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Fish’s Comeback Gets a Lift With Clay-Court Title

From the Associated Press

It has been a long comeback for Mardy Fish, and he’s not done yet.

Two wrist surgeries last year kept him from competing much, but he proved Sunday he’s finding his form, rallying from a set down to beat Jurgen Melzer of Austria, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, to win the U.S. Clay Court Championship in Houston.

Next on his to-do list: making the main draw at Wimbledon in late June.

“It’s reachable now,” he said. “I need to bear down again, forget about the last two weeks and start over.”

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Fish, who had lost six of seven tour finals before Sunday, came into the clay-court tournament after winning a lower-tier tour event in Tallahassee, Fla., last week. He said he plans to play four more of those before Wimbledon to gain enough ATP points to get straight into the Grand Slam draw.

“It’s been an incredible week for me,” Fish said. “I didn’t expect to be standing here in front of this trophy to have my name on it.”

The win avenged a lone loss to Melzer, who beat Fish in a 2003 three-set quarterfinal match at Houston. The title is Fish’s first on clay. His only other tour win came three years ago in Stockholm.

“I would like to have a few of those finals back, but this is definitely one I’ll remember,” Fish said. “It was a tough year last year. It’s very rewarding to know a lot of hard work paid off on a surface that’s not even close to my best surface.”

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Fish got the first of his two breaks early in the deciding set. In the third game, he went up 0-40 on three errors from Melzer before the unseeded Austrian attempted a drop shot from behind the baseline that fell into the net, giving Fish a 2-1 lead.

Fish won three of his four remaining service games at love, including the last game.

The last time two unseeded players vied for the clay-court title was in 1996 at Pinehurst, N.C., when Mats Wilander lost to Fernando Meligeni.

Fish started the week ranked No. 212 and was projected to jump to No. 120 when the new numbers are released today.

Nadia Petrova of Russia battled stifling heat, sore legs and the temptation to retire to defeat Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, and win the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C., for her second consecutive tournament title.

Petrova, who also won last week at Amelia Island, Fla., now has four tour victories, all in the last six months.

“I really had a difficult time today. Maybe it has to do with all the matches I have played. Energy-wise I wasn’t in the best of shape,” Petrova said after the two-hour match played in 88-degree heat. “At one stage in the match I wasn’t really sure if I was able to finish it.”

By making the final at the Family Circle, Petrova will improve two spots to her highest ranking at No. 5 in the world. Petrova’s previous high was No. 6 last year.

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During the 10-minute break between the second and third sets, a trainer massaged Petrova’s legs, rubbed her with ice and made her drink.

“There were lots of things that went through my mind at that stage and it was extremely difficult for me,” she said. “I knew I had a good chance, I just needed to win one more set, and I could have actually retired at any time, but I just didn’t want to give up.”

Qualifier Nicolas Almagro of Spain won his first ATP title, beating Gilles Simon of France, 6-3, 6-2, at the Valencia Open in Madrid. The 20-year-old Almagro beat Marat Safin and Juan Carlos Ferrero on his way to the final. Simon, ranked 86th and playing in his first ATP final, has played 26 matches on the tour.

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GYMNASTICS

U.S. Women Finish Well at Honolulu Event

The U.S. women dominated the final day of the Pacific Alliance Gymnastics Championships with Chellsie Memmel and Nastia Liukin each adding a gold medal two days after they had tied for the all-around title. The U.S. team finished with seven golds and three silver medals for the three-day championships in Honolulu.

The U.S. men managed only two bronze medals. David Sender finished third on the vault, and David Durante tied for the bronze in the parallel bars.

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Reigning world champion Memmel won gold in the balance beam and finished second on the floor exercise. Memmel scored 15.700 on the beam, edging Liukin’s 15.625. Liukin, 16, won the uneven bars, beating teammate Shayla Worley.

Jana Bieger won gold in the vault and floor exercise.

Earlier, Americans Olga Karmansky and Brenann Stacker tied for gold in the clubs during the women’s rhythmic contest. Lu Bo of China won the gold in the rings, and countryman Feng Jing won the pommel horse and parallel bars.

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ARENA FOOTBALL

Harrell Stands Out In Crush’s Victory

Damian Harrell had 14 catches for 196 yards and five touchdowns and fielded a short kickoff as time ran out to lead the Colorado Crush (9-3) to a 55-49 victory over the host Kansas City Brigade (2-10).

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CYCLING

Luxembourg’s Schleck Emerges in Gold Race

Frank Schleck of Luxembourg won the Amstel Gold Race in 6 hours 25 minutes 39 seconds in Maastricht, Netherlands, breaking away from the peloton with six miles left in the 157-mile race. Schleck beat Steffen Wesemann of Switzerland by 22 seconds. Michael Boogerd of the Netherlands was third.

Maria Luisa Calle Williams of Colombia won the women’s scratch race at the Track Cycling World Championships in Bordeaux, France. Gina Grain of Canada finished second. Olga Slyusareva of Russia was third.

At the 2004 Olympics, Calle Williams was stripped of her bronze in the points race after testing positive for a stimulant. She appealed and was cleared.


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