Max Verstappen eyes Silverstone ‘fighting chance’ against Mercedes’ untouchables

Max Verstappen (car, right) admitted that Mercedes drivers, pole sitter Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, who smashed the track record twice each in qualifying, were untouchable for sheer pace. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 August 2020

Max Verstappen eyes Silverstone ‘fighting chance’ against Mercedes’ untouchables

  • The Red Bull-driving Dutchman admitted that Mercedes drivers were a class above

SILVERSTONE, UK: Max Verstappen believes he has a “fighting chance” of creating an upset in Sunday’s British Grand Prix despite conceding that rivals Mercedes have a massive speed advantage.
The Red Bull-driving Dutchman admitted that Mercedes drivers, pole sitter Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, who smashed the track record twice each in qualifying, were untouchable for sheer pace.
But, he said afterwards, Red Bull had a package to close the gap in race conditions and that this gave him hope that all is not lost.
“It’s different in the race,” he said.
“We believe we are a little bit closer in race trim — I don’t say that I am going to be fighting them, but at least we have a fighting chance from third.
“I think my lap at the end of Q2 was pretty good, but you could see very early on in qualifying that they were just way too fast, like they have been the last few races.
“You just have to accept that. You try to do the best you can and that’s P3 for us so I’m pretty pleased about that.”
The Dutchman was a second adrift of Hamilton’s track record lap for pole in qualifying, but has a proven record of overcoming the odds to deliver strong results.
But, he added, he knows his car is not an easy machine to master in the gusty winds that have blown through Silverstone during practice and qualifying.
“With these new types of cars from the last few years, they’re very sensitive to wind because they’re that big and that wide, and especially here at Silverstone you can really feel that,” he explained.
“Yesterday (Friday), for example, it was really tricky in the low-speed corners, but today, the wind changes and it becomes like a completely different car, luckily in the right way, because today was a lot more fun to drive.”


US men’s basketball team fall to France in first Olympics loss since 2004

Updated 26 July 2021

US men’s basketball team fall to France in first Olympics loss since 2004

  • The USA face Iran in their next game on Wednesday when France take on the Czech Republic

SAITAMA, Japan: The US men’s basketball team suffered a shock 83-76 defeat at the hands of France on Sunday, losing at the Olympics for the first time since 2004 and for just the sixth time in the history of the tournament.
The French had upset the US men when they last met in the 2019 FIBA World Cup quarter-finals and they had their number again on the first day of group play at the Saitama Super Arena, powered by a game-high 28 points from Evan Fournier.
“It felt good, it felt good,” Fournier told Reuters.
Moustapha Fall had high praise for his teammate.
“He is the offensive leader for us, always aggressive, always trying to score,” Fall said of Fournier. “We knew he was going to be our leader offensively and he assumed this role, so he is good for us.”
The Americans got out to a good start in the first half, leading 45-37 at the break on the back of their defensive energy, but were outscored 25-11 in a disastrous third-quarter with France taking the lead.
Team USA clawed back to briefly regain the lead in the fourth quarter, but the French wouldn’t go away and took their first ever Olympic win versus the United States.

Guerschon Yabusele of France shoots againnst Edrice Adebayo of the US. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Star US player Kevin Durant was saddled with foul trouble early and found it hard to get into a rhythm. He fouled out near the end of the game.
The United States is always the team to beat at basketball — they now have a 138-6 record and have won gold 15 times since joining the Olympic program in 1936 — boasting more depth than any other country with their star-studded NBA line-ups.
But their recent form suggested reaching the top of the podium would not be as easy as in the past, after they dropped two straight exhibition games this month including a surprise loss to world 22nd-ranked Nigeria.
Preparations were also disrupted by the absence of players due to this year’s late NBA playoffs and late replacements due to COVID-19 protocols and injury.
Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton were finally able to join the team after the last game of the NBA finals on July 20. Holiday scored a team-high 18 points on Sunday despite having flown into Japan the day before.
US head coach Gregg Popovich said his team had to be more consistent, pointing to several leads they had let slip away.
“We gave all of those up. Because of a lack of consistent defense, too many errors on offense, possessions where we didn’t move and took ill-advised shots. So you understand it, look at it, put in the work and try to get better.”
In other Group A action on Sunday, the Czech Republic held on to beat Iran 84-78 after the Iranians had cut a 22-point deficit down to four points with less than a minute to go.
In Group B, Australia overcame a 22-turnover performance to top Nigeria 84-67, while Italy fought to a 92-82 win against Germany that saw the Italians pull away late after tightening up their defense.
In their next games on Wednesday, the United States will take on Iran and France will meet the Czechs, while Australia will face Italy and Germany will take on Nigeria. 


West Indies, Pakistan rearrange four-match T20 series

Updated 25 July 2021

West Indies, Pakistan rearrange four-match T20 series

  • New fixtures announced after ongoing West Indies, Australia series was affected by COVID-19
  • T20 World Cup begins in the Gulf in October with West Indies looking to retain the title

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS: West Indies and Pakistan have agreed to play a revised four-match T20 series, Cricket West Indies (CWI) announced on Sunday.

The cricket boards of Pakistan and West Indies were forced into the alteration to the scheduled tour dates after West Indies' current ODI series against Australia was rocked by a positive COVID-19 test which saw Thursday's second match suspended.

