Jorge Martin will start Sunday's Doha MotoGP on pole after stunning the field in qualifying but the rookie insists the race win will belong to someone else.

The Spaniard nudged Pramac Racing team-mate Johann Zarco into second place with a superlative display, with Maverick Vinales – who won the season-opening race in Qatar – in third.

It was a phenomenal result for Martin on just his second outing in qualifying for a premier-class event, but the 23-year-old refused to get carried away as he lowered expectations ahead of the race at the Losail International Circuit. 

"It's difficult to describe my feelings," he said of his first pole. "In the first run, I was behind [Joan] Mir and I felt super confident, I was catching him so fast, and I said, 'Okay, I need a faster bike [to follow]'.

"I was hoping to be behind Pecco [Francesco Bagnaia] but he wasn't improving at all, so I said, 'Okay, it’s my time to boost, my time to demonstrate who I am'.

"For sure, I didn't expect to make pole; I was expecting to be front four, front five.

"When I finished the lap and I was up there in first position, it's unbelievable. This is so great. Tomorrow – another day to learn because for sure it's not my day to win.

"If we can fight for a top six that'd be great and I will be super happy."

Martin picked up a point with a 15th-place finish last week, when Zarco and pole-sitter Bagnaia joined Vinales on the podium.

A best lap of one minute and 53.106 seconds saw Martin clinch pole this time around and Zarco admitted he was taken aback when he realised who had gone faster than him.

"I'm pretty happy, a low one minute 53 seconds was a good target to be on the first row," said the Frenchman.

"When I saw this one minute 53.2 seconds when I crossed the finish line I expected to be on pole.

"But when I understood it was the 89 on pole, my team-mate, I was a bit surprised.

"I'm happy anyway because it's all going too perfect for Pramac team – first and second and it's just happiness to take. It has been great."

Provisional classification

1. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) 1:53.106
2. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +0.157
3. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) +0.161
4. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) +0.197
5. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) +0.363
6. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) +0.548
7. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) +0.599
8. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) +0.639
9. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) +0.679
10. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) +0.688
11. Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) +1.118
12. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +1.990

The Charlotte Hornets have lost another star player to injury after Gordon Hayward was ruled out for four weeks with a foot sprain.

Although the Hornets are going strong in the East, sitting fourth with a 25-23 record, they have been without leading Rookie of the Year contender LaMelo Ball for the past seven games.

Ball, the brother of New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo, was averaging 15.9, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals in his debut NBA season before he fractured his wrist.

The third overall pick faces a race to return this season, although a postseason run would boost his chances.

Charlotte's playoff hopes have now been hit further, however, with Hayward's setback confirmed following Friday's win over the Indiana Pacers.

"He will be reevaluated in approximately four weeks and further updates on his status will be provided as appropriate," a statement read on Saturday.

With Hayward tallying 19.6 points per game this season, it means the Hornets are missing their second- and third-highest scorers.

Terry Rozier leads the way on an average of 20.3 points, although Miles Bridges was Charlotte's top performer against the Pacers with 23 points off the bench in a dominant 114-97 success.

For Hayward, this is just the latest in a series of injury frustrations.

Having earned an All-Star selection with the Utah Jazz, the forward signed with the Boston Celtics in free agency in 2017.

But Hayward played just once in his first season in Boston due to a fractured ankle sustained five minutes into his debut.

He was then beset by a number of minor issues in his second year as a Celtic, averaging just 11.5 points as he played 72 games but started only 18.

The 2019-20 campaign brought a return to form, despite Hayward fracturing his hand, but a sprained ankle at the start of the playoffs limited him to five postseason games, scoring 10.8 points per game after 17.5 in the regular season.

Hayward's sorry stay with the Celtics came to an end ahead of the current season when he moved to Charlotte in a sign-and-trade.

World number one Ash Barty defended the WTA Miami Open title after opponent Bianca Andreescu retired injured in the second set of Saturday's final.

Barty was well in command of the showpiece, leading 6-3 4-0, when Andreescu was forced to end the contest prematurely. The Canadian had turned her ankle in the second game of the second set.

It was not the way Barty would have wanted to retain a title for the first time in her career, but the Australian is now on a 12-match winning streak in Miami.

Moreover, it is now 13 wins from 16 matches against top-10 opponents and six straight for Barty, while she now has 10 WTA titles and two in 2021.

The injury made for a disappointing end to a brave tournament for Andreescu, who won four consecutive three-set matches to make the final.

The 20-year-old will be hoping her latest problem is not serious, with the 2019 US Open champion having missed the entirety of last season due to injury.

Barty's wicked forehands were causing problems early on and it was a fine passing winner that earned the first break, and in no time Andreescu was 3-1 adrift.

The plucky Andreescu forced her opponent into some errors to break back, but a backhand cross-court winner in the next game saw Barty regain an advantage she would not relinquish – finishing the first set with 11 winners to the Canadian's six – including three aces.

A double fault allowed Barty to take an early break in the second set, and an understandably tearful Andreescu battled on for two games after the trip before finally calling it a day in unfortunate circumstances.

The Blues got their Super Rugby Aotearoa season back on track with a battling 27-17 victory over the Hurricanes at Eden Park and the ruthless Reds maintained their perfect Super Rugby AU record on Saturday.

Leon MacDonald's side were smarting from back-to-back defeats to leaders the Crusaders and the Chiefs, but they responded with a win in Auckland.

A penalty try and three points from the boot of Otere Black put the Blues 10-9 up at half-time, with Hurricanes full-back Jordie Barrett on target three times from the tee.

