Rome, May 20 (AP/UNB) — Rafael Nadal is right back where he wants to be. After losing in the semifinals of three straight clay-court tournaments, Nadal dominated for stretches against his longtime rival, Novak Djokovic, in a 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 win Sunday for a record-extending ninth Italian Open title.
"You were asking for titles. Finally I have a title," Nadal told reporters. "Here we are. Important title, important moment."
It marked the first time in an Open Era-record 54 meetings, and in their 142nd set against each other, that Nadal won a set against Djokovic without conceding a game — otherwise known as a bagel.
In all, Nadal had a career-high four bagel sets in this tournament.
"I played a great first set in all aspects. No mistakes. Playing so aggressive, changing directions," Nadal said. "It's not usual and probably will not happen again."
The timing for Nadal's return to form could not have been more opportune, as he will seek a record-extending 12th title at the French Open starting next weekend.
"Winning a title is important but for me the most important thing is (to) feel myself competitive, feel myself healthy," Nadal said. "Then with the feeling that I am improving. I know if I'm able to reach my level you can win, you can lose, but normally I'm going to have my chances — especially on this surface.
"Now is the moment to keep going," Nadal added.
In the women's final, Karolina Pliskova captured the biggest clay-court trophy of her career by beating Johanna Konta 6-3, 6-4.
Top-ranked Djokovic, meanwhile, appeared exhausted after spending more than 5 ½ hours on court against Juan Martin del Potro and Diego Schwartzman the previous two days.
Djokovic was also coming off the Madrid Open title last week.
"I don't want to talk about fatigue or things like that," Djokovic told the crowd during the post-match ceremony. "Rafa was simply too strong today."
Speaking to reporters later, Djokovic said, "I was just running out of fuel a little bit today. Just kind of missed that half a step, especially on the backhand side."
The Foro Italico crowd continually tried to encourage Djokovic with chants of "Vai Nole!" — Go Nole! — but the top-ranked Serb struggled with his overhead and drop shots.
Midway through the second set, Nadal chased down a lob with an over-the-shoulder shot and Djokovic's ensuing overhead landed in the net to conclude a long point.
Djokovic again netted an overhead in the next game and then kicked the ball in frustration when he missed a drop shot attempt late in the second.
But Djokovic hung around in the second and converted his first set point when a looping forehand from Nadal sailed wide for his first break of the match. As he walked to his chair after winning the second set, Djokovic waved his arms to get the crowd behind him.
However, Djokovic didn't have much left in the tank.
When Nadal pushed Djokovic deep into the corner in the opening game of the third set and Djokovic's desperation lob sailed long to hand Nadal a break, Djokovic smashed his racket to the clay three times in frustration and received a warning from the chair umpire.
Djokovic won only 29 percent of the points on his second serve and committed 39 unforced errors to Nadal's 17. Also, Nadal won 23 of the 31 rallies with nine or more shots.
PLISKOVA NO. 2
Pliskova's victory will move her up to No. 2 in the rankings and makes her one of the contenders for Roland Garros.
"I just hope to take the tennis I was playing here to Paris," Pliskova said. "For sure there's going to be a chance for me if I play this way."
The 2016 U.S. Open runner-up, Pliskova also reached the Australian Open semifinals and the Miami Open final after opening this season with a title in Brisbane, Australia. But she lost in the second round of her previous two tournaments on clay in Stuttgart, Germany, and Madrid.
"Nobody really gave me chance for this tournament — even me," Pliskova said. "Before the tournament, I was not super confident, not thinking about the final at all. I was just happy with every match which I played. So it's little bit like a miracle for me."
The unseeded Konta appeared nervous at the start, double faulting then landing a backhand into the net to hand Pliskova a break in her opening service game.
In the second set, Pliskova used a swinging forehand volley putaway to break for a 4-3 lead and never looked back.
"It's always tough playing Karolina," Konta said. "There's rarely really a rhythm to the match. She plays with big shots, quite flat, and big serves. It can feel sometimes you're fighting an uphill battle. That was the case today."
Pliskova attributed a lot of her success to Conchita Martinez, the four-time Rome champion who she recently named her head coach.
"She loved clay so she knows exactly what I should do," Pliskova said of Martinez. "There were small differences: movement, maybe to put more topspin on the balls, use drop shots — which I never use, but I start little bit, and to mix also the serves. ... I know she loved this tournament. I think she prayed so I could win today."
Spain, May 20 (AP/UNB) — Lionel Messi scored twice to hit the 50-goal mark for the sixth time in his career on Sunday while Real Madrid put a fittingly poor ending to its worst season in recent memory after losing in the final round of the Spanish league.
