BASKETBALL

Defending champs open WNBA season with a win

Penny Taylor hit two free throws with 1.5 seconds left to lift the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury to a 78-77 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks in the league’s season opener Saturday.

After Diana Taurasi made two free throws to give Phoenix a 76-75 lead with 17.8 seconds left, Noelle Quinn hit a 12-foot bank shot to put the Sparks back in front with 4.7 seconds to go.

• Tina Charles had 17 points and 10 rebounds in her pro debut as the Connecticut Sun opened with a 74-61 win over the Chicago Sky at Uncasville, Conn.

• Iziane Castro-Marques scored 23 points and Angel McCoughtry added 20 as visiting Atlanta held off San Antonio, 75-70.

• Charde Houston scored 17 of her 21 points in the second half as Minnesota spoiled the relocated Shock’s inaugural game in Tulsa, winning 80-74.

•  Monique Currie scored 21 points and Crystal Langhorne added 19 to help Washington beat Indiana 72-65 at Indianapolis.

RUGBY

PORTLAND U-19 WINS: Ian Keith scored four tries, and John Brown and Caleb Tracey finished with one try apiece to lead the Portland U-19 rugby team to a 35-25 win over Kearsarge (N.H.) at New London, N.H.

Francisco Marques added one conversion for Portland, and Chase Rochon had one penalty kick.

SOCCER

MLS: The San Jose Earthquakes extended their unbeaten streak to three games, playing a scoreless tie with the New England Revolution at Foxborough, Mass.

TENNIS

MADRID MASTERS: Roger Federer will meet Rafael Nadal in a second consecutive Madrid Masters final after beating David Ferrer 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 at Madrid, Spain.

Nadal came from behind to beat Nicolas Almagro 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the first semifinal.

On the women’s side, fourth-seeded Venus Williams reached her first Madrid final by beating Shahar Peer, 6-3, 6-0.

Williams will play Aravane Rezai after Lucie Safarova retired from the second semifinal because of a thigh injury.

HOCKEY

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: Matt Gilroy scored a hat trick and the United States ended its scoring struggles with a 10-0 victory over Kazakhstan in the relegation round at Cologne, Germany.

• Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin scored his fourth goal in four games to lead unbeaten Russia to a 3-2 victory over Germany.

GOLF

PGA: Brett Wetterich birdied his last three holes for a 4-under 68, and Jimmy Walker and James Nitties shot 67s to join Wetterich and Matt Jones (71) atop the leaderboard at 7 under in the rain-delayed Texas Open at San Antonio. The final 36 holes will be played today.

LPGA: Suzann Pettersen, Brittany Lincicome and Se Ri Pak head into the final round of the Bell Micro LPGA Classic at Mobile, Ala., tied for first place at 13 under.

Pettersen had an eagle on the par-5 sixth hole on the way to a 7-under 65, helping her catch up with second-round leader Pak, who shot a 68. Lincicome came in at 67.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Bobby Clampett shot an 8-under 64 and took a one-shot lead over Dan Forsman after two rounds of the Regions Charity Classic at Hoover, Ala.

EUROPEAN TOUR: Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain three-putted the last hole to slip into a tie for the lead with Sweden’s Pelle Edberg after the third round of the Mallorca Open at Son Servera, Spain.

CYCLING

GIRO D’ITALIA: Cadel Evans led a sprint to the finish and won the seventh stage at Montalcino, Italy, to move into second place overall behind Alexandre Vinokourov.

Evans finished the 138-mile stage from Carrara to Montalcino in 5 hours, 13 minutes, 37 seconds.

Damiano Cunego came in second and Vinokourov was third.