Tomic, Thiem sent packing in Halle

Bernard Tomic has been sent crashing out of the Halle ATP grasscourt event in Germany by a sweet-swinging Richard Gasquet, 6-3 6-3.

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Buoyed by Tuesday’s excellent win over wily German Tommy Haas, the Queenslander was looking to build on that victory ahead of Wimbledon, starting on July 3.

However, he made the worst possible start as the world No.30 broke his serve in the opening game and again in the 10th to seize the early initiative.

The second set followed a similar pattern, as Tomic struggled to overcome the Frenchman’s excellent returning game and was broken two further times to sink to defeat in exactly one hour.

At the very least Tomic had good company in exiting the tournament. Second seed Dominic Thiem shocked by big-serving Dutchman Robin Haase 6-3 7-6 (9-7).

The Austrian world No.8 struggled with Haase’s consistency throughout and missed two set points in the second set before double-faulting on his opponent’s first match point.

Thiem suffered a solitary break as the 30-year-old Dutchman, ranked 42nd in the world, went 5-3 up before serving out the set.

The 23-year-old Thiem was again under pressure as the unforced errors started to pile up and had to dig deep to save further break points at 2-2 and 4-4 in the second.

Haase finally got the break he wanted two games later, firing an audacious lob and slapping a desperate and risky crosscourt forehand that Thiem could not return to go 6-5 up.

But instead of serving out the match Haase was broken straight back and had to save two set points before Thiem handed him the game with his fourth double-fault.

Haase will next face Gasquet in the quarters.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev, last year’s finalist in Halle, found little resistance against Philipp Kohlschreiber to win 6-3 6-3 and set up a quarter-final against Roberto Bautista-Agut, who beat Dustin Brown 6-4 1-6 7-6 (8-6)

Trump congratulates new Saudi crown prince, raises Qatar row

“The president and the crown prince committed to close cooperation to advance our shared goals of security, stability, and prosperity across the Middle East and beyond,” the White House said in a statement about their telephone talks.

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“The two leaders discussed the priority of cutting off all support for terrorists and extremists, as well as how to resolve the ongoing dispute with Qatar,” the statement added.

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The region is in the throes of a deep crisis. 

Earlier this month, Riyadh and several of its allies including Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, cut ties with Qatar over accusations that Doha supports extremist groups, including some linked to Saudi foe Iran — a claim Tehran denies.

In addition to diplomatic isolation, other measures taken included closing Qatar’s only land border, banning its planes from using their airspace and barring Qatari nationals from transiting through their airports.

Qatar is home to the biggest US air base in the Middle East — a hub in the war against the Islamic State group.

Contradictory signals

Trump’s administration has sent contradictory signals on the crisis. While Trump has made statements siding with Saudi Arabia, Washington has shown mounting frustration over the kingdom’s role in the crisis.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday that the US was “mystified” that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have failed to present details justifying their embargo on Qatar.

“The more that time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” Nauert said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has been tasked by Trump to oversee an end to the crisis, has been working the phones in recent days trying to defuse a standoff that has put key US allies at loggerheads with one another.

Tillerson said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia and its allies had prepared a list of demands to be presented to Qatar.

“We hope the list of demands will soon be presented to Qatar and will be reasonable and actionable,” Tillerson said in a statement.

“We support the Kuwaiti mediation effort and look forward to this matter moving toward a resolution.

Saudi boys pose in front of a billboard showing King Salman, with his 31-year-old son Mohammed bin Salman and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.AAP

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman ousted his nephew as crown prince and installed Mohammed, his son, as heir to the throne.

Trump, 71, and Mohammed, 31, have met twice — once in Riyadh during the US leader’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia and once in mid-March at the White House.

Lions captain Warburton on bench, O’Mahony leads team

Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony will lead the side, with his compatriot Sean O’Brien taking the number seven jersey.

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Warburton will come off the bench.

“It’s a reward for how the back row has gone,” Gatland said in a statement on Thursday. “There is a nice balance there while Peter captained the side against the Maori All Blacks and has done a good job.”

It is the second successive tour that Gatland has shown no sentimentality towards players in order to win the test series.

He dropped Ireland and Lions stalwart Brian O’Driscoll for the deciding third test against Australia in 2013, which prompted an outcry among media, fans, pundits and from the player himself. The Lions won the game 41-16.

Wales utility Liam Williams was surprisingly named at fullback after a strong game against the Waikato Chiefs on Tuesday.

Leigh Halfpenny, who had been impressive against the Maori All Blacks last Saturday has dropped to the bench with Williams offering a more incisive running option and the ability to cover wing.

Gatland has opted for a hard-running midfield combination in Jonathan Davies and Ben Te’o while England’s Owen Farrell starts at flyhalf after shaking off an injury.

England duo Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson will start on the wings. Welshman George North is not in the squad.

“We have picked a side based on form with a lot of players putting their hands up, especially from the Crusaders and Maori All Blacks games, and it was a lively selection meeting,” Gatland added.

“The win against the Chiefs was also extremely important for the squad and some players played themselves into the side.

“Elliot has been very accurate in the way he has played and we saw some excellent attacking play from Liam.

“We are excited about the 15 that take the field but also the very strong and experienced bench players who will have an impact.”

