Karolina Pliskova, a grand slam underachiever, took a big step towards shedding that unwanted label by sweeping past Croatian teenager Ana Konjuh 6-2 6-2 on Wednesday to roar into the semi-finals of the U.S. Open.Pliskova arrived at Flushing Meadows as the only player ranked inside the top 20 yet to reach the fourth round at one of tennis’s four blue riband events but the 10th-seeded Czech made her trip to the semis look like nothing new as she overwhelmed 18-year-old Konjuh in 57 minutes.“It’s an amazing feeling, I am so excited to be in my first semi-final especially in this tournament I very much love New York and hardcourt season,” said Pliskova, who will next face either world number one Serena Williams or Romanian fifth seed Simona Halep.“I think I played a very good match today.“I did a quick break in the first game which helped me and I was more calm then and going for my shots.”It was a ruthless and dominating performance from Pliskova, who did not face a break point while surrendering only five points on her serve.The big-hitting Czech, who has fired more aces this season than any other player, opened the match with a bang, breaking the unsteady teen on her opening two serves en route to a 4-0 lead.Pliskova lost only one point on serve in the opening set as she swept past the reeling Croatian in 28 minutes.Konjuh began to find some rhythm and confidence near the end of the first and start of the second but could not keep it going and again found herself down a break 3-2.At that point there was no way back for the 92nd ranked Croatian as Pliskova steamrolled through four straight games finishing her opponent off with back-to-back aces.“I wasn’t at my best level today for sure, but she was just too good,” said Konjuh, who upset fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska to reach the quarter-finals. “Her serve is just too good.“Today on the court, you know, she found her rhythm and took the opportunities that I gave her.“This is a great result for me. Now I know that I got that something to be in the top.”
Woods has played only seven competitive rounds of golf since returning to the game after almost 16 months out following his third back surgery, and uncertainty clouds his future due to his fitness struggles.The 41-year-old looked a shadow of his former self when he hacked his way to a torrid five-over 77 on the first day of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, and he then withdrew before starting his second round due to back spasms which struck overnight.Woods pulled out of both the Genesis Open and this week’s Honda Classic, and he was even forced to cancel a scheduled press conference at Riviera last week on medical advice.Pat Perez aired some strong opinions on the 14-time major champion on his PGA Tour radio show earlier this week, claiming Woods “knows he can’t beat anybody”.In wide-ranging interview with The Guardian, McIlroy spoke of his own fitness struggles while also reflecting on his much-publicised round of golf with President Trump and giving his take on the current physical and mental plights”I never thought I would say this but I felt sorry for him,” McIlroy told Ewan Murray. “I just felt bad for the guy that his body won’t allow him to do what he wants to do. I can’t imagine anything so debilitating where you can’t even stand up to do a press conference.”Tiger was a child star, he was used to being out there winning golf tournaments since he was 10. I know that’s not what he values his life around but it must be hard to still want to do that but have it taken away because you can’t physically get to where you want to be. Obviously there is a physical battle there but there has to be a mental struggle as well.”I’m glad that he has other things in his life. He has his kids and is so committed to them. If he didn’t have that it would be so hard. He is still young, he has another half of his life to live. Golf is minuscule compared to watching your kids grow up. That’s where my priority would be now.”Playing tournament golf would be a bonus and awesome but life is more important than golf, which is what people have to remember when talking about Tiger Woods. Everyone sees him as a golfer, not a person. Tiger doesn’t owe anyone in the game. He has nothing to prove to anyone. I just hope he gets healthy and happy.”Meanwhile, McIlroy remains on course to make his return to action at the WGC-Mexico Championship next week following a patient rehabilitation from the rib injury that flared up in South Africa in January.The 27-year-old defied the pain of a stress fracture to finish tied at the top of the leaderboard before losing out to veteran Graeme Storm in a play-off, and his recovery has been a patient process as well as a period of frustration watching rivals Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson both winning on the PGA Tour.”I felt useless. I couldn’t even lift my suitcase,” said McIlroy, whose overriding priority is to avoid risking further injury ahead of the Masters in early April. “I could have probably pushed through to play the Honda Classic, but I wanted to take that extra week to make sure and, even if it comes to the point where I’m not 100 per cent comfortable, I’ll take another couple of weeks off. But I’m on target for Mexico.”It has been frustrating; you see Jordan Spieth win, Dustin Johnson win and it is never good to feel like you are falling behind. You feel like if you were out there, you might be able to do something about it.”My short game is as sharp as it has ever felt because that was all I could work on for a while. My golf should be sharp enough. The big concern is just making sure I can play four rounds in a row without doing any damage again.”I still have tournaments to get ready for Augusta, which is the biggest tournament of my year, and I’ve no problem saying that. It’s the one major I’m yet to win. As long as I’m good for that, I don’t care what it takes. That’s my main goal and it will continue as my main goal until I win it.”
