Maria Sharapova looks back to her best as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal show no signs of slowing down

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Four contenders for the Australian crown — Sharapova, Federer, Nadal and Kerber. (AFP)
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Updated 18 January 2019

Maria Sharapova looks back to her best as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal show no signs of slowing down

  • Sharapova dumps out defending champion Caroline Wozniacki.
  • Rafa and Roger brush aside young guns in straight sets victories.

LONDON: It is coming up to the end of the first week of the Australian Open, so we thought we would take a look and see how some of the big names fared on day five of the year’s first Grand Slam.

MARIA SHARAPOVA

Maria Sharapova warned she is in the sort of form to win the Australian Open after she dumped Carolina Wozniacki out with an impressive 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win. It was the Russian’s best win since her return from a drugs ban and she looked like a winner-in-waiting.
“I thought the level was quite high. I knew I’d get a tough match — she (Wozniacki) is the defending champion,” the five-time Slam champion said.
“I haven’t played many matches in the last year against top players so it was really rewarding to win that last set. These are the kinds of matches I train for.”

ROGER FEDERER

Ageless Roger Federer marked his 100th Rod Laver Arena match Friday by storming past Taylor Fritz, then looked forward to a “high quality” last-16 clash against another young gun, Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion continued his quest for a record seventh Australian Open title with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 third-round demolition of 21-year-old American Fritz in just 88 minutes of flawless tennis.
Next up is 14th seed Tsitsipas. And the 37-year-old Federer is looking forward to taking on the fiery young Greek, who is 17 years his junior.
Federer played him in the recent mixed teams Hopman Cup, winning a closely contested singles 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4), and said he was impressed.
“I think he played really well there. I actually did too. I thought it was really high quality tennis,” Federer said.
“This is obviously a different type of match, it being best of five, it being a fourth round of a Slam.”

RAFAEL NADAL

Rafael Nadal declared “everything is a step forward” after brutally brushing aside Alex de Minaur at the Australian Open Friday in just the Spaniard’s third match since the US Open.
The world No. 2 was in ominous form as he continued his quest for an 18th Grand Slam by punishing the Australian teenager in a third-round tennis masterclass 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
“In general terms, everything is a step forward. So that’s positive news for me,” said the man who won the Aussie Open in 2009.
“I’m very happy for the victory against someone who had won seven matches in a row, winning a tournament.”
On his fitness Nadal added: “Probably 10 years ago it would have been difficult not playing much tennis in the build-up but now I have been in this situation many times with the injuries I have had.
“I have to deal with the ups and downs of my body but I try to enjoy any moment on the court.”

MARIN CILIC

The former US Open champions was made to work for his place in the last 16 as he struggled to beat Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-3. Verdasco showed glimpses of the form that once made him a top-10 player and had a match point, one he frittered away with a double fault.
I was just slightly luckier in those crucial moments,” the sixth-seeded Cilic said.
“(It is) unbelievable. Emotions were up and down,” Cilic said.
“When I was down two sets to none, it was a big hill to climb.”
It’s the seventh time in Cilic’s career that he has emerged to win a match after dropping the opening two sets.

ANGELIQUE KERBER

Second seed Kerber received a gift ride into the Australian Open fourth round for her 31st birthday when she overpowered local wildcard Kimberly Birrell 6-1, 6-0.
The Wimbledon champion swept world No. 240 Birrell aside in just 58 minutes to set up a last-16 clash with unseeded American Danielle Collins.
Kerber, a winner at Melbourne Park in 2016, said she was used to celebrating her birthday on the road at the season-opening Grand Slam.
“I think it’s the 12th time in a row,” she said. “I’m getting older but I have the best time here and I’ll never forget my birthdays here in Australia.”
Kerber reached the semifinals last year but lost to Simona Halep in a tight three-setter.

 


Delhi Capitals back on top of IPL with 33-run win against Rajasthan Royals

Updated 7 sec ago

Delhi Capitals back on top of IPL with 33-run win against Rajasthan Royals

  • Delhi has 16 points from 10 games, two points more than second-placed Chennai Super Kings
ABU DHABI: Delhi Capitals returned to the top of the Indian Premier League with a 33-run victory over Rajasthan Royals on Saturday.
Delhi scored 154-6 after being asked to bat, its innings propelled by Shreyas Iyer’s 32-ball 43, captain Rishabh Pant’s run-a-ball 24 and Shimron Hetmyer’s 28 runs off 16 deliveries.
Rajasthan could only reach 121-6 in reply after collapsing to 6-2 in the second over and 48-4 in the 11th. Rajasthan captain Sanju Samson restored stability to the innings with a 53-ball 70 not out.
“I thought the total was chasable but we lost too many wickets and weren’t able to get any momentum,” Samson said.
Anrich Nortje returned figures of 2-18 from four overs.
Delhi has 16 points from 10 games, two points more than second-placed Chennai Super Kings which has played a game less. Rajasthan has eight points from nine games.
In the second game on Saturday, Punjab Kings beat last-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad by five runs at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Punjab moved to fifth place in the eight-team IPL after being put into bat and scoring 125-7, before containing Hyderabad to 120-7 in 20 overs.
Jason Holder was the biggest threat to Punjab, taking 3-19 with the ball and scoring 47 not out off 29 deliveries with the bat, including five sixes. But it wasn’t enough.
Hyderabad is out of playoff contention following its eighth defeat in nine games.

