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Venus focused on tennis, not age, in record 73rd Grand Slam

JUSTIN BERGMAN, Associated Press br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — One could never accuse Venus Williams of being sensitive about her age. Not the way she keeps making self-deprecating jokes about it at the Australian Open. Case in point: Asked about the Australian great Margaret Court after her third-round win over China's Duan Yingying at Margaret Court Arena on Friday, Williams said she had a letter from the 24-time major winner hung on the wall in her room as a memento. 'It's a congratulations for me being the oldest person in the draw or something like that,' she dead-panned. The 36-year-old Williams fields more than her fair share of questions about her advanced age in the sport, how often she considers retirement, what keeps her motivated after more than two decades on the court. Indeed, she is appearing in her 73rd Grand Slam singles draw — a record for the Open era. And she is the oldest woman in the draw at Melbourne Park, though it should be noted that male players her age, such as Ivo Karlovic and Roger Federer, aren't continuously peppered with the same questions. But rather than show her annoyance, Williams smiles and patiently responds each time, sometimes with a joke. And she's made clear with her play this week that she's still a serious contender — she's reached the fourth round at the Australian Open for the 10th time in her career, and without dropping a set. Against Duan, a player who admitted she'd never seen the seven-time Grand Slam winner play, the 13th-seeded Williams only lost one game. 'Just like every player here, I have put in a ton of work,' Williams said earlier in the week. 'I'm not coming all the way to Australia for kicks and giggles. I'm here as a competitor.' Williams made clear Friday she doesn't want to get dragged into controversies, either. She declined to comment on a remark by a TV commentator during her second-round match when he described her as moving in and charging with what sounded like a 'gorilla' or 'guerrilla' effect. The commentator, Doug Adler, who maintains he said 'guerrilla' — as in, her choice of tactics — but apologized for his poor word choice, was dropped from ESPN's coverage for the rest of the tournament. 'All I can say is it's been a wonderful, wonderful career for me full of positives. That's what I focus on,' said Williams, who hasn't shied away from addressing issues ranging from racism to gender pay equity throughout her career. 'I pay attention and address situations that are noteworthy,' she added, when pressed on the subject. 'That's been my past record, clearly.' What Williams wants to talk about is her tennis. Especially as she continues to win at Melbourne Park, where she's reached the final just once in her career. Her next opponent is another player many years her junior, 26-year-old Mona Barthel, a No. 181-ranked qualifier from Germany. 'It's never enough,' Williams said. 'I've been in the fourth round before. I've tasted it before and it's always a great feeling because it means, hey, I have an opportunity for the quarterfinals. That's what I'm going to go for.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Silence, mourning since fatal crash turn to hope at Chapeco

MAURICIO SAVARESE, AP Sports Writer   CHAPECO, Brazil (AP) — Silence and mourning are slowly being replaced by boisterous fans and hope. As the Chapecoense club rebuilds after the air crash that killed 19 players and nearly all members of the staff and board of directors, so is the town of 200,000. Like many in Brazil, football is the oxygen for everything: gossip, community pride and heated debate. On Saturday, Chapecoense's 20,000-capacity Arena Conda will host the team's first match since the tragedy almost two months ago. Lines outside are filled with fans excited about the club's and the city's restart. Fifty coffins lined the same field in November, where this time Chape's reconstructed team will play Brazilian champion Palmeiras in a friendly match. 'I bet I won't be able to sleep Friday night,' 19-year-old fan Marcelo Ribeiro said as he walked to the stadium. 'Since the accident the city is dead. The festivities were mostly canceled at the end of the year, and all most people are thinking about is the rebirth. I want to see what the rebirth looks like.' At the Hotel Bertaso, where most of Chape's players and coaching staff have traditionally lodged, the first signs of that rebirth are obvious. The second floor, which was home to many of the victims, including coach Caio Junior, is once again full. 'I can't help feeling a lot of hope for the future now,' said receptionist Gelson Mangone, who lost several friends in that crash on an Andean mountain side near Medellin, Colombia, on Nov.28. 'It has been a lot of work to settle all these new signings here, they are also learning their way here,' the receptionist said. 'But it does feel like a brand new start.' New coach Vagner Mancini is one of the hotel's new residents. He said the job makes him 'a better human being, but it's the most challenging to face.' 'We have to build a team, a coaching staff and a club infrastructure in a season in which Chape will be in demand,' Mancini told The Associated Press. 'I understand now that the city was so affected because the club and the city are run like a family,' he added. 'The players we brought are cut from that cloth, but we have to reach a higher level now.' After the crash, Colombian club Atletico Nacional, which was to face Chape in the Copa Sudamericana final in Medellin, awarded the victory to the small Brazilian team. That means that Chape qualified for South America's No. 1 tournament for the first time, the competitive Copa Libertadores. The team will also try to defend its title in the Santa Catarina state championship, try to stay up in Brazil's top-flight competition, and play in a pile of fundraisers, including one against Barcelona. 'We have to assemble a competitive team at the same time we need to hire someone to handle passports, contracts,' Mancini said. 'The club used to handle this well, but like a family run business. Now we are at a different moment.' Chapecoense had almost nothing left after the crash: six players that did not travel on the ill-fated flight, two physiotherapists, one goalkeeping coach, one doctor, one data analyst, one nurse and a few club officials. New chairman and club co-founder Plinio David de Nes Filho, a wealthy local businessman known as Maninho, is leading the charge to bolster club finances. Former players like Nivaldo Constante, who played as a goalkeeper until the tragedy struck, are approaching players that can help. And Chapeco Mayor Luciano Buligon is working as a kind of ambassador for the club and the city. 'Our weekends were about three things: family, church and Chapecoense,' Buligon said. 'It has been hard to get the city back on track because the wounds are still very open. But we are slowly moving on. On Saturday we will start getting a part of our weekends back.' Not everyone is happy. Rosangela Loureiro, widow of crash victim Cleber Santana, said she is upset because his belongings still have not been returned to the family. 'I feel sadness and rage. No one is doing anything to bring their belongings back. I plead with them to soften our pain and make us get the memories that we will hold dear for the rest of our lives,' she said on Instagram last week. Other widows have complained about damages not yet being paid by the club. Chapecoense directors say they are doing the best they can as they try to rebuild. There are even complaints at the joyous Hotel Bertaso. 'These new players love to make a mess in their rooms,' said a cleaner, who declined to offer her name. 'The other ones were older, more mature and the new ones seem to be more infantile. I hope they are up for the task. The city really needs that now.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Big wins for Justin Thomas, proud moments for his father

