Mertens wins Hobart WTA International final

HOBART - Belgian qualifier Elise Mertens downed Romanian third seed Monica Niculescu to win the Hobart International for her maiden WTA title Saturday. Mertens, ranked 127 and the third qualifier to win tournament, defeated the world No 40 Niculescu 6-3, 6-1 in the 74-minute final. The 21-year-old Belgian made a nervous start in her first WTA final, losing nine of the first 10 points before settling and taking control of the match. "I played really well today," Mertens said. "I didn't make a lot of mistakes, mentally I was strong to stay in the rallies and take my chances when it was needed. I think my serve worked pretty well." Mertens became the third qualifier to win the Hobart title following German Mona Barthel in 2012 and Spaniard and French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in 2014.–AFP

Sock takes Auckland title in three sets

AUCKLAND - American Jack Sock triumphed in the final of the Auckland Classic Saturday with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 win over Joao Sousa from Portugal. It was a sweet outcome for Sock after he was forced to retire because of illness in last year's final against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut. This year he stayed healthy and took less than two hours to dispose of Sousa. Sock broke at 3-3 to take command of the first set. After a break each early in the second set Sock was poised to take out the match at 5-4 with Sousa serving and down 0-30. However, Sousa fought back with four straight points and continued to dominate when he broke Sock in the next game and went on to hold serve to level at a set each.  In the decider, Sock made the crucial break in the eighth game and then held serve for championship.–AFP

 

Don't call me 'Sir Andy', says Murray

MELBOURNE - Andy Murray said there was no need to call him "Sir" Saturday as he took a relaxed approach to his new status as a knight of the realm and world number one at the Australian Open. The Scot said just being called "Andy" was fine despite a decision by Australia's Channel Seven to refer to him as "Sir Andy Murray" at the tournament. "I'm more than happy just being Andy. That's enough for me. Yeah, if they call me 'Andy', that's cool. I'd be happy with that." Murray is entering his first Grand Slam since being knighted in Britain's New Year Honours, and his first as world number one after he displaced Novak Djokovic last season. He appears to have taken both titles in his stride, insisting he didn't feel anyone was treating him differently since he was crowned the world's top player.– AFP

Thomas shoots 36 hole scoring record

LOS ANGELES - Justin Thomas closed with an eagle for the second straight day as he followed rare 59 with a second-round 64 to extend his lead to five shots at the halfway stage of the Sony Open. Thomas didn't let up on Friday after becoming the seventh and youngest player in USPGA Tour history to shoot a 59. He rolled in an eight-foot put on the 18th to get into the history books again by recording the tour's record for lowest 36-hole total of 123. "It's cool," Thomas said. "Just like yesterday, anytime you can get your name in the record books is awesome." The 23-year-old American is at 17-under and has a five stroke lead over fellow American Gary Woodland. "I really hit a lot of quality shots today," Thomas said. "I obviously had a great day. To finish with an eagle was huge.”–AFP

Major winners fail to make SA Open cut

 

JOHANNESBURG - Former major winners Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Darren Clarke and Retief Goosen were eliminated from the South African Open when the storm-hit second round finished Saturday.  The cut was 143, one under for two rounds at Glendower Golf Club in eastern Johannesburg, leaving world number two Rory McIlroy as the sole ex-major champion still in contention. The 27-year-old from Northern Ireland defied severe back pain to shoot a second-round 68 Friday and trail halfway leader Graeme Storm of England by three strokes. Play was suspended late Friday by a storm with a few golfers still on the course and they completed their rounds early Saturday. Among those was Clarke from Northern Ireland, who slumped to a seven-bogey 78 after beginning the tournament with a two-under 70.–AFP