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Ronda Rousey is the WWE’s newest superstar

Monitoring Desk

NEW YORK: The rumors were true. Ronda Rousey is now officially a WWE superstar.

The former Olympic bronze medalist and first-ever UFC women’s bantamweight champion made a last-gasp appearance at the WWE’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view event in Philadelphia on Sunday night.

And while she didn’t utter a word, or take part in a match, she made a big enough statement, standing in front of the two WWE women’s champions, Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss, as well as the Royal Rumble winner Asuka, and pointing to the Wrestlemania sign.

A lifelong pro wrestling fan Rousey was linked with a switch to the WWE from the moment she left the octagon following her TKO loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 in December 2016. Her ‘Rowdy’ nickname was a tribute to WWE legend ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, who gave her his permission to use his nickname during her MMA career.

And that relationship with Piper, who sadly died in 2015, was evident at the Royal Rumble, as Rousey walked into the arena wearing his old leather jacket, given to her as a gift by Piper’s family.

Rousey was a trailblazer in the world of mixed martial arts, as she became the first woman to win a bout in the UFC, and the promotion’s first-ever women’s world champion.

And now she’s swapping the octagon for the squared circle as she fulfills a lifelong ambition to become a WWE superstar.

“This is my life now. This is not a smash-and-grab. This is not a publicity stunt,” Rousey told ESPN.

“It was something I always wanted to do but I never thought was in the cards for me.

“And now that I realise I really do have this opportunity, I feel like my six-year-old self would totally kick my ass if I didn’t take it.”

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Neville: England women’s boss denies he is sexist

Monitoring Desk

LODON: Phil Neville denied he is sexist and said he has huge respect for women in his first media appearance after being appointed England women’s head coach. Last week he apologised a day into the job for past tweets about women.

“I had to apologise – I didn’t like the words used,” Neville said. “I’m not a sexist. I’ve lived my life right.”

The appointment has been criticised because of Neville’s lack of coaching and women’s football experience but he denied the job was a “stepping stone”.

“I’m England manager. Any job after this will be a step down not up,” Neville, 41, told BBC sports editor Dan Roan.

The former defender has only ever managed one game – at Salford City, a team he co-owns – but has coached former club Manchester United, England Under-21s and Spanish side Valencia.

“I’m qualified for the job, I have a [coaching] Pro Licence. It’s to work in all aspects of football.

“I’ve worked at elite level. I’ve worked abroad. Some of the players are world class. I’m best qualified for this job.”

Phil Neville denied he is sexist and said he has huge respect for women in his first media appearance after being appointed England women’s head coach.

Last week he apologised a day into the job for past tweets about women.

“I had to apologise – I didn’t like the words used,” Neville said. “I’m not a sexist. I’ve lived my life right.”

The appointment has been criticised because of Neville’s lack of coaching and women’s football experience but he denied the job was a “stepping stone”.

“I’m England manager. Any job after this will be a step down not up,” Neville, 41, told BBC sports editor Dan Roan.

The former defender has only ever managed one game – at Salford City, a team he co-owns – but has coached former club Manchester United, England Under-21s and Spanish side Valencia.

“I’m qualified for the job, I have a [coaching] Pro Licence. It’s to work in all aspects of football.

“I’ve worked at elite level. I’ve worked abroad. Some of the players are world class. I’m best qualified for this job.”

Last week the Football Association said former England international Neville would not be charged over his controversial tweets.

In one tweet, he suggested women would be too “busy making breakfast/getting kids ready” to read his messages, while other users picked up on comments Neville had made when interacting with his sister and with his wife – and one in which he joked he had “just battered the wife”.

“The words in 2018 are wrong, the words in 2011 were wrong. It’s not a reflection of my true character,” Neville added.

The former Manchester United and Everton full-back told BBC Sport the reference saying he had “battered the wife” was in relation to beating his wife at sport on holiday.

Neville met the Lionesses players for the first time at a training camp in Spain last week and described doing so as one of the “best moments” of his career.

Asked if he had ever watched a women’s football match, he said: “I’ve seen Man City women’s games, Valencia women’s games.

“I know women’s football. Do I know everything? No. I learn fast.

“At Valencia I knew three players, and in a week I knew everything about the club and in six months I was fluent in Spanish. I’m a fast learner.”

England women were losing semi-finalists under Mark Sampson at the 2017 European Championship and finished third at the 2015 World Cup.

Neville said it was up to him to take the team to the “next level”.

“[I have] immense pride and excitement to take over the third best team in world,” he said. “We have players who have desire and determination to be the best.

“The foundations are so strong, performances have been great.”

 

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Suarez, Messi lead Barcelona comeback

Monitoring Desk

BARCELONA: Barcelona simply will not lose. It refuses to. Every time it finds itself in a hole, one of its superstars lifts it out. And more often than not, that superstar is either Luis Suarez or Lionel Messi.