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   HONOLULU (AP) — Justin Thomas used to call his father when he arrived at junior tournaments, and the conversation almost always started the same way. 'What's the number?' The father wasn't asking what score it would take to win, the length of the course or even the entry fee. The number in question was how many greens his son would be able to reach in regulation, and not just on the par 4s. 'I was guaranteed to hit driver into at least one par 3,' Thomas said. Mike Thomas was in the gallery along the ninth fairway at Waialae Country Club when his 23-year-old son nearly left his feet while launching a 358-yard drive, setting up a wedge into the par 5. It was only his seventh-longest drive during his time in paradise. This Aloha State adventure was the best two weeks of Thomas' career. He joined Ernie Els as the only players to sweep the Hawaii swing and became the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 to win by at least three shots in consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour. Thomas rose to No. 8 in the world and he is the third-ranked American behind Dustin Johnson (No. 3) and Jordan Spieth (No. 5). 'Unforgettable,' Thomas said of the last two weeks. That goes for his parents, too, mainly because they had yet to see him win on the PGA Tour. His other two victories were in Malaysia, so Mike and Jani Thomas had to stay up until the early morning hours to watch him beat Adam Scott one year, Hideki Matsuyama the next. Watching in person with an ocean view is better. Mike Thomas has been the head pro at Harmony Landing outside Louisville, Kentucky, for the last 28 years, and golf is really all his son has ever known. Justin was not even 2 when his father gave him a cut-down driver with a wooden head to whack golf balls around the house and at Harmony Landing. As a toddler, when the boy wanted to play he would tell his mother, 'Bag of balls, bag of balls.' But the boy fell in love with golf by himself. 'I made sure there was no formal instruction until he asked for it,' Mike Thomas said. 'There were a lot more little lessons than big lessons.' Part of the reason is that he had a golf shop to run, members to serve and lessons to give. A larger part was that Mike Thomas had seen too many kids pushed too hard and he didn't want to be that parent. 'I decided that I wanted to be his best friend more than his father,' he said. 'There were times I had to get on him as a parent. But mostly we had just had a lot of fun.' Even now, when he takes time away from Harmony Landing to watch his son on tour, he stands quietly behind Thomas and caddie Jimmy Johnson without saying a word unless his son asks him to shoot video of a swing with his phone. They will look at it together. Mike Thomas tends to wait to see if his son can figure it out first. His fondest memories are not the tournaments he won as a junior, but the time they spent on the golf course in twilight hours, sometimes playing nine holes, other times creating games by seeing who could throw a golf ball closest to the pin. Golf has been in the family for three generations. Paul Thomas was the longtime club pro at Zanesville Country Club in Ohio who qualified for the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Mike Thomas played at Morehead State and competed in college against Kenny Perry, but his aspirations of playing the PGA Tour didn't last long. He spent one year on the mini-tours before working fulltime as a PGA professional. He took three jobs, in Ohio and Pittsburgh, before moving to Kentucky. Justin was in elementary school, still swinging away, when his father began a tradition of keeping golf balls from every tournament he won. There were 128 balls at Harmony Landing when they left for Hawaii. The father headed home with five more golf balls — and he wanted six. Two were from the victories at the SBS Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open, bringing the victory count to 130. A special display will hold the golf ball that Thomas rolled in from 15 feet for eagle on the final hole of his opening round for a 59. Another ball is from the 36-hole scoring record (123) he set on Friday, and the fifth is from the 72-hole record (253) Thomas set Sunday. 'I wanted the one after Saturday for the 54-hole record,' Mike Thomas said with a laugh. 'But Justin said that wasn't a record, it was only a tie.' It's tempting to think back to the toddler who said 'Bag of balls' the way most kids ask for candy, and see where his son is now. But only the stage has changed. 'The feeling is the same,' Mike Thomas said. 'I know this is the PGA Tour, but when he had a chance to win as an 8-year-old at a U.S. Kids event, it was like, 'This is really cool.' ... As a parent, I'm just glad he's healthy, I'm glad he's safe and I'm glad he's doing what he wants to do. What else could any parent want?' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Pursuing a record 23rd major title, Williams opens with win

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer   MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — For the first five games in the second set, Serena Williams played almost flawless tennis in her first-round match at the Australian Open. Then came the rustiness that tends to follow a lengthy layoff, giving Belinda Bencic a glimmer of hope, before Williams regained her composure to win 6-4, 6-3 on Tuesday. The six-time Australian Open champion improved her impressive record in the first round of Grand Slam tournaments to 65-1. The No. 2-ranked Williams' priority here is an Open era record 23rd major title. She's one win down — beating a player who was seeded 12th here last year and reached a career-high No. 7 ranking last February — and is targeting six more at Melbourne Park. 'She was just recently in the top 10. I knew it would be one of the toughest first-round matches I've ever played,' the newly engaged Williams said. In round two she'll meet Lucie Safarova, who beat Yanina Wickmayer 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1. Bencic got one service break in the first set, but only took two points in the first three games on Williams' serve in the second. Serving for the match at 6-4, 5-1, things changed. Williams finished her 2016 after the U.S. Open, resting injuries. And started 2017 with an error-prone loss in Auckland, New Zealand. Williams served only her second double-fault of the match to give Bencic a break-point chance, and Bencic converted it with a crosscourt winning forehand. The Swiss teenager held at love and then faced a match point, when Williams double-faulted again. The 35-year-old Williams made no mistake on her second match point and pumped her first in celebration. She finished with 30 winners and 30 unforced errors, eight errors and four double-faults. Karolina Pliskova and Johanna Konta both had their Grand Slam breakthroughs last year, both prepared for the season's first major with title runs in Australia and both advanced with straight sets wins. U.S. Open finalist Pliskova following her title win at the Brisbane International with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Sara Sorribes Tormo. The fifth-seeded Pliskova, who beat Serena Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals before losing the final to Angelique Kerber, has never advanced past the third round at Melbourne Park — losing at that stage in the last two years to Ekaterina Makarova. Pliskova is feeling more confident this time. 'I feel good on the court, especially when I win my first title in the first week of the year,' Pliskova said. 'So I'm ready for the tournament.' Konta, who won the Sydney International title last week, had a tougher time in beating Kirsten Flipkens 7-5, 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena. 'I definitely love playing here. It's a dream. A lot has happened in the last year, but I'm just enjoying playing and getting better each day.' Ninth-seeded Konta was a surprise semifinalist in her debut at the Australian Open last year, starting with a first-round win over Venus Williams and sparking a strong 2016 season which ended with her in the top 10. In other early results, No. 21 Caroline Garcia beat Kateryna Bondarenko 7-6 (4), 6-4 and No. 30 Makarova had a 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 win over Ekaterina Alexandrova. On the men's side, No. 25 Gilles Simon beat U.S. wild-card entry Michael Mmoh 6-1, 6-3, 6-3. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

Pliskova, Konta win 1st-round matches at Australian Open

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer   MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Karolina Pliskova and Johanna Konta had their Grand Slam breakthroughs last year, and both prepared for the season's first major with title runs in Australia. They both won their first-round matches at the Australian Open in straight sets on Tuesday, and are growing in confidence. U.S. Open finalist Pliskova following her title win at the Brisbane International with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Sara Sorribes Tormo to get day two under way on Rod Laver Arena. The fifth-seeded Pliskova, who beat Serena Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals before losing the final to Angelique Kerber, has never advanced past the third round at Melbourne Park — losing at that stage in the last two years to Ekaterina Makarova. Pliskova is feeling more confident this time. 'I feel good on the court, especially when I win my first title in the first week of the year,' Pliskova said. 'So I'm ready for the tournament.' Konta, who won the Sydney International title last week, had a tougher time in beating Kirsten Flipkens 7-5, 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena. 'It was incredibly tricky. She has the kind of game that can make any player feel uncomfortable out there,' Konta said. 'I definitely love playing here. It's a dream. A lot has happened in the last year, but I'm just enjoying playing and getting better each day.' Ninth-seeded Konta was a surprise semifinalist in her debut at the Australian Open last year, starting with a first-round win over Venus Williams and sparking a strong 2016 season which ended with her in the top 10. Serena Williams was opening her bid for a record 23rd Grand Slam title with a first-round match against Belinda Bencic in the second match on Rod Laver Arena. In other early results, No. 21 Caroline Garcia beat Kateryna Bondarenko 7-6 (4), 6-4 and No. 30 Makarova had a 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 win over Ekaterina Alexandrova. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