Messi scored his 49th and 50th goals in all competitions this season to give Barcelona a 2-2 draw at Eibar and finished as the league's top scorer with 36 goals for the Spanish champions.
This is the sixth season Messi has finished as the top La Liga scorer, equaling a record held by Athletic Bilbao striker Telmo Zarra from the 1950s.
Barcelona, which had clinched the league title with three rounds to play, will now look to also retain the Copa del Rey title next weekend when it faces Valencia. Its chance of a rare treble of major titles was ended by Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals.
Barcelona won the league with 11 points more than second-place Atletico Madrid. It also finished 19 points ahead of Madrid, the biggest-ever points advantage by Barcelona over its fiercest rival.
"We were very consistent all season long and that's what allowed us to win the league by such a comfortable margin," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.
Jeers for Madrid
Madrid endured the jeers of its own frustrated fans after a 2-0 loss to Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Most of Madrid's supporters have long placed their hopes on what changes the club will make to an underperforming squad in the summer.
Not even coach Zinedine Zidane could find a saving grace to the campaign.
"It isn't that we don't want to (play better), we aren't able to," Zidane said. "The best thing is for this to be over. We are already thinking about the future and next season."
Madrid entered the match with nothing to play for, locked into a third-place finish for the second consecutive season for the first time since 1974.
Since the return of Zidane to take charge of the club after its shock loss to Ajax in the round of 16 in the Champions League, Madrid has finished the campaign with a record of five wins, two draws and four losses.
"The fault is ours," Madrid defender Marcelo said. "We didn't start well and we didn't finish it well either. In no way was this the season we wanted to have."
Messi moved four goals ahead of Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappé — who has 32 in the French league with a round left — as the top scorer in Europe's major domestic leagues.
Marc Cucurella, a Barcelona youth player on loan to Eibar, opened the scoring before Messi got his first goal from a pass by Arturo Vidal in the 31st.
Messi added a second just a minute later when he broke behind Eibar's high defensive line, received the ball from Ivan Rakitic and chipped it over goalkeeper Marco Dmitrovic.
Eibar defender Pablo de Blasis leveled just before halftime when he scored from distance into an open net after Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen made a poor clearance with his head outside the area.
Barcelona right back Nelson Semedo was taken to the hospital for tests after he received a knock on the head and had to be substituted.
Youth player Carles Pérez debuted for Barcelona in the second half.
Team wins, Setién loses
The victory at Madrid didn't save Quique Setién's job.
Betis announced shortly after that Setién and the Seville-based club had agreed to part ways after two seasons together, confirming weeks of speculation that he was on his way out.
At least Setién's last match in charge was one to remember for the coach.
Betis outplayed the hosts from the start and got second-half goals from Loren Morón and former Madrid forward Jesé Rodríguez.
A long ball by Giovani Lo Celso set Andrés Guardado free down the left as he sprinted clear of Raphael Varane before crossing for Morón to score.
Lo Celso then slipped a ball through to Junior Firpo, who found Jesé unmarked at the edge of the six-yard box.
Betis, which beat both Madrid and Barcelona at their stadiums, ended the season in 10th place.
"This allows us to finish a season that has been a bit disappointing with a victory against a team and at a stadium that will always be a nice memory," Setién said before the club announced his departure.
How it ended
Champion Barcelona, Atletico, Madrid and fourth-place Valencia qualify for the Champions League. Getafe, Sevilla and Espanyol took the Europa League spots.
Girona, Huesca and Rayo Vallecano were relegated.
Dhaka, May 19 (UNB) – Fide Master Mohammad Fahad Rahman of Pirojpur took solo lead in the open section of the Walton 39th National Junior (Under-20) Chess Championship securing full five points after the 5th round matches held at the Chess Federation hall-room on Sunday
CM Subrota Biswas of Mymensingh and Swarnavo Chowdhury of Elegant International Chess Academy sharing the 2nd position collecting 4.5 points each.
Four players sharing the 3rd slot securing 4 points each. They are: Yasir Ali Khan Evan, CM Manon Reja Neer, Mohammad Shafiqul Islam and Nafim Al Karim.
In the girls section, WCM Noshin Anjum took solo lead securing full 5 points from the 5th round matches.
Ahmed Walijah and Kazi Zarin Tasnim of Elegant International Chess Academy sharing the 2nd position bagging 4 points each while Shanjida Shakib of Gaibandha is in the 3rd position with 3.5 points.
