Coach class as legends hit Open limelight

If Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic have done their jobs properly, then Monday’s US Open final will be between Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic.

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Becker and Ivanisevic may not be playing tennis anymore but they are having an impact in New York as two of the weekend’s four-strong celebrity coaching brigade.

Becker works with world number one Djokovic, former Wimbledon winner Ivanisevic is in Cilic’s corner, Stefan Edberg is the power behind Roger Federer while the US Open’s fourth semi-finalist, Kei Nishikori, hired 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang.

If their own playing head-to-head records were duplicated in Saturday’s semi-finals, then Djokovic and Cilic would come out on top – Becker enjoyed a record of 5-1 against Chang, while Ivanisevic was 10-9 against Edberg.

However, Federer won’t be influenced by such history after Edberg, a back-to-back US Open winner in 1991 and 1992 and a six-time major champion, engineered the Swiss star’s stunning fightback from two match points down in his five-set quarter-final win over Gael Monfils.

“I started to serve and volley some more as the match went on,” said Federer, who takes a 5-0 career lead over Cilic into his semi-final.

“I’m happy I’m spending some time at the net, because that’s going to keep giving me confidence to keep on doing that as we move along in the tournament.”

Of all the star coaching appointments, Becker’s was undoubtedly the most surprising when he signed up with world No.1 Djokovic.

The six-time major winner – including the 1989 US Open – enjoyed a lucrative media career when he agreed to work alongside Marian Vajda, who has handled the Serb since his teenage years.

“He believes in my game,” said Djokovic who faces Nishikori in his semi-final on Saturday looking to reach the US Open final for a fifth successive year.

Becker said that he sees similarities between himself and Djokovic, both equally extrovert on and off the court.

“I see in Novak a little bit of Boris Becker,” he said.

“I see him against Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and he doesn’t always get a fair deal from the crowd. I live with Novak. Whenever he makes a mistake I feel that I make it too.”

Ivanisevic started working with Cilic in November 2013 just as the young Croat was returning to the tour after serving a doping ban.

Together, they reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon and now a first-time spot in the US Open semi-finals.

“The main part that is coming from Goran to me and what I feel in this relationship is big confidence,” said Cilic, who made the last-four by knocking out sixth-seeded Czech Tomad Berdych.

Chang has been with Nishikori since December and has his own little bit of history at the US Open – in 1987, aged 15, he became the youngest man to win a match at the tournament.

Nishikori, the first Japanese man since 1918 to make the semi-finals, has a 1-1 record against Djokovic and Chang believes that there’s no reason why the 24-year-old can’t take a second win.

“Absolutely. He’s beaten Novak before. There’s no reason why he’s not able to do it again. Come Saturday, I think it’s going to be a great match,” Chang told the New York Post.

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Spartak enjoy long-awaited home comforts in Red Star draw

Spartak, 12-times Soviet champions and nine-times Russian title winners, had never before in their 92-year existence had a ground of their own until new owner Leonid Fedun got the 15 billion rouble (248.

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64 million pound) project underway in 2007.

“When building the stadium, we looked for help from our colleagues in England,” Fedun, chairman of oil giant Lukoil, said. “Now the only problem we have is paying the taxes on such a large structure.”

Russian minister for sport Vitaly Mutko’s address to the 42,000-capacity crowd was drowned out by whistles, while President Vladimir Putin did not attend, having visited the stadium last week.

“The most modern sports stadium has opened today in Moscow,” Mutko said. “There will be a few improvements ahead of the 2018 World Cup, but everything is practically ready.”

Dynamo Kiev were initially invited to play the inaugural match but the Ukrainian club rejected the invitation due to the civil war raging on its eastern borders against pro-Russia separatists.

With Russia head coach Fabio Capello watching, Spartak captain Dmitry Kombarov scored for the hosts and Luca Jovic netted for the Serbian side.

The first official match at the stadium will be Spartak’s Sept. 14 Russian Premier League derby against Torpedo Moscow.

The stadium will host Confederations Cup matches in 2017 and, after having its capacity increased to 45,000, it will stage World Cup finals matches in 2018.

It was the second new stadium to be completed for the World Cup finals in the last two months after the Kazan Arena.

