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Tennis: Serena to keep soldiering on!

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MELBOURNE: Serena Williams vowed today to keep “soldiering on” in a bid to reach 24 Grand Slam titles, admitting her game needed work after a sensational collapse in the Australian Open quarter-finals.

The 37-year-old American rallied back from a set down against Karolina Pliskova and was leading 5-1 in the final set before losing six games in a row to crash out 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. It was a cruel blow for a woman who has been chasing Margaret Court’s 24 Slams since winning in Melbourne in 2017 while pregnant, then taking time off to have a baby before returning to Grand Slam action at the French Open last year. She insisted another major win was still achievable despite the clock ticking. “I mean, the big picture for me is always winning. I’m not going to sit here and lie about that,” she said.  “But it hasn’t happened yet, but I feel like it’s going to happen. Just keep taking it one match at a time, just keep soldiering on, I guess.” Williams admitted that having a year off and then returning to high-level tennis had not been easy for someone who expected to bounce straight back to her old winning ways. She said she has had to temper her expectations. “It’s definitely not easy for me. From day one, I expect to go out and, quite frankly, to win.

That hasn’t happened,” she said.  “But I do like my attitude. I like that I don’t want to go out here and say, ‘I expect to lose because I had a year off, I’ve been playing for 10 months. I’m not supposed to win’.  “I don’t have that attitude. I have the attitude of, ‘I’ve only been playing 10 months, but I expect to win, and if I don’t, it’s disappointing’.  “I rather think of it that way and know that it’s going to happen sooner or later than making an excuse for myself. I don’t like making excuses.” Against Pliskova, Williams rolled her ankle when serving for the match at 5-1, but refused to blame it for what happened afterward, where she failed to win another point on serve in the match. 

She said the big-serving Czech seventh seed was simply too good on the crunch points and she had learned lessons from the experience. “I know there’s a lot of things that I need to do, a lot of things I need to do to get better, a lot of maybe more just matches,” she said, adding that losing doesn’t get any easier.  “I don’t really take losses well. But, as I said, Karolina literally played lights out starting 5-1, 40-30. Literally, I’ve never seen anything like it.  “If anything, I think that’s a little bit easier to know, ‘Okay, next time I’m up 5-1 against anybody, whether it’s her or anyone, I just need to make sure I play lights out when I have match point’.”

Relevant: Serena Williams denied choking after falling victim to one of the greatest ever comebacks Wednesday, saying she was powerless as Czech foe Karolina Pliskova “just went crazy” to storm into the Australian Open semi-finals. Williams had Pliskova on the rack serving at 5-1 in the third set but the seventh seed fended off four match points to bounce back and end the American’s latest bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam. “She just played lights out on match point, literally hitting lines,” Williams said. “Just went for it, just went crazy on match point. She just played unbelievably.” The 37-year-old made a slow start and conceded the first set but had recovered and looked set for a hard-fought win before a desperate Pliskova went on the rampage.

“She was killing me… I was almost in the locker room, now I’m standing here as the winner. It’s a great feeling,” an exhausted Pliskova, seeded seven, said after the two-hour 10-minute epic. “My mind was in the locker room. I wasn’t playing very well in the third set but I thought let’s try, this game (will make it) 5-2. She got a little bit shaky in the end so I took my chances and I won.” Pliskova, who will play Japan’s Naomi Osaka in the semis, was on the brink until Williams double-faulted with the end in sight. The 37-year-old, a seven-time Australian champion, then failed to win a point on serve for the rest of the match. The elated Czech rated it the best comeback of her life and said she always believed she could beat the American legend.

“I know she’s the greatest ever, but I don’t want to put her somewhere where I would not have a chance to beat her,” she said in explaining how she approached the match. “I beat her before. She was No.1 at that time. I knew I’m going to have my chances. But I had to play well.” Williams said there was nothing she could do against an opponent in such form. “I can’t say that I choked on those match points, said the American, who made a comeback last year after having a baby. “She literally played her best tennis ever on those shots.” Williams seeded 16, had blazed through the early stages of the tournament, seeing off world number one Simona Halep in the fourth round. But against Pliskova she lacked the intensity she had previously displayed and was soon trailing for the first time during her campaign after a slew of uncharacteristic errors. 

