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You cannot be serious: Murray hits back at McEnroe claim

June 19, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Andy Murray has slammed John McEnroe’s claim the world number one should be seen as ‘a distant fourth’ behind old rivals Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Murray

Murray begins his Wimbledon preparations this week as he defends his title in the grass-court tournament at Queen’s Club and American legend McEnroe may have given the Scot a little extra motivation with his criticism.

Although Wimbledon champion Murray remains top of the rankings, the 30-year-old has struggled this year, while Nadal and Federer have enjoyed unexpected revivals.

At Wimbledon, Federer will be hoping to clinch a 19th Grand Slam, while Nadal and Djokovic are gunning for their 16th and 13th respectively.

McEnroe told the Sunday Times that Murray, who has won three major titles, can’t be ranked on the same level as his ‘Big Four’ rivals.

But while the Scot admits that rings true for their whole careers, he pointed to his record at the Olympics, where he has won two singles gold medals, as evidence to the contrary.

“For me, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I’m very proud of the Olympic medals, they mean a lot to me,” Murray said at Queen’s Club on Sunday.

“Within tennis, a lot of people just go ‘oh that guy was a better player because he won more Grand Slams than that one or that woman was better because she won more Grand Slams’.

“If that’s the case then what is the point in all of us being here today? Why is everyone here covering this event? There are other tournaments outside the slams as well.

“If you look at the titles and everything those guys have won, I can’t compare myself to them.

“There’s maybe one or two things that I have done that they won’t have but for the most part I would have been fourth.

“But it’s not true of the last year because I’m ranked number one in the world. I’ve been better than them for the last 12 months, that’s how the ranking systems work.”

Murray also stood by his recent claim that he may only have two or three more years left challenging for major honours, despite Federer winning the Australian Open aged 35 in January.

“It’s really hard, it’s always tough to stay at the top of any sport,” Murray said.

“I hope I stay at the top of the game for five, six, seven years but I think just because Roger’s done it doesn’t mean that’s going to happen to everyone.

“Right now, I feel good, but we’ll have to see how I am.”

Murray will face British number four Aljaz Bedene at Queen’s on Tuesday as he looks to hold onto the title he won for a record fifth time last year.

Mayweather, McGregor agree to August boxing super-fight

June 16, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Boxing legend Floyd Mayweather and mixed martial arts icon Conor McGregor confirmed plans for a long-awaited showdown on Wednesday, triggering both criticism and anticipation for what is set to be one of the richest fights in history.

UFC 196: McGregor v Diaz

Mayweather and McGregor — kingpins of their sports — will climb into a boxing ring to face each other at Las Vegas’s T-Mobile Arena on August 26.

The 40-year-old Mayweather will be aiming to reach the 50-0 milestone while McGregor is a heavy underdog in the 12-round boxing match. A victory for the Irishman would be a monumental upset.

“Floyd is the greatest of all time and Conor is the master of our sport,” MMA promoter Dana White said. “I thought it would be an impossible deal to do, but it was the right fight at the right time and we got it done.”

Leonard Ellerbe, chief executive of Mayweather Promotions, said the boxer’s team decided to end his 23-month retirement because the clamor for the 154-pound showdown had been impossible to ignore.

“There is not one place I go to with Floyd where he doesn’t get asked the question, ‘Floyd are you going to fight Conor McGregor?’ All Floyd thinks about is fighting Conor McGregor and whipping his ass,” Ellerbe said.

Mayweather announced the fight on his Instagram account with a graphic saying “IT’S OFFICIAL!!!” showing pictures of both fighters and listing Las Vegas as the location while McGregor sent out an earlier tweet stating “THE FIGHT IS ON.”

“Floyd said ‘154 is no problem, I don’t want a catchweight,'” Ellerbe said.

McGregor is the top pay-per-view draw in UFC while Mayweather had been the money-spinner in some of boxing’s biggest bouts, including matchups with Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao and US star Oscar De La Hoya. Mayweather earned $250 million for his fight against Pacquiao.

“There is a different feel from the Pacquiao fight, Ellerbe said. “It is the unknown factor (of fighting a MMA star).”

Neither Mayweather nor McGregor have competed this year. Mayweather retired from pro boxing in 2015 after defeating Andre Berto, while McGregor (21-3) defeated Eddie Alvarez in November 2016.

White said the key to finalizing the fight was luring Mayweather out of retirement.

“Everybody is happy with this deal,” he said. “Nobody is bummed out.”

The boxing format heavily favors the undefeated Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs), whom many consider to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

McGregor, 28, will be entering unknown territory as he has not stepped into a boxing ring since he was a teenager.

Despite having little or no boxing experience, White insists his MMA client McGregor is confident of victory. McGregor is UFC’s only simultaneous two-division champion.

Ellerbe said Mayweather can’t afford to take McGregor lightly.

“I have seen Floyd buzzed in a fight. Things happen in these kinds of fights,” he said. “Floyd is 40 and he has to prepare. We would be a bunch of damn fools to sit around and sleep on this.”

Although there will be no titles on the line, the fight will provide an opportunity for both to cash in financially.

The event is expected to be a pay-for-view blockbuster, and organizers are hoping it can challenge the 4.6 million pay-per-view buys for Mayweather-Pacquiao.

Stephen Espinoza, executive vice-president of Showtime Sports, said fans will buy the pay-per-view for the fight because of the novelty.

“The sky is the limit,” Espinoza said. “There is nothing to compare it against. No one has seen this type of competition in the ring.”

Not everyone will be excited to see a Mayweather-McGregor exhibition match, however, especially considering that McGregor is a 25-1 underdog.

Boxing champion-turned-promoter De La Hoya had already dismissed the planned fight as an embarrassment for boxing. News of the fight on Wednesday also triggered waves of scorn across social media, with many branding the bout a “freak show.”

Espinoza was unmoved by the criticism, however.

“This is not a referendum on the sport of boxing,” he said.

White said McGregor would be training for the fight in his homeland with Irish boxers. Promoters are hoping the trash-talking McGregor can sell tickets.

In his last fight, McGregor won the lightweight title from Alvarez in November 2015 in UFC’s first Madison Square Garden card.

McGregor received a California boxing license last year, but is still waiting for his Nevada application to be approved.

‘Garbage’ man Murray, Nadal eye dream final

June 8, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal can edge closer to an intriguing French Open final rich in landmark moments on Friday after drastically contrasting campaigns in Paris.

Murray

World number one Murray was the first British man in the Roland Garros final since Bunny Austin in 1937 when he finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic last year.

Two more victories, however, starting with his semi-final against 2015 winner Stan Wawrinka, would make him the first Briton to lift the men’s trophy since Fred Perry 82 years ago.

Nadal, who tackles Dominic Thiem, the conqueror of defending champion Djokovic, is bidding to become the first man to capture the same major on 10 occasions.

