The Olympic Games serve as the world’s biggest showcase of sporting talent.

For the Caribbean region, when we hear Olympics, the sport we mainly think about is track & field.

With the region’s rich and storied history of success in the sport, gold, silver and bronze medals are often used to measure the success of respective athletes.  It is, however, far from the only stand.

For some countries, having a representative on the biggest global track & field stage in the world is worth just as much or more than any individual medal.

Antigua & Barbuda is one of those countries and the athlete who has represented them the best on the big stage is sprinter Daniel Bailey.

Bailey, the 100m sprint specialist, has represented his nation in four Olympic Games and five World Championships.

His best result came at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Germany.

The headliners were Olympic champion and world record holder Usain Bolt and defending double sprint champion from the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Tyson Gay.

In the fastest race in history, Bolt ran 9.58 to destroy the world record, Gay ran an unbelievable 9.71 to finish second and Asafa Powell finished third in 9.84.

Bailey just narrowly missed out on a historic medal for Antigua & Barbuda, finishing fourth in that race with a time of 9.93.  It wasn’t his first major championship appearance, but it was also when Bailey became a household name in men’s sprinting.

However, Bailey’s first time representing Antigua and Barbuda on the biggest stage of global athletics came five years earlier in 2004.

As a 17-year-old, he carried the flag for his country during the opening ceremony of the Athens Olympics. It is a memory he will carry with him forever.

“I was elated. I was really, really excited to be holding the flag for my country Antigua & Barbuda. A couple of days before, we had a meeting to decide who would do it and when they shouted my name and said ‘Daniel Bailey, you’re going to hold the flag’, it was a special feeling because I know how much it meant for an upcoming athlete to be holding the flag for his nation,” Bailey said.

To put that into perspective, he carried the flag at those Olympics just one month after competing at the World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy where he finished 4th in the 100 metres in a time of 10.39.

At those Athens Olympics, Bailey finished 6th in his 100 metres heat in 10.51.

Four years later, at the Beijing Olympics, Bailey, then 21, was again the flag bearer.

During the Games, he advanced to the quarter-finals after finishing second to Bolt in 10.24 in the preliminary round.

Bailey then ran 10.23 to finish 4th but failed to advance from his quarterfinal, a race which saw him lined up against Jamaica’s former world record holder Asafa Powell and American Walter Dix, who eventually won the bronze.

A year after those Olympics would see Bailey enter the prime of his sprinting career.

He would finish 4th at the 2009 World Championships and then fifth at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu.

On July 17, 2009, in Paris, Bailey ran a personal best and an Antiguan national record of 9.91.

Bailey then carried his nation’s flag at the third straight Olympics in London 2012 where he competed in the 100 metres.

Running in heat 4, against Bolt once again, Bailey would run a time of 10.12 to finish 2nd   and advance to the semi-finals.

Bailey then lined up against Bolt, American Ryan Bailey and  Richard Thompson, the silver medallist from the 2008 games in his semi-final.

He finished 6th in that race in 10.16 and failed to reach the Olympic final once again.

Bailey admits that he had entered into those Olympics with high hopes but suffered some setbacks along the way.

“I had it in my mind to make my first Olympic final. I was really working hard that year and then I got an injury that set me back a little bit. The first week I got to London I caught a bad flu, and it took a toll on my body. I got eliminated in the semi-finals, but I think my overall performance was good based on what was happening.” 

Fast forward four years to the 2016 Rio Olympics and Bailey became one of the few athletes in history to ever be their country’s flag bearer at four straight Olympic Games opening ceremonies.

That year, he competed in Heat 2 of the men’s 100 metres and finished 2nd in 10.20 behind eventual silver medallist Justin Gatlin and advanced to the semi-finals.

He was then slated to appear in semi-final 3 but did not show up for the start due to injury.

Bailey may not have had the medal haul of many Caribbean greats but he has competed at the highest level of the sport for more than a decade and is a role model for sprinters hailing from smaller Caribbean islands like his native Antigua & Barbuda.

“You have to love it and enjoy it,” were Bailey’s words of wisdom for a new generation of up-and-coming athletes.

“My word to the up-and-coming athletes is to go for your goals. Whatever you believe in, nobody can stop that. Always work hard and smart and remember that dedication is the key to success at all times.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alvaro Morata has been dropped to the bench for Spain's Euro 2020 semi-final against Italy at Wembley.

