Azarenka triumphs as Nishikori, Konta toil

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus returns to Russia’s Elena Vesnina on day three at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London Wednesday. (AP)
Updated 06 July 2017

Azarenka triumphs as Nishikori, Konta toil

LONDON: New mum Victoria Azarenka continued her comeback bid for Wimbledon glory on Wednesday as Kei Nishikori and Johanna Konta ground out victories to reach the third round.
Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Venus Williams were made to sweat it out waiting on a sweltering day at the All England Club where players battled soaring temperatures and flying ants in their bid to make the last 32.
Former world No. 1 Azarenka, playing her first Grand Slam tournament since giving birth to first child Leo in December, knocked out Russian 15th seed Elena Vesnina.
The 2012 and 2013 Australian Open champion, in her fourth match back, won 6-3, 6-3, taking her record over the Russian to 8-0 without dropping a set.
The Belarusian, 27, could become the first mother to win the Wimbledon singles since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980.
“Traveling is a little stressful for me, traveling with a baby. I want to make sure that everything is okay. But overall, it’s just great. It’s really fun that I’m able to go home and spend time with my son,” she said.
Azarenka next faces British wildcard Heather Watson who also upset the form book. The world No. 102 downed Latvian 18th seed Anastasija Sevastova in straight sets.
British sixth seed Konta reached the Wimbledon third round for the first time with a marathon 7-6 (8/6), 4-6, 10-8 win over Donna Vekic which left her opponent in tears.
Konta and Watson’s victories made it the first time that two British women have reached the last 32 at their home Grand Slam since Jo Durie and Anne Hobbs in 1986.
British men’s defending champion Murray was facing the unpredictable serve-volleyer Dustin Brown on Center Court, with Nadal due afterwards in the 15,000-seater arena.
Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion, is looking to reach the third round for only the second time since he finished runner-up in 2011 when he faces fellow left-hander Donald Young of the US.
Nishikori dug deep to keep his Wimbledon hopes alive as the Japanese ninth seed ground out a 6-4, 6-7 (7/9), 6-1, 7-6 (8/6) win over Ukrainian qualifier Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Despite reaching at least the quarterfinals of the other three Grand Slams, Nishikori has never been beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon.
He next faces Spanish 18th seed Roberto Bautista Agut who ousted German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk.
France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 12th seed, made short work of Italian qualifier Simone Bolelli in the sizzling heat, winning in straight sets.
Fans shielded their faces from the sun with towels, programs and napkins as temperatures reached 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit).
Tsonga was one of several players bothered by an invasion of flying ants.
“That was strange... it was in my nose and in my ear,” he said.
Gilles Muller won a gruelling five-set encounter with Czech qualifier Lukas Rosol. The 16th seed from Luxembourg won the decider 9-7.
US 24th seed Sam Querrey and Britain’s Aljaz Bedene also won their second round matches.
Meanwhile, seventh seed Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, was battling Germany’s Florian Mayer for a spot in the third round.
Five-time champion Williams is trying to concentrate on tennis against the backdrop of the impending legal action she faces back home in the US over a fatal car crash.
The 37-year-old veteran, devastated by the incident, broke down in tears on Monday when talking about the crash. She was facing Chinese rising star Wang Qiang on Court One.
Czech 22nd seed Barbora Strycova lost to Japan’s Naomi Osaka, who awaits Williams or Wang.


Minnows Comoros send Ghana crashing out of Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 23 sec ago

Minnows Comoros send Ghana crashing out of Africa Cup of Nations

  • Ahmed Mogni, who plays for French third-tier club Annecy, scored the winner when he pushed a low cross from Ben Djaloud past goalkeeper Joseph Wollacott
  • Comoros finish third in the group and must wait until Thursday to know if they are among the best four third-placed teams to get last 16 spots
YAOUNDÉ: Four-time champions Ghana were eliminated from the Africa Cup of Nations after crashing 3-2 to minnows Comoros in Group C on Tuesday in Garoua.
The Black Stars had captain Andre Ayew sent off after 25 minutes and, after wiping out a two-goal deficit, lost when Comoros’ Ahmed Mogni scored his second goal five minutes from time.
Morocco and Gabon drew 2-2 in Yaounde in the same group to retain first and second places respectively and qualify for the round of 16, which kicks off on Sunday.
Comoros, representing a tiny island nation off the south east coast of Africa, finished third and must wait until Thursday to know if they are among the best four third-placed teams, who get last 16 spots.
A disastrous night for Ghana started after just four minutes when Serbia-based El Fardou Ben Mohamed fired the first-time qualifiers in front.
Mogni, who plays for French third-tier club Annecy, added a second just past the hour only for 10-man Ghana to hit back through goals from Richmond Boakye and Alexander Djiku.
Mogni struck again when he pushed a low cross from Ben Djaloud past goalkeeper Joseph Wollacott to give the islanders a stunning triumph.
In Yaounde, Gabon led twice through Jim Allevinah and a Nayef Aguerd own-goal while Sofiane Boufal and Achraf Hakimi netted for Morocco.

