Practice makes perfect: Serena’s serve leads to win in Paris

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Serena Williams (US) plays a return to Mihaela Buzarnescu (Romania) during their match on day four of the French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
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Russia's Daniil Medvedev in action during his second round match against Tommy Paul of the US in the French Open on June 2, 202. (REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)
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Updated 03 June 2021

Practice makes perfect: Serena’s serve leads to win in Paris

  • In the men's edition, Russia's Daniil Medvedev defeated American Tommy Paul
  • Williams has won three of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles in the French Open

PARIS: Her superior serve back at its unreturnable best, Serena Williams was in full control of her French Open match — until, suddenly, that stroke wasn’t as dominant and neither was she.
And then, pushed to a third set by an opponent offering up all sorts of spins and speeds and angles, Williams regained her form and forged to the finish.
Williams got back to the third round at Roland Garros, where she has won three of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles, by pulling away to beat 174th-ranked Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 Wednesday on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Her serving, especially at the outset, was much better than in her first-round win. In that one Monday, she only put 51 percent of first serves in play and got broken three times in 10 games.
“I’ve been practicing my serve a lot. I’ve been playing, in practice, unbelievable on my serve. The other night was, ‘Wooooow,’ she said, rolling her eyes. “I’m glad it came better today. My coach told me it’s good that I’m doing it well in practice, because eventually it will be good in the match.”
It sure was, especially at the outset against Buzarnescu, who didn’t manage to put any serves in play in the first game.
By the end of the first set, Williams had won 20 of 23 points she served.
In the second set, things changed.
Buzarnescu made the measure of those powerful offerings and managed to get herself right back in the thick of things, breaking twice in a row.
“She’s one of the best servers in the world. It’s not easy to read her serve. Being the first time playing against her, it took a while for me to adjust my position in the court on the return,” said Buzarnescu, who called it “a dream” to be able to face Williams. “I’m just happy I was able to figure it out. I hope next time, I can do it earlier.”
After a bit of a reset, Williams got going back in the right direction.
“I knew going into the third, I just had to zero in on those important points,” she said. “If I could just take those, it would be an easier time for me.”
Last year, Williams withdrew before the second round in Paris because of an injured left Achilles. No such issues so far this time, and the 39-year-old American covered the court well, although she did have some tape on her right thigh.
Next for the No. 7-seeded Williams is an all-American matchup against Danielle Collins, who overwhelmed Anhelina Kalinina 6-0, 6-2.
It was a strong French Open afternoon for the US, including victories in the women’s draw for No. 23 Madison Keys and in the men’s for No. 31 John Isner, No. 32 Reilly Opelka and unseeded players Stevie Johnson and Marco Giron.
It’s the first time that four American men made it to the third round at Roland Garros since a half-dozen got there in 1996 — and Taylor Fritz still has to play his second match on Thursday.

Medvedev beats Tommy Paul

Another American, Tommy Paul, got off to a good start against No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, a two-time Grand Slam runner-up, in the night session Wednesday. But Medvedev, who was 0-4 for his career at the French Open until this week, came back to eliminate Paul 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3.
Medvedev will take on Opelka for a spot in Week 2.
Earlier in the day, down 4-1 in the third set, 2020 US Open runner-up Alexander Zverev decided it was time to shorten his match.
He was determined to avoid another lengthy fight following a five-setter in the first round, so he applied pressure on qualifier Roman Safiullin. The sixth-seeded German won the next game at love, broke back by pushing his rival into unforced errors and was nearly flawless in the tiebreaker.
The reward was a 7-6 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (1) victory to advance to the third round.
“I’m happy to be through in three sets,” Zverev said. “I think it’s going to be important for me during the course of this tournament.”
Zverev, facing a rival he has known since they were juniors, dropped his serve three times on Court Suzanne Lenglen and hit 10 double-faults. But a 25-shot rally in the final tiebreaker epitomized Zverev’s hang-in-there attitude.
First on the defensive, Zverev turned it around and won the point with a passing shot.
Others moving into the third round included qualifier Henri Laaksonen, who hit 53 winners to upset 11th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, and Kei Nishikori, the 2014 US Open runner-up, who was taken to five sets for the second consecutive match before downing the big-hitting Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
The 23rd-seeded Khachanov was treated by a trainer in the fifth set after cutting his right middle finger by hitting his racket strings in anger.
Nishikori extended his record in five-set matches to 26-7.


