Naomi Osaka is preparing for a difficult return to the French Open, a year on from citing mental health issues when she withdrew from the tournament.

Former world number one Osaka has won four grand slam titles but never been past the third round at Roland Garros.

She entered the 2021 French Open having taken the Australian Open title at the start of the year, only for her campaign in Paris to blow up in a way she was desperate to avoid after she announced she would not be fulfilling her media duties.

Having been fined, Osaka ultimately quit the tournament after winning in the first round, describing her "huge waves of anxiety" when speaking to reporters.

She had been warned by grand slam chiefs that she could be thrown out of the event if she continued to refuse to take part in media duties.

The Japanese superstar took a significant step on Friday then when she appeared in a pre-tournament news conference.

Yet that has not been Osaka's only concern, as she is also conscious of the possibility of a repeat of events at Indian Wells earlier this year, where a heckler reduced her to tears.

"I'm not gonna lie," Osaka said, "when I first came here, I was very worried.

"Of course, I also didn't like how I handled the situation, but I was worried that there were people that I offended some way and I would bump into them.

"But I think everyone has been really positive, for the most part. I'm not really so sure.

"I was also very worried about this press conference, because I knew I'd get a lot of questions about this. But I think, for me, where I am right now, I wouldn't want to say it hasn't left my mind.

"Of course, I'm still thinking about it, and I'm kind of also prepping just in case I go on the court and a fan says something like in Indian Wells. For the most part, I think I'm okay."

Osaka was then asked how she had found the news conference and explained she was still figuring out how to talk to reporters again.

"I feel like I was funnier back then," she replied with a smile. "Like I used to be able to say jokes and not really care if anyone got it. I could re-explain the joke, and whatever.

"I feel like the thing that's changed, me trying to figure out the crowd. I feel like I'm a stand-up comedian, and I'm trying to figure out what's okay and what's not okay.

"I think maybe that's changed for me. I'm kind of analysing what I can say and what I can't say. But for the most part, I try to be myself and whatever."

Attention turned to tennis, and Osaka's first-round match is against Amanda Anisimova, who beat her in her previous grand slam match in Melbourne.

"So, my reaction was I thought that Wim [Fissette, her coach] was joking," Osaka said.

But she added: "I wouldn't say I don't want to play her, because I feel like, for me, I'm the type of person that if you beat me, it motivates me more to win, and I also learned a lot from the match."

Indeed, Anisimova was not the opponent the unseeded Osaka feared most, with 2020 champion and current number one Iga Swiatek having won her past five tournaments.

"I had a dream a couple of days ago that the draw came out, and I had to play Iga," Osaka said.

"For me, I was scared, because I was thinking: what's the worst possible player to play when I'm unseeded? She came in my mind, so thank God that didn't happen."

Daniil Medvedev remains dismayed by the prospect of missing Wimbledon but has ruled out taking the All England Club to court in a bid to overturn the ban on Russian players.

The US Open champion is in Paris for the French Open, which is allowing players from Russia and Belarus to compete.

Stars from those countries have been denied entry to Wimbledon next month, however, due to the Russian-led invasion of Ukraine.

They will not be allowed to play any events in England, the Lawn Tennis Association said, but Medvedev is determined to play a grass-court season and has signed up for tournaments in Netherlands and Germany already, while considering another in Spain.

The 26-year-old from Moscow has expressed hope that there could yet be a way for him into the Wimbledon draw, and stuck by that position on Friday.

"I'm not in the ATP taking the decisions, I'm not in Wimbledon taking the decisions. Maybe it's government pushing them, maybe it's their decision. There a lot of mistakes behind this," Medvedev told a news conference at Roland Garros.

"So if I can play I'm going to be happy to play. I love Wimbledon as a tournament. I honestly tend to think I like playing on grass, though I didn't have amazing results so far, but I managed to win one tournament. But if I cannot play, I'm going to try to play next year's and try to play good there."

Asked whether he would consider recourse to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Medvedev said: "Personally, I didn't think about this."

He suspects there might be a case to be made, but added: "I'm not going to go to court for this one."

Court action might not be considered a good look, given the circumstances, so Medvedev looks like having to settle for playing the satellite ATP Tour events around the grass-court showpiece.

"Usually I like playing grass. I want to make some good results," he said. "Halle is a really strong tournament and if you manage to win it, it's a great result and gives you a lot of confidence no matter for the next tournaments if it's grand slams or not, or if it's Masters 1000.

"So I'm planning to play three grass-court events, which is 's-Hertogenbosch, Halle, and I'm thinking to go to Mallorca."

Medvedev, who has spent time sidelined by hernia trouble recently, will face Facundo Bagnis in the first round in Paris.

