Venus vows to come back after defeat to China’s Zheng Jie

The 33-year-old American lost a heartbreaker to China’s Zheng Jie 6-3 2-6 7-6(5) in the second round of the U.

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S. Open on Wednesday before rejecting any possibility of retirement.

“Oh wow, I definitely want to come back for the atmosphere,” she said. “I’ll get there. I just have to keep working on it. I’ve had a tough set of circumstances to work through, especially this year, last year and the year before.

“I’ve been dealt some cards that aren’t easy, but I have to play with them. I’m a fighter.”

Williams suffers Sjogren’s Syndrome, which causes fatigue and joint pain, and has been hampered this year by back pain.

Champion in New York in 2000 and 2001, Williams had a parochial crowd on her side as the match went down to the wire.

A rushed volley at five-all in the deciding tiebreaker proved costly.

“I should have made the shot,” she said. “I rushed so badly and didn’t make it. I had a lot of opportunities, I was always stepping up and putting myself in a good position … but I just dug myself into so many holes.

“I fought as hard as I could to get out of them, but sometimes it just wasn’t enough.”

Williams will contest the doubles with her sister Serena.

She planned to sit back and watch the next era of American women’s tennis.

“I’m happy to see them doing so well,” she said. “They all seem really talented.

“I’m looking forward to them continuing to develop their games and hopefully be able to win big matches, big tournaments, and continue to influence the next generation, as well.”

Former world number one Williams, who upset 12th-seeded Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the first round, is now ranked 60 in the world, but Zheng was thrilled to fell the former champion in front of her home crowd.

“It’s unbelievable I can beat her,” she said in a courtside interview. Zheng next faces 18th-seeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round.

(The story has been filed again to change the player’s name in the headline.)

(Editing by Ian Ransom)

Happy Mata pledges future to Chelsea

Mata was voted Chelsea’s player of the year for the last two seasons but his omission from the team against Manchester United and Hull City in the Premier League and for last week’s Super Cup defeat by Bayern Munich prompted claims he was out of favour with coach Jose Mourinho.

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“I think it’s normal in every transfer window that there are lots of rumours but I’m happy here,” the former Valencia playmaker told Chelsea TV on Thursday.

“It’s been a very, very good two seasons for me here, maybe the best of my career, and what I want this season is the same.

“I’m looking forward to achieving as many trophies as we did the last two seasons and hopefully this is going to be a good season for us again,” said Mata, referring to the 2012 Champions League and FA Cup triumphs and last season’s Europa League win.

Mourinho has said repeatedly that Chelsea’s number 10 is not for sale and now the Spaniard is over the thigh strain that troubled him in pre-season, Mata is raring to go.

“My only aim is to play here, grow as a player and do as good a season as the last two which were amazing for me,” said the 25-year-old who was left out of the Spain squad for the World Cup qualifier against Finland on Friday and next Wednesday’s friendly versus Chile.

“These two seasons have flown by… but to me this is good because when you are enjoying things and you are happy, time goes quicker.

“I had four weeks off (ahead of pre-season training) and to be honest that’s too much time for me because in the last five or six years I didn’t have this sort of rest,” he said, referring to his international commitments.

“But I’ve had plenty of rest and now I’m feeling really good. The best thing for me is to play because I love to play.”

Chelsea, who are second in the Premier League table with seven points from three matches, play their next fixture at Everton on September 14.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

American Diana Nyad, 64, sets record with Cuba-to-Florida swim

Her face sunburned and lips swollen, with barely enough energy to speak, Nyad waded ashore at Key West, Florida, after a 53-hour swim and told onlookers: “We should never, ever give up .

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.. You never are too old to chase your dreams.”

In an inspiration to baby boomers everywhere, Nyad completed the estimated 110-mile (177-km) journey after departing from Havana on Saturday morning. She set a record for the longest ocean swim without a shark cage or flippers, according to her crew.

She was met by crowds in Key West who surrounded her, snapping photos, as they enjoyed sunny beach weather on the Labor Day holiday.

Helpers immediately placed Nyad on a stretcher and hydrated her with an IV before she was taken to a hospital.

Nyad had been trying to achieve the crossing for 35 years, describing it on her website as her “Xtreme Dream,” and seemed determined to prove The Beatles were right that there is plenty to live for “when I’m 64.”

“With all the experience I have in this ocean, I never knew I would suffer the way I did,” Nyad told CNN in an interview.

The first day was especially difficult because of winds and “even people with iron will quit when it’s really tough,” said Nyad, her lips swollen from exposure and from the mouthpiece of a prosthetic mask used to protect her from deadly box jellyfish.

She said she told herself, “Forget about surface up … With your left hand push Cuba back and push Florida toward you.”

Dave Magmone, whose boat was used to prepare Nyad’s meals, said: “She has a mental and physical strength like no one I have ever known. She is an example for all people, regardless of their age.”

Older women and men have been inspired in recent years by a wave of older athletes breaking records and snagging headlines.

Last year, then Colorado Rockies player Jamie Moyer, now 50, became the oldest pitcher in Major League Baseball history to win a game. Canadian Ed Whitlock, now 82, shattered records when he ran the 2012 Toronto Marathon in 3 hours 30 minutes. Dana Torres in 2008 at age 41 became the oldest American female swimmer to win an Olympic medal.

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Nyad’s team said her attempt benefited from several key factors, including calm seas, the surprising lack of jellyfish and favourable currents in the powerful Gulf Stream that flows eastwards through the Florida Straits.

Ron Bartlett, her navigator, said the crew encountered only one minor squall and one box jellyfish sighting.

