Jayson Tatum addresses trade rumors, says he wants to play his ‘whole career’ with Celtics

Jayson Tatum

“I play basketball and I’ve just got to control what I can control, and I love being on the Celtics,” Tatum told ESPN.

Jayson Tatum doesn’t want to leave the Celtics.

The 20-year-old forward has been at the center of trade speculation involving Pelicans star Anthony Davis and one rumor circulated last week said he “wouldn’t mind” being moved.

But, Tatum appeared to deny that report Saturday.

“You start to understand that this is a business,” Tatum told ESPN. “I play basketball and I’ve just got to control what I can control, and I love being on the Celtics. I want to play there my whole career.”

The second-year forward is averaging 16.5 points and 6.3 rebounds in 31.2 minutes per game this season. He’s shooting 45.3 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from 3-point range.

Tatum said he didn’t take the rumors personally.

“I understood coming into the NBA that it’s a business and they have to make the best decision for them, whatever that may be, Tatum said. “Especially right now in a contract, I can’t control anything.

“It didn’t really bother me. I wasn’t really fazed by it. A lot of it was rumors, I don’t know if it was true or not, but my job is just to play basketball.”

The Celtics have had an up-and-down season but entered the All-Star break tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference standings with a 37-21 record. They’ve won seven of their last nine games.

“It’s just a long season. Every year isn’t perfect,” Tatum said. “You go through ups and downs. We’ve been playing really well lately. We finished out strong going into the break. We won our last two. So, I’m just excited to get back and get ready for the playoffs.”

Boston will return to action against the Bucks in Milwaukee on Thursday.

Saint-Etienne 0 Paris Saint-Germain 1: Magical Mbappe snatches the points

PSG forward Kylian Mbappe

Four days on from tormenting Manchester United, Kylian Mbappe scored a stunning winner for Paris Saint-Germain at Saint-Etienne.

A moment of magic from Kylian Mbappe gave Paris Saint-Germain a hard-fought 1-0 win at Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1.

The reigning champions and runaway leaders bounced back from a 2-1 loss to Lyon at the start of the month by beating Bordeaux 1-0 last weekend, however, Thomas Tuchel’s team were short of their best once more at Stade Geoffroy Guichard.

Mbappe dazzled in the 2-0 Champions League win over Manchester United on Tuesday but found the going tougher in a line-up without the considerable talents of Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Marco Verratti and Thomas Meunier.

Yet he settled matters with aplomb in the 73rd minute, swivelling to guide Dani Alves’s lofted pass into the top corner on the volley to score his 19th league goal of the season.

It was the act of a player a class apart from the rest – much like PSG, who are 12 points ahead of Lille at the summit with two games in hand.

The same combination that undid United in midweek were to the fore again, with Angel Di Maria storming forward on the break in the 20th minute to play in Mbappe, whose shot was beaten away at the near post by Stephane Ruffier.

Mbappe felt the effects of a robust challenge from Romain Hamouma, who had a shot blocked by PSG captain Thiago Silva late in the first half after Thilo Kehrer’s misjudged headed clearance.

Ruffier smothered a shot from Julian Draxler at close quarters in the 55th minute, Di Maria and Mbappe having combined on the end of Marquinhos’ excellent raking pass.

Juan Bernat’s replacement Colin Dagba was quickly into the action with a last-ditch challenge to deny Saint-Etienne wing-back Gabriel Silva, with Kevin Monnet-Paquet going close from the resulting 63rd-minute corner.

Di Maria should have done better when he skewed wide two minutes later, leaving Mbappe to majestically show him how it was done.

He showed a more pragmatic side as he joined substitute Layvin Kurzawa in being booked for kicking the ball away in stoppage time –  PSG closing out a result that denied Saint-Etienne a move into the top four.

What does it mean? Any team in the world would miss Neymar

PSG’s wonderfully composed win over Manchester United won deserved plaudits but this grasping and increasingly forced performance underlined that victory at Old Trafford came despite the absence of their star forward and not because of it.

Cavani’s return will also be welcomed as centre-forward duties weighed a little heavily on the mercurial Mbappe until he produced another picturebook moment in a career already stuffed with them.

