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Updated: 13 min 33 sec ago

Rory McIlroy back in the swing in Abu Dhabi as Tommy Fleetwood sets pace

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 06:22
• Tommy Fleetwood one shot clear of Fabrizio Zanotti
• McIlroy: ‘There were no mistakes, I played very solidly, very smart’

As he was happy enough to admit, the company kept by Rory McIlroy for his first competitive round in 106 days was as significant as the accomplished nature of what he produced in Abu Dhabi. Finding 17 greens in regulation was key to McIlroy’s 69, which would have been better but for missed putts which can reasonably be mitigated by professional rust.

There was to be no soft return to tournament golf as McIlroy had world No 1 Dustin Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the recent European order of merit winner, as partners. McIlroy duly outscored Johnson by three and while Fleetwood – whose star continues to soar – carded 66, the four-times major winner has been given sufficient evidence to believe he can overturn that deficit over the next 54 holes.

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Women’s draw opens up for Maria Sharapova after Johanna Konta exit

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 05:50
• Returning Sharapova beats 14th seed Anastasija Sevastova
• Konta’s grand slam struggles continue against Bernarda Pera

Day by day, the rankings on the women’s tour are being shredded to the point of irrelevance – and when Jo Konta joined Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams, Coco Vandeweghe, Petra Kvitova and Garbiñe Muguruza among a slew of seeded players to lose here over the first four days, one “outsider” stood taller than them all: Maria Sharapova.

The Russian, champion here a decade ago and back in Melbourne two years after failing a drugs test but still feted to the point of idolatry, is playing way above her WTA status of 49. So it was no great shock that she took down the 14th seed Anastasija Sevastova in a grinding two-setter on Thursday.

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Farewell Ronaldinho, bobsleigh thrills and Dustin Johnson's miracle drive | Classic YouTube

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 05:50

This week’s roundup also features a Robbie Fowler dink, a memorable ODI between Australia and England and all of Boca Juniors’ goals from 2017

1) Farewell Ronaldinho, you were a lot of fun. Here are all his goals for Barcelona, some tricks and flicks, futsal magnificence, keepie-uppies with a crossbar, that goal against Chelsea, trick tackling and oh David! To show he’s human there’s also this.

2) En route to winning the Tournament of Champions Dustin Johnson came within inches of a hole in one on a par four after a 430 yard drive. It would have been the longest in a professional tournament but there have been some par-four aces caught on camera: Andrew Magee, Richard Green, Minjee Lee, Rahil Gangjee, Chip Beck and Ha Na Jang. Fine but robot holes in one are better.

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Nessun Dorma: the podcast that celebrates 1980s and 1990s football

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 05:24

If you associate 1990 with Italy, 1992 with Denmark and 1997 with England winning Le Tournoi, you’ll enjoy Nessun Dorma

Football has changed. The modern game is both richer and poorer than the one we grew up watching. You know the kind of thing we’re talking about: sandy pitches, exquisitely tight shorts, X-certificate tackles that occasionally merited a yellow card, Elton Welsby on ITV. It was almost a different sport.

As we spend half our life talking about the good old days, we decided to start a podcast talking about the good old days. Nessun Dorma is an unashamed celebration of football in the 1980s and 1990s. We build each pod around one main topic, with additional rotating features such as Legend of the Week, Journeyman of the Week, Underrated Player of the Week and Great Players You’ve Never Heard About.

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The Forgotten Story of … when Diego Maradona 'signed' for Dundee

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 05:00

With Claudio Caniggia at Dens Park and matches being screened live in Argentina, ambitious owners tried to seal the ultimate coup for the club

Diego Maradona’s road to Dundee began, in a way, in Luton. Ivano Bonetti had played in a European Cup final with Sampdoria in the early 90s but by the summer of 2000 he was perhaps best known to British football fans as the victim of Grimsby manager Brian Laws’ flying chicken wings at Kenilworth Road in 1996. The incident left him with a fractured cheekbone and a battered reputation – one that was little repaired by a two-game spell in the bizarro world that was Attilio Lombardo’s Crystal Palace two years later.

He returned to Genoa and drifted around coaching in the lower leagues. That seemed to be that. But in the SPL, Dundee had ambitious new owners who wanted to infuse a little glamour and excitement into the club. Raise the profile. Make a few waves. By June 2000, the steady hand offered by manager Jocky Scott was no longer the order of the day. They wanted more and, having interviewed Bernd Schuster and spoken to then France Under-21 coach Raymond Domenech, opted to take a punt on the inexperienced but well-connected Bonetti, whose only management experience had come at Sestrese of Serie C.

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Football transfer rumours: Chelsea chasing Jean-Michaël Seri?

