Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love returned to practice Saturday for the first time since injuring his shoulder last May and could appear in a preseason game on Thursday, he said.

Love is not expected to play Monday at Ohio State or Tuesday at home against the Milwaukee Bucks. But when asked about Thursday at home against the Indiana Pacers, he indicated more optimism, then talked about Saturday's practice.

"I felt good," he said. "Just getting into the rhythm of the plays more than anything, just getting my legs under me and [taking] contact," Love said. "As time goes, I'll get more accustomed to being out there playing, but today was the first step."

Love, who spent the first six years of his career with the Timberwolves before he was traded to Cleveland in the summer of 2014, dislocated his left shoulder 5½ months ago in the Cavs' first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics. He had surgery and has indicated since that he might not be ready for the season opener Oct. 27.

newsmakers

Claimed F1 pole: Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, who took the pole for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi ahead of his teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton has a lead of 48 points over Rosberg with five races remaining.

Made room for the future: Fullback James Casey, who was released by the Broncos, an indication that the team is skewing its offense more toward Peyton Manning's strengths.

Did the expected: Michel Platini, who lodged an appeal Saturday with FIFA against his 90-day suspension and was backed by the South American confederation.

Women's Tennis

Venus Williams targets WTA finals

Venus Williams comes to Hong Kong hoping she can get a ticket to Singapore.

Williams enters the Hong Kong Open knowing that a strong showing can put her name back where it used to be a mainstay — the season-ending WTA finals for the world's elite.

"This is it," Williams said. "This is my last tournament before the season-ending championship and my last chance to do well."

The WTA finals feature the top eight players in the Race to Singapore rankings based on this year's results, a list where the 35-year-old Williams is currently 11th.

Men's TENNIS

Djokovic-Nadal final ahead in China

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will renew their long rivalry in the China Open final on Sunday in Beijing after both won semifinals in straight sets.

The top-ranked Djokovic improved his record at the tournament to 28-0 with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over David Ferrer, while Nadal defeated Fabio Fognini 7-5, 6-3.

The third-seeded Nadal reached his first hard-court final in more than a year.

Unseeded Frenchman beats Nishikori

Unseeded Benoit Paire of France beat defending champion Kei Nishikori 1-6, 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the Japan Open final in Tokyo, where he will face top-seeded Stan Wawrinka. French Open winner Wawrinka beat Gilles Muller 6-4, 7-6 (5).

AROUND THE HORN

Auto racing: The opening race of the second round of NASCAR's playoffs was washed out by persistent rain Saturday at Charlotte (N.C) Motor Speedway and rescheduled for Sunday.

Men's golf: Kenny Perry shot a 4-under 68 in rain and took a one-stroke lead after two rounds in the Champions Tour's SAS Championship in Cary, N.C. Perry had an 8-under 136 total at Prestonwood Country Club. Joe Durant was second after a 68, and first-round leader Bernhard Langer (73) was another stroke back along with Lee Janzen (68).

Women's basketball: Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker had 20 points and 11 rebounds to help the U.S. women's team rout EuroLeague champion and host USK Prague 85-53 in the final game of the Americans' European tour.

Gymnastics: Three-time national champion Sam Mikulak will miss the world gymnastics championships late this month because of an ankle injury.

Women's golf: Jessica Korda took a two-stroke lead in the LPGA Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, shooting a bogey-free 6-under 65 in sweltering conditions.

NFL: Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier's injured right shoulder will force him to miss a third straight game. Shazier had practiced earlier in the week and hoped to return Monday.

TODAY'S NUMBER

4The puck is set to drop for the four-team National Women's Hockey League, which opens its first season Sunday. The New York Riveters travel to Stamford to face the Connecticut Whale, and the Buffalo Beauts host the Boston Pride. Each team will play an 18-game schedule that runs through the end of February.