Federer returns with a win, joins Murray in 2nd round

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer shanked a few shots and was unsettled by how nervous he felt after six months on the sidelines, despite the familiar surroundings at the Australian Open. No other man on tour knows the way around a Grand Slam tournament better than Federer, who is playing in his 69th major and has won a record 17. He served 19 aces and had only one double-fault in a 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win Monday over fellow 35-year-old Jurgen Melzer, but dropped serve three times and experienced frustrating moments. 'I was feeling nervous once the match actually started,' said Federer, who hadn't played at tour level since Wimbledon after taking time off to let his injured left knee heal. 'In the warmup ... I felt fine. Then I hit four frames in a row. It was like, 'Whew, it's not as easy as I thought it was going to be.' 'I struggled for a while to find that groove, that rhythm.' Federer had surgery on the knee after a semifinal exit at the last Australian Open and missed the French Open, ending his streak of 65 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. He returned for Wimbledon, reached the semifinals, then didn't play again in 2016. In November, he fell out of the top 10 for the first time in 734 weeks. The 17th-seeded Federer wasn't the only highly-ranked player to find the going tough Monday. Stan Wawrinka, the U.S. Open champion, was pushed to five sets. So was No. 5-seeded Kei Nishikori. Angelique Kerber, defending champion and ranked No. 1 at a major for the first time, had some nervous moments in her 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 win over Lesia Tsurenko. Kerber won her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne last year, beating Serena Williams in the final after saving a match point in the first round. After wasting a match point before her serve was broken as Tsurenko rallied to win the second set, Kerber said her mind raced back 12 months. 'When I lost the second set, and I had match point, I was thinking about my match last year in the first round,' she said. 'First rounds are always tough.' In his first Grand Slam match with the elevated status of having a knighthood and the No. 1 ranking, Andy Murray berated himself when he made mistakes and frequently yelled during a 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over Illya Marchenko. In other words, nothing much has changed. The five-time finalist comfortably navigated what he hoped was the first step to a drought-breaking Australian Open title. Murray has lost four of the last six finals in Melbourne to six-time champion Novak Djokovic. Gaining the top ranking and receiving the civic honors doesn't change anything for Murray, who said he faces 'the same pressure, same expectations. I've never won here — I'm going to try to change that this year.' Wawrinka, who made his Grand Slam breakthrough in Australia in 2014, narrowly scraped past 35th-ranked Martin Klizan 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. In the ninth game of the fifth set, Wawrinka smashed a soft half-volley from Klizan straight back into the Slovakian's body, clipping the frame and just missing his midsection. He stepped over the net and ensured Klizan was OK, then held serve in that game and broke in the next game to finish it off. Nishikori beat Andrey Kuznetsov 7-5, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-2. Joining him in the second round are 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, 2008 Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 19 John Isner, No. 23 Jack Sock, No. 27 Bernard Tomic, No. 29 Viktor Troicki and No. 31 Sam Querrey. Also, No. 14 Nick Kyrgios returned from his suspension for underperforming in Shanghai last year and raced through a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over Gastao Elias. No. 16 Lucas Pouille was the highest-ranked of the three men's seeded players to lose. Five of the women's seeded players went out, including No. 4 Simona Halep, who lost 6-3, 6-1 to Shelby Rogers in the first match on Rod Laver Arena, and No. 15 Roberta Vinci, who lost to CoCo Vandeweghe. Seven-time major winner Venus Williams beat Kateryna Kozlova 7-6 (5), 7-5, and 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard continued her recent resurgence by routing Louisa Chirico 6-0, 6-4. Joining them in the next round will be French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig, No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 10 Carla Suarez, No. 11 Elina Svitolina and No. 20 Zhang Shuai. Sixteen-year-old Destanee Aiava became the first player born in this millennium to play in the main draw of a major, but the milestone match ended in a 6-3, 7-6 (4) loss to Mona Barthel. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

Chinese football: action planned on 'irrational' salaries

BEIJING (AP) — China's football association said Monday it plans a series of measures in response to 'irrational' spending by clubs on transfer fees and player salaries, amid concerns that foreign stars are crowding out local talent and harming the country's goal of becoming a global force in world football. The Chinese Football Association said in a statement Monday that the unidentified steps would target the 'operations and management' of teams in the top-tier China Super League and the China Premier League one step below it. The new measures will address 'recent irrational investments by clubs, high-figure transfer fees and salaries paid to domestic and international athletes and other issues,' the CFA said in a news release. Gaudy spending by Chinese clubs on players such as Argentina's Carlos Tevez has drawn global attention, raising fears among some that foreign stars are depriving local players of opportunities to grow. That could stifle the government's attempts to produce talent capable of achieving its stated goal of winning the World Cup by 2050, part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's push to make football success a national priority. Even in that endeavor, China is relying heavily on foreign talent, having hired veteran Italian coach Marcello Lippi to helm the men's national team. Other rules announced by the CFA appeared firmly aimed at addressing the lack of opportunities for Chinese players. They reduce the number of foreign club players who can appear at any given time from four to three and state that each team's starting list must include at least two Chinese players under age 23. Despite misgivings, Chinese clubs have continued to spend heavily over the past year to attract mainly South American stars. Apart from Tevez, whom Shanghai Shenhua said it paid an $11 million transfer fee to Argentine club Boca Juniors to acquire, they include Oscar, purchased from Chelsea, Brazilians Hulk, Ramires, Alex Teixeira and Paulinho, Colombian striker Jackson Martinez and Argentine forward Ezequiel Lavezzi. Altogether, Chinese Super League clubs splashed out close to $300 million in the winter transfer window on big names. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

Jake, ‘bininyagan’ si Angeline

TODO-PURI si Jake Cuenca kay Angeline Quinto dahil sa pagiging down to earth nito. Hinahangaan daw niya ang pagiging simple ni Angge. Inalalayan din ni Jake si Angge sa love scene nila dahil first time ng singer-actress.  Sa kanya talaga bumigay si Angeline at nakipaglampungan. Ano  ang feeling na siya ang nakabinyag? “Hindi naman ako ........»»

