Pliskova, Mertens reach quarterfinals of Prague Open

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — Kristyna Pliskova upset second-seeded Petra Martic 6-1, 7-5 to advance to the quarterfinals of the Prague Open on Wednesday.

Pliskova, ranked 69th, hit nine aces and 28 winners on the way to her first win over her 14th-ranked opponent. It’s the eighth clay-court quarterfinal for the hard-serving Czech since she was runner-up in Prague in 2017.

“I feel I’m playing better on clay each year,” Pliskova said. “Everybody was saying I cannot move and stuff, but I don’t think it’s like this. I have more time, so it’s good for me that clay is not that fast, I can focus on my game.”

Pliskova next faces Ana Bogdan, who advanced after Lesia Tsurenko withdrew.

Third-seeded Elise Mertens defeated Camila Giorgi 6-4, 6-2 and will play either Canadian Eugenie Bouchard or Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek in the quarters. Bouchard, from Westmount, Que., and Zidansek square off on Thursday.

In the last first-round match, Laura Siegemund knocked out Mayar Sherif 4-6, 6-1, 6-0.

The Prague Open is the second European tournament since the WTA restarted amid the coronavirus pandemic, with strict health protocols in place.

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Abdulrahim Ahli on blazing a trail for UAE footballers in Latvia, plus learning to be a domestic god

Snow falls more frequently on the UAE’s scorched land than its homegrown players are exported to Europe.

But October contained a bold choice from the trailblazing Abdulrahim Ahli to swap life in the Arabian Gulf League for his three-year contract at Latvia’s Spartaks Jurmala.

New experiences are not restricted to the pitch for this buccaneering Emirati right-back who has racked up three appearances for the fourth-placed side in the coronavirus-disrupted 2020 Virsliga. The ex-Al Ahli, Al Wahda and Dibba Al Fujairah competitor is also becoming, with the help of video calls, a domestic god.

“Some people, they need to sacrifice,” the 25-year-old tells Sport360 from his pristine apartment in Jurmala, a tranquil resort town 25 kilometres west of Riga. “In my country, you are born in the UAE and you grow up with a maid, they wash your clothes, they do everything for you.

“But when you come to Europe, you do everything. I wash, I clean all my apartment…

“This gives me a strong personality. Little things, that people don’t understand.

“This is the first time I cleaned and cooked. I never used to do this.

“Every time I call my mum or sister by video call and they tell me: ‘Put this in, put this in…’

“Also with the salary, in the UAE when you are 18 you receive [per month] 30,000 dirhams or maybe more.

“After 25, you receive, maybe, 100,000 dirhams. For sure, you do not come here [Latvia] for this little money.

“You will stay in the UAE, you will think: ‘I don’t want to sacrifice, I live a good life, I earn good money, I’ve got a good car…’

“They will think like this. I knew, for sure, when I transferred to Europe that everyone will say: ‘Why do you want to come?’”


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Influx of heavyweight talents excites ONE champ Brandon Vera

Brandon Vera. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/

MANILA, Philippines — The influx of decorated heavyweights in ONE Championship has Brandon Vera licking his chops.

Vera had little to no challenge in his first four fights in ONE, disposing of his opponents in just the opening round.

But since last year, ONE has beefed up its heavyweight division with the addition of former London Olympian Arjan Bhullar and more recently greco-roman wrestling world champion Amir Aliakbari and Brazilian jiu-jitsu star Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida.

Almeida’s arrival has certainly caught Vera’s attention.

“So I had to look up the proper name, because I only know that monster as Buchecha. He is a phenomenal athlete. I am very lucky to have the opportunity to possibly meet him in the ONE Circle,” said Vera, who has held the heavyweight belt since knocking out Paul Cheng in 2015.

“And it’s not just him. ONE signed a plethora of amazingly talented heavyweights. I’m going to train right now,” added Vera, who is spending much-needed quality time with his wife Jessica and newborn Atreyu Timothy in Guam.

Almeida may be a new addition to ONE Championship but he is no stranger to the grappling scene with 13 world titles and an impressive record of 128 victories against only 13 losses.

“I am very familiar with his grappling accolades. He has beaten the best in the world and at any given moment, at any weight, he is one of the top two grapplers in the world against anyone. I am very excited he is making the transition to MMA,” said Vera.

“I think it is the correct progression after you win 13 world titles in grappling. There is no one else for you to beat there. Looking forward to watching him and maybe even competing against him.”

A clash with

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