Serena Williams beats Simona Halep at Australian Open

Serena Williams faces No. 3 Naomi Osaka, a three-time Slam champ who will carry a 19-match winning streak, into Thursday’s semifinals. (AFP)
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Updated 16 February 2021

Serena Williams beats Simona Halep at Australian Open

  • She sets up a showdown against No. 3 Naomi Osaka, a three-time Slam champ

MELBOURNE: As well as she played at the start of her Australian Open quarterfinal, Serena Williams suddenly was struggling early in the second set.
After one mistake against No. 2 seed Simona Halep – who won the last time they played each other – Williams pointed at her racket strings and made a sour face, as if to make clear it wasn’t truly her own fault. After another, Williams looked up at her guest box with palms up and asked, “What is happening?”
That dismay did not last long. Williams recalibrated her shots, claimed the last five games and overcame 33 unforced errors to beat Halep 6-3, 6-3 on Tuesday to return to the final four at Melbourne Park for the first time since she won the tournament in 2017 for her most recent Grand Slam title.
“I just realized I was making a lot of unforced errors in those games that I lost. And I knew that I had an opportunity to play better,” said Williams, now two wins away from claiming her record-tying 24th major singles championship. “So I was just like, ‘Just stay in there. You just can keep going.’ And that’s what I just did.”
She set up a showdown against No. 3 Naomi Osaka, a three-time Slam champ who will carry a 19-match winning streak into Thursday’s semifinals.
“She’s Serena,” Osaka said. “I feel really intimidated when I see her on the other side of the court.”
This will be their fourth career matchup – all on hard courts – and Osaka leads 2-1, the most memorable encounter, of course, coming in the final of the 2018 US Open.
On that night, Williams got into an argument with the chair umpire after her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, was caught trying to relay a signal – that’s not allowed in Grand Slam play – and wound up being docked a game. Osaka’s victory, which earned her first major title, closed with thousands of fans filling Arthur Ashe Stadium with boos and both of the athletes were in tears during the trophy ceremony.
There were no spectators Tuesday in Rod Laver Arena, because they’ve been banned from the tournament during a five-day government lockdown in response to a local rise in COVID-19 cases (the applause and other crowd noise TV viewers are hearing is being added to the broadcast feed and isn’t actually happening in the stadium).
Displaying the improved footwork that Mouratoglou says has been a point of emphasis, the 39-year-old Williams would swing at balls while they were still on the rise, trying to jump on shots and take time away from Halep.
“I know that, throughout my career, speed has been one thing that’s been super good in my game,” Williams said.
On the forehand side, especially, Williams struck point-ending strokes or put on pressure that prevented Halep from managing to do the same.
By the end of the opening set, Williams held a whopping 14-4 edge in winners. Indeed, she was at her best in just about every possible way – for that set, anyway.
The serves at up to 124 mph (200 kph). The returns that included a cross-court forehand winner on Halep’s very first service point, a stinging shot about which Williams said with a chuckle: “I just saw it, and it looked like a donut, and I went for it.”
She won the point on each of her first six trips to the net.
But then things went awry for Williams in just about every possible way – for a few games, anyway.
She fell behind 2-0 in the second set with 10 unforced errors in that span alone. A double-fault here. A wild volley there. Then Halep led 3-1.
That’s when Williams put a stop to her slide. A key game came at 3-all, when Williams converted her sixth break chance on a 13-stroke exchange in which she ran wide of the double alley on her forehand side to extend the point, eventually winning it when Halep dumped a forehand into the net.
“The best match I’ve played this tournament, for sure,” said Williams, who let out a big smile when it ended.