The 28-year-old Juventus striker had started all five of Spain's matches at the tournament, scoring twice – including a vital extra-time strike in the dramatic 5-3 win over Croatia in the round of 16.

But Morata has also endured a tough time in front of goal, missing a penalty during the 5-0 rout of Slovakia.

Of his 16 non-penalty attempts in the tournament, seven have been on target and he is under-performing an expected goals (xG) tally of 3.16, as per Opta.

Luis Enrique has staunchly defended the former Atletico and Real Madrid player but substituted him after 54 minutes of the quarter-final against Switzerland.

Gerard Moreno was his replacement in St Petersburg but the Villareal striker went on to endure a similarly wasteful outing and Luis Enrique has opted for a mobile front three without a specialist centre-forward, with Dani Olmo and Mikel Oyarzabal starting alongside Ferran Torres.

That means Pablo Sarabia misses out, alongside Gerard's club team-mate Pau Torres, who is replaced at centre-back by Eric Garcia.

Italy boss Roberto Mancini makes the one expected change to the XI that beat Belgium, with Chelsea left-back Emerson coming in for Leonardo Spinazzola, whose magnificent tournament was cut short by a ruptured Achilles.

This is the fourth consecutive European Championship meeting between Italy and Spain, with the latter winning a quarter-final penalty shoot-out in 2008 before swaggering to a dominant 4-0 final win at Euro 2012.

Italy, under Antonio Conte, gained a measure of revenge with a 2-0 last-16 triumph in Paris at Euro 2016.

South Africa have recorded a further 10 COVID-19 cases, including head coach Jacques Nienaber, while the British and Irish Lions' match with the Bulls has been postponed.

A Lions statement on Tuesday confirmed they were exploring a rescheduling of the match or finding different opponents after five positive tests meant it was "impossible" for the Bulls to field a team.

The Lions' meeting with the Sharks in Johannesburg next Wednesday is set to go ahead as scheduled.

However, the Springboks' match with Georgia next week is also in doubt after Nienaber, five management figures and four players - Marvin Orie, Frans Steyn, Handre Pollard and Frans Malherbe - all returned positive tests.

There were also four cases of the virus within the Georgia team. Jurie Roux, CEO of South Africa Rugby, said the news underlined the problems posed by the Delta variant of the virus, which was first identified in India but has since spread to numerous countries.

"These positive results are a setback and have underlined the danger of transmissibility of the Delta variant," he said.

"The Springboks' second Test against Georgia is now in serious doubt, but we will wait for the MAG to consider the data and we will make the final decision tomorrow [Wednesday].

"The priority is to maintain the integrity of the Test series and we will continue to focus on that."

On Monday, South Africa suspended training and placed their squad in isolation after lock Lood de Jager tested positive for coronavirus.

There had been three further confirmed cases of the virus within the squad on June 27, although they were still able to go ahead with their first warm-up match against Georgia, which ended in a 40-9 victory for the Boks.

It was their first match since winning the World Cup in November 2019.

The first Test with the Lions is due to take place on July 24 in Cape Town, before moving to Johannesburg for the second and third matches.

Ash Barty set up a mouth-watering Wimbledon semi-final against Angelique Kerber by scoring a crushing win over Ajla Tomljanovic on Centre Court.

In the first all-Australian quarter-final at a grand slam since 1980, when Evonne Goolagong beat Wendy Turnbull at Wimbledon, Barty inflicted a 6-1 6-3 demolition in an hour and six minutes.

She is favourite for this title, looking to join compatriots Goolagong and Margaret Court by landing the Venus Rosewater Dish, and delivered a demonstration of dazzling grass-court tennis as Tomljanovic suffered.

Ten years have passed since Barty won the girls' title at Wimbledon, and at senior level her best performance until this fortnight was a fourth-round run two years ago.

Now though, the world number one looks in great shape to take the title on her favourite surface, and add to her tour-leading three titles in 2021, having previously won the Yarra Valley Classic, followed by Miami and Stuttgart.

From 6-1 4-1, there was a slight dip from Barty that gave world number 75 Tomljanovic some hope, but that was soon crushed, the top seed regaining authority with her ground shots and scoring another break before serving out, finishing with an ace.

"It's exciting. She was always going to bring out the very best in me," Barty said. "This is a dream come true, genuinely it is. This is my dream and I'm extremely grateful I've got an opportunity to come out here and have fun and live out what I worked so hard to do. I'm enjoying every minute."

