Tagged in: draw

Andy Murray handed Australian Open main draw wildcard with Brit hailed by tournament chief

Andy Murray has been awarded a wildcard into the main draw of the Australian Open. A five-time finalist in Melbourne, the former world No 1 has not played the event since 2019, when he announced that he would likely be playing his last tournament and retiring over his hip injury.

The three-time Grand Slam champion has since made a comeback from a hip resurfacing surgery he underwent shortly after, and now goes into 2022 full of confidence following a successful end to the season.

Murray has been granted a wildcard into the main draw of the Australian Open, which kicks off on January 17.

It will be his first showing at the season-opening Major since 2019, when he broke down in a press conference and admitted it could be his last tournament, following two years of struggle with a hip injury.

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After losing a thrilling five-setter to Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round – a match that sounded like it was the last of his career – Murray underwent a hip resurfacing surgery just weeks later, having a metal joint put into his hip.

The former world No 1 then came back in doubles at Queens Club in June of that year and won the title alongside Feliciano Lopez, later captivating his first post-op singles title at the European Open in October 2019.

Murray was then unable to compete in the 2020 edition of the event known as the ‘Happy Slam’ due to a pelvic injury, and missed the tournament again in 2021 after testing positive for Covid and being unable to find a “workable” quarantine.

He will finally make his long-awaited return to the site of his premature retirement next month, after being given a wildcard into the main draw.

Currently ranked at world No 134, the Brit would have needed multiple players ranked above him to withdraw before gaining entry himself. Following the news of his wildcard, the five-time runner-up thanked tournament director Craig Tiley and the organizers.

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Champions League draw repeated after UEFA’s Man United error

UEFA suffered embarrassment on Monday when the Champions League round-of-16 draw had to be repeated after the initial draw was rendered invalid due to a clerical error where Manchester United were mistakenly omitted as potential adversaries for Atletico Madrid.

During Monday’s initial draw, United were eventually paired with Paris Saint-Germain, having earlier been placed as opponents for Villarreal, whom they could not have met, having been in the same group as Unai Emery’s side.

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“Following a technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other, a material error occurred in the draw for the UEFA Champions League round of 16. As a result of this, the draw has been declared void and will be entirely redone at 3 p.m. CET (9 a.m. ET/ 2 p.m. GMT),” a UEFA spokesperson stated.

Atletico were the next team drawn and, while United should have been one of their potential adversaries, they were omitted as a computer glitch appeared to indicate they had already been drawn when they had not.

“We are speaking to UEFA to check for an explanation and resolution after the errors committed during the Champions League round-of-16 draw,” an Atletico statement read.

The draw was repeated later on Monday and the standout ties contained Atletico Madrid v Manchester United and PSG v Real Madrid.

The first legs will be played across February 15/16 and 22/23, while the second legs will be played across March 8/9 and 15/16.

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Sloane Stephens survives to oust Heather Watson in 3 sets at Indian Wells

Sloane Stephens outlasted Heather Watson 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-1 on Wednesday in her opening match at the BNP Paribas Open.

Stephens gained seven of 18 break points. She raced to a 5-0 lead in the third set before Watson held, then served out the win. Watson had seven aces and seven double faults on the hard courts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Stephens advanced to a second-round match versus fellow American Jessica Pegula. American Shelby Rogers, who upset top-ranked Ash Barty in the third round of the U.S. Open, was set to play Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine in a night match.

Americans Madison Brengle, Madison Keys and qualifier Alycia Parks also played later.

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Men’s main draw play starts Thursday.

Three-time major champion Andy Murray and four-time major champion Kim Clijsters received wild cards into the event. U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu and runner-up Leylah Fernandez are entered.

Electronic Hawkeye cameras, previously in use at the tournament, will handle line calls for every match. Chair umpires and ball kids will be on hand.

The combined ATP and WTA tournament is missing some of the sport’s biggest names, including men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Barty. Also out on men’s side are Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

The women’s draw is missing Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams. Second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka stated she tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in the desert and is in isolation.

