Eagles sharp in early going

first_imgBY WARREN RAPPLEYEAStaff Writer BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer The Middletown High School South boys soccer team is off to a 4-0 start that coach Sean Reid is hoping will propel the Eagles through the campaign. The coach, however, is wary. Last season the Eagles got out of the game with a 6-0-1 mark, but slumped at mid-season and finished 13-7-1. Reid believes it won’t happen again, primarily because of Middletown South’s improved defense. Thus far, junior goalkeeper Brian Hessinger has not allowed a goal, and the players in front of him, particularly senior David Kumm, have excelled. “We emphasized defense during the preseason and the kids have taken the challenge,” Reid said. “Kumm has been phenomenal. I always saw him as a midfielder, and that’s my fault. David is 6-3, he’s great in the air and he doesn’t make mental mistakes. He’s really solidified the defense.” Stopper Anthony Testa and Christian Caldaro, both juniors, have been strong as well. And it’s been contagious. Knowing that they won’t be in shootouts, the Eagles’ midfielders have rarely been caught out of position. Billy Snyder, a solid two-way player, has been the key in the middle. Senior Steve Vullo and juniors Pete Ferrari, Tyler Kimble and Michael Sica all contribute valuable minutes in the middle. Meanwhile, the offense has churned along. Midfielder Tom Gray already has six goals and five assists, after leading the team in scoring a year ago with 21 goals and 19 assists. Gray’s accuracy also makes him Reid’s choice for penalty kicks. Junior Thomas Campbell has five goals and six assists, after posting 20 and 20 last fall. Sweeper Ryan Leahey has contributed a pair of goals, both on corner kicks, and junior forward Chris Trimboli can also put the ball in the net. Reid noted that his team, like others in the area, will face a real test in the coming weeks and when it will be playing three or four games a week. “Actually, I think the state should limit teams to two games a week and extend the season,” Reid said. “It’s tough for kids to play that many games, have practices, and most important, get their school work finished. I also think the games would be better. The players would have more practice time to work on things and they’d be better prepared. “That’s not the case, so we’re just going to take them one at a time and continue focusing on defense,” he said. “We can score, we’ll be in good shape if we continue taking care of the other end.” Notes… The Eagles are one of just three local boys teams ranked in the top 10 in the Shore Conference in the early going. While South held the No. 6 spot coming into this week’s action, their crosstown rivals at Middletown North were the third-ranked team. The Lions return a host of players from last year’s 10-6-4 team, and are anxious to defend their Class A North title. Monday night’s showdown with the Eagles promised to be a good early test for both teams. Meanwhile, the CBA Colts, ranked second in the Shore, suffered a surprising 2-1 loss against unranked Manalapan on Saturday to fall to 2-1 on the young season. However, the Colts return a slew of talented players from last year’s Parochial A championship squad (its third in five years), including junior goalie Mike Giallombardo, one of the top netminders in the state, and should rebound to be a force the rest of the way. Their next test comes tomorrow when a solid Freehold Township team comes to Lincroft to try to knock off the Colts.last_img read more

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CBA’s Hrymack among RU’s 2012 wrestling recruits

