Thursday, October 18, 2007


Roger Federer forgot about his recent history with Guillermo Canas, defeating the 14th-ranked Argentine 6-0, 6-3 Thursday in the third round of the Madrid Masters.

Canas, who beat Federer in consecutive tournaments in March, was broken at love in the second game. Two more breaks of serve gave Federer the first set in 21 minutes.

Canas held serve for 1-1 in the second set. But Federer, the defending champion, abandoned the ground strokes and came to the net. He scored 14 of his 17 overall winners at the net in the second set.

Federer broke Canas again in the sixth game before holding serve for the rest of the way.

In the quarterfinals, Federer will play the winner between Spanish wild card Feliciano Lopez and Austrian qualifier Stefan Koubek.

Earlier, fifth-seeded Fernando Gonzalez of Chile defeated Juan Monaco of Argentina 6-4, 6-2.

Third-ranked Novak Djokovic beat Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals. Djokovic will play Mario Ancic, who beat Paul-Henri Mathieu of France 6-4, 6-3.

``I haven't played so far on the level that I can, but the most important thing is that I won,'' Djokovic said.

Ferrero's last title was the 2003 Madrid Masters, a stretch of 88 tournaments.

Djokovic had the decisive break in the eighth game before clinching the first set with one of his five aces in the next game.

Djokovic failed to convert any of five break points in the first game of the second set and Ferrero broke in the next game. Ferrero, who saved five break points overall in the set, got to Djokovic's drop shot and tapped it past him for a second break in the eighth game to even the match.

He broke Ferrero to lead 2-0 in the third set and maintained that advantage to close it out.

``It's been a long year and I've played a lot of matches. And, maybe in some stages, physically and mentally I don't look so effective,'' Djokovic said.

Nadal will play 17th-ranked Andy Murray, who has cruised past his first two opponents.


U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera wanted to beat an elite field of major champions at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, but it did not escape the big-hitting Argentine that this was an exhibition.

That explains why he hit driver at every turn, with mixed results.

It put him in dire trouble on the opening hole, leading to a triple bogey that left him five shots behind. And it rescued Cabrera at the end of an exciting afternoon at Mid-Ocean Club, with two booming drives on the par-5 18th.

One led to an eagle that put him in a playoff with British Open champion Padraig Harrington.

The other led to a two-putt birdie for an unlikely victory Wednesday.

``I trust my driver very much,'' Cabrera said. ``And I thought it would be nice here to show off a little bit, to show everybody how nice and how far I hit my driver.''

Indeed, some 7,000 fans - that's about 10 percent of the population on Bermuda - gasped when Cabrera pounded the ball off tee.

Even more breathtaking was his finish.

Cabrera finished birdie-eagle to atone for his triple-bogey start, giving him a 2-under 68 to force a playoff with Harrington. He beat the Irishman with a birdie on the third extra hole to get the Grand Slam off to a great start in its new home in the Atlantic.

``The only thing I can say is it was complicated after the first hole, and I was able to come back,'' he said. ``And that was a great thing.''

Harrington is never speechless, but he was searching for words after closing with a 69, not making a bogey over the last eight holes.

He had not trailed in the Grand Slam for the 32 consecutive holes until he found a bunker off the tee at the par-5 18th on the third extra hole, barely got the next shot out and was still 4 feet away for par when Cabrera tapped in the winning birdie.

``I wasn't happy with any part of my game,'' Harrington said. ``I worked really hard to keep myself in that position to stay in front. It's a lot easier course when you're chasing rather than leading out there. I was beaten by a birdie-eagle. It was a great finish by Angel.''

Not many thought such an entertaining finish was possible. Harrington led by four shot with 11 holes to play and appeared to hold off a revolving door of challenges from the other three players in the field.

Jim Furyk, the replacement when PGA champion Tiger Woods skipped the event for the first time he was eligible, had momentum on his side until he tried to hit a shot he didn't have out of the bunker, knocking it over the green and into the bushes for a triple-bogey 8.

Masters champion Zach Johnson, seven shots behind with 10 holes to play, made up five shots in five holes but couldn't get any closer.

``I couldn't keep track of who was behind me,'' Harrington said.

