European champion Dudova recovering at home after attempt to take own life

Three-time European wrestling champion Bilyana Dudova is recovering at home after attempting to take her own life two days ago, the Bulgarian Wrestling Federation said on Thursday.

Dudova, Bulgaria’s Olympic medal hope, will miss a national wrestling championship next week as her recovery would take about a month, the federation said in a statement published on its website.

“I’m fine, I’m recovering at home,” the 21-year-old was quoted as saying in the statement.

Dudova won three European titles between 2017 and 2019, competing in three different categories - 55 kg, 57 kg and 59 kg. Last year she won a silver medal at the World Championship in Budapest.

A psychologist will be working with Dudova during her recovery, the federation said.

Nadal primed for another French Open charge after Rome crescendo

Rafael Nadal has hit form at the perfect time heading into the French Open after a slow start, by his standards, to the claycourt season caused some to doubt his chances of continuing his vice-like grip on the tournament.

Nadal has made a habit of cleaning up at the warm-up tournaments to Roland Garros, but semi-final defeats in Madrid, Barcelona and Monte Carlo led to a sense that his dominance on clay might be receding.

Yet with the prospect of a record-extending 12th title appearing far from certain, the Spaniard showed rumours of his demise were greatly exaggerated with an outstanding 6-0 4-6 6-1 victory over Novak Djokovic to win the Italian Open.

Few would now bet against him continuing his dominance on the surface in Paris, where he has only dropped one set since 2016.

Nadal’s rivals will have to hope the King of Clay is shorn of peak fitness.

He had only recently recovered from the knee injury which caused him to retire from Indian Wells, when he lost to Fabio Fognini in straight sets in Monte Carlo, which he described as one of his worst ever displays on clay.

He was in rusty form at the Barcelona Open and fell to another straight sets defeat to Dominic Thiem, who he crushed in the 2018 French Open final, and was beaten by Stefanos Tsitsipas when hampered by a stomach bug at the Madrid Open.

He was back to his imperious best in Italy, avenging his defeat to Tsitsipas before whitewashing world number one Djokovic in the opening set for the first time on his way to a first title of the season which is unlikely to be the last.

“I don’t think Rafa needed to win in Rome to prove that he is the toughest guy to beat on clay, but it was a statement for the opponents,” Eurosport tennis expert Alex Corretja told Reuters.

“(It was) like ‘ok, I haven’t won as many tournaments as before during the claycourt season but I’m still the toughest guy to beat’, and for his self-confidence and his rhythm and his movement it was very important that he played Rome and he won...

“And it’s better that he won in Rome rather than win in Monte Carlo. It’s perfect timing, I think he has reached a crescendo in Rome.”

The 17-times Grand Slam champion certainly never doubted himself once he returned to full fitness.

“The most important thing is I feel that I’m playing well and feeling healthy and with the energy I need,” he said.

“If that happens, experience tells me I’m going to fight for titles sooner or later. The main thing for me was recover my level, then the results should be there if that happens.”

FIFA rejects expanded 48-team 2022 World Cup

FIFA president Gianni Infantino was dealt a blow on Wednesday when world football's governing body shelved a proposed expansion of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams.

FIFA dumped the plans "following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process" which led to the conclusion that "under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now".

"(The tournament) will therefore remain as originally planned with 32 teams and no proposal will be submitted at the next FIFA Congress on 5 June," FIFA said in a statement.

The expansion was a pet project of Infantino, who pushed the idea despite the likely need for Qatar's neighbours to put aside a two-year blockade and help host the tournament.

"The involvement of these countries in the organisation of the tournament jointly with Qatar implies the lifting of this blockade, in particular the lifting of restrictions on the movement of people and goods," said a feasibility study submitted to March's FIFA Congress in Miami.

The study, seen by AFP, also claimed that a Qatar World Cup with 48 teams would generate "between $300-$400 million (265-354 million euros) of additional income".

Specifically FIFA was counting on an additional $120 million in TV rights, $150 million in marketing rights and $90 million from ticket sales.

The news comes after Europe's top football clubs said in March they would boycott an expanded 24-team Club World Cup -- also backed by Infantino -- which is planned to take place between June 17 and July 4 2021, replacing the Confederations Cup international tournament.

- Complicated proposition -

An announcement of the final decision hadn't been expected until next month's congress, which is being held in Paris ahead of the Women's World Cup taking place in France between June 7 and July 7.

However, the statement said that the study "concluded that due to the advanced stage of preparations and the need for a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact on the host country, more time would be required and a decision could not be taken before the deadline of June".