On Sunday, it was both. Barca trailed 17th-place Alaves for almost 50 minutes at home, its unbeaten La Liga record dangling by fewer and fewer threads as the minutes ticked away at Camp Nou. But then Suarez struck.

Alaves screamed for a penalty in the final minutes of the 90. They remonstrated with the referee after the final whistle as well. But it was not to be.

It rarely has been against Barcelona. Not only are the La Liga leaders still unbeaten, 21 games in, with 17 to go; they’ve also only drawn three of the 21. They’re 11 points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid, and 19 clear of annual title rival Real Madrid.

But you probably know all of that by now. You know Barcelona is going to reclaim the title. Everybody in Spain has known that for a while. Pretty soon, the discussion is going to turn to a new topic.

It’s going to turn to the unbeaten season, if it hasn’t already. The accomplishment is still far off in the distance. But with every weekend, it becomes slightly more realistic.

Barca has already returned unscathed from its three most difficult domestic trips of the season, to the Bernabeu, Wanda Metropolitano and Mestalla. It still must go to Sevilla, and host both Madrid sides and Valencia. The Barcelona derby next weekend, at Espanyol, won’t be easy either.

But Barcelona, despite not exactly flying through its league slate, doesn’t look like slowing down. That’s the thing: Barca wasn’t good on Sunday. Philippe Coutinho started in La Liga for the first time, and the hosts looked a bit incoherent in the first half, with a bevy of similar players, a lack of definition and little width.

But despite its imperfections, Barca’s record remains perfect. And pretty soon, a 38-game unblemished record will at least begin to come into focus.

 

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Amir Khan to fight Phil Lo Greco in Liverpool

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: Britain’s Amir Khan will fight Canadian Phil Lo Greco at the Liverpool Echo Arena on 21 April in his first bout for almost two years.

Khan, 31, was beaten by Saul Alvarez in a WBC middleweight title bout in May 2016, his most recent fight.

“He will be coming with everything to win this fight and I’m not going to give him an inch,” said former light-welterweight world champion Khan.

“He’s an aggressive fighter who is always looking to come forward.”

Khan has won 31 and lost four of his 35 professional bouts, while Lo Greco, 33, has 28 wins and three defeats from 31 fights.

“Being my first fight in the UK, I’m excited about the crowd,” said Lo Greco.

“I can’t wait to feel that energy. As much as UK fans love their fighters, they love great fights and I promise just that. This night will go down as one of the best fights ever in the UK.

“I’ve got a full training camp this time around – there will be no room for error. Amir Khan will be knocked out.”

 

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U-19 World Cup: Australia reaches final after thrashing Afghanistan in semi final  

Monitoring Desk

HAGLEY OVAL: Australian secured place in the final of Under-19 World Cup after thrashing the Afghan in the semi final by six wickets on Monday.

The fans were expecting a tough contest but it turned out to be a one sided match and it was all over Australian dominance in the match.

Afghanistan decision of batting first was backfired and only Ikram Ali was fighting against the Aussies bowlers and he scored 80 runs and eight Afghan players were not able to cross the double figure. Afghan were all out on 181 runs.

J Merlo picked up four wickets in his 10 overs and conceded 24 runs and put his team in a commanding position.

In the reply the Australian team easily chases the target of 182 runs with the loss of four wickets and still 75 balls were remaining.

The Australian will face the winner of second semi final in the finalon Saturday. The second will be played on Tuesday among the two arch rival India and Pakistan.

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PM Abbasi felicitates Pak cricket team over T20 win

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi congratulated the Pakistan cricket team for the series win against New Zealand.

PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Sunday phoned  Captain Sarfraz Ahmed and the management and appreciated the performance of the green team in the T20I in New Zealand and securing the top position in International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 team rankings.

PM Abbasi added that He said that the whole nation was proud of its national team and observed that the top position in the ICC ranking and win in T20 series demonstrated the hard work of the national team and its management.

 

 

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Real Madrid roar back with big win at Valencia

Monitoring Desk

MADRID: Cristiano Ronaldo scored two penalties as stumbling Liga champions Real Madrid hit back from their miserable start to 2018 with a rousing 4-1 win at Valencia on Saturday to move within two points of recapturing third place in La Liga.

Ronaldo sent goalkeeper Neto the wrong way to slot in his 100th penalty for club and country in the 16th minute after the Portuguese was felled in the box following a lightning quick breakaway from a Valencia corner. He made no mistake again from the spot in the 38th after Karim Benzema had been pushed over in the area by defender Martin Montoya, stretching Madrid’s lead and moving on to eight goals in the league this season, including four penalties.

Valencia pulled themselves back into contention in the 58th minute when Santi Mina headed home from a corner while Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas denied Dani Parejo an equaliser with an impressive save with his foot.

