London Irish have been suspended from rugby union’s entire league structure after becoming the third Gallagher Premiership club to collapse this season.

The Rugby Football Union has confirmed that neither Irish’s owner Mick Crossan nor the American consortium planning to buy the club were able to prove they had the finances to compete in the top flight for the 2023-24 campaign.

Furthermore, the outstanding 50 per cent of May’s payroll owed to staff and players has not been paid before the final deadline set by the RFU of 4pm on Tuesday.

It means that Irish join Wasps and Worcester in becoming a casualty of the financial crisis gripping the Premiership, which will now become a 10-team competition.

Amateur tennis will return to Jamaica with the start of the inaugural Innovative Invitational Amateur Tennis Classic at the Liguanea Club in Kingston, Jamaica.

The tournament, organized by Llockett McGregor, will take place from June 12-17 feature over 90 players in the following categories: Men’s Open, Men’s Class 2 & 3 and Ladies B.

“I am expecting a very competitive and exciting tournament,” McGregor said at the launch of the Classic on Tuesday. I want to say thank you to all the sponsors who have come on board including the National Commercial Bank, Sandals and Altamont Court to name a few. We’re still working on a few more,” he added.

McGregor, when asked about the motivation behind staging the tournament, said keeping amateurs interested in the sport is a priority.

“This is an amateur tournament. Amateur, in my way of putting it, is the machinery behind the sport. They are the ones who drive the sport behind the professionals and juniors. We have to keep them interested by way of putting on tournaments for them,” McGregor said.

“In addition to that, I am the pro at the Liguanea Club which is a private members club with over 600 members. We have one of the biggest clubs in Jamaica with over eight Tennis courts and we feel it is our duty to give back to the sport of Tennis by putting on these tournaments, not only for our members but for the Tennis population at large.”

Top technology retailer, Innovative Systems Limited, have signed on as main sponsors for the first three years.

“This is the start of a blossoming relationship between Innovative Systems and the Tennis fraternity,” said Garth Walker, Executive Chairman of Innovative Systems Limited.

“This Amateur Classic will form an additional event of the annual Tennis calendar for the next three years. The Innovative Systems team is excited about this tournament, as it provides an avenue for us to aid the development of the sport. Additionally, it gives us an opportunity to foster the growth of the talented athletes who will be showcasing their expertise at this tournament,” Walker added.

The tournament draw will be held on Thursday before action gets underway with first round matches beginning at 5:00pm on Monday.

 

 

 

Karim Benzema has vowed he will never forget Real Madrid.

The striker will leave the Bernabeu in the summer when his contract expires after 14 years at the club.

The France international scored 354 goals in 648 games, won a club-record 25 trophies and is now expected to move to Saudi Arabia to join Al-Ittihad.

“I’ll never forget Real Madrid because it’s impossible,” he told a farewell press conference.

“It’s difficult to talk. There are so many emotions. I wanted to thank Real Madrid and my team-mates. It’s been a good journey in my life.

“I was lucky enough to fulfil my childhood dream thanks to the president, who a long time ago, when I was just 21 years old, went to my house, with my parents.

“When I saw you I said, he’s the man who brought Zizou and Ronaldo and now he wants me in his team. Thank you very much for that.

“I’ll never forget Real Madrid because it is impossible. It’s the best club in the world and in history, that’s as good as it gets. It’s time for me to leave today and to have another story, but the most important thing for me is what I’ve won here.

“It’s a little bit of a sad day, because I’m leaving this club and that pains me. My dream was in my head, I signed for Madrid and I wanted to finish at Madrid, but life sometimes gives you another opportunity and I’ve taken it with all my family.”

Benzema joined from Lyon in 2009 and won four LaLiga titles and five Champions League crowns. He also won the 2022 Ballon d’Or.

Real president Florentino Perez said: “Today is a very difficult day for me. It’s a day that brings back memories and the emotions of the last 14 years and it’s also a day of sentiment and emotions for all madridistas.

“A period of enormous anticipation began 14 years ago for all madridistas, one of the most impressive in our 121 years of history.”

