Stephon Gilmore is hopeful he can find common ground with the New England Patriots and that he can be "paid what I'm worth".

The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year and two-time first-team All-Pro is seeking a new contract and held himself out of mandatory minicamp to attempt to force the Patriots' hand.

Cornerback Gilmore carries a salary cap hit of $16.26million, the largest among players at his position, in 2021.

However, his base salary of $7m is half that of Byron Jones of the Miami Dolphins, who leads all corners in that regard with $14m.

While he appears content to remain in New England, Gilmore clearly wants a contract that he feels reflects his status as one of the NFL's premier corners.

"I just want what I'm worth, however that plays out," Gilmore told ESPN's Josina Anderson.

"Every player should be paid what they're worth. That's just how it is.

"Hopefully, we can find some common ground and get it situated. I just know what I bring to the table and my style of play.

"Right now, I'm just trying to focus on myself and make sure I'm good mentally and physically."

Gilmore was limited to 11 games last season and underwent surgery in the offseason to repair a torn quadriceps muscle.

He added of his physical condition: "I feel stronger than I've ever felt since the surgery. I've been running a lot, building full speed.

"We'll see [if he is ready for training camp]; if I need to be. But I also don't want to push it."

Since signing a five-year, $65m contract with the Patriots in 2017, Gilmore has racked up 52 pass breakups, tied for sixth-most in the NFL, and 11 interceptions.

 

Larry Fitzgerald remains undecided as to whether he will extend his glittering NFL career into an 18th season.

Fitzgerald is a free agent after his contract with the Arizona Cardinals expired after the 2020 campaign.

The Cardinals have given him the time to decide if he will retire or play at least one more year in the NFL.

However, with the start of training camp three weeks away, the timeline for him to make his decision is growing short.

Yet Fitzgerald seems in no rush to make a definitive call on if his career will continue.

"I haven't decided anything," Fitzgerald said in an interview with ESPN. "Training camp starts in a few weeks. I'm excited, it's going to be another great year for the NFL."

While Fitzgerald has been pontificating on his future, the Cardinals have spent the offseason reinforcing their depth at wide receiver behind DeAndre Hopkins.

They signed veteran A.J. Green in free agency and used a second-round pick on Purdue wideout Rondale Moore, potentially leaving Fitzgerald with limited opportunities to make an impact were he to return.

And, if the Cardinals are not interested in bringing him back, Fitzgerald may also find a disappointing market for his services after one of the worst seasons of his career.

The 11-time Pro Bowler registered 54 catches for 409 yards and one touchdown, all of which were career-lows, in 2020.

Fitzgerald registered a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup against a defender on a play where he is targeted regardless of whether the pass is catchable, on 47.9 per cent of his targets last season, the 10th-lowest rate among NFL wideouts, according to Stats Perform data. His burn yards per target average of 7.39 was the seventh-worst in the league.

Novak Djokovic expects Matteo Berrettini to be at his best when he meets the Italian in the Wimbledon final on Sunday.

Djokovic is a win from moving level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal by claiming a record 20th grand slam title.

Standing in his way will be the considerable figure of Berrettini, who overcame Hubert Hurkacz in four sets to reach the final of a major for the first time in his career at the age of 25.

Djokovic was made to work hard to see off Denis Shapovalov in straight sets on Centre Court on Friday.

And he is anticipating another tough battle against one of the form players on tour this year.

Recalling his own maiden appearance in a grand slam final, a defeat to Roger Federer at the 2007 US Open, Djokovic said: "I remember that I was just so thrilled to be in the final.

"I had a good match but I just probably did not believe enough in the victory at certain moments when the scoreline was close.

"I was really young, 20 years old. Matteo is a bit older. He's had more experience playing on the Tour.

"He's already had notable results in the biggest tournaments and some big wins against the top players of the world.

"I expect him to be on really high level because that's what he's been delivering in last couple weeks. He's in great form, serving big and playing big.

"To win a 20th grand slam would mean everything. That's why I'm here, and why I'm playing.

"I imagined myself being in a position to fight for another Grand Slam trophy prior to coming to London.

"I've put myself in a very good position and I'm looking forward to a great battle."

Wimbledon will mark Berrettini's fourth final of the 2021 season, with his recent victory at Queen's Club securing his second title of the year.

Djokovic was the last man to beat Berrettini, who is now 32-6 for the year, doing so in four sets in the French Open quarter-finals.

Yet Djokovic completed that victory after fans had been forced to leave because of a curfew in Paris and he knows a capacity Wimbledon crowd may not be on his side.

"I hope that I will have the stadium on my side. Having the crowd behind you, against you, it's a big difference," he added. 

"People like to see someone win who is an underdog or is not maybe expected to win, is not the favourite. But hopefully people can also recognise also the importance of this match for me, the history that is on the line."

Jon Rahm claimed a share of the lead at the Scottish Open and Rory McIlroy missed the cut as the two European Ryder Cup stars found themselves at the centre of a bizarre incident at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick.

Rahm and McIlroy were playing with Justin Thomas when, on the 10th hole, a spectator walked on to the tee and removed the cover from the Northern Irishman's driver before taking a couple of practice swings with an iron.

"I was surprised. Everyone saw what happened on TV," McIlroy said, as quoted by BBC Sport. "It was handled efficiently and everything was okay. I had no idea who it was."

