Simona Halep battles service demons to stay alive at Australian Open

Former world number one Simona Halep struggled to find her groove against the 102nd-ranked Pole Magdalena Frech before banking the win 6-4, 6-3 on Margaret Court Arena. (AFP)
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Updated 18 January 2022

Simona Halep battles service demons to stay alive at Australian Open

  • Error-strewn clash with Poland’s Magdalena Frech which saw 11 service breaks
  • Both players struggled to hold serve in the opening set

MELBOURNE: Former world number one Simona Halep labored into the Australian Open second round Tuesday after an error-strewn clash with Poland’s Magdalena Frech which saw 11 service breaks.
The fit-again Romanian 14th seed came into the Grand Slam full of confidence after her first title in 16 months at the Melbourne Summer Set tournament this month.
But she struggled to find her groove against the 102nd-ranked Pole before banking the win 6-4, 6-3 on Margaret Court Arena to keep her dreams of a third major title alive.
“I found it so difficult today, I was unsure if I could play good tennis,” she said.
“But in the end I won and that makes me very happy. Hopefully this week I can play better and better.”
Halep, the runner-up in 2018 to Caroline Wozniacki and semifinalist two years later, is on her way back after a truncated 2021 season when she struggled with calf and knee injuries.
And it was a far from convincing performance, with both players struggling to hold serve in the opening set, with Frech broken three times and Halep twice.
Ultimately, the Romanian was stronger in the rallies and she finally sealed the set on serve with a trademark backhand down the line.
Neither player’s serve improved in the second set with Halep immediately breaking before Frech went on a three-game win streak as the error-count mounted.
Halep then reeled off five games in a row to ensure victory and a second round clash with either American qualifier Katie Volynets or Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia.


Ronaldo lawyers seek $626K from woman’s lawyer in Vegas case

Updated 30 June 2022

Ronaldo lawyers seek $626K from woman’s lawyer in Vegas case

  • In a bluntly worded court document, Ronaldo’s attorney, Peter Christiansen, asks US District Judge Jennifer Dorsey to make the woman’s attorney, Leslie Mark Stovall, personally responsible for the amount
  • Dorsey on June 10 kicked the case out of court to punish Stovall for “bad-faith conduct” and the improper use of leaked and stolen documents to pursue the case

LAS VEGAS: Cristiano Ronaldo is asking a US judge to order a woman’s lawyer to pay more than $626,000 for losing a lawsuit to get the international soccer star to pay millions of dollars after claiming in 2018 that Ronaldo raped the woman in Las Vegas nearly a decade earlier.

In a bluntly worded court document, Ronaldo’s attorney, Peter Christiansen, asks US District Judge Jennifer Dorsey to make the woman’s attorney, Leslie Mark Stovall, personally responsible for the amount.

Stovall did not immediately respond Wednesday to telephone and email messages. Text messages to associate Larissa Drohobyczer were not answered. They are due to file an answer with the court by July 8.

Dorsey on June 10 kicked the case out of court to punish Stovall for “bad-faith conduct” and the improper use of leaked and stolen documents to pursue the case.

Stovall “crossed the border of ethical behavior before he filed this action, and his disregard for the rules of this court has continued unabated,” the judge found.

Dorsey said in her 42-page order that dismissing plaintiff Kathryn Mayorga’s case outright with no option to file it again was a severe sanction, but said Ronaldo had been harmed by Stovall’s conduct.

The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Mayorga gave consent through Stovall and Drohobyczer to make her name public.

The bid for court costs and fees for Ronaldo’s attorneys, filed Friday, dwarfs the $375,000 hush-money payment that Mayorga received in 2010 to sign a confidentiality agreement and drop a criminal complaint alleging she was sexually assaulted.

“Given Stovall’s abuses and flagrant misconduct, Stovall should be made personally responsible for ensuring Ronaldo is reimbursed for having to defend against his vexatious and bad faith conduct,” Christiansen’s request for reimbursement said. He tallied attorney fees at between $350 and $850 per hour for nearly 1,200 hours of work.

Mayorga’s civil lawsuit — filed in 2018 in state court and moved in 2019 to federal court — eventually sought more than $25 million in damages, plus attorney fees for Stovall.

