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Djokovic, Federer back and Murray returns in Cincinnati

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Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will make late summer hardcourt starts next week as the ATP and WTA Cincinnati Masters gets underway with all major names set to compete.

Along to give his resurfaced right hip a test after seven months of singles inactivity will be two-time champion Andy Murray, with the world number 325 entered on a wild card.

British three-time Grand Slam champion Murray’s most recent singles match was a January first-round Australian Open loss, after which the Scotsman tearfully said his career might be over after playing and losing in severe hip pain.

He then underwent a successful hip surgery that has given his career a second chance at age 32.

Murray, a 2008 and 2011 Cincinnati champion, will open in the first round against France’s Richard Gasquet, whom he leads 8-3 in their personal rivalry, taking their past three meetings dating to 2015 and 2016.

Federer, who turned 38 on Thursday, will need to lift his game immediately as he prepares for the US Open.

Federer has claimed the Cincinnati trophy seven times, most recently in 2015.

The icon with 20 Grand Slam singles titles has been holding off Djokovic and Nadal, who continue to close in on his record with 16 and 18 titles respectively.

Top seed Djokovic and number three Federer will both be playing for the first time since their Wimbledon final, won by the Serb after Federer held two match points.

Nadal takes the second seeding after a standout week in Montreal.

The Spaniard called Murray’s return “good for the sport,” suggesting the decision shows the 32-year-old feels healthy enough to compete at the top level.

Fourth seed Dominic Thiem will hope to keep lifting his hardcourt form after reaching the Montreal quarter-finals. Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas will need to quickly improve after losing early in Canada.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori take the fifth seeding ahead of Montreal quarter-finalist Alexander Zverev and Russian Karen Khachanov.

South African Kevin Anderson, the ATP number 10 who has not played since Wimbledon due to injury, is missing the US Open tuneup.

On the women’s side, Australian Ashleigh Barty, who lost the top ranking with a first-match exit in Toronto, is seeded atop the table followed by double Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka of Japan.

Czech Karolina Pliskova, the 2016 winner, is third ahead of Romania’s Simona Halep and holder Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands.

Halep is dealing with an Achilles tendon injury after managing to play only one set in the Toronto quarters.

Serena Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singkes winner, hopes to continue her fightback to match fitness, which was on solid display in a victory Friday over Osaka in a rematch of their 2018 US Open final.

The 37-year-old American will begin her campaign against a qualifier.

After losing the Wimbledon final against Halep, Williams is keeping her hopes toned down.

“I go into every match thinking I can do it, but sometimes that doesn’t happen,” she said. “Overall I just come and do the best I can.”

Bertens could play Venus Williams in the second round if the veteran gets past a qualifier in her opening match.

Men’s Seeds:

Novak Djokovic (SRB x1)

Rafael Nadal (ESP x2)

Roger Federer (SUI x3)

Dominic Thiem (AUT x4)

Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x5)

Kei Nishikori (JPN x6)

Alexander Zverev (GER x7)

Karen Khachanov (RUS x8)

Daniil Medvedev (RUS x9)

Fabio Fognini (ITA x10)

Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP x11)

Borna Coric (CRO x12)

John Isner (USA x13)

Marin Cilic (CRO x14)

Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO x15)

David Goffin (BEL x16)

Women’s seeds

Ashleigh Barty (AUS x1)

Naomi Osaka (JPN x2)

Karolina Pliskova (CZE x3)

Simona Halep (ROM x4)

Kiki Bertens (NED x5)

Petra Kvitova (CZE x6)

Elina Svitolina (UKR x7)

Sloane Stephens (USA x8)

Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x9)

Serena Williams (USA x10)

Anastasija Sevastova (LAT x11)

Belinda Bencic (SUI x12)

Angelique Kerber (GER x13)

Johann Konta (GBR x14)

Wang Qiang (CHN x15)

Madison Keys (USA x16)

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24 Hours Across Africa

Harvey Elliott banned for 14 days over offensive Kane mock

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Liverpool youngster Harvey Elliott has been suspended and fine by Football Association (FA) for a period of 14 days after a video emerged of him mocking Tottenham striker Harry Kane.

