Hamilton wins thrilling season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton celebrates with the Mercedes team. (Reuters)
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Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the Bahrain Grand Prix. (AP)
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Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton followed by Red Bull driver Max Verstappen. (AP)
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Lewis Hamilton came home seven-tenths of a second ahead of Max Verstappen. (Reuters)
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Hamilton's win surprised many observers after Red Bull had dominated pre-season testing. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 March 2021
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Hamilton wins thrilling season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix

  • Defending seven-time champion used supreme skill to hold off Red Bull's Max Verstappen in closing laps

SAKHIR, Bahrain: Lewis Hamilton produced another stunning demonstration of his supreme racing talent on Sunday to resist a charging Max Verstappen and win a thrilling season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
The defending seven-time champion defended with supreme skill over the closing laps in his Mercedes to hold off the Red Bull driver and claim a record-stretching 96th Formula One victory.
Hamilton came home seven-tenths of a second ahead of the Dutchman, who was forced to hand back the race lead in the closing laps after passing the champion with a move that had taken him off the track and beyond the limits.
As expected, Hamilton and his heir apparent delivered an exhilarating exhibition of racing as they stormed to the flag — the pair leaving third placed Valtteri Bottas, in the second Mercedes, to finish adrift by 37 seconds.
It was Hamilton’s first season-opening triumph since 2015 and surprised many observers after Red Bull had dominated pre-season testing and two days of practice and qualifying ahead of the race.
“Firstly, can I just say it’s the first time I’ve seen fans in a long time,” said a delighted Hamilton.
“What a difficult race that was — stopping early we knew it was going to be tough, but we had to cover Max and it was always going to take something pretty special to do it.”
A disappointed Verstappen said: “Of course, it’s a shame, but you also have to see the positives. We’re putting the fight on to them so it’s great to start the year like that“
Lando Norris was fourth for McLaren ahead of Sergio Perez, who had started from the pit lane in the second Red Bull, Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo, of McLaren.
Carlos Sainz was eighth for Ferrari ahead Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda of AlphaTauri and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.


Clippers sign coach Tyronn Lue to new deal reportedly worth $14 million annually

Updated 30 May 2024
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Clippers sign coach Tyronn Lue to new deal reportedly worth $14 million annually

  • Clippers President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank didn’t disclose details in announcing the new deal
  • Lue has posted a record of 184-134 in four seasons, including three postseason trips

LOS ANGELES: The Los Angeles Clippers have signed coach Tyronn Lue to a long-term contract after winning a division title in his fourth season.

Clippers President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank didn’t disclose details in announcing the new deal on Wednesday. ESPN reported that the new contract was worth about $14 million annually through the 2028-29 season, citing unnamed sources.

“T Lue is everything we want in a head coach. He’s a brilliant tactician and a natural leader with an extraordinary ability to connect with those around him, both players and staff,” Frank said in a statement. “Four years ago, we felt privileged to hire T Lue, and we feel just as fortunate today. There’s no one we’d rather coach our team. T Lue is a pillar of the organization and will be for a very long time.”

Lue has posted a record of 184-134 in four seasons, including three postseason trips and the franchise’s first trip to the Western Conference finals in 2021. The Clippers went 51-31 last season and won the Pacific Division title for the third time in franchise history.

Lue coached Cleveland to the 2016 NBA title with LeBron James, who left for the Lakers in free agency two years later. Lue was gone after an 0-6 start following James’ departure from the Cavaliers. He had waved off talk that he might be a candidate for the job coaching James with the Los Angeles Lakers after Dallas ended the Clippers’ season in the first round.

“I didn’t come in to bounce around, go all over the place,” Lue said at the time. “They’ve all been great to me. Just having a great relationship with the owner, with the front office. It’s great. I would love to be here long-term.”

Lue was an assistant on Doc Rivers’ staff with the Clippers before taking over when Rivers and the club mutually parted ways following the 2019-20 season. Rivers ended up in Philadelphia.

