Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-ying yesterday easily defeated Mia Blichfeldt in her women’s singles match to advance to the finals of the Yonex Thailand Open in Bangkok, while Chou Tien-chen crashed out of the tournament. Tai quickly ousted world No. 18 Blicheldt, of Denmark, in 34 minutes, winning 21-8, 23-21. The world No. 1 today must overcome Olympic champion Carolina Marin of Spain, who took down An Se-young of South Korea yesterday 21-18, 21-16. In men’s singles, Taiwan’s Chou fell to Hong Kong’s Angus Ng Ka Long after a tough 66 minutes of play. While Chou, the world No. 2, bested Ng in the first set, the world No. 8 managed to pull through two more sets, winning 17-21, 21-18, 21-15. Today, Ng faces the winner of yesterday’s final match between Indonesia’s Anthony Sinisuka Ginting and Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen. In the men’s doubles, Taiwan’s Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin took three sets and 54 minutes to beat the South Korean pairing of Choi Sol-gyu and Seo Seung-jae 15-21, 21-14, 21-14 in the semi-finals. In today’s final, Yang and Wang face Malaysia’s world No. 14 duo of Goh V. Shem and Tan Wee Kiong. They previously overcame the 2016 Rio Games silver medalists in South Korea in 2019 at the Gawngiu Korea Masters. Goh and Tan yesterday downed Indonesia’s Leo Rolly Carnando and Daniel Marthin in just 29 minutes, beating them 21-19, 21-10.
The deciding fourth Test between Australia and India in Brisbane yesterday hung in the balance after a massive thunderstorm caused play to be abandoned following the tea break on the second day. The Gabba was saturated during the storm, which began during the tea break, and while the ground drained quickly, the umpires decided the outfield was too wet to allow play to continue. India would resume today at 62 for two, 307 runs behind Australia’s first innings total of 369, with Cheteshwar Pujara on eight alongside skipper Ajinkya Rahane, who was on two. Australia had earlier claimed the vital wicket of Rohit Sharma 20 minutes before tea to seize the momentum. Sharma had been in full flow, striking 44 stylish runs from 74 deliveries with six boundaries. With the score on 60 for the loss of opener Shubman Gill (7), Sharma threw his wicket away when he charged off-spinner Nathan Lyon, only managing to sky a ball to Mitchell Starc at deep mid-on. The Australian off-spinner is playing his 100th Test match and is closing in on 400 wickets — Sharma was his 397th. “I had a couple of plans for Rohit,” Lyon said. “Obviously he’s a world-class player, so I just wanted to make sure I was bowling my best ball, and not try to worry too much about what the batters are doing,” he added. He said the wicket was different from a normal Gabba strip. “It is a lot drier than it usually is,” Lyon said. “It was probably more like a day three wicket [on day one] and there’s a nice crack outside the off-stump,” he said. “I’m trying to aim at that and hopefully bring in both edges and see how we go.” When T. Natarajan bowled Josh Hazlewood to end the innings, the inexperienced Indian attack had completed an impressive comeback on a hot and
Fickle winds produced farcical scenes yesterday on day two of the America’s Cup challenger series in Auckland, as the so-called “flying” yachts spent almost as much time in the water as above it. “I’m not sure today is a really accurate read because it’s so puffy, it’s shifty,” British sailing legend Ben Ainslie said after his Ineos Team UK maintained their perfect start to the Prada Cup series with a third straight win. The series would determine which of the 23m yachts — which fly above the water balanced on hi-tech foil arms — would challenge defending champion Team New Zealand for the America’s Cup in March. Ineos lost so much time falling off its foils in its duel with American Magic that it was in a race against the clock on the final leg, reaching the finish line with less than two minutes to spare before the 45-minute cutoff point. American Magic finished with only one second remaining, which was an improvement on its performance in the day’s other race when it failed to finish against Italian entry Luna Rossa. Ainslie said it was “intense” sailing “trying to keep the boat up on the foil because every maneuver you knew that if you come off the foil that might be the end of the race.” American Magic helmsman Dean Barker described the racing conditions as “a lottery.” “You question why you want to do that as part of the event, but it is what it is. Swings and roundabouts and it obviously didn’t go that well for us,” he said. After three races each, Ineos has three wins, Luna Rossa one and American Magic nil. The Prada Cup runs until Feb. 22, beginning with a series of round-robins. The winner proceeds to the final, while the other two challengers face off in a seven-race semi-final. The final begins on Feb.
