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Sloane Stephens wins Miami Open

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American 13th seed, Sloane Stephens won the Miami Open tennis tournament to claim her first title since the US Open in September last year. Stephens beat 6th seed, Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in straight sets.

Stephens and Ostapenko looked nervous at the start and there were no less than eight service breaks in the first set.

However, Stephens kept herself in the clash against the French Open champion with great touches on defence.

Stephens finally bagged the first set in a tough tie-break against the 20-year old Latvian. The American then stepped on the gas in the second set. Ostapenko raked up an unforced error count of 48 while Stephens firmly took control of the match.

Stephens finally clinched it 6-1 to bag her 6th WTA Tour title. She will now move into the world’s top 10 for the first time on Monday.

“It’s incredible, obviously I’m gonna miss this place a lot but I’m super excited to get a title here and I’m looking forward to defending my title next year at the new stadium. Obviously I worked really hard to get back to this place and I’m really pleased with this result so hopefully I can keep it going,” said Stephens.”

Later Sunday night, fourth seed, Alexander Zverev of Germany will take on American 14th seed, John Isner in the men’s final at Crandon Park.

Isner will be looking for the biggest win of his career against Zverev. The American, who upset fifth seed, Juan Martin del Potro in the semi-finals, has never won a Masters 1000-tournament. He has also never beaten the young German in three outings.

With Zverev already boasting two Masters 1000 crowns.

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India complete crushing win

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India takes a 2-0 win in the six match series.

Indian captain Virat Kohli said after a crushing win in the second one-day international at SuperSport Park on Sunday that he wanted his match-winning wrist spinners to continue to put pressure on South Africa’s batsmen.

Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav set up a nine-wicket win which gave India a 2-0 lead in the six-match series.

Leg-spinner Chahal picked up a career-best five for 22 and left-armer Yadav took three for 20 as South Africa were bowled out for 118, the lowest total in one-day internationals at the ground.

“We know that their middle order is inexperienced and we want to cash in on that in the future games and put some real pressure on them,” said Kohli.

“The way our spinners are bowling I am pretty confident we can continue (with) the same momentum.”

Both Indian spinners extracted a surprising amount of turn on a dry pitch which man of the match Chahal admitted was helpful. “We also play in these conditions in India,” he said.

Kohli said it had been a complete bowling performance, with new ball bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah setting the tone.

“They didn’t let South Africa get away with scoring too many runs,” he said.

South Africa made a reasonable start, with Hashim Amla and Quinton De Kock putting on 39 for the first wicket before Amla was caught behind off Kumar. De Kock fell to Chahal, one of three batsmen to fall with the total on 51 as the spinners took control.

“We knew if we got those two at the top, their middle order is inexperienced and a bit shaky,” said Kohli.

“The spinners were outstanding. They were getting bounce and pace off the wicket, which worked in our favour.”

With star players Faf Du Plessis and AB De Villiers both missing because of injury, it was a chastening introduction to the South African captaincy for Aiden Markram.

The 23-year-old was appointed for the rest of the series after Du Plessis broke his right index finger in the first match in Durban on Thursday.

“We are going to have to be really honest with ourselves,” said Markram. “Every person will have to see how we can get better.”

India came within two runs of winning before lunch when the umpires stuck to the letter of the regulations and insisted on a break after allowing an extra four overs or 15 minutes to achieve a result. India had been 93 for one at the scheduled interval.

Most of a capacity crowd left the ground before Kohli scored the winning runs.

After South Africa’s mini collapse with the total on 51, JP Duminy and new cap Khaya Zondo both scored 25 and shared a fifth wicket partnership of 48 before the last six wickets tumbled for 19 runs.

India started aggressively, with Rohit Sharma pulling Morne Morkel for six in the first over of their innings.

Sharma fell for 15, caught by Morkel at fine leg off Kagiso Rabada, but Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli put on an unbeaten 91 for the second wicket to secure an easy win. Dhawan finished with 51 not out and Kohli made 46 not out.

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Chung powers past Sandgren into Open semis

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Unseeded Chung Hyeon became the first South Korean to reach a semi-final at a Grand Slam with a dominant straight sets win over American Tennys Sandgren at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

Ranked 58, he needed six match points before claiming a 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 win in 2hr 28min and will face either defending champion Roger Federer or Tomas Berdych in Friday’s semi-final.

