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Djokovic and Nadal reach Shanghai semis

After twice exchanging breaks during the first set, the Frenchman bagged the tiebreak 7-4 to go ahead.

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But Djokovic fought back, twice breaking Monfils, who had to receive treatment on a stomach muscle.

Djokovic got the crucial break in the seventh game of the third set and closed out the match to set up a semi-final clash with another Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Nadal was made to work hard in the first set of his quarter-final against Stanislas Wawrinka, triumphing 7-6(10) 6-1 to progress to set up a clash with Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro.

Wawrinka, who is hoping to qualify for the end-of-season ATP World Tour Finals, saved three break points on his way to a 6-5 lead in the opening set before Nadal saved two set points in the 12th game to take it to a tiebreak which he won.

The Spaniard, who last week lost to Djokovic in the China Open final, then raced to a 5-0 lead in the second set before the Swiss held serve to merely prolong the inevitable as Nadal served out the match.

Del Potro kept his errors to a minimum, breezing past Spain’s Nicolas Almagro 6-3 6-3.

Del Potro, seeded sixth, had also defeated Almagro in last week’s Japan Open semi-finals and now needs one more victory to seal his spot for next month’s Tour Finals in London.

The Argentine, who was suffering from fever during the earlier stages of the hard-court tournament, committed just eight unforced errors during his win and faced a single break point, which he went on to save.

“I played very well today, very solid,” Del Potro told reporters. “I played aggressive. I hit my forehand very well.

“I like the way I played today. I just want to keep improving (and) keep going far in this tournament.”

Tsonga also took a positive step towards confirming his spot for London with a comfortable 6-2 6-3 win over German Florian Mayer.

World number three Andy Murray’s withdrawal from the Tour Finals due to injury has meant anyone finishing ninth or better in the race to London will qualify for the prestigious season-ending tournament.

(Writing by Sudipto Ganguly and Sonia Oxley; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Cardiff owner backs manager Mackay, confirms Moody exit

“I have every faith in Malky and his team to lead us through the challenges of the Premier League,” Tan said in a statement on the club’s website (www.

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cardiffcityfc.co.uk) on Friday.

“I have supported him in the past and will do so in the future for many years to come,” added the Malaysian businessman whose money helped the Welsh side reach the Premier League for the first time when they were promoted last season.

Moody, an important member of Mackay’s staff since joining the Scot at Watford, has been replaced by Alisher Apsalyamov, a 23-year-old from Kazakhstan who has been appointed on an interim basis.

British media have reported that Apsalyamov is a friend of Tan’s son and has no background in the game.

Tan said Apsalyamov would focus on gathering data on individual players.

“Ultimate recruitment decisions of course remain the domain of the manager and majority shareholder,” he said.

Tan had previously upset Cardiff fans by changing the club colours from blue to red as well as altering the team’s crest, but he has brought success on the pitch.

He invested more than 30 million pounds on new players during the close season and Cardiff are 14th in the standings with eight points from seven matches.

“I would say to all Cardiff City fans and everyone connected to the club, let us look forward to the future and remain united in our support of the team,” he added.

On Thursday, the Cardiff City Supporters’ Trust issued a statement backing Mackay and calling for clarification of the situation, saying they feared developments at the club would see the manager leave for another Premier League team.

(Reporting by Josh Reich; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Bulgaria’s playoff hopes hit by 2-1 defeat in Armenia

Bulgaria are second in the standings with 13 points from nine matches, seven points behind group winners Italy, who have already qualified for next year’s tournament in Brazil.

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Armenia moved into third place with 12 points from nine games, but Denmark, also on 12 points, had a chance to go second in the group when they hosted Italy later on Friday.

Luboslav Penev’s Bulgaria, alongside Iceland in Group E, also have the lowest points total of any second-placed sides in European qualifying, meaning they risk missing the playoffs even if they finish runners-up.

