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

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.


Mourinho says he and Ancelotti still have a lot more to give

Updated 12 sec ago

Mourinho says he and Ancelotti still have a lot more to give

ROME: José Mourinho sees no reason to stop now after reaching another European final while approaching his 60th birthday.
The 59-year-old Mourinho was asked Wednesday if critics had been too quick to write him and 62-year-old Carlo Ancelotti off too quickly.
Mourinho’s Roma will meet Feyenoord in the Europa Conference League final next week. Three days later, Ancelotti’s Real Madrid team will play Liverpool in the Champions League final.
Both coaches had mixed results in their previous jobs in England at Tottenham (Mourinho) and Everton (Ancelotti).
“The problem with Carlo was that when you coach Everton you definitely won’t win the Champions League. My problem is that people looked at it as me taking on jobs to win but it wasn’t about winning,” Mourinho said. “When you have a history of repeated success, people can say those things — it doesn’t bother me.”
Next Wednesday’s match in Tirana, Albania, will mark the fifth European final of Mourinho’s career. He has won all four that he’s coached in so far, over a span of nearly two decades: the 2003 UEFA Cup and 2004 Champions League finals with Porto; the 2010 Champions League final with Inter Milan; and the 2017 Europa League final with Manchester United.
Still, younger coaches like Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp have attracted more attention than Mourinho in recent years.
“I don’t think about it as ‘the new generation,’ or ‘a different generation,’” Mourinho said. “Quality has no age. The same thing applies to players. There are players who are great at 20 and players who are great at 40.
“When you don’t have the passion anymore that’s when you’re done. When you don’t feel a bit of pressure before these games that means you’re done,” Mourinho added. “I know it for myself and I know Carletto (Ancelotti) fairly well. When you’ve got the passion and the quality, it’s up to us to say when we’re done. We’re the ones who will decide when to quit. But I think you’ll have to wait a while. Because it won’t be soon.”

Rahm tells Spanish teen tennis star to embrace routine

Updated 18 May 2022

Rahm tells Spanish teen tennis star to embrace routine

  • Rahm’s advice was to stay with his regimen and work habits even if tempted to make changes in the wake of early success

TULSA, OKLAHOMA: Reigning US Open golf champion Jon Rahm of Spain has some advice for teen tennis star compatriot Carlos Alcaraz — embrace the routine and put in the work.

World No. 2 Rahm praised the 19-year-old Spanish sensation on Monday as he prepared for Thursday’s start of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills.

Alcaraz, who won his first ATP title in March at Miami, captured his second earlier this month at Madrid, defeating 20-time Grand Slam winners Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic plus third-ranked Alexander Zverev on his way to the crown and a jump to sixth in the world rankings.

“Pretty impressive, especially in the world of tennis. He’s got some big shoes to fill,” Rahm said.

“Historically Spain has had great tennis players, and with Rafa out there it can be probably daunting yet really exciting too for somebody like him.

“He has got a great start. Hopefully he can keep it going and be a great champion.”

Rahm’s advice was to stay with his regimen and work habits even if tempted to make changes in the wake of early success.

“Believe in yourself and keep working, I would probably tell him,” Rahm said.

“You see a lot of people... they win a major championship and they decide they need to change things because they need it to get better.

“There’s a reason he’s gotten to this point. Just keep using that routine and keep getting better. Don’t need to do a complete 180 flip. Just keep believing in yourself, keep practicing and keep training and results will come.”

Rahm has done that this week in the hope he can add to his major title haul, which began last June at Torrey Pines.

The 27-year-old Spaniard comes in off a victory two weeks ago at the Mexico Open, Rahm’s seventh career US PGA triumph and first since last year’s US Open.

“I don’t know if I needed more confidence, but a win is a win. It was a good one,” Rahm said.

“Hadn’t had my best year so far. I had a couple of really good finishes, but since Torrey, I wasn’t really relevant on the leaderboard, so it was nice to be up there and get the win.”

