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Update December 2017

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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern

Update December 30 2017 - January 2, 2018

Australia 103-2 and 61 behind when rain ends 4th day at MCG

Australia's Cameron Bancroft chops onto his stumps off the bowling of England's Chris Woakes for 27 runs during the fourth day of the fourth Ashes cricket test match in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Dec. 29. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Julian Linden

Melbourne, Australia (AP) — Melbourne's fickle weather slowed England's push for a consolation victory in the fourth Ashes test on Friday, with rain forcing an early end to the fourth day with Australia struggling after Alastair Cook batted through his team's entire first innings.

Trailing by 164 runs after England's first innings ended on 491 on the first ball of the day, Australia crawled to 103 for two in their second innings when play was suspended before tea because of the storm, increasing the prospect of a drawn match with only one day remaining.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground floodlights were illuminated and ground staff covered the center wicket in the hope that the match would recommence before the umpires eventually called off play for the day and ordered an early start on Saturday.

"Anytime there's a bit of rain and you're on top in the game, it's a bit frustrating," England's Australian-born coach Trevor Bayliss said. "But we have an opportunity tomorrow to win so that's the attitude we've got to take.

"We showed in the first innings that we can take a number of wickets reasonably quickly and 98 overs is more than enough time if we play well to force a result."

Australia were still 61 runs in arrears and under enormous pressure to get back into the contest as England pressed for a morale-boosting win after losing the first three matches of the five-test series to concede the Ashes.

First-innings century-maker David Warner, batting with extreme caution, was unbeaten on 40 from 140 balls when play was interrupted with the Australian captain Steve Smith 25 not out and the pair needing to build a big partnership on the final day to salvage a draw.

"The atmosphere is still great in the change rooms," Australian allrounder Mitch Marsh said. "We obviously know that we've got a big day tomorrow of batting ahead but hopefully we can come out with a draw."

Normally free-scoring batsmen, Warner and Smith added just 38 runs for the third wicket in 22.4 overs as they battled to keep their wickets intact after England captured two early victims.

Australian opener Cameron Bancroft was dismissed for 27 when he chopped a ball from Chris Woakes back on to his stumps. Then Usman Khawaja, who got off the mark with a massive six off English spinner Moeen Ali, departed for 11 when Jimmy Anderson found the edge and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow took a routine catch.

"Even though it's still a very good (batting) wicket, it still gives us an opportunity to force a result," Bayliss said. "If we can get rid of those two guys (Warner and Smith) early on tomorrow and put some pressure on their lower order, then anything is possible."

Resuming on 491-9, England's first innings ended after just one delivery when Anderson was dismissed for a duck, caught by Bancroft at short leg off Pat Cummins.

Cummins finished with 4-117 while fellow paceman Josh Hazlewood and spinner Nathan Lyon captured three wickets each as the Australians struggled in the absence of injured strike bowler Mitchell Starc.

Cook was left stranded on 244 not out, becoming the first player to carry his bat through a full innings in a test at the MCG, test cricket's oldest ground, having hosted the sport's inaugural test in 1877.

Cook set a stack of records during his marathon innings, which started on Wednesday and spanned more than 10 hours at the crease.

The 33-year-old opener became the first Englishman to carry his bat since Mike Atherton did it against New Zealand in Christchurch 20 years ago.

The left-hander also became the first batsman to achieve the rare feat in an Ashes series since Geoffrey Boycott at Perth in 1979 and posted the highest score by a player to carry his bat, eclipsing New Zealander Glenn Turner's unbeaten 223 in 1972.

Brignone takes World Cup GS, Italy women's 1st win of season

Italy's Federica Brignone celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win an alpine ski women's World Cup giant slalom in Lienz, Austria, Friday, Dec. 29. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)

Lienz, Austria (AP) — Federica Brignone gave Italy its first women's World Cup win of the season on Friday, one day after Dominik Paris got the Italian men's team its first podium by winning the Bormio downhill.

Ranked fourth after the opening leg of a giant slalom on the Schlossberg course, Brignone posted the fourth-fastest time and edged first-run leader Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany by 0.04 seconds.

"I am so happy with first place," said Brignone, who has been dealing with adductor problems. She returned early from a preseason training camp in South America and sat out the start of the World Cup season.

"I couldn't ski or train for a while. I came back in Killington (on Nov. 25) and from then on I am feeling better every day."

This was her sixth career win, and fourth in GS.

Overall champion Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States was 0.08 behind in third, and French world champion Tessa Worley trailed by 0.26 in fourth.

Former overall champions Lara Gut of Switzerland and Anna Veith of Austria, who both returned from knee injuries this season, finished 10 and 21st, respectively.

Brignone said her injury was still hampering her.

"For now, I can ski at least," she said. "I have to focus on the few runs I can do. I was training with my family, my dad and my brother, before this race. Now I am relaxed."

Chasing her first win on Austrian snow since taking the season-opener in Soelden two years ago, Brignone said she "didn't feel so good at the start" of her first run, which she finished 0.17 off Rebensburg's leading time.

"The slope is very tough and it was a little bit bumpy but I knew I had to charge all the way down," she said about her winning second run.

Brignone denied Rebensburg a third win of the season after the German took the first two giant slaloms in Soelden and Killington. Rebensburg has earned 13 of her 15 career World Cup wins in GS.

Defending her slim lead from the opening run, the 2010 Olympic champion lost just too much time as she wasn't clean in the steep middle section of the course.

"It was tough to race, it was pretty dark," Rebensburg said. "It was very tight, just a few hundredths. But it was a solid race, I could have done better on a few spots but you have to be satisfied with a second place."

Rebensburg overtook Shiffrin atop the discipline standings. After four races, the German has 298 points, 13 clear of the American.

However, Shiffrin will enter 2018 as the clear overall World Cup leader with 881 points, 371 ahead of the German.

A day after dominating the slalom on the same course, Shiffrin was 0.05 behind Rebensburg in second after the opening run and lost a place after posting the eighth-fastest time in the final run.

"I like to be one who is chasing. I didn't have a lead to work with so I felt like I really had to go and give everything in the second run," said Shiffrin, who won the previous GS in Courchevel 10 days ago.

The next World Cup is a city event in Oslo on New Year's Day.


Pinturault dominates combined _ before it goes extinct

France's Alexis Pinturault competes during the second run of an alpine ski men's World Cup alpine combined, in Bormio, Italy, Friday, Dec. 29. (AP Photo/Marco Trovati)

Andrew Dampf

Bormio, Italy (AP) — Alexis Pinturault realizes that the Alpine combined event is moving toward extinction.

Maybe that's why he's dominating the races that remain.

The Frenchman secured another combined win when first-run leader Dominik Paris straddled a gate toward the end of his slalom run on Friday.

For his seventh World Cup victory in the discipline, Pinturault won with a 0.42-second advantage ahead of Peter Fill of Italy.

Kjetil Jansrud of Norway finished third, 0.45 back.

Combined events — which determine the winner by combining the times from one downhill run and one slalom leg — are on the provisional calendar only for the next two seasons. After that, the International Ski Federation has intimated that it plans to install more TV-friendly parallel events instead.

"I can't say I will regret it but I also can't say I'm happy about it," Pinturault said. "I like combined. I like the way we are racing against the downhillers or the downhillers are racing against the tech guys. These are the only races where this is happening.

"Of course if people don't really like it or are not interested maybe it doesn't make sense to continue or maybe it makes sense to change it for the future," he added. "It's life. It's evolution."

This season already, both the men's and women's circuits have had giant slalom and slalom parallel events in Alta Badia and Courchevel, France, respectively. Also, city events on miniature slalom courses are planned for Oslo on New Year's Day and Stockholm on Jan. 30.

"I like city events but in this kind of event you never know what will happen," Pinturault said. "They're really short. One mistake and you're out. It's something really tricky."

In the combined, the top all-around racer often wins.

Pinturault stood 19th after the downhill run — 1.65 seconds behind Paris — but had the fastest slalom leg to post his 21st career win across all disciplines. He has won four of the last five, and six of the last nine World Cup combined races.

"He's a way better downhiller than people expect him to be," Jansrud said. "And then being an extremely good slalom skier makes him a dangerous combination. So he's the man to beat."

Paris was positioned to duplicate his victory in the downhill a day earlier when he held an advantage of 0.46 ahead of Pinturault at the last checkpoint of the slalom leg, but the Italian lost control about 10 gates from the finish.

Jansrud is also a supporter of the combined, citing the event's long history. But he's aware that that a one-hour parallel race is more attractive to TV viewers and easier to understand than a complicated combined event that can take all day.

"I think it would be optimal to do a bit of both but we only have so much time," Jansrud said.

This was the first of two World Cup combined races this season, with the next in Wengen, Switzerland, in January. A combined will also be contested at the Pyeongchang Olympics in February, where a team event will make its debut in the parallel format.

The combined is often considered the toughest test in skiing, since it requires vastly different skills between the high-speed downhill and the sharp and rapid turns of slalom. This race was a case in point, since the downhill was physically demanding on the bumpy Stelvio course and then the slalom was held under the lights on a layout that didn't leave much room for specialists to excel.

After his downhill run, Paris bent over in exhaustion and rubbed his thighs to relieve his aching muscles.

