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Giorgi again gets the better of Pliskova to win third singles title

By Sports Desk August 15, 2021

Unseeded Camila Giorgi again surprised Karolina Pliskova as she earned a straight-sets win in Sunday's National Bank Open final to claim the third singles title of her career.

The world number 71 defeated Pliskova at the Viking International and the Tokyo Olympics in the past three months and prevailed 6-3 7-5 in their latest meeting in Montreal.

Giorgi, who had never previously won a trophy above 250 level or on outdoor hard courts, has now triumphed in 16 of her last 20 matches in an impressive 2021 campaign.

She lost just one set all week and will move back into the world's top 35 for the first time since May 2019 with this first tournament victory since the Linz Open in October 2018.

 

Fourth seed Pliskova eliminated favourite Aryna Sabalenka in the semi-finals but could not replicate that performance as she fell at the final hurdle in a tournament for the third time this year.

Giorgi broke the former world number one for the first time in a lengthy fifth game and took the first set when Pliskova double faulted and sent a forehand wide in the final game.

Pliskova double faulted six times across the match, which lasted one hour and 40 minutes, including in the fourth game of the second set to put her opponent in complete control.

The Czech was given hope when earning her first break of serve in the following game, but she was let down by some forehand errors in the 12th game and Giorgi took her second championship point to seal an emotional win.

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  • Bengals believe Burrow can handle Chiefs test as Super Bowl dream gets closer Bengals believe Burrow can handle Chiefs test as Super Bowl dream gets closer

    Joe Burrow is well placed to cope with one of the NFL's loudest venues as the Cincinnati Bengals look to spring a huge upset and keep their Super Bowl dream alive.

    That is the view of Bengals wider receiver Tyler Boyd as the Bengals prepare to face the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

    The Chiefs are playing in their fourth straight AFC Championship Game and seeking to reach a third consecutive Super Bowl.

    Cincinnati have impressed in beating the Las Vegas Raiders and number one seed Tennessee Titans in the postseason so far.

    But they must now find another level to beat a Chiefs squad led by star quarterback Patrick Mahomes on the road, at a venue that is known for its vociferous home support. 

    "It's really tough," Boyd said about the challenge facing the Bengals at Arrowhead.

    "I think a lot of the guys and specifically Joe are kind of ready for that.

    "Because guys like him and [Ja'Marr] Chase and guys who played in the SEC [Southeastern Conference], they played against opponents where there were hundreds of thousands of fans in the stadium.

    "We're just going to have to be perfect on our hand signals and with the communication.

    "We've got to stay locked in and keep eyes on the quarterback and he'll just get us in the right calls and we'll know what we will be doing."

    The formidable Mahomes has reached the conference championship in all four of his seasons as a regular NFL starter.

    At 26 years old, he will become the youngest QB to start in four different conference championship games, beating the record of Donovan McNabb, who was 28 at the time of his fourth such game in 2004.

    But the Bengals and Burrow have hit form at the perfect time, a fine run that included winning in Week 17 against the Chiefs in a 34-31 thriller when they had home advantage.

    Burrow has been in electric form and threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns in that statement victory, while Chase dominated the Chiefs with 11 catches for 266 yards and three scores.

    That performance meant QB Burrow became the first player in NFL history with 400+ pass yards, 4+ pass TDs and zero INTs in consecutive games, having also done so in Week 16 against the Baltimore Ravens.

    Chase, meanwhile, broke the single-game rookie receiving yards record.

    The rookie caught 81 passes for 1,455 yards with 13 TDs in an incredible season, forming part of an impressive receiving corps with Tee Higgins (74 catches for 1,091 yards) and Boyd (67 and 828).

    Boyd agreed with recent assessments from coach Zac Taylor and Burrow that the unselfishness of the trio has been key to their success.

    "It's because we all know how good we are as a group," Boyd said of the receivers. "We all have great friendships and we all care for each other. We all know our value in the league and on this team.

    "So some games every guy can't get their rocks off when they want. Even when there are times where they probably have been open a few times and the ball is not coming their way.

    "But at the end of the day, we all trust Joe to throw it to the guy that's open or he feels like he has the best chance on that specific play."

    Now in his sixth season, Boyd is one of the longer-serving players in the Bengals roster having played 89 games, with this being his first postseason experience.

    He said: "I'm all about winning now. I didn't have a 1,000-yard receiving season. I did everything I could do early in my career. But now at this point, I just want to win.

    "I'm trying to get to and achieve the milestones that I've been wanting to reach early in my career.

    "Guys are coming in now like Ja'Marr Chase and all the other guys that are stepping foot into this organisation.

