Sharapova storms into Tianjin quarterfinals

Maria Sharapova of Russia hits a return against Magda Linette of Poland during their women’s singles second round match at the WTA Tianjin Open tennis tournament in Tianjin on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2017
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Sharapova storms into Tianjin quarterfinals

TIANJIN: Maria Sharapova surged into the Tianjin Open quarterfinals on Thursday as she pursues her first tournament victory since her return from a doping ban.
The Russian former world No. 1 defeated Magda Linette of Poland 7-5, 6-3 and will play Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele.
The 30-year-old Sharapova has been on the comeback trail since April after serving a 15-month suspension for taking the banned substance meldonium.
Sharapova, a five-time major-winner, is now ranked a lowly 86 in the world and she needed a wildcard to enter the Tianjin tournament.
She saw off 71st-ranked Linette in just over 98 minutes to reach only her second quarterfinal since her return to action.
“We did a really good job of holding serve in the first set,” Sharapova was quoted as saying by the WTA website.
“I feel like I made a few too many errors on my return game which ultimately led to a difficult first set.
“But once I broke her early in that second set I played a really good aggressive game and I felt like I had the momentum in the second.”
Tearful Wozniacki and Svitolina pull out injured in Hong Kong
Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki and world No. 4 Elina Svitolina both withdrew from the Hong Kong Open with injuries Thursday, leaving the WTA event devastated after a spate of pre-tournament pullouts and early big name exits.
A tearful third seed Wozniacki appeared on center court just after her second-round match against Lizette Cabrera had been due to start to announce she had injured her elbow in practice.
“I want to apologize to everyone who came out today to watch this match,” said an emotional Wozniacki, who won the title on the same court 12 months ago.
“I did everything I could possibly to get ready for today,” she told the crowd.
“But unfortunately I hurt my elbow during practice and there’s just no way I could perform my best out here today.
“Unfortunately I have to withdraw from the tournament,” she added choking back tears.
Top seed Svitolina earlier withdrew from her last-16 match against Nicole Gibbs citing a right groin strain sustained during a mammoth, 3hr 21min quarterfinal defeat in Beijing last week to the eventual champion there, Caroline Garcia.
“I picked up the injury a little bit in Beijing,” she said. “It’s the groin. All the time when I go for wide shots or stretch I feel it.
Ukraine’s Svitolina and Denmark’s Wozniacki both have one eye on this month’s lucrative WTA Finals in Singapore where the top eight will battle it out for a massive $7 million prize fund.
“I will probably do some scans now to see how it is, because you know I have Singapore,” admitted Svitolina. “It’s a tough decision because I really wanted to play here.”


Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

Updated 22 June 2018
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Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

  • Saudi Arabia's 1996 Asian Cup-winning coach Nelo Vingada backs Pizzi to lead side into next year's Asian Cup.
  • Green Falcons face Egypt on Monday with both looking to land their first point in Russia.

MOSCOW: Saudi Arabia’s 1996 Asian Cup-winning boss Nelo Vingada has called on the country’s football authorities to keep faith with head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi despite a disappointing showing in Russia.
The Green Falcons still have to face Egypt in the final match of Group A, but have already been eliminated following a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Russia in the opening game on June 14 in Moscow and a 1-0 loss to Uruguay five days later in Rostov.
 “I was expecting a little more from Saudi Arabia to be honest,” Vingada told Arab News.
“In the first game they were disappointing but a first game of the World Cup is always hard and especially when it is the first game and everyone is watching. Plenty of teams at the World Cup did not play well in the first game.
“But playing Russia in Russia and to lose is what you would normally expect from Saudi Arabia and while it was far from positive, people should not get carried away.
“The game with Uruguay was much improved in terms of organization and defense and it showed more of the character of the Saudi Arabia team.”
In the past, coaches have been axed following disappointing World Cup campaigns but with the 2019 Asian Cup just seven months away, the Portuguese tactician would prefer to see some stability rather than yet another new man in the dugout.
 “The Asian Cup is in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia will be one of the contenders,” Vingada said. “It is better to stay with the same coach. He has a vision of how he wants the team to play and he now knows the players and the players know him.”
Constant changing has not helped Saudi Arabia in the past and Pizzi himself has been in the job just seven months.
“The problem is not the coach. He should not be changed, that has happened before but results did not improve, but the mentality has to change.”
Despite that Vingada, who has coached 
Egyptian club giants Zamalek and the country’s Under-23 team, believes that the Pharaohs, also eliminated, will prevail when the two regional rivals meet on Monday in Volgograd.
 “This is an important game for pride, the players and the countries. It is still the World Cup. Egypt have a little more quality I think and have Mohamed Salah too.” 
The Liverpool striker has been recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in late May and missed the opening game 1-0 loss to Uruguay. He played in the second game, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Russia, scoring from the spot late in the match to earn a consolation.
“Any coach would take Salah because he can win you games but overall Egypt have been a little disappointing and a little unlucky.”
The bad luck came when conceding a last-minute goal to Uruguay and a fluke own goal to get Russia off the mark. “Uruguay are a tough team and it is no shame to lose 3-1 to a Russia team at home who are playing to qualify for the next round. It showed that European and South American teams still have a little more quality.”
 “Egypt just made some mistakes at the wrong time but this is football and without mistakes there are no goals.”
Ahead of the clash against Egypt Pizzi confirmed his intention to stay as Saudi Arabia boss, looking to build on the seven months he has had to imprint his ideas on the team ahead of the Asian Cup.