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Giorgi upstages defending champion Wozniacki

TOKYO (Agencies): Italian Camila Giorgi once again frustrated Caroline Wozniacki on a hard court as she beat the defending champion 6-2 2-6 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals of the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo on Thursday.

Giorgi has now beaten the Australian Open champion in each of their three hardcourt meetings and will next face former world number one Victoria Azarenka for a place in the last four.

Wozniacki is one of the best defensive players on the women’s tour but the Dane had no answer to Giorgi’s power and accuracy from the baseline, and the Italian sent down 45 winners to wrap up the contest.

After tamely surrendering the first set, Wozniacki roared back to claim the second and go a break up in the decider but Giorgi could not be denied. The Italian began finding the lines again to break back, and claimed six of the last eight games as she stormed to victory.

“It was a very good match,” a poker-faced Giorgi said in an on-court interview. “This is a nice court and (today) was very fun.” Belarusian wildcard Azarenka eased past seventh seed Ashleigh Barty 6-4 6-2.

Azarenka dominated from the baseline and picked her moments to come to the net to beat the Australian. Azarenka, who is working her way back up the rankings after a prolonged custody battle over her son, said she was pleased with how she controlled the match.

“I think I played a lot better than in the first round,” she said. “I felt I really controlled today and found the court really well.

“Obviously it’s been a while since I’ve played, I’m just trying to look day by day and see what happens. But I’m definitely enjoying my time on court these days.”

Czech eighth seed Barbora Strycova fought off Estonian Anett Kontaveit 7-5(5) 3-6 7-5 in a see-saw battle that lasted just over three hours and will face U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka for a place in the semi-finals. Elsewhere, unseeded Croatian Donna Vekic, who shocked fifth seed Sloane Stephens in the first round, beat Briton Johanna Konta 6-3 7-5 to set up a quarter-final with French second seed Caroline Garcia.

Konta started poorly, but found her feet briefly in the second set, breaking twice to race into a 4-1 lead before imploding with a flurry of unforced errors that allowed Vekic back into the match.

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Asia Cup 2018: Pakistan favourite to win against India, says Sunil Gavaskar

NEW DELHI (Agencies): Indian cricket great Sunil Gavaskar picked Pakistan as favourites in Virat Kohli’s absence on Wednesday ahead of their Asia Cup group stage clash in Dubai.

The last time the two arch-rivals played what is always an emotionally charged fixture — the final of the Champions Trophy last year — Pakistan thrashed India by 180 runs.

On Tuesday, India only managed to scrape to a 26-run win over minnows Hong Kong. Pakistan kicked off their Asia Cup campaign on Sunday with a thumping win over the same opponents.

“Pakistan is the favourite only because the big psychological advantage that they have of beating India in the final of the Champions Trophy,” said Gavaskar, a member of India’s 1983 World Cup-winning side.

“The previous game or the ball before… always stays at the back of your mind and that creates a touch of uncertainty in your mind.”

“And Virat’s absence is going to be crucial as well,” the former captain said on Indian TV Channel Aaj Tak.

The talismanic Kohli, currently the top-ranked one-day batsman in the world, has been rested for regional six-team competition in the United Arab Emirates. Rohit Sharma is leading the side in his absence, looking for redemption after India’s 1-4 Test loss to England.

Former Indian batsman Sanjay Manjrekar echoed Gavaskar’s views, saying “Pakistan start as favourites because they have been playing in those conditions”.

The UAE has been Pakistan’s home base since 2009 when a terrorist attack on the touring Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore left six players injured, and international teams refused to tour the troubled nation.

India has suspended bilateral cricket ties against Pakistan amid political tensions, and the two only play each other in multi-nation events like the World Cup.

Fans in cricket-crazy India are banking on a win against neighbouring Pakistan to ease their England heartache. “Just win against Pakistan and we will feel that we have won the Asia Cup. It will be good after the loss in England,” Anuj Verma, a cricket fan on the streets of Delhi, told AFP.

“But I guess both these teams will meet in Super Four (stage) and the finals as well, so I would love to beat them twice or thrice to take revenge of our Champions Trophy final loss last year,” Verma said. India hold the edge in Asia Cup encounters against Pakistan with a 6-5 lead in 12 matches. But Pakistan have a big 73-52 lead overall in 129 ODI games.


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Nadal to skip ATP Asian swing due to knee injury

Beijing (Agencies): World number one Rafa Nadal said on Wednesday he would skip the Asian leg of the ATP tour to recover from the knee injury he picked up at the U.S. Open, a decision that will boost Novak Djokovic’s chances of ending the year top of the rankings. Nadal was forced to retire during his semi-final against Argentine Juan Martin del Potro at Flushing Meadows with what he later said was tendinitis in his right knee, and will now also miss next month’s tournaments in Beijing and Shanghai.