    "Joe Mixon and I and the other guys that have been here are replaying that voice in people's heads of what we want to be as a team. As a team perspective and not just single individual goals."

    Despite being underdogs, the Bengals are dreaming of a Super Bowl berth against the Los Angeles Rams or San Francisco 49ers.

    Boyd said: "It feels great now to say that we are collectively a great unit all around and knowing that we have a superior team now. We can go out there and beat any team.

    "I think in my lifetime [the Super Bowl] would probably be the biggest milestone for me, the best achievement in my whole sports career.

    "That's the reason why I've been playing. I have been through a heck of a roller coaster ride, ups and downs and injuries and things like that.

    "It's just like a dream come true. You wake up, then you're playing in the Super Bowl and you win and you talk Disney World and you have your kids and your family on the field.

    "It's kind of a surreal feeling that I would love and want to go through. To even be a part of playing in some historic game, it would mean everything."

  • Stafford insists Rams do not have mental block against 49ers Stafford insists Rams do not have mental block against 49ers

    Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford insists his teammates do not have a mental block when it comes to beating the San Francisco 49ers.

    The two teams will do battle on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, with the winners to face either the Kansas City Chiefs or Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl.

    Stafford, who had never previously won a playoff game in the NFL, has led the Rams to victories over the Arizona Cardinals and defending champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reach this stage.

    The Rams finished ahead of the Cardinals and the 49ers to win the NFC West this season and go into the game at SoFi Stadium – which will also host the Super Bowl - as narrow favourites.

    But that status comes despite the Rams having struggled against their divisional rivals in recent seasons. The Niners have won the last six meetings, including both of the regular season clashes in 2021.

    In Week 18, the Rams led 17-0 before the Niners stormed back to win 27-24 in overtime and book their place in the playoffs as a wildcard team.

    Stafford has only played in the two most recent games in the six-game streak but was asked if his teammates had a mental block against San Francisco.

    "No, we just have got to go out there and play good football," he said.

    "We had our chances last time we played them to win the game, whether it was a four-minute situation for us on offense, a two-minute situation on defense and we still had a shot in overtime as well. 

    "It's a really good football team. It's two really good football teams going after each other, seen each other twice this year, we’re going to see each other for a third time. 

    "Not a bunch of secrets. Just who can step up to the plate and make the plays when we need to make them."

    Stafford has found the build-up to the NFC Championship Game more normal than for the Rams' previous two postseason clashes.

    "Obviously excited about the opportunity, but going about it kind of as a normal week - it’s the first normal week we've had in a little bit," said the former Detroit Lions QB.

    "We played the first playoff game on a Monday and the second one on a short week, so this one just feels like a normal week during the season.

    "Obviously a lot at stake. We know that we’re playing a really good opponent that's playing as good a football as anybody in the NFL right now. So it'll be a big challenge for us."

    Rams head coach Sean McVay was this week forced to deny Niners boss Kyle Shanahan – who worked with him in Washington - was in his head.

    "No," insisted McVay. "What I do have is respect for these guys. They've done a great job. 

    "You look at it, you got to play well in that three-and-a-half-hour window that we're allotted. You look at the last time that we played them, we didn't finish the game. 

    "This is a really good football team. We have a lot of respect for them. We're competing and preparing to the best of our ability to go out and see if we can advance. 

    "But this is a really good team. Kyle is an excellent coach. They have great players, great coaches, good schemes. It's why they're in the NFC Championship."

    Shanahan, meanwhile, felt McVay should not have been asked the question.

    Asked if he enjoyed the narrative, the Niners coach replied: "Not really. I think that's kind of silly. A question like that is giving Sean and myself way too much credit.

    "We're coaches. Watch what's going on out on that field and some of the players out there and the people that are competing.

    "To think that it's about Sean and I... I know that he doesn't feel that way and he knows that I don't feel that way.

    "The entertainment of this business is cool and stuff, because it brings a lot of fans and makes a lot of money for everybody, but I think that's pretty ridiculous. I don't give coaches that much credit."

    Getting wide receiver Cooper Kupp involved is likely to be key for the Rams after he became the first player to win the NFL receiving triple crown since 2005 this season. 

    He followed that achievement by putting up 183 receiving yards against Tampa Bay, which was second-most in a playoff game in Rams history behind Tom Fears in the 1950 Divisional Round (198). 

    Per Stats Perform data, the Rams have never lost a game, regular or postseason, when Kupp has at least 125 receiving yards (9-0).

