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Serena Williams to make comeback in Abu Dhabi after giving birth

Serena Williams will return to tennis in Abu Dhabi next week, almost four months after giving birth.

The American, 36, will play world number seven Jelena Ostapenko in an exhibition match on 30 December during the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.

Williams, who has won an Open-era record 23 Grand Slams, said she was "delighted to be returning to the court".

She gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian in September.

Former world number one Williams has not played since winning the Australian Open in January.

Coach Patrick Mouratoglou said in November that no decision had been made over whether Williams would play in the season's first Grand Slam.

Australian Open director Craig Tilley has said Williams is "very likely" to defend her title at the 2018 tournament, which starts on 15 January.

Ranked 22nd in the world, she would not need a wildcard.

Source : BBC

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Nike launches its sports hijab in the US

The sports hijab has gone mainstream. Nike's "pro-hijab" went on sale in the US Wednesday after rolling out in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa earlier in the month.

Nike's campaign comes complete with pro female athletes like fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, boxer Zeina Nassar and runner Manal Roston. (The athletes were among those involved in testing the hijab, the company said.) It's perhaps the most high-profile sports hijab the US has seen -- though it's far from the first.

Asiya, a startup based in Minnesota, launched a line of sports hijabs last year, with the express goal of getting Muslim girls involved in sports. (When a Maine high school basketball team decided to provide hijabs for its Muslim athletes, they went with Asiya's model.). And companies like Ahiida and Capsters have been creating modest sportswear for decades, aimed largely at the Middle Eastern market.

Nike's entry into the field demonstrates Muslim athletes' increased profile in the US. Many credit this to the success of Muhammad, the fencer who last year became the first US athlete to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab. Muhammad ended up in fencing because it allowed her to remain fully covered, as her religion requires, she has said. But she often had trouble with a traditional hijab, she explained on Nike's website. The garment could become heavy and stiff and had to be pinned.

Nike's polyester-and-spandex garment is made from an opaque mesh that is lightweight and sweat-wicking, the company said in promotional material. The elastic edges make it easy to pull on and off and it's stretchy enough to move with the wearer.

Nike's tweet received a barrage of responses, alternately praising it for what tweeters perceived as a progressive move or condemning it for appearing to bow to a religion that oppresses women. But its reasons for creating the garment may be simple demographics.

Some 610,000 Muslim women under 20 live in the US today, according to Pew Research Centers. Now it's that much easier for them to be sporty

Source : CBS News

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'I am ready to stand for my principles': Double world chess champion says she won't defend titles in Saudi Arabia because of kingdom's inequality

It takes years of work, days of staring at a board and hours of agonising over individuals moves en route to becoming a world champion in chess. 

And it takes only a short-sighted decision from its governing body to ensure you lose that crown.

"In a few days I am going to lose two World Champion titles - one by one," Anna Muzychuk says. 

"Just because I decided not to go to Saudi Arabia."

Muyzchuk is the defending world champion in two disciplines of speed chess - rapid and blitz. In rapid, each players gets 15 minutes to complete all of their moves and in blitz it is just 10. 

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Muzychuk shows off her two titles - Rapid and Blitz World Championship medals (Getty)

The 27-year-old Ukrainian had been looking forward to defending her championships won in Doha, Qatar in 2016 but this year's competition, hosted by a political rival, has already faced far more opposition than any chess competition ever should. 

For Muzychuk and her sister Mariya, another chess pro, their refusal is on the grounds that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not treat women with anything even approaching equality - a country where the sisters would not be allowed outside unless escorted by a man.

"[I decided] not to play by someone's rules, not to wear abaya, not to be accompanied getting outside, and altogether not to feel myself a secondary creature," she said in an emotional statement.

"Exactly one year ago I won these two titles and was about the happiest person in the chess world but this time I feel really bad. I am ready to stand for my principles and skip the event, where in five days I was expected to earn more than I do in a dozen of events combined."

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Muzychuk will not get to re-live the high points (or low points) of last year's wins (Getty)

And therein lies the problem. Saudi Arabia are understood to have paid in the region of US$1.5m to host the tournament, which will be called the King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships. That fee is four times what the host usually forks out and the prize money at this week's event is many multiples of what players would usually expect to receive - particularly championship contenders like Anna. 

Women are, according to local reports, being allowed to wear dark blue or black formal trousers and high-necked blouses, avoiding Saudi rules of dress that require female residents and most visitors to wear loose-fitting, long robes known as abayas. Most Saudi women also cover their hair and face with veils though the tournament organisers insisted on Tuesday that they are not requiring competitors to wear abaya.

