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Novak Djokovic says he does not want to "open Pandoras box" by revealing the reasons behind his below-par form this year.

The 37-year-old returns to the French Open - which he won for a third time last year - without having reached a final in 2024.

It has been a turbulent season for the 24-time Grand Slam champion, who also parted ways with long-time coach Goran Ivanisevic in March.

Asked if he could put a finger on why he has been below his lofty standards, Serbia's Djokovic said: "It's various things that were happening in the last couple of months, but I don't want to get into it. I hope you understand that.

It's just I don't want open Pandora's box and talk about things.

"Just really try to focus myself on what needs to be done. What has happened, happened, and it's in the past."

It was felt Djokovic was likely to carry his dominant 2023 into the new season.

He reached the Australian Open semi-finals in January but was nowhere near his usual dominant levels and lost to eventual champion Jannik Sinner.

Coach Ivanisevic departed after Djokovic's early exit at Indian Wells, with fitness trainer Marco Panichi - another long-standing member of the team - also leaving at the end of April.

Djokovic reached the semi-finals in Monte Carlo at the start of the clay-court swing, but the uncertainty surrounding him came to the fore again at the Italian Open.

Djokovic was accidentally hit on the head by a metallic water bottle after his opening win and felt hampered by the after-effects in a shock loss to Alejandro Tabilo two days later.

Djokovic decided to play in Geneva last week, losing in the semi-finals on Friday and arriving in Paris on Saturday.

Speaking to the media on Sunday, the three-time Roland Garros champion said he had arrived with "low expectations and high hopes".

"I would say that I know what I'm capable of, and particularly in the Grand Slams I normally play the best tennis," he added.

"So that's the goal. I have been saying that in terms of clay I want to peak here in Paris. Hopefully I can have a great tournament."

West Indies allrounder Jason Holder has been ruled out of the upcoming T20 World Cup because of an injury. He has been replaced by left-arm quick Obed McCoy, who is playing the ongoing T20I series against South Africa at home.
Holder picked up an injury during the County Championship, where he was representing Worcestershire and scored a century for them in his last game earlier this month. The release Cricket West Indies (CWI) issued did not specify Holder's injury or how much recovery time he will require.

"Jason is an experienced player in our set-up. His absence will undoubtedly be felt both on and off the field," chief selector Desmond Haynes said. "We look forward to having a fully fit Jason with us again soon.

"While it is unfortunate to lose a player of Jason's calibre, we are confident in the abilities of Obed McCoy. Obed has shown remarkable skill and promise in his performances, and this opportunity will allow him to further showcase his talent on the international stage. We believe he will bring a fresh and dynamic energy to the squad."

CWI also named five reserve players - Kyle Mayers, Matthew Forde, Fabian Allen, Hayden Walsh and Andre Fletcher - in case there was an injury in the squad of 15.

"We are fortunate to have such depth and quality in our ranks," head coach Daren Sammy said. "Our reserve players are all A-class talents who have proven their abilities in various formats of the game, but certainly T20. Each one of them is fully capable of slotting into the team seamlessly should the situation arise."

McCoy was the top wicket-taker for West Indies A on their tour of Nepal in April-May, when he bagged eight wickets in five games at an average of 18. In the two recent T20Is against South Africa, he finished with 0 for 32 and 2 for 15.

McCoy joins Alzarri Joseph (also the vice-captain) and Shamar Joseph among the fast bowlers with Andre Russell and Romario Shepherd also as the pace-bowling options. Akeil Hosein and Gudakesh Motie are the spinners in the squad that will be led by Rovman Powell.

West Indies are in Group C along with Papua New Guinea (PNG), Uganda, New Zealand and Afghanistan. Their first two games are in Providence, Guyana, against PNG on June 2 and against Uganda on June 8. They then play New Zealand at the Brian Lara Stadium in Trinidad on June 12, before their last group game against Afghanistan on June 17 in St Lucia. They will also play a warm-up game against Australia on May 31 in Port of Spain, after their final third T20I finishes against South Africa on May 26 in Kingston.

