Zvonareva reaches Australian semifinals
Vera Zvonareva ran off 11 straight games in a 6-3, 6-0 win over Marion Bartoli at the Australian Open today to reach the semifinals for the first time in 25 majors. The 24-year-old Russian's best performance in six previous trips to Melbourne was the fourth round - she had gone out in the first round at the Australian Open three times, including last year. And she made the quarterfinals at the 2003 French Open. Seventh-seeded Zvonareva, who hasn't dropped a set in five matches, rallied from an opening service break to dominate 2007 Wimbledon finalist Bartoli in the remainder of their quarterfinal. Andy Murray might have to wait awhile before he's picked again to win a Grand Slam tournament. Touted by British bookmakers as a favorite at the Australian Open, Murray lost to No. 14 Fernando Verdasco of Spain in five sets yesterday in the fourth round. He twice blew a one-set lead and missed chances to break serve in the pivotal sixth game of the deciding set. He was beaten, 2-6, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. Rafael Nadal had a far easier time, beating 2007 runner-up Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Verdasco will meet fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the runner-up here last year who defeated No. 9 James Blake 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
Andy Pettitte agreed to a one-year, $5.5 million contract that brings the left-hander back to the Yankees. Pettitte can make an additional $6.5 million in performance bonuses and bonuses based on time on the active roster. He joins a starting rotation that already includes CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain. The deal raised the Yankees' projected opening-day payroll to $196.8 million for 17 players with agreements. He returned to the Yankees in 2007 and was 14-14 with a 4.54 ERA last season, his highest ERA since 1999.
More Yankees:: General manager Brian Cashman thinks the team should rally around Alex Rodriguez after a book in which former manager Joe Torre portrayed A-Rod as a divisive figure in the New York clubhouse. "I think we've gone through so much of the Alex stuff that, you know, if anything, maybe this brings people closer together," Cashman said yesterday during a conference call to announce Pettitte's return. In The Yankee Years, scheduled for publication Feb. 3, Torre says "Alex monopolized all the attention" and that "he needs people to make a fuss over him."
Royals: : Right-hander Zack Greinke and Kansas City agreed to a four-year, $38 million contract that avoided a salary arbitration hearing next month. Greinke went 13-10 with a 3.47 ERA in 32 starts for Kansas City last season, setting career highs in strikeouts (183) and innings (202 1/3 ). His 3.47 ERA was the best by a Royals starter in 11 years.
Retirement: : Three-time All-Star Sean Casey has planned to announce his retirement today to join the MLB Network. He played from 1997 to 2008, hitting .302 with 130 homers and 735 RBIs for Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Boston.
McDonogh's Fernandez commits orally to UM
McDonogh junior Marquez Fernandez, The Baltimore Sun's All-Metro Player of the Year, has made an oral commitment to play soccer for the University of Maryland after he completes his senior year of high school in 2010. Fernandez, a defender who led the No. 1 Eagles to their second straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title, chose the defending national champion Terps over Virginia and North Carolina and will receive a full athletic scholarship. "It's the right place for him," McDonogh coach Steve Nichols said.
Academic All-State team: : The Greater Baltimore Chapter of the National Football Foundation has started a pilot program honoring an Academic All-State team selected from within the schools belonging to the Baltimore Chapter. Since 1964, the GBCNFF has sponsored the Scholar Athlete Dinner, and this year's Academic All-State team will be honored before the March 11 Scholar Athlete Dinner at Martin's West. The following players have been named to the Academic team based on grades, outstanding football ability, character and strong leadership:
Line: Beau Howarth, Archbishop Spalding; Thomas Ruley, Parkville; Alex Utt, Urbana; Anthony Watters, Dunbar; Patrick Robinson, Liberty. Receiver: Brandon Floyd, Loyola; Zach Westfall, North Carroll. Quarterback: Andrew Zimnik, Frederick. Running back: Patrick Balderson, Linganore; Kurt Herzog, Friends; Cory Anderlik, Century. Tight end: Antwan Branch, Lake Clifton; Jeff Kryglik, Eastern Tech.
Line: Tim Willman, Reservoir; Arnold Farmer, Poly; Brandon Copeland, Gilman. Linebacker: Jason Gonos, St. Mary's; Sam Von Paris, John Carroll; Harry Krieger, St. Paul's; Brett Baer, Westminster; Adam Statniske, South Carroll. Defensive back: Adam Dulberger, Middletown; Eric Franklin, Curley; Taylor Sones, Glenelg.
Graham Spicer, Wilde Lake; Scott Trench, River Hill; William Clary, Catonsville.
Towson names Kaleo, ex-Terp, to coach QBs
John Kaleo, a former Maryland quarterback and a 14-year veteran of the Arena Football League, has been named as the quarterbacks coach at Towson. Kaleo was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Iona for the past two seasons, helping the Gaels win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title in 2007. A 1989 graduate of Bowie High, Kaleo played two seasons at Montgomery College-Rockville, leading the team to 10-0 record and the National Junior College Athletic Association national title in 1990. He went on to play two seasons at Maryland, earning team Most Valuable Player honors in 1992.
More college football: : The Mountain West Conference is pushing for an automatic annual entry into the Bowl Championship Series' postseason lineup, USA Today reported yesterday. The newspaper said that presidents and chancellors of the league's nine schools, along with commissioner Craig Thompson, will press for a meeting with BCS coordinator John Swofford, to discuss an automatic berth into the BCS. Only champions of the six BCS conferences - the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific-10 and Southeastern - automatically qualify. "I would not be optimistic," Thompson said. Conference champion Utah finished second in the Associated Press Top 25, earning 16 of 65 first-place votes after it finished an undefeated season by beating Alabama, 31-17, in the Sugar Bowl.
Horse racing: : Dubai World Cup winner Curlin was chosen Horse of the Year for the second year in a row last night at the Eclipse Awards in Miami Beach, Fla. Big Brown, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, was chosen 3-year-old Male of the Year. Curlin was chosen top older male over Commentator and Brazilian-bred Einstein. Undefeated Zenyatta was selected top older female. Proud Spell was selected the top 3-year-old filly over Music Note and sentimental choice Eight Belles, who broke both front ankles moments after finishing second to Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby and was euthanized.