Shane Lowry record-equalling exploits fire him into early Abu Dhabi lead

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Lowry shot an impressive 62 to take the early lead in the UAE capital. (AFP)
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Updated 16 January 2019
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Shane Lowry record-equalling exploits fire him into early Abu Dhabi lead

  • Irishman shots 62 to equal course record and take first-round lead on National course.
  • Dustin Johnson one of a number of top golfers trying to chase down Lowry.

LONDON: The first leg of the Desert Swing got under way in Abu Dhabi on Thursday with a star-studded field teeing it up at the National course. Here we look at how the big-names fared…

SHANE LOWRY (-10) — The Irishman has been out of form recently but he reminded how good he is with a record-equalling 62 to lead an impressive field on day one. “I had quite a lot of time off since the World Cup but put in a decent bit of work the last two weeks over here in Dubai and I’ve just gone out with not much expectation but knew I was playing OK and yeah, everything clicked,“the Irishman said.



LEE WESTWOOD (-6) — The Englishman enjoyed a winning end to 2018 and he continued that form in Abu Dhabi, firing an impressive 66 to lie in tied fifth.



IAN POULTER (-6) — The Ryder Cup hero only landed a few hours before his tee time, having flown in from the US, but any jet lag and lack of practice was not noticeable as he fired a brilliant 66. “I felt pretty tired, went to bed, woke up at 6.00am this morning, and actually felt okay,” said Poulter. “But the last sort of five holes was a struggle today. I thought it was a case of let’s go as low as we can as quick as we can and try and hold on.”

BROOKS KOEPKA (-5) — The big-hitting American is trying to wrestle back the world No. 1 ranking from Justin Rose so he will have been overjoyed to start with a blemish-free round of 67. 



MARTIN KAYMER (-5) — The German has fallen to 175 in the world rankings, far too low for someone of his ability. He has won three times in Abu Dhabi and returned to form with a fine 67.



DUSTIN JOHNSON (-3) — The American former world No.1 shot a 69 to lie seven shot back. He will be looking for a lower round today ahed of a title tilt over the weekend.



NOTABLE NAMES — Louis Oosthuizen (-7), Tommy Fleetwood (-3), Henrik Stenson (par), Robert Rock (-1)


‘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.