West Indies squad for T20 World Cup

Rovman Powell (capt), Alzarri Joseph (vc), Johnson Charles, Roston Chase, Shimron Hetmyer, Shamar Joseph, Brandon King, Nicholas Pooran, Shai Hope, Andre Russell, Romario Shepherd, Obed McCoy, Akeal Hosein, Gudakesh Motie, Sherfane Rutherford
Traveling reserves: Kyle Mayers, Matthew Forde, Fabian Allen, Hayden Walsh, Andre Fletcher

Gloucestershire 399 for 4 (van Buuren 156*, Bracey 137*, Chappell 2-23) trail Derbyshire 526 (Lamb 207, Guest 95, Donald 67, Dal 62, Webster 6-100) by 127 runs

Gloucestershire's James Bracey and Graeme van Buuren blasted their side out of trouble with swashbuckling centuries before rain took a hand on the third day of the Vitality County Championship Division Two match with Derbyshire at Bristol.

The fifth-wicket pair launched a savage attack on the second new ball, producing a boundary blitz and adding 156 runs to their team's overnight first innings total of 243 for four in just 21 overs before the heavens opened, with Bracey unbeaten on 137 and van Buuren having raced to 156 not out.

No play was possible after lunch. At 399 for four, Gloucestershire were still 127 short of Derbyshire's first innings total of 526, but on the most benign of batting surfaces, with two players in top form, they can feel optimistic of avoiding defeat on the final day.

Bracey was on 87 and van Buuren 61 when play began, with 14 overs to bat before Derbyshire could take a second new ball both sides knew could be central to the outcome. Bracey moved comfortably to his second hundred of the season, reaching the milestone with his 15th four, a cut off Luis Reece, having faced 151 balls.

Gloucestershire had just claimed a second batting bonus point when van Buuren elected to cut loose, moving from 88 to his 15th first class century with three fours off successive deliveries from off-spinner Alex Thomson in the over before the new ball became due.

Derbyshire took it immediately, but suffered as a result when both Daryn Dupavillon and Sam Connors strayed in line and length, producing a plethora of short deliveries, while others were overpitched. The first five overs with the harder ball went for 65 runs.

Bracey and van Buuren attacked at every opportunity, the latter pulling Connors over mid-wicket for six and clearing the ropes again off the same bowler with a sweetly-timed flick over fine leg. The diminutive Gloucestershire skipper needed only 28 deliveries to move from 100 to 150, sending the ball to all parts of the Seat Unique Stadium.

From 318 for four when the new ball was taken, Gloucestershire had posted 383 for four by the end of the 85th over. Derbyshire captain David Lloyd had little option but to remove Dupavillon and Connors from the attack, bringing on Anuj Dal and Reece.

Play had already been interrupted by a short shower when heavier rain arrived and lunch was taken. Bracey had faced 175 balls, striking 19 fours and a six, while the inspired van Buuren had clocked up 22 fours and 2 sixes in facing 172 deliveries.

The partnership was worth 268 in 48.3 overs when the weather set in. Umpires Paul Pollard and Naeem Ashraf made a 3pm pitch inspection, ordered tea to be taken at 3.10pm, and looked again at 4pm, by which time more rain had fallen. They abandoned play for the day at 4.15pm.

Sixth seed Andrey Rublev came through a tough test against Taro Daniel to reach the second round of the French Open.

Russia's Rublev did not have it all his own way on Court Simonne-Mathieu but worked his way to a 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 7-5 win over Japan's Daniel.

The 26-year-old is looking to go beyond the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time.

World number three Carlos Alcaraz and Britain's Andy Murray are also in action on day one in Paris.

Rublev has struggled with his on-court demeanour over the years and threw his racquet to the ground in frustration after missing three set points in the second set.

However, he showed determination to regroup and grind out victory in three hours and 11 minutes, despite world number 80 Daniel almost forcing a fourth-set tie-break.

Rublev will face either Pedro Martinez or Thiago Agustin Tirante next.

Earlier, French number one and 17th seed Ugo Humbert lost 6-4 2-6 6-4 6-3 to Lorenzo Sonego of Italy.

World number three Alcaraz faces lucky loser J.J. Wolf, before Murray faces his old rival Stan Wawrinka in the night session on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Osaka avoids early French Open exit

Published in Tennis
Sunday, 26 May 2024 06:22

Now ranked 134th in the world, Osaka has never advanced past the last 32 at the French Open, while her four Grand Slam triumphs have come on hard courts.

