Tag Archives: defending

Jose Maria Olazabal in Ryder Cup captain"s buggy at Spanish Open

Olazabal has best drive at Spanish Open with signed Ryder Cup captain's buggy

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

15:01 GMT, 17 April 2013

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UPDATED:

16:55 GMT, 17 April 2013

Jose Maria Olazabal has a cool set of wheels at the Spanish Open with the former Ryder Cup captain cruising around in his skipper's buggy.

Olazabal masterminded Europe's win over the United States at Medinah last year and all 12 of his players signed the front of his cart.

Sergio Garcia and Francesco Molinari are the only two of Olazabal's troops teeing it up in Valencia this week – the former the bookies' favourite and the latter the defending champion.

Home hopes: Jose Maria Olazabal (right) and Sergio Garcia at Parador de El Saler for the Spanish Open

Home hopes: Jose Maria Olazabal (right) and Sergio Garcia at Parador de El Saler for the Spanish Open

Garcia, who finished in a tie for eighth at The Masters on Sunday, was all smiles as he hitched a lift with Olazabal during Wednesday's practice at Parador de El Saler.

Meanwhile, Miguel Angel Jimenez will put his recovery from a broken leg to the test on his return to action in Valencia.

Jimenez, who surpassed Des Smyth as the oldest winner on the European Tour when he lifted the Hong Kong Open aged 48 years and 318 days last November, suffered the injury a month later while skiing near his home in Malaga.

'My leg is improving daily,' the 49-year-old told reporters. 'I work out every morning in the gym and I'm actually a little ahead of schedule on my rehab. I am not one hundred per cent fit, but I want to test myself and see how I feel.

Good to be back: Miguel Angel Jimenez is making his return to action after recovering from a broken leg

Good to be back: Miguel Angel Jimenez is making his return to action after recovering from a broken leg

'I can't wait to be back on Tour with my friends and I'd hate to miss the chance of playing at El Saler.'

Jimenez made his tour debut in the Spanish Open 30 years ago and will be making his 599th career appearance this week.

'Javier Arana's wonderful design blends beautifully with its natural surroundings, both in the pine trees area and in the dunes area. For me it's the best course in Spain and I love all the holes,' Jimenez added.

'It's a beautiful layout with a strong finish; the 17th is a good par three towards the dunes and the 18th is spectacular. Once you play at El Saler you get hooked. It's such an enjoyable course that you keep wanting to come back.

'I have many fond memories of El Saler. We used to play many tournaments in the 80's and I won an Under-25 event in 1986. We also played two or three Campeonatos de Levante, and later on a few European Tour events. The last I played was the 2003 Seve Trophy.'

Different ball game: Garcia and his dad Victor watch former tennis ace Juan Carlos Ferrero during the pro-am

Different ball game: Garcia and his dad Victor watch former tennis ace Juan Carlos Ferrero during the pro-am

Masters 2013: Bubba Watson sinks hole-in-one in practice round

Fun in the sun at Augusta as defending champion Watson sinks hole-in-one in Masters practice round… and he didn't cry!

By
Charlie Skillen

PUBLISHED:

16:47 GMT, 10 April 2013

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UPDATED:

17:08 GMT, 10 April 2013

Bubba Watson is clearly in top form to defend his green jacket in style after getting a hole-in-one in a practice round today.

Last year's Champion was playing a practice round before the tournament starts tomorrow, and achieved a hole-in-one on Augusta's par 3 16th hole.

Watson's practice partner Scott Piercy described Watson's reaction: 'Arms in the air, big smile, like a little kid in the candy store,' he told the Chicago Tribune.

High fives: Bubba Watson (right) laps up the apprecation of the crowd after sinking a hole-in-one

High fives: Bubba Watson (right) laps up the apprecation of the crowd after sinking a hole-in-one

Mini-me: Watson takes out his driver during a practice round today ahead of defending his Masters title

Mini-me: Watson takes out his driver during a practice round today ahead of defending his Masters title

Turtle and the hare: Sergio Garcia attempts to chase some unwanted visitors back into the pond today

Turtle and the hare: Sergio Garcia attempts to chase some unwanted visitors back into the pond today

'That was really cool. To do it on 16 at the Masters, I'm sure it's something he’ll never forget. And I can tell my kids that Bubba Watson made a hole in one here, and I saw it.'

Watson's caddie, Teddy Scott, told the same paper: 'The crowd was obviously really into it. any time somebody makes a hole-in-one, if there's just four of you playing with your buddies, you're excited. So everybody was pumped and high-fiving. It was cool.'

Ready and waiting: Rory McIlroy plays a shot in today's practice round ahead of the Masters starting tomorrow

Ready and waiting: Rory McIlroy plays a shot in today's practice round ahead of the Masters starting tomorrow

Rory McIlroy

McIlroy

Face in the crowd: Scotsman Paul Lawrie hits a shot from the trees in a practice round today

Face in the crowd: Scotsman Paul Lawrie hits a shot from the trees in a practice round today

The amazing feat comes the day after the Masters Club Dinner in honour of Watson, a tradition started by Ben Hogan in 1952.