“This is where I want to be. I’ve loved coaching this team for the past four years and I’m excited to head into a new era at Intuit Dome,” Lue. said

Lue was an 11-year NBA veteran as a player, winning championships in 2000 and 2001 with the Lakers.


Celebrations in Greece as Olympiakos beat Fiorentina 1-0 for first European title

Updated 30 May 2024
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Celebrations in Greece as Olympiakos beat Fiorentina 1-0 for first European title

  • Olympiakos coach Jose Luis Mendilibar secured a second straight European title after winning the Europa League with Sevilla last season
  • Tens of thousands of Olympiakos fans joined wild celebrations across the Greek capital after attending outdoor viewing parties

ATHENS: Olympiakos won Greece’s first European club title by beating Fiorentina 1-0 with a last-gasp goal in extra time in the Europa Conference League final on Wednesday.

Ayoub El Kaabi provided the dramatic ending, diving to nudge in a last-gasp goal in the second period of extra time, with fans erupting in celebration after a lengthy wait for a VAR check for offside.

The Moroccan striker — who finished as the competition’s top scorer — struck in the 116th minute of the match, dropping to his knees as he waited the goal review. El Kaabi met a cross from Santiago Hezze to decide a game that had looked destined for a penalty shootout following an energetic but largely risk-free encounter at AEK Arena.

The late goal condemned Fiorentina and ttheir coach Vincenzo Italiano to a second straight defeat in the final of the Europa Conference League, after losing last year to West Ham.

Olympiakos coach Jose Luis Mendilibar secured a second straight European title after winning the Europa League with Sevilla last season.

Tens of thousands of Olympiakos fans joined wild celebrations across the Greek capital after attending outdoor viewing parties. Youths held up lit flares in the port city of Piraeus, near Athens, where the team is based.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis described Olympiakos as “a true legend,” adding in an online post: “Olympiakos has won the Europa Conference League and made history! A sensational night for the club itself, but also for Greek football as a whole.”

The third-tier European club competition took place amid a massive security operation, with some 5,000 police officers forming concentric cordons around a northern area of the capital.

The final was briefly marred by scuffles between Fiorentina fans inside the stadium and riot police next to them.

Although the visitors dominated the early stages of the final, Fiorentina goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano kept his team in the game with two impressive fingertip saves to block on-target shots from Daniel Podence in the fourth minute and Stevan Jovetic in the sixth minute of extra time.

El Kaabi, who scored a total of 11 goals in the competition, had been largely sidelined in the match by Fiorentina’s unyielding four-man defense.


Nelly Korda faces her toughest test at US Women’s Open

Updated 30 May 2024
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Nelly Korda faces her toughest test at US Women’s Open

  • The 79th edition of the Women’s Open gets started on Thursday, and Korda is as big an attraction as the course itself
  • Among those who could challenge is Rose Zhang, the decorated amateur at Stanford who won in her LPGA debut as a professional last year

LANCASTER, Pennsylvania: No matter how easy Nelly Korda has made golf look over the last two months, not even the best player in her sport can expect an easy time at the US Women’s Open.

The biggest and richest event in women’s golf prides itself on being the toughest test, and Lancaster Country Club has all the trappings with its hilly, tree-lined terrain, partially blind shots into some of the greens and a routing in which holes constantly change direction.

“A beast,” Korda called it.

Whether the toughest test identifies the best player is up for debate.

Since the women’s world ranking began in 2006, only two players at No. 1 captured the US Women’s Open — Annika Sorenstam in 2006 at Newport (an 18-hole playoff win over Pat Hurst) and Inbee Park in 2013 at Sebonack Golf Club on Long Island, the year Park won three straight majors.

Now it’s Korda’s turn, and she arrived at Lancaster on a stretch of winning not seen since Lorena Ochoa in 2008, the last person to have six victories before the calendar turned to June.

“It just tests every aspect of your game,” Korda said. “It’s tight off the tee. Visually it looks so much shorter than it is. There’s bunkers that visually you see that you think you’re going to carry that you end up maybe 10 yards short.

