Safina exits with injury; Serena clinches No. 1

Dinara Safina pulled out of the WTA Sony Ericsson Championships after two games against Jelena Jankovic with a serious back injury Wednesday in Doha, Qatar, handing the year-end No. 1 ranking to Serena Williams.

Safina said a disk in her lower back was “starting to fracture” and the injury has been bothering her for three months. She said doctors told her she will be sidelined for at least six weeks, and that she might not be fit in time for the Australian Open in January.

Safina, the main No. 1 since April, regained the top ranking this week, but her margin over Williams was so slim that the player who performed best in Doha was guaranteed to end the year at No. 1.

Williams won her first match Tuesday and beat sister Venus Williams 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (4) on Wednesday.

“It’s such a great feeling,” Williams said of returning to No. 1. “Dinara is such a great player. She must be really hurt, because she never gives up.”

Williams, the Australian Open and Wimbledon champ, will end a year at No. 1 for the first time since 2002.

Also: Ramon Delgado rallied from a set down to defeat Ilija Bozoljac 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 and win the inaugural Las Vegas Invitational at Darling Tennis Center.

Delgado, from Paraguay, is ranked No. 255 in the world. He made $10,000 for the victory. He defeated Nicholas Monroe in Tuesday’s semifinals.

Bozoljac, a native of Serbia ranked 185th, made $5,000. He defeated Jan-Michael Gambill in the semifinals.


Isles’ Weight returns; NHL deals with swine flu

New York Islanders captain Doug Weight, the fourth NHL player known to have swine flu, returned to New York’s lineup after a bout with the illness forced him to miss three games.

The 38-year-old center confirmed he was bedridden with the virus after being diagnosed eight days earlier. At least three other players are dealing with the H1N1 strain of the virus.

“I was never worried about it,” Weight said. “I think we’re a little up in arms about it as a nation.

“Obviously, it is important that we get a grip on it, but I think it’s the flu. It knocked me on my butt. I stayed away from guys, so I made sure I was not infecting anybody else, and here we are.”

The Washington Capitals announced forward Quintin Laing has swine flu, and on Tuesday, it was revealed that Edmonton defenseman Ladislav Smid and Colorado goalie Peter Budaj also have the strain of the virus, their teams said.

“The league has provided clubs with all the relevant information, and with recommendations for proactive prevention and management steps,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an e-mail. “Clubs have been advised to provide the league with frequent updates to allow us to continue to monitor the situation.”

Also: Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo will miss at least the next two game after sustaining a hairline fracture in one of his ribs. Luongo isn’t sure how long he’ll be out, but he expects to be back much quicker than the 24 games it took him to recover from a groin injury last year.


UNLV women’s team 10th in home tourney

The UNLV women’s golf team finished 10th in hosting the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown at Boulder Creek Golf Club.

UNLV shot 17-over-par 305 in the third round to move up two spots in the 17-team field, finishing at 47-over 911 in the wind-swept event. Arizona took the team title at 14-over 878, led by medalist Sherlyn Popelka, who finished at 7-under 209.

Therese Koelbaek paced the Rebels in their fall schedule finale, shooting 4-over 76 to finish at 7-over 223 and tie for 14th.

Also: The LPGA Tour picked Michael Whan as its commissioner, turning to a former marketing executive in golf and hockey equipment to rebuild the tour’s relationships with sponsors.

Whan, 44, previously worked for TaylorMade Golf and Wilson Sporting Goods, and most recently was president of Mission-Itech Hockey.

He replaces Carolyn Bivens, who was forced out by players in July as the tour kept losing sponsors. Bivens had a strong business background but little experience in sports when she was hired in 2005.


Jury awards $850,000 in aluminum bat lawsuit

A Montana jury found the maker of Louisville Slugger baseball bats failed to adequately warn about the dangers the product can pose, awarding a family $850,000 for the 2003 death of their son in a baseball game.

The jury awarded a total of $850,000 in damages against Hillerich & Bradsby for failure to place warnings on the product. However, the jury decided the product was not defective.

Brandon Patch’s family argued that aluminum baseball bats are dangerous because they cause the ball to travel at a greater speed.

They argued their 18-year-old son did not have enough time to react to the ball being struck before it hit him in the head while he was pitching in an American Legion baseball game in Helena, Mont., in 2003.

Debbie Patch said she hopes the decision will make more people aware of the dangers associated with aluminum bats and that more youth leagues will switch to using wooden bats.

Attorneys for Hillerich & Bradsby declined to comment.

Also: Dick Thompson, a pioneer in motor sports public relations during nearly 40 years at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, died, the track announced. He was 74.

Thompson was working as a racing writer for The Roanoke Times in 1966 when the late Martinsville Speedway founder, H. Clay Earles, hired him to help publicize events at the track, said W. Clay Campbell, Earles’ grandson and now the track’s president.

Cristiano Ronaldo will not recover from an ankle injury in time for Real Madrid’s Champions League match at AC Milan next week.

The Spanish club said a medical exam showed the Portugal winger’s right ankle had improved, but not enough to return for Saturday’s Spanish league match against Getafe.

A man with slicked-back hair who stole $26,000 in cash and jewelry from an Israeli basketball team at Staples Center also scammed his way into two downtown Los Angeles hotels to steal thousands of dollars from Chivas de Guadalajara soccer players and a salsa music troupe, police said.

Detectives linked the man to the three thefts after comparing surveillance footage from Staples Center on Oct. 20 to video and descriptions from two hotels that had reported similar thefts in August and September, said Lt. Paul Vernon, head of detectives for downtown Los Angeles.

Stanford basketball player Jeremy Green, named to the All-Pac-10 freshman team last year, was suspended indefinitely by coach Johnny Dawkins for an unspecified violation of team rules.

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