"It was one of the hardest downhills we ever had in combined," Pinturault said. "Also, the slalom had a really long flat and was really straight, so it was really hard to make a huge difference. ... I won today also because of my downhill performance."

Andy Murray makes tepid return as he loses exhibition match

Great Britain's Andy Murray returns a ball to Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut during the second day of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Friday, Dec. 29. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Andy Murray made a tepid return to the court, losing a one-set match 6-2 to Roberto Bautista Agut in the United Arab Emirates exhibitions on Friday.

Murray, who has slipped to 16th in the rankings after ending last year as No. 1, wasn't scheduled to play at the Abu Dhabi tournament. However, he filled in for Novak Djokovic, after the Serb withdrew from his semifinal against Bautista Agut earlier in the day with a recurrence of pain in his right elbow.

Murray, who has been struggling to find full fitness following a right hip problem, was initially only in Abu Dhabi to practice before next month's Australian Open.

He is also expecting to play in Brisbane, Australia next week.

The 30-year-old British player lost his first two service games and trailed 4-0 against the 20th-ranked Spaniard. In the seventh game, he held a service game lasting 12 minutes.

"Obviously I made a slow start and Roberto is one of the best players in the world," Murray said. "When you haven't competed for a while, it takes time to get up to that pace. I started to feel a bit better toward the end, but I need to keep improving for sure."

Murray, a three-time Grand Slam winner, did not move around the court at his usual pace and his first serves were way below his best. He did have one ace late in the fifth game, in which he also executed an athletic lunge at the net to win a point.

What appeared to trouble Murray the most was retrieving shots on the run with his backhand. He sent a few returns into the net, and did not even go for a couple of shots. Even though he moved gingerly, it was understandable as he returned to training only last week.

"It was nice to be able to play," a relieved-sounding Murray said. "I was just planning on stopping here for a couple of days on the way to Australia to get some practice in with the guys."

Aside from an exhibition match against Roger Federer back home in Scotland last month, Murray has not played since losing to Sam Querrey in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in July.

Also Friday, U.S. Open runner-up Kevin Anderson of South Africa reached the final after beating fifth-ranked Austrian Dominic Thiem 7-6 (6), 6-4.

Andrey Rublev of Russia secured fifth place in the six-player tournament by beating Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 6-4, 6-2.

On Saturday, 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams returns to court with an exhibition match against French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

The 36-year-old Williams, the Australian Open champion, gave birth to her first child in September.

Update December 29, 2017

Comanche wins Sydney-Hobart, Wild Oats XI stripped of title

In this image provided by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and Rolex, Wild Oats XI, center left, leads LDV Comanche, center right, as they near the finish in the Sydney Hobart yacht race near Hobart, Australia, Wednesday, Dec. 27. (Luca Butto'CYCA/Rolex via AP)

Hobart, Australia (AP) — Super maxi LDV Comanche was awarded line honors in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Thursday after its protest against Wild Oats XI was upheld over an incident early in the race.

Wild Oats XI was found to have breached race rules over a tacking move at the start on Tuesday in Sydney Harbour. The eight-time winner was penalized one hour after lengthy deliberations by a five-person international jury in Hobart.

It was only the third time in the event's 73-race history that a yacht lost line honors due to a penalty.

In 1990, Rothmans received a time penalty for breaching advertising rules. In 1983, Nirvana failed to give Condor sufficient sea room; Nirvana crossed the line first but was later disqualified and Condor was declared the winner.

Wild Oats XI had crossed the finish line in record-breaking time but was only 26 minutes, 34 seconds ahead of LDV Comanche.

Mark Richards, the skipper aboard Wild Oats XI, said he and the yacht's crew accepted the jury's findings and penalty.

"Not very often do you smash a Sydney to Hobart record and then get it taken away from you, but it's happened to us today," he said. "We're very disappointed but we have to cop it on the chin."

LDV Comanche skipper and owner Jim Cooney described the decision as "fair."

"It's always a bit of a shame it may happen in these circumstances," he said. "The jury decided very clearly that there was an infringement in the harbor that penalized us. When things come down to the wire so closely like that I think it's only fair and reasonable that the jury acted the way they did."

The jury canvassed several witnesses and reviewed television before making its decision.

The allegation lodged with the jury was that Wild Oats XI was on a port tack, and Comanche was on a starboard tack, putting them on a collision course at the start of the race.

It alleged that Wild Oats did not complete its tack from port to starboard, failing to keep clear of Comanche.

Wild Oats XI had crossed the finish line in 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes, 50 seconds. The previous race record was 1 day, 13 hours, 31 minutes, 20 seconds.

The revised times show Comanche with a winning time of 1 day, 9 hours, 15 minutes, 24 seconds, still well inside the previous record by more than four hours.  Wild Oats XI's revised time with the penalty added was 33 minutes behind.

The two other super maxis in the race were third and fourth and also under the previous race record: Black Jack and Info Track, which was formerly Perpetual Loyal.

In the final hours of the race, Wild Oats and Comanche were neck and neck down Tasmania's east coast.

They entered the River Derwent where a lighter Wild Oats XI picked up a breeze to crawl into first place as her wider rival slowed to a near halt.

By late Thursday, 27 yachts had finished the race at Hobart from a starting field of 102, with only five retirements.

England take control thanks to Alastair Cook's 244 not out

England's Alastair Cook bats against Australia during the third day of the fourth Ashes cricket test match in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Dec. 28. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Julian Linden

Melbourne, Australia (AP) — Alastair Cook produced a master-class in concentration by scoring an unbeaten double century on Thursday to put his team in complete control of the fourth Ashes test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Already England's greatest run-scorer, the 33-year-old opener stonewalled Australia's bowling attack for more than 10 hours, eclipsing a stack of historical batting records along the way as the tourists piled on 491 for nine at stumps on day three, a lead of 164 over Australia with one first-innings wicket still in hand.

"It was obviously a tough day. I thought our bowlers bowled well but Alastair Cook was simply brilliant," Australia coach Darren Lehmann said. "He just batted a very long time and he was certainly more aggressive than he was in the other tests.

"He played brilliantly and showed some of the younger guys how sometimes you've just got to tough it out."

Cook raised his arms in triumph after he became the first Englishman since Wally Hammond to score a double hundred at the MCG (in 1928) and his 244 not out is now the highest score made by any player against Australia in Melbourne, breaking the 208 Viv Richards made for the West Indies in 1984.

Resuming on 104 after reaching his hundred in the last over on Wednesday, Cook also overtook Mahela Jayawardene, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brian Lara to move into outright sixth place among test cricket's all-time leading scorers while posting the fifth double ton of his career and his highest score against Australia.

"I was probably more emotional getting a hundred last night," Cook said. "Today was really just about backing it up and getting a really big one for the team and I'm really pleased I did that."

The left-hander reached his 200 after tea when he drove Jackson Bird straight down the ground for four. He was dropped twice by the Australian captain Steve Smith, on 66 then again on 153, but hardly played another false shot during a marathon innings.

By the time stumps were drawn, Cook had batted a total of 634 minutes, faced 409 balls and struck 27 boundaries. He walked off to a standing ovation and the roars of the Barmy Army — England's travelling supporters — with his team in a great position to salvage a consolation win after losing the first three matches in the five-test series to surrender the Ashes.

Despite scoring 243 against the West Indies in August, speculation about Cook's future in the team had been growing after he managed a meagre total of just 83 runs from the first three tests and he admitted he was down on confidence.

"It's just a shame it's three matches too late but I have to live with that," Cook said. "There are always doubts. I've had them ever since I started playing.

"I always thought I had the backing of the selectors but you never know. You still have to score runs and I hadn't done that this tour."

Cook was well supported by England's lower order, which had also struggled in the previous matches, when he needed their help most.

Stuart Broad made a swashbuckling 56 batting at 10, and was at the non-striker's end when Cook passed the major his milestones, while Chris Woakes (26), Jonny Bairstow (22) and Moeen Ali (20) all made important contributions.

England captain Joe Root chipped in with a patient 61 but threw his wicket away before lunch when he holed out at deep square leg but it mattered little as the tourists turned the tables and all but ended Australia's hopes of a series sweep.

The Australians struggled in the absence of key strike bowler Mitchell Starc, who was ruled out of the match with a right foot injury. His replacement Bird failed to take any wickets while pacemen Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins and spinner Nathan Lyon captured three wickets each after toiling hard.

"We certainly didn't go into the game looking that far ahead," Lehmann said. "Those things are nice if they go that way but the goal is win the Ashes.

"Full credit to England, we've just been outplayed by a better side at the moment."

Arsenal top Crystal Palace 3-2 to stay close to EPL top 4


Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez, front, shields the ball from Crystal Palace's Christian Benteke during their English Premier League match at Selhurst Park stadium in London, Thursday, Dec. 28. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

London (AP) — Arsene Wenger admits Alexis Sanchez's future at Arsenal remains uncertain even after the Chilean scored twice to help beat Crystal Palace 3-2 in the English Premier League on Thursday.

Sanchez has long been of interest to league leaders Manchester City, and his tenure at Arsenal is set to come under renewed speculation ahead of the impending January transfer window.

"Nobody knows what will happen. It's difficult to speculate," Arsenal manager Wenger said.

"We are focused on short-term, that means the next game with the players committed and ready to fight. It's not a guarantee of how long you stay somewhere. As long as you are somewhere, you give your best.