Rahm claimed the man, who Police Scotland said was taken to hospital after being ejected from the course, smelt of alcohol and added: "I don't think any of us understood what was going on.

"It didn't put anyone off. If anything it put a smile on our faces. It will be a pretty good story to tell in the future."

Rahm's sparkling recent form, which secured the U.S. Open title last month and sees him riding high as world number one, is also shaping up into a pretty good story to tell.

The Spaniard carded eight birdies in a 65 to follow his Thursday 66 for 11 under overall. Belgium's Thomas Detry matched Rahm's scores and England's first-round leader Jack Senior made it a three-way tie at the top.

Lee Westwood stormed into the clubhouse, going eagle, birdie, birdie over the final three holes and is a shot behind the leaders alongside Matt Fitzpatrick and George Coetzee, while Thomas and Ian Poulter are in a group of four players on eight under.

Inebriated interlopers were not the end of McIlroy's concerns, however, as he could only card a level par 71 on Friday, leaving him one under for the tournament and a shot below the cut line.

Ash Barty will lean on the tough lessons that Wimbledon has taught her over the years when she tackles Karolina Pliskova on Centre Court in the women's final.

A decade has slipped by since a 15-year-old Barty won the girls' singles title, and now she and Pliskova will do battle for the Venus Rosewater Dish.

Saturday's final is a clash of the player with the most aces on the women's tour this year (Barty: 255) and the tournament leader for that metric (Pliskova: 54).

Pliskova will likely be a tough nut to crack, having won 57 of her 61 service games for a 93 per cent strike rate, with the Czech the only player in the draw above 90 per cent in that crucial component.

Both players will be making their debut in a Wimbledon women's singles final, the first time that has happened at the All England Club since 1977, when Virginia Wade beat Betty Stove.

 

World number one Barty will become just the fourth player in the Open Era to win both girls' and women's singles titles at Wimbledon should she get the job done, after Ann Jones, Martina Hingis and Amelie Mauresmo.

It has been quite a journey to this point for the Australian, who after her early impact in the game stepped away from tennis for almost two years after the 2014 US Open. She played Big Bash League cricket and only returned to tennis at Eastbourne in 2016, gradually ascending to the summit and winning the 2019 French Open title for a maiden senior grand slam.

There have been painful defeats along the way on grass, her favourite surface, including a loss to Daria Kasatkina in the third round in 2018 and to Alison Riske from a set up in the fourth round a year later.

Barty was the top seed at that edition of Wimbledon in 2019, as she is this year, and there is no doubt she would be an exciting champion, a player who seems to only bring positivity to tennis, albeit she pointed to some bleak moments in her past ahead of the tussle with Pliskova.

"I think Wimbledon for me has been an amazing place of learning," Barty said. "I think 10 years ago I came here for the first time as a junior and learned a lot in that week.

"Probably 2018, 2019 was some of my toughest weeks playing. To come away with our losses in those two tournaments, I learned a hell of a lot from those two times.

"I think a lot of the time your greatest growth comes from your darkest times. I think that's why this tournament has been so important to me. I've learned so much with all my experiences, the good, bad, everything in between I've been able to learn from.

"Just to be able to keep chipping away, keep putting yourself out there, let yourself be vulnerable, just be yourself, knowing that everything that comes with that is an opportunity to learn. I think that's been a massive one for us this fortnight."

The first thing that was said to Barty in a news conference after she won the girls' title in 2011 was: "You're not a very demonstrative winner."

How this grounded Queenslander might react to winning on Saturday remains to be seen. Pliskova certainly has the weaponry to mean a Barty victory is far from a foregone conclusion.

Pliskova would be the fifth oldest first-time grand slam winner in the Open Era should she prevail, with the 29-year-old having previous experience of winning titles on grass at Eastbourne (2017 and 2019) and Nottingham (2016).

"It's a final. Anything can happen," Pliskova said of the Barty match-up. "I know she has a grand slam, but also for her it is the first Wimbledon final.

"I think we both have good chances. It's going to be hopefully a good match to watch as well because with her it's always interesting. We going to see what's going to happen.

"I never played a horrible match against her."

 

Pliskova and Barty have met seven times across their careers, starting from a minor ITF event in Nottingham in 2012, which went the Australian's way, the then 16-year-old edging a final-set tie-break.

Barty has also won their last three matches, reflecting her rise to the top and former world number one's Pliskova's slight career dip.

"Of course she makes you feel a bit ugly with the game which she's playing," Pliskova said. "Also I had, like, a lot of chances the last match we played. I think I had match point or was serving for the match. I know there's going to be many chances for me, as well."

That match took place in Stuttgart in April of this year and did indeed go close, Barty closing it out 7-5 in the deciding set of the quarter-final and going on to take the title. She has three tournament wins this year, a tour-high.

Barty is sure to stay at number one on Monday, a 77th consecutive week in the top spot and 84th overall in her career, while Pliskova can jump from 13th to fourth with the title. She will move to seventh should she be runner-up.

The red-hot favourite is Barty, but Pliskova is comfortable with that.

"You want to play the best player in the final," she said. "Of course, I don't want anybody else but her there."

Novak Djokovic booked his place in a third consecutive Wimbledon final, demonstrating his mastery of the big moments in a 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 7-5 win over Denis Shapovalov.

