- - Monday, May 30, 2011

TENNIS

Nadal sails into quarterfinals, sweeps Ljubicic in French Open

PARIS — Top-seeded Rafael Nadal swept aside 37th-ranked Ivan Ljubicic 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 Monday to reach the quarterfinals at the French Open, improve his record there to 42-1 and move closer to tying Bjorn Borg’s record of six championships in Paris.

“For moments, I am playing well,” Nadal said. “But for moments, I am still having [a] few mistakes in a row,” Nadal said. “That’s what cannot happen in [the] next round.”

That’s because he’ll face No. 5 Robin Soderling of Sweden, a 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) winner over No. 18 Gilles Simon and the only man to defeat Nadal at the French Open - in the fourth round in 2009. It’s also a rematch of last year’s final, which Nadal won in straight sets.

On the women’s side, Maria Sharapova went two years without advancing to the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam tournament, but she made it back by erasing deficits in both sets and beating Agnieszka Radwanska 7-6 (7-4), 7-5. The three-time major champion fell behind 4-1 in the first set, then 5-3 in the second, where she had to fend off five set points.

Sharapova finished with far more winners, 47-13, and unforced errors, 44-12. Her quarterfinal opponent will be No. 15 Andrea Petkovic, who defeated No. 25 Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 2-6, 6-4. Another quarterfinal will have No. 4 Victoria Azarenka against No. 6 Li Na.

AUTO RACING

With victory in sight, Earnhardt came up dry

CONCORD, N.C. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. was out front on the final lap for the first time in 105 races, and the only thing standing in the way of a victory was the gas, or lack of it, in his tank.

The crowd roared as he took the white flag, the fans stomping in the stands in near hysteria over the almost certain ending of Earnhardt’s nearly three-year losing streak.

In a blink of an eye, it was over.

The gas tank in his Chevrolet ran dry along the backstretch at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and as Earnhardt tried to coast his way through the final turn, Kevin Harvick zipped past him to steal the Coca-Cola 600.

It was a heartbreaking end for the victory-starved JR Nation, and somewhat mimicked the final lap of the Indianapolis 500.

“We almost won this race,” said Earnhardt, who settled for seventh. NASCAR’s most popular driver last won at Michigan in 2008. It’s the second time this year he’s lost to Harvick, who has led just nine laps in his Sprint Cup Series-best three victories.

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