Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Russell Westbrook is the "most important player" in the NBA team's history following his trade to the Houston Rockets.

On Tuesday, the Thunder announced they had finalised the trade that sent Westbrook to Houston in exchange for two future first-round selections, two pick swaps and Chris Paul.

Westbrook, who spent his first 11 seasons with the franchise, will "always remain part of the Thunder family", Presti said.

"Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder," Presti said in a statement.

"He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state. None of us could have anticipated the player he has become, and we are all deeply proud of what he has contributed to the success of the franchise and to our community."

Westbrook was the second top-level player the Thunder sent away this offseason. They moved Paul George — who finished third in the MVP voting in 2018-19 — to the Los Angeles Clippers and received five first-round selections, two pick swaps, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari in return.

The Thunder then dealt forward Jerami Grant to the Denver Nuggets for another first-round pick.

"We recently had conversations with Russell about the team, his career, and how he sees the future," Presti said. "Through those conversations we came to the understanding that looking at some alternative situations would be something that made sense for him. As a result, and due to his history with the Thunder, we worked together to accommodate this.

"Our ability to have these types of conversations and work so closely with Russell and his agent Thad Foucher is only possible because of the depth of the relationship that has been built over the last 11 years."

The deal reunites Westbrook with James Harden in Houston. The pair played together with the Thunder from 2009-12.

The Thunder could look to trade veteran guard Paul again before the start of 2019-20.

James Harden and Russell Westbrook will "make it work" at the Houston Rockets, insisted head coach Mike D'Antoni.

The Rockets acquired Westbrook in a blockbuster trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, reuniting the 2017 NBA MVP with Harden.

Harden and Westbrook like to control the ball but D'Antoni is confident the latter will fit into Houston's line-up without any drastic changes to accommodate the All-Stars.

"We're not changing much," D'Antoni said on the The Woj Pod while discussing the addition of Westbrook. "We'll tweak it, but to say you've gotta change and you can't win that way, that's B.S."

Some critics believe the Rockets do not spread the ball around enough and play too much isolation.

Now, some are questioning whether it will be even more challenging to play that type of offense with both Harden and Westbrook, who are two ball-dominant players, on the court.

D'Antoni, however, does not think it will be a problem because the two want to play together, and they previously teamed up in Oklahoma City.

"They’ll make it work," D'Antoni said. "Do we sometimes go too much one-on-one? Yeah. Do we sometimes iso or not move enough? Yeah, we do sometimes. But I can also make the argument that sometimes teams over-pass. You try to find the balance of what is best for your players."

D'Antoni explained the Rockets will find what works best for both players to maximise their talents.

"I will start looking now at tape and trying to figure out the dynamics between the two and how they played in Oklahoma City and how it's changed since then, in the Olympics," D'Antoni said.

"But it's exciting. Whenever you have great talent, it's exciting because it gives you a chance to win, and that's what we all want to do. But it'll be my job to maximise their talents and what they do best, and it should be really good.

"I saw it in USA Basketball. You put [the stars] all together and they want to make it work, it doesn't matter. The more talent you have, the better it is. And I think right now with this duo and other people, it'll work. Now, to what degree, we'll see."

 World Indoor champion Alia Atkinson CD is one of 10 Texas A&M University legends to be honoured on September 13, 2019, at the Burgess Banquet in College Station, Texas.

Kevin Durant swapped the Golden State Warriors for the Brooklyn Nets because he loves the "system", according to general manager Sean Marks.

Durant joined the Nets via free agency after winning two championships and two NBA Finals MVPS with the Warriors.

Recovering from an Achilles injury sustained in the Finals defeat to the Toronto Raptors, Durant thought highly of Brooklyn and their style of play, which is one of the reasons he chose the Nets over other suitors in free agency.

Marks told WFAN on Tuesday that in his first conversation with Durant after the announcement, the star said: "I love the system. I love how you guys play. I see how hard you guys play ... you were never out of games. We could never take you guys lightly."

