Sloane Stephens makes early exit in Dubai

Updated 18 February 2013
0

Sloane Stephens makes early exit in Dubai

DUBAI: Sloane Stephens lost in the first round of the Dubai Championship yesterday, the latest setback for the rising American star who reached the Australian Open semifinals.
Stephens, who has reached a career high 16 in the world rankings since knocking out Serena Williams in Melbourne, lost to Sorana Cirstea of Romania 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
“It was a rough day, and I think she obviously played some good tennis,” Stephens said. “Every match isn’t going to go the way you want it, and obviously I got a little frustrated. Things happen, but, I mean, no need to dwell on it.” Eleneth-ranked Marion Bartoli also advanced, coming from a set down to beat Klara Zakopalova 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Last week, the 19-year-old Stephens lost to Zakopalova in the third round of the Qatar Open after wasting two match points. She smashed her racket afterward.
Monday’s match was much the same. Stephens led 5-4 when the 30th-ranked Cirstea hit two double-faults, but the Romanian broke back. Stephens broke a second time and won the set.
More poor serving from Cirstea allowed Stephens to get the early break in the second, but then the Romanian settled down, breaking an increasingly frustrated Stephens twice to win the set. At one point, Stephens let out a scream after a missed shot and then was warned by the chair umpire for racket abuse when she slammed her racket down after hitting a forehand wide to fall behind 5-3.
Cirstea broke Stephens three times in the third to go up 5-2 and finished it off when the American hit a weak return and then a backhand volley long.
Cirstea, who lost to Caroline Wozniacki in the second round of the Qatar Open, said she was giving away too many free points off her serve.
She had 10 double-faults in the first two sets but only two in the decider. She also won all three of her break points and saved seven of 11.
“I started the second quite positive and I knew I had to be just a little more careful at the key points if I would turn it around,” Cirstea said.
After beating an injured Williams at the Australian Open, Stephens was being billed as the future of American tennis — even though she hasn’t yet won a professional tournament.
“The first week at home was really tough. Everyone was like, ‘Oh, my God, I want to see you,’” Stephens said last week in Doha. “Of course I had people tweeting me and stuff. And I wanted to make time for my friends and see like the people who I was supposed to see.” Some of her recent woes can be blamed on health problems.
She pulled out of the Fed Cup against Italy this month after aggravating an abdominal muscle injury and picking up a stomach virus.
Still, Stephens said little has changed from Australia and she hasn’t let all the hype get the best of her.
“Obviously it’s really tough week in and week out playing perfect tennis and just really being able to execute,” Stephens said. “Some days you’re going to be on the court and it’s not just going to turn out the way you want. Like today, I didn’t play my best tennis, and last week I didn’t play my best tennis, but you just kind of got to move on.”
Serena oldest No.1
Serena Williams was confirmed as the world No.1 despite her defeat against Victoria Azarenka in the Qatar Open on Sunday, as the two rivals swapped places in the latest WTA rankings released yesterday.
The 31-year-old American becomes the oldest ever woman to claim top spot following her run to the Doha final, moving 265 points clear of Azarenka with Russia’s Maria Sharapova remaining third.

“I never thought I would be here again,” she said tearfully to a cheering crowd after her victory over former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova on Friday was enough to guarantee her climb back to the top.
“Oh, my gosh, I’ve been through so much. I never thought I would be here.” After winning Wimbledon and the US Open last year, Williams’ total of Grand Slam titles has risen to 15, only three fewer than retired greats Martina Navratilova and Evert, who together are second on the all-time list behind Steffi Graf with 22.


Mohamed Salah threatens Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Ballon d’Or stranglehold

Updated 5 min 25 sec ago
0

Mohamed Salah threatens Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Ballon d’Or stranglehold

  • Messi and Ronaldo have won the award for the past ten years
  • Salah has emerged as a genuine rival after scoring 43 goals this season

LIVERPOOL: Mohamed Salah could be the man to finally break the Ronaldo-Messi duopoly at the top of world football after the Liverpool forward burnished his soaring reputation with a mesmerising Champions League performance against Roma.
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi have locked down the Ballon d’Or award for a decade, winning five gongs apiece — for the past seven years they have occupied the top two slots.
But Salah is now second favorite behind Ronaldo for this year’s award after scoring his 42nd and 43rd goals of the season in a thrilling 5-2 victory for Liverpool in the Champions League semifinal first leg.
After his first strike against his former club on Tuesday, the man dubbed by fans as the “Egyptian King” stood motionless, hands raised in apology, as bedlam broke out on a night for the ages at Anfield.
Salah’s curling effort arrowed into the top corner with such accuracy his manager Jurgen Klopp labelled it “a genius strike.”
Soon after came the forward’s signature finish, a cute dink over advancing Roma goalkeeper Alisson for his 43rd goal in 47 games for Liverpool.
When Salah, 25, made the move from the Italian capital back to the Premier League just 10 months ago for €42 million ($51 million), there were plenty who felt Roma had got the better deal. Salah after all was a talented player, but who often lacked an end product.
It also came just a few weeks before Neymar’s move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record €222 million revolutionized the transfer market.
The Brazilian’s desire to leave the Catalan giants was tied to his ambition to beat Messi and Ronaldo to the Ballon d’Or by stepping out of Messi’s shadow.
Now, though, it is Salah who has emerged as the pretender to end the Messi-Ronaldo domination by not only scoring the quantity of goals that have become the pair’s trademark but doing it when it really matters, in the latter stages of the Champions League.
“If you think he is the best in the world, write it or say it,” urged Klopp, who has been credited with bringing out Salah’s previously untapped potential.
“To be the best in the world you need to do that over a longer period I think, and there are a few others that are not so bad.”
Heavily left-footed, small, speedy and with a low center of gravity, Salah’s characteristics are far more like those of Messi than the muscular goal-machine Ronaldo.
“In a certain light, at certain points, it is possible to glimpse in Salah a little of Messi’s afterglow,” wrote Rory Smith in the New York Times.
And he demonstrated another Messi-like quality in showing no mercy to Roma.
Chasing his first hat-trick in the Champions League, Salah would have been forgiven for going for goal as he bore down on Alisson once more after half-time.
But he showed why he is considered one of the game’s more unselfish superstars by instead creating another two goals for strike partners Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
When Salah left the field to a standing ovation 15 minutes from time, Liverpool led 5-0.
“Unstoppable (when Salah’s on the pitch),” said the back page of The Times.
Two late Roma away goals have at least given the Italians hope of recreating the incredible comeback they staged from a 4-1 first-leg deficit against Barca in the quarter-finals.
For once it is Salah’s turn to lead the way where Messi faltered on his return to the Eternal City next week.
Messi is almost certain to win a La Liga and Copa del Rey double and Ronaldo could lead Real Madrid to a third consecutive Champions League after another bucketload of goals this season.
But Salah is the coming man and after bagging the African and English players’ player of the year crowns, it is hard to back against him also conquering the world.