Monday, July 1, 2013

Djokovic, Murray, Williams still around at Wimbledon, but so are Janowicz, Dodig and Knapp

There they were on the practice courts during Wimbledon's traditional off day, all preparing for whatever Week 2 might have in store.
Not unusual to see Novak Djokovic, a six-time Grand Slam champion, getting ready for the fourth round, but not far away was Jerzy Janowicz, winner of a grand total of six matches at major tournaments before this one.
No surprise that 2011 French Open champion and two-time Slam runner-up Li Na was still around, but so was 19-year-old Laura Robson, the first British woman to get this far at the All England Club since Sam Smith in 1998.
With early exits by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and Maria Sharapova long gone, too, after a chaotic first week, the Wimbledon draws were dotted with unfamiliar names after Sunday's traditional mid-tournament break, names such as Kenny de Schepper and Adrian Mannarino, Karin Knapp and Monica Puig.
Five of the remaining 16 men were set to make their fourth-round Wimbledon debuts Monday. Six never have reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal: de Schepper, Ivan Dodig, Janowicz, Lukasz Kubot, Mannarino, and Andreas Seppi. Perhaps not coincidentally, each of those relatively unknown half-dozen players benefited from at least one of the record-tying 13 walkovers or mid-match retirements from injury or illness so far.
Four of the 16 women left also were hoping to reach a major quarterfinal for the first time: Robson, Knapp, 19-year-old Puig of Puerto Rico, and 20th-seeded Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium.
Djokovic, for one, liked the idea of some players getting a chance to introduce themselves to a wider audience.
"It's interesting ... to see new faces — for the crowd, for (the) tennis world, in general," said Djokovic, who might not feel quite the same way if he were among the 11 men and women seeded in the top 10 who no longer are playing.
Truth is, there hasn't been much variety of late in the men's draws at Grand Slam tournaments, especially at the very end: Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won 31 of the past 33 titles.
"It's good (to have) change, in a way, because it's always expected, obviously, from top players to reach the final stages of major events. When it doesn't happen, it's a big surprise," said the top-seeded Djokovic, the only past Wimbledon champion left among the men. "It's a bit (of a) strange feeling not to have Federer or Nadal at the second week of a major. In the last 10 years, it was always one of them."
In recent years, it's also always been Djokovic, who is scheduled to face 35-year-old Tommy Haas on Monday. Djokovic has played in 16 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals — the longest active streak now that Federer's 36-major run is done. At the past 10 Slams, he's also reached at least the semifinals, picking up five trophies and three runner-up finishes.
Second-seeded Andy Murray, meanwhile, has been a finalist at the last three major tournaments he entered and won the U.S. Open in September, only increasing the expectation among locals that he can be Britain's first male champion at Wimbledon in 77 years.
Nothing is guaranteed right now, though.
"Second week of a Grand Slam is a new start, especially here, where you have (time) off," said 15th-seeded Marion Bartoli, the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up who faces the 104th-ranked Knapp, an Italian making her first appearance in a major's fourth round. "It's really a new tournament starting."
All 16 men's and women's fourth-round matches were on Monday's slate — no other Grand Slam tournament sets things up this way — so fans will get the chance to discover some folks they might not recognize immediately.
They also could simply watch No. 1-ranked Serena Williams, an overwhelming favorite to win the title, take on 23rd-seeded Sabine Lisicki of Germany.
Williams is a five-time Wimbledon champion, including last year. She owns 16 Grand Slam titles all told, while the other 15 women in the tournament own two among them: Li's at Roland Garros, and Petra Kvitova's at Wimbledon in 2011.
This season, Williams is 46-2 with 34 victories in a row, the longest winning streak for a woman since older sister Venus' 35-match run in 2000.
Consider this, too: Williams has won six titles in 2013, the same total as the other 15 remaining women combined.
While Lisicki is a mediocre 17-15 at other Grand Slam tournaments, she is 16-4 at Wimbledon, where her powerful serve is nearly as much of a threat as Williams' is on grass.
Of the women in action Monday, Lisicki leads the way by having won 93 percent of her service games in the tournament (Williams is next at 91 percent). Lisicki's 202 aces this season rank second on tour only to Williams' 292.
Lisicki reached at least the quarterfinals the previous three times she appeared at the All England Club, including a semifinal run in 2011 that featured victories over Li and Bartoli. A year ago, Lisicki beat 2004 champion and No. 1-ranked Sharapova in the fourth round.
When it was pointed out that everyone is pretty much ready to hand Williams the trophy, Lisicki smiled and recalled: "I was in that situation last year, when everybody was saying that Sharapova was the favorite. I'm probably going into that match being the underdog, but I like that."
"Probably" the underdog against Williams?
"Well, you have to play your best to beat her, that's for sure," Lisicki said. "But, you know, everybody's (a) human being."

