By Pritha SarkarWhen Novak Djokovic’s flying forehand kissed the net and bounced into the corner, he let out a primal roar that echoed around Centre Court, the All England Club and probably all the way to his hometown of Belgrade.It was the point that had spared him going into a nerve-jangling fifth set.It was the point that secured him a 6-4 3-6 7-6(2) 7-6(7) over win over shotmaker extraordinaire Grigor Dimitrov.Most importantly it was the point that propelled him into a final showdown at Wimbledon with seven-times champion Roger Federer.The so-called revolution by the ‘generation next’ of men’s tennis failed to gather further momentum on Friday as 23-year-olds Dimitrov and Milos Raonic came up short in their bids to overthrow the establishment.Instead a 27-year-old father-to-be and a 32-year-old father of four – who between them own 23 grand slam titles – will battle it out for the biggest prize in lawn tennis.A nonchalant 6-4 6-4 6-4 demolition of Canadian Raonic left Federer standing just three sets away from becoming the oldest man to triumph at the grasscourt major in the professional era.That particular statistic, however, mattered little to a tennis great who is chasing a record eighth Wimbledon trophy to take his overall grand slam haul to 18.“I have a lot of energy in the tank. I am very excited for the final because that’s how you want to feel before a final, totally energised and eager to play,” said the Swiss, who will be contesting a 25th grand slam final.After watching a sure-footed Federer neutralise Raonic’s bullet-like serve and firecracker forehand with casual ease, no one would have guessed that the same court had resembled a treacherous and dusty minefield only minutes earlier.RAZZLE-DAZZLE TENNISThe all-white uniforms Djokovic and Dimitrov had walked out wearing soon turned into not-so-white outfits as they spent more time rolling about in the dust in the worn out areas around the baseline than standing on their feet.But there was no denying the quality of the contest that could have graced any grand slam final as the duo produced a three-hour display of spellbinding shotmaking and heart-thumping drama.When Djokovic led 6-4 and with a break point to go 4-1 up in the second, no one could have guessed the razzle-dazzle tennis that was just around the corner.Those who had never laid eyes on 11th seed Dimitrov soon realised why he had been christened “Baby Fed” as he produced Federer-esque shots that drew a 15,000-strong chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” to draw level at one set all.The elastic-limbs of both players were tested to their limits as they hit eye-popping winners while on their knees, while doing the splits and while diving into the ground.The regular spills and tumbles were not to Djokovic’s liking, however. He raged at his shoes, raged at the threadbare baseline – even kicking up a dusty storm after one particular point – and raged at his racket for not coming up with more decisive winners.How long could Dimitrov keep coming up with audacious shots like leaping after a lob and flicking it for an overhead crosscourt winner? Or hitting a diving volley winner during an exchange that left both players flat on their stomachs and looking at each other across the netted barrier?The answer came in the third game of the fourth set when Dimitrov, having surrendered the third set tiebreak rather tamely, dropped serve to love after banging down three successive double faults.But a competitor who had won 10 successive matches on grass was not about to give up his chances of becoming the first Bulgarian to reach a major final without a fight.THRILLING DECIDERHe broke back for 2-2, went toe-to-toe for 3-3, 4-4 and at 5-4 held set point in a game where he slid after a Djokovic shot and curled in a sensational forehand winner down the line that left spectators leaping to their feet.The set point, however, disappeared into the bottom of the net.Three more set points vanished under a blaze of amazing shot-making in the tiebreak as the hollering crowd willed Dimitrov to take the match into a thrilling decider.Djokovic, though, had witnessed enough nail-biting drama for one day and his ear-splitting celebrations showed just how much of a relief winning the tiebreak 9-7 meant to him.“I was a set and a break up and made some unforced errors that gave my opponent hope that he could win the match,” said Djokovic, who had survived a five-setter against Marin Cilic in the previous round.“That’s something that I definitely cannot allow myself in the final against Roger.“They have a similar game, so it was good to play a longer match and understand the way I need to prepare for Roger,” added the top seed, who has lost the three major finals he has played since winning the last of his six slams at the 2013 Australian Open.“I am physically ready and fit to go the distance this time.”With Djokovic and Federer showing the ‘next big things’ in tennis that they are still clearly second best – Sunday’s final will be the 38th successive grand slam final to feature at least one member – in this case two – of the so called Big Four.After all the hoopla following the early exits of Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, Federer summed up: “Let’s just be honest, it was always going to be hard to get rid of all four guys at the same time.”
