Aaron Judge on Tuesday took a smooth, mighty swing, then broke into a big smile as he trotted around the bases. Heading home, his teammates backed away, letting him touch the plate alone. At last, the New York Yankees slugger had the American League home run record all to himself. Judge’s 62nd home run of the season breaks Roger Maris’ American League record and set what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard. “It’s a big relief,” Judge said. “Everybody can finally sit down in their seats and watch the ballgame. It’s been a fun ride so far, getting a chance to do this... Getting a chance to have your name next to someone as great as Roger Maris and Babe Ruth and those guys is incredible.” Judge said he felt “quite a few emotions” after connecting, thinking about his family and fans and supporters. He said it would probably be after the season until he would truly soak in and appreciate the significance of his achievement. “In my book, it’s just another day,” the stoic Judge said. After slamming his helmet in a rare show of frustration when he went without a homer in the first game of the doubleheader against the Rangers in Texas, Judge hit the third pitch of the nightcap into the first row of seats in left field. That trip around the bases after a long chase was certainly a mixture of pure joy and relief for No. 99, whose only homer in the previous 13 games had been when he tied Maris’ 61 on Wednesday last week away against the Toronto Blue Jays. Judge did it just in time, too, homering on the next-to-last day of the regular season. Barry Bonds holds the major league record of 73 home runs, set with the San Francisco Giants in 2001. Judge’s milestone ball was caught by Cory
Liverpool on Tuesday eased to a comfortable 2-0 win in the “Battle of Britain” against the Rangers in the Champions League group games, while SSC Napoli underlined their credentials with an impressive 6-1 thrashing of Ajax in Amsterdam. On a night when a minute’s silence was held before every match in tribute to the 131 victims of the Indonesia stadium tragedy, Bayern Munich and Club Brugge also made it three wins from three, while Inter edged Barcelona in a tight contest in Milan. Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool went into their Group A game against the Scottish champions on the back of just three wins in their first nine Premier League and Champions League games of the season. They settled quickly when Trent Alexander-Arnold produced a sublime free-kick to put the home side ahead after just seven minutes. The Rangers’ 40-year-old goalkeeper Allan McGregor produced some fine saves, including four to deny Darwin Nunez his first Champions League goal for Liverpool, to keep his side in the hunt at halftime. Seven minutes into the second half, Leon King’s challenge caught the legs of Luis Diaz to give away a penalty. Mohamed Salah stepped up and struck the ball down the middle as McGregor was unable to repeat the penalty-saving heroics he produced against Napoli. Napoli stay top of Group A after another impressive victory, coming from behind to hammer Ajax 6-1 to take their tally of goals to 13 from three matches. Bayern moved to the edge of qualification with a third successive win, thrashing Viktoria Plzen 5-0 in Group C. Hakan Calhanoglu fired Inter to a 1-0 win over Barcelona at the San Siro to take the Italians into second spot in Group C, three points behind Bayern. Inter had lost five of the previous 10 matches, but Turkish midfielder Calhanoglu ended the crisis talk when he lashed in
The latest bombshell in the scandal that has rocked the chess world to its foundation dropped on Tuesday when an investigation into the games of Hans Niemann found the American grandmaster has cheated far more frequently than previously disclosed. The 72-page report, conducted by Chess.com and reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, found that Niemann “likely received illegal assistance in more than 100 online games” as recently as 2020, including in events where prize money was at stake. The suspicions around Niemann, a 19-year-old who has made a meteoric ascent into the world’s top 50 over the past four years, were initially amplified last month when the world champion Magnus Carlsen first suggested, then outright declared, the