Serena defeats sister again
MELBOURNE, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Serena Williams won her fourth straight Grand Slam title Saturday, outlasting sister Venus in the best match they have ever played.
In the fourth straight Grand Slam championship meeting between the dueling sisters, Serena captured the Australian Open title, 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-4.
It was the first time in their 11 official matches that Serena and Venus had played a third set. Despite the added drama, the Australian Open final provided the same result as last year's French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open championship confrontations.
Serena became the ninth woman to win all four Grand Slam events during a career and just the fifth to hold all four major titles at once. The last woman to do so was Steffi Graf in 1993-94.
It was the fifth Grand Slam championship overall for Serena to four for her sister.
Serena, who had to rally from a 1-5 deficit in the third set to defeat Kim Clijsters in the semifinals, found herself down a break in the first set before she broke Venus for 5-5. In the tiebreak, Serena jumped to a 5-1 advantage and eventually had four set points. She let two of them get away before Venus sent a forehand long to end the set.
The only break of service in the second set came in the sixth game, when Venus jumped to a 40-0 advantage. She lost all three break points, but then earned a fourth one and capitalized on an unforced error from her younger sister.
There was an exchange of breaks early in the third set and Serena showed she was willing to battle as long as she could when she overcame five break points in the eighth game to hold serve for 4-4.
But Venus fell behind while serving to stay in the match at 4-5 and double faulted to hand Serena two match points. Serena needed only one when Venus sent a forehand just long.
It was the fifth straight win for Serena over Venus, who did break a streak of nine straight sets lost to her sister.
Serena defeated Venus in last year's French Open, 6-3, 7-5; won Wimbledon, 7-6, 6-3; and captured the U.S. Open, 6-4, 6-3.
Changes likely coming in NFL overtime
SAN DIEGO, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Friday he thought the league's overtime system would be changed next season.
He also defended two NFL teams that had been criticized for their minority hiring practices.
Tagliabue appeared at his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference in the wake of more criticism from civil rights attorney Johnnie Cochran and other proponents of change regarding the league's hiring practices.
Before the end of the regular season, there were only two black head coaches in the NFL -- Tony Dungy with the Indianapolis Colts and Herman Edwards with the New York Jets. There now are three with the recent hiring of Marvin Lewis by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens is the only black general manager in the NFL, although James Harris was hired as vice president of player personnel by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday.
Cochran, attorney Cyrus Mehri and former players Kellen Winslow and Warren Moon earlier this week sent a letter to Tagliabue in which they criticized the interview process followed by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver in hiring coaches.
Jones never interviewed a minority coach in person before luring two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcells out of retirement. Weaver hired Jack Del Rio, who had one year of experience as a defensive coordinator.
Tagliabue defended both franchise owners Friday.
"I don't understand what the criticism is over the hiring of Bill Parcells, who is a world-class coach, especially after Jerry Jones also spoke with Dennis Green by phone about the job," Tagliabue said.
Green was one of three black coaches in 2001. He resigned late in the season after nearly 10 years with the Minnesota Vikings.
Del Rio got his first job after one year as defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers. That is five years less than Lewis served as a coordinator before he was finally hired as a coach.
"(Players Association executive director) Gene Upshaw applauded the hirings of both Marvin Lewis and Jack Del Rio in the Players Association's news conference on Thursday and I essentially feel the same," Tagliabue said. "Wayne Weaver interviewed numerous candidates before he made his decision."
Upshaw said Thursday he had forwarded a resolution to the league's competition committee, urging that both teams would be given a possession in overtime. Under the current rules, the first team that scores in overtime wins.
"I suspect there will be a change in that area," Tagliabue said Friday. "I think the most important piece of information is the increasing number of times over the last two years that the team that won the coin flip won the game. Since we have moved the kickoff back to the 30, that gives an advantage to the team receiving first in overtime.
"Combine that with the strength of the offenses in the league this year and you have that imbalance."
Jordan loses in final Chicago game
CHICAGO, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Marcus Fizer scored 17 of his 18 points in the final period Friday night, boosting Chicago to a 104-97 win over Washington.
Washington's setback came in Michael Jordan's final game at the United Center.
In a pregame ceremony, Jordan received a four-minute standing ovation from the sellout crowd. During a break midway through the first quarter, a three-minute highlight reel of Jordan's 13-year career with the Bulls played on the giant screen.
Jordan played 40 minutes and finished with 11 points while making four of 14 shots. His two free throws with 1:46 left pulled the Wizards within 97-95, but Fizer answered with a layup and Jerry Stackhouse missed a three-pointer at the other end.
Donyell Marshall sank one of two from the foul line with 28 seconds left, then hit two free throws seven seconds later to extend the lead to 102-95.
The win was the fourth in a row at home for the Bulls, who completed a 1-4 road trip in Orlando on Wednesday. Washington lost for the third time in four games.
Other NBA results: Indiana 93, Seattle 80; Phoenix 110, Orlando 107; Atlanta 115, Sacramento 104; Boston 77, Denver 58; Dallas 101, New York 90; Minnesota 88, Los Angeles Clippers 85; Portland 97, New Orleans 96 in overtime; Detroit 98, Houston 74; San Antonio 91, Utah 90.
