Bryan Armen Graham

Author's details

Name: Bryan Armen Graham
Date registered: January 21, 2015

Latest posts

  1. Arsenal 2-0 Sunderland: Premier League – as it happened — May 16, 2017
  2. Sunderland 0-2 Swansea City and more: clockwatch – as it happened — May 13, 2017
  3. Ajax 4-1 Lyon: Europa League semi-final, first leg – as it happened — May 3, 2017
  4. Serena Williams confirms pregnancy and expects her first child ‘this fall’ — April 19, 2017
  5. Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev agree to terms for June rematch in Las Vegas — April 4, 2017

Author's posts listings

May 16

Arsenal 2-0 Sunderland: Premier League – as it happened

  • Sánchez brace sinks Sunderland to keep Arsenal’s top-four hopes alive
  • Gunners need Liverpool to drop points to earn Champions League spot

9.45pm BST

That’s all for now. Thanks as always for following along with us and be sure to check out our full match report.

Related: Arsenal’s top-four hopes intact as Alexis Sánchez ends Sunderland’s resistance

9.40pm BST

Arsenal have taken care of business today, but their shot for a Champions League spot remain out of their hands. Their chances are wholly dependent on whether Liverpool drop points against Middlesbrough on the weekend. Stranger things have happened.

9.36pm BST

And there’s the final whistle and Arsenal’s flickering top-four hopes remain intact after an Alexis Sánchez second-half brace saves the day for the home side!

9.32pm BST

90 min: The fourth official signals for three minutes of stoppage time.

9.30pm BST

88 min: One final switch as Darron Gibson comes on for Didier Ndong. Just playing out the string here, really, as Arsenal are minutes from their fourth straight win.

9.28pm BST

86 min: Corner for Arsenal. Mustafi’s header caroms off the woodwork. Scramble in the box! Surely this will be a third! But somehow Sunderland manage to clear.

9.26pm BST

85 min: Arsenal make their final switch as Walcott enters for Giroud.

9.25pm BST

82 min: Another substitution for Sunderland as Adnan Januzaj enters for Javier Manquillo.

9.24pm BST

Sanchez again from close range, possibly offside, but no matter. Pickford initially turns away a lob from Giroud, but it lands in perfect position for the Chilean striker to drive home his 23rd league goal of the season.

9.22pm BST

79 min: Pickford absolutely standing on his head in goal, making one highlight-reel save after another as his defenders stand idly by taking in the scene. Arsenal’s detractors from within and without are surely going to offer their criticisms if they only escape this match with a 1-0 result, but truthfully this could be 5-nil if not for Pickford.

9.20pm BST

77 min: Sunderland makes their first sub as Lynden Gooch replaces Lee Cattermole, much to the delight of our good man Woolie, we trust.

9.18pm BST

74 min: Cattermole is shown a yellow card for a foul on Sanchez.

9.15pm BST

And there it is! Ozil takes a long pass near the touchline, slides it into the six-yard box and Sanchez slots it home. Clinical finish and surely a relief for the 90,000 fans at the Emirates tonight.

9.14pm BST

72 min: Another superb save from Jordan Pickford, who fully extends to deflect a Danny Welbeck shot from inside that area that surely would have found the back of the goal.

9.13pm BST

70 min: Arsenal’s 12th corner of the match is as fruitless as the first 11. And as Sunderland have appeared less concerned with opening up in attack over the last 10 minutes or so, you begin to wonder if Arsenal will find a way to break through today.

9.11pm BST

68 min: And it is. Danny Welbeck enters for Ramsey. And a second change for the Gunners as Alex Iwobi replaces Kieran Gibbs.

9.09pm BST

67 min: And now Ramsey is down. He’s walking off on his own strength albeit gingerly. Arsenal appear ready to made a change. Will it be Ramsay who comes off?

9.09pm BST

65 min: Giroud with a header off a long-range deliver from 40 yards that beats Pickford, but sails wide left of the post.

9.05pm BST

60 min: A series of corners for Arsenal now as they seem to have rediscovered their attacking verve but still nothing to show for it. Nearly everyone behind the ball for Sunderland now.

9.04pm BST

58 min: Arsenal nearly score against the run of play when Giroud finds Mustafi, but the German’s shot from inside the area is deflected.

9.02pm BST

56 min: Bookings flying now: a yellow for Ozil followed by a yellow for O’Shea. Promising attempt for Aaron Ramsey, but it’s turned away by Pickford, who’s been excellent tonight.

8.57pm BST

53 min: Arsenal on the back foot a bit here, forced to defend after conceding a free kick from a dangerous area. Monreal is shown the yellow card for the foul. It’s whipped into the center but cleared at the last moment.

8.54pm BST

49 min: Update: It’s lobbed up and cleared by Xhaka.

8.53pm BST

48 min: We’ve reached a new low. Monreal tries a backpass to Cech and nearly scores an own goal. Fortunately, he misses the target and … Arsenal have conceded an indirect free kick six yards from the goal. Gripping theater, this.

Only Arsenal would concede an indirect free kick from 6 yards away

8.51pm BST

46 min: And we’re off and running in the second half. We’re told the official attendance for tonight’s match is 59,510. Er, OK.

Official attendance at the Emirates tonight: 59,510. (Photo by @catherineivill)

8.35pm BST

And there’s the whistle. Here’s a look at the stats so far.

Arsenal v Sunderland
57.6% Possession 42.4%
5 Shots On Target 2
18 Shots 2
381 Touches 300
278 Passes 212
4 Tackles 10
9 Clearances 11
8 Corners 1
1 Offsides 2

8.33pm BST

45 min+1: Ramsey’s shot from the center of the area is turned away by Pickford. How close! It’s out for a corner and now Arsenal nearly score again. But the Sunderland defense stand tall and we’re headed to half-time knotted at nil-nil.

8.31pm BST

45 min: One minute of stoppage time.

8.30pm BST

43 min: A through ball from Bellerin to Sanchez and the Chilean tries for the near post. Just missed the mark and it’s out for a goal kick.

8.27pm BST

39 min: Arsenal win a free kick from a decent position on a foul by Lee Cattermole. Mustafi is targeted in the right side of the area but his header sails harmlessly high and wide of the goal.

8.23pm BST

37 min: A smart run by DeFoe as he runs on to a through ball and manages to uncork a tightly angled shot that forces a difficult save by Cech. But it’s a save indeed and moments later Arsenal are down the pitch, forcing Pickford to intervene. Still scoreless as half-time draws near.

8.21pm BST

35 min: End-to-end action over the past few minutes with both sides eager to attack. Sunderland win their first corner with Ndong’s shot turned away by Cech.

