Tagged in: champion

Roger Federer to make last-minute decision on Laver Cup participation

Roger Federer is set to make a last-minute decision on his participation in the Laver Cup, his physical trainer has stated.

Last week 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer announced he would be retiring from professional tennis after a series of knee operations and stated the Laver Cup would be his last official event.

Federer was pictured arriving in London for the Laver Cup on Sunday, with the tournament’s official account tweeting “RF has arrived.”

But the 41-year-old could be denied the opportunity to bow out at the team competition between Europe and the rest of the world, which starts on Friday at London’s O2 Arena, due to persistent injury troubles.

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“He will probably decide that at the last moment,” Pierre Paganini, Federer’s trainer, told the Swiss newspaper Blick. “He is trained to have as much information as possible about whether it’s a good idea or not.”

Paganini also explained how Federer had first contemplated retiring in July, when it became clear he was making “greater efforts for relatively low intensity.”

“Since July, when he started combining the different training elements, he has noticed that he has to make more and more detours and put in extra effort,” Paganini said.

“He had to make greater efforts for relatively low intensity.

“I think it’s a smart decision. It’s not just about the knee. Roger has played a lot of matches in his career and put his body under extreme strain.”

Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray will all play together on the same team for the first time at the Laver Cup, which is run by Federer’s management company.

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Cameron Smith to play Australian Open, PGA

Newly crowned British Open champion Cameron Smith will make an emotional return home to Brisbane in November to contest the Australian PGA Championship.

Smith will bring the famous Claret Jug with him when he returns to Australia for the first time since 2019 and also contest the Australian Open in Melbourne from December 1-4.

Triumphant at the landmark 150th Open at St Andrews last month, Smith is now intent on capping off his unforgettable 2022 with more silverware on Australian soil.

The 28-year-old gained back-to-back Australian PGA Championships in 2017 and 2018 and will be chasing a third when he tees up in his home city from November 24-27.

“I’ve had an unbelievable year and to be coming home to play tournaments is the icing on the cake,” said the world No.2.

“I’m so excited to see friends and family again. Some of them I haven’t seen for years now and once I get to the golf course, I’ve got my eye on some more trophies.”

Smith’s record-setting victory at the Old Course in Scotland was his third of the year after also taking out the prestigious Players Championship and the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

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The Queenslander continues to be linked to an impending move to LIV Golf.

But even if he joins Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed breakaway league after the PGA Tour’s final FedEx Cup playoff event starting on Thursday night in Atlanta, Smith will still be free to contest Australia’s two biggest events of the summer.

Australasian tour officials have ruled out following the lead of PGA and European Tour bosses in banning any players who join LIV Golf.

Smith is the latest big-name drawcard to commit to the Australian Open and PGA Championships.

He joins fellow PGA Tour stars Marc Leishman, Lucas Herbert and Min Woo Lee.

Former Women’s US PGA Champion Hannah Green is also teeing up at the mixed-gender Australian Open being staged at Kingston Heath and the Victoria Golf Club.

South Africa’s newly crowned Women’s British Open champion Ashleigh Buhai also revealed on Thursday that she’d play the Australian Open, which is offering a $3.4 million in prize money to be split evenly among the men and women.

Golf Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland stated securing Smith and Buhai was a massive boost to Australian golf fans.

“Over the last few years Australians golf fans have loved following the rise of Cameron Smith,” Sutherland said.

“He delights fans of all ages and even young kids have been inspired by him, turning up to golf sporting mullets and dreaming of playing like him.

“For Australian golf fans this is a great opportunity to come and watch Cameron – and to recognize his brilliant achievements, including his most recent Open Championship victory.”

Announcing the two recent men’s and women’s British Open champions in one day is a sign of the star-studded fields that are building for the Australian Open.

“Ashleigh Buhai is one of those stars and her commitment to the event highlights how well-received our new format has been internationally. She is a major champion and she wants to not only be a part of it,” Sutherland said. “The presence of this year’s Open champion and AIG Women’s Open champion is a great coup for the event.”

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Anthony Joshua regrets post-fight antics after Oleksandr Usyk rematch defeat

Anthony Joshua has stated he let himself down in the moments after his split decision defeat in a rematch with Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday.

Joshua failed to reclaim the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO heavyweight titles as he suffered his second consecutive loss to Usyk — his third defeat in his last five fights. The 32-year-old threw two of Usyk’s belts to the floor after the final bell before storming out of the ring, only to return later and deliver an impassioned speech.