Barrett bisected the posts for a fourth time to put Tony Brown's men in front, but TJ Faiane finished following an incisive break from Stephen Perofeta 10 minutes into the second half.

Mark Telea then took a superb floating pass from Rieko Ioane to cross in the corner and Black converted.

Reed Prinsep gave the Canes hope when he crashed over four minutes from time, but Black completed the scoring with a penalty right at the end as the Blues reduced the Crusaders' lead at the top to four points.

Taniela Tupou scored a first-half double as the Reds cruised to a 44-19 Super Rugby AU win over the Rebels to go four points clear of the Brumbies at the summit.

Tupou crossed twice in the space of 14 minutes, while Hunter Paisami, Fraser McReight, Jock Campbell and Josh Flook also touched down in a clinical display at AAMI Park.

Fly-half James O'Connor finished with a 14-point haul as the Reds took over at the top, with tries from Frank Lomani, Reece Hodge and Michael Wells in vain for the third-placed Rebels.

 

The Golden State Warriors' destruction at the hands of the Toronto Raptors was "humiliating for everyone involved", coach Steve Kerr said.

The Raptors routed the six-time NBA champions 130-77 on Friday to make light of a poor streak of form that saw them lose 13 of their previous 14 games.

The Warriors were without injured duo Stephen Curry and Draymond Green - leaving them "rudderless", Kerr said - as they became the first team in 25 years to lose by at least 50 points and not score a fast-break point.

"You saw it," said Kerr. "We just got destroyed. Not a whole lot to be said. Humiliating for everybody involved."

Pascal Siakam led the way for Toronto, with a season-high 36 points on his 27th birthday, seven rebounds and five assists, while OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr also went above 20 points each.

By contrast, Andrew Wiggins' 15 was the best score for Golden State, who capitulated after trailing 27-26 at the end of the first quarter to fall 60 points behind with under five minutes left of the contest.

"I just think the game went south on us quickly and we got demoralised," Kerr said. "I think without Steph and Draymond out there I think we were a little bit rudderless when things went south. We didn't have the internal fight that we needed to kind of get over the hump."

"Our team has been built on sharing the ball," Kerr said. "When you move the ball in this game, that's when the magic happens, when you build an energy, a karma, the shots tend to go in if you move the ball and you share it. And I just saw one possession after another tonight that was one pass and a shot. We've got to play for each other, and I didn't think we did that tonight."

With the Warriors 10th in the Western Conference in a season blighted by inconsistency, Kerr believes now is the time for some "serious" internal talks.

"As a coach, you try to navigate the season with your team as best you can," he added. "So there's times for humour, there's times for joy, there's times for serious discussion and soul-searching. This is a time for soul-searching for sure."

Last season's World Series runners-up the Tampa Bay Rays made it two from two to start the 2021 MLB season with a 6-4 come-from-behind victory over the Miami Marlins on Friday.

Trailing 4-2 at the top of the ninth, Joey Wendle stepped up for a three-run homer to turn the game on its head.

Diego Castillo closed it out on the mound, backing up their 1-0 Opening Day win over the Marlins.

The Houston Astros were winners again, triumphing 9-5 over the Oakland Athletics with Alex Bregman hitting back-to-back home runs across the first two games and producing a two-run performance on  Friday.

Jose Altuve's speed was on show when he scored on a pop-up in the infield after Kyle Tucker's fly ball off the wall.

Chad Pinder pulled the As back into the game with a two-run homer at the bottom of the seventh but the Astros rounded it out with three runs in the ninth.

 

Bauer power, Mercedes drives White Sox

Trevor Bauer struck out 10 hitters in a superb first start for the Los Angeles Dodgers in their 11-6 victory over the Colorado Rockies, who had beaten the World Series champs on Opening Day.

He almost completed a no-hitter at Coors Field after six tight innings before the Rockies scored six runs in the seventh.

Yermin Mercedes went five from five, including four RBIs, in his first career start as the Chicago White Sox won 12-8 against the Los Angeles Angels.

Eric Hosmer continues to impress for the San Diego Padres, blasting a homer to right field and totalling three hits in their 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks as they moved to 2-0.

Hosmer made some history with the Padres too, becoming the first player with three hits in each of their opening two games of a season.

 

Puffed-out furry field invader

The Dodgers-Rockies game was interrupted by an intruder when a cat bounded its way on to the field. It is not the first time this has happened in MLB,  but the lowlight was how puffed out the feline looked after their sprint.

 

First grand slam of 2021

Last season's American League MVP Jose Abreu registered the first grand slam of the new season, hitting to right-center to clear the bases for the White Sox.

 

Friday's results

Baltimore Orioles 3-0 Boston Red Sox
Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 Miami Marlins
Los Angeles Dodgers 11-6 Colorado Rockies 
Chicago White Sox 12-8 Los Angeles Angels 
Houston Astros 9-5 Oakland Athletics  
San Diego Padres 4-2 Arizona Diamondbacks 
San Francisco Giants 6-3 Seattle Mariners

Tomorrow

There's a full 14-game slate on Saturday with Hosmer's Padres out to make it 3-0 against the Diamondbacks.

It's November 25, 2020. A young German winger stands on the touchline anxiously waiting to step on to the Allianz Arena pitch for his Champions League debut in his hometown.

But as he waits to be allowed on, there are people watching both on television and in the largely empty stands who know this isn't how it should've been.

Rather than wearing the all-red of Bayern Munich, Karim Adeyemi jogs on in the all-black of Salzburg with the Austrian champions 3-0 down.

