Headlines from around the world in sports
Titans fire Munchak after three seasons as coach
The Tennessee Titans fired Mike Munchak yesterday after three seasons as head coach and 31 years combined with this franchise as a player and coach.
General Manager Ruston Webster said in a statement that the last week was a difficult time trying to figure out how to move the Titans forward. The general manager says tough choices resulted in the decision to go on without Munchak.
Munchak had a season left on his contract. He was 22-26 since being hired Feb. 7, 2011.
Finland, Sweden advance to world junior final
MALMO, Sweden – Juuse Saros helped Finland beat Canada in the world junior hockey semifinals, making 23 saves in a 5-1 victory yesterday.
Finland will play Sweden in the final today. Sweden beat Russia, 2-1, in the first semifinal.
Sweden, 6-0-0 in the tournament, is seeking its third title and second in three years. In round-robin play, Sweden beat Finland, 4-2. Finland won the last of its two titles in 1998.
Williams beats Azarenka, defends Brisbane title
BRISBANE, Australia – Serena Williams carried her momentum from 2013 into the new season, beating No. 2-ranked Victoria Azarenka, 6-4, 7-5, yesterday to defend her title at the Brisbane International and set the tone for the Australian Open.
The top-ranked Williams extended her winning streak to 22 matches with the emphatic win over the reigning Australian Open champion, making it back-to-back victories over two of her main rivals. She beat four-time major winner Maria Sharapova in straight sets in the semifinals.
Venus Williams lost the final at Auckland, New Zealand, earlier yesterday to Ana Ivanovic, ending the Williams sisters’ hopes of both winning a WTA title in the same week for the first time in 15 years.
Nadal wins Qatar Open, tops Monfils in 3-set final
DOHA, Qatar – Rafael Nadal won his first title of the year by defeating Gael Monfils, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2, in an exciting, nearly two-hour final at the Qatar Open yesterday.
Nadal dominated the first set, taking it in just 23 minutes. Monfils settled into the match in the second set, initially taking a 3-0 lead. Although Nadal recouped the service break in the seventh game when Monfils netted a backhand, he couldn’t bypass the Frenchman in the tiebreaker.
Wawrinka, Roger-Vasselin set up Chennai Open final
CHENNAI, India – Stanislas Wawrinka and Edouard Roger-Vasselin registered hard-fought wins to set up the final of the Chennai Open today.
Top-seeded Wawrinka saw a resurgent Vasek Pospisil of Canada concede their semifinal at 6-4, 5-5 due to a back strain, while Frenchman Roger-Vasselin sweated it out against Spanish player Marcel Granollers for a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory.
Federer, Hewitt to meet in Brisbane final
BRISBANE, Australia – Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt had victories yesterday to set up a meeting in the Brisbane International final, renewing a rivalry that stretches back to the last millennium.
Federer beat No. 8-seeded Jeremy Chardy, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-3, in a semifinal featuring just two service breaks, immediately after Hewitt’s 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win over second-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan.
Li defends title at Shenzhen Open
SHENZHEN, China – Top-seeded Li Na defended her Shenzhen Open title yesterday by defeating Peng Shuai, 6-4, 7-5, in only the second all-Chinese final on the WTA Tour.
Li captured her eighth career WTA title and first since Shenzhen last year. Peng is now winless in six finals.
Koivuranta wins shortened 3rd stop of 4 Hills Tour
INNSBRUCK, Austria – Anssi Koivuranta of Finland won the third stop of the Four Hills Tour after the last round was canceled because of strong winds yesterday.
Thomas Diethart of Austria leads the tour ahead of the final event tomorrow in Bischofshofen, Austria.
With nine athletes still waiting for their second jump, the jury canceled the competition as fierce winds made conditions unsafe. The first round counted as the final result.
Koivuranta led the competition after the first round, earning 127.5 points for a 132.5-meter jump. Simon Ammann of Switzerland jumped one meter farther and earned 126.3 points, while overall World Cup leader Kamil Stoch of Poland was third with 126.2 points for a 126.5-meter effort.
