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Miami-Boston NBA opener sets TV ratings mark

TNT set ratings records for its season-opening NBA doubleheader Tuesday, which kicked off with the Boston Celtics beating the LeBron James-led Miami Heat, followed by the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers’ game against the Houston Rockets, which included the defending champions’ ring ceremony.

The Heat-Celtics matchup was the most-watched regular-season NBA game in cable history, and the doubleheader was the most-watched opening doubleheader in Turner’s 27 years of broadcasting the NBA.

The night’s games together averaged 5.4 million viewers, according to the Nielsen ratings, while the Heat and the Celtics averaged 7.43 million. The previous most-watched regular-season game was the Chicago Bulls against the Lakers on Feb. 2, 1996. In addition, the “Inside the NBA” studio show featured a sleeker but not meeker Charles Barkley.

— Diane Pucin

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TENNIS

Jim Courier replaces Patrick McEnroe as U.S. Davis Cup captain

Jim Courier, winner of four Grand Slam titles earned mostly with punishing groundstrokes perfected through a punishing work ethic, was named by the United States Tennis Assn. to replace Patrick McEnroe as captain of the Davis Cup team.

McEnroe resigned last month during the U.S. Open, ending a 10-year tenure, and Courier immediately let his desire for the job be known.

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“I’ve always known, once I got a taste of playing Davis Cup, if I were given an opportunity to be the captain, I would certainly take it,” Courier, 40, said. As a player, he helped the U.S. win Davis Cup titles in 1992 and 1995.

— Diane Pucin

Samantha Stosur upset Caroline Wozniacki, 6-4, 6-3, at the WTA Championships at Doha, Qatar, keeping alive the race for the top ranking for at least one more day. Wozniacki would have secured the top ranking for 2010 with a victory.

Earlier, Vera Zvonareva claimed her second win in the White Group by beating Victoria Azarenka, 7-6 (4), 6-4, to move into a good position to reach the semifinals. In the same group, Kim Clijsters returned from a six-week break with a 6-2, 6-3 win over ailing Jelena Jankovic.

American John Isner, seeded fifth, edged French qualifier Adrian Mannarino, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 6-3, in the second round of the Open Sud de France at Montpellier, serving 27 aces.

The top two seeds also advanced to the quarterfinals. No. 1 Nikolay Davydenko of Russia beat Mischa Zverev of Germany and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Portugal’s Frederico.

Defending champion Jurgen Melzer and his opponent in last year’s final, Marin Cilic, both reached the quarterfinals of the Bank Austria Trophy in Vienna.

Melzer defeated Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Cilic beat Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic.

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BASEBALL

CC Sabathia to have surgery on knee

New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia will have arthroscopic surgery Friday on a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Sabathia is expected to begin his pre- spring training routine three to six weeks after the operation.

Meanwhile, the Yankees declined 2011 options on first baseman-designated hitter Lance Berkman, reliever Kerry Wood and oft-injured first baseman Nick Johnson, and they exercised their option on pitching prospect Andrew Brackman.

Acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline, Wood became Mariano Rivera’s setup man and went 2-0 with an 0.69 earned-run average in 24 relief appearances for the Yankees. New York may be interested in re-signing him.

Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco will have surgery on his left elbow Friday and is expected to be ready for spring training.

Polanco will have bone fragments removed from his elbow, in addition to having his extensor tendon repaired. He is expected to need eight to 10 weeks of recovery.

Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker left a hospital Wednesday, eight days after his second heart surgery this year.

COLLEGE SPORTS

Seventy-nine percent of Division I athletes earning degrees

Seventy-nine percent of Division I athletes earn their degrees within six years of enrolling, according to annual data released by the NCAA on Tuesday.

That number, which has held steady for the last three years, equals an all-time high, officials said. Among local schools, UCLA, Pepperdine and UC Irvine came in at 79% or higher for the freshman class entering school in 2003. USC was at 78%.

The nationwide rate for players in the Football Bowl Subdivision rose from 66% to 69% in the latest report. Basketball players held steady at 66% after rising 10 percentage points over the previous nine years.

— David Wharton

HORSE RACING

Zenyatta is preentered in Breeders Cup Classic

Zenyatta will put her 19-0 record on the line when she defends her title in the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic, going against the boys for the second consecutive year.

A record total of 184 horses, including 26 from overseas, were preentered Wednesday for the $25.5-million, 14-race Breeders’ Cup world championships at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 5-6. That tops last year’s total of 166 and betters the old mark of 180 two years ago.

Zenyatta was preentered in the Classic, along with 13 others, including Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky and runner-up First Dude, Whitney winner Blame and Woodward and Metropolitan Mile winner Quality Road, who was scratched at the gate before last year’s Classic.

Final entries and the post-position draw will be Tuesday.

Zenyatta has won all five of her starts this year and will be looking to end her spectacular career with a victory in the 1 1/4 -mile Classic.

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Notre Dame student dies in tower collapse at football field

A Notre Dame student died after a tower used to tape football practice toppled over. The school said the 21-year-old man was filming practice when the hydraulic scissor lift fell over Wednesday afternoon. He died at a South Bend, Ind., hospital.

The man’s name was not immediately released. The cause of the accident wasn’t known, but winds in the area were gusting to 51 mph at the time, according to the National Weather Service.

Oklahoma State star wide receiver Justin Blackmon won’t play Saturday against Kansas State after his arrest on a misdemeanor DUI charge.

Hall Thompson, Shoal Creek Country Club founder, dies

Hall Thompson, the founder of Shoal Creek Country Club in suburban Birmingham, Ala., whose comments about the admission of African Americans created a stir, died Wednesday.

Thompson developed the club, which played host to the PGA Championship in 1984 and 1990, and the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1986.

He was the subject of controversy before the 1990 PGA Championship after he was quoted as saying the golf club could not be forced into accepting blacks as members. Thompson claimed he was misquoted.

The club now has black members, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Roman Polak will have surgery on a severed tendon in his right wrist and will be sidelined indefinitely.

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