Murray roars into round two as Medvedev sets up Kyrgios clash

Britain's Andy Murray in action during his first round match against Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili in Australian Open, at Melbourne Park on Tuesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 January 2022
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Murray roars into round two as Medvedev sets up Kyrgios clash

  • Top-10 seeds Garbine Muguruza, Iga Swiatek and Anett Kontaveit all made comfortable starts to their Melbourne title charges
  • "It's amazing to be back and winning a five-set battle like that, I couldn't ask for any more," said Murray

MELBOURNE: Former world number one Andy Murray turned back the clock in typically combative style and favorite Daniil Medvedev set up a blockbuster second-round showdown with Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
In the women’s draw, top-10 seeds Garbine Muguruza, Iga Swiatek and Anett Kontaveit all made comfortable starts to their Melbourne title charges, while Simona Halep and Aryna Sabalenka also won despite struggling with their serves.
Emma Raducanu, the US Open champion, was also victorious on her tournament debut but there was defeat at the first hurdle for her fellow 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez — the woman Raducanu beat in the Flushing Meadows decider.
Canada’s Fernandez, the 23rd seed, went down 6-4, 6-2 to Australian wildcard Maddison Inglis, to the delight of the home crowd.
After Sunday’s deportation of men’s defending champion and top seed Novak Djokovic, the first Grand Slam of the year is now in full swing and many are eager to move on from the visa saga.
That is easier said than done and Tennis Australia (TA), organizers of the so-called “Happy Slam,” said in a statement Tuesday that they “deeply regret the impact” it has had on the other players.
“As the Australian tennis family, we recognize that recent events have been a significant distraction for everyone,” TA said, without mentioning Djokovic by name.
If it has been a distraction for Murray, he did not show it.
The 34-year-old, there as a wildcard, showed all the fighting qualities that made him a three-time Grand Slam champion.
His epic five-set victory over 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili was hugely symbolic — the Briton departed Melbourne Park in 2019 not knowing if he would ever be back because of hip trouble.
But here he was, rolling back the years and heading into round two.
“It’s amazing to be back and winning a five-set battle like that, I couldn’t ask for any more,” said Murray.
There was no such problem for Russia’s Medvedev, the second seed and favorite to lift his second major, who made light work of 91st-ranked Henri Laaksonen on Rod Laver Arena, dismantling the Swiss 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3).
With Djokovic out of the picture and Roger Federer not in Melbourne because of injury, the draw has opened up for the 25-year-old Medvedev and Spanish great Rafael Nadal.
Medvedev, who lost last year’s final in Melbourne to Djokovic but then beat the Serbian in the US Open final in September, plays combustible but talented Australian showman Kyrgios in round two.
Another of the “Next Gen” young talents challenging the “Big Three” of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer is Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The fourth seed was a comfortable winner in three sets over practice partner Mikael Ymer to get his tournament up and running.
In the women’s draw, Spanish world number three Muguruza, a finalist at Melbourne Park two years ago, eased past 77th-ranked Frenchwoman Clara Burel 6-3, 6-4.
There was also little trouble for Kontaveit, despite some early nerves, and Swiatek, but Romania’s Halep was far from comfortable.
The former number one labored into round two 6-4, 6-3 after an error-strewn clash with Poland’s Magdalena Frech which saw 11 service breaks.
Second seed Sabalenka, who was reduced to tears and serving underarm in a disastrous lead-up to Melbourne, had Mark Philippoussis to thank after she revealed the Australian former world number eight helped iron out some of her serving problems.
She was far from perfect on her serve but survived to beat Storm Sanders 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
In the last action of the day, Raducanu ousted the American Sloane Stephens — a former US Open champion — 6-0, 2-6, 6-1 in a performance that will make the Briton’s rivals sit up and take notice.