After landmark court rulings, opponents of gay marriage ready for national battle

Stephen Crowley / Redux Pictures
The Rev. Rob Schenck, of Faith and Action, an opponent of same-sex marriage, prays outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, June 26, 2013.
Opponents of same-sex marriage are gearing up for a national battle to block gays and lesbians from tying the knot, saying the country is “perilously close” to legalizing such unions in all 50 states after recent Supreme Court decisions.
Those rulings last week allowed same-sex marriage to resume in California (the Proposition 8 case) and struck down a 1996 law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred federal recognition of gay and lesbian marriages in the District of Columbia and the 13 states where such unions are legal.
“It’s very difficult to read the majority opinion in the Windsor case (DOMA) and not conclude that a majority of the court wants to impose same-sex marriage,” said Frank Schubert, political director of the National Organization for Marriage, which has led the fight to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples.

“We need to redouble our efforts to engage the American people in a large movement to preserve marriage, one that would serve notice to the court that if they seek to constitutionalize same-sex marriage they risk a massive public revolt,” he added. “It’s imperative on us to mobilize people across the country who believe in marriage and to explain to them how close we are to losing it.”
In the days since the court decisions, groups opposed to same-sex marriage have been meeting to craft the contours of what that national battle may entail, said Schubert. He declined to provide specifics but said it could include legislative and court actions.  
One thing is clear: they’ll need money to do that, Schubert said, particularly given how successful the same-sex marriage camp has been at raising cash for state by state contests.
All of the four votes on the issue last November went to the same-sex camp, which significantly outraised groups fighting gay marriage.
John Milburn / AP file
U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp.
“One thing we need to do is figure out a way to tap into the broad community of faith and raise money,” Schubert said Friday. “And if we're not successful at that, then we're going to have a very difficult time being competitive in the state campaign marketplace.”
Other opponents of gay marriage have announced plans in the wake of Wednesday's rulings: House Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) introduced legislation on Friday to amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, while Indiana Gov. Mike Pence urged the state legislature to approve a popular vote for 2014 to ban gay marriage.
 Pence wrote online that he was disappointed with the court decisions but grateful that the justices “respect the sovereignty of states on this important issue. These decisions preserve the duty and obligation of the states to define and administer marriage as they see fit.”
Thirty-five states have done just that, and the justices didn’t touch DOMA’s Section 2 – which allows states to define marriage.
But questions quickly arose in the aftermath of the rulings about how gay and lesbian couples who legally wed in one state would be treated in another where same-sex marriage is banned.

