Briefs

Djokovic tops Nadal to win China Open

BEIJING — Having lost his top ranking to Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic showed he can still compete with the Spaniard one-on-one.

A day after Nadal made sure of wresting the No. 1 ranking away from Djokovic, the Serb gained some consolation by beating his big rival 6-3, 6-4 victory Sunday to claim his fourth China Open title in five years.

Nadal only needed to reach the final in Beijing in order to replace Djokovic as No. 1 when the new rankings come out Monday. But the Serb handed Nadal his first loss on hard court this year, breaking him in the second game of the first set and again in the first game of the second.

He served four aces to Nadal’s two and hit 19 winners to the Spaniard’s nine.

Djokovic credited his almost flawless serve for the win this time, as well as his ability to keep calm. He said playing doubles also helped sharpen his game and build his confidence.

Djokovic has yet to lose a match in Beijing.

In the women’s final, top-ranked American Serena Williams maintained her dominant form, beating Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 6-2.

Williams’ serve proved decisive in the women’s final. Jankovic needed treatment after the third game of the second set for what appeared to be a sore back, returning only to lose the next five straight games.

Del Potro beats Raonic, wins Japan Open

TOKYO — Top-seeded Juan Martin del Potro beat Milos Raonic 7-6 (5), 7-5 to win the Japan Open.

Del Potro got the only break of the match to go up 6-5 in the second set and then held serve to claim his third title of the year, adding to wins in Rotterdam and Washington.

The third-seeded Raonic, who was coming off a win at the Thailand Open last week, hit 17 aces but came up short in his second straight appearance in the Japan Open final. He lost to local favorite Kei Nishikori last year.

Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, was a late addition to the tournament after Andy Murray withdrew with a back injury.

China’s Feng wins first LPGA event in Beijing

BEIJING — China’s Shanshan Feng eagled the par-5 18th hole after her second shot approach hit the pin for a 68 and a one-stroke victory in the smog-affected Reignwood Classic, the LPGA’s first tournament in Beijing.

For most of the tournament, the players couldn’t escape the capital’s notorious pollution; there was another smog delay of nearly three hours before the final round started Sunday. Germany’s Sandra Gal was one of several players wearing surgical-style masks.

Six expressways were closed in the city due to reduced visibility Sunday, and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing issued a warning that hazardous air quality readings meant American citizens should “avoid all physical activities outdoors.”

Continental Europe claims Seve Trophy

SAINT-NOM-LA-BRETECHE, France — Francesco Molinari beat Chris Wood 3 and 2 in the last singles match to give Continental Europe a 15-13 victory over Britain and Ireland in the Seve Trophy.

Continental Europe had lost the event the last six times after winning the inaugural contest in 2000.

Putin lights Olympic flame on Red Square

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin ceremoniously lit the Olympic flame on Red Square, but the four-month relay to Sochi for the Winter Games got off to a rocky start when one of the torches went out.

The Olympic flame, lit a week ago in Greece and flown to Moscow earlier Sunday, kept burning in a cauldron on Red Square.

The glitch occurred when a torch bearer ran through a long passageway leading into the Kremlin, which apparently created a wind tunnel, extinguishing the flame. A man standing along the route, most likely part of the presidential security service, pulled out a lighter and the flame leaped back to life.

Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi organizing committee, said the problem was that the valve on the torch had not been opened fully.

Hawes’ free throws lifts 76ers to exhibition win

BILBAO, Spain — Center Spencer Hawes made two free throws with four seconds remaining to give the Philadelphia 76ers a 106-104 victory over Spanish club Bilbao Basket on Sunday at the start their short European preseason tour.

Guard Evan Turner scored 25 points for the 76ers, who led 55-50 at halftime but allowed Bilbao to take an 80-79 lead going into the fourth quarter.

With the hosts leading 93-88, the 76ers rallied and went ahead for good when Hawes sunk his pair of free throws.

Former Utah Jazz guard Raul Lopez then missed Bilbao’s last shot.

The 76ers play the Oklahoma City Thunder in Manchester, England, on Tuesday before continuing their preseason in the U.S.

The Associated Press