Kvitova advances at Eastbourne, sets up final against Ostapenko 

Kvitova advances at Eastbourne, sets up final against Ostapenko 
Petra Kvitova returns to Beatriz Haddad Maia during their women's singles semi-final tennis match at the Eastbourne International tennis tournament in England on June 24, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 25 June 2022

Kvitova advances at Eastbourne, sets up final against Ostapenko 

Kvitova advances at Eastbourne, sets up final against Ostapenko 
  • In a tussle between big-hitting left-handers, Kvitova avenged last week’s defeat to Haddad Maia at Birmingham

EASTBOURNE, England: Petra Kvitova will play fellow former Grand Slam champion Jelena Ostapenko in the final of the Wimbledon warmup event at Eastbourne.

Kvitova is a two-time Wimbledon winner looking to emulate her All England Club triumphs in 2011 and 2014.

The 32-year-old Czech may not be at her peak these days, but she remains a force on grass, as she showed by battling to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over the obdurate Beatriz Haddad Maia in Friday’s semifinals.

World No. 31 Kvitova ended the lengthy winning streak of Brazilian Haddad Maia to return to the final at Devonshire Park for the first time since finishing runner-up 11 years ago.

In a tussle between big-hitting left-handers, Kvitova avenged last week’s defeat to Haddad Maia at Birmingham.

Haddad Maia, whose memorable grass-court season included titles at Nottingham and Birmingham, was beaten for the first time in 13 matches.

Kvitova, who lost to Marion Bartoli in the 2011 Eastbourne final, takes on former French Open champion Ostapenko in Saturday’s final.

The Latvian is the defending Eastbourne champion and she remains on course for another title on the south-coast lawns after crushing Italy’s Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-3 earlier on Friday.

Eighth seed Ostapenko, the 2017 winner at Roland Garros, is also through to the Eastbourne doubles final with her Ukrainian partner Lyudmyla Kichenok.

They will face Aleksandra Krunic and Magda Linette as Ostapenko chases two titles in one week.

In the men’s singles final, 2019 Eastbourne winner Taylor Fritz faces France-born American Maxime Cressy.

American world No. 14 Fritz defeated reigning champion Alex De Minaur 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3.

Cressy, the world No. 60, beat Jack Draper 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (2/7), 6-3 to make it three wins over British players in this year’s tournament.


Anthony Joshua maintains weight advantage over Oleksandr Usyk for Jeddah clash

Anthony Joshua maintains weight advantage over Oleksandr Usyk for Jeddah clash
Updated 10 min 10 sec ago

Anthony Joshua maintains weight advantage over Oleksandr Usyk for Jeddah clash

Anthony Joshua maintains weight advantage over Oleksandr Usyk for Jeddah clash
  • Two-time heavyweight champion Joshua tipped the scales at 110.9 kilos
  • Ukraine’s Usyk weighed 100.5 kilograms

JEDDAH: British boxer Anthony Joshua weighed in more than 10 kilos (22 pounds) heavier than defending champion Oleksandr Usyk on Friday ahead of their “Rage on the Red Sea” world title rematch in Saudi Arabia.

Two-time heavyweight champion Joshua tipped the scales at 110.9 kilos (244.5 pounds) while Ukraine’s Usyk weighed 100.5 kilograms (221.6 pounds), both similar to last year’s fight in London.

Usyk, 19-0 and the favorite after his unanimous decision on Joshua’s home turf, confounded predictions that he had packed on several kilos of muscle to counter the towering Joshua.

The fighters came face-to-face in a 90-second stare-down before shaking hands and posing for the cameras.

“All this stuff, weight, face-off, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s all about the fight,” Joshua said. “I’m just ready for 12 rounds, 100 percent. Anything shorter than that, it’s a bonus.”

Many commentators have written off Joshua after a hesitant showing against the quick and skillful Usyk at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September.

But the 6ft 6ins (1.98m) Briton, who is striving to become a three-time world champion, has promised to be more “competitive.”

Promoter Eddie Hearn has suggested Joshua will go for the knock-out.