A female 4X4 enthusiast is blazing a trail in Qatar’s traditionally male sport of off-roading and in a rare move has also become a dune driving safety marshal. “As soon as my tires touched the sand, I fell in love with the desert,” said Marcelle Visser, a South African living in Qatar, as her Land Cruiser bounded across the rolling sandscape. In Qatar, gender separation in social settings remains common in many areas of life, so the appointment of a woman as one of a handful of experts at a prestigious desert club has caused a stir. Men and women gather separately for prayers and most celebrations, and, historically, it was the men who would gather and make camps in the desert as well as off-road together — hugely popular pastimes in Qatar. “When you start off with this, you think it’s a men’s sport. This was keeping me away in the beginning,” Visser said. However, Khaled Shash, the chief safety marshal of Qatar’s Dune Rider Club, a group bringing together those with a passion for the desert and 4X4 vehicles, sought to nurture Visser’s enthusiasm. “The minute I saw how Marcelle is passionate about off-roading in general, I decided to focus with her. It was a plan to make her a marshal,” he said. Marshals take responsibility for the safety of group members on desert drives, training participants in off-road driving techniques and assisting those in distress. More than 4,300 accidents have been reported in Qatar’s most popular off-roading area in the past five years, Qatari Ministry of the Interior data show. Over the winter desert season, authorities have carried out a media blitz with television coverage of safety and recovery initiatives, driver education roadshows and warning billboards dotted around desert areas. Dune Riders, like most other clubs, hosts regular workshops for newcomers to promote safety. At one workshop, Shash,
PRICE OF ADMISSION: The NBA has fined the Nets’ Kyrie Irving US$50,000 after he attended a crowded party without wearing a mask, triggering a five-day quarantine
Giannis Antetokounmpo on Friday scored 31 points and had nine rebounds to power the Milwaukee Bucks to a 112-109 victory over Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks in a battle between the two early frontrunners for NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors. Two-time MVP winner Antetokounmpo hit 14-of-21 shots from the floor and Khris Middleton finished with 25 points for the host Bucks, who have won seven of their last eight games. Doncic shot 12-of-24 from the floor for a team-high 28 points, after coming off a 34-point performance in a win over Charlotte two nights earlier. “We showed him bodies. He wasn’t able to step back. We made him pass the ball,” Antetokounmpo said of Doncic. After Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez missed a free throw with one second remaining, Doncic launched a desperate two-handed, three-point attempt at the buzzer, but it hit the backboard and bounced away harmlessly to give Milwaukee the win. “We just stayed with it,” Middleton said. “They did a good job rebounding off the glass and made some tough shots, but we just stayed with it.” Middleton drained a pair of clutch three-pointers late in the fourth quarter. He also had eight rebounds and six assists. The former second-round draft pick was traded to the Bucks in 2013 from Detroit. “Each year is about getting better and finding ways to make my teammates better. That is what they do for me,” said Middleton, who recently donated US$100,000 to the employees at Fiserv Forum who lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Antetokounmpo against Doncic was not the only marquee matchup on a night when the league had to postpone three games because of a series of COVID-19 outbreaks. Four time NBA champion LeBron James took on former first overall draft pick Zion Williamson and after the slow start the host the Los Angeles Lakers rolled to
An accusation of racism after the final whistle on Friday threatened to overshadow Union Berlin’s 1-0 home win over Bayer 04 Leverkusen, which lifted the hosts to fourth in the table. Leverkusen midfielder Nadiem Amiri, who was born in Germany to Afghan parents, was booked on 90 minutes and had to be restrained during a heated exchange with a group of Union players. “Nadiem Amiri’s background was insulted. There is no place for that on the pitch here. That is the saddest thing about the whole evening,” Leverkusen defender Jonathan Tah told DAZN. Tah said he heard the insult “shitty Afghan” aimed at Amiri and wants the German FA to investigate. “I hope there are consequences,” he said. Union coach Urs Fischer, who went to Amiri’s aid, said the home side would investigate. “Words were spoken which had no business