Murray arrived in France suffering from a fever, the latest woe in a season which has seen him endure an elbow injury, flu and shingles.

“I came in playing garbage,” admitted the 30-year-old of a Masters clay-court swing which saw him exit in the third round in Monte Carlo and Madrid and lose his opener in Rome.

“If someone had offered me a semi-final spot before the tournament, I would have signed up for that.”

His form in Paris has sent out mixed messages.

He needed four sets to get past Andrey Kuznetsov and Martin Klizan in the first two rounds.

Then, in what was expected to be a third-round ambush, he sailed past Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets and was similarly at ease against Karen Khachanov in the last 16.

However, in the quarter-finals, he dropped the first set against Kei Nishikori before his greater stamina proved decisive.

Nadal, meanwhile, is the hot favourite to collect an unprecedented 10th French Open and 15th career major.

The 31-year-old Spaniard, like Wawrinka and Thiem, hasn’t dropped a set at the tournament.

He should also be the fresher having spent just under eight hours on court through five rounds.

Murray has needed the best part of 14 hours playing time while Wawrinka has been in action for almost 11 hours and Thiem just under 10.

Nadal has dropped just 22 games so far, a figure aided by compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta retiring through injury in the second set of their quarter-final.

Bjorn Borg surrendered just 32 games on his way to the 1978 title, but Nadal insisted he has no interest in such records.

“I don’t know how many games I lost this year, but I really don’t care about this. I only care that I am in the semi-finals,” said Nadal.

“My only goal is try to be ready to play my best. The rest of these things, we can always find behind the stones.”

Wawrinka, like Murray a three-time major winner, has made his trademark understated progress to a third successive Roland Garros semi-final.

The Swiss third seed, at 32, is the oldest man to get to the last four since Jimmy Connors back in 1985.

He trails Murray in head-to-head meetings 10-7 and lost to the Briton in four sets in the semi-finals last year.

Wawrinka has lost 54 games — identical to the figure at the same stage in 2015 when he became champion.

“In the semi-final last year, Andy was really aggressive,” said Wawrinka.

“He was pushing me all the time, so it was tough for me to find any solution.”

Wawrinka, Nadal and Murray in the semi-finals means it’s only the third time that three men over 30 have got to this stage.

It happened at Roland Garros in 1968 and at this year’s Australian Open.

However, Thiem won’t mind being the odd man out.

The 23-year-old Austrian condemned Djokovic to a first straight-sets loss at a major in four years in his stunning quarter-final triumph, avenging his defeat to the Serb in the 2016 semi-finals.

He is the only man this year to have defeated Nadal on clay with his last-eight win in Rome offsetting losses in the final in Barcelona and Madrid.

“It’s going to be the toughest match you can imagine,” admitted sixth seed Thiem, who trails Nadal 4-2 on head to head.

Nadal, Djokovic into quarters as champion Muguruza exits

June 5, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal and title-holder Novak Djokovic surged into the French Open quarter-finals for a record-equalling 11th time on Sunday, but reigning women’s champion Garbine Muguruza crashed out in the last 16.

DJokovic

Nadal continued his ruthless form at Roland Garros by dispatching Spanish 17th seed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 to match Roger Federer’s mark of last-eight appearances in Paris.

The 14-time major winner has dropped just 20 games in four matches as he strives to become the first man to win 10 titles at a single Grand Slam.

“I’m happy because Roberto is a very good player. It’s very important for me to be in the quarter-finals one more time,” said Nadal, who turned 31 on Saturday.

“Probably I didn’t play as well as I did the other day, but I still played well.”

The fourth seed will meet compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta, through to his first Slam quarter-final, for spot in the last four after the latter stunned Canada’s Milos Raonic.

Carreno Busta, seeded 20th, needed seven match points to clinch a thrilling 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 8-6 win over the fifth-seeded Raonic.

Djokovic also became an 11-time quarter-finalist as he sauntered past Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6 (7/5), 6-1, 6-3.

The Serb needed 75 minutes to clinch the opening set but then outclassed the 19th seed to set up a showdown with Dominic Thiem.

“There’s no easy match in a Grand Slam quarter-final, it will be very difficult for both of us,” said Djokovic of his upcoming challenge.

The Serb also confirmed that coach Andre Agassi had, as planned, already left Paris.

Austrian sixth seed Thiem thrashed Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the quarters for a second straight year.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori fought off a fierce challenge from South Korea’s Hyeon Chung in an all-Asian tussle held over from Saturday following rain to clinch a place in the last 16.

Chung quickly forced the contest into a fifth set as play resumed on Sunday, but the world number 67 double faulted on match point to gift Nishikori a 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 0-6, 6-4 victory.

“I think the rain helps me a lot, because I was really down in the fourth set and mentally I wasn’t ready,” admitted Nishikori, who faces Fernando Verdasco next.

Karen Khachanov will play Andy Murray in the fourth round after the giant Russian beat American 21st seed John Isner 7-6 (7/1), 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/3).

Kristina Mladenovic ensured the host nation will have two women in the quarter-finals for the first time since 1994 after dumping out fourth seed Muguruza 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

“I’m sad. It’s a very painful defeat here in the French Open,” said Muguruza, who left Court Suzanne Lenglen angrily wagging her finger at the crowd.

“I just think that they sometimes should be a little bit more respectful,” she added, as Mladenovic thrived on the partisan support.

The French 13th seed is through to just her second Slam quarter-final — after the 2015 US Open — and will face Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky for a spot in the last four.

The Swiss 30th seed, a 2015 semi-finalist, defeated 2002 runner-up Venus Williams 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 to guarantee a first-time major champion will be crowned next Saturday.

Danish 11th seed Caroline Wozniacki knocked off 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 to reach the last eight for just the second time.

Wozniacki, who made her only other quarter-final appearance at Roland Garros in 2010, will next meet Latvian teenager Jelena Ostapenko, a 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 winner over 2010 finalist Samantha Stosur.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova advanced to round four with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Germany’s Carina Witthoeft.

Pliskova, who had won just twice in five previous French Open appearances before this year, will face Paraguay’s Veronica Cepede Royg for a quarter-final spot.

World number 290 and qualifier Petra Martic reached the last 16 with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Latvian 17th seed Anastasija Sevastova.

Croatia’s Martic, a former top 50 player whose ranking slumped after a back injury sidelined her for 10 months, will face Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina.

Fifth seed Svitolina downed Magda Linette of Poland 6-4, 7-5.

Nadal merciless as Djokovic toils in Paris

June 3, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal lost just one game in a ruthless display to reach the French Open last 16 on Friday, but title-holder Novak Djokovic needed five sets to survive.

Nadal

Nadal demonstrated why he is once more considered the overwhelming favourite at Roland Garros with a brutal demolition of Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili.

