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.


NBA, FIBA announce plans for pro league in Africa

Updated 17 February 2019
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NBA, FIBA announce plans for pro league in Africa

  • The Basketball Africa League is a new collaboration between the NBA and the sport’s global governing body FIBA
  • Qualification tournaments will be held to determine those clubs that will take part

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina: The NBA is bringing a pro league to Africa.
The Basketball Africa League, a new collaboration between the NBA and the sport’s global governing body FIBA, was announced Saturday. The initial plan is for the 12-team league to begin play in January, and former President Barack Obama is among those who are expected to have direct involvement with the league’s plan to keep growing the game in Africa through the league and other initiatives.
The scope of what Obama’s involvement will be remains unknown, and it’s yet to be determined which existing club teams will be part of the league. Qualification tournaments will be held later this year to determine those clubs, with teams from Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia expected to be among those taking part. No nation will have more than two teams in the league.
“As we’ve been talking about this concept over the last several months, there’s been a tremendous reception from many of our NBA team owners ... and in addition, several of the partners of the NBA have expressed a strong desire to work with us in Africa,” Silver said.
Silver said Pepsi and Nike’s Jordan Brand — Charlotte owner Michael Jordan was among the owners in the room where Silver made the announcement — are among the partners who have reached out to the NBA and said they want to be part of the Africa league. Silver also said that Obama, an enormous basketball fan, has told him he wants to “be directly involved with these activities in Africa.”
Silver said talks between the NBA and Obama are ongoing. Obama spoke on a video that was shown during the event where Silver announced the league.
“I hope you know through sport, that if you put in effort, you will be rewarded,” Obama said. “I hope you learn through sport what it means to play as a team, and even if you are the best player, your job is not just to show off but your job is to make your teammates better.”
The NBA and FIBA’s involvement will include financial support and resources toward continued growing of the game on the continent, as well as providing training for players, coaches and referees and some infrastructure for the new league. Silver said there are 438 companies in Africa that generate more than $1 billion in revenue annually, but that sport there has not seen the same growth — yet.
“Africa is a huge economic engine,” Silver said. “And one place, though, where we haven’t seen enormous economic growth yet is in the industry of sport. And that’s something that we are all particularly focused on.”
The NBA has held three games in Africa since 2015, all of them selling out — two games in Johannesburg, the other in Pretoria. Many of the league’s current players and coaches, along with several legends and Hall of Famers, have been part of those trips.
“I went with them last year,” Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said. “The NBA reaches out across the world.”
The league has an office in South Africa, has helped create 87 learn-and-play facilities in seven African nations, and 13 players who were born in Africa on opening-night NBA rosters this season. The league also built an academy in Senegal that opened nearly two years ago.
“It’s a huge joy to see our partnership with the NBA enter uncharted territory as we work together for the first time to maximize the potential of professional basketball in Africa,” said Andreas Zagklis, FIBA’s secretary-general.
This marks the first time the NBA has been involved with the operation of a league outside of North America.
“We’re excited to work closely with the NBA to develop and put in a place a professional league like none that we have ever seen in our region before,” said FIBA Africa Executive Director Alphonse Bile. “Through the Basketball Africa League, we can provide the many great clubs and players with the best possible environment to compete for the highest stakes.”
The NBA says more details about the new league will be released in the coming months.