This follows BFPNG’s Annual General Meeting held in Port Moresby last Saturday.Under the new Constitution, BFPNG will set a benchmark with members to appoint two athlete representatives, one male and one female, for each of the nation’s four regions.BFPNG President, Nick Daroa, said the newly-adopted constitution will also see 30 percent of BFPNG executives being female.He said at the Federation’s 2016 AGM held last November, BFPNG members voted in three female executives, representing 75 percent of the Board overall, reflecting the positive attitude towards gender empowerment and opportunity.“We are very proud to be a leading national federation that encourages gender equality.“We’ve been promoting our theme of ‘changing the game’ and this Constitution is certainly another step forward for us to showcase that,” said Daroa.
The 15-year-old, from a mixed parentage of East New Britain, New Ireland, Central, Milne Bay, Australia and China, was one of those who impressed selectors at the recent 2017 Touch Football National Championships.Named in the women’s train-on squad, Aila now has her sights set on making her debut for PNG in the 2019 World Cup in Malaysia.Aila, who is currently a student at Cavendish Road State High School, Brisbane, started playing touch football at age seven.The youngster has represented (Logan and Mt Gravatt district) for Brisbane and is currently the vice-captain for her U16 Redlands team. She also made the Brisbane Metropolitan East U16 team.Trying her hand at rugby union as well, Aila is now in her second year of playing rugby 7s with Logan Angels, and in 2015 received the Junior Player award in 2015 for her school.
The top-seeded Spaniard pulled out of the Paris Masters last week with a right knee injury, casting major doubt over whether he would be fit for the season-ending finale at The O2 in London.Nadal spoke to Sky Sports in an exclusive interview after arriving in London on Wednesday, when he insisted: “I’ve done everything I’ve needed to do to get ready for London.”He is guaranteed to end the year as No 1, irrespective of his performance at the finals, which begin on Sunday and end on November 19 – and you can watch every session live on Sky Sports.And Nadal, who faces David Goffin of Belgium in the last of the first round of matches, remained adamant during a pre-tournament media conference that he will take to the court on Monday evening.”If I didn’t believe I could be ready for Monday I wouldn’t be here,” Nadal said. “I don’t have to make a decision. I’m go to playing. That’s my feeling today. I had problems in Paris a week ago. I go day by day, how I’m feeling.”I cannot predict what will happen, but my feeling now is I’m going to play and try my best.”Nadal also insisted he had made no schedule demands on the organisers which would give him additional time to recuperate from his injury.”I didn’t have any request. I didn’t ask anything,” he said.With last year’s winner Andy Murray and runner-up Novak Djokovic absent through injury, there will be a new finals champion for the first time since 2011, when Roger Federer won the tournament for a sixth time.Nadal, who won the French and US Opens earlier this year to take his Grand Slam tally to 16, has never won the year-ending event.”It’s always in my mind, during 13 years that I’m qualified,” the 31-year-old said.”Being here is an important thing, but for me the most important thing is the only thing that happened to me this year. Winning tournaments, competing every week, being healthy until Paris.”I’m number one here, great. It’s a very important achievement, especially at my age.”It’s something important for me, but that’s all. It’s going to be a nice moment when I receive Sunday the award, a year ago it was never in my mind to achieve that again.”For me the most important thing is to finish the season well.”Federer opens on Sunday afternoon against Jack Sock of the United States, while third seed Alexander Zverev of Germany plays Marin Cilic of Croatia.Austria’s Dominic Thiem plays Grigor Dimitrov on Monday.
