Doncic returns to Spain to warm welcome from former club Real Madrid in preseason game with Mavs

Dallas Mavericks' guard and former Real Madrid player Luka Doncic after receiving the Real Madrid's honor insigna from Real Madrid's Spanish president Florentino Perez prior to the NBA preseason game between Dallas Mavericks and Real Madrid Baloncesto. (AFP)
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Updated 11 October 2023
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Doncic returns to Spain to warm welcome from former club Real Madrid in preseason game with Mavs

  • Doncic: I’ve seen my former teammates and people I had been with many years ago. Thank you all
  • It was the first preseason NBA game in the Spanish capital since 2016, when Doncic and Real Madrid hosted — and beat — the Oklahoma City Thunder

MADRID: Luka Doncic returned to Spain to a warm reception from former club Real Madrid in a preseason game with the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, receiving a standing ovation by the home fans and being honored by his former teammates.

The “Luuukaaa” chants were back in the Spanish capital five years after the star guard left for the NBA, and the Slovenian looked moved while watching his past highlights on the big screen before the game.

Doncic, who was not fully fit, played less than five minutes and scored nine points in Dallas’ 127-123 loss against his former club. Tim Hardaway Jr. led all scorers with 21 points for the Mavs, who also lost its two preseason games against the Minnesota Timberwolves last week in Abu Dhabi.

“I was waiting for this game all summer,” Doncic said. “With the exception of not being able to play more, it was all very special. The whole day was very special.”

Doncic said he couldn’t play more minutes because he was bothered by some hip pain he started feeling in training on Monday.

Facundo Campazzo, who was signed and waived by Dallas last year, led Madrid’s late rally and finished with 20 points for the hosts. Doncic’s former teammate Sergio Llull and Vincent Poirier scored 19 points each for the Spanish club. Doncic went 3 for 6 with one assist, scoring all of his points with 3-pointers.

The Doncic jerseys were everywhere at the Wizink Center arena — the blue ones with the No. 77 that he wears now with the Mavericks, and the white ones with the No. 7 he used to wear with the club he joined as a young teenager.

“I don’t know what to say. It’s a special day for me,” Doncic told the crowd in Spanish before the game. “I’ve seen my former teammates and people I had been with many years ago. Thank you all.”

Doncic received an award by Real Madrid president Florentino PErez as an honorary member of the club, and was given a replica of one of the trophies he won with Madrid. He held the replica at midcourt alongside some of his former teammates and current Madrid players.

“Luka deserves all of this and a lot more,” Campazzo said.

“Luka is back,” and “Real Madrid will always be your home,” read some of the signs displayed by Madrid fans, many of which got autographs from the former star.

A crowd of nearly 13,000 packed the Wizink Center to see their former idol, often chanting his name in hopes of seeing him go back into the game.

Doncic saluted the crowd and chatted with his former teammates from the bench, at times joking and laughing with them. He also greeted some of Real Madrid’s soccer players on hand, including midfielder Toni Kroos and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

A four-time NBA All-Star and All-NBA First Team member, Doncic was 13 when he joined Real Madrid and went on to become the youngest EuroLeague and EuroLeague Final Four MVP when he led the club to the 2018 title at age 19.

Doncic said he would like to play again for Real Madrid at some point in his career.

“If I do come back, it would be to play for Madrid, for sure,” he said.

It was the first preseason NBA game in the Spanish capital since 2016, when Doncic and Real Madrid hosted — and beat — the Oklahoma City Thunder. He also played for Madrid against the Boston Celtics the year before.

The game was the NBA’s eighth in the Spanish capital and 20th in Spain, coming 35 years after an NBA team first played in the country in 1988.


Qatar beat Jordan to reach last eight of 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup

Updated 11 sec ago
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Qatar beat Jordan to reach last eight of 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup

  • A last-gasp 2-1 win leaves the hosts on six points from two matches in Group A of the tournament

DOHA: A stoppage time winner saw hosts Qatar defeat Jordan 2-1 on Thursday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup.

Qatar took the lead through Abdulla Al-Yazidi on 40 minutes, but Jordan equalized seven minutes into the second half thanks to Aref Al-Haj’s spot kick.

The match looked to be heading for a draw when Mohamed Al-Manai scored 14 minutes into stoppage time to break Jordanian hearts. The win Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Al-Rayyan made Qatar the first team to secure a spot in the last eight.

