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Alcaraz overcomes slump to reach Wimbledon quarter-finals

Alcaraz overcomes slump to reach Wimbledon quarter-finals

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Alcaraz overcomes slump to reach Wimbledon quarter-finals

Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz overcame a worrying mid-match slump to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals on Sunday, defeating Ugo Humbert of France in four sets to stay on course for a fourth Grand Slam title.

The Spanish world number three came through 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 against his 16th-ranked opponent to book a spot in the last-eight of a major for the ninth time in just 14 appearances.

However, it was another uncomfortable afternoon for Alcaraz, who had needed five sets to see off Frances Tiafoe in the third round.

His erratic performance on Sunday saw him drop serve five times and commit an uncharacteristic 33 unforced errors.

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“Playing lefties is always tricky, no matter the surface,” said Alcaraz, who lost to British left-hander Jack Draper at Queen’s on the eve of Wimbledon.

“I learnt a little bit from that. I felt great playing today, I think I played a really high level.”

The 21-year-old, bidding to become just the sixth man to win the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back, eased through the first set under the Centre Court roof before crucially saving four break points in the fifth game of the second.

Alcaraz wrapped up the second set despite losing his footing and tumbling towards the ground.

“I just try to fight for every ball, it doesn’t matter which part of the court I am, I just try to run in whichever part of the court I am on,” said Alcaraz.

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“I give myself the chance to stay alive in the point.

“Set point is a really important point for me so I had to show the opponent that whatever shot he shoots, I will be there.

“That’s me, I will be there, fighting until the last ball and sometimes it is a good point like this one and sometimes I lose it but the main thing is just to fight.”

Despite that dramatic conclusion, Humbert stormed back, breaking the champion three times in the third set as Alcaraz went spectacularly off the boil.

Alcaraz was twice unable to hold onto breaks in the fourth set and had to fend off three break points in the eighth game to stay level at 4-4.

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Left-hander Humbert then lost his bearings to hand over a service break in the 11th game and Alcaraz took full advantage to quickly seal the tie.

Alcaraz will take on either American 12th seed Tommy Paul or 36-year-old compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut, a semi-finalist in 2019.
 

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The bickering and ‘cold sweat’ as Paris built its Games

The bickering and ‘cold sweat’ as Paris built its Games

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The bickering and 'cold sweat' as Paris built its Games

The seven-year odyssey of the Paris Olympics should reach shore after a spectacular but hopefully serene opening cruise down the Seine on Friday at the end of a voyage that has survived rocky political moments.

Following the horse-trading to win the Games, came the French infighting over how to host them.

Paris was not sure it wanted to risk another rebuff after losing its 2005 bid for the 2012 Games to a London bid that the French believed inferior.

After the 2015 terror attacks on the French capital, Anne Hidalgo, elected Paris mayor in 2014, decided the city needed to act to rebound from the trauma.

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Just after his election as president in 2017, Emmanuel Macron promoted France’s case to the International Olympic Committee.

Since 2005, France had built a national velodrome and a canoe-kayak venue near Paris.

“By missing the Games, we built all the facilities,” said a former elected official.

After Los Angeles agreed to go for the 2028 Games, France was awarded the 2024 Games in September 2017.

France would host a “sober” Games, using existing facilities and temporary arenas in postcard Paris: the Eiffel Tower, the Invalides, Place de la Concorde. After testing the water with a cautious toe, it added politically-charged swimming in the Seine.

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Hidalgo, a Socialist, dredged up an old and unfulfilled promise by Gaullist Jacques Chirac, when he was mayor, that Parisians that would be able to swim in their river.

On July 17, ten days before the Games, Hidalgo took a dip in front of a battery of cameras.

Behind the scenes, the waters were sometimes murky as the national government, local elected officials, and the organising committee (COJO) bickered.

“Deep down, we are pains in the ass,” said one former local elected official to describe the relationship with COJO.

Paris organisers have made much of the planned legacy. A major beneficiary was to be the department of Seine-Saint-Denis, to the north of Paris, home of the main stadium and the Olympic village.

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But the high price of tickets and elevated security mean the residents have difficulty feeling included in the mega-sports festival on their doorstep.

Saint-Denis has gained a swimming pool but the department was deprived of several promised events. When shooting, to the fury of local officials, was moved in 2022 to Chateauroux in central France, the early stages of the boxing was switched to suburban Villepinte to compensate.

Hidalgo sent ripples through COJO in 2019 when she vetoed France’s oil and energy titan Total as a sponsor.

‘Money’s worth’

COJO did not plug its last big sponsorship hole until July 2023, when, after months of negotiations and “messages” from the Elysee Palace, French luxury goods behemoth LVMH signed.

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“There are some bluffs in this kind of negotiation,” said Antoine Arnault, son of company owner Bernard Arnault. “We wanted to get our money’s worth.”

There were also culture clashes between French bureaucracy and the glitz and hype of anglophone international sports administrators and marketers.

The head of COJO, Tony Estanguet, a French triple Olympic champion, straddled the cultures by talking of an Olympics which will “break the codes”.

There was friction with the police when COJO and Paris decided to hold the opening ceremony on the Seine, breaking the tradition of Games beginning in the main stadium.

Originally planned as a people’s party along the banks, the police have had their way and most spectators will sit in allocated seats in fenced-off areas.

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The budget has led to time-honoured problems as it has ballooned.

Paris has been hit by inflation as well as the Covid pandemic and the knock-on effect of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The IOC, which is struggling to attract potential hosts, agreed to lower standards.

“The instructions to the IOC are to help Paris. The Olympics must be a success,” one Olympic source told AFP.