  • Australian Open: 'I was out of my mind' – Medvedev explains extraordinary umpire rant Australian Open: 'I was out of my mind' – Medvedev explains extraordinary umpire rant

    Daniil Medvedev conceded he was out of his mind when he embarked on an extraordinary rant at the chair umpire during his Australian Open win over Stefanos Tsitsipas.

    The Russian, who came from two sets down to see off Felix Auger-Aliassime in the last round, roared into a second consecutive Melbourne final as he downed Tsitsipas in a fiery last-four showdown.

    Medvedev ultimately triumphed 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-4 6-1 to set up a final with Rafael Nadal but it was a contest in which tempers frayed, mostly on US Open champion's side of the net.

    Second seed Medvedev felt Tsitsipas' father was coaching from the sidelines and received a warning for his persistent complaining.

    He stopped short of accusing Tsitsipas of cheating but explained his mindset at length in the post-match news conference.

    Medvedev said: "Cheating, not at all. First of all I got broken - I got a little bit mad. I thought the referee could do a little bit better with the crowd, just to say, 'Quiet please', or something like this. 

    "Didn't see him doing that often and I made a terrible double fault, got a code when I was just showing everybody that I'm cramping.

    "I cannot toss the ball with my left hand because everybody's screaming, so my serve was terrible.

    "To be honest, before every return his father was talking Greek. I don't know, maybe he's saying, 'Come on, come on', there is no problem.

    "But then the referee, I asked him if he can talk. He said he can talk but he can't coach. Then I said, 'Do you speak Greek?' 

    "If not, the guy is talking, talking, talking. I don't know what he says, but if it's a coach - I don't consider coaching as cheating but it should be a code violation. Then second one would be a bit tricky."

    Medvedev branded the umpire "a small cat" in his astonishing on-court outburst.

    He added: "You guys are laughing, so I think we can say it was funny, but I was definitely out of my mind. I was not controlling myself anymore about anything.

    "That's actually why I'm really happy to win. Many matches like this I would go on to do mistakes - you lose your concentration with things in the heat of the moment. I'm so happy that I managed to catch it really fast."

    Medvedev often feels regret after his outbursts, but concedes they sometimes give him the fuel to win.

    "I regret it all the time, because I don't think it's nice." he said. "I know that every referee is trying to do their best.

    "In tennis we don't fight with the fists but tennis is a fight. It's a one-on-one against another player. 

    "So I'm actually really respectful to players who never, almost never show their emotions because it's tough, I can get really emotional. 

    "I have been working on it. So many matches I handle it. If we look back at myself five years ago when I started playing, just started playing, there was less attention on me, but I was just insanely crazy.

    "I'm working on it. Helps me to win matches, I know. So I do regret it 100 per cent, but again, in the heat of the moment, I just lost it."

    Tsitsipas suggested the Russian was lacking in maturity, saying about the rant: "Well, it's for sure funny!

    "It's funny. I don't pay attention to the stuff. I know players like to do this stuff to throw you off mentally. Could be maybe a tactic? It is all right, he is not the most mature person anyways."

    Of the allegation he received coaching, Tsitsipas replied: "I wasn't - you saw me the other day, losing the score twice in two of my matches. I cannot hear anything when I'm playing. 

    "It's impossible. Having the crowd being so loud in every single point, you have to have super hearing to be able to hear what your coach says.

    "I'm used to it. They've been targeting me already a long time. The umpires are always paying attention to my box, never paying attention to the opponent's box. 

    "Last thing I want is someone giving me tips and giving me advice on what I should do. I'm not the kind of person that would try and listen when out there competing, playing. In practice, maybe."

    But Medvedev was reluctant to get into a war of words with Tsitsipas.

    He said: "No, I don't want to get too much into this, because again, it was nothing against Stefanos, nothing during this match and I feel like I didn't talk about him. 

    "I just talked about the rule, because again, I don't know what his father is saying. Maybe he's just saying, 'Let's go next point'. It's completely allowed. 

    "I don't know Greek. Same about the umpire. He should just, I don't know, talk to Stefanos first maybe, [tell him to] say something to your father. 

    "If my coach would be talking in French to me before every point, even I would say, 'Stop it. It's not allowed'. So it was only about this."

    Tsitsipas revealed he had regularly discussed the topic with his father and ultimately believes coaching should be legalised.

    He added: "My father, look, he's a person that when he gets into something when there is a lot of action, his medicine is to talk, and you can't stop it. It's something that he does from nature.

    "I've tried, spent countless hours trying to figure it out with him, but it's part of him. 

    "Last year I went out publicly on one of my social media platforms and said that I think coaching should be allowed, simply because coaches do it anyways. 

    "Most of them get away with it, and they do it pretty smartly, I can tell you."

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