Saturday’s clash will be the 12th consecutive world title fight for Joshua, the 24-2 former Olympic gold-medallist whose other professional defeat was a shock TKO by Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019.

Joshua avenged that loss six months later in the “Clash of the Dunes” in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, the first heavyweight world title fight in the Kingdom.

Elsewhere on the undercard, Saudi Arabia’s Ziyad Al-Maayouf will face Mexico’s Jose Alatorre on Saturday, and said earlier this week he has been overwhelmed by the support he has received and feels a little under the pressure with all eyes on him.

And in a moment of history for sport in Saudi Arabia, Somali-born Briton Ramla Ali will fight the Dominican Republic’s Crystal Garcia Nova in the first women’s professional boxing match in the Kingdom.

Also in an action-packed night of boxing, the Rage on the Red Sea undercard includes several other exciting fights, with former WBA and Ring magazine super-middleweight champion Callum Smith and former two-weight world champion Badou Jack both featuring.

* With AFP


PSG coach denies bad blood between Neymar and Mbappe

PSG coach denies bad blood between Neymar and Mbappe
Updated 32 sec ago

PSG coach denies bad blood between Neymar and Mbappe

PSG coach denies bad blood between Neymar and Mbappe
SAINT-GERMAIN-EN-LAYE, France: Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier said on Friday there is no bad blood between star forward Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.
Neymar insisted on taking the team’s second penalty against Montpellier last Saturday after Mbappe had missed the first.
Mbappe did not celebrate after Neymar converted the spot-kick.
Galtier called the apparent differences between the two an “epiphenomenon,” suggesting the spat was not a symptom of any deeper problem.
“We saw each other quickly the next day to iron out all that, to say what we had to say to each other,” said Galtier told a press conference ahead of Sunday’s Ligue 1 visit to Lille.
“We had a very pleasant week at work. Everyone worked well. I enjoyed all the sessions this week and this epiphenomenon disappeared very quickly, that is to say the day after our meeting.”
Galtier said after the game that instructions “had been respected” regarding penalty takers.
“There was a precise order in this game, Kylian as number one and ‘Ney’ as number two.”
Other potential penalty takers include Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos, said Galtier, adding that it was “important for our strikers to score goals, to keep the confidence.”
Against Montpellier, in his first competitive game since opting to stay in Paris rather than join Real Madrid, the 23-year-old Mbappe scored in a 5-2 win but cut a frustrated, unhappy and even isolated figure.
Last season, Mbappe was PSG’s outstanding performer, scoring 39 goals in all competitions, while Neymar struggled.
Yet the 30-year-old Brazilian has seemed rejuvenated this season, scoring five goals in three games.

Casemiro wants to leave Real Madrid as Man Utd close in

Casemiro wants to leave Real Madrid as Man Utd close in
Updated 13 min 47 sec ago

Casemiro wants to leave Real Madrid as Man Utd close in

Casemiro wants to leave Real Madrid as Man Utd close in
  • United are set to pay an initial 60 million euros plus a further 10 million euros in add-ons for the 30-year-old
  • "He wants to try a new challenge, a new opportunity and I and the club understand that," said Ancelotti

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti confirmed on Friday Casemiro is keen to leave the European champions as Manchester United close in on the Brazilian international.
According to the BBC and The Athletic, United are set to pay an initial 60 million euros (£51 million, $61 million) plus a further 10 million euros in add-ons for the 30-year-old.
“I spoke with him this morning. He wants to try a new challenge, a new opportunity and I and the club understand that,” said Ancelotti
“For what Casemiro has done for this club and the person that he is, we have to respect his wishes. Now there are negotiations, nothing is official and he remains a Real Madrid player, but his desire is to leave.
“If that happens and there is an agreement, we have the resources to replace him.”
Casemiro has won three La Liga titles and five Champions Leagues during nine years at Madrid as he formed a formidable midfield trio with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
However, his place in Ancelotti’s preferred starting line-up has come under threat by the signing of Aurelien Tchouameni this summer for a fee that could rise to 100 million euros.
United are badly in need of new recruits after a miserable start to Erik ten Hag’s reign has left them bottom of the Premier League for the first time in 30 years.
The Red Devils will reportedly make Casemiro one of the top earners in the Premier League with a four-year deal at Old Trafford along with a club option to extend that contract by an extra season.
A lack of new signings has been one of the issues blamed for embarrassing defeats to Brighton and Brentford with Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen and Tyrell Malacia the only additions to Ten Hag’s squad so far.
Worse could still be to come for United with Liverpool up next at Old Trafford on Monday.
Even if talks progress smoothly in the coming hours, Casemiro will not be registered in time to feature in that match.