Masterful from Marquinhos

The Brazil international’s shackling of Paul Pobga at Old Trafford underlined how swiftly he has developed from emergency midfield option to a dependable holding player in his own right. Marquinhos was back in his natural centre-back role here, unfurling a wonderful range of passing and appearing the coolest under pressure as the hosts launched their second-half forays. A Rolls Royce of a player.

Close shave for Bernat

The willingness of PSG’s players to undertake unfamiliar roles and operate with flexible tactics has been a symbol of their development under Tuchel. Bernat started sharply enough on the left of a midfield three but was found wanting when a rare opening fell his way in the box. After his booking for fouling Mathieu Debuchy early in the second half, a 56th-minute challenge on Timothee Kolodziejczak was, at best, ill-advised and Tuchel had seen enough.

Key Opta Facts

PSG have scored in each of their last 18 Ligue 1 games against Saint-Etienne (41 goals), while Saint-Etienne have failed to score in eight of their last 11 Ligue 1 games against PSG (3 goals).
Mbappe is the first French player to score 19 goals in his first 18 games of a Ligue 1 season over the last 45 years.
Mbappe is the best goal scorer in the top five leagues this season among the players who have not scored a single penalty (19 goals).
Alves has delivered more assists than any other PSG defender since 2017-18 in Ligue 1 (10 assists).

What’s next

PSG tackle their rescheduled Ligue 1 home game against Montpellier on Wednesday – the first of three games in the space of six days at the Parc des Princes. Saint-Etienne travel to Dijon on Friday.

Anthony Davis injury update: Pelicans star ‘good to play’ in All-Star Game, report says

Davis Anthony

Davis is averaging 28.1 points, 12.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 2018-19.

Anthony Davis is expected to play in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game.

The Pelicans star reportedly wanted to test out his injured left shoulder in warmups in hopes of playing. It appears that went well, as a New York Times report said Davis was “good to play” before tip-off.

Davis bruised his shoulder Thursday in the Pelicans’ 131-122 victory over the Thunder. He appeared to suffer the injury after challenging a shot attempt late in the second quarter.

Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, informed New Orleans in late January the star was not interested in signing an extension and wanted to be moved. Multiple teams reportedly showed interest in acquiring him before the deadline, but the Pelicans elected to hold onto Davis for at least the rest of the season.

Davis is averaging 28.1 points, 12.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 2018-19. He has been named an All-Star six times.

Icardi did not celebrate Inter win in dressing room, says Spalletti

Mauro Icardi and Wanda Nara

Mauro Icardi watched Inter’s 2-1 win over Sampdoria from the stands but Luciano Spalletti was upset he did not go to the dressing room.

Luciano Spalletti was frustrated Mauro Icardi did not celebrate Inter’s dramatic 2-1 victory over Sampdoria on Sunday with his team-mates.

Icardi, who was replaced as club captain by Samir Handanovic this week amid speculation surrounding his future, watched from the stands at San Siro due to the knee injury that kept him out of the 1-0 win over Rapid Vienna on Thursday.

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta confirmed before kick-off the Argentina striker would still be offered a new contract despite the seemingly strained relationship between player and club.

Spalletti’s side struggled in front of goal and needed a winner from Radja Nainggolan after Manolo Gabbiadini cancelled out Danilo D’Ambrosio’s 73rd-minute opener.

While the Inter boss was pleased to see Icardi, who did not travel to Austria with the team, in the stadium, he was disappointed he did not come down to the dressing room afterwards.

“I really appreciated that he was in the stadium and I would’ve appreciated it even more if he had come to the dressing room to celebrate with us afterwards, because it was a very important victory for the team and he is part of this group, so I imagine he was as happy with the win as we were,” said Spalletti.

“We want a return to normality. In a team, in a dressing room you all need to be working in the same direction.

“There are more steps to take, which are for him to come to the dressing room, to enjoy being a part of this very good group, to relish wearing Inter’s glorious shirt.”

Spalletti fell out with club icon Francesco Totti at Roma but stated the situation with Icardi is unprecedented in his career.

“I really liked the applause from our fans after the equaliser, as they urged us to get right back on track and gave us strength in that difficult moment,” he said.

“It’s just frustrating that we keep getting tied up in all this talk around Inter. I’ve had some situations in my career with a lot of attention, but never like this.

“The victory is a sign of maturity, so we can begin to get past the mountain of things that are constantly spoken about Inter.”

