Serena Williams pulls out of Italian Open

ROME - Serena Williams has pulled out of next week's Italian Open in Rome, organisers confirmed on Wednesday. Last week the 23-time Grand Slam winner pulled out of the Madrid WTA event due to a fever. The American tennis star made her comeback in February, six months after giving birth to baby Olympia, when she competed at Indian Wells and Miami, but has admitted she is struggling to get fully fit. A statement on the tournament's Twitter feed read: "We are so sad to announce that @serenawilliams, a 4-time Champion in Rome, has withdrawn from #ibi18. "Obviously we can't wait to see her again on Foro Italico's red clay, perhaps in 2019?" Williams has won the Rome title four times in 2002, 2013, 2014 and 2016. Williams, 36, will now be a doubt for the French Open in Paris from May 27 to June 10.–AFP

 Australia keen on Iniesta as a marquee star

SYDNEY - Australian football chiefs plan to contact the agent of Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta to sound him out about a move to the A-League, reports said Wednesday, as the domestic competition looks to recruit a marquee star. Spain's Sport website named the A-League as the World Cup-winner's "preferred destination" this week, although Japan's Vissel Kobe is also seen as one of his possible next moves. China's Chongqing Lifan Tuesday denied reports that the 33-year-old legend will be joining them "as a player", but left the door open to future cooperation in some capacity. Football Federation Australia's website indicated the governing body planned to contact Iniesta's agent after he announced he will leave Barcelona at the end of the season following two decades of phenomenal success.–AFP

 Guardiola yet to sign new City deal

MANCHESTER - Pep Guardiola has yet to conclude contract negotiations over a new deal with Premier League champions Manchester City but said Tuesday there is no urgency to do so. The Catalan has led City to the title in his second season in charge and is now two-third of the way through the initial three-year contract. It means Guardiola, 47, has now won the league title in all three of the major European countries in which he has managed. But he has also established a habit of short spells with those clubs, having spent four seasons managing his hometown club Barca and three in the Bundesliga. "I have one more year and next year I will be here," said Guardiola. "Now it's time to finish well and then start to talk about what we have to do next season, who is staying and who we have to buy.”–AFP

 Jhelum Hawks thrash Chakwal Peacock

ISLAMABAD –Jhelum Hawks thrashed Chakwal Peacock by 8 wickets in the First Rawalpindi Masters Premier League 50-overs-a-side Championship 2018, match played here at Pindi Stadium Wednesday. Peacock skipper won the toss and opted to bat first. But his decision failed to justify, as entire team was bundled out for a meagre 81 in 18.1 overs. Opener Dawar Hussian made 23 while extras were second highest with 18. Left arm fast medium Hamid ripped through Peacock top order claiming 3 for 16, while Taousseq and Rashid also took 3 wickets apiece conceding 27 and 33 runs, respectively. Chasing a modest total, Hawks reached home in just 10.1 overs losing two wickets. Sarmad made unbeaten 28 with the help of 3 boundaries and 1 six. Hamid was named player of the match for his superb bowling.–Staff Reporter

 Struggling Chinese club offers $1.5m per win

SHANGHAI - A struggling Chinese football club will dish out more than $1.5million in cash per game to inspire its demoralised players to victory -- but they'll be docked money if they lose. The carrot-and-stick approach is being applied at Guizhou Hengfeng, who are bottom of the Chinese Super League. Club boss Wen Wei treated the team and staff to a lavish dinner on Tuesday, two days after they were thrashed 5-1, and proposed a victory bonus of 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) for each of the next two games in a desperate effort to stop the rot, local media said. In the event of a long-awaited win, the cash will be waiting in the dressing room after the games.–AFP