Brazil’s Haddad Maia to face Halep for Canadian WTA title

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Beatriz Haddad Maia sets up to return a ball to Karolina Pliskova in the semifinals of the National Bank Open at Sobeys Stadium. (USA TODAY Sports)
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Simona Halep after defeating Jessica Pegula in the semifinals of the National Bank Open at Sobeys Stadium. (USA TODAY Sports)
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Updated 14 August 2022

Brazil’s Haddad Maia to face Halep for Canadian WTA title

  • The first Brazilian to get to the final of a WTA Masters event has now won 17 matches since June, when she won grasscourt titles in Birmingham and Nottingham

TORONTO: Simona Halep will bid for a third Canadian title at the WTA Toronto Masters on Sunday against determined Brazilian outsider Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Haddad Maia stunned 2021 finalist Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 7-6 (9/7) in the semifinals while Halep put years of big-match experience to good use in a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over seventh-seeded American Jessica Pegula.

Halep, the former world No. 1 from Romania who won 2016 and 2018 trophies in Canada, showed her definitive return to form with the victory after dropping from the top 10 in the rankings a year ago due to injury.

“We never played against each other,” Halep said. “So I didn’t really know what to expect.

“But it was a great fight. I’m really happy that I went through.

“Of course, I can improve,” Halep added. “But I’m building the confidence, I’m building the game, and I’m really happy that I’m in this position.”

Haddad Maia, who stunned world No. 1  Ita Swiatek in the third round, blunted the noted serving attack of Czech Pliskova, who fired nine aces in defeat.

The first Brazilian to get to the final of a WTA Masters event has now won 17 matches since June, when she won grasscourt titles in Birmingham and Nottingham.

The South American, ranked 24th in the world, is guaranteed to breach the Top 20 next week.

Her match was a rollercoaster, with Haddad Maia fighting off Pliskova while leading 5-1 in the opening set.

Pliskova then seized a 4-1 lead in the second only for Haddad Maia to claw her way back.

Halep, who will return to the top-10 thanks to her victory, needed two and a quarter hours to knock out American Pegula, who was the highest seed left in the field.

The 30-year-old winner of Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles could return to sixth in the world if she beats Haddad Maia on Sunday.

She will again have experience on her side as she competes in her 18th career Masters final in search of her ninth title at the elite level.

Halep lost the opening set against Pegula in 35 minutes but levelled at a set apiece thanks to an early break in the second.

Halep missed two match points on her opponent’s serve and swiped her racquet angrily on the cement as Pegula held for 4-5 in the third.

“The fire is back, it’s a good sign if I do that,” said the Romanian, who was supported by a sizeable number of compatriots in the stands.

Halep clinched the win on her third opportunity as Pegula hit the net with a return.

“I changed a little bit the tactics,” Halep said. “In the first set, it was a little bit too fast.

“She was hitting super strong and I didn’t feel the rhythm. Then I just calmed down and I tried to just push her back a little bit more.”

Halep saved 12 of the 17 break points she faced as she earned her 37th victory this season while playing in her seventh semifinal of 2022.


No respite for Bayern players with Leverkusen game looming

Updated 33 sec ago

No respite for Bayern players with Leverkusen game looming

BERLIN: The international break provided little respite for Bayern Munich’s struggling stars ahead of the team’s high-stakes Bundesliga game against Bayer Leverkusen on Friday.
Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann welcomed Germany players Thomas Müller, Joshua Kimmich, Leroy Sané, Jamal Musiala and Serge Gnabry back to training on Wednesday after what proved to be a frustrating two games with the national team.
The rain they encountered in Munich matched the mood.
Bayern, after four games without a win in the Bundesliga, had been hoping that Germany’s Nations League games against Hungary and England would help reinvigorate their players and restore confidence ahead of a busy schedule of domestic and Champions League games.
Instead, Bayern’s players took their poor form to the Germany team, which lost 1-0 at home to Hungary, then drew 3-3 with England after throwing away a two-goal lead.
Bayern captain Manuel Neuer and midfielder Leon Goretzka missed the Germany games due to coronavirus infections, but both were back on the training field for Nagelsmann on Tuesday.
Nagelsmann had said he was going to use the break to think “about everything” after Bayern ended their run of three draws with a loss in Augsburg, the team’s first defeat of the season.
Only a convincing performance on Friday will ease the pressure on the coach, who seemed to be at a loss to explain his team’s slump. Bayern next face a visit to Borussia Dortmund for “der Klassiker” the following weekend.
Leverkusen also need to make amends after their disappointing start. Gerardo Seoane’s team are in crisis after just one win from seven league games so far.
“Both teams are in a similar situation – each at their own level. Both are dissatisfied with the results, but both also show many positive signs,” Seoane said.
“Bayern Munich had an incredible number of scoring chances in every game. We don’t need to talk about quality.”

Qatar: COVID-19 vaccinations not compulsory for World Cup fans

Updated 29 September 2022

Qatar: COVID-19 vaccinations not compulsory for World Cup fans

  • All visitors aged over six would have to produce negative COVID-19 tests before taking flights to Qatar for the tournament

DOHA: Coronavirus vaccinations will not be mandatory for the million-plus fans going to the World Cup in Qatar this year, authorities in the Gulf state said on Thursday.

All visitors aged over six will have to produce negative COVID-19 tests before taking flights to Qatar for the tournament that starts November 20, the authorities said in new health guidelines.

The 29-day tournament will be the first major global sporting event with fans since the eruption of the Covid pandemic in December 2019.

The Qatar organizers and world football’s governing body FIFA have said they want the event to be a sign that the world is getting over the devastating pandemic.

But they have warned that health guidelines will change if the threat blows up again.