Marks stood by the fact he did not know Durant's choice to join the Nets until he announced it on Instagram just a few minutes after free agency began on June 30. 

"What we knew was we were either getting a teleconference call with Kevin that night or we were going to potentially get a meeting," Marks said.

"We'd seen some media reports earlier in the day that Kevin had crossed several teams off his list and we were still one of them [being considered]. And those reports were there for everybody to read. And when Kevin posted it on The Boardroom Instagram site, that was news to all of us in the office."

Marks remains excited about the addition of Durant, despite him recovering from an injury that will likely have him sidelined for the upcoming season. Brooklyn also signed Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan.

Irving joined Durant after he opted out of his deal with the Boston Celtics following a number of reports surfaced about the turmoil he faced at TD Garden.

"I'm not going to lie, there's been a couple of times I'm definitely excited about — Kevin for sure, the whole group and really the challenge of getting all these guys together on the same page and watching how it unfolds," Marks said.

"I think that's the magic and that's the real special piece where you see elite talent ... want to play together and see who's going to sacrifice what and who's going to bring what to the table and just see how they all mesh."

David Griffin saw the future of the New Orleans Pelicans in a brief moment during NBA Summer League practice, and the executive vice president of basketball operations said things look "crazy" good.

Griffin introduced recruits Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart after a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers centred on Anthony Davis, and Derrick Favors – acquired from the Utah Jazz.

Coupled with first pick Zion Williamson and eighth selection Jaxson Hayes, along with returning guard Jrue Holiday, and the Pelicans are expected to be one of the most-improved teams in the NBA in 2019-20.

Griffin is thrilled with what he has seen so far, like that special moment in a recent Summer League practice.

"There was a moment where Jaxson Hayes was out running the floor in a practice with Zion on the other side, and they were sort of just messing around … and the speed those guys have just at a trot is mind-numbing," Griffin told reporters on Tuesday. "Alvin and I looked at it and we thought, 'Man with those guys on the wing, and with Lonzo at the point, what we'll be able to do speed-wise is crazy'."

That is crazy in a good way for the Pelicans, unlike last season's 33-49 craziness, lowlighted by the persistent trade rumours surrounding Davis.

Griffin said he is excited all the acquisitions come from winning backgrounds, adding: "We want to surround ourselves with people that have won championships on any level, because it's a frequency you learn to tune to. We're deep with selfless winners."

Former Lakers guard Ball welcomes the move to New Orleans, saying: "It's a fresh start. It's a restart. … I know the media is not like it was in LA, but I know the fans are great and come out and support [us]."

Ball added: "I'm getting back to playing the style I've been playing my whole life, I'm very comfortable in a high uptempo offense like coach Gentry has."

The Pelicans will enter this season with high expectations and playing under a microscope with Williamson on display. But Griffin wants the players to believe anything is possible.

"Look at what the NBA has become, and the way teams are built," Griffin said. "You can't dream big enough in this league. I think I want everyone's approach to this to be, 'Why not us?'"

Mike Vrabel said the Tennessee Titans are looking at a quarterback to lead the way for the "next 7-10 years" as he discussed Marcus Mariota's future.

Tennessee picked up the fifth-year option on Mariota's rookie contract, but the sides have yet to agree to a new deal.

The Titans originally selected Mariota out of Oregon with the second pick in the 2015 draft. However, the 25-year-old has registered just a 27-28 record as a starter over his four NFL seasons.

Titans head coach Vrabel was asked about the future of Mariota and he hold MMQB: "I think everybody has a contract, and we're very aware of players who are in the last year of the deal.

"Marcus is obviously one of those. When you make a commitment to the QB you want to make sure that this is going to be your guy for the next 7-10 years when you look at the percentage of the cap quarterbacks are driving."

Mariota completed 68.9 per cent of his passes and threw for 11 touchdowns, along with eight interceptions, in 14 games for Tennessee last season. He also added two scores on the ground.

The Titans finished with a 9-7 record and missed the playoffs.

