Tagged in: champion

Max Verstappen will run number one on car as champion in 2022

Max Verstappen has confirmed he will run the number one on his car in 2022 as Formula One world champion, something no driver has done in F1 since 2014.

There has not been a number one car on the F1 grid since Sebastian Vettel’s in 2014, when the Red Bull driver was a defending four-time world champion.

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Since then, Lewis Hamilton has opted to keep his career number 44, while Nico Rosberg retired after winning the championship in 2016, meaning he did not have the chance to run it the following season.

Verstappen, who normally races with number 33, wants to make the switch for 2022.

“Yeah, I will run it,” Verstappen said on the subject. “How many times can you do that? I don’t know, maybe it’s the only time I can in my life.

“I think it’s the best number out there. I will definitely put it on the car.”

Verstappen’s championship was confirmed late on Sunday evening after the FIA dismissed a protest into how the final laps of the race unfolded.

A late safety car period helped Verstappen pit for fresh tyres, with a controversial FIA call to let lapped cars unlap themselves effectively moving Verstappen right up behind Hamilton for the restart.

When that restart took place, Verstappen caught and passed Hamilton and held the lead to claim his maiden championship.

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UFC 269 Who has the edge in the two title fights?

Two titles will be on the line Saturday night at UFC 269. The UFC’s final pay-per-view of 2021 will feature two veteran lightweights who have waited a long time to be a champion.

Brazil’s Charles Oliveira (31-8) claimed the vacant title in May and will make his first defense versus Dustin Poirier (28-6) in the main event of UFC 269 in Las Vegas (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+ PPV).

Even though Oliveira is the champ, and has won nine in a row, many in the sport consider he needs to defeat Poirier to validate his status as a real champ.

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Poirier, of Louisiana, could have fought for the championship earlier this year, but he elected to take a lucrative detour versus Conor McGregor.

Now that he’s coming off back-to-back victories over McGregor, Poirier has set his focus solely on claiming the undisputed title, something he’s never done in his decorated MMA career.

In the other title fight of the night, Amanda Nunes (21-4) makes her sixth bantamweight title defense versus Julianna Pena. Nunes has made it look relatively easy at the top in recent years, as she has dominated both the 135- and 145-pound weight classes.

Pena, of Spokane, Washington, has been very vocal in her belief that she is the one to truly challenge the female GOAT. Pena is only 2-2 in her past four fights, but she has a physical, grinding style of offensive wrestling, which she used most recently to defeat former U.S.

Olympic wrestler Sara McMann at UFC 257 in January. As usual, Nunes is a strong favorite to retain her title, but does Pena have a chance at the upset?

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Emma Raducanu caps debut season with exhibition win

US Open champion Emma Raducanu capped her remarkable debut season with a 6-3, 7-6(3) triumph over Romania’s Elena-Gabriela Ruse in a light-hearted exhibition match at the Champions Tennis event at the famed Royal Albert Hall on Sunday.

Britain’s Raducanu, who turned 19 years old earlier this month, was playing at the season-ending event after some stunning debut months on the Tour.

It started with a first-round defeat in Nottingham in June 2021, but was followed by a remarkable run at Wimbledon that saw he win her first three matches before retiring versus Ajla Tomljanovic and peaked with a spell-bounding win at the US Open, where she did not drop a set on her way to becoming the first British woman to win the tournament in 53 years.

She has since competed in three events, the most recent in Linz, Austria, where she was beaten in the first round against China’s Xinyu Wang.

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The world No. 19, playing on Sunday against her friend Ruse, held her serve in the opening game and then forced Ruse into a long service game, saving two game points before hitting a winner into the corner and then driving her opponent into an error to take a 2-0 lead. The pair held their serves in the following two games before Radacanu broke again to ease into a 5-1 lead.

Ruse briefly broke back, but the Brit followed up by holding her serve two games later to claim the first set.

The Romanian often resorted to drop shots as Raducanu repeatedly fired from behind the baseline as both players held serve to start the second set. But Raducanu broke the deadlock in the fifth game, this time pouncing on a poorly weighted drop shot from Ruse to force an error. Ruse soon recovered though and forced a tiebreak for the set, which Raducanu eased 7-3.

“It was amazing to play at home in front of everyone here. I felt it straight from the minute I walked out — it was an incredible atmosphere — and I really enjoyed playing here,” Raducanu said in her on-court interview.

The Champions Tennis exhibition event, which has taken place since 1997, invites players who have once held the world No. 1 ranking, reached a Grand Slam final or been achieved success in the Davis Cup. This year’s edition will be the last at the Royal Albert Hall as it searches for a new venue next year.

Raducanu will next play at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi in December as she begins preseason heading into her first full season on the WTA Tour. She will also compete at the Australian Open in January, her first Grand Slam since claiming the US Open title and the third major of her career.

