Alonso survives first Dakar stage in Saudi Arabia dominated by Minis

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Bahrain JCW X-Raid team Mini's driver Stephane Peterhansel of France and his co-driver Paulo Fiuza of Portugal compete during the Stage 1 of the Dakar 2020 between Jeddah and Al Wajh. (AFP)
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A driver makes early morning preparations on Sunday, ahead of the 2020 Dakar Rally. (AFP)
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Monster Energy Honda Team's Ricky Brabec in action during stage one of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
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Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Team ridden by Andrew Short of the US in action during stage one. (Reuters)
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Borgward Rally Team driven by Spain's Nani Roma and Daniel Oliveras Carreras in action during stage one. (Reuters)
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Team Toyota Gazoo Racing driven by Netherlands' Bernhard ten Brinke and Belgium's Tom Colsoul in action during stage one. (Reuters)
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French driver Romain Dumas and co-driver Alexandre Winocq car burns during the Stage 1 of the Dakar 2020 between Jeddah and Al Wajh, Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
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Red Bull Ktm factory team biker Toby Price of Australia powers his Ktm motorbike during the Stage 1 of the Dakar 2020 between Jeddah and Al Wajh. (AFP)
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Updated 06 January 2020

Alonso survives first Dakar stage in Saudi Arabia dominated by Minis

  • Alonso, is trying to make history as the first Formula One champion to win the event

AL-WAJH, Saudi Arabia: Dakar Rally debutant Fernando Alonso avoided any first stage pitfalls as the 2020 edition of motorsport's gruelling 7,500 kilometre marathon began in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
Alonso, trying to make history as the first Formula One champion to win the event, completed the drive from Jeddah to Al Wajh in his Toyota in 11th place.

 


The 38-year-old Spaniard, with five-time Dakar bike champion Marc Coma navigating, was over quarter of an hour behind surprise stage winner Vaidotas Zala.
The Lithuanian led home a 1-2-3 for Mini, 2mins 14sec clear of teammates Stephane Peterhansel, the 13-time Dakar champion, and Carlos Sainz.
'Mr Dakar', as France's Peterhansel is affectionately known, struggled with a language barrier with his new co-driver Paulo Fiuza.
"In 21 editions of the Dakar, I've never had a co-driver talk to me in English, so I need to get used to it," he said.

 

Reflecting on a solid first day's drive Peterhansel added: "There were dunes, sandy plateaus and rocky sectors where we had to walk on eggshells. We're good at adapting to these conditions, we're nimble!"
Last year's winner Nasser Al-Attiyah led the way for over 200km but he had to settle for fourth place after problems with his Toyota.
"It was a hard day, we had three punctures in 10 kilometres, I have no clue what went wrong, it's rather strange," reported the Qatari, over five minutes adrift.
One driver facing an early flight home was France's two-time Le Mans 24 Hour winner Romain Dumas, who could only watch from a safe distance as flames engulfed his car after only 65km.
Defending motorbike champion Toby Price won Sunday's first bike stage, despite losing his roadbook.
"Once the road book is gone, then you're pretty much driving blind," said the 32-year-old Australian.
The KTM rider completed the 752km route over two minutes clear of American Ricky Brabec on a Honda with Austrian Matthias Walkner on another KTM in third.
Monday's second stage is 401km to Neom, a planned futuristic city being built on the Red Sea.


Injured Serena withdraws from French Open; Nadal cruises

Updated 01 October 2020

Injured Serena withdraws from French Open; Nadal cruises

  • The 39-year-old Williams, a three-time winner at Roland Garros, pulled out ahead of her second round match

PARIS: Serena Williams suffered another blow in her bid for a 24th Grand Slam title as the American withdrew from the French Open on Wednesday with an Achilles injury, while 12-time champion Rafael Nadal raced into the third round.

The 39-year-old Williams, a three-time winner at Roland Garros, pulled out ahead of her second round match against Tsvetana Pironkova citing the injury that prompted her to skip the Rome tuneup event.

“The Achilles didn't have enough time to heal after the US Open,” said Williams, who admitted last week she was not fully fit after her run to the semifinals in New York.

“I'm struggling to walk, so that's kind of a telltale sign that I should try to recover.”

The injury likely means she will miss the rest of 2020, leaving the Australian Open in 2021 as her next chance to equal Margaret Court's all-time majors record.

Nadal looked in ominous form as he stepped up his pursuit of Roger Federer's 20 major titles with a crushing win over 236th-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald.

The Spaniard batted aside McDonald 6-1, 6-0, 6-3 in exactly 100 minutes and will meet Japan's Kei Nishikori or Stefano Travaglia of Italy for a spot in the last 16.

“The aim was to play as well as possible. I'm very happy. I have another difficult match next,” said Nadal. The 34-year-old needs one more major to pull level with long-time rival Federer and owns an astonishing 95-2 record in Paris going back to his triumph on debut in 2005.

US Open champion Dominic Thiem swept into the third round with a 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) victory over American qualifier Jack Sock, saving three set points to close out the match.

The Austrian third seed will play Norway's Casper Ruud, seeded 28th, or American Tommy Paul for a place in the last 16.

“I'm very happy with my game in the first two rounds. It was not an easy draw at all and I'm very happy not to drop a set,” said Thiem, who defeated 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic in round one.

Dutch fifth seed Kiki Bertens had to be taken off court in a wheelchair after a fiery win over former finalist Sara Errani.

Bertens triumphed 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 9-7 in a three-hour 11-minute clash which left her in cramps and Italian Errani screaming an obscenity as she left the court.

"After one hour, she's injured but then she's running around like never before," said Errani.

"She leaves the court in a chair and now she's in the locker room and eating in the restaurant, perfect. She exaggerated."

Bertens is due to meet Katerina Siniakova next while Elina Svitolina overcame Mexican qualifier Renata Zarazua 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

The Ukrainian third seed is coming off a title at Strasbourg last week and will next play Russian 27th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, but was briefly taken aback by a sonic boom.

Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 French Open winner, followed up his demolition of Andy Murray with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 defeat of Germany's Dominik Koepfer.

Sebastian Korda, the son of 1992 Roland Garros runner-up and 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, also progressed after a four-sets victory over fellow American John Isner.