By Pritha SarkarNO one would have guessed that Sabine Lisicki is allergic to grass as she joyfully rolled on the most famous rectangle of turf after surviving a heart-pumping, nerve-jangling epic to set up a mind-boggling Wimbledon final against Marion Bartoli.A final that had odds of 1,500-1 at the start of the tournament became a reality on a hot and sticky Thursday afternoon as Lisicki, relying on a thunderbolt serve and sheer force of will, ended the brave resistance of Agnieszka Radwanska with a 6-4 2-6 9-7 win.Bartoli’s tactics were more unconventional as the French 15th seed enjoyed a 20-minute power nap shortly before her semi-final and woke up to inflict a 6-1 6-2 nightmare on Belgian outsider Kirsten Flipkens.Fans who might have been feeling short-changed following Bartoli’s 63-minute demolition job having forked out $150 for a ticket certainly got their money’s worth of drama and dazzling court craft as Lisicki showed the fight that helped her to jettison Serena Williams in the fourth round.The German 23rd seed showed why she had an 18-4 win-loss record at the All England Club – but 16-15 at the other slams – as she clawed back from 3-0 down to win the longest third set in a women’s semi-final since Conchita Martinez squeezed past Lori McNeil 10-8 in 1994.After outlasting last year’s runner-up and fourth seed Radwanska in a two hour 18 minute sweat-fest, Lisicki could not stop beaming.“It was unbelievable, the last few games were so exciting. Agnieszka played so well, it was a battle and I’m so happy to have won it,” said Lisicki whose smile has lit up a Wimbledon full of shocks and surprises.“I was just fighting for every single point out there. I didn’t know how it would end, I fought with all my heart but I believed I could win no matter what the score was.”Lisicki’s calm and poised demeanour was in stark contrast to the strange on-court mannerisms of Bartoli.Throughout the contest, the 28-year-old could not stand, or even sit, still for 10 seconds.In between points she was a bundle of energy, practising air shots as she bounced around like a hyperactive toddler and she repeatedly kissed the bands on her right and left wrists.The body language might have been unorthodox and some of her shots were equally eccentric but that did not stop her from seeing “the ball like a football” and she stands one match away from emulating countrywoman Amelie Mauresmo’s 2006 success.Flipkens, who suffered life-threatening blood clots 14 months ago and defied doctors orders to get her career back on track, admitted she had been powerless.“I had to play 500 percent to beat Marion today,” said the bespectacled Belgian.“I tried my slices. She didn’t have any problem with that. I tried the dropshot. She got it. I played a passing shot, she came to the net. I tried a lob. I tried everything. She was just too good,” added Flipkens who had to take an injury time out while trailing 3-0 in the second set to get her already-strapped knee retaped.Radwanska, the only top-four player to fulfil her seeding, emerged on to Centre Court with so much strapping above both knees it appeared as if her thighs had been mummified.That did not hamper her movement, though, until she came unstuck at 3-3 in the first set when she went down 0-40. After saving three break points, the Pole was thrown off balance by a cruel netcord and her reflex volley bounced long.That allowed Lisicki to bag the set but with the temperature soaring, the German wilted under a barrage of winners and she lost nine of 10 games to fall 3-0 behind in the third set – an all-too-familiar scenario as she had also trailed Williams by the same score.However, a woman who suffered a career-threatening ankle injury in 2010 knew that “anything is possible after learning how to walk again” and she started nibbling away at Radwanska’s lead before drawing level at 3-3.Told to ‘go for it’ in a text sent by Steffi Graf, the last German to win a major at Wimbledon in 1996, Lisicki followed the advice and at 5-4 she was served for a place in the final.However, a match of so many twists and turns still failed to reach its conclusion as Lisicki’s nerves got to her when she whipped a lob long on break point down.However, the German onslaught continued at such a pace that the giant Centre Court scoreboard went blank and an out-positioned Radwanska tossed her racket after an astonishing Lisicki forehand winner.The contest ebbed and flowed to 6-6 and 7-7 before Lisicki broke again for an 8-7 lead when her opponent fired a forehand volley long.A player who thrived on grabbing second chances made no mistake this time round and a blazing forehand winner left her celebrating the biggest moment of her life – at least till Saturday.“I’ve been dreaming about this since I’m a little girl. That’s why I said it’s the best place to play my first grand slam final. I couldn’t imagine any better place,” she gushed.“I just can’t wait to play Saturday.”
