Wozniacki, Stosur bite the dust in Brisbane

Updated 01 January 2013
0

Wozniacki, Stosur bite the dust in Brisbane

BRISBANE: Caroline Wozniacki’s first trip to the Brisbane International ended in a 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (1) first-round loss to Kazakhstan qualifier Ksenia Pervak yesterday. She quickly followed up by dismissing speculation about an engagement to golf No. 1 Rory McIlroy.
Wozniacki, who held the year-end No. 1 ranking in 2010 and 2011 but is yet to win a major title, had high-profile support from McIlroy in the crowd and there was a buzz around Pat Rafter Arena amid rumors the pair had been engaged during the off-season.
The 22-year-old Danish player was photographed with a new ring on her left hand as she arrived in Australia last week, sparking speculation of pending nuptials. She explained yesterday that the ring was a gift.
“It was a Christmas present and it fit on this finger and I put it on, and all of a sudden I hear that I’m engaged. But I’m not,” she said. “So, yeah, it’s already twice we’ve had to shut down engagement rumors. Don’t worry, we will let you know if that time happens!” On the court, Wozniacki raced to a 4-1 lead before finishing off the first set within a half hour. She started to struggle with her serve as she lost the second set and then had difficulty in the third countering powerful groundstrokes from the left-handed Pervak in the first upset result of the tournament.
No. 9-ranked Samantha Stosur was also upset in a night match, losing 7-6 (4), 7-5 to No. 41 Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden to continue her run of poor form in her native Australia since winning the 2011 US Open. Stosur lost her second match at the Brisbane tournament last year, had back-to-back first-round losses at the Sydney International and the Australian Open.
With eight of the top 10 women in the draw, the Brisbane tournament was expected to provide a good chance to fine-tune for the Australian Open starting Jan. 14. Now Wozniacki and Stosur will head to Sydney hoping for some decent match practice.
“I fought until the end. Maybe didn’t play my best tennis today, but it’s tough to expect that from yourself in your first match back,” Wozniacki said. “Now I just have to play some practice matches with some of the other girls here and then go to Sydney and hopefully get a couple more there.” In other first-round matches, fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany opened with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 win over Anna Tatishvili of Georgia, French Open finalist Sara Errani beat Russia’s Olga Puchkova 6-1, 6-3 and American Sloane Stephens beat Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-3.
Alize Cornet of France advanced to a second-round match against third-seeded Serena Williams with an opening 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 over Australian qualifier Bojana Bobusic, and Germany’s Sabine Lisicki opened with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Lucie Safarova of Czech Republic to set up a second-round match against top-ranked Victoria Azarenka.
The 103-ranked Pervak, who lost in the first round at 14 tournaments last year, including Brisbane, will play Urzula Radwanska of Poland on Tuesday. Pervak started to hit the lines in the second set against Wozniacki, showing match sharpness honed by playing in the qualifying tournament.
She was two points from victory, serving for the match at 5-3 and 30-15, but made a series of unforced errors to get broken and let the 10th-ranked Wozniacki get back into it.
Wozniacki held serve at love in the 12th game to force a tiebreaker but Pervak dominated from there, winning the first five points and securing the win with the first of her five match points when her rival missed with a timid forehand service return.
Stosur made 48 unforced errors and never settled into her rhythm after only two weeks of practice due to minor ankle surgery last month.
“Part of it can be put down to being a bit rusty and it’s the first match of the year,” she said. “I think a big part of it is that I haven’t done enough.” In the men’s draw, fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan beat Australia’s Marinko Matosevic 7-5, 6-2; sixth-seeded Florian Mayer of Germany beat Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-4, 6-4; Jarkko Nieminen of Finland had a 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 win over Julien Benneteau of France; and Marcos Baghdatis, the 2006 Australian Open finalist, defeated Australian wildcard entry Ben Mitchell 6-4, 6-4.


Heart and courage needed as Liverpool and Roma prepare for Champions League semifinal

Updated 23 April 2018
0

Heart and courage needed as Liverpool and Roma prepare for Champions League semifinal

  • Both sides shocked more-fancied opposition to reach last four.
  • Tremendous atmosphere expected in first leg at Anfield.

If football is about guts and glory, about matches that linger in the mind long after the final whistle has blown, the Champions League fulfils a curious role. On the one hand it is both symbol and agent of much that is wrong in modern football, the corporate culture, the ludicrous inequality of resources that have rendered many domestic leagues processions. But on the other it does offer more chances for those immortal nights than any other competition — and perhaps particularly so when the teams involved are Liverpool and Roma.
Roma have not won Serie A since 2001; Liverpool have not won the English top flight since 1990. These are not sides who will take success for granted. Whatever happens in the remainder of this season, fans of both teams will remember their quarterfinals with fondness: Liverpool for the way their side twice beat the runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City, a 20-minute blast in the first-half of the first leg in which they scored three times proving decisive; and Roma for their remarkable comeback from 4-1 down after the first leg to go through on away goals.
Roma again have the second leg at home, where they are yet to concede in the Champions League this season, having shut out sides of the calibre of not only Barcelona but also Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. That is, theoretically, an advantage but equally it is hard to conceive of this Liverpool side failing to score anywhere, which in turn means that Roma probably need a goal at Anfield. Liverpool themselves, for all their reputation for defensive fallibility, have kept clean sheets in each of their last four home Champions League games, and have generally been much improved at the back since the arrival of Virgil van Dijk in January.
That development is part of an overall sense of progress at Liverpool. In that regard, Jurgen Klopp is in a similar position to Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham. It is evident that there has been an improvement in each year he has been at the club but there is a growing sense that it would be nice for that to be validated by a trophy. And if that trophy can be the Champions League, so much the better.
Perhaps there are still concerns that the midfield does not offer the central defenders quite the protection it could, particularly when the full-backs are as attacking as they are, but Liverpool now have options in that area — and will probably perm three from Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner and Georgino Wijnaldum — and have a unit that is quick, powerful and combative.
Given how Juventus wilted in the last 16 against Tottenham’s press, that physical advantage Premier League teams perhaps have over Italian sides, could be a major factor — particularly given the likelihood that Roma will start with the 34-year-old Daniele De Rossi as a fairly static playmaker behind Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan.
Against Barcelona, Eusebio Di Francesco opted for a back three for only the second time this season. That was probably a specific ploy to overman Barca’s 4-4-2 in the center. A return to the more familiar 4-3-3 seems likely here but one of the beauties of games at this stage, particularly in cauldrons like Anfield and the Olimpico, is that at least as important as the tactics are more visceral factors, like heart and courage.

KEY CLASH

MOHAMED SALAH v FEDERICO FAZIO

The first question any opposition manager has to answer when facing Liverpool is how to deal with Mohamed Salah who has scored 41 goals this season, cutting from the right into the space created when Roberto Firmino drops deep. One way to counter him might be to use a right-footed left-back to deal with those incursions inside, much as Rafa Benitez once switched Alvaro Arbeloa to the ‘wrong’ flank to deal with Lionel Messi. More likely here, though, is that the left-sided center-back Federico Fazio will be asked to guard against him, even if that means stepping out from the back-line. That, in turn, increases the defensive responsibility on Daniele De Rossi. There may even be a case for bringing in Juan Jesus, who did such a good job against Messi, either instead of Fazio or at left-back in place of the injury doubt Aleksandar Kolarov.