Sebastien Ogier leads in Monte Carlo

GAP - Sebastien Ogier began his campaign for a sixth world rally title in style on Thursday when he swept the first two stages of the season-opening Rally of Monte Carlo. The 34-year-old French driver, who has won the iconic race on five occasions, overcame a spin in the early stages to lap up the challenges posed by the icy asphalt course in the mountains above the principality behind the wheel of his M-Sport Ford. He was 17.3sec ahead of Norway's Andreas Mikkelsen and 25.6sec in front of Spain's Dani Sordo. "We lost some time with a spin on the ice," said Ogier after a dramatic spin on the opening stage. "We knew it would be tricky, and it's no surprise that many drivers have had issues in there. It's still tricky but I am happy with the way things have started." He added: "Before the spin I was right in the middle of the road doing 10kph. Luckily I managed to rotate the car and stay on the road. The information we got from the ice note crew was correct.”–afp

Neymar will be world's best, says coach

PARIS- Neymar is back in full training after missing two matches, Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery said on Friday before heaping praise on the Brazilian. Emery has called on fans to show Neymar more affection after he was booed for taking a penalty on his only league appearance of 2018, which denied Edinson Cavani a chance to break the PSG goalscoring record. "All being well he'll play on Saturday, if he feels it's right," said Emery taking an indulgent tone as the player eases back from the winter break and a thigh strain. Emery has been swiping away tales in the Spanish press of interest in Neymar from struggling Real Madrid. "Neymar will become the best player in the world and he will achieve that here with us," insisted Emery. PSG's fans backed Neymar during the midweek 4-2 French Cup win over Guingamp, unfurling a banner saying: "To boo players runs contrary to our values." –AFP

Israr falls on first hurdle in Canada

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s Israr Ahmed, former Asian Junior individual champion and US Open champion bowed out at the first round of the $10,000 Bankers Hall Club Pro-AM 2018, as he was thrashed by Switzerland’s Dimitri Steinmann 3-0 in Canada Friday. While talking to The Nation Pakistan Squash Federation Secretary Tahir Sultan informed that Israr was playing in USA and Canada for the last few weeks. He said Israr is one of the brightest players of the country and federation had pinned great hopes on him to win titles for country. “The result is somewhat surprising for us too, as we were expecting much better showing from Israr, but I will check with him and then would be able to know actual facts, as why he lost.” First game was played on a high tempo and Israr after playing so well lost 7-11. Same was the case in the second game as well. Israr after putting up decent show lost 7-11. But Israr was simply blown away in the third game, as he had no answers to Dimitri pace and aggressive style and he simply lost the game 1-11, without showing any fight.–Staff Reporter

Babos, Mladenovic win doubles title

MELBOURNE - Fifth seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic took out the Australian Open women's doubles title on Friday to be crowned Grand Slam champions for the first time. The Hungarian-French pairing battled past second seeded Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 6-4, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena. "It's an incredible feeling, I was in tears," said an emotional Babos. "It's amazing to play with you," she added of Mladenovic. It was their first Slam title after going close at Wimbledon in 2014, where they made the final but lost. Overall, they own three other doubles titles as a team, all won in 2015 -- at Dubai, Marrakech and Rome.–afp