Messi back in full training for PSG after Covid

Updated 18 January 2022

Messi back in full training for PSG after Covid

  • The Argentina attacker was seen warming up with his PSG teammates in a video clip posted by the club on Twitter
  • Messi contracted the virus whilst on holiday in his hometown of Rosario in Argentina during Ligue 1's winter break

PARIS: Lionel Messi was back in full training with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday for the first time since testing positive for Covid-19 at the end of last year.
The Argentina attacker was seen warming up with his PSG teammates in a video clip posted by the club on Twitter.
Messi contracted the virus whilst on holiday in his hometown of Rosario in Argentina during Ligue 1’s winter break.
PSG announced on January 5 that he was back in France after testing negative but the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is only now feeling fit enough to resume normal service.
He missed the French Cup match against Vannes and two league games, the 1-1 draw with Lyon and last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat of Brest.
Messi’s emotional move from Barcelona to the French capital side has not gone according to the script he, the fans, and his new employers would have liked.
Messi has scored only one goal in 11 league appearances for PSG, although he has netted five times in the Champions League.
He has missed a total of 10 Ligue 1 games since August through injuries, late return from Argentina duty, and then Covid-19.
He resumed individual training last Thursday, after which he told his fans on Instagram: “It has taken me longer than I thought to be OK but I’m almost recovered and I’m looking forward to getting back on the field.”
Messi could make his league return against Reims on Sunday.


Trial of former Manchester United player Giggs delayed until August

Updated 18 January 2022

Trial of former Manchester United player Giggs delayed until August

  • The former Wales national manager is charged with controlling and coercive behaviour and assault against his ex-girlfriend and her sister
  • Giggs, 48, has pleaded not guilty to all charges and remains on bail

LONDON: The trial of former Manchester United soccer player Ryan Giggs has been delayed to August 8 due to a lack of court space, the BBC reported after a hearing on Tuesday.
The former Wales national manager is charged with controlling and coercive behavior and assault against his ex-girlfriend and her sister. The trial at Manchester Crown Court had been due to start on Jan. 24.
Giggs, 48, has pleaded not guilty to all charges and remains on bail.
“Unfortunately it has become necessary to vacate this trial from the list,” the BBC quoted Judge Hilary Manley as saying. “The reason for this is because there is not a court available to accommodate this trial.
“Due to the large backlog of court cases, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic and the need for social distancing, this is a situation which is a daily reality for the criminal courts.”
Giggs’ lawyer said his client was “extremely disappointed.”
The former player was charged last April when a magistrate’s court heard a prosecutor read out a summary of charges including that he struck Kate Greville with a “deliberate headbutt.”
He was first arrested in the case and released on bail in Nov. 2020.
Giggs made 963 appearances over 23 years for Manchester United as a player, a club record, winning a haul of honors including 13 Premier League winner’s medals and two UEFA Champions League winner’s medals.
He represented Wales as a player 64 times between 1991 and 2007 and took over as national coach in 2018.