Fans will have to wear masks in public transport in Qatar and anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 “will be required to isolate in accordance with Ministry of Public Health guidelines,” the health ministry said.

The ministry added that it may force players, referees and officials to stay in a secure “bio-bubble” if coronavirus cases take off “to allow for the safe operation and continuation of the event.”


Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah tests positive for COVID-19

Updated 29 September 2022

Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah tests positive for COVID-19

  • Shah was discharged from hospital on Thursday after being diagnosed with pneumonia
  • Shah played only one game in 7-match series against England at Karachi before being rested

LAHORE: Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the remaining two Twenty20s against England, the Pakistan Cricket Board said on Thursday.

Shah was discharged from hospital on Thursday after being diagnosed with pneumonia and the PCB said the fast bowler was feeling “much better.”

“Shah is back in the team hotel where he will follow all COVID-19 protocols,” the PCB said in a statement.

Pakistan is due to leave for New Zealand next Monday to participate in a triangular Twenty20 series also featuring Bangladesh.

The PCB didn’t clarify whether the fast bowler will accompany the team to New Zealand.

Shah played only one game in the seven-match series against England at Karachi before being rested. He returned expensive figures of 0-41 off his four overs in the first match, which England won by six wickets.

He was admitted to hospital late Tuesday night in Lahore with a chest infection and fever.

Pakistan leads the series 3-2 with back-to-back narrow wins at Karachi and Lahore in the last two games as England couldn’t chase down below-par totals.

The remaining two matches will be played on Friday and Sunday at Lahore.


Racist abuse of Richarlison shows FIFA still has work to do

Updated 29 September 2022

Racist abuse of Richarlison shows FIFA still has work to do

  • In a statement, FIFA condemned the incident, saying: “First and foremost, FIFA strongly rejects any form of racism and violence and has a very clear zero tolerance stance against such behavior in football

MANCHESTER, England: When FIFA President Gianni Infantino dashed from Geneva to Paris to watch World Cup favorite Brazil in their final warmup game before Qatar, he cannot have expected to be confronted by such visual proof of the racism that continues to infect soccer.

Not least because the sport’s world governing body disbanded its anti-racism task force — declaring it had “completely fulfilled its temporary mission” — shortly after Infantino was elected in 2016.

FIFA has implemented a detailed strategy to combat all forms of discrimination, but the incident at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday, when a banana was thrown at Richarlison as he celebrated scoring a 19th-minute goal in Brazil’s 5-1 win against Tunisia, showed just how much work is still to be done.

The Tottenham striker later tweeted: “As long as it’s ‘blah blah blah’ and they don’t punish, it will continue like this, happening every day and everywhere. No time bro!”

In a statement, FIFA condemned the incident, saying: “First and foremost, FIFA strongly rejects any form of racism and violence and has a very clear zero tolerance stance against such behavior in football.

“FIFA will investigate the incident in yesterday’s game in Paris.”

Earlier that day, Infantino had been in Geneva to discuss human rights-related matters and their relation to soccer with Federico Villegas of the United Nations.

Later on, he witnessed first-hand the latest instance of racism and discrimination, which is prompting such concern within the sport.

Leading players have called out online abuse — but there have also been high-profile episodes within stadiums, with FIFA handing Hungary a two-game stadium ban and a fine of almost $205,000 after England players were subjected to racist abuse during a World Cup qualifier in Budapest last September.

UEFA also sanctioned Hungary for discriminatory behavior during Euro 2020.

It raises the question of whether there will be similar occurrences in Qatar at FIFA’s showpiece occasion.

The FARE network, an anti-discrimination organization which works with FIFA and UEFA to investigate cases of discriminatory behavior by fans, does not believe there is particular cause for concern within stadiums at the World Cup. But executive director Piara Powar says “international football has a huge problem.”

“There will be a lot of close monitoring of far right and racist banners (in Qatar). They will be taken down within minutes,” Powar told The Associated Press. “There will be specific analysts in security boxes. There will be a lot of people watching out for these things.”

FARE has contacted FIFA regarding the Richarlison incident.

“The wilful act of taking a banana and throwing it at black player after scoring a goal is breath-taking,” Powar added. “When we’re reminded what the act means — it is dehumanizing.”

Richarlison’s tweet pointed to his own lack of faith in soccer’s authorities to deal with racism.

On Wednesday, his club, Tottenham, voiced its support for the forward.

“We are disgusted by the racist abuse of Richarlison at last night’s game between Brazil and Tunisia,” it tweeted. “This has no place in football, or anywhere. We stand with you, Richy.”

Former Chelsea player Paul Canoville was subjected to racist abuse from fans of his own club during his career — and believes today’s stars will eventually take extreme measures in protest.

“It’s hard hearing about racism,” he told AP. “The truth is it’s happening throughout the world. Racism is a large problem in football and a huge problem in society.

“When I was warming up I’d hear fans calling me a monkey and throwing bananas. It’s telling me I am an animal.

“The players will walk off the pitch. That will be a statement. I can see that. It will be a team with Black players saying, “Enough is enough. Why should I play in these conditions?’

“Some people think that’s giving in. I don’t think it’s giving in — it’s standing up.”


Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

Updated 29 September 2022

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

TORONTO: Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, going deep for the New York Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.
The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence in the seventh inning at Rogers Center, a 117 mph drive that landed 394 feet from the plate. The tiebreaking, two-run drive, which put the Yankees ahead 5-3, clanked off the front of the stands and dropped into Toronto’s bullpen.
Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and huegged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, them was congratulated by the entire Yankees team who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate
Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.
Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.
Judge had gone seven games without a home run — his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.
The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.
Judge is hitting .314 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.
Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.
Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.
McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans — perhaps many — until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.
Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.
Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.
As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.
An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.
Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.
He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.
Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”
That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.