Novak Djokovic lost his first set of the French Open but battled back to defeat Karen Khachanov and move through to the semi-finals.

The third seed looked like he could be in trouble when he was pushed to a second-set tie-break after dropping the opener, but he won seven straight points and pulled away to win 4-6 7-6 (0) 6-2 6-4.

Djokovic said: “He was the better player for most of the first two sets. I was struggling to find my rhythm. I came into the match a bit sluggish, but I played a perfect tie-break and then played a couple of levels higher.

“It’s a big fight, it’s something that you expect, quarter-finals of a grand slam. You’re not going to have your victories handed over to you. I’m happy to overcome this big challenge.”

Djokovic struggled to deal with the power game of Russian Khachanov in the opening set and made some unexpected errors as he dropped serve in the fifth game.

Khachanov, who made the semi-finals at both the US Open and Australian Open, had another chance to break in the ninth game and, although Djokovic managed to hold this time, his opponent comfortably served out the set.

The momentum slowly began to switch in the second set as Djokovic, who was engaging in repeated dialogue with his support camp, began to apply some pressure to the Khachanov serve.

He did not manage to break but, not for the first time this fortnight, played a flawless tie-break and then benefited from a lucky netcord to win a long opening game of the third set on the Khachanov serve.

The only blip after that came with a loose game that saw him lose his break advantage at 4-3 in the fourth set, but Djokovic regained it straight away and served out the victory.

The Serbian is through to his 45th slam semi-final, one behind Roger Federer and seven adrift of Chris Evert’s all-time record, and now only two victories away from a record 23rd slam title.

Michael Beale is looking to insert a “spine” of longevity into his Rangers squad which can help wrest the cinch Premiership title back from Celtic.

The Ibrox club ended the season trophy-less with their Old Firm rivals clinching the domestic treble to make it five trophies out of six in the last two campaigns.

Beale, who took over from Giovanni van Bronckhorst last November, brought in Todd Cantwell and Nicolas Raskin during the January transfer window and so far this summer he has added 25-year-old midfielder Kieran Dowell from Norwich and 23-year-old right-back Dujon Sterling from Chelsea, with goalkeeper Jack Butland due to join from Crystal Palace in July.

Asked how Rangers bridge the gap to Celtic next season, the former QPR boss told Sky Sports Scotland: “We start how we’re ending with our style being very clear, our energy being very strong on the pitch in terms of our pressing and the bits out of possession.

“Make sure that we’re really hard to beat then allow our quality to come through.

“We’ll look to recruit a spine that’s enabled to stay at Rangers for the next three to five years to build on.

“You’ve seen the start of that with Nico Raskin and Todd Cantwell coming in and Kieran Dowell. We’ll look to add to that with a little bit of experience but certainly in terms of quality in the final third.

“You’ll be able to tell by my face at the start of pre-season whether I’ve been successful in getting everyone that I want but either way we’ll come back into pre-season next year with a few new ideas that I’ve wanted to implement.

“We need to go and recruit a certain type of player for that. We’ll come back stronger.

“Our league form in the last 24 games would say if we can get to that stage where we are now, we’ll be in the mix.

“It’ll be about getting to the March international break where we need to be and then going for it.”

Beale, former assistant coach to Steven Gerrard at Rangers, started last season as boss of QPR before returning to Ibrox to take over the hot seat.

Assessing a first year in management, he said: “It’s probably everything I wished it to be in terms of being a natural transition from being an assistant for many years.

“My desire was to become a manager. Two different leagues in one season, a lot of drama in between but I’ve had a lot of experience in that.

“The size of the clubs are different. I loved my time at Queens Park Rangers with Les Ferdinand and the staff there. It was really important to me before coming back to Rangers.

“The opportunity to come here, I didn’t think would come anywhere as near as quickly as it did. This is a juggernaut of a club and everything that comes with it but I’ve been pleased with my staff and how they’ve handled it.

“I’ve been pleased with the support I’ve had from the club and everybody around the backroom team.