being on a football pitch,” the Swiss boss said. “We’ll try to sort this out, but if that is the case, then I apologies for it,” he added following Tah’s allegation. The incident cast a shadow over Union claiming another major Bundesliga scalp at home, four weeks after an upset win over Borussia Dortmund. Union’s replacement forward Cedric Teuchert sprinted onto a pass, which split Leverkusen’s defense and fired home the winning goal two minutes from time. The 24-year-old made amends for squandering a golden chance six minutes after the break when his shot beat Lukas Hradecky, smashed against the post and rolled agonizingly along the goal line and away to safety. “I don’t think any teams like playing us here. It’s a lot of fun playing in this team at the moment,” Teuchert said. Teuchert had replaced Dutch striker Sheraldo Becker, who was helped off on 24 minutes with an ankle injury. ROONEY SHIFTS CAREER AFP, LONDON Former Manchester United and England star Wayne Rooney on Friday ended his illustrious playing career to take
Travis Konecny on Friday scored his first career hat-trick, as the Philadelphia Flyers survived losing team MVP Sean Couturier to an injury in a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Konecny scored three goals and had an assist, while Ivan Provorov scored and Oskar Lindblom added an empty-netter for the Flyers. The Flyers swept their rival in the two-game home set, but can only hope they would not lose Couturier for extended time. Couturier, who last season became the first Flyers player in 33 years to win the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward, left the game after just two shifts and 45 seconds. Known as “Coots,” was to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging scan yesterday on one of his shoulders. He absorbed a stiff check on his left shoulder, which could be the one that was injured. “When your No. 1 center goes down, it’s always tough to overcome it,” Flyers forward Jake Voracek said. The Flyers, who won 6-3 on Wednesday, appeared to have an easy time, even with Couturier out. Konecny scored a power-play goal 7 minutes and 27 seconds into the game, adding a second two minutes later when he crashed the net and pounded in a rebound. “I have to keep going to the net,” Konecny said. “Everybody says get to the blue paint because bounces do happen when you are in there.” Provorov made it 3-0 on a slap shot from the circle, which was enough to chase goalie Tristan Jarry, who allowed three goals on only six shots and was benched in favor of Casey DeSmith. “I don’t think games can be pinned on any one person,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We win as a team and we lose as a team. To his defense, some of the chances were high quality. I thought we were the better team tonight,
Transgender athletes are to have an ally in the White House next week, as they seek to participate as their identified gender in high school and college sports — although state legislatures, the US Congress and the courts are all expected to have their say this year, too. Attorneys on both sides say they expect US president-elect Joe Biden’s Department of Education to switch sides in two key legal battles — one in Connecticut, the other in Idaho — that could go a long way in determining whether transgender athletes are treated by the sex on their birth certificates or by how they identify. Last year, bills to restrict transgender athletes’ participation to their gender assigned at birth were brought up in 17 US states, although only one, Idaho’s, became law. It might ultimately fall to Congress to clarify once and for all whether Title IX — the civil rights law that guarantees equal opportunities for women and girls in education — protects or bars the participation of transgender females in women’s sports, said Elizabeth Sharrow, an associate professor of public policy at the University of Massachusetts. “I think if they do that, lawmakers at the state level can propose laws, but it doesn’t mean those proposals are going to be taken seriously in the legislative bodies they serve in or that if the state passes those laws anyway that they would necessarily be considered legitimate,” she said. “The courts will sort that out.” During his campaign, Biden committed to restoring transgender students’ access to sports, bathrooms and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity. “States that like Idaho attempt to bar trans girls from girls sports, regardless of age of transition, medical intervention or anything else, with a new federal administration, will now be risking lawsuits by the federal government, Justice Department intervention and
