PARIS (AP) Might be easier said than done. Still, Maria Sharapova offered a tidy aphorism to sum up the formula that’s carried her to a third consecutive French Open final.
”It’s not how you finish a first set,” Sharapova said, ”it’s how you finish the last set.”
Right now, no one is a better closer than she is on clay. Nearing a second championship at Roland Garros, and fifth Grand Slam trophy overall, Sharapova gritted her way to yet another comeback victory, beating 18th-seeded Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the semifinals.
She famously described herself years ago as feeling like a ”cow on ice” on clay, but Sharapova now has won her past 19 matches that went to three sets on the demanding surface.
In Saturday’s final, the No. 7-seeded Sharapova will face No. 4 Simona Halep, a 22-year-old Romanian who never before had been past the quarterfinals at a major. Halep turned in a much more straightforward victory than Sharapova, eliminating No. 28 Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-2, 7-6 (4).
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – Ben Crane shot a 7-under 63 at TPC at Southwind to take the lead in the suspended first round of the St. Jude Classic.
Crane took advantage of a 3 1/2-hour delay that left nearly perfect scoring conditions with no wind and rain-softened greens. He had five of his seven birdies on his final nine, the last a few minutes before play was suspended because of darkness.
Sixty players were unable to finish the round.
Peter Malnati shot a 65, and Billy Horschel also was 5 under with two holes left to play.
Retief Goosen and Joe Durant each had a 66, and Phil Mickelson opened with a 67.
WATERLOO, Ontario (AP) – Michelle Wie and defending champion Hee Young Park shared the first-round lead at 6-under 65 in the Manulife Financial Classic at windswept Grey Silo.
Wie, the winner in Hawaii in April, birdied three of the last four holes in her morning round. She’s seeking her second victory in Canada after winning the 2010 Canadian Women’s Open in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Park had a bogey-free round in the afternoon. Last year, the South Korean player beat Angela Stanford on the third playoff hole after they finished at 26-under 258 to match the tour record for lowest total score.
China’s Shanshan Feng was a stroke back, and countrywoman Xi Yu Lin matched Cristie Kerr with a 67.
Stacy Lewis had a 69 in her first round since taking the top spot in the world with a victory Sunday in New Jersey. Second-ranked Inbee Park also shot 69, and No. 3 Lydia Ko had a 71.
ATZENBRUGG, Austria (AP) – England’s Adam Gee and Sweden’s Mikael Lundberg shot 5-under 67 in windy conditions to share the first-round lead in the Lyoness Open.
American Berry Henson was a stroke back along with Wales’ Rhys Davies, England’s Richard Finch and Mattew Baldwin.
Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 70. Jimenez, who recently moved to Vienna after marrying an Austrian, won the Spanish Open last month at 50 years, 133 days to break his own record as the oldest European Tour champion.
SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) – The Houston Astros had the No. 1 pick again, and this time, they took a pitcher polished beyond his years.
California high school left-hander Brady Aiken was the first selection in the Major League Baseball draft.
The 17-year-old from San Diego’s Cathedral Catholic High School is just the third prep pitcher to be selected first overall, joining fellow lefties Brien Taylor (1991, Yankees) and David Clyde (1973, Rangers).
The Miami Marlins made it the first time high school pitchers were the top two picks in the draft when they selected Tyler Kolek, a hard-throwing right-hander from Shepherd High School in Texas.
Twenty pitchers were taken in the first round, tying the draft record set in 2001.
The Astros are the first team to select first in three consecutive drafts, having picked shortstop Carlos Correa in 2012 and right-hander Mark Appel last year. Aiken is in line to receive a huge contract. The allotted slot bonus for the top pick is nearly $8 million.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The Minnesota Timberwolves’ best days came with Flip Saunders on the sideline.
Now that the organization is shrouded in uncertainty surrounding the long-term future of star forward Kevin Love, Saunders is returning to the bench to try revive a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in 10 years.
With the team’s coaching search complicated by Love’s status, the Timberwolves decided the best course of action was to have Saunders, who was hired last season as president of basketball operations, step in for a second stint as coach until the situation stabilized, Saunders said in a text message Thursday.
Saunders previously coached the Timberwolves from 1995-2005. He won 411 games in 10 1/2 seasons in Minnesota and guided the Wolves to the only eight playoff appearances in franchise history, including the Western Conference finals in 2004. He has a career record of 638-526 in 16 seasons as an NBA head coach, a career that also includes stops in Detroit, where he coached the Pistons to three straight Eastern Conference finals, and Washington.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky gave coach John Calipari a new seven-year, $52.5 million contract that will pay a base package of $6.5 million next season and $8 million over each of the final three seasons.
Already one of college basketball’s highest-paid coaches, Calipari led the Wildcats to the 2012 NCAA championship and is coming off his third Final Four appearance in five years with Kentucky, a 60-54 title-game loss to Connecticut in April. He has often been rumored as a potential candidate for NBA coaching openings, most recently this spring with the Los Angeles Lakers.
SAO PAULO (AP) – FIFA is ”not afraid” things will go wrong at the start of the World Cup despite preparation problems in Brazil.
Soccer’s governing body said it’s ”in control” of what needs to be done to get the tournament off to a good start in a week.
A meeting of the local World Cup organizing committee took place the day Sao Paulo was thrown into transit chaos as subway and overland commuter train operators went on strike, putting at risk the only means that most soccer fans will have to reach the Itaquerao stadium which will host the opener between Brazil and Croatia on June 12.
TRACK AND FIELD
ROME (AP) – Justin Gatlin won the 100 meters at the Golden Gala for a second straight year, while Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar set a meet record in topping a high-class high jump.
Gatlin, who set a year-leading time of 9.87 seconds last month, was in front from the start and finished in 9.91, 0.11 ahead of Jamaica’s Nesta Carter. Britain’s Adam Gemili was third.
It was a repeat of last year’s success for Gatlin, who edged Usain Bolt on the line.
MUNICH (AP) – The International Olympic Committee will contribute $250,000 toward a memorial for the victims of the attack on the Israeli team at the 1972 Munich Games.
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reports the IOC, headed by the German Thomas Bach, pledged the contribution toward the $2.3 million project.
The IOC confirmed the report when contacted by The Associated Press on Thursday.