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News Summaries from The Sports Network - Wednesday, October 22

Gurley to seek reinstatement

Athens, GA ( - Georgia running back Todd Gurley will begin the process of seeking reinstatement after his indefinite suspension for an alleged violation of NCAA rules.

Gurley has missed Georgia's last two games, both victories, while the school conducted an investigation. The ninth-ranked Bulldogs are idle this week and will next play on Nov. 1 against Florida.

The junior has been suspended since Oct. 9 and offered an apology through the school on Wednesday.

"I want to thank the university, coaches, teammates and the Bulldog Nation for their patience and support," said Gurley. "I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made, and I can't thank the university, my coaches and teammates enough for supporting me throughout this process. I'm looking forward to getting back on the field with my teammates."

Details of the investigation haven't been made public, although reports have indicated it to revolve around Gurley possibly being paid for signing autographs and memorabilia.

"Todd has taken responsibility for his actions and is ready to rejoin his teammates," said Gurley's attorney, William King, through the school. "The university has been great throughout the past two weeks and has done everything it can to support Todd."

Gurley was a top Heisman Trophy candidate after five games this season, rushing for 773 yards with an average of 8.2 yards per carry and eight touchdowns. He also returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and has 11 catches for 53 yards.

Nick Chubb has filled in admirably during Gurley's absence. The freshman ran for 143 yards in a 34-0 win at Missouri, then churned out 202 yards in a 45-32 victory over Arkansas.

The university said it was hoping for a prompt NCAA ruling in an effort to prepare for the game against Florida in Jacksonville.

North Carolina releases report on academic scandal

Chapel Hill, NC ( - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced Wednesday the results of an independent investigation conducted by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein into past academic irregularities by the university.

The report focuses on two employees in the African and Afro-American Studies department that were responsible for offering hundreds of irregular classes at UNC-Chapel Hill between 1993 and 2011.

According to the findings, Julius Nyang'oro and Deborah Crowder created so- called "paper classes." In these classes that had no class attendance or faculty involvement, students wrote only a single research paper. The papers were graded by Crowder, who was not a professor. They typically earned an A or B grade.

Over the course of their 18-year existence, the paper classes affected 3,100 out of a total of 97,600 undergraduate students who were enrolled at the school during that time period. Student-athletes accounted for 47.6 percent of enrollments in the irregular classes.

Academic counselors in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes saw the paper classes and the artificially high grades they yielded as key to helping some student-athletes remain eligible. Academic advisors in the Office of Academic Advising also directed non-athlete students to these courses.

"Mr. Wainstein has found that the wrongdoing at Carolina lasted much longer and affected more students than previously known. The bad actions of a few and the inaction of others failed the University's students, faculty and alumni, and undermined the institution as a whole," said university chancellor Carol L. Folt. "This conduct could and should have been stopped much earlier by individuals in positions of influence and oversight, and others could have sounded the alarm more forcefully."

Crowder and Nyang'oro retired in 2009 and 2012, respectively. There were felony fraud charges brought against Nyang'oro for being paid $12,000 to teach a non-existent class, but these charges were dropped by the Orange County district attorney based on recommendations from Wainstein in exchange for Nyang'oro's cooperation.

Wainstein's report, conducted over eight months and which included 126 interviews, is the latest in a series of investigations into the scandal. In 2012, the NCAA imposed a one-year bowl ban for the Tar Hells football team.

On June 6 of this year, UNC men's basketball coach Roy Williams disputed comments made by former Tar Heels star Rashad McCants that Williams knew about potential academic fraud at the university.

McCants, in a story for ESPN's "Outside the Lines", said tutors wrote papers for him and that he rarely went to class during his time at North Carolina and remained eligible to play.

In addition, McCants said Williams knew about the "paper-class" system, in which players didn't have to attend class and were required to only submit one term paper to receive a grade.

McCants spent three seasons at North Carolina from 2002-05 and helped the 2004-05 squad capture the national championship.

Florida to start QB Harris against Georgia

Gainesville, FL ( - The Florida Gators have made a switch at quarterback.

