Wozniacki, Stosur bite the dust in Brisbane

Updated 01 January 2013
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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.


Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot

Updated 19 June 2018
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Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot

ST. PETERSBURG: Russia scored three goals in a 15-minute span early in the second half to set up a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday, moving the host nation to the brink of the World Cup’s knockout stage.
Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty for a consolation goal on his return from injury but Egypt’s first World Cup in 28 years could be over in barely five days following a second straight loss.
Ahmed Fathi poked the ball into his own net — the fifth own-goal of the tournament — to put Russia ahead in the 47th minute. Then Denis Cheryshev and Artyom Dzyuba scored in quick succession to leave Russia on course for a victory that followed up a 5-0 opening-night win over Saudi Arabia.
It was Cheryshev’s third goal of the World Cup, putting him tied with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring chart.
Russia’s place in the round of 16 will be assured if Uruguay wins or draws against the Saudis on Wednesday. Those two scenarios would also eliminate Egypt, which started with a 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
The hopes of 100 million Egyptians were raised when Salah was selected in the starting lineup, the Liverpool forward making his comeback after 3 1/2 weeks out with damaged ligaments in his left shoulder after a tangle with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final.
Salah trotted out for his pre-match warmup to roars from Egypt fans, who at times appeared to outnumber their Russian counterparts. They shouted every time Salah’s face flashed up on the big screen and when his name was announced before kickoff.
Yet from the start, it was clear that Salah was staying out of anything too physical and there was no concerted effort from his Egypt teammates to pick him out each time. He didn’t touch the ball until the seventh minute.
He did win the penalty — confirmed by the video assistant referee after Salah was pulled down by Roman Zobnin. He converted it in the 73rd minute, but it wasn’t enough. Egypt is still without a victory in six World Cup matches.
Russia is nearly assured of advancing from the group stage for the first time since the Soviet era.
Cheryshev, who entered the World Cup as a fringe player, is proving lethal in front of goal, with his latest a side-footed effort from close range from Mario Fernandes’ cross in the 59th. Dzyuba’s goal was more direct, the striker chesting down a long ball from defender Ilya Kutepov, beating his marker and curling home a low finish.