The clip, that was posted on Snapchat and recorded while Elliott was still a Fulham player, shows the 16-year-old derogatorily impersonating the Spurs striker under the caption “F***ing m*ng”.

The FA’s explanation of the offence committed also suggests that Elliott’s words in the video were “aggravated by reference to a disability”.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp signed the talented forward in the summer, with him having made his first-team debut for the Reds in their Carabao Cup win over MK Dons in September.

The England Under-17 international is Fulham’s youngest ever player after featuring for them in a Carabao Cup tie against Millwall in September 2018 at just 15 years of age.

He is also the youngest player to have played in the Premier League after coming on as a substitute against Wolves in May 2019, although he hit the headlines shortly after his move to Anfield after the impersonation video emerged on social media.

The teenager would go on to apologise to Kane for his actions in an update posted on Instagram,  writing at the time: “I would just like to wholeheartedly apologise for any offence caused on the back of a video of me currently circulating on the internet.

“The video was taken whilst messing around with friends in a private environment and was not directed at any individual but I realise that my actions were both immature and senseless.

“I would like to stress that the contents of the video do not represent who I am as a person or how I’ve been brought up, and I am truly sorry.”

And the FA have now released a statement confirming Elliott’s punishment which will see him unable to play domestic football until October 24, while he has also been ordered to pay a fine of £350 and complete a “face-to-face education course”.

The statement read: “Harvey Elliott has been suspended from playing in all domestic club football for a period of 14 days, running up to and including 24 October 2019, after admitting a breach of FA Rule E3 in relation to a video posted on social media and providing a public apology.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Hong kong unrest worsens

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Hundreds of mask-wearing pro-democracy protesters marched through Hong Kong’s central business district on Friday, occupying a main thoroughfare and disrupting traffic as the Chinese-ruled city braced for another weekend of unrest.

Chanting their core demands, the crowd occupied the district at lunchtime before peacefully dispersing.

Hong Kong’s metro operator opened all stations for the first time in a week ahead of more planned anti-government protests, while the city’s legislature began its first session since protesters stormed the building in July.

Pro-establishment and democratic lawmakers shouted at each other before the session, underscoring the tension and divisions in Hong Kong after four months of often violent anti-China protests.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam invoked British colonial-era emergency laws last Friday and banned the wearing of face masks which protesters have used to shield their identities.

The protests have plunged the city, an Asian financial hub, into its worst crisis since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, posing the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

What began as opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill has evolved into a pro-democracy movement fanned by fears that China is stifling Hong Kong’s freedoms, guaranteed under a “one country, two systems” formula introduced in 1997.

China denies the accusations and says fore1ign countries, including Britain and the United States, are fomenting unrest.

The Chinese embassy in Bangkok on Friaday condemned Thai politicians for showing support for Hong Kong activists.

“This is wrong and irresponsible. China hopes that relevant people will understand the truth about problems in Hong Kong, act carefully and do useful things for the friendship between China and Thailand,” the embassy said in a statement.

Ninety people have been arrested for anti-mask law violations in the past week, pushing the total number of arrests since June to more than 2,300, police said on Friday. Many of those arrested are under 16, authorities said.

Police said they were investigating four reports of blackmail involving emails from a group claiming to be pro-democracy and threatening to target shops unless they fund protests via bitcoin.

“The intimidating messages even include videos of rioters inflicting extensive damage to shops over the past few weeks,” said acting police chief superintendent Kong Wing-cheung.

Protesters have targeted China banks and shops with links, or perceived links, to mainland China.

Many residents fear the emergency laws may be expanded, further eroding civil liberties, but the government said on Thursday it would not bring in any other measures.

Source: Reuters

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