Tsonga stops Nadal to reach ATP semis; Federer wins
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga qualified for the semifinals in the ATP World Tour Finals at the expense of Rafael Nadal, beating the second-ranked Spaniard 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-3 on Thursday in a decisive round-robin match. Tsonga improved to 2-1 in group play while Nadal fell to 1-2, meaning the sixth-seeded Frenchman will join Roger Federer in the last four from Group B. It is the first time Tsonga has reached the semifinals at the season-ending tournament for the world's top eight players, while Nadal missed out for the second time in five appearances.
Federer beat American Mardy Fish 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 earlier to finish the group stage 3-0. David Ferrer also has qualified for the semifinals from Group A, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych in contention for the last spot going into the final group matches Friday.
In perhaps the hardest-fought match of the tournament so far, Tsonga broke twice in the third set to go up 5-2. But he faltered in the next game, double-faulting three times to give Nadal renewed hope, only to bounce back and break the Spaniard at love. Tsonga sealed the victory with a hard forehand winner.
Nadal was coming off his worst defeat ever against Federer, losing 6-3, 6-0 to his Swiss rival Tuesday.
Federer had already clinched a spot in the semifinals, while Fish was eliminated after losing his first two matches. "Bottom line is I'm going to go away 0-3, which is hard," Fish said.
O'Hara, Kruger lead in South Africa
Steven O'Hara and local favorite Jbe Kruger each shot a 7-under 65 Thursday to share the lead after the first round of the South African Open. The pair led a group of four South Africans by a stroke on the undulating Jack Nicklaus-designed course at Serengeti Golf Club. Two-time champion Retief Goosen (66) was in that group after hitting an eagle, seven birdies and three bogeys at the European Tour event. Defending champion Ernie Els began his defense with a 69. The five-time winner holed six birdies but also made three bogeys.
Promoter: Daly didn't snub tournament
Organizers of the South African Open say controversial golfer John Daly did not "snub" their tournament and that he was simply unable to travel to Johannesburg in time. Promoter Mbali Ngqula dismissed reports that Daly had refused to play the European Tour event after his fiery exit from the recent Australian Open, where he hit a string of shots into a lake and then quit saying he had run out of balls. Ngqula said on Thursday "it is wrong to suggest that John snubbed our invitation, he did no such thing." Ngqula said Daly was "very willing" to play the South African Open but had been unable to make it in time.
Australia leads Ireland in World Cup
Australia took the lead in the first round of the World Cup on Thursday after shooting an 11-under 61, finishing two strokes ahead of tournament favorites Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell of the Ireland team. Richard Green and Brendon Jones totaled seven birdies and an eagle on the par-72 Blackstone course at Mission Hills golf resort on the South China island of Hainan. The pair finished in a share of third place in 2008 for Australia, which won the last of its four World Cup titles in 1989.
Ireland made ground on the Australians on the back nine with McIlroy, ranked No. 2 and the U.S. Open champion, holing five birdies and an eagle. McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open winner, had two birdies. McIlroy and McDowell represent their native North Ireland as individual players but Ireland in team events.
Oregon Lady wins Grade III at Calder
Oregon Lady edged Trip for A.J. by a neck in the $100,000 Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap at Calder Casino & Race Course for fillies and mares on Thursday. Snow Top Mountain was third in the 11⁄16-mile race, which ended with the top five finishers all within a length of each other. Oregon Lady, ridden by Paco Lopez, paid $7.80, $5.00, and $3.20. Trip for A.J. paid $6.80 and $4.80, and Snow Top Mountain paid $4.80 to show.
Oregon Lady, an Irish-bred 4-year-old, was making her first start on the Calder grass. She won the first stakes of her career in her previous start at the River Memories at Woodbine and has five wins of 12 starts for earnings of $266,178.
Sunrise Smarty goes wire-to-wire
Sunrise Smarty posted a front-running victory in the $95,000 Fall Highweight Championship, the traditional Thanksgiving Day feature at Aqueduct. Ramon Dominguez was aboard for trainer Michael Hushion as Sunrise Smarty held off Nathan's H Q by a half length. The 4-year-old ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.92 for his fourth win in 12 starts.
Sunrise Smarty paid $6.90, $3.10 and $3. Nathan's H Q returned $4 and $3.30 while Flat Bold paid $3.20 to show.
F1 Texas officials say they'll pay for race
Organizers for the proposed 2012 Formula One race in Texas say they have agreed to pay the sanctioning fee to secure a spot on next year's F1 calendar. Circuit of the Americas spokesman Jeff Hahn said Thursday a check for the sanctioning fee was ready but wouldn't be sent until organizers receive a signed contract from F1. Hahn wouldn't disclose the amount of the fee. Last week, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin would be canceled by the end of this week without a signed contract and proof of financing.
The last word
New England Patriots defensive end Andre Carter on defending Michael Vick, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback who utterly embarrassed Carter and his then-Washington Redskins teammates on national TV just more than a year ago:
"It's like I'm playing Madden for the first time and I'm playing against a guy that's played Madden for 10 years. They already got their team and everything lined up, got their offense lined up and I don't know what the heck they're doing. And all I want to do is press the reset button and I can't. I've got to ride this thing out for four quarters. That's pretty much how embarrassing it was that game."