“There’s a tinge of disappointment because I felt we could have done better. We’ve won a lot of games but in the real key moments we’ve tended to shoot ourselves in the foot.

“That will be in the forefront of my mind going for the recruitment this summer.

“It’s a really important summer for me, the football club, the fans and ultimately for the players in the squad as well.”

Stuart Broad admits he is no longer the same man who was left “raging” by any omission from England’s Test team and is ready to throw himself into whatever Ashes role he is handed.

Broad has had more good news than bad when it comes to selection over the past 16 years, lining up 162 times to sit second on England’s all-time list behind his new-ball partner James Anderson.

But a combination of his irrepressible competitive edge, and a healthy slice of ego, has meant the seamer has not always taken his rare omissions lying down.

He was left aghast by the decision to leave him out of the 2019 Test in Barbados, declared himself “angry, frustrated and disappointed” during an emotional television interview when he lost his spot again at the Ageas Bowl the following summer and was similarly put out when he failed to make the XI for the opening game of England’s 2021-22 tour of Australia at the Gabba.

But now, at the age of 36 and basking in a happy-go-lucky team environment established by Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes, he finds himself more at ease with the idea of playing his role in an ensemble cast.

Despite leading the attack with six wickets in last week’s handsome victory over Ireland, he cheerfully notes he has no idea if he will taking the field for the series opener at Edgbaston next Friday and is content to wait his turn if required.

“I’ve changed quite a lot I think, in a good way,” he said.

“In Brisbane? Yeah, I was raging. But I see my role now as striking when I get the chance. We won’t be having any interviews like the Ageas Bowl. I’m very comfortable whether I play the first, second, third, fourth or fifth, so long as I strike at some stage. Maybe that will be the tactic, leave me out at Edgbaston so I fire up at Lord’s!

“I expect to play a part in the series and my mindset is just to get myself ready to make an impact when I can. Honestly I don’t have a clue which way selection will go but, ultimately, I don’t think it matters because we need to take 100 wickets in the series.

“I suppose the culture that Baz and Stokesy have created is one in, all in. We’re just happy for everyone’s success. So, if I only play one game and we lift the urn at the Oval, that’s a massive tick in England cricket’s box. It’s not about me, it’s about the collective…but I think I’ll play more than one.”

Much has been written and said about the transformative impact Stokes and McCullum have had on English cricket, an overhaul that has steered a previously struggling side to 11 victories in 13 Tests. Between them the pair have removed all trace of timidity from a side once known for its conservative approach, emphasising entertainment at every turn.

And Broad, who has lived through a handful of different playing philosophies over the years, believes the change has taken England into the kind of rarefied air few professional athletes ever experience.

“You look at all sports teams around the world, in the history of sport, and you could probably name them on one hand, those have completely removed the fear of failure,” said Broad.

“It’s like the Holy Grail in sports teams, what Baz and Stokesy have managed to do. I wish I was 23 again…to be Ollie Pope or Harry Brook at that age, getting influenced by Brendon McCullum as a coach and learning that failure doesn’t matter as long as you’re playing the game the right way. That’s going to do their careers the world of good.”

For Broad, part of moving away from fearfulness also involves demystifying the Ashes itself. The series occupies such an elevated status in English cricket culture that it has often felt like everything else is subservient to the next tussle with Australia.

Careers of players, captains and administrators have been cut short and reputations forged depending on the outcome and Broad has welcomed a recent change of emphasis.

“The three guys in charge at the moment – Rob Key, Brendon and Ben – have done the last 12 months perfectly and even if the result doesn’t go our way in the Ashes, as long as we have kids watching and saying “wow that’s incredible” then we have done our jobs,” he said.

“You can’t take the emphasis off the Ashes because it’s our biggest series. Our country has a love affair with Ashes cricket but as an organisation we had to get our mindset away from being obsessed with it and if results didn’t go the way you wanted them to in an Ashes series then the personnel lose their jobs.

“I think we have lived in a really healthy way in the last 12 months, in fact the Ashes was only mentioned for the first time in the post-match debrief against Ireland. It was mentioned in a way that it doesn’t matter what the results as long as we stick to how we play. The ‘A word’ doesn’t count because of the style we play.”