Number 10 seed Shapovalov produced tennis to delight the Centre Court crowd, with his single-handed backhand typically wonderful, but also threw in errors ill-suited to the task of trying to dethrone a world number one chasing history.

Djokovic will face Matteo Berrettini in Sunday's final after the Italian dispatched Hubert Hurkacz in four, giving him the chance to go level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 career grand slams.

Left-hander Shapovalov made the early running and raced into a 15-40 lead in the third game. He passed up two openings but, after a Djokovic double fault at deuce, he pushed the defending champion back with punishing ground strokes to surge ahead - the only one of 11 break points Djokovic would fail to repel.

The Canadian then strung together three consecutive love service games, only for errors to creep in when the set beckoned at 5-4.  After recovering from 0-30 and an overhit forehand to hand Djokovic a first break point, he went long from the other wing and it was all square.

A wretched tie-break for Shapovalov was bookended by a misjudged drop shot – the first of two initial mini-breaks – and a double fault, handing Djokovic a gift he could scarcely afford.

The 22-year-old left the court and impressively relocated his early form on his return, pushing Djokovic to save three break points in the fourth game and whipping up a crowd keen to see a contest.

Two more followed as the Serb escaped to 3-3, meaning there was a sense of nagging inevitability when, on Djokovic's first break point of set two, Shapovalov produced another appallingly timed double fault.

Djokovic closed out the two-set lead before saving three break points in his first service game of the third, reprising the other theme of frustration for Shapovalov.

From then on, it was a case of gamely scrambling to stay in the contest, with Djokovic's gaze fixed on the finish line. At 5-5, Shapovalov undermined himself with two more doubles and, despite battling to deuce, crunched a groundstroke long.

The all-time great on the other side of the net let out a guttural roar before sealing his toughest win of the tournament in straight sets.

Warren Gatland has told his British and Irish Lions stars to keep "rolling with the punches" in South Africa as another clash with the Sharks arrives.

On their turbulent tour, the Lions were due to face the Bulls on Saturday, but several COVID-19 cases in the Pretoria team's ranks meant that game had to be called off.

Into their place come the Sharks, the side that the Lions crushed 54-7 on Wednesday in their second match of the tour.

The shift of venue from Ellis Park to Loftus Versfeld will be one notable change, and in terms of personnel it will be a distinctly different match to the first meeting, with the Lions making 13 alterations to their starting line-up and the Sharks also electing for near wholesale change.

Wing Anthony Watson makes his first start on the tour, and his England team-mate, hooker Jamie George, captains the side. Centre Elliot Daly and wing Duhan van der Merwe are the only players to keep their place in the team.

Coronavirus cases in the England camp, as well as in the ranks of South Africa who have had to call off a match against Georgia, have seen doubts raised about whether the Tests later on the tour will go ahead as planned.

Gatland said: "It's obviously been a slightly turbulent week, but we remain determined to keep rolling with the punches.

"In many ways, the challenges we've faced this week have strengthened our resolve to do everything we can to overcome the challenges created by COVID.

"The feeling in the camp on Wednesday night was just to give it a crack – I was really proud by how everyone reacted, particularly the matchday squad who would have never prepared for a game like that before.

"Saturday is another opportunity to see how the boys go and for us as coaches to try out a few more combinations ahead of the Test series.

"I have long been an admirer of Jamie's leadership skills, so I am delighted to name him skipper.

"We want to pass on thanks to the Sharks boys for fronting up and going again on Saturday. The spirit of rugby and a great chance for them to have another shot at us."

 


WATSON GETS CHANCE TO IMPRESS

The Lions have a tasty back three for this game, with Watson joined by Liam Williams and midweek hat-trick hero Duhan van der Merwe. Watson played all three Tests on the 2017 tour of New Zealand, making a big impact in the drawn series, and looks highly likely to start against South Africa too. Getting some good minutes in now should bring benefit later, and with few backs options on the bench, Watson looks to see plenty of action against the Sharks.

GEORGE CAN STAKE A CLAIM

After catching the eye against Johannesburg's Lions last weekend, George gets another opportunity to impress Gatland, this time as skipper. The coach's warm words underlined his appreciation of the Saracens hooker, who has Ken Owens and Luke Cowan-Dickie as rivals for the number two Test shirt. It is up to George to show leadership skills this weekend, as he attempts to play his way into the side that takes on the Springboks.


British and Irish Lions: Liam Williams, Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly, Chris Harris, Duhan van der Merwe, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Rory Sutherland, Jamie George (captain), Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Tadhg Beirne, Hamish Watson, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Ken Owens, Wyn Jones, Kyle Sinckler, Courtney Lawes, Sam Simmonds, Tom Curry, Conor Murray, Finn Russell.

Sharks: Anthony Volmink, Marnus Potgieter, Werner Kok, Murray Koster, Thaakir Abrahams, Lionel Cronje, Jaden Hendrikse; Nthuthuko Mchunu, Kerron van Vuuren, Wiehahn Herbst, Le Roux Roets, Reniel Hugo, Dylan Richardson, Mpilo Gumede, Phepsi Buthelezi (captain).

