of the new coaches. The Houston Texans’ new coach, Bill O’Brien was taking over a team that had lost 14 of the 16 matches they played last season – if anyone was wondering why the team needed a new coach. The Redskins were also sporting a new coach, Jay Gruden.

The game opened fairly predictably with neither side really gaining much yardage. The first nine possessions of the first quarter all resulted in punts. It was the Redskins who finally made a successful play, Andre Roberts moving the ball forward 25 yards into the Texan half. Alfred Morris was the go-to guy for the Washington team, as he got runs of 16 yards and 21 yards to set up Darrel Young with a chance to leap over the Houston defenders to get first blood.

Houston defender J. J. Watt managed to get a hand to the kick, and so the Redskins found themselves just six points up.

In the second quarter, the Texans responded with new quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, getting the ball out to DeAndre Hopkins who made a spectacular 76-yard touchdown and, with a good kick, took the Houston team into the lead, 7-6.

With just two minutes to go in regulation time in the second quarter, Texans Alfred Blue, got his hand on the ball after the Redskins had punted, and scored again, 14-6.

The second half was much more of an evenly played game, with no scoring until the final few minutes. The Texans made a 13-play drive of 68 yards, culminating in a 42-yard field goal by Randy Bullock, and that took the Houston team to an unassailable lead of 17-6.

Sadly for first overall pick, Jadeveon Clowney, he suffered what now turns out to be a torn meniscus on his first tackle of the game that may well require surgery and bench him from the Houston Texans for four to six weeks.

Speaking to the press after the game, Redskins coach Gruden said, “I’m not pleased with anything today because we lost. I like the effort, but there’s a lot of things we can correct both offensively and defensively, along with special teams, and we will.”

Sources: Fox News, NFL, Washington Post

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Kei Nishikori of Japan Ousts Favorite Novak Djokovic in the Semifinal of the U.S. Open Men’s Singles.

Four weeks before the U.S. Open, Kei Nishikori had surgery on his right foot to remove a cyst and was having second thoughts about entering the U.S. Open as he was concerned that he would not recover in time. After his game against Novak Djokovic, he was no doubt thinking that his decision to play was the right one.

Speaking to the press about his expectations for the U.S. Open, Nishikori said, “I didn’t even know if I should come to New York, so I was expecting nothing, actually. But after playing first match and second match, I get more confidence on my foot.”

The weather was certainly a factor in the game, with temperatures soaring into the 100s and humidity close to a staggering 70%. And this was a long match, almost three hours.

Kei Nishikori has had a tough road to the semifinals, his last two matches each were five sets, lasting a total of more than eight hours. But Nishikori certainly looked the fresher of the two, and outclassed Djokovic in the first set, winning 6-4.

Djokovic looked more like his old self in the second set, and romped home to win the set easily, 6-1. But in the third set, Nishikori took command, and raced Djokovic all over the court, forcing a tiebreaker. Djokovic was struggling to stay in the game and, with four unforced errors and a double-fault, practically gave the set away, 6-7.

Again, in the fourth set, Djokovic never found his form and Nishikori won the set, 6-3, and now has his chance to play in his first Grand Slam tournament final.

Nishikori is coached by Michael Chang, who is quite used to upsets having beaten both Stefan Edberg and Ivan Lendl to win at Roland Garros in France when he was just 17 years old. Talking to journalists about Nishikori’s performance, Chang said, “He’s matured a lot mentally here. I will continue to remind him tomorrow: The work’s not done [when Nishikori faces Marin Cilic - who beat Roger Federer in his semifinal - in the final]. We’ve got one more match to go. And we’ll prepare as best we can.”

Sources: Bloomberg, Fox Sports, ESPN

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Caroline Wozniacki and Serena Williams Both Through to the Women’s Singles Final at the U.S. Open.

If this were boxing, Caroline Wozniacki would have beaten Peng Shuai of China on a technical knockout. But this was tennis, the temperature was in the mid-80s and the humidity a crippling 65%. If you’ve ever experienced this kind of weather on the North-East coast, you’d know to stay inside in air conditioning.

It’s been five years since Wozniacki has won a place in a Grand Slam final, and everyone was rooting for her since her much-publicized breakup with Rory McIlroy earlier this year. For Peng though, this was her first Grand Slam semifinal and, while her performance at the U.S. Open has been impressive, currently ranked #39 in the world, she was not the favorite to win.

Although Wozniacki seemed the superior athlete, Peng put up a good fight in the first set, forcing a tiebreaker at six games all. Peng won her service on the first point of the tiebreak, but then lost the next seven points to Wozniacki who forced a series of long rallies on an ailing Peng. In between points, Peng looked as though she was struggling for breath, but managed to get herself together for the second set after a five minute break.