:: Stuart Broad was speaking at the launch of wine merchant Laithwaites’ partnership with England Cricket. For exclusive offers on great wines this summer, visit laithwaites.co.uk

Players expressed shock, surprise and a sense of betrayal at the news the PGA and DP World Tours were merging their commercial operations with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.

More than a year of contention and litigation between LIV and the established Tours and the players who joined the new competition ended in the most astonishing and abrupt fashion on Tuesday with the announcement that the three bodies had set up a new commercial entity to “unify golf”.

One American player, Wesley Bryan, replied to the PGA Tour tweet confirming the merger by writing: “Love finding out info on Twitter. This is amazing. Y’all should be ashamed and have a lot of questions to answer.

“I feel betrayed, and will not not be able to trust anyone within the corporate structure of the PGA TOUR for a very long time.”

The move came as a huge surprise to many professionals, with Canadian Mackenzie Hughes tweeting: “Nothing like finding out through Twitter that we’re merging with a tour that we said we’d never do that with.”

Fellow pro Ben An wrote: “I’m guessing the LIV teams were struggling to get sponsors and PGA Tour couldn’t turn down the money.

“Win-win for both tours but it’s a big lose for who defended the tour for last two years.”

Six-time Major winner Phil Mickelson, one of the players who joined LIV Golf, described the merger as “awesome news”.

The new entity will be powered by Saudi Arabia’s financial muscle, with the statement confirming the merger saying that the Middle Eastern country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) would “make a capital investment into the new entity to facilitate its growth and success”.

The PIF would also have the exclusive right to further invest in the commercial entity, the statement said.

Amnesty International expressed concern at what it saw as a further attempt by Saudi Arabia to launder its human rights record through the vehicle of sport.

“While this may have taken some golf fans and commentators by surprise, it’s really just more evidence of the onward march of Saudi sportswashing,” Amnesty UK’s Felix Jakens said.

“It’s been clear for some time that Saudi Arabia was prepared to use vast amounts of money to muscle its way into top-tier golf – just part of a wider effort to become a major sporting power and to try to distract attention from the country’s atrocious human rights record.”

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers welcomed the news of the agreement, writing in a statement: “We care deeply about golf’s future and are committed to ensuring that the sport continues to thrive for many years to come.

“This agreement represents a huge step toward achieving that goal for golf and we look forward to working with the new entity for the benefit of the sport globally.”

Rangers have confirmed goalkeeper Jack Butland has agreed a four-year contract to join the club from Crystal Palace.

Butland, who has most recently been on loan at Manchester United, will officially move to Ibrox on July 1, subject to international clearance.

The 30-year-old has signed after first-choice goalkeeper Allan McGregor retired at the end of the season. Jon McLaughlin and Robby McCrorie remain under contract.

“I’m over the moon,” Butland told Rangers’ official website. “The club speaks for itself. No matter where you are in football, you know about Rangers Football Club. This is a huge opportunity for me, and I’m delighted to be here.

“I feel great and motivated at the age that I am, and I feel excited at what the future holds. Doing that at a club that is equally as passionate about winning and being at the top was huge for me.

“It’s an important summer for the club and we need to get off to a good start. Getting the work done early is hugely important, so that we’re settled and raring to go when we come back in.”

Butland joins Kieran Dowell and Dujon Sterling as new signings for Rangers and manager Michael Beale is happy to bring in a player of the goalkeeper’s experience.

Beale: “I am delighted that we have recruited Jack. It was clear from our first meeting that we have a strong alignment on football and his development moving forward.

“At 30, he is coming into the prime years of his career having already amassed huge experience with 300 appearances in senior football, including almost 90 in the Premier League.

“In addition, he has played for England at every level, including nine caps for the senior team and five for the Great Britain Olympic team.

“I feel that we have recruited an excellent goalkeeper and, importantly, a top person. We are delighted to have Jack and his young family arriving in Glasgow and look forward to seeing him excel in his time at Rangers.”