“It’s a very natural follow-up lawsuit,” said Ken Klukowski, director of the Family Research Council, in a speech on Thursday. “I would be concerned as to how that case would come up. So I think we are right now one case away from Section 2 of DOMA likewise being struck down.”
With that in mind, NOM's Schubert said they have to adapt to the “new reality” and see what “changes we need to make in our approach.”
"We’ve got to meet the challenge of making this a national issue because that's what it is now,” he said. “The reality prior to these decisions was that… if you want to win on marriage, you have to win it at the state level. And that is certainly still true, but it’s also true that we are perilously close to having the United States Supreme Court impose a view of marriage that we very much disagree with.”
He wrote they would have to “redouble” their “efforts at explaining what marriage is, why marriage matters and what the consequences are ofredefining marriage. The left wants to insist that the redefinition of marriage is ‘inevitable,’” he wrote.
While opponents plot the way forward, same-sex marriage supporters said the wins gave them fuel. They aim to have a majority of Americans living in states where same-sex marriage is legal by 2016, and they believe the Supreme Court will ultimately give a final resolution to the issue.
They celebrated Wednesday night, but already had plans to get back to work the next day, said Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry. They, too, are focusing on state contests – such as trying to reverse bans in Michigan and Ohio, as well as push through same-sex marriage in Illinois and New Jersey.
“We need to put together smart, strategic campaigns but at the center of those campaigns are loving and committed couples who are making the case,” he said. “Honestly, that’s the secret weapon that our side has that our opponents don’t have. We have families who can share their real stories about why marriage is important to them … and our opponents can point to some amorphous fear that they have.”
Though the court’s decisions were disappointing for the anti-gay marriage side, Schubert did see a potential silver lining to them as they work to make their national case.
“We have an opportunity to play in states that are much stronger for us and (to) be able to engage people there in a way that we couldn’t before because in the past there's not been a credible threat to marriage in Texas or South Carolina or any of these other states. Now there is,” he said. “Now the wolf is at the door and we are going to meet the challenge as aggressively as we can."

Family of Nelson Mandela: His health is in God's hands now

Family of Nelson Mandela: His health is in God's hands now

Mandela's family: Every moment matters

  • Ex-wife Winnie Mandela says former husband's struggles are "extremely painful" to watch
  • She visited him Sunday at the hospital where he has been receiving treatment since June 8
  • His daughter says his health is now "between him and his maker"
Pretoria, South Africa (CNN) -- The former wife of Nelson Mandela visited him Sunday in the hospital where the ailing anti-apartheid icon is clinging to life, the South African Press Association reported.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who was married to the former South African president from 1958 to 1996, described what it's like to see her former husband of 38 years struggle to live in an exclusive interview with UK network ITV News.
"It is extremely painful to see him going through what he's going through now. But it's God's wish," Winnie Mandela told ITV.
Nelson Mandela, 94, remains in critical but stable condition at a Pretoria hospital where he has been battling a recurring lung infection since June 8.
Crowds gather to support MandelaCrowds gather to support Mandela
South Africans pray for Mandela
Incredible legacy of Nelson Mandela
Photos: Mandela family albumPhotos: Mandela family album
His condition worsened last week with family members saying his health was "delicate" and "anything is imminent." But daughter Zindzi Mandela told ITV between hospital visits that her father is alert and recognizes when a new person enters his hospital room.
"The one time he did speak was to tell my mom to sit down ... because she was standing at the edge of his bed," she said, laughing.
As his condition has deteriorated, South Africans have gathered outside the hospital, praying, lighting candles and leaving notes for the man they refer to as "tata," the Xhosa word for father. Those tributes continued Sunday as a Salvation Army band played hymns near the hospital and well-wishers gathered to be close to their beloved Madiba.
Winnie Mandela shot down any suggestion that the family was discussing whether to end life support.
"It was nonsense to suggest we needed to take a decision to pull the tubes," she told ITV.
Mandela became an international figure while enduring 27 years in prison for fighting against apartheid, the country's system of racial segregation. He was elected the nation's first black president in 1994, four years after he was freed. Even as he has faded from the spotlight, he remains popular and is considered a hero of democracy worldwide.
The front page of South Africa's Sunday Times earlier this month carried the headline "It's time to let him go," quoting a longtime friend of the former president as saying the time may have come for South Africans to say goodbye.
"Once the family releases him, the people of South Africa will follow. We will say thank you, God, you have given us this man, and we will release him too," friend Andrew Mlangeni told the paper.
But Zindzi Mandela told ITV that what happens now is out of the family's hands.
"When people say the family must let go, and we say let go of what? In fact he is deciding what's happening with himself. It's between him and his maker. It's not to do with us whatsoever," she said.

