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Dec 9, 2012 9:00pm
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Paris, France (Sports Network) – Six-time champion Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer
were Wednesdays quarterfinal winners and the two Spanish stars will now meet in
Fridays mens semifinals at the French Open. Adam Vinatieri Jersey . The second-seeded
former world No. 1 Nadal handled 12th-seeded fellow countryman Nicolas Almagro
7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-3 amid some drizzle at times on Court Chatrier, while a
sixth-seeded Ferrer ousted fourth-seeded British star Andy Murray 6-4, 6-7
(3-7), 6-3, 6-2 on Court Lenglen. The 26-year-old Nadal moved on in 2 hours, 46
minutes Wednesday with the help of 10 aces, and 45 unforced errors by the
overmatched Almagro. Nadal also broke Almagro three times, while Almagro failed
to break his mighty counterpart on Day 11. “I was just trying to wait for my
moments,” Nadal said. “He had some good moments and he was hitting the ball
hard, but I had my chances, too.” Nadal, now 50-1 lifetime at Roland Garros, has
yet to lose a set at this 2012 French fortnight, while Almagro hadnt lost a set
until Wednesday. “His serve was really good today,” Almagro said. “At the
important moments, he served better. The key of the match is I had my chances
and I didnt catch it.” The 10-time Grand Slam champ Nadal is the reigning
two-time titlist in Paris, having beaten Roger Federer in last years finale at
the worlds lone clay-court major. Nadal is now a seven-time French Open
semifinalist (6-0) and trying to become the first man in the Open Era to capture
seven French Open titles. The 30-year-old Ferrer, meanwhile, landed in his
first-ever French Open and third career Grand Slam semifinal by dousing the
three-time major finalist Murray in 3 hours, 45 minutes. The bout was
interrupted by a 26-minute rain delay in the third set. Murray tried to make it
a match by squeaking out a second-set tiebreak to level the match, but Ferrer
was simply just too strong for Murray on the clay and cruised over the next two
sets to dismiss the frustrated Scot. Ferrer broke Murray for a 3-1 lead in the
fourth set, consolidated the break with a hold for a 4-1 advantage, and was able
to cross the finish line three games later by converting on his second match
point when Murray sent one final backhand long. The gritty Ferrer prevailed by
breaking Murray a whopping 10 times while the sloppy Brit was amassing 59
unforced errors. Ferrer and Murray have now split 10 career meetings on the ATP
World Tour. The 25-year-old Murray had reached at least the semifinals in five
straight and eight of the last 11 Grand Slam events. Nadal is 15-4 lifetime
against Ferrer, including a 2-0 record this year and a quarterfinal French Open
victory back in 2005. Nadal has won their last four meetings overall. “It will
be tough against him because hes the best player on clay in history,” Ferrer
said. Fridays other semi will pit top-seeded Novak Djokovic against the third-
seeded former No. 1 great Federer. The five-time major champion Djokovic will
compete in his fourth French semi, seeking a first-ever trip into the final in
Paris, while Federer will play in French semi number seven (5-1). The
25-year-old Djokovic and 30-year-old Federer will meet for a 26th time, with the
Swiss leading their all-time series, 14-11. The Serb beat Federer in a semifinal
in Rome last month and has won five of their last six matchups, but the Swiss
legend topped Djokovic in four sets in the French semis a year ago, which
prevented the Serb from reaching his first-ever final at Roland Garros and
stopped a 45-match overall winning streak by Djokovic. Djokovic is trying to
become the first man in 43 years to hold all four Grand Slam titles. Aussie
legend Rod Laver was the last man to turn the trick when he captured all four in
one year back in 1969. The reigning Australian Open, U.S. Open and Wimbledon
champion Djokovic is riding a torrid 26-match Grand Slam winning streak. Federer
will appear in his 29th semifinal in his last 32 Grand Slam events. The 16-time
major champ captured his lone French Open title in 2009 to complete a career
Grand Slam and has been a four-time Roland Garros runner-up to Nadal. Federer
hasnt captured a major title since the 2010 Aussie Open. The 2012 French Open
champ will collect $1.5 million. Robert Mathis Jersey . Horton had 32 points
in 46 games last season, but didnt play after suffering a concussion from a hit
by Flyers forward Tom Sestito on Jan. 22. It was his second concussion in six
months. Horton was also hit by Vancouver Canucks blueliner Aaron Rome in Game 3
of the Stanley Cup Final in June of 2011 and didnt return until the start of the
following season. Dwight Freeney Jersey . Gill has yet to play
in the first-round series after blocking a shot by Sheldon Souray in a win
against Dallas on April 5, but he went through his first full practice Thursday.