Florida coach Will Muschamp announced Wednesday that true freshman Treon Harris will start Nov. 1 against Georgia in Jacksonville.

The move means the Gators (3-3, 2-3 SEC) have benched fourth-year junior Jeff Driskel, who has thrown nine interceptions and lost two fumbles in the last four games.

Driskel has completed 53 percent of his passes for 928 yards this season, with six touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Harris has connected on 12-of-18 passes for 263 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He saw his most extended action in Saturday's 42-13 loss to Missouri.

Earlier this month, Harris was accused of sexual assault by a woman who later dropped her complaint.

Williams, Crouch headline College 2015 HOF ballot

Irving, TX ( - Former Heisman Trophy winners Ricky Williams, Eric Crouch and Rashaan Salaam are among 75 Football Bowl Subdivision players eligible for induction into the 2015 class of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Williams, the 1998 Heisman recipient and a two-time unanimous First-Team All- American at the University of Texas, finished his career as the FBS all-time leader with 6,279 rushing yards and set 46 school records during his four seasons with the Longhorns.

Crouch captured the 2001 Heisman as a senior quarterback at Nebraska after leading the Cornhuskers to the national title game that season. He still owns the NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 59 and led the Huskers to a record of 42-9 with four bowl berths during his career.

Salaam took home the 1994 Heisman as a junior at Colorado, leading the nation with a school-record 2,055 rushing yards while scoring 24 touchdowns that season.

A pair of Pro Football Hall of Famers, running back Eric Dickerson (SMU) and defensive lineman Warren Sapp (Miami-Florida) are also listed on the initial ballot, as are former NFL stars Ray Lewis (Miami-Florida), Jerome Brown (Miami-Florida), Keith Byars (Ohio State), Randall Cunningham (UNLV), Keyshawn Johnson (USC), Antwaan Randle El (Indiana), Zach Thomas (Texas Tech) and Andre Tippett (Iowa).

Other notable names on the ballot included Brian Bosworth (Oklahoma), Tim Couch (Kentucky), Raghib Ismail (Notre Dame) and former Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson -- an All-American wide receiver at Michigan State in 1978.

This year's ballot also contains five ex-FBS coaches: Jim Carlen, Pete Cawthon Sr., Danny Ford, Billy Jack Murphy and Darryl Rogers, as well as current Kansas State coach Bill Snyder.

The 2015 College Football Hall of Fame class will be revealed on Jan. 9, three days before the College Football Playoff national championship game in Arlington, Texas. Induction ceremonies will take place Dec. 8, 2015 in New York City.

Players must have been named a First-Team All American by a major outlet and have at least 10 years since their final collegiate game to be eligible for selection. Additionally, they must have played within the last 50 years and be retired from professional football.

Coaches with at least 10 years and 100 games of experience can be included on the ballot provided they won at least 60 percent of their games and have been retired for a minimum of three years, though active coaches over 75 years old are immediately eligible and there is no waiting period for retired coaches over 70.

Polian, Wolf named Pro Football HOF finalists

Canton, OH ( - Former NFL general managers Bill Polian and Ron Wolf have been selected as finalists for the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame class under the newly-created contributors category.

The two Super Bowl-winning executives will have their candidacies reviewed by the Hall of Fame's Contributor Selection Committee on Jan. 31. They will need to receive 80 percent of votes cast to receive enshrinement.

Polian was the architect of the AFC powerhouse Buffalo Bills teams of the early 1990s that went to four straight Super Bowls, then later helped the Indianapolis Colts to a pair of conference titles and a victory in Super Bowl XLI during a 15-year run as GM and team president from 1997-2011.

In between, he served as the first GM as the expansion Carolina Panthers in 1994 and quickly assembled a team that reached the NFC Championship Game in its second season of existence.

"It's an incredible honor that I never envisioned ever happening," said Polian when he learned of becoming a finalist.

Wolf is best known for reestablishing the Green Bay Packers back to prominence in the 1990s, an era highlighted by back-to-back Super Bowl appearances during the 1997 and 1998 seasons that included a win over New England in Super Bowl XXXI. The Packers compiled a 92-52 record during Wolf's nine-year term as GM from 1992-2000 and went to the playoffs six straight times during that period.