Australia shocked a well-set PNG side with its first three tries, all in the first 20 minutes of play.What was more shocking was the sudden rush of spectators jumping over the stadium barriers and onto the field.Reports came in later, saying the stadium flood lights at the West end was toppling over, causing spectators to run onto the field.Yet this minor disturbance did not disturb the flow of defense and attack of the Australians.PNG also got back right on it, and just before the half time whistle, put on the scoreboard its first 6 points.Though PNG managed made good come back with 2 more tries, Australia was still up ahead with 34 points to PNG 18.
Finland’s Valtteri Bottas took his first Formula One pole position at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday to end Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton’s bid for a seventh in a row.Triple world champion Hamilton qualified alongside, a mere 0.023 slower than Bottas’s lap of one minute 28.769 seconds, to secure the first front row lockout of the season for the reigning champions.Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, joint leader of the world championship standings with Hamilton after two races, will start in third place with Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo fourth.Mercedes, who won the race last year with now-retired champion Nico Rosberg, have taken five successive poles at the desert Sakhir circuit.
Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez will miss their first two Premier League games of the season after picking up an abdominal strain in training, manager Arsene Wenger said.Wenger said the Chile international would miss Arsenal’s home fixture against Leicester City on Friday (9.45pm) as well as the trip to Stoke City on Aug. 19.“He had a little abdominal strain that he caught on Sunday morning in training and he had a scan,” Wenger told a news conference. “He is out for a while, could be two weeks but he will not be available for Stoke.”Sanchez, who was Arsenal’s top scorer in the league with 24 goals last season, has been linked with a move to Paris St Germain in the French media, but Wenger has been adamant that he would stay at the Emirates Stadium.When asked if Arsenal have received any bids from PSG for the 28-year-old, Wenger replied: “I cannot tell you that. We are not open to any offers anyway.“(PSG) are looking for (Kylian) Mbappe, that’s what I read in the papers. I have had no contact with PSG.”Wenger also dismissed media reports linking Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with rivals Chelsea.The 23-year-old England international has struggled to secure a regular place since arriving at Arsenal six years ago, but Wenger believes the winger has the potential to become a great player.“I think he had in his career some bad moments because he had some small injuries,” the Frenchman added.“Last year he was much more stable. Personally I think he is a hugely talented player, he’s on the way up and he will continue to move up because the potential is there.“He’s very conscious of his qualities, he was not always. I believe he will be a very great player.”Wenger also confirmed goalkeeper David Ospina will stay at the club and fight for the number one shirt with Petr Cech this season.
RUNAWAY Premier League leaders Manchester City returned to winning ways with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Watford on Tuesday.After a goalless draw at Crystal Palace on Sunday ended their 18-match winning run, City, who lead second-placed Manchester United by 15 points, took 38 seconds to get in front when an unmarked Raheem Sterling turned in a low cross from Leroy Sane at the back post.Belgian Kevin De Bruyne had a free kick tipped on to the bar and it was his low cross in the 13th minute which was turned into his own net by Watford defender Christian Kabasele to make it 2-0.Andre Gray tested Ederson after a rare break from the visitors but City wrapped up victory in the 63rd minute when Watford keeper Heurelho Gomes fumbled a low De Bruyne cross and Sergio Aguero pounced to slot home the loose ball.Gray got a consolation for Watford in the 82nd minute, slotting home a low cross from Andre Carillo.Tottenham Hotspur could afford to start Harry Kane on the bench and watch his replacement Fernando Llorente spearhead their hard-earned 2-0 win at bottom club Swansea City in the Premier League on Tuesday.Former Swansea man Llorente, enjoying a rare start as Kane recovered from a heavy cold, headed Spurs in front after 12 minutes, although he was clearly offside when meeting Christian Eriksen’s free kick.In incessant driving rain at the Liberty Stadium, Spurs looked largely in control until after the