Venus, Agassi win again at Melbourne
MELBOURNE, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Venus Williams Friday reached the final 16 at the Australian Open for the fifth time in as many appearances at Melbourne.
In cruising over Anca Barna of Germany, 6-1, 6-4, Williams moved a step closer to a showdown with her younger sister.
On the men's side, No. 2 Andre Agassi, a three-time Australian Open champion, advanced to the round of 16 for the seventh time with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 29 Nicolas Escude of France.
Venus Williams, the No. 2 seed and a four-time Grand Slam winner, won 85 percent of first-serve points (29-of-34), registering five aces. Barna never found a consistent answer, converting just 2-of-12 break-point chances.
"I think definitely in the first set I was playing really well, sticking to my game plan," Williams said. "I think, in the second set, she lifted the level of her game. You change it up, try to do something different to also figure out the reason you're losing that set. I think that's what she did."
The former world No. 1 is gunning for her 29th career singles title.
Agassi needed almost 2 1/2 hours to outduel Escude. In the third set, the Las Vegas native saved 12 of 13 break points before taking a two sets to one lead.
"In hindsight, I can say it was good to be out there a little longer, test yourself, put yourself in a lot of tough situations," Agassi said. "I think that's what makes a difference in these tournaments, having a good day when you need it and getting through that tough day when things might not feel well. Today was one of those days."
The 32-year-old Agassi posted his fifth win in six career meetings with Escude. He now has a chance to become just the fourth player to win four Australian Opens. He captured the title in 1995, 2000, and 2001, made the semifinals in 1996, and reached the fourth round in 1998 and '99.
Roy Emerson won the event six times (1961, 1963-67), Jack Crawford (1931-33, 1935), and Ken Rosewall (1953, 1955, 1971-72) have lifted the trophy four times apiece.
Also on the women's side, fifth-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium coasted into the fourth round for the third straight year by crushing No. 32 Katarina Srebotnik of Slovakia, 6-2, 6-0.
Another Slovakian, No. 7 Daniela Hantuchova, overcame the hometown crowd in her third-round match, cruising to a 6-4, 6-2 win over Australian wild card Samantha Stosur.
Hantuchova is trying to reach her third straight Grand Slam quarterfinal, having made the last eight at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year.
No. 9 Lindsay Davenport, who captured the 2000 Australian Open title, recorded six aces and 27 winners on the way to a 6-2, 6-1 rout of Tatiana Panova of Russia.
"I played exactly the way I wanted to play, which was attacking a lot of balls and going for my shots," Davenport said. "I really, no matter what, wanted to play aggressive and be in charge of the points. That's, I think, when I play my best tennis, when I'm inside the baseline, going for my shots."
Davenport, a former world No. 1, also beat Panova last week in the semifinals at Sydney.
No. 12 Patty Schnyder of Switzerland moved on with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 win over Nadia Petrova of Russia, while Nicole Pratt of Australia upset Paola Suarez of Argentina, 7-5, 6-4, in a match that featured 11 service breaks, and Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain advanced to the fourth round for the first time in nine tries with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Marlene Weingartner of Germany.
Ferrero advanced to the round of 16 at Melbourne Park for the first time.
Costa, who beat Ferrero in the final of the 2002 French Open, crashed out in the third round at this Grand Slam event, falling to Felix Mantilla, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.
Wayne Ferreira of South Africa stormed back to beat Mardy Fish of the U.S., 2-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-0.
Fish owned a 4-1 lead in the fourth set and was five points from his first berth in the final 16 of a Grand Slam event before collapsing, dropping the final 11 games of the match.
"I don't know if I got tired," Fish said. "I didn't feel tired in the end. I had a lot more unforced errors in those last two sets than the first two, obviously."
Canadiens fire Thierren
In doing so, they became the sixth NHL team in seven weeks to make a coaching change.
Therrien is the second straight coach of the league's most storied franchise to leave without posting a winning record.
Julien, 42, was in his third season with Hamilton of the American Hockey League. The Bulldogs had a league-best 33-6-3-3 record, and are on pace to break that team's 67-year-old mark for wins and points.
Julien leaves the team in the midst of a 25-game points streak (21
2-2), which is two shy of the league record, and bypasses a chance to coach in the AHL All-Star Game.
The 39-year-old Therrien was named the 25th Canadiens coach on Nov. 20, 2000, and led Montreal to an upset of the top-seeded Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last year. The Canadiens had tied a franchise record by missing the playoffs the three previous seasons.
In his brief stint with the club, Therrien compiled a 77-77-13-13 record.
Vezina and Hart Trophy winner Jose Theodore struggled early this season, but improved in December, and Montreal was a season-high four games over .500 (16-12-4-2) on Dec. 21. However, the Canadiens are 2-7-1-2 in their last 12 games, and are tied for ninth in the Eastern Conference.
