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Nadal fights off gutsy Schwartzman to reach quarters

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Nadal fights off gutsy Schwartzman to reach quarters
Rafael Nadal celebrates after a well-fought win - AFP
MELBOURNE: Spain’s Rafael Nadal fought off tenacious Argentine Diego Schwartzman to win through to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Sunday, ensuring he remains world number one after the tournament ends. Nadal was taken to four gruelling sets in almost four hours before winning 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena. It will be his 10th Australian Open quarter-final appearance, second only to Roger Federer, and he will face Croatia’s sixth seed Marin Cilic. Nadal leads 5-1 in their previous meetings. It was the Spaniard’s fourth win over the Argentine but his toughest after beating him in straight sets in the second round at the 2015 US Open. By winning Nadal ensured that he will remain No.1 when the new rankings are released the day after the Open ends. “Of course, I feel little bit tired, but yeah good. I was able to keep fighting until the end,” he said. “It is the first big match I played in 2018. I started later than usual so a match like this probably helps because you know that helps confidence in myself. “That’s confidence knowing that I can resist almost four hours on court playing at a good intensity.” Nadal broke in the eighth game on the way to taking the opening set, but he encountered stiff resistance in the second set. There was six service breaks as Nadal could not shake off the tigerish Argentine, who levelled the match by winning the tiebreaker when the top seed’s forehand was long. There was a magical moment when Schwartzman ran down a drop shot and won the point with an angled volley across the net to break back at 4-4. Nadal took control in the third set with a break in the fourth game, but he had to fight off five break points before holding serve in a titanic 13-minute second game in the final set. He broke in the third game of the fourth set, but had to make some monumental holds of service to keep Schwartzman at bay, winning on his third match point with a return winner. Diminutive Schwartzman, a quarter-finalist at last year’s US Open, was bidding to reach the last eight for the first time in Melbourne. He endeared the crowd with the scampering around the court and his astonishingly powerful groundstrokes for one so small in stature.

Klopp wants Liverpool to do more than preserve unbeaten run

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Klopp wants Liverpool to do more than preserve unbeaten run
LIVERPOOL: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has insisted he has not given a second thought to his team’s 18-match unbeaten run ahead of their trip to Swansea City on Monday. Klopp’s side have been in imperious form recently, and ended Premier League leaders Manchester City’s hopes of going through the season without losing following a thrilling 4-3 win at Anfield last time out. The Reds also eased to a 5-0 thrashing of Swansea on Boxing Day, however Klopp has told his players to forget about the statistics and focus on the task in hand ahead of the league match in south Wales. “If nobody told me how often we didn’t lose, I’d have no idea about it,” he said. “That’s all the past and I’m not really interested. You can look back on a season after the season, not during. It’s not important.” The German added: “We feel in a good moment. I see the boys training every day and it looks good, that’s the truth, that’s why we can play like we played so far.

– ‘No easy games’ –

“But we have to do it again. As a Liverpool player you cannot perform one week and then two weeks not –- we need to deliver consistently, every day and each game. “It’s only the next game and I can’t imagine any easy games in the Premier League. And Swansea is for sure not an easy game. “They are bottom of the table but they are in a good way. What you have seen since the new manager has come in is a big improvement.” Klopp revealed that Loris Karius will continue in goal ahead of Simon Mignolet and the German will get the opportunity to establish himself in the position. “Of course Loris has to deliver, he knows that, but now he is the No.1,” Klopp explained. “We changed a lot of positions through the year and only with the goalkeeper it looks like we have to stick to our opinion for 20 years if we’ve made a decision one time! So I changed not my opinion, but I changed the situation now, that’s all.”

