2_TENNIS-WOMEN-FINALS

Kuznetsova edges Pliskova in epic encounter

SINGAPORE — Svetlana Kuznetsova claimed her second victory in a row when the Russian outlasted Karolina Pliskova 3-6 6-2 7-6(6) in a thrilling white group encounter at the WTA Finals yesterday.

After battling for more than two hours, Kuznetsova collapsed in a heap on the court after sealing victory on her fourth match point with a backhand winner down the line to finally break the Czech’s resistance.

“With all the support of the crowd and my team, I couldn’t afford to let myself and everybody down so I had to fight,” said the two time Grand Slam winner.

“I haven’t been at my best in recent years but something changed this year. I feel blessed to be playing the best players in the world.”

Kuznetsova was the final qualifier for the elite eight-woman event when she defended her Kremlin Cup title and the world No 9 has shown incredible staying power to first outlast Agnieszka Radwanska on Monday and now Pliskova.

The victory puts Kuznetsova on the brink of sealing a semifinal spot at the year-end championships for a first time in six attempts, with her berth assured if Radwanska beats French Open champion Garbine Muguruza.

Pliskova started confidently, pushing her opponent around the court with her booming forehand and holding comfortably despite struggling to find her range with the first serve, the Czech edging ahead first with a break in the fourth game.

As was the case in her win over Agneiszka Radwanska, Kuznetsova grew into the match after a slow start and grabbed her first break in the seventh game but the Czech struck back immediately to regain the initiative.

The big-serving Pliskova consolidated the break with the easiest of holds, rattling through her next service game without dropping a point as she sealed the opening set in 33minutes.

Kuznetsova was still moving tentatively and Pliskova took full advantage to forge another break of serve in the first game of the second set but the Russian found her rhythm as her opponent wavered to stage an impressive fightback.

The 31-year-old Russian broke back immediately to prevent Pliskova from running away with the contest and then reeled off five of the next six games to send the match into a decider.

With both players emerging from three-setters on Monday the fatigue finally kicked in and neither was capable of holding serve, so after combining for eight breaks in the set, it was only fitting the match would be decided in a tiebreak.
— Reuters

2_TENNIS-WOMEN-FINALS

Kuznetsova edges Pliskova in epic encounter

SINGAPORE — Svetlana Kuznetsova claimed her second victory in a row when the Russian outlasted Karolina Pliskova 3-6 6-2 7-6(6) in a thrilling white group encounter at the WTA Finals yesterday.

After battling for more than two hours, Kuznetsova collapsed in a heap on the court after sealing victory on her fourth match point with a backhand winner down the line to finally break the Czech’s resistance.

“With all the support of the crowd and my team, I couldn’t afford to let myself and everybody down so I had to fight,” said the two time Grand Slam winner.

“I haven’t been at my best in recent years but something changed this year. I feel blessed to be playing the best players in the world.”

Kuznetsova was the final qualifier for the elite eight-woman event when she defended her Kremlin Cup title and the world No 9 has shown incredible staying power to first outlast Agnieszka Radwanska on Monday and now Pliskova.

The victory puts Kuznetsova on the brink of sealing a semifinal spot at the year-end championships for a first time in six attempts, with her berth assured if Radwanska beats French Open champion Garbine Muguruza.

Pliskova started confidently, pushing her opponent around the court with her booming forehand and holding comfortably despite struggling to find her range with the first serve, the Czech edging ahead first with a break in the fourth game.

As was the case in her win over Agneiszka Radwanska, Kuznetsova grew into the match after a slow start and grabbed her first break in the seventh game but the Czech struck back immediately to regain the initiative.

The big-serving Pliskova consolidated the break with the easiest of holds, rattling through her next service game without dropping a point as she sealed the opening set in 33minutes.

Kuznetsova was still moving tentatively and Pliskova took full advantage to forge another break of serve in the first game of the second set but the Russian found her rhythm as her opponent wavered to stage an impressive fightback.

The 31-year-old Russian broke back immediately to prevent Pliskova from running away with the contest and then reeled off five of the next six games to send the match into a decider.

