The first time Daniil Medvedev made the US Open final, in 2019, he was just happy to be there, having made his deepest run at a grand slam. 

The Russian will enter Sunday's final at Flushing Meadows with a different mindset after breezing past Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4 7-5 6-2 in the semi-finals. 

After falling to Rafael Nadal in five sets two years ago in New York and losing to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final earlier this year, Medvedev is ready for a grand slam title of his own. 

"The more you lose something, the more you want to win it," Medvedev said after his semi-final win Friday. 

"I lost two finals. I want to win the third one. That's tennis, we have two players, only one going to win. You never know what's going to happen, but I'm going to try more than I did the first two times."

Medvedev has rolled through the draw, dropping only one set on the way to the final – the third to Botic van de Zandschulp in the quarter-finals. 

The world number two hopes the fact that he has not faced any marathon matches during his run to the final will help him Sunday. 

"There were some tight moments. There were some tight battles," he said. "Against Botic I won 7-5 in the fourth, which is not that much of a margin.

"It's never easy, but I'm happy that I managed to save a lot of physical abilities, physical power, and mental power.

"For sure, I mean, I don't think anybody is capable of winning a slam after playing, let's say, first three rounds five sets. I doubt this ever happened. So this is important.

"I'm really happy I managed to make it kind of fast."

Friday's match was no different, as Medvedev's only difficulty came when he fell behind 5-2 in the second set. 

But Auger-Aliassime could not finish the job, with Medvedev reeling off five successive games to end the threat before closing out the Canadian with ease in the third. 

"Many times you're going to lose a break against such an opponent as Felix, he had set points on his serve, you're going to lose a set," Medvedev said. "We can never know now how the match would go. Could be completely different story, being one set all, would be the first time for me in the tournament.

"I'm happy I managed to save this game, doing one great point and second one making him play the volley. Then it turned the match around. I think he started doubting.

"For sure it stayed in his mind, this game, so he started missing. I started putting more pressure. The match turned around. That was the key point."

Leylah Fernandez and Emma Raducanu have taken New York by storm: Saturday's US Open final is one that nobody would have predicted and nobody should miss.

The teenagers from Montreal and London are ranked at 73 and 150 by the WTA, which runs the women's tour, and have sent a clutch of household names scuttling for the Flushing Meadows exits.

In the absence of the familiar formidable presence of Serena Williams, this remarkable duo have taken the grand slam by the scruff of the neck and made it their own, thrilling crowds with their bravura.

Ahead of their clash in Saturday's final, where a life-changing title is up for grabs, Stats Perform looks at how Fernandez and Raducanu have come so far, and the feats left for them still to achieve in the Big Apple.

 

RADUCANU ON A ROLL, MAKING HER FIRST MILLION

It was no secret in British tennis circles that Raducanu was a bright talent, but she prioritised her studies ahead of going on tour and this year's Wimbledon marked her first senior grand slam main-draw appearance. Precocious potential often goes unfulfilled, but Raducanu proved she had the game as well as the wit to handle the big stage as she powered through to the fourth round at the All England Club.

She still had not climbed far enough in the rankings to earn an automatic place in the US Open, so won three qualifying rounds to earn her place. Astonishingly, she has since lost just 27 games in six main-draw matches and has not dropped a set. Serena Williams was the last player to win this title without losing a set, losing 32 games in her 2014 campaign.

The 18-year-old is the first qualifier in tennis history to reach a grand slam final, and just the second woman to reach a final after fewer than three appearances in the majors, after Pam Shriver at the 1978 US Open, her second slam. Shriver lost in her final to Chris Evert, so Raducanu can set a women's tour record for winning a title at the earliest point of a grand slam career, in those terms.

Raducanu is the second Briton to reach the women's final in New York in the Open Era, after 1968 champion Virginia Wade, who has been in the New York crowd this week.

The youngster's career prize money stood at $303,376 before this tournament, and she will become a tennis millionaire whatever the result of the final. The winner takes away $2.5million and the runner-up collects $1.25million.

Previously coached by Andy Murray's father-in-law Nigel Sears, Raducanu has been working under the guidance of former British tennis player Andrew Richardson in recent months, and this run has made her the youngest women's grand slam finalist since a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova took the title at Wimbledon in 2004.

At the US Open, she has become the youngest player to reach the title match since 1999, when a 17-year-old Serena Williams beat Martina Hingis to land the first of 23 singles slams to date.

She is the lowest-ranked player to reach a women's US Open final, besides Kim Clijsters who was a former number one but unranked after coming out of a short-lived retirement to triumph at the 2009 tournament.

FERNANDEZ FLOORS THE STARS, BUT CAN SHE RATTLE RADUCANU?

While Raducanu can count Olympic champion Belinda Bencic among her victims, it has been Fernandez who has been the real giant-killer over this fortnight.

Since making an unassuming start with wins over Ana Konjuh and Kaia Kanepi to reach round three, Fernandez's run has gone into overdrive.

Sinking defending champion Naomi Osaka marked the kick-starting of one of the great charges through a draw, as the Japanese star became the first of three top-five stars to lose to the youngster, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka being the others.

Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, overcame former US Open winner Angelique Kerber, too, and each of those four wins from the third round on has been epic, going to three sets each time and chock-full of tension.

She has become the youngest player to beat more than one player from the top five at the same slam since Serena Williams saw off Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport and Hingis from the quarter-finals onwards at the 1999 US Open.

What does she have left? And can Fernandez overcome a dismal record against British players? Remarkably she has a 1-6 record at all levels against British opponents, according to the WTA, and only last month she was beaten by Harriet Dart in Montreal.

This will be the first women's grand slam final between two unseeded players. There have only ever been 21 unseeded women's finalists and seven at the US Open, and if one or both of them freezes in the spotlight it would be excusable, but that prospect appears unlikely given their shared brio and sense of belonging at this level.

Fernandez has been a masterful conductor of the crowd, and has become the third Canadian woman to reach a slam final, after Eugenie Bouchard at Wimbledon in 2014 and Bianca Andreescu at the US Open two years ago. Bouchard was runner-up to Petra Kvitova, while Andreescu beat Serena Williams.

Like Raducanu, her career earnings will be transformed whatever the outcome of the trophy match, with Fernandez having banked $786,772 before this spellbinding run.

RISE OF THE TEENAGER

This will be the fourth US Open women's final in the Open Era to be contest by two teenagers, following on from Steffi Graf's win over Gabriela Sabatini in 1988, which sealed a calendar Grand Slam, the victory by Hingis over Venus Williams in 1997, and Serena's win against Hingis two years later.

Although Raducanu and Fernandez are young, they are put in the shade somewhat by the fact a 16-year-old Hingis played a 17-year-old Venus in that 1997 final.

Overall, it will be the ninth Open Era women's final between two teenagers at the majors, and whoever wins will be the youngest champion since Sharapova's Wimbledon triumph.

NATIONAL PRIDE

Raducanu has come from almost nowhere to become British number one, which will be confirmed in the new WTA rankings next week. Should she win the title, she will move to 24 on the global list, and a defeat would mean she sits at number 32, while Fernandez will be 19th if she carries off the trophy and number 27 should she fall short.

The title would make Fernandez Canada's number one, leapfrogging Andreescu.