Abdulelah Mir Alem takes gold for Saudi at MMA Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi

Abdulelah Mir Alem takes gold for Saudi at MMA Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi
Updated 19 August 2022

Abdulelah Mir Alem takes gold for Saudi at MMA Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi

Abdulelah Mir Alem takes gold for Saudi at MMA Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi
  • The Kingdom’s first top award at the tournament came in the 62 kg category

ABU DHABI: Saudi MMA fighter Abdulelah Mir Alem has a won a gold medal at the 2022 IMMAF Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi.

The Saudi fighter defeated Isaac Esparza of the US in the 62 kg category of the tournament taking place at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena in the UAE capital from Aug. 17-20.

After his win, Alem expressed his happiness at claiming Saudi’s first gold of the competition and its first MMA win at international level in that weight category.

Abdulaziz Julaidan, chairman of the Saudi Mixed Martial Arts Federation and head of the Kingdom’s delegation in Abu Dhabi, praised Alem’s achievement and the role that government support for Saudi athletes has played. He highlighted the importance of the continuing programs targeting similar achievements in future competitions.


New Formula E champion Stoffel Vandoorne credits Diriyah E-Prix for kick-starting triumphant season

New Formula E champion Stoffel Vandoorne credits Diriyah E-Prix for kick-starting triumphant season
Updated 19 August 2022

New Formula E champion Stoffel Vandoorne credits Diriyah E-Prix for kick-starting triumphant season

New Formula E champion Stoffel Vandoorne credits Diriyah E-Prix for kick-starting triumphant season
  • The Belgian, 30, highlights importance of Saudi Arabian races this year as he claims his maiden world title in South Korea

RIYADH: Newly crowned ABB FIA Formula E World Champion Stoffel Vandoorne has credited the season-opening Diriyah E-Prix double-header races as a key factor in his “incredible” year as he paid tribute to his departing Mercedes-EQ team.

In the all-electric championship’s 100th race, the 30-year-old Belgian clinched his first Formula E title following a second-place finish in Round 16 of the Seoul E-Prix. The result meant he finished 33 points ahead of Jaguar’s Mitch Evans, who had triumphed in Round 15 to keep his hopes for the title alive.

It was the perfect end to Vandoorne’s season, who despite only claiming one race victory, showed consistency in picking up regular points throughout the 16 races which began in January this year at Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah E-Prix.

“I felt every race this year was very important, but to start the season at the Diriyah E-Prix with pole position and to then finish second in the first race was a very good feeling, especially as it came after a very long winter break,” he said.

“To start the season on a high is motivating for everybody, not just for myself but also for the team. It made me realize that we’re back and in good shape.

“We had won the championship the year before and it gave a lot of confidence to everyone within the team that we had the competitive tools to fight for the best results.”

The Seoul E-Prix marked the end of the Formula E chapter for Mercedes-EQ, and although Vandoorne hinted that he is likely to feature in the 2023 season, he expressed his disappointment that he will not be able to race for them again, especially after clinching their second consecutive teams’ world championship title in South Korea.

The ex-Formula One driver said: “It’s a shame, as I would’ve liked to have continued with Mercedes-EQ. When I first joined them, I was thinking of a long-term partnership, but all things have to come to an end, and we have to move on.

“Everyone knew about this decision for a long time, which gave them time to figure out their future plans. I obviously will miss racing for them, both as a team and as a brand. They are one of the biggest motorsport teams in the world and it doesn’t matter what series they enter, they are always winning. It will be a team that I’ll miss.”