– ‘David v Goliath’ –

Liverpool expect to have winger Mohamed Salah and centre-backs Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren available after the trio suffered a bout of illness. Record signing Virgil van Dijk has resumed training having missed the win over Manchester City with a hamstring problem. Swansea manager Carlos Carvalhal claims the match at the Liberty Stadium will be a meeting of “David versus Goliath”. Carvalhal’s side are bottom of the Premier League but there has been in a slight upturn in form with just one defeat in five games since the Portuguese took charge. “It’s not just the three attackers Liverpool have,” Carvalhal said. “They have a good midfield, good defence, a good goalkeeper and good substitutes. “If we just care about our opponents we will not play, so we must block them and the main attributes that they have and we will try to make it difficult for them. “But like other big teams they also have some weak points, very few, but we must try to fight against the strong points they have. “It’s David v Goliath, but surprises do happen and we will be ready to prepare a surprise.” Swansea striker Tammy Abraham remains a doubt with an abdominal injury but midfielder Renato Sanches is set to be in contention following a hamstring problem.

Djokovic meditates to ‘lose fear and stress’

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Djokovic meditates to 'lose fear and stress'
MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic says meditating has helped him overcome fear and stress that comes with playing elite tennis. The 12-time Grand Slam champion, 30, says he often turned to the practice during his long spell out of the game last year with elbow trouble. The Serb former world No.1 is playing in his first tournament since Wimbledon in July and he has a brand new support team, headed by eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi as coach. Djokovic said after reaching the fourth round of the year’s opening Grand Slam on Saturday that he now meditates on a daily basis. “Yes, I do. I’ll tell you what. I don’t want to tell you what I gain with it, but I’ll tell what I lose with it,” he said. “I lose fear. I lose anxiety. I lose stress. I guess, in the end of the day, that’s what you’re looking for.” Djokovic has become involved in meticulous off-the-court preparation in recent years. He has a strict, gluten-free diet and is an advocate for well-being. The new year has given him the opportunity to analyse aspects of his game and preparation. “When it comes to tennis, I obviously was excited to analyze my game,” he said. “First of all, I wanted to get the right team of people around me, experts in their field, so they can contribute to the process and the journey of working on my body and my game. “Improving different aspects that are there to be worked on. Thankfully there is always something to work on.” Djokovic said apart from tennis he has always looked at ways to improve himself, which he terms his “philosophy of life”. “It has always been, not just for tennis, but in general there’s always something that you can improve and get better at as a person and as a player,” he said. “That’s probably the most exciting thing about life, is that every day is a new opportunity for you to get better.” Djokovic faces South Korea’s “NextGen” star Chung Hyeon in Monday’s round of 16.

Back’s fine as Federer serves up warning to rivals

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Back's fine as Federer serves up warning to rivals
MELBOURNE: Roger Federer says he is regaining the rhythm and consistency of his silky serve following his recovery from a back injury as he steps up the defence of his Australian Open title. The Swiss maestro moved into the last 16 with a commanding straight sets win over Frenchman Richard Gasquet on Saturday with his serving game a feature. Federer was struck down with back trouble last year when he lost to Alexander Zverev in the final of the Montreal Masters and subsequently withdrew from the Cincinnati Masters. But on the evidence of his form in the year’s opening Grand Slam in Melbourne, he looks back to his serving best The 36-year-old said the renewed freedom in his back was contributing to the improvement in his serving. “Just the back being fine again,” Federer said after beating Gasquet. “The problem is, when you have back issues, when you’re scared or you don’t have the confidence in your body. “It robs you by of say 20 or 30 percent of your capabilities maybe on that particular shot only, but it’s enough to make you almost half the player that you normally are. “Sometimes it takes time. When it hurts, it hurts. It’s just not point-for-point mentality because it’s difficult. Finally when you’re free again, you find better zones, more consistency.” Federer said serving consistency was a big thing in top-level tennis of fine margins between players. “Can you serve like this for five hours? That’s the goal. When you’re carrying an injury, clearly it’s tougher,” he said. “I think right now I’m fine again. Look, bad backs always come and go I think for all of us players. “You just have to deal with it as good as possible. You hope they don’t hit you at the wrong times, and that when it does hit you, you get over it very quickly.” Federer enters the second week of the Australian Open with a round of 16 encounter against erstwhile training partner, Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics.