"Nobody is prouder of what Marcus has done in the offseason than me," Vrabel said. "He's come back stronger, bigger, with greater understanding of what we're doing offensively, being able to communicate it to players [on] the field.

"I don't look at the lack of a long-term extension as a negative, though that's what people try to make it."

"I know Marcus's demeanour and that won't change whether he's on a 10-year contract or it's up after the season," Vrabel added. "He's that type of person. So, I know it'll work because of how he is."

The Titans are set to begin training camp next week.

Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons will not play for Australia at this year's FIBA World Cup, though he will feature in exhibition games against the United States.

After initially making himself available for August's World Cup in China, Simmons announced on Tuesday that he will skip the tournament and instead focus on the upcoming NBA season with the 76ers.

While he is set to sit out the World Cup, Simmons will travel to Australia for a pair of games against Canada in Perth on August 16 and 17 before facing Team USA in Melbourne on August 22 and 24.

"I wanted to let everyone know that after consulting with my representation, I've made the difficult decision to forego playing in the World Cup in China this summer," Simmons – who has signed a new five-year contract with the 76ers – said in a statement via Twitter.

"I will still be heading back home to Australia to host my camps as well as train and play with the Boomers in the upcoming exhibition games.

"I'm really excited about the talent we have on the Boomers squad, especially moving close to 2020 where I will be honoured and humbled to represent my country on the world's biggest sporting stage at the Olympics in Tokyo.

"Ultimately, we decided it was best that I use the time in September to return to Philadelphia to acquaint myself with my new team-mates and prepare for the upcoming NBA season."

The 76ers selected Simmons with the first pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and he has played a large role in the team's resurgence as an oversized, do-it-all playmaker.

Philadelphia put together one of the most talented starting line-ups in basketball last season, featuring Simmons, Joel Embiid, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris as they finished third in the Eastern Conference before falling to the Toronto Raptors in the second round.

The 76ers lost Butler and Redick this offseason, but acquired Josh Richardson and Al Horford, giving them tremendous defensive potential.

Steve Johnson's title defence at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships came to an end in a surprise first-round loss on Tuesday.

Johnson, the fifth seed at the ATP 250 event, went down to wildcard Christopher Eubanks 7-6 (11-9) 7-6 (7-5) on the grass at Newport.

Eubanks, the 23-year-old ranked 188th in the world, sent down 15 aces in a shock victory over his fellow American.

Defending champion Johnson was one of two seeds to fall, with Bradley Klahn also departing, suffering a 6-4 7-6 (7-5) loss to Denis Kudla.

Alexander Bublik almost joined them in exiting, but the seventh seed edged past qualifier Alex Bolt 6-4 2-6 7-6 (7-4).

Runners-up from the past two years, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Matthew Ebden moved through.

Last year's finalist and a qualifier in 2019, Ramanathan overcame Sergiy Stakhovsky 5-7 7-6 (8-6) 6-2, while 2017 runner-up Ebden claimed a 6-1 2-6 6-3 victory over Brayden Schnur.

Viktor Troicki served 10 double faults but still got past Jason Jung 3-6 7-5 7-5, while Mischa Zverev was too good for Tim Smyczek 6-3 7-6 (7-4).

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis does not have any regrets about his trade request and departure from the New Orleans Pelicans. 

Davis will team up with Lakers superstar LeBron James in 2019-20 after finally arriving from the Pelicans in a blockbuster trade.

A six-time All-Star, Davis requested a trade away from New Orleans and the Pelicans attempted to deal him before February's deadline but failed.

When asked if he wished he did it any differently, Davis told ESPN: "No. I wish I did it the way I did it."

"I'm a person who's very upfront and honest," he said. "You know, I want to tell you what it is. I love the city of New Orleans, but from a professional standpoint and occupation in basketball, I felt like it was time for me to move on.

"I see a lot of people that say 'wait' or 'you should have did it this way, that way.' But for me, I've been in the league long enough. I'm a grown man. I know what I want. And so I thought doing it at that time was definitely going to be beneficial for myself and for the organisation to get the best package available, so that way the organisation is still set."