By Steve KeatingWorld number ones Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams advanced safely to the next round of the U.S. Open on Saturday but the women’s draw saw yet another big upset as Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova was sent packing by a 145th-ranked qualifier.Third-seed Kvitova fell victim to 21-year-old Serbian Aleksandra Krunic, leaving only three of the top eight women’s seeds still in the tournament. Simona Halep (2nd), Agnieszka Radwanska (4th), Angelique Kerber (6th) and Ana Ivanovic (8th) have already been shown the door.While the women’s draw has been ravaged by upsets the top 10 men are still in the hunt, with number three Stan Wawrinka, number five Milos Raonic, eighth seed Andy Murray and number nine Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all moving on.The shock of the day was delivered by the little-known Krunic, who stung the unsteady Kvitova 6-4 6-4.The diminutive Serbian, who aims to graduate from university this year with a degree in economics, was a blur as she sprinted and slid into splits while stretching for returns.“It was an honour for me to be on the same court as Petra, who is a great champion,” said Krunic, who will come up against Victoria Azarenka in the next round.“Of course, I didn’t expect to win. Of course, I hoped to. I’m very happy.”Twice Australian Open winner Azarenka secured her spot in the last 16 with a 6-1 6-1 win over Russian Elena Vesnina.Eugenie Bouchard, a semi-finalist in the previous three slams, including a runner-up finish at Wimbledon, had to fight to keep from joining the list of upsets, the seventh-seeded Canadian holding her nerve to earn a 6-2 7-6(2) 6-4 win over Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.Williams is the last American standing at the U.S. Open after the remaining home-grown hopefuls said goodbye to Flushing Meadows on Saturday.A total of 29 Americans (12 men, 17 women) started the year’s final grand slam on Monday and by the time the gates to the U.S. National Tennis Center closed on Saturday only the world number one was still in the hunt for a singles title.The last two hopes of the men’s draw, 13th seed John Isner and Sam Querrey, both bowed out in the third round, while Nicole Gibbs and Varvara Lepchenko also made third-round exits, leaving home fans pinning their hopes on Williams heading into the second week.GRAND SLAM CASUALTYFive-time U.S. Open champion Williams played her part in the American demise, dispatching three of her compatriots in rapid succession.After dismissing Taylor Townsend in the opening round and Vania King in the second, Williams chased the 52nd ranked Lepchenko with a 6-3 6-3 victory.Williams, who has failed to reach the quarter-finals of any of the previous three grand slams this year, was just happy not to be one of the U.S. casualties.“I’ve been a casualty this whole year at grand slams,” said Williams, who will next face Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, a 7-5 6-0 upset winner over 15th seed Carla Suarez Navarro. “I’m just hoping to keep staying in there.“I just treat every round as if it’s your last. Do the best that I can. Just stay positive, you know, because I want to continue to do the best I can.”Djokovic, a U.S. Open finalist the last four years and winner in 2011, has also done his part to spoil America’s grand slam party.The Serb squashed another American hope on Saturday, pounding Querrey 6-3 6-2 6-2 to reach the fourth round for the eighth straight year while improving his record to a perfect 8-0 when facing U.S. opponents at Flushing Meadows.Isner bombarded Philipp Kohlschreiber with 42 aces and never lost his serve but still dropped a 7-6(4) 4-6 7-6(2) 7-6(4) decision to the German.Briton Murray, the 2012 Open champion and 2013 Wimbledon winner, double-faulted to send his match to a fourth set, then swiftly took charge in a 6-1 7-5 4-6 6-2 win over Russian Andrey Kuznetsov.That set up a clash against Tsonga, a 6-4 6-4 6-4 winner against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain.Raonic won three tiebreakers in a straight-sets win against Dominican Victor Estrella Burgos to set up a fourth-round duel with Japanese 10th seed Kei