Prior to joining Green Bay, Wolf worked two stints in the Raiders' front office beginning in 1963 and was a part of another Super Bowl title during the 1983 season.

"I realize that none of this would be possible without an awful lot of support from a lot of other people," said Wolf in a statement.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced in August it would be adding a contributor category that would be separate from the candidate list of ex- players and coaches. The decision was made to address the lack of Hall of Fame members that were former commissioners, owners and general managers.

Over the HOF's last 49 years of voting, only nine people who fall under the contributor label have received induction.

The Hall of Fame announced a preliminary list of 113 nominees for its 2015 class in September, with that group to be reduced to 25 semifinalists in November before 15 finalists will be voted upon in January.

No changes to NBA's lottery format

New York, NY ( - A proposal to change the current lottery system for the NBA Draft in order to discourage teams from deliberately losing games was rejected Wednesday at the league's Board of Governors meeting.

The revised plan was agreed to by 17 of the 30 owners, but a change in bylaws requires a 75 percent approval rate to pass.

That means the current arrangement, in which the team with the worst record receives a 25 percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick and is guaranteed no worse than selecting fourth, will remain in place for the time being.

The present structure for the lottery came under criticism this past season when several teams, most notably the Philadelphia 76ers, constructed rosters consisting predominantly of lesser talented and experienced players in order to increase their odds of receiving a better pick.

Those tactics led to offseason discussions about modifying the current lottery that would give better teams a greater possibility of obtaining a top-three choice and increasing the likelihood of ones that engaged in "tanking" to fall lower in the draft.

One scenario had the team with the worst record able to fall as low as No. 7 in the draft. Another gave the bottom four teams equal odds at landing the top pick and the fifth-worst team a percentage only slightly lower than those behind it.

"I think in essence, the owners were concerned about unintended consequences," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said following the meeting. "I think we all recognize that we need to find the right balance between creating the appropriate incentives on one hand for teams to of course win, and on the other hand allowing what is appropriate rebuilding and a draft to work as it should, in which the worst performing teams get the highest picks in the draft.

"I don't necessarily disagree with the way it works now. I'd say from a personal standpoint, what I'm most concerned about is the perception out there right now. Frankly the pressure on a lot of our teams, even from their very fans, to somehow underperform because it's in some people's view the most efficient and quickest way to get better, so I think that's a corrosive perception out there."

The strategy of losing often times hasn't worked out for teams in the lottery anyway. Since it was instituted in 1985, only four teams that finished with the worst record have won the lottery, and none have since the Orlando Magic in 2004.

Cleveland received the No. 1 pick in this year's draft despite having a mere 1.7 percent chance of finishing first in the lottery.

Grizzlies release F Clark

Memphis, TN ( - The Memphis Grizzlies have waived veteran forward Earl Clark and center Hassan Whiteside, the team announced Wednesday.

Clark signed a non-guaranteed contract with the Grizzlies in September after spending last season with Cleveland and New York. He averaged 5.2 points and 2.8 rebounds over 45 games with the Cavaliers, then was traded to Philadelphia in February and subsequently waived before signing a pair of 10-day contracts with the Knicks.

Over five NBA seasons with five different teams (Phoenix, Orlando, Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland and New York), Clark owns career averages of 4.4 points and 3.0 rebounds.

Whiteside, who appeared in 19 games with Sacramento from 2010-12, played in Lebanon and China last season. He also was signed by the Grizzlies on Sept. 25.

Jazz waive Dahntay Jones

Salt Lake City, UT ( - The Utah Jazz waived veteran swingman Dahntay Jones and guard Jack Cooley on Tuesday.

Jones, who was signed by Utah on Sept. 25, last played during the 2012-13 season with Dallas and Atlanta, averaging 3.4 points and 1.3 rebounds in 78 games that season.

The 10-year veteran owns career averages of 5.6 points and 1.8 rebounds over 589 games with Memphis, Sacramento, Denver, Indiana, Dallas and Atlanta.

