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Mathis' 3-run homer leads Angels over Rangers 9-4

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Playing with first place in the AL West on the line, the Los Angeles Angels showed why they have won three division titles in the last four years.

Jeff Mathis hit a go-ahead three-run homer, Torii Hunter and Juan Rivera each added a pair of RBI singles, and the Angels beat Texas 9-4 on Monday night to spoil the return of Josh Hamilton to the Rangers' lineup.

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Don't count Armstrong out, Hincapie says

MONACO (AP), George Hincapie helped Lance Armstrong win seven straight Tour de France titles and believes his old friend could surprise a lot of people this year.
Back competing after 3¬Ω years of retirement, Armstrong will start his first Tour since 2005 on Saturday, in the opening and difficult time trial in Monaco. Many cycling experts are writing off the 37-year-old cancer survivor. But not Hincapie.
"I think he has got very good possibilities," Hincapie said on Friday. "He has trained very hard, he says he is feeling good. It's going to be exciting, but I cannot predict what he will do. I wouldn't put anything past him."
Hincapie, who spent the greatest years of his career working for Armstrong, now rides for the Columbia-High Road team, while Armstrong is with the Astana squad and using his comeback to raise awareness about cancer.
"I'm excited to see how he will do," Hincapie said. "He is the one guy that really doesn't have to be here, he is just doing it for a cause. I support his effort and I wish him the best."
Armstrong's main obstacle in his quest for an eighth Tour win is expected to be teammate Alberto Contador, the 2007 champion considered the "clear-cut favorite" by Armstrong himself.
"I don't know (their relationship), but I assume it's good because they have to eat dinner everyday and every night, and breakfast, and they have to be in the same team, so it's important they have a good relationship and I assume they do," Hincapie said.
Hincapie, who won his only individual Tour stage in a mountain stage of the 2005 Tour, would love to add another line to his record before retiring in "another year or two."
"Last year I was close at one of the hardest mountain stages, I just messed up the descent a little bit, so if I'm in the right breakaway, I think it's definitely possible," he said.
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RIDERS REWARDS: The average salary of professional riders rose from $98,550 a year in 2002 to $191,470 in 2009, according to figures released by cycling's governing body, the UCI.
The increases were considerable for riders in the elite UCI ProTeams, where incomes rose from $140,786 in 2002 to $267,493 in 2009.
"This means that the majority of riders on UCI ProTeams have a good, or indeed very good, salary," the federation said.
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JAPANESE DUO: Yukiya Arashiro and Fumiyuki Beppu are joining the very small roster of Japanese cyclists who have ridden the Tour de France.
This Tour is the first where two Japanese cyclists will ride in the same year. The previous Japanese riders at the Tour were Daisuke Imanaka in 1996 and Kisso Kawamuro in 1926-1927.
Arashiro and Beppu are also promoting Tokyo's bid to organize the Olympic Games in 2016.
"I used to watch the heroes of the Tour de France when I was a kid and I am proud to be here this year to follow their path", said Beppu, a former teammate of Lance Armstrong.
"Young people need heroes and I'm confident Tokyo 2016 will deliver fantastic Games which will enable elite athletes to reach their peak performances in the best possible environment."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Federer, Roddick to meet in 3rd Wimbledon final