By Ed OsmondMichael Garcia, chairman of the investigatory chamber of FIFA’s Ethics Committee, plans to appeal against the report by world football’s ruling body into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, he said on Thursday.The tournaments are set go ahead in Russia and Qatar as planned after FIFA’s ethics committee said it could find no grounds for reopening the controversial bidding process.“Today’s decision by the Chairman of the Adjudicatory Chamber contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions detailed in the Investigatory Chamber’s report. I intend to appeal this decision to the FIFA Appeal Committee,” Garcia said in a statement.In a long-awaited report, the ethics committee said that “the various incidents which might have occurred are not suited to compromise the integrity of the FIFA World Cup 2018/2022 bidding process as a whole”.
By John O’BrienLewis Hamilton has always regarded Ayrton Senna as his Formula One idol and the reigning world champion has a golden opportunity to match the late Brazilian’s 41 race wins at this week’s Singapore Grand Prix.Should the Briton drive his dominant Mercedes to victory in his 161st start on Sunday, not only will he achieve the feat in exactly the same number of races, he will strengthen his bid for a Senna-equalling third world title.“I watched Senna as a child and it would be an honour to match him. Now I’m just one win away but I hope to do even better,” the 30-year-old said in a recent interview.“But we must not forget that if he were alive, he would have won a lot more,” he added of the driver who tragically lost his life following a crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.Hamilton holds a 53-point lead over nearest challenger Nico Rosberg going into the 13th round of the season and it was at this race a year ago where the Briton ripped the momentum away from his German team-mate.Last season, the title race ended up going all the way to the final round in Abu Dhabi as Hamilton’s reliability issues allowed Rosberg to remain within striking distance despite winning seven fewer grands prix.This year, however, Hamilton has secured 11 pole positions in 12 rounds, finished every single race and claimed his seventh victory of the season in Monza last time out as a late engine failure left Rosberg pointless.Hamilton knows what it takes to win in Singapore, having twice taken the chequered flag under the floodlights after 61 concentration-sapping laps around the Marina Bay Street Circuit, and the Briton is geared up for another tough race.“I’ve won there twice now, both times from pole, which shows you how important qualifying is too,” he said. “It won’t be easy to make it three… far from it. But I’m riding high right now and I’ll be pushing for that hat-trick.”Rosberg has admitted he is not a fan of the 23-turn circuit and after electrical issues forced an early retirement that allowed Hamilton to leapfrog him in the standings a year ago, the German admits he has nothing to lose this time around.“I know I’ve got the pace to win there, so I’m hoping for a clean weekend and a chance to unleash the silver beast under the lights,” he said.A Hamilton win would also see him draw level with Sebastian Vettel with 41 career victories, although the German will be looking for his third win in his debut season for Ferrari at a circuit he also loves.Vettel stormed to three straight wins in Singapore with Red Bull from 2011 and with his car the best of the rest this season, the four-time champion sits 21 points behind Rosberg.The tight track and regular safety car periods could work in his favour.Local organisers of the race have played down concerns about the cloud of haze hanging over the city, saying it was not expected to impact on the event.The city-state has been blanketed by thick smog for the past week, a result of farmers in neighbouring Sumatra burning forests to clear their land for agriculture.Race officials said they were monitoring the situation but there were no plans to change any of the scheduled events over the race weekend, including the pop concerts held each night at the Marina Bay street circuit.“Based on the current PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) levels, there are no plans to amend the published racing and entertainment programme,” Singapore GP said in a statement.