Armenia went ahead just before half-time when Aras Ozbilis gave Bulgarian goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov no chance with a perfectly struck free kick, awarded for a clumsy Nikolay Bodurov challenge.

Bodurov received a straight red card but Bulgaria defied his absence and drew level on 61 minutes when their skipper, Ivelin Popov, found the net with another brilliant free kick, making up for two opportunities that had been missed by Emil Gargorov and Stanislav Manolev.

But just two minutes later, Bulgarian midfielder Svetoslav Dyakov joined Bodurov on the sidelines as he was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Yura Movsisyan ran clear of the visitors’ defence to score four minutes from time to secure Armenia’s first home triumph of the campaign.

Earlier, Bulgaria’s national anthem was booed and whistled by large groups of home fans.

It extended a hostile welcome that had begun when dozen of fans had subjected the Bulgarian team to abuse and hurled objects at them on their arrival at Yerevan airport on Thursday.

In September 2012, Armenia filed a protest with soccer’s ruling body FIFA about “poor officiating” and the treatment they received from the home team during a 1-0 qualifying defeat in Bulgaria.

(Writing by Angel Krasimirov, Editing by Tom Bartlett)

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Bulgaria’s playoff hopes hit by defeat in Armenia

Bulgaria are second in the standings with 13 points from nine matches, seven points behind group winners Italy, who have already qualified for next year’s tournament in Brazil.

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Armenia moved into third place with 12 points from nine games, but Denmark, also on 12 points, had a chance to go second in the group when they hosted Italy later on Friday.

Luboslav Penev’s Bulgaria, alongside Iceland in Group E, also have the lowest points total of any second-placed sides in European qualifying, meaning they risk missing the playoffs even if they finish runners-up.

Bulgaria thought they had taken the lead after half an hour when striker Emil Gargorov put the ball in the net, but it was ruled out for a marginal offside.

Armenia went ahead just before half-time when Aras Ozbilis gave Bulgarian goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov no chance with a perfectly struck free kick, awarded for a clumsy Nikolay Bodurov challenge.

Bodurov received a straight red card but Bulgaria defied his absence and drew level on 61 minutes when their skipper, Ivelin Popov, found the net with another brilliant free kick, making up for two opportunities that had been missed by Gargorov and Stanislav Manolev.

But just two minutes later, Bulgarian midfielder Svetoslav Dyakov joined Bodurov on the sidelines as he was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Yura Movsisyan ran clear of the visitors’ defence to score four minutes from time to secure Armenia’s first home triumph of the campaign.

Penev was furious with the referee, Felix Brych. “We controlled the game, the guys were perfect from the first to the last minute,” the former striker told Bulgarian state TV channel BNT1. “We (tried to do) the impossible to win or at least get a point.

“Obviously, we became ‘uncomfortable’ … and it’s clear we’re not allowed to win. We’ll ask FIFA if we must start with two or three people less.

“We outplayed them with 10 men and with nine men too. But apparently they will not allow us to win no matter how many goals we score.”

Earlier, Bulgaria’s national anthem was booed and whistled by large groups of home fans.

It extended a hostile welcome that had begun when dozen of fans had subjected the Bulgarian team to abuse and hurled objects at them on their arrival at Yerevan airport on Thursday.

In September 2012, Armenia filed a protest with soccer’s ruling body FIFA about “poor officiating” and the treatment they received from the home team during a 1-0 qualifying defeat in Bulgaria.

(Writing by Angel Krasimirov, Editing by Tom Bartlett and Stephen Wood)

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Lively Lukaku books Belgium’s World Cup ticket

The result means Group A leaders Belgium are uncatchable with 25 points from nine matches ahead of their last qualifying game at home to Wales on Tuesday.

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It ends a wretched 12-year period during which they have also failed to reach the finals of the European Championship.

Lukaku, on loan at Everton from Chelsea and replacing the injured Christian Benteke for Belgium, had several thousand visiting fans dancing on the half-empty terraces at the Maksimir stadium after scoring in the 15th and 38th minutes.

