ABU DHABI: As the chequered flag waved Lewis Hamilton to victory in Jeddah, putting him on level pegging with Max Verstappen in their battle for the 2021 Formula One Championship, the attention of the world’s motorsport fans and media turned to Yas Marina Circuit for what promises to be a nail-biting climax to the season in Abu Dhabi.
For the first time in 13 years, drivers and teams will be experiencing a revamped Yas Marina Circuit, with the new track layout shortened by 273 meters to 5.28km.
Following an extensive reconfiguration program during the summer across three key corners in North Hairpin, Marsa Corner and around the W Hotel section, the shorter, faster lap will allow cars to run closer together and, by default, will give the drivers more opportunity to overtake in certain areas.
Pre-race simulations by a number of teams have shown that lap times may drop by as much as 13 seconds in total, a significant decrease that will be sure to throw up a few surprises as teams adjust to new lap times of around 1 minute and 23 seconds.
Teams will be looking to get to grips with the track during the three practice sessions, ahead of Saturday’s qualifying, as they approach at more than 300 km per hour for the first time the revised, sweeping corner at North Hairpin, and race wheel-to-wheel through the elevated Marsa Corner.
The new hotel section, with reduced “Constantine effect” that previously saw drivers bunch up, has new corners that should reduce tyre slide to keep drivers on the track, helping to maintain a more tightly packed field.
While overtaking is unlikely through this section, by staying closer to one another the revised layout tees up overtaking opportunities elsewhere around the lap.
As Sunday approaches, what is certain is that Yas Marina Circuit’s revised layout will provide even more action than ever, in what will be the most exciting finale in recent years.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, Fritz win Eastbourne titles
Kvitova earned her first grass-court title in four years — and 29th trophy of her singles career — after breaking Ostapenko, the defending champion, early in both sets of the final and feasting on the Latvian’s second serve
Updated 26 June 2022
EASTBOURNE, England: Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova tuned up for the Grand Slam tournament by overpowering Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-2 to win the Eastbourne title on Saturday.
Also, Taylor Fritz outlasted Maxime Cressy 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4) in an all-American men’s final for his second Eastbourne title.
Kvitova earned her first grass-court title in four years — and 29th trophy of her singles career — after breaking Ostapenko, the defending champion, early in both sets of the final and feasting on the Latvian’s second serve.
Kvitova saved five break points in the fourth game of the second set to stay in control of the match at 3-1.
“Playing on the grass is very special for me every time,” the Czech player said on court. “It’s the best preparation for Wimbledon, as well.”
Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, begins another campaign on Tuesday against Jasmine Paolini of Italy.
She is 5-1 in grass-court finals. Her most recent was in 2018 in Birmingham.
The eighth-seeded Ostapenko, a Wimbledon semifinalist four years ago, won the 2017 French Open.
After the final, Ostapenko withdrew from the women’s doubles final alongside Ukrainian partner Lyudmyla Kichenok because of a toe problem on her right foot. The walkover handed the title to Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia and Magda Linette of Poland.
Ostapenko is the 12th seed at Wimbledon and has a first-round match scheduled on Monday against Oceane Dodin of France.
Fritz could rely on his serve in his first meeting with Cressy. Fritz didn’t face a break point in the final, he won 92 percent of his first serves, and launched 17 aces. Even so, it took him more than two hours to get on top of Cressy, who was playing his first ATP final. Fritz didn’t drop his serve all week.
“My grass season wasn’t going great before I arrived here,” Fritz said. “But it is great to beat these players and it gives me confidence. I played really well all week and going into Wimbledon, I feel good.”
Fritz, ranked 14th, won his third ATP title, second in Eastbourne beside 2019, and second this year after Indian Wells in March.
Fritz has drawn Lorenzo Musetti of Italy in the first round of Wimbledon next week.
Cressy, ranked 60th, has sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada.
Forest sign Nigeria forward from Union Berlin for club-record fee
Taiwo Awoniyi scored 20 goals in 43 games in all competitions in his last season in the Bundesliga. He is Forest’s first senior signing since their victory over Huddersfield in the Championship playoff final
Updated 26 June 2022
LONDON: Nottingham Forest have paid a club-record fee of around £17 million ($20 million) to Nigeria striker Taiwo Awoniyi from Union Berlin.
Awoniyi agreed a five-year contract with Forest, who are preparing for their first season back in the Premier League since 1999.
The 24-year-old scored 20 goals in 43 games in all competitions in his last season in the Bundesliga.
He is Forest’s first senior signing since their victory over Huddersfield in the Championship playoff final.
“There’s been a lot of interest in Taiwo from other Premier League clubs and other clubs across Europe, so we’re delighted that he’s chosen Nottingham Forest,” Forest boss Steve Cooper said.
“He’s a player who we really believe in and we look forward to him going on to fulfill his potential and become a top Premier League striker with Nottingham Forest.”