Replacements: Dan Jooste, MJ Majola, Khutha Mchunu, Thembelani Bholi, Jeandre Labuschagne, Cameron Wright, Boeta Chamberlain, Jeremy Ward, Lourens Adriaanse, Rynhardt Jonker, Curwin Bosch.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- The Lions' win on Wednesday was their biggest ever against the Sharks/Natal. Overall the British and Irish Lions have won 11 of their 12 fixtures against the Sharks/Natal, the exception being a 3-3 draw back on the 1924 tour.
- The Lions have scored 50-plus points in each of their last two matches. They have never recorded a half-century of points in three consecutive games.
- Phepsi Buthelezi made 20 carries against the Lions on Wednesday, the most by a Sharks player since May 2015 when Bismarck du Plessis made 20 against the Highlanders in a Super Rugby fixture. He is the only member of the pack thart started on Wednesday to stay in the team for Saturday.
- Josh Adams sits this game out, after being the the only player to feature for every minute possible with the Lions this year. Adams has scored eight tries, twice as many as any other player, while he also leads the way for carries (26), metres gained (238) and defenders beaten (13).
- Elliot Daly has assisted three tries for the Lions in his two games, more than any other player in the squad, with those three assists coming from just nine passes in total.

Mark Cavendish's incredible return to the Tour de France continued as he matched Eddy Merckx's record of 34 stage triumphs.

Cavendish, who won his first stage at the most famous of the grand tours back in 2008, has been one of the great success stories of this year's edition.

And, with two flat runs of the race to spare, the Deceuninck–Quick-Step rider scooped his fourth stage win of 2021 to equal Merckx's haul.

The Belgian great – a five-time Tour de France winner – set the record between 1969 and 1975.

Cavendish's record-equalling success came in Carcassonne at the culmination of stage 13's 220km route, with his team-mates executing a perfect lead-out in the final 1,500m.

Having established himself at the front of the peloton, Cavendish had to change his bike with around 35km to go, yet rallied back to be in place for the final push.

It came courtesy of Michael Morkov, who timed his burst to perfection, giving Cavendish the opportunity to sprint through the gap and clinch his record-equalling win in a photo finish, also becoming the first rider to win four stages of Le Tour at the age of 36 in the process.

Cavendish could yet surpass the record, with two more sprints to come in the final week. He has previously won a record four times on the Champs-Elysees finale in Paris.

In the general classification standings, Tadej Pogacar's controlled ride kept him in command of the yellow jersey.

There was drama further back in the stage as a crash with around 55km remaining resulted in three abandonments, including former Vuelta e Espana winner Simon Yates of Team BikeExchange.

IT'S LIKE MY FIRST ONE

Cavendish's career at the top level seemed to be over. Indeed, he even hinted at retirement following a run of poor form and illness in 2020.

Yet the 2016 Olympic silver medalist has reaffirmed his place as one of the greats with this extraordinary comeback. 

"It's tiring. I can't even think about it, I'm so dead, 220km in that heat, that wind. I went deep there, so deep, the boys were incredible. I don't believe it," an exhausted Cavendish said.

"A lot of the day I didn't feel like it was going to happen. The guys were riding like they were – I was so on the limit, you saw at the end – slightly uphill. I was lucky the lads just played it calm, I lost a little bit with about five km to go, it got a bit slippy I thought I'd punctured, but everyone else was like "it's the road", but we had to take it easy, I just lost a bit.

Asked if he had realised what his win meant, Cavendish added: "It's just another win on the Tour de France, it's like my first one – I've won a stage at the Tour de France, that's what I dreamed of as a kid, it's what I dream of now and I work so hard for it.

"I just hope, we've seen such a growth in cycling since I've started racing here, if any one of my wins can inspire kids to ride the Tour de France when they grow up, that's what means the most to me."

STAGE RESULT

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 05:04:29
2. Michael Morkov (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 
4. Ivan Garcia Conrtina (Movstar) 
5. Danny van Poppel (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux) 

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 52:27:12'
2. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) +5:18
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:32

Points Classification

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 279
2. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) 178
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 171

King of the Mountains

1. Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) 50
2. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) 43
3. Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) 42

What's next?

The Tour heads into the Pyrenees over the weekend, with Saturday's 183.7km route taking the riders over five categorised climbs.

Matteo Berrettini set up the possibility of a remarkable London double for Italy on Sunday after scorching through to the Wimbledon men's final.

The Queen's Club champion delivered a stunning Centre Court display to demolish Hubert Hurkacz 6-3 6-0 6-7 (3-7) 6-4, becoming his country's first Wimbledon singles finalist and firing 22 aces to reach 101 for the tournament.

And what a weekend it could now be for the Italians. Berrettini will have a Sunday afternoon shot at glory in south-west London, before attention turns to Wembley where Roberto Mancini's Azzurri face England in the Euro 2020 final.

This semi-final clash of two men who each stand a towering 6ft 5in tilted in Berrettini's favour early, as he won 11 games in a row from 3-2 behind in the opening set, establishing a firm grip. The man in the backwards baseball cap was simply mauling the Pole, who wore his forwards.

It left opponent Hurkacz, who perhaps ended Roger Federer's Wimbledon career with his quarter-final victory over the eight-time champion, scrabbling around for answers to where it was all going wrong.

Berrettini suffered a clinical drubbing by Federer on this court two years ago, winning only five games, but the 25-year-old has progressed since then.

 

It was the most delicate of drop shots that clinched the opening game of the second set, and a drop shot decided the next game too – a poor one from Hurkacz that found the net as he was broken to love. Berrettini was soon two sets up in just 58 minutes.