Pakistan batter Haider Ali in hospital with viral illness 

Updated 01 October 2022

Pakistan batter Haider Ali in hospital with viral illness 

  • Haider Ali is the second Pakistan T20 World Cup player admitted to hospital during the series 
  • Ali scored 18 runs off 14 balls but the middle-order batter felt dizziness in the dressing room 

LAHORE: Pakistan cricketer Haider Ali was taken to hospital because of a viral illness during the Twenty20 against England on Friday. 

Ali is the second Pakistan T20 World Cup player admitted to hospital during the series after fast bowler Naseem Shah, who also fell ill. 

Ali scored 18 runs off 14 balls but the middle-order batter felt dizziness in the dressing room and was substituted. Pakistan ultimately lost the sixth T20. 

Ali has had a below-par series, scoring 11, 3, 4 and 18. 

Paceman Shah spent two nights in a local hospital at Lahore because of pneumonia. He was ruled out of the remaining two T20s of the seven-match series after testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. 

Shah will isolate for two days, and the Pakistan Cricket Board said he will fly out to New Zealand with the team on Monday for a triangular T20 series also featuring Bangladesh, a prelude to the T20 World Cup in Australia. 


CAS asked to judge Ecuador case by 10 days before World Cup

Updated 30 September 2022

CAS asked to judge Ecuador case by 10 days before World Cup

  • CAS said it registered appeals by the Chilean and Peruvian soccer federations against a FIFA ruling this month
  • Chile officials claim to have documents proving Castillo is actually Colombian

LAUSANNE, Switzerland: Sport’s highest court has been asked to judge a case that aims to remove Ecuador from the World Cup by no later than Nov. 10.
Just 10 days before the team should face host Qatar in the opening game.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport said it registered appeals by the Chilean and Peruvian soccer federations against a FIFA ruling this month that Ecuador defender Byron Castillo was in fact eligible to play in the eight qualifying games he was selected for.
CAS gave no timetable for appointing judges and organizing a hearing, though said both parties appealing asked for a final award by Nov. 10.
Chile officials claim to have documents proving Castillo is actually Colombian and that Ecuador should forfeit all eight games he played in as 3-0 losses.
That legal argument was dismissed by FIFA’s disciplinary committee in June and upheld by FIFA appeal judges two weeks ago.
Ecuador placed fourth in the South American qualifying group in March and claimed a direct World Cup entry. Days later they was drawn into Group A with Qatar – playing the host on Nov. 20 in Doha — Netherlands and Senegal.
If the qualifying games were forfeited, the revised points totals would lift Chile to fourth from seventh.
Peru placed fifth and have asked CAS to get Ecuador’s entry as the next highest placed South American team. Peru already lost an intercontinental playoff to Australia in June.


France’s Kamara to miss World Cup due to knee injury

Updated 30 September 2022

France’s Kamara to miss World Cup due to knee injury

  • Kamara was injured while playing for Aston Villa against Southampton this month

BIRMINGHAM, England: France midfielder Boubacar Kamara has been ruled out of the World Cup after sustaining knee ligament damage.
Kamara was injured while playing for Aston Villa in a 1-0 win against Southampton this month.
The 22-year-old Kamara was picked in France’s Nations League games this month but had to withdraw.
Villa manager Steven Gerrard confirmed the extent of Kamara’s injury on Friday ahead of an English Premier League game against Leeds on Sunday.
“Bouba will be missing until after the World Cup unfortunately, so that’s a huge blow,” Gerrard said.
Kamara joined Villa from Marseille on a free transfer in July and has started every game.
He forced his way into Didier Deschamps’ plans to successfully defend the World Cup.


