Karolina Pliskova, Camilia Giorgi advance to Montreal final

Karolina Pliskova in action against Aryna Sabalenka during their National Bank Open semifinal match in Montreal on Aug. 14, 2021. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Karolina Pliskova in action against Aryna Sabalenka during their National Bank Open semifinal match in Montreal on Aug. 14, 2021. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)
Camilia Giorgi serves to Coco Gauff during the National Bank Open women's tennis tournament on Aug. 13, 2021, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Camilia Giorgi serves to Coco Gauff during the National Bank Open women's tennis tournament on Aug. 13, 2021, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Updated 15 August 2021

Karolina Pliskova, Camilia Giorgi advance to Montreal final

Karolina Pliskova in action against Aryna Sabalenka during their National Bank Open semifinal match in Montreal on Aug. 14, 2021. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)
  • Pliskova will face Camilia Giorgi of Italy, winner over US qualifier Jessica Pegula in the night match

MONTREAL: Fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic beat top-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday to reach the National Bank Open final.
“I think I was super solid today,” Pliskova said. “Just did everything I was supposed to do to win this match.”
Pliskova will face Camilia Giorgi of Italy, a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 winner over US qualifier Jessica Pegula in the night match.
Pliskova broke early in the match, taking a 2-1 lead after Sabalenka sent a ball long following an extended rally.
Sabalenka began to settle in midway through the second set, coming toward the net, then dropping shots behind her opponent. Pliskova used her strong serve to stay ahead, saving a break point with an ace and two other serves Sabalenka couldn’t control.
“I’m quite calm. Of course I have some nerves and emotions but I try not to show it that much,” Pliskova said. “There is a lot of things happening on the court but I think the main thing is just to have a goal and follow that goal.”
Pliskova won the last of her 16 WTA Tour titles in 2020 in Brisbane. Last month, she beat Sabalenka in the Wimbledon semifinals, then lost the final to Ash Barty.
Giorgi has two career victories, the last in 2018 at Linz.
Pegula, the daughter of Buffalo Bills and Sabres owners Kim and Terry Pegula, won her lone WTA Tour title in 2019, beating Giorgi in the Citi Open final in Washington.


McIlroy captures 20th US PGA title with victory at Vegas

McIlroy captures 20th US PGA title with victory at Vegas
Updated 7 sec ago

McIlroy captures 20th US PGA title with victory at Vegas

McIlroy captures 20th US PGA title with victory at Vegas
  • The 32-year-old from Northern Ireland shows the form that made him a four-time major champion

LOS ANGELES: Rory McIlroy captured his 20th career US PGA Tour title on Sunday, firing a six-under par 66 to win the CJ Cup by one stroke over Collin Morikawa.

Disappointed by a poor performance at last month’s Ryder Cup and his struggles after trying to match the long-distance driving of Bryson DeChambeau, the 32-year-old from Northern Ireland showed the form that made him a four-time major champion.

“For the last few months, I was trying to be someone else,” McIlroy said. “I realize that being me is enough and that’s enough to do things like this.”

McIlroy rolled in an eagle putt from just inside 35 feet at the par-5 14th and parred the last four holes to finish on 25-under par 263 at the Summit Club in Las Vegas.

McIlroy said the sting of his Ryder Cup flop in Europe’s record 19-9 loss inspired his improved play.

“It was huge. It really was,” McIlroy said. “I was disappointed with how I played. I get more emotional thinking about that than about this (win).”

After his best round in two years with a 62 on Saturday, McIlroy followed with a near-perfect run to claim his 29th worldwide victory and become only the 39th player with 20 US PGA wins.

“It’s quite an achievement,” McIlroy said. “I still need a couple more years on tour to get that lifetime exemption but at least I’ve got the 20 wins. It’s a great achievement.”

Since World War II, only Vijay Singh and Gary Player have more US PGA victories than McIlroy among players from outside the United States.