A technically gifted and supremely fast winger, Adeyemi has long been considered one of Germany's most promising young players, having cost Salzburg a reported €3million when he was 16.

Adeyemi had left Bayern six years earlier and is a situation that has dominated much of his early professional career, with questions about why he left never far away.

Now 19, Adeyemi has previously spoken at length about his attitude as a kid, how learning wasn't much to his liking and distraction was a regular nuisance to him.

These factors certainly didn't help at Bayern. Neither, Adeyemi alleged in the past, did the club showing little support to players who strayed from "the plan". The collective, rather than individualistic talents, was prioritised.

But to speak to him in 2021, Adeyemi comes across as grounded and professional, yet driven, well aware of the level he wants to reach.

"I think it's a dream for every player to play in the Bundesliga or Premier League one day," he tells Stats Perform News. Yet, should he end up in England, it's fair to say he'll have taken the long route.

Chelsea were a keen admirer of Adeyemi before he joined Salzburg, the youngster confirming in the past that he turned down a move to Stamford Bridge in favour of Austria.

"I decided that with my family because I thought that Salzburg was the best destination for me," he continued. "Their playing style fits me well and we harmonised perfectly. I got along well with Christoph Freund [Salzburg sporting director] and everyone else. That's why I decided to join this club."

But while the average football fan might question his choice, Adeyemi's former coach at Unterhaching – with whom he spent the six years between Bayern and Salzburg – believes it was a mature decision that made perfect sense.

"Surprised? No, not at all. For him, Salzburg was the right club," Marc Unterberger told Stats Perform News. "Their philosophy suits him perfectly, and the proximity to Unterhaching, where his family still lives, is ideal.

"What is being done there, especially in training young players, is absolutely remarkable."

 

But what exactly has that meant for Adeyemi? The teenager adds: "It was my plan to first join Liefering [on loan] when I arrived at Salzburg. I wanted to perform well there and show my skills, then I wanted to have more and more contact with the first team [at Salzburg], and I think for every young player it's first of all important to get settled. Now I am at the first team and I am happy about it. That was my plan so far."

After spending a year and a half at Liefering, who essentially act as a B team for Salzburg, Adeyemi returned to his parent club having caught the eye in Austria's second tier.

He scored 15 goals and got eight assists in 35 league games for Liefering, strong evidence that he was ready for the step up.

Adeyemi hasn't been quite so explosive with Salzburg, only having a hand in goals in six of his 29 Austrian Bundesliga matches, but the key factor here is that he is having to remain patient – only nine of those 29 games were as a starter.

"Well, you can never be completely satisfied," he explained. "You always have things to improve. It was the same for me when I played in Liefering. I always want more. It's exactly the same here in the first team. I always say I am never satisfied with what I do, I always want more, and I think that's what I am focusing on.

"I am trying to improve my game together with the coaching staff. I'm trying to have progress in my development. Nobody knows what happens in the future."

It is a display of maturity and realism that belies many of the stories that have followed Adeyemi during his fledgling career. Unterberger believes the youngster is often shown in a negative light, adamant most kids are prone to distraction.

"I find that he is portrayed too negatively. Of course, Karim wasn't a classic academy player. He had his own thoughts on how to deal with things. We never wanted to change him completely, and I think we succeeded quite well. Karim is a really great guy and a great person.

"Until the time Karim came to us, we had never had such an exceptional player in our youth division. Of course, as a young person, you benefit from being accepted for who you are, but I would like to make it very clear that there was no situation within the team in which Karim behaved in such a way that we as a club were forced to act. On the contrary, over time he developed more and more towards putting himself at the service of the team.

"He was easily distracted, that's right, but let's be honest, something like this is normal when young people develop."

After all, Unterberger arguably knows Adeyemi better than any other coach.

"I can still remember it very well, the first time I saw him play in an Under-11 tournament," he recalls. "Back then he was still playing for TSV Forstenried. My first thought was: 'We absolutely need this player'. Fortunately, it worked out later!"

That might be something of an understatement in reality. The €3m fee that Unterhaching received made him the most expensive German under-18 player ever, while 2019 saw him win the Fritz-Walter Gold Medal, an award handed out to Germany's best youth player. Previous winners include Timo Werner, Emre Can and Mario Gotze.

And he has certainly shown flashes of his significant potential. In November, he became the first player this season to have a hand in four goals (one scored, three set up) in a single game in the Austrian Bundesliga. Only one other has matched that feat this term: his team-mate, Mergim Berisha. In December, he broke Salzburg's record for their youngest ever scorer in the Champions League.

Yet Adeyemi recognises he still has a long way to go.

"I can only talk for myself and not for the other players. I think if you feel comfortable within a team and you get your chances, then there's a possibility [of finding the right fit]. That's how it is between Salzburg and myself. I will continue to work hard for that. I want to develop more and become a man."

Given the talents Salzburg and their Red Bull sister club RB Leipzig have produced in recent years, few would doubt Adeyemi's in the right place to spread his wings.

The Golden State Warriors suffered a season-worst 53-point defeat at the hands of a rampant Toronto Raptors in the NBA on Friday night.

The Raptors led by as much as 61 points in the last quarter, threatening the NBA's all-time record win of 68 points when the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Miami Heat in 1991.

Pascal Siakam, on his 27th birthday, did plenty of damage with 36 points, seven rebounds and five assists as Toronto won the second and third quarters with a cumulative 81-30.

Toronto dominated Golden State without injured point guard Kyle Lowry with a foot infection too.

