Sandpapergate: Stop the rumour-mongering and innuendo, says Starc & Co
ICC|Oceania|: Kolkata: Australian cricket looked a divided house as their star bowling attack opened up on Tuesday against the insinuations of them being aware of the plan in ‘Sandpapergate’ in South Africa in 2018 - which resulted in bans on the erstwhile captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and opener Cameron Bancroft. Michael Clarke, former Australian captain, had joined the issue with former Test opener Bancroft, who said the bowling unit was complicit to the plan - thought Bancroft has now moved to defuse tensions from his bombshell interview by reaching out to Australia’s bowlers and telling CA he had nothing to add to his 2018 testimony. In a joint statement released to Australian media, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon called for an end to the “rumour-mongering and innuendo” relating to the incident. MORE ON CRICKET No surprises in Bancroft's revelations on ball tampering scandal, says Michael Clarke On this day: when Sandpapergate rocked the cricket world 2018 In Review: Sandpapergate scandal dominates cricketing year David Warner calls for respect from South Africa fans The quartet, who did not take any names, left little to imagination when they said: “We pride ourselves on our honesty. So it’s been disappointing to see that our integrity has been questioned by some journalists and past players in recent days in regard to the Cape Town Test of 2018.” “We have already answered questions many times on this issue, but we feel compelled to put the key facts on the record again: “We did not know a foreign substance was taken onto the field to alter the condition of the ball until we saw the images on the big screen at Newlands. And to those who, despite the absence of evidence, insist that ‘we must have known’ about the use of a foreign substance simply because we are bowlers, we say this: The umpires during that Test match, Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth, both very respected and experienced umpires, inspected the ball after the images surfaced on the TV coverage and did not change it because there was no sign of damage.” The defining moment: Cameron Bancroft (centre) is being questioned by the umpires regarding ball-tampering in South Africa. Steve Smith can be seen in the distance. Image Credit: AP The clarification from the bowlers’ side, which some may not find tenable, raises questions about the mutual trust and bonding of the side - while England seam bowler Stuart Broad tried to stoke the fire by saying it will be ‘‘interesting’’ to read a book written by Warner whenever the latter retires considering the conversation that has cropped up in recent days about the 2018 ball-tampering scandal. “I have seen a couple of comments from David Warner’s agent, too, and I think it will be an interesting time when he stops playing for Australia and writes a book,” said Broad, according to ESPNCricinfo. Broad said that the incident may not be the focus during the Ashes later in the year but the England fans may have a few chants about it. “There’s no doubt the Aussies would have been hoping this episode was signed sealed and delivered. It was an incredibly tough thing for those three players to go through. I can’t see it still being a conversation when the Ashes start in November, December, but I can see it being sung in the Barmy Army stands if they’re allowed,” said Broad. “I’ve obviously never bowled within the Australian bowling attack but I can talk about how, in an England Test team, if I miss the seam by four millimetres, Jimmy Anderson is on me. He’ll be saying why has this ball got a mark on it here? It’s because you’ve missed the seam! Start hitting the seam, will you,” said Broad. “Reverse swing with the red ball can be affected by so many different things. If you chase it to the boundary and throw it into the grass it can smooth the ball over and stop it reversing. If you touch the ball with wet hands, it will stop it reversing. If you shine it in a way that smooths over the rough side it will stop it reversing,” he added.
Giro d’Italia: Fernando Gaviria in the hunt for first win of the season
Dubai: Fernando Gaviria edged closer to his first victory of the season with a creditable second place behind Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) on Stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia from L’Aquila to Foligno (139km). During a relatively flat stage, the Cat.4 climb (6.8km at 5%) shook up the peloton with many of the top sprinters losing contact. Gaviria, surrounded by his teammates, held his position in the bunch on the fast descent to the line in Foligno. As the sprint opened up, it was Gaviria’s teammate and fellow countryman Sebastian Molano who pounced first in an attempt to set things up for Gaviria who was glued to the wheel of Sagan. Molano was brought back in the final straight with Gaviria unable to edge Sagan who took the spoils heading into the first rest-day of the race. Gaviria said later: “Sagan was very strong in the end and he deserved the win today. My condition is good but as a sprinter it’s tough to say you are really happy with a performance unless you win. I’m content that I’m getting closer, my condition is good and I’m hungry to go for that win in the second week.” Davide Formolo remains in touch for the General Classification in 10th position, 1’02’’ behind race leader Egan Bernal (Ineos-Grenadiers). The race is scheduled to resume on Wednesday with Stage 11 on the mountainous terrain from Perugia to Montalcino ( 162km). Results Giro d’Italia Stage 10 1.Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 3:10:56 2.Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) s.t 3. Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) s.t General Classification 1.Egan Bernal (Ineos-Grenadiers) 4:08:23 2. Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quickstep) +14’’ 3. Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana) +22’’ 10. Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) +1’02’’
