It's a bad day in Rome for the Williams sisters

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Serena Williams withdrew from her quarterfinal match at the Italian Open in Rome on Friday because of a back problem, and older sister Venus Williams was defeated by defending champion Jelena Jankovic, 5-7, 6-2, 6-3.

Jankovic, seeded fourth, will next play second-seeded Maria Sharapova, who rallied past ninth-seeded Patty Schnyder, 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-2, to reach the semifinals with her 300th career win. Sharapova will become No. 1 in the rankings Monday, courtesy of Justine Henin's retirement.

Serena Williams' back froze suddenly while she was warming up on a practice court for her match with Alize Cornet.

"It just happened all of a sudden in practice," Williams said before heading to a hospital for tests. "I just went for a shot and then my back got a little stuck."

Cornet will play sixth-seeded Anna Chakvetadze, who defeated Tsvetana Pironkova, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.

Top-seeded Roger Federer cruised into the semifinals of the Hamburg Masters in Germany by defeating Fernando Verdasco, 6-3, 6-3. He will next play Andreas Seppi, who beat Nicolas Kiefer, 6-3, 5-7, 7-5.

Third-seeded Novak Djokovic also made the final four, beating Albert Montanes, 6-2, 6-3. He will play second-seeded Rafael Nadal, who defeated 11th-seeded Carlos Moya, 6-1, 6-3.

The third-seeded UCLA men's team posted its third consecutive shutout of the NCAA Division I tournament, registering a 4-0 victory over No. 14 Florida State in the third round at Tulsa, Okla.

The Bruins will play sixth-seeded USC in Sunday's quarterfinals.

The Trojans advanced with a 4-2 victory over Oklahoma State.


Byrd makes most of easy conditions

Jonathan Byrd took advantage of soft fairways and receptive greens at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, Ga., shooting his second consecutive six-under-par 66 to take a three-stroke lead in the AT&T; Classic. He is at 12-under 132.

Kenny Perry and Ryan Palmer shot 69s and are tied for second. Parker McLachlin (70) is in a three-way tie for fourth with Charles Howell III (69) and David Toms (69) at eight under.

Rain washed out play in the LPGA Tour's Sybase Classic in Clifton, N.J. The tournament has been reduced from 72 holes to 54. The second round will be held today with the final on Sunday.

Andy Bean and Mike Goodes shot seven-under 65s to share the first-round lead in the Champions Tour's Regions Charity Classic at Hoover, Ala.


Crafton posts his first Craftsman Trucks win

Matt Crafton survived a wild finish to win his first NASCAR Craftsman Trucks Series race.

Crafton, driving a Chevrolet, pulled away in a green-white-checkered finish to win at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. It was his first win in 178 starts dating to 2000.

Crafton successfully blocked Chad McCumbee's pass attempt in Turn 3 of the final lap and pulled away. Pole-sitter Kyle Busch finished 13th after getting caught in a wreck started by points leader Ron Hornaday, who finished 23rd.

Ryan Briscoe, a front-row qualifier last week, crashed hard in the second turn but was uninjured during practice for the May 25 Indianapolis 500.

Briscoe spun into the wall with the rear of his backup car. After climbing out on his own, he was checked at the infield hospital and cleared to drive.


Student Council wins Pimlico Special

Student Council went five wide on the final turn and surged past Gottcha Gold down the stretch to win the Pimlico Special at Baltimore.

Going off at 7-1, the 6-year-old colt trailed the entire race before rallying under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan to win by a neck.


Canada to play Russia for world championship

Rick Nash scored the go-ahead goal to put Canada in the title game of the world championships with a 5-4 victory over Sweden at Quebec City.

On Sunday, Canada will play Russia, which advanced with a 4-0 win over Finland.

Nash's goal broke a 3-3 tie in the second period, and Mike Green scored a power-play goal with seven seconds left in the period.

Evgeny Nabokov made 23 saves for his second consecutive shutout, and Sergei Fedorov scored the first goal for Russia.


Pumas wants to use only Mexican players

Pumas UNAM intends to shed itself of non-Mexicans within three years and employ only native players, team president Victor Mahbub said in an interview with the newspaper El Universal.

Pumas, with one of Mexico's biggest fan bases, would follow the policy of Chivas de Guadalajara, which boasts of never having fielded a non-Mexican in its 102-year history.


NFL owners may opt out of labor deal

NFL owners could opt out of their agreement with the players union next week, leaving open the possibility of a 2010 season without a salary cap. The labor agreement is on the agenda for the league meetings in Atlanta on Tuesday.

Offensive lineman Kai Maiava, who started nine games at Colorado, will transfer to UCLA.

Maiava, who is 6 feet, 275 pounds, will redshirt next season ands will have three years of eligibility remaining.


Chris Foster

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