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  • Chinan Open 2017: Federer v No.5 seed Kei Nishikori – who’s the favourite?

    So the 17th seed, an ageing Swiss guy playing his first tournament in six months, meets the current No.5 for a place in the n Open quarter-finals. Or, put another way: Roger Federer versus Kei Nishikori. Who wins?
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    "Yeah, sure, he's the favourite. Maybe. I don't know," smiled Federer, having reached the fourth round for the 15th time in the last 16 years. "It doesn't matter. I still have to play Kei. If he's the favourite, I'm the favourite, I don't know. But he's definitely played better and more tennis in recent months. But then again, it's a new season. We'll see what happens.

    "I'm a big fan of his game. He's got one of the best backhands out there. I love how he can crush it down the line or crosscourt. He's got wonderful second serve returns. He's fast on his legs. Strong in his mind. I know how tough he is as the match goes along. He finds his range and his rhythm, he's tough to stop.

    "We had a great match at the (ATP) World Tour Finals a bit over a year back. I've lost to him a couple of times as well. I'm aware of the big test for me."

    But also happy with those he has passed so far, particularly a vintage third-round performance against 10th seed Tomas Berdych that was so sparkling it could well have been produced by Federer's French champagne house of choice. What was supposed to be his first serious challenge since that extended knee sabbatical surprised even the 17-slam man.

    "This one's going to be completely different to Tomas. Not so much just serving, serving, serving, but there's going to be more rallies, even though the surface remains fast," he said after winning 6-2, 6-4, 6-4. "It's not easy to control the ball ... when you serve well, it pays dividends. I hope I can keep that up against Kei. It's definitely an exciting match for me, anyway."

    As it is for the Japanese superstar, who has logged two wins in his six career attempts against Federer, and now reached at least the last 16 at Melbourne Park for the sixth consecutive year. He saw only a few points of the Berdych match, having also advanced in straight sets past qualifier Lukas Lacko, but will make Federer hit a ton of balls.

    "It's always great to play Roger. It's big challenge for me," said Nishikori, the 2014 US Open finalist. "I'm just happy to play him because I think we needed him on the tour. Happy to see him back 100 per cent."

    Federer did not expect he would be ready to play such a short, commanding match so soon: relishing the "frontrunner" role, not facing one break point, "crazy" quick to start, ticking every box. "I have had this feeling before, where you feel like you're probably not going to lose this one if you keep being focused," said the four-time Open champion, most recently in 2010. "I did get nervous at the end. I still believed that there is going to be that hiccup, it has to happen. It didn't happen and I'm here now and it's good."

    He was also as surprised as anyone by six-time champion Novak Djokovic's shock loss to unfashionable Uzbekistani Denis Istomin. "I love Denis. He's the nicest guy. He's got a lot of fans in the locker room because he's always super sweet and everything. Great player, good shot-maker. I didn't see this one coming," said Federer.

    "I'm happy for Denis. It's a tough one for Novak. Until the very, very end, I still believed that Novak was going to turn it around, like everybody else. It's why we love live sports. It's why we watch it. It's why people come to the stadium, people watch it on the TV. You just don't know the outcome. Even though the odds are crazy in somebody's favour, there's always the chance for the big upset. That's why I'm a big sports fan. Voila."

  • Burning Front gives young cancer survivor Lachlan even more to smile about

    There was no Melbourne winner more heartfelt, nor more loudly cheered on Saturday afternoon than the front running Burning Front when he provided trainer Darren Weir with his third winner of a lucrative day at Moonee Valley.
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    And not just because he was a well-backed $1.60 favourite who never gave his supporters a moment's worry as he shouldered 60 kilograms to give Brad Rawiller an easy win in the Ranvet Vobis Gold Star race.

    No, Burning Front gave teenager Lachlan Lovatt – the son of the gelding's senior part owner, Justin – every reason to marvel at how good life can feel as he looked down from the committee room where his father and a number of friends were hosting a lunch for him.

    The 14-year-old schoolboy has just endured the most harrowing five months of his life in the Royal Children's Hospital, having undergone chemotherapy and other painful treatment for leukaemia, a condition he was diagnosed with on August 20 last year.

    But, his father explained, he has recently been given the all clear, so the lunch and the cheering and whooping for Burning Front, were all part of the thanksgiving and celebration for the fact that his condition has improved.

    "He's just got the all clear, so we have just thrown the chemotherapy key away. We have just got to ride the rest of the treatment out now," Lovatt senior said.