Lewis Hamilton was "super happy" after a promising practice session for Mercedes ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton and his team-mate George Russell recorded two of the best three times in FP2, behind Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who was fastest across both practice sessions at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Mercedes were also quicker than Red Bull down the straights, which has not been the case so far in a frustrating season for the team.

Russell is fourth in the drivers' standings, two places ahead of seven-time world champion Hamilton, who has not held back in his criticism of Mercedes so far this season.

But on Friday, he was in a much better mood.

"Positive," he told reporters. "Super happy with the progress, so a big, big, big thank you to everyone back at the factory for not giving up and for continuing to push.

"We're not the quickest yet, but we're on our way. This is the first time that we've driven down the straight without bouncing.

"We still have some bouncing, but it's way better and [we're] starting to eke out a bit of the potential in that car.

"It's still tough out there with the car but it's much nicer than it's been before. So yeah, really grateful for those upgrades – we now need to just fine-tune them into the next session.

"Lots of data to go over to try and position the car, I think we can get it into a better place for tomorrow so that we can tackle the heels of the guys up ahead."

Toto Wolff added: "We've had a second solid Friday like we had in Miami, just we have to see when the grip keeps coming tomorrow, whether we're able to keep that kind of performance and at least be in the mix or solid in the top three.

"So, progress, but not exuberance and ecstasy."

Novak Djokovic is banking on experience being a telling factor after the defending champion was handed a daunting draw at the French Open.

To reach another final, Djokovic may have to get past 13-time champion Rafael Nadal in the last eight and in-form teenager Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals.

Djokovic described Alcaraz's rise to prominence as "a quantum leap", with the 19-year-old from Murcia having hurtled from 32nd in the world rankings at the start of the year to number six now.

Ahead of 35th birthday celebrations on Sunday, Djokovic is relieved to be back at a grand slam after being deported from Australia in January due to his stance on COVID-19 vaccinations.

He was also prevented from playing the Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, meaning his season has been heavily disrupted.

Ahead of a first-round clash with Yoshihito Nishioka in Paris, Djokovic can be seen to be in good physical shape and strong form, having won the Internazionali d'Italia title in Rome last week for a sixth time.

The bunching of Nadal, Djokovic and Alcaraz, widely considered the three most likely winners, in one side of the draw, caused a stir on Thursday.

Speaking 24 hours later, Djokovic described it as "a very tough top half", before assessing the qualities of Nadal, who has been battling injuries recently, and the fast-rising Alcaraz.

"Nadal always has to be right at the top, because of his records particularly in this tournament," Djokovic told a news conference.

"Then you have Alcaraz that obviously is the story of men's tennis in the last four or five months with a big reason. He's had some tremendous leaps forward on rankings and the results that he's been achieving are phenomenal for someone of his age."

Alcaraz has won a tour-leading four titles in 2022, including Masters 1000 events in Miami and Madrid, and Djokovic said: "He has made a quantum jump really forward in the last five, six months."

Djokovic and Alcaraz practised together on Friday on Court Philippe Chatrier, where they could be battling it out for real in two weeks' time.

The Serbian, one behind Nadal's record of 21 grand slam titles, added: "I feel I am always in that contention to fight for any grand slam trophy. I believe in my own abilities to get far and to fight for one of the most prestigious trophies in the world of tennis.

"As a defending champion of course more so, to believe I can do it again. Reliving the memories from last year is something that obviously gives me goose bumps and motivation to try to replicate that.

"I think that experience of being on the tour for such a long time helps [me] to know how to spend energy on the court match after match, bring out the right intensity, manage everything that happens off the court, as well, and peak at the right time."

Alcaraz has achieved all his title success in best-of-three tennis so far, so winning over the longer distance in a slam is the next challenge. This is where Djokovic has arguably been at his strongest.

"In best-of-five, obviously things are different," Djokovic said. "A grand slam I think awakens so much motivation and emotions in a tennis player.

"It's the dream of many tennis players to win a grand slam. That's why you cannot underestimate anyone and probably not compare the performances of those players on any other tournament with the potential performance here in a slam."

Arnaud Demare won a third stage at the 2022 Giro d'Italia after he held off Phil Bauhaus and Mark Cavendish in a thrilling sprint finish.

Demare won stages five and six and made it a hat-trick as he powered across the line first in Cuneo following a 150km route from Sanremo on Friday.

That keeps Demare top of the points standings and comfortably in possession of the maglia ciclamino, which he won in 2020 and looks all set to regain this time around, with Cavendish some 117 points behind.

The Frenchman was part of the chasing pack that caught a four-rider breakaway in the final section of stage 13, and it was he who launched the final sprint.

Demare had just enough power to edge across the line ahead of Bauhaus to his right and Cavendish to his left.

"It was an incredible day. They really resisted at the front. We had all the elements ready and everybody worked," said Demare.

