There will be no Williams sisters semifinal matchup at the Australian Open. In fact, there almost wasn't one Williams sibling left in the final four at the first Grand Slam event of 2010, but defending champion Serena Williams rallied from a set down and a 4-0 deficit in the second set to post a 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 victory over Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. Venus Williams blew a set lead and lost to China's Li Na, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 on Wednesday. Then the world's No. 1 player and four-time Aussie Open champion was pushed nearly to the brink by the seventh-seeded Azarenka before coming through with an incredible comeback. Li, the 16th seed, gained her first trip to a Grand Slam semifinal and now has to go through another Williams sister for a berth in the final. Li and Zheng Jie are the first Chinese duo to advance to the semifinals of the same Grand Slam event. Zheng takes on Belgian Justine Henin on Thursday.
Roger Federer looked rattled after losing the first set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Russian Nikolay Davydenko, but the legend of the super Swiss took over in a huge way and now the world's No. 1 player is into his 23rd consecutive Grand Slam semifinal. Federer's 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5 victory over the No. 6 seed moved him into the final four with a matchup looming against either third-seeded Serbian Novak Djokovic or 10th-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. It was a match that had tremendous shifts of momentum. Federer initially had his hands full and was down two quick breaks in the first set, but turned it around in the second and third with an epic 13-game run to take command of the match. He then held on in a tenuous fourth set that lasted nearly an hour. The victory ensures Federer will be ranked No. 1 next Monday, the 268th week on top, tying Jimmy Connors for the third-longest in history. Only Pete Sampras (286) and Ivan Lendl (270) have been No. 1 more weeks. The Tsonga-Djokovic quarterfinal is a rematch of the 2008 Aussie Open final, which was won by Djokovic.
The Oakland Athletics signed right-hander Ben Sheets to a one-year contract Tuesday and later introduced him at an afternoon press conference. Multiple reports have placed the value of the contract at $10 million plus incentives. Sheets, a four-time All-Star, missed all of last season while recovering from elbow surgery. He recently threw for scouts in Louisiana and was impressive. The New York Mets and Texas Rangers were also believed to be in the running for his services. Sheets said Tuesday the elbow is doing great and added he felt renewed by his time away from the game. The 31-year-old hurler had spent the first eight years of his career with the Milwaukee Brewers. Selected with the 10th overall pick by Milwaukee in the 1999 draft, Sheets is 86-83 lifetime with a 3.72 ERA in 221 starts.
The Orioles made Miguel Tejada's return to Baltimore official Tuesday, re- introducing the team's new third baseman at an afternoon press conference. The two sides came to terms on a one-year contract last week, pending a physical for Tejada, who will be plugged in at the hot corner in 2010 for the first time in his career after 13 seasons at shortstop. The 35-year-old gets to make the transition with his former club, as he returns to Baltimore after spending the last two seasons in Houston. He played for the Orioles from 2004-07 before being traded to the Astros. In 158 contests for the Astros last season, he batted .313 with a NL-leading 46 doubles, 14 homers and 86 RBI. The 2002 AL MVP winner with Oakland is a career .289 hitter with 421 doubles, 285 homers and 1,185 RBI in 1,871 contests with the A's, Orioles and Astros.
The Minnesota Twins have agreed to a one- year contract with veteran slugger Jim Thome. The deal, which is pending a physical, is worth $1.5 million with up to $750,000 in incentives. Thome will likely fill a bench role, as Jason Kubel, also a left-handed hitter, was primarily a designated hitter last season. Sitting at No. 12 on the career home run leaders list with 564, Thome is just five back of Rafael Palmeiro and nine behind former Twins great Harmon Killebrew. Thome spent most of last season with the White Sox before being traded to the Dodgers in a waiver deadline deal in September. In 124 games between the clubs, he batted .249 with a .366 on-base percentage, 23 homers and 77 RBI. Since coming into the majors in 1991 with Cleveland, he is a career .277 hitter with a .404 OBP and 1,565 RBI.
The San Diego Padres have agreed to a one- year contract with a mutual option for 2011 with free agent pitcher Jon Garland. The 30-year-old right-hander split last season between Arizona and the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 33 starts between the clubs, Garland went 11-13 with a 4.01 earned run average. In 204 innings, he struck out 109 and walked 61. Garland spent the first eight seasons of his major league career with the White Sox before playing for the Los Angeles Angels in 2008.
Devan Downey scored 30 points and South Carolina secured its first-ever win against a No. 1 ranked team by dealing Kentucky its first loss of the season, 68-62, to set off a wild celebration. Before Tuesday, South Carolina had been 0-7 against teams ranked No. 1 in the AP poll, but the Gamecocks (12-8, 3-3 SEC) gained the upperhand in the latter stages and held on. Brandis Raley-Ross added 17 points for South Carolina. DeMarcus Cousins had 27 points and 12 rebounds for the Wildcats (19-1, 4-1), who were the last remaining unbeaten team in the country. Kentucky moved to the top of the rankings Monday for the first time since the final poll of the 2002-03 season. John Wall added 19 point on 6-of-16 shooting for the Wildcats, who ended at 38.6 percent from the field.
As speculation surrounding the job security of Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable continues, the club has settled on an offensive coordinator in former Baltimore Ravens quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson. Jackson has been an offensive coordinator with Atlanta and Washington and will take over the play-calling duties handled last season by Cable during a 5-11 season. Jackson spent two seasons as quarterbacks coach for the Ravens, helping develop Joe Flacco, who has been the team's starter for two years since being selected as a first-round pick in 2008.