Brazil’s Haddad Maia to face Halep for Canadian WTA title

Brazil’s Haddad Maia to face Halep for Canadian WTA title
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Beatriz Haddad Maia sets up to return a ball to Karolina Pliskova in the semifinals of the National Bank Open at Sobeys Stadium. (USA TODAY Sports)
Brazil’s Haddad Maia to face Halep for Canadian WTA title
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Simona Halep after defeating Jessica Pegula in the semifinals of the National Bank Open at Sobeys Stadium. (USA TODAY Sports)
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Updated 14 August 2022

Brazil’s Haddad Maia to face Halep for Canadian WTA title

Brazil’s Haddad Maia to face Halep for Canadian WTA title
  • The first Brazilian to get to the final of a WTA Masters event has now won 17 matches since June, when she won grasscourt titles in Birmingham and Nottingham

TORONTO: Simona Halep will bid for a third Canadian title at the WTA Toronto Masters on Sunday against determined Brazilian outsider Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Haddad Maia stunned 2021 finalist Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 7-6 (9/7) in the semifinals while Halep put years of big-match experience to good use in a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over seventh-seeded American Jessica Pegula.

Halep, the former world No. 1 from Romania who won 2016 and 2018 trophies in Canada, showed her definitive return to form with the victory after dropping from the top 10 in the rankings a year ago due to injury.

“We never played against each other,” Halep said. “So I didn’t really know what to expect.

“But it was a great fight. I’m really happy that I went through.

“Of course, I can improve,” Halep added. “But I’m building the confidence, I’m building the game, and I’m really happy that I’m in this position.”

Haddad Maia, who stunned world No. 1  Ita Swiatek in the third round, blunted the noted serving attack of Czech Pliskova, who fired nine aces in defeat.

The first Brazilian to get to the final of a WTA Masters event has now won 17 matches since June, when she won grasscourt titles in Birmingham and Nottingham.

The South American, ranked 24th in the world, is guaranteed to breach the Top 20 next week.

Her match was a rollercoaster, with Haddad Maia fighting off Pliskova while leading 5-1 in the opening set.

Pliskova then seized a 4-1 lead in the second only for Haddad Maia to claw her way back.

Halep, who will return to the top-10 thanks to her victory, needed two and a quarter hours to knock out American Pegula, who was the highest seed left in the field.

The 30-year-old winner of Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles could return to sixth in the world if she beats Haddad Maia on Sunday.

She will again have experience on her side as she competes in her 18th career Masters final in search of her ninth title at the elite level.

Halep lost the opening set against Pegula in 35 minutes but levelled at a set apiece thanks to an early break in the second.

Halep missed two match points on her opponent’s serve and swiped her racquet angrily on the cement as Pegula held for 4-5 in the third.

“The fire is back, it’s a good sign if I do that,” said the Romanian, who was supported by a sizeable number of compatriots in the stands.

Halep clinched the win on her third opportunity as Pegula hit the net with a return.

“I changed a little bit the tactics,” Halep said. “In the first set, it was a little bit too fast.

“She was hitting super strong and I didn’t feel the rhythm. Then I just calmed down and I tried to just push her back a little bit more.”

Halep saved 12 of the 17 break points she faced as she earned her 37th victory this season while playing in her seventh semifinal of 2022.


Argentina, Netherlands eye quarters as World Cup last 16 kicks off

Argentina, Netherlands eye quarters as World Cup last 16 kicks off
Updated 54 min 28 sec ago

Argentina, Netherlands eye quarters as World Cup last 16 kicks off

Argentina, Netherlands eye quarters as World Cup last 16 kicks off
  • Business end of the tournament kicks off with 16 teams dreaming of plotting a path to the final in Doha on December 18

