Inside Ground

England to face South Africa in Women's T20 World Cup opener

Publish: 03:30 PM, 05 May, 2024


England will face South Africa in the opening match of the ICC Women's Twenty20 World Cup to be held in Bangladesh later this year, the International Cricket Council announced on Sunday.

The event will run from October 3 to 20 in the capital Dhaka and the northeastern city of Sylhet, with warm-up matches starting on September 27.

Hosts Bangladesh and the top six teams from the previous edition in South Africa -- Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies - qualified automatically for the tournament, with Pakistan joining them as the next best ranked team.

Ireland, the UAE, Sri Lanka and Scotland are in contention for the remaining two places, with the semi-finals of the qualifying tournament being held in the UAE.

Six-times winners and current world number one Australia will play in Group A alongside India, New Zealand, Pakistan and a Qualifier 1.

Neighbours and rivals India and Pakistan will face off on October 6.

Group B will feature South Africa, Bangladesh, England, West Indies, and Qualifier 2.

"Over the last six to seven years we have seen women's cricket grow exponentially," ICC chief executive officer Geoff Allardice said at the announcement of the fixture list and trophy unveiling in Dhaka.

"This is going to be a very special tournament," he added.

It will be the ninth edition of the tournament, with Bangladesh previously hosting in 2014.

South Africa   England   Women's T-20 World Cup  


Inside Ground

Swiatek 'staying humble' for French Open after third Rome title

Publish: 03:47 PM, 19 May, 2024


Iga Swiatek refused to take victory at the French Open for granted despite romping to a third Rome title when sweeping aside Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 6-3 in Saturday's final.

World number one Swiatek will be red-hot favourite to successfully defend her Roland Garros crown afer comfortably prevailing on the clay against second-ranked Sabalenka.

In front of a packed centre court crowd Swiatek became the first woman since Serena Williams in 2013 to win on the clay surface at Madrid and Rome in the same season.

She can join Williams in a European capital city hat-trick if she wins her fourth French Open title, and third in a row, with the clay-court Grand Slam starting in Paris on May 26.

"Obviously I am confident. I feel like I'm playing great tennis but that doesn't change the fact that I just want to stay humble," Swiatek told reporters.

"Grand Slams are different. There's a different pressure on the court and off the court. Of course I love to come to Paris and be there. It a great place for me to be and I really enjoy my time there.

"But these are a hard seven matches that you need to win so I don't take anything for granted."

Swiatek won her 12th successive match on clay by besting Belarusian Sabalenka as she did in the recent Madrid final.

The Pole took her winning record over Sabalenka to 8-3 in another hugely impressive display from what has been an almost flawless tournament from the four-time Grand Slam winner, who didn't drop a single set on her way to another championship victory.

Saturday's match was less dramatic than Madrid's three-set thriller as Sabalenka, who has won the two most recent Australian Opens, gave herself too much to do.

Swiatek took the opening set in just 36 minutes in a clinical display of tennis against Sabalenka, who has said repeatedly that Rome is her dream tournament to win.

Going into Saturday's final Swiatek had won 97 percent of her matches in which she went one set ahead since the start of 2022 and Sabalenka didn't help her cause by wasting seven break points over two games in the second set.

After Swiatek broke Sabalenka's serve in game seven it was only a matter of time before she closed out the match and championship.

"I would say the first set I didn't play well at all. I wasn't, I don't know, feeling my game well," Sabalenka told reporters.

"In the second set I just tried to stay a little bit more aggressive... I just tried to put her a little bit under pressure.

"I had couple of opportunities to break her serve. Probably if I would take that opportunity, the match would go differently. I didn't use it, so it is how it is."

On Sunday Alexander Zverev bids to win his second Rome title when he faces Nicolas Jarry in the men's final.

Zverev is in his 11th Masters final, equalling Boris Becker's record for the most by a German since the series began in 1990.

