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POSTED February 5, 2012 10:44 p.m.

TENNIS

• US BEATS BELARUS 5-0 TO ADVANCE TO FED CUP PLAYOFF
: WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — After hitting her first competitive serve in five months just long, Venus Williams relaxed, recoiled and fired off another that was too much for Anastasiya Yakimova.

Williams’ comeback was off to a good start that just got better as she teamed with Liezel Huber for a 6-1, 6-2 doubles victory over Yakimova and Darya Kustova that capped a 5-0 Fed Cup shutout for the United States against Belarus on Sunday.

“It was perfect conditions,” Williams said.

Williams’ U.S. teammates, including younger sister Serena, had already secured the victory and swept through four rounds of singles, relieving any pressure Venus Williams may have felt in her first match since she withdrew after the opening round of the U.S. Open because of an autoimmune disease.



• MIKHAIL YOUZHNY WINS ZAGREB INDOORS: ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Mikhail Youzhny beat Lukas Lacko 6-2, 6-3 on Sunday to win the Zagreb Indoors in his 18th career final.

It was the first title for the 29-year-old Russian since St. Petersburg in 2010.

Youzhny faced no break points and lost only 12 points on serve during the 68-minute match.

After both players won opening service games, Youzhny won eight of nine games, winning the first set and three games in the second.

Lacko then kept his serve until the end of the match but could not challenge Youzhny.



CYCLING

• BOONEN WINS OPENING STAGE OF TOUR OF QATAR
: DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Tom Boonen of Belgium won the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar on Sunday, finishing four seconds ahead of Adam Blythe of Britain.

The former world road racing champion, riding for the Omega Pharma Quick-Step team, completed the 88.5-mile first stage in 3 hours, 11 minutes, 22 seconds.

BMC Racing Team’s Blythe was followed by Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale, six seconds back in third. Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Barracuda was fourth.

British rider Mark Cavendish, who was sick when he arrived in Doha and didn’t train on Saturday, finished 51st and 10 seconds behind Boonen. Cavendish, riding for Sky Procycling, is the world road race champion.



• END TO ARMSTRONG PROBE GETS WELCOME IN QATAR: DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Cycling teams at the Tour of Qatar welcomed the end of a U.S. federal investigation into Lance Armstrong, saying Sunday they were hopeful the seven-time Tour de France champion could finally move on with his life.

Federal prosecutors dropped their investigation of Armstrong on Friday, ending a nearly two-year effort to determine whether the American cyclist and his teammates were involved in doping. Armstrong has long denied doping and said he was “gratified” by the decision.

Laurenzo Lapage, the Greenedge cycling sporting director who worked with Armstrong on the U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams from 2003-07, said the decision reaffirmed what most colleagues of Armstrong had long believed: He isn’t a doper.

“Everyone who knows Lance and was racing and working with him knew this before,” Lapage said as his team prepared for the first stage of the Tour of Qatar.



FOOTBALL

• GOODELL CRITICIZES QUALITY OF PRO BOWL
: INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he is disappointed in the quality of last week’s Pro Bowl and changes must be considered, perhaps even dropping the game altogether.

Speaking on ESPN Radio, Goodell says this year’s Pro Bowl wasn’t “the kind of football we want to be demonstrating to our fans, and you heard it from the fans, the fans were actively booing in the stands.”

Goodell made his remarks on Sunday, hours before the start of the Super Bowl.

Goodell has spoken to the NFL Players Association about his disappointment, adding, “We are going to either have to improve the quality of what we are doing in the Pro Bowl or consider other changes, or even consider eliminating the game if that is the kind of quality of game we are going to provide.”

The AFC won the game 59-41.

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