Sports Briefs

Posted: Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Irwin wins rain-delayed Outback Pro-Am

LUTZ, Fla. — When one aspect of Hale Irwin's game isn't working, he simply turns to another.

''I feel in my heart I have several 'A' games,'' he said.

Irwin, the career victory leader on the Champions Tour, finished a second-round 68 Monday to slip past Morris Hatalsky and win the rain-delayed Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am by one shot.

''It wasn't spectacularly played golf. ... I didn't drive the ball well and I certainly didn't putt all that well, but I did what I had to do when I had to do it,'' he said. ''Maybe the bottom line to that is experience.''

Taking advantage of improved weather, which made the TPC of Tampa Bay course less demanding than the previous three days, Irwin played his remaining 12 holes in 2 under to end with a 36-hole total of 8-under 134.

Hatalsky was one of only 22 golfers to complete the second round Saturday, when the scheduled 54-hole event was reduced to 36. Heavy rain Sunday washed out play after 68 minutes, pushing the conclusion back to Monday.

Venus Williams ousted in first round

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Venus Williams struggled with a blister on her right palm and lost in the first round for the first time in four years, beaten by Italy's Silvia Farina Elia 7-5, 7-6 (6) in the Dubai Women's Open on Monday.

Williams' previous first-round ouster was to Barbara Schett at the 2001 French Open. She also lost her opening match at Moscow in October 2002 to Magdalena Maleeva but after a first-round bye.

Farina Elia had lost all nine of her previous matches to Williams since 1997. Williams, seeded fifth, made 66 unforced errors in a match lasting 2 hours, 4 minutes.

''It would normally have been a quick match,'' she said. ''She really doesn't have the weapons to hurt me. The blister was really a factor. I just couldn't serve well and I just couldn't keep the balls in.''

Williams rallied from 4-1 down to 5-5 before dropping the first set. She climbed back from a 5-2 deficit in the second set to force a tiebreaker in which she saved seven match points before losing.

Williams realized she was in trouble when she saw her serve clocked at about 72 mph.

''I said, 'Jeez what am I doing here?''' she said. ''So that was the humor of it out there for me.''

Farina Elia was weary by the last set.

''I thought the match would never finish,'' she said. ''She fought back brilliantly. But I was a little tired toward the end of the second set. I am proud because this is the first time I beat her.''

Former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez and rising Indian star Sania Mirza — the oldest and youngest players in the draw — also reached the second round.

Martinez, 32, defeated Shinobu Asagoe of Japan 6-3, 6-4. The 18-year-old Mirza beat Jelena Kostanic of Croatia 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-1 and will next face U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

''She is a great player, but everyone is beatable,'' Mirza said.

Martinez, who ended a five-year title drought in January by winning in Pattaya City, Thailand, raced ahead 5-1 in the first set and broke Asagoe in the fifth game of the second.

Mirza, who this month became the first Indian woman to win a WTA Tour title, squandered a 4-1 lead in the first set and Kostanic went on to win the tiebreaker. Mirza then regrouped behind a strong forehand.

Jelena Jankovic of Serbia-Montenegro defeated Paola Suarez of Argentina 6-3, 6-1. The top four seeded players had first-round byes: Lindsay Davenport, Serena Williams, Anastasia Myskina and Kuznetsova.

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