Serena Williams defeats Sharapova
• Between points, Serena Williams stood motionless behind the baseline with her back to the net, as if trying to match — or mimic — the methodical ritual of her opponent, Maria Sharapova.
They took turns waiting on each other, the pace of play plodding, but there was no delaying the inevitable. Williams beat Sharapova for the 15th consecutive time Thursday, rallying in both sets to win 6-4, 6-3 in the Sony Open semifinals in Key Biscayne, Fla.
“I have always felt when I’m playing at my best, then it’s hard for people to beat me,” Williams said.
Seeking a record seventh Key Biscayne title, Williams improved to 16-2 against her favorite foil. Sharapova hasn’t beaten Williams since 2004.
“Despite my results against her, I still look forward to playing against her because you learn so much from that type of level which she produces,” Sharapova said. “You finish the match, and you know where you need to improve and the things that you need to work on.”
The No. 1-ranked Williams won with a superior serve and better returns. She hit nine aces and broke five times, which helped her rebound from deficits of 4-1 in the first set and 2-0 in the second.
UNC Wilmington names Keatts coach
• UNC Wilmington hired Louisville assistant Kevin Keatts as its men’s coach. The 41-year-old is in his third year on Rick Pitino’s staff and before that was Hargrave Military Academy’s coach. He replaces Buzz Peterson, who was fired earlier this month.
• The Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament will return to North Carolina in 2019 and 2010 after its two-year stay in New York. Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena will host the event in 2019 followed the next year by the Greensboro Coliseum.
American cyclist wins stage in Spain
• American cyclist Tejay Van Garderen pulled away on the final uphill climb in snow and heavy fog to win the fourth stage of the Volta a Catalunya, while Joaquim Rodriguez maintained the lead. Van Garderen of BMC emerged from the cloud enveloping the Vallter 2000 special category summit and edged Romain Bardet around the final turn to win.
• Mao Asada of Japan set a world record to finish first in the short program at the World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama, Japan. Asada hit her trademark triple axel at the start of her routine and completed all her remaining jumps to finish with 78.66 points, surpassing the previous record of 78.50 set by Yuna Kim at the Vancouver Olympics. Carolina Kostner of Italy was second with 77.24.
• Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan will miss the rest of the season because of a sports hernia. He is scheduled for surgery Thursday in Montreal.
• Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone was ordered by a London judge to pay half his lawyers’ fees of $6.6 million despite winning his case relating to the grubby sale of the series in 2005.
— From wire reports