The Spaniard romped to a 6-0, 6-1, 6-0 win, narrowly missing out on becoming just the sixth man in the Open era to record a “triple bagel”.

“Perfection? I don’t know about that,” said Nadal, who plans to celebrate his 31st birthday on Saturday by watching Real Madrid take on Juventus in the Champions League final.

“I think I played very well today. The most important thing is to be through and I played my best match in a while.”

Nadal will meet compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Reigning champion Djokovic escaped trouble against Diego Schwartzman, the second seed rallying from two sets to one down to prevail 5-7, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1, 6-1.

The 12-time major winner was embroiled in a bitter spat with umpire Carlos Ramos in the fourth set as Djokovic was warned for unsportsmanlike conduct after an earlier time violation.

But Djokovic eventually proved too strong for Schwartzman, playing in the last 32 of a Slam for the first time, and goes on to face Spanish 19th seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in round four.

“I expected a tough match, there were lots of exchanges from the baseline and the conditions were heavy,” said Djokovic.

“I congratulate Diego on a great battle. He played very, very well.”

Canadian fifth seed Milos Raonic advanced to the last 16 when Guillermo Garcia-Lopez retired with a thigh injury in the second set.

Raonic, a quarter-finalist in Paris in 2014, led 6-1, 1-0 before the veteran Spaniard, ranked 153, quit after just 28 minutes.

He will play Spanish 20th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who dumped out Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

Dominic Thiem, a semi-finalist last year and the only player to beat Nadal on clay this season, brushed past American 25th seed Steve Johnson 6-1, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.

Belgian 10th seed David Goffin suffered a nasty ankle injury when he got caught up in court covers, forcing him to abandon his third-round tie with Horacio Zeballos of Argentina.

Goffin was leading 5-4 when he chased down the ball towards the back of the Suzanne Lenglen court.

However, his right foot got horribly jammed beneath the rolled-up tarpaulin before he tumbled into the wall and a linesman’s chair.

The 26-year-old was helped from the court by two officials and retired in the locker room.

An MRI scan revealed that the Belgian had not suffered a break.

Reigning women’s champion Garbine Muguruza gained further momentum in the defence of her title with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Kazakh 27th seed Yulia Putintseva.

The Spaniard closed out victory with an ace in a match that featured 11 breaks of serve in 20 games played.

“I think the more matches I play and the toughest victories I think gives you self-confidence, successful feeling out there,” said Muguruza.

“I think it’s important with all the three matches that I played that are not easy at all.”

Muguruza plays French 13th seed Kristina Mladenovic, who rallied from 5-2 down in the third set to beat American Shelby Rogers, for a place in the last eight.

Venus Williams cruised past Belgium’s Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-1, while 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova overcame China’s Zhang Shuai 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 7-5.

Australian 23rd seed Samantha Stosur, the 2010 runner-up, breezed into the fourth round with a 6-2, 6-2 rout of American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Ons Jabeur’s historic run ended as the lucky loser from Tunisia, the first Arab woman to reach the last 32 at a major, lost 6-2, 6-2 to Swiss 30th seed Timea Bacsinszky, a 2015 semi-finalist.

Winless Froome confident for Dauphine

June 3, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Chris Froome heads into the start of the week-long Criterium du Dauphine on Sunday with uncertainty surrounding his form and fitness.

Team Sky rider Chris Froome of Britain (R), race leader's yellow jersey, cycles along the Tourmalet pass during the 188-km (116.8 miles) 11th stage of the 102nd Tour de France cycling race from Pau to Cauterets in the French Pyrenees mountains, France, July 15, 2015. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The 32-year-old Briton is aiming for a record fourth Dauphine victory and third in a row after also succeeding in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

And each time he has previously won the main warm-up race for the Tour de France, he has gone on to be crowned at the Grand Boucle too a month later.

Yet contrary to his recent years of successes, Froome comes into this year’s Dauphine without a single win in 2017.

But the Team Sky leader seems relaxed.

“I’m happy with where my form is right now. Everything is looking good and I’m looking forward to putting all the training into practice,” he said.

“I think the line-up of riders at the Dauphine is particularly impressive this year in terms of GC (overall) contenders and other Tour rivals, so it should be a big test and a real challenge.

“I’m going there hoping to win, but I’m fully conscious that I’m going up against some very strong competition — probably stronger competition than I’ve had at previous editions of the Dauphine — so I’m certainly not taking anything for granted.”

And well he shouldn’t. In 2013 he arrived at the Dauphine having already won the tours of Romandie and Oman, the Criterium International and finished second at Tirreno-Adriatico.

His best result so far this year was sixth at the lightly-regarded Herald Sun Tour, won by the unheralded Australian Damien Howson.

Froome was also knocked off his bike by a car while training in France last month, although he emerged unscathed.

And he seems unconcerned by his lack of results.

“This time of the year it always feels like it’s really getting towards the business part of my season. I’m coming off the back of two great blocks of training with the guys up in Tenerife, which has got me in great shape and ready for the challenges ahead.”

Former lieutenant Richie Porte will be amongst his chief rivals, with the Australian having enjoyed a strong start to the season, winning the tours of Romandie and Down Under, while also claiming a stage at Paris-Nice.

Romain Bardet, second to Froome at last year’s Tour de France, should also push the Brit close, although he too has had little to cheer this season, a 10th-placed finish at the Tour of Catalonia his best result.

Ireland’s Dan Martin and Spanish veteran Alberto Contador, as well as Colombia’s Esteban Chaves could have their say.

The race begins with a hilly 170km stage around Saint Etienne with eight categorised climbs, before ending a week later with an hors category ascent to Plateau de Solaison.

Murray struggled for focus after reaching top

May 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Andy Murray admits he struggled to stay motivated after a scintillating surge in form that propelled him to the top of the world rankings only a few months ago.

Andy Murray

The Briton usurped Novak Djokovic to become world number one for the first time at the end of last year, but approaches the French Open next week on a poor run.

Murray turned 30 last week but there has been little to celebrate on the court, with his latest defeat coming at the Rome Masters when he lost his second-round match to local favourite Fabio Fognini.

Rafael Nadal’s red-hot form makes him the favourite at Roland Garros when the French Open begins on Sunday and Murray told AFP in Paris: “Maintaining your motivation, your focus and concentration for a very long period is difficult.

“At the end of last year I put in a lot of effort, focus and I achieved a very big goal.

“I had a similar period after I won my first Grand Slam tournament at the US Open and also after I won Wimbledon for the first time, especially Wimbledon because I felt like there was nothing… That’s why I was playing tennis, to win Wimbledon.

“I was the first British player to win Wimbledon for such a long time. When I was done, I was like, ‘Thank God’.

“You have to reset your goals. That’s something I need to do now to look to the future and to keep myself motivated for the big events.”

