Sports Shorts: Sindhu settles for bronze at Asian badminton C'ship
India's teen sensation P V Sindhu had to settle for a bronze medal after her gallant fight against top seed Shixian Wang of China ended in a narrow three-game defeat in the semi-finals of the Asian Badminton Championship in Gimcheon, Korea, on Friday.
The 18-year-old fought hard for one hour and 18 minutes before losing to the two-time reinging All England champion Shixian 21-15, 20-22, 12-21 in the women's singles competition.
The Hyderabadi shuttler had beaten Shixian thrice in the past, but the world number two Chinese had the last laugh in the last two occasions.
"It was a close match and she could have won it in the second game itself. But I guess she needs a little bit of experience to consistently beat these Chinese players. Also probably, Sindhu needs to work more on her backhand and forehand returns. Anyway, now she will be playing in Sudirman Cup, so that is the next target," said Sindhu's father Ramana, who received the Arjuna award in 2000.
India ace Saina Nehwal had won the bronze in 2010 Asian Championship in New Delhi.
Image: PV Sindhu poses with the Asian Championships bronze medal on Saturday
Photographs: PV Sindhu/Facebook
Jwala-Ashwini also lose in semis
In the women's doubles, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa failed to breach the defence of Luo Yu and Luo Ying, and lost 12-21, 7-21 to the world number 10 Chinese pair in their semis.
The pair of Jwala and Ashwini suffered for their inconsistent and inaccurate strokes.
In the first game, Jwala lost few early points at nets but Ashwini covered the back court brilliantly and produced some great returns to make it 3-3. But some errors at the nets, a service and a receiving error by the Indian pair meant they went into the break down 6-11.
Jwala and Ashwini didn't have answers to the Lou twins as they faltered with their shots and also lack of variety at the back court affected them as the Chinese led 15-6.
Some delicate shots at net earned India a few points, finally a good rally ended with Ashwini's backhand going to nets as China surged to 20-11. Ashwini saved one game point with a delicate dribble but Jwala hit wide the next.
Advised by coach Madhumita Bist, the Indian pair tried to mix up their shots in the second game and engaged in long rallies but the Chinese twins rode on their faster movement on court and impeccable defence to lead 11-2.
A service error, a long hit by China gave India a few points but they were soon at 20-6. Jwala saved a match point with a smash but another error and it was all over.
Image: Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa
Sania, Cara in final of Stuttgart WTA event
Sania Mirza earned herself an opportunity to win her first title of the season after reaching the summit clash of the PORSCHE Tennis Grand Prix with Zimbabwean partner Cara Black.
The second-seeded Indo-Zimbabwean pair defeated the German pair of Antonia Lottner and Anna Zaja 6-2, 2-6, 10-4 in one hour and 14 minutes in the $710,000 clay court WTA premier event.
Sania had reached the Indian Wells final last month but ended runners-up with Cara.
In the final they will face winner of the other semi-final between Italian top seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci and Jelena Jankovic and Alisa Kleybanova.
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Image: Sania Mirza and Cara Black
Photographs: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Nadal bundled out of Barcelona Open by Almagro
Misfiring Rafael Nadal crashed out of the Barcelona Open on Friday at the hands of fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro who avenged last year's final defeat by winning their quarter-final 2-6, 7-6 (7-5,) 6-4.
The World No 1 also went out in the last eight of the Monte Carlo Masters last week, losing to compatriot DavidFerrer.
Top seed Nadal showed some form in the first set against Almagro and then lost his way.
Both players broke serve in the opening two games. Almagro hit some deadly backhands but also racked up 15 unforcederrors in the set.
The second set was more even and it went to a tiebreak withAlmagro, who had never beaten his countryman in 10 previous attempts, coming out on top.
The decider was scrappy and contained four consecutive breaks of serve before the sixth seed clinched victory.
"I had a lot of chances in the second set when I had the match more controlled but I didn't take them," Nadal told reporters.
"As the match went on I was less calm but I still had openings in the third set at 3-1 and at 4-4 which I didn't take. This is tennis and you just have to keep going."
