Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova to win her sixth Australian Open and 19th Grand Slam title. The American world number one served superbly to win a pulsating final 6-3 7-6 (7-5) after Sharapova fought back in the second set. Williams, 33, moves past Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert with a 19th major singles title. She has now beaten Russia’s Sharapova, the world number two, 16 times in a row dating back to 2004. “I have to congratulate Maria, she played a wonderful match and she really pushed me,” said Williams. “She played so well and gave me a great final not only for the fans, but for women’s tennis. I’m really honoured to play her in the final.” Despite feeling so unwell during a rain delay in the first set that she left the court to vomit, Williams hit 18 aces and 38 winners as she won in one hour and 51 minutes.
Colombian-born singer Shakira has given birth to her second child, the second son for her and longtime love Gerard Pique, Barcelona star and Spain International. She announced the arrival of her son, Sasha Pique Mebarak on her website and explained the meaning behind his name. “The name Sasha is of Greek and Russian descent and means ‘defender of mankind’ and ‘warrior,'” her blog states. Sasha arrived Thursday night via C-section at hospital Quirón-Teknon de Barcelona. Sacha joins big brother Milan in the family fold. Although Shakira kept a fairly low profile during her second pregnancy, which was first revealed in August, the 37-year-old blonde beauty has always been open about her plans to expand her family. “I would love to have eight or nine kids with Gerard,” she told Latina magazine. “My own fútbol team.” Pretty ambitious, right?
Nigeria’s Flying Eagles on Friday at the National Stadium, Abuja, maintained their unbeaten run in the ongoing Super 6 pre-season tournament following their 4-1 defeat of Dolphins of Port Harcourt. The result gave the Flying Eagles the Super 6 title with 12 points, even ahead of the last game tomorrow against the national U-23 side, the Dream Team which is second on the table with eight points.
The Super Six tourney is organized as a tune up games ahead of the start of Nigerian Premier League. Aside the Flying Eagles and U-23 Dream Team, other clubs involved in the tournament are Dolphins of Port Harcourt, Enyimba of Aba, Worri Wolves and Kano Pillars. The tournament is on a league basis where all the sides face themselves.
Fifa presidential candidate David Ginola says he will not stand in May’s election, BBC reports. The Frenchman, who played for several English clubs including Newcastle and Tottenham, did not receive the required five nominations needed to continue his bid. “Contrary to some reports, I did not withdraw. Just as I did as a player, I gave everything until the final whistle,” he says. “Today I have mixed emotions. There is disappointment, anger but there is also hope. I’m very proud of my campaign and the policies I proposed to reform football.”
Stoke City defender Robert Huth has been given a two-game suspension and fined 15,000 pounds after he admitted breaching rules on social media comments, the Football Association has announced. The FA charges related to Huth, 30, responding to a Twitter account that posts sexual images of individuals and asks users to guess their gender. A statement on the FA’s official website read: “Robert Huth will serve a two-match suspension with immediate effect after he admitted breaching FA rules in relation to comments he made on social media. “The Stoke City defender was charged in relation to comments which were indecent and/or improper and/or brought the game into disrepute, contrary to FA Rule E3(1). “Further to this, it was considered an ‘aggravated breach’ as defined in Rule E3(2), as it included a reference to gender and/or gender reassignment.” Earlier this month, Huth apologised for interactions with the Twitter account. A series of tweets from Huth’s official account showed the former Chelsea and Middlesbrough player taking part and making indecent remarks. The German deleted the tweets and posted a message saying: “Clearly, no offence was meant or directed to anyone, but apologies if I’ve offended anyone.” The defender has also been ordered to complete a mandatory education course by the FA.
Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick has been ruled out for up to a month with a muscle rupture. Manager Louis van Gaal told the club’s official website today that the 33-year-old will miss around four weeks of action. The England international has been praised for his role in improving United’s results since returning from an ankle ligament injury in November. The Red Devils have won 63.6% of the 13 games that Carrick has started this season, compared to just a 30% win rate without him in the team. Van Gaal added that Ashley Young is nearing a return following a hamstring problem which has sidelined him since New Year’s Day.