Second-half substitute Niko Kranjcar grabbed a late consolation goal for the Croatians.

“I’m just really happy for the team,” the towering Lukaku told Belgian television. “We always believed we could qualify and now it’s happened.

“We just want to finish now on the right note against Wales.”

Team mate Eden Hazard said Lukaku had given coach Marc Wilmots a selection headache for future matches, with Benteke possibly fit to start on Tuesday.

Wilmots said he now wanted to secure a Belgian record haul of qualifying points by beating Wales.

“If Tuesday’s party is going to be good, then we have to take it seriously and win,” he added.

LIKELY PLAYOFFS

Croatia have 17 points and are assured of a runners-up finish and a likely berth in next month’s playoffs but were jeered by their fans after a lacklustre performance.

The home team needed a win to have any chance of overhauling Belgium at the top but coach Igor Stimac deployed a conservative 4-5-1 formation with wingers Ivan Perisic and Ivan Rakitic operating behind lone striker Mario Mandzukic.

Wilmots’s team took the lead when Perisic gave the ball away to Steven Defour who fed Lukaku and he raced clear of centre backs Vedran Corluka and Dejan Lovren before rounding keeper Stipe Pletikosa.

Pletikosa then kept out a close-range header from Marouane Fellaini but could not prevent Lukaku muscling through to score a dazzling second goal.

Having superbly dinked the ball over Lovren inside his own half, the 20-year-old galloped past midfielder Mateo Kovacic, rounded the advancing Pletikosa and walked the ball into an empty net as bewildered home fans started leaving the ground in droves.

Belgium almost scored a third goal in the 77th minute when Pletikosa denied Fellaini from three metres after a darting run and cross by Hazard.

Kranjcar pulled one back for Croatia by volleying a fierce shot into the roof of the net from 14 metres after keeper Thibaut Courtois parried a close-range effort by Nikola Kalinic and Daniel Van Buyten could only partially clear the rebound.

Stimac said his side deserved at least a draw.

“We controlled the game at the start, dominated, but then made an incomprehensible gift to the opponents and they scored. It was a shock, it upset us,” he said.

Kranjcar said Croatia should be proud not to have fallen apart in the second half.

“That should be our inspiration for the next game and I believe we’ll earn a place in the playoffs,” he added.

(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic, additional reporting by Zoran Radosavljevic in Zagreb, Philip Blenkinsop and Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels; editing by Tony Jimenez)

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Former F1 test pilot De Villota found dead

De Villota, who lost her right eye and fractured her skull at a test in England in July 2012, had apparently died of ‘natural’ causes, a Spanish police spokeswoman said.

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“We are assuming it was a natural death, but we cannot confirm anything,” the spokeswoman said, adding that forensic scientists and a homicide unit would examine the scene.

De Villota’s sister Isabel was quoted as saying in local media later on Friday that the family had been told the 33-year-old had died in her sleep at about 6 a.m. local time (0400 GMT / 5:00 A.M. BST) as a result of neurological injuries she suffered in the crash.

Although de Villota recovered, she no longer competed and had instead become an inspirational figure for aspiring female drivers and was due to present a book detailing her experiences on Monday.

The daughter of former F1 racer Emilio De Villota, she was appointed test driver for Anglo-Russian team Marussia a few months before her accident.

She never took part in a general test with other drivers but was one of only a handful of women to have driven Formula One cars in the last decade. None, though, have come near to racing one in competition.

The news of her sudden passing stunned Spain and the motor racing world.

“I feel I owe it to her (to say something) because, out of the paddock and out of the motorsport bubble, she was an incredible character, she was a fighter,” Susie Wolff, a Williams development driver who had a test for the team last July and knew De Villota well, told Reuters.

“She had such a spirit for life and what she came through was a testament to her strength of character and her positive outlook,” added the Scot from the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka.

“After the accident she was so behind me and had such a lust for life, she was so happy to be alive and that she’d survived it and she had so many great plans for the future.

