F1 owners near deal for British Grand Prix to be kept at Silverstone

Formula One owners Liberty Media Corp are nearing an agreement to keep the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the Financial Times reported on Monday citing sources familiar with the matter.

U.S.-based Liberty Media, which acquired Formula One in 2017, is in the final stages of agreeing a new deal with the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), which owns the Silverstone track, the FT said.

Silverstone is a former World War Two airfield that hosted the first championship grand prix in 1950 and Formula One CEO and chairman Carey Chase is keen to maintain the “historic core of F1”, the FT quoted one of its sources as saying.

The circuit is also a home grand prix for most Formula One teams.

The future of the British Grand Prix beyond 2019 has been in doubt after the BRDC triggered a break clause in their contract with Formula One a few months after Liberty Media’s takeover in the hope of negotiating better terms.

The main sticking point was the cost of hosting rights for the race, which were set to rise each year under the terms of the contract the BRDC had with the former owners of Formula One and ex-chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One managing director Ross Brawn said last month that the sport could look to London if Silverstone fails to secure a deal for the British Grand Prix after this year.

Other venues, such as Cardiff, were also under consideration, but those plans were shelved after Liberty Media concluded a move would not be possible by next year and stepped up talks with the BRDC, the FT said.

Currently, a compromise is being discussed with Liberty Media, demanding 18 million pounds a year, while the BRDC has offered 15 million pounds a year, the report said.

Liberty Media and BRDC did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment outside regular working hours.

More major glory for South Korea as Ko wins ANA Inspiration

Ko Jin-young joined the long list of South Korean LPGA major champions with a three-shot victory over compatriot Lee Mi-hyang at the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, California.

Ko, last year’s Rookie of the Year, overcame a late wobble in the final round to became the fifth Korean to win the event after Grace Park (2004), Yoo Sun-young (2012), Park In-bee (2013) and Ryu So-yeon (2017).

She is the 15th woman from South Korea to win a major, the most of any country other than the United States, and the victory is projected to see her top the world rankings.

“I had a great round and a great week. I felt nervous today but I just tried to keep myself calm,” said Ko.

After her lead had been reduced to one shot with three holes to play following two quick bogeys Ko responded like a true champion, a perfectly-judged 10-foot birdie putt at the 16th proving the decisive blow at Mission Hills .

She clinched in style with another birdie at the last for a two-under-par 70, bursting into tears when the putt fell.

“My caddie told me on the 18th that I had a two-shot lead and to not worry, just enjoy it,” Ko said.

“So many Korean players had a great tournament, and it’s a real honour for me to win.”

Ko finished at 10-under 278, while Lee carded 70 for second place on seven-under, a shot ahead of American Lexi Thompson (67).

Kim In-kyung, who started the day in second place, fell out of contention with a double-bogey at the 11th, where her ball got stuck up a tree, forcing her to take a penalty stroke.

She shot 74 and tied for fourth with Spaniard Carlota Ciganda, five shots behind Ko.

The 23-year-old Ko said she had been dreaming of winning the event for five years and had always wanted to make the traditional winner’s jump into Poppie’s Pond.

“I always think about when I can go in that pond,” she said. “That’s today.”

Despite the distractions and pressure of leading a major on a Sunday, Ko said she got over the line by trusting her swing.

“I just focused on my swing, on the putting, that’s why I win this week,” she said.

“I won. I can believe it now.”

Muguruza retains Monterrey title as injured Azarenka retires

Spain’s Garbine Muguruza successfully defended her Monterrey Open title when Victoria Azarenka retired injured from her first WTA singles final in three years.

Second seed Muguruza was leading the match between the two former world number ones 6-1 3-1 when Azarenka decided she was unable to continue because of an injury to her right leg.

“It’s unfortunate I couldn’t give my best today, but I tried my hardest,” a tearful Azarenka, who had not previously reached final since the birth of her first child in December 2016, said at the presentation.

“I want to say thank you to my son Leo, who is not with me here. I would love him to be here to share this with me because it is special.”

The crowd responded with a chant of “Vika! Vika! Vika!”.

Muguruza’s victory never looked in doubt and ensured that the record run of different women winning WTA titles this season would be extended to 16 tournaments.

The former French Open and Wimbledon champion broke the pained Belarusian three times in the first set and again in the fourth game of the second.