Barty is bidding to become just the fourth women in the Open Era to follow up a junior title by becoming the women's singles champion at Wimbledon, after Ann Jones, Martina Hingis and Amelie Mauresmo.

Facing 2018 Wimbledon champion Kerber on Thursday will be the toughest examination yet of Barty's credentials to achieve that rare double.

"It's the ultimate test. Angie's obviously had success here before and had the best fortnight here possible," Barty said in her on-court interview.

"I love that match-up, I love playing Angie. She's an incredible competitor and knows her way around this court. I hope I can play well and give myself a chance and play a good match."

Data Slam: 

Since 1968, the women's top seed at Wimbledon has gone on to be champion 24 times and runner-up on eight occasions. By reaching the final four, Barty has guaranteed she will stay at number one in the WTA rankings, whatever the result of the Kerber showdown.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Barty – 23/22
Tomljanovic – 5/20

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Barty – 5/4
Tomljanovic – 2/2

BREAK POINTS WON

Barty – 6/11
Tomljanovic – 2/4

Mark Cavendish pocketed a 33rd Tour de France stage win in expert fashion in Valance, closing to within one of Eddie Merckx's all-time record.

The resurgent sprint great claimed his third win of this year's race and was quick to pay tribute to the lead-out work of his Deceuninck-Quick-Step team, who left him in prime position to see off Wout van Aert and Jasper Philipsen with 150 metres to go.

Cavendish has extended his advantage over Michael Matthews in the points classification to 59 and, provided the 36-year-old emerges from the Alps unscathed, he will have the tantalising prospect of pulling level with Merckx in Paris when the Tour concludes on July 18.

"It was an old-school, run-of-the-mill, like you read in the cycling magazines, textbook lead-out," Cavendish said. "Just getting the lads on the front, pull as fast as they can so no one can come past you.

"We knew this finish, I didn't make it the last time we came here in 2015, I got dropped, but we studied it and we knew if we took that last corner wide, we could keep the speed up.

"I'm just humbled. I've got the winner of the Tour of Flanders [Kasper Asgreen], the world champion who’s been in the yellow jersey here [Julian Alaphilippe], Michael Morkov, who's going to the Olympics to try to win the Madison, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner [Davide Ballerini] leaving everything on the road for me.

"I just had to finish it off. I’m grateful to all of them. I didn't have to do anything – just the last 150 metres. I'm thankful to everyone."

A stage that was always one for the sprinters to target meant, as expected, there was no change in the general classification picture, with Tadej Pogacar retaining his two minutes and one second lead over Ben O'Connor.

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 4:14:07
2. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) 
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 
4. Nacer Bouhanni (Team Arkea-Samsic) 
5. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange)

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 38:25:17
2. Ben O'Connor (AG2R La Mondiale) +2:01
3. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) +5:18

Points Classification

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 218
2. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) 159
3. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) 136

King of the Mountains

1. Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) 50
2. Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) 42
3. Wouter Poels (Bahrain Victorious) 39

What's next?

Pogacar has the chance to definitively stamp his authority all over this year's race during Wednesday's 198.9 kilometre stage from Sorgues to Malaucene, which features a double ascent of the infamously daunting Mont Ventoux.

The British and Irish Lions are focused on delivering a strong showing against the Sharks on Wednesday rather than uncertainty over their schedule due to the coronavirus.

Warren Gatland's side thrashed Johannesburg's own Lions 56-14 in their opening tour match at Ellis Park on Saturday, Josh Adams helping himself to a four-try haul.

Tom Curry, Josh Navidi and Adam Beard will now make their Lions debuts, while Iain Henderson takes over as captain for a midweek showdown with the Sharks at the same venue.

Sam Simmonds comes in for his first international start in over three years, but it is once again COVID-19 cases rather than selection that has dominated the pre-match talk.

The Springboks suspended training on Monday after Lood de Jager tested positive for the virus, with the players forced back into isolation.

Positive cases in the Bulls camp have put Saturday's match in doubt, but Lions defence coach Steve Tandy said they are taking a flexible approach.

"We'd weigh up if we need to give the boys a day off, if we need an internal match or a heavier loaded contact day," Tandy said when asked about plans if the Bulls game is called off.

"Through COVID, I think you learn you need to adapt. You can have the best laid plans, but things move really quickly and change - it's just be prepared for whatever comes our way at whatever moment in time. Whatever the group needs, more contact, an extra day off for recovery - we'll just adapt that as we go."

Phepsi Buthelezi returns t0 lead the Sharks at number eight, while Khutha Mchunu takes Wiehahn Herbst's place in the front row.

