Rafael Nadal reaches for a backhand return against Gael Monfils in the Qatar… (Marwan Naamani / AFP / Getty…)
Rafael Nadal opened his 2014 campaign by winning his first title of the year, defeating Gael Monfils, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2 at the Qatar Open tennis tournament on Saturday.
Nadal showed why he's the top player in the world throughout the week. Although he wasn't in top form in his first event of the season, he battled to win his 61st career title, one shy of Guillermo Vilas' total, seventh on the all-time Open era list.
"I think I played my best match of the season -- of the tournament -- today," Nadal said after the exciting, two-hour final. "I was happy with how I played."
Of the five matches Nadal played this week, he was taken the three-set distance three times: Tobias Kamke in the second round, Peter Gojowczyk in the quarterfinals, and then Monfils.
"The important thing is that I had a chance to survive after very tough matches this week," Nadal said. "And it was a tougher match against a tougher opponent in the final.
"It's very exciting to start the year with a title."
Top-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka was leading fifth-seeded Vasek Pospisil, 6-4, 5-5, when Pospisil retired from the tournament at Chennai, India, because of back strain. Seventh-seeded Edouard Roger-Vasselin beat Marcel Granollers, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, in the other semifinal.
GOLF: Zach Johnson leads Tournament of Champions
Zach Johnson relied on impressive wedge play and a few timely putts for a seven-under 66 to take a three-shot lead after two rounds of the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, Hawaii. Johnson was at 13-under 133. Defending champion Dustin Johnson (66), Matt Kuchar (68) and Jordan Spieth (70) were tied for second.
NBA: Nets' Brook Lopez has surgery on right foot
New Jersey Nets center Brook Lopez had surgery on his broken right foot. The team said that a second procedure was done in hopes of preventing further injury. Besides repairing the fractured fifth metatarsal, surgeons also repositioned another bone.
Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer was pulled from Saturday's game against the Atlanta Hawks because of a sore right knee. Coach Tom Thibodeau said that an MRI came back negative, and the team is hopeful it's not serious.
Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe will be out for at least another week because of a sprained right knee.
ETC: J.R. Celski, Jessica Smith win U.S. short-track events
J.R. Celski easily won the 500 meters at the U.S. Olympic short-track speedskating trials at Kearns, Utah, clinching a berth in his second event for the Sochi Games. In the women's sprint, Jessica Smith led all the way, ensuring she'll skate at least two events in Russia. Eddy Alvarez, a former inline skater from Miami, earned his first Olympic berth after finishing second to Celski in both 500 'A' finals.
Lindsey Vonn has not skied for two weeks and will "most likely" skip next weekend's World Cup speed races in Austria, U.S. Coach Alex Hoedlmoser said, leaving her status for the Sochi Olympics up in the air.
At Konigssee, Germany, Natalie Geisenberger won her sixth World Cup luge race in as many tries this season, putting the German on the cusp of wrapping up the points title with three races left.
World champion Mikael Kingsbury won the World Cup moguls event at Calgary, Canada, and Canadian teammate Justine Dufour-Lapointe topped the women's field. Kingsbury finished with 86.50 points. Olympic champion Alex Bilodeau of Canada was second at 84.76, and American Patrick Deneen third at 78.16. Olympic champion Hannah Kearney of the U.S. was second in 77.63, and Dufour-Lapointe's sister, Chloe, was third at 74.83.
Juuse Saros made 23 saves to help Finland beat Canada, 5-1, in the world junior hockey semifinals at Malmo, Sweden. Finland will play Sweden in the final Sunday. Sweden beat Russia, 2-1, in the first semifinal.