Category: entertainmentSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

New look: Murray, Kerber start Australian Open as top seeds

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — It's new and exciting for Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber, entering a Grand Slam tournament with the No. 1 in front of their names. Both reached the top of the rankings for the first time near the end of 2016, ending long reigns by Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams. And so they'll open their Australian Open campaigns on Rod Laver Arena on day one — both against Ukrainians. Murray, a five-time runner-up, opens his pursuit of a first Australian title against Illya Marchenko in the last day match on the main show court. Kerber opens the night session against Lesia Tsurenko. She'll be followed on court by Roger Federer, who is returning from six months on the sidelines. The 'one-round-at-a-time' cliche is well worn in tennis. For Kerber, though, it's pertinent. Seeded seventh last year, the left-handed German had to save a match point in the first round against Misaki Doi. Spurred on by that, she went on to beat Serena Williams in the final and claim her first Grand Slam title. She added a second major at the U.S. Open and ascended to the No 1 ranking. 'I think this point where I was match point down, that was the important point for my career,' Kerber said Sunday, speaking of her first-round escape against Doi. 'You never know (if) I lost the match, what would have happened.' It gave her the freedom to play without pressure, and that made all the difference. 'When I'm looking back, I was feeling that I got a second chance to stay in the tournament,' she said. 'I was playing since then without expectation ... just enjoying everything.' Kerber can hang on to the top ranking by reaching to the final here, but she's already feeling there's more to defend than her title. 'It's a new challenge for me, for sure,' she said. But, 'We are starting from zero here. I have to be ready from the first round again. 'I will try to not put too much expectation and pressure on myself. I mean, I will try to do it like last year — that was the way I had my success.' Record-chasing, six-time champions Djokovic and Williams, seeded No. 2 and anchoring the bottom half of the men's and women's draws, won't be in action until day two. Djokovic is aiming to be the first man to win seven Australian titles. Serena Williams is chasing an Open-era record 23rd major title. Newly-engaged Williams hasn't wanted to talk about the record, being a little bit superstitious. Williams is concentrating on her first-round match against Belinda Bencic, who was seeded 12th here last year and who beat her in Toronto in 2015. While Serena has to wait, the Williams family will be represented on Rod Laver Arena on Monday by her older sister, Venus. The 13th-seeded Venus Williams will play against Kateryna Kozlova following fourth-seeded Simona Halep's opener against Shelby Rogers. French Open champion Garbine Muguruza starts play on Margaret Court Arena against Marina Erakovic, and U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka opens the night session on the second show court. Fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori gets things underway against Andrey Kuznetsov on Hisense Arena, where Nick Kyrgios will make his return to the tour against Gastao Elias. The 21-year-old Kyrgios finished 2016 under a ban in a season overshadowed by clashes with officials and fans and by the tanking at the Shanghai Masters which led to an eight-week suspension. The ban was reduced to three weeks when Kyrgios agreed to consult a sports psychologist, allowing to warmup for the Australian Open at the Hopman Cup. That's where Federer made his return from six months out to give his injured left knee time to heal. The 17-time major winner didn't play after Wimbledon and his ranking slid to No. 17 by this week. That resulted in him getting a tougher draw than usual at the tournament he has won four times, and where he has reached the semifinals in 12 of the last 13 years. If results go with rankings, he'll play two qualifiers before a potential third-round match against No. 10 Tomas Berdych. Nishikori and Murray are also in his quarter. Federer will open against another 35-year-old veteran, former No. 8-ranked Jurgen Melzer. 'That's the part of the draw I care most about because of having not been playing,' Federer said. Wild-card entry Destanee Aiava, a 16-year-old Melbourne high school student, is set to become the first player born in this millennium to play a main draw match at a Grand Slam when she meets German qualifier Mona Barthel on Show Court 2. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

Valdez spreads wings, begins Thailand journey

Alyssa Valdez’s international club league career started Sunday when the Filipina volleyball superstar flew to Thailand to join 3BB Nakornnont.   The former UAAP three-time Most Valuable Player will start training with the club as 3BB Nakornnont prepares for the second round of the Thai League. Valdez will debut for 3BB on January 29 against King-Bangkok. “Siguro hindi ko rin ma-explain kung gaano ako ka-excited at kung gaano ako kinakabahan kasi it’s a different challenge,” said the 23-year-old Valdez in an interview with ABS-CBN Sports. “Kasi mag-isa lang ako, 'yung lahat ng mga external factors nandoon na rin.” Valdez, who was given the green light by the Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. to play abroad Saturday, will join her former Bureau of Customs teammates Kanjana Kuthaisong and Nattanicha Jaisaen. “At least naging teammates ko naman ang few players doon,’ she said. Valdez will stay in Thailand until early April as the team will also play in the Thai-Denmark Suepr League. But what excites Valdez, who bannered the national women’s volleyball team in its return to the Southeast Asian Games two years ago in Singapore, the most is the chance to go up against Thai superstar and Southeast Asia’s most popular player Pleumjit Thinkaow.   “Di ko ba nakakalaban sina Pleumjit and 'yung mga senior (players ng mga) teams,” said the Team Philippines flag-bearer during the 2015 SEA Games. “Noong SEA Games naman kasi last time hindi natin sila ka-bracket. I’m really excited.” “I’m really looking forward na makalaban talaga sila o makaharapan lang sila di ba?” she added. “Iba 'yung excitement kasi makakalaban mo ‘yung mga experienced teams tapos ‘yung team namin sobrang bata rin. Feeling ko matututo ako sa mga kids at the same time sa mga veteran ng Thailand also para ma-help pa kung ano 'yung mga kailangan kong i-improve as a player and as an individual also.”     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles       .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

Icardi scores to help Inter fight back to beat Chievo 3-1

DANIELLA MATAR, Associated Press br /> MILAN (AP) — Serie A's top goalscorer will not be moving to the Chinese Super League anytime soon. Mauro Icardi scored again to help Inter Milan come from behind to beat Chievo Verona 3-1 on Saturday, and his goalscoring rate is sure to be garnering attention among the new pacesetters in the global transfer market. However, Icardi, who turns 24 on Thursday, insists he is not about to follow the likes of Carlos Tevez, Axel Witsel, Oscar, and John Obi Mikel to China. 'I renewed my contract at the beginning of the year and I'm happy to stay with this shirt,' Icardi said. 'There's always time to go to China at the end of my career.' Icardi scored the equalizer in the 69th minute, volleying in Antonio Candreva's stunning cross from the right. Icardi's 15th goal in 20 league matches moved him two clear of Roma forward Edin Dzeko and Torino's Andrea Belotti in the goalscoring charts. Icardi also had a hand in the winner, four minutes from time. He won the ball back in midfield and set up Ivan Perisic, who raced towards goal before firing past Stefano Sorrentino after the Chievo defenders backed away from him. Eder topped the scoring in stoppage time. Inter extended its winning run in the league to five matches and moved up to fifth, level on points with AC Milan, which has played two matches less than Stefano Pioli's side and visits Torino on Monday. Chievo remained 11th. 'We had a great game,' Icardi said. 'We've shown we have character for several games now.' Inter dominated the match and only Sorrentino's heroics in goal prevented it from taking the lead. The 37-year-old goalkeeper made some fine stops, including twice preventing new signing Roberto Gagliardini from scoring on his debut. At the other end, a fellow veteran gave Chievo a surprise lead, completely against the run of play, with the 37-year-old Sergio Pellissier volleying in a corner. Pellissier almost doubled his tally in the opening minute of the second half but Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic got down smartly to beat away his effort. Sorrentino made another fantastic stop to keep out Perisic's header from point-blank range, and he also twice denied Eder before he was finally beaten. Overall, Inter had 31 attempts on goal, 14 of which were on target. Inter is nine points behind league leader Juventus, which visits Fiorentina on Sunday. ___ CROTONE 0 BOLOGNA 1 Crotone looks ever more likely to go straight back down to Serie B after a 14th defeat of the season left it bottom, eight points from safety. Bologna moved up to 14th, 13 points off the relegation zone after Blerim Dzemaili's 51st-minute strike. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