Overmatched All European ‘need a couple miracles’ to keep Ryder Cup

Updated 4 min 52 sec ago

Overmatched All European ‘need a couple miracles’ to keep Ryder Cup

  • The Europeans trail captain Steve Stricker’s young and hungry US squad 11-5
He can’t clone Jon Rahm. He can’t make any last-minute substitutions. He can’t sneak up and cut the laces on the Americans’ golf shoes or super-glue the head covers to their drivers.
All European captain Padraig Harrington can do at this point is post the lineup card, recite a few lines from Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” speech, wave his guys on their way Sunday morning and then pray. A lot.
Harrington knocked that first task off his to-do list late Saturday, predictably front-loading his lineup in a desperate bid to gain momentum and then somehow sustain it through the dozen singles matches. The Europeans trail captain Steve Stricker’s young and hungry US squad 11-5, and no team has ever come back from a deficit of more than four points.
Worse, after losing seven of the last nine cups, the Americans are out for revenge.
“They have run the score up on us before,” said Tony Finau. “And if we have the opportunity, we are going to run it up on them tomorrow.”
Avoiding embarrassment is a reasonable goal. Englishman Ian Poulter, hardly exaggerating Europe’s chances for a comeback, put it this way: “We need a couple of miracles.”
What the Europeans really need is a dozen players like Rahm, the steely eyed Spaniard who currently sits atop the world rankings. He has won all three of his team matches alongside countryman Sergio Garcia and tied the fourth, practically carrying England’s Tyrrell Hatton on his back.
“The team is playing good,” said Rahm, being more gracious than candid. Half of Europe’s squad has failed to contribute so much as a half-point. “Just putts not dropping in and a couple things here and there that just could happen that haven’t happened. I’d like to believe that things even out.
“Golf is a very complicated and ironic and sarcastic game sometimes,” Rahm added a moment later, “and teams can be capable of some great things, like the US has done so far the last two days. It could be our chance.”
Momentum is everything on the final day of the Ryder Cup. Anyone who has watched the scoreboard change colors like the temperature gauge in an overheating car knows how quickly a cushion can become a hot seat. Think of how fast the Europeans, holding a 10-6 lead, slid down the drain just ahead of American Justin Leonard’s putt at Brookline in 1999. Or the way the Europeans similarly turned the tables in 2012, erasing that same deficit for an improbable win at Medinah.
“I think we learned a lot of lessons from 2012,” said Stricker, who played on that team and lost his singles match to Martin Kaymer. “Probably the thing I can say is that we didn’t do a good job then putting our lineup out on Sunday. ... That was definitely one of the things that we were talking about up there tonight.
“So you know,” he said finally. “it’s hard to say if you got it right or not.”
With eight players ranked among the top 10 in the world and only one outside the top 20 — Scottie Scheffler, at No. 21 — Stricker’s job was picking through an embarrassment of riches.
Xander Schauffle, who went 3-0, leads off against also-winless Rory McIlroy. World No. 2-ranked Dustin Johnson, the squad’s oldest player and the only golfer on either side to go 4-0 through the team matches, will get to sleep in and plays in the sixth match against winless Paul Casey. Daniel Berger, one of six American rookies, wound up in the 12th spot against Matt Fitzpatrick, yet another European without a point.
Except for McIlroy, Harrington lined up all of his winless players in slots 6-12. Rahm plays the third match against Scottie Scheffler, and Garcia goes off fourth against long-hitting Bryson DeChambeau.
“These things can be done,” said Harrington, who played in the 1999 match at Brookline. “It is more of an individual game tomorrow and our job is getting them to focus on winning their point. That’s the biggest thing they can do to help the team.”

