Nadal struggles to beat Gulbis in Rome
ROME — Six-time champion Rafael Nadal overcame one of the worst opening sets of his career to edge Latvian qualifier Ernests Gulbis 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 Thursday and reach the Italian Open quarterfinals.
Nadal’s performance, and sometimes sluggish movement on the court, raised questions about whether he will be able to successfully defend his title at the French Open. The year’s second Grand Slam starts in 10 days.
Nadal will next face fourth-seeded David Ferrer, who advanced when Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany withdrew because of dizziness.
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic had a far easier time than Nadal, beating Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-1, 6-4 to improve his clay-court record this season to 8-1. Serena Williams routed 14th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova 6-0, 6-1 for her 21st consecutive win, matching the best streak of her career.
The only men’s seed to lose was No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro, who was beaten by 36th-ranked Benoit Paire of France 6-4, 7-6 (3).
Elsewhere at the Foro Italico, two-time champion Jelena Jankovic edged fifth-seeded Li Na of China, 7-6 (2), 7-5 and will next face Romanian qualifier Simona Halep, who beat 13th-seeded Roberta Vinci of Italy 6-4, 6-2.
The last remaining Italian in the tournament, Sara Errani, advanced when 12th-seeded Maria Kirilenko of Russia retired while trailing 6-3, 2-0 with a left knee injury.
Rangers put RHP Ogando on disabled list
ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas Rangers right-hander Alexi Ogando was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday because of tendinitis in his right biceps.
The move came a day after Ogando (4-2, 3.08 ERA) allowed two runs over six innings in a victory at Oakland, in his ninth start of the season.
Manager Ron Washington said there were no issues with Ogando before or after the game in Oakland. He wasn’t aware of the problem until he arrived at the ballpark Thursday.
Washington said the move was more precautionary because Ogando prefers to pitch through soreness. The manager said the flare-up probably was the result of an increased workload for Ogando, who went back to
Texas recalled right-hander Cory Burns from Triple-A Round Rock, where he has spent all season. Burns’ only major league action came last season with San Diego, when he was 0-1 with a 5.50 ERA in 17 relief appearances.
Burns will be in the bullpen, and Josh Lindblom is expected to take Ogando’s turn in the rotation Monday.
Braves expect Heyward to come off DL
ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves are ready to put their suitcases away and take their first look at the lineup they envisioned before the season.
General manager Frank Wren said Thursday Jason Heyward is expected to be activated from the disabled list for Friday night’s series opener against the Dodgers. It would be Atlanta’s first chance this season to have both Heyward, recovering from an appendectomy, and catcher Brian McCann, who made a recent return from right shoulder surgery, in the same lineup.
Heyward had his appendix removed on April 22.
The Braves will play back-to-back home series against the Dodgers and Minnesota after completing a 4-6 road trip — their second 10-game trip of 2013.
Sharks’ Torres suspended for Kings series
NEW YORK — San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres was suspended for the rest of the Western Conference semifinal series against Los Angeles on Thursday for a hit to Kings forward Jarret Stoll’s head.
Torres was assessed a minor penalty for charging for the second-period hit Tuesday night in the Kings’ 2-0 victory in Game 1. Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Torres is considered a repeat offender.
While playing for Phoenix last season, Torres received a 21-game suspension for a high hit on Chicago star Marian Hossa in the first round of the playoffs.
Torres was suspended for two games in January 2012 for charging Minnesota defenseman Nate Prosser and for four games in April 2011 for a hit to the head of Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle while playing for Vancouver.
Rockies place LHP Francis on DL
DENVER — The Colorado Rockies placed left-hander Jeff Francis on the 15-day disabled list with a left groin strain and designated infielder Reid Brignac for assignment Thursday.
The Rockies also recalled infielder D.J. LeMahieu and right-hander Rob Scahill from Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Francis, 32, was hurt during Tuesday’s win against the Cubs in Chicago. He is 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA and 31 strikeouts in eight starts this season.
LeMahieu batted .364 with one home run, 22 RBIs and 34 runs scored in 33 games for the Sky Sox this season. LeMahieu hit .297 with two home runs and 22 RBIs in 81 games for Colorado last season.
Cowboys sign DE Anthony Hargrove
IRVING, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys have signed defensive end Anthony Hargrove, who sat out the 2012 season after he was suspended as part of the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal.
Hargrove, who signed a one-year deal Thursday, got an eight-game ban from Commissioner Roger Goodell after the NFL said the Saints ran a program that paid defensive players improper cash bonuses for hits that injured opponents from 2009 through 2011.
Hargrove’s suspension was eventually reduced to two games, but he never signed with another team after Green Bay released him during the preseason last year.
The nine-year veteran was with Seattle the season before the bounty scandal broke. He played for the Saints in 2009 and 2010.
U.S. Open tennis leaving CBS for ESPN
The U.S. Open tennis tournament will leave CBS after nearly a half-century and move all TV coverage to cable starting in 2015 under an 11-year contract with ESPN.
The new deal between the U.S. Tennis Association and ESPN, announced Thursday, also includes the series of North American summer hard-court tournaments leading up to the Open.
Since 2009, ESPN already has shown some matches from the season’s last Grand Slam championship, with CBS airing a half-dozen days of coverage during the two weeks, including the men’s and women’s singles finals.
CBS has broadcast the U.S. Open every year since 1968; its current deal expires after the 2014 tournament.
ESPN will then take over the entire event until 2025, with the ability to sell off rights to other channels with USTA approval.
Phillies optimistic after Halladay’s surgery
PHILADELPHIA — The magic word during the nearly 15-minute-long briefing of Roy Halladay’s recent surgery and upcoming rehab from Phillies team physician Dr. Michael Ciccotti?
Possible. As in, all things are possible.
Is it realistic to expect Roy Halladay back on a major league mound this season? According to Ciccotti, “It’s very possible.”
After a disastrous first five weeks of the season, Halladay underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder Wednesday in Los Angeles. The Phillies termed the surgery a success Thursday, when they said they’re hopeful Halladay can begin a throwing program in six to eight weeks.
From wire sources