Sunday 31 January 2016

Cavaliers Stun Spurs on Saturday

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LeBron James scored 29 points and Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving added 21 apiece as the Cleveland Cavaliers finally took down one of the NBA’s elite teams, beating the San Antonio Spurs 117-103 on Saturday night.

The Cavs won their fourth straight under coach Tyronn Lue, who was promoted after David Blatt was fired on 22 January. Cleveland came in 0-5 against San Antonio, Golden State and Chicago, three top-tier teams who figure to contend with them for a title this season.

Lue has the Cavs playing at a faster pace and the Spurs, who were again without center Tim Duncan, couldn’t keep up with them. Duncan missed his third straight game with a sore right knee.

Kawhi Leonard scored 24 and LaMarcus Aldridge 15 for the Spurs, who lost for just the second time in 16 games. They lost to the Warriors on Monday.

Cleveland’s 117 points were the second-most given up this season by San Antonio, which came in allowing a league-best 90.6 points per game. The Cavs had more than that after three quarters.

Irving (10) and Matthew Dellavedova (8) scored Cleveland’s first 18 points in the fourth quarter. James scored the next three when he was fouled while going to the basket by San Antonio’s Patty Mills, who was flicked aside like a gnat by the four-time MVP on his way to a layup and three-point play.

Down by 17 points at the half, the Spurs scored the first eight of the third quarter, a spurt that prompted an oh-no-here-they-come vibe through Cleveland’s loud crowd, which was in playoff form.

But the Cavs responded with a flurry that showcased their offensive depth. Love and Dellavedova hit three-pointers and James powered inside for several baskets, helping Cleveland push its lead to 88-69 late in the third. James scored 16 in the quarter.

James, too, made one of his signature defensive plays by chasing down Spurs guard Manu Ginobili on a breakaway and blocking his shot at the rim.

Elsewhere, Harrison Barnes hit a three-pointer with 0.2 seconds remaining and Golden State escaped with a 108-105 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Klay Thompson had 32 points and Stephen Curry scored 23 for the Warriors, who nearly blew a 24-point second-half lead. Draymond Green added 10 points and 13 rebounds for Golden State, who opened a three-game road trip with their sixth straight victory while matching the NBA’s best start through 47 games.

Isaiah Canaan had 18 points to lead the 76ers, who dropped to 7-41 but nearly pulled off the most improbable victory of the NBA season.

“It shows we have no letdown, no backdown,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said.

Philadelphia trailed by double-digits most of the second half until a late 15-2 run tied the game at 105 with 22.3 seconds left. The Warriors won it when Curry passed inside to Green, who fired outside to Barnes on the right baseline.

“We kind of went into it knowing they were going to trap Steph, so whoever it was that got the ball tried to make a play,” Barnes said. “[Green] made that kick to the corner. I just let it ride.”

Clarke Cricket Comeback in Suburbs

Former Australia captain Michael Clarke has announced he will come out of retirement in February.

Clarke, who quit after last summer's Ashes, will play for Sydney grade team Western Suburbs on February 20-21.

"I've realised the game of cricket is in my blood," said 34-year-old Clarke.

"I'll start with this grade game and see if I miss it as much as I feel like I'm going to. If I do, the option is there to train the entire winter and then we'll see what happens."

Western Suburbs, the club Clarke played for as a youngster, face Randwick Petersham in a two-day first grade match at Pratten Park starting on February 20.

Clarke played 115 Tests and 245 one-day internationals for Australia, but struggled with back injuries throughout his career.

He said his comeback will primarily focus on limited-overs cricket.

"My focus is definitely the shorter format of the game," said Clarke, who added that he would "love to be a part" of Australia's Big Bash League, the Indian Premier League and English county cricket.

"There's possibly even Sheffield Shield cricket for New South Wales," he said.

"All I know is, I'll never say never to anything. I'll start with Western Suburbs and we will see where it takes me."

IRFU Thinking Outside the Box

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne has said the organisation needs to box clever to compete with their cash-rich English and French rivals ahead of a Six Nations that is "absolutely fundamental" to the resources of the game at every level in the country.

Browne admitted Ireland's performance in the upcoming RBS 6 Nations will determine how much money will be pumped into the game in this country.