8.19pm BST

32 min: Another corner for Arsenal. It veers toward Sanchez in the middle of the area but Pickford beats him to it. Moments later, a poor giveaway by Ndong as Sunderland look to attack. Arsenal have a quick look at a counter but Pickford disrupts Ozil’s attempt.

8.14pm BST

Is this game being played behind closed doors? Doors that will be closed similarly behind Wegner as he departs in a couple of weeks?

8.09pm BST

22 min: Arsenal’s Héctor Bellerín is shown yellow for a hand ball.

8.08pm BST

21 min: Arsenal on the attack and Ramsey’s cross is put out for a corner. It’s initially cleared on a punch by Pickford, but Arsenal keep the pressure on and win another corner. Nothing comes of that one either. Still, a solid work rate for the hosts as the end of the opening quarter draws near, even if they don’t have a goal to show for it.

8.04pm BST

19 min: Another shot from Xhaka from outside the area but this one is off target, skidding wide right of the goal.

8.03pm BST

17 min: Good spell of possession for Arsenal ends with a left-footed shot from Xhaka at the top of the era, but he can’t get much behind it and it’s easily corralled by the Sunderland keeper.

8.01pm BST

16 min: Arsenal win a corner but it’s short, defended well by Borini, and Sunderland are on the move once more.

8.00pm BST

15 min: Another chance for Arsenal, who have started to ramp up the pressure over the last five minutes. This time Pickford is forced to sprint off his line and disrupt a Ramsey-led attack at the top of the area.

7.59pm BST

13 min: The rain is now coming down on a 20C (68F) night in North London.

7.57pm BST

10 min: Borini with a half-chance for Sunderland but it’s saved by Cech. Quick counter by Arsenal and they have a pair of chance in short order, both turned away by Pickford. Corner to the hosts, but nothing comes of it.

7.55pm BST

8 min: Alexis Sánchez from distance and it’s a goal! Or is it? It’s immediately waved off amid the celebrations of the Arsenal players by referee Roger East, who rules that it struck the hand of Olivier Giroud en route to the back of the goal.

7.52pm BST

6 min: Sunderland doing a good job keeping possession in the middle third but they’ve yet to offer a substantial threat. And they’ve just been dispossessed.

7.51pm BST

3 min: A bit of a speculative effort from Alexis Sánchez, who was under duress, and it sails harmlessly over the woodwork. Sánchez was doubtful for today’s match after suffering a kick to the thigh at Stoke on Saturday but he looks right as rain at the moment.

7.48pm BST

2 min: Sunderland with an early foray into the final third, but Lamine Koné’s through ball catches Jermain Defoe well offside.

7.47pm BST

1 min: And they’re off! Arsenal attacking from left to right in traditional home kits, Sunderland from right to left in all-white strips.

7.45pm BST

The players have emerged from the tunnel. A reminder: Arsenal will be eliminated from top-four contention with a loss and a Manchester City win or draw in today’s other match.

7.37pm BST

As we wait for the teams to take the pitch … we pause for a Goochwatch from reader Woolie Madden:

Goochwatch: A place on the bench, and possibly the last chance to see Lynden ‘The Lynchpin’ Gooch shift about in his padded bucket chair. I read the Rumour Mill every day, but so far no mention of a Barcelona bid. I’d rate Lynden’s season 8/10 — not many appearances, it’s true; but each minute away from the pitch is a minute’s less association with Sunderland’s ‘achievements’ on it. Godspeed, my American beauty!

7.29pm BST

Hello and welcome to today’s Premier League matchup between Arsenal and Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium. Incredibly, the in-form Gunners are still in the mix for a Champions League place after Saturday’s 4-1 win over Stoke City, their third straight triumph. They’re fifth in the table, three points behind Manchester City and four adrift of third-place Liverpool, who have played one game more.

History would certainly favor Arsène Wenger’s side today. Sunderland haven’t won at Arsenal since November 1983 – when Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon was atop the UK charts and only one of Arsenal’s current players (Petr Čech) was even alive. Indeed, Sunderland have only won one in 26 against the Gunners, which augurs well for a side desperate to extend their top-four hopes at least another few days.

7.22pm BST

Here’s a look at today’s teams.

7.04pm BST

Bryan will be here shortly. In the meantime, here’s a look at Arsène Wenger’s comments on what he sees as a problematic trend of Premier League clubs laying off the clutch after securing their fates.

Arsène Wenger has questioned the integrity of some Premier League teams who have secured their top-flight status for next season as he faces the prospect of failing to guide Arsenal to the Champions League for the first time since 1997.

Arsenal have two games remaining, at home against Sunderland on Tuesday and Everton on Sunday, and even victories in those may not earn a top-four spot after Liverpool thrashed West Ham United 4-0 on Sunday. Two wins would give Wenger’s side 75 points – nine more than Manchester City managed last season in securing the final Champions League spot.

Continue reading…

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May 13

Sunderland 0-2 Swansea City and more: clockwatch – as it happened

Swansea took a huge step towards survival with victory at Sunderland while there were wins for Southampton at Middlesbrough and Bournemouth at home to Burnley

5.12pm BST

Sunderland 0-2 Swansea:

Related: Fernando Llorente heads Swansea towards safety against Sunderland

5.06pm BST

Related: Fernando Llorente heads Swansea towards safety against Sunderland

5.02pm BST

OK, we’re going to wrap up the live blog shortly. Stick around for Stoke City v Arsenal, not to mention reports and analysis off today’s matches. Thanks as always for following along with us.

4.56pm BST

Already relegated Middlesbrough’s misery continues with another loss, this one to Southampton.

4.54pm BST

Burnley hold on for the three points on Josh King’s late winner, his 13th goal of the calendar year.

4.53pm BST

There’s the final whistle and Swansea have struck a major blow in their fight to stay up. They’re now four points ahead of Hull City, who will need three points in tomorrow’s match with Crystal Palace to even keep within reach of the Swans.

4.45pm BST

… but moments later Josh King delivers what appears to be a late winner for the visitors.

4.44pm BST

Sam Vokes has struck with a late equaliser at Dean Court.

4.33pm BST

Boro pull one back on Patrick Bamford’s first ever Premier League goal. A fine finish for the 23-year-old.

4.27pm BST

A report from parts elsewhere, by way of reader Kelvin, who writes:

Since the matches in the EPL are slow burners today, I was watching the Red Bull – Bayern match, second vs first. Nothing but bragging rights in it, but Bayern has just managed to turn a 4-2 loss in the 85 minute into a 4-5 win. Great game it was.