Awoniyi began his professional career at Liverpool before leaving last July, but did not make a first-team appearance for the Reds and was sent on loan several times.
Liverpool are set to receive 10 percent of the fee under the terms of his departure.
Awoniyi’s 15 goals in 31 Bundesliga matches helped Union Berlin secure a fifth-place finish and qualify for the Europa League for the first time since 2001-02.
“It’s always been my dream to play in the Premier League and, having spoken to Steve Cooper about our ambitions and looking at Forest with its great history, it’s a club that I want to be part of,” Awoniyi said.
Awoniyi won the first of his three caps for Nigeria against the Central African Republic last October and scored his first goal against Sudan in January at the African Cup of Nations.
Swiatek ‘overwhelmed’ by seeing legend Serena back at Wimbledon
"I saw her [Serena] yesterday, I was pretty overwhelmed," said Swiatek
Swiatek wasn't even born when Williams made her Wimbledon debut in 1998
Updated 25 June 2022
LONDON: World number one Iga Swiatek said Saturday she is “overwhelmed” to see Serena Williams back at Wimbledon, one year after the US legend limped away from the All England Club.
Williams, a seven-time champion at the tournament, and still chasing an elusive 24th Grand Slam title, will be playing her first singles match since her tearful, injury-enforced withdrawal in the first round in 2021.
“I saw her yesterday, I was pretty overwhelmed,” said Swiatek, the recently-crowned French Open champion.
“I didn’t know how to react. I wanted to meet her. I saw that she had so many people around her. I don’t know her team. It was pretty weird.
“But just seeing her around is great because she’s such a legend, there’s nobody that has done so much in tennis.”
Swiatek wasn’t even born when Williams made her Wimbledon debut in 1998.
But the Pole appreciates the ground-breaking achievements of the American and sees the 40-year-old still as a genuine threat despite her ring-rustiness.
“I’m pretty sure that she’s going to be in good shape because she has so much experience coming back from breaks or just playing in Grand Slams. I think she can use it,” said the 21-year-old.
Swiatek is on a Serena-esque run of dominance herself this season.
Having taken over from the now retired Ashleigh Barty as world number one, she has put together a 35-match win streak.
That run surpassed Serena’s best of 34 successive wins and equalled Venus Williams’ record of 35 straight victories in 2000 for the longest winning stretch by a woman in the 21st century.
A second French Open triumph earlier this month also gave Swiatek a sixth title in 2022.
With defending Wimbledon champion Barty retired, Swiatek has been given the honor of opening Tuesday proceedings on Center Court.
“I feel really privileged that I’ve been chosen,” she said.
Swiatek, a former Wimbledon junior champion, has yet to get past the fourth round of the women’s singles.
She has also not appeared on a grass court at all this summer, opting to rest after her final win over Coco Gauff in Paris.
“Honestly I still feel like I need to figure out grass,” she added.
“Last year for sure, it was that kind of tournament where I didn’t know what to expect. Then match by match I realized maybe I can do more and more.
“I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. But I’m just trying to stay open-minded and kind of take positives from the situation and realize that I can play without any expectations.”
Swiatek begins her Wimbledon bid against Croatian qualifier Jana Fett.
Ledecky grabs another gold, Australian quartet sets world record
It’s Ledecky’s 19th gold at a worlds and her fourth this week including the 4x200 freestyle relay
Australia’s team clocked 3:19.38 in the 4x100 to shave two-hundredths of a second off the record set by the US at the last worlds in Gwangju, South Korea, in July 2019
Updated 25 June 2022
BUDAPEST: Katie Ledecky extended her record haul of medals and Australia set a world record in the mixed 4x100 meters freestyle final at the world swimming championships on Friday.
American star Ledecky won the 800 freestyle final for the fifth time at the worlds to seal her fourth consecutive 400/800/1,500 triple at the event.
She clocked 8 minutes, 8.04 seconds to finish more than 10 seconds ahead of her rivals. Australia’s Kiah Melverton was 10.73 behind in second and Italy’s Simona Quadarella 10.96 behind for third.
It’s Ledecky’s 19th gold at a worlds and her fourth this week including the 4x200 freestyle relay.
“Really good end to a great week,” Ledecky said.
Her 22 medals are the most for a female swimmer in world championships history. Only Michael Phelps, who won 26, has more.
Australia’s mixed relay team of Jack Cartwright, Kyle Chalmers, Madison Wilson and Mollie O’Callaghan clocked 3:19.38 in the 4x100 to shave two-hundredths of a second off the record set by the US at the last worlds in Gwangju, South Korea, in July 2019.
“I don’t think there was any mention or any expectation or even a thought about being able to break that,” Wilson said. “So to do that and see that at the end was just unbelievable and a real surprise for us.”
