NEW YORK, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Marat Safin, the men's second seed, outlasted former top-10 player Nicolas Kiefer of Germany, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), in a marathon afternoon first-round match Tuesday in the U.S. Open.
Defending champions Venus Williams and Lleyton Hewitt recorded easy straight-sets victories. Williams demolished Croatian qualifier Mirjana Lucic, 6-0, 6-0, and world No. 1 Hewitt dispatched Nicolas Coutelot of France, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.
Coming on the heels of the lengthy Safin-Kiefer clash, Williams finished off Lucic in 50 minutes, including a timeout for a trainer to tend to Lucic's blistered feet.
In other women's first-round matches, sixth seed and two-time winner Monica Seles of the United States cruised past Zsofia Gubacsi of Hungary, 6-3, 6-3; No. 7 Kim Clijsters of Belgium thrashed Conchita Martinez Granados of Spain, 6-1, 6-0, in 42 minutes; No. 10 Amelie Mauresmo of France whipped Czech qualifier Iveta Benesova, 6-3, 6-2; and No. 14 Chanda Rubin of the United States lashed countrywoman Jill Craybas, 6-1, 6-3.
The evening session featured third seed Jennifer Capriati taking on fellow American Bethanie Mattek and No. 11 Andy Roddick of the United States battling Dutchman Martin Verkerk.
Both Safin and Kiefer suffered cramping during the four-hour, 31-minute battle, with the 25-year-old German feeling the worst of it. Despite enduring tremendous pain, Kiefer rallied from a break down twice in the fifth set, saving two match points to force a deciding tiebreaker.
Williams is looking to become the first woman to win three straight titles since Chris Evert reigned from 1975-1978. She enters the final Grand Slam of the year having won three straight hardcourt tournaments. The 22-year-old American lost her Wimbledon crown when she fell to younger sister Serena in the championship match. Top-seeded Serena also defeated Venus in the French Open final in June. The two have battled in the title match at three of the last four Grand Slam events.
Another former champion reached the second round as No. 9 Martina Hingis of Switzerland posted a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory over American Marissa Irvin. Hingis is on the comeback trail after missing two months due to ankle surgery.
New York, San Francisco 2012 Olympic finalists
CHICAGO, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- New York, possibly a sentimental favorite following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, was selected Tuesday along with San Francisco as the United States finalists to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The U.S. Olympic Committee's bid evaluation task force chose the two cities over Houston and Washington. The USOC's board of directors will decide Nov. 3 which city will be the American candidate.
"All four cites were qualified to host the game. Each city did a remarkable job," said Charles H. Moore, chairman of the task force that chose the finalists.
As many as a dozen cities around the world are expected to vie for the games, with Toronto and Rome mentioned as possible candidates. The International Olympic Committee will pick the host in 2005.
Anderson might not be signed by Pats
FOXBORO, Mass., Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Contrary to published and broadcast reports this week, the signing of veteran running back Jamal Anderson by the NFL world champions New England Patriots is not a done deal.
Coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday, while speaking to a group of reporters, that, for now at least, the deal is off. He said he spoke with Anderson on Monday.
When asked if he thought if Anderson would ever play again, Belichick was non-committal.
"That's totally his decision," Belichick said. "I think he has the talent to play and the skill to play. I think if he wants to play again, he can, and that's ultimately his decision and he controls that. I think you can find a lot of players that have come back from the ACL's, a lot of them. It's a tough rehabilitation. Nine months to a year, there's a lot of hard work in there. Mentally, you've got to fight."
Anderson, a former Pro Bowl choice, missed nearly all of the 1999 and 2001 seasons because of serious knee injuries, both ACL tears. He has undergone two knee reconstructions in the last three years, and was released by the Atlanta Falcons in June. He became expendable after the Falcons signed former Tampa Bay star Warrick Dunn as a free agent and selected T.J. Duckett from Michigan State in the first round of the April draft.
Anderson, 29, spent the last eight seasons with the Falcons, carrying 1,329 times for 5,336 yards and 34 touchdowns. He tore the ACL in his right knee in 1999, returned to rush for 1,024 yards in 2000, then out his left knee in 2001. His best season was 1998, when he rushed for 1,846 yards and helped the Falcons reach the Super Bowl for the only time. He set an NFL record that season with 410 carries.
