Thursday 19 April 2018

Indoor title for Fitzgerald

tennis: Greystones' Niall Fitzgerald stormed back from the dead to clinch the men's singles title at the National Indoors Championships at David Lloyd Riverview yesterday.

In a repeat of last year's final, Dublin-based Georgia-native Lazare Kukhalashvili, the top seed, looked on course to retain his title when he surged into a 4-1 lead in the final set.

But Fitzgerald, who had to retire in last year's final with a shoulder injury, managed to break his opponent and reel off five games to pull off a magnificent 6-3 2-6 6-4 victory.

Last year's runner-up also triumphed in the women's singles final, with Tramore 16-year-old Sinéad Lohan, the top seed, overwhelming Antrim's No 2 seed Lucy McCullough 6-0 6-0.

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Conor Niland has had his build-up to this month's Australian Open thrown into disarray after failing to make the cut-off for the qualifying round of this week's Qatar Open.

Niland flew out to Doha last Thursday, fully expecting to kick off his tournament programme for 2012 in the preliminary stages of the ATP World Tour event, but got a rude awakening when he turned up at the player sign-in for the $1m tournament yesterday morning.

With his singles world ranking having dropped from a career-high mark of 129 in December 2010 to 286, the Limerick man discovered that the cut-off point for the 32-strong qualifying round was 238.

"It was just bad luck that the qualifying sign-in was so strong," said Niland, who will now have no tournament practice prior to the Australian Open, and will instead focus on practice in Doha before flying on to Melbourne on Thursday.

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Novak Djokovic showed he remains the player to beat in 2012, routing David Ferrer 6-2 6-1 yesterday to win the WTC exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi.

The top-ranked Djokovic also beat Gael Monfils and then routed Roger Federer en route to his first Abu Dhabi title.

Earlier, Rafa Nadal shook off an ailing shoulder to beat Federer 6-1 7-5 to claim third place in the $250,000 winner-takes-all six-man tournament, which is treated as a warm-up for the new ATP season.

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France came from behind to take a 2-1 victory over China in the opening match of the Hopman Cup in Perth yesterday as Marion Bartoli and Richard Gasquet teamed up to beat Li Na and Wu Di 6-1 6-1 in the doubles.

Earlier, China had taken the lead when French Open champion Li beat Bartoli 2-6 6-2 6-4, but Gasquet levelled the tie with a 6-1 6-3 victory over Wu.

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rugby: Rory Clegg scored a late winning penalty for Aviva Premiership leaders Harlequins as Exeter Chiefs fell just short of a shock victory.

Quins scored the game's only try in the first half as Danny Care weaved through several tackles to touch the line. Chiefs' Ignacio Mieres scored two penalties to make it 8-6 at the break.

Gareth Steenson put the hosts ahead with a 74th-minute penalty but two minutes later Clegg scored only his second effort from seven kicks.

However, Steenson could have won it in the final minute only to fire his drop goal attempt just wide.

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Northampton moved up to third place in the Aviva Premiership with a 32-14 five-point bonus win against beleaguered Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.

England fullback Ben Foden scored two cleverly worked tries at the start of each half to put the Saints in the driving seat.

Giant prop Soane Tonga'uiha was driven over for the visitors' third, and former Falcons man Tom May delivered the fourth try -- and the bonus -- four minutes from time with his first touch after coming on as a late replacement.

Victory propels Northampton up the table from sixth to third and leaves Newcastle firmly anchored at the bottom -- which makes next weekend's home game against Exeter a must-win for the Falcons.

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Benetton Treviso ran out comfortable 37-14 winners over struggling Aironi Rugby in an all-Italian Pro12 encounter at the Stadio di Monigo yesterday to gain revenge for last week's shock 27-13 defeat to the same opponents.

Aironi twice led through early Luciano Orquera penalties but Treviso then scored 34 of the next 37 points to put the match beyond their opponents before the visitors claimed a late consolation try through centre Gabriel Pizarro.

During that scoring blitz Treviso ran in three tries through Tobias Botes and Italy international forwards Alessandro Zanni and Franco Sbaraglini, and were also awarded a penalty try. Australian out-half Kris Burton finished with 17 points with the boot.

The bonus-point victory was Treviso's sixth in 12 Pro12 games this season and leaves them seventh in the table, while Aironi remain rooted to the foot of the standings with just 10 points.

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cricket: Ryan Harris is likely to miss out on the second Test against India which begins on Tuesday, with Australia coach Mickey Arthur revealing the returning paceman is set to carry the drinks at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Arthur is reluctant to change a winning side or play without a spinner on the traditionally turning Sydney wicket, and revealed the hosts would almost certainly go in with the same XI that beat the tourists by 122 runs in the first Test in Melbourne.

"We haven't made any decisions on our bowling combinations but I'm pretty loath to go into any Test match without a spinner,'' said Arthur.

The Indians struggled on the bouncy MCG deck but will find conditions much more to their liking in Sydney.

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formula 1: Williams Formula 1 co-founder and director of engineering Patrick Head has stepped down from the company's board of directors with immediate effect.

Head, who helped establish Williams F1 with Frank Williams in 1977 and has since led the team's engineering department, will continue to be involved with the team's development of hybrid technologies.

"Patrick and I have been in partnership for 34 years,'' said Williams. "During that time, he has been the leader of the technical team that has won the majority of our race wins and championships.''

Williams F1 have won 113 Grands Prix and claimed nine Constructors' and seven Drivers' World Championships.

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darts: Defending champion Adrian Lewis and Simon Whitlock joined James Wade and Andy Hamilton in today's last four of the World Championships after victories at Alexandra Palace on Friday.

Defending champion Lewis enjoyed a 5-3 win over Terry Jenkins to book a meeting with Wade, while Whitlock had a comprehensive 5-1 victory over Gary Anderson and will now meet Hamilton for a place in the final.

Wade and Hamilton had earlier beaten John Part and Kim Huybrechts in the afternoon session.

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