If I could only play like Roger Federer, says Serena Williams
Tennis|: Kolkata: Serena Williams, former world No.1 and a 23-times Grand Slam winner, has no doubts about who she feels is the greatest men’s tennis player of all time - Roger Federer. The 39-year-old Swiss master is this week playing only his second tournament since returning to the Tour in March after spending more than a year on the sidelines due to two knee operations. “I think two words sum it up: Roger Federer,” Williams, who turns 40 in September, told reporters at the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma on Monday. “He’s just a synopsis of greatness and class and amazing and really changed the game. You see players playing like him, moving like him, doing his techniques. The guy is (a) genius.” Williams won the last of her majors at the 2017 Australian Open before becoming a mother and has since been chasing a 24th major title to equal Margaret Court’s record. MORE ON TENNIS Tennis: French Open fans must prove they are COVID-19-free to attend Roland Garros Italian Open tennis: Serena Williams suffers shock loss in 1,000th match Tennis: Rafael Nadal heads to Roland Garros with confidence and a clear mind Tennis: Bagel time - Iga Swiatek demolishes Karolina Pliskova to claim Italian Open On Monday, the American won her first match since losing in the Melbourne semi-finals in February and said she was a Federer “superfan”. “I just feel like he is really the greatest player,” Williams said. “You can’t not like the guy, that’s how I feel. His game is so fantastic. If I could only play like him.” Top seeded Federer will begin his campaign in Geneva later on Tuesday against Spaniard Pablo Andujar, who said he has been looking forward to a match against the Swiss for a long time. “It was something that I wanted, to have a match against Roger, just to tell my kids and my grandkids when I get older that I played him,” Andujar told reporters. “I think when you play Rafa, Novak and Roger ... these guys became myths, (they are) something above the sport. I would say that the most important is that they grew the sport.” Rafa Nadal picked up a record-extending 13th French Open title in October to join Federer at the top of the list of men’s Grand Slam winners with 20 titles, while world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the youngest of the ‘Big Three’ at 33, is on 18.
Bournemouth, Swansea earn play-off advantage in semi-finals
Football|: London: Bournemouth earned a slender advantage in their Championship play-off semi-final against Brentford as Arnaut Danjuma sealed a 1-0 first leg win, while Andre Ayew fired Swansea to a 1-0 victory at Barnsley on Monday. Danjuma netted in the second half to the delight of around 2,000 Bournemouth fans allowed into Dean Court after coronavirus restrictions were reduced in England this week. Bournemouth are bidding for an immediate return to the Premier League following last season’s relegation. They went into the play-offs in poor form, losing their final three games to finish sixth in the second tier, 10 points behind Brentford. MORE ON FOOTBALL WATCH: Amazing one-take fly-through of Etihad Stadium to mark Manchester City EPL title Pep Guardiola salutes 'relentless' Manchester City after Premier League triumph English Premier League champions Manchester City smash more records in thriller at Newcastle Premier League: Arsenal beat Chelsea as Smith Rowe punishes Jorginho blunder Cherries boss Jonathan Woodgate claimed his side were the underdogs going into the play-offs, but now they need only avoid defeat in Saturday’s second leg to reach the final. Brentford are battling to avoid another play-off letdown after decades of failure in the end of season lottery. Thomas Frank’s team had won four in a row in a 12-match unbeaten run at the end of the regular season, securing a second successive third place finish. However, Brentford have taken part in a record nine play-off campaigns without winning promotion. The west London club have lost four play-off finals, including last season’s agonising 2-0 defeat against local rivals Fulham at Wembley. Bournemouth had the better of a cagey first half and Dominic Solanke headed against the outside of the post from a Lloyd Kelly cross. Brentford keeper David Raya kept out Steve Cook’s header just before half-time, with Ivan Toney on hand to block David Brooks’ follow-up effort. Bournemouth’s pressure paid off 10 minutes into the second half as Dutch winger Danjuma started and finished a clinical counter-attack. Danjuma helped dispossess Bees defender Pontus Jansson and, after the ball was worked on by Solanke, he raced on to Brooks’ through pass and slotted past Raya. Moment of magic At Oakwell, Ghana forward Ayew put Swansea ahead in their first leg with a moment of magic in the 39th minute. Ayew received Kyle Naughton’s pass on the right-hand side of the Barnsley area and cleverly worked just enough space to send a superb curling strike into the far corner. Barnsley pushed hard for a second half equaliser, but couldn’t find a way past inspired Swansea keeper Freddie Woodman. Swansea lost to Brentford in last season’s semi-finals, but they are in pole position to reach the final heading into the second leg in Wales on Saturday. Steve Cooper’s side have beaten Barnsley three times this term after a pair of 2-0 wins in their regular season meetings. Barnsley were fourth bottom before Valerien Ismael was appointed in October and led them to fifth place, their highest finish since 2000.
