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Around & About / News and notes

Williams opens with a win

Venus Williams held off a late surge by Simona Halep to win, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (6), in the first round of the Madrid Open on Saturday.

The seven-time major winner hit three aces and broke the Romanian twice en route to taking the first set.

But Halep rallied to take the second set before Williams edged her out in the decisive tiebreaker. Fifth-seeded Sam Stosur also needed three sets to beat Petra Martic.

Stosur saved six break points to claim the tight contest from the Croatian, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (5).

Elsewhere, Kaia Kanepi of Estonia won the Estoril Open on Saturday, saving two match points to beat Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4.

Among the men, defending champion Juan del Potro of Argentina and Richard Gasquet of France won semifinals and will play for the title today in this clay-court tune-up for the French Open.

In Munich, Germany, third-seeded Marin Cilic beat German veteran Tommy Haas in straight sets Saturday to reach the final of the BMW Open, where he will face 2007 winner Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Cilic, the 2010 finalist, dropped just five points from his own serve as the 23-year-old Croat defeated Haas, 6-3, 6-4.


American Phinney starts strong

American Taylor Phinney won the first stage of the Giro d'Italia, a 5.4-mile individual time trial on Saturday. Phinney becomes the first American to wear the pink jersey since Christian Vande Velde when Garmin won the opening team time trial in Palermo in 2008.

The BMC Racing cyclist finished in 10 minutes, 26 seconds, nine seconds ahead of British cyclist Geraint Thomas (Sky Procycling) in the 198-strong field. Alex Rasmussen, whose career hung in the balance last year after he missed a doping test, finished third.


Olympic Park has dress rehearsal

About 75,000 fans withstood rain and cold at Olympic Park on Saturday in the final test events before the Summer Games.

This marked the first time the main stadium in the heart of the Olympic Park in east London was open to the public for a sports competition. Students competed in water polo, wheelchair tennis, field hockey and track and field. Organizers said about 40,000 people attended the opening of the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium.

The final test events came after the British military tested Olympic security, including flights over London by fighter jets and helicopters earlier this week.

"This is the one big opportunity, particularly with the number of people we've got in the park, to test our venues, to test the park management, the security and tickets," said Sebastian Coe, who heads the local organizing committee.

From News Staff and wire service reports