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In brief

Croatia on verge of first Davis Cup

By wire services
Published December 4, 2005

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia - If his younger teammates can deliver, Goran Ivanisevic will lift the Davis Cup trophy today and take it home to Croatia for the first time.

Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic beat Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty and Michal Mertinak 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) Saturday, giving Croatia a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series between two first-time finalists.

Croatia needs to win one of today's reverse singles - Ljubicic meets Hrbaty and Ancic plays Karol Kucera - to clinch the title.

"It's definitely the most important match of my life, no question about that," Ljubicic said. "I have a little advantage because I've had a lot of these pressure matches."

Ivanisevic, the former Wimbledon champion, came out of retirement for the final, but captain Nikki Pilic did not select him for either the singles or the doubles, choosing to go with his younger players.

With their win, Ljubicic and Ancic remain undefeated in Davis Cup doubles play this year.

HINGIS RETURN: Martina Hingis hopes to make her return to Grand Slam tennis at the Australian Open next month. Hingis, who announced earlier this week she was coming back after a three-year retirement, is considering Australian Open warmup tournaments in Hong Kong or Gold Coast, Australia.

SKIING

U.S. men finish 1-2-4

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. - At his daring best, Bode Miller is back in the win column.

The defending overall World Cup champion picked up his first victory of the season, leading a 1-2-4 U.S. finish in a giant slalom.

Miller, who tied for the lead after the first run, nearly went down twice in the second, but somehow stayed up and stayed fast, finishing with a total time of 2 minutes, 34.56 seconds.

Daron Rahlves , who beat Miller in a 1-2 U.S. downhill Friday, wound up second, 0.49 seconds back.

Kalle Palander of Finland, tied with Miller after the first run, finished third with Erik Schlopy of the United States fourth.

MORE SKIING: Lindsey Kildow of the United States edged Sylviane Berthod of Switzerland by three-hundredths of a second in Lake Louise, Alberta, for her second World Cup downhill victory. Berthod was second and Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria third. ... Andreas Kuttel of Switzerland broke the Olympic hill record in Lillehammer, Norway, with a jump of 139 meters to win a World Cup ski jumping event. ... Hannu Manninen of Finland won his second World Cup Nordic combined event of the season in Lillehammer, while American Todd Lodwick finished fourth.

FIGURE SKATING

Nakano rebounds to win

OSAKA, Japan - Yukari Nakano rebounded from a fall in the opening seconds of the free program to take the women's championship at the NHK Trophy figure skating competition.

Nakano fell as she tried a triple axel on her opening jump. She converted five triple jumps later in the performance and finished with 158.66 points, edging countrywoman Fumie Suguri , who had 158.44.

Kimmie Meissner of the United States finished fifth with 152.18 points.

Japan's Daisuke Takahashi and Nobunari Oda hold the top two spots after the men's short program. American Evan Lysacek is third.

Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon of Canada won the ice dance. Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto , the top American couple, withdrew after Agosto suffered a groin injury.

ET CETERA

SOCCER: England defender Gary Neville , 30, is the new captain for Manchester United, replacing Roy Keane.

MOTORSPORTS: Buddy Rice and Bryan Herta will test a new ethanol-blend fuel next week that will be used by the Indy Racing League next season. The IRL will use a blend of 90 percent methanol and 10 percent ethanol, an alcohol created by distilling grain mash, usually from corn. In 2007, the cars will go to 100 percent ethanol.

SPEEDSKATING: Simon Kuipers of the Netherlands won the 1,500-meter race at a World Cup event in Heerenveen, Netherlands, beating Chad Hedrick of the United States. Enrico Fabris of Italy was third.

[Last modified December 4, 2005, 01:20:10]


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