Relieved Lee back in winner’s circle, even if out of pocket

Sunday’s victory in Calgary followed on the back of success in New York the week before for the twice Olympic silver medallist and former world number one.

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Winning lowly Grand Prix titles would previously have carried little weight for one of the greats of the game but a humbling eight month ban for doping, which only expired last month, has changed perspectives for the 32-year-old Malaysian.

“I won $3,750 for the title today. It’s not enough to cover for the flight, but it’s not about money. It’s the fantastic feeling of being a champion again,” Lee was quoted as saying by Malaysian media on Tuesday.

“Before the ban, I was the world number one for many years. It didn’t matter even when I lost. In U.S. and Canada, I had to win no matter what to improve my world ranking and that was mentally challenging.

“It was my first trip to the Opens in U.S and Canada. I even struggled to adjust to the different time zones. I played a total of 12 matches in the last two weeks.

“It’s worth it. I am glad that I pulled through after staying at home for many months without any tournaments.”

Lee, whose ranking plummeted to 180th because of the ban for testing positive for dexamethasone at the world championships in August, had dropped games en route to the Calgary final with his coach saying his charge was suffering mental fatigue.

But his sharpness returned in the final as he proved too strong for Hong Kong’s Angus Ng Ka Long.

The victory should take Lee back up towards the top 60 in the rankings ahead of sterner tests next month at the Taiwan Open, which is scheduled to feature world number one Cheng Long and Lee’s long time foe Lin Dan, a twice Olympic champion.

“I will play in the Taiwan Open although my wife is expected to give birth to our second child during that time. She has given me her blessing to go,” Lee said.

“I need to play in Taiwan to get valuable world ranking points. It will help me to qualify for my first two Superseries tournaments this year (in September).”

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

Chile need best of Sanchez in Copa America final – coach

Sampaoli’s team reached the final with a 2-1 win over Peru on Monday and will meet the winners of Tuesday’s semi-final between favourites Argentina and Paraguay at the national stadium on Saturday.

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“When Alexis is not in the fullness (of form) that he has us used to, Chile feel it,” Sampaoli said.

“If he is feeling good, he’s the most decisive player in this team. We must recover him well because he’s vital to us,” added the Argentine.

Sanchez has shown flashes of his class in the tournament but contributed only one of Chile’s 13 goals in five matches.

Sampaoli suggested the pressure from home fans to reach the final as hosts and win the 99-year-old tournament for the first time affected the team.

Chile were not at their best trying to break down a Peru side reduced to 10 men for 70 minutes after a red card for defender Carlos Zambrano, he said.

“This was the match in which we most lost our shape … Defensively the team struggled a lot to get their shape to recover the ball, we usually get it back much quicker than today (Monday),” Sampaoli said.

“Our anxiety played against us,” Sampaoli told reporters.

Defender Mauricio Isla, scorer of the goal that gave Chile a 1-0 win over 2011 champions Uruguay in their quarter-final, echoed that sentiment.

“It wasn’t our best match, we had been showing good touch, great finishing and today we got tired,” he said.

“Peru complicated us quite a bit, even with a man less. I think the pressure got to us.”

The Peruvians were not given much of a chance before the tournament but Sampaoli believes they can carry their much improved form into the 2018 World Cup qualifiers starting in October.

“(Peru) grew throughout the tournament and their big names became stronger and are in great form,” said Sampaoli of the work of their coach Ricardo Gareca in the short time he has been in charge.

“From midfield towards the front they have nothing to envy any national team in the Americas.”

Peru had a poor 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign and are still looking to reach the finals for the first time since 1982.

(Writing by Rex Gowar, editing by Ed Osmond)

Vargas double takes hosts Chile into Copa final

Carlos Zambrano’s harsh sending off for a high tackle after 20 minutes was the second game in a row that Chile’s rivals have been hit with controversial red cards.

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The decision was a hard one to swallow for Peru, who in spite of being underdogs had started well in front of a capacity crowd at Santiago’s National Stadium.

“I think Zambrano’s expulsion was a bit tough,” Peru striker Paolo Guerrero told television cameras.

“I don’t want to complain about the refereeing but there were a lot of unexpected decisions. If it had been 11 against 11 it would have been a different story.”

Chile’s opponents in last week’s quarter-final, Uruguay, were reduced to nine men in controversial fashion with Edinson Cavani and Jorge Fucile being sent off in Santiago.

Cavani’s red card came after Chile defender Gonzalo Jara stuck his finger up the striker’s backside and when he responded with the slightest of touches Jara fell to the ground theatrically, prompting the referee to send the Uruguayan off.

Chile got the decisive goal shortly after.

Jara later had a three-game ban for provoking Cavani cut to two by the governing body of South American football.

Peru refused to cave in after Zambrano’s dismissal and matched their hosts in a pulsating first half.

But just when it looked like the teams would go in all square at half time Chile took the lead when striker Vargas poked the ball home from three yards after an Alexis Sanchez cross had come back off the post.

Television replays showed Vargas was marginally offside, but justice seemed to be done seconds into the second half when he had what looked like a legitimate goal chalked off for offside.

Peru came back into the game and equalised on the hour mark when Guerrero split the Chilean defence with a pass for Luis Advincula. He whipped in a cross from the right that Gary Medel turned into his own net.

Peru’s lead lasted just four minutes, however, and again it was Vargas who did the damage as he picked up the ball in midfield and lashed home an unstoppable strike from 30 yards.

Chile, who have never won the Copa America in its 99-year existence, will play the winners of Tuesday’s semi-final between Argentina and Paraguay.

(Writing by Andrew Downie; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Kyrgios draws inspiration from LeBron

Firebrand Nick Kyrgios is drawing inspiration from arguably the world’s greatest athlete as he attempts to repeat last year’s remarkable Wimbledon heroics.

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Kyrgios, who is equally adept at garnering interest for his spectacular play as he is for his occasionally volatile demeanour, is taking a leaf out of the book of NBA star LeBron James, a four-time NBA MVP and the biggest name in basketball, when he graces tennis’ most famous tournament.

The Australian is an avid fan of the NBA, last week admitting he would rather watch the world’s premier basketball competition than tennis on TV.

Like Kyrgios, James is a showman who can engage and enrage crowds in equal parts – and is currently lining up an historic $US200 million ($A260.42 million) deal.

But it is something else about James, who sparked enormous controversy when he switched to NBA rivals Miami in 2010 before returning to Cleveland this year, that appeals to Kyrgios, and which the 20-year-old relates to.

“He’s got great confidence. He doesn’t care what people think about him,” Kyrgios said after his opening round victory over Argentine Diego Schwartzman.

Kyrgios, who faces world No.35 Juan Monaco in a second-round clash on Wednesday, has taken a similar approach during his rapid rise over the past 18 months.

“I play the sport the way I play it. I’m not going to change, you know,” he said when asked if he feared he was becoming the bad boy of Australian tennis after clashing with the chair umpire on Monday.

“I’m not trying to be anyone else. I’m just myself.”

Kyrgios, the men’s 26th seed, will be among five Australians in action on Wednesday.

Bernard Tomic, eyeing a third-round tussle with top-seeded titleholder Novak Djokovic, takes on Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

The 27th seed is familiar with the French qualifier and wary of his threat.

“Herbert beat me once, the only time we played in Kuala Lumpur,” Tomic said.

“I was up 5-2 in the third and lost 7-6. He’s a serve-volleyer and he’s not easy to play on grass.

“Obviously his ranking is not so good now – he’s 150 in the world or something – but he’s better than that.”

Wildcard Matt Ebden faces 17th seed John Isner and says he’s prepared to stay out on court all day if that’s what it takes to beat tennis’s marathon man.

Isner is the American bean pole who famously denied Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the final set of their 11-hour epic at Wimbledon in 2010.

“I’m as fit as they come and as fit as I’ve ever been,” Ebden said.

Qualifier John Millman hopes to continue his fairytale run against former semi-finalist Marcos Baghdatis.

And women’s 22nd seed Samantha Stosur has a golden opportunity against world No.107 Urszula Radwanska to reach the third round for only the third time in 13 visits to the All England Club.

We did not block FIFA reforms – UEFA

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said there were enough mechanisms in place to ensure that only officials with a clean past were elected on to FIFA committees.

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His comments came after Domenico Scala, who is overseeing FIFA reforms, demanded that an independent committee be created to carry out integrity checks on executive committee members before they could be allowed to take office.

Scala said confederations had blocked these reforms and said their “actions must be consistent with their speech.”

Continental confederations, which elect the FIFA executive committee members, currently carry out integrity checks, a system which Infantino said should continue.

“UEFA and the European associations have always been in favour of reforms and have always been in favour of integrity checks being made in the confederations,” he told reporters.

“Our members have to comply with our disciplinary and ethics rules at any time, not only when they are candidates. In addition to this, you have the FIFA ethics regulations which means FIFA can, at any time, make all the checks that they want to any person they want.

“I don’t think this is a real issue, it’s more a communication issue. The real instruments are there, they just have to be applied.”

FIFA was embroiled in scandal when a U.S. probe led to the criminal indictment on May 27 of nine current and former FIFA officials and five executives in sports marketing and broadcasting on bribery, money-laundering and wire fraud charges.

Meanwhile, Swiss authorities are investigating the decision by FIFA’s executive committee to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on June 2 he would step down and call a new presidential election in which he would not be a candidate.

