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Hunter floods close greyhound tracks

ABC Sport - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 6:15am

Hunter greyhound racing officials say they won't rush re-opening local tracks after flood damage.

De Villiers, Cook lead calls for ICC to protect Tests

ABC Sport - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 6:14am

The captains of England and South Africa, Alastair Cook and AB de Villiers, say something must be done to protect Test cricket going forward.

Price still ahead in Dakar Rally in Argentina

ABC Sport - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 5:44am

Hunter motorcycle rider Toby Price has maintained his overall lead at the Dakar Rally in Argentina, finishing third in the 10th stage.

Murray Raises More Than £83,000 For Unicef

ATP news - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 5:39am

Andy Murray has raised a total of more than £83,000 for Unicef, the world’s leading children’s organisation, through his Andy’s Aces initiative.

In September 2015 Murray, who was crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year in December, announced that for every ace he hit until the end of the year, he would donate £50 to Unicef to support their work to help children whose worlds have been turned upside down by the conflict in Syria.

As well as asking his fans to donate to support the initiative, Murray’s sponsors - Standard Life and Under Armour, along with the LTA and ATP - vowed to match each donation Andy made, meaning every ace raised £250 for children in danger. Standard Life’s employees also got involved with the fundraising for Syria and the money raised was matched by Standard Life, adding £20,000 to the total. Additional funds were also raised through the Tie Break Tens tournament. The ATP ACES for Charity programme also donated £10,120 ($15,000). From 29 October 2015, all UK public donations were aid matched by the UK Government.

The total of over £83,000 could provide over 16,000 children with blankets to help keep them safe and warm.

Unicef UK Supporter Murray explained: “I remember watching the news last summer and deciding I wanted to do something to help some of the millions of children whose lives have turned upside down by the situation in Syria. It’s amazing that we’ve been able to raise so much, and I’m very grateful to my sponsors and fans for their help in this – I couldn’t have done it without them. I know how hard Unicef are working to support these children, and millions of others around the world and I’m proud to have been able to help.”

Unicef UK Executive Director, David Bull, said: “All of us here at Unicef UK are incredibly grateful to Andy for his continued support. Almost five years into the conflict, Syria remains one of the most dangerous places to be a child and millions of children have lost loved ones, homes and schools. Their world has been turned upside down by the conflict and humanitarian needs are becoming ever more urgent. The support of Andy, his fans and the wider tennis community will help us provide support for children who have lost so much.”

If you’d like to support Andy’s Aces, and Unicef’s work for the children of Syria it’s not too late. Text ACE to 70800 to donate £5 or visit https://www.justgiving.com/AndysAces

Federer Finds His Moment in Melbourne

ATP news - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 5:16am
Roger Federer lives for the moment at a special evening in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open.

ATP Announces 2017 & 2018 Calendars

ATP news - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 1:40am

The ATP has released its 2017 and 2018 calendars on the back of a record-breaking season in 2015 that attracted a global broadcast audience of 973 million viewers, a 10% growth on the previous year.

Combined with the ATP’s weekly magazine show, ATP World Tour Uncovered, which drew a viewership of 60 million, ATP events attracted in excess of 1 billion viewers globally in 2015. The 2015 season also saw an all-time on-site attendance record, with 4.5 million fans attending ATP events across the season.

The 2017 & 2018 calendar represent a continuation of the current calendar, underpinned by the nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events, 13 ATP World Tour 500s, and 40 ATP World Tour 250s, with all roads leading to the spectacular season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.

“Our current structure of tournaments, as well as this phenomenal generation of players, has generated a significant growth in audiences in recent years,” said Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman & President. “We’re delighted to have seen that trend continue in 2015, and to confirm our calendars through to 2018 as we look to ensure a period of stability and sustained growth for the Tour.”

While the cornerstones of the calendar remain the same, the ATP World Tour is set to expand into new markets, as early as 2016, reaching a total of 32 countries:

-       Bulgaria (Garanti Koza Sofia Open) will host its first ever ATP World Tour tournament in February following the relocation of the tournament in Zagreb, Croatia, to Sofia.

