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Osaka defeats Azarenka to win US Open

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Naomi Osaka battled back from a set down against Victoria Azarenka to lift her second US Open title in three years with a 1-6 6-3 6-3 victory.

The Japanese added her second title in New York with a battling performance to her Australian Open crown for her third Grand Slam in three years.

The Belarusian mother of her three-year-old son, Leo, was making an improbable comeback at the age 31 against the 22-year-old Japanese sporting icon and highest-earning female athlete in the world.

Azarenka, playing in her first Grand Slam final in seven years, came flying out of the traps to take a 2-0 before the fourth seed found some equilibrium to settle her nerves for an important hold of serve.

Some relentless ball hitting by Azarenka had her opponent tied up in knots and a second double fault from Osaka contributed to the second break of serve.

The error count was mounting for Osaka, the champion in New York in 2018, on Arthur Ashe Stadium and it wasn’t long before Azarenka claimed a one-sided set in 26 minutes, breaking the Japanese star for a third time.

Azarenka maintained her momentum through the first two games of the second set but Osaka broke back for 2-1 and that proved to be a crucial moment.

A few errors had started to come from the Azarenka racket while Osaka, the more powerful player, was able to play points on her terms. She forged into the lead in the set with a break for 4-3 and took her second set point to win it and send the final into a decider.

For only the fourth time in the last 25 US Open women’s finals, we were heading into a final set. Osaka was involved in the controversial final against Serena Williams two years ago, while Azarenka was involved in three-setters, falling to Williams in 2012 and 2013.

Osaka had not lost in a final set at Flushing Meadows for three years and after breaking for 3-1 she saved three break-point chances to dig out a massive hold.

The pair shared breaks before Osaka stayed mentally strong to move 5-3 up and she stayed cool to serve out the match.

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Bale arrives at Tottenham to seal loan move

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Gareth Bale has arrived at Tottenham’s training ground after flying from Spain to complete his move back to the club from Real Madrid.

Bale completed a medical in Madrid on Thursday as he closes on a deal that will see him return to the club he left in a world-record £86m transfer seven years ago.

The Wales captain travelled to London Luton Airport accompanied on a private flight by Real Madrid team-mate Sergio Reguilon, who is set to join Spurs on a five-year deal for a fee that could rise to £32m after also completing a medical on Thursday.

Sky Sports News’ Paul Gilmour says Gareth Bale’s return to Tottenham from Real Madrid is just hours away from being completed

Lawyers in Spain and England have been drawing up contracts that will make Bale a Spurs player again on a season-long loan deal. Tottenham have agreed to pay about £20m in wages and loan fees.

Both Bale and Reguilon are likely to meet conditions that will enable them to avoid quarantining upon their arrival to London.

Along with having arrived from an elite sporting environment where coronavirus protocols have been adhered to, the players will both need to have returned negative test results within five days prior to entering the United Kingdom.

Although he played for Wales twice this month, he is not fully matched fit and it is expected that it will take a month for him to get back to his best.

Real Madrid have agreed to let him leave on loan in order to get his £500,000-a-week wages off their books and Tottenham has made all the running to sign him this week.

As well as being frozen out by Zinedine Zidane, Bale has had a difficult relationship with the Spanish media and Real fans, and he is looking forward to making a fresh start back at Spurs.

Manchester United considered making a move for him as a back-up option to Jadon Sancho, but they did not make an offer, even though they have tried to sign him on numerous occasions since he was at Southampton 13 years ago.

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Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open

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Japan’s Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the upcoming French Open with a hamstring injury.

The 22-year-old had her left hamstring taped when she battled back against Victoria Azarenka in the U.S. Open final in New York on Saturday to win her third Grand Slam title.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play the French Open this year,” the world number three wrote on social media in a message she also posted in Japanese.

“My hamstring is still sore so I won’t have time to prepare for the clay – these two tournaments came too close to each other for me this time.

“I wish the organizers and players all the best.”

French Open will be held from Sept. 27 to Oct. 11 after being moved from its usual late May-June slot due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The hamstring issue had prompted Osaka to withdraw from the final of the Western & Southern Open in the run-up to the U.S. Open but it did not appear to hamper her at Flushing Meadows.

Osaka made headlines in New York as much for her performances on court as for her commitment to social justice causes.

For each of her U.S. Open matches, she wore a different mask that carried the name of a Black American, aiming to highlight racial injustice in the United States to a wider audience.

The withdrawal of Osaka, who has never advanced past the third round at Roland Garros, comes as another blow to the tournament after world number one Ash Barty of Australia said she would not be defending her title due to COVID-19 concerns.

On the men’s side, Roger Federer will not compete as he continues to recover from knee surgery.

Osaka’s absence would improve Serena Williams’s chances of winning a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title if the American chooses to play.

The 38-year-old has pulled out of the Italian Open with an Achilles issue.

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) said on Thursday it would allow 5,000 spectators per day following a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the country.

It had previously said the clay-court major would permit a maximum of 11,500 fans per day.

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Juve terminate Higuain contract, to lose €18.3m

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Serie A champions Juventus confirmed on Thursday they had terminated Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain’s contract by mutual consent.

The former Real Madrid and Napoli forward is reportedly set to join David Beckham’s Major League Soccer franchise Inter Miami.

“This operation generates a negative economic effect of approximately €18.3m on the 2019/20 financial year due to the residual value write-down of the registration rights of the player,” Juve said in a statement.

Juventus paid the €90m release clause to sign Higuain from Napoli in 2016, and he had unsuccessful loans at AC Milan and Chelsea before returning to Turin last season.

But the 32-year-old was immediately told by new Juve coach Andrea Pirlo he was no longer part of the nine-time Serie A champions’ plans.

“He was a great champion, a great player but the cycle is over,” said Pirlo on his arrival in Turin.

“We looked at each other in the eyes, we talked and we made this decision.

“I admire him a lot, but we have decided that the paths will separate.”

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