With both players emerging from three-setters on Monday the fatigue finally kicked in and neither was capable of holding serve, so after combining for eight breaks in the set, it was only fitting the match would be decided in a tiebreak.
— Reuters

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IN BRIEF

RUGBY

HL: Rugby to hit China

SHANGHAI — China will get its first professional rugby union competition as part of a $100 million investment in the currently low-profile sport by e-commerce giant Alibaba, the firm and World Rugby said yesterday. As well as professional men’s and women’s 15-a-side leagues, a national sevens programme will be set up. The money will be spent over 10 years. Rugby has heavy handicaps to overcome in the world’s most populous country. Fewer than 80,000 Chinese play the sport and it is far less popular among spectators than football or basketball. Its Chinese name translates literally as “English-style olive ball”. World Rugby would not specify the size of the league, or when it would start. — AFP

CRICKET

HL: Pool planned for Gabba Test

SYDNEY — Punters watching Australia play Pakistan at the Brisbane Test in December will enjoy a novel way to escape the heat by having a dip in a pool in the stands.

Cricket Australia said it would be “a unique at-match experience” during the day-night game at the Gabba ground from Dec 15.

Featuring a pool and two large tiered decks with seating, tables and shade, the Pool Deck at the Gabba will give fans the chance to take a dip, escape the heat, and relax in comfort while still enjoying world class Test cricket action.

A draw among ticket-holders will determine who gets to relax by the pool, with cricket chiefs encouraging fans to turn up in their swimming costumes. — AFP

TENNIS

HL: Wawrinka ends losing streak

BASEL — US Open champion Stan Wawrinka ended a four-match Swiss Indoors losing streak on Tuesday as he saved face for seeds on a day of first-round upsets. The three-time Grand Slam winner, overcame local wildcard Marco Chiudinelli 6-7 (1/7), 6-1, 6-4 in match lasting two and a half hours. He needed five match points to reach the second round, clinching victory with a 16th ace in a match where he struck more than 35 unforced errors. Wawrinka had lost at the last four Basel editions in the first round; he has never passed the semifinals in a dozen previous appearances. — AFP

BOXING

HL: Frampton rematch with Santa Cruz (*With Pix)

LONDON — Britain’s Carl Frampton (pic) will defend his WBA world featherweight title in a Las Vegas rematch with Mexican Leo Santa Cruz on Jan 28, he revealed on Tuesday.

Frampton, 29, defeated Santa Cruz via majority decision at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in July to become Northern Ireland’s first two-weight world champion.

The pair will face off again at the MGM Grand after Frampton announced the news on Twitter with a video of him singing the Elvis Presley song ‘Viva Las Vegas’.

“It’s official!” Frampton wrote. “The rematch vs @leosantacruz2 is set for @MGMGrand Las Vegas, Jan 28. We’re bringing an army.”

Frampton won his first world title when he beat Spain’s Kiko Martinez on points in an IBF super bantamweight bout in Sept 2014. — AFP

FOOTBALL

HL: Nice raises money for victims

NICE — French Ligue 1 leaders Nice have raised more than €120,000 (RM541,000) at auction for the victims of July’s Bastille Day truck massacre in the city.

Collectors’ team jerseys were sold to raise money for the “Promenade des Anges” group, an association of victims and families of victims of the attack on July 14 on the Promenade des Anglais that killed 86 people.

In the attack, a 31-year-old Tunisian extremist rammed a 19-tonne truck through a crowd of more than 30,000 Bastille Day revellers on the seafront promenade before police shot him dead.

Star Nice forward Mario Balotelli’s jersey fetched 11,100 euros on Tuesday.

Former Nice player Hatem Ben Arfa, now with Paris Saint-Germain, was amongst the buyers alongside the club’s Ligue 1 rivals Montpellier and the French Football League. — AFP

LPGA Malaysia

‘Malaysian Angels’ ready to take flight

KUALA LUMPUR — Dubbed as the ‘Malaysian Angels’, nine Malaysian women golfers are ready to prove their capabilities against top guns in the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia 2016.