Rafael Nadal beat Berrettini in the Italian's only previous grand slam semi-final, at the 2019 US Open, and nerves began to show in the third set as Hurkacz came back strongly, taking it on a tie-break.

But an immediate break in the fourth, Hurkacz netting a forehand up the line, was the cue for a yell of "Come on!" from the Italian.

He stayed in front and at 5-3 had a first match point after blazing a forehand winner into the right corner. Hurkacz saved that but not a second in the next game, his service return flying long.

Berrettini said: "I need a couple of hours to understand what happened. I know I played a great match. I think I never dreamed about this because it was too much for a dream. I'm so happy and I think that's it."

Data Slam: Hubert goes down but set for rankings boost

Hurkacz was bidding to extend a four-match winning streak against top-10 players, having previously got the better of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev in Miami, and Daniil Medvedev and Federer at Wimbledon. Consolation for him is the knowledge he will climb to a career-high of number 11 in the ATP rankings on Monday.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Berrettini – 60/18
Hurkacz – 27/26

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Berrettini – 22/1
Hurkacz – 5/1

BREAK POINTS WON

Berrettini – 6/10
Hurkacz – 0/2

Roger Federer and Serena Williams have probably played their last Wimbledon matches, according to American great Pam Shriver.

Both came to the All England Club this year with hopes of landing another grand slam title, which for Federer would have been a ninth at Wimbledon and Serena an eighth on the famous grass courts.

However, they were met with disappointment, Williams "heartbroken" at having to retire from her first-round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich due to an ankle injury.

Federer was thrashed 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-0 by Hubert Hurkacz in the men's quarter-finals and gave no assurances after the match that he would be back in 2022, or that he would play the Tokyo Olympics.

Both turn 40 later this year, Federer on August 8 and Williams on September 26, and their time at the top of tennis may now be over.

Shriver, a five-time doubles champion at Wimbledon who won 22 grand slams in all, was asked on The Tennis Podcast whether she expected Federer to play Wimbledon again.

"I thought so, before the tournament. I didn't think he would end Wimbledon without his family here," Shriver said.

"But after seeing him in the quarters and listening to his press conference, I think it's less than 50-50. I think we may have seen the last of him."

Due to restricted bubbles put in place because of COVID-19 issues, Federer has been unable to have wife Mirka and their four children with him in London.

Federer has won 20 grand slam singles titles, a record for the men's game that he shares with Rafael Nadal and which Novak Djokovic had the chance to match at this year's Wimbledon.

 Williams has 23 majors, one short of Margaret Court's women's record, but has been stuck on that total since 2017 and Shriver would be surprised to see her in the 2022 Wimbledon draw.

"I think it's even less likely that she'll be back," Shriver said. "It's really hard to stay fit for another year.

"She can't keep coming back from more and more injuries. I think it's definitely a turning point, pivot time, is the summer of 2021."

Dustin Poirier will face Conor McGregor at UFC 264 in Las Vegas on Saturday in one of the year's most highly anticipated fights.

The trilogy bout take place at the T-Mobile Arena with a 100 per cent crowd capacity.

"I am so happy to finally be able to say: Vegas is back," UFC president Dana White said when the fight was announced in April.

McGregor had previously claimed the bout was off during an expletive-laden exchange on Twitter and that heated build-up has continued.

Poirier took victory in their previous showdown at UFC 257 in January in Abu Dhabi with a second-round knockout, after which McGregor conceded the result was "a tough one to swallow".

McGregor, who described his opponent's performance three months ago as "phenomenal", stopped the 32-year-old American in 106 seconds in their first encounter in September 2014.

The former two-weight world champion, who is also 32, has not won a UFC bout since January last year.

Fight build-up has been as entertaining you would expect, with McGregor aiming a kick at Poirier as the duo went head to head at the pre-fight news conference on Thursday.

Here are some of the best quotes from the event which took place with both fighters and a large crowd.
 

FIGHTING TALK FROM MCGREGOR

McGregor did not hold back when he explained what he planned to do with Poirier.

"I'm gonna go through his head, put holes in and take it off his shoulders - that's the goal here!

"He's done here, this is it for him. This is the end of the road. 

"Even after that last fight saying, 'Oh I don't love this [fighting] anymore' - he knew what was coming, he knew the smacks he took.

"Saturday night he's getting walked around that octagon like a dog and put to sleep."

POIRIER RESPECTS PUNICHING POWER

And Poirier did not dismiss the threat posed by the Irishman.

"I think he has a big advantage in some areas like his punching power.

"That's been worked on for years, and I'm sure some of it's God gifted, his timing is very good, but I truly believe he is a well-rounded martial artist.

"But he's so successful in those areas that he doesn't have to go in there and shoot for a takedown because he believes he's going to finish the fight on the feet.

"He doesn't have to play jiu-jitsu because he's so confident in what's been working for him, he's knocked out a bunch of greats. Don't fix it if it's not broken, I truly believe he is a well-rounded fighter."

MCGREGOR PROMISES CAREER NIGHT

A crowning moment for McGregor came when he defeated Eddie Alvarez in November 2016 to become the first UFC fighter to be world champion in two weight divisions simultaneously.

He insists there is better still to come from him.

"I'm an evolution of that guy. I'm better than that man. I feel like I've come full circle and I look forward to showing it.