(Reporting by Dmitriy Rogovitskiy, editing by Rex Gowar)

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Iranian asylum seeker Hamid Khazayi dies after life support switched off

The government has confirmed 24-year-old Hamid Khazayi has died after being transferred from the Manus Island detention centre to a Brisbane hospital for treatment.

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Mr Khazayi was taken from the centre after a cut on his foot became infected, and he developed severe septicaemia.

Septicaemia occurs when disease-causing bacteria overwhelms the bloodstream.

He was declared ‘brain dead’ earlier in the week, and this afternoon, his family gave permission for life-support to be switched off, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said.

“An Imam was present at the time of death and the Government of Iran will be informed,” Mr Morrison said in a statement.

“I am very saddened by this man’s passing and on behalf of the Australian Government I extend our deepest sympathy to the man’s family and friends.”

“My department has and will continue to provide support to the family and has been in contact with family members during the course of the man’s treatment.”

Earlier, Mr Morrison had rejected suggestions Mr Khazayi had recieved inadequate care and said people in mainland and offshore detention centres recieved outstanding medical care.

“Our focus in care has been on this young man from the moment he presented to medical officers at Manus Island,” he said.

The man’s family has reportedly offered his organs for transplant and Mr Morrison said that was up to them.

The Immigration Department says a full report is being compiled by the department’s chief medical officer.

Refugee advocates had earlier accused the government of medical neglect in the case of Mr Khazayi.

“Hamid is a victim of the shocking conditions and medical neglect on Manus Island. It is inexcusable that he developed septicaemia on Manus Island,” Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, said on Wednesday.

“There are scores of infections on Manus Island, and many complaints of the lack of medical attention. Asylum seekers on Manus Island are often forced to walk through raw sewage.”

– With AAP

 

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UN tells Australia and East Timor to resolve spy row

The UN’s highest court has postponed a hearing in a bitter spy row between Australia and East Timor after both countries said they were pursuing an “amicable settlement.

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East Timor has dragged Canberra to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to seek the return of sensitive documents seized by Australia in a raid on an East Timor lawyer’s office in the capital.

The documents relate to a controversial oil and gas treaty between the two countries which East Timor wants torn up.

“The ICJ decided to grant the parties’ request to postpone the oral proceedings in the case,” it said in a statement on Friday.

Lawyers were to argue their cases at the hearing’s opening, set for September 17 before the ICJ, which rules in disputes between countries.

But in a joint letter dated Monday, both Dili and Canberra asked for a postponement “in order to enable them to seek an amicable settlement,” the court said.

ICJ judges in an interim ruling in March ordered Canberra to stop interfering with East Timor’s dealings with its lawyer and to ensure that the content of the seized documents be put under seal.

East Timor opened a case against Australia last December following a raid on the Canberra offices of Bernard Collaery, in which electronic and paper documents were seized.

East Timor contended that the seizure violated its sovereignty and rights “under international and any relevant domestic law.”

At the heart of the David and Goliath dispute is the treaty signed in 2006 between Dili and its southern neighbour, four years after East Timor’s independence from Indonesia.

Australia allegedly used an aid program as cover to bug East Timor’s cabinet offices so it could listen in on discussions about the treaty.

East Timor accused Australia of spying to gain a commercial advantage during 2004 negotiations over the Timor Sea gas treaty, called the Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea, or CMATS, which covers a vast gas field between the two nations.

East Timor now wants the treaty scrapped.

The two states are currently involved in a separate, behind-closed-doors case on the issue before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which is in the same building as the ICJ.

The ICJ did not give a postponement date.

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US rallies Western powers to defeat IS

US President Barack Obama says he’s confident he can gather a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, following two days of talks at the NATO summit.

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“I leave here confident that NATO allies and partners are prepared to join in a broad, international coalition,” Obama said on Friday after a meeting of the Western military alliance in Wales.

Following the beheading of two US journalists by the Islamic State, which has overrun swathes of northern Iraq and Syria, Obama said there was “unanimity” among NATO members that the group “poses a significant threat”.

Obama cautioned that “it’s not going to happen overnight”, but “we’re going to achieve our goal.

“We’re going to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL (IS’s previous name) the same way we’ve gone after al-Qaeda,” he said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to the Middle East to seek support of regional powers, Obama said, insisting that Arab involvement was “absolutely critical”.