Rooney says he turned down approach from former club Everton

Updated 58 min 47 sec ago

Rooney says he turned down approach from former club Everton

  • Rooney said he was approached via his agent and thought long and hard before declining the opportunity at the Premier League club
  • “I believe I will be a Premier League manager," the former England and Manchester United striker said

DERBY, England: Wayne Rooney turned down the chance to interview for the manager’s position at former club Everton, saying Friday he wasn’t ready to leave his current job at second-tier Derby.
Rooney, who started his playing career at Everton and had a second spell at Goodison Park before retiring, said he was approached via his agent and thought long and hard before declining the opportunity at the Premier League club.
“I believe I will be a Premier League manager,” the former England and Manchester United striker said. “I believe I’m ready for that, 100 percent. And if that is with Everton one day in the future, that would be absolutely great.
“But I’ve got a job here that I’m doing at Derby County which is an important job to me.”
Everton are looking for a replacement for Rafa Benitez, who was fired this month as the team slides toward the relegation zone. Everton are in 16th place and just four points above the bottom three.
Rooney has been Derby’s manager since November 2020 — previously he’d been the team’s player-coach — and has received plaudits for the job he has done at the club amid its financial crisis.
Derby entered administration — a form of bankruptcy protection — in September and have been docked a total of 21 points this season because of their financial problems. They are in next-to-last place in the Championship, eight points from safety.
Rooney said last week he was “flattered” by the speculation linking him with the Everton job.
Frank Lampard, Rooney’s former England teammate, is among the favorites to fill the vacancy.

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PSL 2022: Smeed, Ali power Gladiators to 190 against Peshawar Zalmi 

Updated 28 January 2022

PSL 2022: Smeed, Ali power Gladiators to 190 against Peshawar Zalmi 

  • Zalmi won the toss and decided to field first in the second game of tournament 
  • William Smeed hit 97 off 62 balls, while Ahsan Ali smashed 73 off 46 deliveries 

ISLAMABAD: Openers William Smeed and Ahsan Ali powered Quetta Gladiators to 190 runs against Peshawar Zalmi in the second match of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2022 at the National Stadium in Karachi on Friday. 

Smeed smashed 97 off 62 balls, while Ali scored 73 off 46 deliveries to put up the massive total. 

Zalmi, who won the toss and decided to field first, need 191 to win in the required 20 overs.  

The seventh edition of Pakistan’s own professional cricket league kicked off at the National Stadium in Karachi on Thursday night, with Multan Sultans defeating Karachi Kings by seven wickets. The match was preceded by an electrifying opening ceremony that featured plenty of fireworks and performances by pop stars Atif Aslam and Aima Baig.  

Both the "Yellow Storm" Zalmi and the Gladiators have won the PSL title once each, with Zalmi qualifying for the final three times before. In last year’s edition, Zalmi lost the final to Multan Sultans.   

Former Pakistan captain and veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik is captaining Zalmi in today’s clash, the franchise, which is missing the fiery pace bowling of skipper Wahab Riaz, said in a statement.   

“Wahab Riaz is isolating after he tested positive for coronavirus," Zalmi said.  

Riaz tested positive for the virus a few days before the tournament kicked off.    

Zalmi have a string of swashbuckling power hitters that can give the Gladiators’ bowling line-up a run for their money. Afghanistan’s Hazratullah Zazai can bully any opposition team during the powerplay overs to ensure Zalmi get off to a flying start.    

Malik, known for playing spin exceptionally well and rotating the strike, can frustrate the opposition in the middle-order whenever Zalmi need someone to absorb the pressure and build a huge partnership.    

Another Zalmi player, Haider Ali, the rising new star of Pakistan cricket, has already made a name for himself by performing exceptionally well in previous editions of the PSL and the domestic cricket circuit in Pakistan. Known for his penchant for hitting huge sixes, it will be curtains today for the Gladiators if Ali gets cracking.    

Sameen Gul and Usman Qadir are the Peshawar Zalmi bowlers that the Gladiators will be keeping an eye on.  

The "Yellow Storm" will miss the fiery pace bowling of their skipper Wahab Riaz, who tested positive for the coronavirus a few days before the tournament kicked off. 