Therrien replaced Alain Vigneault, who finished with a 109-122-35 record to become the first Canadiens coach without a winning record since Alfred "Pit" Lepine went 10-33-5 in 1939-40.
Montreal is the second team to name a coach this week. On Tuesday, the Atlanta Thrashers named Bob Hartley to replace interim coach and General Manager Don Waddell. Hartley was fired by the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 18.
Lowe has cancer surgery
BOSTON, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Instead of receiving his awards at the Boston Baseball Writers dinner Thursday night, Derek Lowe was home in Florida, recovering from skin cancer surgery.
Two weeks ago, the Boston Red Sox All-Star righthander underwent a procedure to have cancer removed from his nose. He is expected to make a full recovery.
"The doctors feel pretty confident they got it all," said Red Sox spokesman Kevin Shea.
Lowe was to receive the team's MVP and Pitcher of the Year awards, honors he shared with Pedro Martinez, but was prohibited to fly. He left a note that was read by emcee Don Orsillo.
"I'd like to thank all the Red Sox fans for the great support this year," the statement said. "I want to thank the Boston writers for these two great awards. It's unbelievable to win two great awards, especially in my first year as a starter."
Lowe also thanked his teammates and those who stuck with him after a difficult year as closer in 2001.
"I wish I could be there with you all and thank you all personally," the note continued. "The only thing that I am not missing is the cold weather. Thanks again and I'm looking forward to having another strong year in 2003."
Lowe finished third in American League Cy Young award voting behind Martinez and Barry Zito of Oakland after going 21-8 with a 2.58 ERA. He threw his first career no-hitter on April 27 against Tampa Bay at Fenway Park.
Mavericks sign Rigaudeau
DALLAS, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- The Dallas Mavericks, who feature a couple of the best foreign-born players in the NBA, Friday signed veteran French guard Antoine Rigaudeau.
Terms of the contract were not released.
Rigaudeau, 31, considered a good shooter, has spent the last 16 seasons playing professionally in Europe. Since 1997, he had been with Virtus Bologna in Italy.
This season, the 6-7 Rigaudeau was averaging 13.9 points and 2.7 rebounds in 15 games.
Rigaudeau had his best season in Italy in 2000-01, when he helped Virtus to the Italian League Championship, the Euroleague Championship, and the Italian Cup.
He has played in four European Championships and averaged 12.6 points per game in the 2000 Olympics, when he helped France earn a silver medal.
Dallas (31-6) has the best record in the NBA and 7-foot German forward Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 22.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Point guard Steve Nash, who was born in Canada, is averaging 18.4 points and 6.8 assists per contest.
The Mavericks visit Phoenix Friday night, but Rigaudeau is not expected to be in uniform until Sunday in Seattle.
Alvarez signs with Dodgers
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Wilson Alvarez has signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
If Alvarez makes the team out of spring training, he will receive $750,000 plus incentives. Dodgers General Manager Dan Evans expects him to compete for a job as the team's swingman.
Alvarez, once one of the top lefthanders in the game before arm problems cost him the 2000 and 2001 seasons, threw a no-hitter as a rookie in 1991 and won 15 games twice in his first five full major league seasons with the Chicago White Sox.
However, he started just 10 games since 1999, and Evans knows he is taking a risk.
"We're taking a shot, but it's a real good risk-reward," said Evans, an official with the White Sox during Alvarez's days in Chicago.
Alvarez, a native of Venezuela, threw the first pitch in the history of the Tampa Ray Devil Rays on March 31, 1998, and started 53 games in his first two years with the team.
Alvarez had a partial tear of his rotator cuff repaired in May 1999 and missed the entire year. He spent all of 2000 rehabilitating, and suffered a setback in late August.
He made his first appearance in nearly three years last May 31, allowing four runs over 3 1/3 innings of relief against Oakland. He pitched in 23 games last season, starting 10, and going 2-3 with one save and a 5.28 ERA.
Alvarez, 32, became a free agent after the season when his five-year contract ran out.
In 273 major league appearances, he is 88-80 with a 4.03 ERA, also having pitched for San Francisco.
His best season came in 1993, when he was 15-8 with a 2.95 ERA. The following year, he no-hit Baltimore on Aug. 11 and was an All-Star.
Devil Rays sign two
ST. PETERSBURG, Fl., Jan. 17 (UPI) -- The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have signed free agent second baseman Marlon Anderson to a one-year contract with plans to use him at more than one position.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
The Devil Rays also signed righthander Steve Parris to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training as a non-roster player.
Anderson, 29, spent his entire five-year career with the Philadelphia Phillies. Last season, he batted .258 with eight home runs, 48 RBI, and five stolen bases in 145 games.