Davis went on to say he wanted to have complete control over his situation and did not want other people's opinions to affect his career.

"Because I allowed people to tell me what to do and advise me to do this or that," the 26-year-old added. "And now, by me being able to take control of my career, any decision that I make, you know — I can sleep at night. I'm good.

"That was the biggest thing for me. I was having a lot of regrets and thinking, I should have done it my way. Or, I should have done this differently. But now it's like, when I do it my way — I'm able to sleep at night and not care what other people's opinions are."

Since the addition of Davis, the Lakers have made big changes to their roster during free agency to complement both him and James.

Davis revealed Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka called "every 30 to 45 minutes" during the free-agency period to get his input on players.

"Sometimes I had to tell him, like, 'Rob, I'm in the movies.' He'd be like, 'All right, well, call me as soon as you get out,'" Davis said. "But we're trying to put the best team around us, and I think he did a great job of doing it."

The AFC North has been dominated by the Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers for years, but this finally could be the year of the Cleveland Browns.

It is a division that has a new look all around, as the Browns and Ravens made some big offseason signings, the Bengals added a new head coach for the first time in 17 years and the Steelers moved on from two thirds of their 'Killer B' trio.

Here's the outlook for the AFC North heading into training camp:

Team on the rise

Cleveland Browns

The Browns had nowhere to go but up in 2018 after posting a winless record the previous season, but after going 7-8-1 last time out they could really take off in 2019.

One of the biggest stories this offseason was Cleveland's acquisition of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants. But the Browns didn't stop there and made a controversial decision to sign running back Kareem Hunt following his release from the Kansas City Chiefs after the emergence of a video appearing to show him in a violent altercation with a woman. Hunt is suspended for the first eight games of the 2019 campaign following an NFL investigation.

Among those returning for the Browns after helping turn around the team last season are Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway and Nick Chubb, making the Browns not only the most intriguing team in the AFC North but also one of the most interesting ones in the entire NFL.

Team on the decline

Cincinnati Bengals

It's a new era in Cincinnati, which means the Bengals could be looking up from the bottom of the division for a year or two as they find their footing.

The team brought in first-time head coach Zac Taylor after parting ways with long-time coach Marvin Lewis, and the 36-year-old will face the tall task of helping the team rebound from their first last-place finish in the division since 2010 after the Browns held the position from 2011-17.

However, much of the team's turnaround will depend on the recovery of their offense after the Bengals lost quarterback Andy Dalton (thumb), wide receiver A.J. Green (toe) and tight end Tyler Eifert (ankle) to injuries last season.

Rookies to watch

Devin Bush, LB, Steelers: The Steel Curtain has been far from impenetrable since the team lost Ryan Shazier to a spine injury, so Pittsburgh traded up to take Michigan standout Bush 10th overall and he quickly made an impression on his team-mates during OTAs. Bush, who ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash at the combine, had 172 tackles, 18.5 tackles for losses, 10 sacks and an interception in 32 games in his three seasons with the Wolverines.

Marquise Brown, WR, Ravens: The Ravens surprised many taking Brown with the 25th pick of the first round. The team doesn't have the best history drafting receivers, and Lamar Jackson carried much of the offensive load last season as he ranked 30th in rushing yards, joining Cam Newton (49th) as the only quarterbacks in the top 50. Still, Brown proved to be a valuable — and speedy — weapon as Kyler Murray's top target at Oklahoma, posting 75 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

Player spotlight

Earl Thomas

After spending the first nine seasons of his career in Seattle, ex-Seahawk Thomas is in for an adjustment in 2019 with the Ravens, but that doesn't mean he isn't up for the challenge.

A key member of the "Legion of Boom" secondary and Seahawks defense that was among the NFL's stingiest for almost a decade, Thomas brings a level of intensity, determination and leadership that the Ravens defense has arguably lacked since Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed's retirement.

Imagine what Thomas brings to a defense that ranked first in yards allowed in 2018. His fire was only fuelled after he broke his leg last season, and he famously didn't hide his feelings from the Seahawks...