Qatar now sit top of Group A with a maximum six points from two matches. Earlier in the day, Indonesia beat Australia 1-0 at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha and are currently second in the table with three points. Jordan and Australia are third and fourth respectively with one point apiece.

Saudi Arabia return to action against Thailand on Friday before facing Iraq in their final Group C match on Monday (April 22).

The U23 Asian Cup, which runs until May 3, is also a route to this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.

The competition sees 16 nations split into four groups of four teams, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. The winners of both semifinals automatically qualify for the Olympics, regardless who wins the final.

The two losing semifinalists will contest third place, with the winners also booking a spot in Paris. The fourth-place finishers have one final chance with a play-off against an African qualifier.


Chasing 5th straight win, Nelly Korda is 2 shots back at Chevron Championship after a first-round 68

Updated 19 April 2024
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Chasing 5th straight win, Nelly Korda is 2 shots back at Chevron Championship after a first-round 68

  • She could join Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2004-05) as the only players to win five consecutive LPGA events
  • Defending champion and world No. 2 Lilia Vu withdrew because of a back injury

THE WOODLANDS, Texas: Nelly Korda, who is looking to tie an LPGA Tour record with her fifth straight win, shot a 4-under 68 on Thursday in the opening round of the Chevron Championship, leaving her two shots behind leader Lauren Coughlin in the year’s first major.

Coughlin shot a bogey-free 66 in windy conditions at Carlton Woods, which is hosting the event for the second time.

The top-ranked Korda is seeking her second major after winning the Women’s PGA Championship in 2021. She could join Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2004-05) as the only players to win five consecutive LPGA events.

Korda said she was battling fatigue from recent tournaments at the beginning of her round. She bogeyed her first hole, the par-4 10th.

“I (could) definitely still feel maybe a little bit of tiredness, so it took me a while to get going,” she said. “I felt the nerves definitely at the start of the round. Once I made the turn, I was just playing free golf.”

She made her first birdie on the par-4 14th hole, something she half-jokingly credited to a snack.

“I actually had an apple on 13, and that gave me actually a nice boost,” she said. “I felt a lot better after that. Maybe I should have apples more often.”

The 25-year-old finished with six birdies, including four in the final six holes.

“Two of them were par 5s, so I got to take advantage of that with my length,” she said. “Hit a really good tee shot, and then I was just on the front of the green on 17, and the other one I was just on the fringe, too. I two-putted pretty much for birdie on those. Then I had wedge shots in on the other two, too. Taking advantage of my length and hitting good tee shots.”

Marina Alex and Japan’s Minami Katsu also shot 68. Lydia Ko was one of five players at 69.

The 31-year-old Coughlin, who played in college at Virginia and has never won on the LPGA Tour, made three birdies in a four-hole span from Nos. 2-5. She believes her game has benefited from her recent decision to make husband John Pond her full-time caddie.

“He’s really good at talking through everything when I want to get really fast and make a decision really quickly,” Coughlin said. “He is really good at putting all the work in, all the extra work, all the extra walking ... making sure the strategy is really good and double checking everything. But ... he’s always been really good with how he talks to me and communicates what he thinks I need to do and how I need to do it.”

Defending champion and world No. 2 Lilia Vu withdrew because of a back injury. She issued a statement on Instagram saying she had “severe discomfort” in her back during warmups.

“I have been dealing with a back injury for a while now,” Vu said in the statement. “Some days are better than others, and today was unfortunately not a good day. During my normal warmup routine, I had severe discomfort in my back and I felt that I could not compete up to my standards and made the decision to withdraw from the tournament ahead of my tee time.”

She added that she was returning home to see her doctors and determine the next steps.

Later in the day, last year’s runner-up Angel Yin withdrew because of an injury after shooting 78.

A win by Ko would put her in the LPGA Hall of Fame. She won the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in January for her 20th LPGA title.

The 26-year-old New Zealander admitted that she still gets nervous before tournaments despite all her experience and success.

“It doesn’t matter what event we’re playing or what circumstances, when you’re younger you want to get away from the nerves,” Ko said. “To some extent as long as you can control it the nerves are good for you and you’re able to excel and get the adrenaline to hit some shots that you may not be able to execute when you’re just practicing.”