The result is a big boost for Almagro who has had an injury-plagued year. He now faces Santiago Giraldo or Philipp Kohlschreiber in the semi-finals.
Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili, who scored a shock win over world number five Ferrer in the second round, came unstuck against Latvian Ernests Gulbis who triumphed 6-1, 6-4 to set up a meeting with Japanese Kei Nishikori.
Fourth seed Nishikori, looking strong in his return from a groin injury, defeated Croatian Marin Cilic 6-1, 6-3.
Image: Rafael Nadal
Photographs: Eric Gaillard/Reuters
Serie A: Roma brush Milan aside to keep title hopes alive
AS Roma kept their slim title hopes alive as a stunning Miralem Pjanic goal and a Gervinho tap-in earned a 2-0 home win over AC Milan and a ninth straight Serie A victory on Friday.
The result cut the gap between second-placed Roma and Juventus to five points before the league leaders visit relegation-threatened Sassuolo on Monday (1845 GMT).
Roma's Bosnia midfielder Pjanic skipped past three players before calmly firing home two minutes from the break and Ivorian Gervinho tapped in the second goal at the end of a lightning-quick counter attack after 65 minutes to down sorry Milan.
Roma's team, beautifully conducted by 24-year-old Pjanic, recovered from their poor start to play exhilarating football and are now on a club record 85 points after winning their 26th match this season, also a record for the Rome outfit.
If Antonio Conte's Juventus side win on Monday to reclaim an eight-point lead with three games left to play, their third title in a row will be little more than a formality.
“Sassuolo will be a hard match for Juventus because they played in the Europa League (Thursday's 2-1 defeat at Benfica) and have the (second leg) match next Thursday," said Garcia. "I know it's difficult to play after and before a European game."
Milan's comprehensive defeat brought a five-match winning streak to an end and is a dent in their hopes of securing a place in the Europa League for next season.
Clarence Seedorf's side stay seventh, level on 51 points behind Parma, who visit Cagliari on Sunday (1300 GMT), and five adrift of fifth-placed Inter Milan before their rivals host third-placed Napoli, who have 68 points, on Saturday (1845 GMT).
Milan began the match the stronger side but could not create anything against a Roma defence missing lynchpin Mehdi Benatia, with visiting striker Mario Balotelli offering little threat.
The home team initially played well below their usual vibrant standards but as the first half wore on they began to impose themselves play on Milan.
Something special was needed to break the deadlock and forward Adem Ljajic almost provided it in the 26th minute, his neat footwork in the area leading to a close-range shot stopped by a brilliant sliding block from Milan defender Adil Rami.
Pjanic went one better just before the break, however, when he stunned the Olympic Stadium with an incredible solo effort that will be a strong contender for goal of the season.
Picking the ball up in midfield, he set off towards goal, slaloming past Sulley Muntari and Riccardo Montolivo before finally slipping round Rami and confidently rolling his sixth goal of the season past Milan keeper Christian Abbiati.
A team effort was behind Roma doubling their lead, with a rapid passing move sweeping the hosts up the pitch and leading to Ljajic slipping in Francesco Totti.
The Roma captain thumped a shot at Abbiati who spilled the ball to Gervinho and the Ivory Coast striker knocked in the second goal that, despite a late Milan rally, capped a victory that provides a glimmer of hope for their title ambitions.
Image: Keisuke Honda (left) of AC Milan competes for the ball with Dodo of AS Roma during the Serie A match at Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy on Friday
Photographs: Paolo Bruno/Getty Images
Balotelli clashes with TV pundits after loss
AC Milan's Mario Balotelli lost his temper in front of the cameras after his performance in Friday's 2-0 loss to AS Roma was criticised by Italian television pundits.
Speaking to Sky Italia after the game, Balotelli, who was substituted for Giampaolo Pazzini in the 69th minute having contributed little, ripped into Zvonimir Boban, Giancarlo Marocchi and Christian Panucci.
“You don’t understand anything about football. Trust me, you really don’t,” Balotelli snapped at Marocchi, who had asked the striker why he did not move around more on the pitch.
Balotelli had been heavily criticised by former Milan forward Boban after the match, with the Croat calling his performance shameful, in particular for an aggressive gesture directed at Adel Taarabt after giving the ball away.
