Update on the latest sportsAP
Djokovic gets exemption, will play in Australian Open
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic (NOH’-vak JOH’-kuh-vich) will get a chance to defend his Australian Open title after receiving a medical exemption to travel to Melbourne. The top-ranked Djokovic wrote on Instagram he has “an exemption permission” to compete at the tournament. Australian Open organizers have issued a statement to confirm the granting of a medical exemption to the nine-time champion.
Djokovic has continually refused to reveal if he is vaccinated against the coronavirus. The Victoria state government has mandated that all players, staff and fans attending the Australian Open must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 unless there’s a genuine reason why an exemption should be granted.
Djokovic is seeking a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title.
AUSTRALIAN OPEN-TUNE-UP TOURNAMENTS
Osaka wins at tune-up event
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka opened her 2022 season with a win over Alize Cornet in one of the Summer Set tournaments in Melbourne. Osaka beat Cornet 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in her first match since a third-round loss to Leylah Fernandez at the U.S. Open in September.
Osaka is ranked 13th but is the top-seeded player in the Australian Open tune-up event at Melbourne Park.
Jessica Pegula is the top-seeded player in one of the other Summer Set events this week but she lost to Irina-Camelia Begu in straight sets.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL-UCLA RETURNS
UCLA seeks rival for return to the court
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The UCLA men’s basketball team is back after a nearly two-week shutdown because of COVID-19. Now the fifth-ranked Bruins are trying to find someone to play.
The team returned to practice a week ago, with everyone from coach Mick Cronin to several players having recovered after being laid low by the coronavirus. Just three scholarship players did not test positive. The Bruins have been idle since beating Marquette on Dec. 11.
The UCLA staff is furiously working the phones to find a game to schedule, even if it’s not against a Division I opponent.
Caps players return
UNDATED (AP) — Tied at the top of the NHL with the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals have almost their entire lineup out of NHL COVID-19 protocol after missing players off and on for the past few weeks. Defenseman Martin Fehervary and goaltender Vitek Vanecek (VEE’-tehk VAN’-eh-chehk) skated Tuesday and appear on track to be back for Washington’s next game Friday at the St. Louis Blues.
The Dallas Stars are also getting healthier after removing captain Jamie Benn from the protocol list. Toronto’s Auston Matthews remains unavailable. San Jose captain Logan Couture (koo-TOOR’), Boston winger Jake DeBrusk and Buffalo forwards Anders Bjork(byohrk), Peyton Krebs and Alex Tuch all are new additions to league virus protocol.
Elsewhere around the NHL:
— New Jersey Devils defenseman Dougie Hamilton is scheduled to have surgery Wednesday on his broken jaw. The team did not give a timetable for his return. Hamilton was put on injured reserve retroactive to Sunday, when he took a puck to the face off a shot from Washington defenseman Justin Schultz. The Devils also announced that veteran goaltender Jonathan Bernier underwent successful right hip surgery and will miss the remainder of the season. New Jersey activated Tomas Tatar off the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list and added fellow forwards Pavel Zacha and Yegor Sharangovich.
Utah’s Ingles enters protocols, Jazz last team to join list
UNDATED (AP) — Joe Ingles entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Tuesday, the first Utah Jazz player to be added to that list this season. The Jazz had been the only NBA team yet to have a player in protocols this season. All 29 others had a player sidelined by COVID-19 at some point in the last three weeks during this outbreak, many of them placing more than 10 players in the protocols.
Browns’ Mayfield to have surgery
CLEVELAND (AP) — Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield will sit out the season finale against Cincinnati so he can undergo shoulder surgery.
Mayfield, who has played with a torn labrum and fracture in his non-throwing shoulder most of the season, was sacked nine times in Monday night’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Coach Kevin Stefanski said Mayfield and the team decided that the best option for him is to not play against the Bengals and get the operation so he has more time to recover ahead of next season. The surgery is still being scheduled.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati sacks leader Trey Hendrickson and three other starters are among five Bengals that have been placed on the COVID-19 reserve list. Center Trey Hopkins and left guard Quinton Spain were sidelined along with safety Vonn Bell. The fifth player is Akeem Davis-Gaither.
The Bengals have clinched the AFC North title for their first trip to the playoffs since the 2015 season. Playoff qualifiers Green Bay and Arizona have players coming off and going on the COVID-19 list. Each team has two starters returning.
Elsewhere in the NFL:
— The Kansas City Chiefs should have Orlando Brown Jr. on the field when they visit the Broncos on Saturday. The left tackle hurt his calf muscle during pregame warmups and missed last week’s last-second loss in Cincinnati. But he did just about everything in practice Tuesday and coach Andy Reid said he expects Brown on the field in Denver. The Chiefs need to beat the Broncos and hope Tennessee loses to Houston on Sunday to earn the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
— The New York Jets placed left tackle George Fant and defensive end Bryce Huff on injured reserve. Tight end Dan Brown was also placed on the practice squad IR. All three were injured in the Jets’ 28-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. Fant was the starter at right tackle in Week 1 but slid over to the left side when Mekhi Becton was injured in the opener. Huff had two sacks in nine games. Brown had two catches for 29 yards and was a special teams standout. The Jets also released linebacker LaRoy Reynolds from the practice squad Tuesday.
