Sharapova retires from tennis at age 32 with 5 Slam titles

Russia’s Maria Sharapova with the Suzanne-Lenglen trophy after defeating Italy’s Sara Errani in the French Open Women’s Singles final at Roland Garros, Paris, 2012. (AFP)
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Updated 27 February 2020

Sharapova retires from tennis at age 32 with 5 Slam titles

  • Sharapova moved to Florida as a child and trained at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy
  • Powerful at the baseline, and famous for a never-give-up attitude, Sharapova reached No. 1 for the first time at 18 in 2005

Maria Sharapova was a transcendent star in tennis from the time she was a teenager, someone whose grit and groundstrokes earned her a career Grand Slam and whose off-court success included millions of dollars more in endorsement deals than prize money.
And yet, Sharapova walked away from her sport rather quietly Wednesday at the age of 32, ending a career that featured five major championships, time at No. 1 in the WTA rankings, a 15-month doping ban and plenty of problems with her right shoulder.
There was no goodbye tournament, no last moment in the spotlight, for someone so used to garnering so much attention for so long, with or without a racket in hand.
“I’ve been pretty good in the past, balancing my time with my sponsors with my tennis, because I know my priority. At the end of the day, what I love doing is competing, and that’s where my heart is at: on center court,” Sharapova said in a 2006 interview with The Associated Press right before that year’s US Open.
“There are a couple of sides of me,” she said then. “There’s the Maria that’s a tennis player. There’s the Maria that is a normal girl. And there’s the Maria who’s a businesswoman. And that’s where the ‘Maria Sharapova brand’ comes into play.”
Around that time, she signed a “lifetime” contract with a racket company, a deal that eventually was ended. And two weeks after that, she would win the US Open trophy while wearing an outfit that resembled a sparkly black cocktail dress, part of the “couple of sides” persona she cultivated.
Two years later, though, Sharapova missed the tournament at Flushing Meadows because she needed surgery on her shoulder, which has troubled her off and on ever since; she had another operation on that joint in 2019.
She lost the last four matches she played at major tournaments, with first-round exits in her past three appearances, including at the Australian Open in January. That turned out to be the last match of her career and made her 0-2 this season.
In an essay written for Vanity Fair and Vogue about her decision to retire, posted online Wednesday, Sharapova asks: “How do you leave behind the only life you’ve ever known?”
She disclosed that she “had a procedure to numb my shoulder to get through the match” a half-hour before walking on court for a first-round exit at last year’s US Open, writing: “I share this not to garner pity, but to paint my new reality: My body had become a distraction.”
Born in Russia, and “discovered” by Martina Navratilova at an exhibition event in Moscow, Sharapova moved to Florida as a child and trained at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy.
“We’ll miss her, baby. She’s very special,” Bollettieri told the AP in an interview last year, when Sharapova returned to his academy as she worked her way back from her latest shoulder procedure. “The tour will miss her. ... Always competitive. All business.”
Sharapova burst onto the tennis scene at 17 by upsetting Serena Williams to win Wimbledon in 2004. She would beat Williams again at that year’s season-ending tour championship to improve to 2-1 against the American — and never won another one of their matchups, dropping the next 19 in a row.
Powerful at the baseline, and famous for a never-give-up attitude, Sharapova reached No. 1 for the first time at 18 in 2005. After adding her second major trophy at the US Open the following year, she collected an Australian Open title in 2008, and then won the French Open in 2012 and 2014.
Sharapova is one of only six women in the professional era to win each major tennis title at least once. She made 10 Grand Slam finals in all, going 5-5; the last came in 2015 at the Australian Open, where she was the runner-up to Williams.
At the 2016 Australian Open, where Williams beat her in the quarterfinals, Sharapova tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium.
After initially being given a two-year suspension, Sharapova appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which reduced the penalty, ruling she bore “less than significant fault” in the case and could not “be considered to be an intentional doper.”
Since returning from that suspension in 2017, Sharapova managed to reach only one Slam quarterfinal.
Her 6-3, 6-4 loss to Donna Vekic at Melbourne last month sent Sharapova’s ranking tumbling outside of the top 350 — she is 373rd this week.
Asked after that defeat whether it might have been her last appearance at the Australian Open, Sharapova repeatedly replied with, “I don’t know.”
“I put in all the right work. There is no guarantee that even when you do all of those things, that you’re guaranteed victory in a first round or in the third round or in the final. That’s the name of this game,” Sharapova said after what turned out to be her final match. “That’s why it’s so special to be a champion, even for one time.”
A little more than a month later, she told the world she was done with her playing career.
“Tennis showed me the world — and it showed me what I was made of. It’s how I tested myself and how I measured my growth,” Sharapova wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “And so in whatever I might choose for my next chapter, my next mountain, I’ll still be pushing. I’ll still be climbing. I’ll still be growing.”