“She was just an incredible lady, no matter about what she did on the racetrack. She was just an incredible character.”

ROLE MODEL

Spanish F1 driver Fernando Alonso appeared lost for words in an interview with radio broadcaster Cadena Ser shortly after hearing the news.

“I really don’t know what to say,” he said from Suzuka.

“Pray for her and her family and the whole motor sport family. She was really loved by everyone.”

De Villota’s family posted a brief message on Facebook.

“Dear friends. Maria has left us. She had to go to heaven like all the angels. We give thanks to God for the year and half more he allowed her to be with us.”

The crash occurred at Duxford airfield in England after De Villota had completed a test run and was returning to the mechanics. The car suddenly accelerated into the back of a team truck with her helmet taking much of the impact.

She was taken to Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s hospital and had an emergency operation that began on a Tuesday afternoon and kept her in theatre until the following morning.

Marussia published a brief statement on their website (www.marussiaf1team.com) from Suzuka:

“It is with great sadness that we learned a short time ago of the news that Maria de Villota has passed away.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Maria’s family and friends at this very difficult time.”

SPECIAL INSIGHT

Speaking in public for the first time since the accident in October last year, an upbeat De Villota, who married her personal trainer Rodrigo Garcia Millan in July, said she believed the best part of her life was still to come.

Wearing a patch over her eye socket and with her blonde hair cropped close to the skull, De Villota thanked all those who had helped and supported her and said she now believed she had “a new opportunity to live at 100 percent”.

She said she was determined to stay involved with Formula One in some form and being a role model for aspiring young female drivers was extremely important to her.

“I have motor sport in my DNA and there’s no way I can stay away from that world,” she said.

“I want to keep fighting because I believe so strongly in women being part of motor racing.

“The crucial thing was to get back some optimism about the future, that’s what helped me to get my interior motor running again. I am sure that the best is still to come.”

Spain’s secretary of state for sport, Miguel Cardenal, said the government was discussing ways of sustaining her legacy.

“I was talking to her on Tuesday about the book she was going to present,” Cardenal was quoted as saying in local media.

“She believed she could help many people, find something positive, because losing something makes you realise what you have,” he added.

“The accident gave her this special insight and she wanted to give something to others. We are thinking about how to sustain her legacy because she brought something different to Spanish sport, different values and her vision of life.”

(Additional reporting by Alan Baldwin in Suzuka, writing by Sarah White, Sonya Dowsett and Iain Rogers, editing by Patrick Johnston)

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England close on finals after win over Montenegro

A Wayne Rooney strike after 48 minutes, an own goal from Branko Boskovic after 62 minutes, a stunning third on his debut by Andros Townsend, and an injury-time penalty from Daniel Sturridge secured England’s victory.

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England lead their section with 19 points, one ahead of Ukraine and four more than Montenegro.

Montenegro appeared to set up a nervous finale when Dejan Damjanovic scored after 71 minutes but England weathered the storm and will qualify for the 2014 finals if they beat Poland at Wembley in their final qualifier on Tuesday.

The only blot on an otherwise good night for Roy Hodgson’s team was a booking for right back Kyle Walker, which will keep him out of Tuesday’s match.

Rooney opened the scoring three minutes into the second half after a 70-metre run from debutant Townsend, whose cross caused mayhem in the Montenegro defence before Rooney lashed in a left-foot shot from close range.

England doubled their lead in the 62nd minute when Branko Boskovic turned the ball into his own net after a cutback from Danny Welbeck.

Those goals settled an anxious Wembley but Montenegro proved they were not totally down and out when Manchester City’s Stevan Jovetic almost beat his club colleague Joe Hart with a 30-metre shot that smashed against Hart’s crossbar and bounced away to safety.

They did even better in the 71st minute, when Dejan Damjanovic diverted a shot from substitute Fatos Beqiraj past Hart to set England’s nerves jangling again.

But Townsend settled them in the 78th minute with a superb shot from 20 metres that swerved past Vukasin Poleksic and went in off the post.

