SYDNEY: Defending champion Angelique Kerber cruised into the Sydney International third round today as she targets back-to-back titles, while world number five Sloane Stephens narrowly avoided a shock loss.
The second-seeded German was made to work hard in the opening set against Italy’s Camila Giorgi but took control in the second to ease through 7-6 (7/3), 6-2. “It’s always tough to play Camila, the way she is hitting the ball. Her second serve is like her first serve,” said world number two Kerber, who had a first-round bye and is now into the third round.
“It’s never easy to play your first tournament match but I am happy to be through. Hopefully, I can go back-to-back, but there’s still a long way to go.” America’s Stephens battled back from the brink of a defeat to beat 72nd-ranked qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova in their first-round clash.
Less than a week before the Australian Open – the season’s first Grand Slam – she was on the ropes with Alexandrova winning the first set to love and serving for the match in the second set.
But Stephens somehow rallied to win 0-6, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/3).
“I was, like, it’s not going to get any worse than this,” Stephens said of the first set. “So it was like I might as well just play.
“Obviously she was playing well. Sometimes when you play a player that’s just playing like that, there is not much you can do.”
Earlier, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova avenged her US Open defeat to in-form Aryna Sabalenka.
The Czech, who slumped to 29 in the world after being attacked in her home by a knife-wielding man in 2016, has battled back to number eight and was encouraged by her 6-1, 7-5 win over the Belarusian.
Sabalenka is a form player, racing to number 11 in the world after a stellar 2018 and starting the year by winning the Shenzhen Open.
“She was definitely (finishing strongly). She came from Shenzhen (last week) where she won the tournament so I knew it would be a tough match,” said Kvitova.
“Unfortunately I lost (to her) at the US Open but I’m happy with my performance here in the first round.”
Kvitova, who is aiming for her second Sydney title after lifting the trophy in 2015, belted 28 winners to Sabalenka’s 11 and won an incredible 85 percent of her first-serve points.
PCB regrets Durban incident
LAHORE: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has expressed regret over the remark made by Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed and picked up by the stump mic during the second ODI against South Africa in Durban.
The PCB neither endorses nor supports any comments that have the potential to cause offense, and firmly reiterates their zero-tolerance approach towards racist comments made; in whatever context, said a spokesman of the PCB here on Wednesday night. “This incident has also highlighted the importance and significance of player education and training at all levels. The PCB endeavors to improve their player education programmes to ensure these types of incidents do not happen again,” he said.
“Sarfaraz is one of the most respected cricketers in the world. However, captaining Pakistan is a massive honor and any hurtful remarks by any cricketer, let alone the captain, is not acceptable to the PCB,” he added. The spokesman said, “The PCB is confident that this incident will not affect the series, which has been played in great spirit with some excellent performances from both sides. The PCB is also hopeful that the crowds will continue to turn up in big numbers for the remaining matches to support cricket.”
PSL: Haier joins Peshawar Zalmi as Main Title Sponsor
LAHORE: Peshawar Zalmi and Haier Pakistan have signed a MoU for Main Title Sponsorship for Peshawar Zalmi for the 4th Edition of Pakistan Super League being played from February 14 in UAE and Pakistan.
Pakistan Super League’s most valued franchise in terms of Media and Brand, Peshawar Zalmi signed the MoU at an impressive ceremony. Chairman Peshawar Zalmi, Javed Afridi and Haier Pakistan Senior Director Li Da Peng signed the MoU here on Wednesday. Also present were Peshawar Zalmi players Kamran Akmal and Umaid Asif. Javed Afridi and Li Da Peng expressed their happiness on the signing and said that Partnership between Haier Pakistan and Peshawar Zalmi will strengthen in future and it will benefit Pakistan Cricket too along Peshawar Zalmi. Javed Afridi said that Haier Pakistan did a great part in past in promotion of Cricket in Pakistan and he is grateful for their tremendous support for Pakistan Sports and Peshawar Zalmi.
Li Da Peng highlighted the efforts of his organization for the uplift of cricket in Pakistan and expressed the hope that with the efforts of Peshawar Zalmi cricket will gain rapid promotion in China as well. “Besides being Pakistan’s number one brand in electronics, Haier is actively involved in sports-related activities and we are gaining rapid success in the field of electronics and sports,” he asserted. Javed Afridi said he has a multi-dimensional vision which focuses on generating more and more cricket activities from the platform of Peshawar Zalmi besides speeding up efforts to play due role in the fields of education and sports. “We are doing it for our country and to contribute in the national duty, we are not just focusing on cricket only we are lending support to hockey which is our national sports and needs immediate attention for its revival,” he said.
Javed Afridi called upon the need for introducing a transparent system in Pakistan Hockey Federation to ensure that funds being provided to them were being spent in the right direction purely on the development of the game. “We will soon reveal our ambitious plan to spend resources in the field of education and health as they are the two most neglected fields in the country and the future of our country heavily depends on improvement and progress of these fields “, he said. He said star-studded Peshawar Zalmi will perform to a higher level in the Pakistan Super League and its players will live up to the expectations by giving their best form and performance in the mega event. Kamran Akmal and Umaid Asif also spokesman on the occasion and reiterated their pledge to support Peshawar Zalmi by putting up their best in the PSL.
— سَــــــرپھِـــــری (@Sarphireee) January 23, 2019
Fans baffled as Liverpool star Mohamed Salah goes offline
CAIRO: Fans were left baffled on Wednesday after Liverpool’s star Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah appeared to have deleted all of his social media accounts where his followers number in the millions.
The Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts of Salah, who is idolised in Egypt and Liverpool, went offline without warning a day after he posted a cryptic tweet.
“2019 Resolution: Time to get in touch, for real,” said the final tweet, screenshots of which were shared widely on social media.
Those navigating to his Twitter account on Wednesday could only see a message reading “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”.
On Instagram, the message read “The link you followed may be broken, or the page may have been removed.” A similar message appeared on Facebook.
It was not immediately clear whether the shutdowns were deliberate.