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Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray All Confirmed Available For Australian Open



Serena sees off Witthoeft to set up Venus clash

Serena Williams will make her return to the Australian Open for the first time since winning in 2017 when eight-weeks pregnant, it was confirmed Wednesday, with virtually all the world’s top 100 players due at Melbourne Park.
That includes injury-prone Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.

Williams returned from giving birth to her first child to reach the 2018 Wimbledon and US Open finals, but suffered upset losses in both to leave her stuck on 23 major wins.

Australian Open organisers said she was among the entries for the opening Grand Slam of the year as she attempts to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24.

Her appearance will mark her first major since her controversial rant at an umpire during the US Open final loss to Naomi Osaka, which overshadowed the Japanese star’s biggest ever win.
In the aftermath, Roger Federer said Williams “went too far”.

“Serena Williams, currently ranked 16, will make her highly anticipated return to Melbourne for the first time since winning in 2017 when eight-weeks pregnant with baby Alexis Olympia,” said tournament organiser Craig Tiley.

The evergreen Federer will be back to defend his title, along with long-time adversary Novak Djokovic. Caroline Wozniacki defends the women’s crown.
Organisers said the world’s top 102 women and top 101 men have all confirmed they will be playing.

The only top-100 absentee from the women’s draw is 74th-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska of Polandwho recently announced her retirement.

“It’s always special to see our defending champions — Caroline had her first Grand Slam win here last year so will be keen to start 2019 on a high,” said Tiley.

“And of course Roger Federer has special memories of Melbourne, having won here six times, something only Novak (Djokovic) and Roy Emerson have done in the past.

“I’ve been in touch with Rafa and he’s back to full fitness after cutting his season short after Paris and can’t wait to arrive in Australia,” he added.

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At 2018 National Sports Festival, age is no barrier as six and 56-year-old athletes compete



At 2018 National Sports Festival, age is no barrier as six and 56-year-old athletes compete

They are both 50 years apart, but their goals are the same: to win medals at the 2018 National Sports Festival.

Welcome to the world of six-year-old Deborah Quickpen and 56-year old Taofeeq Maya, the youngest and oldest of the athletes competing at the ongoing National Sports Festival.

Deborah was barely six months old when the last edition of the National Sports Festival was held in Lagos in 2012.

Six years down the line, one would expect her to have a litany of dolls with different names and other playing toys just like her peers.

While the little girl is indeed ‘playing’, she is doing that at Nigeria’s biggest multi-sports competition, the NSF, where she is vying for honours with those even older than her parents.

Debby, as she is fondly called, has been registered to feature for Bayelsa State in the Chess event at the ongoing 19th National Sports Festival in Abuja and she is very ambitious, despite her tender age.

“I started playing (scrabble) when I was two years old,” Debby told PREMIUM TIMES, in the company of her mum, Verazini Quickpen, who is also competing in the Scrabble event of the National Sports Festival.

Mrs Quickpen gave more insight into how her daughter developed a liking for the mind games quite early in life when her age mates are preoccupied with toys and dolls.

“Actually, we as Scrabble players; my husband and I. Each time we go to the sports complex to train, we go with our daughter, Debby, and she started learning from there by arranging the words,” her mum said.

“Sometimes she makes mistakes and we correct her. To even our own surprise we just discovered that when Chess players are playing she goes there and stand and watch them closely, we did not know she was grabbing something. In a short space of time, she started setting the chess board and making moves. I don’t even know how to play Chess.”


Debby’s mum recollects that at about 3-4 years, her daughter had her first invitation to a tournament and even though she did not win any of her games except the walkover she had, she showed tremendous potentials that endeared her to many.

Things got better for Debby in her second tournament which was a monthly competition where she defeated an older opponent and sent everyone into wild jubilation, including her proud mum.

“Everyone was asking the man Debby beat ‘how did this girl checkmate you’, but the man said he was surprised and had no answer.