The American said it was a lesson to not take anything for granted on match point.  “This is when you go psycho when you have match point… just go bananas on it,” she said. Pliskova, who entered this year’s tournament on a high after winning the Brisbane International warm-up, came out firing and bested Williams on serve to take the first set. Williams rebounded in the second before imploding in the decider. Former world number one Pliskova has made the quarter-finals in her last two appearances at Melbourne Park and made the final at the US Open in 2016. She has been a regular in the second week of Grand Slams in recent years, reaching the quarters or better six times since late 2016, but is still searching for a breakthrough win. The Czech said the win over Williams was a huge confidence booster before facing US Open champion Osaka. “She’s dangerous but nobody is more dangerous than Serena,” she said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘World Soccer Stars 2019’ tour to Pakistan postponed

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LAHORE: World soccer stars tour has taken a strategic decision based on financial reasons with utmost regret, to postpone the World Soccer Stars 2019 Pakistan tour featuring Ricardo Kaka, Luis Figo, Carles Puyol, Nicholas Anelka and International artiste AKON.

The decision to postpone the trip has not been taken lightly, given the enthusiasm of the Pakistan football fans when the players visited the country to launch the tour during the first few months of 2019, said a spokesperson of the Touch Sky group the organizers of the tour.

“The excitement of the fans was justified and was truly heartfelt by the players and has only served to motivate us to conduct the tour later in 2019”, added the spokesperson. The interest shown by brands, the media, the army and national & local government was appreciated.

“After a review of the situation we took this overarching strategic decision taking into account several factors including the change in the local business economy since the tour was announced, the wish of certain key brands to align the tour with their commercial plans, and so we decided to postpone the tour with dates to be announced after Eid-ul-Fitr”, she asserted.

The spokesperson said for fans who have purchased tickets these will be refunded and you will be notified as a priority customer as soon as we announce the new dates.

World Soccer Stars is a tour that remains committed to promoting the development of football in Pakistan, as was shown by the Mall events in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad and, the PSL final appearance.

The recent national trials held in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Quetta and Lahore in association with Total Football proved the appetite for such a tour.

The regional winners from these trials will take part in the the national finals later in the year, the winners gaining the opportunity to play with the International legends at the World Soccer Stars event, she added.

 

 

 

 

 

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Khan and Nabi spearhead Naib-led Afghanistan World Cup squad

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KABUL: Spin sensation Rashid Khan and all-rounder Mohammad Nabi will spearhead Afghanistan’s assault on the World Cup after a 15-man squad was announced on Monday.

Seaming all-rounder Gulbadin Naib will captain the side when they head to England and Wales for the global showpiece which begins on May 30, the Afghanistan Cricket Board said.

Joining the spin attack of Khan and Nabi — who led Afghanistan in their first World Cup four years ago — will be 18-year-old mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

Fast bowler Hamid Hasan returns for the first time since 2017 because of fitness issues alongside other frontline quicks Dawlat Zadran and Aftab Alam.

Naib had earlier this month been announced as captain, replacing Asghar Afghan who has still been included in the squad.

Dawlat Khan Ahmadzai, head of the Cricket Board’s selection committee, said they had tried to select “a successful, experienced and balanced team”.

While most of the Afghan team are at a training camp in South Africa, the spinners are all warming up for the 50-over World Cup in the Indian Premier League.

Many Afghanistan cricketers learned the game in refugee camps in Pakistan, their families having fled the Soviet invasion in the 1980s.

Since beating the odds to compete at the 2010 World Twenty20 in England, Afghanistan have qualified for all major international tournaments and recorded their first Test victory against Ireland last month.

Afghanistan open their World Cup campaign against Australia in Bristol on June 1 and are regarded as dark horses, having beaten former champions Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup last year as well as forcing a tie with giants India.

Afghanistan squad: Gulbadin Naib (capt), Shahzad Mohammadi, Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hasan, Mujib Ur Rahman

 

 

 

 

 

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Amir Khan, NPTV Brand Envoy, to Rewrite Narrative at Big Apple

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NEW YORK: Madison Square Garden is the venue where NewsPakistan.TV’s Brand Ambassador Amir Khan is going to rewrite the narrative against Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford in the most anticipated welterweight showdown today (Sunday 6 PM local time). The best boxers on the planet are going to clash for the Welterweight Championship. WBO Champion Terence Crawford (34-0, 25 knockouts) will attempt to extend his undefeated streak defending his unbeaten streak.

32-year-old Amir Khan (33-4, 20 knockouts) commenting on the fight held: “Terence is a skillful fighter, and I always do well against skillful fighters…This is going to be like a game of chess at times. I’ve been in the division longer, so I’ve got that advantage on my side. I’m the bigger guy, so that is on my side. This is a fight where I have to bring my ‘A’ game.”