Cabrera, who rallied from his atrocious start to catch Harrington with an eagle on 11th hole, figured to be the least of Harrington's worries when the Argentine made a sloppy bogey on the 16th after driving some 50 yards short of the green.

``I told my caddie we had to make 2-3 to have a chance,'' Cabrera said.

He got the 2 with an 8-iron into about 10 feet on the 17th as Harrington made par. And the 3 came from his eagle on the 18th, a booming drive and a 4-iron that caught the slope just right and rolled to 4 feet behind the hole. Harrington two-putted for birdie for only the third playoff in the 25-year history of this event, and the first since Woods beat Vijay Singh in 2000 at Poipu Bay.

The playoff holes were the 17th and 18th, which didn't bode well for Harrington.

``It was hard to go into a playoff where he had just gone birdie-eagle,'' he said. ``I didn't see any advantage I had.''

Both missed the 18th green and made pars, and Harrington got up-and-down at the 17th to keep the playoff going. Cabrera pounded another tee shot on the third extra hole at No. 18, hit a 4-iron to 18 feet. He needed only two putts for birdie and the victory after Harrington hit into a deep bunker off the tee and still had 4 feet left for par when it ended.

For the first exhibition in the silly season, these guys were all business.

``I wouldn't have liked to be second here,'' Cabrera said.

Cabrera, who held off Woods and Furyk at Oakmont to capture the U.S. Open for his first major, earned $600,000.

Furyk finished with a flurry, making four birdies on the last five holes. That wasn't enough to recover from his triple bogey, but he closed with a 67 to finish third at 138 and earn $250,000.

``I fought back pretty good, but 11 definitely took my chances away,'' Furyk said.

Johnson needed an eagle on the 18th for any chance of a playoff, but his approach rolled off the green, he chipped to the back of the green and three-putted for a bogey. That gave him a 68 to finish at 139, with last place worth $200,000.

``I just didn't want to finish fifth,'' Johnson said.

Harrington's only big mistake came at the ninth, when he hooked his tee shot into the bushes. Despite getting plenty of directions from fans across the fairway, he never found his ball and wound up with a double bogey.

That put some drama into the back nine, setting up a big finish and an unlikely victory for Cabrera.


Bolton have put Archie Knox in charge of first-team affairs following the departure of Sammy Lee by mutual consent on Wednesday.

Knox was appointed by Lee as coaching co-ordinator in August and will look after the team as they prepare for the hugely difficult trip to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal on Saturday.

It is thought the 60-year-old, who left his post as Scotland Under-21 coach, will be assisted by first-team coaches Jimmy Phillips and Ricky Sbragia.

Knox is a hugely experienced coach and was in charge of Scotland's youth set-up before joining Bolton. Prior to taking the Scotland role in July 2006, he had worked as an assistant to Walter Smith at Rangers and Everton and also to Sir Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen and Manchester United.

Lee left Bolton by mutual consent on Wednesday after a poor start to the season.

The Lancashire club have taken just five points from their first nine Barclays Premier League games, only goal difference keeping them off the bottom of the table.

Lee succeeded Sam Allardyce as manager at the Reebok Stadium towards the end of last season, with the latter later joining Newcastle. General manager Frank McParland has also left the club.

Under Lee, Bolton progressed to the group stages of the UEFA Cup - but their league form has been a major cause for concern.

Former boss Allardyce returned to the club on the opening day of the season as Newcastle cruised to a 3-1 victory.

Defeats at Fulham and Portsmouth followed, before a 3-0 home victory over Reading briefly eased the pressure. However, further losses to Everton, Birmingham and Chelsea, and a home draw with bottom side Derby, left Bolton in the relegation zone - and Lee's cause was not helped by off-field issues.


England's superstar players have admitted they can scarcely bear to contemplate the humiliating prospect of spending next summer home alone while their continental European counterparts strut their stuff at Euro 2008.

That is the painful reality facing Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and co. after their 2-1 defeat by Russia in Moscow on Wednesday evening -- and there is no doubting that it hurts.

Russia will qualify ahead of England if they beat Israel and Andorra in their final two matches in group E and a disbelieving Gerrard admitted: "I can't believe it's out of our hands now.