first_imgHayden Hrymack, who is one of the winningest wrestlers in Christian Brothers Academy’s history, was among 14 future student-athletes joining the Rutgers University wrestling program in 2012.Rutgers coach Scott Goodale announced the incoming class of wrestlers last week. Seven of them were state medal winners at the NJSIAA Championships last winter.The latest class of Rutgers wrestlers has shown its talents on the national stage.Phil Bakuckas of Hammonton and Maverick Passaro from Eastport, N.Y. recorded fourth-place finishes at the 2012 FloNationals in Philadelphia, Pa.Terrance Jean-Jacques of Haverhill, Mass. and West Orange’s Anthony Pafumi earned multiple All-America honors at past National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) national tournaments.Jean-Jacques was second in the country at heavyweight as a junior in 2011 and he followed that performance by placing seventh in the division as a senior in 2012.Pafumi placed fifth in the nation at 171 pounds as a junior in 2011. He was place third at 160 pounds during his freshman and sophomore seasons.Lex Knapp, Lacey Township, and Jan Rosenberg, Rockaway, also earned All- America status at the 2011 NHSCA Nationals. Knapp placed eighth at 215 pounds, while Rosenberg won the title at 103 pounds.Rosenberg added freestyle and Greco- Roman All-America accolades to his record at the 2010 and 2011 Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D. He placed fifth in freestyle and third in Greco-Roman at 98 pounds in 2010. Rosenberg followed that by placing third in freestyle and fourth in Greco- Roman at 105 pounds in 2011.Jean-Jacques and Conor Wasson, Mount Laurel, placed second in the country at the National Preps Tournament. Jean-Jacques earned runner-up honors at heavyweight in 2011, while Wasson’s stellar performance came at 182 pounds in 2012.Goodale’s team features 10 student-athletes from New Jersey, two from New York, one from Massachusetts and one from Missouri. Sean McCabe of Connetquot, N.Y. and Passaro won New York state titles at 120 pounds and 126 pounds, respectively.Morgan Fitzgerald hails from Kearney, Mo. and the grappler was one of three recruits in the Rutgers class to cap his career with an individual state championship. Fitzgerald captured his crown at 170 pounds.New Jersey natives Anthony Giancola (Collingswood), Hrymack, Eric McMullen (North Bergen), Jalen Ramos (Central Regional) and Ken Theobold (Toms River South) complete the group.McMullen and Theobold were state finalists at 195 pounds and 145 pounds, respectively, to close out their high school careers.Hrymack set a Christian Brothers Academy single-season record for wins in 2011- 12 with 42. He went 42-2 on the way to a fifth-place finish at the state championships. He also won district and region championships during his senior year. He wrestled at 197 pounds for the Colts and led the team with 27 pins. He was a two-time district champion.Hrymack was 73-8 throughout his junior and senior years at Christian Brothers Academy. The Colts were 19-6 in 2011-12 and won the NJSIAA South Jersey Non- Public A state sectional team championship.Rutgers will open the 2012-13 wrestling season on Nov. 4 at the Hokie Open in Blacksburg, Va. The Scarlet Knights’ first home dual meet is set for Nov. 11 against Clarion at 1 p.m.On Dec. 8, the Scarlet Knights will host a double-dual meet with Rider University at 5 p.m. and Princeton University at 7 p.m.Goodale has done a great job keeping local talent in the state. Among the wrestlers on the Rutgers roster are Jackson Memorial’s Scott Winston (165 pounds), Doug Hamann (157 and 165 pounds) and Dan Hopkins (197 pounds), Howell’s Joey Langel (125 pounds), Long Branch’s Nick Visciaro (165 pounds), Raritan’s brothers Dan (184 and 197 pounds) and David (149 pounds) Seidenberg, Point Pleasant Borough’s Jordan Beverly (157 pounds) and J.P. Stevens’ Greg Zannetti (174 pounds).Zannetti and Winston are ranked No. 16 and No. 17 nationally, respectively, heading into the 2012-13 campaign.last_img read more

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Beckenbauer banned by FIFA for failing to cooperate

first_imgBy Brian HomewoodGerman former World Cup winning coach and captain Frank Beckenbauer was provisionally banned for 90 days from football for failing to co-operate with a FIFA ethics committee investigation, soccer’s governing body said on Friday.Beckenbauer, who was on the FIFA executive committee which controversially awarded the 2022 World Cup hosting rights to Qatar in 2010, had received “repeated requests” to provide information, FIFA said in a statement.The ban was imposed at the request of United States lawyer Michael Garcia, head of the investigatory chamber of FIFA’s ethics committee, who is leading an investigation into the 2022 decision.Beckenbauer is regarded as one of the greatest players ever to have graced the game and is revered in Germany, where he is honorary president of Bayern Munich, and abroad.As a player, Beckenbauer redefined the role of libero and captained the West Germany side which won the 1974 World Cup.He led West Germany to World Cup victory as a coach in 1990 and was head of the local organising committee when Germany hosted the showpiece in 2006.On Wednesday, Garcia told FIFA’s annual Congress in Sao Paulo that he and his team already had access to the “vast majority” of millions of documents the Sunday Times newspaper referred to in a recent report alleging bribery in the run-up to Qatar’s successful bid.Garcia is expected to issue his report in July.“Franz Beckenbauer was today provisionally banned from taking part in any football-related activity, at any level, for 90 days,” said the FIFA statement. “The ban is effective immediately.“The decision was taken…on the grounds that a breach of the Code of Ethics appears to have been committed and a decision on the main issue may not be taken early enough.“The apparent breach relates to Mr Beckenbauer’s failure to cooperate with an Ethics Committee investigation despite repeated requests for his assistance, including requests that he provide information during an in-person interview or in response to written questions provided in both English and German.“The case is now the subject of formal investigation proceedings being conducted by investigatory chamber member Vanessa Allard as chief of the investigation.”Garcia has said that his team would consider any material provided to them, but would not delay the publication of the final report indefinitely.The Sunday Times said some of the “millions of documents” it had seen linked payments by former FIFA executive committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam to officials as part of a campaign to win support for Qatar’s bid.Bin Hammam has not commented on his involvement since he was banned for life from soccer in 2012, while Qataris working on the project say he was not a part of its official bid.The allegations have caused severe embarrassment to FIFA and its long-serving president Sepp Blatter, who is expected to stand for a fifth term next year.last_img read more

