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Women in town for pro tennis

Women's professional tennis takes to the courts today at Clearwater's McMullen Tennis Complex for 32 aspiring players in the Sheriff Jim Coats Clearwater Women's Open.

The $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event includes players from 12 countries with world rankings from No. 167 to No. 316. Puerto Rico's Vilmarie Castellvi, a 2005 Pan American Games doubles silver medalist, is the top seed with the No. 167 ranking.

Four Americans with Florida ties are in the 32-singles draw, including fourth-seeded Jessica Kirkland of Miami, No. 6 Tiffany Dabek of Bradenton, No. 7 Sunitha Rao of Bradenton and No. 22 Ellah Nze of Tampa.

Kirkland, 17, qualified for the 2005 Australian Open and won the 2004 Orange Bowl title. Dabek, 25, qualified for the 2005 U.S. Open and opened the 2006 season by winning the $25,000 Pro Circuit January event in Tampa. Rao, 20, had a 14-15 Pro Circuit record last year to earn a No. 206 ranking. Nze, 17, is unranked and will be competing in just her fourth professional event.

There are 94 Pro Circuit events around the country with prize money of $10,000 to $100,000. The tournaments are the pathway to WTA Tour-level competition.

Competition begins at 10 a.m. today for half the 32 singles draw and some of the 16-team doubles competition. Action continues through the week with singles and doubles finals on Sunday.

For playing times, call the McMullen Tennis Complex at (727) 669-1919.

NO CLAY FOR AGASSI: Andre Agassi will skip the entire ATP clay-court season, including the French Open, to improve his chances of playing at Wimbledon. Agassi, 35, said cortisone injections are helping him stay on the court after sustaining a lower back strain and a sprained left ankle in the last few months. "The wear and tear it (clay) puts on my body has set me back the last couple of years, and Wimbledon is something that I don't want to miss this year," said Agassi after a first-round, 7-6 (7-4), 6-0 win over Greg Rusedski at the Dubai Open in United Arab Emirates. He is playing only his second tournament of the season and third since losing to Roger Federer in the final of the U.S. Open last September.

TENNIS CHANNEL OPEN: Jonas Bjorkman defeated sixth-seeded Gael Monfils 7-6 (10-8), 6-3 in opening play at Las Vegas.


Glazer sons get doused

Manchester United's victory in the final of a competition the club once used for developing youngsters ended with coach Alex Ferguson singing to fans and the club-owning Glazer family being sprayed with bubbly. Ferguson led the team to a 4-0 win Sunday against Wigan in the League Cup, the newest and least lucrative of the country's three major competitions. Glazer sons Joel, Avram and Bryan attended the match at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium and visited the changing room after the match. "They got soaked in champagne," Ferguson said.


BASKETBALL: Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi headline the U.S. women's national team that will head to Europe this week for three games against top EuroLeague teams. The former Connecticut teammates will be joined by fellow former Olympians Katie Smith and DeLisha Milton-Jones on the 13-player squad that will begin preliminary training for the World Championships in Brazil from Sept. 12-23.

BOXING: Former WBA heavyweight champion Greg Page remained hospitalized Louisville, Ky., in critical condition with acute respiratory failure, but is showing signs of improvement. Doctors are slowly taking the 47-year-old Page off a ventilator so he can try to breathe on his own, Jewish Hospital spokeswoman Angie Rose said.

Compiled from Times wires.