World Sports News in Brief

Djokovic faces Struff, Barty takes on Tsurenko at Australian Open

Friday, 2020-01-17 09:04:15
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Tennis - ATP Cup - Ken Rosewall Arena, Sydney, Australia - January 12, 2020 Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his Final singles match against Spain's Rafael Nadal. (Photo: Reuters)
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Top seed and world number one Ash Barty’s bid to end the host nation’s long wait for a homegrown Australian Open champion will begin against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko when the year’s first Grand Slam gets under way next week.

Men’s champion Novak Djokovic will begin his quest for an eighth Australian Open title against Jan-Lennard Struff, while the man he beat in last year’s final, Rafa Nadal, will take the top seeding into a contest against Bolivian Hugo Dellien. The Australian Open runs from Jan. 20 to Feb 2.

* Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele, the only men to go under two hours, two minutes for the marathon, will go head to head over the classic distance in this year's London Marathon, organisers said on Friday. Kenya's Kipchoge had already announced he would defend his title but the presence of Ethiopian former track superstar Bekele, 37, who produced a stunning 2:01:41 run in Berlin last October to miss Kipchoge's world record by two seconds, will have fans drooling.

* French third division side Pau pulled off a remarkable 3-2 win after extra-time over top-flight Girondins de Bordeaux on Thursday to reach the last 16 of the French Cup. Senegalese winger Mamadou Lamine Gueye struck the decisive goal in the 117th minute, giving Pau the lead for the third time in the game.

* Chelsea have handed 20-year-old defender Reece James a long-term contract until 2025, the Premier League club said in a statement on Thursday. James is one of several young homegrown players to have thrived in Frank Lampard's first season in charge at Stamford Bridge, benefiting from the transfer ban which prevented the club from buying new players in the close season.

* Defending champion Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas will spearhead Team Ineos's Tour de France challenge this year but boss Dave Brailsford said Chris Froome was "craving" a fifth title. Froome missed the race last year after a terrible crash in training for the Criterium du Dauphine, fracturing his femur, hip, elbow and sternum, but is now back in training. In his absence, Colombian Bernal, then 22, became the youngest winner in more than 100 years, with Welshman Thomas, the 2018 champion, in second place.

* Russian Daniil Medvedev is the most likely player to break the Grand Slam stranglehold of the "big three" when the Australian Open starts in Melbourne next week, according to John McEnroe. The 23-year-old's quirky style propelled him to four titles and a Tour-leading 59 match wins in 2019 and McEnroe says he provides different challenges to the old guard.

* West Ham United boss David Moyes said he will put fond memories of his spell at Everton on the back-burner ahead of Saturday's Premier League meeting, but hopes to bring a similar sense of stability to his current team. Moyes enjoyed a lengthy tenure at Everton from 2002-13, a period in which they regularly challenged for a top six spot, and was linked by British media with a return to Goodison Park before Carlo Ancelotti replaced sacked Marco Silva last month.

* In-form striker Marcus Rashford is a doubt for Manchester United's trip to Premier League leaders Liverpool, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said on Thursday. Rashford, scorer of 14 league goals this season, injured his back after coming on as a substitute in United's FA Cup replay win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday.

* Tata Communications has ended a partnership with Formula One after eight years working together on the sport's digital transformation, the Indian-owned company said.

* After replacing the uninspiring yet successful Ernesto Valverde with Quique Setien, La Liga leaders Barcelona will be expected to produce a spectacle of attacking football when they host Granada on Sunday in their first game under the new manager.

* Widely criticised at Manchester United last season and stung by a suggestion that he performs best as a target man, Romelu Lukaku has bounced back in style at Inter Milan as they challenge Juventus' long-running Serie A supremacy. The Belgian took his tally to 18 goals in all competitions after scoring twice in a 4-1 Coppa Italia win over Cagliari on Tuesday, once again answering those who said he was not worth the club record 80 million euros (US$89.27 million) Inter paid for him at the start of the season.

* The all-female W Series will be part of the Formula One support programme in its second season with new races at the US and Mexican Grands Prix in October, organisers announced on Thursday. The W Series, conceived as a platform to help women gain experience to help them climb up the motorsport ladder and compete with the men, started last year with six races at European circuits.

* World number one Ash Barty maintained her mastery over Marketa Vondrousova but Aryna Sabalenka jolted Simona Halep's Australian Open build-up in the quarter-finals of the Adelaide International on Thursday. In a rematch of last year's French Open final, Barty prevailed once again, winning 6-3 6-3 for a 4-0 head-to-head lead over the Czech.