Two-time major winner Morikawa, who finished with an eagle, was second on 264 after a closing 62 with fellow Americans Rickie Fowler and Keith Mitchell third on 266.

The event was moved from South Korea for a second consecutive year due to coronavirus pandemic travel issues.

McIlroy, ranked 14th, won his second title of the year, having snapped an 18-month win drought in May with his third career triumph at Quail Hollow, and first of the 2021-22 season.

“I’ve been close before to opening my season with a win,” he said. “It’s great. It feels really good, some validation of what I’ve done the last few weeks. Just keep moving forward.”

Morikawa was pleased with his week despite settling for second.

“It has been an awesome start to the season,” he said.

Fowler led by three early Sunday but could not match McIlroy’s pace, shooting 71. World number 128 Fowler has not won since taking his fifth PGA title at the 2019 Phoenix Open.

“Obviously disappointed,” Fowler said. “But this is a big step in the right direction from where I’ve been in the past couple years.”

Fowler rolled in a 16-foot birdie putt at the par-4 ninth to share the lead at 22-under with McIlroy and Morikawa, but stumbled back with a three-putt bogey at the 10th.

McIlroy drove the green at the par-4 12th and rolled in a four-foot birdie putt to seize the lead alone.

McIlroy found the rough at the par-5 14th and came up just short of the green but rolled the ball into the cup from just inside 35 feet for eagle to reach 25-under and lead by three.

Morikawa sank an eagle putt at the par-5 18th from just inside seven feet to pull within one, but McIlroy closed with four pars to seal the victory.

Fowler teed off with a two-stroke lead over McIlroy and dropped his approach inches from the cup to set up a birdie on the opening hole to lead by three.

But McIlroy sank an 11-foot birdie putt at the par-3 second and had a tap-in birdie at the par-5 third.

Fowler birdied the fourth but took a double bogey at the par-5 sixth while McIlroy birdied from just outside four feet to share the lead.

McIlroy birdied the eighth to reach 22-under to match Morikawa’s birdie at the par-3 11th and share the lead.


Badosa outlasts Azarenka to win Indian Wells in her debut

Badosa outlasts Azarenka to win Indian Wells in her debut
Updated 18 October 2021

Badosa outlasts Azarenka to win Indian Wells in her debut

Badosa outlasts Azarenka to win Indian Wells in her debut
  • Badosa joins Bianca Andreescu in 2019 and Serena Williams in 1999 in winning the title in her first appearance
  • Azarenka, the two-time major champion and former top-ranked player, was seeking just her second title since 2016

INDIAN WELLS, California: Paula Badosa edged Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (5), 2-6, 7-6 (2) on Sunday to win the BNP Paribas Open in her debut in the Southern California desert, where the tournament returned after a 2 1/2-year absence because of the coronavirus.
She joined Bianca Andreescu in 2019 and Serena Williams in 1999 in winning the title in her first appearance. It was Badosa’s second title of her career, having won in Belgrade earlier this year.
Cameron Norrie played Nikoloz Basilashvili in the men’s final later.
Badosa and Azarenka struggled for over three hours, trading back-to-back service breaks five times. The last time Azarenka broke for a 5-4 lead in the third, and Badosa broke right back for a 5-all tie.
“We were both going for our shots, really pushing each other to the max,” Azarenka said.
Badosa missed a backhand that allowed Azarenka to hold at 6-all.
Badosa dominated the tiebreaker, racing to a 6-2 lead. Azarenka dumped a forehand into the net to give Badosa match point.