Ruthless Wozniacki joins Suarez Navarro in quarters

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Ruthless Wozniacki joins Suarez Navarro in quarters
Caroline Wozniacki advances in Australian Open - AFP
MELBOURNE: Ruthless Caroline Wozniacki kicked into full gear Sunday to storm into the Australian Open quarter-finals where she will pit her wits against experienced Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro. On an overcast and muggy day at Melbourne Park, the world number two turned on the style to take another step towards a maiden Grand Slam title. The assured Dane, a semi-finalist in 2011 who has never quite lived up to the hype in the majors, annihilated 19th-seeded Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-0 on Rod Laver Arena in her most impressive performance to date. “She really mixes up the pace, I just tried to calm down, get my returns in and wait for the opportunities to attack,” she said after crushing the Slovak, who made the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year. “I think you can tell my confidence is pretty good at the moment.” Her easy passage sets up a last eight clash with the gritty Suarez Navarro, who battled back from a set and 4-1 down to shatter the hopes of 32dn seed Anett Kontakion. The Estonian had been bubbling with confidence after despatching French Open champion Jelena Osteopenia in the third round, but nerves got the better of her. The Spaniard, who has made the quarter-finals in Melbourne twice before, most recently in 2016, credited her fightback with a conscious decision to be more aggressive. “I was thinking that I was playing good, but not too aggressive. I want to play like this, but sometimes you cannot,” said Suarez Navarro, one of the few who still use a one-handed backhand. “My team all the time they say me, play aggressive, play aggressive. That’s I think what I did.” Looking ahead to Wozniacki, she added: “I know how she plays. I know how tough she is. It will be a really interesting match.”

– Form player –

Spanish world number one Rafael Nada has been in imperious form, showing no mercy in dismantling his first three opponents as he sets his sights on a 17th Grand Slam title. The top seed is up later on centre court against 24th seed Diego Schwartz man, ahead of an anticipated night match between Nick Kyrios and Gregor Dimitrov. Nada is gunning to make the last eight for the 10th time and knows he needs to be at his best to get past the dangerous Argentine. “He’s won three matches here, playing at very high level. He’s a very complete player,” said Nada, who is chasing his second Melbourne title after beating Roger Lederer in the 2009 final. “He’s a player that if I don’t play my best, probably I am not going to win. Tough one.” If he does progress, either Spanish 10th seed Pablo Correna Busta or Croatian sixth seed Marin Cilic will be waiting for him. Ordinarily Nadal, as the top seed, would have top billing on Rod Laver in the evening, but not with local star Kyrgios in action. The maturing Australian 22-year-old dispatched French veteran Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the last round and now faces third seed Dimitrov, who has struggled so far. Kyrgios has an edge — he beat the Bulgarian on his way to winning the Brisbane International earlier this month. The winner will play either Briton Kyle Edmund or Italian veteran Andreas Seppi. Fourth seed Elina Svitolina — one of the form players after winning in Brisbane — is also in action as she looks to make the quarter-finals for the first time. She will fancy her chances against Czech qualifier Denisa Allertova and a date with either 81st-ranked Croat Petra Martic or Belgium’s Elise Mertens.

Zidane fuels Neymar to Madrid speculation

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Zidane
Zidane fuels Neymar to Madrid speculation
Under pressure Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane on Saturday described Neymar, a rumoured transfer target for the European champions, as a “great player who everyone loves”. Madrid are the Spanish champions and have won the past two Champions Leagues, but lie fourth in La Liga 19 points behind bitter rivals Barcelona. The Spanish sports press reported in November that Madrid would make a shock move for Neymar next summer. Asked at a press conference if Neymar might one day play for Real, Zidane said he didn’t talk about other teams’ players before praising the winger who joined Paris Saint Germain in August. “This is a player who has charmed everyone, the whole football world. He is a great player,” said Zidane. Madrid fans will get a chance to judge for themselves as Paris and Real meet in the Champions League last-16 in February and March.

India win Blind World Cup, beat Pakistan by 2 wickets in thrilling final

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India
India win Blind World Cup, beat Pakistan by 2 wickets in thrilling final

The Indian cricket team won the blind world cup 2018 by beating arch-rivals Pakistan by 2 wickets in the final.

