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Serena to WTA semifinals

Top-ranked American Serena Williams advanced to the semifinals of the WTA Championships in Istanbul by sweeping Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-3 Thursday.

Williams, the defending champion, won all three matches in her group without dropping a set. She’s bidding for her fourth title in the eight-woman, season-ending tournament.

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Earlier, Li Na of China outlasted Jelena Jankovic of Serbia 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 for her second victory and eighth-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany upset No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-2, 6-2 to remain in contention for the semifinals. Radwanska was eliminated.

Kerber (1-1) went 0-3 last year in the tournament. She will play Kvitova on Friday for a spot in the last four.

Top-seeded Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina eased past Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus 6-1, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals of the Swiss Indoors in Basel. In Friday’s quarterfinals, del Potro will face Paul-Henri Mathieu of France, who beat compatriot Michael Llodra 6-4, 6-3.

American John Isner lost to Jeremy Chardy of France 7-6 (9-7), 6-3 at the Valencia Open in Spain. Top-seeded David Ferrer of Spain reached the quarterfinals by easing past Julien Benneteau of France 6-2, 6-1.


Raptors exercise option on Ross

The Toronto Raptors exercised third-year team options on the entry-level contracts of center Jonas Valanciunas and guard Terrence Ross, extending them through the 2014-15 season.

The 6-foot-7 Ross was selected eighth overall in 2012 from Washington. He averaged 6.4 points last season and won the dunk competition at the All-Star Game.

The 7-foot Valanciunas, from Lithuania, joined the Raptors after being selected fifth overall in the 2011 draft and spending the 2011-12 season playing overseas. He averaged 8.9 points last season.

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris was suspended for one game by the NBA for elbowing the Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka in the face.


Moscow team investigated

With Russia preparing to host two of the biggest sporting events in the world, a team from Moscow has been involved in a racism controversy that has led to calls for tougher action.

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure, who is black and from Ivory Coast, said he was racially abused by opposing fans during a Champions League match at CSKA Moscow on Wednesday.

The Russian club denied it, but the governing body of European soccer opened disciplinary proceedings against CSKA.

Furious over a government plan to impose a tax on them, French teams have unanimously agreed to scrap matches over one weekend at the end of November as a protest.

France’s professional clubs held an extraordinary general meeting to decide the next steps in their campaign against the government’s plan to implement a temporary 75 percent marginal tax on employers for paying salaries above a million euros a year.

Women’s college basketball

Final Four moving up

The NCAA women’s basketball committee is backing a move to play the Final Four two days earlier, starting next season.

The Final Four would go to a Friday-Sunday format instead of the Sunday-Tuesday configuration in place since 2003.

The committee also decided that the top 16 seeds should host the first two rounds. The move would hopefully bolster attendance in the first two rounds, which has become stagnant over the past few years. Last season, the NCAA averaged 5,466 for all rounds — 17th since the tournament began in 1982.

Arizona lost senior forward Alli Gloyd for the season after she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during a scrimmage last week. She started every game last season, averaging 9.4 points and 6.0 rebounds.


Graduation rate up

College athletes are graduating at an all-time high rate, the NCAA said.

Eighty-two percent of athletes in the 2006-07 freshman class earned a diploma within six years, up one percentage point from the 2005-06 class. That matched a record.


• Promoter Fernando Beltran said boxer Francisco Leal, 26, died Tuesday of a cerebral contusion at a San Diego hospital. He was rushed there after losing a fight Saturday in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

• NASCAR told its competitors it is considering eliminating single-car qualifying next season in an overhaul that would likely implement road course-style qualifying at all but two tracks. NASCAR also will require baseline concussion testing for its drivers starting next season.

• German cyclist Andreas Kloeden, 38, announced his retirement after a 16-year professional career that included two runner-up finishes in the Tour de France.

Seattle Times news services