Fans leapt to Watson's defence over the menu he chose for the meal, which Sir Nick Faldo joked on Twitter was a 'happy meal'.

Posting a message to Watson, Faldo said: 'You had a year to decide on, grilled chicked, mashed potatoes, corn, macaroni & cheese!!!#HappyMeal #PlayLikeaChampion,' before quoting a Tweet from a fan which suggested diners got a toy prize if they cleaned their plates.

Happy meal: Sir Nick Faldo joked about the quality of Watson's Masters Club Dinner menu

Happy meal: Sir Nick Faldo joked about the quality of Watson's Masters Club Dinner menu

Hitting the target: Argentinean Angel Cabrera chips on the driving range before a practice round today

Hitting the target: Argentinean Angel Cabrera chips on the driving range before a practice round today

Watson broke down in tears in a press conference yesterday after a reporter asked him what he did with the green jacket he won last year.

He also famously cried on the shoulder of his mother Molly when he won the tournament after a play-off with Louis Oosthuizen, leading to the nickname 'Blubba.'

Suits you: Two Australian fans got in on the fun (above) while another fan proposed to his partner (below)

Suits you: Two Australian fans got in on the fun (above) while another fan proposed to his partner (below)

Proposal

Proposal

MASTERS 2013 PREVIEW: Tiger Woods must wake up and smell the azaleas: he"ll need his driver to win

MASTERS PREVIEW: Tiger must wake up and smell the azaleas: he'll need his driver to win a fifth Green Jacket this week

-Picture-archive-Seve-Ballesteros-Jack-NIcklaus-Ben-Hogan-Tiger-Woods-Sandy-Lyle.html#ixzz2Q3O0jnsU” target=”_blank”>The Masters picture archive: Sandy dances a jig, Seve is a genius at work, Hogan eyes his prey, and more from the Augusta vaults…

Despite blowing away the opposition during his three wins this season, Woods has generally kept his driver in the bag where possible, and with good reason. Tiger ranks way down in 147th spot on the PGA Tour for driving accuracy this year, and has had to rely on his near-peerless shotmaking powers to recover from all sorts of bother – witness his stunning par save from water at the Honda Classic in March.

Whoever wins this week will need to shape his driver from right to left round Augusta's famous doglegs, and that opens the door for the world's best with the long stick – the likes of Westwood, Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Keegan Bradley, Louis Oosthuizen and Dustin Johnson.

It also favours the left-handers, who are able to hit less risky fades off the tee – and explains why Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson have won in the last 10 years since the course was lengthened in the wake of Tiger's mauling in 1997. Expect three-time winner Mickelson and defending champion Watson to be in the mix down the stretch on Sunday once again.

It is often said that short-game expertise is the key to taming Augusta's notoriously tricky greens. But, while the winner will be no slouch with the wedge or putter, it is a power game that tames Bobby Jones' design these days.

Painful memories: Rory McIlroy has had two meltdowns in the last two years at Augusta

Painful memories: Rory McIlroy has had two meltdowns in the last two years at Augusta

Rory McIlroy

And there's one other chap who's pretty handy with a driver too. Rory McIlroy often looks like a kid in a candy shop at Augusta – make that a kid in a pro shop with his visit for souveneirs on Tuesday – and with good reason. On form, there's no better driver in all of golf than the world No 2. This course is made for him. He is destined to win here one day.

Masters masters…

Augusta's champions since Tiger's last triumph:

2012 Bubba Watson
2011 Charl Schwartzel
2010 Phil Mickelson
2009 ngel Cabrera
2008 Trevor Immelman
2007 Zach Johnson
2006 Phil Mickelson

But will this be his year Not if he plays like he has for most of the time since his controversial switch to Nike clubs. He'll have to stay on the course for the entire four days for starters, which he spectacularly failed to do at the Honda Classic, where he stormed off the course blaming his state of mind and then toothache.

The words 'McIlroy' and 'meltdown' sit together uncomfortably easily at Augusta too, after his final-round implosion in 2011 (remember that tee shot on 10 Not many golfers are synonymous with a cabin off a fairway, but he is), and again last year, when the Ulsterman and Sergio Garcia embraced on the 12th green after a third-round horror show.

But McIlroy's 11th hour decision to play in Texas last week led to a much-needed second-place finish and a huge boost to his confidence. Rory has a habit of turning his fortunes round quickly and on the grandest of stages – his two major wins have come immediately after periods of poor form and/or traumatic on-course experiences. So why not again here this week

England awaits: Justin Rose (left), Ian Poulter (right) and Lee Westwood (below) all have a good chance

England awaits: Justin Rose (left), Ian Poulter (right) and Lee Westwood (below) all have a good chance

England awaits: Justin Rose (left), Ian Poulter (right) and Lee Westwood (below) all have a good chance

McIlroy or anyone hailing from these shores will be battling history. 2013 marks 25 years since Sandy Lyle became the first UK golfer to win at Augusta but there has been no winner from these isles since Nick Faldo's comeback of all comebacks over Greg Norman in 1996.

