Svitolina outlasts Bencic to keep WTA Finals title defense alive

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Elina Svitolina of Ukraine hits a return against Belinda Bencic of Switzerland during their women's singles match in the WTA Finals tennis tournament in Shenzhen on Nov. 2, 2019. (AFP / Noel Celis)
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Medical staffer checks Belinda Bencic during the match. AFP
Updated 03 November 2019

Svitolina outlasts Bencic to keep WTA Finals title defense alive

  • World No. 3 Naomi Osaka withdrew from the year-ender before her second match against Ashleigh Barty
  • Svitolina will play the winner of the second semifinal between Barty and Karolina Pliskova — the top two ranked players in the world

SHENZHEN, China: An indefatigable Elina Svitolina came from behind to outlast a hobbled Belinda Bencic in a grueling semifinal on Saturday, continuing her dogged quest to defend her WTA Finals title.

The world No. 8 worked over an ailing Bencic with a comeback 5-7, 6-3, 4-1 victory in one hour and 50 minutes at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. The Swiss struggled with a right leg injury from late in the first set but gamely fought on before calling it a day.

She was the third player to retire mid-match in the tournament following the withdrawals of Kiki Bertens and Bianca Andreescu. World No. 3 Naomi Osaka withdrew from the year-ender before her second match against Ashleigh Barty.

Svitolina will play the winner of the second semifinal between Barty and Karolina Pliskova — the top two ranked players in the world.

The Ukrainian did not lose a set in the round-robin phase and remains on track to claim a maximum prize of $4.725 million — the highest pay cheque in tennis history.

“It’s very tough for her,” Svitolina said. “I’m going to leave everything on the court (in the final) to try to raise the cup again.”

Both players came out firing in a high-quality opening and traded winners but it was the Swiss who impressed with her aggressive approach.

Bencic’s freewheeling paid off when a blistering backhand return winner captured the break in the 6th game. But she couldn’t capitalize on serve and then later in the set required medical attention on her right hamstring.

Bencic seemed rejuvenated from the treatment and immediately pounced on a loose Svitolina service game in the 12th game to claim the set emphatically with a backhand winner down the line.

Svitolina rediscovered her potent counterpunch in the second set and hit the lines to move around an increasingly frustrated Bencic, who was hampered by her troublesome right leg.

Svitolina cruised through the set to draw level and her momentum continued until Bencic pulled the pin.

The 25-year-old is hoping to end a barren season on a high having not captured a title since last year’s triumph in Singapore.


England cricket players donate, take pay cuts amid COVID-19 crisis

Updated 05 April 2020

England cricket players donate, take pay cuts amid COVID-19 crisis

  • The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has said the season will not start before May 28
  • ECB’s centrally contracted women players to take a salary reduction for the months of April, May and June

LONDON: England’s centrally contracted male cricketers will donate £500,000 ($613,000) to the Board and charities while their women’s team counterparts have volunteered a three-month pay cut amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the players’ association (PCA) said.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has said the season will not start before May 28 and speculation has been mounting over how their leading players would respond to the situation.

“Following a meeting today of all of the England men’s centrally contracted cricketers, the players have agreed to make an initial donation of £0.5 million to the ECB and to selected good causes ...” the Professional Cricketers’ Association said in a statement.

“This contribution is the equivalent of all of the England centrally contracted players taking a 20 percent reduction in their monthly retainers for the next three months.

“The players will continue to discuss with the ECB the challenging situation faced by the game and society as a whole and will consider how best to support the ECB and both the cricketing and wider community going forward.”

The ECB’s centrally contracted women players have volunteered to take a salary reduction for the months of April, May and June in line with their coaches and support staff.

England women’s captain Heather Knight said: “All the players felt like it was the right response in the current climate to take a pay cut in line with what our support staff are taking.

“We know how the current situation is affecting the game and we want to help as much as we can.

“We will be discussing with the ECB further ways we can help the game in the coming weeks,” added Knight, who has signed up with the National Health Service (NHS) as a volunteer.

The ECB has announced a 61 million pounds aid package to help the local game withstand the financial impact of the pandemic.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler is currently auctioning the shirt he wore in England’s 2019 World Cup final victory to raise funds for efforts to fight the coronavirus.