Paula Badosa poses with the trophy and a flag after defeating Victoria Azarenka at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament on Oct. 17, 2021, in Indian Wells, California. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

Badosa cracked a forehand winner, then collapsed at the baseline. She lie face down, crying and shaking, before getting up. Azarenka came around the net and hugged the 23-year-old Spaniard.
“I remember when I was 14, 15 years old seeing you,” Badosa told Azarenka after raising the crystal trophy. “I told my coach, ‘One day I hope I can play like her.’“
Azarenka, the two-time major champion and former top-ranked player, was seeking just her second title since 2016. She last won in 2020 at Cincinnati. The 32-year-old from Belarus came up short in her bid to become the first woman to win Indian Wells three times, having taken the title in 2012 and 2016.
Azarenka’s season was interrupted by injuries and she made early exits in the Grand Slam events. Her best result was making the fourth round at the French Open.
“This year has been challenging a bit,” she said, “but finishing on a strong note, not necessarily with the result I wanted but with the progress I wanted to seek, that’s really positive.”
Azarenka noted her 4-year-old son, Leo, was watching on TV.

Paula Badosa kisses her trophy after defeating Victoria Azarenka at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament on Oct. 17, 2021, in Indian Wells, California. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) 

“I’m not bringing home the biggest trophy,” she said, “but it’s still a trophy and I’m sure he’ll enjoy playing with it.”
In the first-set tiebreaker, Badosa had leads of 4-0 and 5-3. Azarenka tied it 5-all on Badosa’s netted forehand. Azarenka missed a backhand to give Badosa a set point and the Spaniard cashed in with a backhand winner to take the set.
“It was like a roller coaster mentally, emotionally,” Badosa said.
She beat fifth-seeded Barbora Krejcikova in the fourth round, No. 15 Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals and No. 14 Ons Jabeur in the semifinals — all in straight sets — to reach the final.
“The first thing I learned this week is that nothing is impossible,” Badosa said.
Badosa earned $1.2 million, more than her previous prize money for the year of just over $1 million.
She came into the tournament ranked 27th in the world; a year ago, she was 87th. Badosa is projected to rise to a career-best 13th in Monday’s WTA Tour rankings.
“I never thought that would happen that fast,” she said.
Badosa may not be done this year, either. By winning the title, she overtook Ons Jabeur for the eighth and last qualifying spot in the race to the WTA Finals, to be held next month in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The combined ATP and WTA tour event was one of the first major sporting events canceled in March 2020 when the coronavirus took hold in the US It will return to its usual March slot next year.


Newcastle fans urge new owners to axe Steve Bruce

Newcastle fans urge new owners to axe Steve Bruce
Updated 17 October 2021

Newcastle fans urge new owners to axe Steve Bruce

Newcastle fans urge new owners to axe Steve Bruce
  • Long-suffering manager refuses to be drawn on whether talks on his future are imminent

NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce has refused to be drawn on whether he will have more crunch talks with the Magpies’ new owners this week.

Almost two weeks into the reign of the Saudi-led consortium, Bruce continues to hang on to his job, despite vociferous calls from fans for him to be sacked.

And following the Magpies 3-2 home loss to Tottenham Hotspur, watched from the directors’ box by non-executive chairman Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan, Bruce stonewalled any questions on his future.

When asked whether fresh talks with the owners were planned, he said: “I’ve got to wait, until they see fit. You need to ask somebody else that one.

“Look, the owners have been very respectful in the last week to 10 days. It is going to take time and patience, of course. But to have the supporters back on side is a positive.”

Bruce is understood to be hanging by a thread as the club’s manager following a run of nine games without a win in 2021/22, eight of those in the Premier League.

Speculation about his future has grown since the club was purchased by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), RB Media & Sports and PCP Capital Partners.

Bruce met with NUFC board member Amanda Staveley and her husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi, of PCP, on Monday last week - but has been backed to continue in the role, for now, at least.

On Friday, Staveley was quoted in a club statement discussing Bruce’s future.

The statement read: “We have had an extremely busy week reviewing the business and getting to know people and it is imperative that we continue to be patient and considered in our approach. Change does not always happen overnight, it demands time and that we follow a carefully considered plan and strategy.

“We met Steve and the players on Monday and have given them the time and space this week to focus on preparing for what is a very important game on Sunday.

“Steve has been very professional in our dealings with him and he and his coaching team will take the team on Sunday. If we make any changes going forward, Steve will be the first to know but, in the meantime, we wish him the best of luck in his 1,000th match as a manager and will be joining you in getting right behind the team.”