American was winning through illegitimate means. Niemann has mounted a vigorous denial of the allegations, but confessed to cheating in the past: first as a 12-year-old in an online tournament, and then as a 16-year-old playing unrated games while streaming. The Chess.com report, which relied on cheating-detection tools including a comparison of a player’s moves to those recommended by powerful supercomputers, has offered compelling data-driven evidence that dramatically contradicts those statements. The investigation made no conclusions regarding Niemann’s over-the-board games, but flagged contests from six of his stronger in-person events, saying they “merit further investigation based on the data.” The 72-page report said that Niemann privately confessed to the allegations, and that he was subsequently banned from for a period of time from Chess.com, the world’s most popular chess platform. The controversy erupted last month after Niemann beat Carlsen while playing with black pieces at the US$500,000 Sinquefield Cup in St Louis, Missouri, ending the current world champion’s 53-game unbeaten streak in over-the-board games. The shocking defeat and Carlsen’s withdrawal ignited a maelstrom of comments and allegations that Niemann was cheating including from Hikaru Nakamura, the American grandmaster once
Veteran Taiwanese cyclist Feng Chun-kai yesterday finished sixth on the fourth stage of the Tour de Taiwan, but remained the top Asian rider, holding on to his blue jersey for the third day in a row. After finishing the 156km Kaohsiung leg, the 33-year-old Miaoli native was sixth in the overall standings with a total time of 12 hours, 19 minutes and 29 seconds, putting him 7 seconds ahead of Tadaaki Nakai and Shoma Kazama of Japan’s Shimano Racing Team. Feng on Monday took the lead in the Asian rider category after the 124.71km second stage in Taoyuan, taking the blue jersey from Aisan Racing Team’s Hayato Okamoto, who dominated the first day of the Tour. Feng’s Chinese Taipei Cycling Team leads the team general classification category with a time of 37 hours, just 1:12 ahead of Shimano Racing. “The Chinese Taipei team is very strong, and currently we are the best team in team general classification. Thanks to my teammates’ help, we will try to hold onto the blue jersey,” Feng said in a statement on Tuesday. Feng, an Olympian, also won the Tour de Taiwan’s King of the Mountain polka dot jersey for three consecutive years from 2012 to 2014. Team Ukyo’s Raymond Kreder won the Kaohsiung stage to place fifth just ahead of Feng in the overall individual standings. Kreder’s teammate, Benjamin Dyball of Austria, leads the overall standings with a time of 12:17:40, followed by British rider Sam Culverwell of Trinity Racing and Spanish rider Marcos Garcia Fernandez of Kinan Racing Team. The annual Tour de Taiwan, a 2.1 category race on the UCI Asia Tour, started on Sunday and ends today with the 156km fifth stage in Pingtung County. The event was not held last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jim Redmond, who helped his injured sprinter son, Derek Redmond, cross the finish line at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in what became an iconic moment of Games history, has died aged 81, it was revealed on Tuesday. Jim Redmond dashed onto the track to help his stricken son, who had torn his hamstring at the top of the home straight and together the Britons limped to the finish line of the 400m semi-final. The footage is one of the most-watched moments of Olympic history on social media. “Our thoughts are with Derek Redmond and his family following the death of his father, Jim,” the International Olympic Committee wrote on Twitter. “Together, they brought us one of the most inspirational moments in Olympic history.” The British Olympic Association said the Redmonds had created an Olympic moment that will “never be forgotten.” In a BBC interview in 2012, Derek Redmond revealed that his father had initially tried to persuade him not to try to complete the race. “He tried to talk me out of it at first,” he said. “He was telling me that I had nothing to prove and that I didn’t need to do this, but I told him I was going to finish. Then he said that we would do it together. So we did, and I limped over the line in tears.”