TENNIS Players barred after flight A host of players yesterday were barred from practicing for a fortnight in a major setback to their Australian Open preparations, after two people on a charter flight that brought them to Melbourne from Los Angeles tested positive for COVID-19. While those who failed the test were not players, all remaining passengers were ordered to stay in their hotel rooms for the entire 14-day mandatory quarantine period. That means the 24 players on board would not be allowed out to practice and train for the five hours each day agreed to as part of their buildup to the opening Grand Slam of the year. Former Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens and Japan’s Kei Nishikori were among those on the plane, local media reported. GOLF Thomas dropped after slur US fashion giant Ralph Lauren on Friday dropped its sponsorship of world No. 3 Justin Thomas, six days after a homophobic slur he made was picked up by television microphones. Thomas apologized the next day for his “terrible” and “inexcusable” remark, but in a statement on Friday, the New York-based apparel firm said that his words could not be associated with their brand. “We believe in the dignity of all people, regardless of age, race, gender identity, ethnicity, political affiliation or sexual orientation,” the company statement said. Thomas, a 27-year-old American, uttered an anti-gay slur at the US PGA Tournament of Champions in Hawaii after missing a five-foot putt. SAILING Bekatorou accuses official Olympic champion Sofia Bekatorou of Greece on Thursday accused an unnamed sporting official of sexually assaulting her in 1998 during preparations for the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic Games. Bekatorou, who won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said the male official from the Hellenic Sailing Federation performed a “lewd act” after inviting her to his hotel
DOUBLES VICTORY: The men’s doubles pairing of Taiwanese Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin downed Malaysians Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi, and face South Koreans today
Men’s badminton world No. 2 Chou Tien-chen yesterday marched into the semi-finals of the Thailand Open, defeating younger opponent Lee Zii-jia 21-17, 21-15 after a rally, while Tai Tzu-ying had no trouble getting past her Canadian opponent in the women’s singles. The top male Taiwanese credited calm and focus in securing his win after briefly falling behind against his 22-year-old Malaysian opponent. “I think I had more patience against him and I won most of the long rallies,” the 31-year-old Chou said of Lee. “He wanted to attack [too much] and maybe he lost some focus,” Chou said. In today’s semi-finals, second-seeded Chou faces Angus Ng, ranked eighth in the world, after the Hong Kong player handily defeated teammate Lee Cheuk-yiu 21-17, 21-12. In the women’s singles, Tai faces Mia Blichfeldt — who beat Busanan Ongbamrungphan 21-13, 21-18 — in today’s semi-finals after the world No. 1 ousted Michelle Li in just 28 minutes, winning 21-11, 21-13. Tai used streaks of seven and eight points in the first and second games respectively to dominate world No. 10 Li, who could only defend one game point on Court 1 at the Impact Arena in Bangkok. In the men’s doubles, Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin beat the Malaysian duo of Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi 23-21, 21-15. The match lasted 42 minutes, with The Taiwanese pair surviving one game point in the first game before converting on their second. The second game was more one-sided as Lee and Wang set up a semi-final against Choi Sol-gyu and Seo Seung-jae of South Korea, who advanced with a 21-16, 21-19 win over the Indonesian pairing of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan. The Thailand Open is the first of three consecutive tournaments held in Bangkok culminating in the World Tour Finals from Jan. 27. The athletes — who were flown in a week before
Thangarasu Natarajan arrived in Australia in November last year as a net bowler for the India squad, never expecting to get a shot at a Test debut Down Under. However, he celebrated his elevation from backup bowler to cricket’s most elite level by taking a pair of key wickets to peg back Australia to 274-5 on the opening day of the series-deciding fourth test at the Gabba on Friday. The 29-year-old left-armer played his first one-day international and his first Twenty20 international last month, and completed the full set of formats when he was given a Test debut. It was a kind of a last-man-standing chance after a string of injuries to bowlers culminated in pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah being ruled out of the Brisbane match. With one ODI and three T20s of