Cooley signed as a free agent with the Jazz on Aug. 19 and spent time with Trabzonspor in Turkey during the 2013-14 season after playing four seasons at Notre Dame.

Patriots acquire LB Ayers from Titans

Foxboro, MA ( - The New England Patriots have acquired linebacker Akeem Ayers from the Tennessee Titans to help fill the void created when Jerod Mayo was lost for the season with a knee injury.

Compensation terms were not disclosed, but has reported that the Patriots will also acquire a seventh-round draft pick from the Titans and will send Tennessee a sixth-round draft pick.

Ayers started 44 of the 50 games he played for the Titans, who selected him in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He has compiled 254 total tackles with nine sacks and two interceptions.

The 25-year-old UCLA product led all Tennessee linebackers with 88 tackles as a rookie in 2011 and led the Titans with 110 tackles in 2012. However, he struggled with knee injuries last year and this year had appeared in just two of Tennessee's seven games.

New England also released linebacker Ja'Gared Davis, who joined the active roster from the practice squad on Oct. 4.

Chargers CB Flowers out vs. Broncos

San Diego, CA ( - San Diego Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers will miss Thursday night's game against the Denver Broncos.

Flowers suffered a concussion in last Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was held out of practice this week.

The 28-year-old Flowers has 23 tackles and two interceptions in six games -- all starts -- this season.

Fellow cornerbacks Jason Verrett (shoulder) and Steve Williams (groin) are listed as questionable. If neither can go, the Chargers will be down to Shareece Wright, Richard Marshall and Chris Davis at the position.

Running backs Ryan Mathews (knee) and Donald Brown (concussion) and linebacker Manti Te'o (foot) have also been ruled out. Linebacker Jerry Attaochu is doubtful with a hamstring injury.

Manning among AFC's top players for Week 7

New York, NY ( - Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning highlighted the AFC's top players for Week 7 of the NFL season.

Jacksonville linebacker Telvin Smith and Patriots defensive tackle Chris Jones also were honored for their efforts.

Manning was named the top offensive player after his record-setting performance in Sunday night's 42-17 win over San Francisco. He surpassed Brett Favre's record of 508 career touchdown passes and now has 510 after throwing for four scores while completing 22-of-26 throws for 318 yards.

In addition, he extended NFL career records with his 87th 300-yard game and 33rd four-TD effort. It was his 27th career weekly award, the most of any player since it was instituted in 1984.

Smith picked up the defensive award thanks to four tackles, an interception and a sack-fumble in Jacksonville's first win of the season, a 24-6 triumph over the Cleveland Browns. His sack-fumble led to a field and goal and his first interception set up a touchdown.

Jones was given the special teams nod after his block of a 58-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game allowed the Patriots to complete a 27-25 win over the New York Jets.

Other offensive candidates included Jacksonville running back Denard Robinson, who ran for 127 yards with a touchdown in the win over the Browns; Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who completed his first 14 passes en route to a 25-of-32 performance for 277 yards with two scores in a 27-14 win over Chicago; and Buffalo receiver Sammy Watkins, who had nine catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns in a 17-16 victory over Minnesota.

Defensive consideration went to Baltimore linebacker Daryl Smith, who had 13 tackles in a 29-7 win over Atlanta; and Denver's DeMarcus Ware, who had four tackles and three sacks in the victory over San Francisco.

Kansas City kicker Cairo Santos was also nominated for the special teams award after connecting on all three of his field goal attempts, including a 48-yard kick with 21 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter that lifted the Chiefs to a 23-20 win over San Diego.

Rodgers highlights NFC Players of the Week

New York, NY ( - Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers claimed the NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award for Week 7.

In a 38-17 victory over Carolina, Rodgers completed 19-of-22 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns for a 154.5 passer rating. Rodgers has recorded six consecutive games without an interception (minimum 15 attempts), tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Bart Starr's franchise record set in 1964, bringing his streak of consecutive pass attempts without an interception to 192.

The game also marked Rodgers' fourth straight with at least three TD passes and no interceptions, joining Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (2007) as the only players in league history to accomplish the feat.

