Tagged in: title

Dominant Matteo Berrettini wins second straight Queen’s title

Italian Matteo Berrettini retained his title at the Queen’s Club Championships with a 7-5, 6-4 defeat of Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic on Sunday, as the world No. 10 gave himself the perfect launch pad into Wimbledon.

Berrettini had too much firepower for unseeded Krajinovic, who has now lost all five of his Tour-level finals.

The Italian, who also claimed the title in Stuttgart this month, has now collected 20 of his last 21 matches on grass, his only loss coming in last year’s Wimbledon final to Novak Djokovic.

He was made to work hard by Krajinovic who broke back in the first set, only to get broken again at 5-5. A Krajinovic double-fault proved costly at 2-3 in the second set as Berrettini secured the decisive break of serve and went on to secure his seventh career title with an ace.

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Berrettini, who had surgery on his right hand in March, is the eighth player to win back-to-back titles at the event, all of the others being former world number ones including John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker and Andy Murray.

He will now go into Wimbledon as one of the favorites.

“There are too many emotions,” Berrettini said. “To have this trophy twice, I used to just dream of playing in this tournament. It was a really good week for me, I came here with a lot of confidence. Today was the best match that I played.

“I’ve worked so hard for this. I know that Wimbledon is different but I know that I can do it, I did it once. I’m really looking forward to it, but I know every match will be tough.”

A superb angled volley gave Berrettini the break he had threatened in the fifth game of the opening set.

But Krajinovic, who before this week had never won a match on grass, replied in the next game with a punchy volley to get back on level terms.

The Serbian netted a backhand to drop serve at 5-5, however, and Berrettini then held to take the opener.

In the second set Berrettini showed the range of his game, mixing power with panache to pull ahead, and once he broke serve to love in the fifth game, there was no looking back.

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Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua heavyweight title rematch set for Aug. 20

The heavyweight title rematch between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua is now set for Aug. 20 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, sources told on Thursday.

The fight was originally being planned for July 23, but now Joshua will have nearly 30 more days to work with new trainer Robert Garcia.

When they met last September, Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) dominated Joshua en route to a unanimous decision victory to capture three heavyweight titles. Joshua, 32, quickly exercised the rematch clause, and neither boxer has competed since.

In the meantime, Joshua parted ways with Robert McCracken, the only head trainer he’d ever had in the pros. McCracken also led Joshua to a gold medal in 2012 as the head coach of the Great Britain Olympic boxing team.

Another change for Joshua comes on the broadcast side.

The British star has competed exclusively on Sky Sports for the past eight years, but his deal expired after the Usyk fight. Earlier this week, the streaming service DAZN announced Joshua has signed a long-term deal to fight exclusively on its platform.

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“I am entering a new phase in my career with a new training environment, new coaches and now a new broadcaster,” said Joshua, ESPN’s No. 4 heavyweight. “Negotiations at this level take time, so I am pleased to have it all wrapped up and now I can fully focus on giving the fans and DAZN what they want — knockouts in the glamour division.”

But it was Usyk, 35, who seemed on the verge of scoring the stoppage in Round 12. The former undisputed cruiserweight champion — and fellow Olympic gold medalist — lives in Ukraine with his family and was there when Russia invaded in February.

In March, Usyk decided to leave the war-torn country so he could prepare for the rematch and the first defense of his three titles.

This will be Joshua’s second fight in Saudi Arabia. After losing his three titles to Andy Ruiz Jr. in June 2019 in New York via seventh-round TKO, Joshua exacted revenge with a decision victory over Ruiz in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in December 2019.

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Max Verstappen has unfinished business at Baku’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen has unfinished business to take care of at this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix while also looking to reassert himself as Red Bull’s lead driver.

The Dutchman was heading for triumph at the Baku street track last year when a tire exploded and pitched him into the barrier on the high speed run along the city’s Caspian Sea waterfront.

Mexican teammate Sergio Perez took the gain instead and returns triumphant and as a potential title contender after his victory two weeks ago in Monaco.

Verstappen will be determined to stop him becoming the first driver to win twice in Baku.

“I’m looking forward to returning to Baku, we have some unfinished business there after last year,” said the 24-year-old who has a nine point lead over Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc with Perez a further six behind.

“Last year was unlucky, simple as that,” he said.

“It was a very painful one, but that happens. That’s racing… it’s different cars, different tyres (this time) and we go again.”

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Perez, who was also on the podium in Baku twice while racing for Force India, is in the form of his life and with a new two-year contract with Red Bull freshly signed.