Djokovic, seeded sixth at the U.S. Open, beat Del Potro in the final to claim his second Grand Slam title this year and rise to third in the rankings, behind Nadal and Roger Federer. “I had to retire from the semi-finals of the U.S. Open and this past Monday I was with doctors in Barcelona to review the situation with my knee,” Nadal wrote on Twitter. “While my knee problems are nothing new, I have decided together with my medical and technical team not to participate in the Asian tour to recover.” The Spaniard tops the world rankings with 8,760 points, 1,860

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Wham-bam as Japan’s Naomi Osaka blazes into Tokyo quarters

TOKYO (Agencies): Japan’s Naomi Osaka pulverised Slovak Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-1 to reach the Pan Pacific Open quarter-finals on Wednesday in her first match since her historic US Open triumph.

The 20-year-old, who earlier this month stunned Serena Williams to become Japan’s first grand slam singles champion, fired down 10 aces in a fearsome display of wham-bam tennis in Tokyo.

Third seed Osaka came out with guns blazing and ripped a fizzing forehand down the line on the first point, racing away to close out the first set with a pair of thundering aces. A dazed Cibulkova, the 2014 Australian Open runner-up, had no answer to Osaka’s firepower as the world number seven wrapped up a comfortable victory with a ferocious cross-court backhand after just 59 minutes.

“I didn’t really feel any pressure — I felt it was more fun,” said Osaka, who reached the Tokyo final in 2016. “I’m not really thinking about winning the US Open,” added Japan’s latest sporting celebrity, who has a Japanese mother and a Haitian father and was raised in the United States.

“I’m not sure what will happen when things calm down. But (today) as a whole I played at maybe 80 percent — I never know the limit of what level I can go to.”

Earlier, sixth seed Garbine Muguruza was upset by American qualifier Alison Riske 6-1, 6-2 in an abject performance from the Spanish former world number one, who looked a shadow of the player who captured the 2016 French Open and 2017 Wimbledon titles.

Riske advances to face fourth seed Karolina Pliskova, another player to have previously held the women’s top ranking. The Czech recovered from a set down to beat Australia’s Daria Gavrilova 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 and avenge her opponent’s defeat of twin sister Kristyna earlier this week.

But she made hard work of it, trashing a racquet in frustration as she slipped behind 4-1 in the deciding set before clawing her way back. “The first set was in my hands but I made some stupid mistakes,” said Pliskova, who ended Gavrilova’s resistance with a clever drop volley after two hours and 21 minutes.

“I tried to stay positive and even though I broke my racquet I tried to keep fighting, because you always have a chance.” Second seed Caroline Garcia flirted with an early exit as the Frenchwoman overcame Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 to reach the last eight of the prestigious Tokyo event, whose list of former champions includes Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Kimiko Date and Martina Hingis.


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Messi hat-trick fires Barca to victory over PSV

BARCELONA (Agencies): Lionel Messi scored a record eighth Champions League hat-trick as Barcelona kick-started their campaign with a 4-0 home win over PSV Eindhoven, although they had defender Samuel Umtiti sent off late in the second half on Tuesday.

The Spanish champions’ all-time top scorer Messi broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute with an immaculate free kick which he curled over the wall into the top corner against a PSV side who had defended well and looked dangerous on the break.

But Barca demonstrated the gulf in class as the second half progressed and doubled their lead in the 75th with a curling strike from French forward Ousmane Dembele, who scored his fifth goal in six games in all competitions this season. Messi got his second two minutes later when he turned Ivan Rakitic’s dinked pass into the net with a flick of his boot.

The mood was briefly dampened when Barca’s France defender Umtiti was dismissed in the 79th for a second yellow card before Messi completed his treble three minutes from time. The Argentine received another chipped pass, this time from Luis Suarez, and ruthlessly smashed the ball home. The strike completed eight trebles in Europe’s top competition for Messi, one more than rival Cristiano Ronaldo who will make his Juventus Champions League debut on Wednesday.

“Messi does extraordinary things and makes them look routine,” Barca coach Ernesto Valverde told reporters. “We have to pinch ourselves to remind us that we are living through a unique era. When he stops playing it will be difficult to find someone like him.”

PSV, coached by former Barca and Netherlands midfielder Mark van Bommel, had produced an admirable performance on their first visit to the Nou Camp in 21 years until they tired late on. In the first half they shut down most of Barca’s attacks and plotted several spirited breaks, while after the interval their Mexico international Hirving Lozano fired just over the bar.