The Warriors' franchise record defeat is also 63 points, so some late points ensured they avoided further ignominy as they lined up without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.

"Without Steph and Draymond out there, I think we were a little bit rudderless when things went south," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

The Phoenix Suns also handed out a hiding, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 140-103, with guard Devin Booker scoring another haul of 32 points.

The Suns have won five in a row and are firm in second in the West with a 34-14 record.

 

Giannis dominates the Blazers, Jazz on song

Giannis Antetokounmpo produced a massive 47-point performance as the Milwaukee Bucks flexed their muscle with a 127-109 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Blazers, who have been in good form led by Damian Lillard, were humbled by the title contenders but Giannis played a major role.

The Greek forward scored 47 points and had 12 rebounds, while guard Jrue Halliday added 22 points and 10 assists to improve their record to 31-17.

Kyle Kuzma got 30 points as the Los Angeles Lakers claimed another win without LeBron James, getting past the Sacramento Kings 115-94.

The ladder leaders Utah Jazz made it eight wins in a row with a 113-106 victory over the Chicago Bulls led by Donovan Mitchell's 26 points, while Rudy Gobert had a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds.

Jaylen Brown had 22 points and 11 rebounds in the Boston Celtics' 118-102 triumph over the Houston Rockets while Luka Doncic starred as the Dallas Mavericks beat the New York Knicks 99-86.

 

Hornets stung by injury again

Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward suffered a foot sprain which will likely sideline him for a period in his side's win over the Indiana Pacers. He'd shot 13 points, had eight rebounds and six assists before being forced out of the game, joining LaMelo Ball in the Hornets injury ward.

 

Giannis joins Wilt in exclusive club

It's hard to go past Giannis, with his 47-point display making him the second player in league history to score 45-plus points while shooting 85 per cent or better from the field along with having 10 or more rebounds. Wilt Chamberlain is the other. Exclusive company.

 

Friday's results

Toronto Raptors 130-77 Golden State Warriors
Dallas Mavericks 99-86 New York Knicks
Boston Celtics 118-102 Houston Rockets
Charlotte Hornets 114-97 Indiana Pacers
Memphis Grizzlies 120-108 Minnesota Timberwolves
Atlanta Hawks 126-103 New Orleans Pelicans
Utah Jazz 113-106 Chicago Bulls
Milwaukee Bucks 127-109 Portland Trail Blazers
Los Angeles Lakers 115-94 Sacramento Kings
Phoenix Suns 140-103 Oklahoma City Thunder
 

 

Jazz and Magic

Several top sides are in action on Saturday including the leaders Utah Jazz (37-11) against the up-and-down Orlando Magic (17-31).

Hubert Hurkacz has recorded back-to-back top 10 wins to move a step closer to his maiden ATP Masters 1000 trophy with a hard-fought straight-sets win over Andrey Rublev at the Miami Open on Friday night.

The 26th seeded Pole knocked off in-form fourth seed Rublev 6-3 6-4 to book a spot in Sunday's final where he will play teenage 21st seed Jannik Sinner who defeated Roberto Bautista Agut earlier in the day.

The 24-year-old from Wroclaw had beaten second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals and continued that strong form by never allowing Rublev to settle into his game.

"It means a lot, especially after winning a title at the beginning of the year, I had a couple of rough matches," Hurkacz said in his on-court interview, referring to his January win at the Delray Beach Open in Florida.

"I’m so happy that I came over and I was still trying to improve my game and trying to be a better player. This is really huge for me."

The 23-year-old Russian had won 16 matches this calendar year including taking out last month's Rotterdam Open.

Rublev had also not lost a set all tournament and only been broken twice, yet Hurkacz broke serve three times.

The Pole also hit 25 winners and showed determination under pressure, when Rublev had a break point at 5-4 in the second set, before saving it in an epic rally and winning the game to secure the match.

World number eight Rublev said: "Today was not my day. Hurkacz played really well and he deserved to win… Now it's time to go back to work hard to be ready for the clay season."

"It’s [been a] great week for me. I did my first semis [at an ATP Masters 1000]. I'm playing really consistent. Every week I go deep in the tournament."

Sinner, 19, won a three-set match against Bautista Agut to book his spot in the decider earlier on Friday.

The young Italian world number 31 and Hurkacz know each other well.

"We played doubles together last week in Dubai,"Hurkacz said. "Now we’re playing in the final of a Masters 1000 event, so it’s going to be a fun match."

American world number 99 Cameron Tringale backed up his strong opening day at the Texas Open with a three-under 69 on Friday to take a two-shot lead into the weekend.

Tringale, 33, has never claimed a PGA Tour victory but has set himself up perfectly, two shots ahead of three-time major winner Jordan Spieth and Matt Wallace.

The 12-year veteran bogeyed his opening two holes on Friday after sitting equal second after day one but responded with five straight birdies in his fourth to eighth holes.

"I just hit a lot of really good iron shots to those holes," Tringale said. “I think my furthest putt was 4 feet, so just good approaches to the green... I took advantage most of the time.”

First day leader Camilo Villegas slipped five shots back after shooting a 76, while Texas native Spieth looms after putting together two good days as he chases his first title since 2017.

The former world number one shot a two-under 70, although he started strong with two birdies including an approach within 10 feet on the first before slowing up.

"I thought the start was key for me, and I got off to a great start," Spieth said. "I put some really good swings on the ball after kind of being a little sloppy at the end of yesterday’s round."

He added: "I’m really pleased with where things are at, but they’re not where I want them to be at."

