updated 7:39 PM UTC, Nov 18, 2019

Sparkling Zverev tastes first victory over Nadal

It proved quite a day for ending losing streaks at the ATP Finals on Monday as Alexander Zverev tasted a first victory over Rafael Nadal after Stefanos Tsitsipas got the better of Russian bogeyman Daniil Medvedev.

Both Zverev and Tsitsipas walked out on the huge O2 Arena with 0-5 career records against their opponents but they turned the tables with a couple of dazzling displays.

Tsitsipas beat Medvedev 7-6(5) 6-4 before Germany’s Zverev, the surprise title winner last year, thumped an out-of-kilter Nadal 6-2 6-4 to seal a rare hat-trick.

He might not have won a Grand Slam title yet but after beating Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the semi-final and final last year, he opened his defence by outplaying Nadal.

The Spaniard, who took his major haul to 19 this year, has a patchy record at the tournament. He has never won the title, appeared only eight times despite qualifying on 15 occasions and on his last visit, in 2017, withdrew injured.

The world number one refused to blame an abdominal strain picked up this month in Paris for his poor showing.

“It was not a problem with the abdominal at all,” the 33-year-old Nadal, who will face Medvedev in his second round-robin match in a repeat of the U.S. Open final, told reporters.

“I did not feel pain. We can find reasons or excuses, but at the end of the day, all that really matters is I need to play much better in two days.

“I needed my best competitive spirit today, and I was not there in that way.”

LATE FLOURISH

Zverev, 22, has salvaged what initially looked like being a poor year with a late-season flourish to qualify for the showpiece and he produced a confident display to dominate.

Serving regularly at 140mph and crunching angled groundstrokes, he gave Nadal’s abdominals a thorough workout.

He took control by breaking in the fifth game and repeated the feat two games later when Nadal blazed a wild forehand wide.

Some scintillating net play earned the German another break at the start of the second set. He stayed rock solid thereafter, not giving Nadal even a sniff of a chance to make a comeback.

“It is obviously great,” said the world number seven. “Everyone knows how much I have struggled the whole season. It means so much to be playing here again where I won my biggest title last season. It means everything to me.”

In terms of Nadal’s hopes of sealing the ATP year-end top ranking for a fifth time, nothing has changed.

He arrived in London with a 640-point lead over Djokovic. With 200 points for each group win, Djokovic cut that deficit on Sunday by thrashing Italian Matteo Berrettini.

Even if Nadal suffered a recurrence of the injury or lost all of his group matches, Djokovic must still reach the final to overtake the Spaniard and match Pete Sampras’s record of finishing a year as number one on six occasions.

Earlier on Monday a large crowd were treated to a high-quality duel between two players seemingly destined to be vying with Zverev for the games biggest prizes.

Tsitsipas gave a swashbuckling display against Medvedev in the first opening round-robin match between two debutants since 2007 and celebrated like he had won the title — a reaction perhaps born out of past friction between the two young guns.

“It means more than extra. It’s a victory that I craved for a long time now,” the 21-year-old Tsitsipas, the first Greek to qualify for the eight-man tournament, told reporters.

“Our chemistry definitely isn’t the best that you can find on the Tour. It just happens with people that it’s not that you can just like everyone.” Tsitsipas plays Zverev on Wednesday.

Five-time champion Djokovic can close the gap further on Nadal on Tuesday when he takes on Austrian Dominic Thiem.

Formula One aims for zero carbon footprint by 2030

Formula One set out its first ever sustainability plan on Tuesday with the aim of achieving a net zero-carbon footprint for the sport by 2030.

The Liberty Media-owned championship, which will have a record 22 grands prix next year with the 10 teams flown around the world, said carbon reduction projects would start immediately.

It also promised that all Formula One events would be sustainable by 2025.

“We recognize the critical role that all organizations must play in tackling this global issue,” said chairman Chase Carey in a statement.

“By leveraging the immense talent, passion and drive for innovation held by all members of the F1 community, we hope to make a significant positive impact on the environment and communities in which we operate.”