"That night was widely regarded as the single greatest performance in UFC history. This performance on Saturday night, I'm going to top it."

POIRIER DOUBTS THAT IS POSSIBLE

But Poirier does not think McGregor is the same force he once was.

"For me, the aura's not there anymore. Not anymore. 

"A very dangerous fighter sitting right there for sure but I see a man. 

"You guys in the crowd, cheer it up, have fun. But I see a man that I've defeated and know that I can defeat again."

 

MCGREGOR COMPARES POIRIER TO BUSTER DOUGLAS

James 'Buster' Douglas achieved one of sport's greatest upsets by beating Mike Tyson in 1990 but immediately lost his next fight and his titles to Evander Holyfield.

McGregor says the same fate awaits Poirier.

"He's going to be known for that [like Buster Douglas].

"It was a fluke win and I'm going to correct it on Saturday night. It's on now."

POIRIER SAYS HE IS DIFFERENT

McGregor was asked by a fan why he was being so confrontational with Poirier in the build up to this fight after showing significant respect to his opponent around their second bout.

Poirier interjected with a put down, saying "Because he got knocked the f*** out!" before going on to criticise the falling quality of McGregor's trash talk.

"He was not McGregor fast but McGregor sleep. Respect to him and everything that he's done [but his trash talk is] f*****g weak. 

"I don't hate anybody up here. I'm in a different place mentally. 

"I am straight business. I've never really had that hype pushed. I know who I am. I'm the same guy and it's easy to be me.

"I knew this [rematch] was next. As soon as I got to my hotel room that night [in January], I knew this was next. I've kind of been preparing for this fight since that fight ended."

TALE OF THE TAPE

Poirier has 27 wins, six losses and one no contest on his record, while McGregor has 22 wins and five defeats.

Both men are southpaws, 5' 9" and 155 lbs, though McGregor has the reach advantage (74” to 72”).

In their last fight, Poirier attempted more significant strikes than McGregor (91 to 66).

He also landed more, 52 per cent compared to 43 for the Irishman.

McGregor landed 25 times, 23 to the head and just twice to the legs, while Poirer made an impact in both areas, with 30 significant strikes to the head and 18 to the legs.

Tyson Fury has tested positive for COVID-19 and his trilogy fight against Deontay Wilder has been postponed, according to reports.

The BBC said Fury's coronavirus test took place on Thursday, and it quoted Wilder's manager Shelly Finkel as saying: "Deontay is disappointed."

An official announcement of the postponement has yet to come and tickets for the fight at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas remained on sale on Friday.

Neither fighter has commented, although a positive test for WBC heavyweight champion Fury would point to there being little prospect of the July 24 showdown going ahead.

According to The Athletic, the Vegas gym where Fury has been preparing for the Wilder fight has been affected by a series of COVID-19 cases, with "at least 10" people who have spent time there said to have tested positive.

Fury has a 30-0-1 career record, only failing to win in an initial meeting with Wilder in December 2018 that finished in a split draw.

However, Fury knocked out the American in February 2020 to claim the WBC title, with a clash against British rival Anthony Joshua an apparently obvious next step.

A blockbuster clash with Joshua looked set to go ahead, and it was pencilled in for August 14 in Saudi Arabia.

Wilder then won an arbitration hearing that stated he had the right to a third Fury bout.

This derailed plans with WBO, IBF and WBA strap-holder Joshua, and Fury instead penned an agreement to take on Wilder once more.

Now, though, pending the expected confirmation of the trilogy fight being put back, hopes that Fury and Joshua could go head to head before the end of the year look to have been dealt a major blow.

Reports have said the Fury-Wilder fight could go ahead in October, possibly on October 9, with the previous Saturday at the fight venue booked out for an Alanis Morissette concert.

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker says his side will revert back to a "0-0 mindset" despite taking a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals with a 118-108 Game 2 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.

Booker starred with 31 points, including seven three-pointers, along with five rebounds and six assists in the victory.

Three of Booker's three-pointers were in the final quarter when the Bucks closed within five points.

The victory means the Suns become the 36th side to take a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals, with 31 of those previous 35 sides going on to lift the title.

Booker was not getting carried away as the series moves to Milwaukee for Game 3 on Saturday.

"It's a 0-0 mindset going into Game 3," Booker said post-game. "It's a Game 7 for us. Every game is a Game 7 at this stage of the season.

"We're locked in. We know it gets rowdy there in Milwaukee but we're ready for it."

Booker brushed off any individual plaudits at the post-game news conference, nor praise for keeping his cool with his fourth-quarter shooting.

"It's just team basketball," Booker said. "A few of them were open. We prepare for these moments. Nobody is running from any action or any moment.

"It's not just me, setting my man up Deandre [Ayton]. Setting a screen from Chris [Paul] to get me open, it's all a collective group.

"That's why I feel we've been successful for most of the year."

All five Phoenix starters finished with points in double digits, with Paul having 23 points as well as eight assists. Mikal Bridges had a personal playoffs high of 27 points.

The Suns' depth will be tested with Torrey Craig going down injured in the third quarter with a right knee contusion, with Dario Saric already ruled out of the NBA Finals after tearing his ACL in Game 1.

Booker played 44 minutes before sitting out the closing stages with the Suns in a strong position.