SOCCER Australia fan banned for life A fan who made a Hitler salute at a match in Australia was yesterday banned for life, with the sport’s governing body saying it had a zero-tolerance for “offensive behavior.” The man, who has not been named publicly, was among a group of supporters at the Australia Cup final in Sydney on Saturday caught on camera making fascist gestures and reportedly chanting far-right Croatian songs. Football Australia said one spectator has been identified and handed a lifetime ban from any future games it sanctions, including national team, A-League and Australia Cup fixtures. “The conduct in question relates to a fascist salute or similar gesture conducted during the match and captured on the host broadcast,” the governing body said. TENNIS Alcaraz stunned in Astana Carlos Alcaraz’s first ATP Tour event as world No. 1 on Tuesday ended in a 7-5, 6-3 defeat to David Goffin at the Astana Open and the Spaniard said he would have to learn how to play against opponents who dial up the pressure and aggression. Alcaraz, the youngest player to top the men’s world rankings, was broken five times by lucky-loser Goffin. “He played better than me, really, really aggressive,” said 19-year-old Alcaraz, who won his first Grand Slam title at the US Open last month. Goffin said he had been confident of pulling off an upset despite not playing well in his last few tournaments. “When you play against the world No. 1 on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don’t have any choice,” he said. GOLF Woods to help US team Tiger Woods is to be involved with the US Ryder Cup team in “some capacity” next year in Rome, captain Zach Johnson said on Tuesday. Woods, 46, has played in three
JAPAN OPEN: The Australian did not say much about his assault charge after beating Taiwan’s Tseng Chun-hsin yesterday, while a burnt-out Casper Ruud made an early exit
Tennis star Nick Kyrgios is to seek to have an assault charge against him dismissed on mental health grounds, Australian media reported yesterday. Kyrgios’ lawyer appeared for him at a hearing in the magistrates’ court of the Australian Capital Territory, where he faces a charge of common assault. The 27-year-old Australian player, who was not required to appear for the largely administrative hearing, is in Tokyo taking part in the Japan Open. Kyrgios beat Taiwan’s Tseng Chun-hsin 6-3, 6-1 in his opening match yesterday, and then told reporters there was “only so much I can say about” the court case. “I’m here in Japan playing tennis, I’m not back home at the moment so what will be will be with that,” he said. “The next meeting will be on Feb. 3 so that’s all that I can really say about it now.” His lawyer, Michael Kukulies-Smith, sought an adjournment to allow time for a mental health assessment to be carried out, reported media outlets, including Australian Broadcasting Corp and the Sydney Morning Herald. Kukulies-Smith said his client’s mental health issues were well known and he would seek to have the charge dismissed at a later date, they reported. The Wimbledon finalist wrote about his previous mental health struggles in an Instagram post earlier this year, and has said that he battles depression. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone,” he wrote alongside a photograph of himself from 2019. “I’ve been through those times when it seemed as if those positive energetic vibes were never ever going to be reality,” he wrote. The world No. 20 is playing at his first tournament since losing in the quarter-finals of the US Open last month. He cruised past world No. 87 Tseng in front of a Tokyo crowd that cheered his name and clamored for the
The Los Angeles Rams efficiently moved the ball down the field on the opening drive before a sack stalled them and led to a field goal. That set the tone for the Rams on Monday night. They struggled to move the ball consistently and failed to finish off the few drives when they did. It all added up to a 24-9 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in one of the worst offensive performances in six years under coach Sean McVay. “The story of the night from an offensive perceptive was self-inflicted wounds,” McVay said. “Just above the neck errors where we’re not doing the things that we are capable of and I expect us to be better than that.” The Rams (2-2) were held to 257 yards (235m) and three field goals, marking the fifth time they failed to score a touchdown in any game under McVay in the regular season or playoffs. It marked their seventh straight regular-season loss to the Niners (2-2), although they did win the most important matchup in last season’s National Football Conference championship game on the way to a Super Bowl title. It was a far different result this time. Matthew Stafford was sacked seven times, committed two turnovers, including a back-breaking pick-six and the Rams were held to 3.52 yards per play in the third-worst output of the McVay era. “It’s execution on our part,” Stafford said. “There were plays where we can execute better. Whether it’s throwing and catching or just assignment wise. A lot to clean up.” Stafford started off well, completing his first seven passes of the game to get into the red zone before a sack by Samson Ebukam sent the Rams backward for a field goal. Two more trips to the red zone stalled near the goal line and ended with field
Bobby Wagner delivered one of the biggest hits on a person who got onto the field. The Rams linebacker flattened the protester who ran on the field with a device emitting pink smoke late in the second quarter of Los Angeles’ game against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. “I just saw someone running on the field,” Wagner said. “It looked like he wasn’t supposed to be on the field so I saw security was having a problem so I helped them out.” With less than 1 minute left in the first half, the person got onto the field and ran across while being chased by security as the pink smoke filled the field. As the person ran toward the Rams sideline, linebacker Takkarist McKinley came toward him before Wagner came off the sideline and laid him out with a big hit. “I saw Bobby Wagner taking somebody out,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I thought that was kind of cool to see.” The protester was taken off the field by security and the game quickly resumed. Earlier in the game, another person tried to get onto the field with a similar device, but was stopped by security.
