Williams qualifies for WTA year-end event

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Serena Williams has qualified for next month’s season-ending WTA Championships in Madrid.

Williams arrived at the Zurich Open in Switzerland on Monday to discover she was the fifth player to qualify, along with Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanovic.

The Australian Open champion reached Sunday’s final of the Kremlin Cup before losing to Elena Dementieva.

The year-end championship ranking calculations are long and complicated at this point of the season because of the number of players still in the hunt, various injuries that can prevent them from gaining points, and the number of tournaments remaining. The championship features the season’s top eight singles players. At least six other players can still qualify for the remaining berths in the Madrid championships Nov. 6-11.


Andy Murray pressured Radek Stepanek into early errors before pulling away for a 6-4, 6-1 win on the opening day of the Madrid Masters.

Also, Robby Ginepri beat Jurgen Melzer, 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4.

Tatiana Golovin beat Maria Kirilenko, 6-3, 6-4, in the first round of the Zurich Open.



Wie’s agent resigns after her poor showing

Greg Nared, Michelle Wie’s day-to-day manager, resigned as vice president of golf for the William Morris Agency. Nared held the job one year and told Wie he was leaving after she completed her round Sunday in the Samsung World Championship at Bighorn, where she was 19th in a 20-player field and finished 36 shots behind winner Lorena Ochoa.

Nared, a former Nike business manager who had close ties with Tiger Woods, is Wie’s second agent to resign in 12 months. Ross Berlin quit at the end of last year’s Samsung tournament, after being at odds with Wie’s parents over her playing schedule. Nared would not comment on whether his departure was tied to any disagreements with Wie’s parents.

In a statement released on behalf of Wie and the William Morris Agency, a Wie spokesman said the core group of agents representing Wie’s business relationships is intact.


Wie, 18, a freshman at Stanford, played eight LPGA Tour events this year and struggled to a 76.7 scoring average, her season plagued by injuries to both wrists.

-- Thomas Bonk

The PGA Tour event in Los Angeles has a new title sponsor for the first time in nearly two decades, with Chicago-based Northern Trust signing a five-year deal and giving the tournament a new name.

The Northern Trust Open will be played Feb. 14-17 at Riviera Country Club.



Jockeys’ Guild files for bankruptcy protection

The troubled Jockeys’ Guild, formerly based in Kentucky but now located in Monrovia, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The guild listed a debt of about $2.36 million and assets of less than $1 million.

“We hope that declaring Chapter 11 will give the guild some breathing room to explore solutions for its insurance and other difficulties,” Terry Meyocks, the group’s new chief executive, said in a statement.


Some athletes caught using banned substances soon could face a four-year suspension for a first doping offense.

The World Anti-Doping Agency, which released the final draft of its latest World Anti-Doping Code, proposes increasing the ban from two years to four if there are “aggravating circumstances.” The code still must be approved next month at a meeting in Madrid.

The new code also includes incentives to alert authorities to doping violations or to admit doping. A ban could be reduced by 75% for any athlete who assists officials in finding other drug cheats, and admitting to drug use before testing positive would cut a potential ban up to 50%.

As part of an agreement with FSN, ESPN will televise UCLA’s home basketball game against Arizona on Feb. 2, marking the first time it will televise a regular-season Pacific 10 Conference game since 1995.


Also, ESPN or ESPN2 will televise the USC-Arizona game Feb. 28. Four other Pac-10 games will be shown on ABC.