"We were really riding hard. The guys did a great job. It was a monstrous lead-out. With 1.5km to go we had to go up that climb hard. I did as strong a sprint as I could."

Juan Pedro Lopez remains wearing pink for another day, as he maintained his 12-second lead over Richard Carapaz and Joao Almeida.

Bardet bows out

It was a bad day for Romain Bardet, who was only 14 seconds shy of Lopez in the general classification standings when he fell ill during stage 12 on Thursday.

Unfortunately for Bardet and Team DSM, the Frenchman's condition worsened overnight and he has had to abandon the race.

Team-mate Romain Combaud said: "There was only one week left. It's horrible for us. He is a great champion.

"My role today was to stay with him. We said we would have an easy day, and he would get better tonight. But with the heat it was just too much for him."

STAGE RESULT

1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 3:18:16
2. Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-Victorious) same time
3. Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Viny) same time
4. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) same time
5. Alberto Dainese (Team DSM) same time

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS   

General Classification  

1. Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo) 54:37:23
2. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +0:12
3. Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) +0:12

Points Classification

1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 238
2. Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Viny) 121
3. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) 117

King of the Mountains  

1. Diego Rosa (Eolo-Kometa) 83
2. Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) 69
3. Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe) 43

Roger Federer hopes to replicate fellow tennis great Rafael Nadal's "incredibly inspiring" recovery from injury when he makes his own comeback from knee surgery.

Nadal suffered from a recurring foot problem last season but returned to secure a record 21st grand slam title at the Australian Open in January, moving ahead of Federer and Novak Djokovic in the men's all-time list.

Federer has been out of action since losing in the Wimbledon quarter-finals last year, where he sustained another problem with his knee and subsequently underwent a third surgery in the space of 18 months.

The Swiss is yet to put a timeframe on his full ATP Tour return, although he is scheduled to play at the Laver Cup in September before playing the Swiss Indoors Basel event in his home city in October.

Federer, who turns 41 in August, referenced Nadal as he expressed his hopes to emulate the Spaniard's 20-match winning streak that he embarked on when returning from injury this season.

"It's incredibly inspiring when someone comes back from massive health problems," Federer told Caminada Magazin.

"Rafa and I talk on the phone from time to time, we talk a lot. I knew he wasn't doing great, but when he made it I was really happy for him. The effort is immense."

 

As for Federer's recovery, the world number 46 detailed the struggles he has to go through just to make it onto the court.

"As with a car, you have to turn a thousand screws until the engine runs smoothly," he added. "Today, mobilisation, stretching, and a warm-up in the morning take about 45 minutes. Then we drive to the plant. There follows a warm-up on the pitch, half an hour. 

"After that I eat, stretch, strengthen my ankles with tapes, then warm up again, do gymnastics and explosive speed exercises. Before I finally play, I took care of my body for two and a half hours.

"I don't post many pictures of the strenuous training because I was always convinced that it was a matter of course. Everyone trains hard. 

"I swore to myself that by the end of my career I wouldn't be completely broken. Later I would like to go skiing with the children and play football with my colleagues. That's why I'm doing rehab now – not just for tennis. Also for life after your career."

Asked when he will make his comeback, Federer added: "I can't even think that far. I'm waiting for the doctors' okay. I'm ready to give it my all again. 

"I feel like a racehorse scratching its stall and wanting to race. In the summer I hope to be able to hit the ground running. 

"I'm looking forward to coming home in the evening after the tough day of training and being completely exhausted."

Jamaica’s Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports is backing Netball Jamaica’s hosting of the Americas Netball World Cup Qualifier for the 2023 Netball World Cup to the tune of US$77,000 (JMD$12 million).

Minister Olivia Grange, the official patron of the event, made the announcement at the launch of the qualifier at the NCB Care and Wellness Centre on Phoenix Avenue in Kingston on Thursday.

“The Ministry and its agencies are providing ($JMD1.8M) to Netball Jamaica for team preparation, $2.5m for transportation and will be covering the cost of rental of the National Indoor Sports Centre where the qualifier will take place from October 16 to 21, 2022,” Minister Grange said.

Ten teams will be playing in the Qualifier for the two remaining places in the World Cup. Jamaica has already qualified by virtue of its number four world ranking, a fact of which the minister takes great pride.

“I am proud, all of Jamaica is proud of this first for Netball Jamaica; playing host for the staging of a Netball World Cup Qualifier,” Minister Grange noted.

“History will also be made when the next Netball World Cup, the 16th edition, takes place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, South Africa since it will be the first time that the tournament will be held on the African continent. South Africa has gained a reputation for the staging of world-class events so we can expect something extra special when they host the Netball World Cup.

“The upcoming Qualifier will certainly serve to project Netball Jamaica afresh to the nation.