At around 16:00 in New York on Saturday, two teenagers will step on court, likely to the wild acclaim they richly deserve. Both might have been able to walk the grounds unnoticed a fortnight ago, but Raducanu and Fernandez are globally recognised now.

At a tournament that has been missing a galaxy of stars – the Williams sisters, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to name but four, and we should probably get used to that – these flamboyant greenhorns have shown tennis might just have a future as thrilling as its immediate present.

Daniil Medvedev flicked away the threat of Felix Auger-Aliassime to reach his third grand slam final and second US Open title match.

The Russian was briefly in trouble in the second set, when Auger-Aliassime could not serve it out after establishing a 5-2 lead, but he was otherwise in charge as he nailed a 6-4 7-5 6-2 semi-final win.

It means the man who was beaten by Rafael Nadal in a mesmerising 2019 Flushing Meadows final will be back on Sunday to go after a first title at the majors.

World number two Medvedev looked in good shape here, and it was always going to take a major effort for 12th-seeded Canadian Auger-Aliassime to test him.

That test arrived when Auger-Aliassime led by a break in the second set but could not finish the job.

Medvedev soon levelled the set at 5-5 and Auger-Aliassime coughed up an ugly double fault to give him a look at 0-30 in the next game, before fluffing a volley to present the Russian with three game points.

A forehand into the net moved Medvedev into a 6-5 lead, serving for a two-set cushion, and a fuss-free game moved the Moscow-born 25-year-old one step away from the final.

Auger-Aliassime was looking to follow his fellow Canadian Leylah Fernandez into a US Open final this weekend, yet the failure to seize that one big chance was his undoing.

Playing ahead of the second semi-final between calendar Grand Slam-hunting Novak Djokovic and Olympic champion Alexander Zverev, it was plain sailing in the third set for Medvedev.

He struck a startling forehand winner around the net post late in the contest, demonstrating the sort of class to test the best.

Medvedev described the clash as "a strange match", saying in an on-court interview: "I think everybody thought it was going to be one set all, and you never know where the match is going to go.

"I managed to save the set points: he missed one volley and I won one good point, and the match turned around completely. I don't think I played my best today, but I'm really happy to be in the final."

He quite reasonably described his five-set thriller against Nadal two years ago as "a crazy match".

"If it's going to be a crazy match on Sunday, I just hope I can win this time," he added.


DATA SLAM

Medvedev won a terrific 81 per cent of points when landing his first serve in court, which is match-winning tennis and the sort of form he may need in the final. A three-set drubbing by Djokovic in the Australian Open final at the start of this year was an anti-climax given the match promised so much, and Medvedev won just 69 per cent on first serve in that one-sided match. All the ratios looked good for Medvedev in this match, but he will know the final is a step up. He looks destined to win multiple grand slams, but getting the first one is often the toughest.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Medvedev – 37/25
Auger-Aliassime – 17/39

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Medvedev – 12/4
Auger-Aliassime – 4/10

BREAK POINTS WON

Medvedev – 5/5
Auger-Aliassime – 1/3

If the opener is any evidence, the 2021 NFL season is set to be a rollercoaster ride.

Defending champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers emerged victorious from a frenetic encounter with the Dallas Cowboys, raising their Super Bowl LV title banner and then prevailing 31-29.

No team has won the Super Bowl in successive years since Tom Brady and the New England Patriots did so in the 2004 season. He will aim to repeat the feat having led the Bucs to glory last year, but do they deserve their status as favourites to retain the Lombardi Trophy, or will the Kansas City Chiefs or another of their potential challengers stand triumphant in Los Angeles come February?

With a jam-packed first Sunday of the campaign on the horizon, Stats Perform's panel of experts make their predictions for what promises to be a fascinating season.

Nicholas McGee: Shanahan puts his Super Bowl curse to bed

AFC Champion: Cleveland Browns
NFC Champion: San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl Champion: San Francisco 49ers
MVP: Tom Brady

San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan has endured his fair share of Super Bowl heartbreak, receiving criticism after the Atlanta Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI when he was the offensive coordinator and in the wake of the Niners' fourth-quarter collapse against the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV two seasons ago.

But the roster Shanahan has at his disposal is one primed to contend to go deep into the postseason again. Nick Bosa leads an extremely deep defensive line that has the talent to take over games while the offense is flush with playmakers. The question is when dual-threat quarterback Trey Lance, the third overall pick in the draft, will be ready to win the starting quarterback job from Jimmy Garoppolo.

With Lance adding another element to the rushing offense, a ground attack that ranked second in yards per game in 2019 has the potential to become a near-unstoppable force and lay the foundation for Shanahan to finally get his hands on the Lombardi Trophy.

In Tampa, Brady looks to be somehow getting stronger with age and, if that continues throughout the campaign and the Bucs are contending to repeat as champions, it will be difficult to look past him for MVP. With pass rushers that can overwhelm opponents and a diverse rushing attack, the 49ers have a potential formula to dictate a game against Tampa and end Brady's hopes of an eighth title.

The Browns have a strong case for the top running game in the NFL going into the season. An excellent supporting cast for Baker Mayfield and a superb offensive line means the 2018 number one overall pick has everything he needs to push Cleveland to a deep postseason run. On defense, the Browns have made astute additions at linebacker and in the secondary and boast one of the most well-rounded rosters in the league. Yet in a matchup between their head coach Kevin Stefanski and Shanahan, the nod has to go to the league's pre-eminent play-caller.

Rob Lancaster: Dak is back, and so are the Cowboys as an NFC force!

AFC Champion: Kansas City Chiefs
NFC Champion: Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl Champion: Kansas City Chiefs
MVP: Dak Prescott

How 'bout them Cowboys! The call may be brave, but the NFC has not seen a back-to-back champion since the Seahawks in 2014 and Dallas' performance in the opener was one of a team that should not only be favourite for their NFC East division but also contend for a conference title they will see as long overdue.

The Cowboys piled up points when Dak Prescott was healthy, though they didn't equate to wins. His 403 passing yards and three touchdowns were also not enough against the Bucs, but they should serve to allay concerns over the ankle injury that ended his 2020 season or the shoulder issue that overshadowed his preseason and boost hopes he can perform at a level that helped Dallas average 509.5 net yards per game in the first four weeks of the previous campaign.

The key to Dallas realising their potential is the defense, where the Cowboys hope the presence of Dan Quinn as coordinator should help see vast improvements. The early signs were promising against Tampa Bay as a team that allowed 2,541 rushing yards last year gave up only 52 to the Buccaneers on Thursday. If they can become even an average defense this season and get the best out of Prescott, that is a recipe for a Super Bowl challenge. 

As for the Chiefs, a Super Bowl defeat is one thing, but they were embarrassed by the Bucs. The response has been to improve the offensive line, making sure Patrick Mahomes has time to work his magic. Not only will they get back to the big game, this time they will triumph, dashing Jerry Jones' dream of hosting a title parade in Texas.

Chris Myson: Never bet against Brady

AFC champion: Cleveland Browns
NFC champion: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Super Bowl champion: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
MVP: Tom Brady

The Buccaneers took time to find their groove last season, understandably given Brady moved to a new offense after 20 years in New England as the team coped with a disrupted preseason. A roster with few obvious holes put it all together down the stretch, a feat that became more remarkable when it later emerged the ageless Brady – whose 40 passing touchdowns was the second-highest total of his remarkable career – played the whole season with a torn MCL.

