The #1 Seed Fabio Fognini Safely Through to the Quarterfinals of the Croatia Open.

Last year in the ATP Croatia Open, Fabio Fognini battled his way into the final of the men’s singles event only to end up losing to Tommy Robredo. This year, Fognini is seeded #1 for the tournament, and he’s looking to win.

Playing Albert Montanes to reach the quarterfinals, the two players tested each other in the opening games, each breaking each other’s serve early on. But both were fairly evenly matched, and the first set predictably went to a tiebreak. However, Fognini took charge of the tiebreak early on to get a 6-1 lead and, although he squandered a few points, managed to win the tiebreak, 7-6.

Just as Montanes seemed a little down in the dumps from losing the first set, it was like someone had lit Fognini’s blue touch paper – he was on fire in the second set. Losing just three points in the second set, Fognini closed the proceedings, 6-0, and advances into the quarterfinals.

Another game worthy of mention at the Croatia Open was the battle between 17-year old Borna Coric and Horacio Zeballos.

Coric finished the last season as the #2 junior – behind Alexander Zverev, who got through to the semifinals in Hamburg, Germany a couple of weeks ago. Coric also beat the #7 seed for the tournament a few days ago, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, in two straight sets.

Coric and Zeballos both seemed well-matched in the first set, neither player giving up their serve, and Coric just edging Zeballos out in the tiebreak to win the first set. Seeming a little more relaxed, Coric broke Zeballos in the sixth game to go to 4-2, and then served out for a place in the quarterfinals where he’ll meet Fognini.

Talking to the press after the match, Coric said, “I played a little worse than the last match, but who cares, is an important victory. Today there were a little slower conditions, it is difficult to serve, Zeballos did return better than Roger-Vasselin.”

Sources: Sport Live, Tennis World USA, ATP World Tour

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Sebastian Bourdais and Mike Conway Win Indy Races in Toronto, Canada.

The weather on Saturday in Toronto, Canada was so bad that the Verizon IndyCar series was put on hold – and the race was scheduled to be run after Sunday’s race.

The first race on Sunday started off with a bang – barely a lap into the proceedings when there was a red flag flown for a crash caused by Luca Filippe. The mess took around 30 minutes to clean up, Takuma Sato was out of the race and, on the restart, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud were right at the back of the grid.

Filippe got his just deserts 17 laps later when his front suspension failed. And another fan-favorite, Ryan Hunter-Reay, found himself out of the race after bumping wheels with Tony Kaanan.

In the end, the winner was unexpected, someone we hadn’t really seen excel since he won four consecutive Champ Car World Series titles between 2004-2007. Sebastian Bourdais – driving the No. 11 KVSH Racing Chevrolet – got his 32nd win.

Helio Castroneves – this season’s series leader – came in second, and just behind him was Kanaan.

In the second race, the ominous dark clouds were back to threaten it for the second time in 24 hours. Nevertheless, the race started on time, and it was just as full as crashes as the first race.

Amongst the drivers that never came close to see the checkered flag were Canada’s own James Hinchcliffe, as well as Juan Pablo Montoya, Pagenaud, and Graham Rahal.

Finishing first, Mike Conway put his victory down to his decision to change to dry, slick tires, “It was really difficult conditions in the wet and we were kind of struggling for a bit, but as soon as I saw the path and a dry line, I knew it was time to come in. It was great from there and we just kind of took off and just controlled the race. So, it was good fun out there.”

Kanaan came in second but told the press how he almost threw the race away at the start, “We chose at the beginning of the race to run a rain setup because we knew the rain was coming. So, on the last restart, I knew that I was a little bit of a sitting duck. I made a really bad mistake and I got too excited – one of my typical starts, I made a mistake and I had to catch up.”

Will Power told the press how he didn’t want to push Conway too much in the final laps as he didn’t want to lose points in the championship to Castroneves, “I just wasn’t willing to take the risk. I still had to battle hard. You just have to survive, and that is what we did.”

Sources: Toronto Sun, The Star, Fox Sports

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After His Worst Performance in a Major at the British Open, Would You Choose Tiger Woods for the Ryder Cup Team?

People are looking closely at Tiger Woods right now, especially after his worst-ever finish at a Major, shooting a 75 on the final day of the British Open to struggle to get 69th place.

Of course, Woods brought all this on himself by being one of the greatest golfers the world has ever seen. He takes on surgery for this back issues earlier this year and, rather than practice on some quiet backwater course to build his game up, Woods is taking his game to the people… competitive play, the kind he’s used to. And so everyone gets to watch him gradually hone his game back to perfection – but it’s not an easy process.

