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  • Chinan Open 2017: Milos Raonic and Gael Monfils progress into fourth round

    Milos Raonic and Gael Monfils have made it through to the fourth round of the 2017 n Open after accounting for Gilles Simon and Philipp Kohlschreiber respectively in their third-round encounters at Melbourne Park on Saturday.
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    They will be joined there by surprise packet Denis Istomin who continued his seed-slaying run by defeating No.30 seed Pablo Carreno Busta in a five-set thriller 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 which lasted three hours and 27 minutes.

    Wildcard Istomin's latest triumph came just two days after he caused one of the biggest upsets in the tournament's history, when he ousted six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the second round.

    No.13 seed Roberto Bautista Agut also earned passage to the fourth round after needing more than four hours to finally shake fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 7-5, 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 in a hard-fought match on Show Court 3.

    Frenchman Simon provided Raonic with his sternest test of the tournament to date by not only becoming the first player to take a set off the Canadian but also breaking his serve for the first time after Raonic began his campaign with 42 consecutive holds.

    In fact, Simon broke Raonic three times, including a double-break which helped the 25th seed win the third set.

    However, despite committing more unforced errors (34-22), Raonic almost doubled Simon for winners (55-31) and sent down 21 aces on his way to a 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-3 victory in just over two-and-a-half hours.

    Raonic will now face Bautista Agut who claimed his first win over Ferrer and is aiming to qualify for his first grand slam quarter-final.

    Simon's compatriot Monfils had few troubles in disposing of Kohlschreiber in straight sets 6-3, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 in just under two hours.

    The No.6 seed hit more winners (32-22), broke the German five times and had a superior percentage of first-serve points won (76-69).

    Monfils will now face Rafael Nadal in a mouth-watering round-of-16 clash after the 14-time major winner downed German young gun Alexander Zverev in a five-set epic on Rod Laver Arena.

    Istomin has never made it to a grand slam quarter-final, either, and this is the furthest he has gone in a major since reaching the fourth round of the 2013 US Open.

    In order to qualify for a maiden final-eight appearance, he will have to get past 15th seed Grigor Dimitrov, who beat 18th seed Rchard Gasquet at Rod Laver Arena on Saturday night.

    But given his incredible performance against Djokovic two days ago, few adversaries in the men's draw would hold fears for the veteran Uzbek.

  • Canberra United warned to avoid avalanche of goals trap against Wanderers

    Stand-in Canberra United captain Ash Sykes has warned her teammates against expecting an avalanche of goals when they play the W-League's worst defensive side on Sunday.
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    The rampaging Canberra side has hammered home nine goals in the past two weeks to cement their place as the competition's most dangerous attacking team.

    However, they need to beat the Western Sydney Wanderers at Campbelltown on Sunday to stay in contention for minor premier honours with just two games left in the regular season.

    Sykes is the competition's leading scorer this season with 10 of her own while Canberra's ruthless attacking unit has dismantled opponents and scored 28 goals in 10 games so far.

    Sykes says the best part is they've slotted their 28 goals without relying on the most prolific scorer in W-League history, Michelle Heyman, who is racing the clock to recover from injury in time for the finals.

    "But we've got to bring ourselves back down to earth a bit, and that's what we've done this week at training and at meetings," Sykes said.

    "We have to find some consistency now in good performances heading into the finals. You can't drop your game in the league this year.

    "We have to be concentrating to make sure we get to where we want to be."

    Canberra United will wait until Sunday before deciding whether regular skipper Ellie Brush will make her comeback from a knee injury against the Wanderers.

    Brush flew to Sydney on Saturday night after playing her first n football game in an AFL Women's pre-season clash between the GWS Giants and Brisbane Lions.

    Brush damaged her medial ligament more than a month ago and is keen to earn her spot for a W-League recall while also juggling her AFL Women's commitments.

    But Canberra has been firing in her absence and cruised to a 7-2 rout against Perth last weekend.

    The Wanderers present an unpredictable challenge for title-contenders Canberra after losing 10-2 against the previously win-less Adelaide last weekend.

    But Sykes says Canberra's up-and-down experience in recent weeks will help safeguard them against expecting a win against the Wanderers.

    Despite riding high this season, Canberra has won just one of its past three matches and the players are still stinging from a 6-1 defeat against Sydney FC at the start of January.

    "We know what the feeling is like after you have a big loss, you have a mentality that you're not going to let it happen again," Sykes said.

    "We also know that what happened to Western Sydney last week doesn't count for anything. They're going to be dangerous, especially at home.

    "We've seen the best and worst of us this year so we'll be aiming to keep things on track."

    W-LEAGUE ROUND 13

    Sunday: Canberra United v Western Sydney Wanderers at Campbelltown Stadium, 2.30pm. TV time: Live on Fox Sports and ABC.