After the Bucs incredibly found a way to ensure they will return all 22 starters, their head coach and both coordinators, it would be brave to bet against them at least coming close to a repeat with a fit and firing Brady showing just how comfortable he now he is in Tampa by throwing for 379 yards and four touchdowns, albeit with two interceptions, and leading a game-winning drive against the Cowboys.

The Browns, in their second year with impressive offensive mind Stefanski, continue to draft and recruit wisely under GM Andrew Berry. With star wideout Odell Beckham Jr returning from injury with a point to prove, Mayfield poised for a career year and a formidable rushing attack already in place, they will relish another shot at the Chiefs after pushing them all the way in a 22-17 Divisional Round defeat.

Ben Spratt: Watch out, Peyton – Mahomes is coming for your record!

AFC champion: Kansas City Chiefs
NFC champion: Los Angeles Rams
Super Bowl champion: Kansas City Chiefs
MVP: Patrick Mahomes

The Chiefs may well have been entering this season as two-time reigning champions if not for an awful Super Bowl showing from their offensive line, which allowed superstar quarterback Mahomes to be pressured 33 times by the Buccaneers.

Kansas City addressed that issue in the offseason and will hope they have now found a fix. Effective pass protection should take the Chiefs all the way and mean an outstanding regular season for Mahomes, who might even fancy a shot at Peyton Manning's single-season record of 55 touchdowns with a 17th game to play with.

That O-Line would face the ultimate test if the Rams also made the big game, however, tasked with keeping Aaron Donald away from Mahomes. It is an improvement to the Rams' own weakest element – their QB, with Matthew Stafford in for Jared Goff – that figures to bring them into contention to emerge from the NFC as they did in the 2018 season.

Australia are looking for a lift and have turned to Quade Cooper to provide guile from number 10 against South Africa as the Rugby Championship resumes.

Three weeks on from the second round of games, Australia and the Springboks go head to head, and New Zealand tackle Argentina, with both games being played on Sunday at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast.

The Wallabies took a Bledisloe Cup drubbing at the hands of the All Blacks, losing all three games in that series, with two of those forming part of this tournament, so they are looking for a spark and will hope Cooper, making his first international appearance in over four years, can provide that.

The 33-year-old last featured, briefly, against Italy in June 2017 and now plays for Japanese team Kintetsu Liners.

His career looked to be in steep decline at one point, as Cooper lost his place in not only the Australia squad during Michael Cheika's reign as coach, but also fell out of favour with the Queensland Reds.

Now he is set for a 71st Test appearance, having been originally beckoned into Dave Rennie's squad as a training player.

South Africa make seven changes to their starting XV for the match, with number eight Duane Vermeulen selected to make his first appearance for the Boks since the 2019 World Cup final after recovering from ankle surgery.

There are changes afoot for New Zealand too, with lock Brodie Retallick named captain for the clash with Argentina as Ardie Savea sits the game out after taking a knock to the head last week.

Ahead of the crunch double-header, the third of six rounds of games in the championship, Stats Perform looks at the key Opta facts.

NEW ZEALAND v ARGENTINA

Form

The All Blacks are inevitably on a high after crushing the Bledisloe Cup aspirations of their trans-Tasman rivals and duly making a strong start to the championship. They have full-back Jordie Barrett available despite his red card against Australia last time out after the punishment was rescinded on appeal in midweek.

New Zealand have won their last seven men's Tests on the bounce by an average margin of 40 points per game. The last time they won more in succession was a nine-game streak from November 2017 to September 2018 which included a 46-24 win over Argentina.

They have not always had it easy against the South American powerhouses, though. Their clashes in last year's Tri-Nations were memorable, with Argentina scoring a stunning 25-15 win over the All Blacks on November 14, 2020, only to then lose 38-0 when they met again a fortnight later. New Zealand have won 29 of their 31 Tests against Argentina (D1, L1).

New Zealand have had just 12 minutes and 53 seconds of possession per game in this year's Rugby Championship, the lowest of any team in the competition. Despite this, they lead the competition in metres gained (615), clean breaks (15), and points scored (48) per game.

Argentina's two defeats to South Africa in the opening two rounds suggest they might find the going tough this weekend.

Ones to watch

Blindside flanker Akira Ioane has crossed the gainline on 17 of his 18 gainline carries for New Zealand in the competition so far. His 94 per cent rate is the highest of any player to have made at least 10 gainline carries in this tournament.

Retallick will carry the responsibility of leadership after he was favoured ahead of Beauden Barrett who, at fly-half, was judged to have enough going on without having to issue orders.

Coach Ian Foster said of Retallick, who has returned to Test action this year after a spell in Japan: "He's back, he's confident, he's got the smile on his face, and that's part of the biggest thing with Brodie. When he's settled and he loves the environment, then he can go out and express himself.

"And I don't want a lot to change with that captaincy band. It's one of the challenges of giving it to someone like Brodie, do you force him into someone that he's not? But I'm really comfortable. He knows his role, he's clear and the boys certainly want to follow him."

Discipline will be important for both sides, with Argentina having received six yellow cards and one red card in their last six men's Tests, including two yellow cards against the Boks last time out. They had received only one yellow card and one red card in their previous 25 Tests.

SOUTH AFRICA v AUSTRALIA

Form

After the tussle between the All Blacks and Pumas, perhaps this can be considered the headline match of the weekend, an embattled Australia facing World Cup winners who are aiming for a statement victory.

For COVID-19 reasons, Queensland is staging the remainder of this tournament, and Australia coach Rennie will look for a response from his players to their sequence of losses.

The three-in-a-row streak is a concern, and the last time the Wallabies lost more in succession was a four-game stretch from June to August in 2018. They lost twice to Ireland and twice to New Zealand before ending that losing run with a 23-18 success against South Africa.

Australia have won 19 of their last 24 men's Tests at home against South Africa, logging just three defeats in that span (D2). They are undefeated in their last five such fixtures (W4, D1), yet each of those games has featured a margin of fewer than seven points on the day.

It could be tight again, with South Africa having won 15 of their 18 Tests since the beginning of 2019. They have won their last four on the bounce, and their 83 per cent win rate since the beginning of 2019 is the best of any top-tier team in that time.

South Africa defeated Argentina 29-10 in the second round, while Australia went down 38-21 to New Zealand in Perth.

The Springboks have missed the fewest tackles per game (16) so far in the championship and have the highest tackle success rate (89 per cent) of any team. Australia’s tackle success rate of 82 per cent is the lowest of the four sides, but the context is that they were facing the All Blacks.

South Africa have created 20 mauls throughout this tournament, which is twice as many as any other team and five times as many as Australia (4); the Springboks have gained 56 metres and scored one try from those mauls.

Ones to watch

Australia scrum-half Tate McDermott has beaten nine defenders in this year's Rugby Championship, the second-most of any player (Akira Ioane – 12). He beat seven defenders against the All Blacks in the last round, and only twice in the last decade has any scrum-half from a tier one nation made more (Antoine Dupont 9, Francois Hougaard 8).

He therefore has a pivotal role to play, and how he combines with Cooper will be keenly observed.