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 04:21

Today’s fluff is meditated by direction

Chelsea want to bolster their midfield with another player who isn’t as bad as Tiémoué Bakayoko, and have clearly learned from the experience of expensively signing a sought-after midfielder from a club on the French Riviera only to be disappointed by his performances. This time they have identified, um, a sought-after midfielder from a club on the French Riviera, in the shape of the £35m Jean-Michaël Seri, who plays in Nice, a scant 20km from Bakayoko’s Monégasque former employers. Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City have also been monitoring the 26-year-old’s performances but according to the Sun his preference would be a move to England.

Internazionale, having so far this season scored nine fewer league goals than Napoli, 13 fewer than Lazio and 14 fewer than Juventus, want a striker who can help engorge their goals-for column and have identified Daniel Sturridge as the man to do it. Liverpool, however, will want £30m or “a hefty loan fee” before they green-light the deal, demands so hefty that they “scared off Real Betis”.

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Sánchez-Mkhitaryan deal ‘likely to happen’, says Arsène Wenger

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 04:21
• Manager admits Alexis Sánchez is likely to join Manchester United
• Wenger interested in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Jonny Evans

Arsène Wenger has said that the deal involving Alexis Sánchez joining Manchester United and Henrikh Mkhitaryan moving to Arsenal “is likely to happen”.

The Chilean has been keen to leave Arsenal since the summer. It was originally expected that he would join Manchester City but then United entered the race and are now the firm favourites to sign him.

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England name eight uncapped players in Six Nations squad for Italy opener

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 04:14
• Harlequins prop Lewis Boyce is called up for the first time
• Injuries and suspensions force Jones to bring in new faces

England have named eight uncapped players in a 35-man squad selected to prepare for the opening NatWest 6 Nations opener against Italy on 4 February.

A succession of injuries and suspensions – including to star players such Billy Vunipola, Elliot Daly and Nathan Hughes – have forced Eddie Jones to bring in a host of new faces.

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How serious a threat are Steph Curry's ankle injuries to his career?

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 04:00

The Warriors are looking as strong as ever this season but there is real concern about the long-term health of one of the NBA’s finest players

Call it a tweak or a slip or a mild sprain. But really, call it like it is, time to worry. When Steph Curry folded his ankle against the Pelicans on 4 December, there was concern. Barely a month later, after a slip and a tweak in a shootaround, that worry turned into something else, real concern about the long-term health of one of the NBA’s finest players.

For basketball players, in an occupation that has them jumping and cutting in a forest of long legs and feet, ankle sprains are almost part of the job. For Curry and the Warriors, after two ankle surgeries and countless sprains, the two recent injuries represent something much more serious than wins and losses. While Curry has played in 78 games or more each season since 2011-12, there was a time when his right ankle problems put his NBA future in doubt.

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Trevor Bayliss says Ben Stokes will be welcomed back with open arms

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 03:53
• Head coach says T20 omission was purely sporting decision
• Stokes will link up with side for forthcoming Twenty20 tri-series

Head coach Trevor Bayliss has no doubt Ben Stokes will be welcomed back “with open arms” by the England squad when he returns next month.

Stokes has been absent from the international set-up since a late-night incident in Bristol last September but, following his charge for affray, the England and Wales Cricket board have decided he is once again available for selection.

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Novak Djokovic through as Gael Monfils wilts in blistering heat

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 02:39
  • Serb beats unseeded Frenchman 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3
  • Temperature reaches nearly 40 degrees at Melbourne Park

Six-times champion Novak Djokovic survived the Rod Laver Arena furnace to reach the third round of the Australian Open with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Gael Monfils.  

With temperatures peaking at 39.9 degrees Celsius and reports of 69 degrees being measured on the court surface, Djokovic recovered from a woeful start to take his record over the unseeded Frenchman to 15-0. 

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Australian Open 2018: Djokovic, Federer, Halep in action on day four – live!

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 02:36

7.36am GMT

The spectators have briefly taken off their tin hats on Hisense, in the match of cannonfire between Juan Martin del Potro and Karen Khachanov, because Del Potro is receiving medical treatment for a leg problem. It would be a great shame if an injury was to do for the popular Argentinian today, given the problems he’s had on that front over the years, but he’s still in charge on the scoreboard, leading 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (0), 3-2 with the break in the fourth.

7.30am GMT

Our man in Melbourne, Kevin Mitchell, has more on Johanna Konta’s bitterly disappointing defeat earlier:

Related: Johanna Konta down and out in Melbourne after defeat to Bernarda Pera

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What can science tell us about grunting in tennis?

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 00:42

Grunting could be considered performance-enhancing for the grunter and performance-hindering for their opponent

One of tennis’ perennial debates has ignited early at this year’s Australian Open, after Belarusian player Aryna Sabalenka was accused of grunting too loudly during her first-round loss to Australian Ashleigh Barty.

