No. 1 Barty to face Pliskova in 1st Wimbledon final for both

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Australia's Ashleigh Barty (left frame) and Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova celebrate after defeating their respective opponents in the Wimbledon semi-finals in London on July 8, 2021. (AP & AFP photos)
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Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova returns against Belarus's Aryna Sabalenka during their 2021 Wimbledon Championships semi-final match in London on July 8, 2021. (AFP)
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Australia's Ashleigh Barty returns against Germany's Angelique Kerber during their 2021 Wimbledon Championships semi-final match in London on July 8, 2021. (AFP / POOL)
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Updated 09 July 2021

No. 1 Barty to face Pliskova in 1st Wimbledon final for both

  • Barty stands one win from a second Grand Slam title after beating 2018 champion Kerber 6-3, 7-6 (3) on Thursday
  • Pliskova emerged from a power-hitting and serving display to come back to defeat No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka 5-7, 6-4, 6-4

WIMBLEDON, England: It was difficult for Ash Barty to imagine that a trip to her first Wimbledon final was just around the corner when she stopped playing at last month’s French Open with a hip injury.
Or even when she was two points from being pushed to a third set by Angelique Kerber in their semifinal at the All England Club.
Barty does not let obstacles trouble her for too long. She figures out a way and pushes forward. That’s why she’s ranked No. 1 and it’s why she stands one win from a second Grand Slam title after beating 2018 champion Kerber 6-3, 7-6 (3) on Thursday.
“I’ve had ups and downs and everything in between and I wouldn’t change one day or one moment or one, kind of, road that we’ve taken in my path and my journey,” said Barty, who was the 2011 junior champion at the All England Club and stepped away from tennis for almost two years starting in 2014 because of burnout. “It’s been unique. It’s been incredible. It’s been tough. There have been so many things that led to this point.”
Her opponent in Saturday’s final will be No. 8 seed Karolina Pliskova, who emerged from a power-hitting and serving display to come back to defeat No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
“Super proud about the way how I handled the situation out there,” Pliskova said.




Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova returns against Belarus's Aryna Sabalenka during their 2021 Wimbledon Championships semi-final match in London on July 8, 2021. (AFP)

Pliskova produced 14 aces, Sabalenka 18, and the combined total was the most in a women’s match at Wimbledon since they started keeping such stats in 1977. The difference in this match, ultimately: Pliskova was broken just once, Sabalenka twice.
After going 0 for 8 on break points in the first set, the first set she dropped in six matches, Pliskova “got a bit frustrated,” she acknowledged afterward.
But she went 1 for 1 in that category in each of the last two sets.
“She just returned like crazy — like, really good — and I couldn’t do anything,” said Sabalenka, the only top-20 seed in the draw without a major quarterfinal appearance until now.
Neither Pliskova — whose coach, Sascha Bajin, used to work with Naomi Osaka and was Serena Williams’ hitting partner — nor Barty had ever been past the fourth round at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.
“Coming into this tournament, the dream was to make the second week. ... Sascha was super confident in me,” said Pliskova, a 29-year-old from the Czech Republic who was the runner-up at the 2016 US Open to Kerber and used to be ranked No. 1. “He said, ‘I told you, you were going to make the final.’”
The 25-year-old Barty won the 2019 French Open and has been atop the WTA rankings for 1 1/2 years.
She is the first woman from Australia to reach the title match at Wimbledon since Evonne Goolagong won the trophy 1980; Barty has been wearing an outfit intended as a tribute to Goolagong this fortnight.
“Now to kind of give myself a chance to create some history, almost in a way that’s a tribute to her, is really exciting,” Barty said.




