UPI NewsTrack Sports

Sapp, Strahan on Hall of Fame ballot

CANTON, Ohio, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Sack record-setters Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan are among first-year candidates who are finalists for consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Sapp, Strahan and offensive linemen Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden are the first-year finalists who will be considered by the Hall of Fame Selection Committee in a Feb. 2 meeting.

Eleven others from the modern era and two senior nominees will also have their hall credentials examined by the committee.

At least four and as many as seven people will be inducted this year. A finalist must receive at least 37 votes from the 46-member Selection Committee.

Hall of Fame induction ceremonies are scheduled for Aug. 2-4.

Strahan was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection over 15 seasons, all with the New York Giants. He set the NFL single-season record with 22.5 sacks in 2001 and wound up with 141.5 sacks -- fifth most all-time -- in his career.

Sapp had 96.5 sacks in his career with Tampa Bay and Oakland. He also was voted to seven Pro Bowls. He had 16.5 sacks in 1999 included in Tampa Bay record 77.


Other players on the Hall of Fame finalists list are: wide receivers Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Andre Reed, running back Jerome Bettis, defensive end/linebackers Kevin Greene and Charles Haley, guard Will Shields, cornerback Aeneas Williams, Coach Bill Parcells and owners Art Modell and Eddie DeBartolo Jr.

Defensive tackle Curley Culp and linebacker Dave Robinson are the senior nominees.

Did Djokovic get easier Australian draw?

MELBOURNE, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Novak Djokovic's opponents in his quest for a third consecutive Australian Open could include either Roger Federer or Andy Murray but not both.

The draws for the 2013 Open, which begins Monday, were made Friday.

Djokovic, No. 1 in the world and the No. 1 seed, drew Paul-Henri Mathieu, against whom Djokovic is 4-1, in the first round.

The field is a little lighter this year because Rafael Nadal, who won the event in 2009 and dropped a five-set final to Djokovic last year, is out because of injury.


Djokovic, Nadal, Federer or Murray have won all of the last 12 and 30 of the last 31 Grand Slam titles (Juan Martin del Potro won the U.S. Open in 2009). Federer and Djokovic, who have each won three times, and Nadal have split the last seven Australian Open titles.

That upper-level domination makes the draw all the more interesting since, with Nadal out, one of other top three would only potentially face just one of the other top players. That edge fell to Djokovic this year as the third-seeded Murray was put in the same half of the draw as Federer, the world's No. 2-ranked player.

Djokovic does have fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych in his quarter of the draw and would likely see either fourth-seeded David Ferrer, No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic or 10th-seeded Nicolas Almagro in the semifinals.

Murray, if the tournament plays to form, would face del Potro, seeded sixth, in the quarters. Federer's potential quarterfinal opponents include seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and No. 9 Richard Gasquet.

Federer's first-round match is against Benoit Paire. They have met once with Federer winning 6-2, 6-2 last year. Murray opens against Robin Haase. Haase won their first meeting in 2008 and pushed Murray to five sets in the 2011 U.S. Open.


The 2013 Australian Open men's final is scheduled for Jan. 27.

Azarenka, Williams in possible semi match

MELBOURNE, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka's road to repeating as Australian Open champion could include a semifinal match against third-ranked Serena Williams.

Azarenka defeated Maria Sharapova last January in winning her first Grand Slam title. It also boosted her to the world No. 1 ranking.

With Sharapova sitting in the No. 2 spot in the rankings, it was a given she and Azarenka would be in opposite ends of the 2013 Australian Open draw, which was made Friday. That left the attention on where Williams would be placed.

Williams has lost just three matches since she was beaten in the Round of 16 in the 2012 Australian Open. And since a stunning first-round loss at the French Open, Williams is 36-1, winning two major tournaments, the Olympics and the WTA finals. She opened 2013 by winning the title at Brisbane. In that run Williams has lost four sets.

That makes Williams the player to beat in Melbourne and, if the tournament plays to form, Azarenka will draw Williams in the semifinals.


Before that, potential matchups have Azarenka going against No. 7-seeded Sara Errani, 10th-ranked Caroline Wozniacki and No. 16 Roberta Vinci.

Williams has one other Top 10 player -- No. 8 Petra Kvitova -- in her quarter of the draw.

Sharapova's highest ranked potential semifinal opponent is No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, who Friday collected her second title of 2013 by winning the Apia International in Sydney.

If the tournament goes to form, Sharapova would play fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals. Radwanska has No. 6-ranked Li Na and ninth-seeded Samantha Stosur in her quarter of the draw.

There is the possibility of an all-Williams final. Venus Williams is seeded 25th and in Sharapova's half of the draw. Serena defeated Venus in three sets in the 2003 final and has won the Australian Open four times since then, most recently in 2010.

The 2013 Open begins Monday, with the women's singles final scheduled for Jan. 26.

Cowboys hire Monte Kiffin to lead defense


IRVING, Texas, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The Dallas Cowboys have hired Monte Kiffin, the father of Southern California Coach Lane Kiffin, as defensive coordinator, the NFL team said Friday.

The hiring of Monte Kiffin, 72, comes three days after the Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

Dallas was 14th in the NFL in yards allowed and 24th in points allowed in an 8-8 season.

Monte Kiffin spent the last four seasons as defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Volunteers and then USC but has extensive NFL experience, including guiding the defenses at Minnesota, New Orleans and, for 13 seasons, Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII while Monte Kiffin was on the staff.

He was head coach at North Carolina State from 1980-82, going a combined 16-17.

Dallas had been working from a 3-4 formation under Ryan but Monte Kiffin is known to favor the 4-3 alignment.

Ryan, the brother of New York Jets head Coach Rex Ryan, had been the Dallas defensive coordinator for two seasons.

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