international experience, Natarajan was straight into action, sharing the new ball with Mohammed Siraj, who was leading a bowling attack who had only a combined four previous Test caps, after Australia won the toss and decided to bat. India had Australia in early trouble at 17-2 before Marnus Labuschagne rallied the innings, posting his fifth Test century and sharing partnerships of 70 with Steve Smith (36) and 113 with Matthew Wade (45) to get the hosts to 200-3 and on the verge of accelerating the scoring. That is when Natarajan struck twice, quickly, to slow the momentum. Wade and Labuschange both misjudged his length and top-edged attempted pull shots. Wade was caught at mid-on in Natarajan’s 13th over and Labuschagne, after surviving dropped catches on 37 and 48, was finally out for 108 after facing 204 deliveries when he skied one to wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant in the rookie bowler’s 14th over. Natarajan finished the day with figures of 2-63 from 20 overs. Australia all-rounder Cameron Green was unbeaten on 28 and captain Tim Paine was 38
French veteran Stephane Peterhansel in Saudi Arabia yesterday celebrated a record-extending 14th Dakar Rally victory, his eighth in the car category, but the event’s conclusion was clouded by news of the death of French amateur rider Pierre Cherpin, who had been in an induced coma since he crashed on the seventh stage. Peterhansel, a 55-year-old X-Raid Mini JCW driver nicknamed “Mr Dakar” for his unprecedented success, first won the endurance event on a motorcycle in 1991 and switched to cars after five more wins on two wheels. Argentine Kevin Benavides, riding a Honda, became the first South American to win the motorcycle category after the 12th and final stage that ended in Jeddah. The annual rally started in 1978 as a race from Paris to the Senegalese capital, Dakar, but moved from Africa for safety reasons in 2009. It is now held entirely in Saudi Arabia after a stint in South America. Peterhansel, who had led since the second stage, but won only one of the 12, finished 14 minutes, 51 seconds ahead of Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah, a three-time Dakar winner, in a Toyota. Spaniard Carlos Sainz, the defending champion and Peterhansel’s teammate, won the final stage and finished third overall. In the motorcycle class, last year’s champion, Ricky Brabec of the US, won the final stage to finish runner-up to teammate Benavides and complete Honda’s first one-two Dakar finish since 1987. Britain’s Sam Sunderland, the 2017 winner, finished third overall for KTM. “On stage five I was worried, because I crashed so fast and hit my head and my ankle and felt a lot of pain. On that day I said maybe the Dakar is finished for m, but I continued pushing,” Benavides said. “I still have some pain, but at the moment I am more happy than in pain.” Manuel Andujar made it an Argentine double with victory
SOCCER Arsenal’s streak checked Arsenal’s recent resurgence in the Premier League was checked by Crystal Palace as they were held to a dull 0-0 draw on Thursday. Mikel Arteta’s side were bidding for a fourth successive league win, but could find no way through an obdurate Palace, who were the better side in the first half in which defender James Tomkins hit the bar and Christian Benteke went close BASKETBALL No Harden, no problem The Houston Rockets put this week’s franchise-altering trade in the rear-view mirror on Thursday as they began their post-James Harden era with a gutsy comeback NBA win over the San Antonio Spurs. Journeyman Christian Wood scored a team-high 27 points and had 15 rebounds for the Rockets in a 109-105 win over the Spurs a day after Houston sent shockwaves through the NBA when they traded three-time league scoring champion Harden to the Brooklyn Nets as part of a mammoth multi-team deal. Sterling Brown delivered 23 points and Jae’Sean Tate had 13 points and 10 assists for short-handed Houston, who were coming off back-to-back blowout losses at home to the Los Angeles Lakers. Elsewhere, the Indiana Pacers won 111-87 over the Portland Trail Blazers, the Toronto Raptors held off the Charlotte Hornets 111-108, The Denver Nuggets beat the Golden State Warriors 114-104 and the Philadelphia 76ers rolled over the depleted Miami Heat 125-108. ICE HOCKEY Oilers’ McDavid dominates Connor McDavid scored three goals and added an assist in a dominating performance to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had two goals and an assist, Leon Draisaitl collected four assists and Mikko Koskinen made 38 saves for the Oilers. Elsewhere, the Capitals beat the Sabres 6-4, the Bruins downed the Devils 3-2, the Islanders blanked the Rangers 4-0, the Hurricanes kept a clean