Manchester United call off Preston friendly over coronavirus fears

Updated 29 July 2021

Manchester United call off Preston friendly over coronavirus fears

  • United were due to make the short trip to Deepdale at the weekend as part of their build-up to the new Premier League season
  • Routine lateral flow testing on Thursday saw some possible positive cases returned

LONDON: Manchester United have canceled their pre-season friendly at Preston on Saturday after a number of suspected Covid-19 cases within the camp of the English football giants.
United were due to make the short trip to Deepdale, fellow northwest club Preston’s home ground, at the weekend as part of their build-up to the new Premier League season.
But routine lateral flow testing on Thursday saw some possible positive cases returned.
Those concerned are now isolating, pending further PCR tests.
In a statement, United said: “Maintaining Covid security is a priority for us. Following routine testing of the first-team training group today, we have identified a small number of suspected positive cases. This has led to those people isolating, pending further tests.
“As a precautionary measure based on Covid protocols, we have taken the difficult decision that we will not now be able to play the friendly match against Preston North End this Saturday.”
The statement added: “We regret the disruption to Preston and disappointment caused to fans. Any Manchester United fans who have purchased tickets for the game will be automatically refunded.
“At this stage, we do not expect further disruption around our forthcoming matches, but we will continue to follow Premier League protocols in this regard.”
United are due to finish their pre-season program with a game against top-flight rivals Everton at Old Trafford on August 7.


German official sent home for racist slur at Olympics against Algerian athlete

Algerian Azzedine Lagab of the Olympic Refugee Team during 2020 Summer Olympics on Wednesday was subject to a racist slur by a German cycling official, who has been suspended and will be sent home. (AP)
Updated 29 July 2021

German official sent home for racist slur at Olympics against Algerian athlete

  • German cycling official used the slur while urging a German rider to catch up to riders from Algeria and Eritrea
  • Algerian rider Azzedine Lagab said he had not received an apology

TOKYO: A German cycling official has been suspended and will be sent home from the Tokyo Olympics after using a racist slur during the men’s time trial.
German cycling federation sports director Patrick Moster had been overseeing the cycling squad at the Tokyo Games. He used the slur while urging German rider Nikias Arndt to catch up to riders from the African nations of Algeria and Eritrea during Wednesday’s time trial. It was heard on TV broadcasts and widely condemned in Germany.
Moster later apologized and the German team initially indicated he would stay in Tokyo, but said Thursday he would be sent home.
German Olympic committee president Alfons Hörmann said he considers Moster’s apology to be “sincere” but that he “breached the Olympic values.”
Hörmann added that “fair play, respect and tolerance ... are non-negotiable” for the German team.
The International Olympic Committee, whose president Thomas Bach is German, welcomed the decision to send Moster home and said it had “inquired about the issue” with the German team before the decision was announced.
“We welcome the swift reaction of (the German Olympic committee) not to let him continue in his role and asking him to leave Tokyo to return back to Germany. Comments such as these have no place at the Olympic Games,” the IOC said.
The International Cycling Union later said it had provisionally suspended Moster ahead of a full hearing.
“The UCI Disciplinary Commission urgently examined the matter and considered that Mr. Moster’s remarks were discriminatory and contrary to basic rules of decency,” the UCI said. “The UCI condemns all forms of racist and discriminatory behavior and strives to ensure integrity, diversity and equality in cycling.”
Algerian rider Azzedine Lagab told German news outlet Der Spiegel that he had not received a personal apology from Moster or the German team. Lagab added he had repeatedly faced racist comments during his career.
Arndt condemned the official’s comments.
“I am appalled by the incident at the Olympic time trial today and would like to distance myself clearly from the sporting director’s statements,” the German rider wrote on social media Wednesday. “Such words are not acceptable.”
On Thursday, Arndt posted a picture of the Olympic rings with the message “Cycling against racism!”

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Olympic organizers defend virus measures as Japan cases surge

Updated 29 July 2021

Olympic organizers defend virus measures as Japan cases surge

  • Olympic organisers reported 24 new infections among Games participants, the highest yet, bringing the total number to 193
  • International Olympic Committee spokesman said there was nothing to suggest a link between the Games and the rising figures in Japan