Equal second Wallace is another yet to win on the PGA Tour but he moved into contention after a four-under 68 which included no bogeys.

"Whenever you go bogey free, whatever golf course it is, it’s nice, but especially here," Wallace said.

A group of four players are two shots behind Spieth and Wallace, with Kevin Stadler, Kyle Stanley, Erik van Rooyen and Brandt Snedeker who had a birdie-birdie finish.

Matt Kuchar and Villegas are among the next group of six at four-under, while Charley Hoffman shot a day two best 66 to be tied at three-under.

Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson was unable to recover from his horror first round which was ruined by taking a 10 on the 18th and missed the cut.

Kevin Durant has been fined $50,000 for using "offensive and derogatory language on social media" in his recent exchange with actor Michael Rapoport.

The sanction was announced by the NBA in a statement on Friday with the 32-year-old Brooklyn Nets forward acknowledging his actions were inappropriate.

Earlier in the week, Rapoport revealed expletive-laden private messages that Durant had sent him which included threatening language, as well as anti-gay and misogynistic slurs.

"I'm sorry that people [have] seen that language I used," said Durant, who is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury.

"That's not really what I want people to see and hear from me, but hopefully I can move past it and get back out there on the floor."

Nets coach Steve Nash said he had spoken to Durant about the exchange and that the former Golden State Warriors man was apologetic.

Rapoport revealed the direct messages which were sent by Durant on Instagram after the actor had criticized his post-game conduct in an interview.

"I receive threats and disgusting messages DAILY, but never in my wildest dreams did I think @KDTrey5 (Durant) would be among them," Rapaport wrote in a Twitter post with screenshots of the exchange.

"The Snake himself is now threatening me, bringing up my wife and wants to fight."

Major League Baseball announced on Friday that it is moving the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia legislation passed in March that restricts voting rights.  

MLB has yet to announce a new site for this year's Midsummer Classic, which had been scheduled for July 13 at the Braves' Truist Park, but said a new host city would be chosen "shortly". 

The league had also planned on holding the draft in Atlanta but that also will be switched to another location, along with All-Star break staples like the Futures Game and Home Run Derby.   

The decision comes just over a week after the passage of a bill in the Georgia legislature that president Joe Biden and others have criticised and characterised as voter suppression.  

Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement that he consulted with current and former players – as well as officials with the Players Association – before making the decision.  

"I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year's All-Star Game and MLB Draft," Manfred said. "Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. 

"We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support."

Reigning NL MVP and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman previously said that he hoped the game would still be held in Atlanta but used as a platform to promote voting rights.  

The move is reminiscent of the NBA's activism in the summer of 2016, when it pulled the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina after a law was enacted that did not allow transgender people to use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identities in government buildings, public schools and public universities.  

The North Carolina "bathroom bill" was later altered and the NBA held the 2019 All-Star festivities in Charlotte.  

Change in Georgia may be more difficult, as the state has become a lightning rod for passionately divided political issues after its pivotal role in the 2020 elections for president and U.S. Senate.  

Proponents of the bill, titled SB 202, say that it will ensure election integrity, while opponents say that the new restrictions are targeted to reduce turnout by black and other minority voters.  

Among the provisions in the bill that has since been signed into law by govenor Brian Kemp are heightened identification standards for absentee ballots and a ban on distributing food and water to voters waiting in lines at polling places. 

President Biden called the law "Jim Crow on steroids", while MLB's position was further complicated by its plans to celebrate the life and career of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who was the target of racism when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record and throughout his 23-year career.  

Other major sports figures connected to Atlanta have also publicly condemned the new law. Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer's Atlanta United, denounced the legislation, saying: "We should be working to make voting easier, not harder for every eligible citizen." 

Tony Ressler, owner of the Atlanta Hawks, also made a statement against SB 202 and said that the franchise will continue to "promote equality and encourage participation by all who seek to cast a ballot".

Jannik Sinner followed in the footsteps of three all-time tennis greats as he became the fourth teenager in history to reach a men's singles final at the Miami Open.

The 19-year-old Italian hit three huge backhand winners to break serve in the final game as he pulled off a 5-7 6-4 6-4 victory over Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut in their last-four clash.

It means Sinner matches Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic - players who went on to be ranked number one in the world - in becoming a finalist at the Masters 1000 tournament while still in his teens.

The hotly tipped world number 31 will contest a final at this level for the first time in his career on Sunday, awaiting the winner of the second semi-final between Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz.

Sinner said of his feat: "It sounds incredible. I'm very, very happy about today because obviously being the first semi-final it's not easy to play, especially on a Masters event, and playing against a very, very solid player in Roberto.

"We had a tough battle two weeks ago, and coming out as a winner today it means a lot to me."

Sinner also won that previous match, another tight three-setter, in Dubai.

Speaking on Amazon Prime, he explained how he recovered from a slow start to win the Miami tussle.

"In the beginning I think we were both a little bit tight and then we both played a little bit better," Sinner said.

"Today was not easy, it was a little bit windy, and in the end I tried to serve better and try to move him a little bit more, try to mix it up a little bit, and that was the key today.

"He was serving a few second serves in the last game and I just tried to go for it and even if I lost the game I was 5-5, so I was up in the score and it was the right decision."

Agassi, in 1990, and Djokovic, in 2007, were both teenage champions at the event, beating Stefan Edberg and Guillermo Canas respectively in the title matches.

Nadal lost to Roger Federer in the 2005 final, with the Swiss coming from two sets down to win what was then a five-set finale to the tournament. It has since gone back to being a best-of-three match.