ALL CLEAR: Although a player, a coach and a staff member are under observation after testing positive for COVID-19, officials cleared all other players to continue
Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-ying, the world No. 1, yesterday breezed into the quarter-finals of the Yonex Thailand Open, sweeping aside South Korea’s Kim Ga-eun 21-16, 21-10 in less than half an hour. The 26-year-old’s victory came as the BWF declared the tournament safe to continue following the latest round of COVID-19 testing. “It has been a while since the last tournament, and this is the same for everyone, so [these first few matches] are not easy,” Tai said, after overcoming the 17th-ranked Kim. “I felt better today and had less unforced errors,” she said. Tai is seeking back-to-back titles 10 months apart after winning the Yonex All England Open Badminton Championships on her last tournament appearance in March before the COVID-19 shutdown. She next faces Canada’s eighth seed Michelle Li for a place in the semi-finals. World No. 10 Li fought back after dropping the first game against another South Korean, Sung Ji-hyun, before prevailing 15-21, 21-15, 21-14. In men’s singles, Wang Tzu-wei, the world No. 12 from Taiwan, fell to Hong Kong’s Angus Ng Ka Long. Although Wang managed to force a third set, he ultimately succumbed to the world No. 8 15-21, 21-15, 20-22. Taiwan’s Chou Tien-chen, the world No. 2, handily beat Shesar Hiren Rhustavito, the world No. 18 of Indonesia, 21-16, 21-19 in less than an hour. In men’s doubles, Taiwan’s Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin beat Thailand’s Supak Jomkoh and Kittinupong Kedren 21-14, 21-18. The Yonex Thailand Open is the first of three consecutive tournaments played in strict biosecure conditions and behind closed doors in Bangkok, culminating in the World Tour Finals from Jan. 27. Egyptian mixed doubles player Adham Hatem Elgamal was withdrawn on Monday and a German coach and French staff member are under hospital observation after testing positive for COVID-19 at badminton’s restart tournament. The BWF yesterday cleared all other players to continue, with Thailand’s
Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick on Wednesday was “shocked” as the holders crashed out of the DFB Pokal after defeat at second-division Holstein Kiel, who won a nail-biting penalty shoot-out 6-5, as the second round tie finished 2-2 after extra-time. “It’s a shock. We are enormously disappointed,” Flick told Sky. “It’s all the more annoying that we conceded an equalizer, which made it 2-2 in the last second [of normal time]. Congratulations to Kiel,” he said. “We have to put it behind us and do things better.” Bayern forward Thomas Mueller said the defeat was “brutal.” It was the first time Bayern had been knocked out of the cup by a non-Bundesliga club since losing to then fourth-tier Magdeburg in 2000-2001. After Bayern midfielder Marc Roca was the first player to miss with his team’s sixth penalty, Kiel’s Fin Bartels converted the winning spot-kick to spark wild celebrations. The upset means it was the first time European champions Bayern had been eliminated from a cup competition since Flick took charge in November 2019. Bayern were up 2-1 thanks to goals by Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane, either side of a superb Bartels strike, before a last-gasp header by Kiel captain Hauke Wahl on 95 minutes took the game to extra-time, then penalties. “Even if it sounds stupid after a cup defeat against an underdog from Kiel — luck wasn’t on our side,” Mueller said. “It’s certainly not FC Bayern’s best phase,” he added after the European champions also crashed to a 3-2 league defeat at Borussia Moenchengladbach on Friday last week. “Being knocked out is brutal, we have to let that sink in first,” he said. The German FA gave Bayern permission to postpone the cup tie from late last month. Bayern fielded a near-full strength side with only top-scoring striker Robert Lewandowski, who made a second-half cameo, and centerback
An England cricket fan who waited 10 months in Sri Lanka to watch his team play was yesterday ushered away by police before a ball had been bowled in the first Test. Rob Lewis, who flew out in March last year before the original tour was canceled over the COVID-19 pandemic, and decided to stay until England returned, said he was “very frustrated” by the turn of events. Lewis was ordered off the historic ramparts of Galle Fort, a vantage point which overlooks the city’s cricket ground, just after the national anthems. No spectators are allowed inside the stadium. “I am very frustrated. I waited 10 months to watch this match and the police have kicked me out,” Lewis said. “At least I managed to sing Jerusalem,” he