FIFA has dropped the idea despite recommending in March that the number of teams should be raised to 48 for 2022, ahead of the planned 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Expanding the competition for the 2022 tournament was always a complicated proposition. FIFA had sounded out potential co-hosts in the region willing to support Qatar, a complicated proposition for Doha which is subject to an ongoing embargo by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their allies.

Last week Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary general of Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, said that a feasibility study jointly carried out by FIFA and Qatar would favour "expansion to other countries".

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut all ties with Doha in June 2017, accusing Qatar of supporting Iran and Islamist groups.

Qatar denies the charges and says Saudi Arabia and its allies aim to incite government change in the emirate, the world's largest exporter of liquified natural gas.

Gulf states Kuwait and Oman have not taken sides in the crisis, however in April Oman announced it was "not ready" to host matches.

Murray plays down his chances of playing singles at Wimbledon

Former world number one Andy Murray has all but ruled out playing singles at Wimbledon this year and said he will focus on doubles when he makes his comeback from hip-resurfacing surgery.

The Scot has not played since his first-round exit from the Australian Open in January, but said last month he was finally pain-free after the operation and planning to return to the ATP tour.

Murray, who will get a wildcard for the Queen’s Club Championships in June if fit, told the Times that playing singles would be a step too far given the state of his rehabilitation.

“It’s not enough time,” the 32-year-old said. “I’d say there’s very little chance I’d play singles during the grass (season). Potentially doubles, but I’m not trying to get ready for singles. I’ve only just started moving now.”

Murray has started training since the procedure and hopes to emulate doubles veteran Bob Bryan, who successfully returned to competitive tennis after a similar operation.

Bryan, who cut his season short in 2018 to have surgery and returned to the tour this year, was the one who advised Murray that surgery could improve his quality of life when the Scot was thinking of quitting tennis.

“I don’t have pain,” Murray added. “I just need to see how good the hip can get really. I know from seeing what Bob Bryan has done that for doubles it will be absolutely fine. I’ll need to see from there how it would work singles-wise.

“If I continue to feel good then I will obviously give it a shot in singles and see what happens. In doubles I’m pretty certain I’ll be able to play, just based on having an example to look at.”

Record London Marathon entries pass 450,000

More than 450,000 runners have entered the ballot for next year’s London Marathon, breaking the event’s own world record for registrations, organisers said on Tuesday.

The final total of 457,861 applicants from Britain and overseas represents a 10.5% increase on last year’s 414,168 bidding for a place in the world’s most popular marathon.

More than 56% of British entries were from people who have never run a marathon, and the majority of those are women.

“One of our goals is to inspire people to take up sport and it’s fantastic that more than 210,000 people from the UK have been inspired to apply to run a marathon for the first time in 2020,” event director Hugh Brasher said in a statement.

“At the first London Marathon back in 1981, fewer than 300 of the 6,300 finishers were women.

“More than 179,000 women from the UK have applied to run in 2020 and, for the third successive year, there are more female than male first-time marathon runners from the UK.”

The 40th London marathon will take place on April 26, 2020.

Former Formula One champion Lauda passed away at 70

Three-times Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, regarded as one of the finest racers of all time and who later became a successful airline entrepreneur, has died at 70 after battling declining health.

Austrian Lauda, who was treated in hospital in January for about 10 days while suffering from influenza and had a lung transplant last August, died on Monday night, his family said in a statement.

“His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are and will remain unforgettable,” the statement said.

“His tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage remain a role model and a benchmark for all of us, he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather away from the public, and he will be missed.”

Lauda won two world championships in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and a third in 1984 with McLaren.

He had a near-fatal crash in 1976 when racing at the Nuerburgring but despite suffering horrific burns, he was soon back in his Ferrari with a modified helmet and went on to claim his second world title.

His rivalry with British driver James Hunt, the 1976 champion for McLaren, was intense and became the subject of the acclaimed 2013 film “Rush”.

After two less successful years at rival outfit Brabham and then a two-year hiatus, Lauda returned to F1 for another four seasons at McLaren and won the 1984 title by a half-point over team mate Alain Prost.

While taking his first break after Brabham, Lauda set up a charter airline and returned to his aviation business full-time after bowing out of racing.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, he grew ‘Lauda Air’ into an international carrier with long-haul flights out of Austria across the globe before it was merged into Austrian Airlines in 2012.

Lauda also returned to Formula One in management roles, first with Ferrari in the 1990s and later with Mercedes, where he was appointed non-executive chairman in 2012.

