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Williams earns AP honor as Female Athlete of the Year

Serena Williams likes to make one thing clear: She is never satisfied, no matter how many matches and tournaments she wins.

Driven as ever, Williams won plenty this year. She went 78-4 with 11 titles, including the French Open and U.S. Open, raising her major-championship total in singles to 17. She earned $12,385,572 in prize money, a record for women’s tennis. In February, she became the oldest No. 1 in WTA rankings history and hasn’t left that perch.

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Williams, 32, was honored Wednesday as The Associated Press 2013 Female Athlete of the Year. It is the third AP award for Williams, who also won it in 2002 and 2009.

“Whenever I lose, I get more determined, and it gives me something more to work toward,” Williams said earlier this year. “I don’t get complacent, and I realize I need to work harder and I need to do better and I want to do better — or I wouldn’t keep playing this game.”

Williams’ .951 winning percentage was the best since Steffi Graf’s .977 in 1989. Her 11 tournament titles were the most since Martina Hingis won 12 in 1997. Her 34-match winning streak was the longest since her older sister, Venus, had a 35-match run in 2000.

In a vote by news organizations, Williams received 55 of 96 votes. Basketball player Brittney Griner of Baylor and the WNBA Phoenix Mercury was second with 14 votes.

The AP Male Athlete of the Year recipient will be announced Thursday.


Ex-Seattle Pilot Hegan dies at 71

Mike Hegan, who hit .292 in 95 games as an outfielder-first baseman for the Seattle Pilots in 1969, died Wednesday in Hilton Head, S.C. He was 71.

On April 8, 1969, Hegan hit the first home run in Pilots history as they beat the California Angels 4-3. He was selected to the American League All-Star team that year.

Hegan played for 12 major-league seasons and hit .242. He also played for Milwaukee, the New York Yankees and Oakland.

Hegan had a long career in broadcasting. He was a color commentator for Milwaukee for 12 years and did TV and radio for the Cleveland Indians for 23 years. Hegan retired after the 2011 season, though he returned to broadcast a Cleveland game in May 2012.

Cleveland team officials said Hegan died after a battle with an untreatable heart condition.


Winnipeg fans are frustrated

The honeymoon seemingly is over for the Winnipeg Jets and their fans.

Tickets, once hard to come by, are readily available. Many of those who do attend games have booed their 16-18-5 team for inconsistent play.

When the Jets — the former Atlanta Thrashers — were resurrected in 2011, fans enthusiastically embraced the return of the NHL after a 15-year absence. Fans snapped up 13,000 season tickets with a minimum three-year commitment; those who were shut out paid $50 to join a waitlist.

But in the team’s third season in Winnipeg, there is frustration.

After the Jets’ winless streak at home reached six Dec. 14, forward Blake Wheeler said, “It’s what you do out on the ice. You can blow smoke as much as you want in the media. We’ve been blowing smoke for three years — everyone, myself.”


Liverpool rises to the top

After years of financial turmoil, court battles and humbling setbacks, Liverpool has risen to the top of the English Premier League.

The Reds are ahead of Arsenal on goal difference through 17 matches heading into the traditional Boxing Day games Thursday.

“It is a nostalgic time and people always want to know where the team is at around Christmas Day,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. “It is brilliant for supporters. I am not going to deny them a dream.”

The last four Dec. 25 leaders went on to lift the trophy as league champions in May. The last team not to was Liverpool, in the 2008-09 season under manager Rafa Benitez.


Cabinet gives organizers money

Russia’s Cabinet has approved the allocation of nearly $50 million in extra subsidies for the organizers of the Sochi Games, which take place from Feb. 7 to Feb. 23.

The Cabinet’s decision, reported by the RIA Novosti news agency, takes the total number of subsidies for the Sochi Organizing Committee to the equivalent of more than $420 million.

The allocations for the organizing committee are a small share of total Sochi Games costs that amount to about $51 billion, making these Olympics the most expensive of all time.

Seattle Times news services