added. During his stay in Sri Lanka, Lewis worked remotely as a Web designer and had stints as a nightclub DJ. He visited Galle Fort on Saturday last week to map out his fallback as it became clear that no spectators would be allowed at the ground. Lewis said he was warned in advance that he would only have restricted access to the ramparts. Three banners that he put up were also removed. “I am going to see the police” chief, he said. “All I want to do is watch the match.” “They gave me half-an-hour to put up three banners and go. That’s all,” Lewis added. “There will be another nine days of play and I hope I will be able to get permission to go up there again.” Sri Lankan police banned all visitors from the 16th-century ramparts, a favorite venue for locals who want to avoid paying for tickets, officially for security reasons. A few journalists were allowed to cover the match from the fort. Fans and media were barred from the stadium because of COVID-19. Sri Lankan journalist Rex Clementine scaled
The Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday limbered up for the expected arrival of James Harden in a blockbuster NBA trade with a 116-109 victory over the New York Knicks. Star forward Kevin Durant scored 26 points to lead seven Nets players in double figures — a performance all the more impressive with just nine Brooklyn players available. News that the Houston Rockets would send their disgruntled star Harden to Brooklyn in a four-team deal electrified the league. It had yet to be confirmed, but the four players reported to be on their way out of Brooklyn — Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs and Taurean Prince were unavailable, and coach Steve Nash said they were not at Madison Square Garden. Durant scoffed at the suggestion the proposed deal had made for “drama and chaos” around a team already dealing with the absence of Kyrie Irving for undisclosed personal reasons. “The game simply is enough for us,” Durant said. “The guys are coming out there enjoying playing every day no matter what the circumstance is.” “There’s a lot going on throughout the season, and in this world right now, but basketball is one thing everybody in this locker room enjoys,” he said. Durant, back this season after missing an entire campaign recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, played on back-to-back nights for the first time, logging 30 minutes and connecting on 10 of 18 shots from the field, including three from three-point range. The Nets, with Durant and Irving healthy, were already expected to contend in the East. The addition of former MVP Harden — the league’s top scorer the past three seasons — would only enhance their ability to challenge in a conference where the Milwaukee Bucks have led the way the past two seasons only to come up short in the playoffs. The Bucks notched their third straight win,
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stanley Cup title defense on Wednesday got off to a roaring start by dominating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-1 on the same night they unveiled their second Stanley Cup championship banner. Canadian forward Steven Stamkos had a goal and two assists, while goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 22 shots in the season opening night of the 2020-2021 NHL regular season, which included a five-game slate. The Lightning would not be defending their title in front of home fans right away due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The team showed off their new championship banner at center ice in front of some family members of the players, but decided to wait to raise it to the rafters until ticket-buying fans are allowed back into the arena, which would not be before at least Feb. 7. Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, Mathieu Joseph, Anthony Cirelli and Brayden Point scored goals for the Lightning, who improved their league-leading winning percentage to 19-7-2 in season openers. Dylan Strome scored late in the game on a power play for Chicago, and goalie Malcolm Subban stopped 28 of 33 shots in his 61st start in the NHL. In Philadelphia, American Joel Farabee finished with a goal and four points as hosts the Philadelphia Flyers scored three unanswered goals in the final period to beat Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3. Elsewhere, Morgan Rielly scored in overtime and John Tavares had a goal and two assists as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the visiting Montreal Canadiens 5-4, as the reshuffled seven-team Canadian division got under way. “Good way to open the year with a win,” Rielly said. “We’ve got a lot of areas to get better, but to open with a win, it’s always a good feeling.”
