Thunder Down Under


By: Jeff Yoder

Good Morning,

It’s time for the thunder down under. The Australian Open is moving into the semifinals with a list of underestimated challengers. The first tennis major crowns of 2023 are en route. And there’s plenty more in this winter mid-week edition as we speed towards Championship Sunday. Stay tuned…

Letter Rip!



Thunder Down Under

Photo: Icon Sportswire / Getty Images

#3 Jessica Pegula Upset by #24 Victoria Azarenka; #4 Novak Djokovic & #5 Andrey Rublev Battle for Semifinal Spot


The Australian Open is nearing its two-week conclusion, and we have a good idea who might be competing in this weekend’s finales. From 128 players in each bracket, only four remain after this morning’s battle between #4 Novak Djokovic and #5 Andrey Rublev in the men’s quarterfinals. Unranked Tommy Paul awaits the winner after defeating fellow American Ben Shelton. #3 Stefanos Tsitsipas and #18 Karen Kachenov reached the men’s semis with straight-set wins. And in the women’s draw, American #3 Jessica Pegula exited fast against #24 Victoria Azarenka while #5 Aryna Sabalenka is the only top-10 player left. Only a few days left down under, and a number of underestimated players are gunning for the first slam of the year.


Men’s Quarterfinals Highlights

#3 S. Tsitsipas def. J. Lehecka (6-3, 7-6, 6-4)

#18 K. Khachanov def. #29 S. Korda (7-6, 6-3, 3-0)

T. Paul def. B. Shelton (7-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4)

#4 N. Djokovic vs. #5 A. Rublev (In Action Overnight)


Men’s Semifinals Schedule

#3 S. Tsitsipas vs. #18 K. Khachanov (Thurs. 10:30 pm ET)

T. Paul vs. #4 N. Djokovic / #5 A. Rublev (TBD)


Women’s Quarterfinals Highlights

#24 V. Azarenka def. #3 J. Pegula (6-4, 6-1)

#5 A. Sabalenka def. D. Vekic (6-3, 6-2)

#22 E. Rybakina def. #17 J. Ostapenko (6-2, 6-4)

M. Linete def. #30 K. Pliskova (6-3, 7-5)


Women’s Semifinals Schedule

#22 E. Rybakina vs. #24 V. Azarenka (Thurs. 3:30 am ET)

#5 A. Sabalenka vs. M. Linette (Thurs. 4:45 am ET)


Additional Storylines

Yahoo! Sports: Korda Says He Could Barely Hold Racquet in Painful AUS Open Exit

EuroSport: Sabalenka Into AUS Open Semifinals for 1st Time After Beating Donna Vekic



Rolen Reaches the Hall

Photo: Ron Vesely / Getty Images

3B Scott Rolen Only Player Elected to Hall of Fame 2023 BBWAA Class


Rolen on in! Out of 28 candidates on the 2023 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, only earned enough votes to enter. Scott Rolen garnered 76.3 percent of the BBWAA votes (Baseball Writers Association of America). No other player on the ballot cracked the required 75 percent mark. Rolen spent 17 seasons in the majors (1996-2012) with the Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Reds, amassing seven all-star appearances and eight Gold Glove awards. He blasted 316 career home runs and 1287 RBIs while posting a career batting average of .281 while winning the World Series with St. Louis in 2006. Rolen is just the 18th third baseman elected to the Hall of Fame.