4.25pm BST

Middlesbrough keeper Brad Guzan lays waste to Southampton’s Shane Long and the referee points to the spot! A penalty! But Long steps up and sends it sailing over the crossbar. Oh dear!

4.18pm BST

Redmond picks his spot from inside the area and doubles Southampton’s lead after Jay Rodriguez’s 42nd-minute opener. It’s Redmond’s seventh Premier League goal of the year.

4.11pm BST

No half-time changes in the Sunderland-Swansea match, but Burnley’s Andre Gray has entered for Ashley Barnes. Also, Southampton’s Nathan Redmond is on for Sofiane Boufal.

4.07pm BST

We’re back under way at the Stadium of Light, where Swansea lead 2-0 and have a chance to strike a crucial blow in their relegation battle with Hull. If they hold on today, Swansea will move four points clear of Hull, who then could have their demotion confirmed tomorrow when they visit Crystal Palace.

4.03pm BST

In case you missed it earlier, Man City inched closer to a top-four finish by scoring a pair of first-half goals and holding on for a 2-1 victory at home against Leicester City.

Related: Manchester City hold off Leicester after Riyad Mahrez double-hit penalty

3.59pm BST

The first half is in the books at all three matches and here’s where things stand:

3.55pm BST

And Swansea have doubled their pleasure on a gorgeous goal from Kyle Naughton. It’s the full back’s first goal in six years!

3.41pm BST

Less than 40 minutes down and Sunderland have just made their second substitution of the match due to injury as Wahbi Khazri enters for Victor Anichebe. Earlier, Darron Gibson replaced Jason Denayer.

3.37pm BST

A near miss for Burnley as Scott Arfield has a go from 25 yards and the Bournemouth keeper’s view obscured. The ball curves toward the goal before just drifting wide. Meanwhile, Sunderland barely registering a pulse against Swansea at the Stadium of Light.

3.29pm BST

Stanislas strikes against his former club, running onto a perfectly weighted through back from Cook and slotting it into the bottom corner.

3.25pm BST

A quiet and scoreless opening between Middlesbrough and Southampton at the Riverside, with a far more open match between Bournemouth and Burnley, albeit a goalless one, unfolding at Dean Court.

3.19pm BST

Swansea’s opener by my calculations was Llorente’s eighth headed goal of the season. That’s the most in the Premier League. It was a bit of a sluggish start for the Swans, but they’ve struck first and given a vital boost to their chances of staying up.

3.13pm BST

And Swansea strike first! On the first set-piece of the match for either side, Sigurdsson sends it into the area and Llorente heads it home!

3.04pm BST

And they’re off at the Stadium of Light. Swansea in desperate need of three points to put the pressure firmly on Hull (who are at Crystal Palace tomorrow) in their relegation battle.

2.54pm BST

Five minutes to kickoff. Here’s a look at the team sheets for today’s three matches.

2.44pm BST

Three 3pm kickoffs to monitor today in the aftermath of Chelsea’s title clincher yesterday. The action kicks off in just under a quarter hour, so let’s skip over the throat-clearing and get right into it.

Continue reading…

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May 03

Ajax 4-1 Lyon: Europa League semi-final, first leg – as it happened

7.45pm BST

That’s all for now! Thanks as always for following along with us and be sure to check back later for a match report.

7.43pm BST

What a match! Here’s a look at the stats from a gripping encounter in Amsterdam.

Ajax 4-1 Lyon FT:

Shots: 25-14
Pass accuracy: 74%-72%
Chances created: 19-8
Possession: 50%-50%

What a game of football.

7.36pm BST

There’s the final whistle and Ajax are runaway winners in their first European semi-final since 1997!

They’ve now won 12 in a row at home across all competitions.

Ajax have now won 12 consecutive home games across all competitions:


3.08 goals per game.

7.34pm BST

90 min+1: The substitute Tolisso tries to have a go on goal but a last-gasp challenge by Tete disrupts it and Ajax are on the go again. Moments later Sanchez wins a free kick for the hosts. Klaassen finds himself alone along the left flank and puts a shot on goal, but Lopes is able to block it with his foot, giving Ajax a corner.

7.32pm BST

90 min: The fourth official signals for four minutes of added time.

7.29pm BST

88 min: Ajax make the final sub of the match as Neres replaces Dolberg.

7.29pm BST

86 min: Lyon win a free kick from some distance off a Sanchez foul and Valbuena will take it, but it’s cleared harmlessly and Ajax are on the counter once more.

7.26pm BST

83 min: Ajax still coming forward! Excellent work by Traoré to set up a clear attempt for Klaassen, whose shot sails high over the target for a goal kick.

7.23pm BST

78 min: Lyon win consecutive corners, but nothing come of them. Now Justin Kluivert (perhaps you’ve heard of his dad?), who turns 18 on Friday, enters for Younes, who was brilliant today.

7.19pm BST

76 min: Lacazette, a question mark after missing the last two weeks with a hamstring ailment, enters for Lyon in place of Cornet.

7.18pm BST

75 min: Moments after Van de Beek enters for Schone … two lunging saves in rapid succession for Onana, one with his gloves the other with his feet. And then moments later it’s Ajax down the pitch, as Anthony Lopes is forced to fully extend for a save. This is the up-and-down, two-way action we expected!

7.14pm BST

Traoré scores his second of the night, this one unmissable from four yards off a precise cross from Ziyech and the three-goal lead is restored.

7.12pm BST

69 min: Lyon really pushing for a second, which would really open up the tie. And now it’s Fekir who has a go on goal, but it’s turned away by Onana, who’s been excellent tonight. Now a second sub for Lyon as Rafael enters for Jallet.

7.09pm BST

And finally Lyon have their away goal! The pressure was mounting and at last they break through. The French international finds himself by himself at the top of the area and simply deposits it past Onana into the top-left corner.

7.07pm BST

64 min: Traoré walks into the area and pounds a left-footed shot to the far post, requiring a diving save from Lopes. The keeper has parried it away into a dangerous area but it’s cleared harmlessly.

7.05pm BST

62 min: Traoré shown yellow for a foul on Tolisso.

7.04pm BST

61 min: Ajax not content to sit on their lead and pushing ahead with numbers. They’ve spent the last few minutes building the attack in the Lyon half, even if they don’t have any attempts on goal to show for it (yet).

7.00pm BST

57 min: It’s getting physical as we approach the hour mark with fouls up and down the pitch. Now the first substitution of the match as Rachid Ghezzal enters the match for Tousart.

6.55pm BST

52 min: Now it’s Fekir who has an attempt on goal but it’s turned away by Onana. Valbuena to take the corner for Lyon but it comes to nothing.