"Marlon is an athletic player with good speed and quickness," said new Tampa Bay Manager Lou Piniella. "He will compete at second base during spring training, and we will move him around to try to make him more than a one-position player."
Brent Abernathy saw most of the playing time at second base with Tampa Bay last year, hitting .242 with two homers, 40 RBI, and 10 steals in 117 games.
Parris, 35, spent 2 1/2 months on the disabled list last season following shoulder surgery. He was 5-5 with a 5.97 ERA in 14 games for the Toronto Blue Jays, his third team during a seven-year career.
Cabrera comes to terms with Expos
MONTREAL, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Orlando Cabrera, who struggled last year, has agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Montreal Expos.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Cabrera, who emerged as one of the top offensive shortstops in the National League in 2001, was eligible for arbitration. Last season, he lost his arbitration hearing and made $2.4 million.
Cabrera, 28, hit just .263 with 43 doubles, seven homers, and 56 RBI in 153 games last season, one year after batting .276 with 14 homers, 96 RBI, and 19 stolen bases. He also won a Gold Glove in 2001.
Cabrera has spent his entire six-year career with Montreal, and has a .262 batting average with 45 homers and 270 RBI.
The signing of Cabrera leaves Montreal with three players eligible for arbitration -- pitchers Joey Eischen, Orlando Hernandez, and Javier Vazquez.
Moss comes to terms with Giants
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Damian Moss, the key player headed to the San Francisco Giants in the December deal with the Atlanta Braves, has signed a one-year contract with the team.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Moss was eligible for arbitration.
The talented lefthander from Australia was 12-6 with a 3.42 ERA for the Braves in 2002. He held opponents to a .221 batting average, fifth-best in the National League.
Moss was acquired from Atlanta along with minor league pitcher Manuel Mateo for righthander Russ Ortiz. He is expected to step right into the Giants' rotation, filling the void created by Ortiz' departure.
Arrojo signs with Pirates
PITTSBURGH, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Rolando Arrojo, who can start or relieve, has signed a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The 34-year-old Cuban was 4-3 with a 4.98 ERA and one save in 29 appearances for the Boston Red Sox in 2002.
In a five-year career that includes stops in Tampa Bay and Boston, Arrojo is 40-42 with a 4.55 ERA. His best season was 1998, when he was 14-12 with a 3.56 ERA and earned a spot on the All-Star team.
Padres ink Walker
SAN DIEGO, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- The San Diego Padres Thursday avoided their only potential arbitration hearing by re-signing lefthander Kevin Walker to a one-year contract.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Walker was paid $267,000 last season, when he returned from "Tommy John" surgery on his pitching elbow. He went 0-1 with a 5.63 ERA in 11 relief appearances.
Walker, 26, has spent his entire three-year career with San Diego. He is 7-2 with a 4.15 ERA in 97 games.
Bornstein to run NFL Channel
NEW YORK, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Former ESPN and ABC-TV President Steve Bornstein has been hired by the NFL to serve as president and CEO of the fledgling NFL Channel.
He had been serving as an adviser to the league on television and strategic media since September.
In his new post, which includes the title Executive Vice President of Media, he will oversee all aspects of the NFL on television, including development of the league's new digital production center in Mt. Laurel, N.J.
"We are at an important crossroads in the area of NFL television," said NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. "Steve Bornstein adds tremendous strength to our team as we look ahead to our challenges and opportunities in servicing our fans on television."
Bornstein spearheaded the development of the NFL Channel, the first TV service dedicated exclusively to the NFL and football. It will begin airing next fall and will be available 24 hours a day, year-round.
Bornstein served as ESPN President and CEO from 1990-99. In 1996, he added the title as President of ABC Sports.
He also served as Chairman of the Walt Disney Internet Group from 1999-2001 before taking over as President of ABC Television, a post he held for a year before stepping down last May.
Roy eligible for Huskies
SEATTLE, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- The NCAA has ruled freshman Brandon Roy of Washington eligible.
Roy, a 6-5 swingman, was declared a full qualifier by the NCAA, and was eligible immediately. Coach Lorenzo Romar was ecstatic about the ruling.
"It's obviously something that we have anticipated for a long time," Romar said. "Brandon is a really good basketball player, but he is also a great human being and the kind of quality person that we want to represent this program. We're just anxious to see him get into shape and contribute to this program."
Roy was considered one of the nation's top 50 recruits and an important signing for Romar, who is in his first season. Roy averaged 22.3 points and 10.4 rebounds as a senior last season at Seattle's Garfield High School.
He was in uniform Thursday night in the Huskies' 73-66 loss to Pac-10 rival California, but did not play.
Washington is 6-8, including a 1-4 in the Pac-10.