The 6km long Baku street track, a mix of flat-out blasts and tight corners lined by unforgiving barriers, is famed for unpredictable races and has produced five different winners in five years on the calendar.

Leclerc is familiar with the track’s pitfalls, having crashed while on course for pole position in 2019.

The Monegasque and Ferrari, chasing a first title since 2008, will want the weekend to go perfectly after potential wins slipped through their fingers in Monaco and Spain.

Seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton will also be keen to make amends after failing to capitalize on Verstappen’s retirement last year when he went from second to 15th in Baku, having accidentally triggered a ‘brake magic’ function on his steering wheel.

His Mercedes team are the most successful in Baku, with three victories. A fourth looks a distant prospect unless the track throws up another surprise.

“Baku often produces some fun and crazy track action, and the layout generates good racing opportunities,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

“So, let’s see if it lives up to its reputation this weekend.”

The possibility of podium appearance by a midfield team is always there. Apart from Perez’s Force India exploits, Sebastian Vettel was second last year for Aston Martin with Pierre Gasly third for AlphaTauri.

Lance Stroll’s first top-three result came in Baku with Williams in 2017.

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Emma Raducanu’s Wimbledon availability in doubt after retiring injured from Nottingham Open

U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu retired injured from her opening match at the WTA 250 event in Nottingham on Tuesday, casting doubt over her participation at Wimbledon.

Raducanu retired while trailing 4-3 in the opening set versus Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic, nearly half an hour into the match after she suffered what appeared to be an abdominal or rib injury.

“The first game, I think I pulled something. I am not really sure what exactly happened,” Raducanu stated. “I have just come off court, an absolute freak injury. I don’t know what I could have done more about it.”

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Raducanu, who has been without a full-time coach since April, shot to stardom last September when, as a qualifier, she won the U.S. Open title, becoming Britain’s first female Grand Slam champion since Virginia Wade in 1977.

However, the British No. 1 has struggled since winning her maiden Grand Slam and was eliminated in the second round of the French Open last month, when she lost to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in three sets.

The 19-year-old reached the last 16 at Wimbledon in 2021, but will need a quick recovery to compete at this year’s tournament which will be held from June 27 to July 10.

“I have no idea [about Wimbledon.] It could have just seized up and gone into spasm and then it is really bad for a few days,” Raducanu added. “I have no idea. I cannot diagnose myself. I will get it checked out.”

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Andrey Rublev beats Novak Djokovic to win Serbia Open title

Andrey Rublev defeated Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-0 to collect the Serbia Open on Sunday for his third title of the season.

The second-seeded Russian player dug deep to stop Djokovic from mounting another comeback as he prevented the top-ranked Serb from claiming his first title of 2022.

The 24-year-old Rublev looked fitter in their third set as he closed out the win in 2 hours, 24 minutes.

Djokovic — who is 10 years older than Rublev — appeared affected by the effort he put in to level the match in the second-set tiebreaker.

Djokovic had already come back from a set down in each of his three matches at his hometown tournament, defeating Laslo Djere, Miomir Kecmanovic and Karen Khachanov on his way to the final in what were only his fifth, sixth and seventh matches of the year.

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The 20-time Grand Slam champion opened his clay-court season with a surprising loss to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at the Monte Carlo Masters the previous week, his first match since being eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Dubai Championships in February.

Dubai was his first tournament of the year after he was barred from playing at the Australian Open because of his unvaccinated status, which also prevented him from playing tournaments in the United States last month.

Rublev, who dropped only one set as he eliminated Jiri Lehecka, Taro Daniel and Fabio Fognini on his way to the final, has now equaled Rafael Nadal’s mark of three tour-level titles in 2022, after victories in Marseille and Dubai in February.

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Conor Benn eyes Yordenis Ugas fight after snubbing dinner request in Las Vegas

After turning down the opportunity to have dinner with Yordenis Ugas, Conor Benn hopes they can meet again in the ring later this year.

Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs), 35, puts his WBA welterweight belt on the line versus WBC-IBF champion Errol Spence (27-0, 21 KOs), 32, in a world title unification fight at the AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, on Saturday. Just a few hours after, Benn continues his development against Chris van Heerden at the Manchester Arena, England.

Benn (20-0, 13 KOs), who was raised in Spain and Australia and moved to Essex, England, is the son of Nigel Benn — the world middleweight and supermiddleweight champion in the 1990s — and has made rapid progress over the last two years.

The 25-year-old travelled to Las Vegas recently for sparring, but claims Miami-based Cuban Ugas turned down the chance to spar him and instead invited him to dinner. “When I was out in Vegas recently, we tried to make the sparring with Ugas because me and Ugas speak,” Benn said.

