No fans, no problem as Serena wins on return

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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.


Qatar Racing’s Oisin Murphy vows to clear name after positive cocaine test

Updated 01 October 2020

Qatar Racing’s Oisin Murphy vows to clear name after positive cocaine test

  • The Irishman denied using the drug and said he was awaiting a “B” sample

 

LONDON: Qatar Racing’s number one jockey, Oisin Murphy, has vowed to fight to clear his name after testing positive for cocaine.

The Irishman denied using the drug and said he was awaiting a “B” sample result following a test in France taken in July.

The Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) said in a statement on Thursday that Murphy had been selected for urine testing at Chantilly racecourse on July 19.

On Aug. 19 he was informed by France Galop, the governing body of the sport in the country, that his “A” sample had returned positive for metabolites of cocaine.

Murphy said subsequent hair tests, which he organized, had found no trace of the substance and those results would be shared with France Galop.

“I have never taken cocaine in my life and I will do everything that I can to prove that I have not taken cocaine,” Murphy said. “I want to thank those who are supporting me and in the meantime I want to keep riding winners and focus on my career.”

The 25-year-old, who has been top jockey for the QIPCO-backed Qatar Racing since 2016, is on course to retain his Champion Jockey status — the title given to the rider with the most wins throughout a season in British flat racing.

He currently leads the 2020 standings, having ridden 111 winners, and is 13 wins clear of the second-placed jockey William Buick.

Qatar Racing was founded in 2012 and marked the formal involvement in racehorse ownership of Sheikh Fahad’s brothers, including QIPCO chief executive Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani.