Federer, Djokovic set to meet in a star-studded semi

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Federer, Djokovic set to meet in a star-studded semi

From Comcast SportsNet
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- With "Murray Mania" gripping Britain, it's the other men's semifinal at Wimbledon that has many tennis fans anticipating a griping matchup on Friday afternoon. Six-time champion Roger Federer and last year's winner Novak Djokovic will face each other on the grass of Wimbledon for the first time -- in their 27th head-to-head meeting. "It is interesting that this is our first grass-court match. I'm looking forward to it," said Federer, who can win a record-equaling seventh Wimbledon title after losing in the quarterfinals the past two years. "I haven't put too much thought into it, to be quite honest, yet. I'm just happy that I'm around further than I've been the last couple years." The 30-year-old Federer already owns the most major tennis titles with 16. He completed a career Grand Slam in 2009 by winning the French Open. But his last major came more than two years ago, at the 2010 Australian Open. A win over Djokovic on Friday, and another in Sunday's final, would put Federer back at the top of the game as the No. 1-ranked player. Two more wins at the All England Club also would equal Pete Sampras' seven Wimbledon titles and tie the American's record for weeks spent at No. 1 with 286. "I know it's possible. I know I'm playing really well," said Federer, who is 14-12 against Djokovic overall but 1-6 since the start of 2011. "I am aware things are going to get complicated in the next match. I better prepare well, because it's going to be a tough match." Tough may be putting it mildly. The top-ranked Djokovic has won four of the last six major titles, and lost to Rafael Nadal in the French Open final last month. Those kinds of statistics sound a lot like what Federer did year after year not so ago. "I'm not trying to defend my title here. I'm trying to fight for it as every other player who is in last four of the men's side," said Djokovic, who beat Federer in the French Open semifinals last month. "So my mindset is very positive." After years of playing in the shadows of Federer and Nadal, it's Djokovic that is now the man to beat. The 25-year-old Serb is 43-2 at Grand Slam matches in the past two years. Very Federer-like numbers. "He has a lot of respect from me, from all the players. There is no question about it," Djokovic said of Federer. "But we are all rivals, we are all opponents. I don't think about his history or his success or whatever too much when I'm on the court. I just want to win that match." The other semifinal certainly has Britain all agog. Andy Murray reached the semifinals for the fourth straight year, and with Nadal already out of the tournament, the public is expecting more from him than ever before. "Subconsciously, I'm probably extremely stressed out right now, but I try not to feel it," said Murray, who's from Scotland. "Then, yeah, when the tournament's done there's normally a pretty big release of that. I just don't want to be on the court for a few weeks." Instead of another semifinal match against Nadal, the man he lost to in 2010 and 2011, Murray will face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France -- who rallied from a two-set deficit to eliminate Federer in the quarterfinals last year. Tsonga will have a second chance to reach the Wimbledon final, but without the pressure that is regularly heaped on Murray at Wimbledon. That kind of local fervor is saved for him when he plays at the French Open -- along with every other French player. "Here for Andy is difficult because he's alone," Tsonga said. "I mean, in France it's OK. We have many players and that's fine, but here for him it's really difficult because every eyes are on him and it's tough for him." Still, "Murray Mania" won't be slowed by Tsonga's words or his chances to win. The fans in Britain have been waiting since 1936 -- when Fred Perry won his last singles title at Wimbledon -- for a homegrown male champion. There hasn't even been a British men's finalist since Bunny Austin in 1938. "Tennis in the U.K. is not really a sport that necessarily gets followed loads for the rest of the year, but everyone gets into it when Wimbledon comes round because they understand how big a competition it is," Murray said. "The support that I've had over the last sort of five, six years here has been great. "I'm trying my best to win the tournament for myself, obviously, but also for everybody else."

Cubs playing it safe with Kris Bryant's ankle

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Cubs playing it safe with Kris Bryant's ankle

Cubs nation can breathe a sigh of relief: Kris Bryant is considered just day-to-day with an ankle injury.

In fact, Bryant may even see game action in the latter innings of Friday's game against the Atlanta Braves.