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“He kept saying we would spar, he knows the score and knows what was going on but we ended up sparring [Yuriorkis] Gamboa and he had to get pulled out of the spar. Bearing in mind I wasn’t even in training camp but he had to get pulled out because he was beginning to get a bit of a pasting.

“Ugas was there and after he was inviting me out for dinner with him and his missus. I thought: ‘That’s a bit odd,’ I look at that and think ‘I fancy my chances.’ If he does beat Spence, which I believe is not likely, but it is a fight I’d love in the future.

“I didn’t take him up on dinner. I told him I was busy but as I was walking through the casino, I see him and his missus having food and I went over to say hello and thought ‘That couldn’t have gone anymore awkward really.’

“It’s not that we are from the same country or live the same lifestyle so I was thinking ‘Why does he want me to go to dinner?’ What are we going to do? Sit there and stare at each other. I found it very odd. I don’t know what his motive was.

“I would love to do it for real. I want to test myself against the best in the division. Every challenge they put in front of me I come through it. I’m top five in every governing body and No. 1 in Britain.”

Benn is closing in on a world title shot which he hopes to get later this year or in 2023, as long as he defeats California-based Van Heerden (28-2-1, 12 KOs), a southpaw from South Africa.

Benn added: “I’ve done a lot of southpaw sparring and I love challenges, I love overcoming them. I think I have shown in my last few performances that I can beat any style put in front of me. I think I fill him in, to be honest. I’m prepared for a hard fight.”

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Hideki Matsuyama still dealing with stiff neck, hopes to defend Masters title

Defending Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is still dealing with a stiff neck but hopes to be ready to play by Thursday’s first round at Augusta National Golf Club.

Matsuyama, who last year became the first Japanese man to accomplish a major championship with his 1-shot triumph at the Masters, has been dealing with neck and back injuries over the last several weeks. He withdrew from the Players in March and again from last week’s Valero Texas Open.

Matsuyama, the 12th-ranked player in the world, said he was initially hurt in the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in early March.

“Since then it’s been a struggle,” Matsuyama said Tuesday through an interpreter. “I had a lot of treatment last week, though, at the Valero Texas Open. [Last] Monday and Tuesday, I was pain-free, feeling really good. Then I woke up Wednesday morning, and the neck was stiff again.

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“But I’ve had a lot of treatment the last couple of days. I just came from the practice range and really felt good. It’s probably the best I’ve felt in a long time. So I’m looking forward to Thursday, and hopefully I’ll be 100 percent by then.”

Matsuyama, 30, stated he hasn’t been able to take a full swing in a while because of the injuries.

“But I feel like the treatment I’ve been receiving is helping,” Matsuyama said. “I’m on the road to full recovery. I still have [Tuesday] and tomorrow, and I think by Thursday I’ll be ready to play my best hopefully.”

Matsuyama hosted the traditional Champions Dinner at Augusta National Tuesday night. His menu includes assorted sushi, chicken skewers, miso-glazed black cod, Wagyu ribeyes and Japanese strawberry shortcake.

Matsuyama stated the highlight of the last year was being recognized as the defending Masters champion at tournaments. He said he didn’t wear his green jacket very often and wishes he had worn it more. He considered having it dry cleaned but never did.

“I thought about it and it needed to be cleaned, but I just was so worried that something might happen to it,” Matsuyama said. “So I didn’t want to let it out of my sight.”

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Seattle Seahawks agree to trade QB Russell Wilson to Denver Broncos, get three players, picks

After weeks of negotiations, in one of the biggest trades in NFL history, the Denver Broncos have agreed to send a significant package of players and draft picks to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson, sources told ESPN.

The Broncos have agreed to trade quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, defensive lineman Shelby Harris, two first-round picks (2022 — No. 9 overall — and 2023), two second-round picks (2022 — No. 40 overall — and 2023) and a 2022 fifth-round pick to the Seahawks for Wilson and a 2022 fourth-round pick, sources said.

The trade gives Denver the quarterback it has sought since Peyton Manning retired, and it gives Seattle a foundation on which to rebuild without the quarterback who led the Seahawks to their only Super Bowl title.

Upon Wilson’s approval to waive his no-trade clause, the Seahawks will send him to Denver, concluding his historic 10-season run in Seattle that included nine Pro Bowl selections, one Super Bowl title and more wins than any quarterback ever has posted during his first 10 seasons in the league.

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The Broncos were Wilson’s preference, if he was traded, sources told ESPN’s Brady Henderson.

Wilson also will have to pass a physical. The trade can’t be officially announced until Wednesday, March 16 at 4 p.m. ET, which is the beginning of the 2022 league year.