“I wish Usyk continued success in your quest for greatness. You are a class act champ” Joshua said in a Twitter post on Sunday.

“Yesterday I had to mentally take myself into a dark place to compete for the championship belts! I had two fights, one with Usyk and one with my emotions and both got the better of me. “I’ll be the first to admit, I let my self down. I acted out of pure passion and emotion and when not controlled it ain’t great. I love this sport so so much and I’ll be better from this point on.”

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The 32-year-old also reflected on his behavior during his post-fight news conference, saying his speech, in which he called himself a new breed of heavyweight and led a cheer for Usyk, was “from the heart.”

“When you try and do things from your heart, not everyone is going to understand,” Joshua said. “It was just from the heart. I knew I was mad at myself. Not at anyone, just myself. I was like I got to get out here because I’m mad.

“When you’re angry you might do stupid things. Then I realised this is sport. I came back and did the right thing.”

Joshua fought back tears after the fight as he reflected on his defeat, saying he was deeply “upset” with his performance versus the Ukrainian heavyweight champion.

“It’s really, really hard for me to say I’m proud of myself. I’m upset, really, deep down in my heart,” he added.

“I tried a different style… in the last fight I wanted to compete as a boxer, but it wasn’t good enough, and tonight wasn’t good enough.”

Joshua said he plans to return to the ring in December, adding that his promoter, Eddie Hearn, wants him to have three or four fights next year.

“I spoke to Eddie and asked him if it’s possible to get out in November because momentum is important in boxing. Eddie said December,” Joshua said.

“If it’s about who I fight, it’s come one, come all. Whoever wants it can get it, I don’t mind.”

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Jessica Korda shoots 65 in borrowed golf clothes, trails Hinako Shibuno at Women’s Open

Playing in borrowed clothes doesn’t seem to bother Jessica Korda at the Women’s Open.

Still waiting for her suitcase to arrive in Muirfield, Korda recovered from an early bogey to shoot a 5-under 66 in the first round Thursday, putting her 1 shot behind leader Hinako Shibuno of Japan.

Korda made four birdies and an eagle on the 17th despite missing her normal clothes after her luggage got stuck at an airport in Switzerland.

“If anyone knows anyone at the Zurich airport that would like to put my suitcase on the one flight a day that they have coming into Edinburgh, I’d deeply appreciate it,” Korda said. “I know where it is, I have an AirTag on it. I can’t get anyone to actually go get it. … Monday I wore Megan Khang’s pants. Tuesday, I wore my sister’s pants and Wednesday I wore Alison Lee’s pants. Today I’m wearing FootJoy pants.”

Shibuno, the 2019 champion, made birdies on the first three holes and went on to card eight in total in her 65. Scotland’s Louise Duncan and Mexico’s Gabby Lopez were tied for third, 2 shots back.

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“It has been a long time since I’ve played this well, especially putting. Honestly it was a little frightening,” Shibuno said through an interpreter. “I haven’t changed much. My caddie told me that my body balance was off when I was missing putts. Once I focused on this, I could play much better.”

Nelly Korda, Jessica’s sister, was tied for 13th after shooting a 70.

Catriona Matthew, also a former Women’s British Open champion and two-time-winning captain in the Solheim Cup, was elected to hit the opening tee shot Thursday after growing up close to Muirfield, which is hosting the event for the first time.

It was only six years ago that Muirfield didn’t permitted women to even set foot in the clubhouse.

Matthew struggled to a 5-over 76, making double-bogeys on the first and 10th and failing to make a single birdie.

“Being the first women’s pro event to be played here, it’s great, and me being local, it was a huge honor to hit the first tee shot,” Matthew said. “Apart from the two doubles, I actually played quite well. It’s a little frustrating.”

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Naomi Osaka returns to court for first time since May, wins in first round of Silicon Valley Classic

Four-time major champion Naomi Osaka collected the first match she has played since May, defeating Zheng Qinwen 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 on Tuesday night at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic.

Osaka hit 11 aces and saved 7 of 8 break points in the hard-court tournament that serves as a tuneup for the US Open.

Osaka, who had not played anywhere since a first-round loss to Amanda Anisimova at the French Open on May 23, was all smiles after the match, waving and clapping back at the crowd, which gave her a standing ovation.

“It’s really good to be back,” she said in her on-court interview after the win. “I’m just really happy.”