But it is not just women who have had problems with the Saudi-hosted event. 

The very fact that this country is hosting a world chess tournament for the first time is controversial domestically as it comes two years after the country's top cleric issued a religious edict against playing the board game. Saudi Arabia's top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, said in early 2016 that chess is "forbidden" in Islam because it wastes time and can lead to rivalry among players. Similarly, top Iranian clerics have also decried the game, saying it can lead to gambling, which is banned in Islam. 

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 Saudi Arabia's King Salman has had this year's championship named after him (Reuters)

Then there are the political issues, with countries that are currently geo-political rivals of the Kingdom complaining they have not received visas to enter the country and compete.

Israelis say Saudi Arabia ignored requests by Israeli players to obtain visas to participate in the tournament, perhaps unsurprising given that Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations. But Qatar and Iran have reported similar grievances. While the top three male players are all travelling for the tournament, many will be missing and the women's competition is still reeling from Muzychuk's withdrawal on Tuesday.

"All that other stuff is annoying, but the most upsetting thing is that almost nobody really cares," Muzychuk added in her Facebook post.

"That is a really bitter feeling, still not the one to change my opinion and my principles. The same goes for my sister Mariya - and I am really happy that we share this point of view. And yes, for those few who care - we'll be back!"

(The Independent)

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India bowl out Lanka for 87, register biggest T20I win

India pummeled Sri Lanka to register their biggest win in T20 internationals at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack on Wednesday. The Indians beat Sri Lanka by 93 runs. After posting a satisfactory 180 on board, the hosts tumbled the Lankans for 87 to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Being put to bat first, KL Rahul fired upfront for India despite the early loss of KL Rahul. Shreyas Iyer played a decent cameo before Lanka bounced back by dismissing both the batsmen. The visitors looked like they could keep India quiet, but MS Dhoni and Manish Pandey had other plans. The two fired around the park to steer India to a big first innings total.

In reply, the Lankans also started on a good note but a few couple of wickets were enough to take the game away from them. The batting attack looked toothless and did not pose any sort of threat to the Indian bowlers. Yuzvendra Chahal was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 23-4, while Hardik Pandya also scalped 3 wickets for 29 runs.


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Hathurasingha's First Sri Lanka Test Against Bangladesh

New Sri Lanka coach Chandika Hathurasingha will take his side to Bangladesh for two Tests and two T20 clashes, Sri Lanka Cricket announced on Wednesday.

The series will be preceded by a triangular one-day international tournament involving the hosts and Zimbabwe. The first game in the contest will be in Dhaka on January 17 between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe and the final on January 27.

Sri Lanka's first Test against Bangladesh will start on January 31 in Chittagong and the second in Dhaka on February 8. The 20 over matches will be on February 15 and 18 in Dhaka and Sylhet.

Sri Lanka secured Hathurasingha's release as Bangladesh coach last month in a desperate bid to revive the national team. Out of 57 internationals across three formats in 2017, Sri Lanka lost 40 and won just 14.

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Hathurusingha to get LKR 6 Million a month

The Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) board has offered newly selected Sri Lanka Cricket coach Chandika Hathurusingha a deal worth over Rs. 6 Million a month according to the Sunday Leader.

Hathurusingha's package is higher than that which was received by former Sri Lanka Cricket coach Graham Ford who received between LKR 1-2 million a month.

Sources said that the deal was approved by the President of the cricket board Thilanga Sumathipala.

According to sources, Hathurusingha was not in good terms with the Bangladesh cricket team as head coach at the time he was approached by the Sri Lanka Cricket board.

Hathurusingha had negotiated the deal with Sri Lanka and Sumathipala had then negotiated with the Bangladesh cricket board to release him from his contract with Bangladesh.

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Barca win leaves Madrid adrift

Barcelona produced a superb away performance to secure a victory over Real Madrid that all but eliminates their arch rivals from the Spanish title race.

A second-half Luis Suarez strike and Lionel Messi's penalty, after Dani Carvajal was sent off for handball, helped move Barca nine points clear of Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga, and increased their advantage over defending champions Real to 14 points.

Karim Benzema hit the post and Cristiano Ronaldo missed two good chances in the first half, but the home side was blown away after the restart in the first El Clasico meeting of the Spanish league season.

Los Blancos started with Gareth Bale on the bench, and although he forced a save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen having come on following Carvajal's dismissal, the Welsh forward was unable to spark a comeback.

Instead, late substitute Aleix Vidal added further insult in injury time with a third for Barca, as his shot from inside the box squeezed over the line after Messi's cut-back, despite the Argentine losing his boot in the build-up to his 200th assist for the club.

