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Exclusive: Misfiring Dragons star grilled by NRL legends

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There’s no denying the phenomenal untapped potential of Zac Lomax.

The Dragons centre, after all, was a member of Brad Fittler’s 2020 State of Origin squad.

But rugby league legends Andrew Johns and Paul Gallen have hit the 22-year-old with heavy scrutiny following a poor performance on Friday night.

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Lomax was a long way from his best as the Dragons crashed to a 31-12 defeat to the Cowboys in Townsville.

Perhaps the ugliest moment of Lomax’s night occurred early in the second half, when he attempted to release a flick pass to winger Tautau Moga only 10 metres out from the Dragons’ try line.

Lomax butchered the audacious move and Cowboys flyer Murray Taulagi made him pay, swooping on the footy and dashing over to score.

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“Gus said in commentary there’s a really good player in there. But, at the moment, some of the fundamental errors: the flick passes, the basic two-on-ones where he’s not drawing the winger to get his winger away… he’s just got to nail those fundamentals,” Johns said on Nine’s post-game coverage.

Botched Lomax flick pass backfires

Gallen backed up the former Knights champion.

“He gets away with them sometimes, Joey,” Gallen said.

“He’s a very good player, he’s a very skilful player.

“There’s games where he does the no-look flick pass or the no-look pass and it comes off for him, but nights like tonight he had that flick pass 10 metres out from his own try line (and) it didn’t come off. He had another pass later in the game that went over the sideline.

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“He’s just got to get the fundamentals of the game right. You’re right in that regard. You can’t always do the pretty or flashy play; sometimes you’ve got to bring it back to basics and just get the play done.”

Fittler coy on Latrell Origin plan

Johns said Lomax’s pitfalls were shared by the Dragons as a whole.

Anthony Griffin’s men had a chance to claw into the top eight on Friday night, but their seventh loss left them hovering in ninth.

“That’s the whole Dragons team. They’ve got to get the fundamentals (right). They’re making silly (errors),” Johns said.

“If the Dragons can just get some ball, get some repeat sets of six and apply some pressure they might be able to score some points. But they couldn’t do that all night. At no stage did the half, five-eighth and fullback combine. Their attack’s pretty ordinary, to be honest.”

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Exclusive: Raducanu slams 'joke' question after shock loss – TalkOfNews.com

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Under pressure? You must be joking.

Emma Raducanu, who won last year’s US Open at the age of 18, hasn’t gotten past the second round at a grand slam tournament since then.

That streak continued at Wimbledon, where she lost to Caroline Garcia of France 6-3, 6-3 on Centre Court.

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“There’s no pressure. Like, why is there any pressure? I’m still 19. Like, it’s a joke. I literally won a slam,” the 19-year-old British player said. “Yes, I have had attention. But I’m a slam champion, so no one’s going to take that away from me. Yeah, if anything, the pressure is on those who haven’t done that.”

But whether or not the player herself believes there’s no pressure on her, there is a perception from some that she has struggled to adapt to life as a major winner.

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“I was speaking to a few people that sort of suggested that after the success Raducanu had at the US Open, the world opened up to her,” Wally Masur said on Stan Sport’s Grand Slam Daily.

“A lot of endorsements, a lot of time spent advertising certain products – maybe just taken the eye off the ball a little bit on what’s really important, and just needs to get back on track with the training, and the focus, and dealing with all the off-court stuff.”

The 10th-seeded Raducanu has dealt with minor injuries recently, including a side strain that forced her to retire from a match at the Nottingham Open two weeks ago. She said she didn’t feel any pain but acknowledged being rusty after playing only “seven hours of tennis in a month.”

“To even compete with these girls at this level and win a round I think is a pretty good achievement,” she said.

Raducanu beat Alison Van Uytvanck 6-4, 6-4 in the first round — also in the main stadium — but ran into a player on a roll in the second round. Garcia, who has been ranked as high as No.4, extended her winning streak to seven matches, which includes the Bad Homburg title in Germany last week for her first tournament win in three years.

“I struggled to find a way through her today,” Raducanu said. “But it’s OK because coming into this I didn’t really have many expectations of myself. Playing on Centre Court again was, again, a really positive experience for me. So, yeah, I can take it going forwards.”

Forward is Flushing Meadows, where last September she went from qualifier to major champion by beating Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 in the final.

Murray bows out in second round

“Going back to New York, it’s going to be cool because I have got a lot of experiences playing on big courts, playing with people in the stadium, playing with the spotlight on you,” Raducanu said.

“I don’t mind that. I mean, for me, everything is learning. I’m embracing every single moment that is thrown at me.”

In her grand slam debut at the All England Club last year, Raducanu reached the fourth round as a wild-card entry. She followed up her US Open title with second-round exits at the next two grand slam tournaments — the Australian Open and the French Open.

Raducanu had beaten Garcia in three sets at Indian Wells this year in their only other head-to-head match.

“Obviously I learn a little bit some stuff when I played against her in the US and tried to learn from my loss and makes things better,” the 28-year-old Frenchwoman said. “It was different surface today, so it’s very different.”

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It’s also easier now to prepare for Raducanu, Garcia said, compared to a year ago when “pretty much no one knew her.”

— Additional reporting by Matt Bungard.

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Exclusive: Blackwater looks to continue polishing its franchise’s image – TalkOfNews.com

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Ato Ular Blackwater PBA

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Ato Ular Blackwater PBA

Unheralded guys like rookie Ato Ular have been doing the heavy lifting for Blackwater. —PBA IMAGES

Blackwater is not even halfway through its PBA Philippine Cup campaign, and coach Ariel Vanguardia knows that the real test is just about to begin.