  • Weir dominates the Valley with four timer as Big Duke seals Hobart Cup trip

    Trainer Darren Weir has plenty to smile about. Photo: Vince CaligiuriLast season Darren Weir smashed John Hawkes' record for training the most winners in an n season when he saddled up  348 of them. Can  he go even better  and  nudge the 400 barrier?
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    Its a question worth asking after he boosted his tally by another four  at Moonee Valley on Saturday, taking his total for the season so far to 214. The 2016-17 campaign still has more than six months to run, so he is ahead of schedule.

    The scary thing for his opponents is that he continues to upgrade his stock.  Only recently he was given Winx's little brother, El Divino, to train, along with some promising imports owned by n Bloodstock.

    One galloper who has already contributed to the Weir record several times in the past couple of years is the  game and consistent  Burning Front, who led all the way to win the feature at the Valley on Saturday – the 13th victory of his career.  The  win took his career earnings to well over $700,000.

    Burning Front was ridden by Brad Rawiller, one of four  jockeys to ride winners for Weir –  the others being Damian Lane, Ben Allen and Craig Williams.

    But it is another of his scorers, English import Big Duke, who has the most potential.

    The five year old arrived in without much fanfare given that his sole victory in his first four starts had been in a low-rating race at Wetherby, better known as a jumps track in the UK.

    But since joining Weir he has taken great strides and his victory in a 2040-metre handicap  was his second in three weeks following his win at Caulfield on Boxing Day.

    On both occasions he has been partnered by leading apprentice Allen, although it's fair to say that the horse's class  got his youthful rider out of trouble on Saturday after he appeared to have been outpointed early in the straight by Cool Chap, the Lee Freedman galloper ridden by three-kilo claiming Boris Thornton.

    Big Duke had enough in the tank to get clear in the closing stages to win by a length, giving Weir and his team hope that he could add to their honour roll in the Hobart Cup next month, a valuable staying race they have won with the likes of True Courser, Offenbach and Hurdy Gurdy Man.

    "I thought Boris outrode Ben to be honest, he got around him, Ben missed the boat a bit. Lucky the horse was good enough to get Ben out of trouble," was Weir's relieved verdict as  his $1.90 favourite returned to scale.

    "Today was to see whether we go to the Hobart Cup or not and I reckon he deserves his trip over there. Luke Murrell, who buys all these horses, kept saying to me all prep 'wait until you see him when he gets over a mile-and-a-half and he will be better again'."

    The way he won today would suggest he's right on the mark to run a strong 2400 metres.

    "He was a bit of hard work in his first two starts, but now he has started to work with us and he's been a bit more tractable. Jarrod [Warrnambool-based assistant trainer Jarrod McLean] and the crew do a great job to get these horses right."

    Another Weir horse with improvement in her is progressive Zabeel mare Zasorceress, who scored in the 1600-metre handicap for fillies and mares.

    The $5 chance had only recently moved to the Weir yard having been tried against the best stayers  of her age in Sydney and Brisbane last autumn and winter, and she obliged here under Damian Lane.

    Weir's other winner was the three-year-old Gratwick in the opener, the first leg of a  Williams double the rider completed on Domino Vitale for Colin Little.

    Englishman Archie Alexander had a welcome city winner with improving three-year-old filly Wheal Leisure (Michael Dee), while apprentice Ben Thompson got on the scoresheet when he got up in the final stride on Cindy Alderson's consistent Smart Dart. Mark Zahra added to his premiership total with a win on Lady Esprit for Ciaron Maher before Team Hawkes took the honours in the last event with  Ameristralia.

  • New Holden Racing Team Commodore divides fans

    Titleholder Shane van Gisbergen and his six-time champion teammate Jamie Whincup are expected to renew their Supercars battle this season in new-look Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodores. Photo: Mark Fogarty The new Commodore. Photo: Mark Fogarty
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    The new Holden Racing Team Commodore. Photo: Mark Fogarty

    Fan reaction to the transfer of the iconic Holden Racing Team brand to dominant Supercars squad Triple Eight has at best been mixed.

    Moving the moniker away from long-time custodian Walkinshaw Racing was never going to be popular with diehard followers, but it is the new look of the old name that is proving most divisive.

    It is a discordant merger of Triple Eight's existing Red Bull backing with its additional status as the Holden Racing Team, taking over as the sole factory backed Holden team in Supercars.

    Thursday's unveiling of the Red Bull Holden Racing Team prompted plenty of comment on social media, with a sizeable proportion critical of the new livery that adorns the Commodores of defending V8 champion Shane van Gisbergen and record six-time title-winner Jamie Whincup.

    The main complaint is that the new look is dominated by the energy drink giant and lacks the traditional graphic cues that were HRT signatures for more than two decades.

    Gone is the emblematic lion and helmet logo that featured on the sides of HRT Commodores since the team's inception in 1990.