Carey said the current V6 turbo hybrid power engines, in use since 2014, were the most efficient in the world and delivered more power from less fuel than any other car.

“We believe F1 can continue to be a leader for the auto industry and work with the energy and automotive sector to deliver the world’s first net zero-carbon hybrid internal combustion engine,” added the American.

Other initiatives include moving to ultra-efficient logistics and 100% renewably powered offices, facilities and factories.

CARBON NEUTRAL

McLaren were certified as Formula One’s first carbon-neutral team as long ago as 2011, but the sport has also struggled to shrug off a gas-guzzling reputation dating back to the long-gone days of V12 engines.

Unfavorable comparisons have been made to the all-electric Formula E series, which now has a significant manufacturer presence.

Formula One said sustainable materials will be used at all events, with all waste reused or recycled, and single-use plastics would be barred.

There would also be incentives offering fans a greener way to get to the races.

Six times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, who has gone vegan, has spoken out this year about his own efforts to reduce his carbon footprint.

The Mercedes driver told reporters last month that he had sold his private jet and was flying less for pleasure, had banned single-use plastic from home and office and aimed to be carbon neutral by the end of 2019.

“It is not the easiest because, yes, we are traveling around the world and we are racing Formula One cars. Our carbon footprint for sure is higher than the average homeowner that lives in the same city,” he said then.

“But it doesn’t mean you should be afraid to speak out about things that can be for a positive change.”

Djokovic thrashes Berrettini in ATP Finals opener

Novak Djokovic ruthlessly took Matteo Berrettini apart at the ATP Finals on Sunday as he began his quest to reclaim the number one ranking by winning his opening group match 6-2 6-1.

Berrettini became the first Italian to play in the season-ending showpiece since 1978 but was given a harsh lesson by the 16-time Grand Slam champion at the O2 Arena.

The 32-year-old Djokovic began the match 640 points behind Rafael Nadal in the race to end the year on top of the rankings, but victory chipped that advantage down to 440.

Djokovic must at least win two group matches and reach the final to have any chance of matching Pete Sampras’s record of ending six separate years as world number one.

Spaniard Nadal, who has concerns over an abdominal injury sustained at the Paris Masters, plays his first group match on Monday against defending champion Alexander Zverev.

Djokovic, four times a winner of the title since the tournament moved to London in 2009, had never played Berrettini before but quickly got to grips with the aggressive style of the 23-year-old Italian.

The first four games were shared on serve but Djokovic seized the opening break when Berrettini missed a routine forehand at 2-3 and quickly took charge.

His only blemish was when serving at 4-0 in the second set, gifting Berrettini a break with a couple of errors, but normal service was quickly resumed as he finished things off in little more than an hour with an easy forehand.

“It feels great to be back in London,” Djokovic, who won Wimbledon this year by beating Roger Federer in an epic final, said on court. “It was not easy for him to be playing his first Tour Finals match and I knew he might be a bit nervous.

“Fortunate to get the break and then I started reading his serve better and played solid throughout the match.”

Federer, bidding to win a record seventh title at the season-ending event, takes on Austrian Dominic Thiem in the evening match.

KSI defeats Paul in bout of YouTube boxers

Olajide “KSI” Olatunji prevailed in a split decision over Logan Paul in a boxing bout between YouTube celebrities on Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

In a slugfest between the two inexperienced fighters, Briton KSI got the decision on the scorecard after six wild rounds.

Two judges scored the fight 57-54, 56-55 in favour over KSI, while one had it 56-55 for Paul.

Each boxer seemed to throw all of their force in the opening three rounds before tiring. American Paul landed a big uppercut in the fourth round but was deducted two points when he pulled KSI down to the canvas and hit him in the back of the head.

KSI was allowed time to recover, and he did so in a big way by getting the best of the final furious three minutes of the fight.

“I’m a dog. I don’t stop, I keep going,” KSI said, following the win.

“I was scared to fight last time, I was scared to get close to him; this time I just kept going. I’ve done it, I’m victorious.”

Paul paid respect to his opponent. “I just want to say fair play to JJ, you’re one of the toughest people I know,” Paul said. “He had my respect before the fight, it was all for show. I wish you the best. You’ll see me in the squared circle again, I’ll be back!”