DOHA: Australia take on Lionel Messi’s Argentina in a David v Goliath World Cup showdown while the United States look to ambush the Netherlands as the World Cup knockout rounds get under way on Saturday.
After a group stage full of twists and turns, the business end of the tournament kicks off with 16 teams dreaming of plotting a path to the final in Doha on December 18.
The USA and the Netherlands open the second round at the Khalifa Stadium on Saturday, with the Americans aiming to advance to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2002.
Coach Gregg Berhalter’s USA squad booked their spot in the last 16 with a 1-0 win over Iran to secure second place in Group B behind England.
While the Dutch possess the greater historical pedigree, reaching three previous World Cup finals, the USA head into the knockout rounds brimming with confidence.
“It’s a great opportunity, but it’s not something that we’re going into it thinking it’s an honor,” Berhalter said.
“We deserve to be in the position we’re in.”
The US face a Dutch team who finished first in Group A ahead of Senegal, Ecuador and Qatar without really showing their best form.
The Netherlands’ veteran coach Louis van Gaal is wary of the threat posed by the energetic Americans, describing Berhalter’s team as one of the best in the tournament.
“They have an excellent team, I would say even one of the best teams,” said Van Gaal.
“It’ll be a tough match but it’s nothing we can’t overcome. We also have a good team.”
In Saturday’s other knockout game, South American giants Argentina face an Australia side who confounded all expectations by getting out of a Group D that included defending champions France, Denmark and Tunisia.
However Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is not ready to take anything for granted having already seen his team suffer a shock loss to Saudi Arabia earlier in the tournament.
“Whether or not they are inferior to us remains to be seen,” Scaloni said. “Forget who is theoretically favorites and let’s play football.”
Australia coach Graham Arnold meanwhile said he expects the Socceroos to raise their game once more against the star-studded Argentines.
“Playing against that type of talent, and that name I think resonates right across the world — it’s a football nation and it is inspiring to play against them,” Arnold said.
The conclusion of the group phase on Friday marked the departure of four more teams from the 32-nation tournament.
South Korea battled their way into the last 16 after a last-gasp winner in a 2-1 win over Portugal which in turn eliminated Uruguay, 2-0 victors over Ghana.
Tottenham forward Son Heung-min produced a brilliant assist for Hwang Hee-chan to score the goal that secured a 2-1 victory.
The Korean players then watched the final minutes of Uruguay’s match on a mobile phone as they waited for their place in the last 16 to be confirmed.
Uruguay, leading 2-0 against the Africans, needed one more goal to go through but fell agonizingly short despite piling on the pressure, crashing out by virtue of goals scored.
Uruguay’s campaign ended in disarray with veteran Luis Suarez in tears on the substitutes bench while striker Edinson Cavani angrily knocked over a pitchside VAR monitor as he left the field — an apparent protest at several decisions which went against the team.
Switzerland edged a bad-tempered encounter with Serbia to progress, winning 3-2 to earn a meeting with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.
Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka was at the center of a melee between players form both sides after a clash with Serbian defender Nikola Milenkovic.
Brazil won Group G despite dropping nine players from their starting lineup and losing 1-0 to Cameroon with Vincent Aboubakar heading in a stoppage-time winner to claim a memorable win that could not prevent the African side being eliminated.


Tickets for F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix open for booking 

Tickets for F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix open for booking 
Updated 03 December 2022

Tickets for F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix open for booking 

Tickets for F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix open for booking 
  • Saudi Arabia is one of the newest places on the Formula 1 calendar

JEDDAH: The Saudi Motorsport Company, the promoter of Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2023, offered access on Friday to early ticket packages for the third race of STC Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix — the second round of the F1 world championship — to be staged on the Jeddah Corniche circuit from March 17-19, 2023.

As of Friday, local and international audiences can pre-book tickets for 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on www.saudiarabiangp.com.

Early booking ticket holders will enjoy a discount of up to 10 percent for the premium hospitality category, and a 30 percent discount for the main stands and general admission category. This offer will be valid until the first week of January 2023 with a limited number of seats.

Saudi Arabia is one of the newest places on the Formula 1 calendar, as it hosted its first race in December 2021, and its second one after only four months in March 2022. 

In the first race, the competition intensified between Red Bull driver Max Verstappen and Mercedes driver and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, ending in a hard-fought victory for the Mercedes driver and both equal on points one round before the end of the season.

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2022 had Verstappen winning after a fierce competition with Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, who took the lead for most of the race until Verstappen managed to overtake him three laps before the finish line.


Saudi Dakar Rally 2023 route unveiled

Saudi Dakar Rally 2023 route unveiled
Updated 03 December 2022

Saudi Dakar Rally 2023 route unveiled

Saudi Dakar Rally 2023 route unveiled

JEDDAH: The details of the fourth edition of Saudi Dakar Rally in 2023 were announced by the Dakar Rally Organizing Committee in a virtual press conference on Thursday.