Avvakumova wins women’s World Cup event
CHAIKOVSKY, Russia – Irina Avvakumova of Russia ended Sara Takanashi’s unbeaten streak this season by earning her first women’s ski jump World Cup victory yesterday on home soil.
Avvakumova had jumps of 100 and 101.5 meters for a total of 249.2 points to beat Carina Vogt of Germany by 4.3 points.
Celski, Smith win early 500 finals at short track
KEARNS, Utah – J.R. Celski and Jessica Smith won their respective 500-meter finals at the U.S. Olympic short track trials.
Both speedskaters had already secured spots on the team for Sochi with victories in the 1,500 on Friday night.
Celski and Smith came back yesterday to dominate the first of two 500 finals at the Utah Olympic Oval.
Northug wins Tour de Ski stage as Norway dominates
VAL DI FIEMME, Italy – Petter Northug revved up his preparations for next month’s Sochi Olympics by winning the penultimate stage of the Tour de Ski yesterday, cutting into the overall lead of fellow Norwegian Martin Johnsrud Sundby.
Sundby’s lead over Northug was reduced to 48.5 seconds, with Chris Jespersen 1:26.8 behind entering today’s seventh and final stage, the grueling climb up Mount Cermis.
Yarnold beats Pikus-Pace for World Cup victory
WINTERBERG, Germany – Britain’s Lizzie Yarnold outdueled Noelle Pikus-Pace of the United States in the second run to win a World Cup skeleton race yesterday, extending her lead in the series standings. Canada’s Sarah Reid was third, another 0.39 seconds back.
The other American in the field, Annie O’Shea, placed 16th.
Yarnold has 1,085 standings points, 225 more than Pikus-Pace – who lost exactly that many points when she was disqualified after finishing first in the season’s opening race at Calgary.
Geisenberger stays perfect in World Cup
KONIGSSEE, Germany – Natalie Geisenberger won her sixth World Cup luge race in as many tries this season yesterday, putting the German on the cusp of wrapping up the points title with three races remaining. Canada’s Alex Gough was third.
Geisenberger has 600 points, 199 better than Gough with three races left. Another win would wrap up the season title for Geisenberger, a huge favorite for Olympic gold.
Norway’s Svendsen wins World Cup pursuit
OBERHOF, Germany – Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway won the men’s pursuit at a biathlon World Cup meet yesterday for his second win in two days, taking advantage of Ole Einar Bjoerndalen’s mistakes at the final shooting station.
Svendsen missed only one target and completed the 12.5-kilometer race in 34 minutes 47.7 seconds, beating his compatriot Bjoerndalen by 35.6 seconds.
Hug wins World Cup event
CHAIKOVSKIY, Russia – Tim Hug of Switzerland took advantage of a weakened start field to claim his first career Nordic combined World Cup victory yesterday.
Hug was 10th after the ski jump portion on the normal hill but worked his way up the field in the 10-kilometer cross-country race to finish in 27 minutes, 44.9 seconds. Bjoern Kircheisen of Austria was 5.7 seconds back in second place and Miroslav Dvorak of the Czech Republic came another 2.6 behind in third.
Most of the top medal contenders for the Sochi Olympics skipped the meet.
As Sochi approaches, injured Vonn skips more races
BORMIO, Italy – Lindsey Vonn’s head coach said the injured racer has not skied for two weeks and will “most likely” skip next weekend’s World Cup speed races in Austria, leaving her status for the Sochi Olympics up in the air.
Vonn remains in the United States after aggravating her surgically repaired right knee at a downhill race in France on Dec. 21.
U.S. coach Alex Hoedlmoser told the Associated Press, “Right now it’s a total open book. We don’t know. It totally depends on how she recovers, how the knee feels, if she gets the strength back, the stability in the knee.”
Hoedlmoser added he would have no problem putting Vonn on the Olympic team even if she doesn’t race in the six weeks before Sochi.