Monday, January 4, 2016

WORLD SPORTS: Steelers claim playoff spot, Browns fire coach

Steelers snag playoff spot as Jets squander chance

Agence France-Presse

The New York Jets let an NFL playoff berth slip through their fingers on Sunday, ex-coach Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills playing spoiler with a win that opened the door for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

On the final day of the regular-season, the Jets needed only to win to end a four-season playoff drought.

But quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three fourth-quarter interceptions, including two in the final two minutes as the Bills triumphed 22-17 in wind-whipped Buffalo.

Meanwhile the Steelers took care of business in Cleveland, surviving three turnovers thanks to three touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisberger in a 28-12 victory over the Browns that was enough to claim an American Football Conference wild card spot.

The Houston Texans trounced the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-6 and won the AFC South division title for the first time since 2012.

The Miami Dolphins kept some suspense in the AFC with a 20-10 victory over the New England Patriots that opened the door for the Denver Broncos to grab the number one seed in the conference with a home win over the San Diego Chargers.


Browns fire head coach Pettine after 3-13 season


The Cleveland Browns fired head coach Mike Pettine on Sunday, the National Football League team announced.

General manager Ray Farmer was also axed, only hours after the Browns ended a dismal campaign with a 28-12 home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"We greatly appreciate Ray and Mike's dedication and hard work," owner Jimmy Haslam said in a statement.

"We've made this decision because we don't believe our football team is positioned well for the future. We are all disappointed with where we are and I take full responsibility."

Pettine had a 10-22 record in two seasons with the Browns.


Wawrinka gets ready for Australian Open in India's Chennai

Agence France-Presse

French Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka is looking to give himself the best possible preparation for the first Grand Slam of 2016 in Melbourne later this month by winning the ATP Chennai Open, which starts on Monday.

The Swiss is bidding for his third consecutive Chennai Open title and hopes a victory in India will help propel him to another major win, just as it did in 2014 and 2015.

Wawrinka, ranked fourth in the world, also won in Chennai in 2011 and is the top seed in the $480,000 tournament.

His closest challenger is likely to be number two seed Kevin Anderson. The big-serving South African has a 4-4 record against Wawrinka but says he's not thinking too much about his opponents.


Hewitt's final season off to disappointing start

Agence France-Presse

Veteran Lleyton Hewitt's farewell Australian summer got off to a tough start when he was beaten by the Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely at the mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth on Sunday.

The 34-year-old dual Grand Slam winner, now ranked 307th in the world, will retire after the upcoming Australian Open and showed some of his trademark grit to level his tie with the 41st-ranked Vesely by winning the second set in a lopsided tiebreak.

However, the Czech bounced back to grab an early break of serve in the third set and held that advantage to win, 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 6-4.


Djokovic admits concerns after friend becomes Federer coach

David HARDING, Agence France-Presse

World number one Novak Djokovic admitted Sunday it will be bizarre to see his friend Ivan Ljubicic helping coach one of his greatest rivals, Roger Federer, this season.

"Yes! Honestly, yes," said Djokovic, when asked if he would find it strange to see the Croat as part of the Swiss legend's coaching staff. "But you know, again, we are professionals."

It was announced in December that Ljubicic, a former world number three, would be hired in a move widely interpreted as Federer trying to find a way to defeat a dominant Djokovic, who won three Grand Slams last year and was also a finalist at the French Open.

Federer has denied that the Croat has been hired just to help him overcome the Serb.