SuperSport scores FIFA majors

SuperSport has confirmed itself as Africa’s home of world football after completing a broadcast deal with FIFA for its major international rights for the 2017/18 season.

DStv & GOtv customers’ football experience will be taken to a whole new level with the impending FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia and the FIFA World Cup, which also takes place in Russia in June 2018. All 64 matches will be broadcast live in High Definition.

Other FIFA events on the broadcast calendar are the FIFA Under-20 and Under-17 World Cups, the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and, in 2018, the FIFA Under-20 and Under-17 Women’s World Cup tournaments.

SuperSport has exclusive pay TV rights in South Africa to all the games of the FIFA Confederations Cup and the FIFA World Cup. Rights are on a non-exclusive basis in the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.

These acquisitions now sit alongside SuperSport’s already substantial offering that includes the major leagues, Champions League and the SA Premier Soccer League.

“Soccer is among the jewels in the SuperSport crown,” said Gideon Khobane, SuperSport Chief Executive. “We have long enjoyed the thrills of the World Cup and FIFA’s other properties and this new arrangement prolongs what has become a great partnership.”

Pliskova, Wozniacki book semifinal tie

Czech second-seed Karolina Pliskova will face Caroline Wozniacki in the semi-finals of the Miami Open after the pair triumphed on Tuesday at Key Biscayne.

A confident Pliskova ended the hopes of Croat veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni with a 6-3, 6-4 win while Wozniacki made sure there would be no all-Czech semi by dispatching Lucie Safarova 6-4. 6-3.

Lucic-Baroni has been enjoying a late career upturn in fortunes at the age of 35 and in January reached the semifinals of the Australian Open – 18 years after her previous appearance in the last four of a Slam, in 1999 at Wimbledon.

In Miami she put out fifth-seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the previous round but the confident and in-form Pliskova proved to be a test too far.The win was sweet revenge for Pliskova who had lost to the Croat in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in January.

“I think I played much better here than in Australia. Also the conditions are different. I think she was also playing better tennis there because it was faster and the conditions a little bit warmer, balls were different,” Pliskova said.

“I think she had some chances in the second set and then the third set you never know what can happen, but I definitely felt more confident with this match today,” she added.

“I had a game plan, little bit different the one that I had in Australia, and it worked. I was just trying to play a little bit more aggressive than I was playing there and going for my shots,” Pliskova said.

The Czech has won twice this season, in Brisbane and Doha, and now has the best win-loss record of the year (23-3).

The 25-year-old’s victory in the Doha final came against Thursday’s opponent Wozniacki.

“She beat last time and she has been playing well and is in good shape but I am looking forward to getting a another try out there and see if I can beat her this time,” Wozniacki said.

The Dane is in upbeat mood and says she has been in a groove since her run to the semi-finals at the US Open.

“I am playing well and I think I have been for quite a while, I think the US Open kind of started off this run and I am just going with it,” she said.

“I think the main thing is that I have been healthy for about six months now, I hope I can keep that going,” she said.

Wednesday’s quarterfinals see third-seed Simona Halep of Romania take on Britain’s Johanna Konta while world No 1 Angelique Kerber faces local favorite and seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams.

Federer, Nadal advance; Wawrinka out

Top seed Stan Wawrinka crashed out of the Miami Open on Tuesday, falling 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to German young gun Alexander Zverev, who booked his first Masters 1000 quarterfinal.

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori advanced to the quarterfinals on cue.

But Wawrinka, beaten by fellow Swiss Federer in the final of Indian Wells earlier this month, looked weary as he struggled through the third set of a match played on his 32nd birthday.

“I had one bad game to start the second set and then it was tough for me,” Wawrinka, the reigning US Open champion, said. “I don’t know. I completely went down physically and mentally, and also my tennis was completely out. I had no more gas.”

“For sure it’s a disappointing match. I think the level was quite up and down. We were both fighting a little bit in the first set to find good level. It was really humid, not easy to play some great tennis,” he added.

No Nadal for Spain in Davis Cup QF

Rafael Nadal will not feature in Spain’s team for the April 7-9 Davis Cup quarterfinal against Serbia, Spanish captain Conchita Martinez confirmed on Tuesday.

Spain will instead be represented by Pablo Carreno Busta (19th in the world rankings), Albert Ramos (24th), Marcel Granollers (41th) and doubles specialist Marc Lopez.

World number seven Nadal, who played in the first-round victory over Croatia, had already hinted that he would not take part in the match-up against Serbia, which coincides with a required rest period unless the tie were to be played on clay — it will take place on hardcourt.

Spain, five-time Davis Cup champions, are eyeing a place in the semifinals for the first time since 2012.

Ronaldo tops Messi in earnings

Real Madrid’s Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo was the best paid footballer in 2016-17, with €87.5 million in earnings, ahead of his Argentinian rival at Barcelona, Lionel Messi (76.5m), according to figures to appear in Tuesday’s edition of France Football.

Messi’s Brazilian teammate Neymar is third with €55.5 million ahead of Real Madrid’s Welsh forward Gareth Bale (41m) and Argentina’s Ezequiel Lavezzi (28.5m), who plays for Hebei Fortune in the Chinese Super League.

Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho is the best paid coach, with income of €28 million, the magazine said.

France Football said it based its figures on salary, bonuses and advertising income for the 2016-2017 season.

Andy Murray a doubt for Davis Cup

World No 1 Andy Murray is likely to miss Great Britain’s Davis Cup quarterfinal trip to France due to an elbow injury, his brother Jamie Murray has said.

Three-times grand slam winner Murray, who pulled out of the ongoing Miami Masters after sustaining an elbow problem in training, is expected to be left out of the Great Britain squad, which will be announced on Tuesday.

“It’s some sort of tear in his elbow, so he needs to rest. He said he can do everything except serve and he told me that rest was all he had to do,” Jamie told British media.

“I am not planning that he is going to be there (in France) but, if he is, then obviously that is great for the team and we’ll see what happens.

“But the most important thing for him is just to get healthy … He just needs to get a bit settled and get a good crack at it over the next three months because there are a lot of big tournaments to play.”

Murray is also not expected to make the Monte Carlo Masters beginning on April 17.

The Big four sign up for Madrid

World No 1 Andy Murray and Australian Open champion Roger Federer will be among a stellar field for May’s Madrid Masters, the ATP said on Monday.

The current top 43 players in the world will be in the draw, including former world No 1s Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, winners of a combined 26 Grand Slam titles.

The tournament will run from May 7-14 on clay. Djokovic beat Murray 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in last year’s final.