Nishikori, who beat 23rd seed Leonardo Mayer of Argentina in straight sets.Australian Open winner Wawrinka was given a walkover into the fourth round when Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia defaulted because of a right foot injury. Results from the U.S. Open Men’s Singles Round 3 matches on Saturday 16-Tommy Robredo (Spain) beat Nick Kyrgios (Australia) 3-6 6-3 7-6(4) 6-39-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France) beat Pablo Carreno (Spain) 6-4 6-4 6-48-Andy Murray (Britain) beat Andrey Kuznetsov (Russia) 6-1 7-5 4-6 6-21-Novak Djokovic (Serbia) beat Sam Querrey (U.S.) 6-3 6-2 6-25-Milos Raonic (Canada) beat Victor Estrella (Dominican Republic) 7-6(5) 7-6(5) 7-6(3)10-Kei Nishikori (Japan) beat 23-Leonardo Mayer (Argentina) 6-4 6-2 6-33-Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland) beat Blaz Kavcic (Slovenia) walkover22-Philipp Kohlschreiber (Germany) beat 13-John Isner (U.S.) 7-6(4) 4-6 7-6(2) 7-6(4)Results from the U.S. Open Women’s Singles Round 3 matches on Saturday 7-Eugenie Bouchard (Canada) beat 30-Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (Czech Republic) 6-2 6-7(2) 6-417-Ekaterina Makarova (Russia) beat Zarina Diyas (Kazakhstan) 6-2 6-4Kaia Kanepi (Estonia) beat 15-Carla Suarez Navarro (Spain) 7-5 6-01-Serena Williams (U.S.) beat Varvara Lepchenko (U.S.) 6-3 6-316-Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) beat Elena Vesnina (Russia) 6-1 6-129-Casey Dellacqua (Australia) beat Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) 6-3 3-6 6-4Aleksandra Krunic (Serbia) beat 3-Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) 6-4 6-411-Flavia Pennetta (Italy) beat Nicole Gibbs (U.S.) 6-4 6-0
A former employee of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid has accused FIFA investigators of violating confidentiality promises made when she agreed to provide evidence of alleged corruption related to the bid.On Sunday, former Qatar bid employee Phaedra Almajid sent Michael Garcia, a New York lawyer hired by FIFA to investigate corruption, a two-page complaint.It alleged that soccer’s world governing body breached its own ethics code by making public information which unmasked Almajid as one of more than 70 witnesses who had cooperated with Garcia’s investigation.In a report made public earlier this month, Hans Joachim Eckert, a German judge hired by FIFA to evaluate a still-secret investigative report prepared by Garcia about FIFA’s decisions to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar, examined “allegations of corruption” which a “whistleblower” had made to Garcia beginning in December 2012.Eckert’s report said “serious concerns” about the informant’s credibility had been “apparent from the outset”.It noted that the person at first made public allegations of corruption, then issued a sworn statement retracting them.Eckert said Garcia’s report concluded that the evidence provided by the informant “could not be relied upon to corroborate” their story and that Garcia also expressed concerns that the informant had “altered evidence”.Eckert added that FIFA could therefore not rely on the evidence of alleged corruption by the Qatar bid that the informant had supplied.Almajid said that while Eckert did not identify her by name, in practice his report pointed to her as the informant because it mentioned she was the person who made allegations in public in 2011 about corruption related to the Qatar 2022 bid.“Within hours of publication of Herr Eckert’s summary, I had already been widely identified as one of the ‘whistleblowers’ in German and British media,” Almajid’s complaint said.She said this violated public “assurances of confidentiality” that a FIFA lawyer reiterated as recently as “two months ago.”Almajid reportedly was the source for allegations that Qatar’s World Cup bid paid bribes to three FIFA executives from Africa to secure their support for Qatar’s bid.FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer said in a statement to Reuters that allegations of confidentiality breaches “should be examined” by its disciplinary committee and FIFA “cannot prejudice any decision that said Committee could take in this or any similar situation.”