Osaka reeled off five games in a row to wrap up the first set in just 27 minutes on a gusty Court Philippe-Chatrier.

But Bronzetti grew into the match and, after struggling to challenge Osaka's serve throughout the second set, converted a crucial break point at 5-4 to force a decider.

Remarkably, the world number 67 clawed her way back from a double break down in the third before Osaka broke once more to regain her lead and serve out the two hour back-and-forth contest.

The victory marks progress for the 26-year-old, who says she is "embracing clay a lot more", external after previously struggling on the surface.

Wales hopefuls face Judgement Day pressure - Elias

Published in Rugby
Sunday, 26 May 2024 05:24

Scarlets hooker Ryan Elias says Wales' summer hopefuls will feel the pressure at Judgement Day at the Cardiff City Stadium on 1 June.

The Welsh regional double-header next Saturday is a couple of days before Wales head coach Warren Gatland names his squad on 3 June for the Twickenham Test against South Africa on 22 June and the tour of Australia in July.

Most players would say they feel that pressure because you know the squad is going to be announced a couple of days later, said Elias.

You know its your last audition to put your best foot forward to be named in the squad."

Elias will go head-to-head with Wales rival Elliot Dee when Scarlets face Dragons in the opening game before Ospreys play Cardiff in the United Rugby Championship (URC) double-header.

Dee is the man currently in possession of the Wales hooking berth, having started the last four Six Nations matches after Elias got the nod for the opener, while Dewi Lake is back fit to add to the competition for the national number two jersey.

Elliot is a very good friend of mine, said Elias.

In camps together, we are kind of drawn to each other. We go through the same things, feel the same sort of pressures and confide in each other. Hes a good mate.

But we wont hold any punches when it comes to game time. We enjoy getting stuck into each other.

"Its that personal sort of battle at scrum time or around the park if we can get a shot at each other.

Naomi Osaka labored past unseeded Italian Lucia Bronzetti 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 in the first round of the French Open on Sunday to claim her first win at Roland Garros in three years.

Returning from a 15-month maternity break this year, Osaka had fallen in the first round at the Australian Open in January but looked set to breeze into the second round in Paris as the former world No. 1 bombarded Bronzetti from the baseline.

The four-time Grand Slam champion had not won at the French Open since 2021, when she ultimately withdrew from the event after clashing with tournament officials for skipping her mandatory media obligations.

"There were moments I played pretty well, but I was pretty nervous and got really tight," Osaka said during an on-court interview.

Osaka dominated the first set on a gusty Philippe Chatrier court to wrap it up in 28 minutes, but her unforced errors rose steeply in the second, allowing Bronzetti to break in the crucial game at 5-4 and force a decider.

But Osaka, 26, got back on track in the deciding set and had the opportunity to break for a 5-0 lead but appeared to implode as world No. 67 Bronzetti clawed her way back into the contest.

Osaka pounced for a crucial break in the 11th game before finally clinching the back-and-forth battle.

No. 48-ranked Bronzetti has never won at Roland Garros in three appearances. Her career record in Grand Slam tournaments is 3-10. In her most recent match at the Morocco Open quarterfinals last week, she led American Peyton Stearns 5-0 in the third set but ended up losing.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Waves of fans streamed into Scottsdale Stadium an hour before the start, anticipation building each minute closer to first pitch.

They came to see the Pac-12 baseball championship game. They got a dose of history with it.

With Arizona and Southern California atop the marquee, the undercurrent of Saturday night's game swirled around what could be a finality: the end of the Pac-12 Conference as we know it.

"It's weird that it feels like it's the end of it," said Detroit Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2020 baseball draft after three seasons at Arizona State. "I guess it makes sense: Money talks to these conferences."

Money certainly led to the demise of the once-proud Pac-12.

With no imminent media rights deal on the horizon, the conference began to splinter, starting with USC and UCLA's decision to leave for the Big Ten.

The seismic shift east led to a tsunami of defections.

Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah opted for a move to the Big 12. Washington and Oregon joined the SoCal schools in heading to the Big Ten. California and Stanford will be in the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

That left Washington State and Oregon State clinging to the remnants of a Pac-12 facing what's still an uncertain future.