Pakistan posted a commanding score of 308/8 in the designated 40 overs, after India won the toss and opted to bowl first. Riding on fifty from Badar Munir and Riasat Khan’s 48, Pakistan crossed the 300-run mark in the championship clash. Pakistan skipper Nisar Ali also chipped in with a handy 47. Chasing 309 to win in 40 overs, they rode on Sunil Ramesh’s 93 and Ajay Reddy’s 62 to get the target in 38.2 overs. India lost quick wickets towards the end of their chase but a wide-ball that went on to cross the boundary eventually sealed the deal for them. Pakistan stormed into the final after defeating Sri Lanka by 156 runs in the semi-final on Wednesday. India beat Bangladesh by seven wickets in the semi-final to set up a title clash with Pakistan.
This was the fourth edition of the 40-over Blind Cricket World Cup competition and the arch-rivals were facing each other third time in the final. In 2006, Pakistan had defeated India to lift the trophy in Islamabad.

Kerber thrashes Sharapova to reach fourth round

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Kerber
Kerber thrashes Sharapova to reach fourth round
MELBOURNE – Maria Sharapova’s hopes of a title-winning return to the Australian Open were unceremoniously crushed by Angelique Kerber as the battle of the former champions ended 6-1 6-3 in the German’s favour on Saturday. The Rod Laver Arena evening clash between the only two grand slam winners left in the women’s draw had the feel of a showpiece final rather than a third-round clash but it was Kerber who rose to the occasion.
Sharapova, back in Melbourne after testing positive for a banned substance here in 2016 resulting in a 15-month ban, had looked menacing in the opening two rounds.
But Kerber, who plummeted down the rankings last year after finishing the year before at number one, broke her serve in the first game of the match and that set the tone for what followed. She streaked away with the first set and although 2008 champion Sharapova briefly threatened a fightback after falling behind in the second, it was not to be the Russian’s night. A fluffed drop shot attempt at 3-4 followed by an unforced error gave 2016 champion Kerber breathing space and she finished the contest in the next game.

Shoaib Malik ruled out from T20I series against New Zealand

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Shoaib Malik
Shoaib Malik ruled out from T20I series against New Zealand
Wellington – Pakistan Tour Management Committee, consisting of Team Manager, Talat Ali, Head Coach, Mickey Arthur and Captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, held a meeting with Pakistan Team Physiotherapist, Vib Singh, and Shoaib Malik to discuss his participation in the upcoming 3 matches T20I series against New Zealand starting from 22 January. The committee reviewed the expert advice it received from the top medical consultants in New Zealand after conducting all necessary medical tests of Shoaib Malik has decided, after briefing PCB management, to send him back from New Zealand. The committee was of the opinion that it should give him the best chance to recuperate from the symptoms of the delayed concussion he is currently showing. “Shoaib Malik suffered a delayed concussion when he was hit on the head by a wayward throw during the ODI in Hamilton. He has been making good progress since suffering the delayed concussion and is showing daily signs of improvement. He has been advised to rest a minimum of seven to ten days for the concussion to resolve. The decision was made to give him the best chance to continue aiding his prognosis and that he should return home to recover in a familiar and comfortable environment”, said Pakistan Team Physiotherapist, Vib Singh. The Tour Management Committee during the meeting also decided not to call up any replacement for Shoaib Malik for the T20I series.

Naseem Akhtar won the National Junior under-21 Snooker Championship title

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Naseem Akhter
Naseem Akhtar won the National Junior under-21 Snooker Championship title
Naseem Akhtar won the National Junior under-21 Snooker Championship title. The winner of the title will be representing Pakistan in Asian under-21 Snooker Championship and World Snooker Championship. On the final day of the event held in Pakistan Sports Complex Islamabad, organized by Pakistan Billiard and Snooker Association, Naseem Akhtar defeated Multan’s Mohammad Shahbaz for 3-6 frames due to his fabulous game. Federal Minister for Inter-provincial Relations Riaz Pirzada was the chief guest of the event, he distributed the awards among the winners. Federal Minister Riaz Pir Zada said we are working day and night for the improvement of sports in our country. “Federations and other institutions are being taken into confidence, Prime Minister himself is taking steps to improve the sports,” he said. “Want to increase sports activities as much as possible in our tenure,” he added. Riaz Pirzada further said that the big players came out of the streets, “Many players have come in the game of Snooker, We are hopeful these players will make the country proud”, he concludes.