The expectations are high for Woods, but the reality is harsh. He may not make the cut for the European season later on this year – although, frankly, the organizers would be nuts not to let him on a wild card as he’s still – did I mention it before – one of the greatest golfers the world has ever seen. And that draws in crowds…

Tom Watson – who will this year captain the U.S. team for the Ryder Cup – has told Woods that he’s got to raise his game if he wants to play. This coming from a 64-year old man who beat Woods by seven strokes on the last day of the British Open.

Watson has another problem in Phil Mickelson who also hasn’t been playing up to his usual standards. Asked about whether Woods and Mickelson would be selected for the Ryder Cup team, Watson told the press, “If Phil and Tiger don’t make it in the mix there, I’ve got some real thinking to do. Everybody is thinking that I’m going to pick them automatically. I can assure that I’m not going to pick them automatically.”

But let’s hear it from the great man, Jack Nicklaus, who was twice captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team – would he invite Woods on the team if he was captain now? Nicklaus did not hesitate, “Oh, absolutely, I couldn’t imagine him not being on a Ryder Cup team, unless he does absolutely nothing in recovering from his game between now and then. If I was a captain, I would be hard-pressed. I don’t care what he does between now and then. If Tiger wants to play, I would certainly choose him. My guess is that Tom feels pretty much the same way. Tom would certainly like to have Tiger on his team, and I think anybody in their right mind, unless he just doesn’t want to play or doesn’t think he could play, would not choose him.”

Sources: ESPN, Yahoo!, The Mirror UK

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Caroline Wozniacki Beat Roberta Vinci to Win the Istanbul Cup in Two Straight Sets.

Caroline Wozniacki has been in the news most often over the past few weeks for her break-up with golf champion, Rory McIlroy. Sadly, after a three-year engagement and a November wedding date set, McIlroy called off the relationship on a phone call in May and that’s all the press have been talking about…

Meanwhile, Wozniacki has been having a pretty good few weeks since the break-up. She was knocked out in the quarterfinals at Eastbourne by Angelique Kerber, but her performance was strong throughout the tournament. Wozniacki also put on a good show at Wimbledon this year, getting through to the fourth round before losing out to Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

Not that Wozniacki is a stranger to winning – she’s won 21 titles so far in her career, and has been a fairly consistent winner over the last seven years. She is now ranked #13 in the world of women’s professional tennis.

The final didn’t take long to play. Wozniacki simply dismantled Vinci’s game, and took just 67 minutes to beat her in two straight sets, 6-1, 6-1. Wozniacki held off six break points throughout the match.

Speaking to the press afterward, Wozniacki said, “I’m happy to have won my 22nd WTA title. It’s a great feeling. I’m happy how the final went today. I served well and pushed her around the court, and I really dictated the match.”

Vinci also spoke to reporters, “I tried to play aggressively like always but made a lot of mistakes. It’s tough to play like that against Caroline because she puts everything back in the court, and it was tough for me to stay in the rallies today. But I’m happy with my week and Caroline just played much better than me.”

Source: Sports Illustrated, Sky Sports, CBS Sports

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Homeboy Nico Rosberg Wins the German Grand Prix – Lewis Hamilton Settles for Third Place.

It’s like the entire Grand Prix season is being won or lost in the qualifying laps right now. But that’s only because the only cars in contention for the checkered flag are Mercedes cars – and, aside from one race this season, the top spot has gone to a Mercedes driver and, more often than not, the first two positions.

The day before the big race in Germany, British driver Lewis Hamilton was in the wars. Suffering brake disc failure on the 13th lap of the qualifiers, his car locked up, spun, and ended up against the wall. He was also slightly injured – but sadly his car probably needed new brake discs and a change of gearbox.

The worst part was that he got to start 15th on the grid. And as we’ve seen so often in the past few races, first on the grid – especially if it’s a Mercedes car – that’s who wins the race. Of course, Nico Rosberg – driving in his home country with a very supportive crowd – won pole position for the fourth time out of the last five races.

Speaking to the press after his crash, Hamilton said, “It was heart in mouth time. It takes you completely by surprise. I was very sore afterwards, I’ve had a lot of crashes, that one went in sideways, didn’t hurt my head, but my knees, ankles and lower back. Yeah, I felt it.”

For Rosberg, he made the race look easy. He took off from the start, and was left alone for the whole race until the checkered flag. His fourth win of the season now puts him 14 points clear of Hamilton in the Driver’s Championship.

Meanwhile the real race was fought by Hamilton who, over the course of 67 laps, managed to outdrive almost the entire pack ahead of him, getting to third place behind Williams driver Valtteri Bottas who scraped in front of him to grab second place by just 0.4 seconds.

