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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Russian Maria Sharapova withdraws from Family Circle, Fed Cup

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (AP) - Russian Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from next week's Family Circle Cup in Charleston and will miss making her Fed Cup debut next month because of injuries.

The world's No. 2 ranked player, who lost her top ranking to Belgium's Justine Henin two weeks ago, continues to be plagued by a right shoulder injury previously suffered along with an injured left hamstring.

Sharapova, who was expected to play for Russia against Spain in the Fed Cup on April 21-22, is expected to miss five-to-six weeks of competition. She lost to American Serena Williams in the fourth round of last week's Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.

"I am very disappointed to have to withdraw from the Family Circle Cup," said Sharapova in a statement released by the WTA Tour on Monday. "It is really difficult for me to miss top events like the Family circle Cup, but I need to make sure that I get myself healthy enough to play."

Rafa's £40m boost for title bid

RAFA BENITEZ has been told he can spend his way to the title.

The Liverpool boss will be handed a £40million war chest to overhaul Manchester United and Chelsea.

Benitez met new owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks over the weekend.

The Americans were determined to put their manager’s mind at rest before tonight’s Champions League quarter-final with PSV Eindhoven.

Benitez said: “We spoke about our ideas for the future and it was very good.

“Everything was positive and, for me, the future of this club looks brilliant. I don’t want to talk about specifics or figures because this is a Champions League game, but they said we will go in the right direction.”

Liverpool won the last of their 18 titles in 1990.

And there were fears Gillett and Hicks may not provide the cash Benitez wants to take on United boss Alex Ferguson and Chelsea chief Jose Mourinho.

But now he knows he can slug it out with Europe’s big guns for the likes of Samuel Eto’o, David Villa and long-term target Daniel Alves.

Keep hands off our Ronaldo

CRISTIANO RONALDO will not join Real Madrid or Barcelona in the summer, says Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton.

The Spanish giants are both thought to be preparing world record £50million bids for the Portuguese winger.

But Old Trafford director Charlton said: “He’s our player and he’s under contract to us.

“We have no reason at all why we would want Ronaldo to play for any other club but ourselves.

"He’s our player and while he’s under contract to us I don’t think it’s anybody’s right to start the process of trying to change him into being one of their players.

“That’s not the way to do business. We get a little bit cheesed off with it.

“It’s something that seems to happen every year coming from Real Madrid and Barcelona.

“Maybe they should stand back a little and think that one day it might happen to them.”

Real Madrid Up To Third; Athletic Bilbao Blows Shot As Escaping Drop Zone

Six games were played on Sunday in Spain's Premiera Division:

At Vigo:

Robinho scored the game winner at 83 minutes as Real Madrid climbed up to third place in the La Liga standings with their 2-1 road victory over Celta Vigo.

At Santander:

Nikola Zigic's hat trick (70', 78', 89') capped off a wild scoring affair which saw Racing Santander spoil visiting Athletic Bilbao's bid to escape the relegation zone with their 5-4 victory. The hosts moved up to seventh place in the standings, one point off a UEFA Cup berth.

At Madrid:

Juan Arango's 53rd-minute equalizer enabled Mallorca to gain a 1-1 road draw with Atletico Madrid.

At Pamplona:

Visiting Sevilla and Osasuna slogged to a 0-0 stalemate on a rainy night.

At Madrid (Getafe):

Goals from Manu del Moral (43') and Javi Casquero (61') enabled homestanding Getafe to come back from a 2-0 deficit and gain a 2-2 draw with fifth-place Real Zaragoza.

At Tarragona:

All the scoring was done early in the first half of relegation-threatened Gimnastic de Tarragona's 1-1 home deadlock with Deportivo Huelva. Sinama Pongolle put The Senior in front in the 11th minute, only to see Gimnastic's Javier Portillo equalize at 15 minutes.

Red Devils and Blues Keep Pace; Reds Bomb Gunners; Addicks Closing In On Getting Out Of Drop Zone

Eight games populated the Saturday English Premier League calendar:

At Manchester:

After trailing 1-0 at halftime, Manchester United erupted for four second half goals to clobber visiting Blackburn 4-1. Paul Scholes (61') , Michael Carrick (73') , Ji-Sung Park (83') , and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (90') tallied for the league leaders.

At Watford:

Chelsea remained six points behind Manchester United following their 1-0 road win over basement-occupying Watford. Salomon Kalou's goal during the second minute of second-half stoppage time was the difference for the Blues.

At Liverpool:

Peter Crouch's hat trick (4', 35', 81') enabled Liverpool to take over third place in the Premiership standings following their 4-1 mauling of visiting Arsenal.

At London:

Darren Bent's successful penalty kick (86') provided the game's only goal as Charlton Athletic closed to within one point of safety following the Addicks' 1-0 home win over Wigan Athletic.

At Bolton:

Kevin Davies provided the only goal (80) of a match that saw Bolton tighten their hold on a UEFA Cup berth (and close within five points of Arsenal for a shot at the UEFA Champions League) with their 1-0 home win over sliding Sheffield United, leaving the Blades only one point above the relegation zone.

At London:

Bobby Zamora (2') and Carlos Tevez (45') provided the goals as West Ham United defeated visiting Middlesbrough 2-0 to close to within five points of safety.

At London:

An injured Ian Pierce scored the equalizer at 90 minutes to lift Fulham to a 1-1 home draw with Portsmouth.

At Newcastle:

Emile Mpenza scored the only goal of the match at 80 minutes, as Manchester City picked up a key win to remain six points above the drop zone with their 1-0 road win over Newcastle United.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Vidic faces five weeks out with shoulder injury

MANCHESTER: Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic will be out for up to five weeks after suffering a dislocated shoulder in his side’s 4-1 win over Blackburn on Saturday.

Vidic, 25, was stretchered off midway through the first half at Old Trafford after landing awkwardly when he challenged for a corner.

The Serbia international is unlikely to return to action until late-April at the earliest, leaving United manager Sir Alex Ferguson short of defensive options.

Gary Neville is sidelined for several weeks with an ankle problem, while Mikael Silvestre has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder.

Thorpe: I’m no drugs cheat


IAN Thorpe said he had never used performance-enhancing drugs and was confident of being cleared of any doping offences after a sample taken last year showed unusually high levels of naturally-occurring hormones.

The Australian five-time Olympic champion said he had no idea why the random out-of-competition test, taken in May before his retirement from swimming, had produced an irregular result.

“I have never cheated and have always complied with my obligations under the anti-doping codes to the letter,” Thorpe said in a prepared statement which he read to a packed news conference in Melbourne.

“ASADA (Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority) were at pains to reassure me that I have not failed a drug test and they made it clear to me that any suggestion that is being made to this effect is just plain wrong.

“I have complete confidence that all the medical and scientific evidence will establish that I am clean.”

Thorpe, regarded as one of the greatest swimmers of all time, said he was in a state of shock when he was told about the allegations, which were published in a French newspaper on Friday.

He was still red-eyed and occasionally struggled to contain his emotions as he answered question.

“I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to react,” he said.

“I was physically shaking because I didn't understand it. It's gut-wrenching, it really is.

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