-       Mexico (Abierto Mexicano Los Cabos) will host a second ATP World Tour tournament following the relocation of the tournament in Bogota, Colombia, to Los Cabos.

-       Belgium (European Open) will host an ATP World Tour event for the first time since 1998 following the relocation of the tournament in Valencia, Spain, to Antwerp.

-       From 2017, a second grass court tournament will be held the week before Wimbledon, alongside Nottingham. A separate announcement relating to this tournament will follow in due course.

An updated 2016 ATP World Tour calendar, as well as the 2017 & 2018 calendars can be found here.

Ferrer Begins Quest For Fifth Title

ATP news - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 1:12am

Top seed and four-time champion David Ferrer rolled past Australian qualifier Matthew Barton 6-2, 6-4 in 65 minutes on Wednesday at the ASB Classic.

The Spaniard, who owns more Auckland titles than any other player in the Open Era, winning in 2007 and 2011-2013, took a wild card into the draw after an opening-round loss in Doha last week. He was a perfect 11 for 11 on first-serve points in taking the first set, and would win 23 of 26 (88 per cent) in total in moving into the quarter-finals. Ferrer is now 17-2 as a top seed in Auckland.

Barton, who in his 13th attempt qualified for his first ATP World Tour main draw, then won his tour-level debut against American Steve Johnson on Monday, finished with six aces to two doubles faults.

Later in the day, second seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga got a win on his first appearance in Auckland by defeating 2008 titlist Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-4 in 67 minutes. The Frenchman now faces sixth seed Fabio Fognini, who needed just 47 minutes to outhit Dutch qualifier Thiemo de Bakker 6-1, 6-1. The Italian never faced a break point.

How narrow were the margins in the all-American battle between power servers John Isner and Sam Querrey? Consider this: there were a combined 52 aces and no service breaks until the seventh game of the third set. But in the end it was the No. 3 seed and two-time champion Isner that emerged victorious 7-6(8), 6-7(4), 6-4 in two hours and 13 minutes.

Isner improved to 2-4 lifetime against Querrey, who has won 17 of 19 meetings with his countrymen since 2013 (including Challengers).

“It was obviously a very close match,” said Isner, who registered 31 aces. “I considered it pretty much a coin flip out here tonight, and I was fortunate to win.”

It was at 3-all in the third set that Isner finally scored the lone break of the match, and three games later he served it out, appropriately, with yet another ace.

Eighth seed Roberto Bautista Agut saved both break points he faced in downing Donald Young 6-4, 7-6(3) in one hour and 26 minutes. Lukas Rosol scored a 6-4, 7-6(5) upset of No. 5 seed Benot Paire.

Muller Makes Hot Start In Sydney 2016

ATP news - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 12:10am

After dropping just seven points on his first serve en route to the quarter-finals, Gilles Muller is one win away from back-to-back semi-finals at the Apia International Sydney.

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers: Aussies Look For Home Success

ATP news - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 10:02pm

The time has come for a changing of the guard in Australian tennis. Lleyton Hewitt, 34, will begin his last professional tournament next week at the 2016 Australian Open, signifying the end of an illustrious career that started way back in 1998, and saw the Adelaide native rise to World No. 1.

The next generation of Australian stars will be eager to immediately fill the void left by the Aussie legend, with most in action in Sydney this week.

An Infosys ATP Beyond the Numbers analysis of four local hopefuls* in action this Australian summer - Bernard Tomic, Nick Kyrgios, Sam Groth and James Duckworth - shows exactly where they shine, and also what they need to improve in 2016 to step up to the next level.

Bernard Tomic

Tomic is the top seed at the Apia International Sydney this week, which has proven to be a favourite stop on the tour for the Aussie No. 1. Tomic won the event in 2013, reached the final in 2014, and lost to Gilles Muller in the quarter finals 7-6(3), 7-6(13) last year.

The second serve battleground will be key for Tomic in Sydney this week. He won 65 per cent of second serve points in three matches last year, which was well above his 2015 average of 51 per cent. The problem was returning second serves, where he only won 44 per cent in 2015 - well below his average of 49 per cent the last 12 months.