This will take place between December and February with the exact date to be decided by FIFA’s executive committee on July 20. UEFA president Michel Platini, who did not attend the news conference, has not commented on whether he will run.

“It’s not a question of making deals; of course there are discussions and of course the focus has to be on saving

football,” Infantino said.

“This (July 20 meeting) will fix a date and we will take it from there,” he said.

“We need some clarity and we need to work for the good of football in this situation.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

Low-profile packs key in Super Rugby final

They boast backlines to envy but the Hurricanes and Highlanders both reckon their less-heralded forward packs hold the key to victory in the Super Rugby final.

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Brilliant Highlanders co-captain Ben Smith is fullback for a back division brimming with match-winners, most notably halfback Aaron Smith and dynamic winger Waisake Naholo, who both scored tries in the 35-17 semi-final pasting of the Waratahs in Sydney.

Ben Smith says unleashing their attacking flair will again firstly require the toil of a front eight lacking any All Blacks but who are not short of big-name scalps.

They out-pointed the Waratahs on Saturday and the powerful Chiefs eight in the qualifying final a week earlier, prompting Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph to proclaim they have been under-rated by most teams all year.

The Hurricanes have used the same methodology to win 15 of 17 games this year.

“They are probably similar to us in a lot of ways,” Smith said.

“They’ve got a good forward pack that gives them a lot of go forward and the backs use the ball pretty well off the back of that.

“Obviously they’ve got a pretty dangerous backline … if they can get up a head of steam, they can get behind you and do some damage.”

There was a return-fire of compliments from Hurricanes hooker Dane Coles, who says they won’t fall into the trap of under-estimating the visitors.

He was familiar with the ability of three former Hurricanes forwards who have moved south – lock Mark Reddish, prop Brendon Edmonds and hooker Ash Dixon – who he says appear to typify the Highlanders’ approach.

“When you have guys like that working for each other the whole 80 minutes, you can defeat any pack. They pretty much beat up a Wallabies pack, so we have a huge amount of respect for those guys,” Coles said.

“When you have people who write you off the only way to go about your business is to prove people wrong.”

Coles is one of 12 Hurricanes and five Highlanders players who were named in the All Blacks squad but are unavailable for the Test in Samoa four days after the final.

He says the build-up to their 29-9 semi-final thumping of the Brumbies felt like a Test preparation and he expects something similar this week.

Nervous Kvitova begins defence in brutal style

Stepping out on to a sun-kissed Centre Court to begin the defence of her title, the Czech confessed to feeling the butterflies churning in her stomach.

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Then she started playing and in the blink of an eye she had torn shreds off her beleaguered opponent in a one-sided demolition job in which she conceded a solitary point on her serve in the final game of the match.

“Actually, I will be quite happy if every time I am nervous it is going to be like this. So I’m happy I won it,” she told reporters having begun her campaign just as she left off in last year’s final with a brutal exhibition of power tennis.

“For sure, it wasn’t really easy, especially before the match when you never know how it’s going to be… I didn’t really know what I should expect.”

The second seed has form for leaving the Centre Court crowd feeling slightly short-changed after battering Eugenie Bouchard in 55 minutes to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish 12 months ago.

Her parents were among Tuesday’s spectators, perched in the Royal Box, but they at least can expect an apology from their daughter.

“Unfortunately, maybe for people was a little bit quicker,” she said. “My parents came. The first 35 minutes, I have to say sorry to them.”

Bertens was overwhelmed by Kvitova’s relentless barrage of winners and pin-point serving accuracy.

The stats do not lie and on paper this was as one-sided as it was on court.

Kvitova won 48 of the 61 points played, and 28 of 29 on her own serve.

The only blot on that particular front came when she served a double fault when leading 5-0 in the second set.

Kvitova broke twice in an 18-minute first set and three times in even more fleeting second in which her 108th-ranked opponent failed to win a single game.

Next up for Kvitova will be Japan’s Kurumi Nara, who beat Magda Linette when the Pole retired in the third set.

Nara represents an unknown quantity for Kvitova, with the pair having never played each other. The Japanese will probably hope that step into the unknown does not make Kvitova nervous.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

Bulldog Boyd unsure on AFL future

Western Bulldogs veteran Matthew Boyd says he’s focused on enjoying the ride rather than making a decision about his playing future.

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The 32-year-old will play his 250th AFL game on Saturday night when the Bulldogs face Carlton at Etihad Stadium.

Out of contract at the end of the year, he knows decision time is looming – and that the eighth-placed Bulldogs are on the rise, making another season tempting.

“Definitely yeah, white-knuckling, just holding on as much as I can,” Boyd said.

“It’s an exciting time to be at the footy club and it’s an exciting bunch of young guys coming through so clearly you want to be around for that.”

