Azarenka gets Aussie Open wildcard

MELBOURNE - Two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka, who has been locked in a custody battle over her baby son, was Wednesday handed a wildcard into January's Australian Open. Tournament director Craig Tiley said every assistance would be provided to the former Belarus world number one so she can compete at the event. "Vika's current situation is obviously very difficult for her and we have reached out to offer any support we can. As a two-time Australian Open champion we've awarded her a wildcard and look forward to seeing her back." Azarenka returned from maternity leave in the middle of the year but was forced to skip the US Open after a Los Angeles judge presiding in a custody case over her son Leo ruled the child could not leave California until the matter had been settled.– AFP

Vonn dismay over Trump backlash

LOS ANGELES - American skiing star Lindsey Vonn voiced dismay Tuesday over the backlash that has followed her remarks last week concerning United States government and President Donald Trump. In a lengthy post on Instagram, Vonn said she had been hurt by some of the responses she had received to comments made in an interview with CNN. "My recent comments opened up my eyes as to how divided we are right now," Vonn wrote. "It is hurtful to read comments where people are hoping I break my neck or that God is punishing me for being 'anti-Trump.'" Vonn told CNN she would be proud to represent the United States at Olympics in Pyeongchang but did not see herself as a representative of the US government. "Well, I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the president," Vonn told CNN.–AFP

Tiffany aims to sparkle on LPGA Tour

HONG KONG - Tiffany Chan says she is still coming down to earth after becoming the first golfer from Hong Kong to qualify to compete with the world's elite on the lucrative US LPGA Tour. The 24-year-old finished second last week at the final stage of the LPGA Tour's qualifying school in Florida behind Japan's Nasa Hataoka, earning a coveted tour card for 2018. It means she will now rub shoulders with superstars such as New Zealand's Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson of the US and China's world number one Feng Shanshan -- and has put Hong Kong on the golfing map. "This is my dream -- I spent a lot of time and energy preparing for it. You can say the last four or five years had been dedicated to this goal," Chan told AFP. "I haven't calmed down yet." She said she wanted to inspire kids.–AFP

Iniesta savours Stamford Bridge return

MADRID - Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta admitted his late goal to knock Chelsea out in the Champions League semi-finals in 2009 is one of his best memories ahead of his club's return to Stamford Bridge. The sides were paired together again in Monday's Champions League last 16 draw with Barca travelling to London for the first leg on February 20. Iniesta's last gasp equaliser eight years ago after Chelsea had been denied a series of penalty claims by Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo allowed Barca to reach the final on away goals as they completed the club's firstever treble. "Great memories come to mind, some of the best that I could have experienced," Iniesta said. "The first thing I thought after the draw was that it will be a very tough tie against a strong team in every sense."–AFP

Himont Cup Inter-School Hockey

LAHORE - The Dar Hockey Academy is going to organise the Himont Cup Inter-School Hockey Tournament from tomorrow (Friday) here at the National Hockey Stadium. Dar Academy president Tauqeer Dar said top schools have been engaged in this healthy activity, which includes Aitcheson College, Crescent School, Govt School Kasur and Kims School System. “I am grateful to Himont Pharmaceuticals for sponsoring the event, which would help in finding fresh talent. If trained and groomed well, this young talent can become an asset for Pakistan hockey. “Dar Hockey Academy has already well-known for finding, grooming and providing best talent to the national team, as our boys have already been serving the country in national junior and senior teams. It is my aim to promote hockey at all levels,” he added.–Staff Reporter