Capriati, Clijsters reach Australian semifinals
MELBOURNE, Australia, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Despite facing their toughest foes so far, Jennifer Capriati of the United States and Kim Clijsters of Belgium each eased Wednesday into the Australian Open semifinals.
The top-seeded Capriati broke serve four times on her way to a 6-2, 6-2 rout of No. 7 Amelie Mauresmo of France on Wednesday (Tuesday night in the United States) in the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park.
Earlier on Wednesday, the fourth-seeded Clijsters dominated compatriot and sixth seed Justine Henin, 6-2, 6-3, in the other women's quarterfinal of the day.
On the men's side, No. 9 Marat Safin of Russia was leading 5-2 when unseeded South African Wayne Ferreira was forced to retire due to a pulled stomach muscle.
Seventh-seeded Tommy Haas of Germany met 1998 runner-up Marcelo Rios of Chile later Wednesday.
Capriati, the defending Australian Open champion, advanced to her fifth straight Grand Slam semifinal. She won here and at the French Open last year and fell in the final four of Wimbledon to Henin and the U.S. Open to eventual winner Venus Williams. The 25-year-old is trying to defend a Grand Slam championship for the first time. A year ago, Capriati became the lowest seed to win a major title in the Open era and ignited her fight back from personal adversity.
In her third straight semifinal apearance in Melbourne, Capriati will take the court against Clijsters, who defeated Henin for the fourth time in their five career meetings. This represents the 18-year-old's second Grand Slam semifinal berth. After beating Henin in the last four at the French Open, Clijsters lost a memorable final to Capriati, 12-10 in the third set.
Safin reached the semifinals here for the first time and notched his second straight final four showing at a Grand Slam, having advanced to that round at the U.S. Open last September. The 21-year-old Russian is more and more resembling the player that won a tour-high seven titles in 2000, including the U.S. Open crown--his first at a Grand Slam--and has put last year's inconsistent campaign behind.
Haas, the highest remaining seed in the draw, faces the only former Australian Open finalist still competing here. Rios leads their lifetime series, 4-2, but they have not met since the first round at Roland Garros in 2000, when the Chilean was forced to retire with a right adductor injury after two sets. The only other win for Haas in the matchup also came when Rios retired--in the semifinals at Lyonin 1998. Haas is trying to reach only his second Grand Slam semifinal, having appeared in the last four here in 1999. He saved a match point in the fifth set to defeat Roger Federer in the fourth round. It was his second straight comeback from two-sets-to-one down.
Rios advanced to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal since 1999 with a three-set triumph over No. 23 seed Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador. The 1998 runner-up here, Rios made the quarterfinals at the 1999 French Open. Rios showed signs of returning to his old form toward the end of 2001. After capturing the Salem Open title in late September, he reached the quarterfinals in two of his final four events of the year.
The other quarterfinals were settled Tuesday. Third seed and three-time champion Martina Hingis of Switzerland dispatched Adriana Serra Zanetti, 6-2, 6-3, to reach her 19th Grand Slam semifinal. Hingis next will take on eighth seed Monica Seles.
Seles, a four-time winner here, ousted the second-seeded Williams, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-3. The reigning Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion, Williams had her 22-match winning streak stopped.
In men's action, No. 16 Thomas Johansson of Sweden and 26th-seeded Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic advanced to their first career Grand Slam semifinals. Johansson defeated countryman Jonas Bjorkman, 6-0, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, and Novak routed Austrian Stefan Koubek, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.
Tyson disrupts news conference
NEW YORK, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Mike Tyson, boxing's most controversial figure, was out of control and incited a melee Tuesday at a news conference which was scheduled to announce that he and undisputed champion Lennox Lewis would fight on April 6 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Determined to turn this conference into a World Wrestling Federation spectacle, Tyson took a swing at Lewis and a security guard, pointed to his crotch while yelling at Lewis and screamed profanities at some of the boxing writers in attendance.
After Tyson was introduced at the news conference, he stood on stage and stared in the direction of Lewis. When Lewis was introduced and took his place on the stage, Tyson marched towards him. One of Lewis' bodyguards got between the fighters and Tyson greeted him with a left handed punch. Lewis then swung at Tyson, both entourages began pushing and shoving and a melee ensued.