Chung is the first South Korean man or woman to reach the semi-finals at a Slam and the youngest at 21 since Russia’s Marat Safin reached the last four in Melbourne in 2010.

The rising Korean star joins Briton Kyle Edmund as the first unseeded men’s semi-finalists in Melbourne since Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2008.

Chung, who sensationally knocked out six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round after taking out Germany’s world No.4 Alexander Zverev in the previous round, had a few nervy minutes before he sealed the victory.

In a tense 11-minute final game he claimed victory on his sixth match point after Sandgren threw everything at the South Korean in a bid to stay in the match.

“In the last game at 40-0 up I was thinking what I had to do at the ceremony, something like that, and after the break points I was like, nothing to do with ceremony, but just keep playing, stay focused,” Chung said on court in his limited English.

Asked who he wanted to face in the semi-final, Federer or Berdych, Chung replied diplomatically with a smile: “It’s 50-50.”

The defeat ended an extraordinary tournament for the 97th-ranked Sandgren, who had not won at a Grand Slam before winning four matches here, including upsets of former winner Stan Wawrinka and fifth seed Dominic Thiem.

Chung jumped out of the blocks with an early break before taking the opening set in 37 minutes, serving at a high 85 percent.

He was playing on the baseline, taking time away from the American and controlling the points.

Chung broke in the opening game of the second set with a delightful backhand across the net taking the line. But Sandgren began to get more into the contest and broke back in the fourth when Chung’s forehand was wide.

Sandgren broke again in the eighth and was serving for the second set before he was broken with a netted forehand.

Chung maintained his level in the tiebreaker, getting to set point before he forced a Sandgren forehand long.
Chung broke in the fourth game of the final set and but temporarily his victory charge was stalled before he got home on his sixth match point.

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Sharks upbeat about 2018 Super Rugby season

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The Sharks head coach Robert du Preez says there’s great energy in his squad ahead of the tough 2018 Super Rugby season. He’s banking on a team with a good mixture of youth and experience to produce the results this season.

The Sharks are not taking the 2018 rugby season lying down. They’re sweating it out in the sweltering Durban heat stretching themselves to the limited.

They are sharpening their skills ahead of a tough couple of months of rugby.

Sharks head coach, Robert du Preez says, “We’ve got some really talented youngsters and these guys haven’t looked out of place. A guy like Pepsi Buthelezi, who is the Sharks under 18 captain last year and JJ Van Der Mescht, they’ve trained with us right through pre-season and they haven’t looked out of place, it’s great to have a mix of the youth and the more experienced guys.”

The Sharks are heading into the 2018 Super Rugby competition with a pep in their step, but say they want to take it one step at a time.

Sharks player, Franco Marais says, “So obviously we are playing New Zealand sides this year and we got two weeks in Australia and two weeks in New Zealand and I think we need to take it week for week. I know it’s an old cliché but Super Rugby is a tough competition and you can’t aim to far in the future, but for us a home a quarter final is definitely one of our goals and hopefully a home final.”

They’ll be playing two warm-up matches prior to the competition.

On the 27th of January they meet the Bulls in Polokwane and on the 3rd of February they head to Hong Kong, where they’ll take on Racing 92.

On Saturday, Sharks fans are in for a treat. They’ll get an opportunity to meet the entire squad at Kings Park.

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Nedbank Cup to see ABSA premiership teams battle it out

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A number of ABSA Premiership teams will play each other in the opening round of the 2017/18 Nedbank Cup.

The draw that took place in Johannesburg on Monday threw up some intriguing and mouth-watering clashes.

There will hardly be a David versus Goliath clash in the Nedbank Cup this season.

Perhaps the only two matches that will provide such affairs are Mamelodi Sundowns against Cape Town All Stars and Maritzburg United versus Moroka Swallows FC.

There are a few mouth-watering matches to look forward to. One of those will be the battle between Bidvest Wits and Cape Town City.

The two sides have already met three times this season with the Citizens causing an upset on all three occasions against the defending Premiership champions.

Gavin Hunt, Bidvest Wits Coach, elaborates:

“We have won three in 14 months, but look where we are now… So football can turn on a kick of a ball and things can happen easily in football. They have a great record against us over the last two seasons, and this season we have lost to them three times, but this is another game we will see what happens.”