"They are questioned, always, when people don't have long contracts. The best way to show they are committed is to give that kind of performance."

Sanchez's double made it an easy looking evening for Arsenal after Palace's Andros Townsend initially cancelled out Shkodran Mustafi's opener.

The Gunners remain sixth and one point behind fourth-placed Liverpool.

Crystal Palace had been undefeated in their last eight games but remain one point off the drop zone.

Arsenal were off the mark first when Alexandre Lacazette's shot forced goalkeeper Julian Speroni into a save that reached only the unmarked Mustafi, who tapped in with ease.

The equalizer began on the left wing four minutes into the second half; Wilfried Zaha used his footwork to cross towards Townsend, who under little pressure finished first-time into the bottom left corner beyond the diving Petr Cech.

Arsenal required time to recover from the setback, and it was only after a lethargic clearance from Christian Benteke after the hour mark that the Gunners were gifted the chance they needed. When Benteke half-heartedly cleared a corner to Calum Chambers, the defender returned possession to the Palace box and watched as Lacazette and Sanchez combined to create space for the latter to strike into the bottom left corner.

Despite leading, Arsenal's form this season meant only another goal would make victory look likely, and their fans had to wait only four more minutes.

With a brilliant chipped-pass from inside his own half, Jack Wilshere - often peripheral this season - sent Sanchez into space in the Palace area and, after he impressively controlled the ball, the Chilean routinely poked beyond Speroni.

Crystal Palace's pressure and obvious ambition produced a goal in the 89th minute when, after a corner, Townsend crossed to James Tomkins who, under too little pressure at the back post, headed in. It made for a nervy finish and Arsenal hung on.

Shiffrin beats Holdener, Hansdotter for World Cup slalom win

From left, second placed Switzerland's Wendy Holdener, first placed United States' Mikaela Shiffrin and third placed Sweden's Frida Hansdotter celebrate at the end of the final run of an alpine ski, women's World Cup slalom in Lienz, Austria, Thursday, Dec. 28. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)

Lienz, Austria (AP) — Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin mastered a tricky slalom course on Thursday to cruise to her 36th career World Cup win.

Backed by a huge 1.14-second lead from the opening leg, the defending overall World Cup champion avoided risks and posted only the 11th-fastest time in the final run but still comfortably beat second-place Wendy Holdener of Switzerland by 0.89 seconds.

Frida Hansdotter of Sweden was 1.22 behind in third, and Bernadette Schild of Austria was a further 0.55 behind in fourth.

"It was a wild ride," Shiffrin said about her second run on the Schlossberg course, where she earned her first career podium six years ago. "There were a couple of weak spots but there were definitely some spots that were really fast."

Initially a GS was planned but organizers swapped that race with Friday's slalom because of weather conditions as overnight snowfall forced course workers to move fresh snow out of the race line.

"With these conditions, the snow is so wet, it's actually really good, but it is very aggressive, it can be difficult to find the timing. But I felt really comfortable," Shiffrin said.

The American used a well-controlled run and lost bits of her advantage from the opening leg at every split time but never saw her lead put in danger.

"There are spots where you can let it go and spots where you have to keep in mind not to throw it all away," Shiffrin said.

Holdener led the race before Shiffrin, the last starter as winner of the opening run, denied her a victory once again. The Swiss skier has 12 podium finishes in slalom but is still awaiting her first win.

"I was angry about not finishing my previous slalom in Killington a month ago, so I am satisfied now," Holdener said.

The win stretched Shiffrin's lead in the overall standings to a massive 391 points over second-place Viktoria Rebensburg. The German skier does not compete in slaloms but will start in Friday's GS on the same hill.

Shiffrin also went further ahead in the discipline standings, 75 points clear of Petra Vlhova of Slovakia. Shiffrin has won 18 of the last 23 slaloms she competed in, but she was beaten by Vlhova in the season-opening slalom in Levi, Finland, last month.

Vlhova had a costly mistake in her final run and shared fifth place with Estelle Alphand, daughter of former ski racer Luc Alphand. Now starting for Sweden, Alphand posted the fastest second-run time and earned her first career top-10 result.

Hours before her smart final leg, Shiffrin had an outstanding opening run on a course set by one of her coaches, Jeff Lackey.

"I was really loose. And I didn't have any mistakes or anything, so for sure I really had a fast run," said Shiffrin, who holds the record for the biggest winning margin in a women's World Cup slalom since beating the field by 3.07 seconds in Aspen, Colorado, two years ago.

Shiffrin didn't think that her coach placing the gates was a big advantage for her.

"When my coaches set a course, I say, 'Don't tell me, I don't want to know your set, I don't want to know what you are doing'," Shiffrin said. "Actually, this course was really straight in the fall line and pretty high speed and that's normally not my advantage."

Paris ends Italian ski team's drought with win on home snow

Italy's Dominik Paris competes during an alpine ski, men's World Cup downhill in Bormio, Italy, Thursday, Dec. 28. (AP Photo/Marco Trovati)

Andrew Dampf

Bormio, Italy (AP) — Dominik Paris dominated on home snow in a World Cup downhill Thursday to end the season-long podium drought for Italy's men's team.

Paris won by a slim 0.04-second margin ahead of Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway on the demanding Stelvio course, which was softer than usual due to heavy snowfall a day earlier.

Kjetil Jansrud of Norway finished third, 0.17 seconds behind.

It was the ninth career win and second in Bormio for Paris, a muscular skier who has also claimed the feared downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria, twice.

Svindal and Jansrud had already completed their runs and were preparing to celebrate when Paris came down and got the crowd roaring by leading through the first two checkpoints. Paris trailed slightly at the last split but was able to carry his speed through the final zig-zag turns — when lactic acid was bursting through his muscles — and create a minimal advantage.

The Italian's speed topped out at 129.7 kph (80 mph).

At the finish, Paris pumped his fists and waved to the crowd as the circuit returned to Bormio after a three-year absence.

"The two Norwegians are always fast so you've got to pull out something extra to beat them," Paris said. "Today I was able to and now I hope I can do it in the next races, too."

The start of the race was delayed for 45 minutes while course workers finished clearing the 40 centimeters (16 inches) of snow that fell on the piste Wednesday.

"I'm always happy when it snows. In winter you need snow," said Paris, who comes from the Val d'Ultimo in Italy's German-speaking Alto Adige region.

Downhill world champion Beat Feuz of Switzerland finished fourth and Hannes Reichelt of Austria was fifth.

Paris also won this race in 2012, when he shared victory with Reichelt by 0.01 seconds ahead of Svindal in one of the tightest podiums in skiing history.

"Faster is faster," Paris said of the continually tight margins on the Stelvio.

Svindal, who had won the previous two downhills, still leads the discipline standings.

With the sun moving in and out behind clouds and the course mostly in the shade to begin with, there were several ugly falls.

Dominik Schwaiger of Germany was airlifted off the course and brought to a local hospital with unspecified injuries after a high-speed crash. Guillermo Fayed and Matthieu of France were dealing with various bruises after similar falls and Travis Ganong of the United States was getting his knee checked at the U.S. team hotel.

An Alpine combined race is scheduled for the Stelvio on Friday.

Update December 28, 2017

England reach 192-2 in reply to Australia's 327 at stumps

Australia's Mitchell Marsh is bowled by England's Chris Woakes for 9 runs during the second day of the fourth Ashes cricket test in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Dec. 27. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Julian Linden

Melbourne, Australia (AP) — Alastair Cook broke out of his recent form slump in dramatic fashion on Wednesday when he posted his first century at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, reaching the milestone in the final over before stumps as England enjoyed their best day of the Ashes series against Australia.

After surrendering the old urn by losing the first three tests of the five-match series, England finally turned the tables on the Australians, demolishing their batting lineup then making a strong reply with the bat on the second day of the fourth test.

Cook, who had struggled badly in the first three tests, prompting speculation about his future in the team, was at his imperious best. He registered the 32nd test hundred of his distinguished career to help England reach 192-2 at the close of play in reply to Australia's 327, still 135 in arrears but with momentum on their side.

"We know that we'll need three more fantastic days to win this test," England fast bowler Stuart Broad told a news conference. "It's not going to be easy to go and take 20 wickets here but we've put ourselves in a position where we could.

"We've still got a huge amount to play for."

The Australians looked set for a much bigger total before crumbling in a heap and losing their last seven wickets for just 67 runs as England's embattled fast bowlers bent their backs and dug deep on a pitch that offered little real assistance to the seamers.

While England's old guard reveled in the conditions, it was a day to forget for the Australian captain Steve Smith, who has been the standout player of the series after scoring a hundred in the first test in Brisbane and a double century in the third match in Perth.

Smith squandered his chance of another century when he chopped a wide delivery from England debutant Tom Curran onto his stumps when he was on 76, then dropped a sharp catch off Cook at slip when he was on 66. Smith then gave up 11 runs in the last over of the day to allow England's all-time leading scorer to get his hundred before stumps were drawn.

"You always want to take your catches. We know how important they are," Australian spinner Nathan Lyon said.

"It was unlucky it popped out at the last minute but hat's off to Alastair Cook, he batted extremely well and we all know how much of a talent he is."