It is the first time Barca have won three consecutive league matches at the Bernabeu, and the result leaves Zinedine Zidane's side fourth in the table.

Source : BBC

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Brazil legend Kaka retires from football

Brazil legend Kaka has announced his retirement from football at the age of 35.

The former AC Milan and Real Madrid midfielder revealed his decision on social media, more than two months after playing his last match for Orlando City.

"It was much more than I could have ever imagined," Kaka wrote. "Thank you! I'm now ready for the next journey."

Capped 95 times for his country, Kaka was a part of the Brazil squad that won the 2002 World Cup and was voted the FIFA world player of the year in 2007.

He began his career at Sao Paulo in 2001, but it was at AC Milan - whom he joined in 2003 - where he left his greatest mark.

In a glittering six-year spell, he led the Italian club to the 2003-04 Scudetto, the 2004 Supercoppa Italiana, the 2007 UEFA Super Cup, the 2007 FIFA Club World Cup and the 2006-07 Champions League title.

Kaka moved to Real Madrid in 2009 for 67 million euros, and although he never quite reached the heights of his Milan years, he helped the Spanish club to the 2010-11 Copa del Rey and the 2011-12 La Liga title.

The playmaker returned to Milan for the 2013-14 season and enjoyed a successful five-month loan spell with Sao Paulo before finishing his career at Orlando City.

Source : Xhihua

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Rohit Sharma: India batsman equals fastest Twenty20 international century

India's Rohit Sharma scored the joint fastest Twenty20 international century, reaching the landmark from 35 balls in an 88-run victory over Sri Lanka.

The opening batsman hit 10 sixes and 12 fours before being dismissed for 118 from 43 deliveries in Indore on Friday.

 The 30-year-old matched the 35-ball record set by South Africa's David Miller against Bangladesh in October.

 India, who lead the three-match series 2-0, finished on 260-5, with Sri Lanka only managing 172-9 in reply.

Further woe for the tourists came as all-rounder Angelo Mathews pulled up with a hamstring injury after two balls of his third over, and was unable to bat, leaving them a man short.

 The home side's total was the equal second highest score in T20 internationals, three short of Australia's record of 263-3 against Sri Lanka last year.

 India won the first game by 93 runs on Wednesday, with the final match in Mumbai on Sunday.

 Source : BBC

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India drub Sri Lanka to claim eighth straight ODI series victory

Sri Lanka were spun around in Visakhapatnam, so starkly that if they were a cartoon character, they would have seen little Kuldeep Yadavs and Yuzvendra Chahals dancing in a circle over their heads. Then out came Shreyas Iyer and Shikhar Dhawan to knock them out. Chases of 216 are often one-sided and when it was done, India emerged with their eighth straight series victory in ODIs – matching a world-beating Australian side in 2000s and second only to the legendary West Indians in 1980s.

Poor Upul Tharanga watched it all happen – though the temptation to find a quiet corner to bang his head against the wall must have been strong – having made a virtually flawless 95 off 82 balls. As opener, he gave his team a rapid start, hitting five successive boundaries in the ninth over. As senior player, he did all he could to bat as long as possible. So long as he was in the middle, Sri Lanka had a good chance at scoring over 300 and securing their first series win in India. As soon as he fell – stumped by an absolute pearler from Kuldeep – a collapse ensured. There were eight wickets for only 55 runs.

Now, there were no demons in the pitch. But the same could not be said of a certain 23-year old in only his first year of international cricket. India waited until the end of the Powerplay to deploy Kuldeep. And his control of line and length, through a 10-over spell that cost only 42 runs and reaped three wickets, was quite remarkable. The standout though was his bowling slow through the air, backing himself to beat batsmen with dip and drift.

His faith wasn’t misplaced. Tharanga, getting into all the right positions until that point, was drawn into a cover drive. He had every reason to play the shot, with the ball wide outside off and nicely tossed up. But the thing dipped, then turned sharply enough to beat the bat of a man five short of a hundred. MS Dhoni did the rest.

Then there was Chahal, who isn’t quite as big a turner of the ball, but is fast becoming India’s best weapon against an attacking batsman. Earlier in the season, he made Glenn Maxwell spontaneously combust by bowling wide of his reach. The same ploy worked against Sadeera Samarawickrama, brought in for this game at the expense of Lahiru Thirimanne.