 

SIMMONDS DETERMINED TO GRASP HIS CHANCE

Simmonds has continued to be overlooked by England head coach Eddie Jones despite producing consistently outstanding performances for Exeter Chiefs.

The number eight, comfortably the leading try-scorer in the Premiership last season with 21, is determined to show he belongs on the Test stage.

"When you are starting you really get the opportunity to show what you can do and hopefully put what I have been doing in the last year or so into a Lions jersey," Simmonds said.

"As soon as I got selected for the Lions squad that was my sole focus – to push everyone here, to push to try and get as many games as I can and as a team the ultimate goal is to win the Test series in South Africa."

 

 

GATLAND WANTS BACK ROW TO PUT ON SHOW

New Zealander Gatland is excited to see what the back row he has selected can serve up in the second tour match.

"There's a huge amount of competition in the back row and I spoke to them all last night and just said, 'Look, you've got a licence from me to get your hands on the ball'," coach Gatland said.

"I want them to express themselves. I said they are probably not renowned as lineout experts but you have to play to your strengths, and they are strong defenders and great ball carriers.

"It's a different aspect to look at, but it's exciting and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they go as a trio. If you look at those players they are strong defenders, exciting ball carriers."

 

British and Irish Lions: Liam Williams, Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly, Bundee Aki, Duhan van der Merwe, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Zander Fagerson, Iain Henderson (captain), Adam Beard, Josh Navidi, Tom Curry, Sam Simmonds.

Replacements: Ken Owens, Rory Sutherland, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Stuart Hogg, Chris Harris.

 

Sharks: Manie Libbok, Werner Kok, Jeremy Ward, Marius Louw, Thaakir Abrahams, Curwin Bosch, Jaden Hendrikse; Khwezi Mona, Fez Mbatha, Khutha Mchunu, Ruben van Heerden, Hyron Andrews, James Venter, Thembelani Bholi, Phepsi Buthelezi (captain).

Replacements: Kerron van Vuuren, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Wiehahn Herbst, JJ van der Mescht, Reniel Hugo, Dylan Richardson, Grant Williams, Anthony Volmink.

 

Key Opta facts

- The Sharks and the Lions met in 2009, with the tourists winning that match 39-3. Lee Mears, Mike Phillips, Luke Fitzgerald, Lee Byrne and Jamie Heaslip all crossed for tries.
- The Lions have won 10 of their 11 fixtures against the Sharks/Natal, the exception being a 3-3 draw back on the 1924 tour.
- The Sharks had a 50 per cent win rate in the recently concluded Rainbow Cup SA (W3, L3), beating the Johannesburg-based Lions twice and the Stormers once.
- Following their victory over the Lions, the tourists are now unbeaten in their past five matches (W3, D2). That is their best run since winning six in a row in a run that spanned the 2009 and 2013 tours.
- The Lions are yet to miss a kick at goal so far in 2021, with Dan Biggar having slotted four from four and Owen Farrell landing all eight.

England will battle the weight of expectation and a poor recent record against Denmark in their Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday.

The Three Lions enjoyed the most one-sided of all the quarter-finals, defeating Ukraine 4-0 in Rome as they stretched their run at this tournament to five games without conceding a goal.

However, history has not been kind to England at this stage of the competition. They lost their only previous semi-finals – against Yugoslavia in 1968 and Germany in 1996, when now manager Gareth Southgate missed the crucial kick in the shoot-out – and the omens are not necessarily positive given they have won only one of the previous six competitive meetings with Denmark.

Indeed, the only previous occasion England won a semi-final was in the 1966 World Cup on home soil, when they defeated Eusebio's Portugal 2-1.

"We've knocked off so many hoodoos or perceived barriers already and I feel like this group of players will feel this is just the next challenge," said Southgate, who led England to the final four at the World Cup three years ago only to be defeated by Croatia.

"I guess the interesting part for us is we won't feel totally satisfied if it's just a semi-final for us, whereas maybe three years ago, although there was massive disappointment after the semi-final, there was a feeling we'd come a long way.

"Now we've replicated what we did there, but that won't be enough to fulfil the group. That's a positive sign."

 

Kasper Hjulmand's Denmark have defied the odds to reach this stage after losing their first two games while dealing with the hospitalisation of Christian Eriksen, who collapsed during their opening defeat to Finland. Their 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in the previous round secured their last-four spot for the first time since they won the tournament back in 1992.