Washington linebacker Keenan Robinson took home the defensive award after he recorded a career-high 14 tackles in the Redskins' 19-17 win over Tennessee. In his first year as a starter, Robinson leads the team with 57 tackles.

St. Louis Rams punt returner Stedman Bailey won the special teams award after taking a punt 90 yards for a touchdown in the Rams' 28-26 win over Seattle. The Seahawks chased Tavon Austin on the wrong side of the field while Bailey ran down the right side for the longest punt-return touchdown in the NFL this season.

Wild, Coyle agree to 5-year extension

St. Paul, MN ( - The Minnesota Wild moved to lock up another of their young core on Wednesday, agreeing to terms with center Charlie Coyle on a five-year contract extension.

No financial terms were disclosed by the club, but the Minneapolis Star- Tribune reported it is worth $16 million for the duration with an average annual value of $3.2 million. Coyle was due to be a restricted free agent in July.

"We're very excited to get Charlie Coyle signed through the 2019-20 season," said Wild GM Chuck Fletcher. "Charlie's size, overall skill set, and character give him a chance to emerge as a top power forward in the game and we're happy he will be doing that in the State of Hockey for years to come."

The 22-year-old native of the Boston suburbs and Boston University product has picked up a goal and assist in four games with the Wild this season, his third NHL campaign.

In 111 career appearances, Coyle has totaled 21 goals and 25 assists.

It's the third big splurge for Fletcher, who inked defenseman Jonas Brodin to a $25 million, 6-year extension 10 days ago and signed forward Nino Niederreiter to an $8 million deal for three years in the offseason.

Isles place concussed Grabovski on IR

Uniondale, NY ( - The New York Islanders placed forward Mikhail Grabovski on injured reserve Wednesday, with the move retroactive to Oct. 16.

Grabovski is out indefinitely and hasn't played since suffering a concussion as a result of absorbing a clean, hard, open-ice hit from San Jose's John Scott last Thursday.

The 30-year-old center contributed two goals and one assist to the Isles' 4-0-0 start to the season, after the club inked him to a four-year contract at the outset of free agency in July.

Capitals D Erskine has neck surgery

Arlington, VA ( - The Washington Capitals announced on Wednesday that defenseman John Erskine underwent successful neck surgery.

The procedure, performed by Dr. John Starr at Bethesda Surgical Center, repaired a disc in his neck.

Erskine, in his 13th NHL season and ninth for Washington, has yet to play this year. He was limited to a goal and three assists in 37 games last season.

Eric Staal placed on IR by Hurricanes

Raleigh, NC ( - Few things have gone right for the only winless team in the NHL thus far.

On Wednesday, the injury bug struck again, causing the Carolina Hurricanes to place captain Eric Staal on injured reserve, retroactive to Oct. 11.

To fill the roster spot, the 'Canes recalled forward Brody Sutter from Carolina of the American Hockey League. A member of the famous hockey family from Viking, Alberta, the 23-year-old, made his NHL debut in Carolina's 2-1 shootout loss against the New York Rangers on Oct. 16.

Dodgers' Haren has shoulder procedure

Los Angeles, CA ( - Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Dan Haren underwent surgery Wednesday to clean out the AC joint in his non- throwing shoulder.

The Dodgers expect the veteran hurler to be recovered in time for spring training.

Haren put together a respectable first season in Los Angeles after signing with the team as a free agent in November. The 34-year-old made 32 starts and produced a 13-11 record with a 4.02 earned run average, though he was not used in the Dodgers' National League Division Series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The three-time All-Star has a $10 million player option on his contract for next season.

Padres fire hitting coach Plantier

San Diego, CA ( - The San Diego Padres have relieved Phil Plantier of his hitting coach duties.

The Padres ranked last in the majors in several offensive categories in 2014, finishing 30th in runs (535), hits (1,199), runs batted in (500), batting average (.226), on-base percentage (.292) and slugging percentage (.342).

The Padres were shut out 19 times, were no-hit by San Francisco's Tim Lincecum in June and finished that month with a .171 batting average -- the lowest single-month mark by a team in the modern era.