6.53pm BST

Goal-line technology strikes! Ziyech plays it through to Younes, who puts it past the splayed-out keeper but it’s cleared off the line by a defender. But it’s given! That’s his fourth goal in 13 matches and he redeems himself for his poor miss just before half-time.

6.50pm BST

46 min: Lyon pressing from the early going and immediately win a corner. Nothing comes from it and Ajax are on the counter.

6.46pm BST

The players are in the tunnel and the second half will be under way shortly. Ajax clearly have the upper hand, but all it would take is one away goal to throw the tie up for grabs!

6.34pm BST

Ajax were rousted from a sluggish start and lead 2-0 thanks to goals from Traoré (in the 25th) and Dolberg (34th). The Dutch side are unbeaten in 12 European home games with wins in their last six. They’re 45 minutes away from making it seven.

6.32pm BST

44 min: Nearly 3-0 to Ajax! Younes was put through and was wide open in front of goal with only keeper Anthony Lopes to beat, but Lopes dives low and parries away the shot. Really poorly taken by Younes, who could (and should) have easily put Lyon out of sight in the first half of this one.

6.29pm BST

41 min: Gonalons shown yellow for a foul on Tete. A clear yellow, that. Ajax then attack up the left flank but give away possession and Lyon are quick on the counter. Fekir tries to side-foot a shot on the run from close range but can’t really get a hold of it and it’s hauled in easily by Onana.

6.26pm BST

39 min: Lyon’s Gonalons wins a free kick from Klaassen. A good position here for the visitors. A chance to cut the lead in half before the break? Alas, Valbuena’s effort is swung in directly into the waiting hands of Onana.

6.24pm BST

36 min: Tousart’s effort on goal is parried away by Onana and Lyon win a corner. Valbuena takes it but it’s easily managed by the Ajax keeper. Ten minutes from half-time and the home fans are rocking, grateful to have survived a quite sloppy start to lead by a pair of goals.

6.21pm BST

The Danish teenager doubles Ajax’s pleasure! Possession was poorly given away by Lyon as Traore wins a header following a poor clearance by Lyon’s keeper and Dolberg clinically picks out the far corner for the second goal of the match.

6.18pm BST

30 min: De Ligt shown yellow for a foul on Valbuena as the match creeps past the half-hour mark.

6.16pm BST

29 min: Two corners in quick succession for Ajax, who seem to have been stirred from their early slumber with the Traore goal. Nothing comes from either but they clearly have Lyon on the back foot now.

6.13pm BST

Ajax strike first! Their first opportunity off a set piece. Sanchez puts it into the area toward the far post and Traore, on loan from Chelsea, appears to just glance it into the goal. Or not? Unclear whether the goal belongs to Sanchez or Traore, but what’s important is Ajax are ahead.

Ajax’s opening goal vs. Lyon came from their first cross of the game; Lyon had attempted 8 in that time.

Superb delivery from Hakim Ziyech.

6.11pm BST

24 min: Clattering challenge on Dolberg by Morel just outisde the area and Ajax will have a free kick from a dangeous position.

6.08pm BST

20 min: Neither side attacking to potential but Lyon’s constant pressure is doing more to disrupt the home side’s fluency through 20 minutes.

6.06pm BST

17 min: The sides trade free kicks near the halfway line but neither have been able to break through for a clear attempt on goal, save for Cornet’s near miss in the 10th minute.

Also, at least one reader takes objection to the above header photo.

Morel should get a straight Red for that photo.
Cleats up, waste high, knows what he’s doing.

6.01pm BST

14 min: Gonalons wins a free kick from Dolberg, short-circuiting an Ajax attack. Crowd-pleasing, end-to-end action early on in Amsterdam!

6.00pm BST

12 min: A rapid Ajax counter ends when the 17-year-old De Ligt has a go from distance, but it’s easily corralled by the Lyon keeper.

5.58pm BST

11 min: Two corners by Lyon come to nothing and now it’s Ajax on the counter!

5.57pm BST

10 min: Excellent build-up for Lyon up the right flank and it’s crossed in by Tousart to an unmarked Cornet, whose shot from close range is turned away by Onana. A corner to Lyon.

5.56pm BST

8 min: Neither side have been able to mount a sustained attack, though Ajax have come closer, attempting to push forward with numbers just now before a long and inaccurate cross in the final third returned possession to Lyon.

5.52pm BST

5 min: What an atmosphere in this stadium! Fifty-four thousand fans in full throat, including an estimated 1,500 from the traveling Lyon contingent. A bit of feeling out early on from both sides in the middle third, but the first whistle of the match comes when Ajax’s Ziyech commits a foul on Lyon’s Nkoulou.

5.48pm BST

1 min: And we’re off! Ajax attacking from left to right in their traditional white and red home kits, Lyon going right to left in all-black third strip.

5.47pm BST

The teams are on the pitch and we’ll be under way momentarily. And thanks to diligent readers Andrew Rogers and Piet Cammel, who have pointed out the Remembrance Day holiday is tomorrow and not today!

5.28pm BST

Hello and welcome to tonight’s Europa League semi-final clash between Ajax and Lyon at Amsterdam Arena. Kickoff for tonight’s first leg, which falls on the Dutch national holiday for Remembrance of the Dead, is roughly 15 minutes away, so let’s dispense with the pleasantries and get right into it. Here’s a look at the teams:

4.57pm BST

Bryan will be here shortly, in the meantime here’s Sid Lowe on Man Utd’s clash with Celta Vigo:

In the aftermath of Celta Vigo’s cancelled match with Real Madrid in February, when a storm ripped through the roof at their Balaídos stadium and accusations flew, their coach, Eduardo Berizzo, protested: “I still can’t make it rain.” No, some supporters suggested, but there is plenty you can do.

The team that beat Barcelona three years in a row, putting four past them the last two times they visited Vigo, had after all just deservedly knocked Madrid out of the Copa del Rey to reach the semi‑finals. Now they have reached a Europa League semi-final against Manchester United.

Continue reading…

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Apr 19

Serena Williams confirms pregnancy and expects her first child ‘this fall’

Serena Williams is pregnant with her first child, her spokesperson has confirmed.

The tennis star hinted at the good news when she posted a photo of herself on Snapchat wearing a swimsuit and revealing what appeared to be a large baby bump with the caption “20 weeks” on Wednesday. The snap was deleted less than a half hour later.

Serena’s snap suggests that she won the Australian Open without dropping a set while pregnant.