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A relevant piece published earlier: 

A role model to millions of people, World Boxing Champion Amir Khan, who won Athens 2004 Olympic Silver Medal for Britain at the age of 17, is a philanthropist outside the ring. 

In an exclusive interview with NPTV conducted here, he held: “When I fought for these world titles it was very difficult.  Nothing in life comes easy. But one thing to the viewers is if anyone has any dream in life you have to work hard to achieve it. Don’t give up. Never give up in life. It is very hard to achieve what you want to achieve in life. But as long as you keep working hard, one day, you know, you will achieve your dream!”

Q: Tell us about your early days and life? 

AMIR KHAN: Early Days! I was born in Bolton, a small town in Manchester.  I was very hyperactive! I was very naughty at school! And the teacher used to always say to me:  “I am going to call your parents to school because you misbehave too much! They have to monitor you! Make sure you are OK!” So what my dad did – he took me to a boxing club. You know! Since then I started to behave in school! The teacher called my father and asked my father:  What have you done to Amir? Because he is totally changed. 

What boxing taught me was discipline. Because of that I totally changed the way I live; the way I treat people; how I respect people. And also I know not to fight, or not to mess around! Because I am a professional fighter now! There are so many people who look up to me. I am a role model to millions of people around the world. So I have to, you know, do the right things in life!

Q: Tell us about your experiences and the biggest achievement of your life? 

AMIR KHAN: Obviously, the biggest achievement was going to the Olympic Games.  And then winning the world title. I was the first ever Pakistani to win the world title.  No one has ever won a world (boxing) title – been a Pakistani. It is a great honor for me to win the World Championship. It was not easy. It was very hard. I was a smaller guy. I was a younger guy. When I fought for these world titles it was very difficult.  Nothing in life comes easy. But one thing to the viewers is if anyone has any dream in life you have to work hard to achieve it. Don’t give up. Never give up in life.  It is very hard to achieve what you want to achieve in life. But as long as you keep working hard one day, you know, you will achieve your dream. But one thing about our young Pakistani children is they need to work hard. We need them to work hard and have a focus and have ambition.

To have an ambition in life, to become the best.  That’s the only reason you will achieve something.  I will tell you about myself. I used to wake up every morning and I used to be like: ‘One day I will become the World Champion!’ I used to always wake up in the morning have one thing in my head: ‘I am going to become a World Champion! I’ll have my dream and I will have my ambition’. I kept training and training and now MashaAllah I am now in this position. I am the World Champion now. I won big fights. I am a big name around the world, not only in Pakistan but in England, America, Europe. All over the world. So, it is just a great feeling to be in this position. And also I hope I’ll inspire more people. I want to inspire the young, the youth to do what I’ve done.

Because Pakistan is a country which has a lot of talent.  But we have to now put them on the right path. We have to support them. So, all the people now have to support the children, tell them: ‘Look if you want to achieve something in life then go for it, we support you 100%. And that’s why I have come myself to Pakistan. So I can support people myself. I am going to coach myself the youth of Pakistan. I am going to coach them; I am going to train them; I am going to hold pads for them; I am going to teach them technique. Because I want Pakistan to improve in boxing.

Q: You have been to different countries like in Europe and America? Did you ever feel racism there? 

AMIR KHAN: No! You know, to be honest with you; I have never experienced any racial stuff, never. It is nice to be seen as a people’s Champion.  Wherever I go to, Europe: In Germany, England, France… I never ever experience any racism. People like me. Even in England, they say I am the son of England. They love me in England, that’s where I live.  The Queen always invites me for like the tea … So MashaAllah! I am in a great position. Where I am loved by so many people. I think it is not only because of boxing. I think it is about what I am like as a person. As a person, I am a very down-to-earth guy. I respect everybody. I treat everybody nice. And at the same time, you know, I do a lot of charity work as well. So people like charity work I do.

Q: Tell us about your Charity Foundation. 

AMIR KHAN: I have the Amir Khan Trust.  And in the UK I have the Amir Khan Foundation. Basically, we do a lot of work. For example, when the earthquake happened, we were in Pakistan straight away, in Muzaffarabad.  Then when the floods happened, I went to Nowshera, Charsadda… And then when the APS school killing happened – the children.  I was there, at the APS School. One thing about me is I like to go there myself and see, and experience and help: When the floods happen, I give them clothing, I give them food, I supply clean drinking water. When the Earthquake happens, I supply clothing, rebuild homes. So you know! Allah has given me this big name. I want to utilize my name the right way. For example, helping poor people, the right way. For example, collecting donations. Giving to charities and giving to poor people! (Published on 16th August 2016)

 

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