Troicki's three-peat won't happen after loss in Sydney semis

SYDNEY (AP) — There won't be a third consecutive Sydney International title for Viktor Troicki after the Serbian player lost 6-3, 7-6 (6) to Gilles Muller in the semifinals on Friday at Olympic Park. Troicki was trying to become the first player in the Open era to win three Sydney titles in a row, surpassing the feats of Americans Pete Sampras and James Blake, and Lleyton Hewitt, who did it twice. Muller was so sick last week in Brisbane he struggled to leave his hotel room. 'When I came here, I wasn't expecting anything because I didn't play really well in Brisbane and I wasn't feeling great,' Muller said. 'I was looking to have one or two more matches before the Australian Open.' The sixth-seeded Muller will play either Daniel Evans of Britain or Andrew Kuznetsov of Russia in Saturday's final. Kuznetov plays Evans in a Friday night semifinal. The women's final between Agnieszka Radwanska and Johanna Konta was scheduled to precede the men's semifinal. At Auckland, New Zealand, Jack Sock will play Joao Sousa in Saturday's ASB Classic final after posting semifinal wins. Sousa beat Marcos Baghdatis 6-1, 7-5 while Sock defeated fellow American Steve Johnson 6-4, 6-3. Sock, who lost to Roberto Bautista Agut in the 2016 final, will play his sixth ATP final. 'It wasn't easy,' Sock said. 'Stevie's such a good player, he had such a good year last year and we know each other so well. We both had a good idea what we wanted to do out there. I was able to execute pretty well.' Sousa was impressive in beating the eighth-seeded Baghdatis in 72 minutes. He was on top from the beginning, breaking Baghdatis twice to take the first set in only 27 minutes. 'I've been playing better and better this tournament which has been a great thing for me,' Sousa said. At the WTA's Hobart International, Elise Mertens of Belgium beat fellow qualifier Jana Fett 6-4, 6-0 to advance to Saturday's final against Monica Niculescu. Mertens beat top-seeded Kiki Bertens in straight sets in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Earrlier, Lesia Tsurenko withdrew from her semifinal against Niculescu, handing the Romanian a walkover to the final. Tsurenko, who has viral illness, has been drawn to meet No. 1 and defending champion Angelique Kerber in the first round of the Australian Open. After withdrawing from the Brisbane International with a similar complaint, the 61st-ranked Tsurenko won three matches in Hobart. 'I'm really disappointed because I'm still not feeling well, and it is getting worse with playing more and more matches,' Tsurenko said. 'I'm taking some more medications and really hope to be better in Melbourne.' The Australian Open begins Monday, although Tsurenko might not have to play Kerber until Tuesday. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 13th, 2017

Never ko pagsisiksikan ang sarili ko sa team na ayaw sa akin -- Gumabao

“There’s no room for growth anymore in the team.” This was how now ex-team captain Michele Gumabao summed up her decision to leave Pocari Sweat after two seasons. Gumabao, who led the Lady Warriors to back-to-back titles in the V-League last year, opened up Wednesday, just a few hours after she posted on her Instagram account that she’s officially parting ways with the club.     “It's final na talaga I will leave Pocari and join another team. Nagtapos ang contract ko January 7,” said the former De La Salle stalwart in an interview at the Adamson gym after the Lady Falcons' practice where she serves as an assistant coach. The two-time V-League Best Opposite Hitter and Reinforced Conference Finals Most Valuable Player also confirmed that she is now accepting offers from teams in the Philippine Superliga. “I'm looking for a new team, I'm entertaining new offers, I mean something that I denied myself for one year,” she added.   strong>Falling out /strong> Gumabao revealed that she and Pocari Sweat’s management are no longer seeing eye-to-eye, the main reason of her bolting out of the team she served for two years starting in 2015 when the team, then known as Philips Gold Lady Slammers, competed and won a couple of bronze medals in the PSL.         “I've been with Pocari and Philips Gold so ngayon lang talaga nagsi-sink in sa akin na aalis na ako and iba na ang magiging teammates ko sad talaga pero kailangan ko,' she said. The three-time UAAP champion continued that there are issues with her and team manager Eric Ty that they just couldn’t resolve, including compensation of players and expenses in running the team. She added that she even tried to call the attention of the management itself to air the grievances of the team being the skipper, but it all fell on deaf ears, according to Gumabao.    “Ako kasi as a player and as a person, kapag may mali lagi akong gumagawa ng solusyon. As a player ayaw kong mali ang ginagawa ko and as a coach ayaw kong mali ang ginagawa ng player ko and as a team captain ayaw kong mali ang sistema namin sa team,” Gumabao narrated. “So nagkaproblema ako with our team manager and we talked it out and hindi namin na solusyunan.' “Umakyat ako sa mga boss akala ko nasolusyunan and in the end their promises meant nothing for me so I had to leave,” she added. “Ayaw ko ng issue, ayaw ko na ako ang sinisiraan, ayaw kong ako ang masama. When I joined Philips Gold two years ago all I wanted was a happy team, you make the team happy, we make the team win and we did. We made back-to-back championships. Ang sabi ko naman, ang goal namin as a team since I entered, we achieved it together. Naging strong kami, naging maganda ang bond namin and there came to a point na lahat ng problema na minsan kahit gaano ka pa kalakas, kahit gaanon mo pa kagusto magpaka-martir hindi mo na talaga kakayanin and 'yun ang nangyari sa akin just recently.” “Hindi ko na kaya ang issues sa loob ng team with our manager hindi ko na talaga kaya intindihin paulit-ulit ang mali. I tried, I spoke up, I tried correcting, I tried working with them for one more year pero wala talaga eh and I just hope that change will come for the team ngayon na umalis ako,” she continued. “I took a stand for myself, ayaw ko na may naaaping player sa team ko by management because the management's only job is to give the team good conditions, to support the team financially and emotionally which is very important.” With unresolved issues, Gumabao felt that she can’t work with team anymore.  “'Yun lang, nawala na ang relationship ko with management so I cannot play for anybody that I'm not proud of or na hindi ko mahal na hindi ko nirerespeto or ganoon ang treatment sa akin,” she said. “So I voiced out every opinion that I could. Oo, gumawa ako ng gulo between management and me pero wala eh, they chose to keep him and they pushed me away. I'd be happy to leave, never ko namang pagsisiksikan ang sarili ko sa isang team na ayaw na sa akin.” Gumabao clarified that she holds no jealousy on teammate Myla Pablo’s multi-million 5-year contract including a brand new car as part of her signing bonus . “I’m happy for Myla I know she worked hard for whatever she signed on. I love her as a friend, as a teammate and as a sister. So hindi ako magseselos kung ibinigay sa kanya ‘yun,” explained Gumabao.          strong>Pocari Sweat to air its side /strong> With Gumabao making it public about the issues, ABS-CBN Sports tried to get the side of Pocari Sweat but the club declined to comment and will release an official statement. “We will release an official statement. Pinag-uusapan pa namin (ng management),” in a message sent by Ty.           --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 11th, 2017