Holding serve is definitely a strength of Tomic’s game. He was not broken in three matches in Sydney in 2015, saving all five break points he faced with five first serves, including two aces.

Breaking serve is where Tomic will be chasing improvement this season. He broke serve once from 12 opportunities in Sydney last year, with nine of the 12 break points coming in the Ad Court, including the lone break point he did convert. His backhand return is short and efficient, and targeting deep down the middle is the perfect way to neutralise the strength of the opponent’s serve.

Nick Kyrgios

Kyrgios currently sits at No. 30 in the Emirates ATP Rankings after reaching a career-high of No. 25 last June. What’s so interesting about our sport are the thin margins and small percentages that dominate careers.

Kyrgios, 20, has had a meteoric rise up the rankings with some big wins along the way, but has still only won 51 per cent of all points he has played on tour. He has won 68 per cent of his total serve points and 34 per cent of return points.

Like Tomic, the returning side of the game requires the most focus. In the 2015 season, Tomic broke 23 per cent of the time after being broken, while Kyrgios was only 14 per cent.

When the all-important break points arrived when returning, Kyrgios performed significantly better breaking in the Ad court than the Deuce court. Kyrgios converted break points 31 per cent (65/213) of the time in the Ad, but only 11 per cent (8/77) in the Deuce court.

Sam Groth

Groth lost on Tuesday in Sydney to Federico Delbonis 7-6(4), 7-6(5), and is now 0/3 lifetime at the event.

Groth is arguably the biggest server in today’s game, but as Tuesday's score indicates, breaking serve proves difficult for the Albury native.

Making the most of his chances is a real focus for Groth this season. A comparison with Novak Djokovic, arguably the world's best returner, shows the work that needs to be done on the returning side of the game.

In 2015, Groth only broke seven per cent of the time when receiving with new balls (Djokovic 45 per cent), broke in 56 per cent of games where he held one break point (Djokovic 86 per cent), and 57 per cent when seeing two break points in the same service game (Djokovic 81 per cent).

When Djokovic lost serve, he immediately broke back 38 per cent of the time. Groth was only at six per cent.

Groth has never been inside the Top 50, with a career-best of No. 53 in August last year. If he can master the return side of life, then the Top 20 beckons.

James Duckworth

Duckworth is 23, with a career-high of No. 82 in April 2015. He won his opening round match in Sydney 6-3, 6-2 against Inigo Cervantes this week, saving all six break points he faced.

Returning is definitely where this Sydney native can improve in 2016. Last year, his hard work returning saw him produce 36 break point opportunities at 15/40 - the only scoreline where break points occur in the Deuce court. He only managed to convert one of them.

Djokovic, by comparison, converted 56 of his 250 opportunities in the Deuce court. Duckworth performed better breaking in the Ad Court, converting 23 per cent (23/118) of the time.

Summary

Tomic, Kyrgios, Groth and Duckworth all possess obvious strengths and unique game styles that have elevated them to the upper echelons of the game.

With Hewitt moving on, there are some very big shoes to fill in Australian sport.

Making the strengths stronger, improving the weaknesses, and copying the patterns of the game's elite will provide the day-to-day goals of the next generation of Australian tennis stars.

* Australian teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis, currently No. 86 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, is not in action during the Australian summer swing.

Read more insights at Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers

Strikers beat Hurricanes with a Lehmann last-ball six

ABC Sport - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 9:52pm

Jake Lehmann smashes a six off the last ball of the innings to help the Strikers beat the Hobart Hurricanes by six wickets at the Adelaide Oval.

Dimitrov Joins Tomic In Sydney QFs

ATP news - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 8:07pm

Top seed Bernard Tomic, bidding to reach his third final in four years at the Apia International Sydney, lost just eight of his service points in a 6-2, 6-2 victory over fellow Australian Jordan Thompson, a wild card, on Wednesday night. Tomic, who captured the 2013 title (d. Anderson) and finished runner-up to Juan Martin del Potro two years ago, goes onto face Teymuraz Gabashvili.