Rennie said he was "thrilled" to be able to be giving Cooper another chance to show his quality at this level, and it remains to be seen whether this is a one-off comeback or something that might have longer-term legs.

Michael Hooper will match George Gregan's record of 59 matches as captain of Australia as he wins a 112th cap, and there are other landmarks set to arise. Reece Hodge, who starts on the bench, and Allan Alaalatoa will each win 50th caps.

Rennie described the match as "a huge occasion" for Hooper, hailing his longevity as "testament to his leadership and resilience".

Boks coach Jacques Nienaber said of the occasion: "Australia pose a strong threat with their running rugby and they like to keep the ball in play. They will also be playing in front of a charged-up home crowd, so it will be good to have these experienced players back as they know what it takes to perform in big matches."

South Africa have won their last two Tests on the bounce against Australia, as many as they had won in their eight encounters prior (D2, L4). The last time they won more successive games against the Wallabies was a three-game winning stretch from September 2012 to September 2013.

Valtteri Bottas capped off a busy week by recording the fastest time in Friday's qualifying session at the Italian Grand Prix.

It was confirmed on Monday that Bottas will end his five-season association with Mercedes at the end of 2021, with the Finn to join Alfa Romeo.

George Russell will replace Bottas as Lewis Hamilton's team-mate, but before that there is still a world title for Mercedes to fight for, and they secured a one-two ahead of Saturday's sprint race at Monza.

Bottas registered a time of 1:19.555 to finish just 0.096s quicker than defending world champion Hamilton, with current championship leader Max Verstappen rounding off a disappointing session in third place.

It means Bottas will start in pole for Saturday's sprint, which will decide the grid placings for Sunday's grand prix.

Speaking after the hour-long session, Hamilton – who trails Verstappen by three points – said: "Every point counts. Congratulations to Valtteri [Bottas], he did a mega lap.

"It was looking good for us up to then but he went quicker and I couldn't match it.

"We've lost the championship [in the past] by one point. These sprint races can help. The Italian fans are so beautiful, it is good to see them and good to be back here. What an amazing circuit."

Bottas, meanwhile, is looking to capitalise on his efforts heading into the weekend.

"That qualifying lap was nice and it feels good when you get a nice lap in," he said.

"It was good fun and I feel relaxed now everything is sorted for the future. The car has been so good and next year will be exciting for me and I'm looking forward to it.

"I'm expecting to get maximum points tomorrow and then do the best job I can on Sunday."

A frustrated Verstappen reflected on a challenging day for Red Bull, though the Dutchman is confident of improving over the course of the event.

"For us this track is always going to be difficult," Verstappen said. "We struggled a bit in free practice but recovered quite well so we're happy to be third and I hope for the race we can be a bit closer."

Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo sealed fourth and fifth on the sprint race grid for McLaren, while Pierre Gasly followed before the two Ferraris, with Sergio Perez and Antonio Giovinazzi completing the top 10 - Sebastian Vettel failing to make it out of Q2.

 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

Valterri Bottas (Mercedes) 1:19:555
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0:096secs
Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0:411secs
Lando Norris (McLaren) +0:434secs
Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +0:44secs
Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0:705secs
Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0:907secs
Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0:955secs
Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +1:056secs
Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) +1:253secs

Kiradech Aphibarnrat holds a one-shot lead over Laurie Canter after the second round of the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Aphibarnrat shared the overnight lead with Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who went round in level par on Friday, but a four-under 68 moved him into top spot as the Thai sits on 12 under.

Canter, who has only seven European Tour top-10 finishes since 2010, was joint-fourth after Thursday's play but a second-round 66 placed him one stroke shy of Aphibarnrat.

Returning to the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2006, Adam Scott sits in third place after recovering from a double-bogey six on the third to reach 10 under.

Scott's playing partner Justin Rose, who knows victory at Wentworth will guarantee an outright spot in Padraig Harrington's Ryder Cup team, joined Jamie Donaldson and Billy Horschel in a share of fourth after carding 68, which put him on nine under overall.

Ryder Cup hopeful Shane Lowry finds himself embroiled in numerous qualification scenarios with Bernd Wiesberger, who closed on six under, and is now four shots back from the lead after producing a six-under 66.

The Irishman is part of a seven-man group in a tie for seventh and the 2019 Open Champion feels he is thriving under the pressure of securing a spot at Whistling Straits on September 24.

"Coming here with a little bit of pressure on me needing to perform and play well and I've done that the first two days," he said. "I'm pretty happy to be honest.

"Obviously I want to make the [Ryder Cup] team automatically. I think I've played some really good golf over the last few months to put my hat in for a pick on Sunday evening if I do need one.

"I'm here to win the golf tournament."

The NFL returned in spectacular fashion on Thursday as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers edged the Dallas Cowboys in a thriller.

It is a remarkable appetiser to the main course of Week 1, which sees 14 more games on Sunday and another on Monday between the Baltimore Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders.

There is a mouth-watering playoff rematch to behold at Arrowhead Stadium, while a clutch of rookie quarterbacks will attempt to make sure their first steps in the league are successful ones.

Ahead of what should be an enthralling opening week, Stats Perform looks at some of the most interesting facts from Sunday's biggest games.

Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs

Revenge will be on the minds of the Browns in the most enticing matchup of the opening week, Cleveland aiming to upset the odds after falling short against the Chiefs in the Divisional Round of last season's playoffs.

History, though, is firmly against Cleveland. The Chiefs have won three straight games against the Browns dating back to 2013, while Andy Reid is 7-0 in his career as a head coach versus the Browns, one of three teams he is undefeated against. The others are the Chiefs (3-0) and his former team the Philadelphia Eagles (2-0).

Kevin Stefanski led the Browns to an 11-5 record in 2020, his first year as an NFL head coach. It was the most wins in a season by the Browns since 1994 (also 11 wins). The last time the Browns won at least 10 games in back-to-back seasons was 1986 to 1988 (three straight).

The Chiefs set a franchise record with 14 wins in 2020 and played in the Super Bowl for the second straight season, with Kansas City the favourites to be the AFC's representative in the February showpiece yet again. Only three teams have ever made the Super Bowl in three straight seasons – the Buffalo Bills (four, 1990-93), New England Patriots (three, 2016-18) and Miami Dolphins (three, 1971-73).

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Buffalo Bills

The Bills were a game away from the Super Bowl last season and enter this clash between a new AFC heavyweight and a seemingly fading force on a regular-season winning streak.

In a campaign that saw them go 13-3 and post their best record since 1991, the Bills finished the regular season with six straight wins averaging an NFL-best 38.2 points during that span.

Pittsburgh began last season 11-0, then dropped four of their last five games, finishing with an opening-round exit to the Browns in the playoffs. The Steelers were the first team to start 11-0 since the 2015 Carolina Panthers.

And the Steelers will be looking to avoid a third straight defeat to the Bills, who made it two successive wins over Pittsburgh with last season's 26-15 victory in Week 14. The Steelers had won nine of the previous 10 meetings dating back to 1993. 

Green Bay Packers @ New Orleans Saints

The Drew Brees era is over for the Saints, who have selected Jameis Winston as his successor at quarterback. The Packers have a talented defense but the often-erratic Winston's past form suggests he should move the ball against them. Winston has averaged 12.62 yards per completion over his career, the highest mark by any QB who has debuted in the past 30 years (minimum 1,500 completions).

