Blake, Federer in Masters Cup final

Published November 19, 2006

SHANGHAI, China - James Blake already has beaten the defending champion and the Nos. 2 and 3 players in the world to reach the Masters Cup final.

That was the easy part.

Blake, the last player to qualify for the eight-man draw at this season-ending championship, gets to play Roger Federer today.

"I heard in China the No. 8 is lucky - I heard that as soon as I got here," Blake said. "Apparently it's worked out well so far. I heard last year (David) Nalbandian got in as No. 8 - maybe it will be two years in a row."

Blake, a Tampa resident, eliminated defending champion Nalbandian 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals Saturday after Federer overpowered Rafael Nadal 6-4, 7-5 in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown.

Federer topped the Red Group in round-robin matches and has lost only once at the Masters Cup since the start of the 2003 tournament.

Blake, in his first trip to the year-end event, topped the Gold Group after beating Nadal, No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko and losing to Tommy Robredo.

He's taken only one set off Federer in the five matches they've played. And that came in the U.S. Open quarterfinals.

"It was definitely the best I've played against him. I felt good about the fact I actually had to push him," Blake said. "Hopefully (today) I can do a little better."


Beckham misses out on Cruise's wedding

David Beckham trained with Real Madrid instead of attending movie star Tom Cruise's wedding in Italy, the Associated Press reported. Beckham's wife, Victoria, did attend.

Beckham, ruled out of a league game at Racing Santander because of a left knee injury, received Madrid's permission to visit Cruise and fiancee Katie Holmes on Friday. But club rules insisted the midfielder had to return to work on his fitness before attending the match, sports daily AS reported.

"He's injured, he hasn't recovered, and he has to train," Madrid coach Fabio Capello said. Asked whether he was aware Beckham would miss the wedding, Capello seemed unconcerned. "That's not my problem."

Speculation is mounting that Beckham's stay with Madrid will end in January.


South Korean takes Trophee Bompard title

South Korean Kim Yu-na held off American world champion Kimmie Meissner to win the women's event at the Trophee Bompard in Paris.

Miki Ando of Japan finished second, and Meissner was third overall.

France's Brian Joubert won the men's competition.

World ice dance champions Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria took their second event of the season.

The pairs event went to Russian veterans Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov.


BOXING: Ruslan Chagaev won a shot at the WBA heavyweight title held by Nicolay Valuev with a split decision over John Ruiz in Duesseldorf, Germany.

CROSS COUNTRY: Norway's Ole Einar Bjorndalen won the 15-kilometer freestyle World Cup race in Gallivare, Sweden. Katerina Neumannova of the Czech Republic won the women's 10-kilometer freestyle.

CYCLING: Olympic champion Anna Meares of Australia broke her world record in the 500-meter time trial in Sydney, setting a record of 33.944 seconds at Dunc Gray Velodrome.

HORSES: Accountforthegold won by one length in the Stuyvesant Handicap at Aqueduct in New York. ... Precious Kitten held to win the Mrs. Revere by a neck at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

LUGE: Christian Oberstolz and Patrick Gruber of Italy won the opening World Cup race of the season in the men's doubles in Cesana, Italy. German Silke Kraushaar-Pielach won the women's singles race.

SPEED SKATING: German Jenny Wolf won the women's 500-meter race at the World Cup in Berlin. Enrico Fabris of Italy took the men's 1,500, Pekka Koskela of Finland won the men's 500, and Renate Groenewold of the Netherlands won the women's 3,000.

VOLLEYBALL: The U.S. men lost a second straight match at the world championships in Japan, falling to Bulgaria in three sets. The Americans share last place with Iran in Group C. The 24-nation field is divided into four groups of six teams.