Romanians rule in Budapest
Simona Halep defeated Hungary’s Timea Babos 7-5, 6-1 on Friday to set up an all-Romanian semi-final against Alexandra Cadantu at the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest. Halep won three consecutive games to close out the first set at the Romai Tennis Academy after Babos failed to convert any of her four set points while leading 5-4. Halep is looking for her third WTA title of the year, and said “it was a difficult match and I was a little bit tired.” Cadantu beat Shahar Peer of Israel 6-0, 7-5. The other semi-final will feature South Africa’s Chanelle Scheepers and Yvonne Meusburger of Austria. Scheepers defeated 18-year-old Danka Kovinic of Montenegro 4-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7/5), while Meusburger knocked out Annika Beck of Germany 6-4, 6-1.
Italian duo win in Palermo
Top-seeded Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci cruised into the semi-finals of the Italiacom Open in Palermo on Friday. No. 1 seed Errani, who won the tournament in 2008 and last year, beat seventh-seeded Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain 6-4, 6-0. No. 2 seed Vinci also made light work of her opponent, winning 6-1, 6-4 over fifth-seeded Spaniard Lourdes Dominguez Lino. Errani next faces fourth-seeded Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic. Zakopalova ended Dinah Pfizenmaier’s impressive tournament, beating the German 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 6-1. Vinci plays another Spaniard after Estrella Cabeza Candela — ranked 108th in the world — who beat Renata Voracova of the Czech Republic 7-5, 6-4.
Sharapova splits with coach
Maria Sharapova split with her coach Thomas Hogstedt on Friday, two weeks after she crashed out of the second round at Wimbledon. Hogstedt, 49, had worked with the former world No. 1 since 2010 and helped her complete a career Grand Slam with victory at last year’s French Open. “After almost three years of working together, Thomas Hogstedt and I decided to part ways,” Sharapova said in a statement on her Web site. “Due to personal issues, he was not able to travel in the near future and we both agreed it was the right time to move our separate ways. I am very thankful for all his work, and wish him much success in the future. I will be announcing my new coach in a few days. Very excited!” Sharapova suffered a surprise second-round loss at Wimbledon, losing in straight sets to Portuguese qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito.
‘Big Easy’ misses cut
Four-time major winner Ernie Els, who will defend his British Open title at Muirfield this week, missed the cut in the Scottish Open at Inverness on Friday. The 43-year-old South African made an early exit after carding a 70 for a two-under total of 142. Former British Open champions Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington and Scottish Open title holder Jeev Milkha Singh of India also missed the cut on 141. Scot Chris Doak, who has had only one top-10 finish on the European Tour, hit a second successive six-under 66 to take the halfway lead in his local event. World No. 8 Phil Mickelson was four strokes off the pace after returning a 70 for 136. The 35-year-old Doak was one stroke ahead of American Peter Uihlein (66), Dane Joachim Hansen (65) and British pair Ross Fisher (65) and Matthew Southgate (64).
Spain defeat England
A last-gasp winner from Alexia Putellas gave Spain a dramatic 3-2 victory over England in their opening Group C game at the women’s Euro 2013 tournament on Friday. Spain took an early lead through captain Veronica Boquete before England winger Eniola Oluko quickly equalized. The game looked to be heading for a draw when Spain’s Jennifer Hermoso rifled the ball home in the 85th minute after the opposition failed to clear a corner. Laura Bassett leveled four minutes later when she swept in Anita Asante’s knockdown from a Rachel Yankey corner. Then, with virtually the last touch of the game, substitute Putellas’ downward header narrowly crossed the line to break England hearts. In another Group C game staged in Norrkoping, France downed Russia 3-1 thanks to two goals from Marie Laure-Delie and one by Eugenie Le Sommer. Elena Morozova netted a late consolation goal for Russia in a game France dominated from start to finish.
Al-Fayed sells Fulham
Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL franchise, has bought English Premier League club Fulham from Mohamed al-Fayed. “The transaction has been approved by the Barclays Premier League. Khan assumes 100 percent ownership of the club, debt-free, as of today,” said a statement issued on Friday by a spokesman for the new owner. Khan, a billionaire car-parts manufacturer, bought out former Harrods owner al-Fayed, ending his 16-year spell in control of the London club. Fulham finished 12th in the league last season. Last year the Jaguars signed a deal to play four games at Wembley Stadium over the next four years. The British Telegraph newspaper reported the deal would net al-Fayed up to ￡200 million (US$302 million).
McCaw back in action
New Zealand captain Richie McCaw returned to rugby after an eight-month layoff in an amateur club match yesterday watched by a few hundred spectators. McCaw took a “sabbatical” from rugby after playing for New Zealand against England in December and has not played in this season’s Super Rugby competition. He is to return to international level in New Zealand’s first Rugby Championships Test against Australia in Sydney on Aug. 17. Camera crews lined the sidelines when McCaw played yesterday in a match between the Christchurch Rugby Club and University in Christchurch’s amateur club competition. McCaw said he felt “a bit rusty” and had “heavy legs” at the end of the match, in which he played a full 80 minutes.
Bath probes Henson punch
English Premiership side Bath on Friday said they were investigating claims that their new signing Gavin Henson was punched by a teammate in a pub. “Bath Rugby can confirm there was a minor incident in the city center on Wednesday night involving a few members of the playing squad,” a statement read. “The club are investigating the matter as a priority and will only make a statement when further information is available.” British media reports said that former Wales international Henson, who signed for the west of England club from London Welsh last month, was knocked unconscious by the punch. Police confirmed that they were contacted, but the group left the pub, meaning officers were not required to attend and no offences were being investigated.