Evens so, in December 2022, COJO increased its predicted operating budget by 400 million euros, more than 10 percent. With infrastructure, the bill is close to 9 billion euros ($9.8 billion), 2 billion more than the 2019 estimate. That still makes Paris one of the cheaper recent Summer Games.

COJO has suffered a few bumps along the way. It was raided on suspicion of a conflict of interest, in particular in awarding “consulting contracts” and Estanguet’s salary package has been subject to investigations by the national financial prosecutor’s office.

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There was a race to complete all the work, with finishing touches still being applied days before the start.

Nicolas Ferrand, in charge of the construction of the athletes’ village, said he was in a “cold sweat” after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, fearing shortages of materials.

Whatever happens, “two weeks before everyone will say that ‘it’s a disaster’ and in fact it’s not,” said a close friend of mayor Hidalgo. 

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Lyles runs 100 metres personal best in final Olympic tune-up

Lyles runs 100 metres personal best in final Olympic tune-up

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Lyles runs 100 metres personal best in final Olympic tune-up

 Noah Lyles warmed up for his assault on the Olympic 100 metres title in impressive style on Saturday when the American world champion ran a personal best of 9.81 seconds in the final Diamond League meeting before the Paris Games.

Lyles, probably the biggest name in the sport at the moment, delivered on his promises in the final race of the day in front of a sellout crowd of 60,000, easily the largest on the Diamond League circuit, clipping two hundredths off his best.

South African Akani Simbini took second in 9.86 and Botswana’s Letsile Tebogo was third in 9.88 as the first five broke 10 seconds.

Lyles has developed into the biggest personality in athletics and, having taken the 100m world title in Budapest last year to add to three, and an Olympic bronze, over the 200m, he is becoming the man to beat in the blue riband event.

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“That was fun,” said Lyles, who was sluggish out of the blocks but supreme over the second half of the race. “I could have had a better start but the transitions were great and coming away with a PB this has been what I prayed for and what I wanted.”

In the women’s 200m American Gabby Thomas delivered a late surge to edge past Julien Alfred of St Lucia in a thrilling finish.

Thomas, a bronze medallist in Tokyo and silver winner at the last worlds, clocked 21.82 seconds, carrying Alfred to a personal best of 21.86.

HOME FAVOURITES WIN

Keely Hodgkinson delivered an emphatic statement that she is the woman to beat in the 800m in Paris when she took more than half a second off her own national record with a dominant 1:54.61 victory in a British 1-2-3.

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Still only 22, Tokyo silver medallist Hodgkinson is favourite for Olympic gold after Athing Mu failed to qualify following a fall in the US trials.

Hodgkinson was already the only athlete to go under 1.56.00 this year and was joined by compatriot Jemma Reekie (1:55.61), who edged Georgia Bell (1:56.28), both with personal bests, in the second and third fastest times in the world.

Another home favourite stepped up in the men’s 400m as Matthew Hudson Smith won in a spectacular 43.74 – a European record and world lead.

A year ago at this meeting Hudson-Smith left the track in a wheelchair after tearing his Achilles tendon. He recovered to take silver in last year’s world championships and now, as the 12th-fastest man in history, is a real contender to become the first British winner of the event at the Olympics since Eric Liddell 100 years ago in the same city.

Since then, the only European to triumph over one lap was Viktor Markin of the Soviet Union in the 1980 Moscow Games boycotted by the United States.

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Jamaica’s Nickisha Pryce also looked very impressive in running a world-leading time of 48.57 to win the women’s 400m.

Femke Bol of the Netherlands easily won the women’s 400-metre hurdles in 51.30 seconds, cementing her status as another gold-medal contender in Paris. The 24-year-old world champion dominated from the start, with Shamier Little finishing second in 52.78, a season’s best for the US athlete.

In the men’s version, Brazil’s Tokyo bronze medallist and former world champion Alison dos Santos won in 47.18.

Italy’s Leonardo Fabbri caused a surprise in the shot put, throwing 22.52 metres to beat Ryan Crouser of the US (22.37).

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No false hope for Verstappen as McLaren set pole pace

No false hope for Verstappen as McLaren set pole pace

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No false hope for Verstappen as McLaren set pole pace

Formula One leader Max Verstappen said Red Bull needed to do more work on their car after McLaren locked out the front row in an eventful Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday.

The triple world champion, winner of seven races so far this season, will start third on Sunday at a track where overtaking can be tricky.

“I mean, for sure they (upgrades introduced in Hungary) work, but we’re still not first, right? So we need more. It’s as simple as that,” the Dutch driver told reporters.

He admitted his frustration, which was evident on his last flying lap when he banged the steering wheel as he crossed the line.

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“I think looking back at my qualifying, I was very happy with the laps, but balance wise everything is really on the edge. I’m pushing as hard as I can,” he said.

“I feel like I probably push harder than I did last year, but it’s just not coming any more to have these great lap times. So I guess it just means that we are a bit slower. So we have work to do. Simple as that.”

Verstappen won 19 races last year as Red Bull won all but one of the 22 in the most dominant season on record.

This season Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren have all won and a total of six different drivers have stood on top of the podium in 12 races.

McLaren now appear to have the quickest car.

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“We’ll try our very best. Try to have a good, stable balance with the car. And I hope if I find that, that I can follow them,” Verstappen said of the McLarens, with Lando Norris on pole and Oscar Piastri second.

“But I don’t know. I mean, honestly, my long runs have been OK, but nothing fantastic or special. I think it’s better to be realistic than sitting here and spreading false hope.”

Verstappen did not take part in the last two minutes, after the pitlane reopened following Yuki Tsunoda’s crash in the RB, and the champion explained that there had been no point going out again.

“I didn’t want to drive anymore. I had no tyres, so they were used, so I was never going to improve. So there was no point for me to be in the pit lane waiting. 

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