“It’s a great feeling to come back and defend a title,” Muguruza said in a courtside interview. “It’s never easy.”

Azarenka received treatment on her leg during a medical time-out between sets, but it became apparent as the second set began that her movement had become significantly hampered.

Azarenka was grimacing and stretching after nearly every point and, after Muguruza broke for a 3-1 lead, the two-time Australian Open champion decided to call it quits.

The Belarusian had entered the final full of hope after surprising top seed Angelique Kerber 6-4 4-6 6-1 in Saturday’s semi-finals.

Azarenka had won her only previous meeting with Muguruza in the round of 16 at the Miami Open in April 2016, when she went on to win the title in her most recent final before Sunday.

Unprecedented short-circuit cost Leclerc victory in Bahrain

Charles Leclerc missed out on his first Formula One victory in Bahrain last weekend because of an unprecedented short-circuit in an injection system control unit, his Ferrari team said on Friday.

The 21-year-old Monegasque driver will be able to use the same power unit in China next week, round three of the championship.

Leclerc finished third at Sakhir after his car lost power with some 10 laps to go while he was leading the race comfortably.

Race winner Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas both overtook the youngster before the chequered flag, with the Leclerc salvaging a podium place thanks to the safety car being deployed for the last three laps.

Ferrari said the problem had never been seen before on that particular component.

Leclerc had also started on pole position for the first time in his Formula One career, and in only his second race with Ferrari.

Shanghai will be the 1,000th Formula One championship grand prix and Ferrari will be favourites to win despite champions Mercedes finishing one-two against the odds in the first two races of the season.

Kupcho makes history as first woman to win at Augusta

Jennifer Kupcho struck a blow for gender equality and entered golf history books on Saturday when she was crowned Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion by firing a final-round five-under 67 for a four-shot win over Maria Fassi.

Following the first women’s competitive round played at Augusta National, it was a double celebration for Kupcho as she hoisted the silver and gold Tiffany-designed cup at a club that just seven years ago did not have a single woman member.

“You are now part of history of Augusta National along with all the great Masters champions who have been right here in this Butler Cabin,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said as he presented Kupcho with her trophy in the same location where the Masters champion is presented with the winner’s green jacket.

With Augusta National set to host the Masters next week, Fassi and Kupcho proved that women can also produce nerve-jangling drama with a back-nine battle worthy of any major.

Kupcho’s elation was mixed with relief as she struggled with a migraine and blurred vision from the eighth through 11th holes that threatened to scuttle her title hopes.

“I actually got a migraine on the eighth green and kind of over to the left I just couldn’t see it was blurry,” said Kupcho. “I told my caddie I’m looking for you to read the putts and tell me where to hit it and I will do my best to hit it there.

“Amazing enough, I have gotten these migraines before so I knew the blurriness would go away and I would just have a headache. On the 11th tee was where it finally started to go away and I could finally see.”

The Masters is often decided on the back nine on a Sunday and that was the case for the women who played their final round on Saturday, as Kupcho played the final six holes in five under.

Showing why she is the world’s top-ranked amateur, the 21-year-old carded birdies at 15, 16 and 18 along with a brilliant eagle on the par five 13th that wiped out Fassi’s two stroke lead.

Opened for play in 1933, Augusta National became the private sanctuary for some of the world’s most powerful men and it was almost 80 years before the club welcomed its first women members in 2012, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and financier Darla Moore.

GREAT STAGES

After the opening two rounds of the 54-hole tournament were held at Champions Retreat in nearby Evans, the women finally got the opportunity to step on to one of the sport’s great stages.

The first competitive round played by women at Augusta National attracted a large crowd but it was not the typical gallery seen at the Masters.

The crowd more resembled one you might find at a U.S. women’s soccer game with plenty of teenage girls and mothers and fathers with children in tow.

While the sight of women battling for a trophy was new for Augusta National, so were the sounds as the galleries offered encouragement with shouts of “Atta girl” and “Way to go girls”.

There were plenty of Augusta members in their iconic green jackets who mingled among the crowd cheering on the golfers while others offered support on social media.

“So cool seeing these women live out their dreams right now,” tweeted Rory McIlroy, who will be in Augusta next week looking to complete a career grand slam.

Following a Masters tradition, the round began with ceremonial tee shots. LPGA greats Nancy Lopez, Pak Se-ri, Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam did the honours.