England defender Harry Maguire is fully prepared for a difficult game in London against a side who have scored 11 times at these finals, a tally bettered only by Spain (12) among the semi-finalists.

"Their journey has been really inspiring and all our thoughts have always been with Christian and his recovery," he said.

"They're a good team though and they've proved that over the last few years, they'll be the highest-ranked team we've faced so far at the competition so we know they're strong."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

England – Harry Maguire

Maguire's last game against Denmark lasted just 31 minutes as he was sent off for two bookings in a 1-0 loss in October 2020.

It was a difficult time for the Manchester United captain, who had recently gone through legal proceedings in Greece and had endured a wretched start to the Premier League season that included a 6-1 home defeat to Tottenham.

Maguire is now a player transformed. He has looked imperious since returning from an ankle injury, helping to shut down Germany and Ukraine's attack in the knockouts and getting on the scoresheet in that quarter-final win.

Denmark – Joakim Maehle

Atalanta wing-back Joakim Maehle has been arguably not only Denmark's standout star at the Euros but perhaps the best player of the entire tournament.

Directly involved in three of his side's 11 goals, Maehle assisted Kasper Dolberg's crucial second against the Czech Republic with a quite wonderful trivela cross from the left. He should really have scored himself in the second half, too.

England's defence has been resolute throughout, but Maehle might present a more unorthodox test as an energetic left wing-back with a mean right foot. His battle with Kyle Walker could be key.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be the third meeting between England and Denmark in a major tournament. England won 3-0 in the second round of the 2002 World Cup, after a goalless draw in the group stages of Euro 1992 – a competition that Denmark went on to win.

- All seven meetings between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium have finished 1-0, with England winning five to Denmark's two. Denmark have won their past two competitive games against England at the stadium (1983 and 2020), with no side ever winning three consecutive competitive games against the Three Lions at Wembley.

- Denmark have had seven different goalscorers at Euro 2020 – excluding own goals, only Germany in 2012 (8) have had more different players score in a single edition of the European Championship.

- England have kept a clean sheet in all five of their games at Euro 2020 – no team has ever kept six clean sheets in a single edition of the European Championship or World Cup before.

- Harry Kane has been involved in 27 goals in his past 26 games for England (18 scored, nine assisted). He has nine goals at major tournaments (six at the World Cup, three at the Euros), with only Gary Lineker netting more such goals for England (10).

British teenager Emma Raducanu has revealed it "felt like the hardest thing in the world" to abandon her Wimbledon fourth-round clash with Ajla Tomljanovic.

The 18-year-old grand slam rookie, ranked 338th in the world, pulled out of that match on Monday evening when trailing 6-4 3-0, calling for treatment initially and sobbing in her seat before retreating inside.

Now Raducanu has confirmed she was struggling with her breathing and dizziness, saying she was advised to call it a day by medical experts.

Wimbledon legend John McEnroe faced criticism for suggesting on the BBC that "it just got a little bit too much" for Raducanu.

"How much can players handle?" McEnroe asked. "It makes you look at the guys that have been around and the girls for so long – how well they can handle it. Hopefully she'll learn from this experience."

Raducanu did not mention McEnroe's comments in a statement she issued on social media, where she addressed the circumstances of her exit from the tournament.

Tomljanovic said after the match that McEnroe's remarks were "definitely harsh"; however, Raducanu appeared to share a similar verdict to the American men's tour great, saying that the Wimbledon experience "caught up with me".

"Hi guys, I wanted to let everyone know that I am feeling much better," Raducanu wrote.

"First up, I want to congratulate Ajla on an incredible performance and I'm sorry our match ended the way it did. I was playing the best tennis of my life in front of an amazing crowd this week and I think the whole experience caught up with me.

"At the end of the first set, after some super intense rallies, I started to breathe heavily and felt dizzy. The medical team advised me not to continue and, although it felt like the hardest thing in the world not to be able to finish my Wimbledon on the court, I was not well enough to carry on."

She added: "Last night will go a long way to helping me learn what it takes to perform at the top. I will cherish everything we have achieved together this week and come back stronger! Can't wait to see what's next on my journey."

 

Raducanu also spoke to the BBC about the sudden end to her campaign, saying she was "glad to have recovered this quickly".

Speaking of the moment when her health took a turn for the worse on Court One, she said: "I found it very difficult to regulate my breathing. It was emphasised by some very long rallies we had towards the end of the first set, which made it tough to keep my composure and breathing in check.

