Title holder Swiatek dumped out by Ostapenko at US Open as Djokovic cruises through to last eight

Title holder Swiatek dumped out by Ostapenko at US Open as Djokovic cruises through to last eight
Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia after defeating Iga Swiatek of Poland during their women's singles fourth round match at the US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sunday. (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)
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Updated 04 September 2023
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Title holder Swiatek dumped out by Ostapenko at US Open as Djokovic cruises through to last eight

Title holder Swiatek dumped out by Ostapenko at US Open as Djokovic cruises through to last eight
  • The mercurial Ostapenko, who had never made it to the last 16 in New York before this week, goes on to face title contender and home favorite Coco Gauff in the last eight after blasting Swiatek out of the tournament
  • Djokovic swept into his 13th US Open quarterfinal, cruising past 105th-ranked Croatian qualifier Borna Gojo

NEW YORK: Defending champion Iga Swiatek crashed out of the US Open on Sunday after defeat by Jelena Ostapenko and will lose her No.1 ranking, while Novak Djokovic marched into the quarterfinals.

Swiatek grabbed the opening set against Ostapenko but the unpredictable Latvian stormed back to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 and secure her fourth victory in as many meetings with the Polish star.

The mercurial Ostapenko, who had never made it to the last 16 in New York before this week, goes on to face title contender and home favorite Coco Gauff in the last eight after blasting Swiatek out of the tournament.

“She plays well against me, she’s always done that,” said Swiatek.

“I’m just surprised that my level changed so drastically. I don’t really know what happened with my game, I felt no control suddenly.”

Undeterred by falling behind, Ostapenko’s typically fearless and aggressive approach rendered Swiatek helpless and ensures there will be a new world No. 1 after the US Open.

Swiatek’s 75-week reign will come to an end, with rival Aryna Sabalenka set to take over top spot.

“I always expect a tough battle against Iga, she’s such a great player and won many Slams and is so consistent,” said Ostapenko, the 20th seed and 2017 French Open champion.

“I knew I had to be aggressive and play my game because that’s what she doesn’t like.

“I was just thinking that I have to play until the very last point, until we shake hands. I felt like I was playing better and didn’t give her many chances.”

Gauff ended Caroline Wozniacki’s fairytale Grand Slam comeback earlier Sunday as the sixth seed saw off the former world number one 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

The 19-year-old registered her 15th win in 16 matches, a run including titles in Washington and Cincinnati last month.

Gauff sparked into life after dropping the opening two games to pocket the opening set, but Wozniacki — — playing her first Grand Slam in over three years — wound back the clock to level the match.

Two-time US Open runner-up Wozniacki, 33, broke to start the deciding set, triggering a ferocious response from Gauff who swept the final six games to close out a gutsy victory.

Wozniacki, who made her tour debut when Gauff was only one, retired after the 2020 Australian Open to start a family, giving birth to two children.

She was trying to emulate Kim Clijsters, who beat the Dane in the 2009 US Open final on her own return to Grand Slam tennis from maternity leave.

Djokovic swept into his 13th US Open quarterfinal, cruising past 105th-ranked Croatian qualifier Borna Gojo 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 to advance to a showdown with American No.1 Taylor Fritz.

After recovering from two sets down in the previous round, Djokovic dictated from the outset against 25-year-old outsider Gojo who had won just one Grand Slam match prior to this week.

Djokovic broke twice in the first set, the 23-time Grand Slam winner shaking off an early wobble in the second and procuring another break in the third to polish off Gojo without the drama of his preceding five-set victory over Laslo Djere.

The 36-year-old Serbian star will on Tuesday look to continue his dominance of Fritz, a player he’s beaten in all seven past meetings including a one-sided affair in Cincinnati last month.

“He’s been playing some terrific tennis particularly on home soil here in the States,” Djokovic said of Fritz, the only man yet to drop a set so far.

“Obviously the matches are going to get tougher from here onwards and I’m ready. It’s going to be great.”

Fritz became the third American man to reach the quarter-finals Sunday after a straight-sets win over Swiss qualifier Dominic Stricker.