break when Jordan Ayew went close and Jan Vertonghen inadvertently deflected a Swansea attack against his own post.Yet Kane, brought on for the final 20 minutes, calmed nerves as he superbly set up an 89th-minute goal for Dele Alli that sealed the victory that lifted Spurs fifth in the table, above their local rivals Arsenal.Andy Carroll’s dramatic double lifted West Ham out of the relegation zone. The Hammers were trailing fellow strugglers West Brom until two goals from their towering striker – the second deep in stoppage time – secured a 2-1 win.James McClean had given the Baggies a first-half lead, but Carroll equalised with a trademark header and then buried an angled shot to leave the Baggies languishing in the bottom three.Seven of Albion’s weary starters against the Gunners kept their places, with Jake Livermore a late replacement for Matty Phillips who felt his hamstring during the warm-up.In the fourth minute of stoppage time Marko Arnautovic swept one final ball across goal and Carroll slotted in from the angle to secure a much-needed win.James McArthur and Luka Milivojevic struck to help Crystal Palace come from behind and continue their revival under Roy Hodgson as they beat Southampton 2-1 in their Premier League clash.Saints took the lead at a rainswept St Mary’s when Shane Long struck his first goal since February 2017 in the 17th minute, ending his drought by smashing home Jeremy Pied’s low cross from inside the area.Alex McCarthy made a superb low save to deny Christian Benteke as Palace pushed for an equaliser after the break, and they finally found one in the 69th minute when McArthur drove home from close range after Benteke’s flick-on.Then Milivojevic curled home a sumptuous winner from 20 metres from Andros Townsend’s cut-back with 10 minutes remaining to help Palace leapfrog their opponents and move into 14th, while Southampton drop to 17th, above the relegation zone only on goal difference, and departing to boos from their fans.
Mark Hughes enjoyed a measure of personal redemption on Tuesday night after guiding Southampton to near certain safety in the Premier League with a vital win at Swansea City after being sacked by Stoke City earlier in the campaign.Hughes had been handed the task of rescuing the south-coast club from the threat of relegation when he was appointed in March and was a strange choice in many people’s eyes, having left his former team in a similar predicament.Yet, his mission was accomplished at the Liberty Stadium when a second-half goal from Manolo Gabbiadini secured a 1-0 victory over relegation rivals Swansea that moved the Saints three points clear of the drop zone.With goal difference handing Southampton a comfortable cushion heading into their final match of the season at home to champions Manchester City, it would take a remarkable turnaround for them to fall out of the top flight.After beginning his spell in charge with three straight league defeats, Hughes’ reputation was hanging by a thread. With Premier League managers enjoying short and often precarious shelf lives, his career was arguably in the balance.Yet Tuesday’s victory was Southampton’s second in three games and left them unbeaten in their last four league games, with the manager able to take credit for guiding his side away from trouble just in time.“I said when I took it on it was never about me or my position or my reputation or standing in the game,” Hughes, a former Southampton player, said.“It was only ever about trying to come in to help a club that obviously I played for and have empathy with and I just wanted to try and help them and keep them in the Premier League.”TRENCH WARFARESouthampton have been frequently heralded as a model of how to flourish on a limited budget, having not finished lower than eighth in the last four seasons.Yet having sought to develop a squad that would allow them to push on into the top half of the table, they looked ill-equipped to deal with the trench warfare of a relegation battle.They had struggled for goals all season – Charlie Austin was their top scorer with seven, while their chance conversion rate was the third lowest in the division.That meant Hughes had little choice but to get his players to roll up their sleeves and scrap.Tuesday’s victory was dogged at best with Southampton creating few chances before grabbing a crucial goal just when the game seemed to be heading for a goalless draw.“It was a huge effort by everybody,” Hughes said. “It was not just this evening. Ever since we took on the challenge in fairness…“Some games we have had things go against us and we have had to pick ourselves up but I thought they were immense today, just weren’t going be denied, so I am really delighted for them.”