The 33-year-old Cook batted for more than four hours and hit 15 boundaries off 166 balls to finish the day unbeaten on 104 with his skipper Joe Root alongside him on 49 not out. The pair had shared an unbroken partnership of 112 on a baking hot day that sapped the energy of all the players.

The Australians did pick up two early wickets when Lyon took a diving one-handed catch off his own bowling to remove Mark Stoneman for 15 and Josh Hazlewood trapped Vince James lbw for 17 but struggled in the absence of injured paceman Mitchell Starc and an out-of-sorts Pat Cummins, who was restricted to just 11 overs because of a stomach bug.

England's quicks avoided the worst of the heat by ripping through the Australian middle and lower order in the cooler morning session, with Broad (4-51), James Anderson (3-61), Chris Woakes (2-72) and Curran (1-65) all taking wickets.

"We should have pushed on to 400-plus but we lost wickets early. We definitely left runs out there," Hazlewood told Australian radio.

"A few of the boys know that they need to be better."

Curran, a late call-up to the team when Craig Overton broke a rib and was ruled out, justified his inclusion by triggering the Australian collapse when he snared the prized wicket of Smith to belatedly capture his first test victim.

A jubilant Curran wildly celebrated what he thought was his first wicket on day one when he had David Warner caught on 99, but his joy was short-lived when television replays showed he had overstepped the crease and bowled a no ball.

Given a reprieve, Warner brought up his century off the very next ball to add further insult to Curran's rookie error. But the 22-year-old made amends early on Wednesday morning by removing the dangerous Smith for 76 and changing England's fortunes.

Shaun Marsh, who made a century in the second test in Adelaide, chipped in with a fine 61 but four batsmen were dismissed in single figures.

Anderson's three wickets saw him move past West Indian Courtney Walsh into outright fifth place on the all-time test list with 521 wickets.

"Everyone is delighted for Cookie to get a hundred but we've got to come back and do the same tomorrow," Anderson told BT Sport.

"We've played some really good cricket on this trip but not done it for long enough."

Man City beat Newcastle 1-0 and move 15 points clear in EPL

Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan, left, and Newcastle United's Mikel Merino battle for the ball during their English Premier League soccer match at St James' Park in Newcastle, Wednesday, Dec. 27. (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)

Newcastle, England (AP) — Manchester City moved 15 points clear at the top of the English Premier League as they extended their winning run to 18 games at Newcastle on Wednesday.

Raheem Sterling's 31st-minute strike was all the leaders had to show for a dominant display in front of a crowd of 52,311 at St James' Park. The Magpies' ultra-conservative approach frustrated them despite their wealth of possession.

But ultimately the 1-0 win was enough on a night when Rafael Benitez's men slipped to a fifth consecutive home defeat for the first time since 1953.

"I'm happy with a lot of clean sheets," City manager Pep Guardiola said. "Today we have started the second round (half of the season) - 18 games left. We're going to see how many we need to be champion."

It might have been worse for Newcastle had referee Andre Marriner taken a dimmer view of Jacob Murphy's first-half challenge on Ilkay Gundogan. Of the incident, Guardiola said: "Everybody is focusing on diving but the referees have to follow the rules and try to take care of the players, so they feel safe."

Newcastle's game-plan was predictably cautious as all 11 men not only got behind the ball, but within 35 yards of their own goal for much of the first half. They challenged City to break them down, which they almost did when Sergio Aguero stabbed Fernandinho's seventh-minute cross against the post.

An early injury to City skipper Vincent Kompany simply prompted Pep Guardiola to replace his central defender with striker Gabriel Jesus.

For all of City's utter domination of possession, they were hardly able to stretch the hosts decisively, although goalkeeper Rob Elliot had to claw away Aguero's 17th-minute header and then come off his line to block Jesus' effort at point-blank range.

The deadlock was broken when Sterling ran on to Kevin de Bruyne's return pass and scuffed the ball past the keeper with the studs of his left boot.

Newcastle might have been back in it had defender Nicolas Otamendi not cleared Rolando Aaron's chipped effort off the line 10 minutes before the break.

There was no change in the pattern of the game after halftime. City came close but the massed ranks of black and white continued to scrap.

De Bruyne struck a post and defender Jamaal Lascelles headed just wide of his own goal with Elliot stranded as City went for the kill.

"It was a question of staying in the game until the end," Benitez said, "and I was really pleased with the team in terms of organization and workrate but disappointed because we could have been better on the ball in the first half. I was pleased with our reaction in the second half."


Wild Oats XI expected to win Sydney to Hobart for 9th time

Supermaxi Wild Oats XI enters open water during the start of the Sydney Hobart yacht race Sydney, Tuesday, Dec. 26. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Hobart, Australia (AP) — Despite a protest, Wild Oats XI is expected to be confirmed as the Sydney to Hobart winner for the ninth time after a record-breaking duel with LDV Comanche.

Wild Oats XI crossed the line at Constitution Dock in Hobart about 26 minutes ahead of fellow super maxi LDV Comanche on Wednesday to take almost five hours off the record time set by Perpetual Loyal last year.

LDV Comanche, the 2015 winner, raised its protest flag after a near-collision with Wild Oats XI shortly after the start of the race on Tuesday.

An international jury will hear the protest in Hobart on Thursday. If upheld, it could result in Wild Oats XI receiving a time penalty of five minutes or more, which would likely not change the outcome.

Wild Oats XI, helmed by Mark Richards, finished in 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes, 50 seconds. The previous race record was 1 day, 13 hours, 31 minutes, 20 seconds.

The two other super maxis in the race were third and fourth and also under the previous race record: Black Jack and Info Track, which was formerly Perpetual Loyal.

Van Dijk most expensive defender after 70m pound Liverpool move

Netherlands' international defender Virgil van Dijk.
(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Rob Harris

Liverpool (AP) - Liverpool FC are breaking the world transfer record for a defender by signing Virgil van Dijk from Southampton in a 70m pound (US$94 million) move.

Following Liverpool's long-running pursuit of the 26-year-old Netherlands center back, Southampton announced on Wednesday that they had accepted the record fee ahead of the January transfer window opening.

"Delighted and honored to have agreed to become a Liverpool FC player," Van Dijk wrote on Instagram alongside a picture holding a jersey of the club he will join on Jan. 1. "Today is a proud day for me and my family as I join one of the biggest clubs in world football!

"I can't wait to pull on the famous red shirt for the first time in front of the Kop and will give everything I have to try and help this great club achieve something special in the years to come."

The transfer fee could reach 75 million pounds ($100 million) depending on Van Dijk's achievements at Liverpool.

The scale of the investment signals Liverpool's determination to plug leaks in the defence that have seen the team fall 17 points behind leaders Manchester City into fourth place in the English Premier League.

Liverpool are devastating going forward, with the "Fab Four" attack of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah helping the team amass a 46-goal haul that only City have eclipsed.

But Juergen Klopp's team have conceded 23 goals in 20 games — more than any rival in the top five — including three in last week's 3-3 draw at Arsenal after a two-goal lead was thrown away.

The Van Dijk deal eclipses the previous highest amounts paid for defenders who are rarely in contention for the top awards in football dominated by goal-scorers. English Premier League leaders Manchester City paid around 50 million pounds each for Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker in the summer transfer window.

While Van Dijk becomes the world's most expensive defender, Neymar still holds the title of the game's costliest player after joining Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona for 222 million euros in August.

"There is a dearth of top-class center backs throughout world football hence why so many clubs wanted (Van Dijk) and the transfer fee is so high," former Liverpool center back Jamie Carragher told broadcaster Sky Sports. "People will look at the transfer (fee) that normally strikers go for, but as with any transfer fee if he performs well and does his job it will be worth it."

That, according to Carragher, will require Van Dijk helping the 18-time English champions end a trophy drought that stretches back to the 2012 League Cup.

Van Dijk hoped to join Liverpool in August after handing in a transfer request but Southampton stood their ground and forced the Anfield club to apologize for their conduct in pursuing a deal.

Van Dijk, though, will become the sixth player to leave Southampton for Liverpool in less than four years when the transfer is completed next week.

"I will always be indebted to the club for giving me the opportunity to play in the Premier League and despite a difficult last few months I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Saints and have made friends for life at the club," said Van Dijk, who joined Southampton from Celtic in 2015 for a reported 13 million pounds.

Van Dijk is joining a team fighting on three fronts. The FA Cup campaign opens next week with a Merseyside derby against Everton, and the Champions League resumes in February with a last-16 meeting with Porto.

Update December 27, 2017

Mourinho moans after draw with Burnley; Kane breaks records

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane watches as he scores his side’s 5th goal and his third of the game against Southampton at Wembley stadium in London Tuesday, Dec 26. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Sam Johnston

London (AP) — Spending is the reason Manchester City are speeding clear of Manchester United in the English Premier League race, according to Jose Mourinho.

After salvaging a 2-2 draw against Burnley on Tuesday, second-placed United trail City by 12 points and Pep Guardiola's side can extend that advantage when they face Newcastle on Wednesday.

"Manchester City buy the full backs for the price of the strikers," United manager Mourinho said, referring to the summer purchases of Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy for a combined figure of more than 100 million pounds ($133 million).

"Is not enough, is not enough," Mourinho said of his own expenditure at United, about 300 million pounds in the last 19 months.

"And the price for the big clubs, the price for the big clubs is different from the other clubs, so the big, historical clubs are normally punished in the market for that history."