In the past, former world No1 Martina Navratilova has gone so far as to suggest grunting is cheating. She argues it may hamper an opponent’s capacity to hear the ball striking the racquet, which is an important element of shot preparation. But what does science have to say?

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Johanna Konta down and out in Melbourne after defeat to Bernarda Pera

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 21:31
  • American world No123 shocks ninth seed 6-4, 7-5
  • Off-key Konta struggles with windy conditions

Jo Konta said before her second-round match against the world No123, Bernarda Pera, she was unsure what the American slam debutante looked like, although they had played each other as juniors. After an hour and 40 minutes on Show Court 2 on day four of the 2018 Australian Open, the British player had seen quite enough of Pera, who belied her ranking to deliver the upset of the day, winning 6-4, 7-5.

It would be little consolation to the British loser that Pera’s victory gave substance to the growing and oft-repeated assertion that there is paper-thin difference between the leading players and those chasing them, whatever their rankings.

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Antonio Conte: VAR official made ‘big mistake’ over Chelsea penalty shout

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 19:40
• Willian should have had penalty for Klose challenge, says Conte
• Pedro and Morata deserved yellow cards for diving, says Italian

Antonio Conte has suggested the video assistant referee, Mike Jones, was guilty of a “big, big mistake” after opting not to flag up a potential penalty as Chelsea’s third round replay victory over Norwich City descended into farcical scenes in extra-time.

The hosts, who would prevail on penalties, were reduced to nine men following the dismissals of Pedro and Álvaro Morata, who were both shown one of their two yellow cards for diving. Willian was also cautioned for going to ground in an incident with Timm Klose.

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Hazard penalty puts Chelsea through against Norwich on dramatic Cup night

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 18:06

Chelsea eventually saw off Norwich City in a penalty shootout here – Eden Hazard scoring the decisive spot-kick, with Norwich missing only one of their efforts from 12 yards – but, for long periods, this had been the stuff of nightmares for Antonio Conte and his players.

Enduring the extra period, earned for the Championship side by a stoppage-time equaliser, was bad enough given the champions’ cluttered schedule, but the hosts emerged from this tie having seen three players booked for diving, two dismissed, and with Conte enraged by the lack of clarity provided by the video assistant referee system.

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Tom Brady limited in practice with hand injury ahead of AFC title game

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 17:53
  • Brady missed news conference to meet with medical staff
  • Brian Hoyer is only other quarterback on Patriots roster
  • New England play Jacksonville on Sunday for a place in the Super Bowl

The New England Patriots say Tom Brady did not attend a scheduled news conference on Wednesday because he was meeting with the team medical staff for a right hand injury.

According to New England’s first injury report of the week, Brady was a limited participant in the practice held earlier in the day. The Patriots only have two quarterbacks on their roster, the other being Brian Hoyer.

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Barcelona lose unbeaten record while PSG fans boo four-goal Neymar

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 17:51
• Messi misses penalty in 1-0 defeat to Espanyol in Copa del Rey
• Neymar booed by supporters despite 8-0 thrashing of Dijon

Lionel Messi had a penalty saved as triple Copa del Rey holders Barcelona suffered a surprise 1-0 loss to Espanyol in a quarter-final first leg on Wednesday, ending an unbeaten run of 29 games in all competitions.

Espanyol’s academy graduate Oscar Melendo crashed in the only goal of the game in the 88th minute after Messi had his spot-kick turned away by former Real Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez earlier in the second half.

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Wigan sense repeat of history after crushing win over Bournemouth

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 16:55

The League One leaders Wigan Athletic will welcome West Ham in the fourth round after demolishing another Premier League side, Bournemouth, at the DW Stadium. Sam Morsy, Dan Burn and Callum Elder all scored on a chastening night for Eddie Howe’s team. Perhaps Wigan will sense history repeating itself: they also beat the Cherries after a replay at the same stage of their glorious 2013 campaign.

Related: Chelsea v Norwich, Swansea v Wolves, Wigan v Bournemouth: FA Cup – live!

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Jordan Ayew’s quality finish offers Swansea Cup relief against Wolves

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 16:48

With relegation battles and promotion assaults to win, Swansea City and Wolverhampton Wanderers have far more pressing matters on their mind than making progress in the FA Cup this season, yet the Premier League club will still cherish the confidence that a rare home victory could provide.

Wilfried Bony’s predatory finish, three minutes after Diogo Jota had come off the bench to cancel out a splendid solo goal from Jordan Ayew that was totally out of keeping with the occasion, inflicted Wolves’s first defeat in 15 games and secured Swansea a place in the fourth round and a trip to Meadow Lane on Saturday week.

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