— Jalen Hurts is asking the Washington Football Team to take action after narrowly escaping harm when fans fell onto the field because a railing in the corner of FedEx Field gave way as the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback was walking into the tunnel after Sunday’s game. Hurts avoided the railing and calmly helped some fans to their feet. A photo runner for The Associated Press was injured and attended to by medical personnel. Hurts sent a letter to the NFL and the team, saying: “I am writing to inquire what follow-up action is being considered.”
— Washington’s NFL team says it will unveil its new name on Feb. 2. The helmets and uniforms will still feature the franchise’s signature burgundy and gold colors. The organization dropped its old name in the summer of 2020 after decades of complaints it was racist toward Native Americans and recent pressure from team sponsors.
— The second season of COVID-19 for the NFL has been just as trying as the first, maybe more. The league is working through virus issues as positive tests skyrocket compared to working around them a year ago with pauses and postponements. Teams on the playoff bubble have to worry about losing a key player at the last minute. Those that have qualified for the postseason will share the same concerns in the coming weeks. The NFL has eased return-to-play guidelines as the focus shifts from isolating players to finding the best way to deal with the highly contagious omicron variant.
— Tennessee outside linebacker Bud Dupree has been charged with misdemeanor assault in connection with a physical altercation at a Walgreen’s hours after the Titans clinched their second straight AFC South title. Metro Nashville police detectives cited Dupree on Tuesday morning. Dupree and his attorney met with detectives Tuesday morning. Dupree is scheduled to be booked in three weeks. The Titans issued a statement saying they are “aware of the situation and are gathering additional information.”
COLLEGE FOOTBALL-NFL DRAFT
Two Cincinnati stars to enter NFL draft
CINCINNATI (AP) — Two of Cincinnati’s biggest stars are leaving early to enter the NFL draft.
Cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and running back Jerome Ford helped carry the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff in 2021. Gardner never allowed a touchdown reception over more than 1,000 targets in three seasons. He is projected as a first-round pick.
Ford rushed for 1,319 yards and 19 touchdowns this season, helping lead Cincinnati to its second straight American Athletic Conference title. He had 15 carries for 77 yards in the semifinal loss.
Elsewhere in college football:
— Michigan outside linebacker David Ojabo is entering the NFL draft. Ojabo announced his decision Tuesday to turn pro and skip his senior season with the Wolverines. The second-team All-American and All-Big Ten player had 11 sacks as a redshirt sophomore. He helped Michigan win its first Big Ten title since 2004 and advance to the College Football Playoff for the first time.
Washington NFL team to unveil new name
WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington’s NFL team says it will unveil its new name on Feb. 2.
Team president Jason Wright confirmed that the name won’t be Wolves or RedWolves. He cited trademark challenges for not going down that path that was popular among fans. Commanders, Defenders, Red Hogs, Armada, Sentinels, Admirals Presidents, Brigade and the status quo “Washington Football Team” were among the other finalists.
The helmets and uniforms will still feature the franchise’s signature burgundy and gold colors.
The organization dropped its old name in the summer of 2020 after decades of complaints it was racist toward Native Americans and recent pressure from team sponsors.
SKIING-WORLD CUP-WOMEN’S SLALOM
Vlhova beats Shiffrin for 4th World Cup slalom win of season
ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Slovakian skier Petra Vlhova has won a women’s World Cup slalom in tough race conditions for her fourth win in five races this season.
Mikaela Shiffrin finished five-tenths of a second behind in second place upon her return to competition following a positive COVID-19 test and missing two races last week. Shiffrin was only cleared to race on Monday and was the only racer to finish within two seconds of Vlhova’s winning time.
GOLF-TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
Cameron Champ out of Kapalua with positive COVID-19 test
KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP)— Cameron Champ has withdrawn from the Sentry Tournament of Champions after testing positive for the coronavirus. Champ got into the winners-only event at Kapalua with his victory at the 3M Open in Minnesota last summer. The field now is at 38 players. Champ tested positive at home in Houston before leaving for Hawaii.
His management team describes it in a statement as a “breakthrough case” and says Champ is feeling good. The last player to withdraw from a PGA Tour event was Kyle Westmoreland in the RSM Classic in November. That was the final official event of 2021.
HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL-BLOWOUT APOLOGY
Connecticut school apologizes for 92-4 win in girls’ hoops
HAMDEN, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut high school has apologized after its girls’ basketball team beat an overmatched opponent 92-4. Sacred Heart Academy of Hamden beat Lyman Hall-Wallingford on Monday night. The Sharks led 29-0 after one quarter, 56-0 at halftime and 80-0 after three quarters.
Sacred Heart’s president says the school is deeply remorseful about how the game was played.
Lyman Hall’s coach says his team was pressed through most of the first half, and Sacred Heart continued to run its fast break and shoot 3-pointers with the game well out of hand.