The swap was, at first, working splendidly with Sri Lanka’s second wicket contributing 121 runs at 6.42 per over and Samarawickrama prospering by coming down the track every second or third ball he faced from the spinner. As wedded as he was to that gameplan, his shot selection was very good; nothing rash, or against the turn. In fact, he was one of the few batsmen who picked the googly, once smashing Kuldeep to the long-off boundary and looking a million dollars doing it. But against Chahal, much like others before him, he went after a wide one, without reaching the pitch of it, and was caught off a bit of an outside edge for 42.

A series decider, and one played against a team which owns its backyard the same way as Mitchell Starc owned James Vince’s off stump, requires each member of the XI to stand up and make themselves count. Sri Lanka, however, were stuck with nine men who could not get past a score of 20.

That made life quite easy for India’s batsmen. Even after they lost captain Rohit Sharma to a peach of a googly from Akila Dananjaya in the fourth over of the chase.

Dhawan found fluency pulling Suranga Lakmal wide of mid-on. Matching the audacity of that shot were cover-driven fours off perfectly good length balls and a square cut so brutal it zipped through the hands of short point before he knew what was happening. He finished 100 not out and in the process became the second-fastest Indian to 4000 ODI runs, behind Virat Kohli.

More pleasing for India would have been Iyer’s display. He is sometimes squared up by an outswing bowler, throwing up tantalising leading edges, but bowl too close to his body or even a little wide of off stump, and he is a natural at the cut and flick shot. Additionally, he seems to read length so very early, especially against spin. There was one shot that typified this. In the 18th over, when Sri Lanka brought Dananjaya back, their best source of a wicket, for a new spell, he got back and across to a good-length ball in line with the stumps, and with a straight bat, punched a couple through midwicket.

The dominance of a team in home conditions is the norm in all kinds of sport, but a stretch of 15 successive bilateral series, across formats, without a single loss, is still rather astonishing. This is India’s position in world cricket right now, brimming with talent that knows how to make the most of sub-continent conditions. Remarkably, they come into the side well equipped for top-flight cricket. Three of their four match-winners on Sunday, for example, were less than two years old at international level.


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Commonwealth Games: Birmingham announced as host of 2022 event

Birmingham has been named host city for the 2022 Commonwealth Games - the most expensive sports event to be held in Britain since the London Olympics.

The city's bid was the only one submitted to the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) by the deadline of 30 September, after it was chosen ahead of Liverpool as Britain's candidate.

The CGF initially deemed the city's bid was "not fully compliant".

However, it has now been confirmed as the host of the £750m event.

West Midlands mayor Andy Street described the announcement as a "fantastic Christmas present for our region".

The bidding process has been beset with problems, with the South African city of Durban awarded the Games in 2015 before being stripped of the event because it did not meet the CGF criteria.

After Birmingham's bid was initially deemed to not meet the necessary criteria, previously interested cities such as Victoria in Canada and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia were given another two months to apply, but none came forward.

Birmingham's organisers will now move forward with plans to build the UK's largest permanent athletics stadium, supplemented by four indoor arenas.

The decision will also enable the council to pursue the purchase of land for the athletes' village in Perry Barr, one of the city's northern suburbs.

This will be the third time the Commonwealth Games has been held in Britain since the turn of the century after Manchester and Glasgow staged the event in 2002 and 2014 respectively.

The Games are expected to take place between 27 July and 7 August 2022.

 Source : BBC

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Oscar Pistorius hurt in prison fight in South Africa

Former South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has been hurt in a prison brawl, less than two weeks after his sentence for the killing of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was more than doubled.

The disgraced Paralympian was allegedly involved in a fight over the use of a public phone, a prison department spokesman told the BBC.

Pistorius, jailed for 13 years and five months, sustained a bruise, he added.

No other serious injuries were reported, the spokesman said.

"It is alleged that he was involved in an altercation with another inmate over the use of a public phone in the special care unit where both offenders are detained at Attridgeville Correctional Centre," the spokesman, Singabakho Nxumalo, added.

The department has launched an investigation, in terms of standard procedure, to "establish the facts and to ensure that appropriate action is taken as incidents of assaults are not allowed", he said.

The brawl took place on 6 December, 10 days after South African prosecutors successfully argued Pistorius' "shockingly light" six-year sentence should be increased.

In November, the Supreme Court of Appeal gave Pistorius the minimum 15 years prescribed for murder in South Africa, less time already served.

Pistorius was initially found guilty of manslaughter after he claimed he shot Ms Steenkamp dead through a locked bathroom door having mistaken her for a burglar in the early hours of Valentine's Day in 2013.

But the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the ruling in 2015 and found him guilty of murder.

The six-time Paralympic gold medallist had made history by becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete at the Olympics, in 2012 in London, running on prosthetic "blades".

He had his legs amputated below the knee as a baby.

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