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Federer loses to Karlovic

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Roger Federer lost another three-set match and, perhaps, his longtime hold on No. 1.

The world’s top-ranked player had another out-of-character defeat on Thursday, a 7-6 (8), 4-6, 7-6 (7) loss to 16th-seeded Ivo Karlovic in the third round of the Cincinnati Masters that opened the way for Rafael Nadal to take over the No. 1 spot by winning the tournament.

Nadal beat Tommy Haas, 6-4, 7-6 (0), reaching the quarterfinals with his 31st consecutive win.

Since his five-set loss to Nadal at Wimbledon, Federer has lost in the second round in Toronto and failed to make the quarterfinals in Cincinnati, where he won the title last year.

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Federer has been ranked No. 1 since Feb. 2, 2004, a record of 235 consecutive weeks. He and Nadal have held the top two spots since July 25, 2005. They will swap if Nadal extends his run of five consecutive tournament titles.

Asked about the possibility, Federer said, “I don’t care.”

He has bigger concerns. Federer has been struggling to regain his aura of domination since he started the year with mononucleosis. Nadal has taken advantage by improving his hard-court game and surpassing Federer on the court if not in the rankings.

“Look, he’s doing well and I have done well in the past,” Federer said. “This year was hard, I guess, with the start of the year. But nevertheless, I still think it’s been a good year. I just hope I can show it now at the Olympics and the U.S. Open.”

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Federer had won the six previous times he faced the 6-foot-10 Karlovic, but those matches were close. Federer had won 13 of those 15 sets, although nine ended in tiebreakers.

Earlier, 19-year-old Ernests Gulbis upset seventh-seeded James Blake, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, leaving the U.S. shut out of the quarterfinals for the first time in the tournament’s history.

Top-ranked Ana Ivanovic was knocked out of the Rogers Cup at Montreal by Tamira Paszek, giving second-ranked Jelena Jankovic a chance to take over the top spot in women’s tennis if she can reach the final of the tournament.

Paszek, a 17-year-old ranked 94th in the world, won, 6-2, 1-6, 6-2. Ivanovic was playing with a sore right thumb she injured two weeks ago while practicing. The thumb was taped for the match.

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SOCCER

Fire’s Blanco is suspended

The U.S. Soccer Federation has suspended Chicago Fire midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco from U.S. Open Cup play for at least two years.

The organization’s disciplinary panel banned Blanco after he punched D.C. United midfielder Clyde Simms in the stomach and poked him in the eye July 8 during an Open Cup quarterfinal game.

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After being ejected, he also head-butted a United employee trying to lead him away.

The ban prevents Blanco from playing in U.S. Open Cup matches in 2009 or 2010. It could be extended depending on the number of games the Fire has in the tournament in those years.

German club Werder Bremen will appeal to the highest court in international sports, looking to overturn a FIFA decision obligating teams to release players 23 and under for the Olympics.

Bremen, German team Schalke and FC Barcelona are trying to reverse the ruling set by soccer’s governing body Wednesday.

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Barcelona would lose Lionel Messi to Argentina, while Bremen’s Diego and Schalke’s Rafinha would play for Brazil.

PRO FOOTBALL

Titans release Mike Williams

The Tennessee Titans released wide receiver Mike Williams before Thursday afternoon’s practice.

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The Titans signed Williams, the 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Detroit Lions, last Thanksgiving and told him after the season to get his weight and conditioning under control.

Williams weighed about 270 pounds when he signed with Tennessee and lost more than 30 pounds this off-season in an effort to salvage his career. But conditioning, weight and endurance remained issues for the former USC star.

Wide receiver Chris Henry was suspended by the NFL for four games but may play the final 12 games of the regular season for any team that signs him.

Henry was released by Cincinnati in April after his fifth arrest. Commissioner Roger Goodell had suspended Henry indefinitely following his latest arrest. The charges against him on that arrest were subsequently dropped.

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BASKETBALL

Skinner returns to Clippers

The Clippers brought back another familiar face, signing veteran forward Brian Skinner for the veteran’s minimum.

Skinner helps round out the roster by adding an experienced interior player to back up starters Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby. The 6-foot-9 Skinner has played for eight NBA teams in his 10 seasons in the league. Last season with Phoenix, he averaged 3.3 points and 3.6 rebounds in 66 games.

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Skinner, 32, spent his first three seasons with the Clippers, who drafted him in the first round from Baylor in 1998.

-- Jonathan Abrams

HOCKEY

Crawford named TV analyst

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Marc Crawford officially became a member of the media.

The former Kings’ coach, fired on June 10 after two losing seasons, has been hired as a game analyst by Hockey Night in Canada, CBC Sports announced.

“I couldn’t be more excited to begin my second tenure with Hockey Night in Canada,” Crawford said in a statement. “I’ve coached from coast to coast in this country and I have a deep respect for the place that hockey holds in the hearts of Canadians.”

-- Lisa Dillman

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