“We cannot surprise anyone anymore. We know that any team will prepare for us now,” he told the Inquirer. “I think we just caught some teams off guard.”

The Bossing have won three of four games this season, lending credence to pretournament declarations that it would use the Philippine Cup to give its image a facelift by shedding its whipping boy tag—Blackwater is coming off a season where it set the record for consecutive losses at 29.

But up next for the team is Meralco on Thursday at the Big Dome, in a battle with a massive discrepancy in experience.

Blackwater has yet to make the playoffs since the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup. Meralco, meanwhile, is emerging as a solid all-Filipino force.

“The whole week, we’ve been talking about leveling up a notch,” said Vanguardia. “We got to level up. We haven’t achieved anything yet.”

“We have to be extraordinary if we hope to even make the playoffs,” he added. “I don’t think we’re extraordinary. I really think there’s much more we can offer.”

Blackwater has been successful with retouching its image even with projected franchise savior and overall pick Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser still in sick bay.

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“Hopefully Brandon can join us soon. If we can still survive without him, then good. But I really think we are capable of so much more,” he said.

Vanguardia added that the versatile forward remains day-to-day, so the clash with the Bolts set at 5:15 p.m. will be anchored on underappreciated standouts JVee Casio, Yousef Taha and rookie Ato Ular.


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Exclusive: Sweet 16 for Djokovic as Murray exits Wimbledon – TalkOfNews.com

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Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Australia's Thanasi Kokkinakis during their men's singles tennis match on the third day of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 29, 2022. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis during their men’s singles tennis match on the third day of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 29, 2022. (SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

LONDON – Defending champion Novak Djokovic reached the Wimbledon third round for the 16th time on Wednesday as career-long rival Andy Murray suffered his earliest-ever exit from the All England Club.

Top seed Djokovic brushed aside 79th-ranked Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 and will face Serbian compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic for a last-16 place.

“I’m very happy with my performance. I started very well, solid from the back of the court,” said Djokovic, who is looking to join Pete Sampras as a seven-time Wimbledon champion.

“I made him work for every point and worked him around the court,” added the 20-time major winner.

Kokkinakis had likened Djokovic to a “brick wall” before the match.

“It was one-way traffic. I got chopped today,” said the 26-year-old Australian after his Centre Court torment.

Former world number one Murray, the 2013 and 2016 champion, went down 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-7 (3/7), 6-4 to big-serving John Isner in his second-round clash.

Murray, now 52 in the rankings, failed to break serve once against 2018 semi-finalist Isner, who unleashed 36 aces and 82 winners in total.

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“He didn’t give me lots of chances,” said Murray, whose previous earliest exits came in the third round in 2005 and 2021.

“My game was in a good place. I felt good on the court, just couldn’t get the win.”

Isner, 37, was gracious in the aftermath of his first win in nine meetings against the Briton.

“I am most definitely not a better tennis player than Andy Murray. I might have been a little bit better than him today,” said the American.

Isner also took his career aces total to 13,724 to sit just four behind the record held by Ivo Karlovic.

Third seed and French Open runner-up Casper Ruud, who was scheduled to face Djokovic in the semi-finals, was knocked out by 112th-ranked Ugo Humbert, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.

‘Crazy’ end

But Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz stayed on course to meet the six-time champion in the last eight by reaching the third round for the first time.

Alcaraz, just 19, triumphed over Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands, 6-4, 7-6 (7/0), 6-3.

The flamboyant Spanish shot-maker goes on to face Germany’s Oscar Otte for a place in the last 16.

Otte needed just 15 minutes to reach the third round when American opponent Christian Harrison retired injured at 3-1 down in their second-round tie.

Alcaraz’s compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina suffered a controversial exit at the hands of Jiri Vesely.

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At match point down in the final set tie-break, Davidovich Fokina hit a ball out of the court, was penalised a point and lost the tie.

“I don’t agree with it. That’s crazy… what a lousy way to end it,” US tennis great John McEnroe told ESPN.

In the women’s tournament, second seed Anett Kontaveit, ninth seed and former champion Garbine Muguruza as well as 10th-seeded US Open winner Emma Raducanu all exited.

Kontaveit lost 6-4, 6-0 to Germany’s Julie Niemeier as the Estonian endured another Grand Slam to forget.

Kontaveit has made the quarter-finals of a major just once in 29 attempts.

Muguruza, the 2017 champion, lost her delayed first-round clash 6-4, 6-0 to Belgium’s Greet Minnen.

Raducanu, bidding to become Britain’s first female champion at the All England Club in 45 years, was beaten 6-3, 6-3 by France’s 55th-ranked Caroline Garcia.

“I really enjoyed playing on Centre Court, it was my first time and very special,” said Garcia, who fired 25 winners past the British teenager.

There were no such dramas for third seed Ons Jabeur or fifth-seeded Maria Sakkari, who went through to the last 32 in straight sets.

‘Amazing support’

Lesia Tsurenko came out on top in three sets over Ukrainian compatriot Anhelina Kalinina to make the third round for the second time.

Tsurenko, ranked at 101, proudly wore a ribbon in the colours of Ukraine on her shirt.

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“It was a big court. Two Ukrainian players but a lot of people were watching us. We felt amazing support,” said Tsurenko after her 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win.

“Today on the way from hotel to the club, we got a driver,” she added. “She has taken two people from Ukraine into her house.

“I think it’s amazing when people help Ukrainians so much.”

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