Legendary jockey Joe Mercer dies aged 86
London: Former leading jockey Joe Mercer most famously associated with the legendary Brigadier Gerard has died aged 86 the Racing Post reported on Monday. Nicknamed 'Smokin' Joe' Mercer and Brigadier Gerard won 17 of his 18 starts including inflicting one of the two defeats fellow equine legend Mill Reef's suffered on the turf in the 1971 English 2000 Guineas. "He (Mercer) was my best friend and he used to call me every Saturday at 9am on the dot," said former rival Bruce Raymond. "He was always very punctual all the way through his life and when he was riding he was the first to put his cap on, first to leave the weighing room, first into the gate and often first home. "He was not only a great jockey but an even nicer man and he even found a nice side to not very nice people. "I'm sorry he's gone but I'm pleased he went quick as he didn't do illness very well." Brigadier Gerard was so good Hern successfully moved him up in distance in 1971 from a mile to 1 1/4 miles and led to him triumphing in the first of his two Champion Stakes victories. "He was a freak horse with tremendous enthusiasm and speed the class to win beyond his distance," Mercer said of Brigadier Gerard. "He was a horse you never thought about getting beat on." Brigadier Gerard was also to prove equally adept over 1 1/2 miles winning the prestigious King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 1972. It is, though, the 1975 running of the race which was most memorable with Mercer on Hern's Bustino engaged in a thrilling duel with the late Pat Eddery on Grundy. Grundy was to just edge Bustino after battling back when the latter had regained the lead in the final furlong of the contest. Other notable winners Mercer rode included top class filly Highclere for Queen Elizabeth II winning the 1974 English 1000 Guineas and that year's French Oaks (the Prix de Diane). Mercer was part of a golden age of jockeys with not only Eddery but also chirpy Scot Willie Carson and the one considered perhaps the greatest of all time Lester Piggott. "Joe was a top-class person and was straight down the line," said Piggott paying tribute to him.
Tokyo Olympics: I see no good reason why we can’t host it, says Seb Coe
Sport|: Kolkata: Sebastian Coe, World Athletics president and one of the most influential figures in sports governance, feels the Tokyo Olympics should be held on schedule as long as the organisers host it in a ‘‘safe and secure’’ manner. Making a case for the Summer Games to go on, Coe told CNN Sport in an interview: “There’s a rather sobering statistic: 70% of competitors that are chasing an Olympic slot are only going to have one chance of this. To pull the plugs on an Olympic Games when football, tennis, rugby and so many other sports are now up and running - and some even with crowds - where cities are coming out of lockdown and are moving towards normalcy, MORE ON TOKYO OLYMPICS Tokyo 2020: Indian midfelder Neha Goyal looks to realise her Olympic dream Tokyo 2020: Australia’s McKeown narrowly misses 50m backstroke world record Japan expands COVID-19 emergency as 350,000 sign ‘Cancel Olympics’ petition Tokyo 2020: Rafael Nadal casts doubts over Olympic participation ‘’I can see no good reason why you wouldn’t want to do everything you possibly can to make sure that you’re not discarding a generation of athletes who have spent over half their young lives in pursuit of this one moment,” he said. The Tokyo 2020 were postponed last year during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and is rescheduled to be held from July 23 to August 8 this year. While the Tokyo organising committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are going ahead with the preparations with a stricture on overseas visitors, a citizens’ movement is brewing in Tokyo with a petition garnering thousands of signatures calling for cancellation and the CEO of leading Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten calling plans to host the Games a “suicide mission.” Coe, however, feels it’s not a cavalier decision to go ahead with the preparation. “Should we have the Games? Yes, we should. Can we have them safely and secure? I believe we can. I’m not cavalier about that. But I do think there are systems that are now tried and tested… I’m confident they will be taking place; everyone is determined to do that,” Coe said. Athletes compete in a men's 5000m race during an athletics test event for the Tokyo Games. Image Credit: AFP Holding forth on what he felt would be a ‘‘sterile’’ experience for athletes, Coe observed: ‘‘For the athletes, it’s going to be a sterile experience. I think we have to accept that their day will almost certainly be village to venue, venue back to village and maybe training tracks in between. There is going to be no sightseeing, there are going to be no karaoke bars. I mean, the serious athletes would not be looking for that anyway, but it’s going to be tough.” Does he feel that mandatory vaccines for the athletes is needed for their safety, Coe felt the choice should be left to the athletes. “I do think that the bulk of the world will be at the Games, and I really hope that they are able to avail themselves if they have vaccines going in their communities. At the moment, the National Olympic Committees around the world are in dialogue with their own governments in different ways. I’ve not been one that has actually favoured mandating it, that athletes have to be vaccinated to be there, but I do encourage them if they are available to avail themselves of them.” The British middle distance running legend finally called for a consensual approach towards hosting the Games. “It is important that, if it is at all possible – and I genuinely believe it is – to deliver the Games in a safe and secure way, we should be able to do that. The judgement is ultimately going to sit with the International Olympic Committee and government and all the stakeholders involved,” he added.
India participation at Dubai Asian Boxing Championships unlikely
India’s participation in this month’s Asian Boxing Championships in Dubai looks doubtful as its 20-member team has not yet issued visas to travel, the Boxing Federation of India secretary said on Monday. The competition is scheduled to start on May 21. The India team includes 10 male and 10 female boxers. “The Indian men and women’s boxing teams haven’t got visas to travel to Dubai. We are, however, trying our level best to send the teams,” BFI secretary Hemanta Kalita said. Originally, New Delhi was to host the continental competition, but last month the Asian Boxing Confederation shifted the tournament to Dubai because of the COVID-19 pandemic situation in India. With the COVID-19 crisis deepening in India it is unlikely the BFI will even send its staff to officiate in the Asian meet. “Since we were co-host it was planned to send officials to Dubai, but not now. The situation is scary and I doubt any Indian official would like to go,” said Kalita. The men’s team is training in Patiala’s National Institute of Sports while the women’s camp started on May 5 at Army Sports Institute in Pune. The BFI had shortlisted 10 elite women boxers for the Pune camp, but only five had joined until a few days ago. Nine boxers, including four women, have qualified for the Olympic Games, scheduled to begin on July 23 in Tokyo.
