The defending champion dropped a set but still lodged a 7-5 6-1 3-6 6-1 victory over the Argentine slugger, finishing strongly in a typically electrifying atmosphere at a packed Louis Armstrong Stadium.


Britain’s number three seed has become such a drawcard at Flushing Meadows that the queue for his clash stretched hundreds of metres back to Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Mayer’s aggression paid dividends in the third set before Murray knuckled down in a blistering fourth set to close out the win in two hours and 41 minutes.

“I was a bit frustrated at points in the match because I was doing quite a lot of the running,” Murray said.

“I wasn’t getting much depth on my returns. I served a low percentage today. You don’t feel like you’re dictating the match. It can be frustrating, but I finished the match well.

“I played well when I needed to. That’s a good sign. I want to keep improving as the tournament goes on. You don’t want to play your best right at the beginning.”

Murray’s first serve was poor. He landed a mere 57 per cent of his first deliveries but his renowned fitness and defensive capabilities kept Mayer at bay in an arena that descended into organised chaos at times.

Spectators were late to their seats and called out between points on a court that has been home to numerous close struggles for Murray in recent years.

“It’s a court I haven’t played my best tennis on, that’s for sure,” he said. “I’ve had some tough matches there in the past, and today was the same.

“But I’m happy to play on any court. It doesn’t really make a huge, huge difference. We got a great crowd out there.

“It was a really good atmosphere from pretty much the first point through to the last. Whether or not I play well on that court, it’s always a really good atmosphere.”

Frenetic crowd activity is a hallmark of the U.S. Open and Murray said he would never complain about the noise of the fans because he revelled in the different atmospheres at the four major championships.

“At this tournament, on all of the big courts, it’s very different to Wimbledon, for example,” he said.

“It’s something you need to enjoy about the tournament. It’s quite loud. There’s always noise during the points. There’s a constant kind of murmur you hear whereas at Wimbledon, it’s pretty much silence.

“It’s a different atmosphere, and one that I enjoyed when I came here the first time as a kid, playing the juniors.

“You just have to get used to it each time you come back. All of the slams have very, very different atmospheres.”

Impatient while waiting until late in the evening to play his first round match on Wednesday, Murray said scheduling problems were now the least of his concerns.

His next match will be against another Mayer, Germany’s unconventional Florian. They have met twice, on European clay, and Murray has prevailed on both occasions.

“It was quite a wait to play the first match,” Murray said. “By the time I got on (court) Wednesday night, I literally wanted to play. I wasn’t thinking about anything else. Maybe in that way, it helped me a little bit.

“But I’m in the tournament now. I play every other day. I’ll stick to the same routines pretty much until the end of the tournament.”

(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

Read More →

The Dutch sealed their place after a Robin van Persie double gave them a 2-0 win in Andorra while Italy came from behind to beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in Turin with Mario Balotelli scoring the goal that sealed their berth from the penalty spot.


There was also plenty for Germany, Switzerland, Russia, France, England and Bosnia to be happy about but there was gloom for Romania, Israel and Ireland plus the Czechs as their hopes either disappeared totally or became no longer feasible.

There is also some renewed belief in Iceland, who have never reached a major finals, after they beat Albania 2-1 in Reykjavik to move into second place behind Switzerland in Group E.

Bosnia, who have also yet to play in a finals, stayed top of Group G on goal difference after they won a rip-roaring game 2-1 in Slovakia and second-placed Greece beat Latvia 1-0 in Piraeus.

But the biggest cheers could be heard in Dutch and Italian towns and cities as they booked their places with two matches to spare.

The Dutch, World Cup runners up in 2010, had to wait until the 49th minute to take the lead against Andorra who have lost all eight games, scoring none and conceding 24.

Van Persie’s second after a goalkeeping error means the Netherlands will take part in their 10th World Cup next year.

Qualification represents something of a redemption for Dutch coach Louis van Gaal who failed to steer the country to the 2002 World Cup in his previous stint as coach.

“We have done the job. We could not have qualified quicker for the World Cup than the way we did. We are the first from Europe,” Van Gaal told reporters.

On the match itself, he added: “We did very well. We gave our all in the first half and we made the breakthrough after the interval. That’s just how we wanted it.”


Italy, one of only 13 teams who took part in the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, made sure they would be among the 32 nations at the finals next year with their comeback win in Turin.

Libor Kozak threatened to ruin Italy’s celebrations when he put the Czechs ahead after 19 minutes but second half goals from Giorgio Chiellini after 51 minutes and Balotelli from the spot three minutes later gave the Italians the points.

Germany’s 3-0 win in the Faroe Islands thanks to goals from Per Mertesacker, a Mesut Ozil penalty and Thomas Mueller, means they will qualify if they beat Ireland at home in the first of their two remaining matches next month.

