Carlos Sainz stretches Dakar Rally lead after navigating Stage 10 through Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter

Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team's Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz during Stage 10 of the Dakar Rally through Saudi Arabia's Empty Quarter. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 January 2020

Carlos Sainz stretches Dakar Rally lead after navigating Stage 10 through Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter

  • Sainz took full advantage of navigational problems by closest rivals Nasser Al-Attiyah
  • Fernando Alonso, the two-time former Formula One champion, lost more than an hour after double rolling his Toyota

SHUBAYTAH: Spanish veteran Carlos Sainz stretched his lead atop the overall Dakar Rally standings by winning the 10th stage through the dunes of Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter on Wednesday.
The 57-year-old Mini driver clocked 2hr 03min 43sec on a stage shortened by high winds to a 233km special between Haradh and Shubaytah, finishing ahead of Poland’s Jakub Przygonski (Mini) and South African Giniel de Villier (Toyota).
Sainz took full advantage of navigational problems by closest rivals Nasser Al-Attiyah, the defending champion, and France’s ‘Mr. Dakar’, Stephane Peterhansel.
Peterhansel, who has won the Dakar 13 times (seven times in a car and six times on a bike), finished 11min 48sec off Sainz’s pace, while Qatar’s Al-Attiyah was further back, at 17:46.
The result means Sainz, with two stages to go, now sits 18:10 ahead of Al-Attiyah and 18:26 in front of Peterhansel.
“It was a dangerous stage with lots of difficult dunes,” Peterhansel said.
“Several kilometers before the neutralized section, we got completely lost with Nasser and other drivers. Some drivers got there at the right time, when we eventually found the right way and gained a lot of time.
“In the end, it’s a good stage for my team-mate Carlos who has opened up a gap on Nasser, whilst we have got a bit closer to Nasser even if we are still in third position.”
Dakar debutant Fernando Alonso, the two-time former Formula One champion, lost more than an hour after double rolling his Toyota, an accident that saw the Spaniard carry on driving with no windscreen.
American Ricky Brabec increased his lead in the general standings of the motorbike category with a second-placed finish.
The HRC rider now leads Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) by 25 minutes and stage winner Joan Barreda of Spain by 27 minutes.
Thursday’s penultimate stage 11 sees competitors negotiate 744km, featuring a 379km special, from Shubaytah back to Haradh.


No fans, no problem as Serena wins on return

Updated 12 August 2020

No fans, no problem as Serena wins on return

  • The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion looked to be flirting with an early exit in the second set

LOS ANGELES: Serena Williams shrugged off the absence of fans to make a winning return from her six-month coronavirus layoff on Tuesday, defeating lowly ranked Bernarda Pera in three sets at the WTA Top Seed Open tournament in Kentucky.

Williams, who before Tuesday had not played a competitive game since a Fed Cup appearance in February, came from behind to defeat American world No. 60 Pera 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in two hours and 15 minutes at the Top Seed Tennis Club in Lexington.

The former world No. 1’s first round victory played out to an empty arena. This week’s tournament — the first WTA event in the US since the COVID-19 pandemic — is taking place without spectators.

Williams, 38, later revealed that the sedate surroundings had suited her game.

“It was a really calm atmosphere, it was really chill,” Williams said.

“I can’t say I disliked it. I didn’t mind it at all. I’ve been through so many things in my career and this was totally different. I think I won today because I was calm for once in my career.

“Kind of reminds me of junior days. Something nostalgic about that. I kind of enjoyed it.”

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion looked to be flirting with an early exit in the second set, but recovered from 0-40 down at 4-4 before holding and eventually winning the set.

“I just knew I could do better,” Williams said. “It was an interesting game. I just had to get used to her game a little bit. She played really well.”

Williams will now play either sister Venus or Victoria Azarenka in the second round.

Pera had seized an early advantage in the first set, breaking Williams to take a 3-2 lead before holding for the remainder of the set to win 6-4.

Williams was soon in trouble on her service game in the second set, falling 0-40 in the opening game before battling back to hold.

Williams moved into a 3-1 lead with a break of Pera’s serve in the fourth game, but her Croatia-born opponent hit back immediately with a break of her own before holding to level at 3-3.

With the next two games going to serve, Williams looked to be in trouble after falling 0-40 down in the ninth game. But she dug deep to hold for a 5-4 lead and then broke for the set when Pera sent a forehand return wide.

The momentum spilled into the deciding set, and another misdirected forehand from Pera handed Williams a break to move into a 3-1 lead.

Another break took her into a 5-1 lead and she closed out the win by holding to love, wrapping up victory with a cross-court forehand that left Pera stranded.

This week’s WTA tournament is the first to be staged in the United States since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the tennis season earlier this year.