Two perennial NFC powers, games between New Orleans and Green Bay have been consistently high-scoring affairs. The Saints and Packers have combined to average 52.0 points per game in their 26 all-time meetings, the highest average between any two NFL teams who have met at least 20 times.

Green Bay won 13 games in each of the last two seasons but failed to make the Super Bowl in either one. The Packers joined the 2018-19 Saints as the only teams in the Super Bowl era to win 13+ games in back-to-back seasons but miss the Super Bowl in both.

Elsewhere...

It will be a season partially defined by the performance of the rookie quarterbacks, with four of the five drafted in the first round seemingly set to feature in Week 1.

The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with their first-ever number one overall pick. When he lines up against the Houston Texans, Lawrence will be the eighth different QB to start a season opener for the Jaguars since 2010, tied for second most in the NFL behind the Browns (nine). 

Second overall pick Zach Wilson is set to become the 49th starting quarterback in New York Jets history when they face the Carolina Panthers and his predecessor Sam Darnold. No Jets quarterback has started every game of a season since Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2015, which happens to be the last time the Jets had a winning record (10-6).

Trey Lance will likely see sporadic action for the San Francisco 49ers versus the Detroit Lions. However, if Jimmy Garoppolo's spotty injury history continues in 2021, Lance could soon become the undisputed starter. Garoppolo was limited to six games last season. In three of the games, Garoppolo passed for multiple touchdowns with no interceptions. In the other three, Garoppolo had no touchdown passes and at least one interception.

The New England Patriots have used just four starting quarterbacks in their season openers since 2000, with Mac Jones poised to be the fifth as he looks to become the long-term successor to Tom Brady. Only the Packers (two) and Saints (three) have had fewer season-opening starters in that span – the NFL average in that time is 7.5 quarterbacks.

The 2021 NFL season began on Thursday as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers started their quest for a second straight Super Bowlw title with a thrilling victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

Having won his seventh ring in his first season with the Bucs playing in front of at best sparsely populated crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic, Brady and Tampa Bay claimed a 31-29 victory in front of a packed house at Raymond James Stadium.

While the return of fans and full stadiums will give this season a different look, once more it is the Bucs and the Kansas City Chiefs who go into the year as the teams to beat.

However, there are a host of other high-profile teams who could be set to improve on their 2020 win-loss records, as well as those who could be poised to decline from postseason contention.

With the help of Stats Perform data, here are some of the more intriguing teams to keep eye on as the NFL makes its much anticipated return.

With Dak back, Cowboys hope to contend

A gruesome ankle injury suffered by Dak Prescott in Week 5 ended Dallas' hopes of challenging last season.

As it turned out, further injuries on the offensive line and a miserable defense would have made it tough for the Cowboys to contend even if Prescott had been on the field to lead the offense, as their wait for a first Super Bowl since 1995 goes on.

But Prescott is back with the security of a lucrative new contract as Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup remain part of an explosive supporting cast and he delivered a compelling reminder of his upside in defeat to Tampa Bay, throwing for 403 yards, three touchdowns and an interception off the hands of Lamb.

Prescott has averaged 8.26 yards per attempt over the last two seasons, third best among NFL QBs, and there are huge hopes for the offense, particularly if the highly rated Lamb (74 catches for 935 yards in 2020) can kick on from a fine rookie season. Despite Lamb's drop leading to a turnover, the early signs were good as he caught seven passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, helping Prescott average 6.95 yards per attempt and post a 101.4 passer rating.

If new Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn can get the defense – which allowed 158.8 rushing yards per game last season (31st in the NFL) but just 52 against the Bucs - somewhere towards the middle of the pack, the Cowboys should soar well clear of their 6-10 mark from 2020 and will be justified favourites to win the NFC East.

Pats look to pressure Bills in AFC East

The Bills and Josh Allen were so good last season that they may decline from their 13-3 mark even without doing too much wrong.

Allen made an astonishing leap from year two to three – posting career highs in passing yards (3,089 to 4,544), passing touchdowns (20 to 37) and completion percentage (58.8 to 69.2), plus eight rushing scores - and was rewarded with a huge offseason contract extension.

Allen's numbers and rate of improvement are hard to sustain, and even a marginal decline could lead to a worse record in a competitive division.

Stefon Diggs was incredible with league-leading figures of 127 catches and 1,535 receiving yards, while Cole Beasley (82 catches for 967 yards) was a crucial complementary piece.

Allen and Diggs played all 16 games last season while Beasley only missed one, so there was good fortune on the health front, while the Bills were able to win close games last season – boasting a 5-1 record in one-score contests – a metric that often reverts to the mean.

Their divisional rivals, meanwhile, look threatening. The New England Patriots have spent big in free agency to revamp the supporting cast for rookie QB Mac Jones.

New England's tight end situation has been among the league's worst since the departure of Rob Gronkowski, but they doubled down at the position to land Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.

Henry ranks sixth among tight ends with 1,265 yards since the start of the 2019 season, while only five TEs have more than the 11 TDs grabbed by the athletic Smith over that period.

Wide receiver Nelson Agholor arrived after a career year (896 yards) for the Las Vegas Raiders as the pass-catching options were significantly boosted.

A down year for the Patriots – in which their offensive weapons looked woeful and several defensive players opted out - still produced a not disastrous 7-9 record, with four of those losses coming by eight points or fewer.

The Miami Dolphins (3-4 in one score games) are another ascending team in the division after going 10-6 and allowing only 21.1 points per game (ried-fifth in the NFL).

Even the New York Jets, buoyed after selecting BYU QB Zach Wilson at number two overall, look poised to be more competitive than their 2-14 misery a season ago.

From worst to (somewhere nearer) first?

Trevor Lawrence has been billed as a generational talent at QB and there were few questions he would be selected at number one overall in the draft.

With Lawrence being paired with college coaching great Urban Meyer and an intriguing array of pass-catchers including Laviska Shenault (691 scrimmage yards, five TDs last year) and D. J. Chark (1,714 receiving yards since 2019), the Jags could be set for rapid improvement.

Even in their awful season that led to the chance to select Lawrence at the top of the draft, the Jags were 1-6 in one score games and slightly better than their 1-15 record suggested.

By the same metric, divisional rivals the Indianapolis Colts (5-2) and the Tennessee Titans (7-2) claimed many of their victories in close games.

With the Colts negotiating some uncertainty at QB as they look to revive the career of Carson Wentz – who is dealing with a foot injury – and the Houston Texans in disarray and full rebuild mode, the Jags could emerge as surprise challengers to the Titans.

Other teams who could rise and fall

Other teams who look likely to ascend include the San Francisco 49ers (6-10), who were ravaged with injuries last season and now have two viable options at QB with Jimmy Garoppolo and exciting draft pick Trey Lance. Five of their losses last season came by one score or less despite a depleted roster. 

The Denver Broncos (5-11)  have a stacked roster with their only concerns coming at the QB position, where they hope Teddy Bridgewater can provide more stability than the volatile Drew Lock (16 TDs and 15 INTs in 2020), despite coming off a poor season with the Carolina Panthers, who opted to replace him with Sam Darnold.