“I am deeply moved that Netball Jamaica would see fit to honour me by asking me to be Patron for the Americas Netball World Cup Qualifier.

 “So who is a Patron and what is the duty of a Patron? A Patron is a distinguished person who gives financial or other support to a person, organisation, or cause. 

The most effective Patron will have a passion for what the person or organization does. Need I say more?”

The minister also suggested that Netball Jamaica needs to see their value if they are to convince corporate Jamaica to provide the needed support.

“Netball Jamaica will tell you that I have challenged them to reimagine how they see themselves. Their value is great and we need corporate Jamaica to come on board in a greater way to support them. I would love to see partners coming on board to provide a bus, sports gear and all the other services they need because I am sure that our Sunshine girls will give sponsors value for their money!”, she said.

“Sport and the opportunity to participate in sport at all levels is a right that we take seriously. Netball is a favourite pastime in Jamaica and one that is practised from the primary school levels in Jamaica. We know that through the work of the Institute of Sports (INSPORTS) we have netball competitions at the primary level. There is also competition at the high school and tertiary levels.

“We want to see the sport grow in Jamaica and continue to give our girls and yes, boys too, the avenue and outlet to express themselves and dare to dream to play at higher levels.

  “We anticipate that on the final day of the Netball World Cup on August 6, 2023, when Jamaica celebrates its 61st Anniversary of Independence, our Sunshine Girls will be one of the two teams competing for the title and that they will be the new champions of world netball.

 “Netball and our Sunshine Girls have always made us proud.” 

 

 

World number one Iga Swiatek is heading to Roland Garros in a laid-back mood as she looks to win her second major title.

Swiatek won her first and only grand slam when she triumphed in Paris in 2020 as a teenager.

The 20-year-old – who rose to number one in the WTA rankings when Ash Barty retired in March – has been in sparkling form in 2020.

Having reached the Australian Open semi-finals, Swiatek has gone on to win five successive titles, becoming the fourth player since the turn of the century to manage that feat.

She became the third-youngest player to win her second title in Rome when she triumphed at the Internazionali d'Italia earlier this month, while she has won five of the last nine WTA 1000 titles.

Swiatek was defeated by Maria Sakkari in last year's quarter-finals at Roland Garros, but feels she has little to prove going into the second major of the season.

"I'm more relaxed. I don't know about being nervous, because usually it comes closer to the match, so we will see," Swiatek, who has won her last 28 matches, told a media conference.

"But I'm more relaxed, because I have so many [ranking] points and I feel like my position in the WTA is already like, you know, I have worked for it.

"Already I've kind of proved to myself and to other people that I can be in the top of the game. Before I wasn't feeling that much confidence, so this year I feel much more peace.

"I'm taking the experience of the whole process, and playing seven matches in two weeks, having the routines. Also like getting to know how it is to go higher and higher in a grand slam.

"These kind of experiences help me not only for other grand slams but for many tournaments."

Emma Raducanu declared she "could be a great clay-court player" ahead of her French Open debut at Roland Garros.

US Open winner Raducanu only made her professional clay-court debut in April, managing a straight-sets victory over Storm Sanders in Stuttgart, before quarter-final elimination to world number one Iga Swiatek.

The 19-year-old Briton followed that up with a last-16 appearance in Madrid, where she was defeated by Anhelina Kalinina as she struggled with a back injury.

Raducanu, speaking at a media conference on Friday ahead of the second major of the year, suggested she has the credentials to succeed on clay courts.

"I could be a great clay-court player, like looking forward, long, medium-term, in a few years where I have definitely developed more robustness and I'm able to repeat the same shots over and over," she said.

"I think I have definitely come a long way and probably progressed faster than expected in the last few weeks and I really am enjoying the clay. I really believe that I can be good and faster than I thought it would be."

World number 12 Raducanu retired in Rome last week while trailing against Canadian Bianca Andreescu due to a recurring back issue.

However, she confirmed she will be fit to feature in Paris, where she meets a qualifier in the first round 

"I'm learning about my body, but I'm very happy to be continuing my preparations for the French Open and to be able to play this tournament and fortunately I didn't have to miss this Grand Slam," Raducanu added.

"That is definitely a really positive thing because I really look forward to these big moments and the big tournaments.

"After Rome, I definitely had to slow down, but this week I have been training and luckily being able to practise all of the shots.

"I'm looking forward to continuing that, and it feels good to be able to move freely and just like run around. It's quite fun. I have been preparing as normal the last few days."

If Raducanu can negotiate past her first-round clash, she will then take on Aliaksandra Sasnovich or Wang Xinyu before a potential last-16 meeting with Ons Jabeur, who first has to get past Poland's Magda Linette.

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz wants a wider debate on the impact that designs of modern Formula One cars are having on driver health.