By Larry FineJordan Spieth capped a brilliant season in sensational style as he scored a four-stroke victory at the Tour Championship on Sunday that also won him the FedExCup playoffs title for an $11.48 million pay day.Spieth shot a closing one-under-par 69 at East Lake Golf Club for a nine-under total of 271 and his fifth win of the season, including the Masters and U.S. Open.The prize money haul included the $10 million jackpot bonus for winning the season’s FedExCup points competition, virtually clinched him Player of the Year honours and returned the 22-year-old American to the number one world ranking.Sweden’s Henrik Stenson rolled in a 57-foot birdie putt at the last for a 72 to tie for second on five-under 275 with Englishman Justin Rose (66) and Danny Lee of New Zealand (65).“This is incredible. This is an event that we approach like a major championship because we know this is possible at the end of it,” said Spieth after hoisting the silver FedExCup trophy.Spieth experienced a slight lull to his sensational season in the last month as Australian Jason Day went red-hot to win four of six events, including the PGA Championship and two of the FedExCup playoff tournaments.However, the ultra-competitive Spieth geared up for a run at the Tour Championship/FedExCup double and hit his target.“I got frustrated. I missed two cuts in a row, had never done that, lost the number one ranking. I was watching Jason Day just dominate golf,” said Spieth, whose PGA Tour season earnings ballooned to $22 million because of the FedExCup bonus.“I got to work, put my head down a little more than I did right after the PGA, knowing that we could still peak this week and that’s what we did.”MAGIC PUTTERSpieth once again wielded a magic putter to quash the hopes of his rivals.He began the day with a one-shot lead over Stenson, the 2013 FedExCup winner. He extended that advantage to two but after six holes the pair were tied when Spieth suffered a second consecutive bogey.With both players starting the week inside the top five in FedExCup points — and thus assured of winning the FedExCup by winning the tournament — it seemed to be a two-man game.Spieth took command on the eighth hole by rolling in a 21-foot birdie putt, while Stenson bogeyed for a two-shot swing.Then after Stenson knocked his approach close at the ninth, Spieth rolled in an 18-footer to maintain his advantage.Two holes later, Spieth rolled in 46-foot putt for birdie to retain his two-shot edge, drawing a wry grin from the Swede who acknowledged the American’s effort with a fist bump on the green.With Rose, Lee, Dustin Johnson (64), Bubba Watson (67) and Englishman Paul Casey, who reached six-under before bogeys at 16 and 17, making charges, Spieth continued to use his putter to hold them at bay.He saved par at the 15th with a putt from nine feet and did so again at 16, and Stenson gave him breathing room with a double-bogey at 17 after shanking his approach shot.“I didn’t quite get going today and Jordan was putting unbelievably well,” said Stenson, whose long birdie putt at the last moved him into second place in the final FedExCup standings for an extra $1 million and a total $3 million bonus.“Whenever he had to make a putt, he did it. So, very well-deserving champion.”
THE Grammar School Nicosia and Arsenal Soccer School Cyprus have agreed to a long term partnership with the first phase featuring the coaching team of the Gunners academy staffing the school’s newly founded football programme. In the near future, the cooperation will include visit swaps in Cyprus and abroad, hosting training camps and much more.The Grammar School sports programme will debut in September with football the first sport of the calendar. The students who choose to attend the particular programme will be able to do so until their graduation year.The school’s football program is aimed at youngsters up to 14 years old. Head of the programme will be coach Ara Bedrossian who is also the Technical Director of Arsenal Soccer School Cyprus, with the rest of the coaching staff of the football academy taking over various responsibilities of the programme.“We chose Arsenal Soccer School due to their links with a huge international institution such as Arsenal FC. They will help us provide football expertise to our students and at the same time carry over the values of their academy, which will help our youngsters to develop as students and athletes,” said Grammar School head of the sports Antonis Demetriou.“Through this programme, we will also provide the students access to sporting scholarships abroad via the Arsenal network”.Ambi Spyrou, the head of the Arsenal academy in Cyprus, said that the exclusive partnership with The Grammar School “will bring many benefits to our academy. We have found the perfect partner in regards to philosophy, youth teaching and mentality”.As part of the football programme, the young student-athletes will train four times a week, with emphasis given on the technical aspect of their game. They will also participate in seminars, undergo ergometric tests and have the support of sport psychologists.
Britain’s Prince William has urged the Football Association to reform its governance structure to avoid falling short of modern standards.The Duke of Cambridge, who is the governing body’s president, was speaking at a lunch at Wembley Stadium to mark his 10-year anniversary in the role.“Our governance structure is in danger of falling short of modern standards of best practice,” he said.“As the country’s national sport, we ought to be leading the way. There is a wind of change blowing through global sporting governance and we need to ensure we do not get left behind.”William, who has backed outgoing FA Chairman Greg Dyke’s efforts to reform the FA Council, urged the assembled guests, many of whom are board members, to play a more proactive role in ushering in changes at the governing body.“I know the organisation is currently reviewing this issue and there is an opportunity to seize the initiative by the way in which we reform ourselves,” he said.“This is an emotive issue, and it is one that you all have a stake in deciding.”William, whose favourite Premier League club Aston Villa appear destined for relegation this season, is hoping that leaders Leicester City find a happy ending to their fairytale season by winning the title.“I’m dying for Leicester to win (the league). It will be good for the game,” he said.Leicester currently lead the division by seven points ahead of Tottenham Hotspur and will lift the title if they win four of their remaining six games.