“If you’re in the rough and you miss fairways, the greens are very small and very slopy, and the rough is thick around the greens, too.”

The 79th edition of the Women’s Open gets started on Thursday, and Korda is as big an attraction as the course itself, which previously hosted the Open in 2015.

Korda tied an LPGA record by winning five straight tournaments, a streak capped off at the Chevron Championship in the first major of the season. She is coming off a win in her most recent tournament — that makes six wins in seven starts — at the Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National in New Jersey.

“Right now I think Nelly is just in a league of her own,” said Allizen Corpuz, the defending champion who picked up her first major — and first LPGA title — last year at Pebble Beach.

There has been plenty of buzz around Lancaster beyond Korda. The purse is $12 million, and the USGA decided to follow the model of the PGA Tour’s elevated events by paying 20 percent of the purse to the winner — $2.4 million.

This also figures to be the last US Women’s Open for Lexi Thompson, who is playing it for the 18th time and she still is only 29. Thompson said she is retiring from a full schedule after this year. Barring a high finish, she won’t be eligible next year and is unlikely to get a special exemption because she has never won.

Among those who could challenge is Rose Zhang, the decorated amateur at Stanford who won in her LPGA debut as a professional last year, and then ended Korda’s winning streak with a victory at the Cognizant Founders Cup.

Zhang just turned 21 and has not even spent a full year as a pro. She still can appreciate what Korda is doing, and how tough the 25-year-old American will be to beat.

“I’m witnessing some crazy history, and it’s really, really inspiring to see her,” Zhang said. “She’s almost looking unfazed. ... Even though she’s not acting like a human being right now — or playing like it — I think she has a lot of pressure on her. And that’s why I’m saying she’s so incredible, because she’s able to handle all that pressure.”

Korda has two majors among her 14 titles on the LPGA, the other coming in 2021 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship that first elevated her to No. 1 in the world.

In the two years that followed, there was a revolving door at No. 1 among five players. Korda had a health scare with blood clot in 2022. She now is back to full strength and dominating.

“Nelly is almost what we are trying to aim for, because if you beat her you’re probably going to have the trophy in your hands,” said Hannah Green, the only other multiple winner on the LPGA Tour this year.

But the Women’s Open can have a mind of its own, and there have been plenty of surprises over the years, from Corpuz at Pebble Beach last year to A-lim Kim at Champions in Houston during the COVID-19 pandemic in December 2020, even back to Hilary Lunke in 2003.

Korda has only two top 10s in the Women’s Open — a tie for 10th at Shoal Creek in 2018 and a tie for eighth at Pine Needles in 2022. Both times, she finished 11 shots out of the lead.

The US Women’s Open doesn’t discriminate. It’s tough for everyone.

“It’s important not to get ahead of yourself and just think, ‘Oh, I have to beat Nelly.’ You’ve got a lot more people out here who are really just as driven,” Zhang said. “Because to get to the US Open, it doesn’t just take a lucky chance. It requires a lot of years of playing and being able to practice for this moment. I mean, Lancaster is a difficult place.”


The Roshn Saudi League 2023/24: A ‘game-changing season’

Updated 29 May 2024
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The Roshn Saudi League 2023/24: A ‘game-changing season’

  • ‘Some of the best players in the world chose RSL to showcase their incredible talents alongside the next generation of young Saudi talent,’ says league CEO Omar Mugharbel
  • 5-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo set a league record by scoring 35 goals during the season, one more than Abderrazak Hamdallah managed in 2018/19