Constructors in the series have taken steps to counteract the impact of 'porpoising' (or bouncing of the car) brought about by new aerodynamic rules, including making suspensions stiffer.

The rule changes were brought in with the intention of increasing opportunities to overtake, but one of the impacts of that has been the extra 'porpoising'.

Sainz, who sits fifth in this season's driver standings, has been in Formula One since 2015 and says he can already feel the toll taken on his back and neck.

Asked prior to this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix how the issue may be particularly prominent on the street-race of Monaco at the end of this month, Sainz said: "It's more than Monaco.

"How much toll should a driver pay for his back and his health in an F1 career with this kind of car philosophy?

"I think we need to open the debate more than anything.

"I think the regulations are great. They're doing exactly what we needed for racing. But do we need to run as stiff for our necks and back as we are having to run lately?

"I've done my usual checks on my back, neck tightness, and I see this year I'm tighter everywhere.

"I don't need expert advice to know that 10 years like this it's going to be tough, and you're going to need to work a lot in mobility, flexibility."

McLaren driver Lando Norris, a former team-mate of Sainz, offered suggestions to limit 'porpoising'.

"I would have thought you'd have much worse effects from crashing a car at 50 or 60G like some of us have done," Norris said.

"There are also many ways for them to stop porpoising. Like lifting your rear ride height 20mm."

The Tampa Bay Lightning's Ross Colton admittedly could not believe his eyes when he scored the winning goal against the Florida Panthers in a 2-1 victory, to take a 2-0 lead in their playoff series.

Colton was called onto the ice with under a minute remaining in the third period and the score locked at 1-1, but abandoned caution and made his way towards the net as Nikita Kucherov retrieved the puck.

Kucherov found Colton as he approached the net with an astonishing backhand, no-look flick off the boards as the Panthers defence converged onto him, leaving Colton with the relatively simple finish to win the game.

Colton's look of near-bewilderment almost said as much but he confirmed his awe at the 28-year-old Russian's assist afterwards.

“I couldn’t believe he [Kucherov] got it on my stick,” Colton said. “I think when we went in the corner, I just said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ like 10 times because I honestly couldn’t believe he put it on my stick.

"When you’re on the ice with Kuch, you’ve got to be ready for anything. He’s got eyes in the back of his head, because I don’t even know how he could tell I was there."

The Lightning were relentless defensively against one of the NHL's best attacking teams this season, snuffing out four Panthers power plays, including one with under five minutes remaining.

While singling out Kucherov as a "special, special player", Lightning coach Jon Cooper asserted the defensive performance and ability to snatch games in clutch moments was a reflection of the team's character.

“No, I’m not surprised,” Cooper said. “I’m just surprised they waited until 3.8 seconds left to do it.”

In Thursday's other result, the St. Louis Blues evened up their series with the Colorado Avalanche, winning 4-1.

Jimmy Butler said the Boston Celtics "whipped our tail on our home floor" in their 127-102 beatdown of the Miami Heat in Game 2.

The return of Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart from a foot injury ignited the Celtics on the offensive end just as much as defensively, with the team hitting a red-hot 20-of-40 from three-point range.

Boston's five that played at least 30 minutes – Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams, Al Horford and Smart – shot 17-of-29 from long-range, and combined for 23 assists, which was two more than Miami had as a team.

Speaking to post-game media, Butler said the Celtics "tried to embarrass us", but pointed out that they were always going to be facing an uphill battle against such an outlier shooting performance.

"You do have to move on, but I don't like to move on from this. It has to hurt," he said.

"They tried to embarrass us – they did embarrass us. I think we got to realise that, or use it as fuel, but realise that the game can get out of hand when you're playing against a really good team like them that can score the ball and get stops.

"They made shots that they missed last game. That's just what it is.

"It's going to be hard to beat anybody when they shoot 50 per cent from the field and 50 per cent from three. They were the more physical team overall, and they got one on the road.

"Overall, we just have to be better. We've got a tough job to do to go over there and win, but if they did it, we can do it as well."

He added: "I look at it as 'it can't get too much worse'. They whipped our tail on our home floor.

"I guess if they do it on their home floor it's supposed to happen, but I don't see us doing that again. 

"The first half has been brutal for us in both of these games, we just got to come out and play harder from the jump and be ready, because they be throwing some haymakers in the first half."

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he did not feel like his side played poorly – but that it felt like the Celtics wanted revenge for Game 1.

"You definitely have to credit Boston," he said. "It's not just that they came in with great urgency and physicality – they did have that, for sure – they also played well. They played really well on both ends.

"We know what they're capable of defensively – they've done this to some very good offenses. I'm sure they were not happy with us putting up 118 in Game 1, and they came out very disruptive. 

"They got us out of our normal rhythm and flow, and the shot-making on the other end was very tough to overcome.