"We've worked so hard over the last five or six months to put ourselves in the driving seat and make us favourites to go through.

"When we're 1-0 up we started to believe we were nearly there and had one foot there. But football is a cruel game, and chances, decisions and mistakes change football matches.

"It's unthinkable to have a European Championship finals without England, but as players we've got to take responsibility."

The prospect of missing out on Euro 2008 is particularly harsh on Gerrard who has produced some outstanding performances in the qualifying tournament, including a two-goal show against Andorra when England were at their lowest ebb.

But he played a part in their defeat in Moscow when, with the score still 1-0, he missed a glorious chance to wrap up victory.

The Liverpool midfielder was completely unmarked 10 yards from goal after Russia inexplicably allowed a free-kick to reach him -- but struck his effort wide of the left-hand post.

"We were in control, we were 1-0 up and the game-plan was working perfectly," said the Liverpool captain.

"I had a great chance to make it 2-0 myself and then we had a mad five or 10 minutes when the game changed in their favour.

"The chance was one of them where I didn't expect to have so much time and seemed to be waiting for an eternity for it to come down. I tried to get as much contact on it as possible, but it wasn't to be. I'm disappointed with the chance."

England's hopes of victory turned on the decision of referee Luis Medina Cantalejo who punished Rooney for a needlessly pulling back Konstantin Zyryanov, even though the challenge looked to be outside the area.

"We were hard done by with the penalty," insisted Gerrard. "Wayne tells us it was out of the box and it looked outside the box. The linesman didn't give it. The referee seemed to overrule the linesman and gave a penalty that wasn't.

"Obviously the lads were very down and it gave them a lot of confidence. We were in control until then and the penalty decision turned the whole game. But even so we should have been stronger and seen the game out."

Rooney added: "Two lapses of concentration have cost us the game - I think their penalty might have been outside (the penalty box), but the referee has given it.

"We're all very disappointed but we have to hope Israel can help us out."

The despair in the England camp was mirrored by the jubilation of the Russian players, particularly two-goal striker Roman Pavlyuchenko.

"I'm happy we have brought some joy to our fans, they really deserved it," Pavlyuchenko said. "The fans were unbelievable! They were really driving us forward. Truly they were the 12th player on the pitch."

"Now we can decide our fate ourselves. We need to win both remaining matches to get a pass to the 2008 Euro finals and I believe we can do it."


Australia may have already won the series but India's heroics in the dead rubber win impressed captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

The two-wicket victory in the seventh ODI was not enough for India as Australia ran out 4-2 winners in the seven-match contest but MS Dhoni was glad India bowed out on a high.

"This victory was important for us as we wanted to finish the series on a positive note," said Dhoni.

The win was also important for Team India who take on arch-rivals Pakistan next month. There will be five ODIs and three Tests between the two arch-rivals.

Dhoni singled out man-of-the-match Murali Kartik, who first took a career best six-wicket haul and then scored crucial unbeaten 21 runs to see the side through.

"Kartik bowled extremely well today. He had a finger injury in his right hand but he was eager to play," Dhoni said.

"In fact he played a big role in India's both wins in the series," Dhoni added.

Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain also praised Kartik's efforts.

"Kartik bowled well today. He bowled well even in his first game. The wicket here was different because the top was a bit soft. Still you have to execute the skills and he did extremely well and deserved every wicket he got.

Ponting also said he was shocked by India's decision to 'rest' Rahul Dravid for the match.

"He's a class player and I was surprised he did not play."

India play Australia in the Twenty20 international on Saturday, 20 October. Who will World T20 champions India field for that game?


Newly-crowned world champion Casey Stoner will attempt to add the Sepang circuit to his list of conquests this Sunday, but rival Valentino Rossi is determined to deny the Australian a victory.

Stoner, who rides for Ducati, has never won in Malaysia in the MotoGP class, while five-time world-champion Rossi and his Yamaha have dominated the long and challenging circuit.

Rossi was the victor of the 2006 race, and he has only finished lower than second at Sepang on one occasion during his MotoGP career.

