Aussie Alex de Minaur repeats as ATP Acapulco champion

Australia's Alex De Minaur celebrates with his trophy after winning the Mexico ATP Open 500 men's singles final tennis match against Norway's Casper Ruud at the Arena GNP Seguros in Acapulco, Guerrero State, Mexico on March 2, 2024.(AFP)
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Updated 03 March 2024
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Aussie Alex de Minaur repeats as ATP Acapulco champion

  • The 25-year-old from Sydney captured his eighth career ATP title after dropping four straight finals since downing American Tommy Paul in last year’s final, the most recent last month at Rotterdam

MEXICO CITY: Australia’s Alex de Minaur won his second consecutive ATP Mexican Open title on Saturday, defeating Norway’s Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-4 in the final at Acapulco.

The 25-year-old from Sydney captured his eighth career ATP title after dropping four straight finals since downing American Tommy Paul in last year’s final, the most recent last month at Rotterdam.

World No. 9 de Minaur, a two-time winner also at Atlanta, dispatched 11th-ranked Ruud after one hour and 57 minutes, improving to 2-0 against his European foe after winning their only prior meeting at the 2019 ATP NextGen Finals.

Ruud, a two-time French Open runner-up and the 2022 US Open runner-up, missed out on his 11th ATP title for the second week in a row after dropping last week’s final at Los Cabos to another Aussie, Jordan Thompson.

Ruud’s most recent ATP crown came last April at Estoril.

The players exchanged praise after the match, Ruud telling de Minaur: “Fantastic playing all week. Too good today. Seems like you are enjoying Acapulco quite well. You did a great job.”

De Minaur replied, “Great stuff. It was hard work. Thank you for a great match.”


Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona

Updated 22 April 2024
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Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona

  • Madrid are unbeaten in 26 league games, since losing at Atletico Madrid in September
  • Atletico Madrid followed up their Champions League elimination with a 2-0 loss at Alaves in the Spanish league

MADRID: Real Madrid took a huge step toward winning the Spanish league title after beating Barcelona 3-2 with a stoppage-time goal by Jude Bellingham in the final “clasico” of the season on Sunday.

Barcelona twice took the lead at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium but Madrid came back to win for a comfortable 11-point cushion over their second-place rival entering the final six rounds.

Bellingham scored the winning goal from a difficult angle one minute into stoppage time with a left-footed strike into the top of the net after a cross toward the far post by Lucas Vazquez, who also scored and set up a goal by Vinícius Júnior.

It was the third straight win for Madrid over Barcelona this season. Madrid are unbeaten in 26 league games, since losing at Atletico Madrid in September.

The clasico came four days after Madrid eliminated Manchester City on penalties in England to advance to the Champions League semifinals. Barcelona had been eliminated a day earlier by Paris Saint-Germain after a loss at home, leaving the league as the Catalan team’s only title opportunity for the season.

Goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, the hero for Madrid in the shootout against City, miscalculated a cross into the area in Barcelona’s first goal and failed to fully clear a ball in front of the goal in the second.

Barcelona, the defending league champions, came to the Spanish capital looking to revive their title chances and took an early lead with a header by Andreas Christensen six minutes into the match.

The hosts equalized with Vinicius converting an 18th-minute penalty kick before Barcelona went ahead again with Fermín Lopez’s goal from close range in the 69th. Vazquez, who was fouled after a run inside the area to prompt the penalty converted by Vinícius, evened the match again after a cross by the Brazil forward in the 73rd.

Vazquez was one of the changes made to the squad by Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti after the match against City. He also used Luka Modric alongside Toni Kroos in midfield, and Aurélien Tchouaméni in the defense.

Barcelona loudly complained about the penalty awarded to Madrid and wanted one for themselves after a challenge on López in the second half. They also complained over a potential goal in the first half when it wasn’t clear if the ball crossed the goal line before Lunin batted it away. It took several moments before video review determined that it was not a goal.

It was likely the last clasico for Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez, who earlier this season said he will leave the club at the end of the season.