19 firefighters killed battling Arizona blaze

here Sunday in the country's worst wildfire disaster in 80 years have been hailed by President Obama as "heroes."
In a statement released early Monday as he prepared to travel to Tanzania from South Africa, Obama said, "Michelle and I join all Americans in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of these brave firefighters."
Gusting winds and dry grass fed the blaze as it tore through the communities of Yarnell and Glen Isla about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix. An estimated 200 homes and many businesses have been destroyed.
Early Monday, local media reported the fire was zero percent contained.
Nineteen elite firefighters died battling a fast-moving wildfire near Yarnell, Arizona, in the country's worst wildfire disaster in at least 30 years.
"It's a dark day," said Mike Reichling, Arizona State Forestry Division spokesman.
Reichling said the 19 firefighters were found in an area that also had 19 fire shelters deployed. Some of them were found inside their shelters, which are tent-like structures meant to shield firefighters from flames and heat. They are typically used as a last resort.
"The entire fire department, the entire area, the entire state is being devastated by the magnitude of this incident," Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said in a news conference. "We just lost 19 of some of the finest people you'll ever meet."
Reichling said the number of firefighters on the scene will reach 400.
It is the worst wildland firefighting tragedy in U.S. history since 25 were killed in the Griffith Park Fire in Los Angeles in 1933, according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center. It is also the worst firefighting tragedy ever in Arizona, eclipsing the 1990 Dude Fire near Payson, which claimed six firefighters.
Fraijo said one member of the local hotshot crew survived because the firefighter was not with the other members when they were caught in the blaze, which was caused by lightning.
Erratic winds, dry fuel and monsoon-like weather created conditions for the fire to spread quickly, Reichling said. He added that the winds changed direction on the hotshot crew. There had not been a fire in the Yarnell area in 40 years.
"They were caught up in a very bad situation," he said.
Juliann Ashcraft said she found out her firefighter husband, Andrew, was among the dead by watching the news with her four children.
"They died heroes," she said, crying and wiping tears away from her eyes. "And we'll miss them. We love them."
The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office was notifying the families of the deceased.
Gov. Jan Brewer said late Sunday that she plans to tour the area Monday and could call the Legislature into a special session to provide emergency funding for the victims.
"This is as dark a day as I can remember, with Arizona suffering the truly unimaginable loss of 19 wildland firefighters," Brewer said in a statement. "It may be days or longer before an investigation reveals how this tragedy occurred, but the essence we already know in our hearts: fighting fires is dangerous work. The risk is well-known to the brave men and women who don their gear and do battle against forest and flame.
"When a tragedy like this strikes, all we can do is offer our eternal gratitude to the fallen, and prayers for the families and friends left behind. God bless them all."
In his statement, Obama said: "The federal government is already assisting, and we will remain in close contact with state and local officials to provide the support they need."
Fraijo said it is still unclear what caused the incident and he did not wish to speculate without more information.
"My heart weeps for those who lost their lives and were affected by today's Yarnell Hill Fire,'' said U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.
The lost firefighters were members of a "hotshot" crew, who specialize in attacking wildfires like the Yarnell Hill Fire. The elite firefighters often hike for miles into the wilderness with chain saws and backpacks filled with heavy gear to build lines of protection between people and fires. They remove brush, trees and anything that might burn in the direction of homes and cities.
Fraijo called these hotshot crews, "the core of firefighting. They're right there in the middle of the incident," he said.
Officials at the scene of the blaze said they expect about half of the town's 500 homes to be destroyed by the fire. It has burned more than 6,000 acres, CNN reported.

Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said 19 hotshot 

firefighters, an entire crew, died Sunday while battling the Yarnell Hill Fire in Central Arizona.

'Heroes': 19 elite firefighters killed battling Arizona blaze

Nineteen firefighters - all members of an elite response team - were killed Sunday battling a fast-moving wildfire in Arizona, marking the deadliest single incident for firefighters since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, officials said.
In a statement, President Barack Obama said the "thoughts and prayers" of all Americans would be with the loved ones of the firefighters killed near the town of Yarnell, Ariz., about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix. He described the fallen men as "heroes."
The fire, which investigators believe was sparked by lightning, also destroyed more than 200 buildings in the town, which is home to about 700 people.