A year-long independent investigation into abuse and sexual misconduct in women’s soccer in the US has delivered a damning verdict. “Our investigation has revealed a league in which abuse and misconduct — verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct — had become systemic, spanning multiple teams, coaches, and victims,” the report said. “Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer, beginning in youth leagues, that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players,” it said. Examples of misconduct listed in the report included a coach showing a player pornography during a game-film review and masturbating in front of her, and another who coerced players into sexual relationships. The report, headed by independent investigator Sally Yates, excoriated the NWSL and warned about potential abuse in girls’ soccer. “This investigation’s findings are heartbreaking and deeply troubling,” said US Soccer Federation (USSF) president Cindy Parlow, a former player on the US women’s national team. “The abuse described is inexcusable and has no place on any playing field, in any training facility or workplace.” “As the national governing body for our sport, US Soccer is fully committed to doing everything in its power to ensure that all players — at all levels — have a safe and respectful place to learn, grow and compete,” she said. “We are taking the immediate action that we can today.” The report found that teams, the NWSL and US Soccer failed to put basic safeguards in place for players. “Teams, the League, and the Federation not only repeatedly failed to respond appropriately when confronted with player reports and evidence of abuse, they also failed to institute basic measures to prevent and address it,” the report said. “As a result, abusive coaches moved from team to team, laundered by press releases thanking them for their service, and
Manager Brendan Rodgers said Leicester City have turned the corner after James Maddison inspired a 4-0 rout of Nottingham Forest that eased the pressure on the Foxes boss and pushed their rivals to the bottom of the English Premier League on Monday. Rodgers’ side blew Forest away with three goals in the space of 10 minutes in the first half at the King Power Stadium. Maddison struck either side of a superb finish from Harvey Barnes, and Patson Daka netted in the second half as Leicester won for the first time this season at the eighth attempt. Leicester had lost their previous six games to leave Rodgers fighting to avoid being sacked following his criticism of the club’s Thai owners for failing to back him in the transfer window. Winning the East Midlands derby should give Rodgers at least a little breathing space, with Leicester moving one place above rock-bottom Forest on goal difference. “When you don’t win games it comes on to you. We had a horrendous summer, that’s the reality of it and that continued into the start of the season,” Rodgers said. “I just had to remind the players of their ability and continue to support them. They have bags of resilience. We just needed to turn that corner tonight and we did that.” Woeful Forest are now without a win in six games, losing five in a row. That has turned up the heat on coach Steve Cooper, who took charge when Forest were bottom of the EFL Championship last season and led them back to the Premier League for the first time since 1999. It would be harsh on Cooper to sack him so soon after winning promotion, but Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis would have hoped for better results after sanctioning a hefty investment in 21 new players in the close-season. “There were
TENNIS Spain takes top 2 rankings No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and No. 2 Rafael Nadal are the first countrymen to top the ATP rankings in 22 years. The two players from Spain are also the first men from somewhere other than the US to sit at one-two since the tour introduced computerized rankings in 1973. Alcaraz, 19, rose to the top spot by winning the US Open last month, becoming the youngest man ever to be No. 1. Nadal rose from No. 3 to No. 2 on Monday, swapping places with US Open runner-up Casper Ruud. Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras were the last two compatriots to hold the top spots in August 2000. “Proud to share this historic moment with @RafaelNadal, the best player of all-time,” Alcaraz wrote on Twitter in Spanish. BASEBALL Albert Pujols tops Babe Ruth Move over, Babe Ruth, Prince Albert is the new No. 2 on a big baseball list. Albert Pujols on Monday night hit his 703rd home run, breaking a tie with Ruth for second place in career RBIs. The 42-year-old slugger connected for the St Louis Cardinals off Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Mitch Keller, pulling a two-run shot into the left field stands to snap a scoreless tie in the sixth inning. It was Pujols’ 35th home run at PNC Park, his most at any visiting ballpark. The drive pushed Pujols’ total to 2,216 RBIs, surpassing Ruth on the all-time chart. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,297. “Passing Babe Ruth is a big deal,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said after his team’s 3-2 loss. “Seeing him hit a home run in that situation was fun to watch. You feel pretty good about where you’re at whenever he swings, and his home runs have been very meaningful.” Pujols plans to retire after the season. SOCCER Ukraine plans World Cup