Real had gone into the game on the back of being dumped out of the King’s Cup by Leganes in midweek and were missing captain Sergio Ramos and midfielder Isco through injury but produced a gritty display, defending well and striking with intent on the counter-attack.

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VC Islamia College awards cash, gold medal

F.P. Report

PESHAWAR: Vice Chancellor Islamia College University Professor Dr. Habib Sunday honored Pakistan No. 1 International Table Tennis player Fahad Khawjah Chitrali for winning triple crowns in the recently held National Master Cup Table Tennis Championship besides winning medals in international event.

“We are proud enough that Fahad is our student and like him Islamia College, which is the historical education institution of country also produced world class sportsmen who bring laurels for the country,” Professor Dr. Habib told APP when he calls on Fahad Khawjah.

Besides the Vice Chancellor, Director General Sports Irfan Ullah Marwat, Registrar Dr. Tauqeer Alam, Dr. Naveed Abbas, Dr. Zafar Hayat and Chief Proctor Professor Dr. Javed Iqbal were also present. He lauded Fahad Khawjah, a 12 grade student for winning such a great credential in the international Table Tennis circuit.

Professor Dr. Habib also awarded Fahad Khawjah gold medal and cash incentives to Fahad Khawjah of recently winning the double crowns in the National Table Tennis Championship besides remaining at KP No. 1 in the age of seven and in the age of 12 he declared as the youngest even national Table Tennis Champion.

Fahad Khawjah, son of a renowned and senior journalist Nadir Khawjah, got first position in Under-14, Under-15, Under-17 and Under-18 age grounds. Fahad Khawjah also represented Pakistan in China, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Qatar, Uman and Iran.

In his younger age Fahad won singles gold medal, doubles and team event gold before being declared as the triple crowns winners against their strong rivals from different departments. Looking after his tremendous performance the Pakistan Table Tennis Federation selected Fahad Khawjah in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games to be held in Gold Cost, Australia.

Professor Dr. Habib ensured Fahad Khawjah that he would be fully facilitated and his achievements would be marked so that other students would follow him and achieve name and fame for the country internationally.

He said the students of Islamia College University is serving the country since its establishment and hopefully more talent like Fahad Khawjah would come up in other games as well. He also appreciated Director General Sports Irfan Ullah Marwat as in his supervision the students of Islamia College University have been achieving great name for this historical institution, province and for the country.

He said the management of the Islamia College University is working with great devotions and wants to bring this historical institution according to international day need.

The present govt, he said, giving top priority to education and sports and certainly efforts have been made to provide best educational and sporting facilities to their students. He assured Fahad Khawjah that he would be looked after in both education and sports so that he could win back more laurels for the country.

At the end, Vice Chancellor Professor Dr. Habib awarded gold medal and cash incentives to Fahad Khawjah on behalf of the Islamia College University management.

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Federer wins 20th grand slam title with Australian Open victory over Cilic

MELBOURNE (Agencies): What should have been a Sunday stroll for Roger Federer on a warm summer’s evening in his favourite city away from Switzerland turned into an ordeal under the roof on Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena before he subdued an inspired Marin Cilic in five sets to win the 2018 Australian Open.

The ageless Swiss, ranting and sweating at the end, found the requisite extra gears just in time to complete a 6-2, 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win in just over three hours, sealing his 20th major from 30 finals and his sixth title here. But it was a nervy, occasionally ill-tempered victory as Federer, 36, became the oldest winner of the title since Ken Rosewall 46 years ago. It was his 50th five-setter in slams, although he had lost 20 of them. Cilic had a better 27-12 record. Federer had also lost four of seven five-setters in slam finals: against Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon in 2009, Juan Martin del Potro in New York the same year, and Rafael Nadal twice: in the 2009 Australian Open and most memorably, at Wimbledon in 2008.

He threatened to blow 29-year-old Cilic off the court in a first set that sped by in 24 minutes. Eight months ago, the imperious Swiss straight-setted a hobbling Cilic to win his seventh Wimbledon title, and, in the absence of his broken, beaten or absent peers at the end of the fortnight here, he was a raging favourite to repeat the embarrassment here. The re-run looked like being a striking counterpoint to the drama of his five-set win over Rafael Nadal in last year’s final, as Cilic, newly elevated to No 3 in the world after beating Kyle Edmund in the semi-finals, could not get going.

The roof was on to guard against the 40C heat baking fans who were watching on the big screen outside in the early-evening sun. But, as the on-court temperature dropped to a pleasant 27C, the decision seemed marginal. It did allow them to turn on the air-conditioning, though. Neither player called for an iced towel, nor did they look to be struggling physically. Federer and Cilic, who are friends, did not play like a couple of mates having a hit on holidays in the Maldives – which is what they were doing a couple of months ago – although Cilic’s botched smash to drop serve in the opening game was charitable in the extreme. At Wimbledon last summer, Federer ruthlessly exploited his opponent’s obvious difficulty in moving because of blisters. In the semi-final here on Friday night, he did the same to the young Korean Hyeon Chung, who had to quit with ripped skin on his feet after two games of the second set.

