World Sports Brief: May 15, 2023

Djokovic battles past Dimitrov in Rome, Swiatek cruises

Novak Djokovic continued his Italian Open title defence with a 6-3 4-6 6-1 victory over Bulgarian 26th seed Grigor Dimitrov on Sunday (May 14) while women's champion Iga Swiatek dished out another "bagel" as she defeated Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko.
Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts during his round of 32 match against Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 14, 2023. (Photo: Reuters)
Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts during his round of 32 match against Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 14, 2023. (Photo: Reuters)

Both players surrendered serve early in the first set before Djokovic raised his game to pull away for a 4-1 lead, and an 11th victory over Dimitrov in 12 meetings began to look inevitable. Two-times defending champion Swiatek earlier dropped the first two games of her third-round clash with Tsurenko. But the world number one hit back to claim the next 12 for a 6-2 6-0 victory that extended her Rome win streak to 13 matches.

* Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said it was a "magnificent feeling" as he clinched his first LaLiga title as manager of the club where he won eight as a player, ending a four-year drought for the Catalan giants. Xavi's side wrapped up the title after two first-half goals from Robert Lewandowski spurred them to a 4-2 win against city rivals Espanyol on Sunday. Barcelona were last champions of Spain in the 2018-19 season when they had club greats Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez spearheading their attack.

* First-half goals from Bryan Mbeumo and Yoane Wissa secured a comfortable 2-0 home Premier League victory for Brentford over West Ham United on Sunday (May 14) to ensure their best league finish since 1938. Brentford move up to ninth place with 53 points from 36 games and will finish in the top half for the first time since they came sixth 85 years ago. West Ham stayed 15th, six points clear of the relegation zone with two games to play.

* Second-half goals by Nicolo Fagioli and Gleison Bremer earned Juventus a comfortable 2-0 win against second-bottom Cremonese in Serie A on Sunday, but the result was soured by another injury to midfielder Paul Pogba. Pogba, who returned to Juventus last summer but has struggled with injury since, began the game well as he started a match for the first time since last April when he played for Manchester United at Liverpool. But the Frenchman only lasted a little over 20 minutes before he injured himself again and left the field in tears, heading straight down the tunnel as he was replaced by Arkadiusz Milik.

* Four-time All-Star Jayson Tatum is savoring his Boston Celtics' upcoming Eastern Conference Finals rematch against the Miami Heat, after stomping out the Philadelphia 76ers 112-88 on Sunday with a record-breaking 51 points in Game 7. The Celtics beat the Heat a year ago en route to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors. Tatum promised there would be fireworks when their rivalry with Miami continues this week.

* Brighton and Hove Albion manager Roberto De Zerbi has warned his players the job is not yet done despite a stunning 3-0 victory at Arsenal that put the south coast club on the cusp of qualifying for Europe for the first time in their history. Julio Enciso, Deniz Undav and Pervis Estupinan were all on target in the second half as Brighton moved into sixth place while also virtually ending Arsenal's title hopes. Brighton have 58 points from 34 games and two wins from their final four games would guarantee them a place in Europe next season, most probably in the Europa League.

* Olympique de Marseille maintained their hopes of securing a Champions League group stage spot for next season when they beat already-relegated Angers 3-1 in Ligue 1 on Sunday. Alexis Sanchez cancelled out Abdallah Simah's surprise opener for Angers in the first half before Dimitri Payet and Jordan Veretout's penalty after the break put third-placed OM on 73 points with three matches left. They trail second-placed RC Lens, who are now sure of finishing in the top three, by two points and leaders Paris St Germain by eight.

* Overall leader Remco Evenepoel abandoned the Giro d'Italia on Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19, the Belgian rider said on Sunday. The new race leader is Britain's Geraint Thomas.

* Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta began the day still hopeful that his side could yet wrestle the Premier League title away from Manchester City but ended it apologising to the club's fans. A 3-0 home drubbing at the hands of an excellent Brighton and Hove Albion, shortly after City dispatched Everton by the same score, all but extinguished Arsenal's dream.