The Italian won the Malaysian race in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2006, and another triumph would ensure a consolation prize for his efforts this year.

But with the individual, team and constructors titles already in the bag for Stoner and Ducati, the main interest in the MotoGP class lies in whether the Australian can chalk up another win, and who will take second place in the premier class.

"I'm still trying just as hard to win races now that we've got the title, because every race is as important as the others to me, but being champion does make it different," Stoner said.

"I'm looking forward to Sepang -- it's always been a pretty good circuit for me. I won there two years in a row on the 125 and 250 in 2004 and 2005," he said.

But Rossi said he was intent on spoiling Stoner's party and was targeting the top step of the podium as he aims to finish a difficult season on a high note at his favourite track.

"Our target is unchanged. I did everything I could in Australia but we couldn't challenge Stoner so our target for the final two races is unchanged -- to fight for the win," he said.

Ducati MotoGP project director Livio Suppo said the team was also eyeing a win in Malaysia.

"We go to Malaysia in a very good mood. We hope we can maintain our momentum at Sepang," he said.

"We hope to score another podium because so far this season we have had a Ducati rider on every podium apart from Jerez," he added.

The penultimate round of the year, which takes place at the Sepang circuit, sees the riders and teams preparing for a final push for pride, points and positions in the MotoGP World Championship.

Rossi currently holds a 29-point advantage over Spain's Dani Pedrosa, who rides for Honda, with 50 still up for grabs as they head to a track where both riders were on the podium last season.

Riders said Wednesday that 22-year-old Stoner, who is on top form this season, would blaze past Rossi in Malaysia.

"Casey Stoner will be the man to beat this weekend," said Suzuki's John Hopkins.

"He has been in hot form throughout the season and I expect him to be in the same awesome form this weekend."

But Hopkins said it would be a challenging race this weekend for all the riders as they compete on a newly resurfaced Sepang track.

"Basically, it will be a new experience for everybody as we do not know whether the tyres' grip will favour the Bridgestone or the Michelin tyres," he said.

"So, we will just need to wait and see," said Hopkins, who rides a Suzuki machine on Bridgestone tyres.

The Anglo-American rider sits at fourth overall with 165 points after the Australian Grand Prix.

After Malaysia, the final race will be in Valencia on November 4.


South African penpix for World Cup final with England at the Stade de France on Sunday (kick-off 1900 GMT) (age-caps):

Percy Montgomery 33-93

Dashing fullback, whose Hollywood film star look belies a brilliant running and kicking game. Has the chance to make up for double World Cup disappointment of losing 1999 semi and missing 2003 edition because of suspension.

JP Pietersen 21-14

Has emerged from Bryan Habana's shadow here and shown he is as effective a finisher as him. Jake White highlighted him as being potentially a star of the tournament and thus far has been proved right.

Jaque Fourie 24-36

Bustling centre, tough tackler but also a fairly prolific try scorer and can show up on either wing. Quick-thinking opportunistic try against Tonga exemplified his form at the tournament.

Francois Steyn 20-15

The young star has shown no nerves here and is a superb kicker from long range, either with drop goals or penalties. Slightly let down by temperament and was yellow-carded against Tonga.

Bryan Habana 24-34

Closing in on all-time Springbok tryscoring record. The descendant of Spanish ancestors has much more to his game than just pure speed, thinks on his feet and outfoxes opponents regularly with jinking runs and brilliant chips which he then collects and touches down as he did against Argentina.

Butch James 28-25

Has been one of Springboks unsung heroes here. Toned down mightily on his former trademark of rash and high tackles and has played with calm authority, kicking when necessary, but also opening up the backs as well.

Fourie du Preez 25-37

Has lived up to his reputation of being the best scrum-half in the world, especially when he terrorised England the first time round. Made a remarkable comeback from injury last season and looks set to rival Joost van der Westhuizen as the 'Boks best ever scrum-half.

Dannie Roussouw 29-30

Hard as nails No 8, who took some serious knocks against the Tongans. Solid tackler and not bad runner with the ball either and was deservedly named man of the match in the semi-final with Argentina.