Rosberg was very happy to win the race, telling journalists, “It’s fantastic, an amazing feeling winning at home, a very special day for me.”

Sources: The Guardian UK, Sky Sports, New York Times

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Rory McIlroy Turns On the Magic for Day 3 of the British Open to Go Six Strokes Up.

Rory McIlroy defied his usual strategy of killing it on the first day and then tumbling on day two by shooting two rounds of six-under-par 66. Starting the day last Saturday in the British Open, he was four shots in front of his nearest competitor and all he really had to worry about was the forecast of oncoming thunderstorms.

However, by the twelfth hole, McIlroy had lost his advantage and was tied for the top spot. It wasn’t anything that McIlroy did wrong, more it was the excellent play by Rickie Fowler who birdied seven of the first 12 holes in an amazing run of perfect golf.

But just as quickly as Fowler’s luck was going well, it suddenly turned. On the 14th hole, he dropped a shot with a bogey. But it was the par-five 16th hole – one of the easiest holes on the course – that was his undoing. His drive was buried in the bunker, he lost a shot getting out, and then had an eight footer to save the par… but he missed.

At the same time, McIlroy seemed to find a higher gear. As he said after the game, “I felt Rickie close to me. I was able to to turn it on when I needed it.”

And turn it on he did. In a twist of irony, the two holes that hampered Fowler were the very two holes that McIlroy started getting some traction.

On the 14th hole, McIlroy holed out a magnificent 35-foot putt for a birdie. And then, just to rub it in, he got an eagle on the 16th. In the course of two holes, there was a five-stroke swing between Fowler and McIlroy.

To please the crowd even more, McIlroy eagled the final hole and finished the day 16-under par for 54 holes. An incredible achievement that gives him a six stroke lead going into the final day.

Speaking to the press about his feelings for how he was going to approach the last day of the tournament, McIlroy told journalists, “A lot can happen. And I’ve been on the right side of it and I’ve been on the wrong side of it. You can’t let yourself think forward. You’ve just got to completely stay in the moment, and that’s what I’m going to try to do for all 18 holes tomorrow.”

Sources: USA Today, Denver Post, Bleacher Report

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Tony Gallopin Battles Against a Last-Second Sprint to Win Stage 11 of the Tour de France.

No stranger to victory, Tony Gallopin was stretched to his fullest to win Stage 11 of the Tour de France.

Just two days earlier, Gallopin was wearing the yellow jersey, announcing to the world that he was the outright leader of the tournament. But that honor had since gone to Italian cyclist Vincenzo Nibali. Still, Gallopin got to wear the yellow jersey on Bastille Day, one of France’s major national vacation days, and that must have been special.

Stage 11 of the Tour de France involves a ride of more than 116 miles. And it’s a great day to monitor progress as everyone got the day off the day before, so they’re all rested and ready to go.

And that extra energy was obviously there in the last couple of miles of the race. There were challenges, from Nicolas Roche for one, but Gallopin wasn’t letting anyone get close to him. Although the pace was almost unbearable toward the end, Gallopin sprinted the last mile to win the stage in a little over four hours and 25 minutes.

Coming in second was John Degenkolb from Germany, and after him was Matteo Trentin from Italy.

Overall, although finishing way back in the pack, Nibali raced well enough to keep wearing the yellow jersey. And second and third on the leaderboard after Stage 11 were Richie Porte and Alejandro Valverde respectively.

American Andrew Talansky was not having a good day, or a good Tour de France for that matter. But tenacity and bravery? Talansky made you feel proud to be American!

Sitting on a guard rail by the side of the road with almost 40 miles to go, nursing what looked like an extremely painful injury to his lower back, many were busy writing him off. But the 25-year old Miami racer was back on his bike and managed to finish the stage for the day.

Speaking to the press after his day, Talansky said, “I just wanted to make it to the finish – for my team and the work that they’ve put into this Tour for me. I didn’t just want to stop and go home that way after everything they’ve done for me.”

Sources: EuroNews, SF Gate, New York Times

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It Was An All-Star Game, But It Was Really a Tribute to Yankee’s Shortstop, Derek Jeter.

No matter how much Derek Jeter didn’t want the attention, it was there all the same. The night before on TV, Jeter told his interviewer, “The All-Star Game is about everybody that’s here… and I’ve always been uncomfortable when the focus is on me.”

Playing at his 14th and final All-Star game at Target Field in Minneapolis, Jeter was also in part responsible for increased TV ratings, up 9 percent over last year during the time that Jeter was on the field.

