The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports


Djokovic wins again, 22-0 in 2011

Posted: 27 Mar 2011 09:32 PM PDT

KEY BISCAYNE, Florida (AP) - Novak Djokovic declared himself in career-best form after trouncing veteran James Blake 6-2, 6-0 on Sunday in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open.

The No. 2-seeded Serb extended his winning streak to 22 consecutive matches. He has lost just three games in two matches at this tournament and his 20-0 start to 2011 is the best record to begin a year since Ivan Lendl started 25-0 in 1986.

"It has been a dream run for me the last couple of months," Djokovic said. "I'm playing the best tennis of my life."

Another man eyeing a career high is Mardy Fish, who moved within two wins of becoming America's top-ranked men's player after beating Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-3.

Fish is ranked a career-best 15th and is poised to overtake longtime friend Andy Roddick in the next rankings. Roddick lost his opening match Saturday and is expected to drop from eighth to about 15th, the lowest he has been ranked since 2002.

"I certainly wouldn't feel like the top-ranked American, considering what Andy has accomplished and what I've accomplished," Fish said. "His career has quadrupled mine, at least."

Roddick is a five-time Grand Slam finalist who won the 2003 U.S. Open and finished that year ranked No. 1. Fish's record in major events is mediocre and he has made the top 20 in the year-end rankings only twice.

But at 29, Fish is in the best condition of his career. That showed against Gasquet in the hot midday sun.

"Playing out there today, you can see why you need to be fit to win these matches," Fish said.

Fish's next opponent will be Juan Martin del Potro, who is gaining momentum in his comeback from wrist surgery last May. The big Argentine earned his first win this year over a top-10 player by beating No. 4 Robin Soderling 6-3, 6-2.

Del Potro, ranked 484th in February, will climb back into the top 45 after the tournament.

"It's a long road to come back to being at the top again," the 2009 U.S. Open champion said. "I'm improving very, very slowly." Sixth-seeded David Ferrer of Spain also progressed, defeating India's Somdev Devvarman 6-4, 6-2.

In women's play, No. 2-seeded Kim Clijsters earned her 500th career victory by beating Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Clijsters, who won the tournament in 2005 and 2010, advanced to the fourth round despite 10 double-faults and 39 unforced errors. She next plays No. 19 Ana Ivanovic, who won when Virginie Razzano retired trailing 2-6, 6-2, 3-0.

Reigning French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, seeded fifth, edged Lourdes Dominguez Lino 6-4, 7-6 (2). No. 9 Agnieszka Radwanska beat No. 24 Maria Kirilenko 7-6 (2), 6-3.

Fish lost to Gasquet twice in 2008, including in the first round at Wimbledon, but the American has won their past two meetings - a reflection of his improved conditioning, he said. After undergoing knee surgery in September 2009, he changed his diet and lost more than 14 kilograms.

A slimmer Fish went 40-14 in 2010, a career high for victories, and finished the year ranked 16th, another career best. Willing to play longer points now that he's fitter, his shot selection is less risky, so he makes fewer unforced errors.

"I used to have to go for shots that I don't have to do anymore," he said.

Instead, it was Gasquet who made the big mistake - a double-fault on break point in the next-to-last game. Fish served out the victory at love to reach the round of 16, which matches his best showing in 10 appearances at Key Biscayne.

Fish has a 2-2 record against del Potro. "In the fourth round, every player is playing really well," del Potro said. "So it will be a nice match for both of us."

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Sandra Gal wins Kia Classic

Posted: 27 Mar 2011 07:45 PM PDT

INDUSTRY, California (AP) - Sandra Gal won the Kia Classic to become the second German winner in LPGA Tour history, beating second-ranked Jiyai Shin with a 2-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday.

The 25-year-old Gal made the winning putt after Shin's 5-foot birdie attempt caught the right edge and spun out.

"It was big pressure, she was so close to the hole," Shin said. "I was thinking I had to make it."

Gal closed with a 2-under 71 to finish at 16-under 276 on the Industry Hills Golf Club course at Pacific Palms. She set up the winning birdie with a sand wedge shot from 83 yards on the par-5 18th.

"I was trying to hole it," Gal said. "I came close. I thought I made it."

Tina Fischer is the only other Germany champion. She won the 2001 Asahi Ryokuken International.

"I had the belief coming out this morning that I could win," Gal said. "I just tried to play the course instead of Jiyai." Shin, an eight-time winner on the LPGA Tour, finished with a 73.

Cristie Kerr shot a 66 to tie for third with I.K. Kim (70) at 11 under.

Top-ranked Yani Tseng (67) and Na Yeon Choi (73) were 9 under, and Michelle Wie (70) was another stroke back along with Marcy Hart (65) and Mindy Kim (71).

"I felt like I shot a lot better than what I scored," Wie said. "Overall, I had a lot of fun. I played as hard as I can."

Shin took a one-stroke lead over Gal into the final round, but dropped two strokes back with three bogeys on the front nine. The South Korean pulled even on the par-3 13th, making a birdie while Gal had her lone bogey of the day.

"My putter was not working good," Shin said. "I had a lot of chances for birdies but didn't make them."

Shin took a one-stroke lead with a birdie on the par-3 15th, and Gal countered with a birdie on the par-4 16th to set up the finish. On 18, Gal's wedge shot hit past the hole and spun back, nearly going in the hole.

"I was digging really deep," Gal said. Gal earned $255,000 in the tournament, the tour's first event in the Los Angeles area in six years.

The Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first major of the season, is next week at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage.

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