Kenyan Rita Jeptoo, winner of the Boston and Chicago marathons for the last two years, has been banned from the sport for two years after failing a drugs test, Athletics Kenya said on Friday. “AK followed due process in her (Rita Jeptoo) matter and it was appropriate that she serves a two-year ban,” Athletics Kenya chief executive Isaac Kamande told Reuters. Jeptoo has denied doping, telling reporters last year that the accusations against her were “lies”.
Aston Villa have signed Manchester City winger Scott Sinclair on a season-long loan deal – with a view to a permanent transfer, BBC reports. The former Chelsea and Swansea City player, 25, has struggled to break into Manuel Pellegrini’s side. “I believe I have my best years ahead of me,” Sinclair said. Villa manager Paul Lambert said: “He got a great move to Manchester City, where it didn’t work out as well as he probably would have wanted.” Sinclair joined City on a four-year deal from Swansea in 2012 but made just three starts and 19 appearances in total. He has played just 25 minutes this season and has not featured for City since coming on late in the 2-2 draw with Burnley in December. Last season was spent on loan at West Brom, but he played just eight times in the Barclays Premier League. Sinclair told Aston Villa’s official website: “It’s taken a few weeks but I’m happy to be here, to be in the building and to be signing for the club and ready to play some football. “It’s nice to be able to get settled somewhere and be a part of something going forward. “I spoke to the manager and he gave me his views on what he wants from me here at Villa. I am still hungry to play football, that’s what I told him, and I’m looking forwarding to getting started, hopefully playing every week and enjoying my football.”
Top seed Novak Djokovic defeated defending champion Stan Wawrinka in five sets to set up a meeting with Andy Murray in Sunday’s Australian Open final. The pair clashed for the third year running, but it failed to live up to the five-set marathons at Melbourne Park in 2013 and 2014 with a tension-filled clash going the way of the Serb 7-6 (7-1) 3-6 6-4 4-6 6-0 in exactly three and a half hours. Djokovic now has the chance to become just the second man to win more than four Australian Open titles – Roy Emerson won six between 1961 and 1967. “As it was the last two years we played five sets, I was ready for the battle,” Djokovic said in an on-court interview. “It was a great battle, we pushed each other to the limit and credit to Stan for playing well. “I think I played well up to 2-1 and a break up and then I played a couple of loose games, I allowed him to come back into the match and Stan is a quality player. He knows how to use his opportunities. I made my life very complicated. “The opening game in the fifth set was very close and making the break was a crucial turning point. My game depends on how well I move and I was too defensive in the second and fourth set and Stan stepped it up after that. In the fifth set I managed to stay consistent and serve well when I needed to and am so glad to go through.” Djokovic beat Wawrinka 12-10 in the fifth set in the fourth round before claiming his third straight title in 2013, but Wawrinka ended the world No 1’s 25-match unbeaten run in the quarter-finals last year, winning 9-7 in the fifth.
Chelsea striker Diego Costa has been banned for three matches for stamping on Liverpool’s Emre Can, BBC reports. The 26-year-old will miss Saturday’s Premier League clash with Manchester City at Stamford Bridge as well as games against Aston Villa and Everton. The Football Association charge, which Costa denied, related to an incident in the 12th minute of Tuesday’s League Cup semi-final second leg. Costa, a £32m signing, has 17 goals in 19 Premier League games this season. The incident was not seen by the match officials but caught on video.
