Tennis: Kenin upsets Cornet to reach Hobart final

January 11, 2019

(Reuters) – Big-hitting American youngster Sofia Kenin reached her first WTA final when she stunned sixth seed Alize Cornet 6-2 6-4 at the Hobart International on Friday.

In windy conditions, unseeded Kenin kept her composure to land 77 percent of her first-serves in play and broke her French opponent four times en route to a convincing victory.

Cornet was Kenin’s third seeded victim of the tournament after recording upsets of top seed Caroline Garcia in the opening round and seventh seed Kirsten Flipkens in the quarter-finals.

“I tried to just calm myself down, not get over excited and play one point at a time,” the 20-year-old Kenin said.

“I’ve beaten a lot of top players this past week, so I’m really happy with the way I’m playing.”

Kenin, who has not dropped a set this week, will meet Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in Saturday’s final after the Slovakian outlasted Swiss Belinda Bencic 7-6(2) 4-6 6-2 in a 2-1/2 hour encounter.

The 24-year-old Schmiedlova fired 42 winners to move into her fifth career WTA final, where she will be seeking her fourth title.

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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Murray, the gift who kept giving for British tennis

January 11, 2019

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) – For a nation steeped in tennis history but long starved of success, Britain’s Andy Murray was the gift that kept giving.

From the moment the scrawny kid from the Scottish town of Dunblane won the junior title at the 2004 U.S. Open, he was touted as the real McCoy.

He did not disappoint and 14 years later, with his battle-scarred right hip apparently proving beyond even Murray’s never-say-die attitude, only the hard-hearted could wish him anything other than goodwill as he prepares for life after tennis with his 32nd birthday looming.

Whatever happens in the final act of his career he belongs in the pantheon of British sporting greats.

Despite a career forged in the toughest of all tennis eras, Murray has 45 career titles, including three Grand Slams, two Olympic golds, a Davis Cup and $60 million in career earnings.

Yet it was perhaps a defeat that opened the door to greatness, and a nation’s affection.

The 2012 Wimbledon final, Murray’s first at the All England Club where he shouldered home hopes for more than a decade, saw him eclipsed by Roger Federer and then receive a standing ovation as the tears flowed during his runner-up speech.

Britain loves a plucky loser but Murray was to prove anything but.

He returned to the Wimbledon lawns weeks later and rode a wave of national euphoria to beat Federer to Olympic gold.

A few weeks after that he outlasted Serbia’s Novak Djokovic to win the U.S. Open having lost his first four Grand Slam finals — a record he shared with coach Ivan Lendl.

Significant as that Flushing Meadows victory was — it banished the ghost of Fred Perry by ending a 76-year wait for a British Grand Slam champion — what followed a year later took Murray’s standing to an entirely different level.


With Rafael Nadal and Federer both suffering shock defeats it seemed the tennis Gods were smiling as the draw opened up. Yet, as he often seemed to delight in doing at Wimbledon, Murray put his fans through the wringer.

He fought back from two sets down in the quarter-final to beat Spain’s Fernando Verdasco and again found himself in trouble against Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz before winning in four.

Top seed Djokovic awaited in the final but Murray was simply too good, winning in straight sets to end a 77-year jinx for British men on the hallowed lawns.

While the scoreline was routine, the final heart-pounding game will forever live in British sporting folklore.

With 15,000 people on a baking Center Court bellowing his name and 17 million Brits glued to TV screens around the country Murray went 40-0 ahead as he served for the title.

Djokovic clawed it back to deuce but Murray, somehow holding himself together in suffocating tension, earned a fourth match point and when his opponent netted a backhand it felt a weight was lifted off the whole country.

“It’s the hardest few points I’ve had to play in my life,” Murray said after. “That last game will be the toughest game I’ll play in my career, ever.”

Murray’s obdurate playing style, relying on superhuman defensive skills mixed with flashes of genius shot-making, all fueled by a ferocious will to win, began to take its toll.

He required back surgery at the end of 2013 and in 2014 he did not reach a Grand Slam final for the first time since 2009.

The best was yet to come though.

In 2016 Murray reached his fifth Australian Open final and first French Open final — losing to career rival Djokovic in both. He rebounded, however, to beat Canada’s Milos Raonic to win his second Wimbledon title.

Murray then outlasted Juan Martin del Potro on a steamy Rio evening to become the first player to win two Olympic singles golds. But his hunger was still not satisfied.

Djokovic had looked immovable at the top of men’s tennis earlier that year, but Murray hunted him down.

Consecutive titles in Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris then at the ATP Finals in London, where he beat Djokovic in the final, meant Murray ended the year as the ATP’s world number one for the first time — seven years after first being ranked two.

A knighthood followed and a third BBC Sports Personality of the Year award but only he knows if that manic charge to the summit exacerbated the hip injury that will end his career.

It was not all about individual glory though.