The online personalities, who boast 20 million YouTube subscribers each, fought to a draw at Manchester Arena in August 2018 before setting up a rematch.

Prior to Saturday’s bout, Paul’s brother Jake, also a well-known YouTuber, announced that he has wants to fight KSI.

“I want KSI. I am waiting patiently in the stands tonight to watch Logan beat KSI, and then it’s my turn,” Jake said.

Haiti's cyclists brave protests and poor roads in race for gold

Ousline Georges, 22, only started to take cycling seriously a year ago, wary of the many hurdles she faced such as the prohibitive cost of a decent bicycle and the treacherous roads in her home country of Haiti, the poorest in the Americas.

This past weekend though, she became the first Haitian ever to win a medal in the Caribbean Road Cycling Championship, thanks to a new program created by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)that fosters the sport in small, developing nations.

“I was really moved,” said Georges, a student and mother of a four-year old boy. “When I saw the others cry over my victory, I cried too.”

Cycling is not an easy sport to practice in Haiti, a country wracked by poverty, natural catastrophes and political instability.

Bicycles and a good diet are too expensive for most and there are few roads that lend themselves to training given the destruction wrought by the 2010 earthquake and a scarcity of cash to build infrastructure.

The country’s main arteries clogged with trucks and buses, along with roadblocks that have been set up as part of the anti-government protests that have paralysed the country for months now, have made it even more dangerous for cyclists.

Those protests, over corruption and inequality, prevented Haiti from hosting the championship of more than 20 nations this year as originally planned, which would have provided the country an economic and morale boost.

Instead, the race - one step below the Pan American Championship where cyclists can qualify for the Olympics, was moved to neighbouring Cuba.

Given the poor track record of Haiti’s cyclists, they cannot get sponsorship.

However, it appears change is afoot. At the Caribbean Cycling Road Championship held on November 3 in Havana, Haiti’s national team put in their best performance ever.

Under the program, Haitian cyclists were given equipment and a French coach, Yann Dejan, as well as a month’s training in Brittany, France. Dejan also created a female national team to complement the men’s.

As a result, some of Haiti’s cyclists finished the circuit for the first time ever. According to Dejan, they had always been eliminated before arriving at the end because they lagged too far behind the pack.

Georges won the bronze medal in the under 23 category. She reckons she could have won gold if she could have had the full training originally planned.

Administrative delay for visas and other difficulties due to Haiti’s general disarray meant the training was reduced from five months to two for the men and one for the women, according to Dejan.

“I hope to go further with cycling, I wish the Haitian Federation and sport ministry would keep us training,” said Georges.

Cycling is still very niche in Haiti; the Haitian Federation of Cycling (FHC) now has 360 cyclists. Football is the most popular sport on the island and the discipline in which Haitians have shone most internationally to date.

But Dejan reckons Haitians have proven they have the physical qualities and talent to shine with the right training and support. And once they shine, they can get sponsorships.

The UCI will continue to support Haitian cycling for the time being, he said. It hopes for example to distribute bicycles in schools and youth clubs, once the political situation has calmed down.

Dejan, who has trained cyclists from all over the world, said cycling tournaments had proven very popular in poor nations because they offered a free outdoor spectacle. Haiti was applying to host the Caribbean Championships in 2021, he said.

“Cycling could be a way of giving the Haitian people back their smiles,” he said.

England to return to Japan for two tests in July

England will tour Japan in July 2020 for two tests, the first time they will play the Rugby World Cup hosts on their home soil, England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) said on Friday.

Eddie Jones’ side, who finished runners-up to South Africa at the World Cup this month, will face Japan in Oita on July 4 and in Kobe on July 11.

However, England are likely to leave several of their first-choice players behind to ensure they stay within playing time guidelines.

“Japan were fantastic Rugby World Cup hosts and we feel humbled to have been a part of it,” Jones, a former Japan coach, said in a statement. “The England squad had a fantastic experience of the country  and we are excited to return in July next year.

