Sharapova gets closer to No. 1

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Maria Sharapova moved a step closer to the No. 1 ranking, overcoming some erratic moments before beating Dominika Cibulkova, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, in the second round of the Italian Open on Wednesday in Rome.

With top-ranked Justine Henin announcing her retirement, Sharapova is poised to move to No. 1 next week -- depending on whether Henin asks the WTA Tour to remove her from the rankings.

Sharapova is No. 2 and No. 3 Ana Ivanovic -- the tournament's top seeded player -- was upset by qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2.

Sharapova has been ranked No. 1 three times before, for a total of 14 weeks, the last time in 2007.

Both Williams sisters advanced, with fifth-seeded Serena beating Alona Bondarenko, 6-2, 6-0, and seventh-seeded Venus eliminating Samantha Stosur, 6-4, 6-1.

Top-seeded Roger Federer beat Jarkko Nieminen, 6-1, 6-3, and third-seeded Novak Djokovic downed Juan Ignacio Chela, 6-3, 6-1, to reach the third round of the Hamburg Masters in Germany.

Second-seeded Rafael Nadal needed a tiebreaker to overcome Potito Starace, 6-4, 7-6 (6), while James Blake was upset by Janko Tipsarevic, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.


Whitley found dead at his home in Texas

Former center Curtis Whitley, who played for the San Diego Chargers, Carolina Panthers and Oakland Raiders and had a history of substance use, was found dead Sunday in his trailer home in Fort Stockton, Texas.

Sheriff Cliff Harris said Whitley, 39, was found face down in the bathroom by friends who had not heard from him. Harris said there was no signs of foul play but the death remains under investigation.

The Cleveland Browns released backup defensive back Kenny Wright, 30, who was arrested last month on marijuana possession charges after trying to outrun police in Pearland, Texas.

The Baltimore Ravens reached a compromise with franchise player Terrell Suggs by agreeing to pay him $8.5 million this season, his agent said.

Suggs had been given the one-year, $8-million linebacker tag while seeking $8.8 million.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) called for an independent investigation of the New England Patriots' taping of opposing coaches' signals, possibly similar to the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

Prosecutors in Miami say a fifth person, 16-year-old Timothy Brown, was charged with first-degree murder in the November slaying of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor.


Perrilloux chooses Jacksonville State

Quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, kicked off LSU's national championship team after repeated off-the-field problems, signed with Jacksonville State.

Perrilloux, a junior next season and the most valuable player of the 2007 Southeastern Conference title game, won't have to sit out a year because Jacksonville State plays in the lower Football Championship Subdivision.

UCLA quarterback Osaar Rasshan will undergo surgery on his left knee but is expected to be ready for training camp in August. He will be the third Bruins quarterback to undergo surgery in less than a month.


Sampson becomes an assistant with Bucks

Kelvin Sampson, who resigned as Indiana's basketball coach under a cloud of NCAA rules violations in February, was hired as an assistant by new Milwaukee Bucks Coach Scott Skiles.

Zenit St. Petersburg's 2-0 UEFA Cup victory over Glasgow Rangers was marred by the stabbing of a Russian fan outside the stadium and fan violence that led to at least 30 arrests in Manchester, England. Zenit became the second Russian team in four seasons to win Europe's No. 2 club tournament.

Derek Roy scored three goals and added an assist to help defending champion Canada rout Norway, 8-2, in the world hockey quarterfinals in Halifax, Canada.

Canada, the winner of 16 in a row, will face Sweden, a 3-2 overtime winner over the Czech Republic.

"Monday Night Football" commentator Tony Kornheiser took a job buyout from the Washington Post, ending a full-time link with the newspaper that began in 1979.

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