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August 17, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Second-seeded Juan Martin del Potro won his 18th consecutive match and a spot in the final of the Legg Mason Classic at Washington with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over fourth-seeded Tommy Haas on Saturday.

Del Potro will play Viktor Troicki, who beat Igor Kunitsyn, 6-4, 6-2, to earn his first career ATP finals berth.

"I'm very, very confident," del Potro said. "And I have to use that confidence tomorrow."

Del Potro has won his last three tournaments. The winning streak is the second best on the ATP this year, behind Rafael Nadal's 32 consecutive matches.

Del Potro has lost only two sets during his 18-match run, which includes wins in Stuttgart, Germany, the Austrian Open and the Countrywide Classic at UCLA. His last loss came in the second round of Wimbledon on June 25.

Nathalie Dechy reached her first final in four years with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 upset of fifth-seeded Amelie Mauresmo in the semifinals of the Cincinnati Open. She went to the net 34 times, converting 25 into points.

"It's exciting," said Dechy, who estimated that she has played Mauresmo 50 times since the two Frenchwomen met 20 years ago. "It's always tough when you beat a good friend, but I haven't felt this way in singles since 2004."

Dechy will play in a final today for the first time since losing the championship match at the 2004 New Haven tournament.

She will play second-seeded Nadia Petrova, who defeated third-seeded Maria Kirilenko, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, in the other semifinal.

Scoville Jenkins, who lost to Roger Federer in the first round last year, and former NCAA champion Amer Delic were among eight men receiving wild-card entries Thursday into the U.S. Open.

The USTA also invited Americans Brendan Evans, Austin Krajicek, Jesse Levine and Sam Warburg, along with Carsten Ball of Australia and Laurent Recouderc of France.

The 21-year-old Jenkins is ranked 195th. He won three matches to reach the main draw of the French Open this year. He made it to the U.S. Open last year through qualifying, then lost to eventual champion Federer, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

Delic was the college singles champion at Illinois in 2003 and is now ranked No. 128. He qualified for this year's Australian Open and made it to the second round.

SOCCER

Arsenal, Liverpool open with wins

Arsenal got its challenge for this season's English Premier League title off to a comfortable but unconvincing start with a 1-0 home victory over newly promoted West Brom.

Samir Nasri scored in the fourth minute of his Premier League debut to give Arsenal an early edge over its title rivals -- defending champion Manchester United and Chelsea, last season's runner-up, open their seasons today.

Arsenal's slight lack of edge was perhaps a result of Manager Arsene Wenger's decision to rest Robin Van Persie even though he was without the injured Cesc Fabregas. Also absent were Tomas Rosicky and Eduardo Da Silva.

With Fabregas out and Mathieu Flamini having left for AC Milan, Wenger started Denilson and Emmanuel Eboue in midfield along with Nasri and Theo Walcott.

The decision paid off early as Denilson broke down the left and cut the ball back from the end- line into the path of Nasri, who one-touched it with a shot low into the far corner.

Liverpool, which finished fourth last season, won at Sunderland, 1-0, on an 83rd-minute goal by Fernando Torres.

Torres, who had come close to scoring earlier when his shot off a rebound hit the legs of teammate Robbie Keane, hit a low shot past goalkeeper Craig Gordon and just inside the post.

HOCKEY

Foot surgery sidelines Whitney

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney will be out three to five months after surgery to correct a chronic problem with his left foot.

The team didn't describe the nature of the problem in a statement.

Whitney told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that his left foot is misaligned and that attempts to correct it with orthopedic inserts in his skates didn't work.

PASSINGS

Winston, 42, former Phillies pitcher

Darrin Winston, who pitched briefly for the Philadelphia Phillies during the late 1990s, has died from leukemia. He was 42. He was diagnosed with the disease this week and died Friday in Freehold Township, N.J.

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