Northern Irish players have taken the title at four of the last 11 majors, and McIlroy again looks most likely to triumph from the home nations.

No Tiger, no great champions

The list of Major winners since Woods won his 14th and last major at the 2008 US Open divides opinion.

Some have heralded a great and unpredictable period full of brilliant golfers, while others have suggested none have the class of Woods.

2012 Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Ernie Els Rory McIlroy

2011 Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Keegan Bradley

2010 Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer

2009 Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, YE Yang

2008 Padraig Harrington (x2)

But Rose is in the form of his life, has a good record at Augusta and proved he can do it on the biggest stage of all when beating Mickelson at the Ryder Cup last year. Westwood is always in the mix here come Sunday, Ian Poulter reserves his best golf for when he can grab the most attention, and Graeme McDowell always seems to contend at majors these days.

So there is more than a little hope that the long wait will finally end this year. Just so long as none of them wins the traditional Par-Three Tournament on Wednesday. No-one has ever triumphed in that and gone on to win a Green Jacket four days later, as Luke Donald found to his cost two years ago.

Arguably though, the par threes are the least important holes at Augusta. The champion will have to take apart the par-fives – Watson went -8 on these holes last year – while the par-fours will separate the men from the boys (and that probably includes 14-year-old Guan Tianlang, the extraordinary Chinese who will become the youngest Masters competitor ever on Thursday, but whose tee shots will probably prove too short at 250 yards to compete.)

The two-shotters at the Cathedral of Pines ranked the second hardest of all courses on the PGA Tour last year, and collectively played at an average score of 0.2 strokes over par.

Dangermen: Keegan Bradley (above) and Phil Mickelson both boast power games that can tame the course

Dangermen: Keegan Bradley (above) and Phil Mickelson both boast power games that can tame the course

Dangermen: Keegan Bradley (above) and Phil Mickelson both boast power games that can tame the course
Shooting a number

3 – Number of players who have successfully defended their Masters title (Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods)

0 – Number of Australians who have won The Masters

63 – The course record for a single round, held by Nick Price and Greg Norman.

270 – Lowest winning score in history, shot by Tiger Woods, aged 21, in 1997.

23 – Number of holes-in-one at the Masters.

If the wind picks up, as is forecast for Thursday and Friday, more than a few of the favourites will be blown off course. But the sun is set to shine over the weekend, which usually means low scoring, roars echoing around the trees, and what is often the most nerve-shredding, adrenaline-rushing Sunday at any golf tournament in the world.

The good weather in Georgia this Spring has also provided a much-needed boost for those of us suffering in the chill winds this side of the pond. After last year's early bloom, August's galaxy of flowers have exploded into colour in perfect time for this year's Masters.

Woods will need to wake up and smell the azaleas: he needs his driver to win here this week.

THE 77TH MASTERS TOURNAMENT

Course: Augusta National Golf Club, par 72, 7435 yards.

Defending champion: Bubba Watson.

TV: All four days on Sky Sports. Par-three contest from 7.00pm on Wednesday.
COverage of rounds one, two and three start at 7pm, round four from 6pm on Sunday.
Day one and two highlights on BBC, plus round three from 8.30pm and round four from 7pm.

Bookies’ favourite: Tiger Woods.

Three to watch

RORY MCILROY – You bet he's the one to watch. This course is made for the Northern Irishman, but has he found his form again after a horrible start to 2013 And, perhaps even more importantly, has he got over his two meltdowns in the last two years at Augusta

ADAM SCOTT – Recent history suggests great drivers do well at Augusta, and there's few to rival the big Aussie with the big dog. Went close in 2011, went even closer at Lytham last summer… it's only a matter of time before he nails a major.

LEE WESTWOOD – His last three visits have yielded finishes of second (2010), 11th (2011) and and third (2012). Has improved on his short game in Florida this year, which could make the difference in his final major before he turns 40.

Bandit

MATT KUCHAR – Boasts a game that rarely breaks down and a Cheshire Cat smile whatever happens on the course. Has also developed a taste for winning big in the last year, as his PLAYERS and WGC-Accenture Match Play title prove. The American revival is gathering momentum after the Ryder Cup – watch out, Europe.