Nicosia giants APOEL are through to the last four of the Cyprus Cup after a 2-0 win over Anorthosis in the second leg of their quarter-final at the GSP Stadium in the capital on Wednesday.The Cyprus champions sealed a 2-0 aggregate victory following a goalless first leg.Algerian star Rafik Djebbour was the hero, scoring twice in the second-half after 67 and 80 minutes.
By Martyn HermanFormer England wicketkeeper Matt Prior has retired from all forms of cricket on medical advice, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said on Thursday.The 33-year-old, known as the ‘engine room’ in two Ashes-winning sides, has been suffering with an Achilles tendon injury and has not played since last year.“Today is a very sad day for me as I am forced to announce my retirement from the game I love,” Prior, who was also an aggressive middle-order batsman, said.“I had been hoping and expecting to be fit for the start of the 2015 season. Unfortunately, this has proved impossible, and I have now had to reach this decision.”Prior played 79 Tests for England, the first in 2007 against West Indies when he made 126 not out and the last against India at Lord’s last year.Only Alan Knott claimed more dismissals for England than Prior’s 256 while Prior also made 4,099 Test runs.
By Brian HomewoodFormer European champions Ajax Amsterdam and Celtic, who both suffered the indignity of being knocked of the Champions League qualifiers by underdogs this season, will meet in the Europa League after being drawn together in the group stage on Friday.Four-time European champions Ajax, beaten by Rapid Vienna in the premier competition, and Celtic, who were ousted by Malmo, were placed in Group A alongside Turkey’s Fenerbahce and Norwegian side Molde.Anderlecht will meet Tottenham Hotspur in a repeat of the 1984 final after they were drawn in Group J alongside Monaco and Qarabag.The English Premier League side won the UEFA Cup 31 years ago on penalties after both legs against Anderlecht ended 1-1.Napoli were draw with Club Bruges, Legia Warsaw and Midtjylland in Group D while Borussia Dortmund must face PAOK, Krasnodar and Qabala in Group C.Liverpool were drawn against Swiss side Sion, who they beat 6-3 at Anfield in 1996, Girondins Bordeaux and Rubin Kazan in Group B.Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, last season’s runners-up, will face Lazio, St Etienne and Rosenborg in Group G.Fiorentina coach Paulo Sousa faces a quick return to FC Basel, the team he led to the Swiss league title last season, after their were paired in Group I, which also features Lech Poznan and Belenenses.Basel’s St Jakob Park stadium will host the final. GROUP AAjax Amsterdam (Netherlands)Celtic (Scotland)Fenerbahce (Turkey)Molde (Norway)GROUP BRubin Kazan (Russia)Liverpool (England)Bordeaux (France)Sion (Switzerland)GROUP CBorussia Dortmund (Germany)PAOK Salonika (Greece)Krasnodar (Russia)Qabala (Azerbaijan)GROUP DNapoli (Italy)Club Bruges (Belgium)Legia Warsaw (Poland)Midtjylland (Denmark)GROUP EVillarreal (Spain)Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic)Rapid Vienna (Austria)Dinamo Minsk (Belarus)GROUP FOlympique Marseille (France)Braga (Portugal)Liberec (Czech Republic)Groningen (Netherlands)GROUP GDnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine)Lazio (Italy)St Etienne (France)Rosenborg (Norway)GROUP HSporting Lisbon (Portugal)Besiktas (Turkey)Lokomotiv Moscow (Russia)Skenderbeu (Albania)GROUP IBasel (Switzerland)Fiorentina (Italy)Lech Poznan (Poland)Belenenses (Portugal)GROUP JTottenham Hotspur (England)Anderlecht (Belgium)Monaco (France)Qarabag (Azerbaijan)GROUP KSchalke 04 (Germany)APOEL Nicosia (Cyprus)Sparta Prague (Czech Republic)Asteras (Greece)Group LAthletic Bilbao (Spain)AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands)Augsburg (Germany)Partizan Belgrade (Serbia)
Captain Eden Hazard inspired Belgium to a resounding 4-0 victory over Hungary at Euro 2016 on Sunday, setting up a quarter-final clash with Wales.Hazard set up one goal and scored another as Toby Alderweireld, Michy Batshuayi and Yannick Carrasco completed a comfortable victory.Belgium dominated the opening stages and took the lead after 10 minutes when Kevin De Bruyne swung an inviting cross into the box where centre back Alderweireld rose at the far post to power his header past Hungary keeper Gabor Kiraly.Substitute Batshuayi tapped home Hazard’s low cross with 12 minutes remaining shortly after coming on. The Chelsea player cut inside the Hungary box and then rifled home a superb finish for the third before Carrasco grabbed a late goal.