The New Orleans Saints (12-4) could be trending in the opposite direction, though. While Drew Brees was not at his peak in his final NFL season, a combination of Jameis Wilson and Taysom Hill must now try to replace the future Hall of Famer while keeping pace with the formidable Bucs and an Atlanta Falcons team that has added dynamic tight end Kyle Pitts.

New Orleans' offseason was defined by a roster overhaul enforced by the Saints' salary cap woe, leaving them with a wide receiver depth chart that looks alarming with Michael Thomas (missed nine games in 2020) starting the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Tom Brady was grateful for Ryan Succop's last-gasp field goal as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened the 2021 NFL season with a dramatic win over the Dallas Cowboys.

The Bucs' Super Bowl defence looked set to begin with a loss as they trailed 29-28 with seven seconds remaining in Thursday's opening-night thriller at Raymond Jones Stadium.

But inspired by seven-time Super Bowl winner Brady, the hosts edged a see-saw battle 31-29 thanks to Succop's game-winning kick in the dying seconds.

After surviving a scare against the Cowboys, Brady accepts there is plenty of work for his side to do.

"The margin of error is thin in the NFL," he said. "One or two plays, it's always that's the way the game goes. Fortunately, we found a way to win. 

"I'm really happy Ryan and the field goal team made that really clutch kick there at the end. That was great to see. But as a team, we all know we've got to get back to work.

"We won, it's great, but we know that it was far from perfect and we have to get back to work and clean a lot of stuff up."

Brady completed 32 of 50 passes for 379 yards against the Cowboys and passed Drew Brees for most career passing touchdowns in season openers in NFL history with 43.

Cowboys counterpart Dak Prescott, making his comeback from a long lay-off, was 42-for-58 passing, with 403 yards, three TDs and one interception.

Prescott has now had 400-plus yards in four games since the start of last season – the most by any player in the NFL.

But from the Bucs' perspective, it was far from a vintage performance as they committed 11 penalties for 106 yards and converted just two of six third-down tries.

"We've got a lot a lot to learn," head coach Bruce Arians said. "I'm obviously not pleased with the start of the game, though I loved the finish. 

"Our guys are winning. They're going to finish and we're going to win, but we can play better and not put ourselves in that situation."

History-making British qualifier Emma Raducanu admits she cannot "actually believe" she has reached the US Open final at her first attempt.

The 18-year-old world number 150 stunned 17th seed Maria Sakkari 6-1 6-4 to book her spot in the US Open final, where she will meet fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez.

Raducanu is only appearing in her second grand slam, having made a run to the fourth round at Wimbledon in June.

The Briton has become the first qualifier in the Open era, male or female, to reach the final of a major tournament, while she is the youngest grand slam finalist since Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004.

On top of that, Raducanu is the first British woman to reach a grand slam final since Virginia Wade in 1977.

"The time here in New York has gone so fast," Raducanu said during her on-court interview.

"I've just been taking care of each day and before you know it, three weeks later, I'm in the final and I can't actually believe it."

She added during her post-match news conference: "[It is] a surprise. Honestly, I just can't believe it. A shock. Crazy. All of the above.

"It means a lot to be here in this situation. I wanted, obviously, to be playing grand slams, but I didn't know how soon that would be. To be in a grand slam final at this stage of my career… I have no words."

The Canada-born teenager will become only the fourth British woman in the Open era to appear in a grand slam final after Wade, Sue Barker and Ann Haydon-Jones.

Raducanu, who was full of praise for the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd, added that she was feeling no pressure or expectation.

"Is there any expectation? I'm a qualifier, so technically there's no pressure on me," she said.

Raducanu was glowing in her praise for former British men's number one and four-time Wimbledon semi-finalist Tim Henman, who has been in her box during this tournament.

"Tim is honestly such a big inspiration. He's been helping me, telling me to treat it one point at a time," Raducanu added.

"In moments like this, you can't get ahead of yourself and you really have to stay present."

The US Open decider will be the first grand slam final between teenagers since the 1999 edition at Flushing Meadows when Serena Williams (17) defeated Martina Hingis (18).

Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez said "there is no limit to her potential" after beating a third top-five player at the US Open to qualify for her maiden grand slam final in New York.

Fernandez, who celebrated her 19th birthday on Monday, shocked second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-4 in two hours, 20 minutes on Thursday.

British teenager Emma Raducanu, 18, awaits in Saturday's final at Flushing Meadows.

The decider will be the eighth grand slam final in the Open Era between teenagers and first since the 1999 US Open when Serena Williams defeated Martina Hingis. Williams, who remains an active player, has gone on to win 23 major titles, while Hingis won five.

"Impossible is nothing. Like my dad would tell me all the time there's no limit to my potential to what I can do," Fernandez told reporters post-match.

"Nothing's impossible. There's no limit to what I can do. I'm just glad that right now everything's going well."

Fernandez only claimed her maiden WTA Tour title in March, triumphing at the Monterrey Open, while she is only playing her third grand slam, never going further than the third round until this tournament.

The Montreal-born talent labelled her US Open run as "magical" having knocked out top-five trio Sabalenka, defending champion Naomi Osaka and fifth seed Elina Svitolina, along with three-time slam winner Angelique Kerber.

"I think I've been doing some things incredible," Fernandez said. "One word that really stuck to me is 'magical' because not only is my run really good but also the way I'm playing right now.

"I'm just having fun, I'm trying to produce something for the crowd to enjoy. I'm glad that whatever I'm doing on court, the fans are loving it and I'm loving it, too. We'll say it's magical."

Fernandez also revealed when she was in grade six, a teacher had told her to stop playing tennis and focus on school.

"I'm just glad that she told me that because every day I have that phrase in my head saying that I'm going to keep going, I'm going to push through, and I'm going to prove to her everything that I've dreamed of I'm going to achieve them," she said. "I think now I can say that I've done a pretty good job in achieving my dreams."

Aryna Sabalenka said she "destroyed" herself and bemoaned her inability to take opportunities after suffering a shock loss to teenage sensation Leylah Fernandez in the semi-finals of the US Open.

Sabalenka – the second seed – was beaten 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-4 to 19-year-old unseeded Canadian Fernandez at Flushing Meadows on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Sabalenka, who has won more matches than any player on the WTA Tour this year, has never reached a major final and her wait continues after also falling in the Wimbledon semis in June.

Sabalenka squandered a set point in the opening set, before losing her final service game to love to bow out on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"This is life. If you're not using your opportunities, someone else will use it," Belarusian star Sabalenka said at her post-match news conference. "This is what happened today.

"This is what we call pressure. I had a lot of opportunities and I didn't use it. I will try to improve it. I will keep working and fighting, and I believe that one day it will come."

Sabalenka had dominated early, leading 3-0 inside 10 minutes as she barely missed a first serve, before Fernandez rallied to claim the first set.

"I wouldn't say that she did something. I would say that I destroy myself," Sabalenka said. "On the key moment, I was up 4-2 serving, and I think I made double-faults. My first-serve percentage wasn't really good."

Sabalenka identified a key lesson for her was not to "over-think" opportunities, while she was positive about her conqueror Fernandez, who she said was playing like a "top-10 player".

"Now there is no pressure on her at all. Crowd are here for her," Sabalenka said.

