Venus, Agassi advance to Melbourne semis
Venus, the women's No. 2 seed, knocked off Daniela Hantuchova for the second straight year at Melbourne. She fired six aces and 29 winners on the way to a 6-4, 6-3 victory over the seventh-seeded Slovakian.
On the men's side, No. 2 Andre Agassi extended his winning streak at Melbourne Park to 19 matches as he cruised to a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 quarterfinal win over No. 12 Sebastien Grosjean of France.
Agassi's opponent in the semifinals will be unseeded Wayne Ferreira of South Africa, who recorded 46 winners and six service breaks in a 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 win over No. 4 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain.
Williams and Hantuchova met in the third round at Melbourne last year, when Williams rallied for a 3-6, 6-0, 6-4 victory. She has won all four matches between the two.
"I think I had a lot of errors," Williams said. "I think also that Daniela didn't play her best. I think she wanted to play better, for sure, but I think, in general, maybe it was my better match of this tournament. Of course, I'm my best critic, I'm always looking for the things that I can do better after each match, unless it was perfect."
"The match was a much higher level than last year," Hantuchova said. "Venus came out today playing unbelievable. She did it, all credit to the way she played. I had my chances, too, but today she was just better."
Williams, a four-time Grand Slam titleist, reached the semifinals at Melbourne Park for the second time. The former world No. 1 moved a step closer to a showdown with younger sister Serena, who tops the WTA rankings, and beat Venus at the last three Grand Slam finals.
Venus Williams next will battle fifth-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium in a rematch of the 2001 Wimbledon final. Henin-Hardenne converted five of six break point opportunities in her 6-2, 6-2 quarterfinals win over Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain.
"Yesterday, I was in very bad shape. I couldn't practice at all," Henin-Hardenne said regarding her three-set win over No. 9 Lindsay Davenport in the fourth round. "But I think I had a good recovery. When you win in two sets like this, you can be happy because you are in the semifinal of a Grand Slam."
Henin-Hardenne advanced to the Australian Open semifinals for the first time. She improved on her quarterfinals finish a year ago, when she fell to compatriot Kim Clijsters.
Ruano Pascual, 29, equaled her best performance at a major. She also made the 1995 French Open quarterfinals.
Agassi improved his career mark against Grosjean to 3-2, and avenged a loss in their previous Grand Slam quarterfinal meeting.
The seven-time Grand Slam winner seemed to be coasting to victory in his 2001 French Open quarterfinal against Grosjean, but after then-President Bill Clinton took his seat to watch the match, Agassi collapsed and Grosjean secured a 1-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 victory.
On Tuesday, Agassi committed just 14 unforced errors and ran the Frenchman all over the court.
Agassi, a three-time Australian winner, advanced to his 23rd career Grand Slam semifinal, while Grosjean fell short of his second appearance in the final four at Melbourne Park, where he was a semifinalist in 2001.
"Andre was playing well," Grosjean said. "It was tough for me because I didn't serve well. Against Agassi, if you don't serve well, it's very difficult."
Ferreira, 31, the only unseeded man left in the field, advanced to the semis for the second time. In 1992, he knocked off John McEnroe to reach the final four.
Ferrero stumbled in his first career Grand Slam quarterfinal away from the French Open clay courts of Roland Garros in Paris.
Del Rio hires three for Jacksonville staff
JACKSONVILLE, Fl., Jan. 21 (UPI) -- New Jacksonville Coach Jack Del Rio Tuesday hired three people for his first staff with the Jaguars.
Bill Musgrave will be his offensive coordinator, while Mike Smith was named defensive coordinator and Bill Bates will be head of special teams.
Musgrave served as offensive coordinator at the University of Virginia the past two seasons. He was an assistant with Carolina before that, and resigned as offensive coordinator during the 2000 season.
The former NFL quarterback, who played collegiately at Oregon, also spent time as an assistant with the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles.
Smith coached with Del Rio in Baltimore, where he was the Ravens' linebackers coach last season, and their defensive line coach for three seasons.
Bates was a star special teams player for the Dallas Cowboys. He and Del Rio were teammates in Dallas.
Del Rio was named coach of the Jaguars last Friday, replacing the fired Tom Coughlin.
Shockey fined by NFL
NEW YORK, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- The National Football League has dropped a $10,000 fine on New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey.
Actually, $10,000 is the total because Shockey was hit by two $5,000 fines for on-field incidents during the Giants' 39-38 loss to San Francisco Jan. 5 in the NFC divisional game.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Shockey was was fined $5,000 for throwing a cup of ice water on fans, and another $5,000 for making an obscene gesture in the direction of 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson.
Shockey's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, declined comment, saying he had not received any paperwork regarding the fine.
He said he would address the matter when he receives official notification.
Shockey is emotional and demonstrative, and has team officials worried about his demeanor.
"He gave us a vitality we lacked," General Manager Ernie Accorsi told the paper. "Certain players make everyone else better just by walking on the field, and he's one of those players. I think the sky is the limit on him, and we've only seen a small part of that."
Shockey, a rookie out of Miami, made the Pro Bowl this season after he caught 74 passes for 892 yards and two touchdowns. He was the Giants' top draft pick last summer.
Cards ink Hermanson
ST. LOUIS, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to terms with pitcher Dustin Hermanson on a one-year contract.
That brings him back back after a season with the Boston Red Sox.
Financial terms for the veteran righthander were not disclosed. The deal is subject to the 30-year-old Hermanson passing a physical later this week.