* AS Roma were held to a goalless draw at mid-table Bologna on Sunday, extending their winless run in Serie A to five games, as Jose Mourinho rotated his side ahead of their Europa League semi-final second leg. Roma were ultimately unable to take advantage of the poor performances over the weekend of those around them in the table and remain sixth on 59 points, one point clear of Atalanta in seventh and two behind AC Milan in fifth.

* RB Leipzig struck twice late in the game to snatch a 2-1 comeback win over visiting Werder Bremen on Sunday and reclaim third place in the Bundesliga with two matches remaining. Leipzig, who next week face Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich, are third on 60 points, one ahead of Union Berlin in fourth, and four in front of fifth-placed Freiburg.

* The Ligue 1 game between Toulouse and Nantes started 90 minutes late after the bomb squad were called into Toulouse's stadium following the discovery of a suspicious package, local authorities said on Sunday. The game eventually began at 15:30 GMT without further incident and ended in a 0-0 draw.

* Feyenoord wrapped up the Dutch championship with two games to spare after two early goals set them on their way to a 3-0 win over Go Ahead Eagles in Rotterdam on Sunday. Feyenoord moved to 79 points from 32 games, out of the reach of nearest challengers PSV Eindhoven who can only reach a maximum of 77 points if they win all three of their remaining matches.

* A terrible blunder from Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Ivo Grbic gifted already-relegated Elche a 1-0 home victory in LaLiga on Sunday, only their fourth win of the season. The Croatian keeper, standing in for the injured Jan Oblak, let a long throw-in from the left touchline slip through his hands inside the six-yard box, with Elche's Fidel Chaves in the right place to tap the ball into a wide-open net in the 41st minute. Atletico have only lost three times in LaLiga since the World Cup break, leaving them third in the table on 69 points, two behind local rivals Real Madrid, who beat Getafe 1-0 on Saturday.

* The Dutch league clash between Ajax Amsterdam and already-relegated Groningen was halted and then called off with only nine minutes on the clock, after fireworks were twice thrown onto the pitch on Sunday.

* Coventry City were held to a 0-0 draw by visitors Middlesbrough in the first leg of their Championship semi-final playoff at the Coventry Building Society Arena on Sunday. The second leg will take place at the Riverside Stadium on Wednesday. The winners advance to the final in which they will face Sunderland or Luton Town. Burnley and Sheffield United have secured automatic promotion to the Premier League after finishing first and second in the Championship.

* Lithuanian ultra marathon runner Aleksandr Sorokin bettered his own 100km world record by six seconds in the city of Vilnius in his home country, organisers said on Sunday. The 41-year old covered the distance in six hours, five minutes and 35 seconds to improve on his previous mark, set in April last year.

* Toyota's Kalle Rovanpera won the Rally of Portugal on Sunday and took over at the top of the world championship standings after five rounds. The 22-year-old reigning champion finished the final Power Stage 54.7 seconds clear of Hyundai's Spaniard Dano Sordo to take his first victory of the season and second in a row in Portugal.

*VR46 Racing's Marco Bezzecchi produced a battling display at the French GP on Sunday to record his second win of the season and slash fellow Italian Francesco Bagnaia's championship lead down to one point. Saturday's sprint winner Jorge Martin finished second, just over four seconds behind the winner, while Martin's Pramac Ducati team mate Johann Zarco was third to give the French fans something to cheer about.

* Chelsea have reached an agreement to appoint former Tottenham Hotspur and Paris St Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino as their manager, Sky Sports and the BBC reported on Sunday. Pochettino will take charge of the club at the end of the season, the reports said, succeeding Frank Lampard who took over as interim manager at Stamford Bridge last month following the sacking of Graham Potter.

* Rafa Nadal has turned down a wildcard offer for next week's Challenger tournament in Bordeaux as the Spaniard's participation in the French Open hangs in the balance, the claycourt event director said on Sunday. Nadal has been struggling with a hip injury he suffered at the Australian Open in January, and fears the Spaniard may miss the Paris Grand Slam grew after he pulled out of this week's Italian Open.