Kaizer Chiefs have a tricky first round encounter against Golden Arrows.

Although the KZN outfit has not been able to pick up many wins this season, they have however proved to be a tough side to play against.

Stephen Komphela, Chiefs coach:

“In terms of profiling I could immediately go back they know who we are. So there is not going to be much research but going forward, obviously depending on how things unfold then, there is going to be an issue where you have to go check the opponent but with them it’s a bit easier in terms of understanding who you are up against.”

Orlando Pirates welcome back former mentor Muhsin Ertugral for the first time.

The Turk will be on the bench of Ajax Cape Town when the Soweto giants host the Urban Warriors a team that is hoping for some success following a poor start to the season.

Other ties between top-flight sides see Platinum Stars host Baroka FC, while Nedbank Cup Champions from the past two seasons, Supersport United, travel to Bloemfontein Celtic.

Eric Tinkler, Supersport United coach says:

“Very tough start we played them in the Telkom Cup and unfortunately lost after penalties. We gave away a two nil lead and hopefully we can go there and turn that around. We are obviously defending champions we have won it two years in a row and we would like to make it a third and become the first club to ever do that so I think the motivation will be there.”

The dates, venues and kick-off times will be confirmed by the PSL at a later stage.

 

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All systems go for Cape Town Cycle Tour

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Organisers of the popular Cape Town Cycle Tour say this year’s event is going ahead, despite the critical water shortage in the Cape.

Director David Bellairs says a well thought-out plan is in place with all suppliers and service providers.

This will ensure that they reduce their reliance and impact on the municipal water supply to as close as possible to 0 percent.

Bellairs says they are positive that they’ll be able to meet this goal.

Participants will also be provided with practical tips on how to do their part to save water while staying in the Mother City for the event on 11 March.

Bellairs says no shower facilities will be provided this year. Chemical toilets and hand sanitisers will be used instead.

Spring water will be brought in while grey water and desalinated water will be used to further save water.

 

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SA sees growth in women’s golf

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Golfer Ashleigh Buhai says local golfers will be able to test themselves against the best and see the level they need to step it up to because it is a big step from an amateur to a professional.

This comes after the Sunshine Ladies Tour and the Women’s PGA of South Africa announced on Monday that the 2018 Investec South African Women’s Open will be jointly co-sanctioned between the Sunshine Ladies Tour, WPGA and the Ladies European Tour.

“This means that the Women’s golf in the country is going from strength to strength and we going to have a lot of strong players competing for the Investec South African Women’s Open this year,” says Buhai.

Click below to watch full interview:

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Branden Grace, three eagles later, settles for a share of the lead

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Branden Grace achieved a career first of three eagles in one round as he opened with a 65 to share the lead on Thursday’s Day one of the BMW South African Open at Glendower Golf Club.

Grace’s round of seven under par saw him join American Chase Koepka at the top of the leaderboard and one stroke clear of England’s Chris Paisley.

“It was good. I was a little bit rusty with some of the wedge shots and things like that but all in all very pleased with the outcome and I think I pretty much got the most out of that round. It’s a great start to 2018,” said Grace.

The South African is still revelling in his Nedbank Golf Challenge victory last November, and he displayed similar form when he eagled the par-five second, eighth and 15th holes at Glendower in a round that also included three birdies and two bogeys.

“On all the par-fives, I pretty much hit great tee shots and really gave myself some chances.”

The eagle on the second saw Grace hole a 25-footer, which he says was crucial to his round.

“I get on a streak like this where I make one of those longish putts in the first couple of holes, then I pretty much know I just have to get it there. I had the lines on all of them.”

Koepka, the brother of PGA Tour campaigner and US Open champion Brooks Koepka, was delighted with his round after he opened with a bogey.

“I made eagle on the second hole and kind of kept it going from there. I just stayed patient after that first hole.”

Former SA Open champion Richard Sterne is well-placed at five under, while amateurs Garrick Higgo and Kyle McClatchie impressed with their opening rounds of four under.

And Jamie Donaldson recorded the first hole-in-one of this year’s tournament when he aced the par-three 14th with a nine iron.

Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel head into the second round on three under, while Ernie Els is at one under.