She recently went on a vacaction, which she said in an Instagram post was her first in seven years, as she prepares for the 2022 season.

“For six days I just completely switched off and I started my preseason this week on Tuesday,” Raducanu added. “I’ve been doing a lot of fitness, not so much tennis, so I was a bit nervous coming out to play in front of everyone here.

“Right now, I’m doing preseason and working hard on my fitness, as you can tell I need to work on my sprints to the net when I was getting dropshotted. Then I’m heading out to the Middle East to finish my preseason, and then Christmas out there then flying to Australia on Dec. 26.”

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U.S. beats Spain to set up Billie Jean King Cup semifinal vs. Russia

The United States won both singles matches versus Spain to reach the semifinals of the Billie Jean King Cup on Wednesday.

The Americans faced a must-win situation after losing to Slovakia 2-1 in Group C on Tuesday, and Sloane Stephens and Danielle Collins both earned straight-set victories to render the final doubles meaningless.

The U.S., the most successful team in the competition formerly known as the Fed Cup with 18 titles, will face Russia in the semis. The Russians eliminated defending champion France earlier in the day.

Stephens beat Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 6-4, 6-4, earning her seventh break of the match in the final game and converting her first match point with a backhand winner.

“I came out really confident, I knew that I’m ready,” said Stephens, the 2107 U.S. Open champion.

Collins secured the second point by easing past Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-1, 6-0 in just under one hour to seal the victory and eliminate Spain. “I think in this format, every game, every set counts,” Collins said.

“For me, I was just on a roll. I think it’s quite hard putting to words when you have a performance like that.”

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After sweeping Canada 3-0 the previous day, Russia needed only one win from the best-of-three match versus France to advance from Group A.

It could rely on its top player, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, to deliver it.

The 12th-ranked Pavlyuchenkova rallied to beat Alize Cornet 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 to earn Russia the semifinal spot.

“I’m so happy and so proud of myself,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “It was an incredible match. It was very good tennis but the more important was the amazing fighting spirit from both of us.”

After dropping the first set, the Russian broke Cornet in the opening games of the following two sets to improve her record against her 59th-ranked opponent to 7-1, hitting 34 winners on the way.

After the 2019 champion was upset by outsider Canada 2-1 in its opener on Monday, France needed to beat Russia 3-0 to advance.

Last year’s edition was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 12 teams in the finals are divided into four groups of three teams in a new format of the competition. Only the group winners advance to Friday’s semifinals.

Earlier, Clara Burel kept France alive, winning the opening singles.

The 77th-ranked Burel upset Ekaterina Alexandrova, ranked 32nd, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 for her first victory over a top-50 player in her singles debut in the competition.

The Russian hit 34 winners but also produced 44 unforced errors before double-faulting on Burel’s fourth match point.

“It’s very special. It was the first match for my country and I was very happy to be able to win today,” the 20-year old Burel said. The Russians also won the doubles for a 2-1 overall win.

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Emma Raducanu ‘optimistic’ to find new coach before Australian Open

U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu stated on Sunday she is “optimistic” about finding a new coach before the Australian Open starts in January and will be relying on her own instincts at this week’s Transylvania Open in Romania.

Raducanu, who stunned the sporting world when she won the Flushing Meadows title in September as a qualifier, revealed after the Grand Slam that she would no longer be working with former Davis Cup player Andrew Richardson.

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The 18-year-old confirmed reports she had a trial last week with Johanna Konta’s former coach Esteban Carril among others as she continues her search for a mentor to guide her during the next phase of her career.

Raducanu has travelled to Cluj-Napoca with physiotherapist Will Herbert, agent Chris Helliar and her father Ian, who is Romanian.

“I am feeling optimistic about trying to have something in place for the off-season and the Australian Open. No, I haven’t decided on the coach. But things are moving forward,” Raducanu stated.

“I think having a coach is great, but you are on your own on the court. I don’t think it is great to be dependent. You need to coach yourself. That is something I am learning.

“Part of the experience I am having is being able to learn to coach myself. Sometimes it won’t always work, like in Indian Wells, but in the long-term if I keep doing that then I will be better in the situations in the future.”

The Transylvania Open started on Monday and was held without spectators due to COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Romanian government.

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Daniil Medvedev reaches round of 16; Karolina Pliskova upset in 2 sets on windy day at Indian Wells

Top-seeded Daniil Medvedev defeated Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 7-6 (1) to reach the round of 16 on a gusty Monday night at the BNP Paribas Open. Karolina Pliskova, the women’s top seed, was upset by Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-3, 7-5.

Medvedev, the US Open champion, connected on 70% of his first serves and fired four aces despite challenging weather conditions.

Haddad Maia got into the main draw as a lucky loser. She lost in the final round of qualifying and got in when No. 29 seed Nadia Podoroska withdrew with a thigh injury. Haddad Maia inherited Podoroska’s first-round bye and then beat Mayar Sherif in the second round.