Rahm says tee shots will be crucial to attack the course this week, but Southern Hills will test all facets of his game.

“If you’re in the rough, you might not be able to be aggressive toward the pins,” Rahm said. “You have to hit a lot of fairways out here.

“Everything needs to be good. Iron game, short game, putting, driving, everything — otherwise something really will have to excel for something else to be lacking.”


Medvedev rules himself out for French Open crown after loss in return from injury

Updated 18 May 2022

Medvedev rules himself out for French Open crown after loss in return from injury

  • Medvedev went under the knife after losing in the quarterfinals in Miami, meaning the Geneva loss was his only clay-court match ahead of Paris

GENEVA: World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev on Tuesday ruled himself out as a title contender at next week’s French Open after losing his first match back after an hernia operation.

The US Open champion, who underwent surgery last month, was beaten 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) by French veteran Richard Gasquet in the Geneva Open round of 16.

Medvedev said it was hard to look beyond Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as favorites to win the second Grand Slam of the year and said he would work further on sharpening up his game in the remaining days before Paris.

“I don’t play my best tennis on clay courts. I know that I’m capable of making some good results, as I did in the past. But for this I kind of need to be in the zone,” Medvedev told reporters.

“I don’t feel as confident on clay as on other surfaces, that’s why I lost 7/5 in the tiebreak finishing with a double fault. It’s disappointing but I’ve had tougher losses in my career.

“Physically I felt not bad. With more days of practice I should be ready for Roland Garros.”

The 26-year-old Russian reached the 2021 French Open quarterfinals.

“I haven’t played for a month and a half, two months. I’m going to try to work both physically and tennis-wise and hopefully I can find the game I had there last year — which is not going to be easy,” he said.

Medvedev went under the knife after losing in the quarterfinals in Miami, meaning the Geneva loss was his only clay-court match ahead of Paris.

“Clay for my body is the most dangerous surface. For me it’s clay courts — every time, every year I have some problems where I cannot be 100 percent,” he said.

“I’m not a favorite for Roland-Garros but I do want to play well. If I can find my level again, I can be dangerous.”

It was the first time 35-year-old Gasquet had defeated a top two player since beating Roger Federer in 2005 — his only other victory over a top-two opponent in 38 attempts.

“It’s a great victory for me and it’s incredible for me to win against Daniil, even if he’s coming back from injuries,” Gasquet said.

“It’s a great moment and that’s why I still continue to play and try to do well.”

The former world No. 7, who underwent hernia surgery himself in 2019, was surprised by the speed of Medvedev’s comeback.

“The first match after surgery it’s always difficult, so I knew it was tough for him but I know how good he is,” he said.

“He has come back quickly because two months off is not a lot after an operation. It’s impressive. It will take time for him to get back to his best.”

The world No. 75 faces Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Last year’s Geneva winner Casper Ruud, runner-up Denis Shapovalov and Reilly Opelka are the top 20 players still in the draw.


Liverpool beat Southampton 2-1, title race goes to the wire

Updated 18 May 2022

Liverpool beat Southampton 2-1, title race goes to the wire

  • The victory leaves Jurgen Klopp’s team a point behind Manchester City heading into the final round of a thrilling league campaign
  • Liverpool were 14 points behind City at one point in January, albeit with two games in hand

SOUTHAMPTON, England: The Premier League title race is going to the wire. Remarkably, an unprecedented quadruple is still on for Liverpool.

Tired and hit by injuries after winning the FA Cup final on Saturday, Liverpool fielded a second-choice lineup against Southampton and demonstrated a great mentality to come from behind to win 2-1 on Tuesday.

It leaves Jurgen Klopp’s team a point behind Manchester City heading into the final round of a thrilling league campaign. That’s on Sunday, when Liverpool are at home to Wolverhampton at the same time as City host Aston Villa — managed by Liverpool great Steven Gerrard.

“Whatever happens this season, we have done ourselves proud,” Liverpool midfielder James Milner said. “All we could do is take it to the last game and we’ve done that.”

