Sharapova makes French finals, to regain top ranking
A victory Thursday finished Maria Sharapova's climb back to the top of the tennis rankings. One more on Saturday, and she'll be the French Open champion and complete a career Grand Slam.
Sharapova beat Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-3 in the windblown semifinals at Roland Garros in Paris. The second-seeded Russian needs a victory over 21st-seeded Sara Errani, a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 winner over No. 6 Samantha Stosur, to become the 10th woman to win all four major tournaments. When she won match point on a second-serve ace, Sharapova raised her palms to the sky, looked up and smiled.
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Sharapova has long been the headliner at almost any tournament she enters, though this latest win will officially put her on the top line of the women's rankings when the new list comes out Monday. It's a perch that might have felt unreachable three years ago, when the Russian was recovering from shoulder surgery and dropped as low as 126th.
But from that point, she has made a steady climb back. This year, she has won two tournaments and finished runner-up in three more, including the Australian Open. That, plus the performance at Roland Garros, has helped push her back to No. 1, the spot she first captured in 2005 and held for 17 non-consecutive weeks, the last on June 8, 2008.
Her match against fourth-seeded Kvitova, who defeated Sharapova in the Wimbledon finals last year, wasn't exactly a walk in the park, but Kvitova struggled with the blustery wind more than her opponent did. And she couldn't get a handle on Sharapova's serve. The Russian placed 78 percent of her first serves in.
Patriots release Ochocinco
The New England Patriots have released wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. The former Chad Johnson spent one unproductive season with the team, even though the Patriots went to the Super Bowl. He had 15 receptions for an 18.4-yard average and one touchdown, but rarely was a key part of the offense. Ochocinco played 10 seasons for Cincinnati before joining the Patriots. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, says he is "in the process of gauging interest from potential teams."
Scores of lawsuits involving thousands of former players touched by concussions and brain injuries have been consolidated into one master complaint, setting up a massive and potentially costly case for the NFL.
Lawyers for the players filed the complaint Thursday in Philadelphia, accusing the NFL of hiding information that linked football-related head trauma to permanent brain injuries. Among the illnesses cited were dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
The plaintiffs hope to hold the NFL responsible for the care of players suffering from those health problems.
Also named in the suit was helmet-maker Riddell Inc.
Former Henry Clay athlete dies
Former Henry Clay High School and Georgetown College multi-sports star Allen McCowan, who has been living in Australia for almost 20 years, has died at age 42.
The newspaper in Albury, Australia, reported that Mr. McCowan suffered a heart attack.
Mr. McCowan was a baseball, basketball and football star at Henry Clay in the late 1980s, and went on to excel in basketball and football at Georgetown. He was a two-time NAIA All-American in basketball. He played only one year of football for the Tigers, but earned All-America honors as a receiver.
Mr. McCowan played professional basketball in Australia, and stayed there to coach youth basketball. He was back in Lexington for a visit a few months ago with a group of his players.
NASCAR Hall of Famer dies
Cotton Owens, who was named to the NASCAR Hall of Fame two weeks ago, died Thursday morning. He was 88. Mr. Owens, who lived in Spartanburg, was a NASCAR pioneer. He won nine races on NASCAR's top circuit, but was perhaps better known as an owner, fielding cars for Hall of Fame drivers like Junior Johnson and David Pearson. He had 41 wins and 38 poles in 487 races as an owner.
Maggert, Merrick lead St. Jude
Jeff Maggert and John Merrick shot 4-under 66 Thursday to share the first-round lead in the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, leaving U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy two strokes back.
Maggert took advantage of teeing off in the first group with calm conditions for the first seven holes, and finished with four birdies, an eagle and two bogeys. Merrick matched his best round of the year with six birdies and two bogeys, the last on No. 18 when his tee shot went into the water to drop him back into a tie for the lead.
Beatriz Recari, Ryann O'Toole and Giulia Sergas shot 3-under 69 to share the first-round lead in the LPGA Championship in Pittsford, N.Y., while defending champion Yani Tseng matched her high score of the year with a 76.
The top-ranked Tseng, a 10-stroke winner last year in the major championship, had six bogeys and only two birdies on the narrow Locust Hill Country Club course. She has three victories this year.
Dan Forsman and Bill Glasson shared the first-round lead in the Regions Tradition in Birmingham, Ala., shooting 6-under 66 at Shoal Creek in the second of the Champions Tour's five major championships. Glasson was in the first group teeing off and had sole possession of the lead for about four hours until Forsman capped a run of four straight birdies on No. 14 to catch up.
■ Third-ranked Lee Westwood shot an 8-under 64 to take a three-stroke lead after the second round at the European Tour's Nordea Masters in Bro, Sweden.
Alabama first SEC team to win title
Jackie Traina threw a five-hitter and delivered a key RBI single, and Alabama became the first Southeastern Conference team to win an NCAA softball title, beating Oklahoma 5-4 in the final game of a best-of-three series that ended early Thursday.
Traina gave up three home runs but fanned her Oklahoma counterpart, Keilani Ricketts, to end the game.
Alabama (60-8) took advantage of Ricketts' wildness to score four runs in the fourth inning. The Crimson Tide overcame an early 3-0 deficit in a game delayed almost three hours at the start because of a steady rain on Wednesday night.
TRACK AND FIELD
UK's Dykstra sixth in javelin
UK freshman thrower Raymond Dykstra became an All-American by finishing sixth in the javelin at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.
Dykstra threw 242-11 or 74.04 meters, good enough for fourth place at the time, but he eventually fell to sixth.
UK junior distance runner Luis Orta finished 22nd with a time of 9:08.78 in 3,000 meters.
The last word
Brandon Moss was hitting .286 with 15 home runs and 33 RBI for Triple-A Sacramento, so maybe he shouldn't have been surprised when a knock on his hotel room door Tuesday night turned out to be River Cats manager Darren Bush to tell him he'd been promoted to the major-league Oakland A's. But he had been expecting a pizza delivery.
"He showed up five minutes later. It was a great 10 minutes in my life right there."