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Sports Shorts: Sharapova rallies past Halep to win Madrid title

Last updated on: May 12, 2014 00:08 IST

Sharapova rallies past Halep to win Madrid title



Maria Sharapova recovered from a woeful start to overwhelm rising talent Simona Halep 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the final of the Madrid Open and claim her 31st career title on Sunday.

Russian Sharapova, a former world number one now ranked ninth, needed to draw on all her experience on the clay in the Spanish capital to see off the 22-year-old Romanian fourth seed, who was appearing in the final of a premier event for the first time.

Sharapova missed the second half of last season with a shoulder injury and has not been at her dominant best in 2014 but her form in Madrid suggests she may be a contender at the French Open which starts later this month.

The 2012 Roland Garros champion had shown glimpses of her best on her run to the final but looked all at sea in the early stages against a fired-up Halep, who attacked the Russian, five years her senior, at every opportunity.

The match was a clash of two very different styles, with the rangy Sharapova, her shrieks echoing around the Magic Box arena every time she struck the ball, relying on power and the stocky Halep a bundle of energy scurrying around the court.

Halep quickly opened a 4-0 lead before Sharapova finally managed to hold in the fifth game after saving another break point.

Some courtside advice from her coach at an earlier changeover to up her speed and try to hit the corners did not appear to have helped, however, as Halep broke again in game seven to secure the set.

Before Sunday, Sharapova had dropped the opening set 24 times in finals and fought back to win seven times and she changed the tone of the match with a break of the Halep serve in the opening game of the second set.

After breaking again and serving out the set, Sharapova grabbed another break for a 2-1 lead in the decider and recovered from another wobble to claim her third victory in as many matches against the young pretender.

With nine clay titles, she joins Venus Williams as the third most successful active player on the surface, one behind Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues and Serena Williams who each have 10.

Image: Maria Sharapova
Photographs: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images


Sports Shorts: Zanetti ends an era with final San Siro appearance

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Inter Milan defender Javier Zanetti was given a rousing farewell by the club's appreciate supporters after the 40-year-old Argentine ended an era by playing his final match at the San Siro on Saturday.

Zanetti came on as a 52nd minute substitute during a 4-1 win over Lazio that booked Inter's place in the Europa League for next season, a final high for a player who was a rock of consistency in a topsy-turvy two decades at the club.

It was his 857th appearance for Inter since signing for the club in 1995, when he became Massimo Moratti's first purchase as Inter president, and he could make one more in their final Serie A match of the season at Chievo next week.

"From the moment he arrived at Inter he always honoured the shirt and always made us proud to be Inter fans," former Inter owner Moratti said on Saturday.

"We have won a lot with him, everything. But I think that a person like him deserves all that and also deserves all of our affection and to be remembered for ever."

The Argentine's 614 Serie A appearances is bettered only by former AC Milan and Italy defender Paolo Maldini but is by far and away the most of any foreign player to play in Italy.

In that time Zanetti has won five league titles, scored in a 3-0 1998 UEFA Cup final win against Lazio and played a key role in the treble-winning 2010 side that claimed the club's first European Cup in nearly half a century.

But he was also part of the team that handed the league title to arch-rivals Juventus in 2002 after a spectacular collapse in the final weeks of the season. A 4-2 defeat at Lazio saw them drop from being league leaders to third place in the space of 90 agonising minutes.

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Image: Captain of FC Inter Milano Javier Zanetti after the last match of his career at San Siro Stadium
Photographs: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

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Late bogey drops Kaymer into tie for Players lead

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Martin Kaymer bogeyed the par-four last to drop back into a tie for the lead with playing partner Jordan Spieth after the pair had duelled in Saturday's third round of the Players Championship.

Germany's Kaymer, who had been a stroke in front of the chasing pack overnight, overshot the 18th green with his approach, chipped up to nine feet and missed the par putt to card an even-par 72 on a breezy afternoon at the TPC Sawgrass.

That left the German at 12-under 204, level with American young gun Spieth (71) who had appeared likely to bogey the final hole when his tee shot sailed right into a tree line from where he struck his second shot 56 yards short of the green.

After his third had nestled on the fringe 13 feet past the flagstick, the 20-year-old Spieth nervelessly drained the par putt to remain at 12-under and pumped his right fist in delight.

Spaniard Sergio Garcia, the 2008 Players champion, was a further three strokes back after carding a 69, level on 207 with Australian John Senden (68).