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Aguero double keeps Man City’s FA Cup hopes alive

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Sergio Aguero scored a quickfire brace in the second half as Manchester City  maintained their interest in four trophies by beating Burnley 4-1 in the FA Cup third round at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

The Argentine striker helped rescue the tie for Pep Guardiola’s team after they trailed to Ashley Barnes’s first-half opener for their Premier League rivals.  But the equaliser, in the 56th minute, was not without controversy as Ilkay Gundogan’s quickly taken free-kick caught Burnley unprepared and played Aguero clean in on goal for City’s all-time leading scorer to complete a routine finish.

That led to a furious reaction from Burnley players, who clearly felt the free-kick had been taken too quickly and Guardiola and his opposite number Sean Dyche became embroiled in an angry argument with the fourth official and each other.

That row was still ongoing when Sergio Aguero claimed a brilliant second, playing a pass to Gundogan, who back-heeled the ball cleverly back to the forward, who again gave Nick Pope no chance with an unstoppable shot.

Leroy Sane ensured City would have a comfortable passage into the fourth round after 70 minutes with another well-worked goal.

The German played another devastating one-two with David Silva, running through to receive the return pass before finishing impressively from a wide angle.

And, with eight minutes to go, Pope rushed from his area to try and beat Sane to a Kevin De Bruyne through ball, allowing the winger to round him and square for substitute Bernardo Silva to score into an open goal.

It was a harsh scoreline on the visitors, who had already threatened by the time Barnes fired them into a 25th-minute lead.

It was the most direct goal imaginable as Sam Vokes rose to flick on a long punt forward from goalkeeper Pope.

There was ample opportunity for John Stones to clear the danger but the England defender completely miskicked his attempted clearance, allowing Barnes to sprint through on goal and beat Claudio Bravo with an accomplished finish from 15 yards.

City could not say they had not been warned, with the best chance of the game having already fallen to the visitors from Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s 18th-minute corner, which former City junior Ben Mee headed powerfully across an empty six-yard area.

But prior to the opening goal, City had enjoyed the bulk of possession, without forcing Pope into a save, with full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko summing up his team’s lack of imagination with a couple of long-range shots that cleared the bar.

Ashley Westwood was fortunate to concede a free-kick, rather than penalty, after 15 minutes when he clumsily pushed Sergio Aguero in the back but Gundogan drove that dead ball into the Burnley wall.

Nor was there much immediate improvement from City after the restart, with full-back Danilo’s frustrations evident when he collected a yellow card for a crude challenge on Barnes.

Burnley still looked threatening on the break, with Vokes and Gudmundsson combining well to set up goalscorer Barnes for another shot which he sent rising over the cross-bar.

However, the game changed dramatically within the space of three minutes with the Aguero goals and Sane should have scored his team’s third soon after, shooting over an open goal from six yards after Pope had blocked a Danilo shot.

After Sane had made amends, by claiming his team’s third, Sergio Aguero might have had a hat-trick but failed to control a near-post ball before City’s matchwinner made way for Bernardo Silva with 10 minutes left.

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Polokwane City brings Sundowns down to earth

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Polokwane City have beaten Mamelodi Sundowns for the second time in the ABSA Premiership this season.  Rise and Shine came back from a goal down to win 3-2 in a tension filled match played at the Peter Mokaba Stadium.

The win is a moral booster for the Polokwane based team who were not doing well last year.

The win for Polokwane City moves them to eleventh position on the log.

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane risked playing George Lebese who has not seen much action this season.  The coach was rewarded when the former Kaizer Chiefs player connected a cross from Hlompho Kekana.

The combination of Themba Zwane and Percy Tau confused the Polokwane defense.

And had all their attempts been on target, Sundowns would have been leading 4-0 half way through the first half.

This was a grudge match after Polokwane City beat Sundowns in their own back yard last year.

Sundowns were made to rue their missed chances after they failed to wrap the match in the first half. They conceded two goals in a space of one minute as Polokwane led 2-1 in the second half.

However, Sundowns regrouped and Percy Tau dished a delightful through pass that was scored by Oupa Manyisa.

And when everyone thought the match was heading for a two all draw, Rodney Ragagalela rewrote the script and once again got the better of his former coach Mosimane.

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