Muguruza breezes past Puig to reach Tokyo quarters

Garbine Muguruza of Spain hits a return against Monica Puig of Puerto Rico during their women’s singles second round match at the Pan Pacific Open tennis tournament in Tokyo on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2017
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Muguruza breezes past Puig to reach Tokyo quarters

TOKYO: Newly crowned world No. 1 Garbine Muguruza pulverised Olympic champion Monica Puig 6-4, 6-0 on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals of the Pan Pacific Open.
Earlier, second seed Karolina Pliskova, who held the top ranking briefly over the summer, crushed Poland’s Magda Linette 6-2, 6-1 as the Czech set up a clash with another former world No. 1, Angelique Kerber.
Wimbledon champion Muguruza recovered from an indifferent start to reach the last eight in Tokyo, the top seed catching fire after a trade of early breaks to rattle off the last seven games.
A booming serve down the middle sealed the first set for the Spaniard, who seemed intent on hitting the fur off the ball in her first match since reaching the top of women’s WTA rankings last week.
Muguruza, chasing a third title of the year, roared through the second, a murderous backhand pass giving her a 3-0 lead to effectively kill off any hopes Puig had of mounting a comeback.
The Puerto Rican, who upset Muguruza on her way to winning a shock gold medal at last year’s Rio Olympics, fell apart thereafter as her Spanish tormentor turned the screw, bringing the match to a close with an ace after an hour and 14 minutes.
“The last time I played her it didn’t go my way at all,” Muguruza told reporters.
“I’m also happy to win my first match as number one. To be honest nothing has really changed but I know every match is going to be even tougher now.”
Pliskova likewise tore through her second-round match, the world No. 4 taking exactly an hour to see off Linette.
A ferocious forehand gave the Czech an early break in the first set, which she pocketed thanks to a clinical cross-court backhand.
The second set was almost a carbon copy as Pliskova again raced to a 3-0 lead before a thunderous backhand pass brought a double break.
The end came mercifully swiftly for a dejected Linette, who wafted a Pliskova serve wide on match point to sum up her contribution to a lop-sided contest.
“The No. 1 ranking is not really my goal,” insisted Pliskova, chasing a fourth title of the year and 10th of her career.
“It would be great to end the year there,” added the 25-year-old, who beat Linette in the first round of the US Open by the same score before losing in the quarterfinals earlier this month.
“But my aim right now is just to try to win more titles.”
German Kerber booked her place in the quarter-finals with a 7-6, 6-3 victory over Russia’s Daria Kasatkina in the day’s late match.
Elsewhere, China’s Wang Qiang failed to capitalize on her stunning 6-0, 6-0 ambush of eighth seed Kristina Mladenovic as she was bundled out 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 by Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Muguruza heads a strong field in Tokyo featuring several top 10 players including Pliskova, Johanna Konta and defending champion Caroline Wozniacki.


Work still to be done for Egypt's Al-Ahly in quest for African Champions League glory

Updated 23 September 2018
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Work still to be done for Egypt's Al-Ahly in quest for African Champions League glory

  • The Egyptian giants took a step closer to a ninth continental title
  • Attention immediately changed to the first leg against Setif in Cairo on Oct. 2

CAIRO: Al-Ahly coach Patrice Carteron has warned his players against complacency in their forthcoming African Champions League semifinal clash against Setif of Algeria, even though his side swept through with a 4-0 quarterfinal second-leg victory over Guinea’s Horoya in Cairo on Saturday.
The Egyptian giants took a step closer to a ninth continental title with the win against the Guineans after a goalless first leg. From the moment Walid Soliman opened the scoring after 32 minutes at the Al-Salam Stadium, the result was never in doubt as the Reds put in a dominant performance.
Second half goals from Islam Mohareb, Salah Mohsen and Ahmed Fathy confirmed the win.
“It was a good performance, especially as the pitch was poor,” Carteron said. “We are happy to go through but we controlled the game, especially in the second half when we were at our best. We adjusted our offensive strategy at the break and that made a difference.”
Attention immediately changed to the first leg against Setif in Cairo on Oct. 2.
“We know that the game will be very tough as Setif are a strong team but this is the semifinal of the Champions League, you know that any game is going to be tough,” added the Frenchman.
Setif defeated defending champions Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 1-0 on aggregate and will host Al-Ahly in Algeria in the second leg on Oct. 23.
“Setif were the champions in 2014 and we know that we are going to have be at our best if we are going to the final,” said the 48 year-old, who also coached TP Mazembe of Congo to the 2015 title. He is aiming to deliver similar success for Al-Ahly, who last lifted the trophy in 2013.
“When I took the job three months ago, the target was clear: to win the Champions League. That is still the objective and we have taken a big step toward that today.
“Standards in the competition are getting better all the time and results in the quarterfinal show this,” Carteron said, adding that he and his players had taken note of how Mazembe had been knocked out at the last-eight stage.
“Now we are in the semifinal and we have to prepare as well as we can to face Setif. It will be a big challenge but we are looking forward to it.”
Setif reached the semifinal after a 0-0 draw in the second leg in Morocco on Friday to take the tie 1-0 on aggregate following a win on Algerian soil a week earlier.
Goalkeeper Moustapha Zeghba was the star of the show in Casablanca and made a number of fine saves to deny the defending champions.
It was a feather in the cap for coach Rachid Taoussi, a Moroccan who coached Wydad from 2002 to 2003.
“We managed this game very well,” Taoussi said. “We withstood the pressure. It is not easy to keep out such a team, especially with their fans behind them. In the end they had to play long balls and that made it easier for us to defend.”
While Morocco may have lost its sole representative left in the competition, Taoussi is flying the flag for his homeland. “I am proud to be Moroccan. I respect Wydad and the supporters a lot. It’s not easy for anyone to come here and play like we did.
“It is also a demonstration for those who constantly criticize the skills of Moroccan coaches. I’m so happy. That said, the most important thing for us now is to think about going even further in this competition, that is, reaching the final. We have one more step to go; we will give everything until the end.”
The other semifinal sees a third North African team trying to reach the showpiece event as Esperance de Tunis take on Clube Desportivo de Agosto of Angola.