Joe Schmidt's side begin their quest for a third Six Nations crown in a row next Sunday against Wales at the Aviva Stadium, and although the IRFU budget for a fourth-placed finish, Browne backed them to, once again, go above and beyond that target.

“What happens over the next six or seven weeks is absolutely fundamental to the resources of the IRFU and fundamentally impacts the resources available for the professional game in the provinces and indeed the amateur game," Browne told RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport.

“We sometimes have unrealistic expectations in this country – it’s a feast or a famine."

"Probably over 80 per cent of our income is generated off the back of the national team. It’s the bread and butter competition for the national team. We have a great team and a great coaching staff.

"We budget to come fourth and over the last number of years we've obviously been very fortunate in that we've done better than that.

“We’d certainly hope that we’re going to come in the top half of the competition but when you look at the fixtures and the way they’re aligned, Wales, France and then England, that’s a difficult set of opening fixtures. Having said that I think everyone is up for the challenge.”

Browne admitted the IRFU are facing a huge challenge to keep their brightest stars away from wealthy clubs across the water.

“The money that’s going into the Premiership and the Top 14 is significantly greater than the money that’s going into the Pro12," said Browne. 

"It’s highly unlikely that the Pro12 is ever going to match the money going into the Premiership and the Top 14.

"Of course we’re concerned about what the consequences of that are, which is that there’s more money available in England and France for players. They can have bigger squads, they can buy players from around the world and obviously some of our players are on the shopping lists of some of the French and English clubs.

“We need to be a lot cleverer about how we use our money. We need to make sure our academy systems and pathway is as efficient and effective as possible so we produce more players of a high quality than we have done up to now.

“I have no doubt we have the athletes capable of playing at the level we need them to play at; what we need to do is make sure we have the systems in place to help them realise their potential.

“We sometimes have unrealistic expectations in this country – it’s a feast or a famine. Whilst people may think there’s a famine going on at the moment, it doesn’t take too long to turn that around into a feast."

Saturday 30 January 2016

FIFA Suspend Madrid Transfer Bans

Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid have had their Fifa-imposed transfer bans suspended pending their appeals, both Primera División clubs have announced.

The two clubs were banned by the world governing body earlier this month from registering new signings for the next two transfer windows for breaching rules on the international transfer and registration of players aged under 18.

However, both clubs immediately appealed against the ruling – which would mean they are not be able to register any new players until the summer of 2017 after this month’s window closes – and on Friday night they announced the sanction had been provisionally suspended.

Real said in a statement on their official website: “Real Madrid has announced that the Fifa appeal committee has decided to provisionally suspend the sanction imposed on the club.”

Atlético said in a statement: “The Fifa appeal committee has granted the probationary suspension of the sanction imposed by the disciplinary committee of said body that prevented our club from signing national or foreign football players during the next two full periods of recruitment.

“The probationary suspension of said sanction shall be applied pending the outcome of the appeal filed by our club with the appeal committee of the maximum global governing body of football.”

Barcelona were hit with a similar punishment in April 2014 and their appeal to Fifa and the Cas (court of arbitration for sport) ultimately enabled them to sign six players, including Luis Suárez, in the following transfer window while their ban was suspended.

However, the Madrid clubs will not be able to register players this summer if their appeals are rejected before the window opens.

hey could sign players without being able to register them until the ban is lifted, as Barcelona did with Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal.

Sports Quotes - Steffi Graf

"You can have a certain arrogance, and I think that's fine, but what you should never lose is the respect for the others.”

Stefi Graf

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Kerber Wunderbar in Melbourne

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Angelique Kerber stunned world number one Serena Williams in three sets to win her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

Kerber, seeded seventh, won a thrilling final 6-4 3-6 6-4 at Melbourne Park.

The 28-year-old is the first German to win a major singles title since Steffi Graf at the 1999 French Open.

Williams, 34, was beaten for just the fifth time in 26 Grand Slam finals, and the American missed the chance to tie Graf's open-era record of 22 titles.

Kerber, who saved a match point in her first-round win over Misaki Doi, will move up to number two in the world rankings.

Kerber had won just one of six previous matches against Williams and was making her Grand Slam final debut, but she was the better player over two hours and eight minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

She led Williams in the ace count until the latter stages, limiting her to just seven overall, while the American racked up 46 errors to just 13 by Kerber.