In bloom: Augusta National is looking its best ahead of the 77th edition of The Masters

In bloom: Augusta National is looking its best ahead of the 77th edition of The Masters

MASTERS GROUPINGS AND TEE-TIMES (BST)

1:00pm S Lyle (Sco), J Peterson (USA), N Smith (USA)

1:11pm L Mize (USA), B Gay (USA), R Henley (USA)

1:22pm I Woosnam (Wal), D Lynn (Eng), K Na (USA)

1:33pm D Toms (USA), R Sterne (Rsa), T Potter Jr (USA)

1:44pm T Watson (USA), R Moore (USA), K Streelman (USA)

1:55pm R Garrigus (USA), C Pettersson (Swe), T Clark (Rsa)

2:06pm M Weir (Can), L Westwood (Eng), J Furyk (USA)

2:17pm B Snedeker (USA), R Ishikawa (Jpn), J Rose (Eng)

2:28pm J Olazabal (Esp), M Leishman (Aus), T Vogel (USA)

2:39pm C Schwartzel (Rsa), W Simpson (USA), P Hanson (Swe)

2:50pm Z Johnson (USA), KJ Choi (Kor), G McDowell (NIr)

3:12pm M Thompson (USA), J Huh (USA), J Senden (Aus)

3:23pm S Cink (USA), N Colsaerts (Bel), T Wiratchant (Tha)

3:34pm B Watson (USA), I Poulter (Eng), S Fox (USA)

3:45pm T Woods (USA), L Donald (Eng), S Piercy (USA)

3:56pm J. Day (Aus), R Fowler (USA), P Harrington (Irl)

4:07pm J Merrick (USA), T Olesen (Den), DA Points (USA)

4:18pm C Stadler (USA), B Curtis (USA), M Weaver (USA)

4:29pm M O'Meara (USA), M Laird (Sco), J Donaldson (Wal)

4:40pm P Lawrie (Sco), T Bjorn (Den), G Fernandez-Castano (Esp)

4:51pm T Immelman (Rsa), G Coetzee (Rsa), A Dunbar (NIr)

5:13pm E Els (Rsa), S Stricker (USA), N Watney (USA)

5:24pm B Crenshaw (USA), M Manassero (Ita), T Guan (Chn)

5:35pm B Langer (Ger), L Glover (USA), H Stenson (Swe)

5:46pm V Singh (Fij), B Van Pelt (USA), YE Yang (Kor)

5:57pm A Cabrera (Arg), S Garcia (Esp), A Scott (Aus)

6:08pm F Couples (USA), D Johnson (USA), B Grace (Rsa)

6:19pm H Mahan (USA), H Fujita (Jpn), F Molinari (Ita)

6:30pm P Mickelson (USA), L Oosthuizen (Rsa), M Kaymer (Ger)

6:41pm R McIlroy (Nir), K Bradley (USA), F Jacobson (Swe)

6:52pm J Dufner (USA), M Kuchar (USA), B Haas (USA)

Andy Murray beats Andreas Seppi in Sony Open in Miami

Murray in the box seat after rival Djokovic suffers shock defeat by Haas in Miami

PUBLISHED:

21:00 GMT, 26 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

08:15 GMT, 27 March 2013

Two-time defending champion Novak
Djokovic suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Tommy Haas to leave
Andy Murray in the box seat at the Sony Open in Miami.

Veteran German Haas completely
outplayed the world No 1 for a 6-2 6-4 victory meaning Murray, who
earlier beat Andreas Seppi by the same scoreline, is the highest seed
left in the tournament going into the quarter-finals.

In control: Andy Murray was seldom stretched against the No 16 seed

In control: Andy Murray was seldom stretched against the No 16 seed

From 2-1 down in the first set, Haas
won seven straight games to got 6-2 2-0 up and, though Djokovic
eventually broke back to level, the 34-year-old held on for his first
victory against a world No 1 since 1999.

In
distinctly chilly conditions in the late match, there were hints of
what was to come as Haas held his first two service games to love.

Haas then sealed the first break of the match as Djokovic netted, and the Serbian handed him another with a poor shot at net.

Net result: Murray is in to the last eight in Miami

[caption

The 15th seed took the first set in less than half an hour, then kept on rolling with a break to open the second, in part thanks to a double fault from his opponent.

Djokovic saved break points in his next service game too, before holding to stop the rot, then pounced on some rare unforced errors from Haas to seal a break of his own and level at 3-3.

Haas broke again though at 4-4 and it proved decisive as he sealed the match at the second attempt with a forehand winner.

The German’s prize is a last-eight meeting with 11th seed Gilles Simon, who beat Janko Tipsarevic in three sets.

Murray breezed into the quarter-finals, where he will face Marin Cilic, after cruising past 16th seed Seppi.

Murray has yet to drop a set in this tournament and this did not seem likely to change today as he was rarely tested by his Italian opponent, whose sole break point opportunity came in the final game.

The Briton felt the windy conditions worked to his advantage.

'It was swirling a little bit at the start and he made more unforced errors than he usually does,” he told the Independent.

'I was able to track down a lot of his balls because he wasn’t timing his shots that well.

'But he started going for his shots more in the second set and made it tough for me.'

A
limp forehand into the net immediately gave Murray two break points in
the opening game and another unforced error from Seppi gave the world
number three the initiative.

To the exit: Novak Djokovic waves to the crowd as he leaves the court after losing to Tommy Haas

To the exit: Novak Djokovic waves to the crowd as he leaves the court after losing to Tommy Haas

Seppi,
who reached a career-high 18th in the world in January this year, won
just four points on Murray’s serve in the first set and was broken again
in the seventh game as the US Open champion put one foot into the next
round.