Present during the press conference were Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Federation of Motors and Motorcycles as well as of the Saudi Motorsports Company; Jan Luminaire, CEO of Amaury Sport Organization; and David Castera, director of the Dakar Rally.

During the conference the route of the new edition of the rally — held for the fourth consecutive year in Saudi Arabia — was revealed. It will take place from Dec. 31 to Jan. 15, with 453 vehicles across various categories of the race, including 89 vehicles in the Dakar Classic race, with a distance of more than 8,500 km.

This is the longest for the special stages subject to timing since 2014, and is expected to attract drivers from more than 68 countries.

The rally track for this year consists of a preliminary stage and 14 regular stages. Drivers will begin the rally with an introductory trip from the sea camp in the northwestern mountain regions before heading to the far southeast, passing through AlUla, Hail, Dawadmi, Haradh, the Empty Quarter, Shaybah, Hofuf and Dammam.

The Saudi Dakar Rally last January witnessed the participation of a group of the most prominent global drivers, attracting more than 1,000 racers representing 70 countries from around the world. The 2022 edition of the event ran for 14 days across 12 stages and six categories.

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal stressed that hosting Dakar Rally for the fourth time in a row confirms the Kingdom’s ability to host the most important international events, and contributes to consolidating its deserved position on the global sports map.

He said that due to the Kingdom’s capabilities and potential, Saudi Arabia has become a distinguished destination for fans of the sport, based on the nature of the rally as one of the largest and most important events on the motor sport agenda, leading to a spotlight on the diversity and geographical distinction of the Kingdom, which makes the rally stronger.

He added: “We have begun preparations with all concerned authorities to ensure the provision of all the required factors and elements, and to ensure success in organizing in a way that reflects our ambitions and underlines the transformation march of the Kingdom.”

The stages of the race will be as follows:

- Preliminary stage (Saturday, Dec. 31): Al-Bahr Camp — Al-Bahr Camp, for a distance of 11 km.

- First Stage (Sunday, Jan. 1): Camp Al-Bahr — Al-Bahr Camp, a circular stage for a distance of 603 km (Special stage: 368 km).

- Second Stage (Monday, Jan. 2): Al-Bahr Camp — AlUla, 590 km (Special Stage: 431 km).

- Third stage (Tuesday, Jan. 3): AlUla - Hail, 669 km (Special stage: 447 km).

- Fourth Stage (Wednesday, Jan. 4): Hail — Hail, circular stage for a distance of 573 km (Special stage: 425 km).

- Fifth Stage (Thursday, Jan. 5): Hail — Hail, circular stage for a distance of 646 km (Special stage: 375 km).

- Sixth stage (Friday, Jan. 6): Hail — Dawadmi, 877 km (Special stage: 466 km).

- Seven Stage (Saturday, Jan. 7): Dawadmi — Dawadmi, a circular stage for a distance of 641 km (Special stage: 473 km).

- Eighth Stage (Sunday, Jan. 8): Dawadmi — Riyadh, 722 km (Special Stage: 407 km).

- Rest Day (Monday, Jan. 9): Riyadh.

- Ninth Stage (Tuesday, Jan. 10): Riyadh — Haradh, 710 km (Special Stage: 439 km).

- 10th Stage (Wednesday, Jan. 11): Haradh — Shaybah, 623 km (Special Stage: 114 km).

- 11th Stage (Thursday, Jan. 12): Shaybah — Al-Ardah, marathon stage 426 km (Special stage: 275 km).

- 12th Stage (Friday, Jan. 13): Al-Ardah — Shaybah, marathon stage 375 km (Special stage: 185 km).

- 13th Stage (Saturday, Jan. 14): Shaybah — Hofuf, 669 km (Special Stage: 154 km).

- 14th Stage (Sunday, Jan. 15): Hofuf — Dammam, 414 km (Special Stage: 136 km).


Cameroon first African team to taste victory against Brazil at a World Cup

Cameroon first African team to taste victory against Brazil at a World Cup
Updated 03 December 2022

Cameroon first African team to taste victory against Brazil at a World Cup

Cameroon first African team to taste victory against Brazil at a World Cup
  • Despite the victory on Friday, Cameroon finished third in their group and was eliminated

AP LUSAIL, Qatar: Cameroon coach Rigobert Song came full circle on a memorable and bittersweet night for African soccer.

