Roddick goes to semis at Melbourne
MELBOURNE, Australia, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Andy Roddick, the ninth seed, Wednesday advanced to his first career Grand Slam semifinal with a five-set triumph over No. 18 Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco.
Roddick, 20, rallied for a dramatic 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-4, 21-19 victory in a classic confrontation that lasted one minute shy of five hours. The matchup also featured a 2 hour, 23 minute fifth set that was the longest in the Open era.
When it was over, Roddick lifted El Aynaoui's arm in a show of respect.
"My respect levels for him just grew and grew throughout the match," Roddick said. "I'm pretty sure it was vice versa. We could see each other 10 years down the line and know that we did share something pretty special."
"Right now I'm a bit disappointed of course," El Aynaoui said. "I thought I had a great opportunity to go in the semifinals. But I think Andy played a great match. I had a good tournament, and it's good for me in the future."
In becoming the youngest Mebourne semifinalist since 1992, Roddick posted his second five-set triumph in three days. He advances to face Rainer Schuettler of Germany.
Schuettler converted 6-of-8 break-point chances and pulled away to beat No. 10 David Nalbandian of Argentina, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-0.
He became the fifth German to advance to the final four at Melbourne in the Open era (since 1968). Karl Meiler led the way in 1973, Boris Becker won the tournament in 1991 and '96, Michael Stich was a semifinalist in 1993, and Tommy Haas made the last four in 1999 and 2002.
Like Roddick, Schuettler will be making his first appearance in a Grand Slam semifinal. He has dropped just two sets, and advanced to the semis in a walkover.
"I'm surprised, but I'm happy to be in the semifinals," Schuettler said. "I think so far I played a pretty good tournament. Yeah, I deserve to be here right now, I think I deserve to be in the semifinals."
Roddick had dropped his last two five-set matches before bouncing Mikhail Youzhny on Monday. It marked the first time in his career he won after dropping the first two sets.
He did not dig himself quite as big a hole Wednesday, but was staring at a match point in the 10th game of the fifth set. He held serve, but was broken with a chance to close out the match in the 22nd game.
"I can honestly say that coming back the other day from two sets and a break down did help my confidence for this match," Roddick said. "I was thinking, 'Okay, I've done this before and even more so, more drastic.'"
Following the 38th game, Roddick gave his racket to a ball boy, El Aynaoui followed suit, and the two youngsters hit back and forth. When play resumed, El Aynaoui failed to hold his serve, and Roddick wasted no time capitalizing.
When El Aynaoui put a forehand into the net to close out the match, Roddick rejoiced amid a standing ovation. The only Australian Open match to last longer was a 5 hour, 11 minute battle between Omar Camporese and Boris Becker in 1991.
Only Dennis Ralston and John Newcombe played more games in a match, 93 in a 1970 confrontation, but that was before tiebreakers.
"I'll remember the great audience, the crowd," El Aynaoui said. "Everybody stayed until the end, five hours. They were not with Andy or me, they were just enjoying a good match. That's terrific for us, when you play and feel the crowd is supporting you."
The other men's semifinal matchup pits Andre Agassi and Wayne Ferreira of South Africa on Thursday.
On the women's side, Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters breezed in their quarterfinal matches, setting up a clash between the tour's hottest players.
Williams, the top seed and winner of the last three Grand Slam events, fired eight aces and 29 winners in beating No. 25 Meghann Shaughnessy, 6-2, 6-2.
Clijsters, seeded fourth, recorded the 24th victory in her last 25 WTA Tour matches by overpowering No. 8 Anastasia Myskina of Russia, 6-2, 6-4.
Myskina quickly turned from beaten quarterfinalist to prognosticator regarding the Williams-Clijsters showdown.
"I think Kim right now (is) the best player in the world," Myskina said. "I think she has a good chance here to win the whole Australian Open. I think she (is) better than Serena and Venus (Williams) right now. (She has) more confidence right now, I think, than Serena and Venus."
Averaging over 120 mph on her first serve and limiting her unforced errors to 19, Williams used her power and precision to overwhelm Shaughnessy.
"I felt much better than I have throughout this tournament," Williams said. "I had a really good doubles match yesterday. That's why I think it's good for me to play doubles sometimes, because it helps me calm down. I'm able to work on my serve and return, it gives me a lot of confidence."
"I actually had a good plan in my mind," Shaughnessy said. "In the first set, I really didn't feel like I was playing very badly. She just came out there really aggressive. She looked very confident from the beginning."
