Manchester United defender Eric Bailly joins Marseille on loan
Manchester United central defender Eric Bailly has moved to French Ligue 1 side Olympique Marseille on loan for the rest of the season, the Premier League club said on Wednesday.
Bailly has a contract with United until 2024 but Marseille have the option of making his move permanent at the end of the 2022-23 season.
The Ivorian joined United in 2016 but has had limited playing time in recent seasons, making only three Premier League starts in the last campaign. He has not played a game under new manager Erik ten Hag this season.
Bailly fell down the pecking order following the arrivals of defenders Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez.
The 28-year-old will now have the opportunity to play Champions League football this season after Marseille finished second in the French league behind Paris St Germain.
Marseille are third in the Ligue 1 standings, two points behind PSG.
ATK Mohun Bagan, Mumbai City FC share spoils in Durand Cup clash
KOLKATA: Kolkata giants ATK Mohun Bagan's wait for their maiden win in this year's Durand Cup continued as they played out a 1-1 draw against rivals Mumbai City FC at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) on Wednesday.
The first 20 minutes of the first half saw a spirited ATKMB trying to take an early lead, bolstered by the home support.
Winger Liston Colaco made a couple of brilliant moves, first in the second minute and the other coming in the 12th minute. However, both the moves did not give the Mariners an early lead.
ATKMB drew the first blood in the 40th minute when a strike by defender Ashish Rai was rebounded off Mumbai goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa, but it was Liston who scored on the rebound.
Mumbai could have equalised four minutes later when Greg Stewart found Bipin Singh clear with a floater, but the Manipuri's header went straight into the hands of ATKMB custodian Vishal Kaith.
Coming into the second half, ATKMB could have doubled their lead as Liston got a similar rebound of Lachenpa once again, but it was eventually cleared by Mumbai's Australian defender Rostyn Griffiths.
Mumbai equalised in the 77th minute, when Argentine forward Jorge Pereyra Diaz got an aerial ball by Sanjiv Stalin in the box and headed it into the net.
With the draw, ATKMB have just one point from two matches, while Mumbai have four points from two games it played so far.
ATKMB had lost their first game against Rajasthan United 2-3.
Durand Cup: Army Red Football Team holds Neroca to goalless draw
IMPHAL: Home favourite Neroca FC settled for a goalless draw with the Army Red Football Team (ARFT) in their second Group C game in the Durand Cup at the Khuman Lampak Stadium here on Wednesday.
Neroca came into this game as firm favourites after beating local rivals TRAU FC 3-1. However, good defensive work by the ARFT footballers denied the wasteful Neroca side a chance to register their second consecutive win in the tournament.
Neroca showed more eagerness in the first half but failed to create any meaningful chances, thanks to the Army defenders who defended smartly.
As the first half ended goalless, it was Neroca that started the other half by pressing hard but squandered the chances to open the scoring.
Neroca's Michael Lunminlal Kipgen exhibited some great individual work and created a half-chance of sorts at the hour mark, but was eventually off-target.
Four minutes later, Lunminal was at it again as he delivered a cross with pin-point accuracy to young forward Thomyo Shimray, who attempted a side-volley but missed out on scoring.
The Army side did get one opportunity to break the deadlock with three minutes left on the clock, as substitute Pradeep Kumar, unleashed a left-footer from 20 yards but was denied by Neroca custodian Sonal Porei, who was awarded the Man of the Match.
Top-ranked Iga Swiatek must overcome US Open ball concerns
Iga Swiatek is the favourite to win this year's US Open where the balls being used for women's matches could possibly give the Polish world number one more trouble than any opponent she faces at the year's final Grand Slam.
Swiatek recently hit out at the US Open balls, suggesting the lighter ones used for women's matches are tougher to control than those used by her male counterparts and therefore present a disadvantage to harder-hitting players like herself.
The US Open, which starts on Monday in New York, is the only major that uses different balls for men and women and they featured at recent North American hardcourt tournaments where Swiatek lost at the last-16 stage in two consecutive events.
"Basically the thing is that they are lighter. They fly like crazy," Swiatek said last week in Cincinnati. "You know, we have really powerful games right now. It's not like 10 years ago -except Serena, girls, I think they played slower, right?
"Right now we play powerful, and we kind of can't loosen up our hands with these balls. I know that there are many players who complain, and many of them are top 10."
The twice French Open champion, whose best US Open result came last year when she reached the fourth round, also felt the style of tennis on display when more powerful hitters like herself use lighter balls is less attractive.
"We make more mistakes, for sure. So I don't think if that's like really nice to watch visually," said Swiatek, who had a 37-match winning streak this year. "I don't know why they are different than men's ones.