Australia's Ashleigh Barty returns against Germany's Angelique Kerber during their 2021 Wimbledon Championships semi-final match in London on July 8, 2021. (AFP / POOL)

She arrived in England not having competed since June 3, when she withdrew during her second-round match in Paris, her left hip in too much pain to continue.
“To be honest, it was going to be touch and go. Everything had to be spot on to give myself a chance to play pain-free and to play knowing that I could trust my body,” Barty said. “If you told me a month ago we’d be sitting in this position, I really wouldn’t have thought that we would even get close.”
On Thursday, she faced a big test in the second set, which Kerber was two points from owning when Barty served at deuce while trailing 5-2. The full-capacity crowd was backing the comeback effort for the 33-year-old German, too, with shouts of “Come on, Angie!” and “Go on, Kerber!”
But Barty steeled herself to hold there, then broke to get within 5-4 with a cross-court forehand passing winner.
That was part of a 38-16 advantage in total winners for Barty, responsible more than anything else for her triumph. And this was remarkable: She compiled that many point-ending shots while making only 16 unforced errors.
“A great level, the best level I’ve played in quite some time,” Barty said. “Angie is an incredible competitor. She brought out the best in me today.”
It was a rather entertaining and, from point to point, rather even contest, two talented baseliners willing to try a volley, drop shot or lob when required. They were each other’s equal for long exchanges — in all, 22 points lasted at least nine strokes, with Kerber winning a dozen.
Their approaches are different, though. Kerber is a left-hander who hits flat groundstrokes and is just fine with handling foes’ low shots, often dropping a knee onto the turf to get leverage.
Barty is a righty who relies on heavy topspin for a forehand packed with power, and her slice backhand can produce tricky bounces on the grass.
She ended up with an 8-0 edge in aces and 18-9 in forehand winners.
“I was trying to playing my game,” Kerber said. “But she had always a good answer.”


Medvedev advances to quarterfinals, Swiatek sinks in Cincy

Updated 19 August 2022

Medvedev advances to quarterfinals, Swiatek sinks in Cincy

  • Top seed Medvedvev kept Denis Shapovalov winless against world No. 1s with a 7-5, 7-5 victory
  • Unseeded Keys was thrilled with her defeat of Swiatek, against whom she had lost two prior matches

CINCINNATI, US: Top-ranked Daniil Medvedev advanced to the ATP and WTA Cincinnati Masters quarterfinals on Thursday while women’s world No. 1 Iga Swiatek was upset by American Madison Keys.

Top seed Medvedvev kept Denis Shapovalov winless against world No. 1s with a 7-5, 7-5 victory while Poland’s Swiatek lost 6-3, 6-4 to 2019 Cincinnati champion Keys, who needed five match points to finish off the shock triumph.

Shapovalov, who lost in an hour and three-quarters, has dropped all eight career matches he has played against the elite echelon.

Medvedev moved into a quarterfinal against 11th seed Taylor Fritz after the American stopped No. 6 seed Andrey Rublev 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 7-5.

“It was a fight today, definitely not easy,” said Medvedev, who clinched the top US Open seeding when Rafael Nadal lost here in the second round.

“The match was pretty tight, played at a great level. My goal was to stay in every point possible and try to put pressure on him if I had the chance.”

Medvedev secured late breaks in both sets as he matched his volatile Canadian opponent.

Medvedev and Fritz have never played.

“We trained together at the start of the season before the ATP Cup,” Medvedev said. “He won Indian Wells, he’s a Masters champion. I need to be at my best to try and beat him.”

Unseeded Keys was thrilled with her defeat of Swiatek, against whom she had lost two prior matches.

“I had a couple of games with a couple of match points,” Keys said. “She beat me pretty badly last time so I’m happy to get the win.”

Swiatek never found an ace and was broken five times as she fought back in vain after standing one game from defeat.

It was the second week in a row that the Pole, who put together a 37-match win streak this season, lost in a Masters third round. She suffered the same fate in Toronto seven days earlier.

Keys plays on Friday against Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina, who advanced to the last eight 6-2, 6-4 over Alison Riske-Amritraj.

Also ousted was Estonian second seed Anett Kontaveit, who fell to China’s Zhang Shuai 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Top-ranked American Jessica Pegula ended the run of US Open champion Emma Raducanu 7-5, 6-4, sending the Briton onto the practice courts before the Aug. 29 start of her Grand Slam title defense.