. After just nine stages and two weeks to go before the peloton reaches Paris,
Bradley Wiggins has already stamped his authority on the race and, barring an
accident, will become the first British winner of cyclings most prestigious
event on July 22. Reggie Wayne Youth Jersey .J. —Let the
other Eastern Conference playoff teams body check, elbow, trip and rough each
other up for seven games. Andrew Luck Womens Jersey . The two-time Cy
Young Award winner was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with a
sprained right ankle, the latest setback for the fading New York Mets since the
All-Star break.This may be the toughest division in football. Atlanta and New
Orleans will continue to be 10-plus win teams, and Carolina could surprise
everyone the way the 49ers did last year.  Even Tampa Bay, with new head coach
Greg Schiano, will be high-effort and tougher than last year. The unknown in the
division will be the day-by-day effect of not having head coach Sean Payton with
the Saints. His suspension gives Atlanta an opportunity like never before
because the Saints simply wont be at full strength all year. The winner of the
division will either be made great by the tough competition and will be
dangerous in the playoffs, or they will get worn out by the struggle within this
very strong division. ATLANTA FALCONS:  If there ever was a year that the
Falcons could take advantage of another teams adversity, this is it. Bounty-gate
in New Orleans has given the Falcons a significant chance to top the division.
The biggest change in Atlanta this season is not with players as much as
offensive and defensive coordinators. In are Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan, and
both coaches have said the same thing: “we will be more aggressive”. And Atlanta
has the talent to be very effective by being more aggressive. The knock on
Matt Ryan is that he throws too many check-down passes and not enough deep balls
with success, even though he has a good deep ball arm. With Roddy White, Juilo
Jones and Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez , why they were only the
eighth-best passing offence is hard to figure. They also have a young left
tackle in Will Svitek that may surprise as a good 16 game starter. With all that
talent they should finish in the top three! On defence, they were good against
the run and poor against the pass, which is why Asante Samuel is now a Falcon.
If you cant cover the Saints receivers, you cant win in the NFC South. Atlanta
will have a better chance to do that this year. As a head coach, Mike Smith has
done a good job. He is 43-21 and has a very good home record. But he is 0-3 in
the playoffs and in the last two seasons have been eliminated by the eventual
Super Bowl champs.  This has to be the year where they make a playoff run, not
just another playoff appearance. With the Saints vulnerable, its now or never
for Atlanta, and I think they will finish first in the NFC South. CAROLINA
PANTHERS:  I think there are two teams that can be the surprise teams of the
year in the NFC. One is Detroit and the other is Carolina, and for similar
reasons, starting with great young QBs. Cam Newton had an astonishing rookie
year.  He and Andy Dalton of the Bengals changed the perception of rookie QBs
and when you should play them. Clearly Blaine Gabbert of Jacksonville and
Christian Ponder of Minnesota could have benefited from a year observing and
learning, but not Newton. He was ready and the Panthers let him go and watched
him excel. Now with a real training camp he has the potential to be as good as
good as any QB in football. If Newton is the number one reason I like Carolina,
then head coach Ron Rivera is a close second.  When he was in Chicago as
defensive coordinator, the Bears had the best defence in football and reached
the Super Bowl. Then in San Diego, he turned the Chargers into one of the best
defences in the league. To me, Rivera has done it twice before so it is just a
matter of time before the Carolina Panthers have one of the best defences in
football. I may be jumping on the Carolina bandwagon a little too early, but
better early than late and I really believe in this team.  With three runners
