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Nadal Wins 1st Title Since Return From Injury

  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka displays the trophy, after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

    Belarus' Victoria Azarenka displays the trophy, after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka displays the trophy, after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

    Belarus' Victoria Azarenka displays the trophy, after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

  • Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts during the final match against  Belarus' Victoria Azarenka, during the WTA Qatar Ladies Open tennis tournament in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

    Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts during the final match against Belarus' Victoria Azarenka, during the WTA Qatar Ladies Open tennis tournament in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

  • Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts during the final match against  Belarus' Victoria Azarenka, during the WTA Qatar Ladies Open tennis tournament in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

    Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts during the final match against Belarus' Victoria Azarenka, during the WTA Qatar Ladies Open tennis tournament in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka displays the trophy, after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

    Belarus' Victoria Azarenka displays the trophy, after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka reacts,  after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

    Belarus' Victoria Azarenka reacts, after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka reacts,  after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

    Belarus' Victoria Azarenka reacts, after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka returns the ball to Serena Williams of the U.S, in the final match of Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

    Belarus' Victoria Azarenka returns the ball to Serena Williams of the U.S, in the final match of Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka returns the ball to Serena Williams of the U.S, in the final match of Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

    Belarus' Victoria Azarenka returns the ball to Serena Williams of the U.S, in the final match of Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

  • Serena Williams of the U.S.  poses with her trophy after losing to Belarus' Victoria Azarenka in their final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament,  in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

    Serena Williams of the U.S. poses with her trophy after losing to Belarus' Victoria Azarenka in their final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka gestures,  after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

    Belarus' Victoria Azarenka gestures, after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka gestures,  after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

    Belarus' Victoria Azarenka gestures, after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

  • John Merrick drives on the second tee in the final round of the Northern Trust Open golf tournament at Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

    John Merrick drives on the second tee in the final round of the Northern Trust Open golf tournament at Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka displays the trophy, after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka displays the trophy, after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
  • Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts during the final match against  Belarus' Victoria Azarenka, during the WTA Qatar Ladies Open tennis tournament in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
  • Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts during the final match against  Belarus' Victoria Azarenka, during the WTA Qatar Ladies Open tennis tournament in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka displays the trophy, after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka reacts,  after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka reacts,  after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka returns the ball to Serena Williams of the U.S, in the final match of Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka returns the ball to Serena Williams of the U.S, in the final match of Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
  • Serena Williams of the U.S.  poses with her trophy after losing to Belarus' Victoria Azarenka in their final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament,  in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka gestures,  after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
  • Belarus' Victoria Azarenka gestures,  after her victory against Serena Williams of the US, in the final match of the Qatar WTA Ladies Open tennis tournament, in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
  • John Merrick drives on the second tee in the final round of the Northern Trust Open golf tournament at Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Sao Paulo — Rafael Nadal beat David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-3 in the Brazil Open final yesterday, winning his first title since returning from a seven-month layoff to treat his left knee.

Nadal thrust his arms into the air and pumped his fist after a long ball by Nalbandian made him the champion of the indoor clay-court tournament for the second time. The Spaniard also won the event in 2005.

It was Nadal’s 51st singles title, and first since winning the French Open for the seventh time last June.

Nadal struggled to find a rhythm in the beginning but was still able to break Nalbandian’s serve twice to take the first set. He then rallied from 3-0 down in the second to win six straight games and close out the match in 1 hour, 18 minutes at the Ibirapuera arena.

Serena Falls in Final

Doha, Qatar — Defending champion Victoria Azarenka beat Serena Williams 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-3 to win the Qatar Open yesterday, earning her 16th title and ending a 10-match losing streak against the American.

Azarenka will give up the No. 1 ranking to the second-ranked Williams on Monday but extended her current winning streak to 14 matches, which included her second Australian Open title. More importantly, she may have turned around what has been a one-sided rivalry against Williams. Azarenka had not beaten Williams since 2009 in Miami, and had a 1-11 record against the American going into yesterday’s final.

Baseball

Clemens Fires Back at Piazza

Houston — Roger Clemens shrugged off Mike Piazza’s comments in his autobiography that he took karate lessons after he was beaned by the pitcher, just in case they had another confrontation.

The former New York Mets catcher discussed Clemens in his autobiography Long Shot, which was published last Tuesday.

Clemens, at spring training as a special instructor with the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, Fla., discussed the book yesterday.

“He needs to go get with Jesse Owens or somebody on his speed, I think,” Clemens said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “He chased some dude around the spring training site one time, didn’t he, or something?”

The altercation Clemens apparently was referring to came during an exhibition game when Piazza was with the Mets. After getting hit by a pitch from Dodgers reliever Guillermo Mota, Piazza tried to confront Mota after leaving the field.

Piazza wrote about the tension between him and Clemens in 2000, when Clemens beaned Piazza with a pitch during a regular-season Subway Series game between the Mets and Yankees in July. Leading up to that, Piazza had been hitting well against Clemens.

Then in Game 2 of that year’s World Series, Piazza fouled off a pitch in the first inning, his bat splintered and Clemens picked up the shard of wood and threw it angrily in front of Piazza as he ran toward first, missing the slugger by about 2 feet.

Golf

Merrick Gets
First Win at Home

Los Angeles — John Merrick was a young face in the crowd for so many years, dreaming of one day play at Riviera on the PGA Tour. Yesterday, he did better than that. He won it.

Merrick hit two clutch shots that led to par in a sudden-death playoff and won the Northern Trust Open yesterdaywhen Charlie Beljan missed a 5-foot par putt on the second extra hole. It was the first PGA Tour win for Merrick, who went to school at UCLA.

Merrick closed with a 69. Beljan, famous for his anxiety attack when he won at Disney last year, holed an 18-foot birdie on the 18th hole for a 67.

Along with his first win on tour, the 30-year-old Merrick earns a spot in the Masters.

Keegan Bradley shot a 70 and finished seven strokes back.

Langer Wins Champions Event

Naples, Fla. — Bernhard Langer shot a final-round 72 and won his second ACE Group Classic title in three years by one stroke yesterday.

Langer two-putted from 50 feet on the 18th for par to finish at 12-under 204, ahead of Jay Don Blake at TwinEagles Club’s Talon Course.

Langer, who won this tournament in 2011 and was runner-up last year, survived three bogeys and a double bogey. It was his 17th victory on the Champions Tour, and the seventh year he has won at least one tournament.

College Hockey

Soldier Field Hosts Twin Bill

Chicago — Joel Rumpel kicked away a shot as time expired for his 36th save and Wisconsin beat second-ranked Minnesota 3-2 in the Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field.

Sean Little scored what proved to be the game-winner at 16:22 of the second period for the Badgers (13-10-7, 10-7-7), who spoiled the Gophers’ first outdoor game. Wisconsin is 3-0-0 in games played outdoors.

Notre Dame beat Miami, Ohio, 2-1 in the first game of the doubleheader.

Mario Lucia and Jeff Costello scored for the Fighting Irish.

Miami’s Kevin Morris scored in the third.