A long list of notable names fell just short, but Rolen’s ability to secure a 75-percent vote prevented a Hall of Fame ballot shutout for what would have been the second time in three years. Here’s a look at all the votes:


BBWAA Hall of Fame Voting

Scott Rolen: 76.3%

Todd Helton: 72.2%

Billy Wagner: 68.1%

Andruw Jones: 58.1%

Gary Sheffield: 55%

Carlos Beltran: 46.5%

Jeff Kent: 46.5% (Final Year)

Alex Rodriguez: 35.7%

Manny Ramirez: 33.2%

Omar Vizquel: 19.5%

Andy Pettitte: 17%

Bobby Abreu: 15.4%

Jimmy Rollins: 12.9%

Mark Buehrle: 10.8%

Francisco Rodriguez: 10.8%

Torii Hunter: 6.9%


*Players below 5% will drop off future ballots


Additional Storylines

SI: Scott Rolen Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame in One-Player BBWAA Class

CBS Sports: Baseball Hall of Fame Lookahead to 10 Newcomers on 2024 Ballot



The Battle for L.A.

Photo: MediaNewsGroup / Pasadena Star via Getty Images

Clippers Hold Off Lakers for 3rd Straight (133-115) Despite LeBron’s 46-Point Night


Tuesday night brought the stars out in Hollywood for the battle of Los Angeles between the Clippers and Lakers. LeBron James showed up with another vintage scoring performance (46-8-7), but it wasn’t enough to dig the Lakers out of a 23-point halftime deficit. Kawhi Leonard (25 points) and Paul George (27 points) combined for 52, and a healthy Clippers lineup could be ready to shake things up. The Clippers have now won three straight with Leonard and George back in the lineup, and they’ve now won their last nine matchups against the Lakers. They had lost nine of their last 11 previous games. The Lakers had been on a bit of roll (won nine of 14 since Christmas Day) thanks to James’ high-octane scoring and a resurgence from Russell Westbrook.


Despite being separated by just four wins, the Clippers (26-24) are the current 5-seed in the West and the Lakers (22-26) are back in 13th. Expect more trade deadline deals from both teams. Is it finally the year for the Clips to take over Los Angeles?


Watch: Clippers Top Lakers Despite LeBron’s 46


Other NBA Highlights


Jokic Notches 15th Trip-DubThe Nuggets got back in the win column with a narrow victory over the Pelicans (99-98) thanks to Nikola Jokic’s 15th triple-double (25-11-10).


Wizards Escape LukaThe Mavericks got another massive night from Luka Doncic (41-15-6), but it was the Wizards who got the win last night with a steal on the final possession (127-126).


Celtics Cooling DownAfter a nine-game win streak where the Celtics were burying teams, the Heat cooled them down with a second straight loss on Tuesday (98-95) behind Bam Adebayo’s 30-point, 15-rebound night.



🏒 NHL: Bruins Fastest Team to 80 Points

The Bruins topped the Canucks on Tuesday (4-2) after Patrice Bergeron broke a 2-2 tie with 2:55 left in the third period before David Pastrnak added insurance. Boston has now won six straight games, and they’re the fastest team to 80 points in NHL history.


🏀 NCAAM: Big 12 Battle in the Plains

The only ranked showdown in college hoops created more Big 12 chaos when #12 Iowa State upended #5 Kansas State (80-76) in Aimes, Iowa. The Cyclones saw a 10-point second-half lead dwindle to just two in the final moments before a free-throw pull-away. The Big 12’s top six teams are all 6-2 or 5-3.


⛷️ SKIING: Shiffrin Breaks Vonn’s Record

Mikaela Shiffrin made skiing history Tuesday in Italy with her 83rd career win in the Skiing World Cup, passing Lindsey Vonn for the most by a female skier. The 27-year-old is just three wins away from Ingemar Stenmark’s all-time record (86).



🏈 Predicting NFL Coaching Hires

In the 2023 NFL head-coaching hiring cycle, five teams will look to fill vacancies — Panthers, Colts, Broncos, Texans, and Cardinals. (Bleacher Report)


🏒 NHL Trade Deadline

Bo Horvat, Ryan O’Reilly, and Patrick Kane are three of the biggest names to watch ahead of the March 3 NHL trade deadline. (Yahoo! Sports)


🏀 LeBron Scoring Tracker

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James started the 2022-23 season with 37,062 points, just 1,325 shy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record. (USA Today)