Sinner may have benefited from Nadal, Djokovic and Federer electing to skip this year's tournament, but many believe he has the potential to follow them to the very top of the game.

Former women's world number five Daniela Hantuchova hailed Sinner's "braveness and calmness", adding: "When it really mattered, he stepped it up big time and to be able to do that at such a young age, we are looking at something very, very special here."

Greg Rusedski, runner-up at the 1997 US Open, added on Amazon's broadcast: "Rafa was the youngest to be in the Miami finals. Mentally they have a lot in common. Different styles but just bold and brave."

The 2020 season is not one fans of the New England Patriots will remember fondly.

Not only did they lose Tom Brady after 20 years, but the star quarterback went on to win a famous seventh Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Pats, meanwhile, suffered with the tight salary cap left behind after years of pushing for postseason glory with Brady.

They went 7-9, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008, a season that saw Brady suffer a serious knee injury in Week 1.

While their record was by no means the league's worst, it was their first losing season since 2000.

Head coach Bill Belichick is not used to that and, with their cap situation looking much better, he has been aggressive in attempting to put things right with a free agency spending spree.

Here, we have used Stats Perform data to look at their disappointing 2020 season and some of the moves they have made to turn their fortunes around.

Offense

Cam Newton was a late addition ahead of the season on a bargain contract, but he was unable to recapture his Carolina Panthers peak as he returned from injury with a new offense.

His 82.9 passer rating was 28th out of 35 qualifying quarterbacks and he had just eight touchdown passes through the air, with 10 interceptions.

Still, Brady had not impressed in his last season either, with New England having one of the weakest supporting casts in the NFL.

Jakobi Meyers, who was undrafted in 2019, had a good year at wide receiver (59 catches for 729 yards), though no other player topped 400 yards receiving.

Julian Edelman was only healthy for six games, while the top tight end Ryan Izzo had just 199 receiving yards.

The Pats were 30th in the NFL with just 181 passing yards per game, 49 YPG below the league average.

New England had 38 passing plays of 20+ yards – only the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals faring worse in that category.

Newton attempted 22 passes of 21+ air yards – 30 NFL QBs threw more – highlighting the limitations of the offense.

He did, however, add 592 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground, offering a new dimension the Pats' offense.

That at least helped the Pats, with a strong offensive line, to a fourth-ranked rushing attack (147 YPG), though only two of their 20 rushing TDs were runs of 10+ yards

Newton went a solid but unspectacular 7-8, missing one game due to coronavirus, which he said had a lingering effect on his performance even after he had returned. 

On the whole, it was an offense that was tough to watch and while Newton may have underwhelmed, it was a very difficult situation in which to succeed.

Defense

The Patriots' defense was hit hard by COVID-19 opt outs, but the talent that remained combined with Belichick's coaching meant it was still a top-10 unit that was usually tough to move the ball against.

New England were seventh in points allowed (22.1) and while they were 15th in yardage (354 YPG), that ranking improved to eighth against the pass (222 YPG).

Stephon Gilmore was a Pro Bowl selection at cornerback for a unit that allowed seven TDs of 20+ yards, a figure bettered by just six teams.

The run defense struggled (26th in NFL at 131 YPG), forcing only 26 rushing plays to go for negative yardage – with only the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs faring worse.

New England had 22 takeaways, close to the league average (21), though 24 sacks was way below the par score recorded by the rest of the NFL (35).

Chase Winovich led the team in sacks (5.5) as well as in combined QB knockdowns and hurries (44), but the Patriots did not have anyone in the top 40 in either category, making pass rush an area of need.

Offseason

Armed with a strong cap situation and a point to prove, Belichick embarked on a spending spree that went against the team's usual philosophy.

Whereas previously the second wave of free agency would have been targeted along with bargain veterans desperate to secure a ring, New England were aggressive in chasing some of the top names on the market.

Their 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 four 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, albeit amid some concerns over the size of the contracts handed out.

It is hoped Matt Judon (four years, $56m) can help bolster the pass rush. He is 25th in the NFL with 30.5 sacks since 2017 for the Baltimore Ravens, while linebacker Kyle Van Noy returned from the Miami Dolphins.

The biggest loss was guard and two-time Super Bowl winner Joe Thuney, who signed a huge five-year, $80m deal with the Chiefs after playing last season on the franchise tag, though a former Patriot offensive lineman - Trent Brown - was brought back in a trade with the Raiders.

Newton, meanwhile, returned on another team-friendly deal worth an initial $5m with incentives that could reach $13m, though that contract will not preclude the Patriots from making other moves at QB.

The talent on the roster has undoubtedly improved, giving the Pats some flexibility when they pick at number 15 in the draft.

A move to further strengthen at wide receiver would make sense, as would a cornerback to add to a group including Gilmore and J.C. Jackson, with the latter set to hit free agency in 2022.

But Belichick may have one more move up his sleeve at QB. With the top five options all in the mix to go in the top 10, he may have to move up the board, or perhaps a trade to bring Jimmy Garoppolo back appeals after the San Francisco 49ers jumped up the draft order themselves.

Life after Brady continues to be fascinating for the Pats.

While many NFL fans relished their 2020 downfall, followers of New England will settle for a solitary 7-9 season if that proves to be the worst of their struggles and a turnaround begins in 2021. 

The Crusaders suffered a surprise first defeat of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season as the Highlanders cruised to a 33-12 victory.

The defending champions did the double over the Highlanders in last season's competition, but the form book was turned on its head on Friday.