Rising Stars Arabia 4 looks to unearth boxing talent in region and beyond

The first edition of Rising Stars Arabia took place in September 2023 in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)
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Rising Stars Arabia 4 looks to unearth boxing talent in region and beyond

  • The fourth edition of the grassroots boxing competition takes place in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night

The fourth edition of Rising Stars Arabia is set to take place on Saturday, May 25, at the Space 42 Arena in Abu Dhabi, with the emerging grassroots boxing event once again aiming to raise the profile of fighters from the region.

This event, in association with the Abu Dhabi Department of Tourism and Culture, represents a vision that founder Ahmed Seddiqi has been nurturing from fight to fight.

“Our goal, and DCT’s goal, is to find the next champion from the region,” he said. “We’ve been going extremely strong. We’re getting good recognition in the boxing world, both globally and regionally.”

The Rising Stars platform, as Seddiqi describes, is continuously expanding.

“We have many requests coming from different parts of the world, not just the region.”

The initiative began with a focus on the Arab region but has since expanded to include markets such as India and beyond.

This growth in international interest is due in part to the global reach of the promotion’s broadcasting partners — DAZN and ESPN Knockout — and the fight card for Saturday’s event boasts a selection of top prospects from the region.

Moussa Gholam, a top 10-rated fighter globally, makes his return to the promotion, while Faizan Anwar, a UAE-based Indian fighter with an unblemished record across 17 fights, looks set to seize greater opportunities in the future. The event also features Tony “Lightning” Curtis, the youngest professional boxer from the UK, on the undercard.

“It’s a fully stacked card,” said Seddiqi. “If you have a fighter from India or Afghanistan who may not attract much interest in the American or European markets, what we are doing here in Abu Dhabi is offering a global platform for these fighters to show their talents. It’s all about giving a chance and an opportunity for fighters to prove themselves. They might end up on the global stage.”

Rising Stars Arabia’s growth from a regional event to a potentially global one is a testament to the platform’s success across the first three editions.

“In the next season starting in September, we aim to include prospects from around the world fighting on the platform,” Seddiqi said.

“It’s important in the boxing world to provide a platform specifically for upcoming stars — the kids who finish the Olympics with medals, world champions in the amateurs, or fighters from countries that haven’t been given attention. We want to give them a platform to showcase their talents.”

Looking ahead, Seddiqi is optimistic about both the future of the event and boxers from the region.

“In the next two years, or perhaps even sooner, we can see one of the fighters from the Rising Stars platform fighting for a world title, becoming a world title contender, or fighting for the world title eliminator.”


Davis Riley grabs two-shot lead at Colonial tournament

Updated 25 May 2024
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Davis Riley grabs two-shot lead at Colonial tournament

  • Riley is seeking his second PGA Tour title, having teamed with Nick Hardy to win the 2023 Zurich Classic two-man team event in New Orleans

LOS ANGELES: Davis Riley made six birdies in a 6-under par 64 on Friday to take a two-shot lead in the US PGA Tour’s Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

The 27-year-old ranked 250th in the world was 10-under and in the lead but facing a par putt at his final hole when play was halted for more than an hour because of thunderstorms in the area.

“Luckily, it was a three-footer straight up the hill, so (there) wasn’t too much to stress about,” Riley said. “I knocked in about five three-footers before walking over there to cap off the round — hit it center cut and made it.

“It was nice to finish the day and made for a good, pretty stress-free six-under.”

Hayden Buckley returned from the delay to card the fifth of his five birdies at the sixth — his 15th hole of the day — posting a five-under par 65,

He was tied for second, two shots back on 8-under 132 alongside Pierceson Coody.

Coody had an eagle and six birdies in his 5-under 65, surging to his share of second with three straight birdies to end his round.

South Korea’s Im Sung-jae had seven birdies in his 6-under 64 to join a group sharing fourth on 134. He was joined by American Keegan Bradley and Austrian Sepp Straka, who both shot 66.

Riley is seeking his second PGA Tour title, having teamed with Nick Hardy to win the 2023 Zurich Classic two-man team event in New Orleans.