Hopefully may way -- Valdez on joining SEA Games national team

Former Ateneo de Manila Queen Eagle Alyssa Valdez hopes to get a compromise when Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. conducts its tryouts for the national women’s team that will see action in the 29th Southeast Asian Games. Valdez, who was a part of the PHI Team that participated in the 2015 edition of the biennial meet in Singapore, will be away for four months to play in Thailand and will not be available if the appointed head coach conducts the tryouts within the first quarter of the year. Valdez will fly to Thailand on January 15 to join 3BB Nakornnont and play in the Thai League and Thai-Denmark Super League. LVPI is set to name the national team mentor this week. The sports association is looking to form a 16-woman pool that will train as early as possible for the August 19 to 31 meet. “Ako I think as an athlete as a Filipino athlete, ‘yun din naman ang ultimate goal mo (to be a part of the national team) aside from your dreams na makapaglaro internationally,” who also played for the Nationals that participated in the Asian U-23 Women’s Volleyball Championship held in Pasig two years ago. LVPI acting president Peter Cayco earlier said that this SEA Games team will be a mix of six veterans, six young bloods and four reserves as the country guns for a medal after its last podium finish back in the 2005 Manila edition when the Pinay volleybelles snatched a bronze medal.     He also added that LVPI wants to pick players that are willing to give their full commitment to the squad. With Valdez set to play in Thailand, the three-time UAAP Most Valuable Player is looking for a way to get a nod for another tour of duty. “But if 'yung mga circumstances hindi ko rin kayang (bigyan ng time) kasi siyempre may responsibilities ka din. Kasi di ba magi-start na sila ng training? And I’m away din so ayun hopefully magawan din ng paraan,” said the two-time UAAP champion. “I think in both parties naman like Thailand wouldn’t hinder me naman (to play for the national team) for sure kung sa country naman maiintindihan nila ‘yun. Hopefully may way din (na makasali ako sa national team).” The 23-year-old hitter showcased her skills and talents during the country’s first participation in the SEA Games since 2005 and was chosen as the country’s flag-bearer marching aplomb ahead of the 600-strong Team Philippines.   Valdez wants to get another crack of representing the country. “Ultimate dream mo is to represent the country,” she said. “I would really love to do that if given a chance.”       --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

Neri-Chaves Clan: A Tale of Southern Nobility

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, the crown jewel of Mindanao, is the country’s newest boom town, experiencing an accelerated level of modernization and real estate investments. Infrastructures such as hotels, malls and condominium towers are vigorously constructed one after the other to accommodate the influx of new residents and visitors to the city. Proof that, Cagayan de Oro as it is fondly called, had long since shed its small-town roots, to become the mega melting pot of pioneering entrepreneurs and upwardly mobile young professionals that it is today. Apart from the perks and comforts of living in a highly urbanized city, people who call Cagayan de Oro home also bask in its rich and colorful history that dates back to pre-colonial times. One clan in particular has been a prominent figure in the city’s enduring saga and cultural evolution. The Neri-Chaves family are descendants of a strong-willed Rajah whose resoluteness drove him to seek out dominions beyond his stronghold’s fertile terrains in Lanao province. The Malay prince, whose name was Samporna, or Sanskrit for ‘perfect’, decided to invade Cagayan or Kalambagohan as it was then known. Excerpts from the writings of the Neri-Chaves family historian, Filomeno M. Bautista, recounted how a potential bloody struggle was averted, when the then chief of Kalambagohan, Datu Bagani, sent his beautiful daughter guarded by his bravest warriors to meet Rajah Samporna. She was to initiate the conditional surrender, so that their people would not be enslaved by the invaders. It was told that the Rajah, captivated by Datu Bagani’s daughter, ended up marrying her. The prince also built a fortress around their village in Kalambagohan to protect them from other conquistadores. Rajah Samporna later succeeded the Datu as ruler of Cagayan. He also converted from Islam to Christianity to solidify his devotion to his wife’s religion, and in 1779 was baptized by a Spanish priest with a peculiarly Italian name, Neri. It ushered an era of peace in Mindanao, when Muslims lived harmoniously with Christians. The Neris intermarrying with the Chaveses of Cagayan was perhaps providential as it produced one of the most enduring clans in the country. Today, the Neri-Chaves clan is many thousand strong. Well-known lawyer and congressman Rufus Bautista Rodriguez attributes the successes enjoyed by many family members throughout many generations to the tireless pursuit of life’s true purpose. “We are hardworking people. We are also fortunate to have had many individuals in the family who continue to inspire us, like Vice President Emmanuel Neri Pelaez and Ambassador Felino Neri”, Rodriguez said, adding in jest, “At mga gwapo, gwapa pa!” Most if not all of Cagayan de Oro’s earliest leaders, from Governors to Mayors, were members of the Neri-Chaves family. Some became pioneers in other fields like business, education and the arts, from Chief Justice Marcelo Fernan to musicologist and concert pianist Vilma May Chaves Cataylo. The clan has had three grand reunions, first in 1985, then in 1993, and the most recent one took place in August 2016 where hundreds of family members came together from all over the world to rekindle family ties. Jessica Dingcong, who spearheaded the recent reunion held at the Chaves family-owned Chali Beach and Mallberry Suites in Cagayan de Oro City, wants to inspire the next generation to carry on the legacy of benevolence and integrity of their forebears. “We should be proud that we are very family oriented,’ Dingcong said. In attendance at the grand reunion were the Neri-Cheves clan’s many young professionals and millennials. Sixth generation Neri-Chaves and journalist Alessandra Marie Chaves Jalandoni, who carries her nickname Apples professionally, admits feeling the pressure of belonging to a family of achievers. “We have some pretty big shoes to fill, so we soldier on, and never give up,,” Jalandoni said, adding that, “We have always been taught to do the right thing, and not just what looks good on paper.” Jalandoni’s maternal grandfather Engineer Camilo Vamenta Chaves was a World War II veteran and subsequently Dean at the family-owned Liceo de Cagayan University. Her mother Alma Marie Chaves Jalandoni is a pioneer in garments manufacturing and export in the Philippines. Current Social Security Services Commissioner Pompee La Viña will head the next Neri-Chaves grand reunion in 2018. La Viña is the son of Lourdes Chaves Maestrado La Viña who was the first woman elected to the City Council in Cagayan de Oro. His younger brother is former Ateneo School of Government dean and climate change lead negotiator Tony La Viña. Commissioner La Viña hopes to welcome many more family members to their tight-knit Mindanaon clan. “It roots us in Mindanao, the blood of Mindanao is running through us,” he said. La Viña also ponders on how leadership is ingrained in the members of the clan. After all they are descendants of a warrior prince. But the word is also taking on a new meaning as the Neris and Chaveses usher Mindanao to its most vibrant era. “We will always be leaders, we are simply inclined to lead,” La Viña maintained, “but to lead as serving the people rather than ruling them.” (By J. C. Bautista) &'160; 121&'160;total views, 121&'160;views today.....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsJan 9th, 2017