Williams missed last year's event because of a twisted right ankle. In fact, Shaughnessy was leading their semifinal match at the 2002 Sydney event, 5-4, when Williams was forced to retire because of injury.
She is 9-0 this season.
Since struggling in her first-round encounter with Emilie Loit of France, Williams has cruised through the women's draw.
Clijsters, meanwhile, was buoyed by strong support from the local crowd in her quarterfinal. Nicknamed "Aussie Kim" because of her relationship with favorite son, Lleyton Hewitt, the 19-year-old Belgian has enjoyed the vocal backing of the Melbourne fans throughout the tournament as she attempts to capture her first Grand Slam title.
"It's always nice, especially if you're playing so far away from home as well," Clijsters said. "My mom is here and a friend is here. A few Belgian juniors came to watch me today, as well. It's always great to have that support, especially Lleyton being there made it even nicer."
The runner-up at the 2001 French Open has won her last three events, dating back to last season, and is just the fourth player in the last 20 years to win three consecutive titles without dropping a set.
Clijsters has dropped just 16 games in the tournament.
"It's nice because I'm sitting here in the semifinal and I haven't lost a set," Clijsters said. "I think for my energy it's good because, against the top girls in the semifinals, you have to run a lot."
Clijsters improved to 2-2 in her all-time series against Myskina, who was competing in her first career Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Report: Lieber to Yankees
CHICAGO, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Jon Lieber, who could miss the entire 2003 season following surgery, reportedly has agreed to terms on a two-year contract with the New York Yankees.
Lieber is a one-time 20-game winner,
ESPN Radio 1000 in Chicago reported Wednesday that the 32-year-old righthander has agreed to a two-year, $4 million contract with an $8 million club option for 2005.
According to the report, Lieber already has passed the physical, and the deal could be announced as soon as Thursday.
Lieber will miss at least the first half of the 2003 season after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his right elbow in August. The Yankees are banking that the veteran will be completely healthy by the start of the 2004 season, giving them another option in a talented and deep rotation.
Lieber, the Cubs' Opening Day starter in 2002, was victimized by poor run support for most of the year. He was just 6-8 with a 3.70 ERA in 21 starts.
In 2001, Lieber went 20-6 with a 3.80 ERA, and finished fourth in voting for the National League Cy Young Award. He has a career record of 86-83 with a 4.18 ERA in 272 games.
Orlando activates Humphrey
ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Ryan Humphrey, who has been battling patella tendinitis in his right knee, Wednesday was activated off the injured list by the Orlando Magic.
The rookie forward, who is expected to be in uniform for Wednesday night's game against the Chicago Bulls, was placed on the injured list on Jan. 12.
In 30 games, the 6-8, 235-pounder from Notre Dame is averaging 1.9 points and 2.0 rebounds per contest.
Utah took Humphrey with the 19th pick in the draft, then traded him to Orlando in a draft-day deal.
Nets put Rodney Rogers on IL
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- The New Jersey Nets have placed forward Rodney Rogers on the injured list because of a calf ailment.
The Nets, who are in the middle of a five-game road trip, placed Rogers on IL after Tuesday night's 109-102 loss at Sacramento, and activated guard Brandon Armstrong.
Rogers suffered a strained left calf in New Jersey's 94-79 victory at Toronto on Jan. 10. He missed the Nets' ensuing three contests.
After being signed as a free agent during the offseason, Rogers has averaged 7.6 points and 4.5 rebounds. He was the Sixth Man of the Year in 2000.
Armstrong, a little-used guard who is averaging just 1.7 points, went on the IL on Jan. 10 with a lower back strain. He has not played since logging four minutes in a 100-80 win at Miami on Jan. 3.
Hawks sign Benjamin
ATLANTA, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Corey Benjamin, who was second in the NBDL in scoring this season, Wednesday signed a 10-day contract with the Atlanta Hawks.
The former first-round pick of the Chicago Bulls was averaging 18 points per game for the North Charleston Lowgators, the former team of current Atlanta assistant coach Alex English.
In 144 NBA games, Benjamin is averaging 5.5 points per contest. He also has spent time in Italy, playing for Montegranaro, and with the American Basketball Association, playing for Southern California.
NFL releases list of draft eligibles
NEW YORK, Jan.22 (UPI) -- The Nationa Football League has announced the names of 45 players who have been granted special eligibility for the 2003 NFL Draft on April 26-27.