One off the lead to start the day, he teed off on 10 and rolled in birdies at 15 and 16 before launching a run of three straight birdies at the 18th.

He got up and down from bunkers for birdies at both the first and second, and rolled in a 10-footer for birdie at the sixth to reach 10-under.

Reigning Open champion Brian Harman headlined a group on 135 and former US Open champion Gary Woodland, back on tour this season after surgery for a brain lesion, was in a group on 136 after a six-under 64.

“I just put everything together,” said Woodland, who said he doesn’t have the same debilitating symptoms he had last year but is “still battling, still on medication.”

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler was a further stroke back on 137 after a 5-under par 65 that featured five birdies — four in a row from the 18th through the third.

Scheffler was in danger of seeing his cuts made streak end at 36 after his two-over opening round.

But a week after his arrest in a traffic incident before the second round of the PGA Championship in Louisville, Kentucky, Scheffler turned things around.

Scheffler, who put together a run of four wins in five events — including a second Masters title in April — is still facing multiple charges in Louisville that include felony assault of a police officer after allegedly trying to go around a traffic jam as police investigated an earlier fatal road accident.

Scheffler has called the incident “a huge misunderstanding,” with his lawyer saying he “did not do anything wrong but was simply proceeding as directed.”


Doncic lifts Mavericks with go-ahead 3 with 3 seconds left to top Wolves 109-108 for 2-0 lead

Updated 25 May 2024
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Doncic lifts Mavericks with go-ahead 3 with 3 seconds left to top Wolves 109-108 for 2-0 lead

MINNEAPOLIS: Luka Doncic hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with Rudy Gobert guarding him at the top of the key with 3 seconds left, posting his fifth triple-double of the playoffs to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 109-108 victory and a 2-0 lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference finals on Friday night.
Doncic had 32 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds for his eighth triple-double in 42 career postseason games for the Mavericks, who erased an 18-point deficit that stood late in the second quarter and were still down 16 midway through the third.
Naz Reid went 7 for 9 from 3-point range for 23 points, but his last try at the buzzer rimmed in and out to send the Wolves to Dallas for Game 3 on Sunday in a big hole after another off night by stars Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Kyrie Irving had 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a corner 3-pointer with 1:05 left that pulled the Mavericks within two. Then the Wolves sandwiched turnovers around a short miss by Doncic. Edwards recklessly threw the ball out of bounds off a drive with 13 seconds left, giving the Mavericks the ball with the chance to win.
Doncic took the inbounds pass and dribbled to set up a screen by Dereck Lively II that triggered a switch by the Wolves, with NBA All-Defensive second team pick Jaden McDaniels dropping with Lively’s roll and Defensive Player of the Year Gobert staying out on the top of the key.
After the swish, Doncic flexed his arms and yelled at the stunned crowd as his teammates swarmed him.
The lead for either side was three points or less from 10:50 remaining to 1:29 until Edwards — who had 21 points but is shooting 11 for 33 in the series — sank two free throws for a 108-103 edge. That came right after Irving missed both foul shots that had the crowd howling in honor of the promotion that awards a free Chick-fil-A sandwich.
Mike Conley scored 18 points and Gobert had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolves, who needed Reid — the NBA Sixth Man of the Year — more than ever. His top-of-the-key swish at the end of the third quarter gave the Wolves an 86-79 cushion just after the Mavericks closed the gap hard with a 21-7 spurt — mostly while Conley rested — over a 6:36 stretch.
Irving, who scored only five points in the first half after he had 24 of his 30 in Game 1 before halftime, gave the Mavericks their first lead since 7-6 with a 3-pointer to cap an 8-0 run that started the fourth quarter and made it 87-86.
Doncic, who flourished in the fourth quarter of Game 1 to finish with 33 points, has been fighting through what the Mavericks have listed on the league’s official injury report as a sprained right knee and left ankle soreness.
When he was subbed out late in the first quarter, Doncic jogged straight to the locker room before returning to the bench prior to his next shift. After running the floor for a fast-break layup late in the second quarter, Doncic was laboring and limping on the way back. He shot 5 for 14 before halftime.
The beauty of the 25-year-old Slovenian superstar’s game is that he hardly needs a full-strength spring in his step to dominate. He had Minnesota’s league-leading defense looking out of sorts on so many possessions with his laser-like passing.
The Wolves were blistered by the coaching staff for their effort and execution between games, and they stayed true to their form as a strong bounce-back team from the few times they’ve fallen flat this season. Conley had the offense running crisply and craftily whenever he was initiating.
When he wasn’t, though, the Wolves often got out of hand. Edwards forced a lot of shots and didn’t appear to have much of a plan when he had the ball. McDaniels, who had 20-plus points in each of the last three games, didn’t make a basket until midway through the third quarter.
Towns and Gobert were especially aggressive on offense early after the Wolves got eaten up in the paint, but they were still vulnerable on defense underneath as Mavericks had their way with the persistent lobs to Daniel Gafford (16 points) and Lively (14 points).
Towns had 15 points on 4-for-16 shooting and gave way to Reid down the stretch.