The tournament was moved from its usual March date because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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England’s perfect World Cup qualifying run ended by late Poland equalizer

Poland scored a stoppage-time equalizer to bring an end to England’s perfect start to World Cup qualification and secure an important 1-1 draw in Warsaw.

Gareth Southgate’s side, who lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy on penalties in July, had won their opening five matches in Group I.

Harry Kane’s long-range effort in the 72nd minute had them on course to extend that to six games before Damian Szymanski struck in the 92nd minute to earn Poland an unlikely draw.

“An amazing feeling. I’m glad we managed to score that goal in the last minutes. I’m happy,” Symanszki said. “I’ve worked hard for this, struggled with injuries. To play against England, to score a goal, it’s a dream come true.”

This was England’s toughest test in Group I so far with Poland set up to frustrate through defensive play and gamesmanship but the visitors looked set to come through and take a big step towards next year’s World Cup finals.

England’s efforts were frustrated in the opening 45 minutes as they failed to trouble Wojciech Szczesny in goal for Poland.

The hosts’ main threat, Robert Lewandowski, meanwhile, was restricted to one half-chance, which was tidily dealt with by Jordan Pickford.

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A fast-paced but uneventful first-half burst into life just as the referee whistled for half-time with England and Poland players coming together. 

Harry Maguire appeared incensed about something, while Poland defender Kamil Glik was called back by the referee as he tried to leave the pitch. Eventually things settled down and both players were cautioned.

There was an incident just before half-time which has been reported to the FA guys,” Kane said postmatch. “They’re taking care of it and investigating it and we’ll go from there. Allegedly it was something that was done, not said. We haven’t chance to look at the footage and talk to the lad.”

England stepped things up after the break with Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling troubling the Poland rearguard but, again, without really causing Szczesny too much cause for concern.

That was until the 72nd minute when Kane’s powerful, swerving shot flew past the former Arsenal goalkeeper from 32 yards out to put England in front.

It was the 15th consecutive qualifier, for Euros and World Cup, in which Kane has scored and it looked to have brought a sixth straight victory in this campaign.

England have 16 points from six games with Albania second on 12 points, Poland on 11 and Hungary on 10 points. The top team in the group qualifies for next year’s World Cup in Qatar with the second place team heading into the playoffs.

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Tottenham suffer late draw but reach Europa League last-32 stage

Tottenham Hotspur earned the point they needed to reach the Europa League knockout stage on Thursday as they were held to a roller-coaster 3-3 draw at LASK Linz after Mamoudou Karamoko grabbed a stoppage-time equalizer for the Austrians.

Royal Antwerp lead Group J on 12 points after five games with Spurs second on 10 points. LASK are third with seven points and Bulgarian side Ludogorets are bottom without a point. Tottenham host Antwerp next week to decide the group winners.

Spurs struggled to settle in the first half and LASK went ahead in the 42nd minute as defender Matt Doherty slipped and Peter Michor finished a counter-attack by whipping a bouncing drive into the net which beat keeper Joe Hart at the far post.

The visitors leveled when Andres Andrade was penalized for handball in the area and Gareth Bale slammed home the resulting spot kick in first-half stoppage time before Son Heung-Min put Tottenham ahead 11 minutes into the second half.

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LASK equalized with a shot from Johannes Eggestein in the 84th minute but again they quickly conceded a penalty which substitute Dele Alli dispatched to make it 3-2.

Spurs looked set to win until Karamoko picked up the ball on the edge of the box and curled a fine shot past Hart to snatch a late point but the visitors had done enough to make the last 32.

Spurs manager Jose Mourinho was left to stew over the dropped points.

“Not good [performance]. The result better than the performance. The second half better than the first half,” Mourinho stated after the match.

“Some players individually had very good performances but some players individually had very poor performances. The only good thing I take from the game is that we are qualified.”

Spurs were without club captain Harry Kane for the game, with Mourinho saying he rested his star striker ahead of a pivotal North London derby versus Arsenal this weekend.

“I believe [Kane] is going to be fit. I’m not sure. He’s having treatment but I could be doing some bluff and pretend he’s in trouble, but he’s not and I think he’ll play [against Arsenal],” Mourinho stated.

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