Murray is renowned for his hard work on the training court and said there is no magic ingredient if he is to win Roland Garros for the first time, having reached last year’s final only to lose to Djokovic in four sets.

“Maybe at the beginning of the year, like in January and February, I was maybe still recovering a little bit from the last year. But the last two months, I just haven’t played well,” Murray said, speaking at an event in the French capital by his sponsor Under Armour.

“I had a small issue with my ankle, you know so practising and stuff with it may be not as good as it needed to be.

“I spoke to my team about that, I wanted to get back to work. To do that, I have been training very hard, spending a lot of time practising and working on my game.

“That’s the best way to get your confidence back.”

After crashing out in the third round of the Madrid Masters earlier this month to unheralded Borna Coric, Murray acknowledged his slump in form was a cause for concern.

He also suffered a shock fourth-round exit at the Australian Open to Mischa Zverev in January and told AFP that it was a tough balancing act between missing tournaments to recover while also trying to retain his prized top ranking.

“If you miss a lot of tournaments your ranking drops and people say, ‘He’s only ranked number seven in the world, he’s not that good.’

“But to get the balance of playing enough to stay at the ranking you maybe deserve or the level you feel you’re playing at, and to take enough rest so you’re able to maintain your best level for long enough, is always a challenge.”

Nadal primed as Murray seeks clay court redemption in Rome

May 14, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Whether he likes it or not, Rafael Nadal will seek to rubber-stamp his status as the favourite for the French Open when he heads to the Rome Masters Monday looking to underline his return to form on clay.

Nadal

World number one Andy Murray may have wowed the crowds at the Foro Italico last year when he bossed Serbia’s four-time champion Novak Djokovic in the final to claim his maiden win in the Italian capital.

But what was just the Scot’s third title on the surface, following wins in Munich and Madrid, has never looked further away.

A year on from a triumph that suggested Murray had finally mastered the toughest surface of them all, the 29-year-old is back to square one after a humiliating exit to unseeded 20-year-old Croat Borna Coric before the business end of the Madrid Masters began earlier this week.

By contrast, Nadal cruised to a 14-0 win record on clay when he ousted long-time rival Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Currently ranked fifth in the world, the Spaniard will now meet Austrian Dominic Thiem in the final.

“It is a great result,” said Nadal. “To win against Novak by that score you have to be playing very well, otherwise it’s impossible.”

Yet Nadal, coming back into form after two underwhelming years, was quick to play down suggestions he was already the favourite for the French Open and, by default, the Rome Masters — a tournament he is looking to win for the eighth time.

“I know that I am playing well. I’m on the right track,” added Nadal.

“It’s really important being able to make it to another final in a Masters 1000, especially here in Madrid, at home. Right now I’m not thinking of anything else.”

Given his past record in Rome — Nadal won seven titles from 2005 to 2013 — the 30-year-old Spaniard can look forward to a rousing reception from the notoriously noisy Rome crowd.

Even moreso if he comes up against Murray, who, to his credit, has blamed himself for an early-season slump in form that has placed huge question marks over his chances of a Rome repeat.

“There’s no blame on anyone, it’s down to me,” Murray said after an error-strewn performance against Coric.

But Murray, who said he has been talking to part-time coach Ivan Lendl “every Monday”, is hoping fortune turns in his favour.

“Things can turn around quickly in tennis. Borna lost in the qualifying here a few days ago. Now he’s in the quarters playing very good tennis. Things can change fast,” he added.

“But you need to have the right sort of ideas, correct ideas, understand why you’re in the position you’re in. Hopefully I can do that with my team and play better in Rome and Roland Garros.”

For the third straight clay-court Masters 1000 event, Djokovic and Nadal have been drawn in the same half.

Despite a straight sets defeat to Nadal that suggested the Serb, too, has yet to reach his peak, Djokovic remains buoyed.

“It was a positive week, a positive experience. I take more positives than negatives into the next week in Rome,” said Djokovic, the second seed in Rome.

“As I go along, I hope to continue getting better and getting stronger.”

In the absence of world number one Serena Williams, who is pregnant, top seed Angelique Kerber has been drawn in the same quarter as Russian Maria Sharapova, who will play Christina McHale in the first round, and Madrid Open winner Simona Halep.

Sharapova returns to the event for the first time since returning from a 15-month doping ban.

Visakha, Lyceum on top after second day

May 5, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Natasha Fernandopulle

The 2017 National and Sub-Junior National Swimming Championships organised by the Sri Lanka Aquatic Sports Union (SLASU) got underway at the Sugathadasa Stadium Swimming Pool in Colombo on Wednesday (3).

With the second day’s proceedings drawing to a close yesterday (4) Visakha Vidyalaya with 92 points and Lyceum International School Wattala with 68 points were currently in first place in the Girls’ and Boys’ Under-15 age group while Mahamaya College Kandy (149.5 points) and Killer Whale Aquatics (155 points) were in the lead in the Women’s and Men’s categories.

Following Visakha Vidyalaya in the Under-15 age group are Lyceum International Schools Wattala (89 points), Gateway College Kandy (52 points), St. Bridget’s Convent (45 points) and Sirimavo Bandaranaike Vidyalaya (34 points) while St. Joseph’s College Colombo (59 points), D. S. Senanayake College (54 points), Royal College Colombo (46 points) and Dharmaraja College (41 points) were among the top five in the same age group in the Men’s category.

Visakha Vidyalaya (141 points) and St. Joseph’s College Colombo (112 points) were in second place in the Girls’ and Boys’ categories respectively while Sirimavo Bandaranaika Vidyalaya (82 points), Musaeus College (67.5 points) and Ave Maria Convent (24 points) were in the top five in the Women’s category.

Meanwhile, Ananda College (87 points), Sri Lanka Navy (84 points) and Lyceum International School Wattala (44 points) were in the top five in their respective categories.

The competition dates of the National Long and Short Course Championships for this year have been altered to suit the international aquatic calendar therefore the 2017 National and Sub-Junior National Swimming Championships will be the selection trial for the 17th FINA World Championships to be held in Budapest, Hungary from July 14-30.

Froome helps Viviani to Romandie cycling win

April 28, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Italian sprinter Elia Viviani missed the cut for Sky’s Giro d’Italia line-up on Friday but bounced back by winning stage three of the Tour of Romandie in Switzerland.

Froome

As the poor weather of recent days cleared Viviani was helped out in his win in the 187km run around Payerne by Sky leader and three time Tour de France winner Chris Froome, who led out the sprint team and is favourite to emerge as overall winner come Sunday.

After he snatched the overall lead in the prologue on Tuesday another Italian, Fabio Felline, maintained that lead again Friday ahead of Germany’s Maximilian Schachmann and Spain’s Jesus Herrada.

Saturday’s race features four challenging mountain climbs and a summit finish but the final stage is an all-decisive go-for-bust individual time trial around Lausanne and Lake Geneva.