However, they cannot book their tickets just yet because Sweden’s 1-0 win in Kazakhstan means they could still pip the Germans to top spot in Group C. Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored after 27 seconds for their fastest goal in 101 years.

Switzerland’s 2-0 win over Norway in Oslo put them five points clear of Iceland at the top of Group E but their celebrations also had to be put on hold because they can be caught if they slip up in their final two matches.

Russia also look on course for Brazil after a 3-1 win over Israel put them top of Group F, a point clear of Portugal and means they still have their fate in their hands with visits to the bottom two teams, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan, to come.


France also had a good night as their five-match run without a goal ended in a 4-2 win over Belarus although they had to come from behind twice before winning with goals by Samir Nasri, Paul Pogba and a double from Franck Ribery, including a penalty.

England escaped from Ukraine with a 0-0 draw that leaves them top of Group H with their fate in their hands and home games against Montenegro and Poland to come at Wembley.

San Marino scored their first goal of the campaign but have conceded 43 after losing 5-1 at home to the Poles who kept their remote playoff chances alive behind England (16), Ukraine and Montenegro (both 15). Poland have 11 points.

Six teams have now joined Brazil in the draw for the finals with Italy and the Netherlands through along with four Asian qualifiers – Japan, Australia, Iran and South Korea.

Jordan took another step towards their first World Cup finals when they beat Uzbekistan 9-8 on penalties in Tashkent after their Asian playoff ended 2-2 on aggregate following Tuesday’s second leg which finished 1-1 after extra time.

Jordan will face the eventual fifth-placed South American team in the intercontinental playoff in November with the winners of that two-legged tie going to Brazil.

(Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Read More →

The agreement also includes a significant increase in funding for both the men’s and women’s sevens programmes as the country chases Olympic gold at the Rio Games in 2016.


Rugby will make Olympic return at Rio with the abbreviated version of the game. Both the New Zealand men’s and women’s teams won their respective world titles in Moscow in late June.

The payment pool for the men’s All Blacks Sevens team has increased from NZ$1.6m to NZ$3.5m, allowing the side to offer players full-time contracts to specialise in the game.

Most of the All Blacks sevens players supplement their income with provincial contracts. The new agreement allows for the women’s sevens team to be granted retainers and tournament fees when selected.

The new agreement with the New Zealand Rugby Players Association also reduced the salary cap for provincial teams as part of the effort to drive down costs in the semi-professional third tier competition.

The provinces have struggled to make ends meet in recent years with the Otago union having to be bailed out by the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) last year.

Other teams have also needed funding help from the national body with NZRU chief Steve Tew stating several times that unions needed to get their books in order if the game was to survive.

The maximum retainer has been lowered to NZ$55,000 from NZ$60,000. The salary cap will go down from NZ$1.35 million this year to NZ$1.025 million in 2015.

Last week, an independent review of the 14 provincial unions indicated a turnaround in their financial performance with a small overall surplus of NZ$500,000 across all of the teams as they cut their costs.

Costs had dropped from NZ$85 million in 2007 to NZ$66 million last year, the Deloitte ‘State of The Unions’ report showed. ($1 = 1.2540 New Zealand dollars)

(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

Read More →

With Andy Carroll’s move to West Ham for $23 million (14 million pounds) the biggest deal involving an Englishman in the latest transfer window, and a trend for the top clubs to sell off rather than buy local talent, confidence in the country’s players seems low.


Premier League clubs had spent 630 million pounds ($980.53 million) by Monday’s transfer deadline, smashing the previous record of 500 million pounds set in 2008 according to business services group Deloitte.

The standout deals were mainly for Spaniards, South Americans and Germans with Mesut Ozil, Fernandinho, Willian and Roberto Soldado joining Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur respectively.

England’s Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney could have been a big-name move with Chelsea chasing him for much of the close season before cooling off last week and Everton defender Leighton Baines was a United target but neither deal came off.

There was a loan deal for England midfielder Gareth Barry from Manchester City to Everton, defender Steven Caulker – who has one cap – moved to Cardiff City from Tottenham for 10 million but other activity was even lower key.

Midfielder Stewart Downing joined West Ham from Liverpool, Tom Huddlestone swapped Spurs for Hull City and midfielder Jonjo Shelvey went to Swansea from Liverpool, all for single-figure millions apiece.

The trio of newly promoted clubs, Crystal Palace, Hull City and Cardiff City, were the most active in acquiring English players, mopping up what they could from the bigger clubs for small fees or free.

England manager Roy Hodgson had last week urged clubs to do their transfer business before his squad assembled to prepare for this month’s World Cup qualifiers rather than having players make mad dashes across the country to sign late deals.