Can: No privileges at Juventus, even for Ronaldo

Emre Can and Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo is not given any special treatment at Juventus, despite being the biggest player in the world, according to Emre Can.

Emre Can has labelled Juventus a “family club”, and insists that there is no special treatment afforded to the Serie A champions’ star man Cristiano Ronaldo.

Can, like Ronaldo, joined Juve in the close-season, having signed on a free transfer from Liverpool.

The Germany midfielder has established himself as a first-team regular under Massimiliano Allegri, though his arrival in Turin was always going to be overshadowed by that of Ronaldo, who is Juve’s top scorer with 19 league goals from 24 appearances.

But Can, who compared the atmosphere at Juve to that of his former club Liverpool, has revealed that Ronaldo is not the recipient of any extra privileges.

“A family. It’s a family club, really,” Can told Tuttosport.

“And in this I found many similarities with Liverpool, where the spirit of the dressing room is similar.

“Yes, I really like Juventus. Individualities count much less than the group. It is not common, in the national team I often talk with the players of other big clubs and they tell me very different things.

“Ronaldo is here, the biggest in the world, but in the locker room he is the same as the others and behaves naturally.

“Everyone is at the same level, there are no privileges, we work, then we make jokes. This affects work, because you enter the field to always train with the right mood.”

Ronaldo scored twice on Friday, as Juve beat Frosinone 3-0 to extend their lead at the top of Serie A, with focus now turned to Wednesday’s Champions League last 16 tie with Atletico Madrid.

Giannis Antetokounmpo details how he was discovered in new documentary

Antetokounmpo

Titled “Finding Giannis,” the 30-minute special aired Saturday on TNT prior to the network’s All-Star weekend coverage.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo detailed his journey to the NBA and how he was discovered while playing basketball in Greece during a recent documentary.

Titled “Finding Giannis,” the 30-minute special aired Saturday on TNT prior to the network’s All-Star weekend coverage. Antetokounmpo, along with agents Giorgos Panou and Alex Saratsis, reminisced about making it to the league and shared stories about how it almost didn’t happen.

He said he was 16 when he was approached by a scout and was told “a year and a half from now you’re going to get drafted and play in the NBA.” The forward said others “believed in me more than I believed in myself.”

Antetokounmpo revealed he almost didn’t make it to the United States because he didn’t want to leave his family behind. His family experienced issues obtaining a visa, and they had been declined twice. They received a visa on the third attempt, which Saratsis described as “a very important moment” in Antetokounmpo’s journey.

“He didn’t know if his family was going to come,” explained Panou, the agent who essentially discovered Giannis in Greece. “Back here, we were trying to apply for an American visa. We were stressed because the law says if you’re declined three times, you’re done.”

Saratsis detailed the initial calls he received from the NBA, and the moment he realized Antetokounmpo had the potential of being a star.

“Come 2013, I started to get a lot of phone calls from NBA teams saying, ‘This is your kid, right? You’ve got something there. You’ve really got to start paying attention.'” Saratsis said. “After about five or six phone calls, the next day I was on the plane. I went to Greece and I watched him play and I went to my partner (Panou) and said you have something there. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but at least in the immediate future you have something that can be good.”

Antetokounmpo explained that he initially declined to attend the draft in 2013. His family wasn’t able to fly to the United States at that point, but his father and Saratsis urged him to go.

“I didn’t want to leave my family back because I ride and die for my family. My dad told me, ‘Look, you’ve got to go; this might be good for us.’ I said, ‘OK, let’s do this,'” Antetokounmpo explained.

Once Antetokounmpo made it into the league after the Bucks selected him with the 15th overall pick, he said his turning point came during the 2015-16 season. He recalled scoring 27 points in his debut during his third season.

“I talked to (Saratsis) and told him, ‘I can do this every night,'” Antetokounmpo said.

One strong theme throughout the documentary was Antetokounmpo’s connection to his family. The 24-year-old star explained, “What I am today is because of my family. For me, family is everything.”

You can watch the full documentary here:

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20-0 farce slammed as ‘insult to sport’ by Italian football chief

Pro Piacenza lost 20-0 at AC Cuneo after only being able to name seven players for Sunday’s Serie C match.

Pro Piacenza’s 20-0 Serie C defeat at AC Cuneo stands as an “insult to sport”, according to Italian Football Federation (FICG) president Gabriele Gravina.