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The former No. 1-ranked player was bothered by her left Achilles tendon during that defeat, then cited that lingering injury when she pulled out of Wimbledon in June. Osaka won the US Open in 2018 and 2020.

Next up for Osaka is Coco Gauff, who won her match 6-0, 6-1 over Anhelina Kalinina.

Osaka leads their head-to-head series 2-1, including a triumph over Gauff at the 2019 US Open. Gauff was the runner-up at this year’s French Open.

Another past champion at Flushing Meadows, 2019 winner Bianca Andreescu, lost Tuesday in San Jose, beaten 6-4, 6-2 by Shelby Rogers.

In other first-round action, qualifier Elizabeth Mandlik won her WTA debut, defeating Alison Riske-Amritraj 6-3, 6-3, and No. 9 seed Veronika Kudermetova beat Camila Giorgi 7-6 (2), 4-6, 7-5.

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New York Mets star Pete Alonso, back in Home Run Derby, ‘super excited’ to swing for a third title

New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso will participate in the Home Run Derby next week in Los Angeles.

Major League Baseball made the announcement Monday on its official Twitter page, confirming the return of one of the Derby’s most successful hitters.

“It’s a really fun event,” Alonso told reporters in the Mets clubhouse Monday before their game against the Braves in Atlanta. “It’s going to be super exciting, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

Also before the game, the Braves announced that star outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. will participate in the Derby. Last year, in Denver, Alonso outlasted Baltimore Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini to become the third back-to-back Home Run Derby champion.

Alonso recorded 74 home runs — totaling 6.35 miles in distance — en route to the crown.

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“I think I’m the best power hitter on the planet,” Alonso said after the win last year. “Being able to showcase that, and really putting on a fun display for fans, I just think it’s a dream come true for me because when I was young, my parents let me stay up past my bedtime to watch this. That was one of the few nights per year I actually got to stay up past my bedtime, just watch incredible feats that you don’t see in a regular baseball game.”

And now Dodger Stadium will be his stage next Monday, as he takes a break from a regular season that has New York fans thinking about a postseason run. The Mets entered play on Monday with a 53-33 record and a first-place standing in the National League East.

Alonso leads the team with 23 home runs to go along with a .273 batting average and 70 RBIs.

Last year — with New York bench coach Dave Jauss pitching to him — Alonso wowed the crowd at Coors Field with a final-round total of 23, in joining Ken Griffey Jr. (1998-99) and Yoenis Cespedes (2013-14) in winning successive titles.

“This is just surreal,” Alonso said at the time. “It’s just truly a blessing.”

Alonso confirmed Monday that Jauss will again be his pitcher next week. “Just need to give him about two pots of coffee for before and a case of Bud Light for after, and he said he’s good to go,” Alonso said.

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Rafael Nadal pulls out of Wimbledon semifinal with torn abdominal muscle

Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from Wimbledon ahead of Friday’s semifinal match versus Nick Kyrgios with a torn abdominal muscle.

The 22-time major champion said that he had been experiencing pain in the area for the past week but that the injury got worse during Wednesday’s quarterfinal match versus Taylor Fritz, specifically while serving.

“Unfortunately, as you can imagine if I am here, I have to pull out from the tournament,” Nadal told a room of reporters Thursday. “As everybody saw yesterday, I have been suffering with the pain in abdominal. I know something was not OK there, as I said yesterday.”

Kyrgios, who had reached the semifinals at a Grand Slam for the first time with his victory over Cristian Garin on Wednesday, will now face either top-seeded Novak Djokovic or No. 9 Cameron Norrie in Sunday’s championship match.

Nadal practiced for around 45 minutes on Thursday, spending most of the time hitting forehands and backhands, and though he did practice some serves, they were at a vastly reduced speed. Spanish newspaper Marca reported Thursday that Nadal has a 7-millimeter tear in one of his abdominal muscles but that he intended to play.

Ultimately he stated it came down to not believing he would be able to play his best with the injury.

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“I made my decision because I believe that I can’t win two matches under these circumstances,” Nadal said. “I can’t serve. [It’s] not only that I can’t serve at the right speed, it’s that I can’t do the normal movement to serve.

“I have to say that, imagine myself winning two matches, and for respect to myself in some way, I don’t want to go out there, not be competitive enough to play at the level that I need to play to achieve my goal, and with a big chance to make the things much worse, no?”

Nadal wore tape over part of his abdomen and required treatment, including painkillers, during his five-set victory over Fritz.

Nadal, 36, was trying to win Wimbledon for the third time and the first time since 2010. He was playing in the tournament for the first time since 2019.