Australia big names return for West Indies tour
Cricket|: Sydney: Australia welcomed back their star players and picked four spinners in an extended 23-man squad named Monday for a white-ball tour of the West Indies in July. The team will be captained by Aaron Finch and will feature the return of Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, David Warner and Pat Cummins, who all missed the recent trip to New Zealand. The whirlwind tour starts with the first of five Twenty20 internationals in St Lucia on July 9 and ends with the third of three one-day international in Barbados on July 24 as the teams prepare for the T20 World Cup in India later this year. Marnus Labuschagne however misses out, due to "logistical complexities" of joining the squad from the UK, which would necessitate him to undergo two weeks of quarantine. "Had we not been in the middle of a global pandemic Marnus would be on this tour as a well-established member and important part of the one-day side," said selector Trevor Hohns. "It's an unfortunate circumstance of the many challenges the world is facing right now." Mitch Swepson is one of three leg-spinners with 19-year-old Tanveer Sanga and Adam Zampa. Left-arm spinner Ashton Agar was also selected in a squad which is expected to be trimmed to 18 players before departure. "Swepson has been in exceptional form across all three forms of the game," said Hohns. "Tanveer Sanga was extremely impressive for the (Sydney) Thunder and we regard him very highly. While he didn't play in New Zealand it was a great opportunity for a young bowler to be around the group." Cricket Australia said discussions were taking place about the possibility of adding a tour to Bangladesh after the visit to the West Indies. Squad: Aaron Finch (captain), Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Tanveer Sangha, D'Arcy Short, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa.
No surprises in Bancroft's revelations on ball tampering scandal, says Michael Clarke
Cricket|: Melbourne: Former captain Michael Clarke won't be surprised if it comes to light that more players were aware of the ball-tampering plot in 2018 as he accused Cricket Australia of sweeping the issue under the carpet. The scandal had led to a review of Australia's win-at-all-cost team culture and led to one-year bans being slapped on then captain Steve Smith, his deputy David Warner and a nine-month suspension on opener Cameron Bancroft, who had the sandpaper in his possession. The issue was put under the spotlight again when Bancroft last week revealed that Australian bowlers in the team at that time might have had some knowledge about the plot. "If you are playing sport at the highest level you know your tools that good it's not funny. Can you imagine that ball being thrown back to the bowler and the bowler not knowing about it? Please," Clarke told Sky Sports radio on Monday. "I love how the articles in the paper are, 'It is such a big surprise that Cameron Bancroft has made.' Actually, if you read his quotes, it is not what he did say as what he didn't say in regards to other people knowing about 'sandpapergate'," he said. Following Bancroft's interview, Cricket Australia said it was open to a re-investigation into the incident and its integrity team has already approached the pacer for more information. "What's the surprise? That more than three people knew? I don't think anybody who has played the game of cricket, or knows a little bit about cricket, would know that in a team like that, at the highest level, when the ball is such an important part of the game," Clarke said. "If you'd played the game of cricket, you would know more than three people know what was going on in there. The problem Cricket Australia has is the fact they've tried to sweep it under the carpet and not come out and tell the full story. "You don't have to have played cricket at the highest level. If you know anything about the game of cricket, you know on that day, on that field, what went down, more than three people had to know about it. Impossible not to. "That's why there's going to be finger-pointing until, I think until someone writes their book and tells the complete, honest truth. It will continue because it hasn't been finished, so much is left unsaid from the players and even what happened with staff." Clarke also threw his weight behind Bancroft. "I don't think Cameron Bancroft should be smashed for what he's come out and said, he's tried to say nothing but he's doing an interview," he said. Former Australia bowling coach David Saker, who was with the team during the 2018 ball-tampering scandal, on Sunday said it was a "monumental mistake" which could have been prevented and for which fingers can also be pointed at him.