The Malaysians are Aretha Pan, Nur Durriyah Damian and national player, Ashley Lau, who finished in the top-three positions during the qualifier in September while Winnie Ng and Natasha Andrea Oon, are the nation’s top two national Under-17 players.

Two Olympians, Kelly Tan and Michelle Koh alongside Ainil Johani Abu Bakar and Jean Chua received sponsors’ invites to the tournament.

This is by far the largest Malaysian contingent in the tournament’s history.

“I’m definitely looking forward to this event. I want to play my best golf. It’s been a good year for me. I’m excited to be back,” said 26-year-old Michelle, who turned professional two years ago.

“However, expectations are high when playing at home…That is the toughest thing and I am just going to have fun,” added Michelle.

Jean Chua, who has been a regular at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, felt relieved when she got invited to be in this year’s tournament.

“I’m speechless and beyond everything, I’m very happy. After having been unsuccessful in the qualifiers and when I got the call, I was beyond happy. This is the event that I really wanted to play,” she said.

Meanwhile, amateur golfer Ashley is all set to rub shoulders with the best of the world in the competition.

The 16-year-old is looking forward to this tournament which includes her idol, Paula Creamer of the United States.

“I obviously feel very excited and nervous at the same time,” she said.

The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia 2016 offers a total of US$1.8 million (RM7.5 million) in prize money.

A total of 78 players from 20 different nations will compete in the 71-hole stroke play, no cut tournament at TPC Kuala Lumpur from Oct 27-30. — Bernama

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Cyclist suspended for online grousing

KUALA LUMPUR — Terrenganu Cyclist Zamri Salleh was slapped with a three-month suspension for his online exasperation in June over a delay in payment of prize money for the 2013 and 2015 Jelajah Malaysia events.

Zamri, 33, who is also a Kita Juara athlete in his second phase of training for next year’s SEA Games, has 14 days from last Monday to appeal for a lighter sentence.

Malaysia National Cycling Federation (MNCF) vice president and disciplinary board head, Datuk Amarjit Singh Gill, said the decision was made with consideration of the motive behind Zamri’s Facebook post that spoke of his disappointment with the federation for not paying his dues.

He said Zamri’s explanation for his acts were not strong enough and there were ulterior motives to tarnish the federation’s image.

MNCF president Datuk Abu Samah Abd Wahab said the suspension was a caution not just for Zamri but also other cyclists to follow and abide by the contracts they signed.

“This is just a reminder to Zamri and the others,” he said, in relation to another Terrenganu cyclist, Mohd Shahrul Mat Amin, who got off the hook with a warning for committing a similar offence.

“We are not looking to punish him so much that he isn’t able to make a living.

“In the contract, it states cyclists must respect the Union Cycliste Internationale, the continental federation and the national federation — everything is there,” explained Abu Samah.

Abu Samah added MNCF made it clear to the cyclists that discussions and conflicts should be discussed and resolved internally and not be publicised.

“In the last agreement with Terrenganu’s Cycling Team, we’ve called for cyclists and relevant officials to discuss the matter,” said Abu Samah.

“If there are any issues, we told the cyclists to bring it up internally through the chief operating officers, not via such an open manner,” said Abu Samah.

“When you do it openly, you breach the contract agreement,” he warned.

Zamri is currently participating in the on-going Sharjah International Challenge (Tuesday to Friday), and he will not be permitted to join any other competitive event for the duration of his ban.

Cup Final tickets sold out in 30 minutes

SHAH ALAM — All 30,000 tickets for the Malaysia Cup final between Kedah and Selangor on Sunday were snapped in just 30mins by football fans.

Many fans left Shah Alam Stadium disappointed when told all tickets were sold out by 10.30am, 30mins after the ticket counters opened.

Selangor football fans, Arzziem Darwin, 32, and Nor Haslina, 25, said they were at Shah Alam Stadium as early 6.00am to buy tickets.