The list includes three quarterbacks, 10 running backs, and seven wide receivers.
One of the running backs is Heisman Trophy candidate Willis McGahee of Miami, who might not be able to play next season.
McGahee suffered three torn ligaments in his left knee in the Hurricanes' 31-24 double-overtime loss to Ohio State on Jan. 3 in the Fiesta Bowl. He now is in rehab.
Doctors gave no timetable was given for McGahee's return to the gridiron, but they said the injury and rehabilitation process definitely will put a hold on his football future. The rehab program will be lengthy, and he could miss part or all of next season.
McGahee, a 6-1, 224-pound third-year sophomore, rushed for 1,686 yards and 27 touchdowns after beginning spring practice behind teammate Frank Gore on the depth chart.
He was a finalist for both the Heisman Trophy as the best player in the country and the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back.
Grossman was runnerup for the Heisman Trophy in 2001. In his three-year career as a Gator, the Bloomington, Ind., native competed 677-of-1,110 passes for 9,164 yards and 77 touchdowns with 36 interceptions. His pass efficiency rating was 147.25.
Grossman, 22, completed 287-of-503 pass attempts for 3,402 yards, with 22 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 2002.
McDonald's ASU teammate, defensive end Terrell Suggs, also is on the list. Suggs was the nation's sacks leader last season, and won the Lombardi Award as the nation's best lineman.
Bengals name defensive coordinator
CINCINNATI, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Leslie Frazier, defensive backs coach of the Philadelphia Eagles the last four seasons, has been named defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Frazier was part of a revamped staff announced Tuesday by Marvin Lewis, who was hired earlier this month to replace the fired Dick LeBeau.
Frazier, 43, was a cornerback for the Chicago Bears from 1981-86 and coached three seasons at Illinois before joining the Eagles.
"Their guys have played outstanding football," Lewis said of Frazier's Eagles in talking with the Cincinnati Enquirer. "My attraction is the style of defense they have played, and I think this is going to be an outstanding fit."
Frazier will be the first African-American coordinator in the Bengals' 35-year franchise history.
"The fact that Marvin is head coach, someone who has been successful, someone who does his homework, the situation in Cincinnati is not much different than it was in Philadelphia four years ago," Frazier told the paper.
While Lewis went outside the organization for a defensive coordinator, he elected to retain Bob Bratkowski as his offensive coordinator. Bratkowski will enter his third season with the Bengals.
Other notable assistants retained by Lewis include offensive line coach Paul Alexander, running backs coach Jim Anderson, and defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle.
Ken Zampese, the passing game coordinator of the St. Louis Rams the last two seasons, is the new quarterbacks coach. He replaces Ken Anderson, who has spent 16 years with the Bengals as a player, 10 as quarterbacks coach and six as a broadcaster.
The Bengals also named Alex Wood wide receivers coach, Jay Hayes defensive line coach, Ricky Hunley linebackers coach, Darrin Simmons special teams coach, Chip Morton strength and conditioning coach, and Kurtis Shultz assistant strength and conditioning coach.
Lewis will try to turn around a team that has not made the playoffs since 1990. Cincinnati is a mere 19-61 over the last five seasons.
Two players draw NHL suspensions
Neither player will be paid during his suspension, with Turco losing $3,564.81, and Prospal forfeiting $17,222.22, which will go to the Players Emergency Assistance Fund.
While not receiving a penalty on the play, Turco high-sticked center Peter Forsberg during Monday's 1-1 tie with Colorado. He will miss Wednesday's contest against Columbus.
Turco, who inherited the Stars' starting goaltending job this season, stopped 34 shots in Monday's deadlock, including 25 over the final 45 minutes of play.
Turco, 27, selected to participate in his first All-Star Game this season, leads all starting goalies with a 1.78 goals-against average and .932 save percentage while standing among the league leaders with 21 wins and five shutouts.
After collecting a goal and three assists in Tampa Bay's 6-2 triumph over Ottawa, Prospal cross-checked the Senators' Chris Neil with 3:03 remaining in the third period, receiving a major penalty and game misconduct.
Prospal will miss the Lightning's contest with Montreal on Wednesday and Friday's matchup with Dallas.
In his second season with Tampa Bay, Prospal, 27, is tied with Martin St. Louis for the team lead in scoring with 10 goals and 36 assists in 47 games.