Crisis club Pro Piacenza named a seven-man startling line-up comprised of youth-team players and a massage therapist for Sunday’s match at Cuneo’s Stadio Fratelli Paschiero, where an inevitably farcical spectacle unfolded.

The Rossoneri’s senior squad and coaching staff are on strike over unpaid wages and their previous three league games were forfeited as 3-0 walkovers in favour of Pro Vercelli, Juventus II and Siena.

Had they done the same on Sunday, they faced being thrown out of a division where they lie bottom and have already been docked eight points this season.

Gravina made no apologies for his organisation enforcing its rules – something that extended to an eighth Pro Piacenza player not being allowed to enter the field until the 61st minute due to him not being in possession of the correct registration documents – but showed no appetite for such humiliating scenes to be repeated.

“What happened in Cuneo is an insult to sport and its founding principles,” he said.

“In this surreal situation, the FIGC had a duty to enforce all the rules, our responsibility is to protect the passion of the fans, healthy entrepreneurs and the credibility of our championships: the one we unfortunately witnessed will be the last farce.”

Cuneo’s victory more than doubled their goals tally prior to the match in the league this season, which stood at 18.

Forwards Hicham Kanis and Edoardo Defendi scored six and five goals respectively in a first half that ended 16-0, while Michele Emmausso and Francesco De Stefano completed hat-tricks during the closing stages.

Last week, Serie C team Matera were excluded from the league after failing to meet fixture requirements amid financial woes of their own.

 

Messi makes playing for Barcelona easier – Dembele

Ousmane Dembele spoke glowingly of the “incredible things” Lionel Messi does for Barcelona as he looked ahead to Tuesday’s date with Lyon.

Lionel Messi is the perfect team-mate in attack because of the extra opposition attention he occupies, according to fellow Barcelona star Ousmane Dembele.

Argentina great Messi and France forward Dembele have struck up a successful understanding in the latter’s second season at Camp Nou, sharing 43 goals between them in all competitions.

The former Borussia Dortmund man is beginning to plug the hole left by Neymar, who departed for Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 due to a reported desire to break free of Messi’s shadow.

Dembele, in contrast, is more than happy for his captain to retain the burden of responsibility.

“It’s great, he makes football easier,” Dembele told Barca’s website.

“I give him the ball and he does incredible things. When he’s on the pitch it’s easier for a forward, because the rivals focus mainly on him.”

Messi and Dembele will both have big roles to play when the Blaugrana visit Lyon in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

 

Bruno Genesio’s men advanced undefeated through Group F and have recorded impressive victories over Premier League leaders Manchester City and Ligue 1 table-toppers PSG this term.

Ex-Rennes winger Dembele warned: “They’re a team with very good players and it’s very difficult to win there.

“They demonstrated this season – winning against City and PSG – that we will have to be very attentive and not think that the game will be easy.

“[Nabil] Fekir – suspended for the first leg – is their best player, but there are other players who have great qualities, and we’ll have to watch everyone.

“I look closely at their Ligue 1 matches, and I play alongside some of their players in the French national team like Fekir, [Ferland] Mendy or Moussa Dembele. They are dangerous all over the pitch.”

 

Barca remain in the hunt to win the treble and Dembele encouraged his team-mates to fight on as many fronts as possible.

“We have to be focused on our goals,” the 21-year-old said. “We want to win titles, win the Champions League and also the league, of course!”

 

Alisson: Liverpool won’t feel Van Dijk loss against Bayern

Virgil van Dijk is suspended for Liverpool’s last-16 first leg against Bayern Munich, but Alisson feels they can cope without the defender.

Alisson believes Liverpool will not feel the absence of Virgil van Dijk when they host Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Van Dijk will be serving a one-game ban for Tuesday's first leg of the last-16 tie at Anfield, with Jurgen Klopp facing defensive selection issues.

Joe Gomez has been ruled out and Klopp has indicated Croatia defender Dejan Lovren is not expected to recover from a hamstring injury in time.

Liverpool's options without the world's most expensive defender Van Dijk are therefore limited, although Fabinho has filled in at centre-back and could partner Joel Matip at the back.

Van Dijk has completed the full 90 minutes in all 26 of Liverpool's Premier League games this term, playing a huge part in Klopp's men sitting level on points with Manchester City at the top of the table.