Jerome Ngom Mbekeli, the only member of Cameroon’s team who plays for a Cameroonian club, made an inspiring run and cross to set up Vincent Aboubakar’s header and stoppage-time winner in a 1-0 victory to make the Indomitable Lions the first African nation to beat Brazil at a World Cup.

Despite the victory on Friday, Cameroon finished third in their group and was eliminated.

The 24-year-old Ngom Mbekeli was Cameroon’s final substitution, coming on four minutes from time. Song credited his own former coach, Henri Michel, for giving him an opportunity in 1994 when he played for local club Tonnerre Yaounde as he was making his World Cup debut.

“You need to trust youth,” Song said through a translator. “Henri Michel gave me an opportunity. He saw the potential in me. Now I’m the coach and I see potential in my young players.

“I knew (Ngom Mbekeli) was a good, quality player. He just needed an opportunity to show that. Hopefully his performance can motivate other local players.”

Goalkeeper Devis Epassy — thrust into action after usual starter Andre Onana was sent home for disciplinary reasons after a dispute with Song before Cameroon’s previous game — earned player of the match honors for a series of difficult saves.

“No one knew me — even in Cameroon — until I started playing for the national team a year ago,” Epassy said through a translator. “We can be proud of what we’ve done tonight. We showed that we can also be a top team.”

Both Epassy and Aboubakar play for clubs in Saudi Arabia.

With eight goals in seven games, the 22-year-old Aboubakar was the top scorer at the African Cup of Nations in January.

Song and Samuel Eto’o, Cameroon’s soccer federation president, are instilling a strict discipline policy modeled after the European clubs that they once played for — Song as a reliable defender and Eto’o as a standout striker.

“That’s where we let ourselves down in the past,” Song said. “Perhaps we didn’t do everything right, so we’re focusing on discipline.

“The team always needs to take precedent over individuals. When you play for the national team you need to do what’s expected of you.”

While Brazil had already advanced and used mostly reserves, Cameroon still became the first team to beat the five-time champion in the World Cup group stage since Norway did it at the 1998 tournament in France — ending an unbeaten run of 17 group matches.

“We realize now that we could have done better,” Song said. “But we’re a young team and today we’ve seen a young team getting stronger and stronger, and they should be congratulated on their performance.

“It’s a real shame that we have to go home now,” Song added. “But we are going to keep working and keep improving.”


Anthony Davis, LeBron James take charge as Lakers beat Bucks in thriller

Anthony Davis, LeBron James take charge as Lakers beat Bucks in thriller
Updated 03 December 2022

Anthony Davis, LeBron James take charge as Lakers beat Bucks in thriller

Anthony Davis, LeBron James take charge as Lakers beat Bucks in thriller
  • Miami had a split of two games in Boston, beating the Celtics after Boston’s Jaylen Brown banked in a long 3-pointer to force overtime

MILWAUKEE: Anthony Davis scored a season-high 44 points, LeBron James overtook Magic Johnson on the NBA’s career assists list and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 133-129 in a thriller Friday night.

Davis and James helped give Lakers coach Darvin Ham a triumphant return to Milwaukee. Ham worked on Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s staff from 2018-22, and the former colleagues shared a big hug before the game.

Ham, an assistant coach on Milwaukee’s 2021 championship team, also played for the Bucks from 1999-2002.

The Lakers withstood a 40-point night from Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who also had seven rebounds and five assists. The Lakers also spoiled the season debut of Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, who had 17 points and seven assists in his return from offseason wrist surgery.

During a fourth quarter that featured three ties and six lead changes, James put the Lakers ahead for good by sinking a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:22 left.

James finished with 28 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. He improved his career assist total to 10,144 and moved into sixth place on the list, ahead of Johnson (10,133).

HEAT 120 CELTICS 116, OT

In Boston, Bam Adebayo scored 28 points, Tyler Herro had 26 and Miami completed a split of two games in Boston, beating the Celtics after Boston’s Jaylen Brown banked in a long 3-pointer to force overtime.

Heat scoring leader Jimmy Butler returned to the lineup and had 25 points in 36 minutes after missing the previous seven games with a sore right knee. He added 15 rebounds.

Kyle Lowry chipped in with 20 points before fouling out in OT for the Heat, who sent Boston to just its second loss in 16 games.