Ranked 115th, the Brazilian reached the round of 16 at a WTA 1000 event for the first time.

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On a windy day at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Pliskova held serve to tie the second set 5-5, but she got broken eight times in the match.

Haddad Maia held and then broke Pliskova in the final game to wrap up her second career win over a Top-5 player.

No. 15 Coco Gauff lost to 21st-seeded Paula Badosa 6-2, 6-2 in a match that was briefly suspended by rain on a night of wild weather in the desert.

No. 10 Angelique Kerber defeated 20th-seeded Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. No. 12 Ons Jabeur defeat Danielle Collins 6-1, 6-3 for her Tour-leading 46th match win of the year.

No. 16 seed Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 champion, lost to 18th-seeded Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (5), 6-3.

On the men’s side, No. 6 Casper Ruud outlasted Lloyd Harris 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4. No. 8 Hubert Hurkacz and 10th-seeded Diego Schwartzman advanced. No. 16 Reilly Opelka lost to 23rd-ranked Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 6-4.

No. 9 Denis Shapovalov was beaten by 19th-seeded Aslan Karatsev 7-5, 6-2.

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Pau Gasol, two-time NBA champion, announces retirement from basketball

Pau Gasol revealed his retirement from basketball Tuesday, ending a career that lasted more than two decades and earned him two NBA titles and a world championship gold with Spain’s national team.

The 41-year-old had already announced his farewell from international basketball in August after Spain lost to the United States in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Games, which marked his fifth Olympics.

Gasol had been with Spanish club Barcelona since February. His career had stalled before that because a stress fracture in his left foot that lingered and kept him from playing for nearly two years.

“I’m going to retire from professional basketball,” Gasol said. “It’s a difficult decision after so many years, but it’s a decision that I really thought over.”

The retirement announcement was made in an event at an opera house in Barcelona attended by former teammates and family members, including Pau Gasol’s wife, his young daughter and his brother Marc.

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Gasol acquired two NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, in 2009 and 2010, playing a vital role in the back-to-back championships.

“Pau Gasol brought hope and talent to the Lakers,” former coach Phil Jackson said in a statement to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “The effect was immediate. His game put LA back into championship contention. He was also a gentleman and generous hero.”

Gasol averaged 17.0 points and 9.2 rebounds in 1,226 regular-season games with five NBA teams, including the Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks. He was the No. 3 pick in the 2001 NBA draft, being selected by Atlanta and traded to Memphis.

Gasol last played in the NBA with the Bucks in 2019.

He signed with the Portland Trail Blazers that year but never got to play.

Gasol won a world championship title with Spain in 2006, in addition to European titles in 2009, 2011 and 2015.

He helped Spain win Olympic silver medals in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London, as well as a bronze in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. Gasol recently won an election to represent athletes for the next seven years with the International Olympic Committee.

He joined an IOC membership list drawn variously from European and Middle East royal families, international sports bodies, business leaders and 12 athletes elected by their peers.

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Yordenis Ugas upsets Manny Pacquiao by decision to retain WBA title

This night was supposed to be a celebration, a culmination of all the great Manny Pacquiao has accomplished — a champion in eight divisions in four decades, a superstar the world over.

Yordenis Ugas wasn’t here for the Pacquiao party, though; Ugas was here for his own arrival. And he made good on his promise to bring all his respect for Pacquiao into the ring.

Ugas, who accepted the assignment on 11 days’ notice, scored a unanimous decision over Pacquiao on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena to hold his WBA “super” welterweight title, spoiling the festivities in an upset victory that establishes Ugas as a major player in boxing’s best division.

All three judges scored the fight for Ugas: 116-112, 115-113 and 116-112. ESPN had it 116-112 for Ugas, who won as a +310 underdog, according to Caesars Sportsbook.

“I’m very excited, but most of all, I want to thank Manny Pacquiao for giving me this moment in this ring today,” said Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs). “Now the plan is to unify the title at welterweight. … Errol Spence is the next one on the list. … I am praying that he recuperates.”

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Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39 KOs) was slated to meet Spence, ESPN’s No. 4 pound-for-pound boxer, in a super fight.

Those plans were canceled when it was discovered Spence suffered a detached retina in his left eye just 12 days before the fight.

Ugas, a bronze medalist for Cuba in the 2008 Olympics and ESPN’s No. 6 welterweight, was set to defend his title versus Fabian Maidana in the co-feature and didn’t hesitate to step in to fight Pacquiao when the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself.

“We only had two weeks of training,” Ugas said, “but I listened to my corner, and it all worked out.”

Ugas’ strategy was simple yet brilliant: a double jab to the head followed by a right hand to the body. A high guard that picked off Pacquiao’s incoming shots before a crisp right looped around Pacquiao’s gloves and connected upstairs. Counterpunches that hit the target over and over, finally cutting Pacquiao over the left eye in Round 12.