"I was very, very solid tonight," said Tomic. "I felt very good from the first few games [and] was on top of the ball. So I think I'm very confident from last week as well. With the memories [of my first ATP World Tour title here] comes the confidence. And playing on the court. I feel so good playing on that court. Every time I step on that court I know this is where it all started for me."

Third seed and defending champion Viktor Troicki fired eight aces past Tommy Robredo in a 6-1, 6-4 victory over 61 minutes. He now challenges Nicolas Mahut in the top half of the draw.

Grigor Dimitrov continued his strong start to the 2016 season by out-hitting Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas 7-6(2), 6-4 to advance to his second quarter-final in as many weeks. Dimitrov, 24, had won their first meeting on hard courts at the ATP Masters 1000 Paris in 2014, while Cuevas prevailed last year on clay in the Istanbul semi-finals.

The opening match in Ken Rosewall Arena saw the No. 4-seeded Bulgarian take the 51-minute first set in a one-sided tie-break, denying the 41st-ranked Cuevas the lone break point of the stanza. Dimitrov opened the second set with his only break of the match (1 for 9). It turned out to be the only one he would need in the one-hour, 37-minute victory.

Dimitrov reached the quarter-finals in Brisbane last week, losing to Roger Federer in three sets. The 30-year-old Cuevas, who was making his third appearance in Sydney, failed to convert any of his three break-point opportunities.

Gilles Muller was leading No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem 7-6(2), 2-2 when the 22-year-old Austrian, who was coming off a semi-final showing in Brisbane (l. to Federer), retired with blisters on his right foot. Muller, a semi-finalist in 2015, has now dropped just seven points on his first serve over two matches, taking out a pair of hot young guns in Thiem and  Borna Coric. Muller, who also reached the fourth round of the Australian Open last year, could push past his career-high of No. 34 in the Emirates ATP Rankings if he goes on to win the Sydney title.

French qualifier Mahut was a 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 winner over No. 5 seed Andreas Seppi of Italy. Joining Mahut in the winners' circle were Gabashvili (d. Federico Delbonis 6-3, 6-3), No. 8 seed Alexandr Dologopolov (d. Alexander Sarkissian 7-6(6), 6-2) and No. 6 seed Jeremy Chardy (d. James Duckworth 7-6(5), 6-4). 

Doubles: Polish Pair Reaches Semis

Polish duo Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski, a new pairing for 2016, reached the semi-finals with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over third seeds Marcelo Melo and Daniel Nestor. With his first-round win, Nestor had notched his 1000th doubles victory.

Also through to the final four are Thomaz Bellucci and Leonardo Mayer, who edged Jonathan Erlich and Colin Fleming 7-6(0), 4-6, 10-6. Erlich and Fleming had upset Bob and Mike Bryan in the first round.

Playing together for the first time, Australians Sam Groth and John Peers reached the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Simone Bolelli and Pablo Cuevas.

FIFA fires secretary-general Valcke

ABC Sport - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 8:00pm

FIFA says it has fired general-secretary Jerome Valcke, once one of the global soccer body's most powerful figures.

Fremantle great Pavlich stands down as captain

ABC Sport - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 7:08pm

Fremantle's longest serving captain, Matthew Pavlich, will relinquish his role as skipper after leading the club for nearly a decade.

Stosur upset by Monica Puig at Sydney International, Tomic progresses

ABC Sport - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 6:58pm

Australian veteran Sam Stosur is knocked out of the Sydney International at the quarter-finals stage, losing to outsider Monica Puig 6-4, 6-4, while Bernard Tomic progresses.

Stosur upset by Monica Puig at Sydney International, Tomic progresses

ABC Tennis news - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 6:58pm

Australian veteran Sam Stosur is knocked out of the Sydney International at the quarter-finals stage, losing to outsider Monica Puig 6-4, 6-4, while Bernard Tomic progresses.

SANFL clubs nervous as Essendon prepares to rebuild player list

ABC Sport - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 6:22pm

SANFL clubs in Adelaide have a nervous few weeks ahead as they wait to see how Essendon plans to rebuild its crippled playing roster.