Federer dictated nearly ever point in the first set, even the ones he didn’t win – and there weren’t many of them. He served out for 6-2 in 24 minutes, only three minutes longer than Cilic took to despatch Joao Sousa in the first set of their round-two match. Cilic now seemed frozen in the heat. The circumstances and the opponent looked to have transfixed his bones. However, the graceful Croatian was vivified into a grinding fightback in the second set, saving four break points and was one point away from levelling in the 10th game. He found enough steel to resist three Federer aces in the tie-break and smashed an overhead to make it one apiece after an hour and 24 minutes.

Federer de-powered his serve in the third set to rediscover his rhythm, but his precision and his all-court game remained razor sharp. Cilic had tightened up his groundstrokes in the second set, but a wayward forehand cost him his serve in the sixth game, and Federer looked as if he would pull away from him like a cab driver finishing his night shift.

However, there was a dramatic and unexpected detour in the fourth. Federer was 3-1 up and had a point for a double break when his first serve deserted him at the very moment Cilic found the power in his forehand. Fist-pumping, with eyes blazing, he scrapped artfully to take the set. Cilic was playing his best tennis of the tournament, and they went to a fifth.

His frustrations got to him when he chided an official for a close call against him at 30-all in the second game of the decider – but it worked. He forced the break for 2-0 and was ready to go for the line again. The finish was quick and anti-climactic. Federer broke again for 5-1 after half an hour in the set, and began his celebratory final service game with his 24th ace, followed by an unreturnable serve down the T, just missed a 25th ace, forced Cilic to hit a forehand wide. A wide kicker to the ad side was too good for Cilic and the championship was Federer’s.

Federer, who couldn’t hold back the tears, said courtside, “I’m so happy. It’s unbelievable. The fairytale continues for us, for me. After the great year I had last year, it’s incredible. Marin had another great tournament. Been a long journey but well worthwhile.” And then he properly let the tears flow, as he did when he lost to Rafael Nadal in 2009.

Cilic said, “It’s amazing what Roger does year after year. This could have been the best two weeks of my life, but Roger played great tennis, especially in the fifth set. I hope I’m going to be playing here for many years to come.”

Federer confessed that a year ago he did not think he would get past the quarter-finals here, given he had been out for six months healing his wounded knee. The Peter Pan of tennis gave every impression on Sunday evening that he could go on until he is 40, although the fairytale might always go to script.

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Curran five-for seals thrilling England victory

PERTH (Agencies): Tom Curran showed a sense of occasion that should stand him and England in good stead with magnificent five for 35 as his match-turning spell gave England a 12-run victory and a 4-1 series triumph that seemed implausible at the halfway stage and for much of the Australian innings.

Curran also managed to upstage what had been shaping to be the perfect unveiling for Perth’s sparkly new Optus Stadium The crowd was 53,781, a record for any ticketed sporting event in Western Australia and their local boys did them proud too.

No sooner had Andrew Tye completed a maiden five-wicket haul in his home city of Perth than 4,000 miles away in Bangalore the gavel came down on his £794,000 Indian Premier League deal with King’s XI Punjab. Marcus Stoinis, the muscular batsman, made 87 but his departure, caught by Curran off Adil Rashid, gave England a sniff.

The partisan punters also got a perfect – or should that be Perth-fect – dismissal when David Willey was caught by Mitch Marsh off Tye. All three players have been members of the Perth Scorchers T20 team in the Big Bash. And to top it off, we had the ground’s first streaker who side-stepped around a few stewards, in the traditional manner, before being rugby-tackled to the ground neck first.

England rested two of their leading bowlers, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood. They were not injured but, said captain Eoin Morgan, they had not recovered well from yesterday’s three-hour flight from Adelaide. That left Woakes to count his IPL winnings – all £810,000 of them from his acquisition by Royal Challengers Bangalore – while a surprising amount of his team-mates failed even to land a gig.

It left England with a pace attack with all of 52 ODI caps between them. Curran produced a superb yorker to dismiss David Warner and complete a poor series for the explosive left-hander, who scored only 73 runs at an average of 14 in the five matches. Steve Smith fared only marginally better 102 runs at 20 compared to his 687 at 137 in the Ashes.

When Curran returned in the 37th over and made an immediate impact. He pinned Glenn Maxwell lbw and was insistent that the not-out decision be reviewed. Two balls later Mitchell Starc was well caught behind low to his left by Jos Buttler.

That left Australia 192 for seven but Tim Paine appeared to be taking his side to victory before Curran stole the show bowling both Adam Zampa and then Paine.