Van Bommel thought his side were hard done by in conceding the free kick from which Messi opened the scoring but he also paid tribute to the five-times world player of the year. “I don’t think it was a foul but Messi put it in the net. For me he’s the best player in the world and it’s strange to me he doesn’t win the Ballon d’Or every single year. But, overall, I think the scoreline was harsh on us.” Barca lead Group B on goal difference after Inter Milan beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at the San Siro. Umtiti’s dismissal rules him out of Barca’s next game at Spurs Hotspur on Oct. 3.


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Javeria Khan to captain Pakistan in Bismah Maroof’s absence

Monitoring Desk

ISLAMABAD: Javeria Khan will captain Pakistan for the tour of Bangladesh as well as the home series against Australia. The 30-year old veteran of Pakistan women’s cricket takes over duties in the absence of regular captain Bismah Maroof, who is recovering, after undergoing surgery for sinus problems. There is a chance Maroof could be fit for the series against Australia, however.

Pakistan will be in Bangladesh in the first week of October, where they play the home side in four T20Is and one ODI from October 1 to 8. From there, they go to Malaysia for their home series against Australia, where they will play three ODIs and three T20Is from October 18 to 29. Pakistan have named the same squad for both tours as well as for both formats, and much of it is unchanged from the one that took on Sri Lanka in June.

Umaima Sohail, the 21-year old allrounder could be in line to make her international debut, while Sidra Nawaz retains wicketkeeping duties. Squad for Bangladesh tour and home series against Australia: Javeria Khan (capt), Nahida Khan, Ayesha Zafar, Muneeba Ali, Sidra Ameen, Umaima Sohail, Nida Rashid, Sana Mir, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Nashra Sandhu, Anum Amin, Natalia Pervaiz, Aliya Riaz, Diana Baig, Aiman ANwar.


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Mohammad Abbas claims ten wickets in a day to batter hapless Durham

LEICESTER (Agencies): Durham were bowled out twice in just two sessions, registering their two lowest scores in first-class cricket as they collapsed to an ignominious innings defeat on a truly extraordinary day’s cricket in their Specsavers County Championship match against Leicestershire at the Fischer County Ground.

The visitors were unable to cope with the bowling of Pakistan international seamer Mohammad Abbas, who took 5 for 23 in Durham’s first innings and 5 for 29 in the second, giving him match figures of 10 for 52.

“There’s no hiding from a performance like that, it was not good enough in any department,” said Durham’s head coach, Jon Lewis. “It’s not the first time a single bowler in his opening spell has blown apart our innings this season, but for Mohammad Abbas to do that twice in consecutive sessions, I’m struggling to find the words, it was just unacceptable.

“No-one in our dressing room has been left in any doubt about how unhappy I am. It was embarrassing, and that’s not a word I’ve had to use before, and I’ve been pretty angry on occasions, but unfortunately it is appropriate.”

With the strong wind behind him, moving the ball both ways and bowling with outstanding accuracy, Abbas proved all but unplayable by one of the division’s weaker batting line-ups. With fellow seamers Neil Dexter, Ben Mike and Gavin Griffiths all offering excellent support, Durham had no answers, their 20 wickets falling in just 52.3 overs.

Remarkably, the day had actually started well for Durham, with Matt Salisbury quickly taking the two wickets needed to end Leicestershire’s first innings, knocking Griffiths’ off stump out of the ground and then pinning Abbas leg before with a full delivery.

Thereafter, however, it was a day that the visitor will not be allowed to forget on a pitch that, while offering the seamers a small amount of assistance, was very far from the minefield the scores might suggest.

Durham’s first innings saw Abbas quickly into his work, beating Cameron Steele twice before seaming his fourth delivery back into his pads to dismiss the opener leg before.

Gareth Harte edged a bouncing delivery to Dexter at second slip, and Graham Clark also went leg before to a ball that came back. Michael Richardson lost his off-stump to his second ball, and Paul Collingwood, making his last appearance away from Durham’s Riverside Stadium, edged his first ball to Colin Ackermann at second slip.

Stuart Poynter survived a leg-before shout to the hat-trick ball, only to steer a Dexter delivery into the hands of Harry Dearden at point before he had scored. Dexter’ spell, up the slope and into the wind, was almost as remarkable as that being produced by Abbas: seven overs, six maidens, one wicket for one run.

Mike replaced Abbas and immediately bowled a fine delivery which trimmed Mark Wood’s off-bail, Alex Lees heaved at Griffiths and spooned a catch to square leg, and Salisbury and Benny McCarthy sparred away and edged catches to the wicket-keeper.

The procession continued in the second innings, Abbas seaming the ball back into the right-handers at pace and clattering the stumps time and again. Steel, Richardson, Collingwood and Rushworth were all bowled by Abbas but some of the shots played at the other end were shamefully poor: Clark, Harte and Poynter will be embarrassed if they can bring themselves to look at replays.