Roger Federer put his global army of “Fed-Head” fans through the wringer for four nerve-shredding sets before he kept alive his pursuit of a record eighth Wimbledon title with a 6-7(4) 4-6 6-3 7-6(9) 6-3 win over Marin Cilic the quarter-finals on Wednesday.Novak Djokovic’s shock third round exit had raised hopes that this could be the week when the Swiss finally ends his four-year hunt for an 18th grand slam title, as the Serb had been the only man to beat him at the majors over the past year.However, all those expectations appeared to be heading for the dustbin as Cilic stood one point away from victory — not once, not twice but three times in a pulsating fourth set that had everyone on the edge of their seats.Three huge serves kept Federer alive — just — and he then produced the kind of form, and outrageous shots, that has made him the most successful man in tennis by stealing the tiebreak 11-9.An ace on his first match point finished off the job after three hours, 17 minutes of high drama and carried him into an 11th Wimbledon semi-final, and 40th overall in the majors.“I knew I was in so much trouble in the third and again in the fourth,” Federer said after walking off Centre Court to a standing ovation.“It wasn’t going well for me. So for me it was about staying in the match and somehow hope for his level to drop … and maybe get a bit lucky. That’s exactly what happened at 3-3, 0-40 (in the third set),” added Federer about the game where he saved three break points.“Obviously the breaker was crazy. It was an incredible match. Marin is one of the nicest guys on the tour so I feel sorry for him but for me the dream continues.”The win also made him the most successful player, man or woman, at the majors as he chalked up a record 307th singles win.“I cannot believe Roger Federer won that match. How did he get out of that?” gushed American great John McEnroe.“You’ve got to love the courage that he is able to find a way to do that, that is a killer loss.”Having missed last month’s French Open with a back injury, the five set thriller also delivered a knockout punch to those thinking the Swiss third seed did not have the stamina to last the distance.“It’s really encouraging for me to see that I am improving. As the match goes on, I was able to sustain a really high level of play,” added the 34-year-old, who came back from two-sets down for the 10th time in his career.“My legs were there, my back was there, serving was key. Plus mentally this is going to give me a hell of a boost. I am ecstatic that I was able to come through somehow.”He will face another big-server, Canadian Milos Raonic, for a place in Sunday’s final.
The 10 weeks competition is now into its Round 4 games with 24 participating teams, consisting of 12 male and 12 females’ teams.NCD Suburban Soccer Association President Jerry Iniga said from these 24 participating teams in the competition, 40 players will be selected, 20 males and 20 females for the train-on-squad for Team NCD.Iniga added that, they are not only focusing on the PNG Games selection but also looking at developing potential players to get into the U17 men’s National Team for the upcoming U17 Championship in Tahiti in February next year.However, without much support from NCD, President Iniga with his officials are planning to call a meeting this afternoon, to ask the NCD Governor Powes Parkop to officially launch the competition and support it through.
The defending champions pushed their way up to 10 competition points after their 11-4 thrashing of Gazelle in the main game of round 7 matches, played over the weekend at the Bisini grounds.It was Joe Kudada who played a key role in the win, leading Yokomo’s fight back which saw them score nine unanswered runs to leave Gazelle shell-shocked.The A grade points ladder:Yokomo (10), United Brothers (8), Defence (7), Brown Eagles (7), Gazelle (6), Saints (6), PNG Power (5), Bears (4), Manolos (3).