IOC’s Bach eyes return to sports for anti-war Russians

Updated 30 September 2022

IOC’s Bach eyes return to sports for anti-war Russians

  • “It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” said Bach
  • Most sports followed International Olympic Committee advice in February and banned Russian team and athletes from their events

GENEVA: Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.
“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”
Most sports followed International Olympic Committee advice in February and banned Russian team and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.
With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.
In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.
“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”
Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.
Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.
Olympic gold medalist swimmer Evgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.
Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.
Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.
In athletics, Russians have competed since 2015 only as neutrals approved by the sport’s governing body because of the state-backed doping scandal which tainted the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
Bach and the IOC faced criticism in fallout from the scandal for not being strict enough with Russian athletes who competed at each Olympics since 2016 with extra vetting of their drug testing or as neutrals without their national team name, flag and anthem.
Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”
“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested.
“We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”
Bach was in Rome also for a sports forum hosted by the Vatican, where Pope Francis praised sports as “an educational and social good and it must remain so.”
“We should be committed to giving everyone the opportunity to play sports,” the pope said, “to cultivate — one could say to be ‘trained’ in — the values of sport and transform them into virtues.”
Vatican officials previously have said they would like to one day field a team recognized by the IOC in the Olympics.


Ten Hag committed to helping Maguire return to finest form

Updated 30 September 2022

Ten Hag committed to helping Maguire return to finest form

  • England international Maguire has been dropped at club level and is fighting for his place at the World Cup
  • Ten Hag is adamant protections are in place for all players and committed himself to returning Maguire to his finest form

MANCHESTER, England: Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has revealed measures are in place to protect players’ mental health at a time when club captain Harry Maguire has been the subject of intense criticism.
England international Maguire has been dropped at club level and is fighting for his place at the World Cup following an alarming dip in form.
It has seen him suffer growing abuse on social media and raised questions about his future at United.
But Ten Hag is adamant protections are in place for all players and committed himself to returning Maguire to his finest form.
Addressing concerns over the 29-year-old defender’s mental health, the United manager said: “But it’s an aspect of top football. It’s an aspect of our work. We set conditions for that, to manage it.
“We also have experts around to help, to coach the players, the team in the right direction.
“I think he is doing quite well, but every player has room for improvement and if he believes in his skills he will quickly be back on the level and even more than he did. I am convinced of that because I see his capabilities and it’s really high.”
Maguire has endured a miserable start to the season – losing his place to Raphael Varane at United, before making high-profile mistakes in England’s 3-3 draw with Germany on Monday.
It prompted the center back to publicly apologize on Instagram, adding: “The tough times will make us stronger.”
Fellow defender Luke Shaw aired his own concerns for his club and international teammate.
“He’s taken a lot of stick — probably more than I’ve ever seen before in football,” Shaw told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“Everybody knows he’s an unbelievable player. At the moment the confidence might not be there because it could feel like the whole world is against him.”
United legend Rio Ferdinand tweeted: “Feel for Harry . . . every mistake being punished and scrutinized — comes with the territory though.
“Needs to be strong mentally to get through this!”
Maguire is out of Sunday’s derby against Manchester City with a thigh injury – but is unlikely to have started even if fit after being dropped following the 4-0 defeat to Brentford last month.
Ten Hag had initially shown faith in him when retaining him as captain after taking over the club at the end of last season.
And he insists he still has belief in the player.
“First of all, of course I have to coach him,” he said. “I have to back him. But I back him because I believe in him.
“In the period I worked with him in pre-season was good. Really good, training and games. So then he fell out — but it’s also to do with the good performance of the center backs who are playing now. But I can see even after he wasn’t in the team he trained really well, but more important, the quality was there.
“You see his career, almost 50 caps for England. For Leicester and Man United he’s performing really well. What you see is he has a high potential. Then it is about him.
“The players in the dressing room, the coaches, the manager, we all believe in him. Now it is about him. That’s what I told him. I’m sure he can do it. He will turn around this. I am really convinced of that.”