The ninth seed knocked out world number 128 Stricker 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-4 to match his mother Kathy May’s run to the 1978 US Open quarterfinals.

He joins compatriots Frances Tiafoe and Ben Shelton in the next round. It is the first time the US has had three men’s quarterfinalists in New York since 2005.

Tiafoe, seeded 10th, advanced to an all-American quarter-final against 47th-ranked Shelton after defeating Australia’s Rinky Hijikata 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.

The 25-year-old Tiafoe reached the semifinals of the US Open last year where he lost in five sets to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz.

Meanwhile Shelton, 20, took down 14th-seeded compatriot Tommy Paul in four sets to reach his second Grand Slam quarter-final of the year.

He avenged his loss to Paul in the last eight of the Australian Open, winning 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to become the youngest American man to reach the US Open quarters since Andy Roddick in 2002.


Al-Hilal book Asian Champions League quarter-final clash with Saudi Pro League rivals Al-Ittihad

Al-Hilal book Asian Champions League quarter-final clash with Saudi Pro League rivals Al-Ittihad
Updated 23 February 2024
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Al-Hilal book Asian Champions League quarter-final clash with Saudi Pro League rivals Al-Ittihad

Al-Hilal book Asian Champions League quarter-final clash with Saudi Pro League rivals Al-Ittihad
  • After a scare when they fell behind to Sepahan of Iran, Al-Hilal rallied to win the game 3-1 and go through 6-2 on aggregate
  • With Al-Nassr winning on Wednesday and Al-Ittihad successful earlier on Thursday, Saudi Arabia has three teams in the last eight of the competition

Al-Hilal defeated Sepahan of Iran 6-2 on aggregate on Thursday to book a mouth-watering Asian Champions League quarter-final tie against Saudi Pro League rivals Al-Ittihad.

After winning the first leg 3-1 away from home last week, the four-time winners of the competition survived a scare in the second leg before comfortably clinching victory by the same scoreline.

This was a bit harsh on the visitors, who played their part in an entertaining and open clash during which both sides created plenty of chances. In the end, however, as Neymar watched from the stands, the Saudis progressed comfortably, helped along the way when Sepahan were reduced to 10 men while ahead in the second half.

Salem Al-Dawsari, making his 400th appearance for the club, got the equalizer in the 76th minute, after Farshad Ahmadzadeh put the visitors in front nine minutes after the break. With just seven minutes left on the clock, Ruben Neves came up with a spectacular strike that gave Al-Hilal the lead, and there was still time for Aleksandar Mitrovic to add a third.

In the end, it was a more comfortable result for Al-Hilal than looked likely in the 54th minute, when Ali Aarabi swung over a cross from the left and Ramin Rezaeian headed the ball back across the face of goal for Ahmadzadeh to bundle home from close range.

The sparked plenty of nerves among the home fans in the Kingdom Arena but they were able to breathe a little easier when, with 19 minutes remaining, the visitors were reduced to 10 men. Siavash Yazadni brought down Malcom as the Brazilian was running through on goal and, after a check with the video assistant referee, he was shown a straight red card.

Al-Hilal quickly took advantage of the one-man advantage when, five minutes later, Ali Al-Bulaihi found Al-Dawsari outside the area and the winger turned to beat two defenders, then stroked the ball home. At that point, the home fans could rest easy in the knowledge that their team were as good as through to the last eight.

It was a fine goal by Al-Dawsari but just six minutes later, Neves pulled something even more special out of the hat. The ball fell to the Portuguese star outside the area, he chested it down and volleyed home a curling shot that flew into the top corner.

In the final moments of added time, Mitrovic scored a goal that might not live as long in the memory but showed his killer instinct as he swept home a smart pass from Malcom to make it 3-1.

With Al-Nassr winning on Wednesday and Al-Ittihad successful earlier on Thursday, Saudi Arabia has three teams in the last eight of the competition. The showdown between Al-Ittihad and Al-Hilal is the quarter-final tie that many fans, inside and outside the country, will be most looking forward to. The first leg is scheduled for March 5.