Raducanu will head to New York with a 15-18 record since her 2021 title triumph and will drop from the top-10 after failing to reach the quarterfinals.

The teenager put a backhand into the net to give her opponent a match point, with Pegula sending over a service winner to wrap up the victory in an hour and three-quarters on her opponent’s 21st unforced error.

“I didn’t feel amazing out there,” Pegula said after reaching her seventh career quarter-final at a Masters 1000. “I’ve never hit with Emma, there was a lot to get used to.

“I’m happy with how I competed and stayed in it. I’m glad I handled things really well. I’ve been playing very consistently, no dramas, get out there and do what you’ve got to do. I try to do that every single week.”

Czech Petra Kvitova, twice a Wimbledon champion, defeated Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur 6-1, 4-6, 6-0. Kvitova broke six times as her fifth-ranked Tunisian opponent committed six double-faults.

Borna Coric, who upset second seed Rafael Nadal, continued his injury comeback progress by beating Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 6-3.

No. 152 Coric is the lowest-ranked ATP Masters 1000 quarter-finalist since 239th-ranked Ivo Karlovic at 2011 Indian Wells.

Fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, semifinalist at the last two editions, defeated Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3.

John Isner sent down 20 aces in a 7-6 (7/3), 1-6, 7-6 (7/4) defeat of US compatriot Sebastian Korda. At 37, Isner is the oldest Cincinnati men’s quarterfinalist in the post-1968 Open era.

Isner passed Roger Federer, who was a younger 37 when he reached his most recent Cincinnati quarterfinal in 2018.


Ingebrigtsen seals Euro double-double as Thiam dominates

Updated 19 August 2022

Ingebrigtsen seals Euro double-double as Thiam dominates

  • Ingebrigtsen’s victory sealed a remarkable triumph, having won the same 1,500-5,000 European double as a precocious 17-year-old in Berlin in 2018
  • Thiam went into the final 800m in total control of the multi-discipline event and duly completed the two laps to seal a comprehensive victory

MUNICH: Norwegian prodigy Jakob Ingebrigtsen sealed a memorable European distance double-double in Munich on Thursday as Belgium’s Nafi Thiam retained her heptathlon title in style.

In a mixed night for defending champions at a rain-hit Olympic Stadium, a third, Poland’s Wojciech Nowicki, left it late to also retain his hammer throw title.

But there was no such luck for two-time world long jump champion and Olympic gold medallist Malaika Mihambo and her German teammate Mateusz Przybylko in the men’s high jump.

After heavy rain had seen the evening session delayed by 20 minutes, Ingebrigtsen made up for the disappointment of finishing second to Britain’s Jake Wightman in the 1,500m in last month’s world championships in Oregon.

The 21-year-old Norwegian, who dominated the 5,000m here on Tuesday, was also in total control of the 1,500m, clocking a championship record of 3min 32.76sec for his second gold of the continental track and field showpiece event.

Ingebrigtsen’s victory sealed a remarkable triumph, having won the same 1,500-5,000 European double as a precocious 17-year-old in Berlin in 2018.

Britain’s Jake Heyward claimed silver in 3:34.44, with Spain’s Mario Garcia taking bronze in 3:34.88.

Thiam went into the final 800m in total control of the multi-discipline event and duly completed the two laps to seal a comprehensive victory.

It meant the Belgian became a two-time champion on the Olympic, world and European stage.

She had registered 13.34sec in the 100m hurdles, 1.98m in the high jump, 14.95m in the shot put and 24.64sec in the 200m on the first day of action on Wednesday.

Thursday saw her go out to a disappointing 6.08m in the long jump before 48.89m in the javelin and 2:17.95 in the 800m for a total of 6,628 points.

Poland’s Adrianna Sulek won silver with 6,532pts and Switzerland’s Annik Kalin bronze (6,515).

