Brooksby tops No. 2 Ruud; Jabeur out, too; Djokovic wins
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Jenson Brooksby has eliminated No. 2 seed Casper Ruud in four sets in the second round of the Australian Open. This upset comes a day after Mackenzie McDonald beat defending champion and No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal. So a pair of 20-something Californians have knocked out the top two players in the men’s bracket at Melbourne Park. The main beneficiary might be nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic. He won his second-round match Thursday night. The surprises were not limited to the men. No. 2-seeded Ons Jabeur also lost in the second round. Jabeur and Ruud were both runners-up at two Grand Slam tournaments in 2022.
Bruised Ronaldo scores twice to edge showdown with Messi
Grimacing in pain from his bruised cheekbone Cristiano Ronaldo steadied himself before scoring from the penalty spot for his first goal in Saudi Arabia against a Paris Saint-Germain team featuring old foe Lionel Messi. Messi had already scored early in Thursday’s exhibition game when Ronaldo was flattened by PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas after about 30 minutes in Riyadh. Ronaldo’s cheekbone was bright apple red but he was all smiles after netting his second goal. Messi’s Qatari-backed PSG won 5-4 against a combined XI of Saudi Arabian teams Al Nassr and Al Hilal, captained by Al Nassr’s new signing Ronaldo. Although his team lost Ronaldo edged perhaps the final instalment of Ronaldo vs. Messi as one of the greatest rivalries in soccer history resumed in an unusual location.
Stampede outside stadium in Iraq kills 2, injures dozens
BAGHDAD (AP) — A stampede outside a stadium in southern Iraq has killed two people and injured dozens. The stampede occurred on Thursday in the southern city of Basra as spectators gathered to attend the final match in the first international soccer tournament held in the country in four decades. The Iraqi News Agency said some of the 60 people who were injured outside the Basra International Stadium, which holds some 65,000 spectators, are in critical condition. A doctor in the city told The Associated Press that two people were killed. The final match in the eight-nation Arabian Gulf Cup was held later Thursday, with Iraq defeating Oman 3-2.
In Paris, Bulls and Pistons enjoy sights, culture and opera
PARIS (AP) — The Detroit Pistons are playing a game in Paris on Thursday night. But two nights before the game, the Pistons were the spectators and the City of Lights played for them. The Pistons had a team party at the Paris Opera House to highlight their trip to France’s capital for a game against the Chicago Bulls. It’s been a midseason immersion into French cuisine, wine and culture for both teams. Everybody saw the Eiffel Tower, everybody saw the Champs-Élysées, but both teams decided they couldn’t come to Paris and not make every effort to enjoy the opportunity.
Flyers coach Tortorella defends Provorov’s Pride boycott
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia Flyers coach John Tortorella is defending Ivan Provorov’s decision to cite religious beliefs as his reason to boycott the team’s pregame Pride celebration. Provorov cites his Russian Orthodox religion as the reason he did not participate in warmups on Tuesday before the game against the Anaheim Ducks. Tortorella says Provorov “did nothing wrong.” The Flyers wore LGBTQ-themed jerseys and used sticks wrapped in rainbow tape during the warmup. Provorov says his choice was to stay true to himself and his religion.
Cowboys-49ers rivalry set for record-tying 9th playoff game
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — For Kyle Shanahan, the chance to coach the San Francisco 49ers against the Dallas Cowboys in a playoff game is a throwback to when that rivalry was the biggest in football. Shanahan’s formative years were spent watching his father, Mike, as offensive coordinator in San Francisco battling the Cowboys in three straight NFC title games. After the rivalry went dormant for more than a quarter-century as the proud franchises rarely enjoyed success at the same time, it is having a rebirth with San Francisco set to take on Dallas for the second straight postseason when they meet Sunday in the divisional round.
Bucs oust offensive coordinator Leftwich, 5 other assistants
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Byron Leftwich is out as offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are shaking up their coaching staff after finishing with the only losing record Tom Brady has had in more than two decades as a NFL starter. The 43-year-old Leftwich was fired Thursday, three days after the Bucs were eliminated from the playoffs by the Dallas Cowboys and just two years removed from helping Brady win a record seventh Super Bowl in the quarterback’s first season with Tampa Bay. Five other assistant coaches were dismissed, too, while three others have decided to retire.
Analysis: Right coach can turn around a franchise quickly
The Jaguars and Giants combined for seven wins last season. Now, they’re two victories away from playing in the Super Bowl. Both teams hired new coaches who quickly delivered success. Doug Pederson took Jacksonville from 3-14 and consecutive No. 1 overall picks to the AFC South title. Brian Daboll led New York from a 4-13 mark to the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2016. Pederson and Daboll weren’t the only new coaches who reached the playoffs. Mike McDaniel (Dolphins), Kevin O’Connell (Vikings) and Todd Bowles (Buccaneers) also did it. That should be encouraging for the five teams looking for new coaches this offseason.
LIV Golf announces TV partnership with The CW network
Saudi-funded LIV Golf finally has a television arrangement. LIV says it has an agreement with The CW for its second season that starts in five weeks. The CW will broadcast the weekend coverage. The first round of the 54-hole events will be available for streaming on The CW app. LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman calls this a momentous deal. Various reports indicate The CW isn’t paying a rights fee but will instead get revenue sharing. A TV deal was seen as critical for LIV Golf. It was streamed last year on the LIV website and YouTube.
Mackenzie McDonald, who beat Nadal, eyes more in Australia
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — It was a long road back to elite-level tennis for Mackenzie McDonald. His victory over defending champion Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open showed just how much things have changed for the 27-year-old Californian who was a college star at UCLA. McDonald tore a hamstring tendon playing doubles at the 2019 French Open and was not able to walk for several weeks. He returned to Roland Garros a year later and faced Nadal there. McDonald was excited about that matchup and lost easily. He went into the rematch this week with more belief and now has a chance to equal his best Grand Slam showing by reaching the fourth round at Melbourne Park.