TENNIS Coach jailed for rape A coach who raped four girls aged 12 to 17 was on Wednesday jailed for 18 years by a French court. Andrew Geddes, 53, carried out his attacks at two clubs to the north of Paris, from the start of 2000 and from 2009 to 2014. The court heard his first victim was 12 when she met Geddes in 1999. She said she was raped and sexually assaulted nearly 400 times until she was 14 years old. It was a pattern that was repeated with three other victims, aged 15 to 17, when they were coached by Geddes. The victims said Geddes forced them to sever links with families and friends, and subjected them to a series of violent attacks in his car, in changing rooms or during training courses. BASEBALL MLB halts political giving The MLB on Wednesday said it is suspending all political contributions in the wake of last week’s invasion of the US Capitol by a mob loyal to US President Donald Trump. The NFL also said it would reconsider its donations, but did not commit to suspending them. The MLB was the first of the major US professional sports leagues since the riot to say it would halt lobbying through its PAC, which has donated US$669,375 to US Senate and House candidates since the 2016 election cycle, with 52.4 percent of the money going to Republican candidates, according to Center for Responsive Politics data. Among its lobbying successes was a bill in 2018 that exempted minor league baseball players making as little as US$5,500 per season from federal minimum wage laws, pre-empting a lawsuit from three players filed four years earlier. SWIMMING Keller charged over riot American Olympic swimmer Klete Keller was on Wednesday charged in US District Court for his role in last week’s Capitol riot.
WORTH WATCHING: Spain’s Carolina Marin sailed to victory, while Malaysia’s Liew Daren, ranked world No. 41, was thrilled to beat third seed Anders Antonsen
Taiwan’s Chou Tien-chen, the world No. 2, was yesterday forced into a three-set decider by Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk at the Yonex Thailand Open. The local, who ranks 39th worldwide, came out firing in the first game 16-21, but quickly lost momentum going down 21-10, 21-14. Wang Tzu-wei, the world No. 12 from Taiwan, took three sets to beat France’s 37th-ranked Brice Leverdez 21-12, 14-21, 21-16. In the doubles, Taiwan’s Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin easily beat Denmark’s Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen 21-13 in the first set, before clinching the match 21-18 in the second set. Spain’s Carolina Marin sailed through the first round as she made a fast start to her season, six months before her Olympic title defense. The former world No. 1 made short work of France’s 37th-ranked Qi Xuefei, winning the first game in just 15 minutes before sealing it 21-10, 21-12. “I feel really happy to be back on court after some months without tournaments. I have really missed it a lot,” Marin said. “I wanted to get back this competition feeling, that adrenaline. I came with determination to win, but also to keep my focus on my game plan.” “Winning here is what I want. I would like to win a title here,” she said. Thailand’s best hope, former world No. 1 Ratchanok Intanon, is through to round two after polishing off Singapore’s Yeo Jia Min in straight sets 21-15, 21-15. In the men’s singles, third seed Anders Antonsen made a surprise early exit in the first round going down 12-21, 18-21 to Malaysia’s Liew Daren, who is ranked 41st. “Before this tournament I didn’t know I would even play because I was on the reserves list, so to make it at the last minute and also win my first round against the third seed, it has really surprised me,” Liew said. Meanwhile, the