    The change also marks the end of Team Red, which became HRT's alter ego after it adopted Holden's corporate colour as its predominant hue in 1998.

    The RBHRT livery is mainly matte blue with large generic Holden signage that appears more Red Bull cerise than Lion scarlet.

    Nowhere on the cars does it say Holden Racing Team, which to entrenched followers confirms that the once mighty brand is now but an adjunct.

    The traditional lion emblem was never going to sit comfortably with Red Bull's rampant bull symbol and, despite the best efforts of Holden designers, became an inevitable casualty of the alliance.

    While Holden's backing is worth at least $2 million a year, Red Bull is the team's primary sponsor - contributing at least $4 million - and commands the main signage rights.

    As Holden's flagship Supercars squad, HRT gathered a legion of fans based on its factory alignment as much as its dominance in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    It was the most popular team by far in Supercars and retained a large dedicated following during its decline over the past decade.

    Holden ended its backing of the Walkinshaw operation and switched the factory team imprimatur to Triple Eight in a money saving consolidation of its diminishing motor sport involvement.

    Concentrating its support on Triple Eight makes sense as since the team switched from Ford in 2010, it has dominated Supercars and overshadowed HRT, which hasn't been a championship contender since 2009 and hasn't won the Bathurst 1000 since 2011.

    It was a far cry from HRT's golden era from 1996-2002, when Craig Lowndes and then Mark Skaife dominated, winning a combined six V8 championships and three Bathurst 1000s.

    But to many of the HRT faithful, Triple Eight is still the enemy, regarded as an interloper that hopped on the Holden bandwagon when it lost Ford's backing in a dispute, perhaps ironically, over colour schemes.

    Triple Eight dominated the Supercars championship with factory backed Falcons in 2008/09, but fell out with Ford because it raced them in red in deference to primary sponsor Vodafone rather than being predominantly blue.

    There is no doubt that Triple Eight will restore the Holden Racing Team name as a front-runner, which should appease most of HRT's long-suffering fans.

    But there will remain resistance at an emotional level because in its new guise, Holden Racing Team is more of a label than an entity.

    Holden fans need to get used to the idea, however, as the Lion's future in Supercars is inexorably linked with Brisbane-based Triple Eight Race Engineering, which under Anglo-Irish owner Roland Dane - who became an n citizen last August - has become the benchmark Supercars team over the past decade.

    As well as adopting the HRT appellation, Triple Eight is developing the next-generation Holden Commodore racer to take over next year, powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 allowed under the new Gen2 rules.

    Triple Eight will also supply all Holden teams with the main components of the new Commodore racer - the look of which is based on the imported road car replacing the locally made model in 2018 - in a centralisation of supply that will include a single source for the American-made 3.6-litre V6 that will replace the traditional five-litre V8.

    The adverse reaction of a large body of fans notwithstanding, Holden - which is committed to Supercars through 2019 - and Triple Eight are convinced the Red Bull HRT amalgamation will eventually win over disaffected fans.

    "This is a big moment for us," Dane said at the launch of RBHRT. "I'm very proud of the two big brands we have brought together.

    "We want to make sure that we're winning as much as we ever did. So if that has the roll-on effect of underlining the Holden Racing Team as part of Red Bull Holden Racing Team, then we're doing our job."

    Van Gisbergen is looking forward to defending his Supercars crown under the HRT banner, noting that the team was an early inspiration in its glory years.

    "It's pretty cool," he said. "I grew up in the Skaifey era, when it was the main team. To be part of that history now is pretty awesome. I'm pretty stoked to be a part of all that."

    Holden owns the HRT brand and has also kept the rights to the historic lion and helmet logo, which while it may never be seen again on a race car, could return as an off-track symbol.

    "It's been put on the shelf," Holden's motor sport and sponsorship manager Simon McNamara said. "We looked at how we could make it work with the race team, but it couldn't come together to please everybody. We're very happy with how it's come up.

    "But the [lion/helmet] logo could come back in some way. It represents us and we may not may not use it in some way in the future."

    McNamara engineered Holden's three-year exclusive deal with Triple Eight, but his future with the company is the subject of speculation.

    Despite his presence at the RBHRT launch on Thursday and Holden's confirmation that, as of Friday, he was still its motor sport representative, there have been reports that he is about to leave the company.

    Sources at Holden indicated that the management of its involvement in Supercars would be "clarified" early this week.

  • Transfer of Holden brand has diehard fans all revved up

    The Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore. Photo: Mark FogartyFan reaction to the transfer of the iconic Holden Racing Team brand to dominant Supercars squad Triple Eight has at best been mixed.
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    Moving the moniker away from long-time custodian Walkinshaw Racing was never going to be popular with diehard followers, but it is the new look of the old name that is proving most divisive.

    It is a discordant merger of Triple Eight's existing Red Bull backing with its additional status as the Holden Racing Team, taking over as the sole factory-backed Holden team in Supercars.