Defending champion Swiatek sails into Stuttgart quarterfinals

Updated 19 April 2024
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Defending champion Swiatek sails into Stuttgart quarterfinals

  • The top seed will face former US Open champion Emma Raducanu for a place in the semifinals
  • Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk saved five match points at 5-4 in the final set to defeat fifth seed Zheng Qinwen of China, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5

BERLIN: World No. 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek progressed to the quarterfinals of the WTA Stuttgart clay court tournament by beating Elize Mertens in straight sets on Thursday, her ninth win in nine career matches at the French Open warm-up event.

Swiatek beat the unseeded Belgian 6-3, 6-4 to maintain her bid to capture a third successive title in the German city and be handed the keys to a third luxury car from the sponsors after also winning the tournament in 2022.

“There’s always space for a Porsche. If not, we’ll make it. I’ll build an underground garage,” said Swiatek after playing her first clay-court match since lifting the French Open title last June.

The Pole burst out of the blocks to set up a 5-1 lead in the first set, before going 0-30 down but recovering to serve out the set.

Swiatek was broken early in the second but served her way back into the set, winning with a forehand on her fourth match point after Mertens had saved the previous three.

“This is not an easy tournament. Everyone is really motivated to win that car,” Swiatek added.

The top seed will face former US Open champion Emma Raducanu for a place in the semifinals.

Raducanu, who helped Britain qualify for the Billie Jean King Cup finals last weekend, took down Czech teenager Linda Noskova 6-0, 7-5.

It will be a first quarterfinal appearance for Raducanu in 19 months. She has been plagued by a raft of injuries since her 2021 Grand Slam breakthrough and missed much of last season.

Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk saved five match points at 5-4 in the final set to defeat fifth seed Zheng Qinwen of China, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.

World No. 27 Kostyuk will face US Open champion Coco Gauff on Friday for a place in the semifinals.

Elena Rybakina beat Veronika Kudermetova 7-6 (7/3), 1-6, 6-4, continuing her strong form in 2024.

The Kazakh world No. 4, who has already claimed titles at Brisbane and Abu Dhabi this year, beat the Russian in two hours 33 minutes.

“I know I have my weapon, my serve. I know I can always serve it out in tough moments. Not always, but this is a strength,” Rybakina said.

Rybakina will be playing in her seventh quarterfinal of the season on Friday where she will face Jasmine Paolini who put out Ons Jabeur 7-6 (10/8), 6-4.

Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova defeated Anastasia Potapova 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 in her last 16 clash.


Liverpool out of Europa League as Leverkusen advance to semis

Updated 19 April 2024
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Liverpool out of Europa League as Leverkusen advance to semis

LONDON: Liverpool crashed out of the Europa League after a 1-0 win against Atalanta that wasn’t enough to overturn their quarter-final deficit, while Bayer Leverkusen’s 1-1 draw at West Ham took the German champions into the last four on Thursday.
In Jurgen Klopp’s last season as Liverpool boss, the Reds were hoping to give the German a memorable farewell in the final in Dublin.
But Liverpool had suffered a stunning 3-0 loss in the first leg against Atalanta at Anfield last week.
And although Liverpool have authored some of European football’s greatest comebacks down the years against the likes of St. Etienne, AC Milan and Barcelona, there would be no miracle escape this time.
Mohamed Salah converted a seventh minute penalty in the second leg in Bergamo after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross hit Matteo Ruggeri’s arm.
However, Klopp’s men couldn’t breach the stubborn Atalanta defense again.
It has been a brutal week for Liverpool, whose Premier League title challenge was damaged by a shock home defeat against Crystal Palace on Sunday.
“It’s mixed emotions. We are out but I’m happy with the game,” Klopp said.
“It was clear we gave ourselves a massive hurdle. We wished we could have gone to Dublin but that hasn’t happened.”
While Klopp contemplates his failure to land the one major trophy to elude him during nine years with Liverpool, Atalanta can dream of winning the second silverware in their 116-year history after the 1963 Coppa Italia.
Bidding to reach their maiden European final, Gian Piero Gasperini’s team will face Marseille in their first European semifinal since the 1988 Cup Winners’ Cup.
Fresh from clinching their first Bundesliga title last weekend, Leverkusen survived a scare from West Ham before advancing 3-1 on aggregate.
In the semifinals, Xabi Alonso’s side will play Roma, who saw off Italian rivals AC Milan 3-1 on aggregate.
Leverkusen won the first leg 2-0 but West Ham made the perfect start in east London when Michail Antonio met Jarrod Bowen’s pin-point cross with a close-range header in the 13th minute.
West Ham eventually ran out of steam and Jeremie Frimpong struck in the 89th minute with a shot that deflected in off Aaron Cresswell.
“The momentum was with West Ham. To be honest, we were not at our best in the first half. I’m happy to go through. In the Europa League you always have tough moments,” Alonso said.
Leverkusen are into their second successive Europa League semifinal, while West Ham’s exit means for only the third time in the 21st century, England will have no teams in the Champions League and Europa League last four.
Leverkusen’s 44-game unbeaten run in all competitions has taken them to the brink of an incredible treble, finally ridding the club of the ‘Neverkusen’ tag that mocked their decades of underachievement.
Alonso’s team, who face second tier Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final on May 25, beat Werder Bremen 5-0 on Sunday to win the Bundesliga title.
At the Stadio Olimpico, Gianluca Mancini put Roma head from close-range in the 12th minute and Paulo Dybala doubled their advantage in the 22nd minute with a blistering strike.
Daniele De Rossi’s side were reduced to 10 men in the 31st minute when Zeki Celik was dismissed for a foul on Milan forward Rafael Leao.
Matteo Gabbia got one back in the 85th minute, but his header was little consolation for Milan.
After losing last season’s Europa League final against Sevilla, Roma are one step closer to finally winning the competition for the first time.
Roma, who won the Europa Conference League in 2022, are into their fifth European semifinal in the last seven seasons.
In the south of France, Marseille were 4-2 winners in a penalty shoot-out against Benfica following the French side’s 1-0 victory in a tie that finished 2-2 on aggregate.
Faris Moumbagna struck in the 79th minute, heading in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cross to force extra-time.
In the shoot-out, Luis Henrique scored the winner for Jean-Louis Gasset’s side after Benfica duo Angel Di Maria and Antonio Silva missed their kicks.