It could have been worse for United. Jesse Lingard came off the bench at halftime to score twice and cancel out first-half strikes from Burnley's Ashley Barnes and Steven Defour.

United were at least on the right side of a stoppage-time equalizer this time, having conceded in the final moments last Saturday to give up the lead at Leicester.

United are just one point ahead of third-placed Chelsea, who continued their strong home form by beating Brighton 2-0.

Harry Kane scored successive hat tricks to break the record for the most league goals in a calendar year as Tottenham thrashed Southampton 5-2. Liverpool were similarly ruthless in thrashing bottom side Swansea 5-0.

Here's a look at Tuesday's games:


After netting three times at Burnley on Saturday, Kane delivered another treble at Wembley Stadium to take his league tally for 2017 to 39.

Each goal broke new ground for Kane; his first took him clear of Alan Shearer's 36 Premier League goals in 1995; the second saw him overtake Lionel Messi as the player from Europe's five major leagues to have the most goals (56) for club and country in 2017; and the third gave him a record sixth Premier League hat trick in a calendar year.

"It's been amazing, it's been a fantastic year - one I'm very proud of," Kane said. "When you get compared to them players, the Messis, the Shearers, that's what it's all about."


Liverpool displayed the ruthlessness they have often lacked in recent weeks to dispatch struggling Swansea.

Philippe Coutinho, the Reds captain for the day, scored early to give his side a narrow halftime lead. But Liverpool's superiority showed after the break.

Roberto Firmino scored twice and Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also found the net.

Swansea are on the bottom with just 11 goals, and 13 points from 20 games.


Chelsea's Spanish contingent was largely responsible for a sixth consecutive home win in the league.

For the sixth time this season, Morata was assisted by Spain teammate Cesar Azpilicueta. The defender produced an inch-perfect cross, allowing Morata to head home.

The victory was sealed as two more Spaniards combined. Cesc Fabregas picked out Marcos Alonso with his corner and the wing back headed in at the near post.


West Bromwich Albion's winless run was extended to 18 games after drawing 0-0 with Everton.

Alan Pardew has failed to change the Baggies' fortunes since taking over as manager in late November, with the club one short of equaling Aston Villa's record for the most league games without a win.

Everton are undefeated in six games under new coach Sam Allardyce and remain in the top half of the table.


Bournemouth's Callum Wilson scored a heavily disputed stoppage-time equalizer against West Ham to cap a thrilling 3-3 draw.

After the goal was initially disallowed by the linesman for offside, referee Bobby Madley overruled the decision despite West Ham's claims the goal should have been ruled out for offside and handball by Wilson.

It looked as though Marko Arnautovic won it for the Hammers after scoring twice in the last 10 minutes to give West Ham the lead.

Also, Tom Ince's first league goal since February 2014 was canceled out by Ramadan Sobhi's second in four days as Huddersfield and Stoke drew 1-1.

Watford ended a six-game winless run as they came from behind to defeat Leicester 2-1 at Vicarage Road. A tap-in from Molla Wague in his first league start, and against his former club, plus an own goal from Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel canceled out Riyad Mahrez's opener.

Australia 244-3 at stumps against England

Australia's David Warner hits a single to score his century against England on the opening day of the fourth Ashes test in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Dec. 26. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Julian Linden

Melbourne, Australia (AP) — David Warner completed his first hundred of the Ashes series on Tuesday after getting a lucky break on 99 before Steve Smith ominously cruised to an unbeaten half-century to ensure Australia took the honors from England on the first day of the fourth test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

With the Ashes already back in Australia's hands after the home side easily won the first three matches of the five-test series, England toiled hard on a placid surface that offered little assistance to the bowlers but had little to show for their efforts against a ruthless opposition chasing a second straight sweep on home soil.

When stumps were drawn, Australia were coasting along at 244 for three in their first innings with Smith not out 65 and Shaun Marsh with him on 31 after Warner had laid the foundations with an entertaining 103 in front of more than 88,000 spectators.

"Growing up, you always want a Boxing Day ton," Warner told Australian radio. "It eluded me for a while until last year, and then I knew once I got in I really had to try to knuckle down and dig in."

Warner dominated his 122-run partnership with Cameron Bancroft (26), but England succeeded in putting the brakes on Australia's scoring when they removed both openers after lunch then Usman Khawaja (17) after tea.

England almost got Marsh before he was off the mark when Stuart Broad struck him on the pads but the appeal was turned down and the Australian settled down to share an unbroken stand of 84 with his skipper, who has been a thorn in England's side throughout the series, scoring a hundred in the first test and a double in the third.

By his own high standards, Warner has had a lean series to date, making just one-half century in the first three tests, but the 31-year-old made amends, albeit with a slice of good fortune.

He smashed Moeen Ali straight over his head for six in the last over before lunch to go to the interval on 83 but slowed down after the re-start, spending 45 minutes in the 90s then almost coming unstuck on 99 when he chipped a simple catch to Broad at mid-on.

Warner was furious with himself as he started to trudge from the field thinking he had blown his opportunity to reach triple figures only to be given a reprieve when television replays showed debutant bowler Tom Curran had overstepped the crease for a no-ball.

Given a second chance, the left-handed Warner flicked the next ball he faced square of the wicket for a single to post the 21st test century of his career, and the relief was clear as he leapt into the air and kissed the Australian crest on his helmet, and began arguing with some of the England players before the umpires intervened and told everyone to calm down.

"I was quite annoyed and then getting recalled was obviously fantastic," Warner told a news conference.

"It was a bit of roller coaster of emotions between those two deliveries, that's for sure.

"I felt gutted about the ball before so I gave myself a bit of a kick in the backside in my head, then it was elation."

Warner's joy was short lived however as he departed shortly after, edging a catch to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow off James Anderson, who joined West Indian Courtney Walsh in fifth place on the all-time wicket takers list with 519 but later criticized the state of the pitch.

"People want to see entertaining cricket, especially in an iconic test match like the Boxing Day test match at the MCG," Anderson said.

"I know it wasn't exciting to watch. It wasn't exciting to play in, to be honest, when it's that attritional. But there's not a lot we can do about it from here."

Warner hit a total of 13 boundaries in his three-hour, 151-ball innings while Bancroft, playing in just his third test, was content to let his senior partner dominate the scoring, managing just two fours in his patient 95-ball knock before he was trapped leg before wicket by Chris Woakes.

Khawaja batted cautiously as England's seamers began to tighten the screws by bowling a better line and length.

After piling on more than 100 runs before lunch, Australia managed just 43 in the second session and the buildup of pressure eventually told on Khawaja, who was caught behind by Bairstow off Broad after tea, before Smith once again put Australia back in control.

"He's just a freak," Warner said of Smith. "I don't know how he does what he does. He's very mentally strong.

"He's seeing the ball like a watermelon and making it look so easy."

Els invited to Augusta National, but not to play Masters

South African golfer Ernie Els. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

Doug Ferguson

London (AP) - Ernie Els says he received an invitation to Augusta National for the first week in April. It just wasn't an invitation to play in the Masters.

Els had to clarify a tweet from Sunday that said: "Thank you for a Great Xmas present! @TheMasters Can't wait!" That led several media sites to post stories that Els, a four-time major champion, had received a special exemption into the Masters.

Instead, the 48-year-old South African received a letter welcoming him as an honorary invitee. His five-year exemption into the Masters from winning the 2012 British Open ended last year. Augusta National has a tradition of inviting past major champions as honorary guests for the week.

Els tweeted Monday: "Wanted to clarify my excitement getting an invite from @TheMasters. Work continues to qualify to compete!

Augusta National occasionally awards exemptions to international players, but those typically are given to players who are not full PGA Tour members and have multiple avenues to qualify on their own. Among ways for PGA Tour members to qualify for the Masters are winning tournaments that offer full FedEx Cup points, reaching the Tour Championship or getting into the top 50 in the world ranking at various cutoff points.

"The inclusion of Honorary Invitees has been a great tradition at the Masters Tournament for many years," Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said. "This coming year the list includes Ernie Els, and we are once again excited to welcome him and all of these distinguished guests to Augusta National in April."

The Masters pays homage to major champions more than any of the other majors by giving them special access as honorary invitees that includes two clubhouse badges, a $1,000 honorarium and a gift to commemorate them being there.

Honorary invitees used to be able to play practice rounds and compete in the Par 3 Tournament, a practice that ended last year.

Els failed to qualify for the 2012 Masters and was not given a special exemption.

Ex-Steelers star linebacker Harrison signs with Patriots

Ex- Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison has signed a 1-year deal with the New England Patriots. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)

Arnie Stapleton

Boston, Mass. (AP) - James Harrison is no longer the odd man out or the oldest man in the locker room.

The ex-Steelers star signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots on Tuesday, three days after his unceremonious departure from Pittsburgh.

The 39-year-old linebacker posted a photo on Instagram showing himself with 40-year-old quarterback Tom Brady in New England's locker room, writing that he finally has "a teammate that's older than me!"

The AFC North champion Steelers released the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker and 2008 NFL defensive player of the year on Saturday to make room for right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who is returning from a suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing substance policy.

"We make the decisions we feel give us the very best chance to win," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday when asked why the team didn't release a different player to make room for Gilbert. "We needed the people we kept. We needed to activate Marcus Gilbert. Really, it's nothing more than that."

