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Serena survives and sets Andreescu title clash

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Serena Williams withstood the determined challenge of Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova Saturday, rallying for a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the WTA Toronto final.

Williams, seeded eighth in a tournament she has won three times, will take on home hope Bianca Andreescu in the championship match on Sunday.

Williams will be seeking her first title since she won her 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open — and her first since the birth of her daughter Olympia on September 1 of that year.

Meanwhile 19-year-old Andreescu will be trying to become the first Canadian in 50 years to lift the trophy.

Bouzkova, 21 and ranked 91st in the world, had said it was a dream come true to take on 37-year-old US superstar Williams, and she made a dream start — breaking Williams three times to take the first set in less than half an hour.

But Williams rallied, slashing her unforced errors in a second set that saw her win the last four games to force the decider.

“I just needed to be more consistent and not make so many errors and just mentally be ready to hit a thousand balls if I needed to,” Williams said. “In the first set, I was going for a little too much, so I just had to just play a different game.”

The hard work wasn’t over, as Williams had to fight off three break points in the third game of the third set.

She broke Bouzkova in the next game to finally take control and end the Czech’s breakout week.

Bouzkova departs Toronto having beaten three straight Grand Slam winners in Sloane Stephens, Jelena Ostapenko and, in the quarter-finals, reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep — who retired injured after dropping the first to Bouzkova on Friday night.

Williams said she was looking forward to taking on Andreescu, whose run to the final has electrified Toronto crowds.

Canada’s Bianca Andreescu defeated American Sofia Kenin to reach the WTA Toronto final

“I’ve never faced her, but I’ve kind of become a fan with everyone rooting and cheering so hard,” Williams said. “It’s kind of been contagious, the ‘Bianca Effect.'”

Kenin admitted the raucous support of Andreescu affected her.

“I don’t play in those kind of conditions, so it’s not like I can practice,” Kenin said. “I tried to just block it out and do the best I can.”

– Serena ‘grooved in’ –

Andreescu shot to prominence with a victory at Indian Wells in March, but this week marks her first tournament since she was forced out of the French Open with a shoulder injury.

“I’ve been through so much the last two months,” Andreescu said. “All I can say is that I’m just so happy to be back on court right now. My shoulder’s good. I’m in the finals of the Rogers Cup. Life’s freaking amazing.”

Williams is getting the kind of physical test — matches five days in a row — that she hasn’t had since she last reached a non-Grand Slam WTA final — at the 2016 Italian Open.

“It’s definitely different for me,” said Williams, who has been limited by injuries this season but said this week she was “pain free”.

“I definitely feel more grooved in. I feel good still. So I’ve been doing a lot of training and all the right things — so we’ll see how I feel (Sunday).”

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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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