Manchester City right-back Kyle Walker has played down fears he could miss the Champions League final with a back injury.

The England international did not feature in an open training session on Tuesday as City continued preparations for Saturday’s clash with Inter Milan in Istanbul.

The 33-year-old looked in discomfort as he was substituted in the final minute of City’s FA Cup final triumph over Manchester United at Wembley.

But Walker was one of a number of players made available for media interviews later on Tuesday and he insisted the problem was not serious.

“I’m fine, I’m just getting old,” he told Sky Sports News. “I’m completely fine, it’s just an extra day of recovery.

“I’ve played a lot of minutes over the last number of weeks so the manager said, ‘Just stay inside and come Saturday you will be raring to go’.

“I’m fine, the minutes that I’ve played when everyone else was injured, I was there digging my heels in and getting through it. I won’t be missing the Champions League final for anything.”

Manager Pep Guardiola also said Walker’s absence from training was only precautionary.

“He has had a disturbance in his back,” said Guardiola at a press conference. “Yesterday he was not good, today he was a little bit better but we didn’t want to take any risks. We will see what happens in the next days.”

City are bidding to win the Champions League for the first time and complete a glorious treble after their Premier League and FA Cup successes this season.

They are also looking to erase the memory of their painful loss to Chelsea in the 2021 final.

As three-time winners, Inter boast the greater European pedigree but City will go into the match as firm favourites against the side that finished third in Serie A this term.

Guardiola, however, insists what has happened in the past – and even current form – counts for little now.

He said: “It’s really good to travel in a few days to Istanbul. We go together and it is a dream to be here.

“Two years ago we were there but in different situations with Covid.

“We’re going to try to do our best and we know the final is how you behave in that specific 95 minutes, not history.

“For history, they are better than us but it is about what you have to do to be better than the opponent in 95 minutes.

“It doesn’t count what you have done in the group stages or the Premier League or the FA Cup. We have to be better than them.”

Guardiola is comfortable with the tag of favourites.

“We are used to it,” he said. “Why should it be more dangerous? Accept the role and go out there knowing the quality of the opponents. We accept what people say, no problem.”

City’s form in the latter part of the season, when they reeled in Arsenal to win the Premier League and powered past Bayern Munich and Real Madrid to reach this weekend’s showpiece, has been outstanding.

Guardiola acknowledges confidence is high in the City squad but insists there will be no complacency.

He said: “It is a final against a top team and we have to do it. We are confident, I’m so optimistic, but at the same time I cannot deny the quality of the opponent.

“I have never done that and especially not in the final of the Champions League.”

British teenager Isabelle Lacy claimed the biggest win of her fledgling career by knocking out third seed Madison Brengle at the Lexus Surbiton Trophy.

The 16-year-old came through qualifying and overcame a rankings gap of more than 750 places to see off American Brengle 7-6 (2) 5-7 6-1.

Brengle has been as high as 35 in the world and, although aged 33 she is now down at 95, this was a hugely impressive performance from Lacy, who already has a wild card into Wimbledon qualifying courtesy of winning the British Under-18 title.

A few more performances like this one may just see that upgraded to a full wild card.

Dan Evans took a wild card into the men’s event after his first-round loss at the French Open and he joined Andy Murray in round two with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Australian James McCabe.

Katie Boulter and Katie Swan were both convincing winners on the women’s side – Boulter beating Olivia Gadecki of Australia 6-2 6-1 while Swan saw off Canada’s Carol Zhao 6-2 6-0.

Eden Silva and Sonay Kartal also reached round two but Heather Watson was edged out 2-6 7-6 (3) 7-6 (6) by Australian Maddison Inglis and there were losses for Mark Whitehouse, Billy Harris, Dan Cox and Harry Wendelken on the men’s side.

Liang Wenbo and Li Hang have been banned from snooker for life after an investigation into match-fixing charges.

Eight other Chinese players have been suspended for between five years and four months, in the case of Lu Ning, to one year and eight months for Zhao Xintong.

Yan Bingtao, Chen Zifan, Zhang Jiankang, Bai Langning, Zhao Jianbo and Chang Bingyu are the other players banned.