Brown sent the game to overtime by banking in his long 3 with 1.7 seconds to play in regulation. He finished with 37 points.

Boston star Jayson Tatum scored just 14 points on a cold shooting night, going 5 of 18 from the floor, including 0 of 7 on 3-point attempts. He had 49 points in the Celtics’ 134-121 victory on Wednesday night.

ROCKETS 122 SUNS 121

In Phoenix, Jalen Green scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half and Houston overcame a 16-point deficit to stun short-handed Phoenix.

Houston won after blowing a six-point lead in the final two minutes. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne made back-to-back 3-pointers to tie it at 121, but the Rockets pushed ahead by a point when Green made one of two free throws with 28.8 seconds remaining.

That set up a frantic final possession that included four missed shots by the Suns, including a 16-foot jumper by Booker at the buzzer.

It was one of the few blemishes for Booker, who led the Suns with 41 points on 15-of-25 shooting. The three-time All-Star is in the midst of one of the best scoring stretches of his career. He had 44 points at Sacramento on Monday night and 51 against Chicago at home Wednesday night.

HAWKS 117 NUGGETS 109

In Atlanta, Dejounte Murray scored 34 points, rookie A.J. Griffin tied a career high with 24 subbing for injured Trae Young and short-handed Atlanta beat Denver.

Denver star Nikola Jokic, the two-time defending NBA MVP, had just four points in the first half on 2-of-5 shooting, but finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

The Hawks were riddled with injuries before the game with Young, their leading scorer, sidelined by soreness in his right shoulder and John Collins out at least two weeks and De’Andre Hunter out at least one week. In all, Atlanta had eight players listed on the injury report.

HORNETS 117 WIZARDS 116

In Charlotte, N.C.,Terry Rozier scored 25 points, Kelly Oubre Jr. added 22 and Charlotte held off a second-half rally by Bradley Beal and Washington to hand the Wizards their fifth loss in six games.

P.J. Washington had 21 points and Mason Plumlee added 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Hornets. They have won three of their last four.

Beal scored 33 points, but turned the ball over twice and missed an open jumper in the final minute with Washington trailing by one.

NETS 114 RAPTORS 105

In New York, Kyrie Irving scored 27 points and Brooklyn built a huge lead in beating Toronto for their fourth victory in a row.

Brooklyn led by 36 points midway through the second quarter and held a 93-72 advantage at the start of the fourth.

Kevin Durant had 17 points and Nic Claxton added 15 for the Nets.

Pascal Siakam scored 24 points for Toronto.

PELICANS 117 SPURS 99

In San Antonio, Zion Williamson scored 30 points and matched a career high with 15 rebounds and New Orleans past San Antonio, with the Spurs without coach Gregg Popovich.

Jonas Valanciunas added 21 points and 11 rebounds for New Orleans, which has won three straight and eight of 10 to remain atop the Southwest Division ahead of Memphis.

San Antonio has lost 10 straight, matching the franchise’s longest losing streak set in 1987.

Popovich was at the AT&T Cente.r but missed the game due to a minor medical procedure. He will also miss a home game Sunday against Phoenix. Former Philadelphia coach Brett Brown coached the Spurs in Popovich’s absence.

GRIZZLIES 117 76ERS 109

In Memphis, Tennessee, Ja Morant had 28 points and eight rebounds, Jaren Jackson Jr. added 22 points and four blocks — one in the closing minute — and Memphis beat Philadelphia.

Dillon Brooks finished with 17 points to help Memphis win for third time in four games.

Joel Embiid had 35 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for Philadelpia. Tobias Harris added 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Shake Milton had 17 points and six assists.

The Grizzlies led by 18 early in the fourth, but the 76ers had another push left, cutting the Memphis lead to single digits with about five minutes left and to 111-106 with three minutes to go.

CAVALIERS 107 MAGIC 96

In Cleveland, Donovan Mitchell scored 34 points, Evan Mobley had 19 points and 13 rebounds and Cleveland beat Orlando.

Mitchell poured in 16 points in the first nine minutes, outscoring Orlando himself by one, and the Cavaliers never relinquished control. Cleveland eventually led by 20 in winning for the 10th time in 11 home games this season.

Rookie forward Paolo Banchero scored 22 points for NBA-worst Orlando. They have lost seven straight to fall to 5-18.