England Tests not warm-ups for WTC final, says Neil Wagner
Cricket|: Auckland: New Zealand pacer Neil Wagner on Monday said that the upcoming two Test matches against England would not be a warm-up for the World Test Championship (WTC) final against India. England and New Zealand are set to lock horns in two Tests, beginning June 2. The majority of the Kiwi Test contingent touched down in London on Sunday afternoon (UK time) after flying from Auckland via Singapore. Tim Southee, BJ Watling, Ross Taylor, and Wagner departed from Auckland on Monday afternoon (NZ time) to join the squad in Southampton. The Maldives-based IPL contingent of captain Kane Williamson, Kyle Jamieson, Mitchell Santner, team physio Tommy Simsek and trainer Chris Donaldson will arrive on Monday (UK time). "We're not going to treat these two Test matches against England just as warm-ups for the WTC final. I know for a fact we're going to get out there and pride ourselves the way we've been playing Test cricket and we want to win Test matches for New Zealand," ESPNcricinfo quoted Wagner as saying. "It's been quite nice, it's obviously got different characteristics to the Kookaburra. The way we've been training for the last while is something we didn't always have in the past, having the facilities and having a marquee up and getting a number of trainings in before going to England. On tours in the past you rock up there and you've only got a couple of trainings and maybe one head out with the Dukes ball before the first Test and with that you can find yourself a little bit behind," he added. Talking about the preparation of his side before the UK tour, Wagner said: "But having had those little bit of trainings leading into it has been quite beneficial, just because it's a little bit different, and obviously adapting to it. It's been really good preparation and everybody is excited bowling with it." "Sometimes you have to control all that because there's a high expectation of the ball doing a lot and moving around but sometimes you can get there and it can be quite flat and slow as well. The nice thing about it is we've got a wealth of experience and the guys have been there before so we can feed off each other and bounce ideas off each other as well," he added. The first Test between England and New Zealand will be played at Lord's. Talking about playing at the Mecca of Cricket, Wagner said: "The nice thing is that the nerves and the unknowns are away, I've played at Lord's couple of times now. I've played one Test there in 2013 and a couple of county games too, so it's nice to get there when things feel familiar." "Sometimes you can get there and get a little but starstruck with the whole experience and everything because you grow up as a kid wanting to be there and all those sort of things. Having been there and played on those grounds, we've been around those conditions so it's nice to go there and hit the ground running, knowing what to expect," he added. Kiwi players and support staff were transferred from London Heathrow airport to the Ageas Bowl in Southampton where they will be based for the first two weeks of the tour.
Sachin Tendulkar: I suffered from anxiety for 12 years
Cricket|India|: Former India batsman and captain Sachin Tendulkar said he had to deal with anxiety before a match even after he had spent several years in international cricket. “Pressure, anxiety and all were always there. In my case, I realised all my preparations were there in a physical sense. After all of that, the anxiety was always there,” Tendulkar said. Tendulkar said that he realised over a period of time how important it is to prepare yourself for matches and series mentally. “Even when I was playing for India, there were sleepless nights. Over a period of time, I realised that besides preparing physically for a game, you have to prepare yourself mentally also. In my mind the match started long before I entered the ground. The anxiety levels were very high and I learned to accept to those things,” he said. Tendulkar, who is the highest run-scorer of all time in Test and ODI cricket and the only cricketer to score 100 international centuries, said that he felt the effects of anxiety for about 10-12 years. “Then I started accepting that it was part of my preparation. If I am not able to sleep, fine, no problem. I would do something to distract my mind and keep it in that space where it was comfortable,” said Tendulkar. Tendulkar played 200 Test matches and 463 ODIs in a 24-year international career. He scored 15,921 runs in Test cricket and 18,426 runs in ODIs.
Australia cricketer charged with possessing child abuse material
Cricket|Asia|: A former Australian state cricketer has been charged with ‘possessing child abuse material’ and ‘grooming a minor’. Aaron Summers, who represented Tasmania in state cricket, Hobart Hurricanes in Big Bash League and Deccan Gladiators in the Abu Dhabi T10 league, was asked to appear before a court for the two charges. “Aaron Summers, 25, appeared in front of the Darwin Local Court (Northern Territory), with police alleging that his mobile phone contained child abuse videos,” said a report in The Age. Summers, who is a fast bowler, was due to play in the NT Cricket 365 tournament, an event run by Cricket Australia and featuring many current and former state and BBL players. “A matter was brought to the attention of NT Cricket and was immediately actioned in accordance with our member protection policy. In line with the policy the matter was referred to the relevant authorities and is now being handled by police,” Cricket Australia told The Age in a statement. Northern Territory Police issued a statement in relation to the matter. “Detectives from the Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Team (JACET) arrested a 25-year-old man in Fannie Bay on Friday afternoon for child abuse material,” the statement said.
Tennis: Rafael Nadal heads to Roland Garros with confidence and a clear mind
Tennis|: After warming up for the French Open in style by beating world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the Rome Masters final on Sunday, Rafa Nadal said he is heading to Rolland Garros with confidence and a clear mind in search of a 21st Grand Slam title. Nadal, 34, beat the Serb 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 to claim a record-extending 10th ATP Masters 1000 title in Rome and felt his game improved through the week. Nadal, who suffered quarter-final exits at Masters 1000 events in Monte-Carlo and Madrid, said he would rest for a couple of days back home before heading to Paris for his title defence. “I think I can work in a couple of things that I can do a little bit better or I can keep confirming that I am on the way,” he told reporters on Sunday. “I think I have been improving this week, but I need to keep going with that improvement, because when you improve and you’re able to do it every day for longer time, then you feel more confident and more safe. “So I just need to keep going. I know what I need to work (on) for the next couple of weeks, and I (am) going to do it.” Victory in Rome saw Nadal equal Djokovic’s tally of 36 ATP Masters 1000 trophies but it was not all plain sailing, the Spaniard having to save two match points against Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the third round. “The 10th, I really wanted this 10th here in Rome. It was one of the first important titles that I won in my career,” Nadal said. “After achieving 10 in Roland Garros, 10 in Monte-Carlo, 10 in Barcelona, I really wanted this one. “I went through a lot of things during the week. Some positive, some great moments, some lucky moments, suffering moments. At the end I think I played a very solid week of tennis, it’s the right moment to win an important title.”