It was only a second win in five matches for the Highlanders, who defeated the league leaders through 18 points from the boot of Mitch Hunt.

Billy Harmon, Michael Collins, Connor Garden-Bachop crossed for the Highlanders, who are a point behind the second-placed Blues having played a game more.

Meanwhile, in Super Rugby AU, the Waratahs suffered their sixth straight defeat but came agonisingly close to a draw with the league-leading Brumbies in their first game since Rob Penney's sacking.

Interim coaches Jason Gilmore and Chris Whitaker saw plenty of fight from their winless side, who staged an admirable second-half fightback having trailed 24-10 at the break.

Will Harrison converted his own try to trim the gap to seven points with under a quarter of an hour to play.

The Brumbies saw Rory Scott sin-binned with six minutes left and, after Tom Cusack was sent off with the clock red, James Ramm went over following a scrum metres out from the line, offering Harrison the chance to clinch a share of the spoils.

But Harrison could not split the uprights with his conversion attempt as the Waratahs suffered a 24-22 loss and more misery in a dismal campaign.

Dave Roberts refused to blame either Cody Bellinger or Justin Turner for the bizarre mix-up that cost the Los Angeles Dodgers in their Opening Day defeat to the Colorado Rockies.

World Series champions the Dodgers outhit the Rockies 15-11, had eight runners on base via walk and 20 total bases, but they scored only five runs.

While an 8-5 defeat ultimately was not decided by one play, the first run of the game summed up a day on which manager Roberts said "all the way around, we didn't play well".

Bellinger hit a home run at the top of the third, with Turner already at first base.

But rather than a two-run homer, Bellinger ended up being given out and had to settle for a one-run RBI.

His hit slipped through the glove of left fielder Raimel Tapia before clearing the park and Turner thought the ball had been caught, meaning he hared back to first and passed the advancing Bellinger in the process.

"I don't think there's blame to be placed," Roberts said.

"I think Cody was coming out of the box hard, which he should have, and he's looking at where the ball was at, going hard.

"Justin was just past second base and when he saw the ball in Tapia's glove, he retreated and put his head down to try to get back to potentially be doubled up.

"And then at that point in time, they just kind of crossed between first and second."

The Dodgers finished with a 43-17 record last season and went 7-3 against the Rockies, with their results against the rest of the NL West a slightly more modest 20-10.

They will hope there are few further mishaps in 2021, although Roberts was also reluctant to criticise the umpire.

"From what I understand, he didn't give the out call, so he was just trying to see it," Roberts said. "And once he did see the ball go over, he gave the home run call.

"At that point in time, Justin had already retreated.

"It's just one of those funky plays that I don't think is going to happen again this year."

Three of first baseman Bellinger's 12 homers last season came against the Rockies and he will get the opportunity to atone for Thursday's error on Friday.

Carl Frampton will draw upon a deep well of experience when he faces WBO super-featherweight champion Jamel Herring on Saturday and bids to join an elite club.

Victory would make Frampton only the fourth British boxer in history, after Ricky Burns, Duke McKenzie and the great Bob Fitzsimmons, to become a three-weight world champion.

The Belfast hero would also be the first man from the island of Ireland to accomplish the feat, having experienced unforgettable highs, crushing lows and the bitter fallout of boxing politics en route to this defining outing at Caesar Palace, Dubai.

Nevertheless, a warm affection for the fundamentals of his craft remains.

"I'm 34. I started boxing when I was seven. Twenty-seven years I've been doing this game," he told Stats Perform News.

"The thing I love most about it is the fighting and the sparring. That hasn't changed.

"I'm relishing the fight, I'm relishing the chance to go down in history, I'm relishing the fact that I'm about to fight a big man.

"People will look at the size of me compared to him and completely write me off. I'm just up for this one. I really want to win it."

Those doubters will point to the fact Frampton's spell at the pinnacle of the sport – he was named The Ring magazine Fighter of the Year in 2016 – came half a decade ago.

A super-bantamweight unification victory over domestic rival Scott Quigg in February of that year was followed by a barnstorming triumph against Leo Santa Cruz in New York to lift the WBA featherweight crown.

Santa Cruz won a similarly absorbing rematch and an attempt to reign again at 126lbs came unstuck against Josh Warrington.

By the time of that 2018 points loss in Manchester, Frampton had endured an acrimonious split with manager Barry McGuigan and his son and trainer Shane McGuigan. A multi-million pound legal battle with Barry McGuigan was settled last November.

As that feud rumbled on, the fighter established his ongoing relationship with former British and European light-middleweight champion Jamie Moore and assistant trainer Nigel Travis.

"I want to win a world title with Jamie and Nige," he said. "I know they're fantastic coaches. I'm still annoyed with myself that I didn't win the fight against Josh Warrington.

"I hold my hands up, I got it completely wrong. It was more a case of me getting it wrong than me being 'done', which some people would like to think.

"Jamie's won a world title with Chantelle Cameron. I'd like to become his first male world champion and kind of repay them for everything they've done for me."

Frampton credits Moore with significantly developing his capabilities as a body puncher, something that could be key against rangy southpaw Herring, who has a five-inch height and seven-inch reach advantage.

"I think the improvements in body punching that Jamie Moore has made, it's kind of sensible," he said.

"Look at my size and stature, why was I not a better body puncher before I went to Jamie?

"I've fought big guys my whole career, I've sparred big guys. There's more than one way to skin a cat.