    "We had a tribute lunch in the committee room. We were lucky that Burning Front was running on the same day. We looked at planning it that way, but horses are very unpredictable. The fact that he's up there with all his mates and his horse has just won is a bit of a fairytale."

    Lachlan's father bred the winner, as he owns the sire, Primus, and the dam, She's A Knockout.

    He has another horse in training with Mick Kent at Cranbourne called Supergrass – but, Lovatt senior quickly explained, his stable name is "Lachy" – a tribute to his son's fighting spirit and the love of racing that sustained him during his treatment.

  • Chris Gayle announces he wants to play until he’s 50

    Don't blush baby: Mel McLaughlin's interview with Chris Gayle. Photo: Channel TenChris Gayle has boldly declared he intends to play Twenty20 cricket until he's 50 and claims he is plotting a return to Test cricket in 2018.
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    The 37-year-old self-proclaimed greatest cricketer of all time hasn't played a Test match since September of 2014, having chosen the T20 path where he has blasted a record 9777 runs all over the world in the game's shortest format.

    And Gayle says fans can expect at least another decade of hard hitting from the "Universe Boss", who's motivation behind playing on until he's 50 is to allow his nine-month-old daughter the chance to one day watch her dad in action.

    "I want to be the first man to play til 50," Gayle told Fox Sports on Saturday.

    "I'd love her to see me play cricket. I want her to just turn up in the stands and watch dad play a game of cricket, I'd love her to actually witness it one day.

    "Age is something, it's a number. It's about the body, when you're young you can get away with a lot of things, you definitely do a lot more partying.

    "You have to keep in shape and you have to start eating properly as well, now, being older now, you have to do all these things. Freshen up the body and make sure you can actually last longer."

    Gayle's destructive style is perfectly suited to the brazen world of T20 cricket, but he's also one of the West Indies' most successful Test cricketers of all time.

    In 103 Tests he's managed 7214 runs at an average of 42.18, having blasted 15 hundreds, including a pair of triple centuries.

    His near two-and-a-half-year absence from the longest form of the game has been partly due to a dispute with the West Indian Cricket Board, but Gayle refuses to retire from Test cricket.

    "I will play again," Gayle said.

    "I want to score 400 runs in a Test match. I've done two triples, I think I can push it to four [hundred].

    "A lot of people want to see me back in Test cricket, a lot of people. That's one of the reasons why I haven't announced I've retired because wherever I go, people want to see me play Test cricket, to give it one more shout, that's why I'm holding out."

    Meanwhile, Channel Ten have strongly refuted claims by the former Melbourne Renegade that the television network owes Gayle money from last year's Big Bash League.

    Gayle took to Twitter to vent his displeasure, claiming Ten hadn't paid him for using a helmet cam during last year's tournament, but the network denies the claims with a spokesperson saying on Saturday that "Network Ten fulfilled its contractual obligations to Chris Gayle and does not owe him any payments".

    Gayle brandished the helmet camera up until his  infamous incident with Mel McLaughlin where he asked the sideline reporter out for a drink on air before saying "Don't blush baby".

    "You can't hide away from it, to be honest with you, whenever I walk on the street that's the first thing they say to me," Gayle said of the fallout that stemmed from the incident with McLaughlin.

    "It's something you just have to live with, you just have to go to [with] the flow."

    The Renegades fined Gayle $10,000 for his behaviour, while Channel Ten ended the contract he had to use their helmet cam.

    Gayle did not return to the Big Bash League in this season, although is believed to have been close to signing on with another club.

    He has also hinted at a return to the tournament either next season or beyond.

  • WBBL: Hobart Hurricanes edge Melbourne Stars to make finals

    Melbourne Stars captain Meg Lanning says her team has only itself to blame after a four-wicket loss to the Hobart Hurricanes on Saturday terminated hopes of making the Women's Big Bash League finals.
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    Lanning was superb with the bat, crunching 81 off 55 balls, with nine boundaries and a six, before her questionable dismissal as the Stars reached 8-135 off 20 overs. But it wasn't enough with the Hurricanes securing victory with a ball to spare at Blundstone Arena.

    The Stars had defeated the Hurricanes in a rain-marred clash on Friday to remain in contention for a semi-final berth but seven wins would not be enough and they finished fifth, ending a poor campaign by the Melbourne-based clubs, for the Renegades finished in sixth spot.

    "It's been an up-and-down season, pretty frustrating to be honest. Fourteen games is a lot and it's very hard to hold your form the whole way through," Lanning said.

    "We have had some games that we should have done better that we didn't. (We have) only ourselves to blame, I guess, for not getting through."