Plantier served as the Padres hitting coach for the past three seasons.

The Padres also announced Wednesday that bench coach Dave Roberts, pitching coach Darren Balsley, third base coach Glenn Hoffman, first base coach Jose Valentin, bullpen coach Willie Blair and assistant hitting coach Alonzo Powell will all be returning for the 2015 season.

In addition, Powell will be among several candidates to interview for the hitting coach position.

Federer wins opener; Nadal reaches QFs in Basel

Basel, Switzerland ( - Five-time champion and Basel native Roger Federer notched an opening-round victory, while French Open king Rafael Nadal was an easy second-round winner Wednesday at the $1.87 Swiss Indoors Basel tennis tournament.

The top-seeded former world No. 1 Federer leveled left-hander Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-2, 6-1 in a mere 47 minutes, while the second-seeded former top- ranked superstar Nadal blew away helpless French qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-1, 6-1 in 56 minutes to reach the quarterfinals on the hardcourts at St. Jakobshalle.

The amazing Federer, now 52-9 lifetime here, has appeared in the last eight finals in his hometown, and in addition to his five tiles, he's also a five- time runner-up in Basel. He lost to Argentine star Juan Martin del Potro in the last two title tilts.

The 33-year-old Federer will face Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin in the round of 16 on Thursday.

Fifth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov, a finalist in Stockholm last week, snuck into the second round by outlasting wild card and rising 6-foot-6 German Alexander Zverev 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. Up next for Dimitrov will be Canadian Vasek Pospisil.

Another second-round result saw rising seventh-seeded Belgian David Goffin best capable Croat Ivan Dodig 7-6 (7-0), 6-4.

In some other first-round action on Day 3, promising 17-year-old Croatian wild card Borna Coric saw off sixth-seeded Latvian Ernests Gulbis 7-6 (7-2), 6-3, Kazakhstan's Andrey Golubev erased Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-3, 6-3, and Istomin drilled 6-foot-8 Pole Jerzy Janowicz 6-1, 6-1.

The 2014 Basel champ will claim $450,000.

Halep whips Serena at WTA Finals

Singapore ( - French Open runner-up Simona Halep drilled world No. 1 and reigning two-time champion Serena Williams in Wednesday's round-robin action at the season-ending $6.5 million WTA Finals.

The fourth-seeded Halep stunned the U.S. Open champion Williams 6-0, 6-2 in 65 minutes on the hardcourts at Singapore Indoor Stadium. The loss equaled the worst of Williams' career.

Halep, who was the beneficiary of 18 unforced errors by the powerful American, not only got her first win over a world No. 1, it was also her first win over a Top-3 player.

"I have no words to explain how I feel and how I felt on the court," Halep said. "It was an amazing match for me. I played really well. I was aggressive, and after the first set I wasn't scared. I just continued the match, continued to hit the balls and stay close to the baseline, because I knew I didn't have a chance if I stayed back. I tried everything, and I was very relaxed during the match.

"Everything went very well for me today. I think it was the best match of my life."

Williams talked about not playing her best, but was also complimentary towards Halep.

"Personally I've never seen her play like this. Ever," Williams said.

"I've been practicing really, really well and hitting the ball really solid. Obviously I don't think I hit solid today, but she was taking balls early and playing really, really solid against me.

"But hey, you've got to step up to the plate. She did, and I didn't."

Williams has captured this prestigious eight-player tournament four times, including last year and in 2012, in Istanbul. The American great, who beat Li Na in last year's finale, is also a two-time runner-up at this event.

A milder Day 3 upset occurred when seventh-seeded former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic spanked fifth-seeded Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard 6-1, 6-3 in 83 minutes. It marked the Serb's first win against the Canadian in three tries.

Williams (1-1) leads this week's four-player Red Group, which also features Halep (2-0), Bouchard (0-2) and Ivanovic (1-1). French Open titlist Maria Sharapova (0-1) heads up the four-woman White Group, which also features Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova (0-1), Agnieszka Radwanska (1-0) and U.S. Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki (1-0). Halep and Bouchard are making their Finals debuts.