WIMBLEDON, England (AP), Five-time champion Roger Federer reached his seventh straight Wimbledon final Friday and will face Andy Roddick for a chance at a record 15th Grand Slam title.
Federer delivered a masterful grass-court performance to beat Tommy Haas 7-6 (3), 7-5, 6-3, extending his winning run to 18 consecutive matches and closing in on the mark he shares with Pete Sampras of 14 major titles.
Federer will meet Roddick in the final for the third time in six years after the American defeated Andy Murray 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (5). The Swiss star beat Roddick in the 2004 and '05 finals and leads 18-2 overall.
The third-seeded Murray had been seeking to become the first British man to reach the final in 71 years and first to take the title since 1936, but Roddick outplayed him on the big points to silence the home fans.
"To be honest, the last couple of years I didn't know if I'd ever get a chance to play for another Grand Slam title," said Roddick, who won the U.S. Open in 2003. "Now I get to. It's just a dream."
Roddick saved a break point with Murray leading 4-3 in the fourth set with a forehand winner, then came through with big serves in the tiebreaker. When Murray slapped a backhand into the net on the second match point, Roddick fell to his knees on the grass and leaned forward covering his head.
"I had to play my best tennis out there to win today," Roddick said. "I can't say enough good things about Andy's game, but I can play some tennis sometimes, and not many people were giving me much of a chance at all and I knew if I could stay the course that I had a shot and that's all you can ask for."
Murray dominated the statistics, but still couldn't overcome Roddick's clutch play. Murray had 25 aces, 76 winners and 20 errors, compared with 21, 64 and 24 for the American.
"Throughout my career I've had a lot of shortcomings, but trying hard hasn't been one of them," Roddick said. "To be fair, he had all the pressure on him and I could come out and kind of swing and that probably helped me today."
Federer finished his match with a flourish, leaping high for a smash reminiscent of Sampras in his Wimbledon heyday. He is the first man to make it to seven consecutive Wimbledon finals in the history of a tournament that began in 1877.
Federer never faced a break point as he beat Haas for the ninth straight time to reach his record 20th Grand Slam final. He and Ivan Lendl had been tied at 19 apiece.
"I'm very happy with my performance and it's unbelievable to be back into another Wimbledon final," Federer said. "I've had a lot of pressure over all the years, so this is just another great match, great opportunity for me to get into the history books."
If Federer wins Sunday, he will be the third player to win six or more Wimbledon titles. William Renshaw and Sampras both won seven.
"I'm very proud of all the records I've achieved because I never thought I would be that successful as a kid," Federer said. "I would have been happy winning a couple tournaments and maybe collecting Wimbledon. It's quite staggering now having reached ... my sixth straight Grand Slam final. Having so many things going for me now again, opportunity again on Sunday, it's fantastic."
If he beats Roddick, Federer will regain the No. 1 ranking from Rafael Nadal, who beat him in the Wimbledon final last year and missed this year's tournament with knee problems.
Federer said he is feeling less pressure this year than in 2007 when he equaled Bjorn Borg's record of five straight Wimbledon titles. Borg was among those watching Friday from the Royal Box.
"For some reason that meant the world to me," Federer said. "I was like in a bubble for two weeks, just trying to achieve it. So this time around I think I'm much more relaxed."
Federer, who completed a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open last month, said he would be happy if Sampras came to Wimbledon to watch him try to break his record. Sampras is home in California looking after his two young sons.
"He might come around, he might not," Federer said. "It's his choice. I'd love to see him because he's a good friend of mine. Very honored of course that I share the record of 14 with him."
Murray had won six of eight matches against Roddick, including their last three, but couldn't overcome the American's steady serving and attacking game on this day.
"He served great," Murray said. "Served really, really well in the tiebreaks. I think he maybe missed two first serves. If someone serves 130 mph consistently throughout the match, it's very tough to break them, especially on a court like this that's quick."
Roddick took the first set by converting the first break point of the match for either player. Murray broke in the next game and that held up to decide the second set.
Roddick was up a break in the third at 5-2, but an inspired Murray broke back at love in the ninth game. In the tiebreaker, Murray held a set point on Roddick's serve at 6-5, but the American erased it with a winning forehand volley. Roddick missed a set point at 7-6 but converted at 8-7 when Murray netted a low forehand passing shot.
In the fourth set, with shadows creeping over the court and Murray looking a bit tired, Roddick saved the break point in the eighth game. He held a first match point at 6-4 in the tiebreaker, but Murray ripped a crosscourt backhand pass that left Roddick diving to the turf. On the next match point, Roddick hit a forehand approach deep into the corner that forced the final error from Murray.
On Saturday, sisters Venus and Serena Williams will meet in their fourth Wimbledon women's final and eighth Grand Slam title match. Five-time champion Venus is bidding to become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1991-93 to win Wimbledon three years in a row.
The sisters reached their second straight Wimbledon doubles final Friday, beating top-seeded Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Liezel Huber of the U.S. 6-1, 6-2. They will face Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs of Australia for the title.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Venus easily reaches 8th Wimbledon final

WIMBLEDON, England (AP), Venus Williams has easily reached her eighth Wimbledon final by routing top-ranked Dinara Safina 6-1, 6-0.

The five-time champion won the opening nine points of Thursday's match and saved the only break point she faced in the third game of the first set.

Venus Williams will play younger sister Serena Williams in Saturday's final. Venus beat Serena in last year's final, but Serena defeated Venus in the 2002 and '03 finals.

Safina lost in both the Australian Open and French Open finals this year and is still looking for her first major title.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Mayfield not at Daytona when garage opens

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) ‚ Four team owners won't put Jeremy Mayfield in their cars this weekend at Daytona International Speedway, one because of sponsor concerns and the other because Mayfield is "marked" following his legal battle with NASCAR.

Mayfield faces a Thursday afternoon deadline to bring Mayfield Motorsports to Daytona in time to join the 45 other entrants. His indefinite suspension for a failed drug test was lifted by a federal judge Wednesday, allowing him to race this weekend.

He can drive for someone else or bring his own No. 41 Toyota to the track, but the $5,005 late entry fee is daunting for the cash-strapped Mayfield. He said in an affidavit last week that he laid off 10 employees, borrowed money from family and had to sell personal assets to cover his living expenses.

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