Al-Ittihad progress to Asian Champions League quarter-finals despite early Benzema own goal

Al-Ittihad progress to Asian Champions League quarter-finals despite early Benzema own goal
Updated 22 February 2024
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Al-Ittihad progress to Asian Champions League quarter-finals despite early Benzema own goal

Al-Ittihad progress to Asian Champions League quarter-finals despite early Benzema own goal
  • The Jeddah giants leave it late but progress after a hard-fought 2-1 home victory over Navbahor of Uzbekistan

Saudi Pro League side Al-Ittihad squeezed into the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on Thursday thanks to a hard-fought 2-1 home victory over Navbahor of Uzbekistan, following a goalless draw in the first leg last week.

The Jeddah giants recovered from a Karim Bemzema own goal midway through the first half to take control of the game, level the score and eventually go through thanks to a late Navbahor own goal. It was no less than the Saudis deserved as they made most of the running and created the bulk of the chances.

Fabinho had the earliest opportunity to open the scoring but the former Liverpool midfielder fired just over the bar from outside the box.

The opening goal came from a familiar source but not in the way fans expected. The home crowd was silenced in the 25th minute when Jamshid Iskanderov floated over a free-kick from the right, and former Real Madrid star Benzema met it on the edge of the six-yard box to send a powerful header into his own net past a startled Abdullah Al-Mayouf.

The goal came out of nothing, against the run of play, but Al-Ittihad quickly regrouped, refocused their efforts and continued to dominate the game.

Benzema redeemed himself on the stroke of half-time, nodding down a corner to the near post where Abderrazak Hamdallah was waiting to sweep the ball home from close range.

The second half unfolded in much the same fashion, with Al-Ittihad enjoying most of the possession and creating more of the chances. Midway through the period, however, they were reminded of Navbahor’s goal threat when Filip Ivankovic fired just wide from the right side of the area.

With 15 minutes remaining, Benzema had the ball in the net, the correct one this time, when he fired home after some good work from Ahmed Hegazy. After a lengthy intervention, however, the video assistant referee ruled it out.

This only delayed the celebrations of the home fans, though, as three minutes from time the Tigers took a decisive lead, thanks to another own goal.

Substitute Saleh Al-Amri’s corner from the right failed to clear the first man but, in swinging a boot, Toma Tabatadze sliced his attempted clearance and the ball looped over the keeper into the far corner of the net.

Navbahor did their utmost to get back on level terms but time was against them and it was not to be. As a result, Al-Ittihad, back-to-back winners of the competition in 2004 and 2005, remain in the hunt for a third continental crown.


Saudi Arabia continue fine form with ICC World Cup Challenge League win over Kuwait

Saudi Arabia continue fine form with ICC World Cup Challenge League win over Kuwait
Updated 22 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia continue fine form with ICC World Cup Challenge League win over Kuwait

Saudi Arabia continue fine form with ICC World Cup Challenge League win over Kuwait
  • The 50-over competition serves as a preliminary qualifier for the World Cup
  • The Greens went into the opening Group B match full of confidence, having recently won the 20-over ACC Challenger Cup in Thailand

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s cricketers beat Gulf rivals Kuwait on Thursday in the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League play-off in Kuala Lumpur.
The 50-over competition serves as a preliminary qualifier for the World Cup, which is to be held in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia in 2027.
The Greens went into the opening Group B match full of confidence, having recently won the 20-over ACC Challenger Cup in Thailand as well as a quadrangular T20 series in Bangkok against the hosts, Maldives and Bhutan.