It alleged that Ronaldo or his associates violated the confidentiality agreement before a German news outlet, Der Spiegel, published an article in April 2017 titled “Cristiano Ronaldo’s Secret” based on documents obtained from what court filings term “whistleblower portal Football Leaks.”

Ronaldo’s attorneys accuse Stovall of obtaining stolen material containing privileged attorney-client communication and then trying repeatedly to make them pubic by attaching them to court filings.

A second court filing on Friday asks Dorsey to seal part of the court record containing confidential documents.

Mayorga is a former model and teacher who lives in the Las Vegas area. Her lawsuit said she met Ronaldo at a nightclub and went with him and other people to his hotel suite, where she alleged he assaulted her in a bedroom. She was 25 at the time. He was 24.

Ronaldo’s legal team does not dispute Ronaldo met Mayorga and they had sex in June 2009, but maintained it was consensual.

Ronaldo, now 37, is one of the most highly paid and recognizable sports stars in the world. He plays for the English Premier League club Manchester United and has captained the national team of his home country, Portugal. He spent several recent years playing in Italy for the Turin-based club Juventus.

Las Vegas police reopened their rape investigation after Mayorga’s lawsuit was filed in 2018, but Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson decided in 2019 not to pursue criminal charges. He said too much time had passed to prove the case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

Stovall maintained that Mayorga didn’t break the hush-money settlement. Her lawsuit sought to void it, accusing Ronaldo and reputation-protection “fixers” of conspiracy, defamation, breach of contract, coercion and fraud.

The Las Vegas police report compiled about Ronaldo after Mayorga filed her lawsuit in 2018 might still become public under a public records lawsuit The New York Times filed in Nevada state court.

A US magistrate judge in Las Vegas said in March that a protective order that Dorsey imposed to prevent release of the 2010 agreement does not prevent the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department from releasing its file.

Attorney Margaret McLetchie, representing the newspaper, did not immediately respond to messages about that case.


Joshua ‘desperate’ to become world heavyweight champ again in his rematch against Usyk in Saudi Arabia

Updated 30 June 2022

Joshua ‘desperate’ to become world heavyweight champ again in his rematch against Usyk in Saudi Arabia

  • Usyk will be defending the IBF, WBA and WBO titles he claimed from Joshua in beating the British fighter at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September
  • While this will be Joshua’s second fight in Saudi Arabia — he avenged his only other defeat against Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019 in Diriyah with a points win — it will be Usyk’s first in the country

LONDON: Anthony Joshua admitted he is “definitely desperate” to become world heavyweight champion again when he faces Oleksandr Usyk in their rematch in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Aug. 20.

Usyk will be defending the IBF, WBA and WBO titles he claimed from Joshua in beating the British fighter at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September. Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) was outclassed by his Ukrainian rival, who defied disadvantages in height, reach and weight to win in London by unanimous decision.

“What happened then is in the past, I don’t really live in the past, I’m just present,” the 32-year-old Joshua told a news conference in London on Wednesday. “I’ll be looking to be competing round-by-round and if I follow my As, Bs and Cs, it should lead me to KO.”

The former two-time world heavyweight champion called for “Less talk, more action. I’m not a comedian, I’m not someone who likes big speeches.

“Let me get in there and do my job, that’s my priority. I’m definitely hungry, definitely desperate but how I perform will speak volumes to the masses.”

The 35-year-old Usyk, a former undisputed world cruiserweight champion, has won all 19 of his professional contests and wore a blue-and-yellow T-shirt with the message ‘Colors of Freedom’ in reference to his native Ukraine and Russia’s invasion of the country.

He helped with the war effort against Russia, initially putting in jeopardy a second fight against Joshua, before being given special permission to defend his world titles.

While this will be Joshua’s second fight in Saudi Arabia — he avenged his only other defeat against Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019 in Diriyah with a points win — it will be Usyk’s first in the country.

Usyk said money was not the driving factor in his decision to fight in Saudi Arabia.

“I’m not fighting for money or the recognition,” Usyk said. “The only thing I’m on my way to is to save my soul. Everything else that is happening to me is just life.”

