‘Excited’ Caroline Wozniacki stutters into Australian Open semifinal

Caroline Wozniacki celebrates after defeating Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro during their quarterfinal at the Australian Open. (AP)
Updated 24 January 2018
0

‘Excited’ Caroline Wozniacki stutters into Australian Open semifinal

MELBOURNE: Second seed Caroline Wozniacki withstood a fightback from Spain's unseeded Carla Suarez Navarro to stutter into the semi-finals of the Australian Open 6-0, 6-7 (3/7), 6-2.
"I knew it was going to be tough against her because in the first set a lot of games were very close," said the Dane, who is into a second semi-final at Melbourne Park, after losing her first against China's Li Na back in 2011.
"Another semi-final here, I'm excited," she added after completing a see-saw win in 2 hour 11 minutes.
Wozniacki will face another unseeded player, Elise Mertens of Belgium, on Thursday for a place in the final.
"She's had a very good start to the year, she's unbeaten I think," she said of Mertens.
The former world No. 1 has often failed to live up to the hype in the majors, but in the opening set she outplayed Suarez Navarro who was trying to become the first Spaniard to make the last four since Conchita Martinez in 2000.
Wozniacki was 100 percent successful with service returns and had just three unforced errors in as near a perfect display as is possible over 34 one-sided minutes against the world No. 39.
Her level inevitably dropped and she had to fend off a break point at the start of the second.
Suarez Navarro finally got on the board in the eighth game to prevent a dreaded "double bagel" 6-0, 6-0 scoreline.
It fired up the gritty Spaniard and she sparked the late night crowd into life by breaking Wozniacki, whose accuracy began to desert her.
"She improved and made me step behind the baseline," said Wozniacki. "That made the difference."
Suarez Navarro suddenly found her timing and had a break point in the next service game which the Dane saved with her sixth ace before breaking back to level at 4-4.
Serving at 4-5 Suarez Navarro, who was in her sixth Grand Slam quarter-final and third in Australia but had never progressed further, saved a match point before taking it to a third on her first set point in the tiebreak.
"I was disappointed after I had my chance to win in the second set," said Wozniacki.
"But I'm proud to have stayed cool and close it out in the third."
Wozniacki regrouped and at 1-1 broke Suarez Navarro's serve.
When she repeated the dose to lead 5-2, the Spaniard's resolve was broken and she served out at 1:38 am on Wednesday morning in another late-night finish.


‘Pride of Palestine’ Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady ready to kick and punch his way into record books at Brave 18 in Bahrain

Updated 15 October 2018
0

‘Pride of Palestine’ Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady ready to kick and punch his way into record books at Brave 18 in Bahrain

  • 23-year-old set to make history as he battles it out with Lucas Martins for the Brave lightweight belt.
  • Fight to take place in Bahrain on Nov.16.

LONDON: History will be made in Bahrain next month when Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady becomes the first Palestinian to fight for a mixed martial arts championship title. The 23-year-old has been announced as the challenger to face interim lightweight champion Lucas Martins of Brazil in Brave 18’s main event on Nov. 16.
Al-Selwady has won nine of his 10 professional fights and remains undefeated since joining Brave Combat Federation in 2016. While his shot at the title was expected, the identity of his opponent was not. Ottman Azaitar was Brave’s last lightweight champion, but the Moroccan was stripped of the belt after refusing to face Al-Selwady. Martins then claimed the interim belt with victory at Brave 14 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, last April. 
“It is an honor and privilege to compete for the championship in Bahrain,” said Al-Selwady, who made his professional fight debut aged just 17 in Jordan. “I am humbled by the opportunity to represent Palestine as an athlete in the main event of the largest combat sports event ever hosted in Asia. I will (put on) the best fight in my career and will make the world that stood alongside me during all these years of struggle proud.”
While Brave 18 will almost certainly not outsell the 21,000 that filled the Saitama Super Arena in Japan for UFC 144 in February 2012, the chance to witness a Palestinian crowned champion in Manama will undoubtedly help sell tickets for the fight night at Khalifa Sports City Stadium. 
“The guy is the future of lightweight,” Brave CEO Mohammed Shahid said only last month. “I’ve never seen anybody that dedicated in his training; that talented and hard working. He is a complete athlete. One of the guys I tend to compare him to is Georges St-Pierre (because) every time I see him, it reminds me of a guy who is a perfectionist.”
Al-Selwady, known as the “Pride of Palestine,” fights out of Amman but is currently training in Texas ahead of next month’s bout. He entered the ring for his last fight against Britain’s Charlie Leary in March draped in a Palestine-Jordan hybrid flag and while the fight was taken to the judges’ scorecards for only the second time in his career, he won by unanimous decision.
“Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady is featured not because he is a Palestinian icon, but for being the athlete with highest number of wins in the division,” Shahid added. “This is indeed a matter of pride for Palestine. And to recognize, support and to nurture such an athlete is indeed an achievement for Brave Combat Federation.”
Brave was founded in Bahrain by Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa — the son of King Hamad — and is considered one of the fastest-growing sports promotions companies in the world. Over a little more than two years, it has held 16 events across 11 countries with four more events scheduled before the end of the year, including debuts in Pakistan and South Africa and a year-ending fight night in Saudi Arabia in December.
MMA’s reputation has come in for widespread criticism recently following the ugly scenes that took place at UFC 453 following Khabib Nurmagomedov’s championship victory against Conor McGregor in Las Vegas last weekend. Khabib submitted McGregor in the fourth round before leaping over the cage and attacking members of the Irish fighter’s corner. Simultaneously, McGregor threw a punch at one of the Russian’s staff inside the octagon.
Shahid said it is important athletes remember they are held up as role models by some fans and should act accordingly, adding that Brave tries to steer clear of trash-talking, and focuses on the positive impact of sport.
“Sport can make a difference in society,” he told Arab News. “Athletes have a strong influence over their fans and society at large. Our athletes have honored martial arts as a sport that showcases discipline, respect and commitment. We have successfully featured our open workout programs to motivate and support the upcoming generation. Our athletes have wholeheartedly supported such initiatives, setting aside their differences and treating their rivalry in a healthy way.”