Ten-man Dortmund crash without Haaland on Rose’s Gladbach return

Updated 25 September 2021

Ten-man Dortmund crash without Haaland on Rose’s Gladbach return

  • "We really missed Erling and Marco today, but we needed a bit more toughness and determination," admitted Dortmund defender Mats Hummels
  • Wolfsburg lost 3-1 at Hoffenheim, falling to third and losing second place on goal difference to Bayer Leverkusen

BERLIN: Defending champions Bayern Munich will finish the weekend three points clear at the top of the Bundesliga table after close rivals Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg both suffered away defeats on Saturday.
Without injured star striker Erling Braut Haaland and club captain Marco Reus, Dortmund had midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud sent off for two first-half yellow cards as their 1-0 defeat at Borussia Moenchengladbach left them fourth in the table.
“Of course, we really missed Erling and Marco today, but we needed a bit more toughness and determination,” admitted Dortmund defender Mats Hummels as the visitors played a man down for 50 minutes.
Earlier, Wolfsburg lost 3-1 at Hoffenheim, falling to third and losing second place on goal difference to Bayer Leverkusen, whose 18-year-old Germany international Florian Wirtz sealed a 1-0 win over Mainz to become the youngest player to reach the milestone of 10 Bundesliga goals.
Having lost both Haaland and Reus to injuries in training on Friday, the visitors struggled in front of goal as Moenchengladbach fans whistled Dortmund coach Marco Rose on his return to Borussia Park, where he was in charge for two years before quitting to join their Bundesliga rivals.
The match was decided shortly before half-time when Swiss midfielder Denis Zakaria beat England midfielder Jude Bellingham to the ball and fired the hosts ahead with the game’s first clear chance.
Emotions were running high and referee Denis Aytekin dished out eight yellow cards, two of which were shown to Dahoud.
He was booked early for fouling Gladbach captain Lars Stindl, and then sent off on 40 minutes for a late tackle on US defender Joe Scally.
Dortmund squandered the chance to grab a late equalizer when Belgium winger Thorgan Hazard headed over in added time.
Haaland and Reus face a race against time to be fit for Tuesday’s Champions League game at home to Sporting Lisbon while Saturday’s win hauled Gladbach up from the relegation places to 11th.
Wolfsburg took the lead in Sinsheim when winger Ridle Baku fired in a stunning long-range shot from the left flank, but Andrej Kramaric, Christoph Baumgartner and Pavel Kaderabek scored three unanswered goals for Hoffenheim.
“It’s a shame we didn’t take the points, but Hoffenheim were very efficient — better than us in that regards,” said Wolfsburg head coach Mark van Bommel after his first league defeat in charge.
RB Leipzig picked up a much-needed confidence boost before Tuesday’s home Champions League game against Brugge with a 6-0 thrashing of Hertha Berlin.
Three defeats in their opening five league games, as well as a 6-3 thrashing at Manchester City in Europe, had piled pressure on Leipzig coach Jesse Marsch.
The American reacted by switching Denmark forward Yussuf Poulsen up front for struggling new striker Andre Silva.
Poulsen linked up with French winger Christopher Nkunku to cause havoc in the Hertha defense.
Nkunku was outstanding with two goals and two assists, while Poulsen, Nordi Mukiele, Emil Forsberg and Amadou Haidara also got on the scoresheet.
Union Berlin are unbeaten in their last 20 home league games after a 1-0 win against Bielefeld in the capital.
Substitute striker Kevin Behrens came off the bench to claim his first Bundesliga goal in only his fourth game for Union.
However, the win was overshadowed by injury to Union defender Timo Baumgartl, who was knocked out during a first-half collision and taken to hospital, where it was confirmed he suffered concussion.
“Timo Baumgartl is doing well. Under the circumstances, that’s the most pleasing news,” said Union coach Urs Fischer.


Salah gets 100th PL goal but Liverpool held 3-3 at Brentford

Updated 25 September 2021

Salah gets 100th PL goal but Liverpool held 3-3 at Brentford

  • Juergen Klopp’s side was unable to reap the maximum profit from slip-ups by Manchester United and Chelsea
  • Instead Liverpool moved just one point clear at the top, while preserving the top flight’s only remaining unbeaten record