Bryant suffered the ankle injury running the bases Thursday and a precautionary MRI showed nothing more than a mild sprain.

The Cubs kept him out of the lineup for Friday's action and Bryant will stay in the training room at the beginning of the game. 

But if the team needs his bat late in the game, that could be a possibility.

"We'll know game-in-progress whether or not he's able to hit late if we need that," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

The Cubs lineup is deep, but they can't really afford to be without Bryant for any extended period of time with Kyle Schwarber already lost for the season and Miguel Montero placed on the disabled list Thursday.

That's a big reason why they opted to play it safe with Bryant's ankle and give him time to heal so this doesn't become a lingering issue.

"[Ankle injuries] are tricky," Maddon said. "[Cubs trainer P.J. Mainville] seems to be optimistic about this whole thing. I think if we just kinda rest him a little bit right now and not really abuse it right now, then it should go away relatively fast.

"The thing with sprained ankles is always if you re-jam it somehow. That's the problem. You could be feeling fine after maybe a week or two weeks and all of a sudden, you just hit it wrong and you feel it.

"The biggest concern is always that somebody's not able to hurt themselves further. You can play with a soreness as long as there's no threat for a greater injury."

Bryant is currently hitting .289 with an .878 OPS, four homers and 15 RBI through the Cubs' 16-5 start.

For Andrew Ladd, chance to play for a contender trumps money

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For Andrew Ladd, chance to play for a contender trumps money

Andrew Ladd’s second stint in Chicago was, in some ways, like his first one.

He had good teammates and enjoyed being around them again. He had nothing but good things to say about the organization that welcomed him here for the second time in his career.

The only difference was the abrupt postseason ending.

“It’s disappointing, for sure,” Ladd said during Wednesday’s wrap-up interviews. “You bring your family here and move your whole life. You want to make a run for it, make it worthwhile. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.”

Ladd’s stay with the Blackhawks is likely to be a brief one. They traded for the veteran, who was part of their 2010 Stanley Cup team, figuring he could be a key piece for another run. It wasn’t to be. Ladd had a quiet postseason, recording just two points in the Blackhawks’ seven-game series against the St. Louis Blues.

“It was a tight series, could’ve gone either way and that’s life,” he said. “You move on. Just happy to have the opportunity to come back and be a part of this group again.”

Ladd has reached that point in his career where he can look at the big picture. He’s won two Cups, one with the Blackhawks and the other with the Carolina Hurricanes. His family grew by another member earlier this month; Ladd brought his his son Walker Gordon, born April 14, home on Tuesday.

“It was a good day after what happened in St. Louis,” Ladd said. “It kind of put things in perspective when you can come home and take your mind off everything else.”

As for Ladd’s continuing hockey career, he said it’s not about getting the lucrative contract anymore as much as it’s about playing for a winner.

“I think I’m at the point in my career where I can make decisions based on being in a good situation. At the end of the day it’s not all about money for me. It’s about being in a good place for my family and being on a team that’s going to contend every year,” Ladd said. “You’d be crazy not to want to be a part of this group and this organization. We’ll see what happens.”

Chances are the Blackhawks and Ladd will not be together in the near future. The Blackhawks are once again facing a salary-cap crunch and, if there is a high-priority signee for them, it’s Andrew Shaw. Even that possibility is a tough one.

Still, Ladd’s not ruling anything out. Ladd’s latest playoff run with the Blackhawks was much shorter than he or they would have liked. But the Blackhawks have the pieces to contend again, and Ladd wouldn’t mind being a part of it.

“Every guy’s at a different point in his career in terms of what he wants to accomplish, whether he has a family or he’s getting on later in his career and wants to be part of a contender,” Ladd said. “There are a lot of things that go into that. You evaluate that individually and try to make the best decision possible for yourself and for your family. At the end of the day, you try to do whatever’s possible to be a part of a group and an organization like this.”

Rodon, White Sox battle Orioles on tonight on CSN

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Rodon, White Sox battle Orioles on tonight on CSN

The White Sox take on the Baltimore Orioles tonight, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 6:00 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Carlos Rodon vs. Mike Wright

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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