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Drone stunt at Serbia-Albania football match causes diplomatic row

first_imgBy Matt Robinson and Benet KolekaSerbia summoned the Albanian ambasssador on Wednesday to protest at an incendiary flag-flying stunt at an international football match that caused a brawl on the pitch and set back hopes for detente between the Balkan neighbours.Tuesday’s Serbia-Albania Euro 2016 qualifier – at which Albanian fans were barred due to tensions between the two countries – was called off when a remote-controlled plane flew the flag of ‘Greater Albania’ above the field, sparking a brawl that forced the Albanian players to flee.With the countries trading accusations of xenophobia and extremism, a visit by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Ramato Belgrade next week, that was meant to mark a new chapter in their troubled history, looked at risk of being cancelled.Relations between Serbia and Albania have long been hostile and hit their lowest point during a war in the former Serbian province of Kosovo in the late 1990s when NATO, concerned about the “ethnic cleansing” of Albanians, deployed airstrikes against Serbian forces.Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but Belgrade refuses to recognise it, saying the territory, which has a majority Albanian population, is a heartland of the Serbian nation.Serbia’s foreign minister blamed the Albanian prime minister’s brother for the drone stunt, with some media reporting that Olsi Rama had been arrested in the VIP stands of the Belgrade stadium with the remote control in his hands.Olsi denied that and, on Wednesday, a group of Albanian fans said they were behind the incident. The Serbian government and media were livid.“It was clear they came with the plain and obvious intention to provoke their hosts,” Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told reporters. He told the Serbian daily Vecernje Novosti that “Albanian extremists” wanted to portray Serbia as intolerant.Belgrade summoned Albanian Ambassador Ilir Bocka to protest.“Serbia is working diligently on nurturing good relations with its neighbours, from whom it expects the same approach and it will not tolerate such provocations,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.Albania, however, said Serbia was to blame.“Hospitality, this sacred asset of all Balkan peoples, was trodden on like never before, in an anti-sporting and xenophobic atmosphere,” Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati told a news conference.Asked if Rama’s visit to Belgrade would go ahead, Bushati replied: “We stick to our objective, as we do to our policy of good neighbourly relations. However, depending on developments, this remains an open issue.”Belgrade’s diplomatic corps was dragged into the dispute when Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic was quoted as saying that several Albanian fans, including Rama’s brother, had managed to enter the stadium with the help of Western diplomats.EU and US envoys denied any involvement.The Albanian prime minister’s brother, who returned to Albania on the team’s plane, told Reuters he had been “taken aside” by Serbian police during the melee but not arrested.“I’ve never used a drone in my life, only bought my son a toy helicopter,” said Olsi Rama, who has joint Albanian and US nationality.A photograph posted on the Facebook page of an Albanian fan group showed men posing with a ‘quad-copter’ similar to the drone used at the match.Under the caption “Deeds, not just words,” one of the men, identified as Agron Sadiku, wrote: “This was not my idea, but that of my uncle’s son, Egzon Feri. We never believed it would be done so successfully. I am very happy about it.”There were celebrations on the streets of Albanian-populated towns across the Balkans after Tuesday’s match.‘Greater Albania’ – the area respresented by the flag flown in the stadium – covers Albania, Kosovo and parts of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece claimed by Albanian nationalists.A Serbian player plucked the flag from the air, several Albanian players reacted angrily, and the pitch was invaded by several dozen Serbian fans. Fans threw flares and seats as the Albanian players raced from the pitch to the tunnel. The match was abandoned at 0-0.UEFA President Michel Platini called the incident “inexcusable”.On Wednesday night, the Serbian and Albanian football associations were charged by UEFAAlbania are charged with “refusing to play” and the “display of an illicit banner”, while Serbia face five charges related to Tuesday’s crowd trouble.UEFA’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body will hear the case on October 23.last_img read more

