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Grace forced out of duel

BOXING: Welterweight Claire Grace had to withdraw from the AIBA World Women's Championships in Jeju, South Korea, yesterday through injury.

Grace did not weigh-in ahead of her scheduled bout and Turkey's Guluzar Kara, who the Kilkenny boxer was slated to meet, advanced to the quarter-finals on a walkover.

Grace sustained a nasty cut over her left eye in her win over Romania's Cristina Stanca on Monday and Irish manager, Anna Moore, said that the Irish coaching staff had decided to withdraw the Irish elite champion from the tournament for welfare and safety reasons.

Michaela Walsh and Katie Taylor will be in action today in Jeju.

Novak's Davis return

TENNIS: Serbia's world number one Novak Djokovic will return to Davis Cup action after a season's absence when he leads his country against Croatia in the first round in March.

"Novak returns to the Serbia Davis Cup team for the first-round tie against Croatia from March 6-8," said Djokovic's official website

Djokovic, who steered Serbia to the 2010 Davis Cup title, skipped the tournament last season after Serbia fell short in the 2013 final against the Czech Republic, losing 3-2 in Belgrade despite Djokovic winning both his singles rubbers.

The 27-year old finished top of the 2014 world rankings after winning the season-ending ATP World Tour Final in London, which Switzerland's world number two Roger Federer forfeited on Sunday due to a back injury.

Bianchi improving

MOTOR SPORT: Formula One driver Jules Bianchi is showing signs of recovery following a life-threatening crash, and is breathing unaided after being taken out of an artificial coma and repatriated from Japan to a French hospital.

Bianchi, who crashed during last month's Japanese Grand Prix, remains in a critical condition with severe head injuries, his parents said in a statement yesterday.

The 25-year-old Bianchi lost control of his Marussia car and hit a mobile crane that was inside the trackside barriers.

"Following a challenging period of neurological intensive care, we are able to announce that Jules has made an important step," the statement from Philippe and Christine Bianchi said.

"Jules is no longer in the artificial coma in which he was placed shortly after the accident, however he is still unconscious.

"He is breathing unaided and his vital signs are stable."