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Henin-Hardenne Ends Season Marred by Illness

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Olympic and Australian Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne will sit out the rest of 2004, meaning she won’t be playing in the season-ending WTA Championships at Staples Center in November.

Henin-Hardenne sat out several months this year because of an energy-sapping virus. Though she returned to win the Olympic gold medal in Athens in August, the difficult effort took its toll.

“After long reflection, I’ve decided to put a stop to the season of 2004,” Henin-Hardenne said on Monday on her website www.justinehenin.be.

“I didn’t regain my strength as I hoped these last few weeks. The virus I contracted in April is nothing more than the effect of the tiredness I got myself into a couple of months ago. The last two years, I made a lot of effort to get where I am now, to become the No. 1, to win Grand Slams and the Olympics.

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“I think that it’s very logical and understandable that I’m this tired. It’s high time I get some rest now. A period of rest will allow me to recharge my batteries and become even stronger.”

Her move will benefit those jockeying for position in the race to the Championships. Four have qualified for the eight-player singles event -- Lindsay Davenport, Amelie Mauresmo, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Myskina.

As of Monday, Henin-Hardenne was fifth in the race.

Following Henin-Hardenne are Elena Dementieva, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Jennifer Capriati, Venus Williams and Vera Zvonareva.

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Venus Williams, Dementieva and Zvonareva are all in action this week in Moscow. The Championships at Staples are Nov. 10-15.

-- Lisa Dillman

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The top-ranked Mauresmo withdrew from the Kremlin Cup, a day after a thigh injury forced her to quit during a final in Germany against Davenport.

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Among the men, Greg Rusedski won a tiebreaker that equaled the season’s longest at 30 points and beat Ivo Karlovic, 7-6 (14), 6-2. Karlovic lost the first set despite 14 aces.

Top-seeded Marat Safin survived two match points to beat Max Mirnyi, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (2), 7-6 (1), to reach the second round. Safin saved two match points in the 10th game of the final set, avoiding a fifth first-round exit in nine appearances at the Moscow event.

Davenport, who lost to Magdalena Maleeva in the 2002 Kremlin Cup final, will be looking for her eighth title this season. She trails Mauresmo by 15 points in the WTA Tour rankings. Davenport has a first-round bye in Moscow and a second-round victory will push her to No. 1 next week.

Mauresmo aggravated a thigh injury in the Porsche Grand Prix on Sunday. Davenport won the first set, 6-2, before Mauresmo stopped because her heavily taped left leg hampered her movement.

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Fourth-seeded Juan Ignacio Chela lost his opener of the CA Trophy, beaten by Florian Mayer, 6-4, 6-4, in Vienna.

Another Argentine, sixth-seeded Guillermo Canas, fared better, beating wild card Julian Knowle, 6-2, 6-4. Canas won a tournament in Shanghai eight days ago for his third title this year.

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Pro Hockey

Nashville Predator right wing Adam Hall and Buffalo Sabre center Tim Connolly signed with European teams, making it 200 NHL players who have headed overseas during the lockout.

Hall signed with the Finnish second-division team KalPa. Hall had 13 goals and 14 assists last season.

Connolly is playing for the Swiss club Langnau. He sat out the entire 2003-04 season because of a head injury during an exhibition game a year ago. Dallas Star minor leaguer Mike Siklenka signed with the Austrian club team Klagenfurt.

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About 25% of the NHL’s 700 players have gone to Europe to play during the lockout. Most of these players have lockout clauses that permit them to return to North America if and when the labor dispute ends.

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Swimming

Aaron Peirsol lowered his own world record in the 200-meter backstroke at the Short Course World Championships.

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Peirsol’s time of 1 minute 50.52 seconds bettered his mark of 1:50.64 set in March at a short course World Cup meet in East Meadow, N.Y. He also won the 100 backstroke during the 25-meter competition.

Matthew Welsh of Australia was second in 1:52.54, and Arkady Vyatchanin of Russia was third in 1:54.20.

Peirsol swept the backstroke events at the Athens Olympics. He also won the 200 back at the 2002 short course championships.

Miscellany

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Forward Michael Blackshear, who led Temple in rebounding last season, was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, Coach John Chaney said. Chaney did not disclose the nature of the violation.

An equestrian doping scandal could cost Ireland its only gold medal from the Athens Olympics.

Cian O’Connor won the individual show jumping gold aboard Waterford Crystal, but the horse was one of four that tested positive for banned drugs. If a second test turns up positive, the gold medal could be awarded to silver medalist Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil.

O’Connor has admitted that another of his top-performing horses, ABC Landliebe, tested positive for a banned substance in Rome in May. The rider plans to appeal both findings.

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“It’s an absolutely innocent item that happened in both cases,” O’Connor said Monday as he and his veterinarian, James Sheehan, answered questions on Ireland’s state radio station.

Both said the horses had received sedatives -- ABC Landliebe for back pain, Waterford Crystal for an injured leg -- a month before their competitions. They expected all traces of the drugs to be out of the horses’ systems within days.

Sheehan said he often administered the same sedative to horses between competitions over the last five years.

Olympic field hockey champion Australia pulled out of a December tournament in Pakistan because of security fears. The decision came after a suicide bombing Monday at a mosque killed four people in Lahore, where the Champions Trophy will be held Dec. 4-12.

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