Kenyan-born Yasemin Can came close to a second distance double for Turkey, but Germany’s 2019 world bronze medallist Konstanze Klosterhalfen bolted with 600m to run for victory in the women’s 5,000m in 14:50.47.

Can and Britain’s Eilish McColgan rounded out the podium to add to the gold and silver medals they respectively won in the 10,000m earlier in the week.

There was a battle royale in the men’s hammer throw, Olympic gold medallist and defending champion Nowicki retaining his title with a best of 82.00m on the fifth of his six attempts.

Hungary’s Bence Halasz won silver in a personal best of 80.92m, while Norwegian Eivind Henriksen took bronze (79.45) to push five-time world champion Pawel Fajdek of Poland into fourth (79.15).

Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi, who famously shared Olympic gold at last year’s Summer Games in Tokyo with Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim but who has been suffering with the after-effects of Covid-19, wrapped up the men’s high jump with a best of 2.30m.

It was Tamberi’s second European title after having previously won in Amsterdam in 2016.

Tobias Potye of Germany took silver with 2.27m on countback from Ukraine’s Andriy Protsenko.

Defending champion Przybylko could only finish sixth in the high jump, but Mihambo was beaten by just 3cm in her bid to retain long jump gold.

That title went to Serbia’s Ivana Vuleta, with a best of 7.06m.

Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis and Karsten Warholm had earlier lent more world-class stardust to the fourth day of action in Munich.

Olympic pole vault champion Duplantis, fresh from breaking his own world record in Eugene as he clinched world gold with 6.21 meters last month, qualified with ease for Saturday’s final.

And there was also no drama for defending 400m hurdles champion Warholm, who sailed into Friday’s final.


’Love and friendship’: Pakistan commiserates with All India Football Federation over FIFA suspension

Updated 18 August 2022

’Love and friendship’: Pakistan commiserates with All India Football Federation over FIFA suspension

  • FIFA suspended the AIFF with immediate effect due to “undue influence from third parties” earlier this week
  • Suspension means Under-17 women’s World Cup, scheduled for October, cannot be held in India as planned

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) on Thursday expressed solidarity with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) after FIFA suspended it with immediate effect due to “undue influence from third parties” earlier this week.

The suspension means that the Under-17 women’s World Cup, scheduled to take place in India from October 11-30, cannot be held in the country as planned.

FIFA had also suspended PFF due to third-party interference last year but lifted the ban this June.

“Commiseration to the Indian Football Federation and all Indian fans, it hurts to not be able to watch your team play,” the PFF said in a statement quoted widely by Pakistani media. “Indian Football has always been defiant and resilient. Here’s hoping that Indian football comes out of suspension and continues to excite us in the coming years.”

“Sharing in your hard moments with love and friendship,” the PFF statement added.

On Wednesday, India's Supreme Court asked the federal government to take "proactive steps" to ensure that the suspension was lifted and the women’s World Cup went ahead according to plan.

The FIFA suspension occurred after India's Supreme Court disbanded the AIFF in May and appointed a three-member committee to govern the sport. But FIFA rules say its member federations must be free from legal and political interference.

While the suspension doesn't apply to domestic tournaments, it will affect India's participation in international matches and tournaments.


Rizwan, Salman guide Pakistan to seven-wicket win over Netherlands

Updated 18 August 2022

Rizwan, Salman guide Pakistan to seven-wicket win over Netherlands

  • Pakistan captain Babar Azam passed fifty for the 38th time in the last 89 ODI innings
  • Final match of the series will be played at the same venue on Sunday

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands: Mohammad Rizwan and Agha Salman made unbeaten half-centuries as Pakistan eased to a seven-wicket win over the Netherlands in the second one-day international in Rotterdam on Thursday to complete a series victory.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam, the world’s top-ranked ODI batsman, scored 57 off 65 balls before Rizwan and Salman led the tourists home in their pursuit of 187 with 16.2 overs to spare.