    Thursday's unveiling of the Red Bull Holden Racing Team prompted plenty of comment on social media, with a sizeable proportion critical of the new livery that adorns the Commodores of defending V8 champion Shane van Gisbergen and record six-time title-winner Jamie Whincup.

    The main complaint is that the new look is dominated by the energy drink giant and lacks the traditional graphic cues that were HRT signatures for more than two decades.

    Gone is the emblematic lion and helmet logo that featured on the sides of HRT Commodores since the team's inception in 1990.

    The change also marks the end of Team Red, which became HRT's alter ego after it adopted Holden's corporate colour as its predominant hue in 1998.

    The RBHRT livery is mainly matte blue with large generic Holden signage that appears more Red Bull cerise than Lion scarlet.

    Nowhere on the cars does it say Holden Racing Team, which to entrenched followers confirms that the once mighty brand is now but an adjunct.

    The traditional lion emblem was never going to sit comfortably with Red Bull's rampant bull symbol and, despite the best efforts of Holden designers, became an inevitable casualty of the alliance.

    While Holden's backing is worth at least $2 million a year, Red Bull is the team's primary sponsor - contributing at least $4 million - and commands the main signage rights.

    As Holden's flagship Supercars squad, HRT gathered a legion of fans based on its factory alignment as much as its dominance in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    It was the most popular team by far in Supercars and retained a large dedicated following during its decline over the past decade.

    Holden ended its backing of the Walkinshaw operation and switched the factory team imprimatur to Triple Eight in a money-saving consolidation of its diminishing motor sport involvement.

    Concentrating its support on Triple Eight makes sense as since the team switched from Ford in 2010, it has dominated Supercars and overshadowed HRT, which hasn't been a championship contender since 2009 and hasn't won the Bathurst 1000 since 2011.

    It was a far cry from HRT's golden era from 1996-2002, when Craig Lowndes and then Mark Skaife dominated, winning a combined six V8 championships and three Bathurst 1000s.

    But to many of the HRT faithful, Triple Eight is still the enemy, regarded as an interloper that hopped on the Holden bandwagon when it lost Ford's backing in a dispute, perhaps ironically, over colour schemes.

    Triple Eight dominated the Supercars championship with factory-backed Falcons in 2008-09, but fell out with Ford because it raced them in red in deference to primary sponsor Vodafone rather than being predominantly blue.

    There is no doubt that Triple Eight will restore the Holden Racing Team name as a front-runner, which should appease most of HRT's long-suffering fans. But there will remain resistance at an emotional level because in its new guise, Holden Racing Team is more of a label than an entity.

    Holden fans need to get used to the idea, however, as the Lion's future in Supercars is inexorably linked with Brisbane-based Triple Eight Race Engineering, which under Anglo-Irish owner Roland Dane - who became an n citizen last August - has become the benchmark Supercars team over the past decade.

    As well as adopting the HRT appellation, Triple Eight is developing the next-generation Holden Commodore racer to take over next year, powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 allowed under the new Gen2 rules.

    Triple Eight will also supply all Holden teams with the main components of the new Commodore racer - the look of which is based on the imported road car replacing the locally made model in 2018 - in a centralisation of supply that will include a single source for the American-made 3.6-litre V6 that will replace the traditional five-litre V8.

    The adverse reaction of a large body of fans notwithstanding, Holden - which is committed to Supercars through 2019 - and Triple Eight are convinced the Red Bull HRT amalgamation will eventually win over disaffected fans.

    "This is a big moment for us," Dane said at the launch of RBHRT. "I'm very proud of the two big brands we have brought together.

    "We want to make sure that we're winning as much as we ever did. So if that has the roll-on effect of underlining the Holden Racing Team as part of Red Bull Holden Racing Team, then we're doing our job."

    Van Gisbergen is looking forward to defending his Supercars crown under the HRT banner.

    "It's pretty cool," he said. "I grew up in the Skaifey era, when it was the main team. To be part of that history now is pretty awesome. I'm pretty stoked to be a part of all that."

    Holden owns the HRT brand and has also kept the rights to the historic lion and helmet logo, which while it may never be seen again on a race car, could return as an off-track symbol. "It's been put on the shelf," Holden's motor sport and sponsorship manager Simon McNamara said. "We looked at how we could make it work with the race team, but it couldn't come together to please everybody. We're very happy with how it's come up. But the (lion/helmet) logo could come back in some way."

    McNamara engineered Holden's three-year exclusive deal with Triple Eight, but his future with the company is the subject of speculation. Despite his presence at the RBHRT launch on Thursday and Holden's confirmation that, as of Friday, he was still its motor sport representative, there have been reports that he is about to leave the company.

    Sources at Holden indicated that the management of its involvement in Supercars would be "clarified" early this week.