Peng won the first two games of the second set, but then lost the next four games. She seemed good on the first couple of points of each of those four games, but then began visibly wilting from what looked like exhaustion. After six games, a medical timeout was called and Peng was allowed a 10-minute break – seven minutes to assess whether she was suffering from ‘heat illness’ and three minutes of injury time.

However, after losing the next game, Peng hit the ground again. This time the match was called at 5-3, and Wozniacki was through to the final, 7-6, 5-3.

In the other semifinal, Serena Williams wasted no time at all beating Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3, in a little under an hour.

Williams has won eight of the nine games she’s played against Wozniacki, and is the favorite to win her 18th Grand Slam singles title, which would tie her with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Sources: Wall Street JournalUSA Today, NY Daily News

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The U.S. Team Beat the Dominican Republic, 106-71, Making Them 4-0 in Group C of the World Cup.

Without the assistance of Houston Rockets star forward Francisco Garcia, the Dominican Republic team were playing at a disadvantage against a U.S. team that had already decisively won their first three games in Group C of the World Cup. Garcia had turned his ankle in the Dominican’s win against Finland two nights before and, although was on the bench and seemed to be warming up with his teammates, never took to the court

Even without Garcia, the Dominican Republic put up a good fight in the first quarter, attacking the U.S. net whenever they could – but they just couldn’t get past a strong U.S. defense. The first quarter ended with the U.S. team just three points ahead, 25-22.

The U.S. team were a little sluggish in the first quarter, but more than made up for it in the second, scoring 31 points to end the quarter with a good cushion, 56-41. Denver forward Kenneth Faried scored three straight baskets, Anthony Davis made a spectacular jump to knock one in, and forward Rudy Gay got the final four points of the quarter.

The U.S. team kept the pressure on for the next two quarters, scoring 25 points in each, and ended up with another game won with over 100 points, 106-71. Overall, Faried scored 16 points and DeMarcus Cousins added 13.

Speaking to the press after the game, Gay was asked about their chances of winning gold when the games head to Madrid, “Obviously we have to take care of here. Nothing’s given. We’ve worked hard, we’ve been tested and we’ve overcome that, and also got some pretty big wins.”

His teammate, Cousins, agreed, “I believe everybody felt pretty good how they played tonight. That’s what we’re going to need to continue this path.”

Final word goes to coach Mike Krzyzewski, “We felt we were going to win and how you play overall, I thought everyone left the court feeling good about how they played.”

Sources: Sportal, USA Today, Hoops Habit

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Kei Nishikori Beats Stanislas Wawrinka to Become the First Japanese Man to Reach a Grand Slam Semifinal Since 1933.

The most astonishing thing about Kei Nishikori playing against Stanislas Wawrinka was that he was fit enough to even take the court for the quarterfinal in the Arthur Ashe Stadium. Just 36 hours before, he finished his fourth round match against Milos Raonic, winning in five sets at 2:26 am – one of the latest finishes ever in U.S. Open history.

Wawrinka did not make it an easy match for Nishikori. Having a little more time to recuperate from his own fourth round win, it was not surprising to see him roar into the lead, 3-0, in the first set. But from there, each player retained their serve, and Wawrinka predictably won the set, 6-3.

However, Nishikori seemed to find his form quickly in the second set just as Wawrinka started losing his. So many times we’ve seen Wawrinka as his own worst enemy, and this was more of the same, making mistakes, and worst of all, losing set point on a double fault. Nishikori took the second set, 7-5.

Just as we were half expecting the strain of the last game start to affect his game, Nishikori if anything started playing better tennis than we’ve seen him play, and in no time at all was leading Wawrinka, 5-2. Kudos to Wawrinka, who took complete advantage of some poor serving from Nishikori, as he broke back and forced the game to a tiebreak at six games all. However, it was Nishikori who won the tiebreak and the set, 7-6.

During the fourth set, Nishikori called for a medical timeout to treat blisters, but continued to show fine form afterward. The set went to a tiebreak at six games all, but this time, although Nishikori fought back from a 0-4 position to even the game, missed two excellent forehands from Wawrinka to lose the set, 6-7.

After four hours on court, both players were visibly tiring during the fifth set, but again it was Wawrinka who started making mistakes again, giving Nishikori two match points when it was 5-4 after a double fault. He saved the first match point, but sent his next return into the net to give Nishikori the win, 6-4, and the match.

Nishikori becomes the first man to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament since Jiro Satoh in 1933 at Wimbledon. Nishikori will play Novak Djokovic in the semifinal.