"I don't know - like 15 years ago probably women had some elbow injuries because the balls were heavier and they changed them to women's balls, but right now we are so physically well prepared that I don't think it would happen."
Swiatek is not alone in her views as world number four Paula Badosa backed her comments while the coach of since-retired Ash Barty said in January the Australian would never complete a career Grand Slam unless US Open organisers opted for a different ball.
"Those balls are horrible, especially after like three games of really hard playing, they are getting more and more light," said Swiatek.
"At the end, you can't even, you know, serve like 170 kilometers per hour because you know it's going to fly like crazy. Yeah, I think they are pretty bad. Sorry."
Emma Raducanu hoping for spectacular sequel in New York
Emma Raducanu's fairytale staged against a backdrop of New York's skyscrapers catapulted the British teenager's career into the stratosphere but reality has hit home in the past 12 months.
Her charge from obscurity to the US Open title as a 150th-ranked qualifier still feels barely credible, even as the 19-year-old returns to Flushing Meadows as reigning champion.
It was a story that defied tennis logic, transcended sport and instantly made her one of the most marketable athletes -- male or female -- in the world.
The trouble is, the tennis treadmill never stops and while Raducanu has been dealing with the inevitable spin-offs of her unlikely Grand Slam title, her results have been modest.
It should not really have come as a surprise as, in tennis terms, Raducanu is still very much a novice.
Various changes to her coaching set-up, a succession of niggling injuries and poor form have all contributed to a mediocre year so far with 13 wins and 15 losses.
Seemingly in the blink of an eye, Raducanu made herself a target and with the pool of talent running so deep in the women's game, there has been no shortage of players ready to knock Britain's Queen Emma off her throne.
"I think that by her winning, she's opened up a can of worms," seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander, previewing the tournament for Eurosport, said on Tuesday.
"It used to be maybe five to 10 players that literally believe they could win (a Slam). And I think now you've got 50 players that think they can win it because of what Emma did and that makes it much harder."
Raducanu has taken the knocks well. There have been no tantrums, no excuses. She insists she is still learning her game and coming to terms with the physical demands of life on Tour.
But she will be hoping that the lights of the Big Apple can inspire another magical fortnight, even if whatever happens could never live up to 2021 when she won 10 matches in New York without dropping a set, culminating in beating fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez in the final.
There have been encouraging signs in recent weeks that her free-flowing game is coming together.
In a blockbuster opening match at Cincinnati she beat 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams 6-4, 6-0 and then trounced former world number one Victoria Azarenka 6-0, 6-2.
Admittedly both of those illustrious opponents were shadows of their former selves and defeat by American top-10 opponent Jessica Pegula was perhaps a better indication of exactly where Raducanu's game is at heading to New York.
"I think that I achieved something great (by winning the US Open), but I was playing completely free. I'm starting to do that again," Raducanu said last week.
"I feel like I'm swinging with the same sort of freedom as I probably had last year.
"I feel like I'm heading in a good direction again."
Everything happened so fast for Raducanu that she has not enjoyed the luxury of quietly developing her game behind the scenes. Opponents now know exactly what to expect.
But there is no way you can fluke a US Open title and anyone dismissing Raducanu as a serious threat again would be misguided. If she is swinging freely and the serve functions as it did last year, a compelling sequel could be in the making.
Rafael Nadal eyes 23rd major as Novak Djokovic clings to forlorn US Open hope
NEW YORK: Rafael Nadal targets a fifth US Open and 23rd Grand Slam title in New York from next week as Novak Djokovic clings desperately onto a forlorn hope of even being allowed to set foot in New York.
Nineteen years after making his debut, the 36-year-old Nadal drags his injury-prone body into a tournament he won in 2010, 2013, 2017 and 2019, the year of his last appearance.
The Spaniard has had to sit out the US Open four times in his career and there are once again fresh doubts over his physical ability to survive a gruelling two weeks at Flushing Meadows.
Since an abdomen injury forced him to hand Nick Kyrgios a walkover into the Wimbledon final, Nadal has played just once -- a first-up loss to Borna Coric in Cincinnati.
"I need to move forward and just start to think about the energy that the crowd give me in New York," said Nadal, who has already captured two of the season's three Slams at the Australian and French Opens.
"It's a very special place for me, and I enjoy it. There have been unforgettable moments there, and I'm going to try my very best every single day to be ready for that."
Nadal has become accustomed to overcoming setbacks, winning a 14th French Open in June despite playing the whole tournament with pain-killing injections in his foot.
An added incentive for Nadal is the opportunity to reclaim the world number one spot from defending champion Daniil Medvedev, the man he defeated in the 2019 final.