Aston Villa add Arsenal’s Chambers to January splurge

Updated 27 January 2022

Aston Villa add Arsenal’s Chambers to January splurge

  • The 27-year-old joins Philippe Coutinho, Lucas Digne, Robin Olsen and Kerr Smith at Villa Park
  • Chambers made 122 appearances for Arsenal after joining from Southampton in 2014

LONDON: Aston Villa signed versatile defender Calum Chambers from Arsenal on Thursday to take their tally of new recruits this month to five.
The 27-year-old, who can play in both central defense and at right-back, joins Philippe Coutinho, Lucas Digne, Robin Olsen and Kerr Smith at Villa Park as manager Steven Gerrard reshapes his squad.
Chambers has signed a three-and-a-half year contract after an undisclosed fee was agreed between the clubs.
He made 122 appearances for Arsenal after joining from Southampton in 2014, also spending time on loan at Middlesbrough and Fulham.
However, he has struggled for game time this season following the arrivals of Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu, making just five appearances, only two of which came in the Premier League.
“It’s a very exciting place to be and everyone can see that from the outside. Things are happening here and it’s definitely moving in the right direction,” said Chambers.
“For me, it was a no-brainer to join a great club. It was the right thing for me to do.”
Villa have moved up to 11th in the Premier League table since the arrival of Gerrard, who has won five of his 11 games in charge.


Meet the drivers who will battle for glory at the 2022 Diriyah E-Prix

Updated 28 January 2022

Meet the drivers who will battle for glory at the 2022 Diriyah E-Prix

  • 22 drivers from 11 teams will fight for the win at the launch of Formula E season 8 in Riyadh

RIYADH: The all-electric championship is back. The Diriyah E-Prix returns in the historic desert surroundings of the UNESCO World Heritage site for its season-opening double-header on Jan. 28-29.

Twenty-two of the best drivers in the world will race for eleven teams and only one trophy in season eight of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

Here are the heroes behind the helmets:

Mercedes EQ

Reigning team world champions Mercedes-EQ return for their final season in Formula E with another stellar lineup, bringing back season seven champion Nyck de Vries and Belgian star Stoffel Vandoorne.

The flying Dutchman De Vries qualified on pole for the first race of last season’s opening Diriyah E-Prix, leading every lap thereafter en route to his first-ever victory in the series.

His second victory came soon after, in Valencia. De Vries ended the campaign with two wins, four podiums and 99 points, becoming the first official FIA Formula E World Champion, following the series’ long-awaited FIA sanctioning. Vandoorne heads into his fourth season on the circuit, having finished ninth in last season’s championship with victory in the Berlin finale, three poles and three podiums to his name.

Jaguar TCS Racing

Jaguar race into season eight off the back of their best year yet, and led by a duo of strong, proven race winners: Kiwi Mitch Evans, and Britain’s Sam Bird. With two wins and 10 podiums last season, Evans returns as a serious challenger in 2022. A race winner in every season of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship to date, Bird bagged first place in both Diriyah and New York last year.

Avalanche Andretti Formula E

It’s a new look for the Andretti team in 2021, as Avalanche replaces BMWi as title partner. On the driving side, Jake Dennis returns alongside the rookie US driver Oliver Askew.

Dennis had a spectacular start to his Formula E career last year, becoming the most successful rookie in championship history, in terms of podium visits, with victories in Valencia and London.

Dragon / Penske Autosport

Dragon showed real signs of improvement last season, and have now added the Italian Antonio Giovinazzi from Formula 1’s Alfa Romeo. He joins forces with teammate Sergio Sette Camara, who had his best drive in Diriyah last year — finishing fourth in the opening race.

TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team

The German team return to battle in season eight with Andre Lotterer once again alongside Pascal Wehrlein. Both Wehrlein and Lotterer — the latter a three-time Le Mans winner and five-year Formula E veteran — scored consistently through a strong second half of the season last year.

Mahindra Racing

A stunning victory in London on home soil for driver Alex Lynn was the highlight, but he departed at the end of the season. Fellow Brit Oliver Rowland replaces him, racing alongside another British driver, Alexander Sims, for 2021-22.

Sims has a race win and podiums to his name in Formula E, and Rowland joins the team having made the move from Nissan e.dams.

Nissan e.dams

Nissan e.dams are heading into season eight with one of the most promising talents on the grid, Maximilian Guenther, who proved himself with a win in New York last year. He joins one of the most experienced drivers on the grid in 2015-16 champion, Sebastian Buemi, a multiple winner at Le Mans and in sportscar racing.

