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Djokovic advances to Australian Open quarters, Garcia knocked out

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MELBOURNE, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) — Novak Djokovic brushed aside fitness concerns with a vintage performance to thrash Alex de Minaur in the fourth round, but women’s fourth seed Caroline Garcia on Monday became the latest high-profile casualty at the Australian Open.

Nine-time champion Djokovic has battled a hamstring injury throughout the tournament, but moved freely to overwhelm the Australian 22nd seed 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 and silence the home fans at Rod Laver Arena.

In their first match-up, the fleet-footed de Minaur hoped to exploit Djokovic’s ailment but he was blown off the court by the spectacular Serb, who rediscovered his best form in his march towards a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title.

“I really wanted to win in straight sets. I kept my focus all the way through and it was my best result of the year,” Djokovic said.

“I didn’t feel any (hamstring injury) today. I know things can change quickly, so I don’t take anything for granted.”

Djokovic booked a blockbuster quarterfinal with fifth seed Andrey Rublev, who survived a fierce examination from rising Danish star Holger Rune to prevail 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (9).

The Russian survived two match points in the 12th game of the fifth set and then found himself on the brink of defeat trailing 0-5 in the match deciding tiebreak.

But he dug himself out of a hole to storm into the quarterfinals for the seventh time in his Grand Slam career, but he has never progressed further.

“I think I was never able to win matches like this and this was the first time ever that I won something like this to be in the quarterfinal,” said Rublev, who was down 5-2 in the fifth set before storming back.

American Ben Shelton continued his dream Australian Open debut after overcoming compatriot J.J. Wolf with a tense 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-2 victory.

The 20-year-old will play Tommy Paul in an all-American quarterfinal in what has been a resurgence for men’s players from the U.S..

Paul defeated Spain’s 24th seed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

The upsets at an unpredictable tournament continued when Garcia of France fell to 45th ranked Magda Linette 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the women’s singles.

It was a bitter disappointment for Garcia, who has had a career revival in the last 12 months and eyed a first Grand Slam triumph.

But she’ll have to wait after 30-year-old Linette reached her maiden Grand Slam quarter-final.

Linette of Poland will face former world number one Karolina Pliskova, who ended a strong run from China’s Zhang Shuai 6-0, 6-4.

Zhang, the last remaining Chinese player in either the men’s or women’s singles draw, fell to Pliskova for the eighth straight match.

The 23rd seed Zhang was unable to match her fairytale quarterfinal runs at the 2016 Australian Open and 2019 Wimbledon.

But she did reach the last 16 for the second straight Grand Slam after making the fourth round at last year’s US Open.

In-form Aryna Sabalenka has ascended to title favouritism alongside third seed Jessica Pegula after comfortably defeating Belinda Bencic 7-5, 6-2.

The fifth seed set up a last-eight clash against unseeded Donna Vekic, who overcame a mid-match stutter to beat 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.

Notably playing with a steelier edge, Sabalenka has been in irresistable form as she strives for a maiden Grand Slam trophy.

“My whole life, it took me a little while to understand that negative emotion is not gonna help you on court,” she said.

“You have to just stay strong and believe no matter what and then do everything you can.”

Title favourite Pegula and men’s third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas highlight quarterfinal action on Tuesday.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Dortmund stuns Atletico in dramatic Champions League quarters

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BERLIN, April 16 (Xinhua) — Borussia Dortmund turned around a 2-1 first-leg defeat by clinching a hard-earned 4-2 victory over resilient Atletico Madrid in the second leg on home soil on Tuesday.

Dortmund advanced 5-4 on aggregate into the Champions League semifinals.

The BVB immediately went in search of the goal and came close with just three minutes gone when Marcel Sabitzer’s shot from inside the box was blocked by defender Cesar Azpilicueta in the last nick of time.

Two minutes later, Atletico had the golden chance to extend the aggregate lead, but Alvaro Morata pulled wide with only Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel to beat.

Dortmund controlled possession though and got rewarded for their efforts at the half-hour mark when Mats Hummel’s defence-splitting through the ball allowed Julian Brandt to fire past Madrid custodian Jan Oblak from a tight angle.

The hosts gained momentum and doubled the lead in the 39th minute as Sabizter teed up for Ian Maatsen, who slotted home from a sharp angle into the far post bottom corner.

After the restart, Los Colchoneros came out with their guns blazing and restored parity on aggregate with the great assistance of Dortmund veteran Mats Hummels, who accidentally cleared Mario Hermoso’s dangerous header into the wrong goal.

Things went from bad to worse for Dortmund as Atletico increased the pressure before retaking the aggregate lead with 69 minutes gone as Dortmund’s defense couldn’t clear the ball from the area, allowing Angel Correa to hammer the ball into the roof of the net, making it 2-2 on the scoreboards.

