Simona Halep batters Karolina Pliskova to reach Australian Open semifinals

World number one Simona Halep overcame a nervous start against Karolina Pliskova before taking a 6-3, 6-2 victory in 1 hour and 11 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2018
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Simona Halep batters Karolina Pliskova to reach Australian Open semifinals

MELBOURNE: World number one Simona Halep overcame a nervous start to batter sixth seed Karolina Pliskova into submission in their Australian Open quarter-final on Wednesday.
The Romanian reeled off nine games in a row and 12 of the last 14 games to recover from 0-3 en route to a 6-3, 6-2 victory 1hr 11min on Rod Laver Arena.
“It’s really nice to be in the semis,” said Halep after moving into the last four at Melbourne Park for the first time, where she will face 2016 champion Angelique Kerber.
Halep had taken three sets to beat Pliskova in their previous meeting, a semifinal at Roland Garros last year, and started shakily, struggling to time her serve or groundstrokes.
But once she saved a break point at 0-3 to get on the scoreboard, her confidence grew against an opponent who has never gone beyond the last eight in Melbourne.
“For sure it wasn’t my best start but I knew I had to restart after three games to stop missing and move better,” said Halep, whose relentless chasing and powerful groundstrokes overwhelmed her taller, tattooed opponent.
“I started to open the court and play my style, and I served well today. Everything went pretty much my way,” added Halep who showed no fitness concerns after carrying a painful ankle throughout the tournament.
She moved smoothly and freely throughout and will be glad to have got off court so quickly. The Romanian had confessed to be “aching everywhere” after being taken to 15-13 in the third set of a marathon third-round match against Lauren Davis.
Pliskova was the top-rated server on the WTA Tour in 2017 but it took her until the sixth game of the second set to record her first ace.
A second followed on the next point but the match was already gone and Halep moved into her an enticing clash against former number one Kerber.
Kerber, seeded 21, is in form and will return to the world’s top 10 on the back of a 14-match winning streak in Australia.
Earlier, the German enjoyed a similarly dominant romp past last year’s US Open finalist Madison Keys 6-1, 6-2.
“For sure Kerber is going to be different,” said Halep.
“She’s moving pretty well and returning the ball very strong and many in the court.
“I have to be ready in my legs and be calm. I have to dominate the match and try to finish the point. Just try to play my best.”


Ronaldo faces multi-million tax fraud fine in Madrid court

Updated 22 January 2019
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Ronaldo faces multi-million tax fraud fine in Madrid court

MADRID: Cristiano Ronaldo is returning to Madrid for a court date on Tuesday in which he could be fined 18.8 million euros ($21.4 million) for tax fraud as part of a deal reached with the Spanish taxman.
As part of an agreement arranged in June with the former Real Madrid hero’s lawyers, prosecutors are also asking that the Portuguese attacker, who last summer left the Spanish capital for Italian champions Juventus, be handed a 23-month jail sentence.
However Ronaldo would not spend a day in prison as sentences of up to two years are generally not enforced in Spain for first-time offenders in non-violent crimes.
The hearing, due to start at 9:50 am (0850 GMT), is expected to last just a few minutes as the deal is officially presented to the judge.
He in turn will give the final sentence on Tuesday or the coming days, according to a spokesman for the court in northern Madrid.
Ronaldo will not be given special treatment when he arrives and will have to climb up the courthouse steps amid a likely media scrum despite the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s lawyers asking he be allowed to enter the building by car to avoid the spotlight.
The court president refused the request, saying that despite his “great fame,” he wouldn’t “compromise security” at the building, according to a court document.
His request to appear via videoconference was also denied.

Denial
Madrid prosecutors opened a probe into Ronaldo in June 2017 and he was questioned in July that same year.
“I have never hidden anything, nor have I had the intention of evading taxes,” he told the court then, according to a statement from the sports agency which represents him, Gestifute.
Prosecutors accuse him of having used companies in low-tax foreign jurisdictions — notably the British Virgin Islands and Ireland — to avoid having to pay the tax due in Spain on his image rights between 2011 and 2014.
His lawyers said there had been a difference in interpretation of what was and was not taxable in Spain.
The deal between Spain’s taxman and his lawyers has allowed Ronaldo to avoid having to sit through a long trial that could have damaged his image and seen him handed a heftier sentence.
Ronaldo is not the only footballer to have fallen foul of Spain’s tax authorities.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, once Ronaldo’s big La Liga rival, paid a two-million-euro fine in 2016 in his own tax wrangle and received a 21-month jail term.
The prison sentence was later reduced to a further fine of 252,000 euros, equivalent to 400 euros per day of the original term.

Accused of rape
But Ronaldo’s legal wrangles won’t be over after a probe was opened in the United States in October after a former American model accused him of raping her in Las Vegas in 2009.
Police in the western US city recently asked Italian authorities for a DNA sample from the footballer.
Ronaldo has always strenuously denied the accusations.
In a New Year’s Eve interview with Portuguese sports daily Record, he said he had a “calm conscience” and was “confident that everything will very soon be clarified.”