“You always talk about me. When Milan win Mario’s great, but when Milan lose it’s all Mario’s fault. I don’t need your criticism, I criticise myself,” Balotelli responded.
Boban had said the 23-year-old was not a top player during the clash.
“I never said I’m a top player. I am a perfectly normal player, it's you that say I am an exceptional player, you always expect me to score five goals a game,” he said.
“You always talk and talk, but there’s no point to saying any of these things. No point at all.”
Balotelli threw his microphone down at the end of the interview.
While his displays for much of the season have left a lot to be desired, the 23-year-old has scored 14 league goals for Milan this season and is a likely pick for Cesare Prandelli's World Cup squad.
Image: Mario Balotelli of AC Milan speaks with Clarence Seedorf during the Serie A match against AS Roma at Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy on Friday
Photographs: Paolo Bruno/Getty Images
Phelps finishes comeback meet in relaxed style
Michael Phelps rounded off his comeback to competitive swimming with a relaxed showing in his morning heat at the USA Grand Prix meet in suburban Phoenix on Friday.
Phelps, who finished a close second to Ryan Lochte in Thursday's 100 metres butterfly in his first race in two years, used his Friday heat in the 50m freestyle to practice his butterfly stroke.
Although he was entered in a specialist freestyle sprint event he has never swam at a major meet, he opted to change strokes and swim butterfly, which is allowed under the rules of freestyle swimming.
Phelps touched the wall in 24.06 seconds, slightly quicker than he finished his first lap the previous night, but way off the pace of the competitors who swam traditional front crawl.
He finished seventh in his heat and 42nd overall, missing a spot in Friday's final or consolation, and bringing to an end his first meet back.
Although he was beaten in the 100m butterfly final, one of three events where he still holds the world record, Phelps said he was satisfied with his comeback.
He had been in a race against time to lose some of the weight he piled on since quitting after the 2012 London Olympics with a staggering career total of 18 gold medals.
As expected, his times over the past two days were below his peak performances but still safely under the qualifying standard for the U.S. national championships in August, which double as the selection event for next year’s world titles in Russia.
"I was just kind of literally getting my feet wet again," he said.
"This is one meet, it’s one race. It’s a long way from whether I decide to continue or not, but this was awesome.
"I'm really excited about how things went and I do know what I need to do if I want to continue and want to swim faster and obviously I like swimming faster and faster every race."
While Phelps has still not committed himself to the 2016 Rio Olympics in 2016, there were plenty of encouraging signs that he is anything but a spent force.
"I was very pleased," his longtime coach Bob Bowman said. "His times and his stroke was good, I liked that."
Image: Ryan Lochte (left) and Michael Phelps (second place) pose together after finishing the Men's 100m Butterfly final
Photographs: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Wembley, Cardiff bid for Euro 2020 matches
England and Wales submitted bids to soccer body UEFA on Friday for Wembley and Cardiff's Millennium Stadium to host matches at the 2020 European Championship.
The English FA said it had expressed an interest in two packages - to be either host city for both semi-finals and the final or one of the 12 group-stage packages on offer.
The Football Association of Wales announced separately that it had bid for a package of three group games plus a last-16 or quarter-final.
Around 30 countries are expected to apply and the full list of bidders is due to be published on Saturday with a final decision announced by European soccer's governing body in Geneva on September 19.
Euro 2020 will be held in 13 cities across the continent for the first time, a departure from the tradition of sole or neighbouring host nations, to mark the competition's 60th anniversary.
FA general secretary Alex Horne recognised UEFA would have many strong bids but held up London's recent record of hosting big events. "We are bidding for either of the two packages...and with our recent experience of hosting two UEFA Champions League Finals in the last four years we believe that Wembley Stadium and London represent a strong bid for UEFA to consider," he said.
England hosted the 1996 European championship.
Jonathan Ford, chief executive of the FAW, said in a statement that Cardiff also represented a "strong and compelling proposition.
"The Millennium Stadium, with a capacity of almost 75,000 as well as 100 hospitality boxes, would generate a significant financial contribution for UEFA," he said.