"You get to this point – in the Conference Finals – you just have very good teams. Teams without many weaknesses, it's great competition.

"This only counts as one, and that's what the experiences players and staff in the locker room understand. We don't like it, but they played extremely well."

Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka believes his side responded well to being "punked" by the Miami Heat, claiming a 127-102 win in Game 2 of their playoff series on Thursday.

A 39-14 third quarter in the Heat's favour effectively decided Game 1 as the Celtics collapsed on the road, but bounced back, cutting down turnovers and putting four quarters together to split the first two games in Miami.

Marcus Smart and Al Horford's returns to the line-up were critical for the Celtics as they claimed home-court advantage against the Eastern Conference's first seed, but it was a collective effort with 28 assists off 43 made field goals.

Udoka praised his side's mental toughness in responding against a side that came at them in the opening game of the series.

"I think we were upset with how that third quarter went, specifically how we got out-toughed," Udoka said post-match. "Wasn't a lot of schemes or defensive or offensive changes, they just came at us and kind of punked us in that third quarter.

"We looked the other three quarters and how well we had done in winning those quarters, and knew if we just matched their physicality, we could be better. It kind of reminded us of Milwaukee a little bit – the first game – and didn't want to get caught off-guard again.

"I think our guys have bounced back really well all year, especially the second half of the year. Haven't lost two games in a row in a while, and obviously having Marcus and Al back gave us a little boost as well."

Smart was an important figure in his return from a foot injury, filling the stats sheet and finishing with 24 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds and three steals.

Horford provided a little bit of everything meanwhile, ending the game with 10 points, three assists and rebounds as well as a steal and a block.

Udoka commended the returning duo, allowing the team to capitalise on positive aspects from the first game.

"It was great to have the vets back, obviously," he said. "A calming presence there. We didn't get off to our best start, we were a little slow to start but we fought right back into it.

"After, I guess, the first five or six minutes we held them down scoring-wise, but it was a good overall effort. I felt we didn't play as poorly as the last game showed.

"Like I said, we won three quarters and had a very bad third quarter, it was hard to overcome but we saw a lot of positives and areas we could attack."

The Boston Celtics rebounded from a disappointing Game 1 to thrash the Miami Heat 127-102 in Game 2 on Thursday.

With the win, the Celtics have tied the series at 1-1 and snatched home-court advantage, with Game 3 and Game 4 to take place in Boston.

In arguably their best half of the season, the Celtics were nearly flawless to open the game, shooting nine-of-11 from three-point range in the first quarter on the way to putting up two consecutive 35-point frames, leading 70-45 at half-time.

The Heat threatened to make things interesting in the third period as Jimmy Butler piled on 16 of his game-high 29 points but the Celtics had an answer every time, shooting 20-of-40 from three for the contest, including 17-of-29 from the five Boston players to play more than 30 minutes each.

Jayson Tatum finished with a team-high 27 points on eight-of-13 shooting with five rebounds and five assists, while Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart had 24 on eight-of-22 shooting with nine rebounds, 12 assists and three steals.

Jaylen Brown chipped in an efficient 24 points on nine-of-17 shooting, and Grant Williams was excellent once again for the Celtics with 19 points off the bench, shooting five-of-seven from the field, and was +37 in plus/minus over his 32 minutes. Only Payton Pritchard finished with a higher plus/minus, finishing plus +39 in his 23 minutes, scoring 10 points with two assists in Derrick White's absence.

After dominating the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics, averaging over 20 points per game on 60 per cent shooting, Bam Adebayo had his second straight disappointing showing. After posting 10 points and four rebounds in Game 1, he followed it up with just six points and nine rebounds. 

Adebayo is averaging 14 points and seven rebounds in the playoffs thus far, significantly down from his season averages of 19 points and 10 rebounds.

The New York Mets treated their home crowd to a thrilling extra-innings walk-off victory, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 7-6 on Thursday.

With their top-three pitchers – Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Tylor Megill – all out injured, the Mets gave starter Chris Bassitt some early run-support as a Pete Alonso base hit and a Jeff McNeil fielder's choice made it 2-0 in the opening frame.

St. Louis fought back with a towering 414-foot solo home run to Juan Yepez in the second inning, and then tied it up with another solo shot from Paul Goldschmidt an inning later, before Goldschmidt made it 3-2 with a RBI double in the fifth frame.

McNiel drove in another two Mets runs in the bottom of the fifth, opening up a 5-3 lead, but Goldschmidt would again come through for the Cardinals, grounding out to drive in one in the seventh, before tying the game at 5-5 with an infield single in the ninth to force extra innings.

After future Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols gave the Cardinals a lead, Pete Alonso closed the show for the Mets in the bottom of the 10th inning, crushing a 447-foot bomb into the left-field bleachers to win the game.