In the 5th round matches of open section, FM Fahad Rahman beat Sadnan Hasan Dihan, Swarnavo drew with CM Subrota, Evan beat M. Anower Hossain, CM Neer beat M. Rashedujjaman, Shafiq beat Mortuza Mahathir Islam, Nafim beat Mortuza Muhtadi Islam, Mahin Ahmed Shuvo drew with M Rajib Hasan and M. Ashabubur Rahman Taif drew with M. Sajidul Haque.
In the girls section, WCM Noshin beat Jannatul Ferdous, Walijah beat Tasnia Tarannum Orpa, Zarin beat Jannatul Ferdousi, Shanjida beat Israt Jahan Diba, Wadifa Ahmed drew with Warsia Khusbu, Musfica Zannat Sawri beat Ayasa Akter, Mehjabin Akter Jubaida beat Marzuka Mukarrama and Israt Jahan Nishi beat Nysrat Jahan Moni.
The 6th round matches of the both the open and girls section will be held on Monday from 2:pm at the same venue.
Dhaka, May 19 (UNB) – League leader Bashundhara Kings further consolidated their top position in the 13-team Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) football beating holders Dhaka Abahani Limited by 1-0 goal in a high-voltage league match at floodlit Bangabandhu National Stadium on Sunday.
With the win, Bashundhara Kings continued their unbeaten run in the league as the lone team collecting 40 points, seven points ahead of Dhaka Abahani, with 13 wins and one draw from 14 league matches.
Defending champions Dhaka Abahani Limited are in the second slot with their previous credit of 33 points from 14 matches with 11 wins and three losses.
Dhaka Abahani started an attacking football from the very beginning to dominate the match over star-studded Bashundhara Kings.
The Dhanmondi outfit starved Bashundhara Kings of possession but the league leaders thwarted all of their attempts.
Just six minutes before the half time, Bashundhara Kings did not miss the chance to score a goal utilising a free kick awarded by referee for a foul (1-0).
In the 39th minute, Kyrgyzs midfielder Baktyiar Duishobekov scored the match winner for the Kings by a right-footed direct free kick.
Like the first half, Dhaka Abahani missed several close chances to level the score in the second half.
Earlier, Dhaka Abahani conceded 0-3 goals defeat against the Kings in their first encounter of the ongoing BPL on January 23.
The Kings beat the defending champions by 7-6 goals in a sudden death session of the tie-breaker of the Independence Cup Football 2018 semifinal on November 29. But before that, Abahani defeated the Kings by 3-1 goals to clinch the Federation Cup’2018 title on November 23.
Abahani were flying high after beating former Indian Super League champions Chennaiyin FC by 3-2 goals on May 15, keeping alive their hope of becoming the AFC Cup 2019 Group E champions.
Bashundhara Kings: Nurul Naium Faisal, Emon Mahmud, Masuk Miah Zoni, Hemonta Vinsent Biswas, Motin Mia, Md Ibrahim, Baktyiar Duishobekov, Anisur Rahman Zico, Deniel Colindres, Sk Alamgir Kabir Rana and Marcos Vinicius.
Dhaka Abahani: Md Shahidul Alam, Rayhan Hasan, Waly Faisal, Mamunul Islam Mamun, Sohel Rana, Nabib Newaz Ziban, Sunday Chizoba, Jewel Rana, Masih Saighani, Kervens Belfort and Saad Uddin.
Dhaka, May 19 (UNB) – Bangladesh Sports Journalists Association (BSJA) arranged a discussion on ‘Budget & Sports’ at the Handball Stadium on the Bangabandhu National Stadium premises on Sunday.
Addressing the function, speakers stressed the need for adequate allocation for the sports in the upcoming national budget, saying sports can bring laurel for the country and as well as brighten its image in the international arena.
Secretary General of Bangladesh Olympic Association (BOA) Syed Shahed Reza, BOA Deputy Secretaries General Ashiqur Rahman Miku and Asaduzzaman Kohinoor, BOA Treasurer Kazi Rajibuddin Ahmed Chapal and general secretary of Bangladesh Women’s Sports Association Firoza Karim Neily spoke on the occasion.
BSJA President Motahar Hossain Masum presented the keynote paper on the occasion.
The BSJA also wished good luck for the Bangladesh National Cricket team in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 beginning in England on May 30.
BSJA handed over a sketch of the 15-member Bangladesh Cricket Team to BCB Director Naimur Rahman Durjoy, MP, BCB Directors Akram Khan, Ahmed Sajjadul Alam Boby and Hanif Bhuiyan and BCB national selector Habibul Bashar Sumon on the occasion.
The meeting was followed by doa and iftar mahfil which was participated by a large number of sports organisers, sportsmen and sports journalists.