Netball star Tharjini moving Down Under

April 18, 2017 · 1 Comment 

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By Channaka de Silva

The biggest star Sri Lanka has ever produced in netball Tharjini Sivalingam left for Australia for a six-month playing and training contract in a move that may signal the end of an era.

But the humble sports icon also gave a clear indication that it is still not too late if the country’s sporting authorities are ready to wake up to the reality and think about the country than playing petty sports politics.

Tharjini was the world’s number one netball player at the peak of her career when she was named as the Best Shooter at the 2011 World Netball Championships but was forced to depart from the National Team in 2014 due to dirty politics played by corrupt officials.

Tharjini, at 35, is still capable of matching the best in the trade but has been confined to watching in horror as Sri Lanka slid down the world ladder largely due to her self-inflicted exile.

She proved a point while routinely starring for the Seylan Bank Team and for the Mercantile Netball Association Team in domestic tournaments.

Scholarship

But when she received a scholarship from one of Australia’s strongest netball clubs, City West Falcons in Melbourne, she grabbed it with both hands realising it presented her with an opportunity to both stamp her class and also to send a message to the Sri Lankan netball authorities.

“There’s no place I love more than my motherland. I am what I am today because I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to play for Sri Lanka. My dream has always been to play for Sri Lanka. It has never changed a bit. Given the chance, I would be delighted to help Sri Lanka do better” Tharjini told Daily Mirror on the eve of her departure to Australia.

Asked if she would consider the possibility of playing for Australia in the case she gets an offer, Tharjini couldn’t be clearer.

“My only dream is to play for Sri Lanka again. No one can take away my love for my motherland” she insisted.

At six feet and ten inches, Tharjini has often been talked about more as a freakishly tall person than for her outstanding netball skills.

She used her height to great advantage in a sport where it provides an obvious edge, not much different from freakishly gifted Muttiah Muralitharan whose permanently bent arm and unusually rotatable wrist propelled him to be a world record holder in cricket.

Tharjini who was born as the fifth of six children in a family in Evenai, Punnalaikattuvan, Jaffna first grabbed the attention of scouts in 2004 during a district netball tournament in Vavuniya where she represented the Batticaloa District as she was doing her Bachelors at the Eastern University. She was immediately invited to join the National Team and the rest was history.

Undisputed star

She steadily rose through the rankings and was the undisputed star when Sri Lanka became the Asian Champions in 2009. In the crucial final Tharjini scored 74 out of the 77 points and easily bagged the Best Shooter’s award for her total score of 380 in the tournament.

Tharjini was appointed Sri Lanka Captain in 2011, but usual Sri Lankan politics prevailed easily and mercilessly over the brilliantly skilled but poorly connected player and she was relegated to be a ‘joint captain’ in a shocking move for the Asian Championships held in Sri Lanka.

The netball authorities perhaps felt it was still not time for a player from Jaffna to captain Sri Lanka!Being continuously disgusted with corrupt officials and politics they played that led the game to ruins, several past Sri Lanka captains finally made a mass exit from the national netball pool and Tharjini was the most prominent name among them.

Some of the others included star players in the calibre of Shashikala Samarasinghe, Kumerini de Silva and Marissa Fernando.

Even the celebrated Coach Thilaka Jinadasa who guided Sri Lanka to several titles, left unceremoniously but was eagerly snapped up quickly by Brunei as their National Coach.

Tharjini would be rubbing shoulders with the world’s best players from today in Australia but she promised her heart would always be a few thousand miles away. “I still hope I would be able to lift Sri Lanka netball up” she added.

Lyceum Wattala retains ISAC title

February 28, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Susil Premalal

Lyceum International School Wattala retained the overall title for the second successive year at the 17th International Schools Athletic Championship (ISAC) which concluded at the Mahinda Rajapaksa Sports Complex in Diyagama on Monday.

ISAC1
The Captain of Lyceum Wattala receiving the overall challenge trophy from the Minister of Sports Dayasiri Jayasekera, Lyceum captain Rashmi Geekanda and Sayuni Mendis Pic by Damith Wickremasinghe

 

Lyceum Wattala collected a massive 1,443 points to finish on top and well ahead of their rivals and runners-up Gateway College Colombo who managed only 984 points.

Last year also these two schools battled for the overall title and on that occasion the difference at the end of the meet was a mere two-point margin.

But this time, Lyceum Wattala were far superior to all other opponents and went on to bag the title in a more convincing manner.

Lyceum Nugegoda took the third place in the overall championship with 774 points.

However, Gateway College Colombo had the satisfaction of producing the Best Athlete in the Boys’ category with Asiri Wijesekera taking the honours for his effort of 21.8s in the 200m final.

Purnima Gunarathna of Leeds International School Panadura won the Best Athlete award in the Girls’ category and also the award for the Best Performance of the meet for her record breaking effort of 1.75m in the high jump final.

Meanwhile, the third and final day of the meet produced a total of 16 new meet records while bringing the total number of records to 30 during the entire meet.

Although 24 schools were expected to participate in the meet, seven schools pulled out in the eleventh hour following rumours of a bomb threat at the Diyagama Stadium.

Minister of Sports Dayasiri Jayasekera was the Chief Guest and distributed the awards.

Results:
Under 9 Girls Champion: Krishelle Pintoe – Lyceum International School, Wattala – 18 Points, Isuli Perera – Lyceum International School, Wattala – 18 points; Under 9 Boys Champion: Luqman Deen – Gateway College, Colombo – 18 Points; Under 9 Overall Champion School: Lyceum International School, Wattala – 101 points; Under 11 Girls Champion: Shenali Bastian – Lyceum International School, Wattala – 24 points; Under 11 Boys Champion (Donated by Ikra Tnt. School): Chulaka Thillakaratne – Lyceum International School, Wattala – 20 Points, Chakshu Premartne – Colombo International School, Colombo – 20 points; Under 11 Overall Champion School: Lyceum International School, Wattala – 87 Points; Under 13 Girls Champion (Donated by St. Nicholas’ Int. College): Onaya Geeganage – Lyceum International School, Wattala – 23 points; Under 13 Boys Champion: Razwin Carrim – Lyceum International School, Panadura – 265 points; Under 13 Overall Champion School: Lyceum International School, Watta1a – 133 points; Under 15 Girls Champion: Sanduni Muthukumarana – Lyceum International School, Wattala – 20 points; Under 15 Boys Champion: Dinush Wickremaratchy – Colombo International School, Colombo – 30 points; Under 15 Overall Champion School: Lyceum International School, Wattala – 200 points; Under 17 Girls Champion: Rashmi Heenkenda – Lyceum International School, Wattala – 28 points, Dilmi Dhanusha Dahanayake – Lyceum International School, Wattala – 28 points; Under 17 Boys Champion: Ginura Gunarathna – Lyceum International School, Nugegoda – 20 points, Kavindu Bandara – Lyceum International School, Nugegoda – 20 points; Under 17 Overall Champion School: Lyceum International School, Wattala – 280 points; Under 19 Girls Champion: Dewmini Kudavithanage – Lyceum International School, Wattala – 36 points; Under 19 Boys Champion: Udesh Ranasinghe – Gateway College, Colombo – 30 points; Under 19 Overall Champion School – Lyceum International School, Wattala – 302 points; Under 20 Girls Champion (Donated by Elizabeth Moir Int. School): Purnima Jayamali Gunarathna – Leeds International School, Panadura – 38 points; Under 20 Boys Champion: Shanaka Perera – Lyceum International School, Wattala – 32 points; Under 20 Overall Champion School: Lyceum International School, Wattala – 329 points; Cambridge Challenge Trophy for the Overall Relay Champions (Donated by Cambridge International Examinations) – Lyceum International School, Wattala – 253 points; Ritzbury Challenge Cup for the Best Female Athlete: Purnima Jayamali Gunarathna – Leeds International School, Panadura – High Jump 1.75M *NMR; Ritzbury Challenge Cup for the Best Male Athlete: Asiri Wijesekara – Gateway College, Colombo – 200M 21.8 secs; Best Performer of the Meet (awarded by Pearson Qualifications International): Purnima Jayamali Gunarathna – Leeds International School, Panadura High Jump – 1.75M *NMR; First Runner-up School of the Meet: Gateway College, Colombo – 984; RIT Alles Memorial Trophy for the Overall Champions of the Meet: Lyceum International School, Wattala – 1443