The president added: “Our hope is the Iraqi government is actually formed and finalised next week. That, then, allows us to work with them on a broader strategy.”

Kerry on Friday co-chaired with Britain a meeting of ministers from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Turkey in a bid to win support for the fight against IS.

IS caught the world by surprise when it made huge territorial gains and declared an Islamic “caliphate” in an area straddling Iraq and Syria.

The US has conducted more than 100 air strikes in northern Iraq in recent weeks, allowing Kurdish and Iraqi forces to regain ground lost to the jihadists.

Other countries have provided humanitarian assistance and intelligence, while Germany and France are providing military equipment to Kurdish fighters battling IS in northern Iraq.

Australia has assisted with airdrops of humanitarian aid and military equipment.

Kerry stressed Friday that there would be “no boots on the ground” in the US strategy against IS, but added that “there are many ways in which we can train, advise, assist, and equip”.

He urged allies to consider how they could contribute so the US could have a plan at the UN General Assembly meeting later this month.

European allies, while supportive of the US initiative, are proceeding with caution.

Britain has left the door open to air strikes in Iraq, but Prime Minister David Cameron played down the prospect of any immediate action.

“This will take time, patience and resolve,” he told reporters at the end of the summit.

“We will proceed carefully and methodically, drawing together the partners we need, above all in the region, to implement a comprehensive plan.”

President Francois Hollande said France was ready to join a coalition against IS militants in Iraq, but warned it would not commit to actions in Syria that might aid President Bashar al-Assad.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stressed the effort was at an early stage.

“We are at the beginning in dealing with a group which nobody has a strategy to deal with in the long run,” he told reporters.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the military alliance was willing to help if there was a request from Baghdad, likely providing training and coordination with other countries’ efforts against IS.

“I think the international community has an obligation to do all it can to stop this dangerous terrorist organisation.”

Pressure to act has intensified since the executions by IS of two US journalists in videos showing a militant speaking in British English and threats that a British hostage would be next.

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Gatlin wins sprint double to extend undefeated run

Gatlin, unbeaten in 16 races coming into the finals in Brussels, set a personal and season’s best time in a strong 100 metres and followed that up an hour later by destroying his rivals in the 200 metres.

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If he wins his final race in Italy’s Rieti on Sunday, he would become the first male sprinter to go through an entire season unbeaten since Usain Bolt in 2009, taking full advantage of the Olympic and world champion’s exceptionally lean season.

In the 100 metres, Gatlin flew out of the blocks and crossed the line in 9.77 seconds, metres ahead of a strong field, all of them sub-10 seconds men.

Fellow American Mike Rogers was second in 9.93 and Jamaica’s Asafa Powell third in 9.95. Gatlin’s defeat of Rogers also made him the official 2014 Diamond League champion for the distance.

Gatlin, whose last defeat was his fourth-place finish a year ago in Brussels, took to the track again an hour later, destroying an arguably weaker 200 metres field.

His 19.71 seconds was three-hundredths of a second outside the season and personal best he set in Monaco in July. Qatar’s Femi Ogunode was a distant second, several metres back in 20.15.

The 32-year-old Gatlin, who won Olympic gold for the 100 metres in 2004 and was world champion at both 100 and 200 metres in 2005, served a four-year doping ban from 2006-2010, but said he was getting better with age.

He was second behind Bolt in last year’s world championships and said he wanted to challenge the Jamaican next season.

“Why not? It’s not just one lane on the track when it comes to the 100 metres or any other event,” he told reporters. “I feel the world wants to see a good rivalry… That’s what track and field is all about.”

Bolt had won the 100 metres in Brussels for the last three years but was absent from Friday’s season-concluding event after a poor season by his high standards.

He missed races early on with a foot injury, helped the Jamaican relay team win Commonwealth Games gold at the start of August and only dipped below 10 seconds in Warsaw two weeks ago.

HIGH JUMP SHOWDOWN

In the women’s 200 metres, Olympic champion Allyson Felix proved she is the queen of the longer sprint, setting a season’s best 22.02 seconds and also taking the title of Diamond League champion in her event.

“It’s been a tough season with a lot of bumps along the way,” she said. “I knew I would eventually get healthy again and hope to get another three quality years.”

The evening’s other highlight was a high jump showdown between Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko.

