Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought

Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought
Ash Barty is aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open. (AFP)
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Updated 28 January 2020

Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought

Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought
  • Barty aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open
  • She won her first title on home soil in Adelaide in the lead-up to this season’s first major

MELBOURNE, Australia: Top-ranked Ash Barty is a step closer to ending a long drought for Aussies at the national championship.
Barty saved set points in the 11th game and another in the tiebreaker before seizing the momentum against two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in a 7-6 (6), 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena. She next faces No. 14 Sofia Kenin, who reached the semifinals at a major for the first time with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 78-ranked Ons Jabeur.
Barty fended off eight of the nine break-point chances she faced in the first set before finally getting the upper hand when she won a 22-shot rally, defending for much of it just to stay in the point, at 3-2 in the tiebreaker.
After clinching the first set in 69 minutes, she went on a roll to take a 4-0 lead in the second and take all the momentum away from Kvitova, who beat Barty here at the same stage last year before losing the final to Naomi Osaka.
Barty rebounded from that to win her first major title at the French Open, where she beat Kenin in the fourth round. Until she arrived in Australia, Kenin’s run at Roland Garros — which included a third-round upset over Serena Williams — was her best at a Grand Slam.
There’s a lot of local expectation riding on Barty, who is aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open. The first major of the decade may see the end of the 42-year wait, and an Australian man hasn’t won since 1976. Barty is already the first Australian woman since 1984 to reach the semifinals of the home Open.
Barty doesn’t expect to feel the pressure. She won her first title on home soil in Adelaide in the lead-up to this season’s first major.
“I’m not going to have anything but a smile on my face when I walk out onto this court,” Barty said of her next match.
Kenin and Jabeur were both into the quarterfinals for the first time at a major.
For Kenin, who was born in Moscow but moved to the United States as a baby and grew up in Florida, the degree of difficulty will only increase.
“I’m in the semis,” she said, when asked for her preference of semifinal rival. “Anyone I play, they’re playing really well.”
Kenin is playing her best tennis, too. Her best previous run at Melbourne Park ended in the second round, when she lost to Simona Halep last year.
She finished last year ranked 14th, and could match Barty in one category: they were tied for most hard-court wins on the women’s tour last year with 38 wins each.
Kenin’s run here included a comeback win in the third round against 15-year-old Coco Gauff, when she made only nine unforced errors across the second and third sets.
In the second set against Jabeur, she saved three break points in a long sixth game, then broke serve in the seventh game to set up the win.
“It was a tough moment,” Kenin said. “I didn’t know it was 10 minutes (but) it was pretty long, the game. After that I got my momentum.”
Jabeur, a 25-year-old Tunisian, was the first Arab woman to make it to the last eight at a major.
“Ï think I proved that I can be in the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam, even if I have a lot of things to improve probably physically and mentally,” she said. “But I’m happy that I pushed through a lot of things. I proved to myself that I could do a lot of great things.”
In later men’s quarterfinals, 20-time major winner Roger Federer was playing 100th-ranked Tennys Sandgren, and seven-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic had a night match against Milos Raonic of Canada.


Bucks tie Nets 2-2 with 107-96 win; Suns sweep Nuggets

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks during Game 4 of the Bucks-Nets second round playoff series on June 13, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP)
Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks during Game 4 of the Bucks-Nets second round playoff series on June 13, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 14 June 2021

Bucks tie Nets 2-2 with 107-96 win; Suns sweep Nuggets

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks during Game 4 of the Bucks-Nets second round playoff series on June 13, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP)
  • Nuggets' center Nikola Jokic, the 2021 MVP, was ejected over a flagrant foul against Suns' Cameron Payne i
  • 2018 MVP James Harden still unable to play for Nets due to hamstring injury