Mumbai Indians survive Ashutosh Sharma scare to beat Punjab Kings

Updated 18 April 2024
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Mumbai Indians survive Ashutosh Sharma scare to beat Punjab Kings

  • Suryakumar Yadav hit an impressive 78 runs off 53 balls to help Mumbai Indians post a solid 192-7
  • Sharma hit an explosive 61 runs off 28 balls for the Punjab Kings, but it was not enough to carry the day

MULLANPUR, India: Mumbai Indians managed to fend off a valiant effort by Punjab Kings batsman Ashutosh Sharma to win by nine runs in a fiercely fought IPL thriller on Thursday.
Invited to bat first, Mumbai Indians started off on a decent note. After losing only two wickets in the first 12 overs, Suryakumar Yadav went on to smash an impressive 78 runs off 53 balls to help the team post a solid 192-7.
The second innings began on a disastrous note for the Punjab Kings, with fast bowler Gerald Coetzee and Indian pacer Japsrit Bumrah striking quick to leave them reeling at 14-3 at the end of the second over.
Sharma eventually managed to help rebuild the innings with an explosive 61 runs off 28 balls, aided ably by Shashank Singh (41) and Harpreet Brar (21), but it was ultimately not enough to carry them through the day.
Punjab Kings acting captain Sam Curran said it was “heart-breaking” for his team to take it close and still lose.
“This team loves a close game. Got well to get close, thanks to Ashutosh... Hopefully we can win the close ones and get the momentum,” Curran added.
Mumbai openers Ishan Kishan and Rohit Sharma kicked off the first innings with an 18 run partnership before Kishan, who hit eight runs off eight balls, fell in the third over leaving the team at 18-1.
Sharma, who scored a 25-ball 36, built another partnership with Suryakumar Yadav before falling in the 12th over. Yadav went on to smash 78 runs off 53 balls before being dismissed in the 17th over.
Young Tilak Varma went on to rack up a solid 18-ball 34, with the assistance of cameos from Hardik Pandya (10) and Tim David (14), to help Mumbai wrap up the first innings at 192-7.
The game seemed in the bag in the early portion of the second innings, partly due to sharp bowling by Coetzee and Bumrah, who took three wickets each.
When the glimmer of hope given by Sharma was extinguished, Kagiso Rabada put up a last-ditch attempt with eight runs off three balls but ultimately ended up falling in the last over.
“What a game. We started really well. Cricket’s a funny game. We thought we had it, they battled really well. Then it was like a see-saw,” said Coetzee.