The Qatari won with a leap of 2.43 metres, the best in the world this year and beating his own Asian record by a centimetre, before each man tried, but failed, to surpass 2.46.

The 21-year-old record of 2.45 metres by Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor still stands.

Earlier in the evening, New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams, twice Olympic champion, improved on her own 2014 best with a 20.59-metre second round throw which also broke a 27-year-old meeting record.

Another double Olympic champion, Czech javelin thrower Barbara Spokatova, threw a season’s best 67.99 metres.

In total seven season’s best throws and runs were set on Friday.

(Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Rex Gowar)

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Day to play through pain

World No.

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6 Jason Day has been cleared of any serious back problems and will attempt to play through pain as he tries to claim the US PGA Tour’s season-long FedEx Cup.

Day was in serious discomfort with a lower back strain on Thursday in the opening round of the BMW Championship, the penultimate playoff event, but still managed to put together an even-par round of 70 to sit just three shots off the lead.

An MRI in Denver last night cleared the 26-year-old of any serious injury, instead showing general wear and tear, and allowing him to continue playing.

“The MRI came back clear I just have some stiffness and soreness, I guess you could just say it is golfer’s back,” Day told AAP before heading out to test himself on the range.

“It turns out my legs are too strong for my core and it is adding stress to my back, so I really have to strengthen my core over the off season to try and lessen the impact.”

Day was able to get through his warmup without issues and is headed to the first tee to try to chase down the overnight leaders, including world No.1 Rory McIlroy.

This is just the latest in a series of injury and health problems which have blighted Day’s season.

At seventh on the points list, Day is the highest-ranked Australian, giving him the best chance of winning the FedEx Cup at next week’s season-ending Tour Championship – if he continues to play.

He’s had a horror run since incurring thumb injury while winning the WGC-Match Play Championship in February.

He was able to play just four tournaments over the next five months, with several throat infections ruling out earlier comebacks.

When he returned to full practice at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in early August, Day was floored by a bout of vertigo, a side effect to his medication, forcing another withdrawal.

Finally hitting his straps in the last month with a tie for 15th at the US PGA Championship, a second place at the opening playoffs event and a seventh at the second one last week, Day is understandably frustrated with this latest complaint.

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NATO boosts readiness to meet threats

NATO leaders have agreed to boost the readiness of the alliance to meet fresh security threats highlighted by the Ukraine crisis and reaffirmed their commitment to collective defence.

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A new rapid reaction force is aimed at helping the military alliance, which was set up in 1949 to protect Western Europe from the Soviet Union, meet new threats and maintain a “continuous” presence in Eastern Europe.

“First and foremost, we have reaffirmed the central mission of the alliance,” US President Barack Obama said at the close of the two-day NATO summit on Friday.

“An armed attack against one shall be considered an attack against them all. This is a binding treaty obligation. It is non-negotiable,” Obama said.

To back up NATO’s renewed purpose, the 28 allies would increase defence spending, he said, aiming to devote two per cent of annual economic output to military expenditure and reverse years of decline.

Outgoing NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said a new “spearhead” force, comprising several thousand troops who would be ready to deploy in a few days, so that the alliance could “deal swiftly and firmly with any threat”.

“This decision sends a clear message — NATO protects all allies at all times” and any “potential aggressor” should bear that in mind, he said.

NATO has a larger Response Force but it has never been deployed in action and analysts believe it would take weeks to put in the field, way too long to be a credible deterrent in the face of fast changing threats.

Russian tactics in Ukraine — its use of social media and new technologies to sway public opinion and catch opponents off-guard, coupled with its traditional military strengths — have all surprised NATO and challenged its accepted thinking, analysts say.

The summit also adopted a broad Readiness Action Plan to strengthen overall collective defence, aiming to reassure allies spooked by the Ukraine crisis, Islamic extremist gains in the Middle East and instability in North Africa.

The summit was billed as the most important since the end of the Cold War, with allies seeking a response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in what Rasmussen described as “turbulent times”.

NATO agreed to “maintain a continuous presence in the air, on land and at sea in eastern parts of the alliance on a rotational basis,” he said.

NATO would pre-position command facilities, equipment and supplies in the region to speed up its response times, Rasmussen added.

Up to now, NATO has rotated troops and aircraft through newer members such as Poland and the Baltic states, which were once ruled from Moscow and have called for help in the face of a more assertive Russia.