MILWAUKEE/DENVER: Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 34 points and the Milwaukee Bucks rolled to a 107-96 Game 4 victory Sunday to tie the second-round playoff series with the Brooklyn Nets, who lost Kyrie Irving to a sprained right ankle.
The Bucks erased a 2-0 deficit by winning two straight in Milwaukee. Game 5 is Tuesday night in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn’s immediate concern is the health of its superstar trio. Irving was hurt midway through the second quarter and didn’t return. The Nets already are missing nine-time All-Star and 2018 MVP James Harden, who hasn’t played since the opening minute of Game 1 due to right hamstring tightness.
That puts even more pressure on Kevin Durant, who has carried the Nets this series and provided 28 points and 13 rebounds Sunday. The only other player in double figures was Irving, who had 11 points before leaving.
After Irving made a basket in the paint to cut the Bucks’ lead to 44-40 midway through the second quarter, his left leg hit the right leg of Antetokounmpo on his way down and his ankle rolled. Irving landed awkwardly and clutched his right ankle as play briefly continued on the other end of the floor. Coach Steve Nash said after the game that X-rays taken on Irving’s ankle were negative.

Four-game sweep

In Denver, Colorado, the Phoenix Suns roared into the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 11 years with a testy 125-118 victory over Denver that completed a four-game sweep of the Nuggets and included MVP Nikola Jokic’s ejection.
Chris Paul scored 37 points and Devin Booker added 34 in a physical game marred by Jokic’s ejection.
Jokic was tossed with 3:52 left in the third quarter and the Nuggets trailing 83-76 after his hard right-hand windmill swipe sent the basketball flying but also caught Cameron Payne in the face.
Booker took umbrage at the hard foul and got in the big man’s face before teammates and coaches pulled everyone apart.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic grabs Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker during a confrontation on June 13, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

Officials assessed a double technical on Jokic and Booker and ejected the MVP after upping the call to a Flagrant 2. Jokic finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes.
The Nuggets and their fans at Ball Arena were frustrated that they were getting called for ticky-tack fouls yet Jokic wasn’t getting the calls expected of a Most Valuable Player.
With their franchise-record seventh straight playoff victory, the Suns advanced to the conference championship for the first time since 2010 — the last time they even reached the playoffs.
After knocking out LeBron James and the defending champion Lakers in Round 1, the Suns quickly dispatched Denver and made Jokic the first MVP to get swept in a playoff series since Magic Johnson in 1989.
Will Barton led Denver, which trailed by 13 heading into the fourth quarter, with 25 points, Michael Porter Jr. added 20 and Monte Morris 19.
The Nuggets survived the loss of star Jamal Murray to a torn ACL on April 12, winning 13 of 18 to close out the regular season and taking care of the Portland Trail Blazers in five games in the opening round.
But when second scoring option Porter tweaked his surgically repaired back in the first half of Game 1 against Phoenix, it was one injury too far for the Nuggets to overcome.
Denver coach Michael Malone said before tip-off that the Nuggets couldn’t really rely on their experience from the bubble in overcoming a pair of 3-1 deficits in the playoffs last year. For one thing, Murray’s recovering from knee surgery.
Malone said the Nuggets’ only focus was on sending this series back to Phoenix for a Game 5.
Instead, Jokic became the first MVP to get swept in a playoff series since the Pistons downed Magic Johnson and the Lakers in four in the NBA Finals in 1989.
Jokic’s ejection came 48 hours after an emotional celebration before Game 3 in which the Serbian dedicated his MVP trophy to his teammates, coaches, trainers and the front office.
The only NBA player to play all 72 games this season, Jokic spent the fourth quarter in his locker room as his teammates’ comeback without him fell short.
Despite the sweep and Jokic’s early exit, fans chanted, “MVP! MVP” as they streamed out of the arena.

TIP-INS:
Suns: Booker scored 10 points in the first quarter despite missing six of nine shots. ... Phoenix trailed just once at 2-0 before Booker’s 3-pointer put the Suns up for good.
Nuggets: Murray shot one-footed jumpers before the game and drew a loud ovation when he drained one from halfcourt as he walked off. ... Malone shook up his stagnant starting lineup, sitting Facundo Compazzo and Austin Rivers for Morris and Barton.
 


