Mertens successfully defends Hobart title

HOBART - Belgian Elise Mertens successfully defended her Hobart International title with a rain-interrupted win over first-time WTA finalist Mihaela Buzarnescu on Saturday. The second seeded Mertens downed Romania's 57th-ranked Buzarnescu, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in a decider frequently interrupted by rain. It was the first time in the 25-year history of the Hobart International that a player has won the singles title for a second time. The two-and-a-half-hour match took over seven hours to complete due to persistent rain, but Mertens overcame three suspensions of play to go back-to-back in Hobart. "It's amazing to defend a title and I'm really happy I did," Mertens said. "It's been a wonderful week." It has been 15 years since a Hobart International singles final has gone to three sets. –AFP

Halep hopes 'lucky' dress brings first Slam

MELBOURNE - Simona Halep goes in search of a first Grand Slam at the Australian Open next week without a sponsor, but happy she'll be able to wear her "lucky" red dress. The world number one admitted she unusually had "no brand clothes" to wear for the first Grand Slam of the year after ending her deal with Adidas last season. "I have no contract now. Yeah, it's an interesting period, to be honest," said Halep, who confirmed she would wear the same red dress that she used to win the Shenzhen Open in China a fortnight ago. The Romanian said she had found the outfit on the internet and hoped it would bring the same results in Australia. "Yeah, I sent a picture. Was a site, in China actually, and one of my managers helped me, and in 24 hours I had the outfit, and it was perfect. I was lucky." –afp

Muguruza aims for 'pain-free' Open

MELBOURNE - World number three Garbine Muguruza said Saturday she was hoping to be "pain-free" to begin her Australian Open campaign, but admitted she would have liked a better start to 2018. The Wimbledon champion pulled out of the Sydney International with a thigh injury straight after beating Kiki Bertens on Wednesday. A week earlier she had retired from the Brisbane International with cramps. "It's true, I would like to have played more matches," said the 24-year-old Spaniard seeded third for the event, who said she was happy with her form, if not her fitness. "I only played two matches, but I felt that my tennis was good. I think sometimes you don't need that many matches. With my experience, sometimes you play very good, and you don't need 25 tournaments before," she said. –AFP

No room for 'hate' in tennis, says Stephens

MELBOURNE - US Open champion Sloane Stephens Saturday weighed into the simmering row about Margaret Court Arena, saying there shouldn't "be hate towards anyone" ahead of next week's Australian Open. American legend Billie Jean King, on the 50th anniversary of her first Grand Slam title Down Under, called Friday for the show court to be renamed because of the Australian tennis great's divisive views on sexuality and gender equality. Court, now a church pastor, last year railed against same-sex marriage, claimed tennis was "full of lesbians" and that transgender children were the result of a Nazi-style "plot" to brainwash young people. "I respect what Billie Jean said. Well, I respect all of my fellow players, colleagues, their lifestyles. I don't think there should be hate towards anyone." –AFP

Rehana Nazar Jr Squash line-up completes

ISLAMABAD - The qualifying round of the 7th Rehana Nazar National Junior Squash Championship 2018, was played at Rehana Nazar Squash Complex Rashid Abad District Tando Allayar on Saturday. The qualifying round completed the line-up for main draws of the event. Following players from boy’s event qualified for the main round: Boys – U19, Shahzad Ali Khan (Pb), Moaz Khan (Pb), Owais Rasheed (Sindh) and Dawood Khan (KP), Boys – U17, Rafi Khan (Sindh), Khushal Riaz (PAF), Hammad Khan (Pb) and Ibtesam Riaz (Pb), Boys – U15, M Talha Iqbal (KP), Junaid Khan (Pb), Khaqan Malik (Pb) and Syed Hasnain (Bal), Boys – U13, Adil (KP), Kalimullah (Pb), Mehmood Mehboob (Pb) and Abuzar Imitiaz (KP), Boys – U11, M Shoaib Afzal (KP), M Zaman (Sindh), Adnan Zaman (Sindh) and Varun Asif (Pb).– Staff Reporter