Barcelona seek their first win against Lyon in Women’s Champions League final

Updated 25 May 2024
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Barcelona seek their first win against Lyon in Women’s Champions League final

  • The titleholders from Spain have a shot at a statement victory by finally overcoming the storied French club and winning their third European title
  • Lyon won five titles in a row from 2016-20, and hold nearly every Women’s Champions League club record

BILBAO, Spain: Barcelona have to find a way past the most successful club in women’s soccer if they want to build on their recent dominance.

Barcelona will play in their fourth straight Women’s Champions League final on Saturday in Bilbao against record eight-time champion Lyon, the nemesis they have never been able to beat.

The titleholders from Spain have a shot at a statement victory by finally overcoming the storied French club and winning their third European title — all within a four-season span.

Lyon, meanwhile, will be hoping to reclaim the trophy after not getting out of the quarterfinals last season and seeing the hype grow about Barcelona and their star players Alexia Putellas and Aitana Bonmatí, who have won back-to-back world player of the year awards.

“We are a team that has won a lot in the past. But we remain really ambitious,” Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor, the first woman to win the league as a player and coach, said on Friday.

“For me we are the best team in the world and will continue to be no matter what happens tomorrow. I trust my players. I know there is all the individual and collective talent needed to achieve this goal.”

Bompastor, who can become the first woman to win two titles as a coach, said it’s natural for rivals to be extra motivated to try to bring down Lyon, which will be playing in its 11th European final in 15 seasons.

Lyon won five titles in a row from 2016-20, and hold nearly every Women’s Champions League club record. The French side has won all four of its matches against Barcelona, including 4-1 in the 2019 final in Hungary and 3-1 in the 2022 final in Italy.

“This Barça is different from the one we faced in the final two years ago,” Bompastor said. “They have made new signings and each final brings with it a different story. It will be a totally different game tomorrow.”

Bonmatí said Barcelona have “grown a lot” since the first final against Lyon.

“I would say that we didn’t have any kind of experience, and physically, we were far off the big teams,” she said. “Now, we are probably one of the teams to beat out of anyone.”

Barcelona beat Chelsea for their first European title in 2021, and Wolfsburg for their second in 2023.

“We’ve had a fantastic season, playing great football, and the recent weeks have seen us on a great dynamic,” said Barcelona coach Jonatan Giraldez, who will leave at the end of the season to join US club Washington Spirit. “It’ll be a great final because I have no doubt at all that these are the two best teams in the world right now. To have the chance to add another Champions League means we can try to show we are still the best team in Europe.”

The club had nine players in the Spain squad that broke through with the nation’s first Women’s World Cup title last year. Barcelona also sent eight players to the semifinals of the inaugural Women’s Nations League, which Spain won in February.