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie De Jong left the field on a stretcher late in the first half after hurting his right leg in a clash with Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde.

The match marked the debut of the new state-of-the-art video screens at the renovated Bernabeu.

ATLETICO STRUGGLE

Atletico Madrid followed up their Champions League elimination with a 2-0 loss at Alaves in the Spanish league, missing a chance to strengthen its hold on fourth place.

The defeat against 13th-place Alaves kept Atletico only three points ahead of fifth-place Athletic Bilbao in the fight for a Champions League spot next season. Athletic had been held to a 1-1 draw against relegation-threatened Granada at home on Friday.

Atletico failed to advance in the Champions League after losing to Borussia Dortmund 5-4 on aggregate following a 4-2 loss in Germany on Tuesday.

Alaves, which had lost three league matches in a row, won with goals by Carlos Benavídez in the 15th minute and Luis Rioja in second-half stoppage time.

In other results, sixth-place Real Sociedad were held 1-1 at midtable Getafe, while ninth-place Villarreal won 2-1 at last-place Almeria.


Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final

Updated 21 April 2024
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Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final

  • Red Devils win shootout at Wembley 4-2, with Rasmus Hojlund scoring the decisive spot kick

LONDON: Manchester United overcame an astonishing collapse to beat Coventry on penalties in an FA Cup classic on Sunday, setting up a second straight FA Cup final against Manchester City.

Erik ten Hag’s men won the shootout at Wembley 4-2, with Rasmus Hojlund scoring the decisive spot kick after the teams were level at 3-3 after extra time.

The game perfectly encapsulated a chaotic season for Ten Hag’s men, who are well off the pace in the Premier League and had a Champions League campaign to forget.

There was no hint of what was to come when United coasted into a 3-0 lead against their second-tier opponents in the London sunshine, with goals from Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes.

But they have made a habit of tossing away leads in recent weeks and the match against Coventry proved no different.

Second half strikes from Ellis Simms and Callum O’Hare gave the 1987 FA Cup winners hope and Hajji Wright leveled from the penalty spot in the 95th minute, capping a scarcely credible comeback.

Coventry fans taunted Ten Hag with chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning” as belief infused the massed ranks of supporters clad in blue.

Coventry manager Mark Robins famously played a key part in United’s FA Cup final win in 1990, a victory that launched two decades of success under Alex Ferguson.

But his team’s push to reach the Championship playoffs has faded in recent weeks and they traveled to Wembley as underdogs despite United’s stuttering season.

United, 12-time winners of the competition, settled early and took the lead in the 23rd minute after a fine move down the right.

Alejandro Garnacho fed the overlapping Diogo Dalot, whose cross went under the hands of the diving Bradley Collins and was tapped in by McTominay from close range.

Marcus Rashford forced a fine save from Collins late in the first half but United doubled their lead from the resulting corner, with Maguire heading home from Fernandes’ cross.

Coventry, who scored twice in stoppage time to beat Premier League Wolves in the quarter-finals, struggled to make inroads against an organized United team.

They looked brighter in the early stages of the second half.

But the wind was taken out of their sails when Fernandes’s shot found its way past Collins in the 58th minute, courtesy of a deflection off defender Bobby Thomas.

O’Hare headed over from an angle as Coventry continued to probe but they pulled a goal back when top scorer Ellis Simms connected with a cross from substitute Fabio Tavares in the 71st minute after United’s defense switched off.

They made it 3-2 in the 79th minute when O’Hare’s shot from just outside the box looped off Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s back and over Onana.

Coventry’s fans were now in full voice as their team mounted waves of attacks.

Substitute Victor Torp hit a stinging shot from the edge of the area with five minutes of normal time to go, forcing Onana into a sharp save.

But Coventry still were not finished. Wan-Bissaka was adjudged to have handled in the penalty area and Wright scored from the spot to take the match into extra time.

Coventry looked the more likely winners in 10 long minutes of stoppage time but could not find a winner.

United captain Fernandes rattled the crossbar in the fourth minute of extra time when set up by substitute Amad Diallo.

Simms then smashed a shot off the underside of the crossbar as time ran out.