"The beginning of the second set was when I struggled with it the most and when I called the trainer. I don't know what caused it. I think it was a combination of everything that has gone on behind the scenes in the last week, accumulation of the excitement, the buzz. Next time, hopefully, I'll be better prepared."

Ons Jabeur could not continue her fine run at Wimbledon as her hopes of reaching a maiden grand slam semi-final were ended by Aryna Sabalenka.

Jabeur beat three grand slam champions en route to her second major quarter-final, yet second seed Sabalenka had just too much.

The world number four prevailed 6-4 6-3 in 75 minutes on Centre Court on Tuesday, teeing up a first semi-final appearance at a grand slam.

Sabalenka will face Karolina Pliskova, who overcame Viktorija Golubic to book her place in an All England Club semi-final for the first time.

Jabeur had to save four break and set points at 5-4 down in the opener, after what had been an even start to the contest.

Yet her resolve cracked at the fifth time of asking as Sabalenka, appearing in her first grand slam quarter-final, nosed ahead.

Jabeur's response was strong, the world number 24 forcing three break points in the opening game of set two, but she failed to take her chance.

Sabalenka made it count, with a brilliant drop shot from Jabeur – who had the backing of a full crowd – not enough to see off the break when she sliced a forehand.

An immediate break back prevented Sabalenka pulling clear, but Jabeur then squandered another opportunity at 2-2.

It was a lead Sabalenka made sure not to relinquish and with Jabeur having conceded serve again in game eight, Sabalenka fended off a break point to serve out the win at the first time of asking.

"I'm really happy, it's always tough against Ons, she's such an amazing person, great player. I'm really happy I could win here today," said the Belarusian.

Data Slam: Unforced errors a cause for concern

While Sabalenka can reflect on a job well done, the 23-year-old will need to tighten up her game as she looks for a maiden grand slam success.

She made 20 unforced errors in contrast to Jabeur's 11 and may well have been made to pay had her opponent managed to force through more break points, but Jabeur took just one of her seven chances.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Jabeur – 22/11
Sabalenka – 27/20

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Jabeur – 4/2
Sabalenka – 3/5

BREAK POINTS WON

Jabeur – 1/7
Sabalenka – 3/10

The in-form Angelique Kerber excelled again at Wimbledon, defeating Karolina Muchova in straight sets to return to a major semi-final for the first time since her 2018 All England Club title.

Kerber is a three-time grand slam champion but had been badly out of sorts before returning to the grass courts this season.

First-round exits at both the Australian Open and the French Open were quickly forgotten as she claimed silverware on the WTA Tour for the first time in almost three years at the Bad Homburg Open, however.

And Kerber's latest victory in SW19 – 6-2 6-3 against Muchova in an hour and 15 minutes – extended her winning run to 10 matches, now within two of a second Wimbledon crown.

The German's experience had told as she outclassed Coco Gauff on Monday and she started in the same fashion, swiftly breaking to seize control of the opener.

Kerber was comfortable thereafter until a miscued volley teed up Muchova's first break-point opportunity. She recovered, though, a gorgeous dropshot securing a vital hold.

Muchova appeared to lose confidence at that point and the set was wrapped up as she was broken to love, her double fault followed by an effort that clipped the net and bounced wide.

Kerber's first setback followed early in the second – a backhand wide after saving the first of three break points – yet Muchova then again bowed to pressure, firing long as she attempted to accelerate a tense rally.

As the momentum swung back in Kerber's favour, she showed no signs of relenting, preying on another wild Muchova error as she outmanoeuvred the 24-year-old to create an open court and break once more.

Muchova fought to forge an opening as Kerber served for the match but could not capitalise and paid again for an aggressive approach, stepping forward and blazing wide to settle the result.

Data Slam: Kerber calm and in command

Kerber's early break piled the pressure on Muchova and her attempts to battle back only did more damage. The Czech attempted four approach shots – to Kerber's none – as she sought to go on the offensive, but all four missed the target.

Consider her only double fault in the entire match teed up set point in the opener and Muchova might wonder if this was just not her day.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Kerber – 15/21
Muchova – 9/27

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Kerber – 1/4
Muchova – 1/1

BREAK POINTS WON

Kerber – 4/6
Muchova – 1/8

Daniil Medvedev once again came up short in five sets at Wimbledon as he was defeated by Hubert Hurkacz in their delayed fourth-round match.