“Each person was only allowed to buy four tickets. I bought four tickets for family members to watch the Cup final,” said Arzziem Darwin.

Another Selangor fan, Sainan Wahab, 52, said he arrived at the stadium at 9.00am and there was already a large crowd.

“All the tickets were snapped up by 10.30am. I am surprised because the tickets were sold out 30 minutes after the counters opened.

“I never miss the Malaysia Cup final and still hope more tickets will be sold,” said the former football referee.

Meanwhile, Kedah fan Ismadi Razak, 22, said he took the day off to buy tickets but failed because they only sell tickets to Selangor fans.

The private sector worker said he came as early as 6.00am and was disappointed when he was not allowed to buy tickets.

“The stadium’s management asked me to show my identity card. I disagree with this procedure as it has never happened before,” he said.

Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) issued 72,000 tickets for the Malaysia Cup final.

Some 60,000 tickets were reserved for Kedah and Selangor supporters.

Adult tickets are priced at RM50 each while ticket for children (under-12) are priced at RM5 each.
— Bernama

Irate cyclists demand money back

KUALA LUMPUR — Cyclists who paid their registration fees for the Melaka International Century Ride (MICR) 2016 were hit with a huge surprise when organisers notified them the 160km race was cancelled.

Event organisers MySkill Media posted on the event’s Facebook page yesterday news that MICR could not carry on due to financial difficulties and had been advised by relevant authorities to cancel the race.

Sanctioned for the first time by the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF), its president Datuk Abu Samah Abd Wahab said the organisers should responsibly return the registration fees to the registrants now that the race is off.

Meanwhile, MNCF secretary Ibrahim Mustapa said the organisers should respect the national body.

“The fear is this will affect other organisers as well, there have been many cases recently where events are done for the fun of it, they are not being responsible nor respectful,” he said.

“We don’t want people being cheated by organisers, this is a huge problem for everyone involved and we hope the regulations for obtaining licenses will be improved,” said Ibrahim.

“The organisers are not under us and so far they have not said they want to compensate the cyclists,” he added.

It is understood interested cyclists were required to pay RM130 each as registration fee. About three thousand signed up for the one-day race scheduled for Sunday.

Irate cyclists swarmed the notification post to express their disappointment with the irresponsible behaviour of the organisers who have yet to announce full compensation.

Participants were merely promised T-shirts and medals.

The organisers have remained mum over the compensation requests since the cancellation was announced.

On June 18, participant Todd Smirnoff Toddy posted on the event’s Facebook page asking for confirmation if the race was cancelled.

The organisers’ response was, “Don’t believe in rumours.”

Carlos Alberto_0001

Football mourns 
Carlos Alberto

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil legend Pele paid a warm tribute to his captain and teammate Carlos Alberto, who died of a heart attack at 72 in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday.

Pele owes much to some defining performances in his and Brazil’s third World Cup triumph at Mexico 1970, where the team were captained by Carlos Alberto.

Widely regarded as one of the finest rightbacks to play the game, Carlos Alberto sealed a 4-1 final win over Italy at Estadio Azteca with a thunderous finish on the end of a deft Pele pass before lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy.

Pele and Carlos Alberto also played together for Santos and New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League, and the former remembers his old teammate fondly.

“I am saddened by the death of my friend and brother Carlos Alberto, our dear Capita,” Pele said in a statement.

“I remember the times we were together in Santos, the Brazilian national team and the Cosmos, forming a winning partnership.

“Unfortunately we have to understand this and life goes on. To his family I send my condolences.”

The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) joined Santos in declaring three days of mourning in tribute to Carlos Alberto’s passing.

“With a heavy heart, CBF regret the world of football had been surprised this Tuesday by the passing of Carlos Alberto Torres,” read a statement from the body.

“CBF president, Marco Polo del Nero, has declared three days of mourning. Flags at the CBF will be at half-mast.

“All games in competitions organised by the CBF will have a minute of silence.”

In a statement released to Omnisport, the Cosmos said: “The New York Cosmos are deeply saddened by the loss of Carlos Alberto, a legendary player and a wonderful person.