A day before, Tomlin had said following Pittsburgh's 34-6 win over Houston that clinched a first-round playoff bye that difficult decisions such as this are "just life in football."

To make room on their roster, the Patriots released linebacker Trevor Reilly.

Harrison, who is the Steelers' career leader in sacks, piling up 80 during his 14 seasons with the Steelers and 82 during his career, briefly retired in September 2014 following a forgettable 2013 season in Cincinnati but returned when the Steelers ran into injury trouble.

He collected at least five sacks every season between 2014 and 2016 and signed a two-year deal last spring that would have kept him in Pittsburgh through his 40th birthday.

But Harrison's playing time dipped significantly this season — he has just one sack. He was active in just five games despite being injury-free and with the Steelers turning more toward outside linebackers Bud Dupree and rookie T.J. Watt.

The Patriots have been thin at defensive end and outside linebacker all season.

New England, which won the AFC East for a ninth consecutive season, can wrap up the AFC's top seed with a win over the Jets this weekend or a loss by the Steelers, who host winless Cleveland.

The Patriots and Steelers are both 12-3 and have wrapped up first-round byes. New England owns the tiebreaker by virtue of its 27-24 win at Pittsburgh on Dec. 17.

Harrison would get a chance to face his former team if the Patriots and Steelers meet in the conference championship for a rematch of last year's title game, which New England won 36-17 on its way to its fifth Super Bowl title.

Only Pittsburgh, with six, owns more Super Bowl wins.

Update December 26, 2017

Beal's 25 points carries Wizards by Celtics 111-103

Washington Wizards' Bradley Beal (3) drives past Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart, behind, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Monday, Dec. 25. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Ken Powtak

Boston (AP) — Bradley Beal scored 25 points, John Wall had 21 points and 14 assists, and the Washington Wizards beat Boston 111-103 on Monday in the Celtics' first Christmas Day home game in franchise history.

Otto Porter Jr. added 20 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. finished with 16, helping Washington take the first meeting between the teams since Boston's Game 7 victory at home in the second round of the playoffs last spring.

Eastern Conference-leading Boston lost for the third time in four games. Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum each scored 20 points for the Celtics, and Terry Rozier had 16.

Boston opened a 95-90 lead on Irving's 3-pointer with 6:18 left, but the Wizards responded with a 12-0 run. Beal capped the spurt with a three-point play and a breakaway dunk off a turnover.

Wall added a layup and two free throws down the stretch to help Washington hold on

Last season, the teams had a testy rivalry with lots of trash-talking and a few games filled with hard fouls. It was more civil on Monday, just a tight defensive game with numerous contested shots and a few hard screens.

The Wizards led by two at halftime and opened the third quarter by scoring 13 of the first 17 points, pulling ahead 65-54 on Marcin Gortat's three-point play. Gortat had 11 points and 10 rebounds.


Wizards: It was Gortat's ninth double-double this season. ... Wall was scoreless in the opening quarter.

Celtics: F Marcus Morris returned after missing 10 of the last 11 games with a sore left knee. ... Reserve F Semi Ojeleye missed the game with a sore back after he tested it during pregame warmups.


The Celtics played for the 31st time on Christmas, with 28 of the previous games on the road and the other two at neutral sites before Monday.

"As much fun as it is to be with family, this is what our family does," Boston coach Brad Stevens said. "We've been in gyms for most Christmases of our lives, so it's really fun to get a chance to compete on Christmas Day."


Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was seated courtside wearing a Santa hat. He got a huge ovation when he was shown on the videoboard.


Morris brothers Marcus (Boston) and Markieff (Wizards) were matched up against each other a few times. At one point, it looked as if they were both smiling when Marcus missed a jumper over his brother.


Injured forward Gordon Hayward walked out to center court before the game and wished the fans a merry Christmas and happy holidays on behalf of the Celtics' organization.


Wizards: At the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.

Celtics: At the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. Boston won the previous game between the teams on Nov. 10 at home.

Durant delivers on both ends, Warriors beat Cavaliers 99-92

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) and forward Draymond Green (23) argue a call with referee Derrick Stafford (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Dec. 25. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Janie McCauley

Oakland, Calif. (AP) — LeBron James drove to the basket in the waning seconds and Kevin Durant swatted away any chance Cleveland had at a Christmas Day comeback.

Durant pumped his fist again and again, emphatically shook his head and pounded his chest in delight. It looked a lot like the dominant Durant from the NBA Finals six months ago.

Klay Thompson hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:33 left, Durant delivered on both ends of the floor, and the Golden State Warriors beat the Cavaliers 99-92 on Monday in a festive holiday rematch of the past three Finals.

"There's just so much joy in the arena today because it's Christmas and we all feed off of that," Durant said.

Durant's block against a driving James with 24.5 seconds left went to official review and was ruled clean. Durant finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots.

"He's one of the leaders in shot blocks a game and obviously he had five tonight, so he's been doing a heck of a job of first of all taking the individual matchup and protecting the rim, too," James said.

Kevin Love had 31 points and a season-best 18 rebounds, while James contributed 20 points, six rebounds and six assists in a rivalry missing one key piece: Warriors star Stephen Curry, who missed his eighth straight game with a sprained right ankle.

Thompson scored 24 points and Draymond Green had a triple-double with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. It was Golden State's 12th win in 13 games after its 11-game winning streak was snapped by Denver on Saturday night.

Warriors rookie Jordan Bell traveled with 2:13 left and James tied it. Bell made up for that mistake with a key offensive rebound and pass to Thompson for his fourth 3.

James' 3-pointer with 10:39 left pulled Cleveland within one, but Green answered with a 3 and Andre Iguodala scored two of his nine points the next time down. In another key sequence, Durant blocked Tristan Thompson's shot with 6:23 to go and dunked moments later.

No surprise, the up-tempo, running rivals provided high entertainment once again. The Warriors last June captured a second championship in three years against James and the Cavaliers.

"I forgot all about it," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said with a chuckle.

The teams will see each other again soon, playing Jan. 15 in Cleveland.

KD requested James for his defensive assignment, to which he explained simply, "I just like guarding my position."

The Cavs, having won six of seven and playing for the first time since Thursday, had their run of scoring at least 100 points end at 26 games.

The Warriors were at nearly full strength again aside from Curry, who could return this week once he goes through some scrimmages at practice.

Center Zaza Pachulia was available but didn't play after sitting out seven consecutive games, while Shaun Livingston came back after missing four games with a sore right knee.

Bell — who addressed the sellout crowd at midcourt moments before tipoff — started at center and had eight points and six rebounds.


The Cavs' 31.8-percent shooting was the lowest by a Warriors opponent in nearly four years, since Charlotte shot 31.2 percent from the field on Feb. 4, 2014.

"We just didn't make shots," Lue said.


Sure, this one felt a little strange without Curry or Kyrie Irving, now in Boston.

"Golden State-Cavaliers, that's a big game, no matter who's playing, who's out," Lue said.

"It will be weird, without Steph, without Ky, especially the battles we've had over the last three years. So both teams look different."

Warriors coach Steve Kerr knows just the uniforms are enough to get everybody going — and this marked the third straight Christmas matchup between the franchises, alternating home floors based on who won the title.

"It's always great to play the Cavs, they're an awesome team," Kerr said. "LeBron is so amazing and it's so fun to feel the energy in the building when the two teams get together. Neither team will look the same as we will even a month from now because Steph and Isaiah Thomas both should be back, hopefully they'll both be back. ... But it doesn't even matter sometimes, just the two uniforms in the same building gets people going."


Cavaliers: Lue isn't yet ready to guess when Thomas will return following his right hip injury. "He is progressing very well," Lue said. "The most important thing is that he is getting to practice and playing 5-on-5 and having a chance to experience feeling well after it and not having soreness." ... Cleveland is 19-3 since Nov. 11, including 8-3 on the road.

Warriors: Durant averaged 32 points over his seven previous Christmas Day games. ... Golden State played its fifth consecutive Christmas game and seventh in eight. ... The Warriors were 10 of 37 on 3s after they went a dismal 3 for 27 from 3-point range in losing to the Nuggets. ... Kerr began his pregame session by thanking all of the arena staff and Golden State employees for their service and for working on the holiday. ... Thompson's holiday sneakers might have stood out most: neon green on the left foot, neon pink on the right.


Cavaliers: Visit Kings on Wednesday as they play the middle contest of a three-game West trip.

Warriors: Host Utah on Wednesday.

Matter of when Man City win title and how many records fall

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring his second goal during the English Premier League match againsr Bournemouth at Etihad stadium, in Manchester, Saturday, Dec. 23. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Steve Douglas and Rob Harris

Manchester (AP) - English soccer has never seen a team so utterly dominant as Manchester City entering the packed Christmas program.

There seems little doubt Pep Guardiola will be raising the Premier League trophy for the first time in May. It is just a question of when City will wrap up their third title since 2012, and how many records will tumble on the way.

City have already reeled off the most consecutive English top-flight wins — a record extended at the weekend to 17 games.

Manchester United's record Premier League title-winning margin of 18 points from 2000 could also be under threat. And England could be looking at its third unbeaten "Invincibles" team after Preston in 1888-89 and Arsenal in 2003-04.