Having won the Australian Open and the French Open earlier this year, Nadal was vying at Wimbledon to continue his quest for a calendar Grand Slam and to take home his 23rd major title, which would have tied him with Serena Williams for the most by a player in the Open era.

Nadal stated he didn’t regret finishing the match Wednesday, despite the wishes of his father and sister, seated in his player box, who were urging him to retire.

“[It] was the right decision because I finished the match,” he said. “I won the match. I did the things that I felt in every single moment. I am not the kind of player and the kind of person that, when you make decisions, [is] going to look back and say, I should not [have] done that, or I should do another thing …

“[On] the other hand, I didn’t want to pull out, to go out the court in the middle of a quarterfinals match. Even if, as I say yesterday, the chance of retirement stays in my mind for a long time after the first five, six games, I find a way to finish the match. Something that I am proud of. Then you confirm that you have an injury, then you make the decision thinking about your health and your future.”

Nadal stated he expects it will take three to four weeks to recover from the injury. The last man in the Open Era to withdraw before a major semifinal singles match was Richard Krajicek at the 1992 Australian Open.

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Kaitlin Young to replace injured Julia Budd vs. Kayla Harrison in PFL 6 main event

A programmed battle between a former Bellator champion and a defending PFL champ will have to wait.

Former Bellator women’s featherweight champion Julia Budd is out of a planned July 1 fight versus Kayla Harrison in PFL due to an undisclosed injury, sources told ESPN. In Budd’s place will step women’s MMA pioneer Kaitlin Young, sources said.

Harrison vs. Young, a regular-season women’s lightweight matchup, is set to be the main event of PFL 6 in Atlanta.

ESPN has Harrison ranked No. 8 in the world on its pound-for-pound women’s MMA list. The two-time defending PFL women’s lightweight champion has earned two Olympic gold medals in judo and is undefeated in MMA.

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Harrison (13-0) is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Marina Mokhnatkina on May 6, giving her three points in the PFL women’s lightweight regular season.

The Ohio native, who lives and trains in Florida, is second in PFL’s current divisional standings.

Harrison, 31, had finished five consecutive fights before Mokhnatkina. Young (12-12-1), a league alternate this season, went 1-2 in PFL last season, including a loss to Budd last October. The 36-year-old Minnesota native has a striking background — including a black belt in taekwondo — and has been a pro MMA fighter since 2007.

Budd (16-4), lost her first fight this season to Genah Fabian, but was granted three points due to Fabian’s weight miss. Mathematically, the 38-year-old Canadian fighter could still make the playoffs, especially if another fighter falls out, but it is unlikely.

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23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams skips practice ahead of doubles match that will mark competitive return

Serena Williams skipped her arranged practice session at Eastbourne with late notice on Monday as the 23-time Grand Slam champion prepares to make her return to competition after a year away.

Williams trained at a nearby club over the weekend and was expected to have an on-site session at Devonshire Park ahead of playing doubles with Ons Jabeur. Their first match is set for Tuesday versus Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova.

Williams, 40, who hasn’t competed anywhere since she was injured in the first round of Wimbledon last year, was awarded a wild card for singles at the All England Club.

Jabeur stated it was “unbelievable” to have been asked by Williams to be part of her journey back to competition at the Wimbledon warm-up. “I’m a good secret keeper — yes, I’ve known [since] before the French Open,” said the No. 3-ranked Jabeur, who arrived at Eastbourne after winning the title in Berlin on Sunday.

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“Many players were jealous because I’m playing with her. Honestly, Serena is Serena. She is a legend and always will be.”

Jabeur said she is hoping to learn “even like 2% from it.”

“Now I’m joking with other doubles players,” she said. “I was like, ‘If you have minus 20 grand slams, don’t even ask me to play doubles with you anymore.'”

Jabeur has pulled out of the singles at Eastbourne following her run to the title in Germany and will play only the doubles. Still, she’ll likely be kept busy this week given her partner.

“I cannot wait to see her; I haven’t seen her yet,” Jabeur said of Williams. “Hopefully we will get together and talk a little bit and see, because I’m really pumped. I want to win this doubles and why not win the title here, you know?”

Among those to advance in the singles Monday were three qualifiers — Donna Vekic, Kirsten Flipkens and Lesia Tsurenko — and a wild card in Britain’s Jodie Burrage. American player Alison Riske was beaten by Magda Linette of Poland 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-6 (4).

