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This Weekend in Sports: French Open, the Belmont Stakes and the Stanley Cup

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Mike Hewitt, Patrick Smith, Harry How / Getty Images

One of tennis’ Grand Slam events, a Triple Crown horse race and hockey’s greatest trophy all can be won this weekend. Here’s what to watch this weekend in sports:

Friday, June 8

French Open – Men’s Semifinals

Roland Garos Stadium, Paris, France; 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. (EDT); Tennis Channel and NBC-TV
The 2012 French Open reaches the men’s semifinals with No. 1-seeded Rafael Nadal taking on No. 6 David Ferrer. The other men’s semifinal Friday will be world No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic against No. 3 Roger Federer. The winners will meet on Sunday for the championship. Nadal is still the clear favorite, but Ferrer has been to semifinals twice before. Both Federer and Djokovic will showcase their sizable talents in what should be a classic match.

Saturday, June 9

French Open — Women’s Final

Roland Garos Stadium, Paris, France; 9 a.m. (EDT); NBC-TV
The 2012 French Open women’s singles title will be decided on Saturday morning in Paris. Maria Sharapova faces reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in one semifinal match on Thursday, while 2011 U.S. Open champ Samantha Stosur takes on Sara Errani in the other. The winners will meet on the red clay on Saturday. Sharapova is the most celebrated of the women’s semifinalists, but she is still in search of her first French Open title, which would give her a career Grand Slam.

Antigua and Barbuda at United States

Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL; 7 p.m. (EDT); ESPN-TV
The U.S. men’s national soccer team begins the qualifying process for the 2014 World Cup against the national team from the tiny island country of Antigua and Barbuda on Friday night in Tampa. U.S. men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann will have Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan leading his attack with Tim Howard in net against the Antiguan squad. The U.S. team’s next game in this round is slated for June 12 in Guatemala City.

NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Game 7 — Boston Celtics at Miami Heat

American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL; 8:30 p.m. (EDT); ESPN-TV
Trailing 3-2 in this best-of-seven series, the Miami Heat must win on Thursday night in Game 6 in Boston to force the Eastern Conference Finals to a seventh game in Miami on Saturday. The Celtics’ team defense and intense effort from Kevin Garnett made a difference in their 94-90 win over the Heat on Tuesday. Miami’s LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh will need to elevate their game to advance to a second consecutive NBA Finals. Oklahoma City, which eliminated San Antonio 107-99 on Wednesday, awaits the winner.

Belmont Stakes

Belmont Park, Elmont, NY; 6:30 p.m. (EDT); NBC-TV
Having already won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, I’ll Have Another will attempt to become just the 12th horse in history – and the first since Affirmed in 1978 – to win the Triple Crown by besting the field at the Belmont Stakes. Dullahan, Union Rags and other thoroughbreds will attempt to keep I’ll Have Another from achieving the feat. Jockey Mario Gutierrez and trainer Doug O’Neill are confident that their horse can do what 11 other Triple Crown-contenders since 1978 have failed to do at the 1 1/2-mile track: win.

New York Mets at New York Yankees

Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY; 7:15 p.m. (EDT); FOX-TV
The latest installment of the inter-league ‘Subway Series’ is Fox’s MLB Game of the Week. The New York Yankees began Thursday in second place in the American League East, just a half-game behind the Baltimore Orioles. Phil Hughes (5-5, 4.96) gets the start for the Yankees on Saturday against the surprising New York Mets, who are just two-and-a-half games back of the Washington Nationals in the National League East. Dillon Gee (4-3, 4.48) will take the mound for the Mets.

NHL Stanley Cup Finals: Game 5— Los Angeles Kings at New Jersey Devils

Prudential Center, Newark, NJ; 8 p.m. (EDT); NBC-TV
After a 3-1 win on Wednesday, the New Jersey Devils avoided a sweep at the hands of the red hot Los Angeles Kings, who still lead the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals series 3-1. New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur must be as solid in goal as he was in Game 4 to keep Drew Doughty and the rest of the Kings from getting a lead that Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick can protect. L.A. has won all 10 of their road playoff games this post-season. No team has ever come from down three games to win in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley

MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV; 11 p.m.; HBO-PPV TV
With a record of 54-3-2, the experienced Manny Pacquiao is a 4-1 favorite to beat undefeated Timothy Bradley (28-0) when the two men square off in Las Vegas on Saturday night for Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title belt. Some boxing pundits believe that Pacquiao, 33, may have already seen his best days. Bradley believes he is quick enough to counter-punch with the veteran champion.

Sunday, June 10

French Open — Men’s Final

Roland Garos Stadium, Paris, France; 9 a.m. (EDT); NBC-TV
The 2012 French Open wraps up with the men’s final, which will pit the winner of the Rafael Nadal – David Ferrer semifinal taking on the victor of the Novak Djokovic – Roger Federer match. Nadal is seeking a record seventh French Open title. If he advances to play either Djokovic or Federer, expect an epic tennis match on the slow clay courts.

Pocono 400

Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, PA; 1 p.m. (EDT); TNT-TV
The drivers of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series make the first of their two annual visits to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. For the 11th consecutive week, Greg Biffle is in first place in the points standings, but Matt Kenseth is just one point off the lead. Jeff Gordon won the 2011 edition of this race.

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