Expect to see that ferocity throughout this season, beginning Week 1 when he finally makes his return to the field.

Key injuries

James Conner, ankle: The Steelers running back broke out last season as he took on a larger role in the absence of Le'Veon Bell during his contract holdout, but an ankle injury limited Conner to just 13 games. With Bell gone, expect Conner's duties to be expanded - if he can stay healthy - as he looks to build on the 973 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns he had in 2018.

Andy Dalton, thumb: The Bengals quarterback went down with a thumb injury late in the season, landing on injured reserve on November 26, but threw for 2,566 yards and 21 touchdowns with 11 interceptions before being sidelined. Pairing his return to the field with Green and Tyler Eifert's comebacks will certainly give Cincinnati a boost.

Nicolas Jarry enjoyed a winning start at the Swedish Open on Tuesday, while Fabio Fognini learned his second-round Croatia Open Umag opponent.

Fifth seed Jarry came through his opener unscathed, beating Henri Laaksonen 7-6 (7-1) 7-5 despite trailing by a break early in the first set.

The Chilean joins compatriot and top seed Cristian Garin, who was handed a bye, in the next round, with the latter to face Jeremy Chardy.

Chardy came through in three sets in his first-round clash with Pablo Carreno Busta, a qualifier this week.

Juan Ignacio Londero and Joao Sousa eased through, while Damir Dzumhur had too much for Casper Ruud.

In Croatia, Fognini was in doubles action as Stefano Travaglia secured a date with his compatriot, beating another Italian in Thomas Fabbiano.

Filip Krajinovic had to wait until late in the day to take on and defeat Taro Daniel, but Martin Klizan let a one-set lead slip up against Facundo Bagnis. Leonardo Mayer, meanwhile, beat Pablo Andujar in straight sets.

Manny Pacquiao's camp have dismissed suggestions from Amir Khan that the Filipino great has agreed to a fight in Saudi Arabia in November.

Khan announced on Tuesday that "both parties have signed the fight off" for Riyadh on November 8, suggesting only an injury to Pacquiao in his clash with Keith Thurman could scupper the planned bout.

But with Pacquiao firmly focused on taking on Thurman for the WBA welterweight title in Las Vegas on Saturday, his team have spoken on his behalf to reject Khan’s claim.

Sean Gibbons, president of MP Promotions, told BoxingScene.com: "The Amir Khan fight is news to us."

Fred Sternburg, Pacquiao's publicist, also stated no deal has been completed, telling The National: "Manny has not signed a contract for that fight."

Multi-weight world champion Pacquiao, now 40, boasts a 61-7-2 record and has long been a target for Khan, who defeated Billy Dib in Jeddah last week.

Jamaica Sunshine Girls star shooter Jhanielle Fowler-Reid admits that the team was ‘devastated’ to be facing an almost certain exit from the Netball World Cup following a loss to England on Monday.

The Jamaicans entered the tournament full of confidence as the world number two ranked team behind Australia.  They certainly failed to live up to the elevated spot, however, following losses to 3rd ranked England and 5th ranked South Africa in the preliminary round.

Jamaica, with one win and two losses, lie third in Group B on two points, and now have to defeat Scotland and Uganda by huge margins and hope that England or South Africa lose their remaining games in order for them to sneak into the semi-finals.

Fowler-Reid, the West Coast Fever goal shooter, has delivered her usual outstanding play so far but was quick to admit that the team was bitterly disappointed, particularly with higher expectations placed on their shoulders ahead of the tournament.  The attacker, however, insisted the players would try to recover.

 “We’re devastated, we’re disappointed because we wanted to go further,” she said. “But what can we do? We’re not going to kill ourselves.”

 

 

Year after year, the AFC East is New England's to lose - and 2019 will be no different.

But the competition is growing and beginning to even across the division, with the Patriots more vulnerable than they have been in recent seasons, due in large part to the retirement of tight end Rob Gronkowski. Still, quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick are a lethal duo that should not be underestimated, especially when they can keep on playing the "people are doubting us" card.