But Alisson is confident whoever former Borussia Dortmund boss Klopp picks to take Van Dijk's place in the heart of the Liverpool defence against the Bundesliga champions will do a good job.

"All the defenders have played so when one comes in and one leaves, we don't feel that loss because we're all used to each other," the Brazil goalkeeper said to Premier League Productions.

"That the backline are all able to communicate with each other, and know each other really well, is vital for any team. Once you've cracked it, you've got it – and we seem confident."



Manuel Neuer is expected to line up in goal for Bayern after the club captain returned from three games out with a thumb injury in Friday's league win at Augsburg.

And Alisson is relishing the chance to show what he can do against the Germany goalkeeper, who is widely regarded among the best in the world in his position.

"We know they’re a really good, strong team," he added. "Jurgen knows more about that team than anyone. There's a lot of quality – and a great defence.

"[Neuer] is a big reference for me. When we got them in the draw I was pleased knowing I'd be against him."

 

SPAL coach Semplici left frustrated by VAR controversy

SPAL had a goal disallowed due to a penalty being awarded against them during their 4-1 Serie A defeat to Fiorentina.

SPAL coach Leonardo Semplici believes Serie A officials need to rethink how VAR is deployed after his side were on the wrong end of a controversial decision in their 4-1 loss to Fiorentina.

With the game poised at 1-1, Mattia Valoti thought he had put SPAL ahead with 16 minutes remaining, only for the goal to be ruled out after referee Luca Pairetto overturned his call following a consultation with his video assistant, instead awarding a penalty to Fiorentina at the other end – the first time such a decision has been made since VAR's introduction.

Federico Chiesa was fouled by Dias Felipe in SPAL's area, but Pairetto initially dismissed Fiorentina's claims, allowing play to continue for 35 seconds – Valoti netting from the resulting counter.

Pairetto had to wait a further minute and 35 seconds until VAR suggested he should take a look at the screen, with Jordan Veretout then slotting home the spot-kick, which was taken six minutes after Felipe's foul, to compound SPAL's misery.

And Semplici rued SPAL's misfortune at being the first team to suffer from a scenario that has previously been cited as one of the system's weak points.

"We are the first for everything!" he told DAZN.

"It's never happened but these are the rules and we go on our way. We have played a great game against a good Fiorentina side. 

"It is not easy to take the lead, have the goal cancelled and then suffer the 2-1. I think there are some problems, the officials should intervene."



SPAL, who had taken the lead through Andrea Petagna, collapsed in the final 10 minutes, with Giovanni Simeone and Gerson rounding off the win for Fiorentina, and Semplici was disappointed with his side's reaction to the VAR drama.

"The incident has unnerved the boys but it did not have to end [4-1]," he added.

"We need to be calmer, in some situations it's not easy, but we'll need a lesson to never leave the field from the mental point of view."

 

Jose Mourinho open to Ligue 1 job

Jose Mourinho at Lille v Montpellier

Paris Saint-Germain have previously been linked with Jose Mourinho and the Portuguese manager indicated he would like to work in Ligue 1.

Jose Mourinho has suggested he would take a job in Ligue 1, while attending Lille’s home game against Montpellier.

Mourinho, who has worked as a television pundit after being sacked by Manchester United in December, was pictured shaking hands with former France striker Nicolas Anelka at Sunday’s game.

Earlier this month Mourinho was caught on camera suffering a fall at an ice hockey game in Russia, but he was on safer ground at the Stade Pierre Mauroy to watch a 0-0 draw.

“Look who is invited in the stands of the Stade Pierre Mauroy to attend #LOSCMHSC,” Lille posted on Twitter with a photo of Mourinho at the game. “No, no, you’re not dreaming – it’s Jose Mourinho, the ‘special one’ in person.”

The Portuguese coach has won league titles in his homeland as well as Italy, Spain and England throughout his distinguished career, which has also produced a pair of Champions League crowns, and he suggested he may be keen to work in France.

“I can imagine myself as a coach in Ligue 1,” Mourinho, who previously dismissed speculation he could take charge of Benfica, said to beIN SPORTS.

“I am a man who has worked in four different countries, I like to know and learn other cultures. Working in a new championship would be a fantastic experience.