Wade Ward, the public information officer for the Prescott Fire Department in Arizona, talks about the tragic loss of 19 firefighters in a massive wildfire, saying "it had to be the perfect storm in order for this to happen."
Mary Rasmussen, a spokeswoman for the Prescott National Forest, said all 19 killed were members of the 20-strong Granite Mountain Hotshots, a Prescott, Ariz.-based crew who battled blazes in New Mexico and Arizona in recent weeks
Juliann Ashcraft told that she learned her firefighter husband Andrew was dead while watching the news with her four children. “They died heroes,” she said through tears. “And we’ll miss them. We love them.”
Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said that "if you ever met them, you would meet the finest, most dedicated people."  
"These are the guys that will go out there with 40, 50 pounds of equipment. They'll sleep out there as they try to develop fire lines and put protection between homes and natural resources and still try to remain safe," he said.
Fraijo said the one surviving member of the Hotshots crew had been at a different location. 
Rasmussen, who also works as a wildland firefighter, said the men who died in the Yarnell Hill Fire were “young and brave.”
“They went out as a 20-person crew and they have confirmed 19 fatalities,” she said. “Every day they took on risks. They were alert to those risks, but in this case [there were] extreme burning conditions, some unusual wind and then we’re waiting to see whatever else, what other factors may be involved."
Rasmussen said she knew the crew who died, saying they were part of a “close-knit community” of wildland firefighters.
David Kadlubowski / The Arizona Republic via AP
The deadly wildfire also destroyed homes in the Glenn Ilah area near Yarnell, Ariz, on Sunday.
“It hits hard. It hits deep,” she said. “There’s a lot of people suffering tonight.”
Authorities told the Associated Press that the 19 were caught while trying to deploy their fire shelters, tents designed to trap in breathable air and shield the firefighters from flames and heat.
"The general understanding is they were participating in a direct attack on the fire,” Rasmussen added.
This would have involved getting close to the flames – “one foot in the black and one foot in the green” - and trying to create a fire break devoid of fuel, she said.
web page for the Granite Mountain Hotshots describes the team’s “history of safe and aggressive fire suppression.”
“Our common bond is our love of hard work and arduous adventure,” it says. “We are routinely exposed to extreme environmental conditions, long work hours, long travel hours and the most demanding of fireline tasks.”
Wade Ward, a spokesman for the Prescott Fire Department, told NBC's TODAY that “it had to be a perfect storm in order for this to happen” to the Hotshots.
“Their situational awareness and there training was at such a high level that it’s unimaginable that this has happened,” he said.
The National Fire Protection Association website says the only wildland fires to kill more people were at Griffith Park, Los Angeles, in 1933, where 29 died, and the Devil’s Broom wildfire at Silverton, Idaho, in 1910, in which 86 firefighters lost their lives. The attack on the World Trade Center resulted in the deaths of 340 firefighters.
Dry conditions fuel blazes in the U.S.
The blaze, which started Friday, began during a punishing heat wave in which temperatures reached well into triple-digits. Fraijo said the hot, dry conditions fueled the fire.
About 200 firefighters were battling the blaze late Sunday and some 400 were being deployed Monday.
Trudy Thompson Rice, communications officer for the Grand Canyon chapter of the American Red Cross, was at a Red Cross shelter set up at Wickenburg High School, where 15 evacuees from the Yarnell area were sleeping early Monday.
“They are sad. They know a lot of them [the firefighters who died],” she said. “They know families, they know people in the fire services.”
“You don’t want to lose any firefighters, but it’s your neighbors it makes it particularly difficult. They do hand-to-hand combat with these fires and it’s very difficult work.
Thompson Rice said people at the school were also concerned for the firefighters who had to go back out to deal with the wildfire. “They [the evacuees] are hopeful they can get the fire under control so there’s time for grief,” she added.
Chuck Overmyer and his wife, Ninabill, were helping friends leave when the blaze switched directions and moved toward their home, the Associated Press reported. They loaded up what belongings they could, including three dogs and a 1930 model hot rod on a trailer.
As he looked out his rear view mirror, he could see embers on the roof of his garage. "We knew it was gone," he said.
Obama said in a statement that the firefighters were “heroes -- highly-skilled professionals who, like so many across our country do every day, selflessly put themselves in harm's way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet.”
He added: “Michelle and I join all Americans in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of these brave firefighters and all whose lives have been upended by this terrible tragedy.”
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said Sunday was “as dark a day as I can remember,” speaking of a “truly unimaginable loss.”