"Just preserving my body," he said. "I felt like we had it in a good place. We believe in our team. Two days to get right, then we're back in Milwaukee."

Booker won special praise from Paul, who has offered him a license to shoot.

"[He's] big time. He's trained and work his whole life for these moments," Paul said. "Our team all season long, you put the work in, they get the results. When Book's shooting, I expect it to go in, I get mad at him when he doesn’t shoot."

Giannis Antetokounmpo has backed team-mate Jrue Holiday to step up when his side needs it after a sub-par performance in the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Finals Game 2 loss on Thursday.

Holiday has been a key part of the Bucks' success this season but shot 17 points at 33.3 per cent from the field, making only one from three beyond the arc in the 118-108 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

Khris Middleton also battled, making 11 points at 31.3 per cent from the field, while he only hit one from six three-point attempts.

The Bucks are now facing a 2-0 deficit in the NBA Finals, with only four sides in league history lifting the title from that position.

"[I'll] keep talking to him, keep telling him to be aggressive," Antetokounmpo said at the post-game news conference. "It's not about me, it's not about him, it's not about Khris [Middleton], it's not about coach, it's about all of us.

"If there's a game where you're three from 12 or whatever, if you can rebound, or get a steal or do something to help the team win, that's what it's all about.

"I don’t worry at all about him. He's going to be there when we need him the most.

"He's a great basketball player. He's played great all year and he's going to continue to play great for this team."

Holiday has averaged 17.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game this playoffs but his shooting let him down in Game 2 under pressure from the Suns defense.

Antetokounmpo stepped up, scoring 42 points for Milwaukee, along with 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks.

The Greek forward's 20-point third-quarter effort was the best in the NBA Finals since Michael Jordan scored 22 against the Suns in 1993.

Antetokounmpo's output was also the first 40-plus point and 10-plus rebound game in Bucks' NBA Finals history.

The 26-year-old, who hyper-extended his left knee in the Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks, went down late in the match, limping to the bench. He returned to the court and insisted it was nothing to worry about ahead of Game 3 in Milwaukee on Saturday.

"It's just cramp," he said. "I didn’t think it was connected to my knee."

Antetokounmpo also insisted the knee injury was not concerning him during games, after missing the final two games of the Hawks series.

"When I'm not out there, it's not about testing it more, if I'm out there, I'm trying to play and help my team win in any way possible," he said.

"When you start thinking about your knee, or toe or pinky, or whatever, you're making excuses in your mind. You're out there, just play the game, do whatever you can, leave it on the floor."

Brad Miller recorded a three-homer game for the first time in his career as the Philadelphia Phillies crushed the Chicago Cubs 8-0 at Wrigley Field in the MLB on Thursday.

The Cubs, who snapped their 11-game losing run with Wednesday's 8-3 win over the Phillies, returned to their recent form woes.

Chicago failed to score on the night, with Phillies pitcher Zach Eflin having five strikeouts across six innings but Miller played a major role in his 14th career multi-home run game.

Miller hit a home run in the third inning to left field. In the fifth inning, he hit another from Adbert Alzolay over the wall.

The 31-year-old hitter saved his best for last with a monster into the old Wrigley Field scoreboard at right field in the seventh inning, wearing a third Phillies home-run sombrero to salute. Miller only had six homers for the season coming into the game.

 

Garcia lifts Brewers to victory

Avisail Garcia hit a two-run homer at the bottom of the eighth inning to earn the Milwaukee Brewers a 5-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds. The Brewers are now 53-36, while Garcia has 16 home runs this season.

The Los Angeles Dodgers drove in five runs in the fifth inning on their way to a 6-1 road win over the Miami Marlins to round out their series.

Logan Gilbert sent down eight strikeouts across seven innings as the Seattle Mariners won 4-0 over the New York Yankees.

 

Nats blow 8-0 lead

The Washington Nationals blew an 8-0 lead against the San Diego Padres, losing 9-8 in a walk off. Star pitcher Max Scherzer saw seven runs in the fourth inning before leaving the game as their 8-0 lead disintegrated. Among those was Daniel Camarena's spectacular grand slam, making him the first relief pitcher to achieve that since 1985.

 

Indians walk-off win

Franmil Reyes secured a 7-4 walk-off win for the Cleveland Indians with a three-run home run. The deep center-field bomb was Reyes' second career walk-off homer and it also ended Cleveland's nine-game losing stretch.

 

Thursday's results

Los Angeles Dodgers 6-1 Miami Marlins
Oakland Athletics 2-1 Houston Astros
Colorado Rockies 9-3 Arizona Diamondbacks
Seattle Mariners 4-0 New York Yankees
Cleveland Indians 7-4 Kansas City Royals
Philadelphia Phillies 8-0 Chicago Cubs
Minnesota Twins 5-3 Detroit Tigers
Milwaukee Brewers 5-3 Cincinnati Reds
San Diego Padres 9-8 Washington Nationals

 

Angels at Mariners

There's a full 15-game fixture on Friday, headlined by Shohei Ohtani's in-form Los Angeles Angels (44-42) making the trip to face the Seattle Mariners (46-42) in an American League West match-up.

The Phoenix Suns have shot their way to a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals with a 118-108 Game 2 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.

The Suns drained 20 three-pointers, including eight in the first quarter, shooting at 50 per cent from beyond the arc on their way to victory, headlined by young guard Devin Booker with 31 points, five rebounds and six assists.

