Other Sports

Sports briefs, Sept. 12

Tennis

Unseeded Italian ruins Serena's bid for calendar-year Grand Slam

Two victories from joining the most prestigious club in tennis, Serena Williams ran into a roadblock at the U.S. Open.

In one of the biggest surprises in tennis history, Roberta Vinci — an unseeded Italian veteran playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal — defeated Williams, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, on Friday.

"It's an incredible moment for me," said Vinci, who cried in her chair after the upset. Instead of Williams playing for a Grand Slam in Saturday's final, it will be an all-Italian final between Vinci and 26th-seeded Flavia Pennetta, who scored a mini-upset herself by defeating No. 2 Simona Halep, 6-1, 6-3.

Williams came into Friday with a 33-match winning streak at Grand Slam tournaments and had not lost at the U.S. Open since the 2011 finals. The last player to complete the Grand Slam by winning all four major singles titles in the same year was Steffi Graf in 1988.

Pennetta, 33, and Vinci, 32, have each won Grand Slam titles in doubles, but neither had reached a Slam singles finals until Friday. Vinci, ranked 43rd, apologized to the crowd, to a point. "For the American people, for Serena, for the Grand Slam and everything," she said. "But today is my day. Sorry, guys."

  Roger Federer moved into his first U.S. Open finals since 2009 with the latest in a string of dominating performances, overwhelming pal and Swiss Olympic and Davis Cup teammate Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 6-3, 6-1. The other men's match Friday was even less competitive: Novak Djokovic beat defending champion Marin Cilic 6-0, 6-1, 6-2, the most lopsided semifinal in New York in the Open era, which started in 1968. Cilic was hampered by a right ankle injury he picked up in the fourth round.

Drake

At Open, rapper's reputation as curse grows

If Serena Williams' U.S. Open loss to Roberta Vinci seemed inexplicable, one popular theory is circulating on social media.

See, rapper Drake was in the stands rooting on Williams, and even before Friday he had developed a reputation as bad luck for teams and athletes. Evidence is mounting that Drake and stunning losses go together. Case in point: Kentucky basketball, whose undefeated season ended in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament against Wisconsin.

Hashtags "blamedrake" and "drakecurse" started to trend on Twitter after Williams' loss. In April, Kentucky issued Drake a cease-and-desist letter after his appearance at Big Blue Madness. UK self-reported impermissible communication between Drake and three potential student-athletes at Rupp Arena Oct. 17.

College sports

UK women win at Ole Miss in SEC opener

The No. 18 Kentucky women's soccer team went on the road in its Southeastern Conference opener and rallied to a 4-2 win over Ole Miss with three second-half goals, led by junior Zoe Swift's three-point performance. UK rose to 6-1-0.

  Eastern Kentucky lost 3-0 to No. 1 ranked and seven-time national champ Penn State at an invitational at Notre Dame. The Colonels lost by scores of 25-14, 25-13 and 25-14. Celina Sanks led EKU (1-8) with nine kills.

NFL

Bengals lock up receiver Green for 4 years

Receiver A.J. Green agreed to a contract extension that runs through the 2019 season, the last big thing the Bengals needed to accomplish before their season opener.

Green was under contract through this season. Cincinnati got the new deal signed before they got on a plane for Oakland and their opener on Sunday. "I can go out there and play freely and I don't have to worry about anything," Green said.

Green was the Bengals' first-round pick in 2011 — quarterback Andy Dalton was chosen in the second round — and has reached the Pro Bowl each of his four seasons.

  Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III has received medical clearance to return from a concussion he sustained three weeks ago and is probable for Sunday's opener against Miami. Coach Jay Gruden didn't say whether Griffin or Colt McCoy will back up starter Kirk Cousins against the Dolphins.

  Pittsburgh Coach Mike Tomlin isn't saying the Patriots messed with the Steeler coaches' headsets in the first half. He's just saying it does seem to happen a lot when he plays in New England. "We were listening to the Patriots radio broadcast for the majority of the first half," Tomlin said after New England beat the Steelers 28-21 Thursday in the NFL opener. Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns, three to Rob Gronkowski.

An NFL spokesman said Friday that the league thinks the problem "involved no manipulation by any individual and that the Patriots had nothing to do with it."

BoxingMayweather says Berto fight is his last

Floyd Mayweather Jr. insists this is it. Nineteen years and 48 fights haven't taken a big toll on Mayweather. He's seen what taking too many punches did to his uncle, Roger, and is determined to leave boxing with his brain fully intact.

Rich beyond belief, Mayweather doesn't need to fight anymore. "Not gonna miss it at all," Mayweather said. But many scoff at the thought Mayweather will retire after facing Andre Berto on Saturday. They wonder how he can resist trying to break the late heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano's perfect mark of 49-0 and ignore the money another fight would bring.

  Canadian heavyweight champion Dillon Carman stopped 51-year-old Donovan "Razor" Ruddock in the third round in Toronto. The 29-year-old Carman (9-2) floored Ruddock (40-6-1) in the corner and then clubbed the former world contender to the canvas after the standing-eight count. Ruddock returned this year after retiring in 2001. He won his first two comeback fights.

College basketball

Marble, who helped put Iowa on map, dies

Roy Marble, the high-flying guard who scored the most points in Iowa history as he helped the Hawkeyes become a national power in the mid-1980s, died Friday after a long battle with cancer. Marble, 48, died in Grand Blanc, Mich.

He was a prep star in Flint before starring for the Hawkeyes from 1986-89, scoring 2,116 points and headlining perhaps the best years the program has seen. Marble led Iowa to the NCAA Tournament four times, including an Elite Eight appearance in 1987, when the Hawkeyes reached No. 1 in the polls.

etc.

Saunders out after setback in cancer fight

Minnesota Timberwolves Coach Flip Saunders has been hospitalized following a setback in his fight with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Sam Mitchell will take over as interim head coach. No timetable has been set on Flip's return.

  Chase Elliott got away from pole-sitter Kyle Busch on a restart with 26 laps left and won the NASCAR Xfinity race at Richmond International Raceway, ending a 39-race winless streak.

The last word

In the wake of her U.S. Open upset, Serena Williams was in no mood to discuss her mood. This is how she started her briefer-than-usual news conference:

"I don't want to talk about how disappointing it is for me. If you have any other questions, I'm open for that."

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