Here's the outlook for the AFC East heading into training camp:

TEAM ON THE RISE

New York Jets

The Jets posted a division-worst 4-12 record in 2018 and missed the playoffs for an eighth straight season, so things can only get better this year, right?

The team has reason to be optimistic considering New York added talent on both sides of the ball by signing running back Le'Veon Bell and linebacker C.J. Mosley. But second-year quarterback Sam Darnold also will have a lot to prove after an inconsistent rookie season in which he threw 15 interceptions compared to 17 touchdowns as he dealt with injuries. Can new coach Adam Gase help him get the job done?

TEAM ON THE DECLINE

Miami Dolphins

Miami may have been the only team in the division to beat New England last season, but new head coach Brian Flores (arriving from the Patriots) will have his work cut out for him as he looks to speed up the rebuild in South Florida.

The Dolphins fired coach Gase and also lost Cameron Wake, Frank Gore and Danny Amendola. But the team did trade for quarterback Josh Rosen and sign cornerback Xavien Howard to a hefty contract extension, so there is hope for a decent season. On the other hand, a high draft pick in 2020 would greatly benefit Miami.

ROOKIES TO WATCH

Quinnen Williams, DT, Jets: Despite having just one year as a starter at Alabama, Williams has the Jets' hopes high, though he and the team will need to be cautious. A calf injury limited him earlier this offseason, but he managed to close out OTAs with some first-team reps. He finished last season in the top five in the SEC in both tackles for loss (second – 19.5) and sacks (fifth – 8.0).

Ed Oliver, DT, Bills: The University of Houston standout has big shoes to fill as he prepares to replace Kyle Williams, who retired in December after 13 seasons, but should still bolster a Bills defense that ranked second in average yards allowed per game (294.1) last season. He had 13.5 sacks and 53 tackles for losses in 32 games with the Cougars.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT

Julian Edelman

The veteran receiver had a terrific season in 2018 despite coming off a torn ACL suffered the year before and then serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy.

He had 74 receptions for 850 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games during the regular season but saved the best for last as he had 26 catches for a career-best 388 yards en route to earning Super Bowl 53 MVP honors in New England's win over the Rams. With Gronkowski enjoying retired life, expect Edelman, 33, to have even more targets from Brady as the team tries to secure its fourth championship in six years.

KEY INJURIES

Albert Wilson, hip: The wide receiver signed a three-year, $24million deal with the Dolphins last offseason and his stint in Miami got off to a strong start before he suffered a season-ending hip injury in October. He was on a pace for a breakout year in 2018 and is primed to do it again this season now he is healthy, as he anticipates being ready to go for Week 1.

Ben Simmons has officially agreed to a new long-term deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, the team announced on Tuesday.

The Sixers confirmed a five-year extension, starting in 2020, but did not reveal the terms of the contract - reported to be a max deal worth $170million.

Simmons, who turns 23 on Saturday, was in the last year of his rookie contract.

"Ben Simmons is an important piece of our core and he is one of the NBA's most dynamic and talented young players," general manager Elton Brand said.

"It was a priority for our organisation that we finalise a contract extension with Ben this summer. He was Rookie of the Year in his first season, an All-Star in his second and we expect him to continue grow and succeed for seasons to come.

"Ben positively impacts the game in so many ways and we look forward to continuing our championship pursuits with him as one of our leaders."

The Australian was drafted by Philadelphia with the number one overall pick in 2016 but missed his entire rookie season due to a foot injury.

Simmons finished last season averaging 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game and helped lead the Sixers to the second round of the playoffs, where they were agonisingly beaten by eventual champions the Toronto Raptors.

Julia Goerges and Tatjana Maria exited the Ladies Open Lausanne on Tuesday, but Bucharest Open top seed Anastasija Sevastova rallied through.

The shock result of the day on the WTA Tour came in Switzerland, where top seed Goerges, ranked 25th, trailed 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 3-2 to 18-year-old wildcard Simona Waltert when she retired with a wrist injury.