He was 14-13 in 2001 with the Cardinals, who traded him to Boston two months after the season for three minor leaguers. Last year, a groin injury limited him to 12 games, just one start, and he was 1-1 with a 7.77 ERA.
Hermanson had been one of baseball's more durable pitchers, logging at least 187 innings each year from 1997-2000.
"It's a deal that I'm sure several months ago they didn't think they were going to take," said General Manager GM Walt Jocketty. "I think he is at a point as a lot of guys are at this point where we're just a few weeks away from spring training and they're willing to lower their sights a little bit just to get an opportunity to get into camp. He's a guy that could go both ways. He could be a starter or a reliever, but I think we'd initially bring him in for a starting position."
The signing got a thumbs up from Manager Tony LaRussa.
"We really liked him two years ago because he was always one of the guys that was always ready to pitch," said La Russa. "I know we're not just getting him happy to be back in St. Louis, but really hungry to be good again."
Hermanson, who broke into the majors with San Diego in 1995, also won 14 games for Montreal in 1998. He owns a 62-62 record in 215 major league appearances.
Devil Rays sign two more
ST. PETERSBURG, Fl., Jan. 21 (UPI) -- The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have signed pitcher Jim Parque and outfielder Ryan Thompson to minor league contracts and invited them to spring training.
Parque is a lefthander with a 30-33 Major League record in five seasons with the Chicago White Sox. Last season, he spent most of the year recovering from shoulder surgery. He was 1-4 with a 9.95 ERA in eight games at the end of the season.
In 2000, Parque, 27, was 13-6 with a 4.28 ERA in 187 innings for the White Sox, who won the AL Central.
Thompson, 33, is a .243 lifetime hitter with 52 home runs and 176 RBI in nine seasons with six teams.
He started out with the New York Mets and had a career year with them in 1994, when he hit 18 home runs and drove in 59 runs. He also has played with Cleveland, Houston, the New York Yankees, Florida, and Milwaukee.
With the Brewers last season, Thompson hit .248 with eight home runs and 24 RBI in 137 at-bats.
The Rays, who have several spots to fill on their roster this spring, already have signed 12 players to minor league contracts and invited them to spring training.
They are expected to sign a few more before pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13. but General Manager Chuck LaMar said it is unlikely the team would sign any more free agents to Major League contracts.
Hurricanes place Brind'Amour on IR
RALEIGH, N.C., Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Veteran center Rod Brind'Amour of Carolina Tuesday was placed on injured reserve after injuring his right hand in Monday's loss to St. Louis.
Brind'Amour suffered the injury during a first-period faceoff. He is scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday.
The faceoff specialist will be sidelined indefinitely, but the Hurricanes offered no additional information on the injury.
Brind'Amour, 32, continued to play in Monday's game. He scored a goal in the third period, when Carolina nearly erased a 4-0 deficit.
Brind'Amour, in his fourth season with Carolina, has registered 13 goals and 23 assists for a team-high 37 points. He leads the NHL in faceoffs taken with 1,242.
Last season, Brind'Amour was fourth on the Hurricanes in scoring with 55 points. He helped fuel the Hurricanes' run to the Stanley Cup Finals last spring by recording four goals and eight assists in 23 playoff games.
The veteran has missed just five games since being acquired from Philadelphia on Jan. 23, 2000.
Monday's loss was Carolina's franchise-record seventh straight at home, and seventh in a row overall.
Knee surgery for Justin Williams
PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Philadelphia Flyers right wing Justin Williams is scheduled to undergo reconstructive left knee surgery on Thursday and will miss the rest of the season.
He was injured in the second period of Saturday's 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay. Team officials hoped he could rehabilitate the knee, but he sought a second opinion in Toronto.
"Justin talked with another surgeon up in Toronto and he has decided to have the surgery now rather than waiting until the end of the season," said Flyers team physician Dr. Peter DeLuca.
"Originally, our doctors had wanted Justin to rehab and try playing with a brace, which a number of players do now and have done," Flyers President and General Manager Bob Clarke told the Philadelphia Daily News. "But [Williams' agent, Phane Campbell] talked to a doctor in Toronto. The doctor in Toronto had a different opinion than what our doctors do, and the agent made the decision that Justin should have surgery."
DeLuca will perform the 90-minute procedure to rebuild Williams' ACL at Hahnemann University Hospital.
"It's usually a long rehab period, anywhere between four months up until even eight months until he strengthens his leg muscles," DeLuca said.
While DeLuca left open the possibility of Williams returning for the playoffs, Clarke dismissed it.
"I'm very disappointed," Williams told the paper. "But I'm young and, hopefully, I've got a longer career ahead of me, and you don't want to jeopardize that."
Williams, a 2000 first-round draft pick, is tied for fifth on the team in scoring with eight goals and 15 assists in 40 games.
Quantone Smith quits Colorado State hoops.
FORT COLLINS, Co., Jan. 21 (UPI) -- School officials said Tuesday that Colorado State forward Quantone Smith has left the men's basketball team for personal reasons.
"He was a valuable team member and will be missed," said Coach Dale Layer. "Everyone associated with our program wishes him the best of luck in his future endeavors."
The senior from Minneapolis appeared in 16 games this season, averaging 5.6 points and 2.6 rebounds.
Smith was the second hoops player to quit a team at Colorado State this week. The other was women's point guard Liz Smith.
The school gave no additional information on either departure, but Liz Smith cited "philosophical differences" with the coaching staff.
The men's team is 13-4, including a 2-0 mark in the Mountain West Conference.