Coventry thought they had won it in the dying moments when Torp poked the ball past Andre Onana but a VAR check ruled that Wright was marginally offside.

The Championship side drew first blood in the shootout when Casemiro’s weak penalty was saved by Collins.

But O’Hare and captain Ben Sheaf failed to convert, leaving Hojlund with the job of sending United through and he made no mistake.

Manchester City beat Chelsea 1-0 in the other semifinal on Saturday.


Kolkata beat Bengaluru by one run in IPL as Kohli fumes at dismissal, Titans beat Kings

Updated 21 April 2024
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Kolkata beat Bengaluru by one run in IPL as Kohli fumes at dismissal, Titans beat Kings

  • Kolkata, who jumped to second in the table with their fifth win in seven matches, started strongly with Salt’s explosive knock

KOLKATA: Kolkata Knight Riders survived a late charge by Royal Challengers Bengaluru batsmen to win by one run in an IPL thriller after Virat Kohli’s angry outburst at his dismissal on Sunday.
Bengaluru conceded 222-6 after electing to field first at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens with Phil Salt smashing 48 off 14 balls and skipper Shreyas Iyer hitting 50.
Needing 21 to win in the final over bowled by Mitchell Starc, Bengaluru’s number 10 Karn Sharma hit the Australian left-arm quick for three sixes before being caught and bowled.
Wicketkeeper Salt then ran out Lockie Ferguson on the last ball despite a wide throw by the fielder as Bengaluru were bowled out for 221.
Bengaluru slipped early in their chase when Kohli, who made a seven-ball 18, fell caught and bowled off Harshit Rana.
But the former India captain looked confident the high full-toss was above his waist as the umpires checked for a no-ball.
TV umpire Michael Gough declared it out after technology suggested the trajectory of the ball dipped below the waist of the batsman, who returned furious after exchanging words with the on-field officials.
“It was crazy. Rules are rules, Virat and myself in that space thought the ball was higher than his waist,” skipper Faf du Plessis, who was with Kohli at the other end when the drama unfolded, said.
“You always find one team happy and the other not so with such decisions.”
The drama did not help Bengaluru in their chase as the bottom-placed side in the 10-team table slumped to their seventh loss in eight matches.
Earlier Kolkata, who jumped to second in the table with their fifth win in seven matches, started strongly with Salt’s explosive knock.
Fast bowlers Yash Dayal and Cameron Green took two wickets each to dent Kolkata’s top and middle-order but Iyer kept calm to raise his fifty in 35 balls. He fell after a 40-run stand with Rinku Singh, who hit 24.
Andre Russell, who made 27 off 10 balls, and Ramandeep Singh, who hit 24 off nine, finished with a flourish in an unbeaten stand of 43.
Russell, who was named man of the match, then turned up with his pace bowling as he took three wickets and fellow West Indian Sunil Narine took two to dent the chase.
England batsman Will Jacks, who made 55, and Rajat Patidar, who hit 52, attempted to set up the chase in a 102-run third-wicket stand, which was broken by Russell.
Russell took down both the batsmen in one over and mystery spinner Narine came up with another double blow in one over including Green and Mahipal Lomror.
Dinesh Karthik with his 18-ball 25 and Sharma with 20 off seven balls tried their best to chase down the target but Kolkata held their nerve.
“We go through so many emotions, tough to stay calm,” said Iyer. “Elated to get these two points. I feel that every individual should take responsibility to deliver. Russell came on and completely changed the momentum.”
In the second match of the day, Gujarat Titans defeated Punjab Kings by three wickets after they bowled out the opposition for 142 in a low-scoring game.
Indian Sai Kishore returned figures of 4-33 and ably supported by fellow spinners Noor Ahmad, who claimed 2-20, and Rashid Khan, who had 1-15.
Gujarat looked in trouble at 103-5, but Rahul Tewatia steered the team home with five balls to spare as the left-handed batsman hit an unbeaten 36 off 18 balls.


