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Serena wins Grand Slam No 22 at Wimbledon

LONDON, July 9: Serena Williams lifted both arms overhead and raised two fingers on each hand right there on Centre Court to show off the magic number after winning her record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title by beating Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3 in the Wimbledon final on Saturday.

“Yeah, it’s been incredibly difficult not to think about it. I had a couple of tries this year,” Williams said during the trophy ceremony. “But it makes the victory even sweeter to know how hard I worked for it.”

She pulled even with Steffi Graf for the most major championships in the Open era, which began in 1968. Now Williams stands behind only Margaret Court’s all-time mark of 24.

This was Williams’ seventh singles trophy at the All England Club — only Martina Navratilova, with nine, has more — and her second in a row. Her victory at Wimbledon a year ago raised her Grand Slam count to 21, but while she almost had added to that total since, she was not able to.

There was a stunning loss to Roberta Vinci in the US Open semifinals in September, ending Williams’ bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam. Then came losses in finals to Kerber at the Australian Open in January, and to Garbine Muguruza at the French Open last month.

But in the rematch against the fourth-seeded Kerber on Saturday — the first time in a decade two women met to decide multiple major titles in a single season — the No 1-ranked Williams came through. This goes alongside her six championships at the US Open, six at the Australian Open and three at the French Open.

The 34-year-old American did it, as she often does, with nearly impeccable serving. She slammed 13 aces, including at least one in each of her first eight service games. She won 38 of 43 points when she put a first serve in.

And she faced just one break point — at 3-all in the second set, it represented Kerber’s only real opening — and shut the door quickly and emphatically, with a pair of aces at 117 mph and 124 mph, her fastest of the afternoon.

There was more that Williams did well, though. So much more. Facing the left-handed Kerber’s reactive, counter-punching style, Williams was by far the more aggressive player during baseline exchanges, trying to make things happen. And she did, compiling a big edge in winners, 39-12.

Williams returned well, hammering second serves that floated in at 75 mph and breaking serve once in each set. And she volleyed well, too, winning the point on 16 of 22 trips to the net, including a tap-in on the last point. Soon enough, she was wrapping Kerber in a warm embrace, then holding up those fingers to symbolise “22.”

It was breezy, but that didn’t seem to hamper Williams, whose older sister Venus sat in her guest box, a couple of seats over from music’s power couple of Beyonce and Jay Z.

Kerber, a German who knows Graf well, defeated Venus in the semifinals and hadn’t dropped a set on her way to the final. But on the grass that suits Williams’ game so well, Kerber simply could not quite keep up with the trophy on the line.

“I would like to say, really, congrats to Serena. I mean, you really deserve the title, your next title, and you’re a great champion, a great person,” said Kerber, who hadn’t appeared in a major final until beating Williams in Melbourne this year.

Williams lost only one set this fortnight, the opener of her second-round match against Christina McHale of the US last week. After dropping that tiebreaker, Williams sat in her sideline chair and proceeded to smack her racket repeatedly against the grass, before flinging the equipment so far behind her that it landed in the lap of a TV cameraman.

That earned Williams a $10,000 fine, but perhaps it pointed her in the right direction. She won all 12 sets she’s played since. And later Saturday, Williams had a chance to head home with a second piece of hardware: She and Venus were scheduled to play in the women’s doubles final on Centre Court.

“This court,” Williams said, “definitely feels like home.”

Iceland Kicks Out England From Euro

NICE (FRANCE), June 28: In a thrilling match, Iceland kicked out England from Euro 2016 by beating them 2-1 and will now face hosts France in the quarter-finals on Sunday.

England got off to a dream start when Raheem Sterling was brought down by goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson and Wayne Rooney confidently thumped home the penalty in the fourth minute.

Ragnar Sigurdsson equalised within two minutes for Iceland, turning the ball in at the far post after Aron Gunnarson’s massive throw-in was headed into his path by Kari Arnason.

Iceland then went ahead in the 18th minute when an intricate exchange of passes on the edge of the area ended with Kolbeinn Sigthorsson scoring with a low shot that goalkeeper Joe Hart got a hand to but could not stop from rolling into the net.

Shell-shocked England never recovered and slumped to one of the most embarrassing defeats in their soccer history.

Saina Nehwal wins Australian Super Series

SYDNEY, June 12: Shuttler Saina Nehwal received a huge boost ahead of the Rio Olympics as she clinched her second Australian Open Super Series title after defeating China’s Sun Yu in a thrilling three-game final in Sydney on Sunday.

The 26-year-old from Hyderabad eked out a 11-21, 21-14 21-19 victory over World No 12 Sun in a fighting summit clash that lasted an hour and 12 minutes.

London Olympics bronze medallist Saina, who had beaten two world champions -- Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon (2013) and China’s Yihan Wang (2011) -- in the quarterfinals and semifinals, thus clinched her maiden title of the season and pocketed a cheque of $56,250.