DEADLY: Erling Haaland has now scored hat-tricks in each of his past three Premier League home games to take his tally to 17 in 10 matches for City
Erling Haaland and Phil Foden on Sunday scored hat-tricks as Manchester City thrashed Manchester United 6-3 to move to within a point of English Premier League leaders Arsenal. United needed Antony’s strike and a late Anthony Martial brace to save them from a record defeat in the Manchester derby as they remained sixth, nine points off the top. Haaland has now scored hat-tricks in each of his past three Premier League home games to take his tally as a City player to 17 in 10 competitive games for the English champions. “You can see the passes we give each other. We always want to go forward and to attack,” Haaland told Sky Sports. “It’s what I love about the team. In the end, it’s amazing. There is nothing more to say.” Since also conceding four times inside the first 45 minutes at Brentford in August, United had bounced back with four consecutive Premier League wins to offer hope they are heading in the right direction under Erik ten Hag, but the Red Devils were given a rude awakening of the gulf that still exists between the Manchester giants. “For me it was a surprise. We were not on the front foot, we were not brave on the ball and there were spaces to play, but we were not brave enough,” Ten Hag said. “All the credit to City, but it’s nothing to do with City. Our performance was not good. It had to do with the belief as individuals and as a team.” City could have scored many more than the four they managed in a blistering first-half performance that swept away any doubts caused by an inconsistent start to the season by Pep Guardiola’s men. Haaland, Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva had all seen efforts blocked before Foden opened the floodgates on eight minutes with
Karim Benzema on Sunday missed a penalty for Real Madrid as they finally blinked in the title race, dropping their first points of the season in a 1-1 draw with CA Osasuna in La Liga. Elsewhere, Real Sociedad won 5-3 at Girona and high-flying Real Betis Balompie fell to a 1-0 defeat at RC Celta de Vigo. After Barcelona beat RCD Mallorca on Saturday, Madrid knew they had to win to stay top, but were frustrated by Jagoba Arrasate’s well-organized side at the Santiago Bernabeu. Benzema, on his return to the side after injury, won a penalty, but then fired it against the crossbar and also had a goal disallowed for offside as Madrid tried to force a way through. Vinicius Jr broke the deadlock just before halftime with a cross that snuck all the way into the far corner, but Kike Garcia’s well-taken header early in the second half earned Osasuna a point. “What we were missing was scoring that penalty, normally Karim scores them,” Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti told DAZN. “He had no problem playing the 90 minutes. It’s been a month since he’s played, he has to get his best form back. He did his part, he had the chance from the penalty. It’s an accident, sometimes it happens.” Benzema made his first appearance since Sept. 6, while Andriy Lunin and Dani Ceballos started in place of injured duo Thibaut Courtois and Luka Modric. Madrid probed promisingly down the flanks, while at the other end Abde Ezzalzouli, on loan at Osasuna from Barcelona, crashed a shot into the side-netting in a bright display. Madrid opened the scoring in fortuitous fashion, with Vinicius whipping in a low cross which caught out goalkeeper Sergio Herrera and crept in at the far post. Osasuna complained that Benzema and Antonio Rudiger were offside and interfering with play, but their