Williams made 23 mistakes in the first set alone - sparking memories of her desperately nervous display in losing to Roberta Vinci at the US Open last September - and Kerber took full advantage to claim it after 39 minutes.

However, the defending champion cut her error count to just five in the second set and claimed it thanks to a single break in game four.

Kerber twice moved ahead in the decider and a stunning sixth game saw the German produce two fine drop shots and win a breathtaking 19-stroke rally to cling on to her serve and edge closer to victory.

Nerves took hold and she was broken while serving for the match, but she launched into the Williams serve once again and clinched the title when the world number one sent a volley long.

Kerber said afterwards that being able to say she was a Grand Slam champion "sounds crazy".

"It's my dream come. I worked for this my whole life," said the German.

"It's been such an up and down two weeks, I was match point down in the first round and had one foot in the plane to Germany.

"Now I have beaten Serena and won the championship. I have so many emotions, so many thoughts, but all of them good ones."

Williams was gracious in defeat, telling Kerber: "Angie, congratulations. You deserve this and I'm so happy for you. I really hope you enjoy this moment."

The runner-up added: "Would I give my performance an A? No, but this is all I could produce.

"I'm not a robot. I do the best that I can. I try to win every point but realistically I can't. Maybe someone else can."

Friday 29 January 2016

Murray Makes it Past Milos

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Andy Murray reached his fifth Australian Open final after an epic five-set battle with 13th seed Milos Raonic.

Briton Murray was broken in the first game and his 25-year-old Canadian opponent went on to take the first and third sets.

But the 28-year-old Scotsman prevailed 4-6 7-5 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 6-2 in a gruelling four-hour contest.

Murray will now meet reigning champion Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final.

"It was tough in that third set. In the tie-break he didn't miss a single serve and it is frustrating when you don't get a say in the points," said Murray.

"Over the match, I got a better read on his serve and that was crucial."

The result means Murray and older sibling Jamie have become the first brothers in the Open era to reach the finals in both the men's singles and men's doubles events at a Grand Slam.

Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares will play Daniel Nestor and Radek Stepanek in the doubles final on Saturday.

Fellow Scot Gordon Reid is also on course for an Australian Open double after reaching the final of the men's wheelchair in both the singles and doubles.

Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash: "This match won't take an awful lot out of Murray - the rallies weren't that long. He was moving very well at the end and was moving confidently. He knows where he failed last year and knows he must keep the pressure up against Djokovic and can't afford any lapses.

"Last year he was at himself the whole time. He shouldn't have been but he couldn't stop himself and for his sake I'm hoping he has learnt the lessons from that."

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller: "Maybe last year Murray didn't believe he could beat Djokovic, but now he's more and more confident in his abilities and Djokovic has been a bit off-key at times, making 100 errors against Gilles Simon."

Seb Coe Faces More Questions

IAAF president Lord Coe has denied a report he alerted UK Athletics (UKA) to allegations of bribes before the vote for the 2017 World Championships.

UKA boss Ed Warner said he was warned by a "very senior IAAF person" about envelopes of cash being handed out before the vote, which London won.

The Daily Mail claims two witnesses recall Coe warning the bid team.

Coe has repeatedly denied he knew about major corruption within athletics during his time as IAAF vice-president.

Now, following the latest accusations, the IAAF has been forced to issue a statement insisting Coe, who became president in August last year, had "no knowledge of bribes being offered or received".

The IAAF, which governs world athletics, and a number of its key officials have come under fire for their governance of the sport.

An independent World Anti Doping-Agency report recently claimed that "corruption was embedded" within the organisation.

The report's authors also suggested the bidding process for the World Championships should be investigated.

Coe led London's final presentation bid before it beat Doha in a 2011 vote for the right to host the 2017 championships.

The Qatari capital was subsequently awarded the 2019 event.

The Qatar Athletics Federation has always denied any wrongdoing during the voting process, but Warner told British MPS this week that the IAAF's ethics commission is looking into both Doha bids.

French prosecutors are already investigating the decision to award the 2021 World Championships to Eugene, Oregon.

The town, which has strong associations with sportswear giant Nike, for whom Coe was a paid ambassador until last month, appears to have been awarded the rights to stage the event without a full bidding process.