Image: Football fans sit on the grass outside Wembley stadium
Photographs: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Leverkusen appoint former Salzburg coach Schmidt
Bayer Leverkusen have appointed former Salzburg manager Roger Schmidt as their new coach on a two-year contract starting in the close-season, the club said on Friday.
German Schmidt, who led Salzburg to the Austrian title this season, has never previously worked for a Bundesliga club, making his professional coaching debut as recently as in 2011/12 at Paderborn in the lower German divisions.
The 47-year-old will be officially unveiled as Leverkusen coach on July 1.
"We looked at the market carefully and decided in favour of Roger Schmidt whose style of playing football fits ideal to Leverkusen," said Leverkusen sports director Rudi Voeller.
Sascha Lewandowski took over as coach on a temporary basis after Sami Hyypia was sacked this month.
Leverkusen made a good start to the season and also made it past the Champions League group stage but have slipped to fourth in the Bundesliga following a poor run since the winter break and are in danger of missing out on Champions League qualification.
"I am delighted to have been given a new task at a top club and am happy to be able to work in the Bundesliga," said Schmidt.
Salzburg, playing an aggressive game with quick counter-attacks, won their domestic title back in March with a record eight games to spare.
They have also set a new league goal-scoring record, eclipsing the previous mark of 101 goals set by Rapid Vienna in the 1985/86 season.
Image: Roger Schmidt
Photographs: Samuel Kubani/EuroFootball/Getty Images
FIFA probe into Qatar World Cup vote may be over by June
FIFA may conclude its investigation into the voting procedure that resulted in the 2022 World Cup being awarded to Qatar before this year's finals starts in June, secretary general Jerome Valcke said on Friday.
"An investigation is being run by (New York lawyer) MichaelGarcia and the commission is interviewing all those involved in the case and it will soon be delivered to the (FIFA) ethics committee that is going to decide if any measures should be taken," Valcke told reporters.
"That will be soon, maybe we will have a decision before the 2014 World Cup," he said after a four-day trip to Brazil.
FIFA's investigation was launched last year into alleged corruption surrounding the voting procedure for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.
The choice of Qatar was controversial given that the small Arab nation has little footballing culture and summer temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius).
Garcia, a former New York attorney, was empowered by FIFA's Congress to "leave no stone unturned" in his quest to discover if there was any wrongdoing in the voting process.
As FIFA's first independent ethics investigator and prosecutor, he was also empowered to investigate the votes-for-cash scandal that led to long-serving FIFA officials Jack Warner and Mohammed Bin Hammam leaving the organisation.
FIFA’s executive committee meets in Sao Paulo in June in the days before the start of the 2014 World Cup, which will be held in 12 cities across Brazil. Garcia’s report could be ready by then, according to Valcke.
Image: Host Fernanda Lima and FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke
Photographs: Clive Mason/Getty Images
Sports Shorts: Sindhu settles for bronze at Asian badminton C'ship
Anirban Lahiri and Rashid Khan spearheaded an Indian charge on the leaderboard and were placed second and third respectively after the penultimate round of the $750,000 CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters.
Lahiri, a three-time winner on Asian Tour, and Khan, who achieved his breakthrough win only last month in India, shot the day's best of eight-under 64 each and zoomed to 13-under and 12-under respectively, while Australian rookie Cameron Smith Smith (67) was at 14-under.
Adding cheer to the Indian camp were SSP Chowrasia (69) at 10-under and Jyoti Randhawa (67) at nine-under. They were tied fifth and tied seventh respectively, as four Indians figured in top-seven. Rahil Gangjee (72) was tied 24th and Arjun Atwal (73) was tied 50th.
Smith will face one of his career's biggest tests after he posted a five-under 67 to take the third round lead.
Smith, who has enjoyed a distinguished amateur career, compiled a three-day total of 14-under 202 to head into the final round in pole position in what is only his second professional event on the Asian Tour.
Lahiri, playing flawless golf, showed why he is considered one of India's best as he fired eight birdies against no bogeys and moved from five-under to 13-under.
Image: Anirban Lahiri
Photographs: Stanley Chou/Getty Images