It is Saina’s second Australian Open victory, having clinched the title in 2014 as well. It ended a rather long title drought for the celebrated Indian, whose previous silverware was at the India Super Series in New Delhi last year.

Saina had defeated Sun five times in the last five outings but she faced a tough challenge against the 22-year-old Chinese, who took just 18 minutes to wrap up the opening game at the Sydney Olympic Park.

Sun dished out a fast-paced game, which Saina failed to break initially. The Indian struggled with the length of the shuttle and committed a few unforced errors early on as the duo moved together till 4-4.

Saina missed a couple of points at the net and also hit wide to allow Sun a lead of 7-4. The Indian failed to connect and reach for a few returns which allowed Sun to extend the lead at 10-5. At the break, Sun led 11-6 when Saina’s backhand return failed to cross the net.

Two wide returns by Sun helped Saina narrow the gap but the Chinese kept engaging her in fast rallies, not allowing her to play her own game. The Indian also faltered in judging the shuttle at the backline three times to see Sun lead 17-10.

With Sun covering the court well, the margin of error was zero for Saina and she eventually conceded the opening game after losing a video referral following a wide shot.

After changing sides, the second game started on an even keel as the duo were locked 4-4 again. Sun used her deceptive shots to wriggle out of tricky situations and also covered the front court well to lead 6-4.

Saina grabbed a couple of points to draw level and with Sun sending the shuttle outside twice, the Indian led 10-8. She entered the interval with a three-point lead when Sun hit the net.

The Chinese grabbed two quick points after the break but Saina continued to break the pace by playing few attacking shots and drawing the Chinese close to the net with deceptive strokes. The result was Saina leading 17-12.

With Sun hitting the net, Saina grabbed six game points and converted the first after the Chinese found the net again.

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali no more

LOS ANGELES, June 4: Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, regarded as the greatest of all time by many and an inspiration for millions across the world, passed away late on Friday after being hospitalised with respiratory problems earlier this week.

"After a 32-year battle with Parkinson's disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74," family spokesman Bob Gunnell said in a statement on Friday.

Ali had been hospitalised in Phoenix, Arizona this week due to respiratory problems, although his condition was said to be stable. Paradise Valley Police Department in Arizona told ABC network an emergency medical call was made from Ali's address in Phoenix on Thursday, reports Efe.

The Phoenix Fire Department also confirmed responding to a call on the same day to assist a 74-year-old man with respiratory issues. The legendary boxer had been hospitalized several times in recent years, including in early 2015 with a severe urinary infection that was initially diagnosed as pneumonia.

"A true great has left us. Muhammad Ali transformed this country and impacted the world with his spirit," said Bob Arum, his long time boxing promoter.

Ali was not a mere boxer, he was much more. Adored by millions around the globe, he was not loved for his amazing boxing skills alone, more for his beliefs.

His fearlessness gave the blacks the confidence to fight for their rights.

Born on January 17, 1942 Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, a small town in Kentucky alongside the Ohio River, Ali was the first to win the world heavyweight title three times.

Brash and witty, Ali had the unique ability and towering self-belief to back his words with his deeds. His pugilistic might was spread over three different decades and his record of 56-5 with 37 knockouts tells it all.

Ali, known as Cassius Clay before he converted to Islam, first shot to global fame by winning the light-heavyweight gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Ali became world champion at 22 by defeating the seemingly unbeatable Sonny Liston. But one of the most defining moments of Ali's life came in 1967 when his Muslim faith and his strong conviction to stand up for his beliefs cost him dearly when he refused conscription to join the US Army during the Vietnam War.

He was stripped of his title and his boxing license was also suspended by the state of New York. He was convicted of draft evasion and sentenced to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He paid a bond and remained free while the verdict was being appealed.

Denied a boxing license in every state and stripped of his passport, Ali did not fight when he was in the prime of his physical power -- from age 25 to almost 29.

However, his opposition to the Vietnam war and his anti-racism stance eventually endeared him to millions across the world and made him an iconic figure.

As news of his death spread, tributes flowed in from all over the world. Celebrities in sports took to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to pay their tributes to the legendary boxer.

"God came for his champion. So long great one. @MuhammadAli #TheGreatest #RIP," former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson tweeted.

Former World champion Lennox Lewis tweeted, "A giant among men, Ali displayed a greatness in talent, courage & conviction, that most of us will ever be able to truly comprehend. #RIPAli"

Recalling his playing days, former Olympic gold medallist and two-time world heavyweight champion George Foreman, who lost to Ali in the famous 'Rumble in the Jungle' in Zaire, said, "Ralph Ali, Frazier & Foreman we were 1 guy. A part of me slipped away, 'The greatest piece'."