City remain the favorite in their bid for a sixth league title in 11 seasons, but Liverpool have done their part by taking the defending champions all the way.

In fact, the Reds are taking every competition to the final game this season, with a Champions League final against Real Madrid still to come on May 28. They’ve already won both domestic cups in a season for the ages.

Joel Matip completed Liverpool’s latest comeback by unwittingly heading home the winning goal in the 67th minute at St. Mary’s Stadium.

Klopp’s team had also come from behind in its previous two league games, a 2-1 win against Villa and a 1-1 draw with Tottenham. It just doesn’t know when it is beaten.

“We keep going,” Klopp said. “We never give up. That’s how it is.”

The game came only three days after Liverpool’s energy-sapping FA Cup triumph over Chelsea, which went 120 minutes before the Reds won a penalty shootout. Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk were injured at Wembley Stadium and didn’t travel to Southampton. Fabinho was already injured. Andrew Robertson and Luis Diaz were unused substitutes.

Despite the slew of changes, Liverpool dominated a passive Southampton team with nothing left to play for this season but still fell behind in the 13th minute when Nathan Redmond cut inside from the left and sent in a shot that deflected off Milner and into the far corner.

Liverpool’s players kept their composure and replied 14 minutes later when Diogo Jota laid the ball off to Takumi Minamino, who displayed quick feet before firing a rising shot inside Alex McCarthy’s near post. The Japan forward was on loan at Southampton last season and hadn’t started a league game since then.

The rest of the match saw Liverpool camped inside Southampton’s half but only managing to create half-chances. The atmosphere was starting to get tense when Liverpool was gifted what proved to be the winning goal, after a corner by Kostas Tsimikas was glanced on at the near post by Southampton forward Mohamed Elyounoussi.

The ball flew across the area, skimmed off the head of Southampton’s Kyle Walker-Peters, hit the forehead of Matip and rebounded into the far corner beyond McCarthy’s despairing dive.

Liverpool were 14 points behind City at one point in January, albeit with two games in hand. Somehow, the title is still within reach with 90 minutes left to play. And Gerrard, who never won the league with Liverpool as a player, could yet have a decisive role in helping his former team win it this time.

“If we said in January it would go to the last game, we would have taken that,” Liverpool manager Jordan Henderson said. “Hopefully Stevie and Villa do us a favor.”


More medal success for Saudi on Day 2 of GCC Games

Updated 17 May 2022

More medal success for Saudi on Day 2 of GCC Games

  • Day of action resulted in podium finishes in athletics, swimming and shooting

The second day of the GCC Games taking place in Kuwait proved fruitful for the Saudi contingent with several more podium finishes in the athletics, swimming and shooting categories.

Saudi sprinter Mohammed Al-Maawi took silver medal in the 400 meter hurdles competition with a time of 50.6 seconds, while his colleague Moadh Al-Saad came in third place with a time of 53.34 seconds to secure the bronze.

On another day of fine results for Saudi’s athletes, Hassan Doshi claimed a gold medal in the triple jump competition with a distance of 16 meters, while teammate Mohammed Al-Yami came in fourth place with a distance of 14.61 meters.

Meanwhile, Osama Al-Aqili won the bronze medal in the discus with a throw of 51.97 meters.

The Saudi women’s 4×100 relay team missed out on a medal after finishing fourth in the final with a time of 53.52 seconds.

In the 10 meter Air Pistol competition, Saudi’s Atallah Al-Anzi snatched the gold medal at the Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Olympic Shooting Complex, and that was followed with silver for Abdul Aziz Al-Anzi in the 50 meter Rifle category.

In the men’s swimming competitions, Ahmed Al-Hashem took bronze in the 1500 meter freestyle, while the Saudi team came third place in the 4x100m medley relay race, securing bronze medals for Al-Hashem, Mohammed Al-Muhr, Youssef Buarish and Ali Al-Issa.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Saudi Arabian men’s basketball team went down 67-63 to the United Arab Emirates.

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