Dutch seamer Vivian Kingma removed openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq cheaply as Pakistan stuttered early, but Azam and Rizwan steadied the innings before Salman finished it off by blasting his first ODI fifty.

Zaman, who made 109 in the first ODI, was caught and bowled by Kingma for three and Imam was lured into a loose drive four balls later to reduce Pakistan to 11-2.

Azam passed fifty for the 38th time in 89 ODI innings but top-edged off-spinner Aryan Dutt to Bas de Leede at midwicket, ending an 88-run stand with wicketkeeper Rizwan.

Rizwan adopted a relatively cautious approach as he compiled 69 off 82 deliveries, in contrast to the fireworks delivered by Salman, who clubbed the final ball of the match for six to finish 50 not out in just his second ODI.

Haris Rauf and Mohammad Nawaz took three wickets apiece to dismiss the Netherlands for 186 in the second of a three-match series.

De Leede (89) and Tom Cooper (66) struck battling half-centuries to lift the Dutch from 8-3 but only one other batsman passed double figures for the hosts.

Naseem Shah removed Vikramjit Singh in the second over as the teenage opener edged behind and Max O’Dowd followed when he drove Rauf straight to Azam at mid-off.

The 38-year-old Wesley Barresi was bowled by Naseem for three, two days after scoring just two in his first international innings since 2019.

De Leede and Cooper set about restoring order and put on 109 for the fourth wicket.

Cooper hit seven fours and two sixes before falling for 66 when he offered left-arm spinner Nawaz a simple return catch.

His dismissal precipitated the loss of three quick wickets, with captain Scott Edwards caught behind off Nawaz for five and Teja Nidamanuru going in the same manner without scoring after glancing Rauf down the legside.

Logan van Beek holed out to Naseem on the long-off boundary for 13 to give Shadab Khan his first wicket.

Tim Pringle went for a second straight duck after Mohammad Wasim pinned him leg before and Nawaz claimed his third scalp by sneaking one past the defense of Dutt.

De Leede was last man out for 89, caught by Zaman trying to clear long-on as Rauf finished with 3-16 after wrapping up the Dutch innings in 44.1 overs.

Pakistan won the first match by 16 runs. The series finale is scheduled for Sunday at the same venue.


India's 'King' Kohli opens up about mental health struggle 

Updated 18 August 2022

India's 'King' Kohli opens up about mental health struggle 

  • Virat Kohli, plagued by a poor run of form, was relieved from captaincy from all formats last year
  • Former Indian captain says pressure of his career had negative impact on his mental health

Indian cricket superstar Virat Kohli, who took his team to unprecedented heights, says he has struggled with his mental health throughout his career, local media reported Thursday.

The 33-year-old ex-captain built a reputation for in-your-face aggression and exemplary batting, leading his team to the top of the five-day rankings.

But the man dubbed "King" Kohli by Indian media has been plagued by a run of poor form and has been relieved of his captaincy of all formats since late last year after a dismal showing at the Twenty20 World Cup.

Kohli told The Indian Express newspaper that the pressure of his career had at times had a negative impact on his mental health.

"I personally have experienced times when even in a room full of people who support and love me, I felt alone, and I am sure that this is a feeling that a lot of people can relate to," he said in an interview published Wednesday.

"It is definitely a serious issue and as much as we try to be strong at all times, it can tear you apart."

Kohli said it was important for athletes to rest and recover from the pressures of sport and reconnect with their "core self".

"If you lose that connection, it wouldn't take very long for other things to crumble around you."

His comments came just months after he revealed he had struggled with depression after failing to score runs during an England tour in 2014.

"It's not a great feeling to wake up knowing that you won't be able to score runs... I felt I was the loneliest guy in the world," he said on a podcast with English commentator Mark Nicholas in February.

Kohli, one of the world's highest-paid athletes, has not scored a century in any format since 2019.

After being rested for the recent West Indies tour, he has now been named in India's T20 squad for the Asia Cup that starts with a match against arch-rivals Pakistan.