While Nadal trains in New York, career-long rival Djokovic remains in Europe, steadfastly refusing to withdraw from the tournament in the hope of a last-minute change of policy by the US authorities.
The famously unvaccinated Djokovic, who won the last of his three US Open crowns in 2018, is barred from entering the United States for refusing to take the Covid vaccine.
Tennis legend John McEnroe has blasted the Djokovic ban as a "joke"
"At this point, in the pandemic, we're two and a half years in, I think people in all parts of the world know more about it, and the idea that he can't travel here to play, to me is a joke," said McEnroe.
Ironically, during the height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, Djokovic was allowed to compete at New York where he was champion in 2011, 2015 and 2018.
The 35-year-old hasn't played since securing a seventh Wimbledon title last month, a victory which extended his Slam record to 21.
His controversial vaccination stance also saw him deported from Melbourne in January where he had been hoping to defend his Australian Open title.
Only last month, Djokovic said he was "preparing to play" in the tournament.
He will be put out of his agony on Thursday when the draw takes place.
With Roger Federer still absent from the tour and with question marks over Nadal's fitness and Djokovic's presence, the race for the men's title is likely to be as open as recent years.
Marin Cilic, Stan Wawrinka, Dominic Thiem and Medvedev have all broken the New York stranglehold of the 'Big Three' since 2014.
Medvedev will be especially fired up having been banned from Wimbledon along with all other Russian players following the invasion of Ukraine.
On his reappearance on the tour following the All England Club cold shoulder, the 26-year-old claimed the hardcourt title in Los Cabos.
World number two and 2020 runner-up Alexander Zverev misses out through injury while fourth-ranked Carlos Alcaraz, a quarter-finalist in 2021, looks to convert potential into a maiden Slam triumph at 19.
Apart from Felix Auger-Aliassime, a semi-finalist last year, the rest of the current top 10 have endured a bittersweet relationship with New York.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud, Cameron Norrie and Hubert Hurkacz have all yet to make the second week.
Serena Williams ranked as icon alongside Muhammad Ali by fellow US tennis legends
NEW YORK: Serena Williams ranks alongside such icons as Muhammad Ali among the greatest legends in sport, retired US tennis stars John McEnroe and Chris Evert said on Wednesday.
Speaking ahead of their commentary duties for the US Open that begins on Monday, Evert hailed 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams, who is likely to retire after this year's Grand Slam showdown in New York.
"I would put her up there as far as the influence, the fact how she revolutionized the game and also how she's influenced girls and women and people throughout the world," Evert said.
"That's how big of a star. She's a superstar. What impresses me the most is just off-court influence and how she's influenced young women to own their power, to speak their mind, to be fearless."
McEnroe gave Serena the GOAT label -- as in Greatest of All Time.
"All you need to say about Serena is that she's put herself in that pantheon of GOATs -- Billie Jean King. Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Tom Brady. That's where Serena is.
"She has become like an icon of icons. It probably happened later than it deserved to for her, but it's here now."
McEnroe said Williams changed the game with her power and devastating serve, comparing her to NBA 3-point sharpshooter Stephen Curry.
"Serena took it to that next level because she had the greatest serve ever, better than a lot of guys," McEnroe said. "I would compare her in a way, the way she changed it, to Steph Curry. Everyone is shooting 3-pointers, but no one does it as well as him.
Evert spoke of Williams as an inspiration to others.
When it came to this year's US Open, Evert warned "don't underestimate her" but admitted, "it's going to be tough for her to get to that second week" while McEnroe said, "anything could happen. It's so wide open."
When it came to retirement, McEnroe saw Serena closer to tennis than Evert, who cited Williams having said she wants to have another child.
"I think that she'll be more of an ambassador," McEnroe said. "She sounds like she's got a ton of interests and I'm sure that some of those are going to have to do with tennis."
Added Evert: "I don't envision her really around tournaments... I don't think she's going to be as visible in tennis as she is maybe outside of tennis."
India A vs New Zealand A: Priyank Panchal named captain; uncapped Tilak Varma, Mukesh Kumar included in squad
NEW DELHI: Gujarat opener Priyank Panchal was on Wednesday named captain of the 16-member India 'A' squad for the three four-day games against New Zealand 'A', starting later this month.
Apart from Panchal, the squad also includes the likes of Ruturaj Gaikwad, Kuldeep Yadav, and Prasidh Krishna.
Pace sensation Umran Malik, 22, has also been named in the squad.