Farah sets new European record in final indoor race

February 19, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah marked his final race indoors by winning the 5,000 metres at the Birmingham Grand Prix on Saturday in a new European record time of 13 minutes 9.16 seconds.

Farah

The 33-year-old British distance great, who won gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games, plans to retire from all track events to concentrate on road-racing after the World Championships in London in August.

In Birmingham, he was run close by Bahrain’s Albert Rop, who managed to stay with Farah after he burst clear from the rest of the field before being beaten in a sprint finish.

“I had amazing support from the crowd today and I can’t quite believe it’s my last indoor race,” Farah told the BBC after improving his own record for the event.

“I’ve had a great career indoors and particularly on this track,” added Farah, who finished a disappointing seventh at last month’s Edinburgh cross-country.

“I knew I needed to do some work after Edinburgh, I had to leave my family but hard work pays off.”

In other events, Britain’s Andrew Pozzi ran a new personal best and world leading time of 7.43 seconds in the 60m hurdles, with the United States’ Aries Merritt, the 110m hurdles world record-holder third.

Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson, the reigning Olympic 100m and 200m champion, won the women’s 60m in 6.98 seconds — the eighth-fastest time ever.

The women’s 1,000 metres saw Britain’s Laura Muir just miss out on a world record as she won in two minutes 31.93 seconds.

Muir’s time was just a second off Maria Mutola’s world indoor record of 2:30.94.

However, the 23-year-old Scot’s time was a new British record, beating a mark set by Kelly Holmes in 2004 — the same year Holmes won gold in both the 800m and 1500m at the Olympic Games in Athens.

“I am delighted. I wanted to come away with a win on home soil but to break Kelly’s record, I’m so chuffed,” said Muir, now the favourite for both the 1500m and 300m at the European Indoor Championships in Belgrade in March.

“The crowd were huge, I couldn’t hear myself breathing they were so loud…I’m in the best shape I can be so I’m hoping to win some medals in Belgrade.”

Brady stands alone after Super Bowl epic

February 7, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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With four Super Bowl victories in his previous six appearances, Tom Brady had already carved himself onto the Mount Rushmore of quarterback icons.

brady
But after inspiring the New England Patriots to the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, the 39-year-old earned a monument all to himself.

Brady’s fifth Super Bowl win on Sunday wiped away any lingering doubt that the veteran deserves to be regarded as the best quarterback the sport has seen.

The pulsating victory took Brady one clear of his childhood idol, Joe Montana, and Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who both won four Super Bowls.

Yet it was the manner of Brady’s fifth Super Bowl triumph, as much as the statistical milestone of a fifth ring, that confirmed his place at the head of the quarterback pantheon.

Down 28-3 in the third quarter, Brady and the Patriots looked dead and buried.

A bruising first half had seen Brady get roughed up relentlessly by Atlanta’s aggressive pass rush. He was sacked five times in the game, and hit many times more.

“There was a lot shit tonight. And I got hit pretty hard,” Brady told journalists later as he tried to recall the details of his game.

But, like many other times in his career, Brady’s sheer will carried him through what had been a brutal ordeal, until he could sense the tide turning in his team’s favor.

“He was motivating us the whole game, even when we were down,” Patriots running back James White confided to reporters afterwards.

“He just willed us to another victory,” said White, who scored three touchdowns.

Patrick Chung, the Patriots’s outspoken safety, said Brady’s performance had ended the debate about his standing among the best quarterbacks.

“He just proved to you guys that he is the greatest, period,” Chung said. “So all of you haters need to shut up and just own up to it that he is the greatest. We all saw that today.”

Wide receiver Chris Hogan said Brady had refused to concede defeat even as the Falcons romped into a 25-point lead.

“The entire time, there wasn’t a moment where he looked like he knew this thing was over,” Hogan said.

Brady, who finished the game with 466 passing yards, a new record for the Super Bowl, has long maintained that he is not interested in the glory of his standing in the game.

“I don’t think anything about, you know, personal legacy,” he said in the build-up to Sunday’s finale.

“I never thought I’d play professional football. Didn’t think I’d play any professional sports.” Brady shied away from suggestions that he had carried the team, hailing the Patriots’s mentality and tight-knit locker-room bond.

“We all brought each other back,” Brady remarked.

“We’re in the locker room with each other every day and we know what we’re all about. That’s what it comes down to.”

Head coach Bill Belichick, who picked Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, declined to be drawn into ranking the quarterback’s performance, emphasizing victory had been a team effort.

“Tom has had a lot of great ones; tonight was one of them,” Belichick said. “There were a lot of great players playing out there tonight.”

But for Danny Amendola, the long-serving Patriots receiver, there was only one verdict.

“He was the same as he always is, cool, calm and collected,” Amendola said of Brady’s second-half display.

“He’s the leader, the general, the best ever and that is the end of the story. “

Patriots, Falcons chase history at Super Bowl

February 5, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will be chasing history as they attempt to stop the Atlanta Falcons from claiming their first Super Bowl crown Sunday.

More than 100 million homes across the United States and millions more worldwide will tune in for the American football showpiece in Houston, which sees Brady aiming to become the most decorated quarterback of all time.

The 39-year-old superstar will become the first quarterback to win five Super Bowl crowns if he manages to guide the Patriots to victory over the Falcons before a crowd of around 72,000 spectators at the NRG Stadium.