He is credited for helping bring five-times F1 champion Lewis Hamilton to the team from McLaren.

“His passing leaves a void in Formula One,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We haven’t just lost a hero who staged the most remarkable comeback ever seen, but also a man who brought precious clarity and candour to modern Formula One. He will be greatly missed as our voice of common sense.

“Our Mercedes team has also lost a guiding light ... Niki was always brutally honest - and utterly loyal.

“Niki, you are quite simple irreplaceable, there will never be another like you.”

Lauda’s death rocked the F1 community days before the Monaco Grand Prix, the jewel in the racing calendar, and there were warm tributes paid by drivers past and present as well as the two teams he won world titles with.

“Your passing leaves an enormous void inside me,” former Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo said in a statement.

“With you I have lived some of the most beautiful moments of my life, we shared many unforgettable Ferrari victories and we were always bound together by great affection, even when we found each other competing on rival teams.”

Pliskova ends Konta run to win Italian Open

Karolina Pliskova ended Johanna Konta’s hopes of landing a first claycourt title with a 6-3 6-4 victory in the Italian Open final on Sunday.

The Czech world number seven did not drop a single service game as she secured the third clay title of her career and her first in Rome in one hour 25 minutes.

British number one Konta claimed some big scalps on her way to the final, beating Grand Slam winners Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams as well as Madrid Open champion Kiki Bertens.

However, she struggled to trouble the Czech on serve as Pliskova recorded her seventh win in eight meetings with Konta.

The result means Pliskova will be the number two seed at the French Open later this month as she will move to second place in the world rankings on Monday.

“I was a little bit nervous today, it’s a final so you have to be. Jo played great tennis so she made it quite tough for me,” the Czech said.

Asked about her prospects at Roland Garros, she said: “I just hope I can take the tennis I was playing here to Paris and we’ll see.

“I think there will be a chance for me if I play this way but there’s going to be some tough opponents who are playing good tennis on clay.”

Konta was broken in her opening service game before saving a set point at 5-2, but Pliskova served out the first set after the Briton failed to take advantage of the only break point she was afforded in the match at 5-3.

Pliskova missed a break point in Konta’s opening service game of the second set but eventually broke the 28-year-old at 3-3 before holding serve to secure victory.

Konta remained upbeat, saying: “I’m pleased with how I’ve been progressing this year and how I’ve been improving with every match.

“To make it to a final here, this is my second biggest final after Miami, this is a big moment for me.”

Imperious Nadal blows away Djokovic to land ninth Rome title

Rafael Nadal proved that he would still be the man to beat when the French Open begins later this month after he humbled Novak Djokovic 6-0 4-6 6-1 in the Italian Open final on Sunday to win a record 34th ATP Masters 1000 title.

The Spaniard, who had shared the record of 33 Masters titles with the Serbian world number one, warmed up for the defence of his Roland Garros crown by securing his ninth Rome title.

Nadal got off to a flying start by whitewashing Djokovic in the opening set. It was the first time there has been a 6-0 set during a meeting between the two rivals.

Djokovic took the second by breaking Nadal’s serve for the first time while leading 5-4, but the second seed responded in style by storming through the decisive set.

When Nadal’s previous three claycourt tournaments had ended in semi-final defeats, it no doubt gave his rivals hope that his long reign at Roland Garros could be coming to an end this year.

However, the way he demolished the world’s top ranked player in the opening and third sets on Sunday would have once again struck fear into any of those challengers who had been harbouring hopes of lifting the Musketeers’ Cup on June 9.

The Spaniard heads into Roland Garros in top form after seeing his serve broken just twice en route to claiming his first title of 2019 in his 50th Masters final.

“For me it’s always an honour to be here, I still remember my first time here in 2005,” said Nadal, who will be chasing a record extending 12th French Open title when the claycourt major begins on May 26.

“To have the chance to come back and win this trophy after so many years means everything. It wasn’t an easy week for me.”

The 32-year-old left Djokovic in a daze as he stormed through the opening set in 39 blistering minutes.

The top seed fought back in the second as he saved four break points before winning the decisive game on Nadal’s serve to take the set 6-4.

But the Serb, who had survived three-set battles against Argentines Juan Martin del Potro and Diego Schwartzman to reach the final, faded in the final set as he dropped his opening service game before Nadal surged clear.

“I’m really glad that I managed to get into the third set, considering the first set where I was blown away from the court,” Djokovic said.

“Obviously third set was not much different from the first. I was just running out of fuel a little bit today. Just kind of missed that half a step, especially on the backhand side.