Related: Serena Williams insists: ‘I would be nothing without my sister Venus’ | Bryan Armen Graham

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Apr 04

Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev agree to terms for June rematch in Las Vegas

  • Ward and Kovalev to wage rematch of light heavyweight title fight
  • American won close, controversial decision in last year’s first bout
  • Title fight will take place on 17 June at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas

There was little to separate Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev after their unified light heavyweight title fight in November, but now both men will have the opportunity to produce a more definitive conclusion.

An agreement is in place for the rematch between Ward and Kovalev for the WBA, WBO and IBF light heavyweight titles to take place on 17 June at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, the Guardian has learned.

Related: The Kovalev-Ward decision was about boxing’s fine margins, not corruption

Continue reading…

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Mar 19

Roger Federer defeats Stan Wawrinka for historic Indian Wells title – live!

11.28pm GMT

“What can I say? This has been a fairytale week once again,” Federer says. “I came here for the first time 17 years ago. To be the champion again, I can’t tell you what it means to me.”

“It’s been a fairytale week once again”@rogerfederer living the dream again at #IndianWells.#BNPPO17

11.19pm GMT

“I would like to congratulate Roger,” a tearful Wawrinka says. “He’s laughing, he’s an asshole but it’s OK.”

Fighting back tears, Wawrinka adds: “I’ve lost some tough ones against you, but when you played the final in Australia, I was your biggest fan. So congratulations on your comeback and congratulations on today.”

Stan (half-crying): “Congrats Roger…he is laughing he is an asshole”

11.19pm GMT

Roger Federer’s dream season continues. He’s now beaten Wawrinka for the Indian Wells title to move to 13-1 on the year and 6-0 against oppoents in the top 10. That’s his best showing to start the year since 2004 when he went 18-0 and finished No1.

11.11pm GMT

Second set: Wawrinka 4-6, 5-7 Federer

At 15-love, Wawrinka nets a shot from the baseline for 15-all. He sends Federer scampering from end to end on the next point with a series of angles shots before Federer errs, but Wawrinka misfires on the next point for 30-all and now Federer is within two points of the title. Federer is all over Wawrinka’s serve but Stan muscles his way back into the rally and wins the point for 40-30. But now Wawrinka sends a forehand from the baseline sailing for deuce. And now Wawrinka dumps a backhand into the net and Federer has a championship point! The crowd swells and then quiets. Wawrinka’s serve graces the netcord: let, first service. Then a fault. Fed jumpes on a second serve, sends Wawrinka scampering and closes out the point with a routine volley winner!

11.04pm GMT

Second set: *Wawrinka 4-6, 5-6 Federer (*denotes next server)

At 30-love, Federer nets a backhand early in a baseline rally. Wawrinka then pounces on a second serve and forces Federer into an error from the baseline for 30-all. A chance here for Stan? Federer faults and he’ll have a big opportunity on a second serve at 30-all. But Federer dials in a service winner and wins the next point to hold for 6-5. Now Wawrinka will serve to force a tiebreak while Federer will try to break to win the title.

11.01pm GMT

Second set: Wawrinka 4-6, 5-5 Federer* (*denotes next server)

At 15-love, a lovely backhand winner followed by an ace makes it 40-love. That’s 10 consecutive points on Wawrinka’s serve. Federer answers with a forehand winner followed by a double fault which Wawrinka challenges unsuccessfully, but a service winner gives Stan the hold.

10.57pm GMT

Second set: *Wawrinka 4-6, 4-5 Federer (*denotes next server)

Three quick points for Federer and followed by an angled winner off a serve-and-volley to cap a love hold in just over a minute. Now Wawrinka will serve to stay in the match.

Federer holding serve like…

10.55pm GMT

Second set: Wawrinka 4-6, 4-4 Federer* (*denotes next server)

Wawrinka answers with an easy hold of his own. We’re moving right along here: 18 games played in just over one hour.

10.53pm GMT

Second set: *Wawrinka 4-6, 3-4 Federer (*denotes next server)

Another routine service game for Federer. Both players are serving well, but the difference between the countrymen is on second-serve points. Federer is 23 of 30 on the first serve (77%) compared to 23 of 31 for Wawrinka (74%); but he’s 11 of 17 on second serve (65%) compared to 8 of 22 for Stan (36%).

10.49pm GMT

Second set: Wawrinka 4-6, 3-3 Federer* (*denotes next server)

At 40-15, Wawrinka overcooks a forehand from the baseline. Then Federer hits a winner for deuce and suddenly the first Hugely Important Point of the match is upon us. A service break here would no doubt put Federer within touching distance of the title. Wawrinka alleviates the tension with a thunderous ace, then follows it up with a service winner for the crucial hold.

10.44pm GMT

Second set: *Wawrinka 4-6, 2-3 Federer (*denotes next server)

Wawrinka with a glimmer of a chance as Federer falls behind 15-30 after his first double fault of the match. But he rattles off two quick points before pushing Wawrinka nearly off the court with a blistering second serve and winning the point easily for the hold. So much for that. The break consolidated, Wawrinka will serve at 2-3.

10.41pm GMT

Second set: Wawrinka 4-6, 2-2 Federer* (*denotes next server)

Wawrinka quickly falls behind love-30 and Federer has a half-chance here to move level. Wawrinka mistimes his approach but Federer dumps his passing shot into the net for 15-30. A gift for Stan as Federer had all the room in the world to set up triple break point. Nevertheless, Federer wins the next point and will have two looks at a break point. He needs only one, passing Wawrinka with a forehand for the break to get back on serve in the second.

10.36pm GMT

Second set: *Wawrinka 4-6, 2-1 Federer (*denotes next server)

At love-15, a gorgeous touch volley winner by Federer, who is now 8-of-10 on net approaches (compared to 0-of-1 for Wawrinka). I mean, seriously.

Federer (@TennisTV )

10.34pm GMT

Second set: Wawrinka 4-6, 2-0* Federer (*denotes next server)

At 40-30, a backhand gets away from Wawrinka and Federer has taken it to deuce. What a crushing blow if Stan fails to consolidate the break here. A backhand winner by Federer paints the baseline and now he will have a chance to break right back. Wawrinka sends a shot from the baseline long and appears to have been broken … but he challenges it and it was in! Deuce. Now another winner by Federer on a net approach and he’ll have a second look at a break point. A divine volley from Federer, but Wawrinka attacks Federer’s backhand on the next point and saves it for deuce. Federer goes for a cross-court forehand winner but misses by inches and Wawrinka wins the next point for the hard-won hold to back up the break. This is high-level stuff from two top operators, perhaps the two finest hard-court players in the sport at this moment in time.