Canada’s team of Joshua Liendo, Javier Acevedo, Kayla Sanchez and Penny Oleksiak finished 1.23 behind the Australians for silver, and the United States team of Ryan Held, Brooks Curry, Torri Huske and Claire Curzan was third, 1.71 behind.
Canada’s silver was the country’s ninth medal this week, eclipsing the eight it won in Gwangju.
Ben Proud won Britain’s first gold of the championships, clinching the men’s 50 freestyle in 21.32 – 0.09 ahead of American Michael Andrew and 0.25 ahead of France’s Maxime Grousset.
“We’re missing quite a few key players in the pool today,” Proud said, referring to the absences of Caeleb Dressel, Florent Manaudou and Bruno Fratus. “The whole podium from the Olympics last year wasn’t in the final.”
Dressel was due to race but withdrew from the worlds for unspecified reasons on Wednesday.
“It’s not the same without him,” Proud said. “As soon as he was out, that quite changed the dynamics of the competition. A lot of people had a different type of pressure leading in..”
Dressel, the world record holder, was also missing from the 200 butterfly.
Kristóf Milák followed up his win in the 100 butterfly – where he lowered his own world record – by adding the 200. The Hungarian swimmer delighted the home fans as he clinched the title in 50.14 ahead of Japan’s Naoki Mizunuma and Canada’s Josh Liendo.
Milák joined Phelps and South African Chad Le Clos as the only male swimmers to achieve the 100/200 butterfly double at a single worlds.
Sarah Sjöström won her fourth consecutive 50 butterfly title, clocking 24.95 to head off Melanie Henique of France and Yufei Zhang of China for a record-equaling eighth gold medal in butterfly events at a worlds. Phelps has to share his record.
American Torri Huske was sixth, 0.50 behind Sjöström, who claimed her 18th individual medal at the worlds. Only Phelps, with 20, has more.
After five silver medals, Australia’s Kaylee McKeown finally claimed a gold when she edged American Phoebe Bacon by just four-hundredths of a second in the women’s 200 backstroke.
Bacon’s teammate, Rhyan White, was third for her first medal at a worlds.
It was the closest result in this race at a worlds since 1986 when East Germany’s Cornelia Sirch was two-hundredths of a second ahead of American Besty Mitchell. Sirch later suffered health problems that she attributed to her country’s state doping program.
Chun admitted she had felt under pressure after her scintillating opening round
Updated 25 June 2022
Bethesda, Maryland: In Gee Chun extended her lead at the Women’s PGA Championship on Friday, firing a 3-under-par 69 to open up a six-stroke advantage at the halfway stage as she hunts down a third major title.
The 27-year-old South Korean had demolished Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, in Thursday’s first round, shooting a course record 8-under-64 that left awed rivals in disbelief — and five shots adrift.
Chun found the going slightly harder on Friday, opening with three early birdies before back-to-back bogeys checked her progress just before the turn.
However, she regained those two strokes with birdies on the 10th and 18th to maintain a vice-like grip on the lead heading into the weekend on 11 under with a 36-hole aggregate 133.
Chun admitted she had felt under pressure after her scintillating opening round.
“I got a little pressure for sure because after I had a great first round, everyone (talked) about how you are, like, five-shot lead,” she said.
“Now I’m in a good position. Everyone’s expectations are really high.
“So it was a little tough to make focus, but I believe it’s another process in my life ... So I just want to enjoy my next two days.”
Chun’s nearest rivals are New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, who moved up the leaderboard with a 5-under-par 67, and in-form Jennifer Kupcho, who shot seven birdies and three bogeys in a 4-under 68.
Kupcho and Ko are five under for the tournament.
Former world No. 1 Ko is chasing her first major victory in six years.
The last of her two majors came at the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage in 2016 — the same year she finished second at the Women’s PGA Championship.
“It is hard to win, but I’m just trying to put myself more in that kind of position, and I think when you keep knocking on the door, you hope that one day that door will open,” Ko said.
Kupcho, chasing her second major win of the season after victory at the Chevron Championship in Rancho Mirage in April, said she will not change her strategy to try and catch Chun.
“If she’s going to continue to play well, that’s her game, and there’s really nothing anyone can do about it,” Kupcho said.
Five players are tied for fourth on four under, including Canada’s Brooke Henderson, Australia’s Hannah Green and South Korea’s 2020 Women’s PGA champion Kim Sei-young.
Lexi Thompson and Australia’s Minjee Lee are eight off the lead on three under, tied for ninth with three other players including Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum and South Korea’s Choi Hye-jin.
Thompson caught the eye with a 5-under 67 which included a spectacular eagle two at the par-four 17th, when she chipped onto the green from 102 yards, prodigious backspin sending her ball into the cup.
“I just came into today with a positive attitude and same going into the weekend if I go out and play like I did today, just solid and committing to my shots in the process of my routine,” Thompson said.
“We’ll just see where that takes me. You never know.”