Jason Ferguson, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, said: “It has been heart-breaking to see some young, talented players fall foul of the WPBSA conduct regulations through pressure exerted by two senior players (Liang and Li).

“This behaviour has been recognised as wholly unacceptable by the imposition of two lifetime bans from participating in recognised snooker in any way.

“This outcome must be taken as a lesson to those who think they can avoid detection. If any player is involved in fixing a snooker match, they will be caught and will face severe penalties.”

Joe Saumarez Smith will continue in his role as British Horseracing Authority chair after announcing he has been diagnosed with lung cancer and will start treatment later this month.

Saumarez Smith took on the role in June 2022 after previously joining the BHA board as an independent director in December 2014.

“In the interest of transparency and openness from the BHA, we thought it was best to confirm this news publicly,” said Saumarez Smith.

“It is obviously not ideal to have this diagnosis, but I am confident I can keep working with all our stakeholders to deliver the strategic priorities that were agreed last September.”

Julie Harrington, chief executive of the BHA, said: “While we are of course concerned for our friend and colleague, we know Joe will fight this illness with all the determination and resilience that has been a feature of his career to date.

“It is testament to him that he is keen to continue in his role for as long as the treatment allows. He has the full support and best wishes of everyone on the BHA board in doing so.

“I am sure I can speak for everyone at the BHA and across the industry in wishing him good luck during his treatment.”

David Jones, the senior independent director of the BHA, will be available to substitute for Saumarez Smith at industry events if he is unable to attend, as well as other BHA board members if required.

Aryna Sabalenka came out against Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko after returning to the French Open press room and facing another barrage of off-court questions.

The Australian Open champion refused to speak to the general tennis press after her third and fourth-round matches following tense exchanges with a Ukrainian journalist.

She changed that stance after beating Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina 6-4 6-4 in the quarter-finals amid more boos from the Roland Garros crowd and immediately was pressed further on her political stance.

Sabalenka has previously been pictured with Lukashenko and, asked if she still supported him, the 25-year-old said: “It’s a tough question. I don’t support war, meaning I don’t support Lukashenko right now.”

Sabalenka said she had struggled to sleep after the incidents in the previous press conferences, which she claimed left her feeling unsafe, but did not regret her decision to step away from the press room.

“I always really respect press conferences,” she said. “I’m always open in my answers. I really felt bad not coming here. I couldn’t sleep. Like all those bad feelings were in my head.

“I don’t regret the decisions. I felt really disrespected, and I felt really bad. I mean, grand slam, it’s enough pressure to handle, and I just tried to focus on myself, on my game.

“I’m always open. You can ask whatever you want. You will get all the information. But, in the last press conference, I felt like my press conference became a political TV show, and I’m not an expert in politics. I’m just a tennis player.”

Sabalenka also came under scrutiny for her conduct at the end of the match against Svitolina.

Ukrainian players have been resolute in their stance of not shaking hands with Russian and Belarusian opponents but Sabalenka stood at the net apparently waiting for the gesture she must have known would not come.

Svitolina, who had given a thumbs up to previous Russian opponents Anna Blinkova and Daria Kasatkina, walked straight past her and was loudly booed, with more jeers accompanying her as she walked off court.

Svitolina was distinctly unimpressed, saying: “I don’t know what she was waiting (for), because my statements were clear enough about the handshake.

“My initial reaction was like, ‘What are you doing?’ I made multiple statements that I’m not shaking hands, and she played obviously Marta (Kostyuk) as well the first round. So it’s quite simple.”

Asked if she felt Sabalenka had inflamed the situation, Svitolina said: “Yeah, I think so, unfortunately.”

The Belarusian insisted it had not been deliberate, though, saying: “It just was an instinct like I always do after all my matches.”

On the reaction, Sabalenka added: “I think she didn’t deserve all this boos. I’m giving such a big respect to her, what she’s doing after giving birth. It’s impressive and I’m really impressed by what she’s doing.”

In her first grand slam since the birth of daughter Skai last October, Svitolina has enjoyed one of her best grand slams.