Sauber has become the latest F1 team to unveil its challenger for the 2015 season after pulling the wraps off its Ferrari-powered C34. One of the longest-serving teams on the F1 grid, Sauber comes into 2015 eager to put a desperately disappointing 2014 season behind it after failing to score a single point for the first time in its 23 year history. However, for 2015, Sauber has adopted an entirely new driver line-up with Marcus Ericsson moving from Caterham and former Williams F1 test driver Felipe Nasr stepping up from the GP2 Series. Notably, the car itself will take on a new look with Nasr’s personal backing from Banco Do Brasil contributing to an all-new blue and yellow livery, while the C34 adopts to the new, flatter noses symptomatic of the current regulations, albeit with a slight ‘thumb’ extension. Indeed, following the disappointments of the 2014 campaign, team principal Monisha Kaltenborn is confident the new driver line-up spur the team to greater results in 2015. “2014 was a very disappointing year. However, this is in the past, and we now focus on what comes next. We have learned our lessons and are confident for the new season. We have to improve, and be able to fight for championship points.” “I am delighted about our two new drivers who bring a breath of fresh air. Both are young, talented and highly motivated. On their way to Formula 1 both stood out through victories in Formula BMW and Formula 3. Both then finished this career progression off in the GP2-Series. “While Marcus looks back to one season in Formula 1, Felipe will have his rookie year in which he comes fully prepared due to his role as test and reserve driver at Williams last year. I feel confident with regard to our drivers.”
Toyota has officially confirmed it will return to the World Rally Championship in 2017 with a Yaris WRC, autosport reports. Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda announced during a press conference in Tokyo on Friday that the world’s biggest carmaker would end a WRC absence stretching back to the end of 1999. The firm’s motorsport arm – Cologne-based Toyota Motorsport GmbH – will develop the Yaris WRC for the next two seasons before its world championship debut. The Tokyo press conference was the first time the Yaris WRC had been shown in public. Toyota has officially confirmed it will return to the World Rally Championship in 2017 with a Yaris WRC. Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda announced during a press conference in Tokyo on Friday that the world’s biggest carmaker would end a WRC absence stretching back to the end of 1999. The firm’s motorsport arm – Cologne-based Toyota Motorsport GmbH – will develop the Yaris WRC for the next two seasons before its world championship debut. The Tokyo press conference was the first time the Yaris WRC had been shown in public. Toyoda said: “When I was in Finland last year, many fans asked me when Toyota would return to the WRC.”People talked about Toyota’s history in the WRC. I was filled with surprise and gratitude that so many people still remembered. I started to feel strongly that we must return while people still remember. “We are doing this to make better cars, to make people smile.” He described Toyota’s 2017 programme as a new start rather than a comeback, given how long it had been away. “We decided to return to the WRC and we plan to start competition again in 2017,” said Toyoda. “Last time we competed was in 1999, that makes me think we are not announcing a return… but perhaps a start. “We must begin again from scratch and carefully prepare both team and cars.” WRC Promoter’s Oliver Ciesla welcomed Toyota back to the WRC, saying its arrival was a major endorsement for the series, which currently has three works teams in Volkswagen, Citroen and Hyundai alongside Fords run by ex-factory squad M-Sport. “Toyota has a long and distinguished history in motorsport, particularly in world rallying, and we’re delighted to welcome one of the automobile industry’s giants back to WRC,” said Ciesla. “Toyota’s announcement brings a fifth manufacturer into WRC, including three of the world’s five biggest-selling auto companies. “The last season in which so many manufacturers were represented was 2006.” Toyota departed the WRC as champion team in 1999, having clinched a seventh world title in 10 years.
Crystal Palace have confirmed the signings of Jordon Mutch and Shola Ameobi. Mutch has signed a four-and-a-half year deal at Selhurst Park after a six-month stay at rivals Queens Park Rangers. Former Newcastle forward Ameobi joins as a free agent on a deal until the end of the season, having left Turkish side Gaziantep in December. The 33-year-old forward scored 53 league goals during his time on Tyneside. Mutch made 11 appearances in all competitions for QPR. He started his career at Birmingham and moved to Cardiff in 2012, featuring 60 times for the Welsh club. The former England Under-21 international helped the Bluebirds secure promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history before switching to QPR.