Saudi Arabia’s sports minister congratulates karate champion for olympic qualification

Saudi Arabia’s sports minister congratulates karate champion for olympic qualification
Updated 14 June 2021

Saudi Arabia’s sports minister congratulates karate champion for olympic qualification

Saudi Arabia’s sports minister congratulates karate champion for olympic qualification

RIYADH: The Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, congratulated Tariq Hamdi, the Saudi karate champion, for qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

In a tweet he wrote on Sunday, Al-Faisal said: “Congratulations to the star of our national karate team, captain Tariq Hamdi, for qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”

Hamdi made history by snatching the Olympic qualification in the above 75 kilograms category on Sunday, during the Karate Olympic Qualification Tournament, which was held in Paris.

Hamdi became one of 80 male and female athletes who made it to the Tokyo games, where karate will be included for the first time.

Hamdi’s qualification came after he led his group and won six consecutive rounds.


Djokovic makes history with 19th Grand Slam title in epic French Open final

Djokovic makes history with 19th Grand Slam title in epic French Open final
Updated 14 June 2021

Djokovic makes history with 19th Grand Slam title in epic French Open final

Djokovic makes history with 19th Grand Slam title in epic French Open final
  • Djokovic is one major away from equalling the all-time record of 20, jointly held by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
  • The Serb came from two sets down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas

PARIS: Novak Djokovic claimed a 19th Grand Slam title and became the first man in 52 years to win all four majors twice when he came from two sets down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in a gripping French Open final on Sunday.
The world number one triumphed 6-7 (6/8), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in four hours and 11 minutes over the Greek 22-year-old who was playing in his first Slam final.
Djokovic is now just one major away from equalling the all-time record of 20, jointly held by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
It was a second French Open crown for Djokovic after his 2016 victory and adds to his nine Australian Opens, five Wimbledon titles and three at the US Open.
The 34-year-old is the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four Slams on multiple occasions and just the third in history.
Djokovic had also spent more than four hours on court on Friday to knock out defending champion Nadal.
“It was an electric atmosphere. I want to thank everyone who has been with me on this journey,” said Djokovic.
“I have played almost nine hours over the last 48 hours against two great champions, it was really tough physically over the last three days, but I trusted in my capabilities and knew I could do it.”
Djokovic is the first man ever to win a Slam title by twice coming back from two sets down following his last-16 battle with Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti.
Djokovic now has 84 career titles in total while Sunday’s win pushed him to the brink of $150 million in prize money.
Next on the list is an assault on a calendar Grand Slam, only achieved in the men’s game by Don Budge in 1937 and Laver in 1962 and 1969, by defending his Wimbledon crown and then winning a fourth US Open.
On top of that, Djokovic also wants the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo to complete the first ever Golden Grand Slam by a male player.
“His goal and our goal is to win the Olympics and then win the Grand Slam,” said coach Marian Vajda.
Tsitsipas, meanwhile, said he was inspired to follow in Djokovic’s footsteps.
“I had good run here so I am happy with myself,” said Tsitsipas.
“Novak has shown what a great champion he is and I hope one day to have half of what he has achieved.
“I tried my best. I had a good run and I’m happy with myself.”
Tsitsipas survived a nervy opening service game, having to save two break points.
Djokovic, by contrast, didn’t concede a point in his first three service games.
But suddenly he faced a set point in the 10th game courtesy of an ugly shank but saved it after a 26-shot rally.


Fired up by a time violation, Djokovic broke for the first time for a 6-5 lead but was unable to serve out the opener as a series of razor-sharp returns put Tsitsipas back on level terms.
In a dramatic tiebreaker, Tsitsipas saw 4/0 and 5/2 leads disappear.
He had to save a set point before claiming the opener after 70 minutes when Djokovic fired a forehand wide.
Dropping the opening set at this year’s Roland Garros was familiar territory for Djokovic.
He had to recover from two sets down to beat Musetti and lost the opener against 13-time champion Nadal on Friday.
Tsitsipas, 12 years the world number one’s junior, broke again in the first game of the second set as the 2016 champion looked increasingly weary in the 30-degree afternoon heat.
The Greek edged ahead 5-2 and pocketed the second set with his eighth ace of the contest.
But the top seed wasn’t finished, breaking in the fourth game of the third set to cut the deficit.
Tsitsipas then called the trainer to treat a back problem which also gave him the opportunity to change the clay-covered shirt he’d worn since a first set tumble.
Thirty minutes later, it was two sets apiece after Djokovic secured a double break.
As the shadows swept across Court Philippe Chatrier, Tsitsipas’ mood also darkened as he slipped 3-1 down in the decider.
As the clock ticked past four hours, he fought off two more break points in the seventh game but Djokovic was not to be denied his latest slice of history, taking the glory on his second championship point.