FIFA set to approve bigger, richer World Cup on Tuesday

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer   FIFA is set to make the World Cup bigger and richer, even if the price to pay is lower quality soccer. FIFA President Gianni Infantino hopes his ruling Council will agree Tuesday to expand the 2026 World Cup to 48 nations, playing in 16 groups of three teams. A decision could be delayed if some Council members demand to know exactly how many qualifying places each continent will get before agreeing to scrap the 32-team format. It has been successful, popular and profitable since 1998 and is locked in for the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar. The prize of 16 extra places, and the biggest increases to Africa and Asia, has 'overwhelming' support from FIFA's 211 member federations, Infantino has said. Their promise of extra funding from Zurich could also be secured by FIFA's forecast 20 percent rise in rights fees paid by broadcasters and sponsors. 'Financially, the 48-team format is the most appealing or successful simply because the sporting element is prevailing and every match is important,' Infantino said two weeks ago. 'The decision should not be financially driven, neither in terms of revenue or costs ... but the driver should really be the development of football and boosting football all over the world.' World Cup champion Germany is not in favor. It argued that diluting the number of European and South American teams — which won all 20 titles since 1930 — could 'strengthen the imbalance' seen at some tournaments. 'The (German soccer federation) fundamentally believe that the current 32-team format is the best option,' its president Reinhard Grindel said last week. Germany has no delegate at Tuesday's meeting though Grindel is set to join the FIFA Council in May. FIFA acknowledged the risk of lower standards in a research document sent to members last month, as first reported by The Associated Press. The 'absolute quality' of soccer, defined by high-ranked teams playing each other most often, is achieved by 32 teams, FIFA said, citing 10,000 tournament simulations made to reach that conclusion. Still, Infantino promised voters more World Cup places and funding raises before his election last February. FIFA expects $5.5 billion income tied to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, though 25 of 34 sponsorship slots are unsold. The research document predicted the equivalent of $6.5 billion revenue from a 48-team tournament in the '16x3' format, which would send two teams from each group to a new Round of 32 knockout bracket. All 80 matches would play in an exclusive time slot. Currently, 64 World Cup matches have 56 broadcast slots because the eight four-team groups play their last matches simultaneously. FIFA predicts organizing costs for '16x3' rising from $2 billion to $2.3 billion, giving a potential profit rise of $640 million. Though a '16x3' World Cup would still need a maximum of 12 stadiums, the demand for 16 more top-quality training camps and hotels suggests FIFA would look for 2026 hosts with existing capacity. A North American bid from two or three of the United States, Canada and Mexico is currently favored in a contest that could start within weeks. Five options are open Tuesday, including staying with 32 teams. Infantino campaigned last year on a 40-team promise, in either eight groups of five teams or 10 groups of four teams. Neither impressed voters in recent regional meetings of FIFA member federations. When the FIFA leader first proposed 48 teams, it included an opening playoff round. The 16 winners would join 16 seeded teams in a traditional 32-team group stage. FIFA members disliked 'one-and-done' teams going home before the 'real' World Cup kicks off. It would also stretch to a 39-day event with more short-notice travel for fans. Africa and Asia could be the big winners, and FIFA hopes new teams would include another Iceland, Wales and Costa Rica — over-achieving teams and feelgood stories at recent tournaments. Still, hapless Tahiti was outclassed at the 2013 Confederations Cup, conceding 24 goals in three games. 'The goal of expanding the FIFA World Cup,' it has told members, 'is to further advance the vision to promote the game of football, protect its integrity and bring the game to all.' ___ Entry quotas for 2018 World Cup: Europe 14 (including host Russia to qualify direct); Africa 5; Asia and South America 4.5 each; North, Central America and Caribbean 3.5; Oceania 0.5. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

A guide to FIFA's options for expanding the 2026 World Cup

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer   FIFA is preparing to decide Tuesday on adding 16 more teams to the 2026 World Cup for a 48-team tournament. President Gianni Infantino's favored format would break with soccer tradition to play in groups of only three teams. Two would advance from each group to a Round of 32 knockout bracket. If agreed by the Infantino-chaired FIFA Council in Zurich, the 2026 hosting contest could formally open in weeks. A co-hosted North American bid is widely seen as the best option. Here are some things to know about overhauling the greatest competition in the world's most popular sport: ___ WHY EXPAND? A bigger World Cup was an Infantino campaign promise before his election last February, when his plan was 40 teams. It might have been key. Infantino's momentum for victory in a second-round poll was a three-vote lead over Sheik Salman of Bahrain in the first. Sheik Salman had promised only to review if more World Cup teams were wanted. Infantino also pledged to give more of FIFA's money to member federations — all 211 are now entitled to $5 million from each World Cup — and send more to continental and regional soccer bodies. So, more teams also had to mean more games, earning more revenue from broadcasters and sponsors. The '16x3' format arguably works better with only group winners advancing. But that would leave total matches unchanged at 64. Infantino also wants to create fervor in the extra countries which would qualify. In the short-term, competing national teams attract more sponsors. The long-term goal is appealing to more young people who are the future players, fans and officials. Expect to hear much FIFA talk of helping the next Costa Rica or Iceland — feelgood stories at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 — by inviting 16 more teams to the party. ___ 48-TEAM OPTIONS A near-consensus is growing around the '16x3' option revealed just one month ago. All 80 games would be played in exclusive time slots. That's more hours of TV exposure for sponsors and sales time for broadcasters in the same 32-day tournament period. By advancing two teams from each group, a Round of 32 ensures most teams still play at least three matches. FIFA's own analysis predicts this format will raise revenue by 20 percent from the equivalent $5.5 billion forecast from the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The flaw for purists is planning for penalty shootouts to settle drawn group matches. If each game has a 'winner' that guards against teams colluding on a mutually favorable result in the last group games. Previously, Infantino suggested an opening playoff round of 16 matches to decide who would join 16 seeded teams in a traditional 32-team group phase. That was unacceptable to many FIFA members federations who said 'one-and-done' teams were not part of a real World Cup. It also would stretch the tournament to 39 days. ___ 40-TEAM OPTIONS Infantino's plan from one year ago is now almost friendless. Either of two options, 10 groups of four teams or eight five-team groups, gives lopsided or weak match schedules, FIFA judged. In '10x4,' only 76 matches are played and only six group runners-up advance from a muddled tiebreaker process to a Round of 16. In '8x5,' the 88 matches include meaningless ones in a flabby group phase ripe for collusion. Also, the four semifinalists would play eight matches and that workload is unacceptable to European clubs releasing employees to national-team duty. ___ PROVEN 32-TEAM FORMAT Why fix something that is not broken? Germany, the defending champion, has publicly asked this question. The 32-team format and perfect 64-match bracket has worked well since being introduced at the 1998 World Cup in France (where Europe had 15 teams). FIFA acknowledged that it produces the best soccer — 'the highest absolute quality' of games pitting high-ranked teams against each other. Recall that former winners Italy, England and Uruguay were drawn in the same 2014 World Cup group — and yet Costa Rica finished top. Still, enough of FIFA's 211 members want change and their chance to play. ___ WHO WILL PLAY? A big question is likely not being resolved Tuesday. FIFA has yet to announce exactly how many entry slots each of six confederations would get for their own qualifying program. Quotas for a 40-team World Cup were proposed in December 2015 by a FIFA advisory group that included Infantino, then UEFA's general secretary. Some saw a cynical move to sweeten skeptical FIFA voters who were being asked to vote through modernizing and anti-corruption reforms on the same day they picked a new president. Then, assuming a single host nation would get automatic entry, the proposal for sharing 39 qualifying slots was: Europe 14; Africa 7; Asia 6; South America 5; North, Central America and Caribbean 5; Oceania 1; plus a final slot awarded 'based on sporting merits using a method yet to be defined.' Going from 40 to 48 can add at least one more from each continent. Who could those new teams be? On current form, maybe Wales and Panama, Congo and Burkina Faso, Uzbekistan and Oman, will bring something new to the 2026 World Cup. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Wawrinka, Nishikori to meet in Brisbane semifinals