Iga Swiatek   Aryna Sabalenka   Tennis  


Inside Ground

Messi scores two more as Miami win 4-1 at New England

Publish: 05:32 PM, 28 Apr, 2024


Lionel Messi continued his rich vein of scoring in MLS, scoring twice as league leaders Inter Miami came from behind for a 4-1 win at the New England Revolution on Saturday.

With his brace Messi, the top scorer in MLS, took his tally to nine goals from seven appearances this season.

A crowd over 65,612 turned up at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, the stadium the Revolution share with the NFL's New England Patriots, to see the Argentine World Cup winner.

New England, who had been hit by a flu bug in the build-up to the game and bottom of the Eastern Conference, delighted the bumper home crowd after just 40 seconds through an Argentine of their own -- Tomas Chancalay.

Miami defender Nicolas Freire gave the ball away to Spanish midfielder Carles Gil who clipped a ball over the top to Chancalay, who spotted Drake Callender well off his line and chipped it over the stranded Miami keeper for the opening goal.

Messi got Miami back on level terms in the 32nd minute when he was found by Robert Taylor's through pass and the 36-year-old made no mistake, slotting home.

The eight-times Ballon d'Or winner struck again to put Miami ahead in the 68th minute when he collected a superb defence-splitting pass from his former Barcelona team-mate Sergio Busquets and finished with his usual ease.

Miami added two more in the final stages -- both created by Messi.

Substitute Benjamin Cremaschi made it 3-1 in the 83rd minute, pouncing after a Messi shot was parried out. Luis Suarez completed the scoring, finding the top corner after a pass inside from Messi.

Lionel Messi   Inter Miami   New England  


Inside Ground

Collins and Alexandrova fight into Miami semi-finals

Publish: 03:34 PM, 28 Mar, 2024


Danielle Collins and Ekaterina Alexandrova will meet in the semi-finals of the WTA Miami Open after victories in the last eight on Wednesday. Collins powered into the last four with an emphatic 6-3, 6-2 win over France's Caroline Garcia before Alexandrova emerged triumphant from a near two-hour three set battle with American fifth seed Jessica Pegula.

Thursday will see the opening semi-final with three-time Miami winner Victoria Azarenka up against fourth-seeded Elena Rybakina, the highest ranked player left in the tournament.

Garcia went into the match against Collins on the back of an upset win over third-seeded American Coco Gauff but was unable to get a foothold against the Floridian.

Garcia still appeared to be troubled by an injury to her right shoulder and received some treatment early in the second set.

Collins broke to go 5-3 up in the first set and then held serve for the set, then in the second set broke in the third game and never looked back as she wrapped up the win in one hour and 19 minutes.

Collins reached the semi-finals of Miami six years ago as a qualifier and at 53rd is the lowest ranked semi-finalist in the tournament.

The 30-year-old American is now 4-0 against Garcia and has yet to lose a set to the Frenchwoman but said the numbers didn't tell the true story.

"I think against someone like Caro, it forces me to be more concentrated. I know I don't want to give her an inch or she can get in there," Collins said.

Garcia said she had felt the pace of back-to-back tournaments.

"It's been a long two weeks for the body for me, between the back at the beginning and then the she shoulder which came back," she told reporters, adding that the shoulder issue was a recurrence of a previous injury.

"I think it's nothing too serious but (shoulder) is always quite problematic for a tennis player," she said, before adding that Collins had played "an amazing match".

Collins intends to retire at the end of the year but while she agreed she had a relaxed look to her play, she rejected the idea that it was a result of her impending departure from the sport.

"I think I feel pretty relaxed, but that could be due to a number of things. I've got a new hobby. I'm playing some more golf, running more, Pilates, all of these different things," she said.

"My dog is here. I'm feeling relaxed because I get to be with him at night. I don't know," she said with a smile.

- Home favorite -

Alexandrova beat home favorite Pegula 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, showing plenty of grit in a third set where both players showed signs of fatigue.

Pegula broke to go 4-3 up in the first and broke again to clinch the set but the Russian fought back, breaking in the first game of the second set.