The second seed wasted three break point opportunities at the start of the second set before Seppi steadily settled.

The 29-year-old had a slight hope of getting back into the match when Murray found himself 4-3 and 0-30 down on his serve before storming back to level.

Big hit: Tommy Haas of Germany celebrates his win

Big hit: Tommy Haas of Germany celebrates his win

In the very next game, Murray earned his fourth break point opportunity of the set and he would not be denied this time as Seppi crashed a forehand into the net.

The Briton had a bit of a wobble serving out the match and although Seppi had an opportunity to break straight back, Murray sealed victory with his first match point, booking a meeting with ninth seed Cilic who beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5 7-6 (7/4).

There were also wins for the third
and fourth seeds, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych, as well as Richard
Gasquet and Jurgen Melzer.

In
the women’s draw, Serena Williams matched Steffi Graf’s record for the
number of match wins in this tournament, a 6-3 7-6 (7/5) win over
Australian Open finalist Li Na in the quarter-finals seeing the American
claim her 59th victory in the Miami Masters.

'I’m excited,' said the five-time champion in her on-court interview. 'It’s just great.

'Every
day I play here is a surprise for me because I enjoy it so much. I
enjoy the great crowd and I’m just happy to still be here.'

Williams
will next face Polish fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who produced an
astonishing shot in the second set to help her beat Belgium’s Kirsten
Flipkens 4-6 6-4 6-2.

Wrong-footed by a net cord, Radwanska spun more than 180 degrees and stuck out her racquet for an improvised volley winner, leaving her opponent staring in disbelief.

Rafael Nadal beats David Ferrer 6-0 6-2 in Mexican Open final

Nadal crushes Ferrer to claim Mexican Open title… and he's raring to go for Indian Wells!

By
Steven Donaldson

PUBLISHED:

12:32 GMT, 3 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

12:44 GMT, 3 March 2013

A dominant Rafa Nadal dismantled fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 6-0 6-2 on Saturday to win his second Mexican Open title and continue his successful comeback from a long injury lay-off.

Nadal, ranked fifth in the world, needed just over an hour to dispatch top seed Ferrer and was delighted with his form.

'For me, I played almost perfectly,' said Nadal following the match. 'My knee responded well all week.'

King of clay: Rafael Nadal collects his trophy wearing a sombrero in Acapulco

King of clay: Rafael Nadal collects his trophy wearing a sombrero in Acapulco

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

Moving on: The Spaniard will play in the Indian Wells Masters tournament next week

Nadal also confirmed he would play in next week's Indian Wells hard-court tournament, despite speculation he might skip the event to spare his knee.

'My heart tells me I should continue competing, that I need to move on to the next tournament,' he added.

Nadal had been sidelined for more than seven months due to a partially torn tendon in his knee. He made his return early last month at the Chilean Open, losing in the final to Argentine Horacio Zeballos. A week later he claimed the Brazil Open title.

Easy: Nadal dropped just two games and was on court for little more than an hour against David Ferrer

Easy: Nadal dropped just two games and was on court for little more than an hour against David Ferrer

Easy: Nadal dropped just two games and was on court for little more than an hour against Ferrer

The former world number one charged out of the blocks and won the first eight games against three-time defending champion Ferrer, who saw his 19-match winning streak at the clay-court event come to an end.

'Rafa was just better than me today,' said Ferrer.

World No 4 Ferrer waited 44 minutes to win his first game of the final, the crowd erupting in applause as he put away a service winner to trail 2-1 in the second set.

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

Success: Nadal added the Mexican title to his triumph in Brazil and final in Chile since his return from injury

Crushed: Ferrer admitted his compatriot was the better man on the day

Crushed: Ferrer admitted his compatriot was the better man on the day

With Ferrer serving down 3-1, an extended rally in which both players scrambled back and forth from the net ended with a top-spin lob winner by Nadal, bringing the crowd to its feet and the score to 30-30.

Second seed Nadal, the 2005 Mexican Open champion, won the next two points to go up two breaks in the set and virtually put the match away.

Australian Open 2013: Victoria Azarenka beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-1

Defending champ Azarenka through to semis after overcoming tricky Kuznetsova

with a wonderfully creative display – mixing clever angles with raw power.

But it was not enough to derail Azarenka who, having edged the first set, ran through the second to register her 12th successive win in Melbourne, 7-5, 6-1.

The defence continues: Victoria Azarenka celebrates her win over Svetlana Kuznetsova

The defence continues: Victoria Azarenka celebrates her win over Svetlana Kuznetsova

'She played really well throughout the whole match,' said Azarenka. “I know what kind of tennis she is capable of and in the beginning it took a little bit of adjustment because she has a very different game.

'I am glad I could produce my best tennis when it was needed.'

Azarenka needs to retain the title on Saturday night to stand any hope of keeping her number one ranking and it looked as though that position was under severe threat in the early stages as Kuznetsova came out firing, displaying the kind of tennis which saw her win the 2004 US Open and 2009 French Open crowns.

