THREE THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Brilliant Gareth Bale, stale Spurs and Italian woe

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Gareth Bale has prospered since Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid for Juventus. (AFP)
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Updated 21 September 2018
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THREE THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Brilliant Gareth Bale, stale Spurs and Italian woe

LONDON: All the major teams have now had a chance take a breather after their exploits in Europe and can now focus on domestic issues. Here we look at the things to look out for this weekend.

INTER AND ROMA YET TO PROVE CLASS

Both sides were expected to provide some sort of challenge to Serie A perennial champions Juventus this season. Roma, on the back of making it to the Champions League semifinals, and Inter on the back of renewed optimism at the San Siro. Both Italian heavyweights have looked punch-drunk so far, however. Inter have just one win in four and Roma are without victory in three matches. The Nerazzurri come into their clash away against an in-form Sampdoria on the back of a shock 2-1 win over Tottenham in the Champions League. Roma face Bologna away on the back of a 3-0 defeat to Real Madrid. Can both sides make statement of intents on the road or will they once again flatter to deceive?



CAN SPURS STOP SLIDE?

Such is the manic nature of top-flight football, combined with the 24/7 news cycle, that it only takes two weeks for a club to plummet from “definite title challengers” to “club in crisis.” Step forward Tottenham, who since they beat Manchester United 3-0 at Old Trafford have lost three in a row — to Watford and Liverpool in the Premier League and Inter Milan in Europe — and talk of a side that has gone stale is now prevalent. Obviously Spurs have not become bad overnight, but Harry Kane and Co. do look tired after their exertions at the World Cup — they had more players in the final stages in Russia than any other English club — and they need to get a win to stop the rot. An away clash at Brighton is not the easiest assignment, but defeat is not an option for Mauricio Pochettino’s men.



CAN BALE CONTINUE BRILLIANCE?

Just four months ago Gareth Bale was on the bench for the Champions League final, and it only seemed a matter of time before he left Real Madrid for pastures new. From the moment he was subbed on during the victory over Liverpool, things have definitely gone his way. He scored two in the 3-1 win over the Reds — the first an outstanding overhead kick — Zinedine Zidane, with whom he had a strained relationship, left as coach, and then the Frenchman was followed out of the Bernabeu exit door by Cristiano Ronaldo, the player who dominated Los Blancos. All that has given the Welsh wizard more freedom — freedom to express himself, to be the main man and to remind the fans why he was once the most expensive player in the world. He has been brilliant so far this season. In the Champions Legaue win over Roma he scored his fifth goal in seven games and looked indispensable to the side. A home clash against Espanyol tonight gives him a great chance to continue that run of form. Ronaldo who?

 


‘Kid was depressed’: Osaka in first clay quarter-final after ‘rough months’

Updated 25 April 2019
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‘Kid was depressed’: Osaka in first clay quarter-final after ‘rough months’

  • The Japanese star arrived in Stuttgart, where she last played as a qualifier in 2017, after suffering early exits in her last three tournaments
  • Osaka has admitted the difficulty of dealing with the trappings of fame and becoming the world’s top player in recent months

STUTTGART, Germany: World number one Naomi Osaka defeated Hsieh Su-wei 6-4, 6-3 in Stuttgart on Thursday to reach her first career clay court quarter-final and admitted she had been left “depressed” after a “rough few months.”
US and Australian Open champion Osaka, who lost to Taiwanese veteran Hsieh in Miami last month, secured a place in the quarter-finals against Croatia’s Donna Vekic as she launched her preparations for Roland Garros.
The Japanese star arrived in Stuttgart, where she last played as a qualifier in 2017, after suffering early exits in her last three tournaments.
Osaka has admitted the difficulty of dealing with the trappings of fame and becoming the world’s top player in recent months, a period which saw her split with coach Sascha Bajin after the Australian Open.
“I am really grateful for everyone that has been really positive toward me. It was really rough the last couple of months. The kid was depressed out there.”
“If there is one positive thing that I can say about myself, it is that I learn quickly,” said Osaka, who reached the last eight of a tournament for the first time since her coaching split.
“Definitely I’ve put a lot on pressure on myself and found it hard to deal with in the first few tournaments.
“Now I start trying to have fun out there, which is what I did before I was number one.”
Osaka, 21, broke Hsieh three times in total to beat Hsieh for the second time in three attempts this year, having also defeated her on the way to lifting the title in Melbourne.
“I did feel like I am in control, but I also felt she is taking more risks than me,” said Osaka.
“She’s a really tricky opponent. You never really know what she’s going to do.”
Osaka needed 84 minutes to dispatch the unconventional Hsieh, ensuring she will hold on to top spot in the rankings for at least another week.
She is less than 200 points ahead of Simona Halep in the WTA rankings, although the Romanian pulled out of this week’s tournament with a hip injury.
Top seed Osaka fought off the only two break points she faced, in a lengthy service hold for 2-all in the opening set, before breaking Hsieh in the following game.
That was sufficient to wrap up the first set, and a Hsieh double-fault handed Osaka a break to start the second before she closed out victory with another service break in a performance that featured 22 winners and just 16 unforced errors.
Osaka will meet Vekic, a 6-1, 7-5 winner over Daria Kasatkina, for a spot in the last four, while Latvian seventh seed Anastasija Sevastova defeated 2017 champion Laura Siegemund 6-4, 6-3.
Sevastova will meet third-ranked Petra Kvitova next.
Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit eased past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 6-2, while Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens took down Belinda Bencic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
German number one Angelique Kerber, who won here in 2015 and 2016, takes on compatriot Andrea Petkovic later.