"That's the sad thing about it: You start talking about those awards, you start thinking, boy, that's the last time this conference is going to be able to do that," said Arizona coach Chip Hale, the first person to earn Pac-12 baseball player of the year (1987) and coach of the year (2024) honors.

Unless the conference resurrects, Hale and his Wildcats will go out as the Pac-12's final champions after rallying from a three-run deficit to beat the Trojans 4-3 in front a raucous, pro-Arizona crowd at Scottsdale Stadium.

"What a great way for it to end, not only for the baseball season but the sports' history for this conference," Hale said.

And if this is the end, the conference went out with a bang.

USC won its 21st men's beach volleyball national championship, and the USC women won their fourth straight. UCLA's women's water polo won its eighth NCAA championship with its third undefeated season.

Stanford's women's golf team won its second national title in three years out of an all-Pac-12 final four, and its men's gymnastics team also won a national championship. The Arizona State men won their first swimming and diving national title in March.

"Growing up, it was the Pac-10 then the Pac-12, it was just so much fun to watch," said Torkelson, who grew up in Petaluma, California. "I feel like there were so many great teams in every sport."

The self-proclaimed Conference of Champions will leave quite a legacy, even if most of it will be relegated to the history books.

The Pac-12, founded as the Pacific Coast Conference in 1916, has claimed 561 team national championships -- over 200 more than the next closest conference -- and more than 1,200 individual titles.

The conference was home to the some of the greatest athletes in college sports history, from Jackie Robinson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Tiger Woods and Katie Ledecky.

It also was the home of Pac-12 After Dark, those wild, high-scoring football games that ran well past midnight Eastern time.

Arizona gave the conference one last after-dark dose, scoring a run in the seventh inning, two in the eighth and walking it off on Tommy Splaine's run-scoring single in the bottom of the ninth, sending the Wildcats rushing onto the field.

"It's the last game for the Pac-12, and that's a sad deal," Hale said, "but now it's on to the Big 12."

Now, the Pac-12 might be going dark, with its legacy shifting toward the rearview mirror.

Final losses 'part of trying to do great things' - Ryan

Published in Rugby
Saturday, 25 May 2024 22:57

Ciaran Frawley's drop goal attempt in the 79th minute could have won it for Leinster in regulation, while they were within three points and had a man advantage at the halfway point of extra time after Toulouse's Richie Arnold had been sent off.

The French side, however, regained the momentum and scored the game's final six points through the boot of Thomas Ramos.

Everyones devastated in there now, they poured a hell of a lot into it, said Leinster's head coach Leo Cullen.

I think its two very good squads of players going at it in an amazing stadium and it comes down to the finest margins.

Theres a drop goal at the end and if it goes a metre to the right were having a very different conversation in here.

Thats the nature of sport at the top and obviously weve been on the losing side, unfortunately, on a few occasions now.

You get this narrative that builds off the back of that. People start adding all the different bits together, but when you break down this specific game it came down to very tight calls at different stages and not enough of them went our way, unfortunately."

Mbappé: I'll announce move in 'a few days'

Published in Soccer
Sunday, 26 May 2024 05:16

Kylian Mbappé said he will announce his next career move in a "few days" after winning the French Cup with Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday.

Mbappé is widely expected to join Real Madrid having already confirmed he will leave PSG when his contract expires this summer.

- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

After his team's 2-1 win over Lyon in the final, Mbappé was asked by reporters why he is yet to formally reveal his next club.

"Because I think the best thing to do is to finish saying goodbye," the France captain said in the mixed zone of the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille.

"All I wanted was to finish well. There is a time for everything. I will announce my new club in due course. It will be only a few days away so there is no problem."

Pressed by journalists if that meant the transfer would be official before the national team meets to prepare for the European Championship, Mbappé added: "I still don't know, there are still some details. The most important thing was to win and to experience these final emotions."

Mbappé spoke about what he felt playing his last game for PSG after seven seasons.

"Nostalgia, emotion; It was cool. I always understood where I was, this unique experience of playing for PSG. Playing for PSG, I would recommend it," he said.

"I was lucky enough to experience it. What I have had, I wouldn't experience anywhere else. Now I'm going to experience something else and I'm sure that will be magical too."

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