“We are truly honoured to say he played for the New York Cosmos and he will always remain part of the Cosmos family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and fans.”

Brazilian president Michel Temer tweeted to hail Carlos Alberto as “an example of determination and leadership”.

Carlos Alberto Parreira, who was Brazil manager for their fourth World Cup triumph in 1994 and was a member of the backroom staff for Mexico 1970, told Gazeta Press: “We left for the World Cup final against Italy, it was 10am.

“He saw me with a worried face and said: ‘Boy, what are you concerned about?’ I said I was afraid of that great Italian team. He said, confidently: ‘Don’t worry, with this team that we have, we will win easy.’

“This leadership came from his ability to be articulate, the posture he had off the field and his technical quality.

“He coached, was Brazilian champion as a manager, and was a commentator. He will leave a very big absence because of everything he represented.” — Agencies

Nasri’s fruitful loan move to Sevilla

MADRID — Sevilla president Jose Castro thought sporting director Monchi had gone “mad” when he told him of his plans to sign midfielder Samir Nasri on loan from Manchester City this summer.

Castro was not concerned by Nasri’s lack of playing time in England but rather the player’s high wages, which are reported to be in excess of £100,000-(RM508,000)-a-week.

Castro told Cadena Cope: “When Monchi told me he was considering signing Nasri, I immediately thought he was mad. We simply couldn’t afford him.”

Nasri missed City’s pre-season after returning to training overweight and new manager Pep Guardiola did not play him in the club’s first four games.

“That did not worry me,” Castro said.

“All the good players succeed at Sevilla. Ever Banega also had a history yet he succeeded at Sevilla.”

Banega had failed to live up to expectations during his four-year stint at Valencia before moving to Sevilla in 2014.

The Argentina playmaker, who joined Inter Milan this summer, won consecutive Europa League titles with Sevilla in his two seasons at the club.

Nasri, one of 12 players to join Sevilla this summer, made an immediate impact, starting in eight games in all competitions and scoring three goals while setting up another.

He scored the only goal in last week’s 1-0 triumph at Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League, which kept Sevilla unbeaten and level on seven points with Juventus at the top of Group H.

“Nasri had limited playing time at Manchester City but has arrived here and he is having a starring role,” Castro said.

“Monchi has played a pivotal role but so has the club.

“We must be doing something right because there are players who have failed to succeed in other clubs but arrive at Sevilla and triumph.

“Our fans, our stadium and our city — we are all doing the right things.

“We just give them love and trust. They have joined a club which have won many titles and are respected in Europe.”

Sevilla ended Atletico Madrid’s 11-game unbeaten run in last Sunday’s 1-0 home win, which was their fifth straight triumph in all competitions.

They are second in La Liga, one point adrift of leaders Real Madrid after nine games. — Agencies

Zidane: The fans whistled me too!

MADRID — Manager Zinedine Zidane defended Real Madrid fans who jeered Cristiano Ronaldo by claiming they just want the best for the club.

Ronaldo is enduring one of his worst runs since signing for the Spanish giants in an £80 million (RM405 million) move.

The 31-year-old has just four goals this season in 768 minutes.

That works out at a goal every two-and-a-bit matches for Ronaldo and is a far cry from his usually eye-watering goals totals.

So when he once again drew a blank at the weekend against Athletic Bilbao, the Bernabeu crowd vented their frustration at Ronaldo’s form — only for Zidane to defend their right to jeer.

“I don’t understand them but at the same time I do because it happened to me too,” the Frenchman told reporters.

“The fans expect the best from the players, that’s why the Bernabeu is special.

“Cristiano is used to it and it doesn’t worry him.

“Even if there are whistles the important thing is to keep on going. We know how important our fans are.”

Zidane also backed Ronaldo to start scoring soon after such a worrying dry spell.

“I would prefer him to score two or three goals a game but I’m not worried about what’s coming,” he said.

“He’s not finishing chances at the moment but the important thing is to have them. It won’t be long till he puts one in.” — Agencies

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