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National Briefs: Clijsters wins Australian Open

January 30, 2011

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— Kim Clijsters believes she now has earned the nickname she had for years in Australia.

“I finally feel like you guys can call me ‘Aussie Kim’ because I won the title,” a teary Clijsters said after beating China’s Li Na, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, Saturday night to capture her first Australian Open. “It’s nice to finally get it this year.”

Clijsters lost the 2004 Australian Open final to Justine Henin and lost four times in the semifinals. This was Clijsters’ fourth Grand Slam tournament championship, but the first apart from the U.S. Open.

“To win it in this way means a lot,” she told a TV interviewer after the match. “This one to me, is the one. When I think back on my childhood, I remember watching the Australian Open and seeing Monica Seles win many times. I think they used to go up into the stands. I remember her doing her speech there, and it was something that I was just amazed by. It seemed like such a fairy tale.”

Li was trying to become the first Asian to win a major, and the final was far from a smooth ride. She complained to the chair umpire about the Chinese fans and was bothered by photographers’ flashes in the courtside pits. The outbursts from all over the arena were jarring.

“They shouted ‘finish her off!’ sometimes even when we were hitting the ball,” Li said through a translator. “I thought, ‘How can they do this?’”

In doubles, Bob and Mike Bryan successfully defended their title, beating Indian stars Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, 6-3, 6-4, for their fifth Australian crown and 10th Grand Slam championship.

College football

South wins Senior Bowl

Mobile, Ala. — Florida State’s Christian Ponder threw two touchdown passes, including a clinching 23-yarder to TCU’s Jeremy Kerley in the South’s 24-10 Senior Bowl victory over the North on Saturday.

Ponder completed seven of 13 passes for 132 yards, including several big ones to a onetime rival Leonard Hankerson of Miami.

Golf

Mickelson tied for lead

San Diego — Phil Mickelson found the trick to playing the revamped South Course at Torrey Pines and left himself one round away from winning on a course that once felt like home.

Going against his nature, Mickelson played it safe again Saturday and wound up with a 4-under 68 to share the lead with Bill Haas going into the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open. Haas missed a four-foot par putt on the last hole for a 71.

Tiger Woods, who has not lost a tournament at Torrey Pines since 2004, shot himself out of the tournament with careless mistakes. Woods had a 2-over 74, ending his streak of 21 rounds at par or better on the South Course in PGA Tour events. He was eight shots behind, his largest 54-hole deficit at Torrey since 2004.

NBA

Mayo blames ’energy drink’

Memphis, Tenn. — Memphis Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo says he believes an “energy drink” he bought at a gas station contained the substance that led to his 10-game suspension for violating the NBA’s drug policy.

Mayo was jovial and smiling as he spoke about his suspension for the first time Saturday before the Grizzlies’ game against the Washington Wizards, taking questions from reporters on the team’s practice court.

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