Blanket security will be in place for the game, which takes place at a time of roiling political tensions across the United States following President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration order.

Pop diva Lady Gaga, an outspoken critic of Trump, will have the eyes of the nation — including US Vice President Mike Pence inside the stadium — on her during the halftime show.

A win on Sunday would come 15 years after Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s first Super Bowl triumph in 2002.

It would also represent a satisfying last laugh for Brady following his long-running battle with National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell.

Brady was forced to miss the first four games of the season after losing a legal battle against the NFL over the 2015 Deflategate scandal, which saw the Patriots superstar accused of cheating by attempting to alter the pressure of balls to his advantage during a key championship game.

It has led to the prospect of Goodell having to possibly hand over the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Brady and his teammates on Sunday.

Goodell, for his part, has attempted to damp down any possibility of an awkward trophy presentation, acknowledging Brady’s glittering career during the build-up.

“Tom Brady is one of the all-time greats. He has been for several years,” Goodell said, adding it would be an “honor” to present the Lombardi Trophy to the quarterback.

Brady has done his talking on the field this season. He averaged just under 300 passing yards a game in the regular season, and was magnificent in a comprehensive 36-17 demolition of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship game two weeks ago.

But even Brady’s stats pale in comparison with those of his opposite number, Matt Ryan, who received recognition for a stellar season on Saturday after being named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for 2016.

Ryan has led the most potent offense in the league, averaging more than 365 yards a game in the post-season, and just over 300 yards during the regular season.

Ryan, 31, reached the Super Bowl after four unsuccessful previous playoff appearances.

There was not the slightest hint of nerves en route to Houston, though, when the Falcons crushed the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the Georgia Dome to clinch only the second Super Bowl appearance in the team’s history.

The emphatic nature of that win has persuaded many Falcons fans that their long wait for a maiden Super Bowl title could be about to end.

Ryan — nicknamed “Matty Ice” by his teammates — said the team is comfortable with the burden of expectation.

“I’m sure everyone will be excited and anxious going into it. But as far as nerves, I feel like we’ve prepared ourselves for this moment,” Ryan said.

Ryan also knows that he has an array of weapons at his disposal, which includes arguably the best receiver in the league, Julio Jones, ably supported by the talented Mohamed Sanu and the speedy Taylor Gabriel.

Add in the dual running back threat of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, and it is easy to see why many pundits have installed the Falcons as favorites.

“As a quarterback, when you’re surrounded by really good players and guys who can make plays at any time, it makes your job a lot easier,” Ryan said.

Whether Belichick’s Patriots are able to clip the Falcons’ offensive wings may hold the key to the Super Bowl — and Brady’s hopes of a place in history.

Belichick and Brady led the Patriots for a relaxed photo session on the field with family at the NRG Stadium on Saturday.

“Now it’s the waiting game,” Belichick said. “But I think we’re ready.”

Several records could be on the line at Sunday’s Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons. AFP looks at the milestones under threat at the 51st edition of the showpiece:

- RECORD APPEARANCE -

The New England Patriots have reached the Super Bowl nine times, more than any other franchise in history.

Victory on Sunday would give them five wins, putting them level with the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers in the all-time standings.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have the most Super Bowl championships with six.

- HOLY TRINITY -

New England could become the first team in history to win five Super Bowls with the same owner, head coach and quarterback.

The trinity of owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have enjoyed an unparalleled era of dominance since their first Super Bowl win in 2002.

- BRADY BOWL? -

Tom Brady will move one clear of his childhood idol Joe Montana, and Pittsburgh Steelers great Terry Bradshaw, if he clinches a record fifth Super Bowl on Sunday.

The 39-year-old has already reached more Super Bowls than any quarterback in history with seven appearances, two more than Denver Broncos legend John Elway.

- No. 10 FOR BELICHICK -

Bill Belichick’s 10th Super Bowl means he has had more appearances in the showpiece game as a head coach or assistant coach than any other man in history.

As well as his seven Super Bowls since taking over as head coach of the Patriots in 2000, he also appeared in the game three times as an assistant coach during stints with the New York Giants and Patriots.

- WAITING OVER? -

While New England have enjoyed an era of success since 2002 with seven Super Bowl appearances, the Atlanta Falcons are still waiting for their first championship.

Sunday’s finale is only the second time they have reached the Super Bowl, with their only other appearance coming in 1999, when they were beaten 34-19 by the Denver Broncos.

Alvarez and Chavez set US fight date

January 14, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will square off on May 6 in one of the biggest fights in Mexican boxing history, Golden Boy Promotions announced on Friday.

Alvarez

Mexico’s two most popular boxers will meet at a site to be determined on the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo — a traditional weekend for major fights involving that country’s boxers. The fight is expected to take place in the US, possibly Las Vegas or Dallas, Texas.

Alvarez, the former middleweight world champion, and Chavez, who also once held a world title at 160 pounds, will meet at a catch weight of 164.5 pounds.

Alvarez has never fought heavier than 155 pounds which is the weight at which he demanded opponents fight at when he held the middleweight title. Since 2013, Chavez’s last five fights have been at 167.5 or heavier.

Promoters have been looking at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas as a possible venue. Organizers also said they will talk to other venues, including AT&T Stadium, home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

Alvarez drew an AT&T Stadium-record boxing crowd of 51,240 for his last fight, in September, when he knocked out Liam Smith in the ninth round to win a junior middleweight world title.

MDS Fencing Club wins fencing title

December 23, 2016 · Leave a Comment 

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MDS Fencing Club came out on top when they emerged overall champion of the 5th National Fencing Championship which concluded at the MAS Royal Arena in Reid Avenue on Thursday.

MDS Fencing Club
MDS Fencing Club

 

The champion MDS Fencing Club clinched the title by securing three gold medals, a silver medal and four bronze medals while Slimline Fencing Club was a close second with three gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals.

Meanwhile Sadesh Chandana of Unichela Fencing Club and Anuruddhika Dhananjali of Slimline Fencing Club were adjudged the best fencers in the men’s and women’s category.

The 5th National Fencing Championship saw the participation of ten clubs in both the men’s and women’s categories which was contested by 103 fencers contesting in four events of foil, epee, sabre and team events.

Dayasiri Jayasekera, Minister of Sports graced the occasion as the chief guest.

- MSA

Royal, Visakha claim titles

December 22, 2016 · Leave a Comment 

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Royal College Colombo and Visakha Vidyalaya Colombo emerged Boys and Girls champions respectively in the inaugural School National Fencing Championship worked off at the MAS Royal Arena Auditorium in Reid Avenue on Wednesday.

fencing picture

Royal came on top when they bagged 15 medals including four Gold Medals, two Silver Medals and nine Bronze Medals while Mahawatte MV Kandy took the second spot with six medals followed by Yatiena MV Malwana with four medals.

