Sharapova strolls into Qatar semis

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Updated 16 February 2013
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Sharapova strolls into Qatar semis

DOHA: Maria Sharapova continued her untroubled progress at the Qatar Open yesterday, brushing aside Australia’s Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-4 to reach the semifinals.
The Russian, who began the week with the possibility of reclaiming the world No. 1 ranking, has not dropped a set in her three matches, a feat equaled by world No.1 Victoria Azarenka who saw off Italian Sara Errani 6-2, 6-2.
American Serena Williams, 31, will return to the top of the rankings if she beats Petra Kvitova later in the day to set up a semifinal showdown with Sharapova.
Should 15-times grand slam champion Williams beat the Czech she will go back to No.1 for the first time since October 2010 and become the oldest woman to top the rankings.
Sharapova held an 11-2 career record over Stosur and was never threatened during an 82-minute victory.
Australian Open champion Azarenka’s hopes of holding on to the top ranking are out of her hands, even if she wins the title.
Nadal cruises
In Sao Paulo, Rafael Nadal beat Joao Souza of Brazil 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the Brazil Open, his second tournament since returning from a left knee injury.
Nadal broke Souza’s service late in each set to win in 1 hour, 18 minutes at the indoor clay-court tournament in South America’s biggest city.
The victory over the 140th-ranked Brazilian came a day after Nadal withdrew from the doubles tournament to look after the sore knee, which had kept him sidelined for seven months.
Earlier in the day, defending champion Nicolas Almagro of Spain reached the quarterfinals by beating Chilean qualifier Paul Capdeville 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-2.
The 11th-ranked Almagro won the last four games to stay on track for his third straight title in Sao Paulo — and fourth overall.
The second-seeded Spaniard will face David Nalbandian, who beat Guido Pella 6-4, 6-2 in an all-Argentine match.
The Brazil Open is Almagro’s first tournament since his five-set loss to compatriot David Ferrer in the Australian Open quarterfinals in January.
Third-seeded Juan Monaco lost an opening-round match for the third time this season, falling to Simone Bolelli of Italy 7-5, 6-2.
The 15th-ranked Argentine had his service broken four times in the second-round loss at the Ibirapuera arena. Monaco, who had a bye in the first round, lost his opening match at the Australian Open and last week in Vina del Mar, Chile.
The 80th-ranked Bolelli needed 1 hour, 16 minutes to defeat Monaco and advance to the quarterfinals in Brazil. He will face Albert Montanes, who beat seventh-seeded Pablo Andujar, also of Spain, 7-5, 6-2.
Italy’s Filippo Volandri won 6-3, 6-2 against fifth-seeded Thomaz Bellucci, Brazil’s top ranked player.
Dimitrov rallies
In Rotterdam, Netherlands, Grigor Dimitrov rallied from a set down to beat Marcos Baghdatis 6-7 (4), 7-6 (0), 6-3 and book a place in the semifinals of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament yesterday.
Baghdatis took the first-set tiebreak after neither player managed to break serve. Both then broke once in the second set before Dimitrov ran away with the tiebreak, not allowing Baghdatis a single point.
The talented Bulgarian broke Baghdatis’ first service game of the final set to set up his win, before leaping over the net to hug Baghdatis.
Dimitrov said he made the jump with “my last one percent of power.” In other quarterfinals, Roger Federer played Julien Benneteau, Juan Martin del Potro played Jarkko Nieminen, and Martin Klizan faced Gilles Simon.


Moroccan World Cup star Nordin Amrabat to play in Saudi Pro League

Updated 1 min ago
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Moroccan World Cup star Nordin Amrabat to play in Saudi Pro League

LONDON: Al-Nassr have signalled their intent to mount a challenge to the top two by boldly signing Nordin Amrabat from Premier League club Watford.
The 31-year-old winger has penned a three-year contract with the Riyadh club who finished third last season, 11 points behind Al-Ahli and 12 behind title winners Al-Hilal.
Reports say Al-Nassr have paid Watford £4 million ($5.2 million) for Amrabat, 31, who has spent the last season on loan at Leganes where his new Al-Nassr teammate Yahya Al-Shehri also played last season on loan.
“Happy and excited with my adventure,” Amrabat wrote on Instagram. “Looking forward to meet these amazing @alnassr_fc fans.”
Amrabat arrives with a fine pedigree, having played for PSV, Galatasaray, Malaga and Watford. He predominately plays on the right wing but he prefers playing on the left so he can cut inside on his favored right foot and have a crack at goal.
He is currently taking an extended holiday following his World Cup exploits with Morocco, but when he joins up he will find a familiar face in countryman Mohamed Fouzair and should form an exciting attacking partnership with Al-Shehri and Mohammad Al-Sahlawi.
Amrabat was in many experts’ team of the tournament after the World Cup group phase, his all-action performances against Iran, Spain and Portugal catching the eye and putting him in the shop window. He was always going to be surplus to requirements at Watford after they signed Spain international winger Gerard Deulofeu and Trabzonspor were thought to be leading the race for his signature. But Al-Nassr have won the race to land him and he becomes the second ex-Watford player to have agreed to move to the Saudi Pro League, following on from Jose Manuel Jurado’s move to Al-Ahli earlier this summer.
Amrabat has enjoyed a fine career, playing nearly 300 top-flight appearances but he came from very humble beginnings and needed to wash plates and make desserts at a Michelin-starred restaurant before his career took off.