Juan Smith 26-40

Perhaps the most impressive of the 'Boks back row in the tournament, both in close and open play and has scored several excellent tries. Tarnished his image somewhat with yellow card in semi-final for high tackle.

Schalk Burger 24-37

Has not been as impressive as expected, a two match ban hardly helped after the opening win over Samoa. Still waiting for the big game from him, though, there were signs of him returning to his best in his performance against Argentina.

Victor Matfield 30-66

Truly outstanding World Cup, as one would expect from probably the finest lock to have come out of South African rugby. As good running and passing the ball as in the lineout. Formidable competitor.

Bakkies Botha 28-43

About as good as Matfield in the World Cup and that says it all.

CJ van der Linde 27-46

His burly look hides a speedy tryscoring prop. 'Boks will hope he has fully recovered from his knee problem, because he faces a tough time against the England front row.

John Smit 29-73

Another to have had a very good tournament, who knows all the tricks and more in the book. Outstanding captain, who has done more than anyone to learn the hard lessons from the 2003 debacle, when he was mostly a replacement.

Os du Randt 35-79

Legendary prop and would emulate Aussies like John Eales were he to win a second World Cup. Still one of the best at his job even at 35, as he has proved thusfar here, but Sunday may test his ageing limbs too far.

Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Johannes Muller, Wickus van Heerden, Ruan Pienaar, Andre Pretorius, Wynand Olivier


Penpix of the England starting XV for the World Cup final against South Africa at the Stade de France Saturday:

Jason Robinson (Age: 33; Caps: 50)

Elusive runner whose ability to evade the first tackle can make him a dangerous opponent. The scorer of England's only try in the 2003 final, the former rugby league international is set to retire after Saturday's match.

Paul Sackey (Age: 27; Caps: 9)

Scored two tries in both of England's World Cup wins over Tonga and Samoa after coming late to international rugby - he only made his debut in November.

Mathew Tait (Age: 21; Caps: 18)

Dumped on his backside by Wales's Gavin Henson on England debut in 2005 when still a teenager and then dropped, he has fought his way back. Yet to show full range of talents on world stage.

Mike Catt (Age: 36, Caps: 74)

Recalled several times in a 13-year international career, he made the most of Andy Farrell's injury when brought back for the quarter-final against Australia. Shrewd playmaker who has proved to be calm in pressure situations.

Mark Cueto (Age: 27; Caps: 23)

Hasn't featured since the Pool match over Tonga, he has been given another chance following Josh Lewsey's tournament-ending hamstring in the semi-final win over France.

Jonny Wilkinson (Age: 28; Caps: 64)

Talismanic fly-half who, as well as being England's leading points scorer, during this tournament went to the top of the World Cup scoring charts. Come through a wretched run of injuries since landing winning drop-goal in 2003 final but has looked fallible with goalkicking in France.

Andy Gomarsall (Age: 33; Caps: 32)

England's third choice scrum-half when they arrived, the bubbly No 9 has forced his way back in, having been left without a club at the end of last season, and has been increasingly influential in the knockout stages.

Nick Easter (Age: 29; Caps: 11)

In space of three years gone from second division rugby to England No 8, forcing former captain and World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio onto the bench.

Lewis Moody (Age: 29; Caps: 51)

Switched between openside and blindside flanker during a stop-start Test career, he is renowned for having little regard for personal safety and an all-action approach although composure can occasionally go astray.

Martin Corry (Age: 34; Caps: 63)

Former captain, he led the side in France when Phil Vickery was suspended. Increasingly effective at doing the 'donkey-work' associated with the blindside flanker role.

Ben Kay (Age: 31; Caps: 52)

Dropped a pass during the 2003 World Cup final which would have spared England agony of extra-time. Team will look to him to organise lineout.

Simon Shaw (Age: 34; Caps: 42)

The nearly man of English rugby after missing out on the 1995, 1999 and 2003 World Cups, he has finally managed to convince a Test coach of his worth having been a second row mainstay of Wasps's trophy-winning teams.

Phil Vickery (Age: 31; Caps: 59)

Nicknamed 'Raging Bull', the tighthead faces a tough battle in anchoring the scrum against South Africa. Missed Pool match against the Springboks through suspension. One of four members of the 2003 final starting line-up in this XV.

