U.S., Sweden face pivotal matchup

CHENGDU, China - U.S. national team coach Greg Ryan knew Group B was the toughest in the Women's World Cup.

After rallying for a disappointing tie with North Korea, his squad faces a crucial test against No. 3 Sweden.

"I think this group is like playing a semifinal and final in our first two games," Ryan said.

Anything less than a victory against Sweden today, and the top-ranked Americans and two-time World Cup champions (1991, 1999) could miss the quarterfinals of a tournament they are expected to win.

The Americans are 14-3-5 against the Swedes, but the rivalry is intense. Sweden has lost 3-2 in their last two meetings. The United States has not lost a match since Nov. 6, 2004 - 3-1 to Denmark.

North Korea used a swarming counterattack to neutralize the U.S. team. Sweden will play more like the Americans - looking to score on high balls and taking advantage of set pieces such as corners and free kicks.

Sweden strikers Victoria Svensson and Hanna Ljungberg offer similar offensive threats posed by Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambach.

"We feel very confident because each time we play the Americans, we are getting closer to beating them," defender Frida Ostberg said.

Auto racing

n McLaren F1 team hit with titanic fine: The McLaren team was fined $100 million and stripped of its points in the constructors' standings Thursday in the spying scandal that has rocked the sport McLaren, which leads the current drivers' and constructors' standings, was punished by the World Motor Sports Council for allegedly using leaked secret technical documents belonging to F1 rival Ferrari.

Team drivers Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, currently 1-2 in the championship standings, were not punished. McLaren will also be excluded from next year's constructors' championship, FIA said in a statement after a hearing. The team can appeal.


n Westwood leads Benz championship: England's Lee Westwood matched his career best with an 11-under 61 to take the first-round lead in the Mercedes-Benz Championship. Westwood had 10 birdies, an eagle and one bogey on the Gut Larchenhof course. He was 7-under on the final seven holes en route to a back-nine 29.


n Davenport to face Jankovic in Bali: Lindsay Davenport defeated Julie Ditty 6-1, 6-4 Thursday to advance to a quarterfinal matchup against Jelena Jankovic at the Bali Open. Davenport, who is returning to singles play for the first time since having a child in June, was erratic at times after building a 5-2 lead in the second set.

After dropping serve at 5-3, she broke Ditty for the sixth time to set up a meeting with the top-seeded Jankovic, who reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.

"Its a great position for me to be in," Davenport said. "She's obviously had a great year. This is what I came back to do, to play some matches and try to play some good players, so I'm excited about it."

Jankovic started slowly against Casey Dellacqua, trailing 0-4 in the first set before rallying for a 6-4, 6-4 win.

"I didn't have good timing out there and I was making a lot of mistakes," Jankovic said. "I was very erratic and didn't play the way I wanted, but a win is a win."

In other matches, third-seeded Patty Schnyder served for the match before qualifier Sorana Cirstea rallied for a 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 win. Sara Errani upset fourth-seeded Anabel Medina Garrigues 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.

n Cilic knocks off Davydenko at China Open: Unseeded Marin Cilic knocked off top-seeded Nikolay Davydenko 6-3, 6-4 Thursday to move into the quarterfinals of the China Open.

It was the first time Cilic had beaten a top 10 player. The fourth-ranked Davydenko lost in the U.S. Open semifinal to Roger Federer.

Cilic, of Croatia, used a strong serve to beat the Russian in 74 minutes. He won 41 of 58 points on his serve, including three aces.

Cilic will play wild-card Nicolas Kiefer of Germany in the last eight. Kiefer beat seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, 6-3, 6-4.

Davydenko's loss comes ahead of an expected meeting with investigators after a British online gambling company tracked bettors putting 10 times the usual amount of money on a match he played in August.

Most of the bets were for his 87th-ranked opponent; Davydenko quit in the third set with a foot injury. Davydenko has denied any involvement.

Eighth-seeded Russian Igor Andreev also advanced to the quarterfinals with a 7-6 (4), 6-4 win over American Kevin Kim. Andreev plays third-seeded Tommy Robredo of Spain, who downed South African Rik de Voest 6-2, 6-3.

Starace advances at BCR Open Romania

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - Third-seeded Potito Starace of Italy advanced to the quarterfinals of the BCR Open Romania by defeating Andrei Pavel of Romania 6-3, 6-3 Thursday.

Victor Hancescu of Romania, Carlos Berlocq of Argentina and Yuri Schukin of Russia also advanced.

Hanescu defeated eighth-seeded Albert Montanes of Spain 6-3, 6-2. Berlocq topped Ivan Navarro Pastor of Spain 7-5, 6-3 and Schukin downed Simone Bolelli of Italy 6-4, 6-3.