Barcelona are trying to become the third team to win three European titles, after the eight by Lyon and four by Eintracht Frankfurt. They reached the final by overcoming a 1-0 first-leg loss to Chelsea at home in the semifinals. Lyon eliminated French rival Paris Saint-Germain.

Lyon have lost two of their goal scorers from the 2022 final in Turin — Amandine Henry and Catarina Macario. The other, Ada Hegerberg, had been nursing a injury but was expected to be fit to play on Saturday.

“Ada has resumed normal team training,” Bompastor said. “She could be available tomorrow.”
 


Sunrisers Hyderabad down Rajasthan Royals to set up IPL final with Kolkata Knight Riders

Updated 24 May 2024
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Sunrisers Hyderabad down Rajasthan Royals to set up IPL final with Kolkata Knight Riders

  • Spinner Shahbaz Ahmed starred with three wickets

CHENNAI: Sunrisers Hyderabad beat Rajasthan Royals by 36 runs on Friday to set up an IPL final against Kolkata Knight Riders, as spinner Shahbaz Ahmed starred with three wickets.
Heinrich Klaasen smashed 50 off 34 balls to help Sunrisers post 175-9 and their bowlers combined to restrict Rajasthan to 139-7 as they reached their third IPL final, to be played in Chennai on Sunday.
Ahmed came in as an impact substitute in Hyderabad’s batting innings to score 18 runs and then returned figures of 3-23 with his left-arm spin to flatten the opposition chase.
Kolkata, who thrashed Hyderabad in the first play-off game to reach their fourth final, will meet Pat Cummins’ side again in the decider.
Cummins, who cost Hyderabad $2.5 million at the auction, remains on the cusp of another title after he led Australia to the Test championship trophy and then to the ODI World Cup in India last year.
“You’ve seen that in the way we played,” Cummins said on his team’s turnaround from last year when they ended bottom of the 10-team table. “The finals was the goal and we’ve made it.”
Ahmed was named player of the match and Cummins said it was coach Daniel Vettori’s call to have the all-rounder come in as impact sub.
It took time to fill the 36,000-capacity M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, with local fans still missing the presence of home team Chennai Super Kings.
Chennai veteran M.S. Dhoni remains a hero in the south Indian city and many fans wore his number 7 jersey during the third play-off contest.
The IPL was in the grip of a heatwave in the last two play-off matches in Ahmedabad, where temperatures soared to over 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit), but Chennai remained much cooler at 32 degrees.
Rajasthan faltered in their chase despite Yashasvi Jaiswal’s quickfire 42 before the opener fell to Ahmed and skipper Sanju Samson soon departed for 10.
Ahmed strick twice in one over, including the in-form Riyan Parag for six, and despite Dhruv Jurel’s late unbeaten 56, inaugural champions Rajasthan fell well short.
“We’ve had some brilliant games, we’ve had a great project as a franchise,” said Samson. “We’ve produced some great talent for the country. Parag, Jurel, exciting not only for RR but for India team too.”
Hyderabad’s Abhishek Sharma scored 12 but returned with his part-time spin to take two wickets including the big-hitting Shimron Hetmyer, bowled for four.
Earlier Sunrisers, who had racked up record IPL totals of 277 and 287 this season, lacked firepower in their batting until Klaasen boosted the score with his fourth fifty of the season.
Rajasthan’s Trent Boult made early inroads when he got Abhishek in the first over and struck twice in the fifth to send back Rahul Tripathi, for 37, and Aiden Markram, for one.
Fast bowler Avesh Khan took two wickets in two balls, prompting Hyderabad, who won the IPL in 2016 under Australia’s David Warner, to bring in Ahmed.
South Africa’s Klaasen stood firm to reach his fifty from 33 balls and put on a key seventh-wicket stand of 43 with Ahmed in a total which proved enough.