“For now I’m calm, I try to live better with my family and friends and I work to get the right opportunity to go back to training.

“Two to three months [without a job] is okay, afterwards it’s more difficult. I hope to have the opportunity to come back stronger.

“My project is my project as a person and coach, to improve myself, to be better, to think all days about my profession, which is also a passion. But this is not the time to talk with clubs.”

Mourinho, previously linked with taking charge at Paris Saint-Germain, was reportedly a guest of Lille’s technical director Luis Campos, with whom he worked at Real Madrid.

Campos – who has been linked with a move to either Chelsea or Manchester United – was sat next to Mourinho, who took a selfie with Lille goalkeeper Kouakou Herve Koffi.

Mourinho and his assistants were paid a total of £19.6million in compensation by United after the manager was sacked.

Interim replacement Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has subsequently led the club back into the Premier League’s top four.

Muguruza and Kasatkina battle their way into Dubai second round

Day one of the Dubai Tennis Championships saw the likes of Garbine Muguruza and Daria Kasatkina advance to the second round.

Garbine Muguruza was among the winners at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Sunday while 2018 runner-up Daria Kasatkina also advanced to the second round.

Kasatkina, beaten by Elina Svitolina in the decider 12 months ago, did not have things all her own way against Magdalena Frech and neither did Muguruza against Dayana Yastremska, to whom she has already lost this year.

Day one of the Premier 5 hard-court event saw a stunning comeback from Aliaksandra Sasnovich while there were also wins for Kristina Mladenovic, Viktoria Kuzmova, Lesia Tsurenko, Belinda Bencic and Eugenie Bouchard.

 

ONE MATCH AT A TIME FOR MUGURUZA

Muguruza looked in danger of a third successive defeat to Yastremska when she dropped the first set to the Ukrainian, before fighting back strongly to seal a 4-6 6-3 6-3 victory on her seventh match point as her opponent sent a return wide.

The Spaniard, seeded 12th, advances to a second-round meeting with Zheng Saisai, who overcame Ajla Tomljanovic 6-2 4-6 7-5, and the two-time semi-finalist knows the Chinese will provide a stern test.

"I love coming here, it's such an entertaining tournament. I did well in the past so it's always good to be back," Muguruza said. "She [Yastremska] was playing very well the previous two times, she played better today but I managed to increase my levels and win.

"I've certainly been kind of close, but that [the title] is very far away, come on it's only the first round, I don't want to think about that yet. I played her [Zheng] also recently, every match here is very difficult, it's such an important tournament and I'm ready to fight."



 

MIXED RESULTS FOR FORMER FINALISTS

Kasatkina was pushed hard by Frech before prevailing 6-3 3-6 6-4 and the Russian hopes a return to Dubai will kick-start a season that has yielded only one prior victory – a walkover following Maria Sharapova's withdrawal in St Petersburg.

"It was a very tough match with long rallies, we played more than two hours so I'm a little bit tired but happy I won," she said in her on-court interview. "I'm not playing my best tennis at the moment but I'm hoping this match will give me confidence and I'll correct this crisis.

"Yesterday I came here, there was nobody in the stadium and I just sat there [in the stands] with my friend and reminded myself of some memories of last year and I'm happy to come back here."



Alize Cornet, who lost to Venus Williams in the 2014 final, eased past Timea Babos 6-4 6-3 but it was a different story for 2016 champion Sara Errani, who took the first set against Ivana Jorovic only to be beaten 4-6 6-4 6-2.

 

SASNOVICH BACK FROM THE BRINK

The comeback of the day undoubtedly belonged to Sasnovich, who pulled off a remarkable turnaround to defeat Ekaterina Makarova.

Sasnovich suffered the ignominy of being bagelled in the opening set and the writing appeared to be on the wall when she was broken for a second time in the second set to fall 4-1 behind.

But remarkably, the Belarusian won six of the next seven games – including three breaks of her own – to force a decider, where both players showed frailties on serve before Sasnovich eventually prevailed 0-6 7-5 6-4 to set up a meeting with Hsieh Su-wei, who knocked out 10th seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-4 6-2.

 

Inter 2 Sampdoria 1: Nainggolan salvages win in Icardi’s absence

Inter midfielder Radja Nainggolan

Mauro Icardi had to watch from the stands as Inter were made to work for a 2-1 victory over Sampdoria, with Radja Nainggolan the hero.