Denver acquiring Wilson has nothing to do with Aaron Rodgers’ decision to return to Green Bay. Denver general manager George Paton initiated trade talks with Seattle for Wilson at least two weeks ago. But in recent days, as trade talks with Seattle heated up, it became clear that Wilson was the Broncos’ Plan A.

The Broncos and Packers have not discussed a Rodgers trade this offseason.

The Seahawks quietly were listening to offers for Wilson and got calls from multiple teams. One league source estimated the total to be over a dozen teams.

Wilson sensed he was going to have to move on, and if he did, he wanted to be going to a winning program. Denver, with all its offensive talent and its tough defense, is in “win-now” mode.

Denver has been trying to find a suitable quarterback since Manning retired, just as the organization tried for years to find a suitable quarterback after John Elway retired. Enter the 33-year-old Wilson.

Wilson will join a Broncos team managed by new head coach Nathaniel Hackett. The team’s offense includes wide receivers Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam and running back Javonte Williams.

The Broncos’ odds to win the Super Bowl improved from 25-1 to 12-1 Tuesday at Caesars Sportsbook. Only three teams — the Buffalo Bills (15-2), Kansas City Chiefs (8-1) and Green Bay Packers (10-1) have better odds to win the Super Bowl than the Broncos at Caesars Sportsbook.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, saw their odds to win the Super Bowl fall from 40-1 to 75-1 at Caesars. Wilson beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII and will become the first quarterback to start for a team he defeated in the Super Bowl, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

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Andrey Rublev ‘cannot imagine a better start’ after topping Daniel Evans at Dubai Championships

Second-seeded Andrey Rublev defeated Daniel Evans 6-4, 7-5 in the first round of the Dubai Championships on Tuesday, just two days after winning his ninth tour title.

The Russian, who defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime in the final at the Open 13 tennis tournament in Marseille, France, on Sunday, next faces Soonwoo Kwan after the South Korean beat Ilya Ivashka 6-3, 6-2.

The seventh-ranked Rublev also obtained the doubles title in Marseille with Ukrainian partner Denys Molchanov.

“I arrived at the hotel maybe at 2 a.m. today,” Rublev said in his on-court interview Tuesday. “I slept maybe six or seven hours. I was thinking that probably no chance for me to win, and here I am, I won my first round so I’m really happy. I cannot imagine a better start.”

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Karen Khachanov will face top-seeded Novak Djokovic in the second round after the Russian defeated Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-7 (1), 7-5.

On Monday, Djokovic won his first match of the year when he beat Lorenzo Musetti 6-3, 6-3.

The top-ranked Serb couldn’t defend his Australian Open title last month because he was deported from the country for being unvaccinated, but seemed at ease on the court after walking out to a raucous standing ovation.

“I have to be satisfied with my tennis, especially after not playing for two and a half, three months,” Djokovic said.

“Of course, there were moments when I played great, there were moments when I made a couple of unforced errors in a row uncharacteristically. But it’s normal to expect that [in my] first match after a while.”

Fourth-seeded Jannik Sinner outlasted Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3 and will next face Andy Murray.

American qualifier Mackenzie McDonald topped seventh-seeded Aslan Karatsev of Russia 7-5, 6-3 to set up a second-round match versus Filip Krajinovic of Serbia.

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Novak Djokovic, ‘satisfied with my tennis,’ wins first match of his year as Dubai Championships begin

Novak Djokovic won his first match of the year when he defeated Lorenzo Musetti 6-3, 6-3 to open the Dubai Championships on Monday.

Djokovic couldn’t defend his Australian Open title last month because he was deported from the country for being unvaccinated.

The United Arab Emirates permitted him entry, and Djokovic cashed in at a tournament he’s won five times. The Monday crowd was glad to see him, as he was met with a standing ovation, complete with phone cameras flashing when he was introduced.

Djokovic responded with an emphatic wave before making his way to his position by the judge’s chair.

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Musetti took two sets off Djokovic at the French Open last year, but on a breezy Dubai evening, the Italian wild card couldn’t convert bags of break chances while trailing 3-1 in the first set and 4-2 in the second.

“I have to be satisfied with my tennis, especially after not playing for two and a half, three months,” Djokovic said on court.

“Of course, there were moments when I played great, there were moments when I made a couple of unforced errors in a row uncharacteristically. But it’s normal to expect that [in my] first match after a while.”

He next faces Karen Khachanov or Alex de Minaur.

Andy Murray won his first match in Dubai since his title run in 2017. He defeated Australian qualifier Christopher O’Connell 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-5 after nearly three hours.

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