Tough test: Azarenka faced a challenge in the first set

Tough test: Azarenka faced a challenge in the first set

At full stretch: Svetlana Kuznetsova struggled to match her first set performance in the second

At full stretch: Svetlana Kuznetsova struggled to match her first set performance in the second

This was no typical crash, bang, wallop encounter, with Kuznetsova particularly inventive.

Deft with the drop shot and imaginative from mid-court, she tried to move Azarenka off the baseline from where she can do the most damage with her brutal groundstrokes.

And for a while it worked. The Russian broke for 3-1 and after holding, an upset seemed on the cards.

But Azarenka roared back, playing some smart tennis of her own.

Famous fan: LMFAO musician Redfoo supports Azarenka

Famous fan: LMFAO musician Redfoo supports Azarenka

Eye on the ball: Azarenka serves to Kuznetsova

Eye on the ball: Azarenka serves to Kuznetsova

She broke back for 3-4 and then ramped up her performance level even further at 5-5, with a big forehand on break point edging her ahead for the first time in the match.

She served it out and then maintained the momentum by breaking in the opening game of the second.

Kuznetsova hit back immediately but she could not win another game as the top seed advanced to a last-four clash with either Serena Williams or Sloane Stephens.

All over: Azarenka and Kuznetsova shake hands after their match

All over: Azarenka and Kuznetsova shake hands after their match

Australian Open 2013: Svetlana Kuznetsova beats Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 2-6, 7-5

Former world No 1 Wozniacki crashes out as Kuznetsova finds her form to make the quarter-finals

PUBLISHED:

02:53 GMT, 21 January 2013

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UPDATED:

03:21 GMT, 21 January 2013

A resurgent Svetlana Kuznetsova stunned former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki in an absorbing encounter on Rod Laver Arena to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open with a 6-2 2-6 7-5 victory on Monday.

The former U.S. and French Open champion, unseeded this year after an injury-disrupted 2012, prevailed in a highly competitive 75-minute third set and wrapped up her victory with a backhand volley at the net.

Shock: Svetlana Kuznetsova got the better of former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki

Shock: Svetlana Kuznetsova got the better of former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki

Kuznetsova saw her streak of 40
straight Grand Slam appearances broken last year when a right knee
injury forced her out of the U.S. Open.

The 27-year-old Russian made 41
unforced errors but 52 winners were enough to claim a place in the last
eight for the third time in 12 appearances at Melbourne Park.

Getting to the ball: Wozniacki gets her backhand over the net

Getting to the ball: Wozniacki gets her backhand over the net

Fast start: Svetlana Kuznetsova dominated the first set

Fast start: Svetlana Kuznetsova dominated the first set

The former world No 2 will play the
winner of the next match on Rod Laver Arena between defending champion
Victoria Azarenka and Elena Vesnina.

Raymond Van Barneveld beats Gary Anderson at World Darts Championship

Van Barneveld dismisses Anderson to set up World Championship quarter-final with Whitlock

PUBLISHED:

00:06 GMT, 28 December 2012

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UPDATED:

00:08 GMT, 28 December 2012

Raymond van Barneveld produced a clinical display on Thursday night at Alexandra Palace as he brushed aside an out-of-sorts Gary Anderson 4-0.

The five-time world champion set up a last-eight tie with Simon Whitlock when he averaged 93.35 against ‘The Flying Scotsman’ who had a shocking double success rate of just 18%.

Reigning champion Adrian Lewis and pre-tournament second favourite Michael van Gerwen also advanced to the quarter-finals on a star-studded day at the World Darts Championship.

Clinical: Van Barneveld averaged 93.35 against Anderson

Clinical: Van Barneveld averaged 93.35 against Anderson

The match was all but over at the start of the fourth set despite a few finishing problems for the Dutchman. Both players missed doubles in the opening leg before Barney hit double five to break throw.

Van Barneveld then held throw to lead
2-0 before the third leg saw a hatful of missed doubles before Barney
eventually hit double three to book his place in the quarter-finals.

He
told Sky Sports: ‘I was surprised Gary missed a lot of doubles. I
played well in the first set and held my throw to go 3-0 and just
thought “hold your legs and you will be alright”.

‘Gary
Anderson hit 19 180s against John Bowles and survived three match
darts. You can hit 180s but you have to hit your doubles. Averages are
fantastic but you have to hit the doubles.

Quarter-finalist: Van Barneveld will face Whitlock next

Quarter-finalist: Van Barneveld will face Whitlock next

‘When I saw the draw I thought “Wow it is really hard for my opponents”.’

Defending champion Lewis also won his third-round tie on Thursday night despite a mid-match blip against Kevin Painter.

‘Jackpot’
forged into a 2-0 lead before ‘The Artist’ fought back to level at 2-2,
only for Lewis to win the next two sets to seal a 4-2 win.