Murray roars into round two as Medvedev sets up Kyrgios clash

Updated 18 January 2022

Murray roars into round two as Medvedev sets up Kyrgios clash

  • Top-10 seeds Garbine Muguruza, Iga Swiatek and Anett Kontaveit all made comfortable starts to their Melbourne title charges
  • "It's amazing to be back and winning a five-set battle like that, I couldn't ask for any more," said Murray

MELBOURNE: Former world number one Andy Murray turned back the clock in typically combative style and favorite Daniil Medvedev set up a blockbuster second-round showdown with Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
In the women’s draw, top-10 seeds Garbine Muguruza, Iga Swiatek and Anett Kontaveit all made comfortable starts to their Melbourne title charges, while Simona Halep and Aryna Sabalenka also won despite struggling with their serves.
Emma Raducanu, the US Open champion, was also victorious on her tournament debut but there was defeat at the first hurdle for her fellow 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez — the woman Raducanu beat in the Flushing Meadows decider.
Canada’s Fernandez, the 23rd seed, went down 6-4, 6-2 to Australian wildcard Maddison Inglis, to the delight of the home crowd.
After Sunday’s deportation of men’s defending champion and top seed Novak Djokovic, the first Grand Slam of the year is now in full swing and many are eager to move on from the visa saga.
That is easier said than done and Tennis Australia (TA), organizers of the so-called “Happy Slam,” said in a statement Tuesday that they “deeply regret the impact” it has had on the other players.
“As the Australian tennis family, we recognize that recent events have been a significant distraction for everyone,” TA said, without mentioning Djokovic by name.
If it has been a distraction for Murray, he did not show it.
The 34-year-old, there as a wildcard, showed all the fighting qualities that made him a three-time Grand Slam champion.
His epic five-set victory over 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili was hugely symbolic — the Briton departed Melbourne Park in 2019 not knowing if he would ever be back because of hip trouble.
But here he was, rolling back the years and heading into round two.
“It’s amazing to be back and winning a five-set battle like that, I couldn’t ask for any more,” said Murray.
There was no such problem for Russia’s Medvedev, the second seed and favorite to lift his second major, who made light work of 91st-ranked Henri Laaksonen on Rod Laver Arena, dismantling the Swiss 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3).
With Djokovic out of the picture and Roger Federer not in Melbourne because of injury, the draw has opened up for the 25-year-old Medvedev and Spanish great Rafael Nadal.
Medvedev, who lost last year’s final in Melbourne to Djokovic but then beat the Serbian in the US Open final in September, plays combustible but talented Australian showman Kyrgios in round two.
Another of the “Next Gen” young talents challenging the “Big Three” of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer is Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The fourth seed was a comfortable winner in three sets over practice partner Mikael Ymer to get his tournament up and running.
In the women’s draw, Spanish world number three Muguruza, a finalist at Melbourne Park two years ago, eased past 77th-ranked Frenchwoman Clara Burel 6-3, 6-4.
There was also little trouble for Kontaveit, despite some early nerves, and Swiatek, but Romania’s Halep was far from comfortable.
The former number one labored into round two 6-4, 6-3 after an error-strewn clash with Poland’s Magdalena Frech which saw 11 service breaks.
Second seed Sabalenka, who was reduced to tears and serving underarm in a disastrous lead-up to Melbourne, had Mark Philippoussis to thank after she revealed the Australian former world number eight helped iron out some of her serving problems.
She was far from perfect on her serve but survived to beat Storm Sanders 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
In the last action of the day, Raducanu ousted the American Sloane Stephens — a former US Open champion — 6-0, 2-6, 6-1 in a performance that will make the Briton’s rivals sit up and take notice.


Novak Djokovic has to comply with rules to go to Spain, PM says

Updated 18 January 2022

Novak Djokovic has to comply with rules to go to Spain, PM says

  • ‘Any sportsperson who wishes to compete in our country must comply with the health rules of Spain’
  • Novak Djokovic travels regularly to Spain where he owns a house in the southern resort of Marbella

MADRID: World men’s tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic will have to comply with Spanish health rules to be able to travel to Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday.
Answering a question on whether Djokovic would be allowed to enter Spain to compete after Australia deported him for being unvaccinated against COVID-19, Sanchez said: “Any sportsperson who wishes to compete in our country must comply with the health rules of Spain.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was visiting Spain on Monday and stood beside Sanchez during the news conference, also insisted the different rules in the different countries must be respected. “We all have to abide by them, no matter who we are,” he said.
Djokovic travels regularly to Spain where he owns a house in the southern resort of Marbella. He spent a few days in late December and early January and video footage showed him training there.
Spanish rules currently require people to have either a vaccine certificate, a PCR negative test or a certificate of having recovered from COVID-19. The country imposes strict quarantines on people who test positive.
During the same news conference, the Spanish Prime Minister made an impassioned call for vaccination. Even though vaccination is not mandatory in Spain, the vaccination rate is one of the highest in Europe.