Vina del Mar, Chile (Sportsbook Betting Lines) - Top seeds Juan Monaco and Juan Ignacio Chela were both winners on Friday and advanced to the semifinals at the VTR Open tennis event. Monaco, the No. 1 seed from Argentina, overcame a first-set loss to Albert Montanes, the tournament's fifth seed, to take a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory.
He also reached the title contest of this clay-court event in 2010 at Santiago, and 2008.
In other quarterfinal action, seventh-seeded Carlos Berlocq grounded qualifier and fellow Argentine Federico Delbonis 6-3, 6-4, and Frenchman Jeremy Chardy downed Portugal's Frederico Gil 6-2, 7-6 (7-5).
Moscow, Russia (Sportsbook Betting Lines) - Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova earned dominant straight-set wins Saturday to give Russia a commanding 2-0 edge in its Fed Cup quarterfinal against Spain. Sharapova, last week's Australian Open runner-up, rolled to a 6-2, 6-1 win over Silvia Soler-Espinosa in the opener, before Kuznetsova cruised to a 6-3, 6-1 triumph over Carla Suarez Navarro in a mere 68 minutes.
Sharapova will again be first up in the reverse singles against Navarro. Kuznetsova is then scheduled to meet Soler-Espinosa, although each captain can make changes. The doubles match is slated to pit Ekaterina Makarova and Nadia Petrova for the Russians against the Spanish tandem of Nuria Llagostera Vives and Arantxa Parra-Santonja.
Russia, last year's Fed Cup runner-up to the Czech Republic, is a four-time Fed Cup champ and beat Spain in the final for its last title in 2008. The Russians own a 5-1 advantage against the Spaniards in Fed Cup play.
Biella, Italy (Sportsbook Betting Lines) - Italy and the Ukraine are surprisingly even after Saturday's opening singles matches of their Fed Cup quarterfinal. The matchups and home court clearly favored the Italians and Sara Errani gave the hosts the first point with a 6-2, 6-3 thumping of Kateryna Bondarenko. With former French Open champ Francesca Schiavone set for Saturday's second match, it appeared the Italians would have a big edge heading to Sunday.
Ranked 121st in the world, Tsurenko not only drew the Ukrainians even, she completely dominated the 11th-ranked Schiavone in a 6-1, 6-2 rout. Schiavone committed 42 unforced errors and managed a mere 10 winners in the 71-minute dismantling.
Schiavone will have a chance to make amends in the first reverse singles match on Sunday against Bondarenko. Tsurenko and Errani are slated to meet in the second match of the day. The scheduled doubles match will pit Errani and Roberta Vinci against Olga Savchuk and Yuliya Beygelzimer.
Stuttgart, Germany (Sportsbook Betting Lines) - Petra Kvitova and Iveta Benesova each won three-set thrillers to give the Czech Republic a commanding 2-0 lead over Germany in its Fed Cup quarterfinal. Benesova gave the defending Fed Cup champions the first point with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Sabine Lisicki before Kvitova outlasted Julia Goerges in a 3-6, 6-3, 10-8 marathon.
It will be a quick turnaround for Kvitova, who will give the Czechs the first chance to close out the best-of-five tie on Sunday against Lisicki in the first reverse singles match.
The Czechs are 5-1 all-time against Germany, which has captured the Fed Cup twice in its history. The Czechs won last year's crown by beating Russia, 3-2, in the final.
This weekend's winner will face the Italy-Ukraine victor in April's semifinals.
Teams that should be in: Michigan State, Indiana
Work left to do: Illinois, Purdue, Michigan, Iowa
Behind the big two, the pecking order might be in a bit of flux. Has Michigan State passed Indiana after handling the Hoosiers in East Lansing? Where is Illinois in that mix? What looked like a four-big league last week could be morphing into five -- and even six is not unthinkable at this point if everything breaks right.