Meanwhile, Bruce admits he was disappointed his side did not build on their positive early start against Spurs.

Following Callum Wilson’s goal, United conceded three first-half goals, which ultimately saw them condemned to yet another top flight loss, despite Eric Dier’s late own goal.

“It is pretty obvious we haven’t defended well after a great start. Unfortunately we have done too much of that this season for my liking,” said Bruce. “With Tottenham’s first attack they score, their second it is two.

“We are trying to be a bit more attacking but defensively, we just haven't defended well enough.”

When asked whether he thinks his 19th-placed side are in a relegation battle, he said: “Have we not been in that for the last five or six years? I would think so.

“We have finished 12th and 13th - I found that very respectable, for where we are at this moment. I am convinced we would win a relegation battle. But when you are in the bottom half, people will say you’re in a relegation battle, yes.”

 


Tottenham spoil party after Newcastle welcomes new owners

Tottenham spoil party after Newcastle welcomes new owners
Updated 18 October 2021

Tottenham spoil party after Newcastle welcomes new owners

Tottenham spoil party after Newcastle welcomes new owners
  • While hope has returned to Tyneside, the situation on the pitch remains the same
  • Callum Wilson headed Newcastle in front 107 seconds into the match before hosts collapsed to lose 3-2 to Tottenham

NEWCASTLE: So much has changed at Newcastle United in the last 10 days, but much remains the same.

While hope has returned to Tyneside — heart strings pulled, fires rekindled, new owners, new vision and renewed passion — the situation on the pitch remains the same.

A first-half three goal show from Tanguy Ndombele, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min was enough to cancel out a Callum Wilson opener and deflate the Magpies’ takeover party. A late Eric Dier own goal reduced the arrears, but United’s fate was sealed as they continued their poor start to the season — they are now nine games without a win in 2021/22, have conceded the most goals in the Premier League and sit second bottom of the table.

Injuries have hamstrung United in the opening months of the campaign, and at least Steve Bruce, handed an unexpected reprieve to manage his 1,000th game as a professional coach, could boost his beleaguered side with the return of frontman Wilson and skipper Jamaal Lascelles.

Spurs are light-years ahead of United in terms of quality, and it would take a monumental effort from the crowd to lift Newcastle from their early season malaise.

But with positivity flooding down from the terraces at a packed St James’ Park, the Magpies did take the lead — much to the delight of the new owners in the directors box.

As Javier Manquillo clipped on to the head of Wilson, who netted his third in four top flight games this season, PCP Capital Partners’ Mehrdad Ghodoussi straddled a row seats high in the Milburn Stand to embrace wife Amanda Staveley and PIF’s Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the new non-executive chairman of the club.

The action on the pitch was all too familiar for Newcastle's long-suffering fans. (AP)

It was a sight so many had waited so long for, after two years of legal deal wrangling and nearly 15 years of turmoil under previous owner Mike Ashley. It was not to last, however.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s Spurs were in no mood, and were soon level as Ndombele, free in acres of space on the edge of the Gallowgate box, guided past Karl Darlow in the United goal, leaving him rooted to the spot.

If the first could not pop the atmosphere, the second did.

A searching ball by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg saw Kane break the offside trap — after a very close VAR check — and guide over the advancing Darlow.

Spirit unwavered, Newcastle looked for a leveller, and Allan Saint-Maximin came within a whisker of making it 2-2. Joelinton’s through ball set goalscorer Wilson free, but this time, looking to turn provider, he passed inches beyond the frenchman’s reach.

In truth, this was as good as it got for United as Spurs began to open up gaps across their backline.

A Son corner picked out Lucas Moura, who beat Lascelles in the air and nodded off the crossbar.

It was another warning Bruce’s men did not heed, and soon, they paid for it as Kane, previously without a goal or assist for his club this season, laid the ball on a plate from right to left, leaving partner-in-crime Son with the easiest of finishes.

