Serena rolls into French finals; Sharapova survives test
Serena Williams overwhelmed last year's French Open runner-up, fifth-seeded Sara Errani of Italy, 6-0, 6-1 in a mere 46 minutes Thursday to reach the finals for the first time since winning her lone French Open championship in 2002.
To collect her 16th Grand Slam title Saturday, Williams will need to beat defending champion Maria Sharapova, who put aside 11 double-faults and got past third-seeded Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 in a much more competitive semifinal.
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Williams has won 30 consecutive matches, the longest single-season streak on tour since 2000. Sharapova has won 13 consecutive matches in Paris. Williams is 13-2 against Sharapova, including winning the last 12. Sharapova last defeated Williams in 2004, at Wimbledon and the WTA Championships. "Whatever I did in the past hasn't worked," Sharapova said.
Williams never gave Errani a chance. The 31-year-old American won the first nine games. When Errani finally got on the board, 37 minutes in, she raised both arms as the crowd roared. "She was playing like Serena of old," Williams' mother, Oracene Price, said.
Sharapova dealt with much more tension against Azarenka, the winner of the past two Australian Opens. Good in the first set, Sharapova was shaky in the second, and it took her a while to recover out after a 35-minute rain delay that preceded the third.
Track and Field
UK's Hayes makes hurdles final
Kentucky's Keith Hayes ran the fifth fastest time of the 110-meter hurdles (13.32 seconds ) Thursday to advance to the NCAA Championship final at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
He broke two-time Olympian Mikel Thomas' all-conditions 100-meter hurdles school-record (13.57w).
"The cool thing about Keith Hayes is the more the tension rises the more he focuses," head coach Edrick Floreal said. Hayes will race in the final at 6:16 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Kentucky sophomore Bradley Szypka just missed the NCAA men's shot put final, Wednesday.
Szypka's top throw was an outdoor season-best of 60 feet, 11.25 inches, good for 10th place, three inches behind Michigan's Cody Riffle for the final place in the nine-thrower final.
Three of the four Wildcats who competed on Wednesday earned top-16 finishes, despite not advancing to their event finals.
Keilah Tyson ran 11.40 in the women's 100-meter semifinal. She finished fifth in her heat and 15th overall. Tyson did not advance to the final. Luis Orta wrapped up his stellar Kentucky career in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase with a 16th-place time of 8:59.33. He did not move on to the event final but earned his best-ever NCAA Championship finish. Chelsea Oswald ran 35:06.02 for 18th in her first NCAA Championship 10,000-meter final. She will come back for the 5K final on Friday at 9:15 p.m.
Love, Appleby among St. Jude leaders
Davis Love III and Stuart Appleby shot 4-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the lead with four other players after the first round of the St. Jude Classic in Memphis.
Harris English, Nathan Green, Martin Flores and Glen Day also pushed their way into the lead.
Defending champ Dustin Johnson was 5 under through six holes, taking advantage of near perfect conditions at the TPC Southwindy. But Johnson finished with a 67 and was tied with 10 others including David Toms, a two-time winner here.
Brandt Snedeker, currently No. 6 in the world, opened with a 70. Boo Weekley, who won at Colonial, shot a 68 and was tied with seven others. Phil Mickelson had a 71.
Jeff Sluman shot a 7-under 65 at Shoal Creek to take a one-stroke lead over Fred Couples after the first round of the Regions Tradition in Birmingham, Ala., the second of five Champions majors.
Heavy downpours forced postponement of the first round of the LPGA Championship in Pittsford, N.Y. The LPGA Tour's second major of the year will begin Friday, the second round will be Saturday, and the players will attempt to complete 36 holes on Sunday.
England's Tom Lewis shot a 9-under 63 to take a two-stroke lead over Dutchman Joost Luiten after the opening round of the Lyoness Open in Atzenbrugg, Austria.
Decision on Miss. State penalty is today
The NCAA is expected to announce its decision regarding an infractions case against Mississippi State's football program on Friday morning. Mississippi State revealed last fall that it was working with the NCAA because of "potential recruiting irregularities." MSU receivers coach Angelo Mirando surprisingly resigned Aug. 19 and the school announced the investigation days later, though it did not specifically link the two events. Mississippi State disassociated from a booster in July because of "impermissible contact" with a recruit. A Tennessee 7-on-7 football coach Byron De'Vinner has said he witnessed a payment of about $200 to a Mississippi State recruit and that Mirando knew about the payment.
Sports in the courts
Heels' Hairston faces marijuana charge
Durham police have charged North Carolina leading scorer P.J. Hairston with marijuana possession following a traffic stop.
Officers stopped Hairston at a license checkpoint Wednesday night. Police also arrested two passengers and charged all three men with possessing a half-ounce of marijuana or less. Hairston averaged 18 points and shot 40 percent on three-pointers over the final 13 games after becoming a sophomore starter in a four-guard lineup.
In Montgomery, Ala., former Auburn basketball player Varez Ward pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he conspired to fix a 2012 game that his team lost to Arkansas.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's attempt to reverse the sanctions imposed on Penn State by suing the NCAA was rejected by a federal judge Thursday. Judge Yvette Kane dismissed the antitrust argument that the $60 million fine against Penn State, the bowl ban and scholarship reduction would make Penn State a weaker competitor and subsequently hurt local businesses dependent on football.
Martin hires Clark to assist Gamecocks
South Carolina Coach Frank Martin has hired former Tulane and Miami head coach Perry Clark to replace top assistant Brad Underwood, who become Stephen F. Austin's head coach in April.
Clark, whose last job was as head coach at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, has more than 30 years of experience at the collegiate level. Clark's teams won 20 games or more seven times and made nine post-season appearances. "He is someone who understands the land of recruiting as well as anyone in the country," Martin said.
In Martin's first season at South Carolina the Gamecocks finished 14-18, going just 4-14 in SEC play.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III says "without a doubt" that he expects to be fully recovered from knee surgery and in uniform when the Washington Redskins open camp on July 25 in Richmond.
Thursday night's game in Savannah between the Lexington Legends and the Sand Gnats was rained out.
The last word
San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, asked to comment on the firing of his friend George Karl by the Denver Nuggets:
"It's a pretty volatile job being the head coach in the NBA. But nobody makes us do it. If you've got a job in the NBA, you know it's pretty volatile. It's a fact. The grass is greener, for the most part. The sky is kind of blue. And that's the way it is."