Novak Djokovic on Sunday claimed his third title of the season and the 89th of his career with an impressive straight-sets victory over Marin Cilic in the Tel Aviv final, insisting his lengthy absence since winning a seventh Wimbledon crown in July provided “extra motivation.” The 35-year-old Serb triumphed 6-3, 6-4 to add the Israeli hard-court trophy to victories on Rome’s clay and Wimbledon’s grass this season. It was his 19th win over Cilic in 21 meetings in a rivalry stretching back to 2008. Djokovic was playing his first singles tournament since wrapping up a seventh Wimbledon crown and 21st Grand Slam title in July. He was banned from the US Open and the entire North American hard-court swing over his refusal to be vaccinated before returning for Roger Federer’s farewell in the Laver Cup team event in London last month. “I played some very good tennis. I didn’t drop a set the entire week,” former world No. 1 Djokovic said. “I hadn’t played a tournament in three months, so it was really extra motivation for me to really do well, particularly because people have been so friendly and so supportive of me throughout the week. I’m taking some great confidence into next week as well.” Djokovic’s win on Sunday came in his 127th career final. It also allowed him to become the first man this year to claim titles on the sport’s three different surfaces. “My approach is to win tournaments wherever I am and I’m glad that I have a team of people around me that makes sure that I am in the best shape in order to be a contender to win titles,” Djokovic told the ATP Tour Web site. “That’s why I came to Israel, was to try to win the title. First time playing here since a Davis Cup tie more than
Taiwan’s Ye Hong-wei and Lee Chia-hsin on Sunday clinched the mixed doubles title at the Yonex Canada Open with a 12-21, 21-12, 21-15 win over Japan’s Hiroki Midorikawa and Natsu Saito in the final. Seventh-seeded Ye and Lee dispatched the top-seeded Japanese pairing in the three-game final match that took 40 minutes at Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary in their first-ever meeting. Despite losing the opening game 12-21, the Taiwanese pair fought back with a 21-12 win in the second game to force a decider. The final game was tied at 11-11 before Ye and Lee took the lead by capturing three consecutive points. After Midorikawa and Saito narrowed the gap to 17-15, Ye and Lee reeled off the next four points to win 21-15 and claim the mixed doubles title. In the women’s singles, Taiwan’s Sung Shuo-yun was beaten by Canada’s Michelle Li in straight games 21-16, 21-15 in the final. Sung was beaten by the second seed in 40 minutes in their second meeting and their first since the Macau Open in 2018. Sung’s runner-up finish was highlighted by her stunning 9-21, 21-15, 21-19 semi-final win over top seed Carolina Marin of Spain on Saturday.
Albert Pujols on Sunday hit his 702nd career home run and tied Babe Ruth for second on the all-time RBI list, but the Pittsburgh Pirates took the game from the St Louis Cardinals 7-5. Yadier Molina and Pujols, who are retiring at the end of the season, were honored in a 46-minute ceremony prior to their final regular-season home game. Pujols called it “pretty awesome” and “a great day.” “I’m really blessed to be back here,” said Pujols, who has 468 homers with the Cardinals. “To finish my career where everything started, it means a lot.” Ben Gamel and Bryan Reynolds homered for Pittsburgh, who have won four of six. Reliever Chase DeJong (6-2) got the win for the Pirates, allowing one run on four hits over 1-2/3 innings. David Bednar recorded his 19th save in 23 opportunities. Reynolds snapped a none-for-16 skid with his 27th homer of the season. “I was really proud of our guys, we battled back,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. Pujols ripped a two-run double in the opening inning and Molina brought him in with a fly to left for a 3-0 lead. “He continues to just wow everybody,” St Louis manager Oliver Marmol said. “That was no different.” The 42-year-old Pujols followed with his 23rd home run of the season in the third inning off Roansy Contreras that tied the game at 4-4. Pujols is fourth on the all-time home run list behind Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762). He is also now tied with Ruth for second in RBI list (2,214) behind Aaron (2,297). Molina and pitcher Adam Wainwright started their 328th game together. Wainwright (11-12) allowed six runs on six hits over 4-2/3 innings. Molina, Pujols and Wainwright were all removed from the game together so they could walk off as a trio with two outs in the fifth inning. Wainwright has
BACK ON TOP: The 22-year-old’s win ends a 20-year title drought for Finland, after Marcus Gronholm won in 2002, which was also in New Zealand and with two rounds left
