Virus does not stop Kudla
The US’ Denis Kudla was told he had tested positive for COVID-19 mid-match at the Australian Open qualifying tournament — and then sealed victory before going into quarantine. The fourth seed learned of the positive test when 5-3 up in the second set against Moroccan Elliot Benchetrit, but was allowed to complete the ninth game. Kudla, the world No. 114, clinched the match 6-4, 6-3, but was then pulled out of the tournament and placed in hotel quarantine. Kudla’s scheduled opponent, Australian wildcard Dane Sweeny, was given a walkover into the final round. Argentinian player Francisco Cerundolo also tested positive, but had yet to play his first-round match against Mario Vilella Martinez of Spain.
Loeb out of Dakar Rally
Nine-time rally world champion Sebastien Loeb was on Monday forced out of the Dakar Rally after two punctures, while Qatari driver Nasser al-Attiyah won stage eight. Three-time Dakar winner al-Attiyah covered the 375km of the timed special between Sakaka and Neom in Saudi Arabia in just under three hours. He has won four of eight stages of this year’s edition, as well as the prologue, but trails Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel in overall rankings by 4 minutes, 50 seconds. Loeb, taking part in his fifth Dakar, suffered his first puncture 43km into the stage. After he blew another tire at 83km, the Frenchman signaled his retirement to his team, British outfit Bahrain Raid Xtreme. This year’s Dakar was not kind to Loeb, who had been beset with mechanical problems and was more than 13 hours behind his compatriot Peterhansel.
Belichick spurns award
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick Monday night announced he would not accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom, saying that “remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award.” In a delicately worded, one-paragraph statement, the six-time Super Bowl-winning coach did not say explicitly that he had turned down the offer from US President Donald Trump, whom he has called a friend. Trump announced on Saturday, three days after the riots, that he would be awarding Belichick the nation’s highest civilian honor. “I was flattered ... out of respect for what the honor represents and admiration for prior recipients,” the coach said in a statement. “Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award. Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation’s values, freedom and democracy. I know I also represent my family and the New England Patriots team.”
Aussie, China races delayed
Formula One yesterday postponed the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Bahrain now set to open the season on March 28. Italy’s Imola circuit was added to the 23-round calendar as the second race on April 18, with the third slot on May 2 still to be confirmed but expected to be filled by Portugal’s Algarve circuit. Australia was given a new date of Nov. 21 for the race in Melbourne. China was not listed on the revised calendar, but Formula One sources said that it would be slotted in if circumstances allowed.
SWEEP THE LEG: Poirier, determined to best McGregor, after losing to him in 2014, used low calf kicks to throw ‘Notorious’ off his stand-up game, before dropping him American underdog Dustin Poirier yesterday shook up the world of mixed martial arts, beating up the legs of Irish superstar Conor McGregor before knocking him out at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi. “I’m happy, but I’m not surprised. I put in the work,” Poirier said, after the referee stepped in after 2 minutes, 32 seconds of the second round to save McGregor from further damage, after he was dropped by a fierce combination of punches. The 32-year-old Poirier was ranked second in the flyweight division going into the fight, but still rated a heavy underdog by bookmakers to beat his fourth-ranked opponent,
Badminton’s world No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying yesterday was handed a tough draw at Thailand’s World Tour Finals, as she was bracketed with home favorite Ratchanok Intanon and Indian star P.V. Sindhu. Tai, former world champion Ratchanok and Olympic silver-medalist Sindhu were grouped with Thailand’s Pornpawee Chochuwong in Group B for the round-robin stage of the biosecure tournament in Bangkok. Tai faces Sindhu today. The delayed season finale from last year is the third behind-closed-doors event in three weeks in the Thai capital as badminton resumes after months of near-inactivity amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Spanish top seed Carolina Marin, seeking a hat-trick of wins in Bangkok,
HOLDING STEADY: Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-ying pushed past Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska Tunjung to advance to a quarter-finals match against world No. 10 Michelle Li Taiwan’s Chou Tien-chen and Wang Tzu-wei yesterday defeated their respective opponents in the second round of the Toyota Thailand Open, setting them up to face each other today in the quarter-finals. In an early match, world No. 12 Wang took 45 minutes to defeat Hong Kong’s Angus Ng Ka-long 21-13, 21-11. Last week, the world No. 8 ousted Wang from the Yonex tournament before defeating Chou in the semi-finals. Chou, world No. 2, defeated France’s Brice Leverdez in 48 minutes 21-19, 21-16. In other men’s singles matches, Indonesia’s fifth seed Anthony Ginting suffered an unexpected defeat to Hong Kong’s Lee Cheuk-yiu, who moved into
MARIN REMATCH: Tai Tzu-ying saved six game points in her semi-final against Ratchanok Intanon, who went into the match with a superior head-to-head record Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-ying reached the final of badminton’s Thailand Open yesterday with a three-set win over Ratchanok Intanon, setting up a rematch against Carolina Marin. Tai won 12-21, 21-12, 23-21 in 59 minutes to set up her second final against Marin in two weeks, while Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin advanced to the final in the men’s doubles. However, Chou Tien-chen was eliminated in the semi-finals of the men’s singles. Tai saved six game points in the win against her Thai opponent Intanon, who went into the match with a superior head-to-head record against the Taiwanese world No. 1. Tai’s best streak was a