Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Will “fit and happy” Woods rediscover on-course cheer?

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The photos depict it, Rory McIlroy’s been saying it, now it’s up to the Abu Dhabi Golf Club to confirm that at long last, Tiger Woods is happy and fighting fit again.

That the 14-times major champion should choose the European Tour’s first big event of the season to make his 2012 debut in favour of one of his favourite courses at Torrey Pines in California is one thing.

Woods’ results at Torrey Pines have been astonishing – seven wins including his last major at the U.S. Open in 2008 – while his rare forays to the Middle East have been equally impressive, two Dubai Desert Classic wins in six attempts with only one finish outside the top five.

More noticeable however is the American’s demeanour, critics say his huge appearance fee in the UAE capital might have something to do with it, but surely money no longer lures Woods. He wants to start winning again.

No longer No. 1, Wozniacki can start taking risks

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Finally, the most worn-out debate in women’s tennis can stop after Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki’s defeat in the Australian Open quarter-finals by Kim Clijsters means she will no longer be No.1 in the rankings.

Ever since she first topped the rankings in October 2010, Wozniacki’s lack of a grand slam title has prompted questions about her suitability for the lofty position. Even this week former great Martina Navratilova said Wozniacki’s status was more to do with the limitations of the ranking system which rewards her grinding consistency rather than results at grand slams.

Technology, Lendl and expectations at the Australian Open

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By Greg Rusedski

The big Australian hope for the woman’s title Sam Stosur, the U.S. Open champion, went out in the first round which wasn’t a huge surprise. She said in all her press conferences before the event about how she wasn’t dealing with the pressure and home expectations. In my experience, even if a player is feeling that way they shouldn’t bring it up at a press conference as it could potentially give the opponent an extra belief. Sam will learn from this and hopefully get stronger for it.

On the men’s side, Australia’s big hope Bernard Tomic played well and is the real deal. He loves playing with the Australian pressure and expectation. Unfortunately for Tomic in the fourth round he came up against the great Roger Federer. It was another entertaining match from Tomic but Federer was just too good. Tomic is an exciting player to watch because of the variety in his game. He can hit any shot and mixes the pace of the ball all the time. He is a great thinker on the court and is a natural born winner. At only 19 years of age he should be in the top 10 very soon if he keeps working.

NFL Liveblog

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We are liveblogging the NFL Conference championships on Sunday – come back at game time for in-game chat and info with Reuters reporters and fans.


Click here for the Liveblog

Sunday’s American Football Conference (AFC) championship game (15:00 ET) between the high-powered New England Patriots and ferocious Baltimore Ravens is more than just a clash between two rivals battling for a place in the Super Bowl.

England to play Panesar? Another batter more like

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The fallout from England’s crushing first-test defeat by Pakistan has led many pundits to call for Monty Panesar to play as a second spinner in next week’s second test, despite the fact it was the batsmen and not the bowlers who failed to turn up for the world’s top-ranked test side.

Number 11 Panesar may have performed heroics with the bat in Cardiff to save the first Ashes test in 2009 but the Pakistan bowlers will hardly be quaking in their boots. Including Panesar would seemingly mean dropping seamer Chris Tremlett, who did not get a wicket in Dubai but still bowled decently. England getting Pakistan down to 289-8 having only scored 192 first up themselves was a good effort from the England attack.

Roddick leads movement for ATP change

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By Martyn Herman 

Andy Roddick on Friday insisted that tennis players must adopt “one voice” to push through changes to the ATP Tour but that may not be as easy as it seems despite the general feeling of solidarity.

Pity Brad Drewett, the new chief executive of the men’s Tour, who has the job of trying to keep everyone happy, grand slam champions, journeymen, tournament organisers, sponsors and TV.

Tebow time makes way for Manning mania even outside U.S.

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The Tim Tebow fairytale is over but NFL provided more drama with Super Bowl champions and previously imperious Green Bay being unceremoniously dumped out at home by New York Giants.

Over here in Europe, interest in NFL has grown markedly this year if Twitter trends are taken into account. Maybe the annual game in Wembley has boosted UK interest along with better live coverage on satellite TV but the players themselves deserve credit.

Independiente’s barrabravas bristle at “no cash” pledge

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By Rex Gowar

Argentina’s soccer hooligans appear to warm up for a new championship just like their teams with Independiente’s ‘barrabravas’ threatening trouble at an off-season friendly after being told by the club’s new administration “there is no cash”.

The impoverished giants from Avellaneda, record seven-times South American champions, voted in new president Javier Cantero last month who at once confronted the hardcore fans  and told them they would get no funds.

Va-va-voom. Vintage Henry scores on Arsenal return.

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The clock said 68 minutes, and no one at the Emirates Stadium in north London was looking at the action on the pitch as the fourth official held aloft his lit-up board to signal the re-introduction of Thierry Henry to English football.

Ten minutes later and he’d scored the game’s eventual winner. Comebacks don’t get this good this often.

The cat flashes his claws

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Karim Benzema has shrugged off the disparaging label of being Real Madrid’s pussycat and turned himself into a fearsome feline under Jose Mourinho.

In the space of a year, the 24-year-old has gone from expensive bench warmer to first-choice leader of the line at the world’s richest club by revenue, and won over a skeptical coach.

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