Should be in:
Michigan State [21-8 (8-6), RPI: 20, SOS: 15] The Spartans made it four-for-four on the homestand, a gigantic accomplishment that leaves them in extremely good shape. MSU is only 1-6 on the road and is at Michigan and at Wisconsin to close things out, meaning the date with the Wolverines on Tuesday looms very, very large. Beating Texas early will hold up well, as will the rout of Bradley and the win over BYU, but will 8-8 be enough? It very well could be, as the computer numbers are good, but why chance it?
Indiana [18-9 (8-6), RPI: 24, SOS: 32] Hmm ... good thing the last two are at Northwestern and home to Penn State, because IU might want to get both to feel completely safe after dropping its third in the last four, fading after halftime at Michigan State. Who knew the best nonconference win would be over Southern Illinois, which is a gift that keeps on giving for the Hoosiers. The win over Wisconsin also looks good on the mantel.
Work left to do:
Illinois [21-9 (9-6), RPI: 31, SOS: 25] A good performance at Penn State leaves the Illini in pretty good shape. Can they go to Iowa and take care of business to really look on their way? That's a huge game, as there is a possible cluster of teams that will end at 9-7. Illinois beat Bradley, but has lost to Xavier. A 9-7 mark and a semifinals trip in Chicago could be enough with the computer profile hanging in there, but it would be better not to mess around, clinching at least a tie for third.
Purdue [18-10 (7-7), RPI: 47, SOS: 28] Couldn't get it done at Iowa, but did win at Northwestern to put 9-7 squarely in sight. Where does that leave the Boilermakers, though? Even if they beat Minnesota and Northwestern at home, that won't help the computer numbers. Nonconference wins over Virginia, DePaul and Oklahoma are solid, but not spectacular. The Boilers very well might need an upset in the B10 quarters to have a legit claim.
Michigan [19-10 (7-7), RPI: 55, SOS: 53] Well, Michigan did what it needed to do, winning at Minnesota to take control of its fate. The Wolverines have Michigan State and an already-wrapped-up-the-league Ohio State at home to close, so the chances are there. Win both and we can talk. There is no marquee win yet in the profile, and the Wolverines were splattered in several games against name opponents. A mediocre computer profile fueled by a lack of road wins isn't helping, either.
Iowa [16-12 (8-6), RPI: 80, SOS: 64] For the sake of being complete, we'll add Iowa, this season's Stanford. It's plausible that the Hawkeyes could get to 10-6 (at Penn State, vs. Illinois left), but where does that leave them after a gruesome nonconference performance where the best win was over ... Toledo? Iowa State? Cornell?? If they get to 10-6, we can start to look at what they need to do in the B10 tourney, although my gut sense is that they would need to make the final and have knocked off Ohio State or Wisconsin on the way to have any real claim.
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JUPITER, Fla. -- The Foorida Marlins are preparing for the likelihood that right-hander
Josh Johnson won't be ready when the season starts April 2.
Grapefruit League action starts Wednesday, but Johnson, penciled in as the No. 2 starter, hasn't even thrown off a mound at full speed since September. He's experienced some soreness in his right forearm.
''You guys know the math. If he's not on the hill then he becomes an opening day roster issue,'' manager Fredi Gonzalez said Saturday. ''We're borderline now.''
Johnson, who finished 12-7 with a 3.10 ERA in 2007, was supposed to throw on flat ground Saturday. That was canceled when he woke up with pain.
He played catch on Wednesday with no pain but felt discomfort in a throwing session on Thursday. He's expected to try again Sunday.
''Like we always said from the very beginning, we're going to take it easy on him,'' Gonzalez said. ''He didn't feel right, so we shut him down. We're going to take it back to step one and see where we're at.''
Among the candidates to take Johnson's spot in the rotation are left-hander Chris George and right-handers Yusmeiro Petit and Jose Garcia.
Right-hander Sergio Mitre, who missed most of last season with arm and shoulder problems, also is behind.
With Johnson's status doubtful, Gonzalez said right-hander Ricky Nolasco will stay in the rotation and no longer will be considered a candidate for closer.
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