"But the question is when you will start to understand what's going on and where you are, how good can you deal with all these expectations and all this level, all this pressure.

"She's like a top-10 player. We'll see how good she will be in the future."

Fernandez will play 18-year-old Emma Raducanu in Saturday's final, marking the first time two teenagers have met in a grand slam decider since Martina Hingis and Serena Williams at Flushing Meadows in 1999.

The Toronto Blue Jays continued their red-hot form with an eighth consecutive win after taking down the slumping New York Yankees 6-4 in MLB.

The Blue Jays (77-62) boosted their Wild Card chances with another victory, sweeping American League (AL) East rivals the Yankees (78-62) on Thursday.

Toronto are now within a half-game of the Yankees – who have lost six straight games – for the final AL Wild Card spot.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. landed a solo home run in the ninth inning, bringing up his 100th RBI for the season.

The Blue Jays All-Star finished the four-game series with three homers, marking the eighth time this year he has hit three or more homers in a series. According to Stats Perform, it is the most by any player in a season in AL history and second most in MLB history, behind Giancarlo Stanton (nine times in 2017).

Guerrero Jr.'s run of homers has seen him close within one of two-way Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani, who tops the list for most home runs this season.

Toronto's Bo Bichette starred with three hits including two RBI, while he homered from the ninth pitch of the game when leading off.

Blue Jays ace Jose Berrios had eight strikeouts, with his game only blemished by Anthony Rizzo's moon shot.

 

Pederson walks it off for Braves

Joc Pederson's single completed a 7-6 walk-off win for the Atlanta Braves over the Washington Nationals. With bases loaded, Pederson hit a single to left field to get Ozzie Albies home in a game where five homers were scored.

Nicky Lopez starred for the Kansas City Royals as they won 6-0 against the Baltimore Orioles, hitting an early home run and driving in Hunter Dozier in the eighth, going three-for-five.

The St Louis Cardinals made up ground in the Wild Card race with a 2-1 win over World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers, where Tyler O'Neill hit a tie-breaking home run.

 

Phillies let it slip late

The Philadelphia Phillies led 2-1 heading into the ninth inning but allowed three Colorado Rockies runs to lose 4-3, denting their Wild Card aspirations. With two out, closer Ian Kennedy's breaking ball was clubbed for a two-run homer by Ryan McMahon. Sam Hilliard backed that up with a towering moon shot off Kennedy and the Phillies could not reel that in.

 

Manaea fans nine for A's

Oakland Athletics left-handed Sean Manaea struck out nine over seven innings of one-run ball as the A's beat the Chicago White Sox 3-1. Manaea may be deputy to Frankie Montas but he looms as a capable co-anchor. The A's are now 76-64 and second in the AL West.

 

Thursday's results 

St Louis Cardinals 2-1 Los Angeles Dodgers
Oakland Athletics 3-1 Chicago White Sox
Cleveland Indians 4-1 Minnesota Twins
Miami Marlins 3-2 New York Mets
Colorado Rockies 4-3 Philadelphia Phillies
Kansas City Royals 6-0 Baltimore Orioles
Toronto Blue Jays 6-4 New York Yankees
Atlanta Braves 7-6 Washington Nationals

 

Yankees at Mets

A crucial Subway Series between the Yankees and New York Mets (70-71) gets underway on Friday. Jordan Montgomery starts for the Yankees, while city rivals the Mets send Tylor Megill to the mound.

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won an opening-night thriller in the NFL, the Super Bowl champions overcoming the Dallas Cowboys 31-29 thanks to a field goal with two seconds remaining.

The Cowboys led 29-28 with seven seconds on the clock at Raymond Jones Stadium – the home of the Buccaneers and the scene of their Super Bowl LV triumph in February.

But after Brady led an 11-play, 57-yard drive, Ryan Succop stepped up to convert the last-gasp field goal as the Buccaneers opened the 2021 season with a win.

It was another memorable outing for seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady (43), who passed Drew Brees for most career passing touchdowns in season openers in NFL history.

Brady completed 32 of 50 passes for 379 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions as the 44-year-old quarterback fuelled the Buccaneers.

Cowboys counterpart Dak Prescott – back on the field for the first time since his season-ending ankle injury in Week 5 of the 2020 season – was 42-for-58 passing, with 403 yards, three TDs and one interception.

Prescott has had 400-plus yards in four games since the start of last season – the most by any player in the NFL.

The Buccaneers and Cowboys traded touchdowns in the opening quarter – Brady finding Chris Godwin before Prescott's 22-yard pass was caught by CeeDee Lamb inside the final two minutes.

Brady and Rob Gronkowski connected for a touchdown as the Buccaneers reclaimed the lead and while Prescott's TD pass to Amari Cooper and a Greg Zuerlein field goal put Dallas ahead, Tampa Bay had the last say before half-time – Antonio Brown on the end of a 47-yard throw.

There was history made in the third quarter as Brady and Gronkowski combined for their 100th touchdown, the star pair joining Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison (114) in the 100 club.

With his 22nd career game with multiple receiving TDs, Gronkowski broke a tie with Antonio Gates for most games by a tight end in the Super Bowl era and moved into a tie for sixth in any position.

Dallas only trailed 28-26 entering the final period thanks to Cooper's second TD and the visitors took the lead with just over a minute remaining via another Zuerlein field goal, but Succop and the Buccaneers were not to be denied.

Emma Raducanu made history, the British teenager becoming the first qualifier to reach a grand slam final in the Open Era after upstaging Maria Sakkari in the US Open semi-finals.

Raducanu – the lowest-ranked woman to reach a major semi-final since Wimbledon 2018 – stunned 17th seed Sakkari 6-1 6-4 in New York on Thursday.

The 18-year-old will face fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez, 19, in Saturday's decider at Flushing Meadows after powering past the Greek star, with Raducanu the first Brit to contest a championship match at the US Open since 1968 winner Virginia Wade.

It will be the eighth grand slam final between teenagers in the Open Era and first since the US Open in 1999, when Serena Williams beat Martina Hingis.

Raducanu, who impressed in making this year's Wimbledon fourth round, was the first British woman to reach the semi-final stage of the US Open singles since Jo Durie in 1983 but she was not overawed under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights.

After fending off three break points against Sakkari in the opening game, Raducanu – who had only been broken five times entering the contest – broke for a 2-0 lead.

That set the tone for an incredible first set, which was ultimately decided on second serve as Raducanu blew away her experienced opponent.

Raducanu won 73 per cent of her second serves as she saved seven break points to thwart Sakkari, who only won four of her 13 second serves in comparison.

Sakkari – also looking to reach her first major final – tried to will herself on in the second set, however, the 26-year-old simply had no answers.

Raducanu did not face a break point in the second set as the world number 150 continued her fairytale run in the United States.

 

Data Slam: Raducanu dazzles again

Raducanu only made her grand slam main draw debut at Wimbledon this year, but she is through to her first major decider. She is the youngest slam finalist since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004. Raducanu is also only the fourth British woman in the Open Era to appear in a major final.

 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Raducanu – 16/17
Sakkari – 17/33

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Raducanu – 4/2
Sakkari – 4/5

BREAK POINTS WON

Raducanu – 3/11
Sakkari – 0/7

Quade Cooper will make a remarkable return for the Wallabies after being named to play for the first time since 2017 when Australia face South Africa on Sunday.