At 40 years young, Jeter played for just the first three innings before being replaced by Alexei Ramirez. When he walked on the field, Jeter got a minute-long ovation – same thing when he was ceremoniously removed from his shortstop position to the strains of Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York. The crowd loved him.

Jeter was no slouch on the pitch though, scoring a double before he left the field. And they were Jeter classics too, ‘opposite field’ line drives that no one could get to. His double improves his batting average to .481 in All-Star games, second best to Charlie Gehringer, Hall of Fame batter.

There was talk that pitcher Adam Wainwright may have gifted Jeter a couple of pitches, but Jeter didn’t agree – he thought they were tough enough. Speaking to the press after the game, Jeter said, “He grooved them? I don’t know, man. If he grooved it, thank you. You still have to hit it.”

Jeter also proved himself useful in the field, stopping Andrew McCutchen’s ground ball in the first inning, and returning it to first base just after McCutchen was safe.

Speaking after the game, Jeter said, “I think everyone wants it to sink in that this is my last but I’m just trying to enjoy it while I’m here and stop thinking about this is the last one.”

MLB commissioner Bud Selig said, “If you were sitting two decades ago and you said, ‘Boy, this is a guy I want to be the face of baseball and be what this generation will remember,’ you couldn’t have written a script like this. He is just remarkable.”

Sources: Chron, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated

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No Surprises in the British Open – Rory McIlroy Shoots a 66 for the Lead.

The British Open is being held this year at the par 72 Royal Liverpool course in Hoylake. It’s a long, 7,312-yard course, but the weather is holding up and some low scores and some good golf were very much expected.

It was no surprise to anyone to see Rory McIlroy race into the lead, shooting a magnificent 66 and giving him a one-stroke advantage.

Most recently, we saw McIlroy open up with a 64 at the Scottish Open last week, and a 63 at the Memorial the week before that. Each of those rounds was followed by less successful rounds in the 70s, and he ended up being out of contention for both tournaments.

Same goes for tournaments earlier this year. He started off well on Thursday’s rounds in both the Masters in April and the Wells Fargo in May, but got whipped on the Friday.

McIlroy puts it down to having no worries at all on the Thursday, but suddenly getting a whole heap of expectations to deal with on the Friday. But he revealed to the press he has a plan ‘to put those expectations aside.’ Sounds easy enough – good luck, Rory!

Perhaps the most welcome news of the day was that, for the first time since his surgery in March, Tiger Woods looked like he was back in the game. His recent efforts to contend haven’t amounted to much, but he soldiers on, determined to get back his form.

And he made a great start on opening day of the British Open, shooting a 69, three under par. Not too shabby at all.

Although starting with a bogey on the first hole, Woods birdied the fifth and, after putting an enormous 35-footer on the 11th hole for another birdie, went on to birdie the next four holes.

One stroke behind McIlory is Matteo Manassero, and one stroke him are two brothers, Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, as well as Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Jim Furyk.

Phil Mickelson ended up with an 74, and is tied for 84th place.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Daily Mail UK, USA Today

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Just When You Thought We’re Done with Soccer For a While, Now We’re Worried about 2018…

After the alleged aspersions on FIFA, particularly their political influence as choices were made for Qatar as being an upcoming host nation, and the reported $11.5 billion spent by Brazil to host the 2014 World Cup, it’s no wonder that people are looking at Russia and trying to figure out what the 2018 World Cup is going to look like.

FIFA president got the ball rolling, so to speak, with a comment out of left field after Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s Sports Minister announced that Russia’s plans included the use of 12 stadiums in 11 cities to stage the event.

Sepp Blatter told journalists, “It’s a footballing country but we will have meetings there in September to see if 12 is the right number and even if they could be reduced to 10. It’s obvious the World Cup has taken such a dimension that the organization is a hard work for the organizing country and also for the FIFA. FIFA is looking at 2018 now and we are in discussions on what is the ideal number for the organization and to keep it in such a manner that it’s feasible, reasonable and controllable.”

Blatter also commented on the huge amount that Brazil had spent hosting the games, even though Mutko had already told reporters that Russia had earmarked $20 billion for this task.

Russian president Vladimir Putin attended the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro, and had talks with Blatter on the 2018 World Cup.

Other critics of Russia are concerned over demonstrations against Putin during the matches – much like the ones in Sochi during the Olympics. But help may come from an ally of Russia… China.

Xi Jinping, who is the General Secretary of the Communist Party in China, met with Putin and went on record as saying, “It doesn’t depend of whether China participates in the finals or not, we will help Russia hold the championships.”

Sources:, The Moscow Times, Voice of Russia

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