Americans Gary Woodland (70) and George McNeill (69) and Australian Matt Jones (69) were four shots off the pace at eight under, three ahead of US Open champion Justin Rose (73), who was penalised two shots after his ball moved on the final hole.

Australian World No 2 Scott, who needs to finish no worse than joint 16th this week to dislodge the absent Tiger Woods from the top spot, was at three under in a tie for 28th after returning a 69.

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Image: Martin Kaymer of Germany hits a bunker shot on the tenth hole
Photographs: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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Brienza's long-range strike adds to Seedorf's troubles

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Franco Brienza scored with the last kick of the game, a superb 25-metre strike, to give Atalanta a shock 2-1 win over AC Milan on Sunday and pile more pressure on the losing side's beleagured coach Clarence Seedorf.

Mario Balotelli twice hit the woodwork, once in each half, for Milan whose lingering hopes of European football next season were dealt a severe blow.

There has been widespread speculation that club president Silvio Berlusconi has lost faith with Seedorf, even though the Dutchman has overseen a considerable improvement in his results since taking over in January.

Milan took the lead with a fortuitous goal early in the second half when Sulley Muntari's cross was turned into his own net by Gianpaolo Bellini.

Argentine forward German Denis levelled for hosts from a penalty in the 68th minute after a clumsy challenge by Kevin Constant on Carlos Carmona.

Both teams had chances to win the game before Brienza stunned Milan with his long-range effort in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

The defeat left Milan, needing to finish sixth to qualify for the Europa League, ninth with 54 points and one game to play. Torino, sixth with 55 points, were at home to Parma later on Sunday (1300 GMT) and a win for them would end Milan’s hopes altogether.

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Image: Atalanta's Franco Brienza,right, celebrates with his teammate Carlos Carmona after scoring the team's second goal against AC Milan
Photographs: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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Zenit v Dynamo Moscow abandoned after fan punches player

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Zenit St Petersburg’s Russian championship clash with Dynamo Moscow was abandoned in the 87th minute on Sunday after Zenit fans invaded the pitch and Dynamo defender Vladimir Granat was punched in the head.

Zenit were losing 4-2 in a match that threatened to dent their title challenge when fans ran on to the field and tried to confront the players.

One managed to get near enough to Granat to swing a punch that connected, despite the Dynamo captain trying to defuse the situation.

After being assessed at a St Petersburg medical clinic, Dynamo sporting director Guram Adzhoev said Granat, 26, had suffered a concussion.

Speaking to the television channel NTV Plus minutes after the incident, Dynamo head coach Stanislav Cherchesov said: "I would not want to play. If I was hit, would you force me to go back on to the field?

"I would not want to do that. The player was hit in the face a few times and he says I don’t want to go back out there. What can you do?"

The referee led the teams off the field and after a meeting with the match delegate, the decision was made to abandon the encounter.

Zenit released an official statement on their website saying fans had the right to be disappointed with the performance of their team in such an important match but that "hooliganism and unrest are inexcusable".

"The behaviour of the fans is affecting in the most serious way their own club, the players and our many millions of supporters," it said.

Zenit apologised to Granat, who was almost certain to be included in Russia's World Cup squad, and said they were going to take action against radical fan groups that have damaged the club's reputation.

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Image: Vladimir Granat (Top) of FC Dinamo Moscow
Photographs: Epsilon/Getty Images

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Few English players at Manchester City, Chelsea 'depressing': Dyke

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The paucity of English players at champions-in-waiting Manchester City and Premier League rivals Chelsea is "pretty depressing", according to Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Dyke.

Dyke is pushing an FA commission proposal to tighten visa requirements on foreign players while having Premier League clubs introduce B teams in lower divisions in a bid to improve the England national side.

While supported by the English players' association, the proposal has drawn widespread criticism from the leagues, who say it would damage their competitions.

"It's been a great league this year," Dyke told British media on Saturday.

"I think the Premiership has been brilliant. But I think there are probably two England players playing at City and two or three at Chelsea - although there won't be that many next year – that's pretty depressing.

"I think the figures that we produced, that the top four clubs last year averaged 29 percent English players starting last year, down to 23 percent this year, I think we should be worried about that."

Third-placed Chelsea can boast three capped England players making regular appearances in John Terry, Gary Cahill and Frank Lampard.

Dyke said Premier League club owners were wondering why they would throw money into academies to develop home-grown talent when so few locals were breaking into first teams.

Image: Edin Dzeko of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal
Photographs: Michael Regan/Getty Images

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