Murray proved the ultimate team player. In 2015 he almost single-handedly delivered Britain’s first Davis Cup triumph since 1936. Never one for convention, Murray ended an unforgettable weekend in Ghent with an audacious topspin lob to seal victory against Belgium’s David Goffin.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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U.S.-led coalition says it has started Syria withdrawal

January 11, 2019

By Rodi Said

QAMISHLI, Syria (Reuters) – The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State has begun the process of withdrawing from Syria, a spokesman said on Friday, indicating the start of a U.S. pullout that has been clouded by mixed messages from Washington.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement last month that he had decided to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops stunned allies that have joined Washington in the battle against Islamic State in Syria. Senior U.S. officials were shocked too, among them Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit in protest.

The coalition “has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria. Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements,” Colonel Sean Ryan said.

Russia, which has deployed forces into Syria in support of the Damascus government, said it had the impression that the United States wanted to stay despite the announced withdrawal of U.S. troops, RIA news agency reported.

Residents near border crossings that are typically used by U.S. forces going in and out of Syria from Iraq said they had seen no obvious or large-scale movement of U.S. ground forces on Friday.

The U.S. decision has injected new uncertainties into the eight-year long Syrian war and a flurry of contacts over how a resulting security vacuum will be filled across a swathe of northern and eastern Syria where the U.S. forces are stationed.

On the one hand, Turkey aims to pursue a campaign against Kurdish forces that have allied with the United States, and on the other the Russia and Iran-backed Syrian government sees the chance to recover a huge chunk of territory.


U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton suggested on Tuesday that protecting Washington’s Kurdish allies would be a pre-condition of the U.S. withdrawal. That drew a rebuke from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan who called his comments “a serious mistake”.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been touring the Middle East this week to reassure allies of Washington’s commitment to regional security, said on Thursday the withdrawal would not be scuppered despite the Turkish threats.

The Kurdish groups that control the north have turned to Moscow and Damascus in the hope of striking a political deal that will stave off Turkey and shield their autonomy in the north.


Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said it was important for Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government to start talking to each other in light of the U.S. withdrawal plans.

She also said the territory previously controlled by the United States should be transferred to the Syrian government.

“In this regard, establishing dialogue between the Kurds and Damascus takes on particular significance. After all, the Kurds are an integral part of Syrian society,” Zakharova said.

Turkey views the U.S.-backed YPG Syrian Kurdish militia as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a 34-year insurgency in Turkey for Kurdish political and cultural rights, mostly in southeastern areas near Syria.

A Kurdish politician told Reuters last week the Kurds had presented Moscow with a road-map for a deal with Damascus. Syria’s deputy foreign minister said on Wednesday he was optimistic about renewed dialogue with the Kurds.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of France, which is part of the U.S.-led coalition, welcomed what he believed was a slower withdrawal by the U.S after pressure from its allies.

“President Macron spoke to him (Trump) several times and it seems that there has been a change that I think is positive,” he said in a television interview on Thursday.

In a rare acknowledgment that French troops were also in Syria, he said they would leave when there is a political solution in the country.

(Reporting by Tom Perry in Beirut, John Irish in Paris and Andrey Ostroukh in Moscow; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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French President Macron will not attend Davos forum this year

January 11, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron will not attend this year’s world economic forum in Davos, an official at the president’s office said on Friday, citing a busy schedule including debates launched in response to the “Yellow Vests” protests.

The Elysee office said Macron would also be holding the second edition of his own forum with business leaders in Versailles on Jan 21, dubbed ‘Choose France’.

Earlier this week, U.S. President Donald Trump canceled his own visit to the Davos forum in Switzerland, as he wrestles with political opponents over the federal government shutdown.

(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)

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China says 2019 tax and fee cuts will be larger than 2018

January 11, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s planned tax and fee cuts this year will be larger than those of 2018, Finance Minister Liu Kun told state television in an interview aired on Friday.

Liu also said the government was studying a plan to lower social security fees to reduce the burden on small companies. He said China’s proactive fiscal policy would send a clear signal to companies.

(Reporting by Kevin Yao and Min Zhang; Writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Near Syrian border, Turkish defense minister vows operation when time is right

January 11, 2019

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s defense minister on Friday pledged to wage a campaign against a U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, sharpening focus on a potential conflict the United States has sought to prevent.

The comments from Hulusi Akar, on an unannounced visit to inspect troops stationed near the Syrian border directly opposite territory held by the U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG, appeared to be aimed at both Washington and its Kurdish allies.

Turkey and the United States, although NATO allies, are deeply divided over the implementation of President Donald Trump’s plan to bring home about 2,000 troops stationed in Syria. The plan hinges on Turkish cooperation to secure a swathe of northeast Syria as the United States departs.

While the pull-out has been clouded by mixed messages from both Trump and his administration, on Friday the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State began the process of withdrawing, a spokesman said.

Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, this week tried to make the case for guarantees that Turkey would not harm the YPG after the withdrawal. That earned a stiff rebuke from President Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and sees Washington’s support for it against Islamic State as a betrayal.

“When the time and place comes the terrorists here will be buried in the ditches they have dug, as was done in previous operations,” Akar said in a speech to military personnel at a brigade command center in the province of Sanliurfa, referring to two other cross-border campaigns that Turkey has carried out in Syria.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast. The Kurdish groups that control a vast swathe of northern Syria have now turned to Moscow and Damascus in the hope of striking a political deal that will stave off Turkey and shield their autonomy in the north.

Ankara has repeatedly expressed frustration over a deal with the United States for the withdrawal of the YPG from the city of Manbij, just west of the Euphrates river.

“Before us we have Manbij on one side and the east of the Euphrates on the other,” Akar said, underscoring the scale of a potential operation. “Important preparations and planning have been made in connection with this. Our preparations are continuing intensively.”

Turkey’s planned military operation against a Kurdish militia in Syria does not depend on an American withdrawal from the region, Ankara said on Thursday.

(Reporting by Daren Butler; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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Deutsche bank CFO says has sustainably cut costs in 2018

January 11, 2019

DUESSELDORF (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank <DBKGn.DE> had sustainably cut costs in 2018, the lender’s finance chief said on Friday.

The days that Deutsche has missed its cost targets are a thing of the past, Chief Financial Officer James von Moltke said at a New Year’s reception.

“We have our costs under control,” he said.

(Reporting by Matthias Inverardi; Writing by Tom Sims; Editing by Riham Alkousaa)

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Pound Jumps On Report Brexit To Be Delayed

Brexit Day is less than three months away and never during the process has the UK’s fumbling attempt to organize an ‘orderly’ exit from the trade block looked more fraught with conflict and chaos. After returning from their holiday break this week, MPs promptly rebelled against the government, passing a series of amendments over objections from the government that will make it extremely difficult to run down the clock to force MPs to either hold their noses and accept the deal she negotiated with the EU, or risk the pandemonium that could follow a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

With circumstances finally starting to shift this week following months of deadlock, murmurs about the possibility of delaying Brexit Day have grown ever-louder. Which is why it’s hardly a surprise that, on Friday, an anonymously sourced report in the Evening Standard cited “senior cabinet officials” claiming Brexit Day would likely be delayed sparked a brief rally in the pound.

GBP/USD climbed as much as 0.8% to $1.2851, leaving it on track to strengthen for a fourth-straight week.


In the report, ES’s sources pointed out that the withdrawal treaty isn’t the only long-running controversy that must be brought to a conclusion before Brexit Day. There are at least “six essential bills” that must be passed before Britain leaves the European Union.

Heres’s a quick rundown of that, and two other controversies that stand in the way of a workable Brexit:

  • Senior ministers told the Standard that a majority of the Cabinet now support the idea of staging indicative votes in the Commons to see if a different Brexit plan is supported, despite Theresa May publicly opposing the idea.
  • Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd refused three times on live radio to deny she would resign if the Prime Minister attempted a disorderly departure from the EU without securing a withdrawal deal.
  • Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that “Brexit paralysis” was a risk if MPs vote down Mrs May’s deal on Tuesday but lack a majority for a different deal. He said it was clear that a no-deal Brexit would be blocked by Parliament following the landmark votes earlier this week.

While a delayed Brexit deadline would be positive for the pound, it would not be a “big game changer” due to the lack of clarity around what Parliament wants, said Mikael Olai Milhoj, analyst at Danske Bank.

“Positive as it means lower probability of no-deal Brexit, but should not be a big game changer”.

The rally started to fade as Theresa May poured cold water on the reports, saying there is not such plan in place and that the government’s policy is not to delay the UK’s departure from the EU.

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Italy judge acquits Autostrade CEO in 2013 motorway accident case

January 11, 2019

MILAN/ROME (Reuters) – An Italian judge on Friday acquitted Autostrade per l’Italia CEO Giovanni Castellucci in a case regarding a 2013 accident that killed 40 people on a motorway run by the company.

Prosecutors had asked for a jail sentence of 10 years for Castellucci, who is also chief executive of Benetton-controlled infrastructure group Atlantia <ATL.MI>.

Castellucci has already said he will be stepping down as CEO of Autostrade after a 13-year tenure.

The 59-year old manager is also under investigation for multiple manslaughter after a bridge operated by the company collapsed in Genoa in August, killing 43 people.

After the Genoa disaster, the Italian government blamed Autostrade for poor maintenance of the viaduct and threatened to revoke all of Autostrade’s motorway concessions in the country.

The company, which runs 3,000 km of toll roads across Italy, generates more than 60 percent of Atlantia’s core earnings.

(Reporting by Francesca Landini and Stefano Bernabei; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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