Again 14th seed Alexandrova broke early in the third but she let Pegula back into the set when she double-faulted on break point to leave the set balanced at 3-3.

The pair produced a fantastic rally in the subsequent game which Pegula was able to hold, but at 4-4, Alexandrova struck the decisive blow with Pegula going long on a back-hand return on the second break point.

The Russian held to grab the win and fell to her knees in joy at the result.

Alexandrova, who upset world number one Iga Swiatek in the previous round, said it was tough to break down Pegula's gritty defense.

"I couldn't understand how it was possible to return that ball it was always back. She was everywhere so I needed to do something," she said. "I tried to wait and use any opportunities that I got."

The win was Alexandrova's third against a top five player this year and she said her success was the result of developing patience.

"You have to wait and wait and something is going to come - and then you have to use it," she said.

Collins   Alexandrova   Miami semi-finals  


Inside Ground

Returning Halep rails at Wozniacki after 'cheat' comments

Publish: 01:45 PM, 20 Mar, 2024


Simona Halep returned to tennis on Tuesday, losing in three sets to Spaniard Paula Badosa at the Miami Open and then hit back at Caroline Wozniacki after the Dane criticised the decision to give her a wildcard into the tournament.

Former world number one Halep was given a warm welcome by the Miami crowd before fading as she lost 6-1, 4-6, 3-6 in her first game since the 2022 US Open.

But while the Romanian flags and chants of her name showed she retains plenty of support after having her doping ban reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last week, former world number one Wozniacki questioned the way Halep was allowed into the tournament.

"This is not directly at Simona, but if someone purposely cheats, if someone has tested positive for doping... I understand why a tournament wants a big star in the tournament, but it's my personal belief, and it's not a knock on anyone, but it's my personal belief that I don't think people should be awarded wild cards afterwards," said the Dane.

"If you want to come back, and it's been a mistake, I understand, you should work your way up from the bottom. That's my personal opinion upon things.

"Simona's situation has obviously dragged on for a long time. She got her suspension reduced. It wasn't a clearance, it was a reduced sentence," she added.

Asked about Wozniacki's comments, Halep said she did not understand her motivation.

"Why did she say that? I didn't do anything wrong. I didn't cheat. I didn't dope. So it's better if we read the decision from CAS that it was a contaminated supplement, it wasn't doping. I never had something to do with doping. I never doped, so I'm not a cheater.

"Thank you to the tournament for giving me the wild card and have the possibility to play in such a big tournament. It was great to be back," said the 32-year-old.

"Only one person being negative about me is not that important because I have hundreds of people that are giving me love, so I will take that," added Halep.

Halep looked like her old self in the opening set, cheered on by a small but passionate crowd, including many of her compatriots, she struggled later in the near two-hour contest.

There were the familiar chants of 'Simona' as she broke to go 4-1 up in the first set and the fist-pump showed the level of motivation after her lengthy, enforced absence.

But she needed treatment to her shoulder during the second set and she lost the accuracy of her serve while looking increasingly tired.

But she was upbeat about her fist match after such a long absence from the court.

- Positive emotions -

"It felt really good. I had emotions, but positive emotions. To see the crowd supporting me so nice gave me a lot of energy. The level of tennis was pretty good. Unexpected, I think, for most of the people.

"At this high level, like Paula played, I think I did a good job today. So I'm happy with the first match coming back," she said.

Halep's career had been on hold since October 7, 2022, the date of the start of her provisional suspension after testing positive for roxadustat at the US Open.

The winner of the 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon singles titles was then caught up in a second affair, this time "irregularities" in the data of her biological passport.

She was handed a four-year ban by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) which would have effectively ended her career.

Halep appealed to CAS in February, arguing her positive test for roxadustat -- used to treat anaemia and banned as a blood doping agent -- was the result of a tainted supplement.

CAS determined that Halep had "established, on the balance of probabilities" that the banned substance did come from the contaminated product and her violations were therefore "not intentional."