AC Milan have signed Italian international Mattia Destro from Serie A rivals AS Roma. Milan have yet to release details of the deal but Destro, 23, is reported by Reuters to have moved to the club on loan with a view to a permanent deal. The ex-Genoa and Siena striker scored five times in just eight starts for second-placed Roma this season. Destro was in Italy’s provisional squad for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil but was left of the final 23-man squad. AC Milan had earlier announced on their website that Destro had arrived in the city for a medical at the club. They have equally unveiled him after his medicals came out well. .
Chelsea striker Diego Costa will contest the violent conduct charge he faces over an alleged stamp on Liverpool’s Emre Can on Tuesday, BBC reports. The Spain international was charged by the Football Association on Wednesday over the incident. He is being charged for the first of two alleged stamps that were not seen at the time by referee Michael Oliver. Costa also appeared to stand on central defender Martin Skrtel in the Liverpool penalty box in the second half. The first-half incident involving Can took place close to the technical area and prompted an angry response from the Liverpool player. The disciplinary case is now set to be heard by an independent regulatory commission on Friday, which will make a final ruling over whether Costa must serve the suspension for his charge. Should the forward be found guilty, the first of a three-match ban would come in Chelsea’s top-of-the-table clash against Manchester City on Saturday. It is understood Costa is appealing with the full backing of Chelsea. Chelsea cancelled their pre-match news conference for the game against City on Thursday afternoon. Costa could also miss games against Aston Villa and Everton. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said after the League Cup semi-final: “He could easily hurdle over the young player and he directs his studs right on to his ankle, which could have been nasty.” Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho said after the game that he feels the Brazil-born player is being targeted unfairly. The Blues, who won 2-1 on aggregate, will face London rivals Tottenham in the final at Wembley on Sunday, 1 March.
Crystal Palace have signed midfielder Jordon Mutch from Queens Park Rangers for an undisclosed fee, BBC reports. The 23-year-old has agreed a four-and-a-half year deal at Palace to end his short stay at Loftus Road, having only joined Harry Redknapp’s side in August 2014 from Cardiff City. Mutch made 11 appearances in all competitions for QPR. He started his career at Birmingham and moved to Cardiff in 2012, featuring 60 times for the Welsh club. The former England Under-21 international helped the Bluebirds secure promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history before switching to QPR.
Stoke City have confirmed that Peter Crouch and Glenn Whelan have extended their stays at the Britannia Stadium by a further two years, FourFourTwo reports. Peter Crouch and Glenn Whelan have penned new two-year contract extensions with Premier League club Stoke City. The duo’s new terms will see them remain at the Britannia Stadium until 2017. News of Crouch’s new contract will be particularly pleasing to Stoke fans, after the striker was repeatedly linked with a move to QPR. Stoke manager Mark Hughes told the club’s official website: “We’ve been talking to both players for a while and it’s pleasing that both want to stay and be a part of what we are striving to achieve at the club. “They are both fantastic professionals who had contributed a great deal to Stoke City long before I joined the club and have continued to do so. I’m delighted they are staying with us for at least another couple of years.” Chief executive Tony Scholes added: “Players like Glenn and Peter are very much the backbone of our squad and we’re delighted they have committed to spend at least another two years with the club. “They have both proved to be fantastic signings for Stoke City. The experience they bring to bear on the side, both on and off the pitch, cannot be under-estimated and they still have so much to offer.” Former England international Crouch moved to Staffordshire in August 2011 and has gone on to score 28 Premier League goals for the club. He took to Twitter to express his happiness at his new deal, posting: “Delighted to have signed an extension with @stokecity loved my time here so far looking forward to playing a part in coming years #SCFC.” Midfielder Whelan has also proved to be a valuable member of Stoke’s first team since joining from Championship club Sheffield Wednesday in January 2008. The Republic of Ireland international helped the club achieve promotion later that year, and has continued to gain regular action following Hughes’ arrival as the successor to Tony Pulis.