Pacquiao also was cut under his right eye during the fight. His team told ESPN afterward that he needed five stitches to close one of the cuts and had three stitches glued onto the other. They didn’t specify which cut needed which fix.

On this night, under the brightest of lights, Ugas displayed the composure of a heart surgeon, patiently picking his spots with precise punches that constantly met their mark. He also imposed his superior size and strength on Pacquiao, who perhaps was fighting in his final bout.

This 42-year-old, flat-footed version of Pacquiao was not the same fighter who vaulted to the sport with dizzying speed and combinations thrown from seemingly every angle. Now, well past his best and with a potential presidential race to prepare for, this could be it for Pacquiao.

When Pacquiao was asked if this was his final fight, he said, “I don’t know. I need to relax and make a decision.”

“That’s boxing,” he said. “I had a hard time in the ring making adjustments. … My legs were tight. I’m sorry I lost tonight, but I did my best.”

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Barbora Krejcikova wins women’s doubles with Katerina Siniakova to complete Paris title sweep

French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova completed a rare title sweep at Roland Garros as she acquired a third women’s doubles major trophy with fellow Czech teammate Katerina Siniakova on Sunday.

Less than 24 hours after she claimed her first singles Grand Slam title, Krejcikova became the first woman since Mary Pierce in 2000 to lift both trophies at the clay-court major. Only seven women have completed the title sweep at Roland Garros.

“Right now after all of this happened, this last two weeks, last two days, I feel really relieved and relaxed,” Krejcikova said.

“I just know from now on I can really enjoy because I have pretty much achieved everything I really wanted. Now I can just improve. That’s the only thing I can do, just improving.”

In addition to her pair of trophies, Krejcikova will reclaim the No. 1 spot in the doubles rankings next week.

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“We will have a little bit glass of champagne,” Krejcikova said. “I already said I don’t really drink, but I think it’s a time to actually celebrate it. I think we going to really enjoy.”

Krejcikova, 25, who overpowered Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for the women’s singles title Saturday, also became the first player to sweep both titles at any Grand Slam tournament since Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2016.

Krejcikova and Siniakova are both 25 but have extensive experience playing together, having started their partnership in the juniors in 2013.

It clearly showed in their 6-4, 6-2 victory over Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek in Sunday’s final as they converted five of their seven break points.

After racing to a 4-0 lead in the opening set, they resisted a late comeback with an efficient display at the net. Krejcikova served out the set at love as Mattek-Sands missed a tough backhand volley.

The Czech pair won the final four games and sealed the game with Siniakova’s final backhand winner.

Siniakova and Krejcikova had already won in Paris in 2018 and claimed the Wimbledon trophy the same year.

“I’m just really happy that we have another title, and looking forward we going to continue with our cooperation in Wimbledon and also for the Olympics,” Krejcikova said.

“I hope there’s going to be a bright future for us.” Swiatek was the defending singles champion in Paris but bowed out in the quarterfinals this year.

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Usman knocks out Masvidal to win rematch

Kamaru Usman dominated his fight the first time he faced Jorge Masvidal, but he wasn’t thrilled because there were so many unanswered questions left. Masvidal had taken that fight on six days’ notice and needed to cut 20 pounds to make weight.

That seemed to take something off Usman’s one-sided victory.

Saturday’s rematch in the main event of UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida, was just as one-sided, but this time, he left no doubts.

He became the first man to knock out Masvidal when he landed with a perfectly thrown straight right hand. He dropped Masvidal hard and finished him with three hammer fists on the ground, forcing referee Herb Dean to stop it at 1:02 of the second.

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“Thank you to my man Jorge,” Usman said. “You elevated me. You made me go through the workshop to sharpen up my tools to put on a performance like that.”

There was no controversy, no complaints from Masvidal’s side and nothing but respect for a man who is quickly on his way to becoming the greatest welterweight in UFC history.

That’s a big feat considering what Georges St-Pierre accomplished, but in his last seven fights, he’s defeated Demian Maia, Rafael dos Anjos, Tyron Woodley, Colby Covington, Gilbert Burns and Masvidal twice.

That’s a Murderer’s Row if ever there was one, and he knocked out Covington, Burns and Masvidal in the process.

Masvidal paid tribute, saying, “He showed me something he didn’t show me the first time.”

Usman was confident after going through several training camps with Trevor Whitman, a striking expert who has worked hard on sharpening Usman’s stand-up. It showed on Saturday, as he tagged Masvidal several times with clean combinations in the first round.

Usman, a former Division II national wrestling champion, has an extremely complete all-around game.

“I know with my fundamentals, I’m the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet right now,” he said.

There aren’t a lot of people outside of Jon Jones’ camp who would argue that right now.

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