Archive for October, 2019

Stosur and Tomic advance in Paris

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

Australian spearheads Samantha Stosur and Bernard Tomic have safely progressed to the second round of the French Open in Paris.

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Riding high after claiming her first title of the year in Strasbourg at the weekend, Stosur downed rising American Madison Brengle 6-1 6-3 before Tomic dug in for an impressive 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4 victory over Italian qualifier Luca Vanni.

Stosur’s victory thrust the women’s 26th seed and former finalist into a meeting on Wednesday with French wildcard Amandine Hesse, who earlier eliminated Jarmila Gajdosova in three sets.

Seeded 27th in the men’s event, Tomic could face Davis Cup teammate Thanasi Kokkinakis next after grinding out just his second win in six trips to Paris – and first since 2012.

Vanni had beaten Tomic in a tough three-setter at altitude in Madrid earlier this month and threatened to get the better of him once again on Monday.

Tomic, though, hung tough and snared the decisive break in the fourth game of the pivotal third set to take control.

He broke the Italian again early in the fourth before serving out the match after two and 32 minutes.

Ajla Tomljanovic was the first Australian through to round two storming past compatriot Casey Dellacqua 6-2 6-2 in just 62 minutes.

The 22-year-old world No.58 struck 29 winners to Dellacqua’s seven to progress to a second-round showdown on Wednesday with German 11th seed Angelique Kerber.

“Casey’s a very tricky player and we’ve had some tough matches in the past so I was ready to battle today,” Tomljanovic said.

“Even if the scoreline says it was easy, it really didn’t go that way.

“I had to stay focused from the beginning and I’m very happy with this and the way I performed today.”

Coached in tandem by Samantha Stosur’s mentor David Taylor, Tomljanovic upset former world No.2 Agnieszka Radwanska en route to the last 16 in Paris last year and looms as a dark horse to make another strong run in 2015.

Like Dellacqua, Gajdosova and fellow Australian Sam Groth crashed out of the claycourt major on day two.

Gajdosova suffered a disappointing 2-6 6-3 6-2 loss to French wildcard Amandine Hesse, while her ex-husband Groth was gallant in a 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-3 6-3 loss to accomplished 21st seed Pablo Cuevas.

Ranked 272nd in the world, Hesse had never previously won a grand slam match before.

After taking the opening set, Gajdosova’s game dropped off as the local hope raised hers to thrill a partisan French crowd on Court 3.

Early goals seal Norwich’s win in playoff final

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

Cameron Jerome put Norwich ahead in the 12th minute before Nathan Redmond stunned Boro with a second three minutes later to see the Canaries back in the top flight after one season in the second tier.

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The Canaries, who finished the regular season in third place behind Bournemouth and Watford, beat local rivals Ipswich Town 4-2 on aggregate in their playoff semi-final to reach the Wembley final.

They can now look forward to receiving at least 120 million pounds in revenue from prize money, TV rights and sponsorship.

Norwich skipper Russell Martin told Sky Sports: “It’s emotional after last year, which was so hard to take. Middlesborugh did brilliantly this season but we put in probably our best performance of the season.”

Norwich almost opened the scoring after nine minutes when Bradley Johnson’s sweet left-foot shot from 20 metres hit the bar after Jerome completely missed the ball with his head.

Middlesbrough immediately broke down the other end and Jelle Vossen struck the angle of bar and post with a fine effort with the outside of his right foot from 25 metres.

But it was Norwich who took the lead when Jerome tucked the ball past goalkeeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos from close range after taking the ball off Spaniard Daniel Ayala on the left.

Boro, who were late arriving at Wembley after their coach got stuck in heavy traffic, looked half asleep as Jerome was allowed to make his way unchallenged towards the near post.

Midfielder Redmond added Norwich’s second with a low right-foot strike into the far corner after controlling a cross from Steven Whittaker with his left following a fine flowing build-up.

Middlesbrough looked more dangerous after the break and began to pose some problems for Norwich with Patrick Bamford, on loan from Chelsea, at last testing goalkeeper John Ruddy.

Norwich should have scored again when Martin headed over from a corner and although Boro applied some pressure late on they never looked like salvaging anything from the match.

The win was a triumph for the Canaries’ 33-year-old manager Alex Neil, who joined the club in January from Hamilton having led the Scottish side into the top flight last year via a playoff success.

Norwich’s victory was also cheered by TV chef Delia Smith, the club’s joint majority shareholder with husband Michael Wynn Jones, who was celebrating with the Canaries fans at the end.

(Writing by Ken Ferris; Editing by Mike Collett)

Coughing Sharapova canters into French Open second round

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

The second seed, who will next face fellow Russian Vitalia Diatchenko, was barely bothered by a cold in a late-afternoon canter on Court Philippe Chatrier.

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“I’m getting over it, and hopefully it will pass by soon,” Sharapova, who warmed up for Roland Garros by winning the Italian Open, told a news conference.

Sharapova, wearing a sailor shirt and a matching blue skirt, wasted chances to move 4-0 up as Kanepi broke back to trail 3-2, but normal service soon resumed.