Guinea will play in the African Nations Cup quarterfinals after qualifying instead of Mali by the drawing of lots at a ceremony in Malabo on Thursday, Supersport reports. Lots were drawn to determine second place in Group D after both countries finished level after their three opening round matches. Ivory Coast won the group. Three successive 1-1 draws for both teams meant they could not be separated by points, their head-to-head result, goal difference or goals scored. Guinea will now play Ghana in Sunday’s quarterfinal in Malabo at 1600GMT. “The gods of football fortune smiled on us. It has been a long road up to now,” Amara Dabo, financial director of the Guinea Sports Ministry, who participated in the draw, told Reuters. A representative from both countries drew a ball each from a bowl with Mali’s football association president Boubacar Diarra going first and pulling out the one that placed them third in the group and out of the running. Dabo then drew the ball that confirmed his side in second place behind group winners Ivory Coast. “Unfortunately we have to split up two teams that are even, perfectly joined, but we had no other choice but to proceed to the drawing of lots,” said CAF president Issa Hayatou at the draw in Equatorial Guinea. It was only the third time in African Nations Cup history that a draw had to be conducted to separate two teams after the group phase. Previous drawing of lots in 1972 and 1988 favoured Congo and Algeria.
McLaren have officially unveiled the car that Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button will race in 2015, the Honda-powered MP4-30, Formular 1 reports.
According to the Woking-based team, the new machine, which also features a revised red, black and silver colour scheme, is a ‘thoroughly refined evolution’ of their 2014 car with some ‘exciting new technical DNA’. The MP4-30 has been extensively developed over the winter, with McLaren saying that their engineering department – which was boosted by the arrival of renowned aerodynamicist Peter Prodromou from Red Bull last September – had gained the conviction to embark on a number of changes of direction. The result, according to McLaren, is a solid base package which will offer up a number of new development paths for their engineers, aerodynamicists and drivers to pursue during the season. Images of the new machine show a refined nose-box section (to comply with new regulations on nose height and shape), slim rear-end packaging (particularly around the gearbox) and tightly contoured bodywork under which Honda’s brand-new RA615H Hybrid power unit is installed. Although admitting that their partnership with Honda is still ‘a work in progress’, McLaren are confident that the Japanese manufacturer, with whom they won eight world titles and 44 Grands Prix between 1988 and 1992, has ‘the know-how, expertise and the muscle’ to make rapid progress and keep pushing development all season long. Speaking about McLaren’s first Honda-powered car in 23 years, Ron Dennis, the McLaren Group’s chairman and CEO, commented: “Although our renewed alliance (with Honda) began again many months ago, the launch of the McLaren-Honda MP4-30 marks the start of a lengthy journey. “We’ve come a long way already and, although there’s a lot of work to do before we can expect to repeat the level of success we enjoyed together 25-or-so years ago, it’s already clear that there’s enormous synergy and potential in our partnership, and I’m positive that, together, we’ll get to where we want to be: winning Grands Prix and eventually World Championships as McLaren-Honda.” Yasuhisa Arai, Honda’s senior managing officer, shared Dennis’ enthusiasm about both the new car and the reforged partnership. “As you can see with the new MP4-30, we’ve dedicated ourselves as one team with McLaren to creating a new car that compromises on nothing – either power or aerodynamics. “Yet, in the midst of the excitement, both myself and our engineers are 100 per cent focused in both Sakura and Milton Keynes to prepare for Jerez and beyond. We’re confident that the technology is there, and I’m looking forward to see how it will perform. “We’re about to commence a long season, with numerous challenges, but Honda is determined to face them head-on. After all, we’re here to drive Formula One’s technology forward and give our fans a thrilling ride.” The MP4-30 is expected to make its track debut at the start of pre-season testing in Spain this Sunday.