10.27pm GMT

Second set: Wawrinka 4-6, *1-0 Federer (*denotes next server)

What a start for Wawrinka, who wins the first three points on Federer’s serve and now has three break-point chances. At love-40, this is only the second break point that Federer has faced in the entire tournament. He saves the first, then the second when he wrong-foots Wawrinka from the baseline. But he sends a backhand from the baseline long and after 42 consecutive holds of serve at Indian Wells, Federer has finally been broken. What a recovery for Wawrinka after being broken to end the first set.

10.22pm GMT

First set: Wawrinka 4-6 Federer

Federer wins a point to put Wawrinka in a love-15 hole, but Stan answers with an ace out wide – his third of the afternoon – for 15-all. Wawrinka hits a winner for 30-15, but Federer gets the best of a baseline rally for 30-all and he’s two points from the set. Interesting. Wawrinka appeared to hit an ace but opted not to challenge it. Wawrinka goes long on a running forehand from the baseline and Federer has his first break-point chance of the day – and it’s a set point. Then Wawrinka sends another forehand long from the baseline on the longest rally of the match and he’s broken to lose the first set!

That set point had everything @rogerfederer takes first blood.#BNPPO17

10.16pm GMT

First set: *Wawrinka 4-5 Federer (*denotes next server)

Wawrinka gets it to 30-all for the first glimmer of hope on Federer’s serve, but it’s quickly denied as Federer wins two quick points. Now Wawrinka will serve to stay in the first set.

10.14pm GMT

First set: Wawrinka 4-4 Federer* (*denotes next server)

At 15-love, Wawrinka delivers a beautifully placed flip lob on an approach to win a point. What a gorgeously wrought shot. He then rattles off two quick points for the love hold.

10.11pm GMT

First set: *Wawrinka 3-4 Federer (*denotes next server)

Another love hold for Federer, who continues to push the lightning-quick pace. He’s lost only two points on his serve, none on his second serve.

10.10pm GMT

First set: Wawrinka 3-3 Federer* (*denotes next server)

Another easy hold for Wawrinka, who’s dealing on his serve – albeit far better on the first serve (9 of 10) than second (3 of 8).

10.07pm GMT

First set: *Wawrinka 2-3 Federer (*denotes next server)

A third straight crisp service game for Federer, who’s now won 12 of 14 points on his serve. Five games in 12 minutes has set quite a pace for this final.

.@rogerfederer brought his tennis racquet AND his paint brush today #BNPPO17

10.05pm GMT

First set: Wawrinka 2-2 Federer* (*denotes next server)

A stress-free hold for Wawrinka, who survived that tricky end of the court serving into the setting sun with no apparent distress. He’s been made to work a bit harder on his service games but no moments of real danger yet.

9.59pm GMT

First set: *Wawrinka 1-2 Federer (*denotes next server)

Another immaculate service game from Federer: a love hold in barely over a minute capped by his first ace of the match. He’s won eight of nine points on his serve and now the pressure is on Wawrinka once more.

9.56pm GMT

First set: Wawrinka 1-1 Federer* (*denotes next server)

At 30-all, Wawrinka dials in a 134mph ace down the middle, then follows with a 137mph serve that Federer can’t return in play.

9.53pm GMT

First set: *Wawrinka 0-1 Federer (*denotes next server)

A breeze of a service game for Federer, who sprints ahead to a 40-love lead after a serve-and-volley on the opening point. He loses a point on an unforced but closes it out on the next point. Two picturesque backhand winners in the game. Remember: he has not been broken yet in this tournament and has faced just one break point.

9.48pm GMT

The conditions on court: 94F with a 6mph breeze. Not much longer now.

9.45pm GMT

Federer has won the coin toss and elects to serve. The players are warming up now and should be under way within the next few minutes.

Shake or not Shake ? Shake !!! #Fedrinka ❗️

9.43pm GMT

The players have emerged from the tunnel and are on the court. Federer noted during the on-camera interview with ESPN’s Brad Gilbert that it’s only the second time he’s met Wawrinka in a final and he’s yet to beat his countryman at this stage of a tournament. That’s a generous way to cast his 19-3 advantage in the all-time head-to-head, but no less honest.

9.29pm GMT

Elena Vesnina has just finished off Svetlana Kuznetsova for the women’s title. On 8 February of last year, she was ranked No122. Tomorrow, she will move to a career-high No13.

Federer and Wawrinka will be on court imminently and we’ll be under way shortly. At last!

8.48pm GMT

Here’s a look at the statistics for both Federer and Wawrinka at Indian Wells entering the final. (Stats in italics indicate tournament leader.)

Wawrinka v Federer
29 Aces 29
61% (230 of 380) 1st-Serve Percentage 59% (129 of 226)
73% (167 of 230) 1st-Serve Points Won 82% (106 of 129)
59% (88 of 150) 2nd-Serve Points Won 64% (62 of 97)
87% (53 of 61) Service Games Won 100% (37 of 37)
67% (16 of 24) Break Points Saved 100% (1 of 1)
34% (84 of 245) 1st-Serve Return Points Won 29% (40 of 137)
50% (69 of 137) 2nd-Serve Return Points Won 52% (56 of 107)
26% (15 of 58) Return Games Won 29% (11 of 38)
31% (15 of 48) Break Points Converted 65% (11 of 17)

8.30pm GMT

Elena Vesnina has just taken the second set from Svetlana Kuznetsova to level the women’s final and force a decider. Which means we’re at least 40 minutes away from the men’s final.

Some more odds and ends, courtesy of the ATP’s crack media relations staff:

7.58pm GMT

Federer owns a 19-3 advantage in the head-to-head series with Wawrinka, including a commanding 14-0 edge on hard courts. He won their most recent meeting in a five-set Australian Open semi-final in January and their two previous meetings at Indian Wells in the 2011 quarters and 2013 fourth round. Wawrinka’s lone win over Federer in a final came in the 2014 Monte-Carlo Masters.

Three of the Big Four – all but Murray – have accounted for 12 of the past 13 Indian Wells title. The lone exception? When Ivan Ljubicic, who currently is Federer’s coach, won the title in 2010.

7.49pm GMT

Hello and welcome to the Indian Wells final between Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer. Today’s all-Swiss showdown marks the first final between two countrymen at the Masters event since Andre Agassi defeated Pete Sampras in 2001.

The third-seeded Wawrinka is playing in his first final at the Palm Springs tournament, while the ninth-seeded Federer enters the seventh final of his career here without having dropped a set or even lost a service game. This is the oldest combined final in tournament history between Federer (35yrs 7mos) and Wawrinka (31yrs 11mos) – and the winner will become the oldest champion in tournament history by surpassing Jimmy Connors, who was 31yrs, 5mos when he won here in 1984.