Booker hit seven-from-12 three-point attempts, while veteran Chris Paul scored three three-pointers in his 23 points for the game, along with eight assists.

Mikal Bridges scored a personal playoffs-high 27 points, while Deandre Ayton was slightly subdued in the paint, finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, in his second game back from his knee hyperextension, was heroic for the Bucks with 42 points including a massive third period but could not inspire his side to victory.

The Greek forward shot at 68.2 per cent from the field, but only hit one from five beyond the arc. He also had 12 rebounds, three blocks and four assists.

But Antetokounmpo lacked support, with Khris Middleton struggling with 11 points shooting at 31.3 per cent from the field. Jrue Holiday managed 17 points but only shot seven from 21 from the field.

The Bucks started strong in the first quarter, scoring 20-0 in the paint and leading by as much as nine points, before Phoenix hit back with a 30-16 second quarter to open up an 11-point half-time lead.

Antetokounmpo scored 20 points in the third quarter to keep Milwaukee in the hunt, trailing by 10 points at the final change. The Greek's 20 was the most in an NBA Finals quarter since Michael Jordan's 22 against the Suns in 1993.

The Bucks got within five points in the last but the Suns always had the answers when challenged, with Booker and Paul knocking down crucial final quarter threes.

Booker was benched late, in order to preserve his body after playing 44 minutes, after Phoenix lost another player Torrey Craig to injury, to join Dario Saric on the sidelines after the Croatian tore his ACL in Game 1.

Colombian Sebastian Munoz and American Chesson Hadley are joint leaders after the opening day of the John Deere Classic in Illinois on Thursday.

Munoz, ranked 75th in the world, hit 17 of 18 greens in his eight-under round which included nine birdies, including five in a row to finish the day.

Hadley, who blew a four-shot lead heading into the final round at the Palmetto Championship three weeks ago, carded an eight-under-63 with eight birdies at the TPC Deere Run.

Hank Lebioda bogeyed on the final hole of the day to let slip a share of the opening day lead.

Lebioda is tied with Chez Reavie and Camilo Villegas at seven under after, marginally ahead of Ryan Moore who carded a six-under-65.

Last week's Rocket Mortgage Classic winner Cameron Davis is four strokes behind the leaders and in contention, landing an eagle on the second hole.

Kevin Na is also four under, with reigning champion Dylan Fritelli carding a three-under 68.

World number 16 Daniel Berger made a 45 foot putt on the ninth hole but finished two under.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has set his sights on Super Bowl glory after declaring his toe is feeling "great".

Mahomes underwent surgery following a Super Bowl LV loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in February.

The Chiefs will open their 2021 NFL campaign against the Cleveland Browns on September 12 and the 2018 MVP is raring to go.

"The toe's feeling great," he told NFL Total Access. "I'm out here playing golf, being able to walk around the course. I've been running, cutting, jumping, throwing, doing it all.

"So, I'm just excited to get back to training camp and have another chance to make a run at it and win the Super Bowl this year."

Mahomes led the NFL in passing yards per game with 316.0 in 2020, well clear of Deshaun Watson (301.4) in second.

The 25-year-old participated in the Chiefs' offseason program and is eagerly awaiting the training camp later this month. 

"It's different in the sense that you don't have the parades and all that different type of stuff," he added.

"But I think the beautiful thing about the NFL is every single year, you start from scratch. You have to come in, you have to put in the work to try to get to the big game and try to win it.

"And so for us, win or lose that Super Bowl the last two years, we still have that same mentality of we're going to start from scratch and build and try to find a way to get back to that game."

Karolina Pliskova says it "can't be any better" than facing Ash Barty in a battle of two first-time Wimbledon finalists after fighting back to beat Aryna Sabalenka.

Pliskova is just one victory away from her maiden grand slam title following a 5-7 6-4 6-4 semi-final defeat of powerful second seed Sabalenka on Centre Court.

World number one Barty earlier moved into her first championship match at the All England Club with a 6-3 7-6 (7-3) win over Angelique Kerber.

Eighth seed Pliskova expressed her pride over the achievement of moving into uncharted territory and is relishing the opportunity to take on her Australian foe.

The Czech said of the challenge of facing Barty: "It can't be any better than that. You want to play the best player in the final. Of course, I don't want anybody else but [Barty] there.

"We had some good matches. Of course, I lost a couple times, but I think she has an extremely difficult game to play. It's going to be difficult on grass because of her slice and just her game overall.

"It's a final. Anything can happen. I know she has a grand slam, but also for her it's the first Wimbledon final. I think we both have good chances.

"It's going to be hopefully a good match to watch as well because with her it's always interesting. We're going to see what's going to happen."

 

Saturday's showpiece will be the first time two players who have never played in a Wimbledon final fight it out for the Venus Rosewater Dish since 1977.

Former world number one Pliskova: "It's amazing to be in the final. It's an incredible achievement. It was an amazing match from both of us.

"I had so many chances in the first set and got a bit frustrated, but she was serving unbelievable. A lot of credit to her, but super happy that I managed to find the way to win.

"It's tough to enjoy it when she's playing so fast that you don't have time to think about what you want to do. There were some good rallies.

"I stayed focused. It was close. I stayed calm and positive, trusting in myself and my game. I'm proud."

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