In the men’s event, sixth-seeded Alex de Minaur of Australia started his title defense by beating Cristian Garin 6-3, 6-3. Two Americans — fifth-seeded Reilly Opelka and seventh-seeded Frances Tiafoe — lost in the first round on Monday.

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Devin Haney dethrones George Kambosos to become undisputed lightweight champion

Devin Haney can no longer be called an email champion, a titleholder or anything but the undisputed lightweight champion of the world.

The 23-year-old traveled from Las Vegas to Melbourne, Australia, and delivered a dominant performance to collect all four 135-pound belts in a unanimous-decision triumph Sunday over George Kambosos before 41,129 at Marvel Stadium on ESPN.

Haney (28-0, 15 KOs) used his excellent jab to dictate the pace en route to the lopsided victory via scores of 116-112, 118-110 and 116-112.

“The game plan was to go there and hit and not get hit, and I did that for the majority of the fight,” said Haney, who entered the ring rated No. 4 by ESPN at lightweight. “I took the last round off just because I knew I was comfortably ahead, but I fought a good, smart fight.

“I handicapped him of his best things. He wanted to land the overhand right, and he wanted to land the big left hook. … I was fighting both ways. When I would go to the left, I would fight his right hand. When I would go to the right, I would fight his left hook. And he couldn’t hit me with neither one of them.”

Indeed, it was a virtuoso defensive performance from the rising star. He used the lead weapon to disrupt Kambosos’ rhythm and often changed levels with the jab, shooting it to the body and head.

Anytime Kambosos (20-1, 10 KOs) closed the distance, Haney stepped back and fired a jab. On the rare instance Kambosos connected with a solid shot, Haney tied up the Australian before he could follow up his attack.

Despite the clear gap in skill level, there will likely be a rematch between Haney and Kambosos later this year in Australia.

The 28-year-old, who was rated No. 1 by ESPN at lightweight, is contractually guaranteed another fight with Haney in his home country if he chooses to exercise the rematch clause.

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“Yes, 100 percent … we’ll do it again,” Kambosos said when asked if he would exercise the rematch clause. “Look, I gave him the shot. If I hadn’t given him this shot, he wouldn’t have had his moment right now.

“He grabbed and held a lot and did what he had to do to win. That’s what it’s about. You do what you have to do to win, and today they gave him the decision, but I’m sure it will change when we get it on again. … This is going to make me hungrier.”

Said Haney: “I’m not ducking or dodging nobody. If it makes sense, if the network wants it, I’ll do it again. But it has to make sense.”

As the rounds ticked by, it became increasingly clear Kambosos had no answers for Haney’s ring smarts, jab and educated footwork. He pressed harder during the late stages of the fight, when he needed at least a knockdown to win, but never came close to landing the sort of fight-altering punch that materialized in November when he shocked Teofimo Lopez to collect four lightweight titles.

When Kambosos dethroned Lopez in ESPN’s Upset of the Year, he started fast with a knockdown in the opening round, and survived a knockdown in Round 10 to earn the split-decision victory.

Afterward, Kambosos called for the biggest fights possible in the star-laden lightweight division rather than the usual victory lap many new champions enjoy. He was ringside for not only Haney’s decision win over Joseph Diaz Jr., the following week, but also Gervonta Davis’ victory over Isaac Cruz.

“This is what it’s all about, f— protecting records,” Kambosos said. “I’ve always been about fighting the best.”

Ultimately, Kambosos engaged in negotiations with Vasiliy Lomachenko, the former pound-for-pound king, and there was a deal in place. But when Russia invaded Ukraine, Lomachenko decided to remain in the war-torn country with his family and passed on the fight.

Enter Haney, who was embroiled in a dispute with Kambosos and much of the boxing world over the legitimacy of his title. Haney was elevated from interim champion to WBC titleholder in October 2019, while Lomachenko, who held the WBC’s lightweight belt, was designated the franchise champion.

“It’s a title to basically duck your mandatory,” Haney told ESPN in May.

Finally, Haney grabbed his opportunity to “put a stop to the confusion: the email champion or the franchise and all that,” with his fight versus Kambosos, who entered the bout with the WBA, WBO, IBF and WBC franchise title.

However, it initially appeared he would have to do so without his father and trainer, Bill Haney. Due to a 1992 drug conviction, the elder Haney initially wasn’t approved for a travel visa, but on Thursday, he received clearance and arrived in Melbourne approximately 15 hours before the bell rang.

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