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Three-game ban on 41 APOEL fans

first_imgBy Constantinos PsillidesThe Limassol District Court decided on Wednesday to impose a three-game ban on the 41 APOEL fans arrested in connection with violence during the APOEL-AEL football match in Limassol on Sunday.According to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), this was the largest group of football fans ever to be barred from entering the pitch.Police spokesman Ioannis Soteriades told CNA the ban could be prolonged if need be.Included within the 41 are nine APOEL fans remanded for three days in custody on Monday on suspicion of disturbance of peace, arson, assault and battery against officers, carrying dangerous objects and drug possession.The youngest fan arrested was 16 while the oldest was 32.According to police reports, at half time, APOEL fans set fire to stadium seats, a fire escape exit and a canteen warehouse causing extensive damage. They also hurled objects at officers, injuring four.Police spokesman Andreas Angelides had said that some 100 APOEL fans were hosed down by a fire engine as they tried to prevent firefighters from putting out the blaze. They formed a human chain around the fire and hurled seats, flares, smoke bombs, stones, and ceramic tiles and toilet bowls they had taken from the stadium.The 41 were arrested after the end of the game that ended 2-1 to AEL, when police brought all six buses that were to transport the 150 APOEL fans back to Nicosia into the stadium and searched every person one by one.In the buses, an expendable baton, a folding knife, several flares, a bag containing what is believed to be cannabis, a three-metre chain and a slingshot were found, police said.last_img read more

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It’s no dream as Bournemouth awakes to English top-flight reality

first_imgBy Mitch PhillipsThe genteel English seaside town of Bournemouth awoke on Tuesday to the astonishing prospect that its football club, on the brink of extinction only five years ago, will be revelling in the glamour and wealth of Premier League football next season.Barring a near-impossible 20-goal swing in the final games on Saturday, Bournemouth will be promoted from the Championship to challenge the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United in English football’s top flight for the first time in their 116-year history. It is a turnaround few would have thought possible.“It’s been an amazing journey,” one we never expected to go on. It doesn’t seem real,” manager Eddie Howe said after Monday’s promotion-clinching match. “This club was on its knees six years ago, we had nothing, the bailiffs coming in every day and people not getting paid.“A group of supporters put their hands in their pockets to keep the club alive and they are reaping the rewards.”Bournemouth’s stadium holds only 12,000 – big enough for the fourth-tier club they were – and its annual turnover is around five million pounds; but promotion to a Premier League awash with cash from its billion-pound TV deals will be worth at least 120 million even if they last only one season.Monday’s 3-0 home win over Bolton Wanderers sparked celebratory mayhem as supporters of the ‘Cherries’ poured onto the pitch. When fans, players, management and chairman told TV cameras the moment was “unbelievable”, that was no exaggeration.Bournemouth has always been better known for its sandy beaches, leafy parks and Victorian pier than for footballing prowess.For decades, the club’s notable achievements were restricted to Ted MacDougall’s record tally of nine goals in an 11-0 FA Cup win over Margate in 1971 and an upset victory over holders Manchester United in the same competition in 1984.Those moments looked set to be their epitaph when they were forced into administration seven years ago. Two years of desperate fund-raising, with fans shaking collecting tins and chairman Jeff Mostyn throwing in 750,000 pounds of his own money, just about kept them afloat.However, when they began the 2008/09 season in the fourth tier and the wolves still at the door, the future looked bleak.Somehow, they escaped the drop into the abyss of minor league football, and slowly began to fix their finances, securing an unlikely promotion the following year.The club was bought by Russian businessman Maxim Demin in 2011, enabling Howe to start buying players of increasing quality.Still only 37, Howe may now be eyed by other clubs, but having become the town’s idol, it seems inconceivable he would depart before enjoying at least one season among the elite.“I have always felt the supporters are with me,” he said. “It shouldn’t be them thanking me, it should be me thanking them. It is a family club and deserves its moment in the sun.”last_img read more