7.11pm GMT

Bryan will be here shortly.

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Mar 01

Transgender-friendly toilets planned for 2020 Olympics in Tokyo

Tokyo’s city government is planning on installing gender-neutral bathrooms in at least seven of the 11 Olympic venues it is constructing for the 2020 Games

Tokyo’s metropolitan government is seeking to install gender-neutral public restrooms in the venues it is constructing for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

While daredemo toire (“everyone’s toilets”) suitable for either men or women have existed for several years in Japan, they have previously been designed as larger spaces designed to accommodate patrons in wheelchairs.

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Jan 29

Serena Williams insists: ‘I would be nothing without my sister Venus’ | Bryan Armen Graham

Straight out of the notorious Los Angeles neighbourhood of Compton, the incomparable sister act show yet again that they dominate women’s tennis

There is by now a numbing effect to the decades‑long dominance of Serena Williams, who on Saturday captured the Australian Open championship for a seventh time to finally eclipse Steffi Graf’s record for major titles in the Open era, all but silencing the few stubborn holdouts who referenced the record book to deny that she is the best there’s ever been.

Related: Australian Open 2017: day 13 – women’s singles final – in pictures

Related: What the Williams sisters mean in America today | Derrick Clifton

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Jan 28

Serena Williams beats Venus Williams to win the Australian Open – as it happened

10.32am GMT

That’s all for now. Thanks as always for following along with us and be sure to check out Russell Jackson’s full match report from Melbourne Park.

Related: Australian Open: Serena Williams beats sister Venus for record 23rd slam title

10.31am GMT

Serena shows off some special footwear in the wake of her record-breaking title. Those are custom Jordan 1s with the number 23 emblazoned on the heel.

Serena changed into these icy custom Jordan 1s commemorating her record-breaking 23rd major for the trophy ceremony.

10.25am GMT

Serena will return to No1 in Monday’s rankings after ceding the top to Angelique Kerber after the US Open. Venus will climb to No11.

Serena will return to No. 1 in Monday’s rankings. Venus will rise to No. 11.

10.18am GMT

Serena Williams now steps forward and lifts the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup for the seventh time. “I really would like to take this moment to congratulate Venus, she’s an amazing person,” the 23-time major champion says. “There’s no way I would be at 23 without her. There’s no way I would be at one without her. There’s no way I would be anything without her. She’s the only reason the Williams sisters exist.

“I definitely think she’ll be standing here next year. i don’t like the word comeback but she’s never left.”

10.14am GMT

Venus now addressing the crowd: “Serena Williams, that’s my little sister, guys.”

“I’ve been right there with you, some of them I lost right there against you,” Venus says. “I’m enormously proud of you, you mean the world to me.”

10.12am GMT

Serena becomes the first player to win the Australian Open without dropping a set since Maria Sharapova in 2008. She’s now won a preposterous 10 grand slam titles since her 30th birthday, the most by far in the Open era. The only other players on the list: Margaret Court (three), Martina Navratilova (two), Chris Evert (two), Billie Jean King (two), Ann Jones (one), Li Na (one), Flavia Pennetta (one) and Virginia Wade (one).

10.06am GMT

Serena Williams wins 6-4, 6-4 for her 23rd major title, most of any player in the Open era. Nike sure didn’t waste any time, running this spot on ESPN in the first ad break after the match ended.

Greatest ever. @serenawilliams #justdoit

10.03am GMT

Second set: Serena 6-4 Venus

A sizzling backhand winner from Venus makes it love-30, but she blocks a serve into the net on the next point for 15-all. Venus then outlasts Serena on the longest point of the match – a 24-stroke rally, longest of the match – for 15-30 and the crowd is on their feet! An unforced error by Venus on another long rally makes it 30-all and Serena is now two points from the title. Now another unforced error gives Serena a championship point. There’s that fist pump. Then Serena forces Venus into an error and it’s finished! She falls to the court with her arms raised! Venus comes around the net to embrace her younger sister. History has been made!

Related: Australian Open: Serena Williams beats sister Venus for record 23rd slam title

9.55am GMT

Second set: *Serena 5-4 Venus (*denotes next server)

Venus hits an overhand smash winner, but Serena follows with a forehand winner for 15-all. Serena then just misses on a cross-court backhand from the baseline and Venus dials in an ace for 40-15. A Serena miss gives Venus the game, but now the world No2 will have a chance to serve for the championship, the No1 ranking and the record for most grand slam titles in the Open era. No pressure.

9.52am GMT

Second set: Serena 5-3 Venus* (*denotes next server)

Serena consolidates with a clinical love hold including a thunderous ace down the middle on the second point, her 10th of the match. Venus will now serve to stay in the tournament.

9.49am GMT

Second set: *Serena 4-3 Venus (*denotes next server)

Venus feeling the heat serving at 15-30 but responds with a thudding ace down the middle. Serena then gets the best of her sister on a 16-shot rally – the best point of the match so far – to give herself a break-point chance. Venus saves it by forcing Serena into an error for deuce, but Serena pounces on a second serve for a winner and has another break chance. This time she capitalizes, crushing a backhand winner for a break that could prove fatal the way she’s been serving.

9.43am GMT

Second set: Serena 3-3 Venus* (*denotes next server)

A delicate touch volley by Venus makes it 15-all, but a series of loose points gives Serena an easy hold. Still on serve in the second.

9.40am GMT

Second set: *Serena 2-3 Venus (*denotes next server)

A comfortable hold for Venus capped by a thudding ace. We’ve now gone eight games without a break of serve after service breaks in four of the first five games.

9.37am GMT

Second set: Serena 2-2 Venus* (*denotes next server)

Serena opens with an unforced error from the backhand side but rattles off three straight points for 40-15. She then mixes in a double fault for 40-30 – her fifth of the match – but Venus nets a forehand on the approach to gift Serena the hold.

9.32am GMT

Second set: *Serena 1-2 Venus (*denotes next server)

Venus falls behind love-30 on her serve then mixes in a double fault to give Serena three looks at a break point. She wipes away the first two then crushes a forehand winner on the approach for deuce. She forces Serena into an error on the next point then pounds another forehand winner for the crucial hold from love-40 down. What an escape!

9.28am GMT

Second set: Serena 1-1 Venus* (*denotes next server)

Serena on a roll now. She’s thuds and ace for 30-love then a service winner for 40-love and she’s now won 11 straight points on her serve extending back to the first set. Serena mixes in a pair of unforced errors from the backhand side but wins the next point to seal the hold.

9.26am GMT

Second set: *Serena 0-1 Venus (*denotes next server)

Venus with a drama-free hold to open the second set, capping it with an emphatic backhand winner. Serena continuing to attack the second serve: Venus is a scant 2-for-11 on those points.

