Sharapova crashes out of Indian Wells

INDIAN WELLS - Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova suffered a shock defeat Wednesday to Japanese No. 1 Naomi Osaka, losing her opening match at the WTA Indian Wells tournament 6-4, 6-4. The former world number one Sharapova was one of the tournament's major attractions after missing the last two events. Sharapova made six double faults, won just 25 percent of her second serve points and had her serve broken five times. The 20-year-old Osaka won 75 percent of her first-serve points as she needed 95 minutes to win the only night session match. For Sharapova this loss is another reminder that it's back to the drawing board as she makes her way back from a 15-month drugs ban. This is her second first round loss in a row after she withdrew from the Dubai tournament with a forearm injury.–AFP


Halep hungry to do great things in tennis

INDIAN WELLS - World No. 1 Simona Halep said it has taken some time, but she is finally starting to learn to accept the good with the bad. "I am looking for perfection but I also know it doesn't exist," the 26-year-old Romanian said as she prepares to play her first match at the WTA Indian Wells tournament. "I have had to learn and to understand that sometimes I can't be always be at my best." Case in point is an injury-plagued start to the 2018 season. "Everytime I lose a final I am disappointed," said Halep, who won the Indian Wells title in 2015. "My expectations are high. I expect more from myself." Halep was defeated in a memorable and gruelling three-set final by Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open in January. Halep said on Wednesday she can always find positives, even in a defeat. AFP


Vitori suspended for illegal bowling action

DUBAI - Zimbabwe's Brian Vitori was suspended Thursday after the ICC adjudged that the fast bowler uses an illegal action, just months after resuming his career. Vitori, a left-arm fast bowler, was reported by match officials following his side's match against Nepal on Sunday. An ICC panel then studied video of his action in match against Afghanistan which Zimbabwe won by two runs with Vitori taking their last wicket. He must now undergo an assessment of his action at an ICC-approved testing centre. Vitori has been suspended before over his action, in January 2016, but was allowed to resume international cricket in June of that year after assessors passed his action as legal. But in December 2016 he was banned again, this time for 12 months, and was only reinstated in January this year. AFP


Tiger Woods eyes Masters challenge

MIAMI - Tiger Woods is drawing inspiration from fellow veteran Phil Mickelson's win in Mexico last weekend as he plots the latest stage of his comeback this week ahead of next month's Masters. The 42-year-old former world number one will tee off in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship on Thursday hoping to get more rounds under his belt heading into Augusta in three weeks' time. Woods has endured mixed results since returning to the tour this season. He said the 47-year-old Mickelson's victory at the WGC Championship in Mexico on Sunday encouraged him to believe he could still add to his collection of 106 professional wins. "What Phil's doing is showing that we can still do it later on in our careers. Davis won at 51, Phil at 47," he said, referring to Davis Love III.–AFP