Biron records third straight shutout
BUFFALO, N.Y., Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Martin Biron established a franchise-record shutout string Friday night as Buffalo blanked Toronto, 4-0.
The Sabres ran their unbeaten streak to seven games.
The replacement for Dominik Hasek in the nets for Buffalo, Biron made 27 saves to record a third straight shutout for the first time in his career and help the Sabres improve to 5
2 during their season-high unbeaten run.
Biron also ran his shutout streak to 201 minutes, 12 seconds, breaking Hasek's mark of 178:33. He has not yielded a goal since 3:48 into the third period of a victory at Montreal on Jan. 11.
Miroslav Satan continued to take care of Buffalo's offense, scoring twice and adding two assists. The Sabres' scoring leader has recorded 11 points in his last eight games.
Toronto goaltender Ed Belfour, who returned after missing three games due to back spasms, was pulled for the first time this season as the Maple Leafs dropped back-to-back games after winning three in a row.
Other NHL results: Carolina 3, Florida 1; New York Islanders 3, Philadelphia 1; Tampa Bay 4, Dallas 1; Phoenix 5, Edmonton 1; Detroit 5, Vancouver 2.
Petrovic shares lead with Frazar
Petrovic, in his second season as a PGA Tour member, had an eagle, seven birdies and a bogey to reach the clubhouse with a 36-hole total of 13-under 129.
It was the lowest round by two strokes for Petrovic, who shot 65 three times last season. One of those efforts came in the opening round of the St. Jude Classic, where he finished a career-best second.
Frazar began the day with sole possession of the lead and shot a bogey-free 67. He also is seeking his first career title, having finished twice in four-plus seasons.
Steve Stricker had the low round of the day with a 62 and was part of a five-way tie for third place at 11-under 131. Three others were at 132.
Phil Mickelson, the third-ranked player in the world and former Scottsdale resident who is making his season debut, was seven strokes off the pace at 136.
Vince Carter cleared to play
TORONTO, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- The Toronto Raptors announced Friday that All-Star guard Vince Carter has been cleared to play Sunday against the Sacramento Kings.
Voted a starter in the NBA All-Star Game for the fourth consecutive year, Carter has missed 23 games with a strained right knee. He suffered the injury in practice.
The knee injury was the second significant setback of the season for Carter, who missed 11 games in November with a strained left quadriceps.
Carter is averaging a team-best 19.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game this season. He had been hot at the time of his most recent injury, averaging 23 points per game over five contests.
The 6-6 Carter missed 22 games last season. He is averaging 24.4 points and 5.7 rebounds in 277 career contests.
Carter should be a much-needed shot in the arm for the Raptors, who have lost five straight games and 21 of 24. At 10-33, they have the second-worst record in the league.
Yankees sign Jon Lieber
NEW YORK, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- The New York Yankees Friday signed righthander Jon Lieber, a one-time 20-game winner who could miss all of next season.
Lieber signed a two-year contract with a club option for a third season.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but one report said he had agreed to a two-year, $4 million contract with an $8 million club option for 2005.
Lieber will miss at least the first half of the upcoming 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 with Roger Clemens and David Wells nearing the ends of their careers.
The Cubs' Opening Day starter in 2002, Lieber was victimized by poor run support for most of the year and 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.
Hall of Fame election set for Saturday
SAN DIEGO, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Marcus Allen, Oakland's all-time leading rusher, is expected to be elected Saturday to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
One day before the Raiders play in Super Bowl XXXVII, three of their players with championship rings are up for election.
Allen, the first player in NFL history to rush for 10,000-plus yards and catch passes for 5,000 more, is in his first year of eligibility.
Quarterback Ken Stabler and cornerback Lester Hayes are the other Raiders among the 15 finalists for the Class of 2003. Stabler has been eligible for election 14 years and Hayes 12.
Both have previously been finalists.
Wide receivers Art Monk and James Lofton, guard Bob Kuechenberg, linebacker Harry Carson and Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson are the other repeat finalists eligible for election.
Linebacker Randy Gradishar and General Manager George Young are among six that had been eligible for Hall of Fame election prior to this year but had not been finalists. The others are defensive ends Elvin Bethea and Claude Humphrey, guard Joe DeLamielleure and Coach Hank Stram, the recommended nominee of the Hall's Seniors Committee.
Tackle Gary Zimmerman joins Allen as the only first-time eligibles under consideration.
Fulmer gets contract extension
KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer, coming off a disappointing season, was given a one-year, $1.65 million contract extension Friday.
The extension puts Fulmer under contract through Dec. 31, 2009. The deal includes a base salary of $225,000 and additional money for radio and television commitments, endorsements and special events appearances.
An additional $1 million in deferred income is payable to Fulmer at the completion of four more years at the school.
Fulmer guided the Volunteers to their 14th consecutive winning season in 2002, but Tennessee was just 8-5, its worst record since a 5-6 mark in 1988.
Tennessee won a national title under Fulmer in 1998.