The double Roland Garros champion won three games in a row to win the opening set having made only four unforced errors.

Kanepi buried a backhand into the net to hand Sharapova a break in the fourth game of the second set, but the Estonian broke back as the unforced errors started to pile up on the Russian’s stats sheet.

Sharapova wasted one match point but a Kanepi double fault ensured a routine victory.

It was not too easy, however, on a windswept centre court.

“I had a tough opponent ahead of me. I knew that it was going to be tough and it wasn’t going to depend on the tennis,” she said.

“And the conditions were pretty difficult as well. So really, overall just happy I got through and have a day off tomorrow and I should be better by then.”

Sharapova wasted no time in post-match interviews to the disappointment of the crowd who booed her out of the court.

“Of course I totally understand that, you know, everyone usually does post-interviews and answers a few questions to the crowd. It’s absolutely normal,” she said.

“I’m not making any excuses but I’ve got to do what I have to do.”

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Martyn Herman and Justin Palmer)

Thurston backs NSW’s halves pairing

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

In a surprise shot in the arm for Mitchell Pearce, Queensland’s milestone man Johnathan Thurston has backed the much maligned NSW half’s switch to pivot for Wednesday night’s State of Origin opener.

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Cynics believe NSW may be at sixes and sevens with their halves after Blues coach Laurie Daley pitchforked the unproven Pearce into the untried position of five-eighth alongside incumbent Trent Hodkinson.

But Thurston admitted he was living proof that the Sydney Roosters halfback could make the Blues No.6 jersey his own.

Groomed as a pivot at his first NRL club, the Bulldogs, Thurston has interchanged between the halves positions effortlessly for the Cowboys, Queensland and Australia, claiming three Dally M Medals and eight straight Origin series wins along the way.

“Yeah, I grew up playing a lot of five-eighth, playing in that position is not unfamiliar – I was recruited by the Cowboys as a six so I am comfortable with it,” Thurston said.

And he surprisingly backed Pearce to do the same.

“They (Pearce, Hodkinson) are both quality halfbacks and have been playing some great footy over the last few weeks so I think it will work,” he said.

“And there has been a bit of hoopla over Trent so he will be confident after guiding them to a series win (last year).

“Mitchell plays on the ball, so he’ll probably direct the boys around the park.

“Trent at the Bulldogs plays out the back more, off his forwards.”

He even gave the new-look NSW halves pairing some valuable advice.

“We’ll do some video on them and come up with a game plan but communication between them in guiding the boys around is the key,” he advised.

Pearce would be forgiven for soaking up all the information he can get from Thurston, who celebrates a record 31st straight Origin on Wednesday night.

Pearce has not played five-eighth since schoolboy football.

If that tidbit had not raised a chuckle in the Maroons camp, a “highlights” reel of Pearce’s Origin gaffes uploaded on YouTube before the season opener surely would have.

To put Pearce’s past Origin frustrations in perspective, the footage goes for six, solid minutes.

Oh, and he has never featured in a winning Origin series.

He is back after being overlooked for the entire 2014 series due to his involvement in a Sydney nightclub incident in the weeks leading up to the Origin opener last year.

Dramatic derby win sends Roma into Champions League

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

Central defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa was the unlikely hero as he headed the winner five minutes from the end of a feisty encounter that produced eight yellow cards, several skirmishes between players and numerous protests.

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Third-placed Lazio, who needed a draw to make sure of a place in the Champions League playoff round, now have their hopes of qualifying in the balance while the chances of Napoli, who are fourth, have been rekindled.

The two sides meet in Naples on Sunday with the hosts needing a win to pip Lazio for third place and qualify at their expense.

Juan Iturbe put Roma ahead in the 73rd minute with his first goal since October before Filip Djordjevic headed Lazio level eight minutes later in a thrilling finale.

Earlier, Miroslav Klose had an excellent chance for Lazio after five minutes but the former Germany forward headed wide when he looked certain to score.

Tempers flared after Lazio midfielder Senad Lulic cynically felled Iturbe with a tackle from behind but, despite Roma players surrounding the referee demanding a red card, the Bosnian escaped with a booking.

Roma players were again demanding a red card for Lulic after he fouled Francesco Totti early in the second half. The referee was again unmoved and instead booked Vasilis Torosidis for dissent.

Lulic was substituted minutes later.

Miralem Pjanic injected new life into Roma when he came on in the 68th minute.

Victor Ibarbo, who replaced a lacklustre Totti, somehow fired wide from six metres when he was left unmarked but almost immediately made amends by producing a low cross that Iturbe turned in for Roma’s opening goal.

Roma appeared to be on top until Felipe Anderson floated a cross to Klose at the far post and he nodded the ball on for Djordjevic to equalise.

Yanga-Mbiwa was at fault for that goal, allowing Djordjevic to get free, but made amends by heading in from Pjanic’s free kick to ensure that Roma would finish second behind champions Juventus.

(Writing by Brian Homewood, editing by Tony Jimenez)