Since then it has been an upward movement for Debby who narrowly missed out on a prize when she represented Bayelsa State in a Chess tournament in Lagos and went on to win a bronze medal at Youth Games in Ilorin.

Presently in Grade 3, Debby says she is enjoying all the support she is getting and would want to leave Abuja with a medal round her neck.

“Yes, my parents have been supporting me, my target is to win a medal and I will try my best” Debby told PREMIUM TIMES when asked of her target at her maiden National Sports Festival.

The old also dream

While the peculiar case of Debby catches the fancy of many, there is another testament to the fact that age is not a barrier for anyone as well demonstrated by 56-year old Toafeeq Maya who is doing his thing at the table tennis event of the Sports Festival.

Maya hugged the headlines when he inspired Team Oyo to a shock win over Akwa Ibom State in the mixed double event.

Segun Toriola and Funke Oshoniake (combine 13-time Olympians) were sent packing by the splendid display of Maya and his teammate, Fumilola.

The 56-year also told PREMIUM TIMES why he opted to play in NSF 2018.

He said: I have retired but I just told myself I have nothing to lose to come here. It’s like since 2001 that I last made it to the National camp, I just said I should prove my worth to these young ones that is why I am here. I have been coming to the sports festival since 1989 and I won gold even back then.”

On his return, Maya has not lessened his expectations.

He said: “The target is still gold, I am not under any pressure like most of the other players, I am not interested in being invited to any national camp, I just want to play my game and move on.’

Aside from the Mixed Doubles’ where he masterminded the exit of Toriola and Oshonaike, 56-year old Maya is eyeing gold medals in the Singles’, Doubles’ and Team events.

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Team Delta maintain dominance as Lagos drop to sixth spot



Team Delta maintain dominance as Lagos drop to sixth spot

Team Delta are dictating the pace at the ongoing National Sports Festival in Abuja as they are holding firmly to the number one position on the medals standings after the conclusion of events on Day 5.

With more medals added to their tally from the pool and a sprinkle of others here and there, Team Delta has now amassed 27 gold, nine silver and 15 bronze medals, according to the official medals table made available at the close of business on Monday.

While the 27 gold won so far in Abuja by Delta State is still a very far cry from the total of 114 they won at the last edition in Eko 2012 edition, there is still room for more as a whole lot of events are just getting to the medal-winning stages.

The Rivers State team are second on the log, having raked in 15 gold, 14 silver and 13 bronze medals.

Kano State are also ruffling shoulders in Abuja as they now have seven gold, six silver and four bronze medals and are third on the present standings.

Edo has six gold, seven silver and 12 bronze medal as Oyo records five gold, six silver and eight bronze medals to emerge fourth and fifth respectively.

Despite amassing 25 medals in all, Lagos have dropped to the sixth position with four gold, four silver and 17 bronze while Bayelsa who has won three gold, 16 silver and seven bronze medals are seventh on the log.

Gradually, the number of states that are yet to win any shade of medals is reducing but the likes of Ekiti, Adamawa, Borno, Ebonyi, Gombe, Jigawa, Katsina, Kwara, Sokoto, and Zamfara States are all still hoping against hope.

Action continues today (Tuesday) as more medals will be won in different sports by different states.

Picture Story
Medal Table

2018 NSF Result calculations(4)

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Liverpool battle Napoli; Tottenham face Barcelona



Liverpool battle Napoli; Tottenham face Barcelona

Liverpool are where they want to be in the English Premier League (EPL) but not in the UEFA Champions League (UCL), as they are 90 minutes away from falling into the Europa League if they do not get a good result against Napoli on Tuesday night.

A lapse in concentration in the 90th minute at Stadio San Paolo on October 3 is the reason this second meeting between Liverpool and Napoli has become a winner-takes-all affair.

Napoli lead Group C of the UEFA Champions League with nine points, ahead of PSG, who have eight and Liverpool with six. Thus, the Reds have to beat the Italians by at least two clear goals to eclipse their head-to-head record.