"People think I'm just going to have to jump on this guy because of the difference in stature from me to him, people think I'm just going to have to kill the space and get on his chest. I don't see it like that.

"I think that my footwork is one of my best attributes. If I can use my feet and control the distance well, I can win the fight a couple of different ways."

The showdown with Herring has been a long time coming, with a minor hand injury for Frampton in February causing a further delay after the champion endured coronavirus and a scratched cornea in 2020.

Nevertheless, as is often the case in boxing, another money-spinning clash looms on the horizon, with rising American star Shakur Stevenson mandated to face the winner.

"He's openly said he'll come to Belfast to fight me," Frampton said of Stevenson, raising the prospect of one more raucous blockbuster in his home city.

"He's an unreal fighter. Really, really good. Not the biggest puncher in the world – well, I thought that against Josh Warrington, didn't I?

"I would go into the fight, I'm sure, with Shakur Stevenson as a big underdog. But, again, that's another thing that excites me."

Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant has apologised after an argument with actor and comedian Michael Rapaport in which he used homophobic language was made public.

Rapaport posted screenshots of a private conversation on his Twitter account earlier this week.

"I receive threats and disgusting messages DAILY, but never in my wildest dreams did I think @KDTrey5 would be among them," he wrote.

"The [snake] himself is now threatening me, bringing up my wife and wants to fight. This is supposed to be America's sweetheart right?"

The dispute appeared to begin when Rapaport called Durant "super sensitive" following a post-game interview on TNT in December.

The pictures showed Durant respond with homophobic language and threats towards the True Romance and Deep Blue Sea star.

Rapaport also addressed the 2014 NBA MVP's comments on his podcast, saying: "That's not locker-room talk, we're not s***-talking.

"That's not how people talk, you're threatening me. You've done it three times."

An apologetic Durant said: "I'm sorry that people [have] seen the language that I used.

"That's not really what I want people to see and hear from me, but hopefully I can move past it and get back out on the floor."

Durant has been out of action with a hamstring injury since February 13, although the Nets have claimed first place in the East in his absence.

The 32-year-old forward missed the entirety of last season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in the 2018-19 NBA Finals while playing for the Golden State Warriors.

He returned to average 29.0 points across 19 outings this year, leading Brooklyn in scoring, before his latest setback gave new signing James Harden the reins.

Harden, also now missing with a hamstring issue, has put together an MVP run, aided by Kyrie Irving.

Of his season, Durant said: "I was playing solid before I got injured and feel like we were just starting to figure each other out, James, Kyrie and myself, and different line-ups out there on the floor.

"I felt like we were starting to gain our rhythm and, even though I was out a week before that with [COVID-19] protocols, I felt like our team was gaining more chemistry then and that's moreso what I care about.

"How I play, I'll figure that out over time whenever I get out there."

Reports suggest Durant is nearing a return, but the player added he had to be "smart and cautious with this type of injury".

"I've been through this situation before so I just try to take myself back to that place," Durant said.

World Series champions Los Angeles Dodgers were humbled on the Opening Day of the new Major League Baseball season 8-5 by the Colorado Rockies on Thursday.

The Dodgers had 14 stranded runners throughout the game while Cody Bellinger hit a ball into the stands which did not count as a home run on a strange afternoon.

With crowds returning to MLB, the Dodgers were unable to get off to a flying start.

"Honestly, we just didn’t play a good baseball game," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "All the way around, we didn’t play well."

In the Houston Astros' first game back playing in front of crowds since their cheating scandal emerged they were jeered and boed in an 8-1 win on the road against the Oakland Athletics.

Back-to-back home runs from Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman in the eighth put the Astros out of sight and silenced the crowd.

 

Trout lifts Angels, Mariners mighty comeback

Mike Trout flexed his muscle as the Los Angeles Angels rallied to beat the Chicago White Sox 4-3. At the bottom of the eighth, a visibly pumped Trout's hit gave him an RBI and tied the game. Shohei Ohtani then got on the board after an error by second baseman Nick Madrigal.

The Seattle Mariners trailed 6-1 in the eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants before mounting a remarkable fightback and eventually prevail 8-7. The winning run came when Jake Fraley walked with the bases loaded.

The New York Yankees' bats let them down as they were beaten 3-2 by the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Tampa Day Rays shut out the Miami Marlins in a 1-0 win earned by Austin Meadows' solo home run in the ninth.

 

Bellinger denied by mix-up

Bellinger was denied his first homer of the new season in a moment of confusion, when team-mate Justin Turner, who was on first base, thought Bellinger had been caught in the outfield and ran back. Bellinger's hit was actually fumbled by Raimel Tapia over the fence so when Turner reversed and passed by the left-hander that made him out and resulted in only an RBI single.

 

First homer of season

Detroit Tigers hitter Miguel Cabrera claimed the maiden homer of the new season in driving snow, which left him confused, sliding into base just in case it had not cleared the fence.

 

Thursday's results

Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 New York Yankees
Detroit Tigers 3-2 Cleveland Indians
Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 Minnesota Twins
Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Chicago Cubs
Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 Atlanta Braves
Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 Miami Marlins
St Louis Cardinals 11-6 Cincinnati Reds
Colorado Rockies 8-5 Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres 8-7 Arizona Diamondbacks
Kansas City Royals 14-10 Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels 4-3 Chicago White Sox
Houston Astros 8-1 Oakland Athletics 
Seattle Mariners 8-7 San Fransisco Giants 

 

Dodgers to bounce back

The Dodgers will look to bounce back from their opening day loss on Friday on the road again versus the Colorado Rockies.

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