CAS also ruled that the "irregularities" cited by the ITIA in Halep's biological passport, a longterm monitoring tool of an athlete's blood indicators that can provide evidence of doping, did not, in fact, support "the doping scenarios put forward by the ITIA."

Halep had protested her innocence and refused to accept the ITIA decision, which would have kept her off the courts until October 6, 2026.

Simona Halep   Spaniard Paula Badosa   Caroline Wozniacki   Miami  


Inside Ground

Sabalenka sent packing at Indian Wells as Medvedev, Gauff advance

Publish: 01:52 PM, 14 Mar, 2024


American Emma Navarro shocked Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka to reach the Indian Wells ATP-WTA Masters quarter-finals on Wednesday as Coco Gauff sailed through.

Navarro, ranked 23rd in the world, pushed Sabalenka hard on a breezy Stadium Court to notch her first career win over a top-five player 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.

US Open champion Gauff, seeded third, celebrated her 20th birthday with a dominant 6-0, 6-2 victory over Belgian Elise Mertens.

It wasn't quite so easy for last year's men's runner-up Daniil Medvedev, but the fourth-seeded Russian managed the windy conditions to post a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.

Medvedev next faces seventh-seeded Holger Rune, who saved a match point then roared through the second-set tiebreaker on the way to a 2-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 victory over 2022 champion Taylor Fritz.

"It was a crazy match," Rune said. I managed to raise my level in the end of the second set. I just kept believing. I was always behind in the match, I was struggling to break his serve, but once I found my rhythm ... especially the tiebreak was very good for me and then I just gained confidence."

Medvedev said consistency was the key to his victory in windy conditions.
"I think in general I played well. I was really consistent," said Medvedev, who had just 13 unforced errors as he moved a step closer to a first title at Indian Wells -- the only hardcourt ATP Masters tournament he has never won.

In other men's matches, American Tommy Paul ended Italian Luca Nardi's dream week with a 6-4, 6-3 victory.

Nardi, who lost in qualifying but gained a place in the main draw as a "lucky loser" thanks to a withdrawal, was coming off a stunning upset of world number one Novak Djokovic in the third round.

Paul will play for a place in the semi-finals against ninth-seeded Casper Ruud, who rallied to beat French veteran Gael Monfils 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.

Navarro's victory over world number two Sabalenka continues a strong season for the 22-year-old, who won the WTA title in Hobart and reached the semi-finals in Auckland and San Diego.

"It's definitely cool to be able to play an opponent like that and feel like I can hang and I can win," she said. "I've worked really hard over the years to kind of just get to this point and be able to play at a level that can compete with the best players in the world.

"I think that showed today," she added.

Sabalenka, meanwhile, has found it frustrating since her successful title defense at the year's first Grand Slam. The Belarusian's fourth-round exit follows her opening-match defeat in Dubai last month.

After the two exchanged just two breaks of serve in the first two sets, Navarro came out ahead as they traded three straight breaks in the third to take a 3-1 lead.

She broke Sabalenka again to seal the match, finishing with 22 winners to 14 unforced errors while Sabalenka's 38 winners were countered by 34 unforced errors.

- Learning experience -

Sabalenka, who saved four match points to win her opener against 64th-ranked American Peyton Stearns, acknowledged that she never really got comfortable in the California desert this year.

"I tried to adjust," she said. "I would say that we did our best and we'll learn."

Navarro next faces face ninth-ranked Maria Sakkari of Greece, a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 winner over France's Diane Parry.

Gauff, who turned 20 on Wednesday, will next face China's Yuan Yue, who beat Daria Kasatkina 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

"Feels good -- finally got a win on my birthday," Gauff said after what she called a "pretty straightforward" victory.

Thursday's other quarter-finals were already set, with defending champion Carlos Alcaraz to take on Germany's Alexander Zverev and Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner to face Czech Jiri Lehecka.

Women's world number one Iga Swiatek will face returning veteran Caroline Wozniacki while Anastasia Potopova of Russia will play Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk.

Emma Navarro   Aryna Sabalenka   Indian Wells ATP-WTA Masters quarter-finals