A handful of Ukraine flags were evident among a sparse crowd as the match began and Svitolina traded game for game until Sabalenka forced a first break point at 4-4 and crunched away a return off a weak second serve.

Svitolina made a fast start to the second set, moving 2-0 ahead, but could not convert a game point in the next game and Sabalenka began to really make her extra power count, moving into a 4-2 lead.

With the patrons now having finished their lunch and fully engaged, they tried to will Svitolina – who was watched by husband Gael Monfils – into a comeback, but Sabalenka held her nerve.

Despite the defeat, it has been a brilliant fortnight for Svitolina, who will return to the top 100 next week.

“This year was difficult and different on the court, off the court, with you guys here, with your difficult questions, and overcoming difficulties, as well,” she said.

“Even though I’m sitting here dealing with it today, I feel like I won in so many ways.”

Sabalenka is not the only player to have skipped press conferences this tournament, and Svitolina added: “Definitely, I think it should be equal for everyone.

“I faced difficulty also with the question about Novak (Djokovic), about his statement about Kosovo. So I’m not escaping. I have my strong position and I’m vocal about that. I’m not going to try to (make people like me) by betraying my strong belief and the strongest position for my country.”

In the last four, Sabalenka will meet unseeded Karolina Muchova, who earlier defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5 6-2 to reach her second grand slam semi-final.

Muchova, 26, suffered an abdominal injury during her run to the semis at the Australian Open that kept her out for seven months and she was ranked outside the top 200 as recently as September.

With her run here, Muchova is set to return to the top 20, and she said: “It’s been an incredible two weeks and I’m just glad I’m still in the competition.”

Pavlyuchenkova has also found form here after knee surgery kept her out for most of last season but the 2021 runner-up is now set to miss the grass-court season because her ranking was not high enough to get her into Wimbledon.

The PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf have agreed a shock merger to provide a “new era in global golf,” according to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.

The stunning announcement came after a year of unprecedented disruption in the men’s professional game following the launch of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit.

Here, the PA news agency looks at what has been announced and what will happen next.

What has been announced?

The PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), have signed an agreement which combines PIF’s golf-related commercial businesses and rights (including LIV Golf) with the commercial businesses and rights of the PGA TOUR and DP World Tour into a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity.

PIF will initially be the exclusive investor in the new entity and have the right of first refusal on any capital to be invested. The PGA Tour will appoint a majority of the board and hold a majority voting interest, with PIF’s governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan the chairman and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan the CEO.

What does this mean going forward?

The deal will lead to a “mutually-agreed” end to all pending litigation between the various organisations. In April, the DP World Tour won its legal battle against 12 LIV players who committed “serious breaches” of the Tour’s code of behaviour by playing in LIV Golf events without permission, but an anti-trust suit against the PGA Tour was ongoing.

In a memo to players, Monahan said the 2023 LIV schedule would continue as planned while a “comprehensive evaluation” of how best to integrate team golf into the professional game takes place.

What about the players?

The increased fines and suspensions that the DP World Tour was able to impose after the arbitration verdict prompted Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson to resign their memberships and become ineligible for the Ryder Cup, Stenson standing down as Europe’s captain.

Those players could now return to the fold, with the tours pledging to establish a “fair and objective process” for players to re-apply for membership, although Monahan admits it will be a “complicated endeavour” and it will not be until after the end of this season.

What has the reaction been?

Unsurprisingly Phil Mickelson, who took a break from the game in the wake of his explosive comments about the Saudis and their “horrible record on human rights” before LIV Golf was launched, was in celebratory mood, writing on Twitter: “Awesome day today”. However the news went down less well with some of his fellow professionals, who appeared blindsided by the announcement.

Two-time major winner Collin Morikawa wrote on social media: “I love finding out morning news on Twitter.” Former BMW PGA Championship winner Ben An wrote on Twitter: “I’m guessing the liv teams were struggling to get sponsors and pga tour couldn’t turn down the money. Win-win for both tours but it’s a big lose for who defended the tour for last two years.”

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