Sources: Daily Mail UK, Bloomberg, Tennis World USA

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Rory McIlroy Loses Early Lead On the Back Nine at First Day at Cherry Hills.

We’re getting near the end of the tournaments that make up the FedEx Cup and, as usual, all eyes were on the world’s#1 player, Rory McIlroy and he didn’t disappoint. Although he may be justifiably disappointed with his performance on the last few holes.

But first, a quick 101 on the FedEx Cup. The first tournament played in the series, The Barclays, introduced us to the top 125 players on points – these are the guys who get a PGA Tour card for next year. There will be wild cards for those who came close, but these are the players who automatically get to play on the PGA Tour next season.

After The Barclays comes the Deutsche Bank Championship, and only those in the top 100 get to make the cut. Next up is the BMW Championship, and that’s what we’re reporting on now and that is only for the top 70 players. The next tournament though is where it gets really exciting as that’s only for the world’s top 30 players. But back to the action on the first day of the BMW Championship…

For the first 15 holes, McIlroy showed the pack how to play golf. He drove straight on the fairways, pitched incredible approach shots, and displayed a mastery of the green that was bewildering. McIlroy was two strokes under par on the first nine holes but, after three consecutive birdies on the first holes of the back nine, he seemed to be in an unassailable lead at five strokes under.

However, from the 13th hole onward, McIlroy was having problems keeping to the fairway and then disaster struck on the 16th and 17th holes where he landed in the hazards and was lucky to just bogey the holes. Finishing with a three-under-par 67, he shares the lead with Jordan Speith and Gary Woodland.

Talking to the press after his round, McIlroy said, “It’s tricky out there. You’re hitting irons and fairway woods off the tees but they’re still running into the rough, while the greens are getting quicker all the time. You’re having to land the ball ten yards before where you were landing it in practice. It is still a really good start but there were definitely a couple of sloppy bogeys at the end.”

Sources: Wikipedia, Daily Mail UK, Denver Post

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Down Two Sets Against Gael Monfils, Roger Federer Rallies to Win the Match.

Roger Federer has been playing outstanding tennis this season, some say the best of his career. And that’s pretty good for a player the media had all but written off last year.

More than 20,000 people gathered at the U.S. Open to see Roger Federer play Gael Monfils, expecting to see the fiery brilliance we’ve now come to expect from the Swiss.

However, for two sets, Federer looked lost on court. He seemed nervous, mis-hitting shots, and generally not reaching the levels that were required to win this level of game. Certainly, he seemed frustrated by the unpredictable strategy employed by Monfils, but hey, that’s tennis.

Of course, his opponent took full advantage and easily romped through the first two sets, 6-4, 6-3.

In third set, Federer seemed to turn his game around and managed to win the set, 6-4. But he was in trouble again in the fourth set…

Trailing 5-4, he was serving to save the match and, with some last-ditch energy, Monfils was leading the game, 40-15, two match points.

Federer spoke to the press afterward about that moment, “When I was down two match points, that’s when I wasn’t feeling so great anymore. I thought, ‘This is it. This is the last point, man. Go down fighting. Don’t miss an easy shot and let him have it.’”

With the resolve of a champion, Federer won that game, and then won the next two to take the set, 7-5, and broke Monfils in his first service game in the fifth set.

Monfils seemed to lose his way in the fifth set, and Federer never looked like he was going to give the Frenchman another chance to beat him. Federer closed out the set easily, 6-2.

Federer spoke to his performance in the match, “I served well and stayed in the match and somehow turned it around. I was really starting to play better and better as the match went on. It was a great feeling.”

Sources: ESPN, Reuters, Fox News

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Chris Kirk Plays a Final Round of 66 to Win at TPC Boston Over Billy Horschel.

On the final day at the Deutsche Bank Championship being played this year at the TPC Boston, it was Russell Henley who was on top of the leaderboard, with Billy Horschell just one stroke behind him. And just one stroke behind Horschell was Jason Day, Chris Kirk and Rory McIlroy sharing third place.

As the leaders played the first few holes, it was obvious this was going to be anyone’s tournament. Horschell birdied the first hole to share the lead, but then Henley got a birdie on the third to get in front again.

Meanwhile, no one was watching, but Chris Kirk birdied both the third and the fourth hole, and walked on to the fifth tee just one stroke behind the leader.

While Horschell got himself another birdie at the seventh hole to share the lead and then went into the lead when Henley bogeyed the eighth hole, just one stroke behind all the action, Day, Kirk and Geoff Ogilvy were waiting patiently for their opportunity.