"Everything went so fast that I felt like a referee in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Lewis promoter Gary Shaw. "Mike charged Lennox and I got hit in the back and the front."
There were even reports that Tyson bit Lewis in the scuffle. Shaw issued a terse "no comment" when asked if Tyson had indeed attempted to bite Lewis.
When order was restored, Tyson emerged with a knot on the left side of his temple and then continued to embarrass himself by clutching his crotch as he yelled at Lewis. Soon after, Tyson directed his anger at some writers near the stage by screaming profanities. The rest of the news conference was canceled and now the April 6 fight may never come off.
The last time Tyson fought for a title at the MGM Grand on June 28, 1997, he was disqualified for biting Evander Holyfield's ears.
Tyson's adviser Shelley Finkel was in the process of getting the paperwork necessary to have the former champion licensed to fight in Nevada. That may turn into a waste of time after Tyson's display on Tuesday. The Nevada Athletic Commission has every reason to believe Tyson may not be mentally fit to fight. The commission had scheduled a meeting for Jan. 29 to vote on whether to issue Tyson a license.
"I'm hoping the fight will still happen on April 6," Shaw said. "But that is up to the Nevada Commission and I can't speak for them. This could have been a cowardly way for Mike to avoid fighting Lennox."
Tyson, who is 49-3 with two no contests and 43 knockouts, had his eye on Lewis when he canceled his January 19 fight with Ray Mercer. The No. 1 contender to Lewis' WBC and IBF belts, Tyson last fought on October 13, recording a seventh-round technical knockout of Brian Nielsen in Copenhagen.
Lewis is 39-2-1 with 30 knockouts and regained the WBC and IBF titles with a fourth-round knockout of Hasim Rahman on November 17. He had lost the titles when Rahman knocked him out on April 21.
Dungy headed for Colts
INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Tony Dungy, who was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers eight days ago, reached an agreement in principle on Tuesday to coach the Indianapolis Colts.
"Both parties expect things will go smoothly," Polian said. "An official introduction of coach Dungy is expected tomorrow (Wednesday)."
Dungy, 46, was also a candidate for the Carolina Panthers' coaching position, but admitted on Monday that he was "very interested" in the Colts' job. That is understandable with quarterback Peyton Manning, two-time rushing champion Edgerrin James and receiver Marvin Harrison forming the nucleus of the Colts' offense.
The major problem in Indianapolis is a defense which yielded an NFL-high 486 points this past season and cost coach Jim Mora his job. Colts president Bill Polian urged Mora to fire defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and when the coach refused, he was dismissed on January 8. Polian has sacrificed defense in fitting huge contracts for Manning, James, Harrison and tight ends Marcus Pollard and Ken Dilger under the salary cap.
Dungy turned the Buccaneers into one of the league's premier defensive teams in six years as their coach and compiled a 54-42 record, but had little luck with choosing offensive coordinators. In Indianapolis, Tom Moore will remain as the offensive coordinator.
Before Dungy arrived in Tampa Bay, the Bucs had endured 13 straight losing seasons and he is the only winning coach in a mostly dismal history of the franchise. But after the Bucs reached the NFC championship game two years ago, they fell short of expectations with back-to-back first-round playoff losses to the Philadelphia Eagles. Tampa Bay went 2-4 in playoff games under Dungy and failed to score a touchdown in its last three postseason contests.
Believing they could lure two-time Super Bowl winning coach Bill Parcells out of retirement, the Bucs fired Dungy on January 14, two days after a 31-9 loss to the Eagles in the wild card round. However, Parcells turned down the job.
The Colts made back-to-back playoff appearances in 1999 and 2000 under Mora, but slipped to 6-10 this past season. Indianapolis lost seven of its last nine games and allowed 27 or more points in eight straight before a season-ending win over Denver. The Colts also lost James to a torn ACL after an October 25 win at Kansas City, but rookie free agent Dominic Rhodes stepped in and rushed for 1,104 yards and nine touchdowns.
La Russa signs 3-year extension
ST. LOUIS, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, after dragging out the process for much of the offseason, signed a three-year contract extension Tuesday that runs through the 2004 season.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but La Russa was expected to receive a deal in excess of $2 million per season.