“The Japan national team have shown again how good a side they are with their performances during the World Cup and I know they will provide a great test for us in July.”

England have played Japan twice before, beating them on both occasions, with the last match being a 35-15 win over the Brave Blossoms at Twickenham in November last year.

Nadal optimistic on fitness ahead of ATP Finals

Rafael Nadal is optimistic he will be 100 percent fit for the ATP Finals as he bids to seal the year-end world number one ranking for the fifth time in his career.

The 33-year-old Mallorcan took over at the summit from Novak Djokovic this week but suffered an abdominal injury at the Paris Masters where he withdrew from his semi-final on Saturday.

Although he leads Djokovic by 640 points heading into the London climax, he is likely to need a strong finish at an event he is yet to win to prevent the Serb reclaiming the top spot.

“I need to go day by day,” Nadal told reporters after arriving at London’s Thames-side O2 Arena by boat on Friday.

“I’m happy to be here because after last Saturday in Paris I didn’t know if I would have the chance to be here.

“So I’m excited to be here after a couple of years without being able to play. I need to see how things evolve every single day. I have good hopes to be 100 percent ready for Monday.”

Nadal has been placed in the Andre Agassi group alongside defending champion Alexander Zverev and debutants Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and Russian Daniil Medvedev.

He is scheduled to begin on Monday evening against Zverev but admits serving is still the biggest worry.

“I started (serving) yesterday, very slow,” Nadal, who won this year’s French and U.S. Opens to move to 19 Grand Slam titles, one behind Roger Federer’s record, said.

“I know I have been playing well in Paris and for me the main goal is to be healthy for Monday.

“I have been serving very well in Bercy, I had good matches, so I am confident that I can be very competitive but of course it’s a tournament that you will face the top guys from the beginning so you need to be 100 percent ready.

“But I really hope I will be able to serve every single day a little better and my hope is to be on Sunday serving normal.”

Nadal has qualified for the ATP Finals for the 15th time in his career but has only actually played on eight occasions because of a career-long battle with various injuries.

His most recent appearance was in 2017 when he played only one of his group matches, limping to defeat against David Goffin. He has twice made the final since the tournament moved to London, in 2010 when he lost to Federer and in 2013 when he was beaten by Djokovic.

“Yeah I’ve qualified for 15 years but I don’t know how many years I’ve completed the tournament,” Nadal said. “But I would love to have the opportunity to (win the title).”

Even if Nadal withdrew or failed to win a group match, Djokovic would still need to reach the final to claim the year-end ranking for a record-equalling sixth time — a feat only American Pete Sampras has achieved.

Djokovic begins his quest for a sixth ATP Finals title on Sunday against Italian debutant Matteo Berretini.

Young pretenders arrive in force in London

The greatest trio ever bestowed on men’s tennis steadfastly refuse to step aside but this year’s ATP Finals boasts a fresh new look that offers a glimpse of the rivalries that should sustain the sport when they go.

Top seed Rafael Nadal, who can clinch the year-end top ranking for the fifth time, was asked if he felt a little old as he sat alongside debutants Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, and 2018 champion Alexander Zverev, for Friday’s pre-tournament news conference.

And for good reason.

Nadal, 33, will be very much the elder statesman in the Andre Agassi group which starts on Monday. Russian Medvedev is 23, Zverev is 22 and Tsitsipas is 21.

Italian Matteo Berrettini, 23, is the third player making his debut and will have the chance to make an immediate impact when he takes on five-time tournament champion Novak Djokovic when play begins in Bjorn Borg group on Sunday.

While 19-time Grand Slam champion Nadal has injury worries, few would bet against either him, 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer or Djokovic, winner of 16 majors, lifting the trophy next Sunday. But times clearly are changing and the fearless new pretenders are knocking loudly on the door.

A year ago Greek Tsitsipas won the ATP Next Gen Finals in Milan — a tournament to showcase the rising talents.

He has enjoyed a stunning year, beginning at the Australian Open where he beat Federer on the way to the semi-finals.

Tsitsipas has also beaten Nadal and Djokovic this season and arrives in London ranked sixth. His opening match will be against U.S. Open runner-up Medvedev, who has four titles and a Tour-leading 59 match wins this year.