“We will co-operate with the clubs, of course, but we will be asking them to co-operate with us as well because if it is at all possible to get your business done before 12 p.m. on September 1, we would be very grateful,” he said.


He got his wish but ahead of next year’s World Cup it does not say much for the quality of his squad that so many of the top players were not even linked with moves to Premier League clubs or further afield.

At least in the case of Rooney, his club were repeatedly made to say he was not for sale in the face of interest but many others never even got enquiries.

England, who are second behind Montenegro – whose striker Stevan Jovetic was a $43.5-million purchase for Manchester City in July – in their World Cup qualifying group, host Moldova on Friday and travel to Ukraine next Tuesday in qualifiers.

A look at the England squad for those matches highlights one of the main problems Hodgson has with several of his players struggling to get a regular game for their clubs, particularly those at the bigger outfits.

A case in point is Rooney, who was frequently on the United bench last season, and Hodgson thinks some should perhaps follow the example of striker Daniel Sturridge who swapped a lack of regular action at Chelsea to move to Liverpool in January and kickstart his career.

“A lot of our players are in that position at the moment,” British media quoted him as saying on Tuesday.

“They’re too good for the clubs to say: ‘We’ll sell you or we’ll loan you out’. But they face such stiff competition in these top teams that they don’t get that many games.

“It takes a club to say: ‘Look, I’m convinced that this guy is a 90-minute starter every week and I will play the price required to get him’, as Liverpool did (for Sturridge), and then give him the chance.

“But I think with the U21 game the other week and the matches I see, there are a few players out there who could surprise you if they moved from good reserve positions at top clubs to other good clubs in the Premier League.”

Unfortunately for Hodgson, and perhaps England, the transfer window has shut and the next opportunity for a move will be in January, a few months before the World Cup starts in Brazil.

(Editing by Clare Fallon)

Read More →

With eight races remaining, the Spaniard is 46 points behind Red Bull’s triple world champion and overall leader Sebastian Vettel with some of the German’s most dominant tracks coming up in Asia and the Middle East.


Monza is a special place for Vettel, having taking his first Formula One win there with tiny Toro Rosso in 2008, but Red Bull have triumphed there only once – in 2011 – and team principal Christian Horner spoke in Belgium of it as a potential ‘Achilles Heel’ for his car.

“We don’t expect, maybe, to be that strong (at Monza) but let’s see,” Vettel said after winning at Spa last month for his fifth victory of the year.

There is more optimism – and burden of expectation – at Ferrari, the most successful constructor by far at their home circuit with 18 wins over the years compared to McLaren’s 10.

Alonso won in 2010, and was third in 2011 and 2012. He also won with McLaren in 2007 and was second in 2005 with Renault.

Sunday’s race, at a circuit haunted by the ghosts of history with the decaying 1950s banking quietly crumbling beyond the modern track, will sound a last post for Formula One’s V8 engine in Europe and locals would argue that a win for the sport’s oldest and most successful team would be a fitting farewell.

“It’s an important weekend for us, for the team,” agreed Alonso, who will have to be at his very best to line up on the front row for the first time in 22 races and more than a year of trying.

“Last year we were very close to repeat the victory that we got also in 2010, so we arrive fully motivated again and in Monza we would like to give some smiles and some satisfaction to the tifosi and we will try our best,” said the double champion.


Massa, whose future is under more scrutiny now that Red Bull have decided their 2014 line-up, has made only one appearance on the podium this season – a third in Spain – and has not won a race since 2008.

There will be no shortage of motivation for Massa, even without the pressure of fighting to keep his job, in a race without Italian drivers.

“I am Brazilian but my family came from Italy so this is something of a home race as I have an Italian passport and our family has something of an Italian lifestyle,” he told the Ferrari website ( this week.

“This all adds up to a very special race for me.”

Toro Rosso’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who will be Vettel’s team mate at Red Bull next season as replacement for departing compatriot Mark Webber, also has an Italian passport but cannot count on too much support even if he currently races for an Italian-based team.

The Monza fans are famed for their passion as well as their complete devotion to all-things Ferrari, their enthusiasm more like a football crowd venting its ire at anyone on the podium not dressed in red.

Lewis Hamilton was booed by them last year when he won for McLaren, with Ferrari-powered cars second, third and fourth, and cannot expect much to have changed should he return triumphant with Mercedes.

The 2008 world champion is chasing his fifth pole in succession to give himself the best shot of a repeat win to close the gap on Vettel and Alonso after being left trailing by both rivals at Spa and finishing third.

The driver starting on pole has won eight of the last 10 races at Monza and only three current drivers – by coincidence the top three in the championship – have won there before. None of them has so far won twice in Italy for the same team.

“We will use a refined version of the low-drag package introduced at Spa. We hope to see an improvement in race pace after the lessons we learned over the race weekend in Belgium,” said Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Read More →