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Jabeur beats Kawa to reach Wimbledon 3rd round

Updated 29 June 2022

Jabeur beats Kawa to reach Wimbledon 3rd round

  • The Tunisian, 27, who won the Berlin grass-court title earlier this month, broke twice in the first set before steamrollering her opponent in the second

LONDON: Third seed Ons Jabeur eased through to the third round of Wimbledon on Wednesday, beating Polish qualifier Katarzyna Kawa 6-4, 6-0.
The Tunisian, 27, who won the Berlin grass-court title earlier this month, broke twice in the first set before steamrollering her opponent in the second.
Jabeur will play unseeded Frenchwoman Diane Parry, who beat Japanese qualifier Mai Hontama, in the last 32.


Qatar says World Cup fans seeking rooms have ‘a lot of options’

Updated 29 June 2022

Qatar says World Cup fans seeking rooms have ‘a lot of options’

  • Prices for accommodation range from 300 Qatari rials to several thousand dollars per night

DOHA: Qatar said on Tuesday that World Cup fans have “a lot of options” with more than 100,000 rooms currently available and tens of thousands more expected by the tournament’s kickoff.
Some football supporters have expressed concern that they have been unable to find accommodation in line with their budget for the World Cup, which runs from November 21 to December 18.
Prices range from 300 Qatari rials (just over $80) to several thousand dollars per night.
Qatar has so far taken more than 25,000 bookings, said Omar Al-Jaber, the official in charge of accommodation for the tournament’s organizing committee, specifying that he was taking about “bookings, not rooms or nights.”
“If you go through our website, you will find a lot of options,” he told reporters on a tour of an available apartment in Doha.
“And if you don’t find it today, you need to check tomorrow or after tomorrow... because... we add more inventory to this portal.
“More than 100,000 rooms (are) available as of today,” he said. “If we go to November, maybe we’ll reach more than 130,000 rooms or 140,000 rooms.”
Supporters normally find accommodation themselves for such tournaments.
But Qatar — set to host the most geographically concentrated World Cup in history and with limited hotel capacity — is seeking to channel supporters through an official platform that is reserved for ticket holders and managed by the tournament’s organizers.
Eighty-five percent of accommodation — whether permanent or temporary — is now complete and the remainder will be finished by a “deadline” of end-August, according to Jaber.
The country will be closed to visitors without match tickets during the course of the tournament, Jaber said.
As of Tuesday, the US, Mexico, United Kingdom, Argentina and India accounted for some of the biggest sources of reservations.


New European soccer clubs’ group gives voice to less wealthy

Updated 29 June 2022

New European soccer clubs’ group gives voice to less wealthy

  • The Union of European Clubs is being created after an intense 18 months of debate and decisions on reforming UEFA competitions
  • The UEC shapes as an alternative to the European Club Association that has key influence with UEFA

GENEVA: A new group for European clubs feeling isolated in soccer politics dominated by wealthy rivals was announced Wednesday.
The Union of European Clubs is being created after an intense 18 months of debate and decisions on reforming UEFA competitions like the Champions League plus the failed Super League project that rocked the industry.
“It will be a game-changer,” law academic Katarina Pijetlovic said, revealing the new association at the Play The Game sports integrity conference in Odense, Denmark.
Set up to represent community-driven and middle- to lower-ranked clubs, the UEC shapes as an alternative to the European Club Association that has key influence with UEFA.
The goals of so-called middle-class clubs were aired by Eintracht Frankfurt leaders during the German club’s push to win the Europa League in May as UEFA finalized post-2024 revamps of club competition formats and entry paths. An unfinished debate is how to share out billions of euros (dollars) in broadcast and sponsor money among clubs across Europe.
“It is the organization that aims to gather all the clubs that for one or another reasons feel their interests are not adequately represented at European level by ECA, or that they are not represented at all,” Pijetlovic said.
The ECA has about 250 full and associate members who qualified for recent UEFA competitions but has typically been controlled by a select few storied clubs.
A group of 12 of the ECA’s then-leaders last year plotted the Super League as a direct rival to UEFA and the Champions League.
Though the breakaway collapsed within days — amid a fierce backlash from fans, governments and soccer pundits — the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has a July 11-12 hearing that will challenge UEFA’s authority. That case is being driven by Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.
“Just because clubs are richer it shouldn’t give them more say in governance,” Pijetlovic said Wednesday.
Officials involved in the new union have spoken to about 100 potential member clubs in all levels of European soccer leagues, said Pijetlovic, a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University in England.
Its aims include helping clubs and leagues be more professionally run and improve sporting and financial competitiveness, she said.