Former world champion boxer Manny Pacquiao tweeted, "Please keep @MuhammadAli in your thoughts and prayers. With God, all things are possible."

Pacquiao's nemesis Floyd Mayweather took to Instagram to pour his heart out, "Today my heart goes out to a pioneer, a true legend, and a hero by all means! Your charisma, your charm and above all, your class are all of the elements that will be greatly missed by myself and the world."

"You are someone that inspired me greatly throughout my boxing journey and words can not express how great you were as a person! Thank you for everything you've done for Black America, in the the world of sports & entertainment and for the legacy you leave behind! My sincerest condolences to the Ali family!" he added.

Past and present stars from other sports also expressed their condolences.

"The sporting universe has just suffered a big loss. Muhammad Ali was my friend, my idol, my hero. We spent many moments together and always kept a good connection throughout the years. The sadness is overwhelming. I wish him peace with God. And I send love and strength to his family," Brazil legend Pele, who is regarded as the greatest ever footballer along with Argentine legend Diego Maradona, wrote on his official Facebook page.

Bollywood personalities also paid tributes to the former world champion.

"Mohammed Ali the greatest ever! A gentleman and learned mind! He not just fought in the ring but outside it as well! And won! With the 'greatest' Muhammed Ali at his home in Los Angeles. Prakash Mehra had wished to make film with him and me," Amitabh Bachchan tweeted.

"A legend no more - Muhammed Ali...Had the privilege of meeting him on a flight to London with my niece, Rachana. She is a big fan and insisted on this picture," noted singer Lata Mangeshkar, who shared an old photograph of herself with Ali, wrote on her Twitter handle.

Finally allowed to continue his boxing career in 1970, Ali was beaten for the first time in his professional career by the legendary Joe Frazier in 1971 in what was termed as the 'Fight of the Century' in New York.

However, Ali bounced back from that defeat and regained the world championship title with an eighth round knockout of reigning champion George Foreman.

Ali fought Frazier for a third and final time in the Philippines on October 1, 1975, coming out on top in the "Thrilla in Manila". It was a brutal fight which tested the physical and psychological limits of both boxers. Ali was declared the winner when Frazier failed to emerge for the 15th and final round.

Ali retired in 1981 and soon found signs of sluggishness and neurological damage. He thereafter received treatment for Parkinson's disease.

Yuvraj Singh touches Sachin’s feet after 100 IPL matches feat

NEW DELHI, May 9: It was a familiar sight of Yuvraj Singh touching Sachin Tendulkar’s feet to seek his blessings.

He has done it twice on a cricket ground or may be more. But these were the times when his act was captured by photographers.

Last time, it was during the MCC Bicentenary Celebration Match in which Yuvraj scored a scintillating century. After guiding his team - Rest of the World XI - towards a safe total he touched Sachin’s feet, who was bowling for Marylebone Cricket Club on July 5, 2014 .

This time, Yuvraj had just completed his hundredth IPL innings when he touched his icon’s feet as a mark of respect. He scored 39 runs off 23 balls in the Sunrisers Hyderabad’s match against Mumbai Indians in Visakhapatnam.

The two players share a long history, both backing up each other during tough times and constantly encouraging one another to rise from defeats both on the field and in personal life.

After winning the World Cup in 2011, Yuvraj had dedicated his success to Sachin by saying the Master Blaster was his ‘inspiration’.

“In my tough times, I just spoke to Sachin about my issues with batting and form and fitness and he told me that you will matter when it matters the most. That is a very special thought, it remains with me,” Yuvraj said on the first anniversary of India’s World Cup win.

“I remember I have a picture of me and Sachin together which I have put in my locker. I used to have a look at that picture and go to bat. He is my inspiration,” Yuvraj added.

Yuvraj was diagnosed with cancer in February 2012 and underwent chemotherapy in the US. Since his comeback, he has struggled to find form but has managed to stick around because of some match-winning performances with the international side.

“When I went to meet him in London, I was telling my wife that I don’t want to break down when I see him,” Sachin said during the release of Yuvraj’s book ‘The Test of My Life: From Cricket to Cancer and Back’ on March 19, 2013.

Yuvraj was heartbroken after hearing about Sachin’s retirement on November 16, 2013. He had just scored a match-winning 77 against Australia in a one-off T20 at Rajkot and was confused whether to celebrate his success or feel sad as Sachin will not be a part of the dressing room anymore.

“I don’t think I am going to let him go away. I am going to catch hold of his feet and not (let him) leave the dressing room. It has been amazing to play with him for so many years -- one of the greatest players to have played the game. I don’t know what to say,” Yuvraj said after learning about Sachin’s decision to retire.

The left-arm all-rounder has scored 2,143 runs at an average of 25.21 in the 100 IPL matches. He has also taken 35 wickets at an economy of 7.26.


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