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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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Hamilton starts rehab going 1-4 in Double-A

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) ‚ Josh Hamilton expects to be back in the Texas Rangers lineup this weekend.

Hamilton had surgery three weeks ago to repair a slight abdominal tear. He worked out with the Rangers before their game against the Angels on Tuesday.

The slugger says the surgically repaired area is not sore, and he's not having any problems. He was 1 for 4 with a walk as the designated hitter for Double-A Frisco on Monday night.

Hamilton left after the workout to join Triple-A Oklahoma City in Iowa for a series that starts Wednesday.

Despite missing half the season, Hamilton is third among outfielders in the latest fan voting for the All-Star game. Hamilton says he will play in the game if elected, but will not participate in the Home Run Derby.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Dutch cyclist Dekker out of Tour de France

BRUSSELS (AP) ‚Dutch cyclist Thomas Dekker will not take part in the Tour de France after testing positive for the illegal blood-booster EPO.
His Silence-Lotto team says Wednesday that the cyclist recently learned a retested urine sample taken in December 2007 contained the banned hormone. Dekker was riding for the Dutch racing team Rabobank when the sample was taken.

Dekker joined Silence-Lotto last year on a two-year contract.

Silence-Lotto team leader Marc Sergeant says he was "very disappointed" by the news, adding he moved to suspend and replace Dekker ahead of the Tour.

The Tour de France starts Saturday in Monaco.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Federer beats Karlovic to reach Wimbledon semis

WIMBLEDON, England (AP), Roger Federer neutralized Ivo Karlovic's huge serves Wednesday to reach the Wimbledon semifinals and move a step closer to a record 15th Grand Slam championship.

In a match featuring short points and few rallies, Federer conjured up a few great returns to break the 6-foot-10 Croatian twice and secure a 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (3) victory on another sunbaked day at the All England Club.

Federer, closing in on his sixth Wimbledon title, reached his 21st consecutive semifinal at a Grand Slam tournament and extended his winning streak to 17 matches with another vintage performance on his favorite Centre Court.

"I love the record I have of reaching so many semifinals in Grand Slams in a row ‚ 21 is quite a number," Federer said. "It shows how consistent I've been."

It was Federer's ninth win in 10 matches against Karlovic, who was playing in his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Federer's next opponent will be Germany's Tommy Haas, who upset fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic 7-5, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-3 to advance to his first Wimbledon semifinal. The 31-year-old Haas was the oldest player in the quarters, while the 22-year-old Djokovic was the youngest.

Third-seeded Andy Murray swept Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 to reach his first Wimbledon semifinal and keep up his bid to become the first British player to win the men's title since Fred Perry in 1936.

Murray broke the Spaniard five times, served 18 aces and lost serve only once. Murray had 49 winners, compared to 20 for Ferrero, a former No. 1 and only the third wild card to reach the Wimbledon quarters.

It was a dominant performance by Murray, the first Briton to reach the semis since Tim Henman did it for the fourth time in 2002.
Murray will face either two-time finalist Andy Roddick or 2002 Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt.

"Both are obviously tough, got a lot of experience. I'd just like them to have a long match so they're a little bit tired for the semis," Murray said with a smile. "But both are going to be very tough. Both are former No. 1s and Grand Slam champions."

Karlovic served 23 aces to raise his tournament total to 160, but it was Federer who never faced a break point in this match. The second-ranked Swiss star won 74 of 85 points on serve and was taken to deuce only once, in the sixth game of the third set. Federer got out of that jam with a 129 mph service winner and a 128 mph ace.

"It's difficult because there's not really any baseline rallies on his serve or on my serve," Federer said. "You expect a tough scoreline all the time. It's not easy to break him. I'm very happy to break him twice and win the match."

The statistics told the story: Federer had 39 winners and only seven unforced errors, to 29 winners (almost all on serve) and 17 errors for Karlovic.

Federer grabbed the upper hand early when he broke Karlovic in the fourth game of the match with flashes of brilliance.

He got to break point with a reflex backhand return winner off a 130 mph serve and then ripped a forehand return winner off a 122 mph serve, pumping his fist and shouting, "Come on!"

It was the first time Karlovic had been broken during the tournament after winning 80 consecutive service games.

"He returned unbelievable few shots and I could not really react on it," said Karlovic, who added that he was bothered by the sun in his eyes before putting on sunglasses for the rest of the match.

Asked what Federer does better than other players to read his serves, Karlovic said: "It is only because he is better than everybody else. That's it. He's maybe the best player ever, but on the grass, he's by far the best I think."

The first extended rally of the match ‚ and one of only a handful during the entire contest ‚ didn't take place until the fourth game of the second set, a 15-stroke point that ended with a Federer forehand winner 35 minutes into the match.

The second set turned Federer's way when he broke Karlovic in the 11th game with four straight winners: an overhead, a forehand passing shot down the line, a reflex backhand return off a 126 mph serve and a passing shot that glanced off Karlovic's racket frame.

The third set ended with the 13th tiebreaker the two men have played against each other in 25 sets of tennis. Karlovic's limitations were exposed as he made several glaring errors, missing badly on what should have been easy putaways. Federer finished him off with an inside-out forehand winner on the first match point.

The 24th-seeded Haas saved three straight set points against Djokovic after going down 6-3 in the second-set tiebreaker. He broke in the fourth game of the fourth set and sealed the win when Djokovic netted a forehand return on the first match point.

The result wasn't a complete surprise: Haas beat Djokovic in the grass-court final at Halle, Germany, last month.

Haas led Federer two sets to love in the fourth round of the French Open, only to lose in five. He said he hopes to make amends on Friday.
"That would be nice," he said. "I'll give it my best shot. There's not much he (Federer) can't do. He's obviously the favorite to win the title. I'm going to go out there and try to annoy him a little bit and see what happens."

The women's semifinals are set for Thursday.

Third-seeded Venus Williams, going for her third straight Wimbledon championship, will be up against No. 1 Dinara Safina. Serena Williams, seeded No. 2, will face No. 4 Elena Dementieva. The Williams sisters could face each other in a Grand Slam final for the eighth time, and fourth in the Wimbledon title match.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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