Golf: Talking points of the weekend as Lee wins Byron Nelson
Golf|: KH Lee was more than happy to play through a steady downpour in the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson, and didn’t mind waiting out a weather delay of more than two hours Sunday. The reward was the final spot next week in the PGA Championship. Lee earned his first PGA Tour victory and the chance to compete on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina, becoming the second consecutive Nelson winner from South Korea by finishing 25 under, three ahead of third-round leader Sam Burns. Heavy rain fell most of the back nine for the leaders, with workers using squeegees to clear paths on greens and one ball stuck in the middle of a fast-moving stream on the 18th fairway. The players slogged through the deluge before lightning forced a delay. Most of the standing water was gone when play resumed 2 hours, 23 minutes later. Lee missed a par putt on 16 to cut his lead to two, but answered with two birdies. The sun came out just as Lee was finishing his 6-under 66. Burns (70) finished at 22 under, a shot ahead of 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (68), Daniel Berger (64), Patton Kizzire (63) and Scott Stallings (66). When the delay hit, Jordan Spieth already knew he was going to fall short again in his hometown event, played on its third course in the past four Nelsons at the rain-soaked TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, about 30 miles north of Dallas. Spieth, three back to start the day, shot 71 and tied for ninth at 18 under. PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS Monday qualifier Dicky Pride won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic on for his first PGA Tour Champions title, closing with a 5-under 67 for a three-stroke victory. Making his 11th senior start, the 51-year-old Pride had six birdies in an 11-hole stretch before dropping a stroke on the par-4 15th. He parred the final three to win at TPC Sugarloaf to finish at 11-under 205. Pride is the 14th open qualifier to win on the tour and the 18th player to win at least once on the PGA Tour, PGA Tour Champions and Korn Ferry Tour. He won the 1994 St. Jude Classic as a rookie for his lone PGA Tour title and won a Korn Ferry Tour event in Oregon in 2015. Stephen Ames and Kirk Triplett each shot 70 to tie for second with second-round leader Paul Goydos (72). Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz shot 84-77-82 to finish 76th at 27 over, beating fellow former major leaguer Shigetoshi Hasegawa by three strokes to avoid finishing last. Monday qualifier Dicky Pride won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic for his first PGA Tour Champions title, closing with a 5-under 67 for a three-stroke victory. Making his 11th senior start, the 51-year-old Pride had six birdies in an 11-hole stretch before dropping a stroke on the par-4 15th. He parred the final three to win a week after contending in the major Regions Tradition in his home state of Alabama. Stephen Ames and Kirk Triplett each shot 70 to tie for second with second-round leader Paul Goydos (72). Brett Quigley (68), Doug Barron (69) and Billy Andrade (72) were another stroke back. Pride finished at 11-under 205 at TPC Sugarloaf. He won the 1994 St. Jude Classic for his lone PGA Tour victory and also won a Korn Ferry Tour event in Oregon in 2015. Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz shot 84-77-82 to finish 76th at 27 over, beating fellow former major leaguer Shigetoshi Hasegawa by three strokes to avoid finishing last. KORN FERRY TOUR Greyson Sigg made a 6-foot par putt on the 18th hole for a 4-under 66 and a one-stroke victory in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Visit Knoxville Open. Sigg finished at 20-under 260 at Holston Hills for his first tour title. The former Georgia player has eight top 10s this season is No. 2 in the Korn Ferry Tour points standings with more than enough points for a PGA Tour card next season. Stephan Jaeger was second after a 70. Seth Reeves matched the course record with a 61 to finish third at 17 under. LADIES EUROPEAN TOUR Lee-Anne Pace won the Investec South African Women’s Open for the fourth time for her 10th Ladies European Tour title. The 40-year-old South African player closed with an even-par 72 for a one-stroke victory over Germany’s Leonie Harm. Pace finished at 2-over 290 at Westlake Golf Club in Cape Town. She also won the event in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
LOOK: Burj Khalifa lights up for Scottish champions Rangers in Dubai
Dubai: Scottish Premiership champions Rangers were celebrating once again on Sunday night as the Burj Khalifa in Downtown Dubai lit up in their famous blue, white and red colours to mark their 55th league title. One day after their 4-0 demolition of Aberdeen to mark an amazing season in which they went undefeated and collected a record haul of 102 points to dethrone arch-rivals Celtic as champions of Scotland, Dubai based fans clubbed together to see their favourite clubs colours splashed across the tallest building in the world in a light show to be seen for miles around. In marking the occasion, Rangers became the first football club ever to light up the Burj. Faithful Light Blues fans raised the Dh135,000 to put on the 90-second show to pay tribute to the club that ended a decade of dominance domestically by Celtic, with manager Steven Gerrard revolutionising Rangers’ fortunes over the past season. Rangers' colours light up the Burj Khalifa in Dubai Image Credit: Supplied “For us, this is an incredible achievement for us and our famous club, winning the title after 10 years,” said Simon Ritchie, one of the Dubai-based fans. “What made this moment even more special is we lost one of our fan club members, Teddy Munro, so it was symbolic and a tribute to him too. “We also wanted to give a sign to the fans around the world how Dubai has played its part in this tremendous club.” Another loyal fan in the UAE, Andrew Bremner, added: “An amazing day. So historic. We are the first football team to be up on the Burj Khalifa and it is something we will always remember.”