Defending champion: Lewis hopes to retain his title

Defending champion: Lewis hopes to retain his title

In the first match of the evening, Van Gerwen overcame a foot injury and the challenge of Colin Lloyd 4-1 to set up a mouth-watering quarter-final tie with Lewis.

The Dutchman, who averaged 98.96, came out firing on all cylinders as he raced to the opening set in under eight minutes.

And despite a third-set blip to allow ‘Jaws’ back into the match, Van Gerwen won six of the next seven legs to advance to the last eight.

Injured: But Van Gerwen shrugged off a foot problem to beat Lloyd

Injured: But Van Gerwen shrugged off a foot problem to beat Lloyd

In the afternoon session, 2010 runner-up Whitlock edged past Dave Chisnall 4-3 in a gripping contest.

‘The Wizard’ led three times but saw his advantage wiped out on every occasion and was forced into a deciding set.

Chisnall then took a 3-2 lead in the final set before the Aussie hit a stunning 152 checkout to draw level on his way to winning the final set 5-3.

Whitlock said: ‘When I fell 3-2 down in the final set I was well aware that I had to produce something special and I did that with the 152 finish.’

Barrier: Whitlock faces Van Barneveld next

Barrier: Whitlock faces Van Barneveld next

DAY 11 RESULTS

Afternoon Session
Wes Newton 4-1 Mark Walsh
Simon Whitlock 4-3 Dave Chisnall
James Wade 4-0 Vincent van der Voort

Evening Session
Michael van Gerwen 4-1 Colin Lloyd
Gary Anderson 0-4 Raymond van Barneveld
Adrian Lewis 4-2 Kevin Painter

Elsewhere, James Wade cruised into the quarter-finals as he beat Dutchman Vincent van der Voort 4-0.

‘The Machine’ averaged a lacklustre 89.61 in comparison to ‘The Dutch Destroyer’s’ 95.7, but Van der Voort’s poor finishing cost him dear as Wade only dropped five legs.

Wade will play Wes Newton in the last eight as ‘The Warrior’ beat Mark Walsh 4-1 in the first match of the day.

Seven of the world’s top eight players remain in contention for the 2013 World Darts Championship as the quarter-finals kick off on Friday.

The full draw for the last eight is:

Taylor v Hamilton (Friday)

Whitlock v Van Barneveld (Friday)

Lewis v Van Gerwen (Saturday)

Newton v Wade (Saturday)

Bradley Wiggins: I"ll follow Team Sky orders and help Chris Froome to Tour de France victory

Wiggins: I'll follow Team Sky orders and help Froome to Le Tour victory

|

UPDATED:

22:53 GMT, 18 December 2012

Bradley Wiggins is prepared to play second fiddle to Chris Froome at next year’s Tour de France if ordered to do so by Team Sky.

It has been widely thought that Wiggins, this year’s Tour champion, would be the back-up man in 2013 as the mountainous route appeared to play more to Froome’s strengths.

However, Wiggins has suggested in recent days that he would quite like to mount a proper defence of his title but added: ‘The last four years, all the focus has been on the Tour de France for me, trying to win that race.

Crowning glory: Bradley Wiggins won Sports Personality of the Year last week

Crowning glory: Bradley Wiggins won Sports Personality of the Year last week

'Fortunately I did it this year, then it’s deciding what to do next, (maybe) going back as defending champion next year to try to win a second Tour de France.

‘We’re very fortunate that we have two people that can win the Tour de France. It could be Chris Froome on the day, it could be me, but once we get on that line we all have a professional obligation. We saw this year what Chris did for me, it could be that I’ll be doing that for him next year for the team to win.’

Wiggins, 32, expects Team Sky to go into the Tour with a clear idea of their leader, saying: ‘You go out there with a plan. That plan may change during the race but you certainly start out with a game plan and follow that game plan as much as possible.

‘If that’s Chris Froome then the whole eight riders will commit to Chris.’

World class: Wiggins' Great Britain and Sky team-mate Chris Froome

World class: Wiggins' Great Britain and Sky team-mate Chris Froome

Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford has shown in the past that he is prepared to make big selection decisions and Froome revealed: ‘The team are saying they are going to back me with the Tour this year. That’s directly from Dave Brailsford. He said, “You’re our man for the Tour. Focus on it”.’

However, Brailsford seems to have wavered slightly but Wiggins believes having two potential winners is a good thing.

He said: ‘It always helps to have strength in numbers, it’s a nice problem to have.

‘So much is made of the negative aspects of having two leaders who could potentially win, but very little has been said about the positive side. We finished one and two this year, so it’s always a nice problem to have.’

Meanwhile, Team Sky have confirmed the signing of British rider Josh Edmondson, 20, on a two-year contract.

Ladies Dubai Masters golf: Can Carly Booth stop Shanshan Feng?