RIYADH: During the 2023/24 season of the Roshn Saudi League, which concluded on Monday, 909 goals were scored in 306 matches, a 40 percent increase compared with the previous season.
Al-Nassr’s Portuguese superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, contributed 35 of those goals, in 31 games, setting a league record for the number of goals in a season.
As he looked back on Wednesday at some of the highlights of an eventful season, the league’s CEO, Omar Mugharbel, predicted that it will be remembered as a milestone in the growth of elite football in the Kingdom.
“Some of the best players in the world chose RSL to showcase their incredible talents alongside the next generation of young Saudi talent,” he said.
“Their arrival amplified even further the huge interest in the league from fans, broadcasters and sponsors. It is impossible to overstate how much of a game-changing season 2023/24 has been.”
The season began with major signings of several international stars, including Karim Benzema, Neymar, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mane, N’Golo Kante, Georgino Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ruben Neves.
Champions Al-Hilal grabbed headlines around the globe when they set a world record for successive top-flight victories, winning 34 games in a row across all competitions during an unbeaten campaign.
On an individual level, five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo achieved further success in the calendar year 2023 when he netted the most club goals in the world, with 54 in 59 appearances in all competitions.
And during the 2023/24 season, the Portuguese star set a record by scoring 35 goals in the league, one more than previous record holder Abderrazak Hamdallah managed in 2018/19.
An increased focus on the development of young Saudi talent, to help them excel on the world stage, meant that age of eligibility to play in the league was reduced from 18 to 16 years old. The average age of players dropped to 27.5 years old.
Mugharbel said he has no doubt the league will continue to go from strength to strength, with preparations already underway for next season.
“What is crucial now is enhancing the offering for all stakeholders across the Roshn Saudi League to ensure that we deliver a product, on and off the field, that is truly and consistently world class across all metrics,” he said.
“These are hugely exciting times for football in Saudi Arabia and we look forward immensely to the Roshn Saudi League season 2024/25.”
Off the pitch, the transformation of the league attracted global attention. This was reflected in major milestones that were achieved across metrics such as broadcast deals, sponsorship agreements, and social media reach.
Games were broadcast in more than 160 countries on 38 global platforms as the league reached more fans than ever. Meanwhile, its social media channels attracted 6.72 million new followers during the season, representing a 141 percent increase from the start of the campaign.
The Manager of the Season award went to Al-Hilal boss Jorge Jesus, who was also named Manager of the Month five times along the way.
As noted, Ronaldo was Top Goalscorer, while Al-Hilal’s Yassine Bounou, who kept 15 clean sheets and conceded the fewest goals, was named Goalkeeper of the Season.


Usyk-Fury sequel set for Dec. 21 as part of Riyadh Season

Updated 29 May 2024
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Usyk-Fury sequel set for Dec. 21 as part of Riyadh Season

  • The undefeated Ukrainian won by split decision against Britain’s Fury in the Saudi capital on May 19 in the first unification fight of the four-belt era

RIYADH: Tyson Fury will seek revenge against Oleksandr Usyk on Dec. 21 in Riyadh for the heavyweight boxing title.
Usyk defeated the British boxer on May 19 on points, becoming the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the 21st century.
The chairman of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority Turki Alalshikh said: “The quality of the first fight has left fans globally wanting more so we are delighted to already be able to confirm the rematch as part of Riyadh Season 2024.”
“It is a chance for both fighters to write another chapter in boxing history and deliver what everyone around the world wants to see.”
Fury, who was confident and playful in the ring, landed some big shots against Usyk, including punishing body blows, that allowed the Brit to control the middle part of the fight.
But it was the Ukrainian’s consistancy of effort and barrage of accurate strikes in the ninth that nearly tanked the burly Mancunian.
In the end the judges scored the fight 115-113 and 114-113 for Usyk and 114-113 for Fury in a split decision which the Gypsy King said was biased.


Fury said immediately after the match that he would exercise an automatic rematch clause in his contract.
The Kingdom has engineered a revival of boxing in the past few years as the country seeks to attract global sports fans to Saudi Arabia.
On Saturday, a unique boxing event will be held in Riyadh that will see five boxers from Matchroom take on five from Queensberry in a team format dubbed 5vs5.
Queensberry’s Frank Warren told Arab News Sport even though the fighters were closely matched, his team will be victorious against Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom fighters.
Hearn praised the support for boxing in the Kingdom and said grassroots growth of the sport locally has been “incredible”.