Sharapova captured the WTA Finals title in 2004 and is a two-time runner-up at the event, while Kvitova was the champ three years ago and Wozniacki was a finalist in 2010.

Thursday's round-robin action will pit Williams against Bouchard, Sharapova versus Kvitova, and Radwanska against Wozniacki.

Ferrer, Murray move on; Berdych vanquished in Valencia

Valencia, Spain ( - Top seed and three-time champion David Ferrer and former titlist Andy Murray notched opening-round wins, while second seed Tomas Berdych was an upset victim Wednesday at the $1.9 million Valencia Open tennis event.

The veteran Spanish crowd favorite Ferrer handled Italian Andreas Seppi 6-3, 7-5 on the indoor hardcourts at The City of Arts and Sciences.

The three-time champion and two-time runner-up Ferrer was last year's Valencia runner-up to Russian Mikhail Youzhny, and last year's French Open runner-up Ferrer was last week's Vienna runner-up to the surging Murray.

The hot third-seeded Murray mauled veteran Austrian left-hander Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-3 on Day 3.

The two-time Grand Slam champion Murray was a Valencia titlist in 2009.

Berdych, meanwhile, was sent packing by Spaniard Pablo Andujar, 6-3, 6-2. The big Czech was fresh off his title in Stockholm last week.

An upset came in the second round on Wednesday when wild card and promising Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta took out fourth-seeded fellow countryman Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-4, while another second-rounder saw former top-10 Spaniard Tommy Robredo douse Taiwan's Yen-Hsun Lu 6-2, 6-4.

Seventh-seeded South African Kevin Anderson reached the quarterfinals via walkover when Slovak Martin Klizan pulled out of the draw, citing a wrist injury, on Wednesday.

In some other first-round action, sixth-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut humbled Colombian Santiago Giraldo 6-4, 6-4 and Brazilian qualifier Thomaz Bellucci dismissed the defending Valencia champ Youzhny 7-5, 6-3. Bautista Agut was a runner-up in Moscow last week.

On Thursday, Ferrer will tangle with 2004 Valencia champion and fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco and Murray will take on Italian Fabio Fognini in the round of 16.

The 2014 champion here will claim $500,000.

Djokovic celebrates birth of baby boy

Belgrade, Serbia ( - World No. 1 superstar Novak Djokovic and his wife, Jelena Ristic, welcomed a healthy baby boy on Tuesday. The Serb tweeted the news to his followers on Wednesday morning, announcing the baby is named Stefan.

Djokovic is now the third father in the men's Top 5, joining Swiss stars Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka.

The Wimbledon champion Djokovic's website posted a statement to confirm the Belgrade native will spend the following few days at home with his family before traveling to Paris for the BNP Paribas Masters, which begins Monday.

Djokovic and Ristic became husband and wife in July.

Federer to play Dimitrov in MSG exhibition

New York, NY ( - Former world No. 1 great Roger Federer will play "Baby Fed" in an exhibition tennis match at Madison Square Garden in March.

World No. 11 Grigor Dimitrov, whose playing style reminds some of the 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer, will battle the Swiss icon in the eighth edition of the BNP Paribas Showdown on March 10.

This will mark the currently second-ranked Federer's third time playing at MSG. He faced former No. 1 great Pete Sampras in 2008 and former top-ranked star Andy Roddick in 2012.

Federer is 1-0 versus Dimitrov on the ATP World Tour, with the victory coming in straight sets in a quarterfinal in the Swiss' hometown of Basel last year.

Tour de France 2015 includes penultimate Alps finish

Paris, France ( - The route for the 102nd Tour de France was announced Wednesday and the 2015 edition will still have the traditional finish along the Champs Elysees in Paris, usually a celebratory ride for the champion after three weeks of grueling competition.

However, the previous day will likely prove to be decisive for the riders, as the penultimate stage in next year's Tour will take place with a climb to the top of the Alpe d'Huez ski station in the French Alps.

Alpe d'Huez is one of the frequent stage stops at the Tour de France, but not usually on the final day of real competition. The next to last day of last year's tour, for instance, featured a time trial.