9.22am GMT

First set: Serena 6-4 Venus

Serena responds with her easiest game of the match, holding at love and capping it with consecutive aces to finish off the first set in 41 minutes.

9.18am GMT

First set: *Serena 5-4 Venus (*denotes next server)

Serena continues to pressure Venus, but the elder sister fights back from love-15 and 15-30 down to finish off the hold. Serena will serve after the changeover for the first set. No small matter, given Serena is 20-0 lifetime in grand slam finals when she wins the opener.

9.15am GMT

First set: Serena 5-3 Venus* (*denotes next server)

Venus opens the game with a gorgeously struck forehand winner on the run, then forces Serena into an error for love-30. Venus then sends a forehand long from the baseline to cap a lengthy rally, with Serena following with a 113mph ace out wide for 30-all. Venus then makes another backhand error and Serena consolidates the break with a winner. Venus now to serve to stay in the first set.

9.12am GMT

First set: *Serena 4-3 Venus (*denotes next server)

At 15-all, Venus thuds an ace but then follows with a double fault for 30-all. Serena then delivers a backhand volley winner to earn another break-point chance, capitalizing with a backhand winner for the break. Serena moving her feet far better now than she was earlier in the match and now within touching distance of the opener.

9.08am GMT

First set: Serena 3-3 Venus* (*denotes next server)

Venus hits a forehand winner then Serena makes another unforced error to make it love-30. A big chance for Venus here, but she makes an error then watches as Serena booms an ace for 30-all. Another unforced error for Serena makes it 40-30 before Serena finishes off the hold. Still on serve in the first.

9.05am GMT

First set: *Serena 2-3 Venus (*denotes next server)

More error-strewn play from Serena as Venus is able to negotiate the first hold of the match. Still, they’re on level terms with Serena to serve at 2-3.

9.01am GMT

First set: Serena 2-2 Venus* (*denotes next server)

Serena’s second ace makes it 30-love, but an ensuing error and a Venus backhand winner makes it 30-all. Venus then makes an error, but Serena double-faults for deuce. More nerves. Now another double-fault for Serena! That gives Venus a break-point chance, but she saves it with a thudding 101mph ace down the T. Now Serena makes another unforced error from the backhand side to give Venus another look at a break … and yet another double fault gifts Venus the break! Four service games, four breaks of serve. Serena has been broken eight times in six matches over the fortnight, now she’s been broken twice in the past 21 minutes.

8.55am GMT

First set: *Serena 2-1 Venus (*denotes next server)

Serena clearly tense here with so much at stake: not least the No1 ranking that she ceded last fall to Angelique Kerber after a three-and-a-half-year run on top. At 15-all, Venus double-faults but then follows with a forehand winner for 30-all. She then makes another error to give Serena another look at a break point, but saves it with a forehand volley winner for deuce. Venus moves within a point of the game with another winner but Serena answers and we’re back to deuce. Venus loses the next point to give Serena a break-point chance, but Venus saves it with backhand winner. (A furious Serena, who slipped on the baseline, promptly lays waste to her racket and walks to fetch a replacement.)

Court = 1, Racquet = 0 #Serena vs #Venus #AusOpen

8.47am GMT

First set: Serena 1-1 Venus* (*denotes next server)

Serena forces Venus into two more errors from the backhand side, but a double fault and a backhand error of her own makes it 30-all. Serena then mixes in her first ace, but then sprays a backhand wide on the first extended rally of the night for deuce. Serena misses off the netcord and Venus will have a chance to break right back. And she does, sending a forehand long from the baseline! Back on level terms in the opener.

8.42am GMT

First set: *Serena 1-0 Venus (*denotes next server)

A foreboding start for the elder Williams as she’s broken in her opening service game. She makes a pair of errors from the backhand side before getting on the board with an ace. Then Serena makes it 15-40 with a backhand winner to set up a pair of break-point chances. She needs only one, taking the early edge with a running backhand winner to pass Venus.

8.37am GMT

Hello and welcome to the Australian Open final between the Williams sisters: Venus-Serena XXVIII. The players are nearly done warming up. Some quick stats on their history:

2.43pm GMT

Bryan will be here shortly. In the meantime, read about the ultimate American folk tale:

The story reads like a tall tale, no matter how many times it’s repeated – too incredible to be true and growing only more preposterous with each passing year.

Related: Venus and Serena Williams create a new chapter in this remarkable family story

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Jan 27

Venus and Serena Williams create a new chapter in this remarkable family story

In Melbourne on Saturday, the sisters with 29 grand slam titles between them will add No30 to the Williams family ledger – and they’re not done yet

The story reads like a tall tale, no matter how many times it’s repeated – too incredible to be true and growing only more preposterous with each passing year.

A young father of three in Compton stumbles on a tennis match one Sunday while channel-surfing, struck by astonishment as the winner, a Romanian player named Virginia Ruzici, is presented with a $40,000 check. He decides right then his next two daughters – whom it should be noted were still unborn – will be professional tennis players.

Related: Resurgent Roger Federer defies age and expectations to dazzle Australia | Kevin Mitchell

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Jan 16

Serena Williams may be world No2 but she is as dangerous as ever

She’s lost the No1 ranking and is nearer to 40 than 30, but only a fool would doubt Serena as she returns to Melbourne with history in sight

Ten years ago this week, Serena Williams arrived at Melbourne Park a faded champion on the brink of irrelevance, a silhouette of the player who had won seven grand slams from 1999 to 2005. The 25-year-old from Compton had played only 15 events in 26 months, dogged by injuries and distractions and a depression brought on in no small part by the murder of her half-sister, Yetunde Price, only a mile from the public courts where a young Serena first picked up a racket. She had gone more than two years since playing in a final as her ranking sank to No136 in the world. The abyss was staring back.

Behold the withering assessment of former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash that ran in the Times of London on the eve of the tournament, since taken down from the newspaper’s website but thankfully preserved in a cached version as a monument to the folly of man. The 742-word obituary wrote off Williams as a player with “a limited attention span”, lacking the “fortitude” and “application” to return to the top. The sport had moved on in her absence, he assured, with proof positive in the emergence of Maria Sharapova, Amelie Mauresmo, Jelena Jankovic, Nicole Vaidisova and Ana Ivanovic. “They are the new winning breed,” it reads. “They are tall and hit the ball just as hard as the Williams sisters, if not harder.”

Related: ‘We must continue to dream big’: an open letter from Serena Williams

Related: Australian Open women’s form guide: the players to watch in Melbourne | Molly McElwee

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