Bassitt pitched six-and-a-third innings for four earned runs and three strikeouts, helping the Mets move to the third-best record in the league at 26-14.

Santander delivers against Yankees

The Baltimore Orioles had a memorable 9-6 win against the New York Yankees thanks to a three-run Anthony Santander walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning.

After a back-and-forth battle, the Yankees tied the game 6-6 at the top of the ninth inning with a D.J. LeMahieu single, but the New York bullpen could not send it to extra innings.

An error and a base hit got two Orioles on base, and with Santander just needing a single to win the game, he instead launched a shot over the left-field fence for a dramatic walk-off win.

Trevor writes his own story    

Trevor Story played his best game as a Boston Red Sox player in his side's 12-6 win against the Seattle Mariners, hitting three home runs.

Story, 29, was the Red Sox's biggest off-season acquisition, but has struggled to start the season, with only two home runs entering Thursday's game. He turned that around in a big way with a 402-foot two-run home run in the second inning, and a 403-foot two-run bomb an inning later.

After a single in the sixth inning, Story capped off his day in the eighth frame with a 358-foot three-run shot, giving him seven RBIs in the game. 

Casper Rudd set up a semi-final clash with Reilly Opelka by claiming a straight-sets win over Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Geneva Open, while Cameron Norrie made his third semi-final of 2022 at the Lyon Open.

World number eight Rudd, who claimed the title in Geneva last year with a straight-sets final win over Denis Shapovalov, overcame Kokkinakis 6-4 7-6 (7-3) on Thursday and will now face Opelka.

The American bounced back from losing the second set against Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor to claim a 6-4 3-6 6-3 win as he bids for his third title of 2022, and second seed Ruud said he was excited to pit himself against Opelka after securing his spot in the semi-finals.

"I expect it to be tough," Ruud said. "But I will do my best and see how I can do. I always enjoy playing against Reilly. He is a similar age to myself, and it will be another battle against him – hopefully it will be a good one."

Elsewhere, three-time grand slam semi-finalist Richard Gasquet followed up his shock win over Daniil Medvedev with a 6-2 6-4 victory over Kamil Majchrzak, and will face Joao Sousa for a place in the final after the Portuguese beat Ilya Ivashka 7-5 7-5.

At the Lyon Open, top seed Norrie battled to a 6-4 4-6 7-5 win over Sebastian Baez, spurning three match points before finally downing the Argentinian after a marathon two hours and 40 minutes clash.

The world number 11 will face Holger Rune in his semi-final contest after the 19-year-old came from a set down to beat Manuel Guinard 3-6 6-3 6-4.

The other semi-final in France will see fourth seed Alex de Minaur take on Alex Molcan after the Australian's quarter-final opponent Yosuke Watanuki withdrew after losing the first set 6-4, citing a back issue.

Molcan, meanwhile, downed Federico Coria 6-3 6-2 to reach the final four.

Jamaica’s basketball community is mourning the passing of Enid Sterling Angus, who died early Thursday morning in Florida at the age of 64.

Suffering from late-stage cancer, Sterling-Angus was on life support in a Forida hospital up until Wednesday evening when she was taken off and transitioned mere hours later leaving a massive void in Jamaica’s basketball fraternity.

For more than three decades, Sterling-Angus gave yeoman service to the sport was introduced to by chance but which she grew to love.

“I stumbled on the sport while in high school over 30 years ago. I was hanging around the stadium courts one afternoon after playing in a netball tournament there, and a friend who was a member of the Aqua Youth Swim Club invited me to join her at the Stadium pools,” she said during an interview in 2016.

“Later that evening we went back to the netball/basketball courts where the Aqua men’s team was playing in the Berger Paint league game, which is now called the National Basketball League (NBL), and I’ve been hooked ever since then.

“Ironically, I’m still not a swimmer; in fact, I’m still petrified of large pools of water. And even though I no longer reside in Jamaica, I still support the organization because I believe in their objective, which ultimately is to empower our youngsters by providing academic and athletic opportunities through scholarship.”

And support she did. She was a past vice president of overseas operations for the Jamaica Basketball Association and worked tirelessly behind the scenes providing support for Jamaica’s men’s and women’s teams.

AS a project manager for JABA, she handled logistics and planning for national teams and identified players for all national levels. She also funded national teams and youth-team initiatives and helped create scholarship opportunities for both male and female players including players like netball turned basketball player Marvadene ‘Bubbles’ Anderson, who once held the record of being the tallest teenager in the world.

Her death leaves a void within the fraternity, said JABA President Paulton Gordon.

“The Jamaica basketball community is indeed saddened by the passing of Enid Sterling Angus, a longstanding advocate and supporter of the development of basketball in Jamaica,” Gordon told Sportsmax.TV on Thursday.

