In Brief | Nation and World Nov. 18


Czechs take 2-1 lead over Spain in Davis Cup

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic won the doubles Saturday to take a 2-1 lead over defending champion Spain in the Davis Cup final, moving one victory away from its first title as an independent nation.

Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek rallied to beat Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 to take the edge going into Sunday’s reverse singles.

Berdych and Stepanek improved their Davis Cup doubles record to 12-1 by converting their third match point in front of more than 13,000 fans at the O2 Arena, who blew trumpets, beat drums and cheered loudly between points.

The sixth-ranked Berdych can clinch the best-of-five series in the first reverse singles today with a victory over David Ferrer.

Ferrer is wrapping up the best season of his career in which he won a tour-best seven tournament titles. He has a 5-3 career record against Berdych. Stepanek takes on Nicolas Almagro in the final match.

Kuerten edges Djokovic in exhibition match in Rio

RIO DE JANEIRO — Retired three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten beat Novak Djokovic 7-6 (9), 7-5 in an exhibition match Saturday.

More than 10,000 people packed Maracanazinho Arena for the indoor match on clay.

Coming off the ATP Finals title, the top-ranked Djokovic entertained fans by dancing and putting on a big wig to imitate the hairstyle of the 36-year-old Kuerten, a former No. 1 in the world in the early 2000s.

Djokovic joined Kuerten for the inauguration of a public court in the Rocinha shantytown on Friday, and will play football before a Brazilian league match on Sunday along with Serbian countryman Dejan Petkovic, who starred for several Brazilian clubs in the last decade. Former Brazil stars Romario, Bebeto and Zico are expected to participate.

Stenhouse Jr. wins 2nd straight Nationwide title

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. left little doubt that he’s ready for a promotion.

Stenhouse became the sixth driver to win consecutive championships in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series. He finished sixth Saturday in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, edging Elliott Sadler for the title.

“A lot of people put a lot of effort into this and I’m just the lucky guy who gets to drive it,” said Stenhouse, who finished the season with six wins.

About the only drama in the race was whether Stenhouse would play it safe. He did, but not without a few close calls. His Roush Fenway Racing team even had to remind him several times over the final 10 laps to avoid potential pitfalls.

Stenhouse eventually obliged.

“We’re a group of racers and that’s what racers do — they race hard,” Stenhouse said.

Regan Smith won the 300-mile race, giving team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. a victory.

Kyle Busch was second, followed by Brendan Gaughan, Sam Hornish Jr. and Austin Dillon. Danica Patrick was 19th in her final Nationwide race before moving to the Sprint Cup Series full time.

Vettel wins pole position at US Grand Prix

AUSTIN, Texas — Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel maintained his early domination of the new Circuit of the Americas by winning pole position for the U.S. Grand Prix on Saturday, putting the German in the perfect spot to chase his third consecutive world championship.

Vettel is on the brink of history with two races left on the calendar. He would be just the third driver — and youngest — to win three consecutive world championships, joining Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.

Dubbed the “Boy Wonder,” Vettel made his Formula One debut at the U.S. Grand Prix in 2007 as a 19-year-old kid. At the ripe old age of 25, he now appears ready to join the sport’s elite.

Vettel leads Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso of Spain, a savvy veteran and two-time world champion himself, by 10 points.

Froch retains title, stopping Mack in 3rd

NOTTINGHAM, England — Britain’s Carl Froch stopped American Yusaf Mack in the third round Saturday night to retain the IBF super middleweight title.

Mack keeled over after being struck with a right-left combination into his ribs from Froch, with the one-sided fight ending with 28 seconds left in the round.

Froch, fighting in his hometown of Nottingham, sent his opponent to the canvas in the first round, too, after connecting with a left hook and then a straight right, leaving Mack breathing heavily in his corner.

“When I am in there on fire like I was tonight, I think I am unbeatable, I really do,” the 35-year-old Froch said. “I was a bit cautious early on but then I found my range.”

It was Froch’s 30th win in 32 fights and he is set for a rematch next with Canada’s Lucien Bute. Froch beat Bute in May to claim the title for the third time. Mack has lost five times in 38 fights.

NHL labor talks set to resume Monday

NEW YORK — So much for a two-week break. Just over a week since the last set of failed negotiations, the NHL and the locked-out players’ association will return to the bargaining table Monday.

Conversations that restarted Friday between NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr produced enough positive movement Saturday to set up another face-to-face meeting that the sides hope will lead to an agreement to save the hockey season.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman suggested to union executive director Donald Fehr this week that the sides take two weeks off from negotiations. The union maintained its desire to keep talking, and now bargaining is back on.

Owners and players met for several consecutive days last week in New York, but made little progress. Negotiations ended in an angry exchange last Friday, but bargaining resumed two days later only to break off again in just over an hour.

By wire sources