Williams sets aside sister’s woes in romp

Tennis: Neither her words nor her play indicated that Serena Williams was distracted one bit Thursday at the U.S. Open in New York.

She would have been forgiven if they had, of course, given that sister Venus withdrew from the tournament 24 hours earlier and revealed a recently diagnosed immune system disease.

Focused as ever, Serena overwhelmed Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands 6-0, 6-1 to reach the third round, showing precisely why many consider her the favorite to win a fourth championship at Flushing Meadows and 14th Grand Slam title overall.

How hard was it to set aside Venus’ situation?

“It really wasn’t that difficult, to be honest. I mean, she wants me to do the best; she wouldn’t want me to suffer,” Serena said. “So now, if anything, it should motivate me more.”

Venus, who won the U.S. Open in 2000 and 2001, said in an interview Thursday with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she “absolutely” plans to return to tennis and is relieved, after years of misdiagnosis, to know exactly what’s been making her feel “debilitating” fatigue.

“Did you guys see the match? Or was it too quick?” Krajicek asked reporters after losing to Serena.

That was part of a pattern in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Day 4 of the year’s last Grand Slam tournament: Winners Serena, Novak Djokovic (two), Roger Federer (seven), Caroline Wozniacki (two), and Francesca Schiavone (two) combined to lose a total of 14 games in five matches.

Djokovic won the first 14 games against Carlos Berlocq, sending reporters scrambling to find the last “triple bagel” at the U.S. Open (for the record, Ivan Lendl won by a shutout in 1987). Berlocq finally did win a game – earning a standing ovation in the process – but Djokovic won the match 6-0, 6-0, 6-2.

Tennis fans who wanted some drama needed to watch Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 French Open champion and U.S. Open runner-up, outlast No. 7-seeded Gael Monfils 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 at a packed Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Two Americans ranked outside the top 100, 18-year-old Sloane Stephens and 21-year-old Vania King, knocked off seeded players to give the host country five women in the third round for the first time since 2004, when eight made it.

The 106th-ranked Stephens, who lives in California, beat 23rd-seeded Shahar Peer of Israel 6-1, 7-6 (4). The 103rd-ranked King, a 22-year-old who splits time between Florida and California, eliminated No. 29 Jarmila Gajdosova of Australia 6-2, 6-0.

The highest-seeded U.S. man, No. 8 Mardy Fish, got to the third round for a third consecutive appearance in the U.S. Open by beating Tunisian Malek Jaziri 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.

Simpson highlights big day for U.S.

Track and field: For nearly three decades, Mary Slaney owned this territory. No American had equaled her success at 1,500 meters at the world championships.

Now there’s Jenny Barringer Simpson.

With one powerful surge on the home stretch, Simpson looked every bit as dominant as Slaney once was, winning on a marvelous night for the Americans highlighted by three gold medals in an exhilarating 30-minute stretch at Daegu, South Korea.

Simpson is the first American woman to win the world title in the 1,500 since Slaney – Decker back then – in 1983.

Jesse Williams started the winning spree by capturing the high jump, the first American to do so since Charles Austin in 1991. Lashinda Demus completed the night with victory in the 400 hurdles.

Other winners included Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya (steeplechase), David Greene of Britain (400 hurdles) and Olha Saladuha of Ukraine (triple jump).

Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter known as the “Blade Runner,” helped South Africa reach the final in the 1,600-meter relay, but was left off four-man team for today’s race.

After making a historic breakthrough for Paralympic athletes by reaching the semifinals of the 400 this week, Pistorius ran a strong opening leg on the tough inside lane Thursday to help South Africa to a third-place finish in its heat and a South African record.

USC assistant coach Garza steps down

College football: The Southern California defense was historically bad last season, and its attempt to bounce back got tougher when an assistant coach resigned two days before the Trojans’ opener.

USC defensive secondary coach Willie Mack Garza stepped down Thursday, citing personal reasons in a terse news release.

Sagan captures another stage

Cycling: Slovakian cyclist Peter Sagan scored a second Spanish Vuelta stage victory after winning a mass sprint to close the 12th stage at Pontevedra, while Britain’s Bradley Wiggins held on to the overall lead.

Sagan followed up his sixth stage victory by crossing the finish line of the 104-mile leg in 4 hours, 3 minutes, 1 second for Liquigas.

Wiggins kept the race leader’s red jersey for a second straight day after finishing 5 seconds behind in 32nd to maintain his 7-second lead over Sky teammate Christopher Froome.

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