    Lanning, the competition's leading run-scorer, was named player of the match but it meant little for the dynamic run machine, for the Stars had been one of the fancied sides to claim the championship.

    "We came here to win today and we didn't play our best. We probably had too many dot balls in our batting innings," she said.

    "I thought the Hurricanes bowled really well through the middle and they held their nerve at the end. They deserve their victory and to go through."

    The Perth Scorchers, Sydney Sixers, Brisbane Heat and Hurricanes will compete in the semi-finals.

    Outside of Lanning, only Jess Cameron (16 off 19 balls) reached double figures. Lanning was involved in a run-out with her sister Anna but the mix-up appeared to spark her, and she would respond with a series of boundaries.

    She was dismissed in the 19th over when she was caught at square leg off a waist-high full toss which should have been called a no-ball.

    "I have tailored off a fair bit towards the end of this tournament which was disappointing. It was nice to get some runs today. I have tried to be as consistent as I can. There are always areas to improve for next year," Lanning said.

    In reply, the Stars had appeared in control, and the Hurricanes needed 12 of the final over bowled by left-arm seamer Gemma Triscari. Three runs came from the first two deliveries but a boundary on the third ball and another off the fifth left Triscari devastated and hunched over on the pitch.

    Leg-spinner Kristen Beams had been the best of the Stars' bowlers, claiming 3-11 off four overs, but the Hurricanes were able to enjoy consistent performances from captain Heather Knight (35 off 26 balls),  Amy Satterthwaite (27 off 23) and Hayley Matthews (24 off 26).

    "The girls have played some really good cricket this year...we won those key moments (today) which was really good," Knight said.

    The Renegades finished their campaign with a 35-run loss to the Sixers on Saturday.

  • Women’s Social Sixers

    When a friend from football suggested we enter a team in Newcastle’s inaugural Sixers Women’s Social Cricket, I was torn between a feeling of not wanting to miss out and a feeling of self-doubt.
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    As the words of Joe the cameraman, “can't bat, can't throw”, rang through my headso did a distant memory of getting out at school for hitting my own wicket.

    Both thoughts pretty much summed up my cricketing prowess.

    I suggested I'd sign up onlyas an extra if they were really, really desperate.

    Thenwhen my seven-year-old son informed me, “Girls don't play cricket”, I felt it was almost my duty to take the field.

    BIG HIT: The Women's Big Bash League has played a key role in increasing the popularity of cricket with all family members. Picture: Getty Images

    “If nothing else, Ican add it to my list of 40 Things To Be Fit At 40,” I thought to myself.

    But I was still a little concerned that my cricketing skills, or the lack thereof, could make for some embarrassing moments.

    Luckily, there appeared to be quite a few admissions of poor hand-eye coordination from some of my other teammates, who nonetheless thought “it sounds like a bit of fun” and decided they would also give it a go.

    The social women’s competition will take on a T20 format and be played over five Sunday afternoonsstarting this weekend.

    When itwas shared on social media I was surprised by how much interest in generated.

    So were the organisers.

    Newcastle cricket female participation officer Sharyn Beck described the response to competition as “incredible” andsaid it was“definitely filling a void”.

    In all, 20 teamsand around 160 women, will take part. Ages range from 16 to 50 with strong numbers coming from the 30-45 age bracket.

    The emphasis will be on fun and encouraging women to get moving, which I am all for because we live in an increasingly sedentary society.

    The more options available for people of all ages and genders to get moving the better.

    When I was growing up cricketwas a male-dominated sport.

    Butthe popularity of the men’s and women’s Big Bash Leagues and the introduction of grassroots programs such as Milo in2Cricket, T20 Blasts and the Sixers and Thunders Cricket Leagues has made it a sport the whole family can play.

    It means that now, my partner, myself, our seven-year-old son and four-year-olddaughter will all playsome form of cricket this summer. Whether it’s high-level competition or just social, we are all being active.

    It is free to go and have a hit at the many cricket nets around town and cricket is great for kids to develop their fundamental movement skills through actions such as throwing and catching. There is also quite a bit of running around the field and between wickets.

    Again, it is giving other options for people to get outside and get moving, in a supportive, non-threatening, family friendly environment.

    I won’t set the world on fire with my cricket skills but I am expecting to have some fun, and also dispel some myths about girls not playing cricket.

    Renee Valentine is a writer, qualified personal trainer and mother of three. [email protected]苏州夜总会招聘.au.

    GETTING ACTIVE: A Newcastle girls sixers competition last year was received well. The inaugural women's social sixers league will use a similar format. Picture: Marina Neil