‘It’s a lie’: Zinedine Zidane denies telling Real Madrid players he will leave at end of season
Football|: Zinedine Zidane has denied already telling his players he will resign as Real Madrid coach at the end of the season. Zidane was asked again about his future after Madrid’s 1-0 victory away at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, a win that keeps them two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid heading into La Liga’s final weekend. According to Onda Cero radio and Goal online earlier on Sunday, Zidane, who has a contract until 2022, informed his squad a week ago that he was going to leave after the team’s final game next weekend. But Zidane said in Sunday’s post-match press conference that was not the case. “How am I going to tell my players that I am going now? It’s a lie,” he said. “I focus on this season. There is a game left and we are going to give everything. I only care what happens in this finale. The rest, we will see at the end of the season.” Former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, ex-Madrid striker Raul Gonzalez and Joachim Loew, who will step down as Germany coach at the end of this summer’s European Championships, have all been mentioned as possible successors. Zidane hinted on Saturday he could leave, saying he believes “there comes a time when it’s the moment to change”. “I don’t leave because it’s easy. It’s not like I turn away and don’t look back,” Zidane said. “No, there are moments when you have to be there and there are moments when that’s it, it’s finished, it’s time to change. But for the good of everyone, not just for me.”
French Open: Novak Djokovic admits ‘long shot’ to beat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros
Tennis|: Novak Djokovic admitted Sunday that he’s “a long shot” to win Roland Garros where he would likely have to dethrone rival and 13-time Paris champion Rafael Nadal. Djokovic may be world number one, but it’s Nadal who is the undisputed king of clay in the French capital where he has lost just twice in 102 matches since 2005. On Sunday, Djokovic again felt the full, raw power of Nadal on clay as the Spaniard clinched a 10th Italian Open title with a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 win in the final. French Open: Andy Murray deserves a wild card, says event boss Guy Forget Italian Open: Fans return as big guns move into quarter finals in Rome Tennis: Bagel time - Iga Swiatek demolishes Karolina Pliskova to claim Italian Open Italian Open: Simona Halep in doubt for French Open after a calf injury In the pair’s 57th meeting, the victory also took Nadal level with his Serb rival on 36 Masters 1000 titles. “Going into Paris brings me a good sensation,” insisted Djokovic despite a roller-coaster clay court swing which yielded a round-of-16 exit in Monte Carlo and a semi-final loss on home ground in Belgrade. Nadal, by comparison, has two titles in Rome and Barcelona but sobering quarter-final losses in Monte Carlo and Madrid. “I actually now started to feel like I actually want to feel on clay,” added Djokovic. “So I think if I manage to play the way I played last night (against Lorenzo Sonego in a three-set semi-final) and today, I think I have a good chance to go all the way in Paris. Of course it’s a long shot.” Djokovic has 18 Grand Slam titles to his name — two behind the record of 20 shared by Nadal and Roger Federer. However, only one of those has been captured at Roland Garros, in 2016 when Nadal withdrew with a wrist injury after the second round. Djokovic was swept aside by Nadal in the 2020 final. Before that, he had lost three other finals in Paris, two also to Nadal and one against Stan Wawrinka. However, Djokovic still has a place in the record books to target as he hopes to become the first man in over half a century, and just the third in history, to win all four majors more than once. Also, he remains just one of two men to beat Nadal at the French Open, in the last-eight in 2015. For Nadal, Roland Garros, which gets under way on May 30, means a chance for a 14th Paris title and record 21st Grand Slam crown. “I really wanted this title,” Nadal, 34, said Sunday after winning his 10th Rome trophy. “This had been one of the first important titles I won in my career. I’d won 10 in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros and really wanted this one too.” Djokovic will play on home clay again in Belgrade the week before Roland Garros. Nadal will head home to Mallorca to fine-tune his game. “I think I have been improving this week, but I need to keep going with that improvement,” he said Sunday. “When you improve and you’re able to do it every day for a longer time, then you feel more confident and more safe.”
Goalscoring goalkeeper: Emotional Alisson saves Liverpool’s season, with a goal
Football|: Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker scored to secure a dramatic stoppage-time victory and keep his side’s Premier League top-four hopes alive at West Bromwich Albion but Everton’s European aspirations were left in tatters on Sunday. In the fifth minute of stoppage time with Liverpool and West Brom locked at 1-1, Alisson left his goal and ran forward to offer his assistance in the opposite penalty area. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s delivery was perfect and the Brazilian keeper glanced a superb header into the net to spark wild celebrations from the visitors. It was the first time in Liverpool’s history that a goalkeeper had scored a competitive goal and what a crucial one it could prove to be for Juergen Klopp’s side. With two games remaining they are in fifth spot, one point behind Chelsea and three behind Leicester City and with those two playing each other in midweek, Liverpool know that two wins would see them in the top four to qualify for the Champions League - a prospect that looked unlikely two weeks ago. English Premier League: Liverpool sink Southampton to keep top-four hopes alive Liverpool beat Man United to boost Champions League hopes English Premier League: Manchester United v Liverpool postponed after protests leave two officers injured Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk out of Euros for Netherlands It was an emotional moment for Alisson who dedicated his unlikely goal to his father who drowned in February. “I just tried to run into a good place and be there to try and help my players, to bring a defender, but no one followed me and I am lucky and blessed, sometimes things you can’t explain,” Alisson said. “I’m too emotional, this last month for everything that has happened with me and my family, but football is my life, I played since I can remember with my father. I hope he was here to see it, I’m sure he is celebrating with God at his side.” Liverpool’s Mo Salah had cancelled out Hal Robson-Kanu’s opener for West Brom. Everton’s woeful home form struck again as they were downed 1-0 by bottom club Sheffield United - for whom 17-year-old Daniel Jebbison became the youngest player to score on his first Premier League start. They have now lost nine league games at home this season and have picked up only six points at Goodison Park in 2021. Defeat left them in eighth spot, three points behind West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur. “We played so bad. The only result that could be possible is a defeat. As we usually did at home most of the time, we lost,” Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti said. “I have to take responsibly for this but I hope the players do too.” Tottenham beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 with Harry Kane scoring his 22nd Premier League goal of the season as his side moved above West Ham on goal difference. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg scored Tottenham’s second. In the day’s other game Crystal Palace twice came from a goal behind to beat Aston Villa 3-2 - Tyrick Mitchell scoring the winner late on with his first career goal.
