Holders Spain managed to edge out Poland 83-78 thanks to an inspired performance from Pau Gasol in Group A on the opening day of the European basketball championship on Wednesday.
The 31-year-old power forward, who steered Spain to the 2009 title in Poland, stepped up with some crucial plays in the last two minutes when their unfancied rivals threatened to stun the favorites in the 24-team EuroBasket tournament.
France point guard Tony Parker was the day’s other top performer after driving his team to a roller coaster 89-78 win over Latvia in Group B.
The big winners were 2009 runners-up Serbia, who saw off former champions Italy 80-68 in the same group.
Spain seemed to be cruising after Gasol scored 11 of their opening 13 points, but stubborn Poland refused to lie down and forced a dramatic finish on the back of 19 points from point guard Lukasz Koszarek and 18 by US-born Thomas Kelati.
Gasol finished with a game-high 29 points and seven rebounds, having received good support from his younger brother Marc, who had 16 points and seven rebounds, as well as point guard Juan Carlos Navarro, who added 23 points.
Forward Boris Diaw chipped in with 14 points for France, Mickael Gelabale had 11, while center Joachim Noah and point guard Nicolas Batum added 10 each in a balanced team effort.
Serbia failed to score in the opening four minutes against Italy and trailed 18-10 at the end of the first quarter.
A 39-14 run put Serbia in control midway through the third period and although Italy got within four points with a 19-6 rally, they ran out of steam in the closing stages.
Much like Spain, hosts and 2003 winners Lithuania looked lethargic for long spells against Britain before waking up in the final quarter to win 80-69 in front of a raucous home crowd.
In contrast, 1993 champions Germany cruised to a 91-64 rout of Israel thanks to 25 points from their talismanic forward Dirk Nowitzki, who ran the show throughout the one-sided contest.
Having led the Dallas Mavericks to their first NBA title in June, Nowitzki returned to action in grand style and gave Israel a roasting at both ends of the court as did his teammate Chris Kaman, who scored 18 points to go with 10 rebounds.
Montenegro, a tiny republic on the Adriatic with a population of just 650,000, enjoyed their first taste of success in a major event as an independent nation with a 70-65 overtime win over fellow former Yugoslavs Macedonia.
Greece’s Nikolaos Zisis and Nick Calathes got 13 points each to give the 2005 winners a 76-67 win over Bosnia in Group C.
Russia, who won the title in 2007, labored to a 73-64 win over neighbors Ukraine in Group D, where Slovenia also had to dig deep to carve out a 67-59 defeat of Bulgaria.
Chen Jifang hits the gym for at least two hours every day and has the physique to prove it. At nearly 70, she is being held up as a shining example as China orders its vast population to get fit and lose the bulge. The grandmother from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in in the past few months after her newfound and unlikely love for working out made national headlines. After becoming a gym regular in December 2018, Chen lost 14kg in three months, and now sports the kind of flat stomach and toned muscles that people decades younger aspire to. She
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
ANOTHER SCANDAL: Searches focused on several riders, including Dayer Quintana, a source said, while the two being held were reportedly a doctor and physiotherapist French police on Monday detained two people as part of an investigation into suspected doping in the Arkea-Samsic team at this year’s Tour de France, prosecutors announced. The probe is the first significant one in several years for the repeatedly scandal-hit tour, which on Sunday wrapped up in Paris with a victory for 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar, who became the youngest winner in more than a century. Prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille said in a statement that an investigation was being carried out into a “small part” of France-based Arkea-Samsic, without specifying who had been placed in custody. Laurens added that the two