Sadly, Day was quickly out of contention with a bogey on the 10th hole followed by a double-bogey on the 12th, but Kirk fought hard to share the lead with Horschell following a birdie on the ninth and then took the lead outright when he birdied the 13th with a spectacular 23-foot putt.

Kirk extended his lead to two strokes with a birdie on the 16th, but then Horschell closed the gap by getting a birdie of his own on the same hole. Both players parred the 17th, and so it was all down to the 18th hole.

As Kirk had already parred the hole, Horschell needed an eagle to win outright, or at least a birdie to force a playoff. And he went for it, perhaps a little too hard. His drive was magnificent, but his second shot was short and straight into a hazard, Horschell describing it as, “the worst swing I’ve made all week.” Horschell ended up bogeying the hole and dropped a stroke to share second place with Henley.

With a 64 on his third round, and finishing with a 66 when it counted, Kirk happily spoke to the press after he won the tournament, “Just trying to go play like I did yesterday. Obviously I didn’t shoot quite as low as I did yesterday, but you know I really felt good with my putter today and just unbelievable. Obviously my biggest win ever.”

Sources: Sports Network, Reuters, Boston

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Andy Murray Beats the #9 Seed Wilfried Tsonga In Three Long Sets in the Fourth Round of the U.S. Open.

It’s been a tough season for Andy Murray whose surgery last year has certainly affected his performance this year. Murray hasn’t reached a tournament final this season, and Wilfried Tsonga wasn’t about to give him an easy time on his way to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.

Now Murray has a pretty good record playing Tsonga, having won nine of the last 11 matches they’ve played. But there’s still the sting from losing against Tsonga in Toronto last month, but then again Tsonga not only beat Murray, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4, but he also beat Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to win the title… so let’s just put that down to Tsonga playing unbelievable tennis. Happens…

Indeed, let’s not forget that Murray was up 3-0 in the final set last month against Tsonga in the quarterfinal in Toronto. He came close but just couldn’t finish the job.

The first set was evenly matched with both players holding their serves, but Murray broke Tsonga to win, 7-5. Same with the second set, again both players so evenly matched that it really could have gone either way. Somehow, Murray always seemed to win the crucial points and again won the second set, 7-5.

In third set, it was ironic that Tsonga broke Murray’s serve early – to go three games up, exactly where Murray was in the third set at Toronto. But it was then that Murray pulled out all the stops, broke back to even up the score, broke again to go one game up and then broke again to win the set, 6-4.

Murray spoke to the press after the match, “I don’t feel like I’m that far away from playing my best tennis.” Which is a good thing as he’s now paired against Djokovic in the quarterfinals. And, although he beat Djokovic to win Wimbledon last year and also at the U.S. Open the year before that to clinch the title, that was then and this is now.

Tsonga was pragmatic about his loss to Murray, telling journalists, “Tennis, it’s never a straight line. It’s always like this. So today it was like this maybe at the wrong moment.”

Sources: Boston Herald, The Scottish Herald, The Guardian UK

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Marc Marquez Wins His 11th Grand Prix of the Season at Silverstone.

Having won the MotoGP Championship last year, and then completely dominated this season by winning the first 10 races, there was probably a hope in every fan – and perhaps some of his teammates – that he might, just might, win all 16 races this year.

Sadly though, that’s not going to happen. Although he’s still almost 80 points clear of everyone in the MotoGP Championship, he came in fourth at the Czech Republic MotoGP in early August.

However, after that slight dip in performance, Marquez roared back at Silverstone to claim his 10th pole this season just slightly ahead of Andrea Dovizioso of Italy. Jorge Lorenzo came in third for the grid, then Aleix Espargaro, and in fifth position, Dani Pedrosa – who’s actually the only one with a prayer of catching Marquez this year.

Predictably, for an English summer, the water was cool and it was windy. Which, while not being wet, is not perfect for motorbike racing as it’s difficult to get the tires up to a good working temperature for that additional grip you need when you’re taking corners at breakneck speeds.

Although Marquez had pole position, he didn’t keep it very long, giving it up to Lorenzo who took over the lead in the second lap. And from then on, it just seemed like there were two riders in the race, each giving up the lead to each other every few laps.

Finally, with just seven laps to go, Marquez overtook Lorenzo and never looked back. Marquez won the race in just 40 minutes 51.835 seconds, Lorenzo coming in second and his teammate, Valentino Rossi, coming in third.

Speaking after the race, Marquez said, “I didn’t expect Jorge to be like that. He was so strong from the beginning. The pace was very high. He was pushing a lot at the start and I was trying to save the tires a little.”

Marquez is now 89 points clear of Pedrosa and 99 clear of Rossi.

Sources: CNN, Cycle World, Bleacher Report

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