Wednesday 26 October 2016

Serena shows fighting spirit

Tennis: World number one Serena Williams survived a meltdown to beat Czech Lucie Safarova 6-3 6-7(2) 6-2 to win the French Open yesterday, her 20th grand slam singles trophy.

The American, who skipped practice on Friday because of a bout of flu, opened up a 6-3 4-1 lead but slumped as the 13th-seeded Safarova stormed back, even moving 2-0 up in the decider.

But Williams regained her composure and won the last six games to win the clay-court major for the third time after her 2002 and 2013 titles. She is now third on the list of major champions behind Margaret Court (24) and Steffi Graf (22).

"It was complicated, Lucie played very well - she was very aggressive," Williams said. "I got a bit nervous but it's a dream for me. To win it here is special for me because I don't always play very well here."

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Having needed two days and treatment on his leg to beat Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic will start today's French Open final as the favourite but with his armour pierced. He will take on Stan Wawrinka, as he looks to complete his grand slam collection without a rest day between his semi-final and the decisive showdown.

Djokovic was heading for a seemingly easy win against Murray on Friday when the Scot rebelled, stretching the contest until proceedings were halted because of rain. The players returned to court yesterday and Djokovic ensured there was a swift finish. He would, however, have welcomed a rest day.

"It wasn't easy but I think I will be fine for the finals," Djokovic said after winning 6-3 6-3 5-7 5-7 6-1. "Whatever I have left I will put out on the court. Hopefully it can be enough."

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Soccer: Celtic have announced three pre-season friendlies which will take place at St Mirren Park, with David Moyes' Real Sociedad among the visitors. With Celtic Park undergoing pre-season ground works, they will be based in Paisley for part of their summer preparations, taking on Dutch side Den Bosch on Wednesday, July 1 and Czech outfit Dukla Prague on Saturday, July 4.

Moyes brings his team over on Friday, July 10, days before Celtic's first Champions League qualifier. The Scottish champions will then fly to Spain to play Eibar on Saturday, July 18.

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Benfica coach Jorge Jesus is quitting the club he led to the Portuguese title in the last two seasons and moving to rivals Sporting Lisbon in a switch that stunned fans. Jesus was expected to extend his six-year stint at the Stadium of Light where he captured his 10th trophy last month, becoming the club's most successful coach. However, Sporting announced that Jesus would take charge of Sporting at its Jose Alvalade Stadium from July 1.

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GOLF: Tiger Woods stumbled to a career-worst round of 85 in the third round of the Memorial Tournament in Ohio yesterday. Woods struggled throughout and was already nine-over par before finishing with a quadruple-bogey on the par-four 18th.

Bogeys on the fourth and fifth and double-bogeys on the eighth and ninth saw him make the turn six-over par, but things would only get worse. He bogeyed the 11th, 12th and 14th holes before taking a shot back on the par-five 15th.

Woods then dropped a further stroke on the 17th before it all went wrong on the 18th where he found the bunker and then three-putted before making a swift exit.

Elsewhere, Sweden's Alex Noren will take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Nordea Masters as home players filled six of the top eight places in Malmo. Noren defied winds gusting up to 30mph to card a superb third round of 67 at PGA Sweden National and finish 11-under par, with Germany's Max Kieffer his nearest challenger after three birdies in the last five holes in his 70. Home favourites Sebastian Soderberg and Jens Dantorp shared third place on eight-under with world number four Henrik Stenson, Steven Jeppesen and Kristoffer Broberg all six-under.

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ATHLETICS: Alex Wright set a PB of 82.05 in the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in La Coruña, Spain, last night, putting him well inside the qualifying standard for the 20K in both the World Championships and the 2016 Olympics in Rio. It means he has the qualifying standard for the 20K and 50K walks for the Championships and Olympics.

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Rugby: Winger Nemani Nadolo scored a virtuoso try to help seven-time champions Crusaders to a 34-11 win over the Auckland-based Blues yesterday and maintain their slim hopes of a play-off berth in Super Rugby.

Crusaders must still win their last match in the regular season next weekend to have any chance of securing a place in the top-six play-offs.

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Cricket: Grant Elliott and Luke Ronchi eacg scored centuries to lead New Zealand to a 198-run win over Leicestershire at Grace Road yesterday.

Leicestershire had done well to reduce New Zealand to 142 for five at the halfway stage, with Kane Williamson (45) and Ross Taylor (77) accounting for most of the those runs. The Foxes' Tom Wells, claimed the scalps of both, with Williamson caught by Ned Eckersley and Taylor by Lewis Hill. But the hosts were unable to cope with Elliott and Ronchi. Each scored 106 not out for an unbroken sixth-wicket partnership of 221 off 25.1 overs, which left the tourists at 373 for five. The Foxes were all out for 175.

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Motor racing: Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix yesterday with Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg qualifying alongside him on the front row. It was Hamilton's sixth pole in seven races this season.

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Equestrian: Tipperary's Greg Broderick picked up more prize money at the five-star show in St Gallen yesterday when finishing third in the Longines speed class on the Irish Sport Horse Mhs Automatic. Having won the first class of the show, and picked up a second place in the speed competition, Broderick was under two seconds off the pace of winner Gregory Wathelet and Egano van Het Slogenhof but collected ¤10,000 for his third place.

Irish riders also took three other top places in the speed class - Cian O'Connor and Quidam's Cherie finished in sixth, Darry Kenny took eighth with Chin Quidam Vdl, while Bertram Allen placed tenth with Wild Thing L.

In the US, Cork's Shane Sweetnam took the laurels when finishing first in the four-star Tryon speed class in North Carolina with Cyklon. In Canada, Co Down's Conor Swail had another third place at five-star Spruce Meadows, riding Grafton in the 1m50 competition, but losing out to the USA's McLain Ward and HH Azur, whose double clear was one of just two registered in the competition.

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