Radja Nainggolan came to Inter’s rescue in Mauro Icardi’s absence to seal a dramatic 2-1 victory over Sampdoria in Serie A on Sunday.

Icardi, who was this week stripped of the captaincy amid ongoing speculation over his future, watched from the San Siro stands due to the knee injury that kept him out of the 1-0 Europa League victory over Rapid Vienna on Thursday.

Inter looked set to rue his absence until Danilo D’Ambrosio opened the scoring in the 73rd minute, but substitute Manolo Gabbiadini pounced on some shoddy defending just 25 seconds after coming on to pull Sampdoria level.

However, Nainggolan’s shot from the edge of the box found a path through a host of bodies three minutes later to restore the Nerazzurri’s four-point cushion over fourth-place AC Milan.

Lautaro Martinez, who scored Inter’s goals in back-to-back wins over Parma and Rapid, led the line in Icardi’s absence and was kept off the scoresheet by Emil Audero in the sixth minute.

Audero had to scramble back to stop a tame Ivan Perisic shot that squirmed through his legs crossing the line, while Milan Skriniar saw a goal ruled out for offside against D’Ambrosio in first-half stoppage time.

Samir Handanovic stayed on his feet to deny Gregoire Defrel just 32 seconds after the restart and the newly appointed captain produced a fingertip save to keep Fabio Quagliarella’s looping header out in the 66th minute.

Perisic was unperturbed by seeing a shot saved by Audero and his run into the box from the left enabled D’Ambrosio to dart in front of Nicola Murru for the opener.

Gabbiadini punished Skriniar’s failure to clear the ball with his first involvement after replacing Riccardo Saponara in the 75th minute, but Sampdoria were unable to hold on for a point.

Nainggolan somehow found the bottom-left corner with Audero unsighted to seal an important win that enabled Inter to strengthen their grip on third.

What does it mean? Martinez cannot be relied upon

While he may have proved key to the victories over Parma and Rapid, Martinez displayed he is not yet a clinical striker capable of snaffling any chance that comes his way. He failed to best Audero with his first chance and it proved to be his only shot on target in the entire match. Icardi may have scored just twice in his last 11 Serie A appearances, but Martinez does not appear ready to spearhead the attack on his own.

Brilliant Brozovic

Having been rested for the meeting with Rapid on Thursday, Marcelo Brozovic looked fresh in central midfield. He laid on a team-high six chances and regained possession seven times – Stefan de Vrij was the only Inter player to do so on more occasions – to help the Nerazzurri keep the visitors under pressure.

Skriniar makes life difficult

By failing to clear inside his own box – a hack at the ball rebounded off Joao Mario – Skriniar gave away Inter’s lead, with Gabbiadini outmuscling him and firing into the bottom-right corner. He was fortunate Nainggolan was on hand to bail him out.

Key Opta facts

– Inter have scored two goals in a single Serie A game for the first time since December against Roma.
– Inter have not conceded a goal in the first half for the 20th time this season, more than any other team in Serie A in 2018-19.
– Inter have scored 41 per cent of their goals (14/34) in the last 15 minutes of play – the highest percentage in Serie A this season.
– D’Ambrosio scored after 11 Serie A games without a goal.
– Nainggolan ended a run of eight Serie A matches without scoring.

What’s next?

Inter will hope to secure a place in the last 16 of the Europa League when they host Rapid on Thursday, while Sampdoria are not in action until a home game against Cagliari next Sunday.

Cecchinato hammers home favourite Schwartzman to win Argentina Open

Marco Cecchinato celebrates

Diego Schwartzman was unable to deliver a home winner at the Argentina Open as Marco Cecchinato earned a third career ATP title.

Marco Cecchinato made short work of Diego Schwartzman in a 6-1 6-2 hammering in the final of the Argentina Open.

Home favourite Schwartzman, seeded fourth, had saved match point to beat to Dominic Thiem on Saturday.

But Cecchinato was a cut above on the Argentine clay, taking a little over an hour to clinch a third career ATP title – all of which have come on the dirt.

Schwartzman held serve for 1-1 in the opening set before losing five games on the spin against the Italian.

And it was a similarly dominant story in the second as third seed Cecchinato broke Schwartzman’s serve twice en route to a classy victory.