Boyd said he would wait until later in the season to see how his body felt and if his form warranted a new deal.

“I’ll have to see how I’m playing and if I’m required,” Boyd said.

“There’s a lot of factors you’ve got to take into account when you get to my experience and age.”

The former captain and two-time All-Australian said he felt “fantastic” health wise after some early season setbacks.

His form has been indicative of that, stil one of the Bulldogs most consistent performers.

He’s relishing his new role as a defender rather than midfielder; in their six point win over St Kilda last round he collected 30 disposals and nine marks.

Among his career highlights, Boyd said that their round five four-point victory over Sydney at the SCG earlier this season was up there.

“It was a significant moment in our journey,” Boyd said.

“It was a pretty famous victory as they’ve shown they’re pretty hard to beat so to get a win with such a young group and such a committed effort that was a pretty significant moment.”

Reynolds named for Souths v Panthers

South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds has been named to face Penrith in Friday night’s NRL clash, despite suffering concussion last start.

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Reynolds was taken off in the 24th minute of the Rabbitohs’ 20-8 win over Manly after bumping his head on the hip of Feleti Mateo.

His early exit meant the 24-year-old went pointless in a game for the first time in his NRL career.

But Reynolds was on Tuesday named at No.7 for the round 17 match at Pepper Stadium, with Alex Johnston to play at fullback while Greg Inglis is on State of Origin duty.

The Panthers, meanwhile, are unchanged from their 23-point victory over the Wests Tigers.

Cronulla will also run out the same side that beat North Queensland last start for their battle against Manly at Brookvale Oval on Sunday.

Michael Ennis remains at hooker, but whether he plays will depend on the outcome of Wednesday’s NRL judiciary hearing.

Halfback Daly Cherry-Evans will line up for the Sea Eagles after being dropped by Queensland for the Origin decider, joining Willie Mason, who makes his return from a virus on an extended bench.

North Queensland have been forced to make a number of changes for the match against St George Illawarra, with four players – Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Michael Morgan and James Tamou – missing through Origin commitments.

Ray Thompson returns from a broken cheekbone at No.7, while Robert Lui has been recalled to play five-eighth.

Yaw Kiti Glymin is in line to make his NRL debut after being named to replace Dylan Farrell on the wing for the Dragons, who welcome back hooker Mitch Rein from suspension.

Origin stars Josh Dugan and Trent Merrin have been replaced directly at fullback and on the bench by Jason Nightingale and Nathan Green.

Dene Halatau and Manaia Cherrington return to the Wests Tigers line-up following Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods’ selection in NSW’s squad.

Halatau will captain the side against Parramatta after missing last round through a groin injury.

Nathan Milone replaces Tim Simona, who hurt his ankle in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers.

Ryan Morgan will shift to centre for the Eels in the absence of Will Hopoate, while David Gower is shifted to the bench with Manu Ma’u returning from suspension.

Nadal fires early warning to the big guns

The twice champion, who has slipped down the sport’s pecking order after a year of injury and below-par performances, showed glimpses of his power and determination in a 6-4 6-2 6-4 win over Brazil’s Bellucci on a sun-drenched Number One Court.

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If the draw goes to plan Nadal will have to get past Andy Murray and Roger Federer to earn a shot at a third title, potentially against top seed Novak Djokovic in the final.

Tuesday’s clash was never going to be in that league. The two players had met five times previously and the nearest the Brazilian came to taking a set was when he forced a tiebreak -– which he lost to love -– during his first-round defeat at Wimbledon three years ago.

Nadal had warmed up for this year’s tournament by winning on the grass of Stuttgart, though he went out in the first round at Queens.

Nadal initially struggled to calibrate his forehand and was wayward with his serving but he eventually settled and began smashing Bellucci into submission with his heavyweight backhand.

The Brazilian must have known it was not to be his day when, fighting to stay in the first set, he allowed an under-hit Nadal lob to bounce and planted his smash into the net from two metres.

The crowd gasped in sympathy and duly accorded him a very British ovation when he responded to the gaffe with an ace on his next serve.

The match eventually fell into a pattern of Bellucci holding his own early in the rallies before finding himself stretched and eventually beaten by Nadal’s superior power and accuracy, before reaching its natural conclusion in just over two hours.

“I am a little bit more confident now than I was few months ago, it’s just day by day for me,” Nadal told reporters.

“In the last two months I’ve been playing much more solid almost every tournament.”

The winner of 14 grand slams said he had no problem with his lowly seeding.

“I’m number 10 because I deserve to be,” he said. “That’s what happens with one-year rankings.

“When you are injured for six months and you come back and you are not able to play great, number 10 is a great number.

“But I’m going to work hard to be higher.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)