La Russa was unsure in October whether he would be back and speculation increased when Mark McGwire, his longtime friend, announced his retirement in November. But St. Louis has been one of the more active teams this offseason and La Russa agreed to a new three-year pact.
The 57-year-old La Russa is 507-464 in six years at the helm of the Cardinals and he and Leo Durocher are the only managers ever to win 500 games with three different teams. His 1,827 career wins is 11th all-time and the most among active managers. After breaking in as the manager of the Chicago White Sox in 1979, La Russa joined the Oakland Athletics in the middle of the 1986 season. He guided the A's to a World Series championship in 1989, the middle year of the three straight appearances in the Fall Classic.
La Russa has guided the Cardinals to the postseason each of the last two seasons and three times in his six years. But St. Louis is just 2-3 in playoff series under La Russa.
La Russa's 23 straight years as a major league manager are surpassed only by Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics (1901-1950), John McGraw (1901-1931) and Sparky Anderson (1970-95).
Bucs sign kicker to seven-year deal
TAMPA, Fla., Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave Martin Gramatica another reason to jump for joy Tuesday when they signed the kicker to a seven-year contract through the 2008 season.
One of the NFL's most eccentric players, Gramatica was a 1999 third-round pick out of Kansas State and has established himself as one of the league's top kickers.
Before his arrival in 1999, no player in Bucs history had scored 100 points in a season. Gramatica broke the century mark as a rookie, with a team-record 106 points, then shattered his own record in 2000 with 126 while garnering Pro Bowl honors. He almost certainly would have hit 100 points again this season if a hamstring injury hadn't sidelined him for the last two games and stalled his total at 97.
In his career, Gramatica has made 82 percent (78-of-95) of his field goals.
As a collegian, Gramatica set an NCAA record for longest field goal (65 yards) without a tee.
Oldest U.S. Winter Olympian dies at 91
LAKE PLACID, N.Y., Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Jack Shea, the oldest living Winter Olympic gold medal winner in the United States, died Tuesday at age 91 in his native Lake Placid. He had been looking forward to watching his grandson, a third generation Olympian, compete in the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Shea died from injuries sustained when his car was struck by a van driven by Herbert J. Reynolds, 36, of Saranac Lake, N.Y. According to police, Reynolds was arrested for driving while intoxicated.
At age 22, Shea won two gold medals for speed skating at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid in 1932 for the 500 and 1,500 meters. After completing his education at Dartmouth University in 1934, Shea was ready to compete at the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch and Partenkirchen in Germany's Bavarian Alps. He did not compete in 1936, however, at the request of a Lake Placid rabbi.
Finding work in the Depression in the Adirondacks was difficult for the Olympian, so he worked as a mail carrier and later in his family's store. He was featured in a color ad for Camel cigarettes in the 1930s that said, "To relieve fatigue, get a lift with a Camel."
Shea was credited with bringing the Winter Olympics to his native Lake Placid in 1980 where he served as supervisor of the Town of North Elba for eight years.
Saints letting defensive star go
NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The New Orleans Saints Tuesday decided not to exercise the 2002 contract on La'Roi Glover, which could make one of the premier defensive tackles in the NFL an unrestricted free agent. Signed to a four-year contract in March 1998, Glover's deal was voided after he reached incentives earlier in the contract.
The Saints had the right to buy out the final year of the original contract, which was voided for $5.5 million. The buyback would have counted against the 2002 salary cap.
It is possible that the Saints could use the franchise tag on Glover. If New Orleans does that, Glover will have to be among the top-five paid players at his position and the Saints couldretain his services.
Hawks' Davis out for season
ATLANTA, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Atlanta Hawks guard Emanual Davis will miss the remainder of the season with a broken bone in his left wrist, the team announced Tuesday. Davis has been sidelined with a broken navicular bone in the wrist and will undergo surgery for the injury sometime in the near future.
Davis, who began the season as the Hawks' starting point guard, had averages of 6.4 points, 2.6 assists and 2.3 rebounds per contest in 29 games this season.
To take Davis' roster spot, the Hawks on Tuesday signed forward Ira Newble to a 10-day contract. Newble was with the Hawks during training camp before being waived on Oct.24.
Last season, Newble played in 27 games for the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 2.0 points and 1.3 rebounds.