Morata misses out on Spain World Cup squad

Chelsea's Alvaro Morata. (Reuters)
Updated 21 May 2018
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Morata misses out on Spain World Cup squad

MADRID: Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata was left out of Spain’s World Cup squad, announced on Monday.
Morata paid the price for a disappointing debut season in the Premier League as Spain coach Julen Lopetegui picked Iago Aspas and Rodrigo Moreno up front, along with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa.
“The decision is always difficult because of the talent of the players we have,” Lopetegui said.
“We have opted for three other players who had different assets and including four players up front was not something we wanted to do.”
Two more Chelsea players also missed out as Marcos Alonso and Cesc Fabregas were not included in the 23-man group.
Morata’s absence was the stand-out decision, however, even if it was not an entirely surprising one given the 25-year-old’s dramatic dip in form.
After scoring seven goals in his first seven games for Chelsea, a back injury seemed to affect his confidence. Morata has scored only three times in 22 games since the turn of the year.
“I’ve talked to the players I had to talk to,” Lopetegui said. “I’m not going to name anybody, but there are players who had to find out from me that they were not going to be on the list.”
In contrast, Aspas and Moreno have been in excellent form for Celta Vigo and Valencia respectively, with Aspas the top Spanish scorer in La Liga on 22 goals.
Costa is expected to start when Spain open up against Portugal in Group B on June 15 but Aspas, with his speed and direct running, remains an attractive option.
Alonso only made his debut in a friendly against Argentina in March and lost out to Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal. Fabregas fell behind Spain’s impressive wealth of options in midfield, which will include Sergio Busquets, Saul Niguez, Koke, Thiago Alcantara, Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Isco, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez.
Manchester United’s David de Gea was included as expected, along with fellow goalkeepers Pepe Reina and Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta did make it in, as did Monreal. Dani Carvajal, Alvaro Odriozola, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Nacho and Jordi Alba complete Spain’s group of defenders.
“I’ve had several doubts, making a list of 23 is very difficult,” Lopetegui said. “But we have decided this was the most balanced decision and the one we think will help us most at the World Cup.”


Petra Kvitova rolls back the years as Rafael Nadal makes statement of intent

Updated 46 min 56 sec ago
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Petra Kvitova rolls back the years as Rafael Nadal makes statement of intent

  • Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova looking back to her best.
  • Rafa yet to drop a set at year's first Grand Slam.

LONDON: We are now at the business end of the year’s first Grand Slam. Here is how the draw is shaping up in Melbourne.

PETRA KVITOVA

It has understandably been an emotional couple of weeks for the two-time Wimbledon champion as, thanks to a 6-1, 6-4 win over Ashleigh Barty, she made her way to a first Grand Slam semifinal since being victim of a knife attack.
She beat home hope Barty in an impressive display indicating the Czech was close to being back to her best.
The sixth seed suffered a serious hand injury when attacked in her home in December 2016, and said: “It wasn’t easy to see myself in a semifinal after everything.
“I’m calling it my second career. So it’s the first semifinal of the second career.”
Kvitova overpowered the smaller Barty in a 27-minute first set.
The 22-year-old Aussie provided resistance in the second, Kvitova saving two break points before taking the last three games.
She will play unseeded Danielle Collins in the last four tomorrow after the American beat Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 to reach her first major semifinal.



RAFAEL NADAL

The Spaniard continued his relentless march to what he hopes is an 18th Grand Slam title with another impressive, dominating performance in Melbourne.
The Spaniard defeated unseeded American Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in another ruthless display from a man who has not dropped a set so far.
Tiafoe had announced himself by beating fifth seed Kevin Anderson, but was no match for a player at the peak of his powers as he attempts to become only the third man to win all four Slams twice and the first to do so in the Open era.
“I had some trouble at this event all my career, so I’m very happy with the way I played tonight,” said the Spaniard, who faces another young gun Tsitsipas in the semifinals.
“I feel incredibly lucky to be where I am,” Nadal admitted.


STEFANOS TSITSIPAS

The conqueror of Roger Federer proved that shock was no flash in the pan as the Greek star became the youngest man to reach the last-four in Melbourne since Andy Roddick in 2003.
The 20-year-old also became the first player from Greece — man or woman — to get so far at Grand Slam having beaten Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6.
“I’m just living the dream, living what I’ve been working hard for,” said the 14th seed, who lives in Cyprus but trains at the academy of Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou in France.
“I feel a bit emotional but not too much — I know I really worked hard to get here, playing in semis of a Grand Slam.”
Do not be surprised if he pulls another shock and sends Nadal the way of Federer.