World number two Medvedev had reached the quarter-finals in three of his previous four majors – after making the last eight in only one of the prior 13 – but the grass-court grand slam continues to provide him with some difficulties.

The Russian's run to round four was his best ever at the All England Club, having bowed out a stage earlier in each of his three previous main-draw appearances.

But Medvedev's campaign ended in the same fashion as each of those, again losing in five sets. He had appeared to overcome that hoodoo in round three this year when he rallied from two sets down against Marin Cilic.

This reverse was stretched over two days, with Medvedev leading 6-2 6-7 (2-7) 6-3 3-4 when rain intervened on Court Two on Monday.

Medvedev and Hurkacz headed to Centre Court to complete the job first thing on Tuesday, but the second seed could not complete the job.

The Polish challenger broke instantly and then served out the second set, teeing up a decider and bringing back bad memories for Medvedev.

A shabby display from the two-time major finalist then put paid to his hopes of a recovery, the fifth set featuring 12 unforced errors to Hurkacz's one.

Indeed, Medvedev failed to apply any sort of pressure, winning only four receiving points and failing to forge a break point opportunity. Hurkacz created and took two, triumphing 2-6 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-3 6-3.

As Hurkacz looks ahead to a first grand slam quarter-final against Federer, Medvedev will rue a missed opportunity.

He could have finished this championship as the world's number one had he claimed silverware or faced anyone other than the top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the final.

"I played really bad today. There's not much more to say," acknowledged Medvedev.

Karolina Pliskova stormed in her first Wimbledon semi-final with an emphatic straight-sets defeat of Viktorija Golubic.

Pliskova had never been beyond the fourth round at the All England Club before this week, but the eighth seed marched into the last four with a 6-2 6-2 victory on Tuesday.

The Czech dominated the unseeded Golubic, playing her first grand slam quarter-final, to secure a meeting with Aryna Sabalenka or Ons Jabeur at SW19.

Pliskova, eyeing a maiden major title at the age of 29, produced an exemplary display with rain crashing down on the roof of No.1 Court and has only failed to hold serve three times in her five matches en route to the last four.

Golubic showed great fight to hold in the fourth game, demonstrating her majestic single-handed backhand to save a break point and following that up with a glorious forehand winner.

Pliskova's serve was proving to be a potent weapon once again and she was a break up at 4-2 following an overhead smash that clipped the net cord before dropping in.

The former world number one was in command, hardly putting a foot wrong as she took the opening set in 32 minutes, with Golubic drilling a forehand long following a double fault.

Pliskova held to love in a flash in the opening game of the second set and showcased deft footwork, power and precision to win a thrilling rally before her 66-ranked opponent overcooked a backhand to go 2-0 down.

A rasping return from world number 13 raised the roof when she showed a potent combination of anticipation, agility and skill to race forward and steer away a magnificent cross-court backhand winner.

Golubic got on the board at 3-1 and had three break points in a lengthy game before Pliskova's serve got her out of trouble to move into a 5-2 lead and the Swiss was on her way out after failing to hold in the next game.

 

Data slam: Pliskova serving up strong challenge

Pliskova's venomous serve has always been a dangerous weapon and she produced another exhibition, serving eight aces.

She has not dropped a set in the tournament and Golubic was unable to secure a break. Pliskova only lost six points behind her first serve, laying the foundations for a commanding win.

 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Pliskova – 28/19
Golubic – 10/16

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Pliskova – 8/3
Golubic – 0/3

BREAK POINTS WON

Pliskova– 4/10
Golubic – 0/3

Giannis Antetokounmpo's left knee is the major talking point as the Milwaukee Bucks prepare to potentially play Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns without the two-time MVP.

Antetokounmpo was hurt after attempting to make a block during the third quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks, a contest his team lost to leave the series level at 2-2.

The diagnosis was confirmed as a hyperextended knee, forcing the Greek to watch on from the sidelines. Such a blow could easily have derailed Milwaukee at a key time in the postseason, but instead they shared the burden of covering for their superstar, finding a way to win two games on the spin and emerge from the East.

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer declared Antetokounmpo to be making "good progress" on Monday, though he is listed as doubtful for the series opener in Phoenix.

Without him this season, the Bucks have shot 40.3 per cent from deep, compared to 37.0 per cent when he has played. They also saw a rise in steals (9.4 compared to 7.8 with him), albeit in a small sample size. And while the numbers may suggest his absence is not a huge issue, the presence of the 26-year-old undoubtedly makes them a tougher proposition for the Suns to deal with.