over 700 yards (Newton included) and ending the year tops in explosive plays
(with 90 plays over 20 yards) the Panthers were a good 6-10 football team -very
good. In their last six games of 2011, they won four, lost two, and beat a solid
Texans team in Houston 28-13 on December 18. With Jon Beason back at MLB and
maybe the safest draft ppick in recent history, LB Luke Kuechly of Boston
College starting at OLB, the Panthers have a chance to improve into a top 10
defence and really compliment the offence, which was No. Andrew Luck Jersey. 7 last season. The
Panthers play the Saints in Week 2 and at New Orleans in Week 17. That last
regular season game could have a lot on the line in terms of playoff
positioning, and think Carolina will come through and finish second in the tough
and competitive NFC South.   NEW ORLEANS SAINTS:  I realize the Saints last year
were No. 1 in total offence, No. 1 in passing offence, and No. 1 in third down
offence, but the guy who put it all together is not there in 2012 and that has
to make a negative difference. Within the organization I always viewed Sean
Payton as the intimidator. Hes the guy who keeps everyone in line simply through
his presence and his vibe. He is also an excellent play-caller who is
situational aware and willing to change a finesse game into physical game by
running the interior over and over and over. Payton can dictate a game by
calling plays to change emotion as much as produce a result. Yes, Drew Brees
will take on a bigger leadership role but he has to be careful. Brees has to
first and foremost take care of Drew Brees. As aQB, if he tries to assist in too
many other areas it will take away from his personal preparation cycle. It is
true to say that teams take on the personality and priorities of their head
coach. Now with that personality gone, will there be an adjustment period? I say
yes, there will.  And I will also say this. Steve Spagnoulo will assist in many
intangible ways.  He may be the as of yet undefined head coach anyway. The
Saints won four games last year by a touchdown or less, which means they were
successful on key drives on offense and got key stops on defence.  That might
not happen again because of the off-season and the instability and doubt it has
created.  I peg the Saints to finish third in the NFC south . TAMPA BAY
BUCCANEERS:  At one time the Bucs were 4-2, but they they completely fell apart
and lost 10 in a row. And in the last five games the opponents scored 30 or more
each time. Welcome Greg Schiano, the new boss in Tampa Bay. I think the Bucs
will improve on their four win season if they can survive Schianos training
camp. Any time you have a new coach you have a new approach and part of the new
approach is evaluating who is tough enough to play for you. And with Schiano
coming directly out of Rutgers, the Tampa Bay training camp will be a real test
of mental will as much as football ability. I will say this, they did spend
money this off-season. The Bucs signed the best WR out there in Vincent Jackson
and the best offensive guard out there in Carl Nicks. And yes, they over-paid
for both, but both are 16 game starters and masters at their positions. Jackson
has dominated in camp, which is good news. You add a good draft pick in safety
Mark Barron, RB Doug Martin, and the Bucs have four new starters right now.  If
the defensive line lives up to expectations, as all are high draft picks, Bucs
football will be more than respectable. Then there is QB Josh Freeman, who was
excellent his first year, average at best his second. In year one he threw 25
TDs and six interceptions. In year two it was 22 TDs and 16 interceptions. Here
in year three, the Bucs want to see something closer to Freemans first season. 
The names Penn, Nicks, Zuttah, Joseph and Trueblood are not popular but they are
a good offensive line in the making and that will help Freeman. Over the last
two seasons, the Bucs have been the NFLs youngest team. Now with Schiano in
charge, will that youth mature into focused veterans or remain a group of
inconsistent youngsters?  Either way, the NFC South is a tough division in which
to win. The Bucs will improve in 2012, but not enough to stay out of fourth
place. ’ ’ ’ 

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