Envision Racing

Envision kick off season eight with a striking new green design for their cars, while retaining their driver pairing of Nick Cassidy and Robin Frijns.

After returning to Formula E in 2018-19, Frijns is now embarking on his fourth season with Envision, while Japanese Super Formula and Super GT champion Cassidy joined the Envision team last year and recorded two podium finishes in Mexico and New York.

NIO 333 Racing

NIO 333 retain veteran Oliver Turvey, who joined them just before the 2014-15 season finale in London, and add rookie Dan Ticktum for season eight.

Ticktum was a successful Formula 2 racer, winning his home event at Silverstone in his rookie season, and securing three further podiums.

ROKiT Venturi Racing

After three podium finishes, including two wins, last year, the 2016-17 champion Lucas di Grassi, who spent seven years with Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, has joined Venturi. Edoardo Mortara finished second in the standings last year — his fourth campaign with Venturi, narrowly missing out to Nyck De Vries in dramatic fashion in the finale in Berlin.

DS TECHEETAH

DS TECHEETAH had their streak of back-to-back teams and drivers’ championships halted last season when they finished third by just a single point.

Jean-Eric Vergne and Antonio Felix da Costa return and could arguably be regarded as the strongest pairing on the grid. Both are past title winners — Vergne twice — with seven seasons of Formula E experience to their names.

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Japan take step closer to World Cup, S.Korea on cusp

Updated 27 January 2022

Japan take step closer to World Cup, S.Korea on cusp

  • Yuya Osako buried a first-half penalty to put four-time Asian champions Japan in control in Saitama
  • Group A is more clear cut, South Korea's 1-0 win at Lebanon meaning they are all but there

SAITAMA, Japan: Japan took a step closer to the World Cup with a 2-0 qualifying win over a toothless China while South Korea were on the brink of sealing their spot in Qatar on Thursday.
Yuya Osako buried a first-half penalty to put four-time Asian champions Japan in control in Saitama, north of Tokyo, before Junya Ito doubled their lead after the break.
Japan’s fourth win in a row kept them second in Group B behind leaders Saudi Arabia, who they host at the same stadium next Tuesday.
With Australia just a point behind Japan, three teams are battling it out for the two automatic spots from Group B as the qualifying campaign approaches its conclusion.
Group A is more clear cut, South Korea’s 1-0 win at Lebanon meaning they are all but there. If the United Arab Emirates drop points later Thursday, the Koreans — who were missing injured Spurs star Son Heung-min — will qualify. Iran are also on the cusp.
Japan manager Hajjime Moriyasu knows that next week’s clash with the Saudis could be pivotal to their chances.
“Looking ahead to the Saudi game, tonight’s match has helped strengthen our understanding as a team and that’s a big plus for us,” he said.
“But the Saudi game will have a different intensity and tension from tonight, and we have to be ready to play at a high level.”
Australia stayed in the hunt for an automatic berth with a comfortable 4-0 home win over Vietnam.
Jamie McLaren opened the scoring in the 30th minute in Melbourne before Tom Rogic notched a second in first-half injury time.
Craig Goodwin and Riley McGree added two more after the break to wrap up the win for the home side, whose manager Graham Arnold was absent after testing positive for Covid-19.
Japan were missing half their regular defense against China, with captain Maya Yoshida and Arsenal full-back Takehiro Tomiyasu both missing through injury.
But the home side took a 13th-minute lead after China defender Wang Shenchao slid in to block Ito’s cross but hit the ball with his arm.
Osako made no mistake from the spot and the hosts pressed home their advantage in the 61st minute when Ito rose to head home substitute Yuta Nakayama’s cross.
“We had a mix of overseas and domestic-based players so they were all at different levels of fitness,” said Moriyasu.
“Despite that they combined well and communicated well, and did a good job.”
China, who were playing their first game under new manager Li Xiaopeng, saw their slim hopes of reaching the World Cup all but ended.
“The players gave their all but the first goal came at a bad time for us and it threw us out of our rhythm,” said Li, whose side failed to have a shot on target.
“It had a really big impact.”

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