Lions: 15-Liam Williams, 14-Anthony Watson, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Ben Te’o, 11-Elliot Daly, 10-Owen Farrell, 9-Conor Murray, 8-Taulupe Faletau, 7-Sean O’Brien, 6-Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5-George Kruis, 4-Alun Wyn Jones, 3-Tadhg Furlong, 2-Jamie George, 1-Maka Vunipola.

Replacements: 16-Ken Owens, 17-Jack McGrath, 18-Kyle Sinckler, 19-Maro Itoje, 20-Sam Warburton, 21-Rhys Webb, 22-Jonathan Sexton, 23-Leigh Halfpenny.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ed Osmond)

First Nation Iftar dinner brings together cultures

As the sun set over an Aboriginal childcare centre in Melbourne’s north, more than a hundred guests settled down to a Middle Eastern and African feast.

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Islamic Council Of Victoria president Mohamed Mohideen proposed the Iftar get-together, attended by invitees from the state’s Islamic and Aboriginal communities.

Mr Mohideen says the communities have plenty in common.

“I think the value of the country, the land, is all part and parcel of Islamic thinking as well. We need to respect the land, and we need to respect the culture, and we need to also accommodate and welcome people.”

Lisa Thorpe is chief executive of the Indigenous Child Care centre that hosted the event.

She says the get-together was a welcome opportunity for her community and the Muslim communities to learn about each other.

“As a minority group as well, and how everything that happens in the world is our responsibility, it’s been a really good time for us to share who we are. It’s exciting.”

Links between Australia’s Aboriginal and Muslim people date back hundreds of years.

They essentially begin with Macassan traders in the 1700s, then continue with Afghan cameleers who helped transport goods though outback Australia over the next two centuries.

Melbourne general practitioner Umber Rind’s great-grandfather, a cameleer, married an Aboriginal woman in Western Australia in the early 1900s.

In doing so, Dr Rind says, they began a proud lineage identifying as Aboriginal Muslims.

“I definitely see a link. There’s the respect for one another, the care for the land, the environment, definitely a lot that Islam and Indigenous culture have in common.”

Dr Rind established a medical clinic in Melbourne’s north with her own cultural and religious background particularly in mind.

“The reason I set up the medical clinic is I really wanted to create a safe and respectful space for Indigenous people, and, also, the refugees as well. And I wanted to make a space where women could feel welcome.”

She says the inaugural First Nations Iftar Dinner has offered a rare opportunity to witness the two groups — both important in her development — growing, mixing and learning together.

“(I’m) very proud to have that Indigenous background and, obviously, very proud to be a Muslim, and I feel very lucky that I’ve had opportunities to pursue an education and become a doctor as well.”

Those from the Aboriginal and Islamic communities attending the get-together say they hope the inaugural First Nations Iftar Dinner will not be the last.

 

 

O’Mahony leads Lions against Maori All Blacks

Warburton arrived on tour under an injury cloud having not played since April due to a knee injury and only returned to action in the opening match against the Provincial Barbarians, a 13-7 victory.

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The Welsh flanker scored a try in Tuesday’s loss to the Otago Highlanders but will be hoping for plenty of gametime to impress in Rotorua on Saturday given the back row talent coach Warren Gatland has available to him.

Gatland was expected to select close to his first choice side for the fifth match of the tour with the first test against the All Blacks only a week away.

If that is the case, then the New Zealander will clearly be looking to dominate the hosts physically in midfield after naming Jonathan Davies and Ben Te’o in the centres.

Jonny Sexton also returned at flyhalf in an all-Irish combination with scrumhalf Connor Murray, while England’s Owen Farrell will be on the bench.

The hulking George North and pacy Anthony Watson will occupy the wings with Leigh Halfpenny named at fullback, a position that might have been taken by Stuart Hogg had the Scot not been ruled out of the tour by injury on Tuesday.

In the pack, England duo George Kruis and Maro Itoje will make up the second row with their international team mate Jamie George getting the nod at hooker.

“At this stage of the tour it is important to build on the foundations that have been laid in the last few weeks,” Gatland said in a news release.

“We were obviously disappointed with the loss against the Highlanders and realise that we need to improve in several areas, including our discipline, but we feel that overall we are building well towards the test matches.

“Every game is a big challenge, which is what we wanted, and this is an experienced Lions team with eight of the starting 15 involved in the last test in Australia in 2013.”

O’Mahony will lead the team from the blindside of the scrum with his Irish team mate Sean O’Brien at openside and Welshman Taulupe Faletau in the number eight jersey.

“Peter is a proven captain with Munster who never takes a backward step and we believe that those leadership qualities will serve us well on Saturday against a quality and determined Maori All Blacks team,” Gatland added.

Lions: 15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-Anthony Watson, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Ben Te’o, 11-George North, 10-Johnny Sexton, 9-Conor Murray, 8-Taulupe Faletau, 7-Sean O’Brien, 6-Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5-George Kruis, 4-Maro Itoje, 3-Tadhg Furlong, 2-Jamie George, 1-Mako Vunipola.

Replacements: 16-Ken Owens, 17-Jack McGrath, 18-Kyle Sinckler, 19-Iain Henderson, 20-Sam Warburton, 21-Greig Laidlaw, 22-Owen Farrell, 23-Elliot Daly.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury, writing by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Ian Ransom)