A flowing encounter had a lengthy juncture just before half-time when a medical emergency in the East Stand saw a Newcastle fan stretchered out of the ground, stabilized by medical staff including club doctor Paul Catterson.

But for the speedy work of Spurs’ Dier and Sergio Reguilon, who called for Andre Marriner to halt proceedings and get a defibrillator across to treat the supporter in need, the outcome may have been much worse.

The second half, much like the end of the first, became formulaic, with waves of Spurs attacks rarely punctuated with United possession.

Newcastle's Callum Wilson, centre and Jamaal Lascelles react to their defeat at St. James' park. (AP)

Ndombele, buoyed from his goal, whipped one over Darlow’s upright as the North London club looked to put the final nail in United’s coffin.

The hosts, down to 10 men when substitute Jonjo Shelvey picked up a second booking, rarely looked like turning things around, as their possession statistics dropped to 15 percent for long periods of the final stages.

If new owners did not know the scale of the task facing them, they no doubt do now. With the eyes of the world on them, United produced a joyous atmosphere off the pitch, but little spark on it.

The first major decision of the new regime, deciding Bruce’s future, hangs like a cloud over the club — and time must be running out for the 60-year-old.

Newcastle fans have embraced the Saudi flag since the takeover. (AN_Photo)

Fans made their feelings clear. “We want Brucey out” chants became more prevalent as theme slipped away. After Shelvey’s red, they became raucous.

A huge banner unfurled by fan group Wor Flags pre-kick-off read: “‘Cause this is a mighty town, built upon a solid ground — and everything they’ve tried so hard to kill, we will rebuild.”

These words, uttered by old-time Geordie actor and crooner Jimmy Nail in the famous local song “Big River,” ring truer now than they did pre-game.

Newcastle is a mighty town, built on solid ground — a supporter base the envy of the footballing world. However, a rebuild is what is needed — the damage may prove tough to shake, short-term.


Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai

Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai
Updated 17 October 2021

Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai

Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai
  • A new TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament will culminate with final on the evening of the main event at the Coca-Cola Arena on Oct. 22

Indian Davis Cup representative Ramkumar Ramanathan is the latest player to join the Tie Break Tens Dubai Presented by Zone, joining Taylor Fritz, Dustin Brown, Dan Evans and Gaël Monfils at the tournament being held on Oct. 22 at City Walk’s Coca-Cola Arena.

Ramkumar is the first Indian player to reach an ATP world tour singles final since Somdev Devvarman in 2011. He plays both singles and doubles games and is well known for his attacking serve, which will come in handy in the Tie Break Tens short-form of the sport.

“Ramkumar is a great addition to the inaugural Dubai TB10s line-up, and is sure to be a particularly big attraction for the UAE’s passionate Indian sports fans. He has a very aggressive style on the serve and second shot, so he is another player that promises to do well with the tie breaker format. Whoever he is pitted against, one thing is for sure: It’ll be quick and dramatic,” said Jimmy Poon, the tournament director.

As the build-up to the Middle East’s first ever TB10 tennis tournament continues, the organizers have also announced the launch of the inaugural TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament. This new competition will culminate in some of the UAE’s best young players battling it out in the finals ahead of the main tournament itself on the evening of Oct. 22 at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena.

Qualifying rounds are taking place each Friday, leading up to the main event at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai’s City Walk. The TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament will further support young Emirati talent in the sport, with the finals for the under-18 competitors set to take place in front of the international stars and a packed arena on the night of the main event.

The TB10s format is the only officially recognised short form of tennis. It is already proving popular among the participating youngsters, and up to 16 players of ages ranging from 12 to 18 are competing in each of the Friday tournaments, drawn from tennis academies and schools across Dubai. The finals will be played between the players who accrue the most points across the three weeks.

As well as the Friday competitions, a tennis clinic will be held the day before the main TB10s evening for competition winners from schools in Dubai.