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Ostapenko beats heat to oust defending Brisbane champion Pliskova

Ostapenko beats heat to oust defending Brisbane champion Pliskova

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Ostapenko beats heat to oust defending Brisbane champion Pliskova

Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko ended Karolina Pliskova’s title defence when she downed the Czech star 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to book a quarter-final against Victoria Azarenka at the Brisbane International on Thursday.

The 26-year-old former French Open champion needed assistance from the trainer during the third set as she struggled with the heat and humidity. But she managed to recover enough to overcome Pliskova in 2hr 13min.

“It was very, very humid and at one point I had really low energy,” the third-seeded Ostapenko said. “I’m coming from winter where it’s minus 15 right now and here it’s 35 degrees.

“It’s a little bit different — it’s the same for everyone but I need a little time to get used to it.” She will next face former world number one Azarenka, who survived a stern challenge from unheralded Frenchwoman Clara Burel.

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Azarenka was on top early and raced to a 4-1 lead in the first set before Burel fought back and began to dominate. But Azarenka rallied to win a close first set then ran away with the second to book a 7-5, 6-2 victory.

“I was trying to be aggressive and come to the net but I felt like she was really on top of me,” two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka said. “I felt I started really well, but maybe let her play her game a little bit too much, but it was a very competitive match.

“I was definitely much better in the second set in terms of accuracy and aggressiveness.” The Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova also progressed to the quarter-finals with a 6-1, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3 win over Argentine qualifier Julia Riera.

In the men’s draw, Australian wildcard Rinky Hijikata bounced back from losing the first set to see off Czech qualifier Tomas Machac 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4).

Fellow Australian Jordan Thompson also moved into the last eight when French opponent and fourth seed Ugo Humbert withdrew before the match due to illness.

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Spanish great Rafael Nadal continues his comeback from a long injury absence against Australian Jason Kubler in an evening match on Pat Rafter Arena. 

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Sinisterra signs long-term deal with Bournemouth

Sinisterra signs long-term deal with Bournemouth

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Sinisterra signs long-term deal with Bournemouth

Luis Sinisterra has made his move to AFC Bournemouth from Leeds United permanent, signing a long-term deal with the Premier League team on Friday.

Bournemouth reportedly agreed to a £20 million fee with Championship (second-tier) side Leeds.

The 24-year-old Colombian had been impressive since joining Bournemouth in September on a loan spell from Leeds United, with three goals and three assists in his 17 appearances.

“I’m really happy to make this move. I’m excited to play for Bournemouth for the long term,” Sinisterra said. “I feel really comfortable here and the fans are really nice. When I meet them in the streets, they show the love.”

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Andoni Iraola’s team are 12th in the table on 27 points, but are winless in their last four games. They play Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday. 

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Son and Bissouma ready for Spurs game with Brighton

Son and Bissouma ready for Spurs game with Brighton

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Son and Bissouma ready for Spurs game with Brighton

 Son Heung-min and Yves Bissouma returned to Tottenham Hotspur this week from international duty, and both are ready for Spurs’ game with Brighton & Hove Albion, manager Ange Postecoglou said on Friday.

Son was involved with South Korea at the Asian Cup where they lost to Jordan in the semi-final on Tuesday while Bissouma’s Mali exited the Africa Cup of Nations last weekend at the quarter-final stage.

Spurs, fifth in the standings on 44 points, host Brighton on Saturday, with Roberto De Zerbi’s side in eighth place on 35 points.

“Sonny and Biss they trained well. Sonny did recovery on Thursday and trained today,” Postecoglou told a press conference.

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“He is very disappointed for Korea’s exit, at the semi-final stage you feel so close. But he gave everything for his nation, no-one could question his commitment.

“I spoke to him after and he was keen to be back, so no surprise he was back training straight away.”

The manager also played down concerns over Bissouma, after media reports that he had played through the illness with malaria at the tournament.

“No, that’s not right. He had a slight form of malaria before the tournament, but it cleared up by the start of tournament. He’s 100 percent now.”

Manor Solomon hasn’t played since September and Postecoglou confirmed that the winger had another procedure on his knee earlier this week and is still another two or three weeks away from a return.

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Another injury concern was Giovani Lo Celso who missed the last three league games for Spurs.

“Lo Celso trained all week but he’s missed a fair bit of football so we’ll see whether he needs another week or not,” the manager said.

“It’s probably, for want of a better word, the healthiest squad we’ve had for quite a while anyway.”

Spurs conceded an added-time equaliser at Everton last weekend and lost to a late Nathan Ake goal against Manchester City in the FA Cup, but conceding late is not something that overly concerns their manager.

“It’s disappointing to concede goals at any point. People will want to analyse it,” Postecoglou said.

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“I’m sorry but we’re going to be a team that will score or concede goals late. The way we want to close out games is by trying to score goals late on.

“One thing we’re not going to do is jump at shadows and try to fix the latest thing being analysed.” 

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Fils ends ‘great champion’ Gasquet’s 956 weeks in top 100

Fils ends ‘great champion’ Gasquet’s 956 weeks in top 100

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Fils ends 'great champion' Gasquet's 956 weeks in top 100

 Rising star Arthur Fils beat fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet at the Auckland Classic on Tuesday to end the veteran’s run of more than 18 years in the world’s top 100.

The 19-year-old Fils cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 victory against the 37-year-old Gasquet, who had enjoyed a remarkable 956 consecutive weeks in the top 100, peaking at number seven in July 2007.

Gasquet was defending the Auckland title and points he won 12 months ago, so the first-round defeat will see him slide down from 76th in the world when new rankings are released next week.

Fils, with a booming serve that produced nine aces, broke at 2-2 in the first set and at 1-1 in the second and applauded Gasquet as he left the court.

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“He’s a great champion. He did an unbelievable career so I’m really happy to play on the court with him,” said Fils, who reached the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Open last week.

“But it was a nice match for my part and I’m really happy.”

In other action, Canada’s Denis Shapovalov looked rusty in his first match since Wimbledon last year, losing Austria’s Sebastian Ofner 6-4, 6-2.

Roberto Bautista Agut was beaten by fellow Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4, 6-4 and eighth seed Max Purcell of Australia overcame New Zealand’s 716th-ranked wildcard Kiranpal Pannu 6-4, 6-4.

The top four seeds, Ben Shelton, Cameron Norrie, Francisco Cerundolo and Felix Auger-Aliassime, all had first-round byes. 

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