Miami, Nebraska duel for national title
PASADENA, Calif., Jan 3 (UPI) -- Top-ranked Miami had the opportunity to make the controversial Bowl Championhip Series not look so bad Thursday night when it faced No. 4 Nebraska in the Rose Bowl.
Miami (11-0) was the obvious choice for the Rose Bowl as it was
the only undefeated team in Division I-A. But Nebraska (11-1)
squeezed its way into the second spot in the final BCS poll ahead of Oregon and Colorado which trounced Nebraska 62-36 loss on Nov. 23.
A Miami loss could hand Oregon (11-1) a share of the title.
A Miami win, on the other hand, should end all the second-guessing.
Meanwhile, on Wednesdsay, fifth-ranked Florida got four touchdown passes from Rex Grossman and blasted No. 6 Maryland, 56-23, in the
highest-scoring Orange Bowl ever.
Hewitt exits Hopman, Spain gains final
PERTH, Australia, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Australia's Lleyton Hewitt, top-ranked men's tennis player, was forced to withdraw from the Hopman Cup Thursday due to chicken pox.
His exit advanced Spain into the finals of the team tournament. Spain, the third seed, faces either the top-seeded United States or No. 4 seed Belgium in the final Saturday
Hewitt helped second seed Australia win its tie against Argentina, 2-1, before undergoing medical tests Wednesday. The tournament doctor who diagnosed his illness, said Hewitt should be ready for the Australian Open.
Hewitt, the 20-year-old reigning U.S. Open champion, has had a mysterious respiratory ailment over the last two years.
Kournikova reaches semifinals
AUCKLAND, New Zealand, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Anna Kournikova drew closer Thursday to her elusive first WTA Tour tournament title.
Kournikova rallied past Switzerland's Emmanuelle Gagliardi to advance to the semifinals of the $140,000 ASB Bank Classic hardcourt tennis event. Sidelined by a foot injury for most of 2001 and knocked down to 71st in the WTA rankings, Kournikova got past the 69th-ranked Gagliardi, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5.
The Russian star has gained almost as much notoriety for her inability to win a tournament during her six-year career as for her stunning looks and lucrative endorsement deals. But, she is
two wins away from her first championship and faces Israel's Anna Smashnova in the semifinals.
Smashnova swept past Spain's Annabel Medina Rodrigues, 6-2, 6-2, as she seeks her third career title. The other semifinal will pit No. 5 Tatiana Panova of Russia -- the only seed remaining -- and Croatia's Silvija Talaja.
Williams advances in Australian Championships
GOLD COAST, Australia, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Top seed Venus Williams reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Women's Hardcourt Championships Thursday with a 6-2, 6-4 triumph over former champion Ai Sugiyama of Japan.
One day after returning to action for the first time since winning her first U.S. Open title, Williams improved to 7-0 lifetime against Sugiyama.
Making her first appearance here, Williams extended her winning streak to 18 matches. She has lost just 10 games in her first two matches after capturing her final three tournaments of 2001, including her fourth career Grand Slam title in New York.
The 21-year-old American will face fifth seed Silvia Farina Elia of Italy in the semifinals.
Mercedes tourney kicks off PGA Tour
KAPALUA, Hawaii, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Tiger Woods led an exclusive field in the Mercedes Championship in Hawaii Thursday, officially kicking off the 2002 PGA Tour.
The $4 million event included 32 tournament winners from a year ago
fighting for the $720,000 top prize.
Missing from the field is world No. 2 Phil Mickelson, who chose
to stay home with his family rather than spend the first two
weeks of the season in Hawaii.
Woods, who just turned 26, sported a new look -- he shaved his goatee -- will be gunning for his fourth straight player of the year award.
Kafeinikov upset in Qatar quarterfinals
DOHA, Qatar, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Top seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov suffered his second straight quarterfinals defeat at the $1 million Qatar
Open Thursday. He lost to 1999 winner and seventh seed Rainer Schuettler, 7-5, 6-4.
Kafelnikov, the Russian who also was the No. 1 seed a year ago,fell in three sets to Bohdan Ulihrach of the Czech Republic at
the 2001 event.
This year's fifth seed, Ulihrach reached his second straight semifinal by routing Spain's Fernando Vicente, 6-1, 6-1.
Ulihrach, who lost to Marcelo Rios in last year's championship match here, will meet another Spaniard in the final four on Friday. No. 8 Felix Mantilla advanced to the semifinals with a
6-3, 6-3 win over another Czech, Radek Stepanek.
Schuettler, who captured his lone title of 2001 at Shanghai in September, will square off against No. 6 Younes El Aynaoui for aplace in Saturday's final. The Moroccan outdueled Czech Jiri
Novak, the fourth seed, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4.
Minnesota back plans early NFL bid
MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Minnesota running back Tellis Redmon,apparently concerned over a possible move to wide receiver, is expected to leave the university and declared himself eligible
for this year's NFL draft.
Redman, a junior who has run for more than 1,000 yards in eachof the last two seasons, revealed his decision Wednesday on WCCO Radio.
The Golden Gophers, very deep at running back, previously toyed
with the prospect of moving Redmon to the outside but the move became increasingly likely when the school got a commitment from prized running back recruit Greg Pruitt Jr.
Martin reaches AAPT quarterfinals
ADELAIDE, Australia, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Unseeded Todd Martin avoided a letdown on Thursday as he advanced to the quarterfinals of the $357,000
AAPT Championships. He defeated Michael Llodra of France, 7-5, 6-4, in the second round of the hardcourt tennis event.
Martin knocked off second seed and fellow American Pete Sampras in the opening round of Wednesday, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. He snapped a 13-match losing streak to Sampras at the 2001 Australian Open.
Mark Philippoussis of Australia, who is coming back from offseason knee surgery, eliminated No. 5 Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands, 6-0, 6-3, in their second-round encounter.
Martin and Philippoussis will square off in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Sports-rage case goes to trial
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan. 3 (UPI) -- A hockey dad faces a possible 20 years in prison if convicted of beating another man to death in a Massachusetts sports-rage case. The incident drew national attention as a symbol of parents who are overly emotional about organized youth sports.
Thomas Junta, 43, is charged with manslaughter in the beating death of Michael Costin, 40, after a hockey practice that involved their sons on July 5, 2000.
Jury selection in Middlesex Superior Court in Cambridge was expected to be completed Thursday. Junta, who weighs 275 pounds, has said he acted in self-defense when he allegedly pummeled the 150-pound Costin as their sons looked on.