Durham’s previous record low score was 67, made against Middlesex at Lord’s in 1996.

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Shoaib says Pakistan will make a strong comeback

KARACHI (Monitoring Desk): Fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar said that the Pakistani team will make a strong comeback in the remaining matches of the Asia Cup tournament following a dismal performance against India on Wednesday.

In a one-sided contest, Rohit Sharma-led India outclassed Pakistan by eight wickets in their paltry chase of 162 runs.

“It appeared that Pakistan was in a hurry. I don’t think that there was a rush required in the game,” but added, “they don’t need to demoralize. We have to tell our batsmen that they have to stay at the crease and play complete 50 overs,” while speaking to Media.

The speedster said that Pakistan will have to play run-a-ball in the coming matches.

Akhtar added that he finds Pakistan bowling attack quite one-dimensional and smart captaincy is needed from Sarfraz Ahmed to change it.

Both Pakistan and India had already qualified for the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup and will meet again in Dubai on Sunday.

Once Pakistan´s unpredictable batting crumbled, Wednesday´s match turned into a damp squib for a near-capacity crowd comprising of Indian and Pakistani expats living in the United Arab Emirates.

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Pakistan got a wakeup call before main round, says Sarfraz

DUBAI (Monitoring Desk): Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed called the loss against India as a wakeup call before the main round of the ongoing Asia Cup tournament.

In a one-sided contest, Rohit Sharma-led India outclassed Pakistan by eight wickets in their chase of 162 runs.

“We didn’t have a good start. Lost two wickets in the first five overs. Then regular wickets then meant we couldn’t come back into the game,” said the Pakistan skipper while speaking in the post-match ceremony.

“You can say we batted poorly. The wickets were soft dismissals, except Babar’s,” he added.

The skipper said that the team prepared for the two main spinners, but got out to the part-time Jadhav.

“This is a good wake-up call before the super fours,” he said.

Both Pakistan and India have already qualified for the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup and will meet again in Dubai on Sunday.

Once Pakistan´s unpredictable batting crumbled, Wednesday´s match turned into a damp squib for a near-capacity crowd comprising of Indian and Pakistani expats living in the United Arab Emirates.

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India rout Pakistan by eight wickets in Asia Cup

DUBAI (AFP): India crushed Pakistan by eight wickets in their long-awaited Asia Cup match which failed to live up to its hype in Dubai on Wednesday.

Pace spearhead Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3-15) and part time off-spinner Kedar Jadhav (3-23) sent Pakistan, who won the toss and batted, collapsing to just 162 all out in 43.1 overs at Dubai Stadium.

Skipper Rohit Sharma then struck three sixes and six boundaries in his 39-ball 52 while fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan hit a six and six fours in his 54-ball 46 as India romped home in 29 overs.

Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik both finished on 31 not out as India exacted some revenge for their humbling 180-run defeat against their arch-rivals in the final of the Champions Trophy in London last year — the most recent match between the teams until Wednesday.

Both Pakistan and India had already qualified for the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup and will meet again in Dubai on Sunday.

Bangladesh and Afghanistan meet in Abu Dhabi in the last Group B match on Thursday, having already qualified for the second round after Sri Lanka crashed out.

The top two teams from the Super Fours will play the final in Dubai on September 28.

Once Pakistan’s unpredictable batting crumbled, Wednesday’s match turned into a damp squib for a near-capacity crowd comprising of Indian and Pakistani expats living in the United Arab Emirates.

Kumar ran through the top order by dismissing openers Imam-ul-Haq (two) and Fakhar Zaman (nought) inside five overs, before Babar Azam (47) and Shoaib Malik (43) rebuilt the innings during their 82-run stand for the third wicket.

But after Azam was dismissed in the 22nd over, bowled by left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav, Pakistan lost their last seven wickets for 77 runs.

Azam hit six boundaries in his 62-ball knock while Malik, dropped on 26 by MS Dhoni off Hardik Pandya, cracked one six and one four in a vigilant innings which lasted 67 balls.

Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (six) became Jadhav’s first wicket, holing out to long-on where substitute fielder Maneesh Pandey completed a brilliant catch, throwing the ball back into the field to avoid running over the rope and completing the catch.

But it was Malik’s run out which derailed Pakistan, sent back by Asif Ali after setting off for a quick single.

Paceman Jasprit Bumrah took 2-23 but India lost all-rounder Hardik Pandya to injury.

Bowling his fifth over, Pandya fell in his follow through and was stretchered off with a lower back injury, the extent of which was being assessed by the India team’s medical staff.