LONDON: Mohamed Salah scored his 100th Premier League goal for Liverpool on Saturday but it was not enough to beat Brentford, which twice pegged the Reds back in a breathless 3-3 draw.
Juergen Klopp’s side was unable to reap the maximum profit from slip-ups by Manchester United and Chelsea earlier in the day as it shared the points with Brentford in early-evening entertainment in west London.
Instead Liverpool moved just one point clear at the top, while preserving the top flight’s only remaining unbeaten record.
And Klopp will be relieved at that after Ivan Toney had what would have been a late winner ruled out for offside.
The German coach will also know his side will not face many tougher trips all season, with vibrant Brentford leading through Ethan Pinnock and, following goals from Diogo Jota and Salah, equalizing through Vitaly Janelt.
Then, when Curtis Jones smashed Liverpool ahead again, Bees sub Yoane Wissa came up with another equalizer.
There was a taste of things to come when both teams were denied by goal-line clearances in the opening 10 minutes.
First, Salah missed out on a seventh-minute opener thanks to a spectacular piece of defending from Kristoffer Ajer, who slid in to hook the ball off the line.
Moments later, at the other end, Bryan Mbeumo latched onto Toney’s flick-on and lifted the ball over Alisson, but this time Joel Matip got back to scoop the ball clear from underneath the crossbar.
Brentford was more than holding its own against the 2020 champion and took the lead in the 27th minute. Spanish winger Sergi Canos — who spent three years at Liverpool as a youngster but played only nine minutes for the first team — got down the Reds’ right and drilled in a low cross that Toney helped on for Pinnock to tap in.
The lead lasted barely three minutes, however, before Jordan Henderson swung in a cross from the right and Jota headed home at the far post.
Seven minutes before the interval, Henderson teed up Jones on the edge of the area and his shot was deflected onto a post by Pinnock.
Jota should have been celebrating his second of the afternoon from the rebound but somehow David Raya got his body in the way of the shot and it flew wide.
After the break Salah grabbed his landmark goal. The Egypt striker was initially flagged offside as he tucked away Fabinho’s ball over the top, but a VAR check showed he was in fact onside.
Back came Brentford, though, and when Pontus Jansson slid in to crash Ajer’s cross onto the bar, Janelt popped up at the far post to force the loose ball home.
Jones blasted Liverpool back in front in the 67th with a low drive that took a deflection in a crowded penalty area as it flew past Raya.
Salah should have had goal No. 101 after he was played in by Sadio Mane but he chipped the ball onto the roof of the net.
Moments later Wissa arrived at the far post and produced a composed finish to equalize yet again, before Toney was denied a late winner by the linesman’s flag.


All Blacks clinch Rugby Championship as Wallabies shine

Updated 25 September 2021

All Blacks clinch Rugby Championship as Wallabies shine

  • All Blacks coach Ian Foster recalled big guns Beauden Barrett and Brodie Retallick for the historic 100th Test against the Springboks

TOWNSVILLE, Australia: A relieved New Zealand clinched the Rugby Championship crown Saturday by downing South Africa in a bruising and intense clash between the world’s top two teams, as a resurgent Australia stretched their win streak to three.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster recalled big guns Beauden Barrett and Brodie Retallick for the historic 100th Test against the Springboks after an experimental side easily beat Argentina last week.

And they led from the front in the 19-17 victory, rubbing salt into South African wounds after snatching their No. 1 world ranking last week.

But it was a messy affair which ultimately came down to Jordie Barrett’s boot, with the fullback landing a difficult penalty with two minutes left in the first of a double header at Townsville, in northern Queensland. In the later match, the Wallabies ground down Argentina 27-8, consigning the struggling Pumas to a fifth straight defeat as Dave Rennie’s men won three on the trot for the first time since 2017.

“We knew this game was going to come down to the wire and it was tit for tat there, we just stuck at it,” said All Blacks skipper Ardie Savea after their 10th straight victory.

“We backed ourselves and just glad to come away with the win, relieved actually.

“They put us under a lot of pressure with the box kicks and their chase line and we had to adapt,” he added.

“It was a bit messy, but that’s Test match footy.”

New Zealand’s win ensured they once again won the southern hemisphere title, with world champions South Africa having needed a bonus-point victory to keep their slim championship hopes alive. After five games, the All Blacks have an uncatchable 24 points with a game to play.

Australia, who beat South Africa twice before dismantling Argentina, move up to second on 13 points, two clear of the Springboks, with the Pumas flailing at the bottom.

New Zealand and South Africa scored a try apiece within the opening five minutes when Will Jordan then Sbu Nkosi crossed to set the game alight.

But while the All Blacks went to the break 13-11 in front, they lacked their usual composure as the Springboks successfully shut down their fluent style.

Both sides traded penalties through the second half until Barrett kept his cool and landed the decisive blow in the dying stages from 40 meters out.

“We never like to lose because we come from a very proud country that expects results from us as a team,” said South Africa captain Siya Kolisi, whose side have now lost three in a row.

“But I’m glad of the way the boys stood up today. I can’t fault my teammates or coaches and thought we were right in there. Not much went wrong tonight.”

A revitalized Australia came into their clash against Argentina with their confidence high after consecutive wins over the Springboks, and they kept the momentum going.

Reece Hodge opened their account with a try after just four minutes and Samu Kerevi added another in a bone-crunching first half where Argentina were forced to make a gruelling 62 tackles.

The Wallabies wobbled early in the second stanza and Argentina skipper Julian Montoya powered over for a try, before the home team regained focus and finished strongly with Andrew Kellaway getting their third five-pointer.

“We’re obviously happy to win. We worked hard in the first half to put ourselves in a strong position, then there was probably a bit of frustration,” said Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.

“But we worked hard and sustained a lot of pressure for 20 minutes after half-time, so I guess mixed emotions.

“Happy to win, but we need to be better.”

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