So it doesn't bode well for a compelling second half of the Premier League season? Think again.

The chase for the other three Champions League spots should be fierce with eight points separating second-place Manchester United and Arsenal in sixth. Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham are in the mix among them. Two leading sides will fall by the wayside and be denied a place among the European elite.

The battle to stay in the world's richest soccer league is also intense. No team is stranded at the bottom, with Swansea in 20th place only six points behind Southampton in 13th.

A closer look at the first half of the season:



City lead by 13 points at the halfway stage after winning 18 of their 19 games and drawing one in the best ever start to a Premier League season. The only dropped points came at home to Everton in the second game on Aug. 21, when City played more than a half with 10 men following Kyle Walker's sending-off.

Guardiola won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich in late March in 2014 — aided by a winning streak of 19 games never before seen in a major European league.

It will be tough for Guardiola to win the title that early in England as he chases a quadruple after finishing his first season at the club without a trophy. City are already through to the League Cup semifinals, into the Champions League last 16 and begin their FA Cup campaign in two weeks.

Man United are in second place, with defending champions Chelsea three points further back in third. United manager Jose Mourinho says the title race is still on, but the rest of his peers among the chasing pack don't see City faltering now.

It will be intriguing how Mourinho reacts to be seeing his title ambitions further fade in his second season at United, having already opted to publicly call out his "childish" players after a draw at Leicester on Saturday.



Kevin De Bruyne is playing in a deeper role for City this season, virtually as a center midfielder, and it is bringing the best of out the Belgium international.

He has provided many of this season's wow moments, from scoring the winning goal at former club Chelsea in September with a fierce left-footed strike from outside the area to the assists for goals by Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling in the 7-2 win over Stoke in October.

Dovetailing perfectly with fellow playmaker David Silva, De Bruyne has six goals and eight assists but it's more than just his statistics. His prodigious work rate, range of passing and crossing ability — arguably the best in the Premier League since the days of David Beckham — that make him a strong contender for the player of the season awards.

No wonder City are determined to nail down the 26-year-old De Bruyne to an improved, longer contract.



Amid an offseason of record spending in English soccer, little was made of Watford signing Richarlison from Brazilian team Fluminense for 13 million pounds.

Yet the 20-year-old forward is proving a bargain, settling in quickly to the pace and intensity of the Premier League and being one of the key factors in Watford's impressive start to the season that, at one stage, saw them challenging around the top four.

Direct, skilful and quick, Richarlison already has five goals and keeps getting himself in great positions to score more, with his finishing sometimes letting him down. Opponents have cottoned on to his impact, with Richarlison telling ESPN Brazil this month: "Teams are already marking me individually, they are putting two players there on my side."

Chelsea and Tottenham have been linked with the Brazil under-20s player, who has yet to earn a call-up to the senior squad. That appears only a matter of time.

Other players to break through this season are Chelsea's Andreas Christensen, the Danish center back who has ousted David Luiz, and Liverpool's Joe Gomez, the right back who has ensured long-term injury absentee Nathaniel Clyne hasn't been missed.



An unfashionable club is mixing it with the heavyweights of the Premier League against all the odds. We've heard this before, right?

Two years ago, it was Leicester delivering a soccer fairy tale by somehow winning the league. Now it's Burnley's turn to provide the feel-good story of the season.

Widely regarded as relegation candidates at the start of the season, Burnley are currently seventh. Don't rule them out of staying in the tussle for the Champions League qualification places, with Liverpool only three points better off in fourth. The northwest team haven't finished a season higher than sixth place in the top flight since 1974.

Burnley, who have conceded just 15 goals in 19 games, have already beaten Chelsea away and drawn at Tottenham and Liverpool. Not bad for a team that returned a profit of about 12 million pounds in summer player sales when most of the rest of the Premier League was spending freely.



Alexis Sanchez is a superstar performing well below expectations this season, perhaps as a result of failing to secure a move to Man City from Arsenal during the summer.

That transfer could be revived in January — Guardiola cut an awkward figure recently when asked about making a new bid for the Chile forward — to potentially leave City with an even greater wealth of attacking riches.

Sanchez has five league goals. By this stage last season, he had already scored 12 on his way to a career-high haul of 24 for a single league campaign.

In the dugout, these are testing times for two British managers: Alan Pardew and Mark Hughes.

Pardew succeeded Tony Pulis a month ago with a mission to keep West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League. Then the Baggies were two points above the bottom three. Now they are next-from-bottom after collecting only two points from Pardew's first five games.

Hughes' future appears on a knife-edge at Stoke despite a pressure-relieving victory over West Brom on Saturday that hauled the team three points from the danger zone.

Australia cricket coach Darren Lehmann to step aside in 2019

Australian cricket coach Darren Lehmann. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)

Melbourne, Australia (AP) — Australia cricket coach Darren Lehmann won't renew his contract when it expires at the end of 2019.

Lehmann told Fox Sports television in an interview Monday: "That will be it. It will be a case of too much time, too much travel. For me, I've had a great time and really enjoyed the role, and (I'm) loving it still."

The former test batsman last year extended his contract until October 2019, and says he won't seek a new deal. His final year in charge will include Australia's title defense at the one-day international World Cup and then an Ashes series.

Australia regained the Ashes last week by beating England in the third test in Perth, and begin play in the fourth match on Tuesday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Lehmann, 47, became Australia coach in 2013 after the firing of Mickey Arthur. Lehmann's record as coach includes victory in the 2015 World Cup, winning two Ashes series at home and losing two in Britain.

Update December 25, 2017

Seahawks beat Cowboys 21-12 in playoff elimination game

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) carries the ball as his face masked is grabbed by Dallas Cowboys cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (33) in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 24, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Schuyler Dixon

Arlington, Texas (AP) — Russell Wilson didn't have to do much to keep alive Seattle's hopes for a sixth straight trip to the playoffs, despite the return of star Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott from a six-game suspension.

Justin Coleman put the Seahawks in front for good with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown , and Seattle beat the Cowboys 21-12 in a playoff elimination game Sunday.

Dak Prescott threw two interceptions and the Dallas offense didn't score a touchdown despite the reunion with his backfield mate, the one he shared a remarkable rookie season with a year ago when Cowboys had an NFC-best 13 wins.

Now Dallas (8-7) is eliminated from the postseason with the end of its three-game winning streak, and the Seahawks (9-6) still have life after Wilson threw for two touchdowns despite a career-low 93 yards passing.

"In these situations where it truly is a must-win game, we don't have to make anything up," receiver Doug Baldwin said. "We're well-prepared for it. The process that we've gone through the whole season really helped us today."

Coleman gave Seattle a 14-9 lead in the third quarter when he reached down to catch Prescott's badly overthrown pass to Elliott and ran untouched 30 yards for a touchdown.

It was the fourth pick-six of the season for Prescott, who threw just four interceptions last season when he was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He has 13 interceptions for the season.

The Seahawks were eliminated in the NFC West race by the Los Angeles Rams' 27-23 win at Tennessee. But they can still make the postseason with some help despite gaining just 136 total yards — their fewest since getting 135 in a 14-9 win over the St. Louis Rams in 2013.

Seattle's first two offensive touchdowns were set up by pass interference penalties in the end zone. The first was a 3-yarder to Jimmy Graham, the second a 6-yarder to Baldwin after running plays backed up the Seahawks both times.

The Cowboys, who lost their first three without Elliott before the winning streak, didn't take it easy on last year's NFL rushing leader after his six-week layoff, giving him 15 carries for 73 yards in the first half.

The longest carry was a 9-yarder as he averaged 4.7 per carry. Elliott, who was suspended on domestic violence allegations, finished with 97 yards on 24 carries.

But Dallas didn't give Elliott the ball with a first down at the Seattle 3 when trailing by nine points midway through the fourth quarter. After a Prescott run, a holding penalty on a pass play and the third sack of Prescott, Dan Bailey missed a 34-yarder.

Bailey, who had two 51-yarders among his four kicks, missed again in the closing seconds.

"It's hard to get over," said Prescott, who was 21 of 34 for 182 yards. "I'm sure I'll get over it at some point. But right now's not the time. Didn't play well enough for us to win. Simple as that."

Dallas receiver Dez Bryant dropped the first pass of the game and was caught on camera on the sideline yelling at former Cowboys receiver Miles Austin, now a staff member. Soon after, he fumbled after making a catch , setting up Wilson's scoring toss to Graham.

Wilson saved that scoring chance by recovering a fumble on a bad handoff on the previous play.

"I didn't have time to sense anything," Wilson said. "The year on the line right there, with the ball on the ground. Whoever takes it, so I just leaped to get that ball."

Bryant had another ball go off his hands on a throw behind him, and the tipped ball was intercepted by K.J. Wright to wipe out one of several promising Dallas scoring chances.

"I'm a little numb because the way we started, the good feeling, the uptick we had with Zeke coming back," owner Jerry Jones said. "All of that, I thought that would rule the day today."


Coleman repeated an Elliott antic from last season, when the Dallas running back jumped into a jumbo Salvation Army red kettle after a touchdown on Thanksgiving. Coleman got the same penalty, too — a 15-yarder for unsportsmanlike conduct.