The selectors also took into consideration performances of those players who fared well in the domestic season and named the likes of Bengal's star batter Abhimanyu Easwaran, Madhya Pradesh's Ranji Trophy winning hero Rajat Patidar, and Mumbai's Sarfaraz Khan.
The team also includes a number of uncapped players, such as young batter Tilak Varma, medium pacer Mukesh Kumar and Yash Dayal.
Bengaluru's M Chinnaswamy stadium will host the first and the third red-ball games, while the second match will take place at Hubli's Rajnagar stadium.
Chennai's MA Chidambaram stadium will host the three one-day games, squad for which will be announced later.
India A Squad: Priyank Panchal (Captain), Abhimanyu Easwaran, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraaz Khan, Tilak Varma, KS Bharat (wk), Upendra Yadav (wk), Kuldeep Yadav, Saurabh Kumar, Rahul Chahar, Prasidh Krishna, Umran Malik, Mukesh Kumar, Yash Dayal, Arzan Nagwaswalla.
Hong Kong qualify for Asia Cup, will face India and Pakistan
MUSCAT: Hong Kong qualified for the Asia Cup on Wednesday, where they will face India and Pakistan, after defeating the United Arab Emirates by eight wickets in the final qualifying round.
Chasing 148 to win, Hong Kong reached their target with an over to spare with Yasim Murtaza top scoring on 58.
The 31-year-old Murtaza made his runs off 43 balls and hit seven boundaries and one six.
But it was 37-year-old spinner Ehsan Khan who was named man of the match for his 4-24 in his four overs as the brakes were applied to the UAE innings.
He removed both of the Gulf team's top scorers, skipper Chundangapoyil Rizwan (49), who was smartly stumped by Manchester-born wicketkeeper Scott McKechnie, and Zawar Farid (41).
The Asia Cup gets underway on Saturday with India, Pakistan and Hong Kong drawn in Group A and Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in Group B.
Red-hot Babar Azam to struggling Virat Kohli: Five to watch at Asia Cup
DUBAI: The Asia Cup begins on Saturday with top cricketers, including Pakistan skipper Babar Azam and India superstar Virat Kohli, in action in the United Arab Emirates.
Here are five players to watch in the six-nation tournament, which is an important warm-up for the T20 World Cup in Australia in October.
With key pace bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi out injured, Pakistan will depend heavily on Babar Azam's blazing batting.
The 27-year-old leads the T20 and one-day batting rankings and comes into the tournament on the back of two big half-centuries in Pakistan's 3-0 ODI sweep of the Netherlands.
He scored an unbeaten 68 as his side demolished India by 10 wickets in the last meeting between the arch-rivals in the 2021 T20 World Cup -- at the same venue where they meet this Sunday.
Star batsman Virat Kohli will play in his 100th T20 international when India face Pakistan in their opener, having been rested from the recent tour of the West Indies and Zimbabwe.
The 33-year-old badly needs a big score. He last hit an international century in November 2019 and is going through the worst phase of his otherwise stellar career.
Kohli, who has struck 27 centuries in 102 Tests since making his debut in 2011, has endured a torrid 12 months that also saw him replaced as national captain.
"He gets a fifty in the very first game, mouths will be shut for the rest of the tournament," said Ravi Shastri, the former India coach.
Wanindu Hasaranga made a strong impact with his leg-spin in this year's Indian Premier League, taking 26 wickets in 16 matches to raise his stock as an impact bowler.
Alongside fellow spinners Maheesh Theekshana, Jeffery Vandersay and Praveen Jayawickrama he will lead Sri Lanka's bowling charge on the UAE's spin-friendly slow pitches.
Hasaranga, 25, who did not play in The Hundred in England because Sri Lanka wanted him fresh for the Asia Cup and T20 World Cup, is also a handy lower-middle-order batsman.
SHAKIB AL HASAN
Shakib Al Hasan has often courted controversy on and off the field but he remains Bangladesh's most consistent performer and returns to lead the team.
The star all-rounder was told to cut ties with a gambling portal to get back the captaincy of Bangladesh, who have won just two of their last 15 Twenty20 matches.
The 35-year-old, a left-handed batsman and spinner, will play his 100th T20 international when Bangladesh open their Asia Cup campaign against Afghanistan on Tuesday.
Rashid Khan will be Afghanistan's go-to bowler in the battle for the Asian crown with the leg-spinner going strong with 112 wickets in 66 T20 internationals.
The 23-year-old has been a big hit in global Twenty20 leagues, including the IPL and The Hundred, with his wicket-taking ability and attacking lower-order batting.
Rashid will be prime among the team's key players alongside skipper Mohammad Nabi and will share the spin duties with Mujeeb ur Rahman and Noor Ahmad.