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  • 23 May 2019
    RIO DE JANEIRO -- If youre a casual sports fan, aware of tennis only through the likes of Serena, Roger or Novak, you hear the name Steve Johnson and one word springs to mind: Who?But as the Olympic tennis tournament heads toward its final stretch here, the 26-year-old American realizes the chance a stage like Rio provides. Its a chance to make his name stand out.It just doesnt get much bigger than this for me, he said, sitting under the stands at center court here on a day when all matches were suspended because of rain, including both of Johnsons scheduled matches.The bearded right-hander with a booming serve and a hard-spinning forehand has slipped quietly under the radar here. He is suddenly a few victories away from winning medals in both singles and doubles. In the singles round of 16, he is the favorite to win against Russian Evgeny Donskoy on Thursday. In doubles, Johnson and partner Jack Sock have served their way into the semifinals. Theyre a strong enough tandem to have a solid chance at gold.To be in my first Olympics and in this spot right now, to have [two medals] an attainable goal in the next four or five days, its something truly remarkable, Johnson said.Beyond his next singles match, Johnson understands that his draw is extremely rough. His opponent in the quarterfinals would likely be Andy Murray. But having toiled first in the American college ranks before rising slowly through the unforgiving ATP World Tour, Johnson is not the type to back down. Anything can happen, said Johnson, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 21 just a few weeks back. Its mens pro tennis. Nothing is set in stone.Tennis is as top-heavy a sport as there is. All the attention goes to the top stars. The stories of the strong but not spectacular players are often skipped over. They are generally seen as early-round Grand Slam fodder for the biggies. Rio provides a real opportunity for someone like Johnson, who might have been left off the U.S. team if two higher-ranked players -- John Isner and Sam Querrey -- had not opted out of the Games.Johnson shares little with a high-tensile star such as Murray, one of the biggest names in global sports. Murray turned professional as a teen and has won $49 million in prize money and 38 titles, three of them Grand Slams.In four full-time years on tour, Johnson has one singles title and $2.5 million to his name. But he is unbothered by his comparatively paltry résumé or his late start. I was not ready at 18, he said. If I turned pro at 18, there is no way I would be here now. I had so much to learn. I found a love for tennis and the work ethic I needed in college.Little-known fact: Johnson isnt just the rare top-100 pro tennis player who played college tennis for four years. Hes the most decorated player in mens NCAA history. At USC, he won four Division I team titles to go along with two singles championships, and he strung together what is almost certainly the longest winning streak in college tennis history: 72 matches.He has probably the most gifted right arm Ive ever seen, said his former USC coach, Peter Smith, who knows something about the subject matter. Smith was a frequent practice partner for Pete Sampras when the eventual 14-time major champion was on the rise.Johnson -- 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds -- entered the wily world of pro tennis in 2012. It took him two years to make it into the top 100. But he stayed at it. Last summer, he was No. 49. This year, he won his first tournament, on the grass at Nottingham, England. A few days later, he faced Federer in Wimbledons round of 16. It was a 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 loss, but it also taught him much.OK, now I get it, Johnson said of Federer. You realize when he hits these shots and finds his way out of tricky situations with such ease, thats just what he does and why hes arguably the best ever.Can that kind of match -- a learning experience against an all-timer on the biggest stage -- translate into more success here at Rio?Hed like to think so. A perfect world means getting gold, he said.Is that realistic for a guy with his pedigree?Why not? he said.A necessary answer, and just the proper attitude for a little-known righty trying to make his name stand out. Air Force 1 Clearance Sale . -- Charlie Graham stopped 67 shots as the Belleville Bulls edged the visiting Guelph Storm 6-5 on Saturday in Ontario Hockey League action. Air Force 1 Clearance Uk . The 18-year-old American had five birdies in her bogey-free round for a 17-under total of 196. 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TEMPE, Ariz. -- In an abrupt move that stunned his teammates, the Arizona Cardinals released wide receiver Michael Floyd on Wednesday, two days after the 2012 first-round draft pick was arrested on charges of driving under the influence and failure to obey a police officer.Coach Bruce Arians declined to comment on the move other than to say it was a totally unanimous decision by him, team President Michael Bidwill and general manager Steve Keim.Seeing stuff like this happen, I think were all shocked, safety Tyrann Mathieu said. Were all kind of in disbelief.Mathieu described Floyd as like a brother.Hes a good guy, said Mathieu, who overcame marijuana-related problems that got him kicked out of LSU and became a 2015 All-Pro selection. I think we all make mistakes. Youre under the spotlight, youre under a microscope. ... If he ever needs anything, he can reach out to me. Im sure he could reach out to a bunch of guys in this locker room.The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Floyd, who was to become a free agent at the end of this season, was taken into custody early Monday after being found unconscious behind the wheel of his running vehicle at an intersection in suburban ScottsdaleHe was booked and released from the Scottsdale jail later that morning.It was not his first brush with the law. He had three alcohol-related incidents involving police when he was at Notre Dame, including a DUI arrest.The Cardinals mentioned Floyds release without comment Wednesday in a news release that announced several other roster moves.Arians had said Monday that he was gathering information to determine what our options are going forward.The Cardinals made Floyd the 13th pick overall in the 2012 draft after the receivers standout career at Notre Dame.Floyd finished the 2015 season strong, winding up with a career-best five 100-yard receiving games. But he was having a down year this contract season, with several critical dropped passes.He caught 33 passes for 446 yards and four TDs this season.Quarterback Carson Palmer called it a tough day.Mikes a close friend of mmine, an offseason golfing buddy, a workout partner, so its tough, Palmer said.dddddddddddd I believe in Mike. Im hoping for nothing but the best for Mike and look forward to seeing what he does with the next opportunity he gets.Palmer said it was not his place to say whether the Cardinals decision was a mistake.In five seasons, Floyd caught 242 passes for 3,739 yards and 23 touchdowns. His best statistical season was his second, in 2013, when he caught 65 passes for 1,041 yards, including a 91-yard play.Palmer said the Cardinals will miss Floyds size, speed and big-play ability.Hes a great mismatch, Palmer said. He plays extremely hard. He practices hard. Mike, hes a dominant player. Ive seen it. Weve seen it. Everybody here has seen him, the year he had last year and some of the plays hes made. ... Thats obviously a big void to fill.But Floyds role had diminished as J.J. Nelson got more involved in the offense.There had been widespread speculation that Arizona, with 21 players to become free agents, would not try to re-sign Floyd, instead concentrating on a deal with outside linebacker Chandler Jones.Mathieu, who has had experience in these matters, said hed spoken with Floyd.Everybodys going to have something to say, Mathieu said. Everybodys going to criticize you. Everybody thinks they know what youre going through, so I think the most important thing for him is to believe in himself.Floyds agent Brian Murphy did not respond to a message seeking comment.Game notes Arizona signed wide receiver Jeremy Ross and promoted tackle Givens Price from the practice squad. ... Quarterback Zac Dysert was promoted from the practice squad because the Miami Dolphins were about to sign him. ... Mathieu, who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, practiced and said well see whether he will be able to play Sunday against New Orleans.---For more NFL coverage: and ' ' '