Cartabia penalties help Shabab Al Ahli Dubai to UAE President’s Cup success
Federico Cartabia appears to have perfected the art of converting penalties and the Argentine was at his sublime best from the spot twice as Shabab Al Ahli Dubai defended their UAE President’s Cup title, edging Al Nasr 2-1 in the final at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain. Cartabia converted either side of the break, first in the 42nd minute and then deep in second-half injury time after Mehdi Abeid levelled for Al Nasr. Al Nasr had beaten Sharjah 3-0 to book their spot in the final, while Shabab Al Ahli had edged Bani Yas 1-0. The Reds were favourites to top their Dubai city rivals yet again, having beaten them three times already this season, including in last month’s Arabian Gulf Cup final, which was settled 5-4 on penalties after regulation period finished goalless. Shabab Al Ahli’s latest victory over Al Nasr had come in the last round of the Arabian Gulf League on May 11, with that 3-2 success further rewarding Mahdi Ali’s men with a spot in the qualifying tournament to enter next season’s AFC Champions League. Arabian Gulf League: Bani Yas coach Isaila calls for focus in AGL title fight in UAE Arabian Gulf League: Abu Dhabi's Al Jazira take the title Arabian Gulf League: Al Jazira coach Keizer to discuss future after confetti settles UAE President's Cup: Shabab Al Ahli look to defend title against Al Nasr Revenge was certainly on the Al Nasr minds. Ramon Diaz’s side needed something that resembled the bragging rights going into the long summer break. And against that backdrop, and with the stands 30 per cent occupied by fans who were allowed back for the first time, Shabab Al Ahli took the game to their rivals straight from kick-off. Wingback Yousef Jaber sneaked into the box from the left in the opening minute and cut it back only for Al Nasr goalkeeper Ahmed Mohammad Shambieh to cleverly thwart the ball to safety. Precious little happened after that as the tie descended into a series of midfield battles through which Al Nasr grew in confidence. And Diaz’s Blue Brigade came close for the first time in the 25th with Diaa Sabi’a taking possession of a through ball along the right touchline and dribbling his way into the box, releasing Sebastian Tagliabue, whose weak shot bounced off a Shabab Al Ahli shirt and in the path of Sabi’a, who unleashed a venomous left-footed shot that was aimed straight at goalkeeper Majed Naser. Four minutes later, Tagliabue’s glancing header off a corner floated over just the bar as Al Nasr continued to apply pressure. The Argentine-born and now naturalised Emirati striker was guilty of letting another chance go begging in the 32nd when he shot weakly along the ground and straight at Naser after Shabab Al Ahli gave away possession. Five minutes from the break, controversy struck as referee Ammar Al Jneibi pointed at the spot after a VAR referral for a foul on Carlos Eduardo at the top box. Eduardo, with his back to the Al Nasr goal, was adjudicated to have been impeded. It seemed a soft infringement — and harmless at that — but it allowed Federico Cartabia to step up and deliver a textbook-perfect left footed shot into the side netting which Shambieh had absolutely no chance of even sniffing. At the other end, Al Nasr’s players remonstrated as they appealed for a penalty for alleged ball-handling in the box, but their request was denied. Igor Jesus could have made it 2-0 for Shabab Al Ahli deep in injury-time, but for his weak header from six yards out from Jaber’s looping cross. One of the stand out players for Shabab Al Ahli, Jaber could have scored from six yards 10 minutes into the second period, but his shot bounced off an Al Nasr shirt and was cleared. Shambieh produced a spectacular save diving high to his right in the 64th to deny Eduardo’s long-range effort and latter’s strike in the 70th didn’t count as he was flagged for offside receiving a ball from a free-kick. Al Nasr found the equaliser they needed in the 78th from a corner that saw captain Mehdi Abeid poking in from close range. The goal was referred to VAR for a possible handball from Abeid, but in the end the goal stood. More drama followed just before the final whistle as Eduardo was once again felled in the box, the VAR referral yielding a penalty that allowed Cartabia to win the match for Shabab Al Ahli.