Dortmund was flabbergasted but bounced back with two goals in quick succession. First, Niclas Fullkrug made it 3-2 on the scoreboards in the 71st minute after heading home Sabitzer’s pinpoint cross before the Austrian international got his name on the scoreboards as well after unleashing a hammer past Oblak two minutes later.

Atletico opened up and pressed frenetically for a goal, but Dortmund’s defense stood firm to claim the team’s first semi-final since 2013. The BVB will encounter Paris Saint-Germain in the next round.

“I am really happy and proud of the boys. We were the better and more active team today. That is why we deserved to advance into the next round,” said Dortmund coach Edin Terzic.

“We had the chance to draw the game and go ahead in the tie but, when you don’t take advantage of your chances, this happens, even more so in the Champions League,” commented Atletico captain Koke.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Macron says Plan B, Plan C possible for Paris Olympics opening ceremony

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French President Macron revealed contingency plans for the Paris Olympic Games opening ceremony on the River Seine due to potential security risks, including the possibility of relocating to the Stade de France.

PARIS, April 15 (Xinhua) — The organizers have prepared alternatives to staging the highly-anticipated Paris Olympic Games opening ceremony on the River Seine if there are excessive security risks, French president Emmanuel Macron admitted on Monday.

As the countdown to the Olympics reaches the critical 100-day mark, Macron spoke to French broadcasters RMC and BFM TV inside the Grand Palais. While he reiterated his confidence in successfully hosting the ceremony on the Seine, he also acknowledged that alternative plans were under consideration due to potential security challenges.

“If we think there are security risks we’ll have Plan Bs, and even Plan Cs,” he said. “We are preparing them in parallel. We will do an analysis in real time. We have a ceremony which would be limited to the Trocadero and which would therefore not cover the entire Seine.”

Macron also mentioned the possibility of relocating the ceremony to the Stade de France.

“This is what is traditionally done,” he added.

Hosting the opening ceremony in the open urban space was a highly imaginative move by the Paris organizing committee and the local government.

According to the current plan, about 10,500 athletes are expected to travel approximately six kilometers from east to west along the Seine, disembarking near the Eiffel Tower at Trocadero Square for the celebration. An estimated 300,000 spectators are anticipated to watch the event live from both sides of the river.

However, security has been a significant concern from the outset of planning. The increasing risk of potential terrorist attacks is a critical consideration for both the organizing committee and the French government.

The Olympic flame for the Paris Games will be lit on April 16 in ancient Olympia, Greece. April 17 will mark the 100-day countdown to the opening of the Paris Olympics.

The Paris Olympics will take place between July 26 and August 11, followed by the Paris Paralympics from August 28 to September 8.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Xavi’s magic substitutions lead Barcelona to victory in thrilling encounter with PSG

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PARIS, April 10 (Xinhua) — Barcelona’s manager, Xavi Hernandez, showcased his tactical genius by making two substitutions that led directly to goals, propelling his team to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday.

The game was an emotional rollercoaster, with Barcelona initially taking the lead, only to fall behind, and then executing a stunning comeback.

Brazilian forward Raphinha scored twice, including the opener in the first half, taking advantage of a mistake by PSG’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma to net his first Champions League goal at the 37-minute mark.

PSG quickly turned the tables after halftime, with Ousmane Dembele and Vitinha scoring to give the Parisians a 2-1 advantage.

It was at this juncture that Xavi made a tactical masterstroke. In the 61st minute, he brought on Rodri and Joao Felix for Lamine Yamal and Sergi Roberto, a change that quickly paid off.

Pedri, just two minutes after coming on, lofted a perfect pass to Raphinha, who calmly finished past Donnarumma, drawing the teams level.

In the 76th minute, Xavi’s strategic acumen was on display again when he substituted Andreas Christensen and Ferran Torres for Frenkie de Jong and the key player Raphinha. Christensen scored with a header from a corner just a minute later, sealing a dramatic comeback for Barcelona.

“Pedri came on and helped us a lot. I’m very proud of the team. Christensen also came on and helped,” Xavi said. “Tactically we did really well.”

Since Xavi announced his departure from the team at the end of the season following a January defeat to Villarreal, Barcelona has been unbeaten in 12 matches across all competitions, a stark contrast to PSG’s previous unbeaten streak of 27 matches, which ended with this loss.

“We made things a bit difficult for ourselves. We managed to turn things around in the second half and could have had a third (goal),” PSG coach Luis Enrique said. “Everything’s still open for us and we will go there with ambition.”

The return leg is set for April 16th at Barcelona’s home ground.

Source(s): Xinhua

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