TOKYO: Japan hit a record number of new virus cases on Thursday as Tokyo Olympics organizers defended their Covid-19 counter-measures and dismissed any link to the nationwide surge.
Olympic organizers reported 24 new infections among Games participants, the highest yet, bringing the total number to 193, including athletes, media and Olympic employees and contractors.
Meanwhile nationwide infections topped 10,000 for the first time, Japanese media said, with Tokyo reporting a record 3,865 cases.
Reports also said the government would expand a state of emergency to four more regions, and extend the emergency currently in place in Tokyo until August 31.
International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said there was nothing to suggest a link between the Games and the rising figures in Japan.
“As far as I’m aware there’s not a single case of an infection spreading to the Tokyo population from the athletes or Olympic movement,” he told reporters.
“We have the most tested community probably anywhere... in the world, on top of that you have some of the toughest lockdown restrictions in the athlete’s village,” he added.
Organizers also insisted the Games is not putting additional pressure on Japan’s medical system, as experts warn the rising number of cases could lead to a health care crisis.
Only two people associated with the Games are in hospital, they said, and half of all those needing care are being looked after by their own medical teams.
“Of 310,000 screening tests, the rate of positivity is 0.02 percent,” Adams added.
Of the Olympic participants reported positive, 109 are residents of Japan, with the rest coming from abroad.
The comments come with rising concern in Tokyo and beyond about a rapid rise in new infections, spurred by the more contagious Delta variant.
Tokyo is already under a virus state of emergency that shortens restaurant and bar opening hours and bans them from selling alcohol, and three neighboring regions are now expected to impose the same measure.
But experts say the limits do not appear to be working, and have warned people not to drop their guard.
“The current situation is the worst ever,” a top government adviser on the virus warned, according to national broadcaster NHK.
Shigeru Omi, a former top WHO official, said the government and Olympic organizers had the “responsibility to do everything they can... to prevent infections and a breakdown in medical services.”
And the chairman of the Tokyo Medical Association Haruo Ozaki urged the government to “send an effective, strong message,” warning that emergency measures were no longer enough.
Osaki said infections among Olympians and among the Japanese population were “different issues,” but said the Games were having an “indirect impact.”
“People find it hard to think about self-restraint when we’re having this festival,” he said.
Tokyo’s Governor Yuriko Koike however insisted the Games was helping people heed calls to avoid non-essential outings.
“It’s significantly lifting the numbers of people staying at home” and watching on television, she told reporters.
Japan has seen a comparatively small virus outbreak, with around 15,000 deaths despite avoiding harsh lockdowns, but only around a quarter of the population is fully vaccinated.
Strict measures have been imposed for the Games, including a ban on spectators at almost all events and regular testing for Olympic participants.
Japanese media said Thursday the government would expand the state of emergency to three regions around Tokyo and Osaka, in western Japan.
The emergency measures in place in Tokyo and southern Okinawa had been due to end August 22, but will now last until August 31 in the capital and other affected regions, they said.

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Olympic golf first round suspended over lightning

Updated 29 July 2021

Olympic golf first round suspended over lightning

  • Play was halted just before 2:00 p.m. local time
KAWAGOE: The first round of the Olympic golf tournament was suspended Thursday because of a lightning storm at the Kasumisageki Country Club.
Play was halted just before 2:00 p.m. local time with 27 of the 60-player field yet to finish their opening 18 holes as thunder cracked around the course.
Unheralded Austrian Sepp Straka set the early pace with a bogey-free eight-under par 63 to be leader in the clubhouse after playing in the first group out.
British Open champion Collin Morikawa, representing USA, was yet to complete his round at one-under par with five holes left alongside partner Rory McIlroy of Ireland on the same score.
Home favorite Hideki Matsuyama, the US Masters champion, had just finished with a two-under par 69 as when play was halted, with “dangerous weather” given as the official reason.
Lying second in the clubhouse three shots behind Straka were Thomas Pieters of Belgium and Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz.

Rain delays West Indies-Pakistan first T20

Updated 28 July 2021

Rain delays West Indies-Pakistan first T20

  • Pakistan won the toss and opted to bowl first
  • 19-year-old all-rounder Mohammad Wasim to make his debut in the match

BRIDGETOWN: Rain has delayed the start of the first T20 International of the rescheduled four-match series between the West Indies and Pakistan at Kensington Oval in Barbados on Wednesday.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam won the toss and put West Indies in to bat but steady showers prevented play from getting underway.
Following his success in the just-completed ODI series against Australia, the home side included left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein in their line-up.
He will complement wrist-spinner Hayden Walsh, the “Man of the Series” in the 4-1 T20I triumph over the Aussies in St. Lucia two weeks ago.
Pakistan are giving a debut to 19-year-old all-rounder Mohammad Wasim in a side which shows two other changes from the team which concluded the three-match T20I series in England earlier this month.
Sharjeel Khan comes in at the top of the order while Azam Khan slots into the middle-order.

TEAMS

West Indies — Kieron Pollard (captain), Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran (wicketkeeper), Andre Russell, Jason Holder, Dwayne Bravo, Hayden Walsh, Akeal Hosein.
Pakistan — Babar Azam (captain), Sharjeel Khan, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Mohammad Hafeez, Fakhar Zaman, Azam Khan, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Wasim, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Qadir.
Umpires: Gregory Brathwaite (BAR), Nigel Duguid (GUY)
Match Referee: Richie Richardson