The Seahawks had 2 yards passing at halftime thanks in part to DeMarcus Lawrence's 22-yard sack of Wilson in the first half. Lawrence overpowered Germain Ifedi, forced Wilson to backtrack after he tried scrambling to his right and tackled Wilson as he tried to run away from him at the Seattle 8.


Graham's second-quarter touchdown made him the first NFL tight end with at least 10 scoring catches in a season for two franchises. He did it three times with New Orleans and has 69 career TDs.


Cowboys: Five-time Pro Bowl LT Tyron Smith started despite a right knee injury that kept him out of practice most of the week. He came out after the first series, replaced by Byron Bell.


Seahawks: Home against Arizona next Sunday.

Cowboys: At Philadelphia next Sunday.

India beat Sri Lanka by 5 wickets, sweep T20 series 3-0

Indian cricket team players wear Santa hats as they pose with the winners’ trophy after beating Sri Lanka in the third Twenty20 international match in Mumbai, India, Sunday, Dec. 24. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Mumbai, India (AP) — India beat Sri Lanka by five wickets in the third and final Twenty20 in Mumbai on Sunday to seal a 3-0 win in the series.

It was India's first clean-sweep in a bilateral T20 series against Sri Lanka.

Put into bat at Wankhede Stadium, Sri Lanka were restricted to 135-7. India scored 139-5 to win with four balls left.

The visitors got off to a bad start with Jaidev Unadkat (2-15) striking twice to remove openers Niroshan Dickwella (1) and Upul Tharanga (11) in successive overs.

Newcomer Washington Sundar (1-22) accounted for Kusal Perera (4) as Sri Lanka struggled at 18-3.

Sadeera Samarawickrama (21) and Asela Gunaratne (36) added 38 runs for the fourth wicket to revive the innings before Hardik Pandya (2-25) provided a double breakthrough to remove both batsmen in the space of three overs.

Sri Lanka lost wickets at regular intervals and only managed to cross 100 in the 16th over. Dasun Shanaka scored 29 not out off 24 balls, with two sixes, to give the visitors a fighting but sub-par total.

"We are proud of our effort as a bowling unit. We have to click more with our batting," said Sri Lanka captain Thisara Perera. "We have learnt a lot in this series because India is a big team at the moment."

India lost Lokesh Rahul (4) early, out lbw to Dushmantha Chameera (2-22) in the fourth over.

Rohit Sharma (27) and Shreyas Iyer (30) added 22 runs for the second wicket. Sharma was caught in the deep off Dasun Shanaka (2-27) against the run of play.

Iyer then added 42 runs with Manish Pandey (32) for the third wicket as the hosts looked in control.

But Sri Lanka fought their way back as Iyer was run out when the ball deflected onto the stumps off bowler Akila Dananjaya.

India lost both Pandey and Pandya (4) in the space of eight balls but Dinesh Karthik (18 not out) and MS Dhoni (16 not out) calmly took India to victory.

India won the first T20 in Cuttack by 93 runs and the second in Indore by 88 runs.

"There were a few hiccups in the middle, but we knew whatever the target we would be able to achieve it," said Sharma, India's stand-in skipper. "We were able to give opportunities to different players as well as win the series. The youngsters were confident. We are now looking forward to South Africa."

The first test between hosts South Africa and India starts Jan. 5 in Cape Town.

With eye on playoffs, Brady, Lewis lead Pats by Bills 37-16

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) makes a one-handed catch of a Tom Brady pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Dec. 24, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Kyle Hightower

Foxborough, Mass. (AP) — Rob Gronkowski has always been proud of his roots growing up outside of Buffalo.

He also has never forgotten how his hometown team didn't want him.

Tom Brady passed for a pair of touchdowns, including Gronkowski's one-handed grab , and the New England Patriots stayed on track for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a 37-16 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

For Gronkowski it was his 12th touchdown catch in 13 career games against the Bills — more than he's had against any other opponent.

"It's cool when your hometown team passed on you twice in that (2010) draft. And you kind of remember it still," Gronkowski said. "No lie, I remember it every single time I play them."

New England (12-3) locked up a first-round bye with Jacksonville's loss 44-33 loss at San Francisco. If Pittsburgh loses to Houston on Monday, the Patriots will secure home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

Dion Lewis caught a touchdown pass and rushed for a 4-yard score. He carried 24 times for career-high 129 yards. It was just his second-career 100-yard game. Mike Gillislee, active for the first time in six games, added a 1-yard rushing touchdown

Even with the loss, the Bills (8-7) remain in contention to break their 17-year playoff drought. It is the longest active streak in North America's four major professional sports and the longest in the NFL since the 1970 merger.

New England has won at least 12 games in eight straight seasons — an NFL record.

Buffalo went into halftime tied at 13, but the Bills managed just three points in the final 30 minutes.

Trailing 13-10, Buffalo was in position to take the lead, but an apparent 4-yard touchdown pass from Tyrod Taylor to Kelvin Benjamin in the corner of the end zone was overturned after an official review.

Benjamin said he thought it was a catch.

"I mean definitely, but ref made the call and you've got to live with that," he said.

NFL vice president of officiating Al Riveron said in a Twitter post Benjamin was juggling the ball and was only able to get one of his feet down before completing the catch.

"When Kelvin Benjamin gains control, his left foot is off the ground. The receiver only has one foot down in bounds with control. Therefore, it is an incomplete pass," Riveron wrote.

That was echoed postgame by referee Craig Wrolstad.

"It was clear and obvious that he did not have control of the ball until he brought it all the way down into his chest," Wrolstad said in a pool report.

The Bills were forced to settle for a 23-yard field goal as the half expired.

The play elicited immediate reaction on social media.

"Regarding the Buffalo no touchdown, nothing more irritating to an official than to make a great call and then someone in a suit in an office in New York incorrectly reverses it," former NFL officiating VP Mike Pereira wrote on Twitter .

The game was tied at 3 on Buffalo's second possession when Taylor was sacked on a fourth-and-2 run by Marquis Flowers. On the next New England drive, Brady's third down pass intended for Kenny Britt was intercepted by Jordan Poyer and returned 19 yards for a touchdown.

It was Brady's eighth interception of the season. He threw two picks in the first 10 weeks, but now has six in his last five games.

The mistake only momentarily slowed down New England's offense. Brady capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 17-yard pass that Gronkowski pulled in with one hand to tie the game at 10.


Bills: RB Travaris Cadet was carted off the field late in the second quarter with a right ankle injury. ... S Micah Hyde left the game after being shaken up in the third quarter. ... CB Shareece Wright was shaken up in the fourth quarter, but walked off on his own power.


The pick six thrown by Brady was his first since he was intercepted by Robert Alford in last season's Super Bowl win. Brady's last regular season pick six came in Week 13 of 2015 against Philadelphia (Malcolm Jenkins).


Brady's touchdown 17-yard TD pass to Gronkowski marked the 75th time they have connected for a score. It is the fifth-most all-time between a quarterback and a receiver.


Bills: At Miami in regular-season finale

Patriots: Host Jets in their finale.

Serena Williams to play 1st competition since giving birth

Serena Williams. (AP Photo)

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Serena Williams is returning to competition with an exhibition match next Saturday in Abu Dhabi against French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Williams has not competed since winning the Australian Open last January while she was pregnant. She will face Latvia's Ostapenko at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in the first year that women will be taking part, tournament organizers announced Sunday.

"I am delighted to be returning to the court in Abu Dhabi for the first time since the birth of my daughter in September," the 36-year-old Williams said in a statement.

Williams has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, a record for the professional era. She is expected to compete for her 24th at the Australian Open, the first major of the year.

Williams gave birth to a girl named Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. on Sept. 1. She married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in November.

"The Mubadala World Tennis Championship has long marked the beginning of the men's global tennis season and I am excited and honored to be making my comeback as part of the first women to participate in the event," Williams said.

The Australian Open starts Jan. 15.



Back to Main Page

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Australia 103-2 and 61 behind when rain ends 4th day at MCG

Brignone takes World Cup GS, Italy women's 1st win of season

Pinturault dominates combined _ before it goes extinct

Andy Murray makes tepid return as he loses exhibition match

Comanche wins Sydney-Hobart, Wild Oats XI stripped of title

England take control thanks to Alastair Cook's 244 not out

Arsenal top Crystal Palace 3-2 to stay close to EPL top 4

Shiffrin beats Holdener, Hansdotter for World Cup slalom win

Paris ends Italian ski team's drought with win on home snow

England reach 192-2 in reply to Australia's 327 at stumps

Man City beat Newcastle 1-0 and move 15 points clear in EPL

Wild Oats XI expected to win Sydney to Hobart for 9th time

Van Dijk most expensive defender after 70m pound Liverpool move

Mourinho moans after draw with Burnley; Kane breaks records

Australia 244-3 at stumps against England

Els invited to Augusta National, but not to play Masters

Ex-Steelers star linebacker Harrison signs with Patriots

Beal's 25 points carries Wizards by Celtics 111-103

Durant delivers on both ends, Warriors beat Cavaliers 99-92

Matter of when Man City win title and how many records fall

Australia cricket coach Darren Lehmann to step aside in 2019

Seahawks beat Cowboys 21-12 in playoff elimination game

India beat Sri Lanka by 5 wickets, sweep T20 series 3-0

With eye on playoffs, Brady, Lewis lead Pats by Bills 37-16

Serena Williams to play 1st competition since giving birth


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