Halep eyes first Grand Slam after rise to No. 1

Simona Halep of Romania hugs a floral bouquet in the shape of the No. 1 after beating Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in their women’s singles semifinal in the China Open tennis tournament at the Diamond Court in Beijing Saturday. (AP)
Updated 07 October 2017
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Halep eyes first Grand Slam after rise to No. 1

BEIJING: Emotional Simona Halep called it the best day of her life and targeted a maiden Grand Slam as she surged to No. 1 in the world for the first time on Saturday.
The tearful Romanian said she had fulfilled a dream courtesy of her defeat of Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4 and will play France’s on-form Caroline Garcia in Sunday’s China Open final.
In the men’s draw, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal beat Grigor Dimitrov to set up a tasty final showdown with temperamental Australian Nick Kyrgios, who pulled off a stunning 6-3, 7-5 win over starlet Alexander Zverev.
Halep’s ousting of Spaniard Garbine Muguruza at the top of the women’s game will be officially confirmed on Monday when the latest rankings are released.
The 26-year-old will be the fifth woman to hold the top spot this year, but the first Romanian in the history of the WTA.
She smiled broadly, then cried and was presented with a flower arrangement in the figure “1” — which she hugged tightly — to celebrate the landmark moment.
“My dream is true now, in that moment you cannot believe 100 percent that it’s happening, so I was in tears a little bit,” she said.
“Maybe first time on court (to cry) nice tears... It’s the best moment in my life and I want just to keep it.
“Now tomorrow already I have just to restart everything, to start again to play the same and to work harder.
“And I have a few more dreams in my career.”
Asked by AFP what those were, she smiled: “I tell you one, only one: to win a Grand Slam, which you know.”
Halep saw off former No. 1 Maria Sharapova earlier this week on Beijing’s outside hard courts and her defeat of Ostapenko had a whiff of revenge — the 20-year-old won their duel in the French Open final earlier this year, depriving Halep of a first Grand Slam.
Halep will though face a tough test in the final against Garcia, who is chasing successive titles after winning the Wuhan Open last weekend.
The unseeded Garcia defeated Czech 12th seed Petra Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon champion, 6-3, 7-5.
Halep’s ascension to the top brings Muguruza’s four-week reign as number one to an end, while the others who held the honor in 2017 are Angelique Kerber, Serena Williams and Karolina Pliskova.
The outstanding Williams is temporarily out of tennis after having her first child.
The Spaniard Nadal, 31, was taken to three sets by third seed Dimitrov before running away with the decider, winning their last-four clash 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.
Nadal is chasing a sixth title this season but to do so he must beat the enigmatic Kyrgios, who is becoming a crowd favorite in Beijing.
A year ago the 22-year-old was suspended by tennis authorities for his behavior in a defeat in Shanghai during which he appeared to give up and argued with the crowd.
Kyrgios says he wants to show how far he has come and the 19th-ranked Australian did just that as he bustled past Zverev, the world No. 4 from Germany, in an entertaining and high-quality semifinal.
Kyrgios’s exuberance won favor with the crowd in the Chinese capital and after winning one thrilling rally he turned to the spectators and gestured with flailing arms for them to keep roaring him on.
In contrast, Zverev smashed his racquet on the floor, earning a warning from the umpire, when Kyrgios grabbed the decisive break in the second set.


Arsenal, Chelsea win in Europa League as Rangers hold Villarreal

Aubameyang opened the scoring in London after 32 minutes of the Group E encounter. (Reuters)
Updated 21 September 2018
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Arsenal, Chelsea win in Europa League as Rangers hold Villarreal

  • I think we played well in the first half and in the beginning of the second as well: Aubameyang
  • Chelsea made a winning start to their Group L campaign as Willian's seventh-minute effort was enough to see off PAOK

PARIS: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck twice as Arsenal defeated Ukraine's Vorskla Poltava 4-2 in the Europa League on Thursday, while in-form Chelsea began their campaign with a 1-0 win away to PAOK in Greece.
Aubameyang has struggled to hit top gear in the Premier League so far with just one goal in five starts, but the Gabon striker opened the scoring in London after 32 minutes of the Group E encounter.
Danny Welbeck nodded in a second just after half-time and Aubameyang curled in the Gunners' third, with Mesut Ozil also on target before a lapse in concentration saw Vorskla hit back with two late goals.
"I think we played well in the first half and in the beginning of the second as well," Aubameyang told BT Sport.
"We have to improve and try to fight not to concede a goal like we did in the last minute."
Premier League leaders Chelsea made a winning start to their Group L campaign as Willian's seventh-minute effort was enough to see off PAOK at a hostile Toumba Stadium.
Eden Hazard was omitted from the Chelsea squad at his own request due to fatigue, but manager Maurizio Sarri fielded a strong side as the Blues extended their winning run to six games in all competitions.
"We were in control of the match for 90 minutes. We had a lot of opportunities. We missed them and so I'm very happy with the three points, very happy with the performance, but not very happy with the result," said Sarri.
"When it's time to kill the match, we have to kill the match."
Steven Gerrard's Rangers acquitted themselves well on their first appearance in the group stage of a European competition since the 2010-11 Champions League, as they came away with a 2-2 draw against Villarreal.
A disastrous start for the Glasgow side saw Carlos Bacca fire Villarreal ahead inside 60 seconds, but Scott Arfield turned home a cross from Daniel Candeias to level on 67 minutes.
Gerard Moreno put the hosts back in front almost immediately, only for Kyle Lafferty to again hit back for Rangers as Gerrard's men made a solid start in Group G.
Leigh Griffiths hit a late winner for Celtic in a 1-0 home victory over Rosenborg, a team Brendan Rodgers' side knocked out in this season's Champions League qualifying rounds.
Salzburg triumphed in the clash of Red Bulls in the other Group B fixture as Fredrik Gulbrandsen scored a minute from time to give the Austrian club a 3-2 victory over RB Leipzig.
Marseille, last season's runners-up, slumped to a 2-1 home defeat by Eintracht Frankfurt in Group H as Luka Jovic grabbed an 89th-minute winner for the reigning German Cup champions.
Lucas Ocampos opened the scoring early for Marseille, who were playing behind closed doors at the Stade Velodrome after numerous crowd incidents last season.
But Lucas Torro levelled on 52 minutes for Eintracht before Jovic's late strike won it.
Dudelange, the first Luxembourg team to play in the Europa League group stage, made seven-time European champions AC Milan work hard for a 1-0 win in Group F.
Luxembourg's Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa were in the crowd as Dudelange, who have a dozen non-professional players in their squad, succumbed to a deflected second-half goal by Gonzalo Higuain.
Record five-time winners Sevilla launched their Group J campaign with a 5-1 rout of Standard Liege, as Ever Banega and Wissam Ben Yedder both netted twice for the Spaniards.