Visakha Vidyalaya won ten medals comprising of five Gold Medals, two Silver Medals and three Bronze Medals.

Princess of Wales Moratuwa were placed second with two medals and Mahawatte MV Kandy were placed third.

Meanwhile S. Avishka of Pannala National School was adjudged the Best Fencer in the Boys’ category while Chathuni Karunaratne of Princess of Wales won the Best Fencer award in the Girls category.

- MSA

Bolt, Phelps cap era of excellence

December 20, 2016 · Leave a Comment 

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Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps towered over the 2016 Rio Games, capping an era of sustained excellence that promises to reverberate through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and beyond.

Bolt

From Beijing in 2008 through London 2012 and, finally, in Rio, Bolt and Phelps captivated both die-hard fans of their sports and casual spectators attracted like moths to the Olympic flame.

More importantly, they inspired a legion of young competitors determined to flourish on sport’s biggest stage even as Olympic officials grapple with soaring costs, corruption and the ever-present spectre of doping.

“It’s not even once in a generation — it may be once in 10 generations that someone like Michael comes along,” said Bob Bowman, the coach who nurtured Phelps from an age-group phenomenon to an Olympic superstar whose five gold medals in Rio took his already stunning tally to 23 gold among a total of 28.

The same could be said of Bolt, who has dominated in the tests of speed that are the quintessential sporting contests, maintaining his supremacy over an unprecedented span of years.

“I’ve proven to the world I’m the greatest,” declared the ebullient Jamaican, who preens and poses with the same unabashed ardor with which he raced to three Olympic sprint trebles.

Both Bolt and Phelps presaged their mature exploits with precocious Olympics appearances, Phelps as a 15-year-old contesting the 200m butterfly in 2000, and Bolt, at 17, finishing fifth in his heat in the 200m in 2004.

By those Games in Athens in 2004, Phelps was already challenging Mark Spitz’s record of seven titles at one Games, coming away with six golds and two bronze.

In Beijing Phelps cemented his place among Games greats with a perfect eight golds in eight events at the Water Cube while Bolt electrified the Birds’ Nest stadium with his 100m, 200m and 4x100m sprint triumphs.

From Beijing on they were linked in Games lore, each adding to his legacy in 2012 — Bolt with another sprint sweep and Phelps with four more gold to add to his staggering tally of Olympic medals.

Although a burned-out Phelps flirted with retirement after London, it was fitting that his decision to return for one last, fifth, campaign, saw him bow out at the same time as Bolt.

The Jamaican’s unprecedented third sweep of the 100m, 200m and 4x100m means debate will rage loud and long as to which can claim the status of “greatest Olympian”.

Already in Rio, dozens of rising swimming stars cited Phelps as their inspiration.

That included Singapore’s Joseph Schooling, who bested his idol in the 100m butterfly to claim his country’s first-ever Olympic gold in any sport, and Adam Peaty, who twice broke his own 100m breaststroke world record to become the first British man in 28 years to win Olympic swimming gold.

“No matter what country you swim for, you’re indebted to Michael Phelps,” US backstroker Ryan Murphy said. “He’s opened a lot of doors for all of us.”

Bolt’s influence is just as broad.

“I will say that it is an absolute pleasure to be able to compete in the same era as Usain Bolt,” said America’s two-time Olympic decathlon gold medalist Ashton Eaton.

Eaton isn’t among the doom-sayers worried that Bolt’s departure from the track — after an extended victory lap in 2017 — will leave a void that can’t be filled.

“I really disagree he’ll leave a vacuum,” Eaton said. “If anything, he’s provided a platform for all the other young, aspiring athletes to launch from.

“Just now we’re not seeing the fruits of his accomplishments and labor, but I think in the years to come you’ll see a lot of young athletes who’ll say ‘I got inspired by Usain Bolt’.

“When I got inspired by Michael Johnson I was eight years old and I didn’t start coming into fruition in track until I was 18,” Eaton said, “so give it a decade.”

Le Clos breaks 100m fly world record to win world short course gold

December 9, 2016 · Leave a Comment 

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Chad le Clos, rebounding from what he considered a disappointing Rio Olympics, won his second gold of the Short Course Swimming World Championships with a world record-setting victory in the 100m butterfly.

CLos

The South African’s time of 48.08sec improved his own world record of 48.44, set at the previous edition of the championships in Doha in 2014.

Le Clos, denied a 200m fly Olympic repeat in Rio, added another gold to the 200m fly title he captured on Tuesday when the championships kicked off in Windsor, Canada.

American Tom Shields was second in 49.04 and Australian David Morgan claimed bronze in 49.31.

Hungary’s one-woman wrecking crew of Katinka Hosszu, a treble gold medallist in Rio, picked up her fourth individual gold of the championships in the 200m backstroke.

It was another convincing win for the “Iron Lady,” who was in control from the 50m mark and steadily built her lead to win in 2:00.79 — more than a second in front of runner-up Daryna Zevina of Ukraine (2:02.24). Australian Emily Seebohm took bronze in 2:02.65.

Hosszu, winner of the 200m butterfly, 100m back and 400m individual medley earlier in the meeting, also topped the semi-final times in the 100m individual medley.

But she wasn’t a factor as she capped her night with an eighth-place finish in the 800m freestyle won by American Leah Smith.

Smith, the 400m free bronze medallist in Rio, led all the way to head a US one-two in 8:10.17. Ashley Twichell was second in 8:11.95 and Australian Kiah Melverton was earned bronze in 8:16.51.

The 800 free field was missing reigning champion and world record-holder Mireia Belmonte of Spain, who pulled out of the event after a disappointing showing in the 400m medley on Tuesday.

Germany’s Marco Koch further soothed the disappointment of Rio with a victory in the 200m breaststroke, adding a second gold to the 100m breast title he captured on Wednesday.

Koch, the reigning long course world champion who was relegated to seventh in the 200m breast at the Olympics, clocked a championship record of 2:01.21 for a comfortable win over Britain’s Andrew Willis (2:02.71) with Russia’s Mikhail Dorinov third in 2:03.09.

Australian Brittany Elmslie, a relay gold medallist in Rio, snatched victory in the women’s 100m freestyle, earning her first short course world title in 51.81.

Silver went to 2012 double Olympic sprint gold medallist Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands, who was second in 51.92, while Canadian teenager Penny Oleksiak, who shared 100m free gold with American Simone Manuel in Rio, took bronze in 52.01.

The United States capped the night with a victory in the mixed 4x50m medley relay. Michael Chadwick, swimming the final freestyle leg, hit the water in seventh place but stormed home to complete the victory in 1:37.22.

The win gave breaststroker Lilly King her third gold of the championships, after an individual triumph in the 50m breast and her swim on America’s world record-setting women’s 4x50m medley relay.

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