NATO’s relations with Russia are based on the 1997 Founding Act which fixed Eastern Europe’s post-Cold War borders and prohibited both parties from stationing their troops there permanently.

It also said those borders could not be changed by force.

On that count, Rasmussen has repeatedly charged that Russia’s alleged intervention in Ukraine breaches the Founding Act which the alliance, in contrast, continues to honour.

Moscow has in turn accused NATO of ignoring the Founding Act and stoking a new Cold War by expanding into former Soviet-held territory.

Former Danish premier Rasmussen will be replaced at the end of this month by Jens Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister who told the summit he would build on his predecessor’s work in preparing NATO for the challenges of a fast changing world.

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Duff beer discontinued after complaint

Woolworths Liquor Group will no longer sell “Duff” beer, which sports similar branding to the fictional lager in The Simpsons, after it was found to have breached the voluntary alcohol industry advertising code.

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Noting the popularity of the long-running cartoon television series with children, the Alcohol Policy Coalition complained about the product to the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) adjudication panel in June, which upheld the complaint this week.

“The Simpsons series is well known and very popular with children and adolescents,” the panel wrote in its decision.

“The association of The Simpsons with the product name and packaging is so strongly entrenched in Australian popular culture that the name and packaging will draw the attention of under 18 year olds.”

The panel also noted that in 1995, the South Australian Brewing Company and Lion Nathan Australia launched and promoted a beer within Australia under the name Duff that was not sanctioned or licensed by the owners of the intellectual property in The Simpsons, 20th Century Fox.

The entertainment giant took Federal Court legal action to have the product removed from the marketplace, which proved successful.

The remaining merchandise became collectors’ items, with cartons selling for thousands of dollars in online auctions.

In its decision handed down on Tuesday, the ABAC panel said the appeal of the branding to youngsters was supported by both the Federal Court decision and the evidence before it from Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, who said an actual beer named Duff “might encourage children to drink alcohol”.

A Woolworths Liquor Group spokeswoman said it had in March received ABAC pre-vetter approval for Duff advertisements.

The beer, which is brewed in the US to the specifications of Woolworths Liquor Group’s exclusive brands division Pinnacle Liquor Group and is officially licensed by 20th Century Fox, was launched in May.

“We respect the panel’s adjudication and will discontinue the stock,” the spokeswoman said.

“We note that the ABAC adjudication panel states in its decision: `The panel accepts that the supplier (Woolworths Liquor Group) is committed to the standards of good alcohol beverage marketing contained in ABAC’.”

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Williams zooms into finals of U.S. Open

Williams, winner of the last two U.

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S. Opens, came out firing, striking the ball with ferocious force and dazzling accuracy and needed only 60 minutes to advance against the 17th seeded Russian.

The top seed’s opponent in Sunday’s final will be 10th-seeded former world number one Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who advanced in abrupt fashion when China’s Peng Shuai was forced to retire due to heat illness trailing 7-6(1) 4-3 after two hours four minutes on the court.

Williams, who failed to reach the quarter-finals in any of the year’s previous three slams, is aiming for her sixth U.S. title and an 18th slam singles crown that would tie her with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for fourth on the all-time list.

“It feels so good. I am so happy, you have no idea,” Williams, 32, told the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd after reaching the final.

Williams won 58 points to 33 for left-hander Makarova, who was playing in her first grand slam singles semi-final and had no answers for the brute power of the winner.

Makarova held her first serve in the opening set and lost the next nine games before holding serve to trail 1-4 in the second set.

With Williams serving for the match at 5-2, the Russian broke serve, but the top seed returned the favour in the next game to clinch victory.

The hard-hitting American blasted 24 winners, including five aces, while Makarova managed six.

“I know she’s such an aggressive player,” Williams said, “so I was just really focussed.

“I’m just so happy to be here in New York, in another final. I’m really excited.”

Williams said she and her friend Wozniacki had hoped for this match-up in the final before the tournament began.

“She obviously wants to win and go for her first grand slam, and I want to win and try to make a little history,” said Williams.

“But regardless, I’m going to be happy with the outcome.

“She’s such a great person and a great girl. We really looked forward to this since the draw came out, so we really hope we can have a lot of fun and enjoy it.”

(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Gene Cherry)

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