The weather in the nation’s capital is looking fine with 90 percent cloud cover.The visitors will not be taking this game lightly here at the National Football Stadium.Wartovo Puara Jr and Bland Abavu have been omitted from today’s line-up by Hunters coach Michael Marum.Miss PNG and Miss Pacific Islands 2015 Abigail Havora led the Hunters out onto the field and did the official kick off to start the game.Devils, in their away blue and white uniforms running from right to left, kicked off and the game got underway.The seats in the stadium are still being filled by rugby supporters with the main grand stand packed to capacity.More to come…
Ali, regarded as the greatest professional boxer in the history of the sport, was admitted to hospital earlier this week with the illness and died on Saturday (AEST).He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for more than three decades.”After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74,” Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell said.Ali compiled a 56-5 win-loss record as a professional boxer and won a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.Known globally not only for his storied ring career but also for his civil rights activism, Ali had been hospitalised multiple times in recent years.
The Czech world No 1, who reached the final in New York last year, required three sets to defeat American home favourite Nicole Gibbs in the second round and was on the brink of defeat before rallying to record a hard fought 3-6 7-5 6-4 success.Pliskova lost the first set after struggling to gain rhythm in her service games and despite securing an early break in the second set against the Chinese 27th seed she needed to fire a forehand winner down the line to save a match point in the tenth game of the second set with Zhang serving for the match.Zhang played her part in an absorbing encounter, which opened the schedule on the Arthur Ashe Stadium, taking the initiative in the baseline exchanges and targeting the Pliskova second serve.The 28-year-old appeared set to knock out Pliskova when she secured a 2-0 lead in the decider but couldn’t get over the line as Pliskova, who received for treatment for an arm injury at the end of the second set, upped her game to prove too strong for her opponent.”I was match point down and I thought I haven’t tried many forehand winners down the line. That’s what I did. I may not have got another chance,” said Pliskova, who maintains her chances of retaining her world No 1 ranking at the end of the tournament.”She got tight at the end of the second set, so I just waited for my chances.”The Czech, who is battling with Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza and Elina Svitolina for the top spot, will next meet American Jennifer Bradyon Monday.Brady, the world No 91, had never featured in a main draw Grand Slam event prior to this year’s Australian Open but the 22-year-old is enjoying a fine run at Flushing Meadows.In her US Open debut, the home favourite has impressed and secured a hard fought 6-3 4-6 7-6(3) victory over Romania’s Monica Niculescu on Saturday.Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko, the reigning French Open champion, fell to a surprise straight sets defeat against the talented 20-year-old world No 38 Daria Kasatkina.The Russian secured her spot in the fourth round at the US Open for the first time in her career after securing an impressive 6-3 6-2 victory which included Kasatkina winning 12 successive games at one stage.Kaia Kanepi will next meet Kasatkina after the Estonian prevailed in a three-set battle against Japan’s Naomi Osaka, who defeated defending champion Angelique Kerber in the first round, 6-3 2-6 7-5.Meanwhile, Lucie Safarova, the women’s world No 1 doubles player, was another Czech player to progress to the last 16 with a comfortable 6-3 6-2 victory over Japan’s Kurumi Nara and will next meet CoCo Vandeweghe.The American, who is coached by former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, showed great resolve and determination to prevail against 10th seed Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5 4-6 6-4 in a match that lasted just shy of three hours.Elina Svitolina, the Ukranian world No 4, ended the run of American Shelby Rogers in a 6-4 7-5 victory to advance to the fourth round in New York for the first time in her career and awaits the winner of Madison Keys against Elena Vesnina.Rogers was involved in the longest women’s singles match in US Open history on Thursday against Daria Gavrilova but fell short against an in-form Svitolina who won the Toronto title last month.Sky Sports Tennis will have all the action from the US Open covered via our website www.skysports.com/tennis with our live blogs and updates throughout the fortnight as the Grand Slam year reaches its climax.On the move? Head to our app for mobile devices and iPad, or follow our Twitter account @SkySportsTennis to join in the conversation. Who will win the US Open titles this year? Have your say…We will also have coverage of the World Tour Finals in November with every match live on Sky Sports.
SCORECARD | AS IT HAPPENEDSikandar Raza struck an unbeaten 69 off 83 balls to bail Zimbabwe out of trouble after they hd slipped to 139-7 batting first – his half-century helping the Harare hosts to a competitive score of 211-9.In reply, Ireland were desperately poor with the bat. Only Paul Stirling (41) and Gary Wilson (15) managed double-figure scores as they were skittled for 104 in just 34.2 overs.Tendai Chisoro (3-22) and Graeme Cremer (3-18) did the damage with the ball for Zimbabwe, who now move top of the Super Sixes table, with Scotland currently in second.They both have two wins from three games, tying the other against each other in the group stage. Ireland, meanwhile, have lost two from three, with their 2019 World Cup hopes now hanging by a thread.The top two teams at the end the Super Sixes stage advance to the final on March 25 and also qualify for the 2019 World Cup.