Chapman-inspired New Zealand shock Pakistan in third T20I

Updated 21 April 2024
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Chapman-inspired New Zealand shock Pakistan in third T20I

  • The 29-year-old left hander smashed a 42-ball 87 to anchor New Zealand’s chase of 179-run target in 18.2 overs
  • Shadab Khan (41) and Babar Azam (37) were main contributors in Pakistan’s 178-4 after the hosts were sent in to bat

RAWALPINDI: Mark Chapman hit a robust half century to help an under-strength New Zealand to a shock seven-wicket victory over Pakistan in the third Twenty20 international in Rawalpindi on Sunday.
The 29-year-old left hander smashed a 42-ball 87 to anchor New Zealand’s chase of 179-run target in 18.2 overs against the much vaunted Pakistan bowling attack, silencing a packed 16,000 holiday crowd.
Shadab Khan (41) and Babar Azam (37) were the main contributors in Pakistan’s 178-4 after the hosts were sent in to bat by New Zealand.
Tim Robinson hit 28 off 19 balls and Tim Seifert 21 off 16 to set the tone for New Zealand’s chase.
New Zealand were strongly-placed at 53-2 in the sixth over before Chapman and Dean Foxcroft (31) took over, adding a solid 117-run in a third wicket partnership to square the five-match series at 1-1.
Pakistan won the second game by seven wickets while the first match was washed out after just two balls — both were also in Rawalpindi.
Chapman, whose only T20I hundred came at the same venue last year, clobbered four sixes and nine fours in his eighth half century in the format. He was ably supported by Foxcroft.
Pakistan skipper Azam brought spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi on in the 15th over with 61 to defend, but Chapman cracked two fours. He then smashed two sixes and two more fours off Naseem Shah’s next over to bring the target down to 21 of 24 balls.
Fast bowler Abbas Afridi, 2-27, dismissed Foxcroft, but by then New Zealand were just nine away from victory. Chapman and Jimmy Neesham (six not out) reached the target with ten balls to spare.
Earlier Shadab hit two sixes and four fours while Azam hit four fours and a six.
Opener Saim Ayub scored a 22-ball 32 and Muhammad Irfan Khan chipped in with a 20-ball 30 not out as Pakistan added 54 in the last five overs.
Azam and left-hander Ayub gave Pakistan a brisk start of 55 as the duo played some aggressive shots.
Shadab and Irfan boosted the innings with a brisk 62-run stand for the fourth wicket.
For New Zealand, leg-spinner Ish Sodhi was the best bowler with 2-25.
The final two matches are in Lahore on April 25 and 27.
Both teams are preparing for June’s Twenty20 World Cup in the United States and the West Indies.


Federations from Saudi Arabia, France sign agreement to develop fencing in Kingdom

Updated 21 April 2024
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Federations from Saudi Arabia, France sign agreement to develop fencing in Kingdom

  • The World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships, which was organized by the Saudi Fencing Federation, brought together 169 female and 214 male competitors

RIYADH: The fencing federations from Saudi Arabia and France have announced a partnership to help develop the sport in the Kingdom.

The announcement was made on the sidelines of the World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships, which took place at the King Saud University Sports Center in Riyadh.

Sylvie Le Maux, executive director of the French Fencing Federation and vice president of esports at the Olympic Committee, told Arab News: “This convention is a continuation of an agreement signed between the French Olympic Committee and the Saudi Olympic Committee. We believe that our Olympic federations must get closer in our sports.

“We will welcome Saudi athletes to France in order to improve their performance (and) train against French athletes. We (will) also bring high-level coaches to help the Saudi fencing organization. We will work on the training of masters of arms and help the Saudis in the practice of fencing.”

Ludovic Pouille, the French ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said: “France has a long tradition of excellence in fencing, a tradition rooted in our history. For centuries we have been a bastion of fencing, producing some of the greatest masters of this noble art. And this week, our young fencers carried that legacy with honor at these world championships.”

France had a strong showing at this year’s championships as they collected five medals.

The World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships, which was organized by the Saudi Fencing Federation, brought together 169 female and 214 male competitors.