Finland’s Kalle Rovanpera yesterday praised the perseverance of his team after clinching a historic World Rally Championship (WRC) title with two rounds to spare, after he won Rally New Zealand in Auckland. One day after his 22nd birthday, Rovanpera became the youngest world champion, smashing the record set by Briton Colin McRae, who was 27 when he won the 1995 title. The son of former WRC driver Harri Rovanpera, the Finnish prodigy was a class above his rivals through the rain-plagued four-day rally in the upper North Island that tested driver skill to the limit. Rather than simply defending his overnight lead, a confident Rovanpera extended his advantage over four short stages. He wrapped up the title by winning the 17th and final power stage, earning sufficient bonus points to ensure he cannot be overhauled by nearest rival Ott Tanak over the remaining WRC rounds in Spain and Japan. Rovanpera was on course to secure the title even earlier in the season after winning five of the first seven rounds, but he struck problems with his Toyota in successive rallies in August to open the door for 2019 champion Tanak. There was a release of emotion immediately after victory was sealed, with Rovanpera dancing atop the roof of his Yaris vehicle alongside codriver Jonne Halttunen. After that, he embraced his father. “It’s quite a big relief after such a good season and finally we are here,” Rovanpera said. “It was a small wait after a few difficult rallies. The biggest thanks goes to the team of course, they made a rocket this year — a reliable and fast car,” he said. “Even after the difficult rallies, they were all the time believing in us.” The overnight positions remained unchanged, with French eight-time champion Sebastien Ogier finishing second, 34.6 seconds off the pace, while Tanak was 48.5 seconds behind Rovanpera in
Ninad Malwade backed up his innings of 47 not out with two late wickets, helping Taipei-based PCCT defeat Formosa in the final of the T10 Annual Taiwan Cricket tournament at Taipei’s Yingfeng Cricket Ground yesterday. Formosa’s Anthony Liu hit 50 in the reply, but rued a lack of runs at the start of their innings that left his side seven runs shy of the win. In the fifth over, Liu turned the game around after the first four overs had yielded only 26 runs. He hit a lookaway hook shot into the square-leg fence on his first ball from Usman Javed and followed it up with three more sixes in the over. Formosa kept themselves in the game for the next three overs before Malwade took the ball. He had Liu caught in the deep and took another wicket while only conceding three runs to leave Formosa too much to chase in the last over. The founders of the new national body for cricket in Taiwan attended the final and were impressed with the hitting ability on display. “Anthony is very impressive. He is a very good hitter,” association vice chairman Joe Peng said. It was raining sixes in the morning’s first semi-final as Formosa piled on 128-1 with Liu (28) hitting three sixes, Sandeep Patel (38 not out) one and Vishwajit Tawar (47 not out) four in their win over the Raging Bulls. Pankaj Tirkey hit 52 in the reply, clearing the boundary four times himself, and Vijay Ganisetti made 12 of his 22 runs in the same manner, but they were never in the hunt for the mammoth target, finishing their 10 overs on 91-4. The second semi was dominated by Malwade, who scored 59 not out, as PCCT made short work of a target of 90 set by the Taipei Indians. The highlight of the
KTM Factory Racing rider Miguel Oliveira yesterday held his nerve in rainy conditions to win the Thailand Grand Prix in Buriram, as Francesco Bagnaia made up significant ground on world championship leader Fabio Quartararo who finished 17th. Oliveira crossed the line 0.730 seconds ahead of Ducati Team duo Jack Miller and Bagnaia at the Chang International Circuit, in a race delayed by almost an hour because of heavy rain, creating treacherous conditions. “It was a long race, but I can’t complain. Every time we get a chance to race on the wet, I’m always super fast,” said Oliveira, who also showcased his wet-weather skills this season in his victory at the Indonesian Grand Prix. “When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia, but I tried to keep my feet on the ground and not make mistakes. I’m happy with this end of season win,” he said. Bagnaia was made to work for his third-placed finish by Prima Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco, but held on to reduce Frenchman Quartararo’s lead in the standings from 18 points to two. “I’m very happy, it’s like a win for me,” Bagnaia said. “I want to thank Jack [Miller]. He gave me a motivational chat before the race, and we spoke a bit.” For Miller it was a second podium finish in a row, after his victory last weekend in Japan. He is fifth in the championship standings. “I was pushing hard there, I didn’t give up on victory,” Miller said. “It’s not an easy task in these conditions.” Miller is due to get married next weekend, ahead of his home grand prix in Australia, and said he would have been in “trouble” if the race had been postponed. Quartararo had a disastrous start to the race, dropping down from fourth on the grid to 17th place on the first lap before ending