The marathon swimmer had said this would be her final attempt, this time equipped with the mask as well as a body suit to better protect her from box jellyfish that forced her to end one of two attempted crossings last year.

A team of ocean kayakers and divers accompanied Nyad on her journey, dragging an electronic device in the water that emitted a current to repel sharks.

Nyad has spent much of her life in the water. She described in a 2011 YouTube documentary how her father told her when she was a young girl that she was destined to swim, noting her last name is derived from the Greek word for water nymphs or female swimmers.

Born in New York, the multilingual Nyad was raised in south Florida by a French mother and Greek-Egyptian stepfather. She swam six hours a day as a 12-year-old.

She retired after successfully completing a swim from Bimini in the Bahamas to Florida in 1979, ending a long-distance career that set several records including one in 1975 for circling Manhattan in less than eight hours.

She went on to a career in sports journalism and fitness, and has expressed a lifelong fascination with Cuba.

The Florida Straits had been conquered twice previously, both times with the aid of a protective cage. The last time, in 1997, the cage glided on ocean currents and enabled Australian Susie Maroney, 22, to make the journey in just 25 hours.

Nyad made her first attempt at the crossing aged 28 in 1978, when she gave up after covering 76 miles (122 km) in 42 hours with the aid of a shark cage.

With Key West in her sights on Monday, Nyad halted briefly about 2 miles (3 km) offshore to thank her support team.

“This is a lifelong dream of mine and I’m very, very glad to be with you,” she said, according to her website. “So let’s get going so we can have a whopping party.”

(Additional reporting by Marc Frank in Havana and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Writing by David Adams; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Cynthia Osterman and Mohammad Zargham)

Stosur in no rush to appoint new coach

The 2011 U.

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S. Open champion conceded that the timing of her separation from Dave Taylor was “strange” but said she was in no rush to find a permanent replacement.

Stosur is working with Australia’s Fed Cup captain Alicia Molik during the U.S. Open, starting on Monday, but said she had not even thought about her long-terms plans.

“I didn’t have anything in place. It just happened last week,” Stosur told reporters at Flushing Meadows.

“She will help me here, and after this tournament I will kind of assess what I want to do, who maybe it can be, and go from there.

“But there is no one in particular at the moment.”

Stosur and Taylor worked together for nearly six years and formed a successful partnership, with Stosur reaching the French Open final in 2010 before breaking through to win her maiden grand slam in New York the following season.

The Australian went almost two years before winning any other tournaments but ended her drought in California earlier this month, beating Victoria Azarenka in the final at Carlsbad.

But just a week later, the 29-year-old announced she and Taylor were parting ways, even though the U.S. Open was approaching.

“I think we both were kind of feeling that we’d almost come to the end. Unfortunately, it happened to be last week,” Stosur explained.

I don’t think either of us would have wanted it to happen right then, and obviously with winning that tournament, makes it seem a little bit strange.

“But I think we both felt that it was time, and you know, if something’s time is up, then you’ve kind of got to call it a day.”

Despite the unusual timing of the split, the 11th seed said she was confident of a strong showing at the scene of her greatest success.

“It’s fantastic coming back here. I guess it’s the second year coming back to the site of where I have had my best tennis moment,” she said.

“So I think no matter what lead up you’ve had, however you feel, you can walk in here and think this is pretty cool and relive all those great memories and hopefully make them all happen again.”

(Reporting by Julian Linden; editing by Gene Cherry)

Bale price tag a lack of respect to world: Barca’s Martino

“Bale’s a very good player,” the Argentine told a news conference when asked about Real’s pursuit of the Welsh winger.

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“The numbers are lack of respect to the world in general.”

Barca, Real’s arch-rivals, splashed 57 million euros on their major signing of the close season to date, Brazil forward Neymar.

Nine-times European Cup winners Real appear to be close to securing the signature of Bale with local media reporting that after weeks of negotiations an agreement has been reached with Spurs, pending a final confirmation.

The player is expected to be presented next week probably after Real’s next league match away to Granada on Monday evening.

Champions Barca travel to play Malaga on Sunday, but will do so without World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, who is recovering from a bruised left thigh.

The Argentine struggled with injury at the end of last season and concerns have been raised that his latest setback, when he was substituted at halftime in the Spanish Super Cup first leg on Wednesday, was a recurrence of a hamstring problem.

“Honestly, I am not worried (about Messi) because I think he is fine,” said Martino, who indicated it was purely precautionary.

“He has been fine since day one and he has been working during his holiday. He got here fit and he has been training every day.

“What happened the other day was coincidence. I think it is totally unnecessary to take risks at the start of the season.”

Barca drew 1-1 away to King’s Cup winners Atletico Madrid in the Super Cup first leg, and host the return leg on Wednesday bidding for the first piece of silverware of the new season.

In Messi’s absence, Martino was asked if Neymar would be given his first competitive start for the club, after having gained a confidence boost heading the equaliser off the bench against Atletico.

“I don’t share this idea that says that Neymar must take over and take the lead if Messi is not there to do it,” said Martino, who has called for patience to let the 21-year-old find his feet in La Liga.

“We have Xavi, we have Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez, Pedro. There are too many players to expect Neymar to automatically be in the starting line up.

“Nothing is going to shorten the time we think is necessary for Neymar to be ready.”

Joining Messi in the treatment room will be Barca’s Netherlands international Ibrahim Afellay who had surgery on a thigh muscle problem on Thursday, and who will be out of action for around four months.

(Writing by Mark Elkington in Madrid, editing by Pritha Sarkar)