Mark Regan (Age: 35; Caps: 42)

Veteran hooker, he is known for his hard, 'streetwise' approach and for plenty of verbal sparring with his opponents.

Andrew Sheridan (Age: 28; Caps: 19)

Brilliant performance in the scrum against the Wallabies, the 19st (122 kg) forward hasn't always fared so well against teams such as South Africa who are renowned for their forward power.

Replacements: George Chuter, Matt Stevens, Lawrence Dallaglio, Joe Worsley, Peter Richards, Toby Flood, Danny Hipkiss


Michael Schumacher said he is going to watch one of the most thrilling climaxes to a Formula One season from his sofa in Switzerland.

The seven-times world champion, who has been attending many of the races this season as an advisor to Ferrari, revealed he would not be attending the three-way showdown in Brazil.

"The world championship finale in Brazil will be a great battle," he said ahead of Sunday's race.

"I can well think back to the tension a weekend like this one means to the driver and to be honest, I'm quite happy to be watching the race from my sofa at home this time.”

The former Ferrari ace revealed he would be willing former rival Kimi Räikkönen home to the title in what has been an “extremely exciting” season.

“Not only as a fan but more so as a driver you dream of a big fight like this and it goes without saying, that I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Kimi and our team," he said.

"I'm sure it's going to be a thrilling race - just like the whole year has been, in my opinion, an extremely exciting championship.

"I was happy to see that no matter what happened we always remained competitive and consistent, despite all the changes within the team and the technical problems we were facing sometimes. The guys have done a great job.”


Mercedes has given the green light to McLaren to drop Spain's two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso from the team for next season, a Spanish sporting daily said Thursday.

Mercedes bosses met in Germany "and reached the conclusion it is in the best interests of the company and the (McLaren-Mercedes) team to let go of the Spaniard at the end of the year," the Marca daily said.

The decision was motivated by the poor personal relations between Alonso and both his British team-mate Lewis Hamilton and McLaren boss Ron Dennis, Marca said, quoting sources close to McLaren-Mercedes.

It was "backed yesterday (Wednesday) by all the partners and the team," including Dennis.

"This situation means that all roads for Alonso lead to Renault," the team with which the Spaniard won world titles in 2005 and 2006, the newspaper said.

Renault "promised him a place with the possibility of winning the title and is currently taking steps to find the funds necessary to sign him on a contract equivalent" to the one he has with McLaren, Marca said.

It noted that Alonso could not join Ferrari, which has Brazilian driver Felipe Massa under contract through 2010 and Finland's Kimi Raikkonen to 2009.

The Spaniard fell out with Dennis and Hamilton over his treatment at the British team since switching from Renault.

As world champion he expected to be treated as number one and became increasingly irritated at what he perceived to be McLaren's favouritism towards Hamilton.

Rookie Hamilton tops the Formula One drivers standings, four points ahead of Alonso with the last race of the season scheduled for Sunday in Brazil. Raikkonen, in third place, also has a chance to take his first ever world title.


AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has warned potential suitors of his star Kaka that the Rossoneri will not be tempted into selling the Brazilian forward.

The 25-year-old Kaka, whose 10 goals made him the top scorer in last season's Champions League, had been Real Madrid's top target this summer while recent reports have linked the FIFA World Player of the Year nominee with a move to Chelsea in a £100m deal.

But the Rossoneri supremo said on the AC Milan website: "Kaka is very happy at Milan and has never expressed any intention of wanting to leave. As long as he is proud to wear this shirt, there is no economical reason that would take him away from us. There is no sum of money we couldn't refuse for him."


Rolando Bianchi will consider his future at Manchester City in December after admitting his disappointment at his lack of playing time for the Blues so far.

The Italian, Sven-Goran Eriksson's first signing as City boss in a move costing almost £9million from Reggina, has started only three of the team's nine Premier League games so far and been used as a substitute in a further four matches.

If Bianchi does not see more action, he has hinted he may look to move on when the January transfer window opens, saying: "I have set a reasonable deadline of December for things to change and then we will have to consider options as I don't like playing five or 10 minutes of games."