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Jan. 10, 2013 at 11:00 PM   |   Comments

Djokovic enjoys easy draw in Australia

MELBOURNE, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Novak Djokovic received a favorable draw Friday in his bid to win the Australian Open for the third straight year.

The season's first major championship will begin next Monday with Djokovic seeded No. 1 and with seven-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal out of action due to illness and injury.

That means second-seeded Roger Federer and third-seeded Andy Murray will be in the opposite half of the draw from Djokovic and he would not have to meet either of them until the championship match.

Djokovic is trying to become the first player in the Open Era to win the tournament three consecutive years. He defeated Nadal last year in the longest Grand Slam final ever.

Djokovic, winner of five major titles, will open the tournament against Paul-Henri Mathieu. A possible quarterfinal opponent would be No. 5 seed and former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych.

Federer, who has won this tournament four times, will open against Benoit Paire. Murray, already a winner on the ATP circuit this year, will meet Robin Haase in the first round.

In the women's draw, No. 1 seed Victoria Azarenka will face Monica Niculescu to begin the event. Second-seeded Maria Sharapova's first-round opponent will be Olga Puchkova and No. 3 seed Serena Williams will take on Edina Gallovits-Hall.


Michigan State holds off Iowa in Big Ten duel

IOWA CITY, Iowa, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Keith Appling made four free throws during the final 20 seconds Thursday that lifted No. 18 Michigan State to a 62-59 victory over Iowa.

The Spartans trailed for most of the defensive-oriented battle, but moved in front with 9 minutes to play and came through down the stretch to defeat the Hawkeyes for the 10th time in their last 11 meetings.

Appling converted two foul shots with 20 seconds to go to give Michigan State a 60-57 lead.

Iowa's Anthony Clemmons then made the first of two free throws and missed the second, but he grabbed his own rebound and was fouled by Appling. Once again Clemmons could make just 1-of-2 from the line, after which Appling hit two more with 9 seconds left to account for the final score.

Clemmons failed to hit a 3-point attempt at the buzzer.

Michigan State advanced to 13-3 for the season and to 2-1 in the Big Ten Conference race. Iowa is 11-5 and 0-3.

The Hawkeyes had to endure a brutal start to their Big Ten season, having opened with games against Michigan and Indiana -- both ranked among the top five teams in the nation.

Branden Dawson led Michigan State in scoring with 17 points, Gary Harris had 14 and Appling contributed 12. The Spartans shot just 40 percent from the field, but they came up with 12 steals and forced 18 turnovers overall.

Zach McBabe scored 15 points off the bench to pace Iowa.


New Sprint Cup cars tested at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The newest version of the car that will run in NASCAR's premier series during 2013 was tested at Daytona International Speedway Thursday amid glowing reviews.

NASCAR has dubbed the car "G6" because it is the sixth generation of vehicle to be raced in the Sprint Cup series. It looks more like automobiles seen on the streets rather than the modified versions that have raced in past years.

"Everybody is super excited about this race car and what it brings to our sport and the identity that it brings back to the passenger cars you see on the roads," said Clint Bowyer, who finished second in last year's Sprint Cup points race.

"It was fun to get out there and see what it is all about."

The new car was tested last month at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but not all the series drivers took part.

Thursday was the first of three days of testing at Daytona, where the Sprint Cup season will open on Feb. 24.

Matt Kenseth, last year's Daytona 500 winner who has moved from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2013 season, had the fastest lap during the early practice sessions. He traveled the 2 1/2-mile circuit at 192.757 miles per hour.

Danica Patrick, who for the first time in her career will race a full Sprint Cup schedule, also took part in Thursday's tests and said she had decided not to race in this year's Indianapolis 500.

Patrick had considered competing in both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte -- races that are run the same day. The grueling double has been attempted by a few drivers in the past, but with little success.

"The team and I decided to focus on the Sprint Cup race," Patrick said. "It's going to be plenty of work as it is. It's going to be important for me running for the championship full time."


NBA's leading rebounder has knee surgery

CLEVELAND, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The Cleveland Cavaliers announced Thursday center Anderson Varejao had undergone knee surgery and could be out for as long as two months.

A small muscle tear was repaired in his right knee. He suffered the injury Dec. 18 in a game against Toronto and has not been on the court since.

Varejao has played in 25 games this season with an average of 14.1 points per contest. He leads the NBA with an average of 14.4 rebounds a game.

Cleveland has the second worst record in the league at 9-28.

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