Saudi Arabia posted a solid total of 231 all over off the back of valuable contributions from Kashif Siddique, who scored 71 runs, star batter Abdul Waheed (40) and captain Hisham Shaikh (40).
Mohamed Shafeeq was best with the ball for Kuwait, finishing his innings with three wickets for 37 runs from his six overs.
In response, Kuwait’s batting line-up had little to offer in the face of efficient bowling from the Saudi attack.
Kuwaiti captain Mohammad Aslam showed some mettle and grit by batting for a 57-run half-century from 84 balls, but he was the only one to offer any resistance as Kuwait were bowled out for just 134 runs, some 97 runs short of the Saudi total.
Usman Najeeb was the pick of the Saudi bowlers as he picked up three wickets and conceded only 23 runs, while Ishtiaq Ahmad and skipper Shaikh claimed two wickets apiece.
In their next Group B encounter, Saudi Arabia face an Italian side riding high after beating one-time World Cup participants Bermuda by a commanding 157 runs.


Milan and Benfica book spots in Europa League last 16

Milan and Benfica book spots in Europa League last 16
Updated 22 February 2024
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Milan and Benfica book spots in Europa League last 16

Milan and Benfica book spots in Europa League last 16
  • Benjamin Bourigeaud scored a hat-trick for Rennes, including a pair of penalties
  • Benfica also saw off French opposition as a 0-0 draw away to Toulouse

PARIS: AC Milan overcame a spirited Rennes 5-3 on aggregate despite a 3-2 loss in Thursday’s second leg to reach the Europa League last 16, where they will be joined by fellow former European champions Benfica.
Benjamin Bourigeaud scored a hat-trick for Rennes, including a pair of penalties, but goals from Luka Jovic and Rafael Leao ensured Milan were never really in danger of blowing a 3-0 lead from the first leg.
Benfica also saw off French opposition as a 0-0 draw away to Toulouse was enough to send the Portuguese side through following their 2-1 victory in last week’s first leg in Lisbon.
Marseille host Shakhtar Donetsk later in Jean-Louis Gasset’s first match at the helm following the exit of Gennaro Gattuso. The tie is level at 2-2 after the opening match in Hamburg.
Last season’s runners-up Roma take on Feyenoord in the Italian capital after a 1-1 draw in the first leg.
Sporting Lisbon are 3-1 up on Swiss champions Young Boys going into the return fixture, while Galatasaray have a 3-2 edge over Sparta Prague.
The draw for the last 16 will be made at UEFA headquarters in Nyon on Friday.


Kompany driven by family history as Burnley battle drop

Kompany driven by family history as Burnley battle drop
Updated 22 February 2024
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Kompany driven by family history as Burnley battle drop

Kompany driven by family history as Burnley battle drop
  • The Clarets are on course for relegation after a 5-0 hammering at home to Arsenal left them in 19th place
  • Offering an emotional account of his inner drive, Kompany said on Thursday: “It’s a deep answer, it’s about where you come from”

LONDON: Burnley boss Vincent Kompany has revealed his father’s experiences as a political refugee give him the drive and determination to lead the club’s fight for Premier League survival.
The Clarets are on course for relegation after a 5-0 hammering at home to Arsenal left them in 19th place with just three wins this season, but Kompany’s resolve has roots far beyond the football pitch.
Explaining his hunger to succeed, the former Manchester City captain cited his father Pierre, who fled what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo for Belgium as a dissident in 1975 having protested against the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko.
He put his son on the path to a glittering sporting career and later became Belgium’s first black mayor.
Offering an emotional account of his inner drive, Kompany said on Thursday: “It’s a deep answer, it’s about where you come from.
“Where I come from is my dad, who was a political refugee. He had to flee a country not just at war, but as a dictatorship where he was getting whipped in his twenties because he was against the regime over there.
“It’s fleeing from one part of the country to the other, it’s losing family members, it’s everything you’ve experienced. It’s where I come from.
“You say where does the drive and desire come from? I have so many reasons to have that fire in me every single day. So many reasons why I can’t ever do less.
“It’s bigger than one result, or a bad month, or anything like that.”
Kompany, whose side face fellow strugglers Crystal Palace on Saturday, also pushed back against the notion that this season’s struggles were a new experience for someone more accustomed to lifting silverware than fighting the drop.
“That’s the bulk of the known experiences, yeah. But a gambler never tells you about his losses, right?” he said.
“That (a serial winner) is what you see, but my experiences feel different. I do feel I’ve had to overcome and do a lot to get where I was.”