Cooper had been part of Australia's squad for the Bledisloe Cup against New Zealand, but was not used in any of the three Tests which the All Blacks comfortably won.

Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie has rolled the dice for the Rugby Championship showdown against South Africa on the Gold Coast, with 33-year-old Cooper named at fly-half, displacing 21-year-old Noah Lolesio.

Cooper's career has taken several turns since his last cap in 2017 against Italy, frozen out at Brad Thorn's Reds in Super Rugby, before a one-year stint at the Rebels and a move to play in Japan in 2019.

"He's had a really positive impact since joining the group, put pressure on us as selectors and he's excited to get out there and perform on Sunday night," Rennie said.

Angus Bell will earn his first start in the front-row, while Izack Rodda also comes into the starting line-up, with the backline unchanged.

Wallabies hooker Feleti Kaitu'u and back-rower Rob Leota are in line for debuts off the bench.

The match will see Australia captain Michael Hooper equal George Gregan's record for most Tests as Wallabies skipper when he steps out for the 59th time.

Meanwhile, Brodie Retallick has been named as captain for New Zealand after a head knock to Ardie Savea ahead of their Test against Argentina on Sunday.

Hooker Asafo Aumua will make his first Test start for the All Blacks, while prop Joe Moody returns following foot surgery via the bench.

"Brodie is a great leader in this team and we don't take his leadership for granted," said All Blacks coach Ian Foster. "We think this is a great honour for him, and he and his family can be hugely proud. 

"He's playing really well and leads from the front. He has come back into the black jersey this year and just picked up where he left off.

"He also has an experienced partner in Beaudy [Barrett] alongside him who is bringing a calmness to the team and a sense of direction and we’re seeing that in the way he plays."

 

Australia: Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Tate McDermott; Angus Bell, Folau Fainga'a, Allan Alaalatoa, Izack Rodda, Matt Philip, Lachlan Swinton, Michael Hooper, Rob Valetini.
Replacements: Feleti Kaitu'u, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia.

New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Sevu Reece, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, George Bridge, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Karl Tu'inukuafe, Asafo Aumua, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Luke Jacobson.
Replacements: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Joe Moody, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa'I, Ethan Blackadder, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie, Rieko Ioane.

Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez shocked US Open second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-4 to reach her first grand slam final on Thursday.

Fernandez continued her giant-slaying run at Flushing Meadows, where the 19-year-old sensation has stunned defending champion Naomi Osaka, 2016 winner Angelique Kerber, fifth seed Elina Svitolina and Sabalenka en route to the decider.

Fellow teenage sensation Emma Raducanu or 17th seed Maria Sakkari await Fernandez in Saturday's final in New York.

The defeat is a bitter blow for Belarusian star Sabalenka, who has never reached a major final, having also lost in the final four at Wimbledon this year.

The semi-final was full of momentum swings, but 52-23 unforced errors and 8-2 double faults ultimately were costly for Sabalenka, who lost the final game on her serve to love to hand Fernandez victory.

Sabalenka had raced to an early 3-0 lead inside 10 minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium, dominating with her power, missing only one of her first 13 first serves, before Fernandez settled into the contest.

Trailing 4-2, Fernandez – the youngest woman to beat multiple top-five opponents at the same slam since Serena Williams in 1999 – broke back as Sabalenka's first serve let her down, with the former converting the third of three break points.

Fernandez, who survived a break point to level it up at 4-4, eventually closed out the first set in a tie-break.

Sabalenka made a statement by breaking to love in the opening game of the second set, but Fernandez responded with a break of her own to level it at 2-2.

The second seemed destined for another tie-break, however Sabalenka broke to lead 5-4 and she never looked back as the 23-year-old forced a deciding set.

Fernandez seized control, breaking Sabalenka to move 4-2 ahead, though the latter responded immediately, despite the teenager taking her service game to deuce after trailing 0-40.

However, Fernandez held serve at 5-4 before breaking Sabalenka again to love to claim another memorable victory at the US Open.

Data Slam: Oh, Canada!

Fernandez's victory marks the second time in three years that a Canadian teenager has reached the US Open final, with then-19-year-old Bianca Andreescu beating Serena Williams in 2019. Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime remains alive in the men's semi-finals too.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Fernandez – 26/23
Sabalenka – 45/52

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Fernandez – 6/2
Sabalenka – 10/8

BREAK POINTS WON

Fernandez – 4/7
Sabalenka – 4/11

George Russell is determined to maintain a positive relationship with Lewis Hamilton as he prepared to join Mercedes "on level terms" with the seven-time world champion.

Such equality will not be reflected in their pay packets yet, but Russell is adamant he is joining the Silver Arrows to race for wins, saying he has "high aspirations" ahead of his close-season switch from Williams.

The 23-year-old will follow Valtteri Bottas in partnering Hamilton in the Mercedes ranks, after the Finn took over the drive from Nico Rosberg.

The rivalry between Hamilton and Rosberg was at times a fraught one, which has been the case between many great drivers in motorsport history.

But Russell says that for the sake of Mercedes making progress, it is essential the drivers start on a positive and respectful note, which is where he believes they are at present.

Speaking ahead of this weekend's Italian Grand Prix, where he will be driving for Williams, Russell addressed the importance of avoiding friction in a team.

"Yes, I think Mercedes have had clear experience of a sort of poor dynamic within the team and they've made it absolutely clear that they don't want a repeat and I think, on a personal level as well, I don't want that either," Russell said.

"I think it’s important for team-mates to work together, to push the team, and… next year, it's a new car, new regulations, there's no guarantees who is going to have the fastest car so it's our job as drivers to push that forward and I'd say as well, Lewis and I are at very different stages of our career, which I think also helps.

"And I have huge respect for him; being so much younger and looking up to him as a young karting driver changes that dynamic a lot. I don't see there being any issues at all."

Russell, quoted on the official F1 website, signalled that he saw his role at Mercedes not as being the second driver, deferential to the established leader, but as somebody who would receive equal treatment.

He said: “[I'm] definitely going in on level terms and that was made very clear to me.

"I think Mercedes have always been respectful in that regard, giving both the drivers the best opportunity, and obviously, naturally I believe in myself, and I have high aspirations, but equally I know how tough it's going to be.

"I think Lewis and I have got a really great relationship, we're at different stages of our careers, and we've got one goal next year which is to develop the car, push it forward and make sure that we, as two drivers, give ourselves the best chance of having the fastest race car and the only way we're going to do that is by working together to develop that."

The Monza weekend features a sprint race on Saturday to determine grid placings, rather than the familiar qualifying session, and Hamilton will again be going in search of a 100th grand prix victory on Sunday.

He has surprisingly won just one of the last nine grands prix, and the 36-year-old has been deposed again from top spot in the drivers' championship by Max Verstappen.

Next season, perhaps Russell will also be part of the title picture. Hamilton is relishing the arrival of his younger British compatriot.

"I think new fresh blood in our team is going to be great, obviously, because I'm the oldie there!" Hamilton said.

"I think that definitely will energise the whole team, knowing they have a new youngster coming through who's super-hungry, driven and will be pushing the team forwards."

Page 6 of 206
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.