Asked about the prospect of their future battles, Tsitsipas said: “I guess you could say we are just getting started,” he told reporters at the 02 Arena. “We are the future of the ATP.

“Competition is very important and it’s quite interesting to see so many varieties. All different shapes and sizes.”

STRONG GROUP

Germany’s Zverev was the first of the young guns to make inroads, qualifying for the ATP Finals in 2017.

He won it last year and while Grand Slam success remains elusive, he looks set to be battling for the sport’s most prestigious silverware with Medvedev and Tsitsipas along with the likes of Canadian duo Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger Aliassime and Australian Alex de Minaur, to name but a few.

“Obviously, Rafa, Roger and Novak have been at the top for many years and they started from a young age,” Zverev said.

“We are the ones now but there are others playing great tennis and there will be a very strong group of guys.

“The next two or three years will be very exciting because the top guys are still there and they are still better than us because they win all the big titles.”

Federer, still showing no sign of losing his shine at 38, welcomes the new challenges as he sets about trying to win the season-ender for the first time since 2011.

“What I like about these guys qualifying for the first time is that it goes away from saying we have some talented players coming up on the Tour,” the Swiss said.

“They are actually national heroes already in their countries and in the top 10 which is not easy to achieve.

“It’s a great experience for them to be here, handling the pressure from the get-go.”

Former England skipper Hartley announces his retirement

Former England captain and Northampton Saints hooker Dylan Hartley announced his retirement on Thursday after failing to recover from a knee injury that cost him a place in the Rugby World Cup squad.

Hartley, 33, led England to back-to-back Six Nations triumphs in 2016 and 2017 but has not played since suffering the injury while representing club side Northampton against Worcester in December.

New Zealand-born Hartley was left out of Eddie Jones’ 31-man squad which finished runners-up to South Africa in the recently concluded World Cup in Japan.

“The last few months have been difficult mentally and physically as I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am no longer able to compete,” Hartley said.

“I’m extremely proud of my journey, both with Saints and representing England, but now is the right time to hang up my playing boots.”

Hartley ends his career as England’s second most capped player with 97 test caps — behind only former prop Jason Leonard who ended his career with 114 caps — and more than 250 appearances for the Saints.

“I have loved my journey in rugby. I came to England as a teenager hoping to get a few games of rugby and to see the world,” Hartley added.

“I could have never have predicted that one day I’d play 14 years for such a special club and go on to represent and captain England.”

W Series to make a profit in year three, says founder

The all-female W Series which made its debut this year will turn a profit in season three, chief executive Catherine Bond Muir said on Thursday.

She added that the ultimate aim is to stretch the championship to 12 or 14 races from the initial six that featured in 2019.

“W Series will be profitable in year three and that is something we’re proud of,” she told a Sport Industry event.

“The motorsport community has been welcoming of the idea and I’m thankful to all our ambassadors and investors for helping us grow.

“We’re six races now, and plan to be eight next year — with two in the Americas — before expanding to Asia. Our aim is to settle on a 12 to 14 race calendar and I’d be happy with that success.”

An initial six race calendar has been published already for season two in 2020, with new rounds in Russia and Sweden. There has also been talk of linking up with Formula One grands prix in the United States and Mexico.

Bond Muir said the successful first season of a series that aims to help women climb the motorsport ladder to Formula One, had changed the dialogue with potential backers.

“We did a lot of value-in-kind deals in year one, because sponsors loved the idea but needed to see it in practice,” she said.

“That conversation has now completely changed, and because of how well year one has gone the negotiations are much more centred around cash-based sponsorship.”

Britain’s Jamie Chadwick won the first season and is returning for the second.

No woman has raced in Formula One since 1976 and aspirants need to raise significant sums to rise through the junior series.

The winner of the W Series, which uses identical 1.8 litre Formula Three cars, collects $500,000 in prize money.

“Nearly $5 billion went into personal sponsorship in motorsport this last year, but all to men,” said Bond Muir. “Our central proposition is to change that and ensure commercial success for our drivers.”

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