The last time Milwaukee made it this far in the playoffs, the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was on the roster. Back in 1974 they lost in seven to the Boston Celtics, though they had at least been crowned champions three years earlier.

In contrast, the Suns have never won a title. Their most recent of two finals appearances came in 1993, when Michael Jordan scuppered the hopes of Charles Barkley and the rest of the Phoenix roster.

They had not even made it to the playoffs since 2009-10 before this season, yet have beaten both teams from Los Angeles – in the process ending the Lakers' hopes of repeating – and also swept aside the Denver Nuggets.

While their opponents were fighting hard to overcome the Hawks, Phoenix were able to rest up. They have not played since clinching the Western Conference crown on June 30, a welcome break during an arduous season that, despite the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic, is heading towards a thrilling conclusion.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Milwaukee Bucks - Khris Middleton

With Giannis ruled out, Middleton stepped up for Milwaukee. The two-time All-Star had 58 combined points as the Bucks won back-to-back games against Atlanta.

His Game 6 performance included 23 points in the third quarter alone, helping make sure Milwaukee made it through to the finals for the first time in 47 years, Middleton has been inconsistent at times with his shooting, though he also come up big to help his team rally from the brink to oust the Brooklyn Nets.

Phoenix Suns - Chris Paul

Paul finally gets his long-awaited chance to appear in an NBA Finals, 16 years into his outstanding career. His signing by the Suns was a masterstroke in roster management, providing the old head to help guide young talents like Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.

The veteran point guard has averaged 18.1 points per game in this postseason and is shooting 40.5 per cent on three-point attempts, his highest success rate from beyond the arc since the 2015 playoffs, back when he was a member of the Clippers. Phoenix is his third team since then, but can they help him secure that elusive ring at last?

Alvaro Morata may not have been prolific in terms of goals at Euro 2020 but his selfless work for the team is vital for Spain, according to Gaizka Mendieta.

Striker Morata has scored twice to help Luis Enrique's side reach the semi-finals of the tournament, though his failure to capitalise on the opportunities that have come his way has led to criticism.

Indeed, the 28-year-old has been booed by his own fans both before and during the European Championship, while his family have been targeted for abuse too.

Yet former Spain international Mendieta feels Morata's team-mates appreciate all he does for the cause, even if his finishing has let him down at times. From 15 attempts, he has a shot conversion rate of 13.33 per cent.

An expected goals total of 3.95 highlights a shortcoming for the former Chelsea and Real Madrid player in front of goal, yet he has started every game ahead of the last-four clash with Italy at Wembley on Tuesday.

Gerard Moreno – an alternative option to lead the line in place of Morata – has yet to score at the European Championship from 15 shots, while Dani Olmo has been unsuccessful with all of his 16 attempts. The problem for La Roja in general has been taking chances, rather than creating them.

"I think people are being very critical," Mendieta told Stats Perform. "I believe Morata is a player who gives a lot to the team in terms of work, mobility, keeping the ball and creating spaces for midfielders and wingers like Olmo, [Ferran] Torres or even Moreno.

"I think he is doing a great job and that's one of the main reasons he is in the team. Of course, he is a striker and you expect goals from him and unfortunately it is where he has been unlucky.

"He hasn't finished the chances he had and that's what has made noise.

"Beyond this, I think the team is grateful for his work. He is the first one realising he should improve scoring and creating chances and I am sure he is working on it.

"Those critics are understandable, but his efforts are respected."

 

Luis Enrique has been unequivocal in his support of Morata, describing the abuse directed at the player and his family as a "serious crime" as he called for the authorities to take action.

The Spain boss has steered the team through choppy waters at Euro 2020. Having opened the campaign with two dour draws, the 2012 winners found their scoring touch in a 5-0 thrashing of Slovakia to qualify behind Sweden from Group E.

A wild last-16 clash with Croatia eventually went Spain's way after extra time, while a penalty shoot-out was required to see off Switzerland in the quarter-finals.

Mendieta, however, feels Luis Enrique has created an environment where his players are able to respond to any match situation, good or bad.

"He gives value to the player in order to make him part of the plan," he said of the former Barcelona head coach.

"I think that is reflected on the pitch; a common idea but at the same time it is the player who needs to find solutions. The coach cannot do that for them on the pitch.

"That's why I think the Spain team had a great reaction in tough times in some games. Especially in the group stage, in the last game. They are a team with a great character, just like Luis Enrique himself."

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