“He used it very well. He’s been playing some terrific tennis throughout the entire week. He was just too strong today.”

Lyles pips Coleman in Shanghai sprint photo finish

Noah Lyles exploded over the final third of the race to win a thrilling men’s 100m in a personal best 9.86 seconds at the Shanghai Diamond League on Saturday, pipping fellow American Christian Coleman in a photo-finish.

Coleman, in his first outing of the year, tore out of the blocks and looked to have the race under control at halfway until Lyle’s storming finish caught him with a dip at the line.

World indoor sprint champion Coleman was awarded the same time, the best of the year so far, and the top four all went under 10 seconds with Akani Simbine of South Africa third (9.95) and last year’s winner Reece Prescod of Britain fourth (9.97).

“I said to my coach in warm-up ‘today is the day’,” said Lyles.

“I feel hot. I knew if I got out of the blocks and if I was anywhere close, I knew I could come late for the win.”

If the 100m augured well for the season in the sprints, the other most highly anticipated race of the evening, the men’s 400m hurdles, did not disappoint either.

Abderrahman Samba, who last year ran the second fastest time in history, went stride-for-stride with American Rai Benjamin, co-owner of the third fastest time, before pulling away off the final hurdle to win in 47.27 seconds.

“It was a great race and Rai and I pushed each other to the line,” said the Qatari, who will be looking to give the home nation success at the world championships in Doha later this year.

“This year is a big year and I feel better this year.”

American Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 100m in 11.03 seconds despite fracturing her wrist playing laser tag two weeks ago, holding off Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare (11.07) and double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson (11.14).

“I was expecting to perform better,” said Jamaican Thompson, after her first 100 since midway through last year.

“I will be seeking better performances.”

Olympic and world champion Omar McLeod held off local Xie Wenjun to win the Shanghai 110m hurdles for the fourth straight year, crossing the line in 13.12 seconds before collapsing to the track in tears.

“It was difficult for me to compete today,” the Jamaican said. “My auntie Tracey died yesterday ... I just wanted to finish, win and get the job done.”

Fred Kerley led fellow Americans Michael Cherry and Nathan Strother across the line to win the men’s 400m in 44.81, while Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser clinched the women’s one-lap race in 50.65 ahead of Diamond League debutant Sydney McLaughlin.

Another fast finisher was Yomif Kejelcha, who kicked on the final lap to lead an Ethiopian podium sweep in the men’s 5,000m in 13 minutes 04.16 seconds — the best of the year so far.

Morocco’s Rababe Arafi also ran a world leading time in the women’s 1,500m in four minutes 01.15 seconds, and there was a world leading distance in the men’s javelin with German Andreas Hofmann’s 87.55 metres.

There was some local success for the crowd to cheer through Wang Yu in the men’s high jump and Lyu Huihui in the women’s javelin.

Visser is W Series winner at Zolder

Dutch driver Beitske Visser won the second race of the all-female W Series at Zolder in Belgium on Saturday with Britain’s Jamie Chadwick retaining the overall lead after beating compatriot Alice Powell for second place.

Chadwick, inaugural winner in Hockenheim two weeks ago, had lined up on pole position again but former Red Bull junior driver Visser made the better start and stayed ahead through two safety car periods to win by 8.451 seconds.

Visser moved up to second overall, on 37 points and six behind Chadwick, in the series which uses identical Formula Three cars.

“They tried to make it hard for me but starting from P2 (second place), I had a perfect start,” said Visser. “I think we did a perfect job today.”

There was drama at the start with Belgian driver Sarah Bovy lining up out of position and with smoke billowing from her stranded car.

Finnish driver Emma Kimilanen had already dropped out on medical advice, after a crash in Hockenheim triggered the recurrence of an old injury, and was replaced by Hungarian reserve Vivien Keszthelyi.

The safety car was deployed briefly after the opening lap and Visser then pulled away at the restart ahead of Chadwick and Powell.

Another safety car period came after Britain’s Esmee Hawkey tried a move up the inside of Polish driver Gosia Rdest and the two collided.

The race settled down with 15 minutes remaining and Visser continuing to increase the gap to Chadwick, coming under increasing pressure from Powell.

Powell seized second place at turn nine with two minutes remaining, and the two Britons running wheel to wheel, but Chadwick went back in front with a lap to go.

The six-race series is aimed at helping women up the motorsport ladder. The overall winner will collect $500,000, with prize money down to 18th place.

Subscribe to this RSS feed

Mauritius

Banner 468 x 60 px