Saudi basketball team boosts chance of Asia Cup qualification

Saudi basketball team boosts chance of Asia Cup qualification
Updated 13 June 2021

Saudi basketball team boosts chance of Asia Cup qualification

Saudi basketball team boosts chance of Asia Cup qualification
  • National squad next faces Iran

The Saudi national basketball team boosted its chances of qualifying for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup after defeating Syria 79-77 in extra time on Saturday, the Arabic sports daily Arriyadiyah reported.

The match, which took place in Amman, ended in a 69-69 tie in regulation time.

The Saudi team took an early lead and maintained it for most of the game. It could have widened the gap between the teams to more than five points, which would have led to automatic qualification to the tournament taking place in Jakarta this August.

The Saudis must now beat Iran to ensure qualification or rely on a Qatar victory against Syria.

The top two teams in the qualification group progress automatically to the finals.

Iran beat Qatar 84-46 on Saturday. They join Lebanon and Bahrain as teams to have qualified through the first-ever Asia Cup Qualifiers, while Indonesia also qualified as hosts of the event.


Extreme E to find alternative venues to inaugural season’s last two races in South America

Extreme E to find alternative venues to inaugural season’s last two races in South America
Updated 13 June 2021

Extreme E to find alternative venues to inaugural season’s last two races in South America

Extreme E to find alternative venues to inaugural season’s last two races in South America
  • The electric SUV rally series will not take place in Brazil and Argentina due to safety concerns over COVID-19

Extreme E, the electric off-road racing series, has confirmed that it is seeking alternate destinations for the final two races in Season 1 due to the COVID-19 situation in South America.

Extreme E was due to hold its Amazon X Prix in the Brazilian state of Para, between Oct. 23-24, before heading further south to the Glacier X Prix in Patagonia, Argentina, on Dec. 11-12, however having monitored the global pandemic context, it has decided to postpone visiting the region until Season 2.

“We’ve been closely monitoring the situation regarding all Extreme E locations for 2021 and have chosen to make this pre-emptive decision on racing in South America this year,” Alejandro Agag, founder and CEO of Extreme E, said. “As a new series embarking on our opening season, our priority is to deliver a five-race calendar of events which are safe and responsible for our global participants, partners and staff to travel to and attend.

The first-ever Extreme E race, the Desert X Prix, took place across the Said desert of AlUla at the start of April and was won by Rosberg X Racing. Former Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg’s team overcame Andretti United and Lewis Hamilton’s X44, who finished second and third on the podium.

The second race was Ocean X Prix in Senegal and the third will be the Arctic X Prix in Greenland at the end of August.

“This was not a decision made lightly, however current travel advice and restrictions have also meant we have been unable to visit the race areas in advance to undertake the necessary reconnaissance visits, which are especially vital due to the remote nature of our operations,” Agag said.

“We will of course continue to support our important reforestation and agroforestry initiatives, which are already well underway in the region thanks to the help of Dr. Francisco Olivieira and our partnership with The Nature Conservancy in Brazil,” he said. “We would also like to thank the local authorities in Brazil and Argentina who have been supportive throughout the whole process and we hope we can return in 2022.”

Alternative race locations are being explored and will be announced in due course. Options include the possibility of the Western Isles, Scotland, ahead of Glasgow hosting COP26 in November.

Each X Prix event uses its sporting platform to highlight a different issue facing the planet, and as well as raising awareness of these problems, also highlights solutions and leaves a long-lasting positive impact in its race locations through its legacy programs.

These programs include planting one million mangroves in Senegal, turtle conservation in the Red Sea, the empowerment and education of children on climate change in Greenland in collaboration with UNICEF, and agroforestry initiatives and reforestation in Para in partnership with The Nature Conservancy.