Swiss teenager Waltert said: "The home crowd was pretty cool and I just loved every minute out there."

Goerges lost to French Open champion Ashleigh Barty in the Birmingham Classic final last month but has otherwise endured a tough year since winning in Auckland in the first tournament of the season.

She was joined in making an early exit in Lausanne by compatriot Maria, the fifth seed thrashed 6-1 6-0 by Allie Kiick.

Alize Cornet and Mihaela Buzarnescu, the other seeds in action, both advanced, the latter playing out an improbably topsy-turvy 1-6 6-1 6-0 win over Stefanie Voegele.

In Romania, defending champion Sevastova also won but only after overcoming a scare.

Sevastova lost the opening set to home hopeful Ana Bogdan, ranked 127th, and was taken to a tie-break in the second, before recovering to triumph.

Veronika Kudermetova and Kristyna Pliskova eased through, but fifth seed Sorana Cirstea lost an all-Romanian clash with Jaqueline Cristian.

Defending champion Geraint Thomas should still be considered the Tour de France favourite after 10 stages, according to Chris Boardman, but Julian Alaphilippe and Thibaut Pinot may struggle to maintain a challenge through to Paris.

Thomas is second in the General Classification on the first rest day, one minute and 12 seconds behind leader Alaphilippe, having benefited from Pinot's struggles in crosswinds on Monday.

And while the Welshman still has work to do to claim the yellow jersey, three-time stage-winner Boardman suggests, with a long way to go, the Team INEOS star has the confidence and quality to retain his crown.

“Geraint Thomas is still very much the favourite - after yesterday's stage [10], where he fared better than all the other General Classification contenders, even more so, I think," Boardman told Omnisport.

"Last year was his breakthrough year, not just with his physiology - he had that for a long time if you go back and look - but [before] maybe he didn't believe that he could and didn't need to win.

"He always put himself in the service of someone else. Last year was the first time that he rode for himself and proved that it was possible.

"And now he's armed with that information. He has the capability and now he has the belief that he can do it as well."

Boardman is less convinced by fellow contenders Alaphilippe and Pinot, however, expecting the leader to suffer in the time trials while questioning the mental strength of the latter, who is now 11th.

"I think [Alaphilippe] can fight for a good General Classification place," he said. "He's a very flamboyant and entertaining rider to watch - very much like Peter Sagan - but I don't think he's quite there for overall contention.

"His time-trialling is not the strongest, but he's a brilliant rider to watch. The French, in general, look stronger en masse this year and I think we might see some more from them.

"Pinot's not finished. I think the mental strength is virtually as important as physical. What people don't see is a few days earlier Geraint Thomas has a crash with a few kilometres to go and fights back, sorted it out, so no-one even notices it.

"But being able to deal with adversity is a big part of being a champion, being able to deal with it, put it to one side and move on and carry on with whatever ingredients you've got left.

"I think that might be a lesson he's got to learn."

It was another glorious day at Royal Portush as preparations for the Open Championship continued on Tuesday.

Players aplenty faced the media - including a certain Tiger Woods - and there were a host of big names out on the course.

And they weren't the only ones strolling the stunning links track, with Omnisport's reporters also on the prowl.

Here's a sample of what they happened upon during their travels inside the media tent and beyond...

 

NO PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT?

Brooks Koepka's record is a peculiar thing.

The world number one has won four of the past 10 majors and placed second at the Masters and U.S. Open either side of defending the US PGA Championship in the first three major tournaments of 2019.

But he is only a twice a winner on the regular PGA Tour. So what's the difference?

"I just practice before the majors. Regular tournaments I don't practice. If you've seen me on TV, that's when I play golf," he said to laughter from the press pack.

Top marks for honesty there, Brooks.

PINT OF GUINNESS, TIGER?

Tiger Woods was in a jovial mood during his media conference, which as ever was the best attended of them all.

When asked if he'd had chance to have a sip of Guinness, the three-time Open winner offered this assessment of one of the more popular Irish delicacies.

