Women's Tennis Association Tour executives, who had been contemplating consolidating WTA operations and possibly moving them from St. Petersburg, will stay in the city, Darrell Fry, WTA spokesman, said Tuesday.
The WTA Tour had considered offers from Atlanta, Los Angeles and Tampa, among others. "But the city of St. Petersburg made a big push," Fry said.
The organization has signed a multiyear lease for space on the 15th floor of the Bank of America Tower. The tour has 30 employees in St. Petersburg, Fry said, and about 100 total with road staff. In 2003, the tour will hold 60 events in 31 countries with $52-million at stake.
Top-ranked Lleyton Hewitt fought off three match points in the second set to escape with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory over Younes El Aynaoui in the Pacific Life Open, avenging a loss at the Australian Open this year. In women's play at Indian Wells, Calif., Amanda Coetzer joined Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport as fourth-round winners.
Florida team fastest
Emanuele Pirro of Team ADT Champion Racing topped the time sheets for the second consecutive day in preparation for the 12 Hours of Sebring. He ran a lap in 1 minute, 49.819 seconds in the Florida team's 2002-spec Audi R8. The annual endurance meet starts today.
NASCAR: Mike Wallace lost his appeal of his $3,000 fine for cursing on television during a Busch Series race at North Carolina Speedway. NASCAR said he should have been aware of the cameras while arguing with driver Shane Hmiel.
SOFTBALL: Leigh Ann Ellis threw a perfect game in the opener of the USF Midweek Tournament as the No. 21-ranked Bulls shut out Canisius 10-0 in five innings.
FOOTBALL: ACC sacks leader Shawn Johnson is transferring from Duke to Division I-AA Fordham. "He's not happy there," his father, Robert Johnson, told the Charlotte Observer. Mississippi State wide receiver Antonio Hargro was arrested in Gautier, Miss., and charged with discharging a firearm in the city and disturbing the peace.
California suit filed
Eight California counties and San Diego have filed suit against the maker of a dietary supplement linked to the death of Baltimore pitcher Steve Bechler. The suit accuses Cytodyne Technologies of false and misleading advertising that does not mention possible health risks associated with Xenadrine. The company said prosecutors are trying to take advantage of publicity surrounding ephedra, an herbal stimulant. The toxicology report on Bechler is scheduled to be released Thursday.
IDITAROD: Ramy Brooks overtook Robert Sorlie for the lead in the Alaskan sled dog race after battling strong headwinds on the way to coastal Koyuk.
FENCING: Keeth Smart, 24, became the first American to reach No. 1 in the world, passing Russia's Stanislav Pozdniakov after placing second in a meet in Athens.
CYCLING: Andrei Kivilev of Kazakhstan tumbled during the Paris-Nice race, leaving him in a coma with a fractured skull. He was taken to Saint-Etienne for tests.
SKIING: Alain Baxter, who was stripped of the slalom bronze medal after failing a drug test at the Salt Lake City Olympics, successfully appealed a British Olympic Association rule banning anybody guilty of a drug offense from Britain's team. Baxter tested positive for a banned stimulant he took in a Vicks nasal decongestant.
HORSES: Kentucky Derby hopeful Badge of Silver will have minor throat surgery because of breathing problems toward the end of his sixth-place finish in Sunday's Louisiana Derby.
_ ALICIA CALDWELL, BRIAN LANDMAN, TIMES WIRES