It was finally played on Saturday with the third and final match pushed back to Monday — one day before the scheduled opener against Pakistan.

The revised dates allow for an opener in Barbados on Wednesday with three further matches in Guyana.

"Together with the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board), CWI have examined various scenarios, and we jointly agreed that the best solution in the present circumstances is to cancel the first T20I and play a four-match T20I series starting on Wednesday and keep the rest of the tour schedule unchanged," CWI president Ricky Skerritt said.

"Both teams are in the final stages of preparing for the ICC T20 World Cup, so we anticipate an exciting and entertaining series of games."

The T20 World Cup begins in the Gulf in October with West Indies looking to retain the title.

The teams will also play two Tests as part of the 2021-23 World Test Championship.

West Indies v Pakistan revised tour schedule:

July 28: 1st T20, Kensington Oval, Barbados
July 31: 2nd T20, National Stadium, Guyana
August 1: 3rd T20, National Stadium, Guyana
August 3: 4th T20, National Stadium, Guyana
August 12-16: 1st Test, Sabina Park, Jamaica
August 20-24: 2nd Test, Sabina Park, Jamaica


Defending champion Murray out of Olympics singles with injury

Updated 25 July 2021

Defending champion Murray out of Olympics singles with injury

TOKYO: Two-time defending Olympic tennis champion Andy Murray withdrew Sunday from the men’s singles tournament due to a muscle injury, Team GB said in a statement.
Murray, 34, will stay in Tokyo to play doubles with Joe Salisbury. The pair won their opening match of the competition on Saturday.
“I am really disappointed at having to withdraw but the medical staff have advised me against playing in both events, so I have made the difficult decision to withdraw from the singles and focus on playing doubles with Joe,” Murray said in a statement.
“The decision follows consultation with medical staff in relation to a quad strain,” it added.
The Scot was scratched from the order of play just hours before he was due to face Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime in the first round. He was replaced in the draw by Australia’s Max Purcell.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Murray is the only player to win two Olympics singles titles. He was bidding for a third successive gold following his victories at London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Murray’s career has been blighted by injury in recent years, twice undergoing hip surgery since rising to world number one at the end of 2016.
He recently suffered his earliest Wimbledon exit in 16 years when he was knocked out in the third round by Canada’s Denis Shapovalov.
Murray and Salisbury will play Germany’s Tim Puetz and Kevin Krawietz for a spot in the Olympic men’s doubles quarter-finals after dumping out French second seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in the first round.
 


Czech Republic tops Iran 84-78 in Olympic basketball opener

Updated 25 July 2021

Czech Republic tops Iran 84-78 in Olympic basketball opener

SAITAMA, Japan: Patrik Auda scored 16 points, Blake Schilb added 14 and the Czech Republic wasted most of a 22-point lead before holding on to defeat Iran 84-78 in the first game of the Olympic men’s basketball tournament on Sunday.
Jan Vesely added 11 for the Czech Republic.
Behnam Yakhchali had a game-high 23 points for Iran (0-1), which trailed by 22 late in the third and by 21 in the fourth before putting together its comeback bid. Mohammad Jamshidi scored 16 and Hamed Haddadi had 15 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late for Iran.
Jamshidi’s 3-pointer with 1:10 left got Iran within 80-76, but Schilb scored on each of the next two Czech possessions to help close out the win.
Iran opened the fourth quarter on a 15-2 run, getting within 69-61 on a three-point play from Yakhchali with 5:39 remaining. The Czechs missed nine of their first 10 shots from the field in the fourth, seeing their lead get trimmed to single digits for the first time since early in the second quarter.
Both teams return to play Wednesday, with Iran facing the US and the Czech Republic playing France in Group A matchups.


Tunisia’s Hafnaoui wins 400m freestyle gold

Gold medalist Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia on the podium.(REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)
Updated 25 July 2021

Tunisia’s Hafnaoui wins 400m freestyle gold

TOKYO: Swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia was the surprise winner in the men’s 400-meter freestyle at the Tokyo Games.
Australia’s Jack McLoughlin settled for silver after leading much of the race, and Kieran Smith grabbed another Olympic medal for the Americans.
It is the third swimming medal for the US after Chase Kalisz won the first American medal of the Tokyo Games, taking gold Sunday in the men’s 400-meter individual medley.
Jay Litherland made it a 1-2 finish for the powerhouse US team, rallying on the freestyle leg to take the silver. Brendon Smith of Australia claimed the bronze.
Kalisz, a protege and former training partner of Olympic great Michael Phelps, touched first in 4 minutes, 9.42 seconds.
Litherland was next in 4:10.28, just ahead of Smith (4:10.38).
Meanwhile, Americans April Ross and Alix Klineman have cruised to a straight-set victory over China in their Olympic beach volleyball opener.
Ross is making her third appearance in the Summer Games with her third different partner. She’s already won a silver medal and a bronze. Klineman is making her Olympic debut. They’re among the favorites for the gold medal in Tokyo.
The Americans won the first set 21-17 and then took the second 21-19 over Xue Chen and Wang Xinxin.
Ross and Klineman play Spain on Tuesday.
The American men’s team of Jake Gibb and Tri Bourne play their first match on Sunday night. Bourne was a late substitute after Gibb’s original partner, Taylor Crabb, tested positive for COVID-19 when he arrived in Japan. They’ll face Italy.