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Croatia beats Serbia in doubles to reach Davis Cup final

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MADRID — In a showdown between the world’s best player and doubles pair, Croatia’s top-ranked twosome beat a Serbia led by Novak Djokovic to send their country into the Davis Cup final.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic brushed aside Djokovic and partner Filip Krajinovic 7-5, 6-1 in doubles on Friday to win the semifinal for Croatia 2-1.

The Davis Cup is the premier international team event in men’s tennis, and every moment of the action is on Sportsnet NOW — for free.
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Croatia will seek its third Davis Cup come Sunday against the winner of Saturday’s other semifinal between Russia and Germany.

Djokovic had already done what he could to force the doubles match after Borna Gojo put Croatia in front by upsetting Dusan Lajovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the opening singles.

Djokovic pulled Serbia level at 1-1 by beating Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-2 before he stepped back on the Madrid Arena’s indoor hard court for the decider.

But Mektic’s and Pavic’s well-honed teamwork proved too much for the 20-time Grand Slam winner.

“We went out there believing we could do it, but we always knew that it was going to be the toughest rubber if it came down to doubles, playing the best team in the world,” Djokovic said. “They know each other so well, when one crosses the other knows where the other one will be. We singles players just play it back into the middle. They always make you hit the perfect shot.”

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Serbia won the previous two Davis Cup meetings with Croatia since they became independent nations following the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Nikola Cacic had been slated to join Djokovic if it went to doubles, but team captain Viktor Troicki made a last-minute switch for Krajinovic to play alongside his star.

Djokovic did what he could early, hitting five aces to save five break points to keep Serbia in the first set.

But when Krajinovic needed to hold serve to force a first-set tiebreaker, he twice returned into the net before Mektic broke his serve by smashing a forehand past the Serbs.

Ahead a set, the Croatia partners were ruthlessly efficient the rest of the way, breaking Serbia’s serve twice more. It was over when Djokovic sent his last shot sailing long and wide.

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“We really showed great spirt from the start,” Metkic said. “Everyone on the team gave it 110%. What can I say about our second guy winning some great matches.”

Gojo, Croatia’s No. 2, got them going with a win that Troicki said was the “crucial” point of the tie given the Croats’ strength in doubles.

The 279th-ranked Gojo outplayed Lajovic after the Serb rallied from 4-1 down to take the first set. Gojo broke Lajovic’s serve five times to give his team the early advantage.

Djokovic then topped Cilic, going up a set after he saved four break points. He then cruised through the second set, stroking winners that thrilled the pavilion packed with fans of both nations.

Concluding a spectacular season that included three Grand Slam victories, Djokovic said Serbia must learn from the loss if it hopes to win the Davis Cup again.

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“As much as it hurts, these moments are usually the best to develop and grow into a better person and player, and hopefully we will learn from what happened this year,” Djokovic said. “We definitely need to have a doubles team playing constantly together or it will be an Everest for us to climb.”



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Steve McNair comes to Eddie George in his dreams: "See you're not dead, and I wake up"

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Eddie George reveals to Shannon Sharpe that his former MVP teammate Steve McNair visits him in his dreams. Eddie said: “There’s not a day I don’t think about it. I dream about him a lot.” Eddie goes onto to share a great Steve McNair story, highlighting his maturation as a player.



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The Chargers Have Difficult Offseason Decisions To Make

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(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

 

The Los Angeles Chargers could be losing a few key contributors in the offseason.

Not only are these players a big part of their offense, but they are fan favorites as well.

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Keenan Allen and Gerald Everett are the most likely cap casualties for the Chargers, considering that they contribute to almost $20 million in cap space.

Allen was the third leading receiver for the Chargers in 2022, and Everett was the fifth.

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If they are to get cut or traded, the team will need to replace two high-impact players, not only for the team as a whole but for Justin Herbert as well.

Herbert has continued to grow as a passer, and Allen and Everett’s reliability are some of the reasons for his continued success.

The team may have to go back to the drawing board, either looking to the draft for a receiver or targeting free agency for a few budget weapons.

2022 marked the first time that the Chargers have made the playoffs since 2018.

Even though they ended up losing that game, it was a step in the right direction.

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The worst thing for the Chargers would be to take another step back, which is likely what would happen if both Allen and Everett leave.

From a historical lens, teams have been creative when navigating their cap situation, which is something that the Chargers could explore if they want to retain at least one of these players.

What will the Chargers look like in 2023?

Will Herbert be able to win his first playoff game?

The post The Chargers Have Difficult Offseason Decisions To Make appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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The Thunder Continue To Improve Their Postseason Chances

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(Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images)

 

Most people thought that the Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t have much of a chance at greatness in the 2022-23 season.

That was even more true when they lost their rookie player, Chet Holmgren, to injury in the summer.

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And while the Thunder are still far from the top of the Western Conference standings, they are repeatedly impressing fans across the league.

The team has been surging since 2023 started.

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So far in the new year, the Thunder are first in offensive rating, first in net rating, first in points per game, first in three-point percentage, and have the sixth-best record since New Year’s Day.

Yes, they are currently the 12th team in their conference but they are just one game back from being qualified for the play-in tournament.

This last month has been spectacular for OKC.

They have beaten the likes of the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Cleveland Cavaliers, and others.

Their latest victory came on Saturday night when they decimated the Houston Rockets, 153-121.

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The importance and power of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander cannot be stressed enough, he has been leading the team in multiple ways.

So far this season, Gilgeous-Alexander has averaged 31 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.6 assists.

On Saturday night, he had yet another stunning game with his 42 points.

Of course, he has been getting a lot of serious help from Josh Giddey (16.2 points, 8 rebounds, and 5.9 assists), Lugentz Dort (14.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists), Jalen Williams, and others.

The Thunder have a packed week ahead, facing off against the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, and New Orleans Pelicans.

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Can their impressive January lead to an impressive February too?

The post The Thunder Continue To Improve Their Postseason Chances appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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