After American Anna Redding struck the first competitive shot, the focus shifted to Kupcho and Fassi, the two close friends and college rivals sharing an emotional hug before teeing off.

The two embraced again on the 18th green, promising more battles in the future.

“I did all I could, she played a great game she finished really strong and I am really proud of her and I know we are going to be battling for wins in the future,” said Fassi. “Yes we were competing against each other but we were friends before all of that.

“Making it at Augusta National, being the first time, it is just a dream come true.”

Guardiola coy over quadruple bid after City reach FA Cup final

Pep Guardiola claimed he still doesn't believe Manchester City can win the quadruple after his side reached the FA Cup final with a 1-0 win over Brighton on Saturday.

Guardiola's men were well below their best in the Wembley semi-final, but Gabriel Jesus's early goal got the job done.

City will play Watford or Wolves in the final on May 18, but before then they hope to have retained the Premier League title and reached the Champions League final.

Currently two points behind leaders Liverpool with a game in hand in the Premier League, City go to Tottenham for the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Having already won the League Cup, an unprecedented clean-sweep of all four major trophies is within touching distance, but City manager Guardiola refuses to talk up his team's chances.

"My opinion is that nobody has done it (won the quadruple), so why can we do it?," he said.

"It is almost impossible to achieve everything, that is the truth."

City laboured to kill off Premier League strugglers Brighton in a hard-fought semi-final lacking many thrills.

Guardiola praised Brighton's resilience and admitted he was relieved to get the win.

"It was a semi-final, Brighton are an incredible defensive team, we knew that set-pieces were huge, massive. We conceded too many but only one dangerous situation. We are in the final, we are there," he said.

City defender Kyle Walker came off at half-time after suffering a first-half knock.

Walker was also fortunate to escape with a yellow card after a VAR review of a 32nd-minute incident when the England star reacted to a challenge from Alireza Jahanbakhsh by aiming his head at the Brighton player.

"I didn't see the Kyle Walker incident," Guardiola said.

"We are losing players every game but still we will try to do it.

"I am happy to be in the final. We extend our season by one more week and we are happy for that."

Brighton boss Chris Hughton was adamant Walker should have been sent off.

"I have seen it a few times and my opinion is it is a red card," he said.

"We ask for players to be honest and with Alireza, if he goes down clutching his head it would have been a different outcome. There is enough movement for it to be a red card."

World number one Osaka signs with Nike

World number one Naomi Osaka has agreed a deal with Nike, the sports apparel giant has announced.

The Japanese, who had previously been tied to rival Adidas, will first wear Nike gear at the Stuttgart Grand Prix later this month, the U.S. sportswear maker said on its website.

“I’m proud to become a member of the Nike family and excited about getting involved in all of the opportunities Nike has to offer,” said Osaka in the statement.

“Nike has a legendary track record of writing history and I look forward to being a part of those moments for many years to come.”

The Japanese has won the last two Grand Slams, having become the first ever Japanese player to win one of the four majors when she overcame Serena Williams at the U.S. Open in September.

“Naomi is an incredible talent to add to our roster and help drive our commitment to inspiring a new generation of female athletes,” Nike VP Amy Montagne added in the statement.

“We are thrilled to have her join our team.”

Osaka’s ascent to the top of the women’s game has made her a hot marketable commodity for the world’s top brands.

She already has deals with Japanese airline All Nippon Airways, car manufacturer Nissan and watch company Citizen, amongst others.

Dude, where's my sea? Landlocked Mongolia catches the wave

Landlocked Mongolia has become the latest country to join the International Surfing Association, taking the world body’s total membership to 106 nations on five continents.

Surfing, which traditionally needs only a beach and some waves, can now be enjoyed inland and even indoors thanks to wave machines and is due to make its Olympic debut in Tokyo next year.

The sport is also on the programme for the 2020 Asian Beach Games, in Sanya, China.

“The growth of surfing in non-traditional surfing nations is testimony to how surfing’s Olympic inclusion has expanded the sport to new corners of the globe,” said ISA president Fernando Aguerre in a statement.

“Surfers that thought the Games were far out of reach, now have a tangible dream that they can pursue.”

The ISA said the Mongolian federation, recognised by the country’s National Olympic Committee, could now organise indoor surfing competitions using wave pool technology and set up a network of surfing clubs.