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Woods has more back surgery, out for rest of 2015

first_imgBy Andrew BothFormer world number one Tiger Woods has announced that he underwent back surgery earlier this week and will be sidelined for the rest of this year.The 14-time major champion, who had a similar procedure on his back in March 2014, hopes to return to competition in early 2016.“This is certainly disappointing, but I’m a fighter,” Woods, 39, said in a statement on his website. “I’ve been told I can make a full recovery, and I have no doubt that I will.“This is unfortunate, but these things happen. I’ve been injured before and played again. It won’t be any different this time.”As a result of the microdiscectomy surgery, which was performed in Park City, Utah on Wednesday, Woods will not be able to compete in the PGA Tour’s October 15-18 Frys.com Open as he had initially planned.He also was scheduled for two unofficial events, the America’s Golf Cup in Mexico and the Hero World Challenge that he hosts in the Bahamas.Woods, who turns 40 in December, last played at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina, four weeks ago.He showed glimpses of his old form, finishing equal 10th, but appeared to walk with a gingerly gait, something he attributed at the time to a hip problem.According to his website, Woods “felt some occasional discomfort in the back and hip area the last several weeks, including at the Wyndham Championship.“An examination clearly showed that the random discomfort was coming from his back, and Woods elected to have surgery quickly in order to return to the PGA Tour as soon as possible.“Woods will begin intensive rehabilitation and soft tissue treatment within a week. Healing and recovery times differ for each individual based on many physiological factors, but Tiger is encouraged he can return early in 2016.”Woods kept his plans for surgery under tight wraps. Before Friday, he had not posted anything on his Twitter account since September 10, when he wished Arnold Palmer a happy birthday.On Friday, he announced that he had undergone “successful back surgery” to remove a small disc fragment that was pinching his nerve.However, the latest surgery raises further questions as to whether the man who spent a record 683 weeks ranked number one in the world will ever regain his former greatness.Woods seemed destined to become the most prolific major champion ever when he captured the 2008 US Open, for his 14th major title, but he has not added to the list over the ensuing 30 majors.His hopes of matching the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus are fading with every passing major, as history shows how difficult it is to win multiple majors once a player gets into his early 40s.Woods played only 11 official events this year and did not qualify for the PGA Tour’s FedExCup playoffs currently being staged. He is ranked 283rd in the world.last_img read more

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All Blacks great Jonah Lomu dies aged 40

first_imgBy Greg StutchburyAll Blacks great Jonah Lomu, who revolutionised wing play to become rugby union’s first global superstar, died on Wednesday in Auckland at the age of 40.Lomu had suffered from kidney disease for two decades and had a transplant in 2004 but former All Blacks doctor John Mayhew said his death was unexpected.“I can confirm that Jonah Lomu died this morning, most probably about eight or nine this morning” Mayhew told TV3.“The family are obviously devastated, as are friends and acquaintances.“It was totally unexpected. Jonah and his family arrived back from the United Kingdom last night and he suddenly died this morning.”Lomu, who was awaiting another transplant and undergoing dialysis treatment, had undertaken commercial obligations at the recent Rugby World Cup in England.His death took the rugby-mad country by surprise with an outpouring of messages of condolence from New Zealand and around the world flooding social media.New Zealand’s Parliament expressed their sorrow before they began proceedings on Wednesday.“Anyone who was living in New Zealand in the 1990s would not have failed to notice the massive impact Jonah Lomu had not only on sports fans but the wider community in this country,” Sports Minister Jonathan Coleman said.“He was a man who came from humble beginnings in Mangere, South Auckland and rose to become rugby’s first global superstar.”Lomu’s record of 37 tries in 63 tests was an impressive haul, all the more so considering he played much of his career and with nephritic syndrome, the disease that attacked his kidneys.New Zealand Rugby, who arguably owe part of their huge commercial success over the last 20 years to Lomu’s performances at the 1995 World Cup, said they were “shocked and saddened” by Lomu’s death.“We’re lost for words and our heartfelt sympathies go out to Jonah’s family,” chief executive Steve Tew said.“Jonah was a legend of our game and loved by his many fans both here and around the world.”ILLNESSBorn to Tongan parents in South Auckland, Lomu spent some of his childhood back in the Pacific Island nation after a cousin was killed with a machete in a street attack.He was then sent to Wesley College where he quickly found his niche on the sports field and was timed running under 11 seconds in the 100 metres.All Blacks coach Laurie Mains plucked him out of sevens rugby in 1994, but Lomu found his transition from the loose forward position he played at secondary school to the wing a challenge.He was dropped after his first two tests against France in 1994 and barely made the 1995 Rugby World Cup squad for South Africa after being deemed not fit enough for the fast-paced game the coach wanted to play.He proved almost unstoppable at the tournament, however, electrifying the rugby world with seven tries — four in the semi-final against England alone including one when he trampled over fullback Mike Catt that left many speechless.The pace and power displayed by the 1.95m tall and 119kg Lomu changed the wing position forever with the traditional lightweight flyer gradually all but disappearing from the test game.The impact he made at the tournament catapulted the quietly-spoke Lomu to worldwide fame and was one catalyst for the rugby turning professional shortly afterwards.The ravages of Lomu’s disease had begun to affect him and his performances went downhill from 1998, although he still made the 1999 World Cup squad and scored eight tries. He played his last test against Wales in 2002.Lomu’s health deteriorated from that point and had a transplant in 2004 when a friend donated one of his own kidneys for the procedure.By the time of the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, when Lomu featured heavily in the opening ceremony, the kidney had begun to fail and he was forced back onto dialysis.last_img read more