Jurgen Klopp’s men are unbeaten in the English Premier League, where they lead the table. But in Europe, they have lost thrice – all their away games, which compared to last season’s exploits is plainly unbelievable.

But at Anfield, they have been near invincible – scoring seven goals in their last two UCL matches – they will need such form against Napoli on Tuesday though the visitors are unbeaten in the UCL this season, picking up two wins and three draws. Another draw on Tuesday sends them through to the knockout rounds.

Klopp is banking on the ‘Anfield Magic’ to help his team through. “So far at home we were good – we have to be even better tomorrow night,” he told Liverpool’s official website.

“I told the boys, I really think if nothing special happens with referee decisions, we get tomorrow night [Tuesday] what we deserve.”

Napoli’s manager, Carlo Ancelotti, is not new to Liverpool or the EPL, so will have intimated his players about the raucous atmosphere that will be at Anfield and the manner in which the fans will buoy this Liverpool team. He told, “If we’re intelligent in the defensive and offensive phases, then we’ll go through.

“We also have a little advantage in the group; the cake has been made – now we need to add a little cherry,” he added.

Klopp will be relying again on the effectiveness and efficiency of his front three in the offensive and also defensive modes, hoping they are sharp and intelligent enough to hunt and win balls off the Napoli defenders and deep midfielders closer to their box.

Current Form: Liverpool [W-W-W-L-W]; Napoli [W-W-W-D-W]

Head to head

03/10/18 UCL Napoli 1 – 0 Liverpool

04/08/18 CLF Liverpool 5 – 0 Napoli

04/11/10 UEL Liverpool 3 – 1 Napoli

21/10/10 UEL Napoli 0 – 0 Liverpool

Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Napoli

Barcelona v Tottenham @Nou Camp on Dec.11

Tottenham’s destiny to progress in the UCL is predicated on what Inter Milan does at the San Siro to PSV. But they must seek first to defeat Lionel Messi’s Barcelona – clearly a daunting task. It is a return to Catalonia for Mauricio Pochettino, who once coached Espanyol and he will be hoping for a good turn of events from Barcelona to Milan.

Luis Suarez has been ruled out of the encounter while Spurs have lost their two experienced right-backs – Serge Aurier and Kieran Trippier which means Kyle Walker-Peters may have his first start of the season. A daunting task indeed for Spurs. But in football, anything is possible until the final whistle.

Current Form: Barcelona [W-W-W-W-D]; Tottenham [W-W-L-W-W]

Head to head

03/10/18 UCL Tottenham 2 – 4 Barcelona

29/07/18 ICC Barcelona 2 – 2 Tottenham

24/07/09 CLF Tottenham 1 – 1 Barcelona

Prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Tottenham

Ajax v Bayern @Johan Cruijff Arena on Dec.12

Ajax are back in the knockout stage of the UCL for the first time in 12 years and have ambitions to finish as Group E winners even though five-time champions, Bayern Munich, will have one or two things to say.

Current Form: Ajax [W-W-W-W-W]; Bayern [W-W-L-W-W]

Head to head

02/10/18 UCL Bayern 1 – 1 Ajax

08/12/04 UCL Ajax 2 – 2 Bayern

27/09/04 UCL Bayern 4 – 0 Ajax

Prediction: Ajax 1-1 Bayern

Shakhtar Donetsk v Olympique Lyon @ Oblasny Sport Komplex on Dec.12

Second place is up for grabs in Group F in Kharkiv on Wednesday as Lyon hope to pinch at least a point off Shakhtar to qualify for the knockout stage. After a win and a draw against Manchester City, Bruno Genesio’s side will believe they are good enough to get the point they need in faraway Kharkiv.

Current Form: Shakhtar [W-D-W-D-W]; Lyon [L-D-D-W-W]

Head to head

Tue 02/10/18 UCL Lyon 2 – 2 Shakhtar

Sat 19/07/14 CLF Lyon 4 – 1 Shakhtar

Prediction: Shakhtar 1-2 Lyon

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