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori will renew a growing rivalry when they meet in the semifinals of the Brisbane International. Wawrinka dropped the opening set in a tiebreaker against unseeded Kyle Edmund on Friday but recovered for a 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4 win, reaching the last four in his first trip to the Brisbane tournament. In the previous three years, Wawrinka won the title in Chennai in the first week of the season before heading to Australia for the season's first major. 'Was a tough match, for sure. Long match. Quite humid, also. Also tough physically. But, in general, I think I'm feeling good and ready (for the semifinals),' Wawrinka said. 'For sure, I want to win more matches here and not stop now.' Wawrkina has a 4-3 lead over Nishikori in career head-to-heads, including the semifinals at the U.S. Open last year, but Nishikori won two of the three meetings in 2016. 'We always play a really tough match,' Wawrinka said. 'We played each other few times already last few months, so it's going to be interesting to see. We practiced here this week. I'm sure it's going to be a good match.' Nishikori has now reached the semifinals four times in seven visits to the Brisbane International, needing just an hour for a 6-1, 6-1 quarterfinal win over Australian wild-card entry Jordan Thompson. Thompson beat former top 10 regular David Ferrer in the second round but against Nishikori, he only managed to hold serve twice. Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open finalist, only made 11 unforced errors and didn't face a breakpoint. 'He was, I guess, a little bit tired, for sure. Against David, he was playing great match and maybe he wasn't 100 percent today,' Nishikori said. 'But for me, I think I played one of the best matches so far, really dominating from the baseline and serving good today. Everything was working well.' Seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov had a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over No. 4 Dominic Thiem and will meet either defending champion Milos Raonic or 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. In the women's semifinals, French Open champion Garbine Muguruza retired with a right thigh injury while trailing Alize Cornet 4-1 in the first set. Cornet advanced to a final against either U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova or sixth-seeded Elina Svitolina, who ousted No. 1-ranked Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals. 'When she decided to stop, I was a little bit surprised, but a little bit of luck never killed anybody,' said Cornet, who finished last year ranked No. 46 but now expects to be seeded at the Australian Open. 'I'm just going to take it. I really enjoy the fact that I'm in the final. It's a big day for me, yeah.' Muguruza has had a run of injuries in Brisbane. She retired after one set last year and withdrew entirely in 2015. She didn't think the latest setback would trouble her at the Australian Open. 'It will not stop me. I just felt a little bit exhausted on the court,' Muguruza said. 'Cornet was playing good. I couldn't match her level today. I had some pains, and I thought it was more smart to take care of my body.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

Hello, Cleveland: Indians welcome slugger Encarnacion

TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer br /> CLEVELAND (AP) — With his family watching proudly, Edwin Encarnacion stood in front of his new locker inside Cleveland's clubhouse, pulled on a fitted cap and slowly buttoned the front of his white No. 10 jersey. Once finished, he pointed to the 'Indians' logo on his chest and flashed a huge smile as cameras clicked. It felt seamless. 'He's a perfect fit for our team,' Indians president Chris Antonetti said Thursday. In so many ways. The Indians, accustomed to being outspent for high-priced free agents winter after winter, introduced Encarnacion, a premium player for the middle of their lineup who will boost attendance and maybe help them win the World Series. One of baseball's most productive hitters over the past five years, Encarnacion finalized a $60 million, three-year contract — the richest in Cleveland history — with a team that got to Game 7 of the Series last season. Encarnacion's deal would be worth $80 million over four years if the Indians exercise a $25 million option for 2020 that includes a $5 million buyout. There are also attendance bonuses built in as both the Indians and Encarnacion's agent, Paul Kinzer, recognized the three-time All-Star's ability to spin turnstiles. 'He's a quiet guy that just goes out and grinds every day,' Kinzer said. 'This is a blue-collar town and he's a blue-collar guy. Cleveland is going to love him.' Encarnacion averaged 39 homers and 110 RBIs over the past five seasons with Toronto, which made it to the AL Championship Series last season only to be eliminated in five games by the Indians. Encarnacion, who turns 34 on Saturday, watched Cleveland's players celebrate at Rogers Centre that day in October not ever imagining he would be joining them a little more than two months later. But while he figured to land with Boston or Texas or in another major market, Cleveland's pitch was the most persistent. And although the first baseman and designated hitter could have made more money elsewhere, Encarnacion wanted to join a winner. The Indians, with one of the majors' best pitching staffs and a lineup featuring young stars in Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis, are positioned to contend for years. 'That's why I came here,' Encarnacion said. 'I believe in this team and I know we can win the World Series with the talent that we have.' The Indians' courtship of Encarnacion began with owner Paul Dolan's commitment to building on the momentum created by the team's AL Central title and first Series appearance since 1997. Cleveland was boosted by cleanup hitter Mike Napoli, who set career highs in homers and RBIs during his one season with the Indians. There were better options available and, after deciding not to re-sign Napoli, the Indians focused on Encarnacion, who hit 42 homers and drove in 127 runs last season. Antonetti didn't have to sell Dolan on Encarnacion's obvious talents. The challenge was convincing him that the slugger was worth a long-term financial obligation. 'It took a lot of work to make that happen, both compromises from our side and compromises from Edwin's side to make this fit and be the right fit for both teams,' Antonetti said. 'And it took a great leap of faith by ownership to make that extraordinary investment.' It also took some clever negotiating. As the sides were nearing a deal, Oakland made a $50 million, two-year offer that caused the Indians to counter. Kinzer proposed an attendance clause, a suggestion Antonetti initially wasn't sure was possible. 'That was a way to bridge the gap,' Kinzer said. 'When Edwin went on that run five years ago, Toronto was at 1.9 (million) in attendance. Now, they're at 3.4. Well, if Edwin contributes to that, then we should be rewarded for it.' Encarnacion gets a $5 million signing bonus, half payable on May 1 and the rest Aug. 1, and salaries of $13 million this year, $17 million in 2018 and $20 million in 2019. The Indians agreed and Encarnacion has already made an impact, as the team has sold more than $1 million in season tickets since he agreed to the deal on Dec. 22. He would earn bonuses of $150,000 each when the Indians reach 2 million, 2.15 million, 2.3 million, 2.5 million and 2.75 million in home attendance. He can make another $250,000 for 3 million. Once the deal's parameters were settled, Antonetti and Kinzer then had to maneuver around some family holiday obligations. As they neared an agreement, Kinzer was at Six Flags Amusement Park in Atlanta with his grandchildren to see Santa Claus, while Antonetti was attending a performance of 'The Little Mermaid' with his wife and two daughters. Antonetti ducked in and out of the theater's auditorium before closing the biggest deal in team history during a break between two songs from the musical. 'We were somewhere between 'Under the Sea' and 'Part of Your World,' he said with a smile. 'It was a great performance.' The Indians can take a bow for theirs, as well. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2017

Ian Veneracion, spoiled brat na feeling star ang first impression kay Bea Alonzo!

AMINADO si Ian Veneracion na kakaiba ang first impression niya sa kanyang leading lady sa A Love To Last na si Bea Alonzo. “Ang unang impression ko sa kanya, you know, feeling ko, parang typical spoiled brat. Kasi everyone treats her like a queen. Ang impression ko noong una, ‘A, maarte ito, feeling superstar. Iyon ........»»

Category: filipinoSource:  hatawtabloidRelated NewsJan 4th, 2017