"This week? No, not this week. In the past...hmm," he joked.

 

LOST IN THE ROUGH

One of the joys of covering an Open Championship is heading out on the course to take in the sights and catch a bit of golf.

On practice days, with reduced crowds, it's an opportunity to follow some of the big names without having to contend with the masses that follow the action during the tournament.

But the plans of one Omnisport reporter, who set out to watch Brooks Koepka, were thwarted by some poor navigation and, in fairness, a little bit of bad luck.

If you take a wrong turn on this course and get stuck the wrong side of one of the boundary ropes that funnel spectators down certain pathways, you can end up a long way from where you want to be.

And so it proved for this lost reporter, who never did track down Koepka and was left instead to watch Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who has won four fewer majors than the American.

The Chiefs were the stars of the NFL last year as Patrick Mahomes threw for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, winning the MVP as Kansas City were arguably one coin flip from a Super Bowl berth.

But in 2019, the Los Angeles Chargers are once again very good, the Denver Broncos have added two quarterbacks and the Oakland Raiders actually did some good things this offseason.

All of that leads to a belief that the AFC West could be very competitive, much more so than it was last year when Oakland were a laughingstock and Denver underachieved. Still, everyone will be chasing the Chiefs as Mahomes looks to once again excel in Andy Reid's offense.

Here's the outlook for the AFC West heading into training camp:

TEAM ON THE RISE

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders added Antonio Brown and that alone would be enough to turn some heads. But they also picked up Trent Brown in free agency plus drafted some very good players with all of the first-round picks acquired in trades for Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. It is undeniable this team looks on paper like it is on the upswing, but it is up to coach Jon Gruden to make all the puzzle pieces fit on the field.

TEAM ON THE DECLINE

Denver Broncos

The Denver defense is great, and new coach Vic Fangio should make its ability to stop opponents even better, but the offense has serious questions.

As much as adding one-time Super Bowl MVP and first-round pick Joe Flacco gives the team hope, it is a move that very well could blow up in Denver's face.

Flacco has been mediocre over the last few seasons. He was injured and lost the Ravens starting job to rookie Lamar Jackson in 2018 after he fell from seventh in the league in passing yardage in 2016 to 21st in 2017. It appears he really does not offer much more than Case Keenum did last year for the Broncos.

One key difference: Flacco's ability to throw the deep ball could change the offense some, but the Broncos do not have many receivers who can stretch the field so Flacco's arm-strength might be rendered moot.

ROOKIES TO WATCH

Clelin Ferrell, DE, Raiders: The Raiders were last in the NFL in sacks last season, and Ferrell's calling card really is not sacking the quarterback. But the number four overall pick is a good all-around player who is a solid foundational piece for the Oakland defense. He should help the defense as a whole, but it remains to be seen if he boosts the team's pass rush, where they absolutely need to improve.  

Drew Lock, QB, Broncos: Lock was drafted to be Denver's quarterback of the future, but Jackson was drafted to be the same thing in Baltimore. Flacco got hurt and Jackson became the team's QB of the present. If Flacco gets hurt or underachieves with the Broncos, the Lock era could be begin very soon.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT

Tyreek Hill

Hill is the most explosive playmaker in football, but he has a lot hanging over him going into the 2019 season, given he has a legal issue surrounding an incident with his fiancee and their son.

If he is suspended for any portion of the season, the Chiefs offense will suffer. Mecole Hardman could be good as a rookie, but to expect him to match Hill's production - 1,479 yards last season - is not fair. Keep an eye on what happens with Hill leading up to the season.

KEY INJURIES

Travis Kelce, ankle: The Chiefs tight end underwent an ankle procedure earlier this year that was described as a "cleanup." He has missed a good portion of the offseason program, and it is unclear if that will affect him going forward, at least in the near term. 

Odds are it will not be a big deal. He has excelled in the Chiefs offense for years, so missing practice reps should not hurt. However, if he has any lingering effects with the ankle going into the season, that could affect his output.

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