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Cut-up pitch, ripped shirts, burst ball fail quality test

first_imgWhile France and Switzerland largely got what they wanted with a 0-0 draw at Euro 2016 on Sunday, it was a night of shame for ground staff and sports manufacturers.Four Swiss players had to change ripped shirts, the Adidas match ball, sold outside for 140 euros ($158), burst and a cut-up pitch at the Stade Pierre Mauroy, that had to be patched up by groundsmen at halftime, sent players sliding.The Lille pitch, beneath a retractable roof, still has to host an Italy v Ireland clash on Wednesday, a last-16 fixture and a quarter-final.“It was better in Marseille but it was annoying. I don’t know who is responsible. We’re only in the group stage and having a pitch in that state already is not a good thing,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.Switzerland counterpart Vladimir Petkovic said the pitch had definitely affected the quality of the game.“I really hope they’re able to dry the pitch because it doesn’t hold up well, but it was the same for both sides so we can’t complain,” he said.Petkovic was less critical of his side’s Puma-made shirts.“If a shirt is pulled occasionally they can come apart at the seams. There were four and a maybe a fifth one at the end. If you pull shirts they do break,” he said.Goalkeeper and man of the match Yann Sommer, whose shirt was not ripped, said the kit damage was more down to the nature of the match.“It can happen. It means it was a fight on the pitch, with lots of duels. A jersey can fail. Of course today we had a lot. I can’t say we have to change because Puma is great,” he concluded.last_img read more

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Australian Open 2017: Andy Murray to play Ilya Marchenko in first round

first_imgMurray was drawn in the same quarter as Roger Federer – meaning the pair could face each other in the last eight.Murray is chasing a fourth Grand Slam title of his career and his first in Melbourne, where he has reached the final five times.Britain’s word number 10 Johanna Konta will face Kirsten Flipkens from Belgium.Konta’s draw places her in the same quarter as Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova and American champion Serena Williams.Defending champion Novak Djokovic will be aiming for a record seventh Australian Open title with a first round match against Fernando Verdasco. Analysis by the BBC’s Russell FullerIf Murray can safely find a way through his first ever week as a top seed at a Grand Slam, then he may have the chance to avenge last year’s US Open quarter-final defeat to Kei Nishikori.But Roger Federer may have something to say about that. Now seeded 17, after six months out through injury, the 17-time Grand Slam champion is in Nishikori’s section of the draw.All the British men will face opening round opponents outside the world’s top 50, but the women have a tougher draw.Kirsten Flipkens brings the experience of a Wimbledon semi-final into her match with Johanna Konta, while Heather Watson and Naomi Broady must both face seeded Australians.Sam Stosur has a very poor record in front of her home fans, however, which should give Watson cause for optimism.Spain’s Verdasco knocked his compatriot Rafa Nadal out in the opening round last year, but went on to lose to Djokovic in their recent clash at the Qatar Open.Nadal, seeded ninth, will play German Florian Mayer before a possible quarter-final against Canadian Milos Raonic.In the women’s draw, Williams is aiming for her 23rd grand professional slam title.Her first match will be against Swiss Belinda Bencic.Defending champion Angelique Kerber will play 61st-ranked Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko.World number one Kerber is aiming for her third Grand Slam win following her maiden US Open title last year.At the Sydney International on Thursday, Konta had a 6-2 6-2 win over Eugenie Bouchard.last_img read more

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