Dodgers' Cora day-to-day after concussion
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Alex Cora will be on the sidelines for a few days after suffering a concussion in Monday night's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Cora was strapped to a gurney and taken motionless from the infield in an ambulance after a frightening collision with Diamondbacks shortstop Tony Womack on a blown bunt play in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Jolbert Cabrera bunted through a pitch. Cora apparently anticipated the bunt would get down, because he took off for second base as the ball cross the plate. The throw by Chad Moeller beat Cora to the bag and the Dodger slid head-first and high into Womack's knee, knocking himself out momentarily and throwing fans at Dodger Stadium, including Cora's pregnant wife, who was delirious for a short time, into an anxious silence.
Evans accompanied Cora to Good Samaritan Hospital. The injury was sobering for the Dodgers because Cora slugged a two-run homer off Arizona star Curt Schilling, a pair of singles and the walk in the ninth that led to the collision. He is batting .346 over his last 28 games, during which he has won back the starting shortstop job he lost to Cesar Izturis for a short time.
Ostroski announces retirement
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y., Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Buffalo Bills veteran offensive lineman Jerry Ostroski, who has been unable to return to the field due to a knee injury, announced his retirement Tuesday.
Ostroski, 32, had not practiced or played in an exhibition game because of a knee injury that he suffered during the 2001 season.
"My mind and my heart still say play, but my knee says no," Ostroski said.
A 1992 10th-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, Ostroski started at center, guard and tackle during his career. He has been with the Bills since the 1993 season. Ostroski moved into the starting lineup in 1995 and posted 13 or more starts every season until 2001, when he appeared in just seven games. He has started 102 of 106 games in his career.
Redskins lose Rod Jones for season
ASHBURN, Va., Aug. 28 (UPI) -- The Washington Redskins have put offensive lineman Rod Jones on injured reserve, ending his 2002 season. Jones suffered a torn biceps tendon in Saturday night's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Jones played both guard and tackle for the Redskins during the preseason. He had been competing for one of the starting guard positions, but was filling in at left tackle for the injured Chris Samuels against Tampa Bay.
The Redskins signed Jones to a three-year, $4 million deal with a $500,000 bonus in April, expecting him to play at right guard. However, a disappointing training camp moved Jones to left guard and then left tackle for the injured Samuels.
Team trainer Dean Kleinschmidt said Jones will undergo surgery within the next few days and faces three to four months of rehabilitation. He has been placed on injured reserve.
Samuels is nursing a badly-sprained left ankle and is will not play Friday game against New England. He will rest another week with a sprained ankle before returning for the regular-season opener against Arizona on Sept. 8.
Spurs sign Kevin Willis
SAN ANTONIO, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- The San Antonio Spurs have added a veteran presence to their frontcourt without leaving the state of Texas by signing free agent seven-footer Kevin Willis.
Terms were not disclosed, but the San Antonio Express News reported it is a one-year, $1 million deal, the minimum for a veteran with at least 10 years' experience.
Willis, who weighs 245 pounds and turns 40 on Sept. 6, returned to the Houston Rockets last season and averaged 6.1 points and 5.8 rebounds in 52 games. It was his second stint with Houston during an 18-year career that also has included stops in Atlanta, Miami, Golden State, Toronto and Denver.
The 11th overall pick in the 1984 draft out of Michigan State has career averages of 13.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per contest while ranking 11th in NBA history with 1,271 games played. His best season was 1991-92, when he averaged 18.3 points and was second in the league with 15.5 rebounds in 81 games with the Hawks. He was selected to play in the 1992 All-Star Game and was named to the All-NBA Third Team.
76ers sign Skinner
PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Billy King announced Tuesday that the team have signed free agent forward Brian Skinner.
Skinner, a 6-9, 265-pound forward, played in Cleveland last season, where he averaged 3.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest in 65 games, including eight starts. The four-year NBA veteran has career averages of 4.1 points and 4.4 rebounds, playing in 158 contests while starting 40 of them.
A first round draft pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1998 draft, Skinner played his first three seasons with L.A., including his best season as a pro in the 1999-2000 campaign, when he averaged 5.4 points and 6.1 rebounds in 33 games. He was traded by the Clippers on June 27, 2001, along with the rights to high-school phenom Tyson Chandler to the Chicago Bulls for center-forward Elton Brand.
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