It will also develop disciplines that can be practised on flat water, such as StandUp Paddle.

Mongolia Surfing Federation (MSF) President Tamir Amarbayasgalan said in the ISA statement that membership was “a crucial step towards promoting and popularizing the sport of Surfing in Mongolia.

“This creates an opportunity for us to field a national team to compete at the ISA’s international competitions. The MSF has created a platform that will allow surfers to get information and become a part of the worldwide surfing community.”

Oman, which held its first surf contest in August last year, also joined the ISA as a member.

Briton Kennaugh takes break due to mental health issues

Former Olympic gold medallist Peter Kennaugh is taking a break from professional cycling as a result of mental health issues, the rider and his Bora-Hansgrohe team said on Friday.

“Peter will be taking an indefinite break from professional cycling due to ongoing mental health issues,” Bora-Hansgrohe said in a statement.

“The Team supports Peter in his decision and have agreed that this is the best course of action to ensure he can return to full health in the near future.”

The 2014 and 2015 British road racing champion was a member of the Team Sky who helped Chris Froome win two of his four Tour de France titles in 2013 and 2015.

The 29-year-old, who won the team pursuit gold medal at the London Olympics with Edward Clancy, Geraint Thomas and Steven Burke, left the British outfit for Bora-Hansgrohe last year.

“I would like to thank everyone at Bora-Hansgrohe for their support and understanding to allow me to recover away from the sport. I wish the team the best of luck for the rest of the season,” Kennaugh said.

Lobov makes bare-knuckle debut as combat sports go mainstream

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight Artem Lobov, a long-time friend and team mate of Conor McGregor, is set to make a lucrative debut in bare-knuckle boxing as combat sports bid to gain more mainstream acceptance.

Nicknamed the “Russian Hammer”, Lobov told Reuters he had accepted a big payday from the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship to fight another UFC veteran, Jason Knight, on a pay-per-view card in Biloxi, Mississippi on Saturday.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that money was a big factor in signing for Bare Knuckle - we’re prize fighters, and our success is measured by the size of our purse,” he said during a stopover in New York.

Long considered the only realistic professional alternative outside of boxing for combat sports athletes, the UFC is now competing with other mixed martial arts and grappling promotions.

European and Asian promotions are attracting sellout crowds, and the Bellator organisation recently signed a large number of British and Irish prospects to try to make inroads in Europe.

They were also on the trail of Lobov when he was released from the UFC in January.

“They made a very nice offer, a lot more than I was getting in the UFC, but it did not match the offer that Bare Knuckle made. With Bare Knuckle, I can also accept other offers as long as it doesn’t interfere with their schedule, so it’s a win-win for me,” the 32-year-old said.

“I get to go in, fight bare-knuckle, make a lot of money, hopefully build a better name for myself and then see what else is out there.”

FRONT FOOT

Though he has a losing professional record of 14 wins and 15 losses, Lobov is hugely popular with fans due to his fearless style of fighting off his front foot and his toughness, with 12 of his MMA losses coming by decision.

Lobov brushes aside the suggestion that bare-knuckle boxing is more primitive than MMA.

“It might seem that way, but getting hit with a bare knuckle is not as raw as getting hit with a bare knee, or getting kicked with a shin to your head, which I have been a few times,” he said. “In that sense, it’s nothing.

“I truly, truly love fighting, so that’s not an issue for me. It’s like saying to a swimmer, ‘Do you mind getting wet?’ Of course not, he’s a swimmer,” he said.

Lobov credits Irishman McGregor, the former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion, with bringing combat sports into the mainstream in the U.S. and enabling him and many others to make a living as fighters.

“In many ways it is thanks to Conor, for sure, and it’s definitely a lot better than before, but the best times are still ahead of us,” Lobov said.

“Ten years ago I fought a top-10 European fighter on four days’ notice for 400 pounds, and to go from that to where I am now, earning six figures for a fight? Certainly, I see the improvements in the sport.”

Though delighted to have a chance to test his boxing without the threat of kicks or takedowns, Lobov will be back in the MMA cage soon.

“I always seek the biggest challenge and MMA is the biggest challenge. I’m still grappling, I’m still wrestling and doing everything,” he said.

“I want to improve and to achieve many, many things in MMA, boxing and bare-knuckle boxing.”

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