Can Carly be the girl to upset the Asian juggernaught in golf's Dubai showpiece

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UPDATED:

12:18 GMT, 5 December 2012


Sarah Stirk

Thanks to the Ryder Cup and Rory McIlroy’s heroics, it’s been an incredible year for golf. But with the PGA and European Tours done and dusted for the year, this week offers a rare chance for the women’s game to step out of the shadow of their male colleagues and grab the limelight. The Ladies European Tour heads to the Middle East for the season-ending Ladies Dubai Masters. Chris Cutmore caught up with Sky Sports golf presenter Sarah Stirk to find out why everyone is so excited about this week…

Dubai Ladies Masters Leaderboard

Click here to see the latest scores

Why is this tournament in Dubai so crucial

It’s tough for women’s golf to get recognition at the moment. We’ve had an incredible year in the men’s game, but that is winding down for Christmas, so it’s an important week. The Emirates is a world class golf course. With its great clubhouse (styled like a series of Bedouin tents), the sunshine, and a big prize purse (€500,000) it’s a great way to finish the season.

Asian players dominate the women’s game right now. Are there any big guns in Dubai… and can anyone stop them

Shanshan Feng, the first Chinese to win a major, is coming over to play and that says a lot for the LET. She’s coming over to test herself against their players. But there’s the young stars like Carly Booth (the 20-year-old from Comrie in Scotland) who’s doing great things for the women’s game. She’s young, marketable, had a great year and is just one of the rising stars.

Life's a beach: Lexi Thompson takes a camel ride ahead of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters

Life's a beach: Lexi Thompson takes a camel ride ahead of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters

In action: Thompson on the Majilis Course

In action: Thompson on the Majilis Course

And then there’s Lexi Thompson, who’s causing quite a stir. Tell us about her…

Lexi is the defending champion. She’s not even 18 for another couple of months. Last year she became the second youngest player to win on the LET, and the youngest to win on the LPGA tour. It’s amazing how good she is. She hasn’t won after her incredible last year but has been steady. But coming back to a place where she has great memories it’ll be fascinating to see how she performs.

Can she be the Rory of the women’s game

Potentially yes. But my big concern is burnout – she qualified for the US Open aged just 12! We’ve seen that with Michelle Wie, who had all the media attention and hype but then decided to go to Stanford and get a degree. As with all the youngsters the concern is burnout. But Lexi hits it a mile, she’s got a great temperament, a really mature head on her shoulders, and she hasn’t disappointed after last year. She hasn’t won but she’s been very consistent. Lexi is definitely one of the favourites.

Speaking of Michelle Wie, we haven’t heard much of her these days. How’s she playing

Michelle still draws huge crowds and is a big talking point whenever she plays. So much happened to her, so young. She’s only 23 now. With all that expectation and hype, she had no freedom. Now she’s grown up and got her degree. She’s got two wins but she’s probably making an adjustment. I don’t think golf is the be all and end all with her anymore. In Asia it’s just golf, golf, golf. But I think Michelle might have gone to college and thought ‘You know what There’s more to life than golf’. I hope we see her develop but you don’t know when someone’s been through all that whether she’ll ever be that good again.

The one to beat: Shanshan Feng hits from the third fairway during round one of the tournament

The one to beat: Shanshan Feng hits from the third fairway during round one of the tournament

Even
without Wie, the women’s game seems to be on the up. This year’s total
LET prize money is now a whopping 7772 per cent higher than thirty years ago. What does this show

The
women’s game is growing. The exposure we give it at Sky shows that. But
even though the prize funds have increased dramatically, the difference
between the women’s and men’s prize money is astronomical. Look at
tennis where there is equal prize money in the majors. But if you did a
comparison between men’s and women’s prize money in golf it would be
embarrassing.

Although the women’s prize money has increased, the female pros still feel very hard done by. They feel like they’re being short-changed.

On the flip side the interest in the women’s game is higher. Media exposure is driving the sponsors and the sponsors drive the prize money. And I would like to see that increase an awful lot more in the next few years. It won’t be in line with the men’s game but that gap needs to narrow.

The Olympics showed we should be shining more light on women’s sport. The LET has great potential. The standard in the women’s game now is incredible. I still don’t think people realise how good it is because it’s not on all the time. We’ve got great home players – Mel Reid, Carly Booth – we need to let people see that.

Great Scot: Carly Booth at the Emirates Golf Club

Great Scot: Carly Booth is ready for a big week ahead at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai

Great Scot: Carly Booth at the Emirates Golf Club

Great Scot: Carly Booth at the Emirates Golf Club

Who’s going to win

We could be looking at a showdown between Shanshan and Lexi. Shanshan is the highest ranked player in the field, and a major winner so you’re looking at quality. Lexi has the feelgood factor, it’s a course that fits her eye, she’s got good memories, and she’s taken the pressure off her shoulders with a consistent year. She’d like the win but I think she’ll come back and enjoy this week rather than put pressure on herself.

But I also have a sneaky feeling about Laura Davies. She missed the cut last year and will be desperate to put that right. She’s in good form and is a big hitter so the course fits her game – she just needs to hole a few more putts.

Sky Sports HD will show live coverage of the Dubai Ladies Masters between 6-8 December as part of the year-round schedule of women’s golf on Sky.