Next year's Tour will include a total of seven mountain stages with five summit finishes, one more than last year. There will be one individual time trial and it will be just 14 kilometers -- the shortest distance since the inception of the time trial in 1947.

"The desire is to not hold up the race," said Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.

The Tour will start with the time trial in the Netherlands and will go through Belgium before reaching France for Stage 4. It will continue through the northwest part of the country before heading to the Pyrenees following the first rest day.

After the second rest day, the riders will begin a string of four days in the Alps before heading to Paris for the conclusion.

The counter-clockwise route will start July 4 and end July 26, covering about 3,344 kilometers.

Vincenzo Nibali won last year's Tour de France, becoming the first Italian in 16 years to capture cycling's most prestigious event.

Breeders' Cup pre-entries revealed for 31st edition

Arcadia, CA ( - Pre-entries for the 13 Breeders' Cup World Championship races have been announced with a total of 201 horses.

The 31st Breeders' Cup will be held for a third straight year at Santa Anita Park with four races set for Friday, Oct. 31 and nine on Saturday, Nov. 1.

The $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic received 15 pre-entered horses topped by 2013 champion 2-year-old Shared Belief. Others pre-entered for the 1 1/4-mile race are Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome, Belmont Stakes champ Tonalist, Pennsylvania Derby winner Bayern, Travers Stakes winner V. E. Day, Candy Boy, Toast of New York, Whitney winner Moreno, Majestic Harbor, Prayer for Relief, Imperative, Footbridge, Cigar Street, Zivo and Big Cazanova.

Two-time reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan will not be back to defend his two straight Breeders' Cup Miles. He has a broken bone that is keeping him from competing.

Last year's Distaff winner Beholder is also unable to defend her title after spiking a fever last weekend. The 1 1/8-mile race drew 12 fillies and mares featuring Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable, leading 4-year-old filly Close Hatches and last year's Juvenile Fillies winner Ria Antonia. Also pre-entered are Don't Tell Sophia, Iotapa, Valiant Emilia, Belle Gallantey, L'Amour de Ma Vie, Parranda, Stanwyck, Tiz Midnight and Unbridled Forever.

Horses returning to defend their crowns are Goldencents (Dirt Mile), Magician (Turf), Secret Circle (Sprint) and Dank (Filly & Mare Turf).

Each Breeders' Cup race will have a maximum of 14 horses and wagering interests with the exception of the Dirt Mile, which is limited to 12 starters. The post position draw will be held Monday, Oct. 27.

The Breeders' Cup will be televised live by NBCSN and NBC.

Kosovo granted provisional Olympic recognition

Lausanne, Switzerland ( - The executive board of the International Olympic Committee granted provisional recognition to the Kosovo Olympic Committee on Wednesday.

The IOC also proposed that the country be granted full recognition at the next IOC session in December in Monaco.

The decision would allow Kosovo to take part in qualifications for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio as well as future competition.

The executive board acknowledged that Kosovo has "met the requirements for recognition as outlined in the Olympic Charter", which include the technical requirements of Kosovo being recognized as a country.

Kosovo currently has 13 affiliated national federations for Olympic sports that include table tennis, archery, judo, sailing, weightlifting, modern pentathlon, wrestling, boxing, curling, taekwondo, gymnastics, skiing and handball.

Yamanaka remains unbeaten with unanimous decision over Rungvisai

Tokyo, Japan ( - WBC bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka remained unbeaten with a unanimous decision over Suriyan Sor Rungvisai on Wednesday.

Yamanaka knocked Rungvisai down in each of the seventh, eighth and ninth rounds. He won easily by scores of 116-108, 115-109 and 114-110, but failed to produce a knockout for the first time in seven bouts.

It was the 32-year-old Japanese southpaw's seventh successful title defense. He improved to 22-0 with 16 knockouts.

Rungvisai fell to 37-6-1 with his first defeat since March 2012.

On the undercard, Takahiro Ao beat Juan Carlos Salgado in a battle of former champions by a unanimous decision. Ao won by scores of 97-94, 97-93 and 98-92.

10/22 18:46:59 ET