“Enid was a passionate soul who loved the game and endeavoured to create platforms for our young people to access opportunities based on their God-given talent. She served as one of the overseas liaison between Jamaica basketball and key stakeholders at the FIBA and diaspora levels and was always integral in clarifying policy, rules and processes when our teams are involved in regional or international competitions.

“Enid will be sadly missed and the Jamaica basketball association uses this medium to express our deepest condolences to her immediate family and friends.”

Ajani Williams, who was JABA president between 2009 and 2014, said Enid’s impact on Jamaica’s basketball was iconic.

“Enid Angus is the definition of love of people through sport. She emptied herself in pursuit of advancing the lives of young Jamaican students and national team athletes, male and female, she squeezed every bit of the juice out of the orange for national progress through basketball,” he said.

“An African proverb says when an elder transitions a library goes with them and this is indicative of Enid’s passing. This is a big loss to basketball in Jamaica and, personally, without Enid by my side, many of the national team successes we achieved would not have happened- she is forever a teammate.”

Under Williams’ leadership, Jamaica were CARICOM Champions in 2009 and were the bronze medallists in 2011. The team won the bronze medal at the Centro Basketball Tournament in 2012, the first time Jamaica was achieving top-four, which meant they qualified for the FIBA Tournament of the Americas.

In 2013, at the FIBA Tournament of the Americas, Jamaica defeated the number nine ranked Brazil and the number-three ranked Argentina and just missed out on qualifying for the World Championships.

“The foundation of all of that was aided and supported by Enid,” Williams said.

In addition to her support of the JABA, Enid was a mentor to many Jamaican players like Kimani Ffriend, who played in the NBA and in Europe, winning the MVP title in the Serbian League in 2017. News of her passing was devastating.

“We lost a beautiful soul this morning. Enid, thank you for your warm spirit and beautiful heart,” he said in a post on social media.

“Never told me no. Always there to support me and encourage me during my toughest times. Many don’t know the sacrifices that you have made to help put Jamaica basketball on the map and the countless high school, college and pro players you have helped and identified along the way.”

Another former national representative Vashil Fernandez was in disbelief.

“Can’t believe this. Wow,” he posted while commenting on Ffriend’s post.

Meanwhile, former Women’s coach Oberon Pitterson-Nattie was saddened by the news.

“Sad to know she is no longer with it. She worked tirelessly for Jamaica basketball. May her beautiful soul rest in peace.”

Sterling Angus is survived by her three children, Martin, Terry and Donielle.

 

 

 

 

Tiger Woods says Rory McIlroy "made it look very easy" after the Northern Irishman set the early pace on day one of the US PGA Championship.

Seeking a first major in eight years, McIlroy carded five-under 65 to take a one-shot lead into the clubhouse at Southern Hills on Thursday.

The 33-year-old, who won this event in 2012 and 2014, closed with a birdie on the final hole – his seventh of the day – to put himself in strong contention for another title.

He teed off in a marquee group alongside Jordan Spieth and Woods, who carded 74 and 72 respectively, with the latter impressed by what he saw from McIlroy.

"Obviously you can shoot something in the mid-60s, Rory proved that today," Woods told Sky Sports. "He made it look very easy. 

"He had a couple of shots where he slipped away and he still shot five under and made it look very easy."

McIlroy, who finished second in last month's Masters after shooting a record-equalling eight-under 64 on the final day, is not getting carried away just yet.

"I came in here knowing that my game was in good shape," McIlroy said. "So it's just a matter of going out there and executing the shots that you know that you can.

"Today I did that very well and I just need to try to replicate that tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday and not get ahead of myself, but it was a great start."

While McIlroy is in a strong position, Woods faces an uphill battle to make the cut, as he did at the Masters last month, but he is not giving up hope of a big recovery on Friday.

"It can be done, I've witnessed it first-hand, so hopefully I can put together something similar tomorrow and get myself back in this tournament," he said.

The 15-time major winner is competing in just his second tournament since sustaining serious leg and foot injuries in a car accident 15 months ago.

Woods felt some discomfort towards the end of an erratic opening round, which ended with him nine strokes behind McIlroy.

"Physically, I've felt better," he told Sky Sports. "Emotionally, I've actually felt better too. 

"It was frustrating. I got off to a great start today, I did exactly what I needed to do starting out the round, but I did not keep it going.

"I hit a lot of bad iron shots, put myself in a lot of bad spots and never really gave myself any birdie putts. 

"I actually felt comfortable with the driver, I hit a lot of fairways with it, but from there it wasn't very good. Most of my bunker shots I hit were long, came out hotter than I thought. 

"But predominately I just hit bad iron shots. That's not normally how I play, but today unfortunately that's kind of what it was."

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