Liverpool striker Sturridge completed the scoring from the spot in the third minute of time added on after he was fouled by Ivan Kecojevic.

(Editing by Stephen Wood)

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O’Sullivan makes fresh fixing claim

World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has said he turned down an offer of STG20,000 ($A34,000) to fix a Premier League snooker match.

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The 37-year-old, five times champion of the world, wrote in his autobiography he was approached during a brief meeting in Epping Forest, Essex, east of London 10 years ago.

Nigel Mawer, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association’s (WPBSA) disciplinary committee, told the BBC: “We are aware of what has been said in the book and will be writing to Ronnie O’Sullivan to ask him to explain his comments.”

O’Sullivan wrote: “Someone rang me and said he’d like to meet me over in the forest and have a walk through the woods. I knew the fella, and it was someone you don’t want to mess around with.

“What they were offering me, 20 grand, I could get for a couple of nights’ work.”

O’Sullivan’s fellow English snooker player Stephen Lee, the former world number five, was banned last month for 12 years for seven match-fixing offences but is to appeal against his suspension.

Last month, following Lee’s ban, O’Sullivan told his Twitter followers: “I’ve heard there’s many more players who throw snooker matches .. I suppose Steve lee was just caught out.”

He added “plenty of people have got loads to hide”.

However O’Sullivan back-tracked after World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn warned he must not make “vague announcements” and risked disciplinary action.

In response, O’Sullivan said: “My reference to players throwing matches was out of context in that I was referring back to rumours from many years ago when there were only a few tournaments on the circuit.

“If I were aware of match-fixing, I understand that it would be up to me to report any fears to the association.

“I have no intention of undermining the integrity of the sport that I love and enjoy participating in so much and firmly believe that my tweets were taken out of context.”

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Belgium, Germany and Swiss book World Cup tickets

Belgium, boasting one of the most talented squads in Europe, will return to the global showpiece for the first time since 2002 after a 2-1 win in Croatia guaranteed top spot in Group A.

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Germany’s 3-0 home win over Ireland, with goals from Sami Khedira, Andre Schuerrle and Mesut Ozil, put them through from Group C while the Swiss won 2-1 in Albania to wrap up Group E.

The Netherlands and Italy had already sealed their passage to the finals before the penultimate round of qualifiers.

Group F leaders Russia are on the verge of qualifying thanks to a 4-0 victory in Luxembourg while Wayne Rooney was among the scorers in England’s 4-1 win over Montenegro at Wembley which kept Roy Hodgson’s side top of Group H heading into Tuesday’s final round of matches.

England are a point ahead of Ukraine who kept up the pressure by beating Poland 1-0.

Bosnia, seeking to reach their first major tournament as an independent nation, and Greece remain neck-and-neck on 22 points at the top of Group G after home wins on Friday.

Bosnia, with Edin Dzeko scoring twice, thumped Liechtenstein 4-1 while a Martin Skrtel own goal handed Greece a 1-0 success at home to Slovakia.

Robin van Persie hit a hat-trick in the 8-1 demolition of Hungary to become all-time leading Dutch scorer, taking his tally to 41 international goals and surpassing the 40 scored by Patrick Kluivert.

Nicklas Bendtner made a sensational return from a six-month ban by netting both goals in Denmark’s 2-2 draw at home to Italy. The striker was suspended by the Danish FA after being arrested for drink-driving but his international return was spoiled by Alberto Aquilani’s stoppage-time equaliser.

World and European champions Spain will move closer to qualifying if the Group I leaders beat Belarus in a late kickoff.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

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IMF cuts Asia-Pacific growth forecast

EDS: Not for use before 0015 AEDT, Saturday, October 12

By Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics Correspondent

CANBERRA, Oct 12 AAP – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has confirmed it expects Australian economic growth to remain below trend this year and next, as the mining investment boom wanes.

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But in a mixed assessment of Asia and the Pacific in its latest Regional Economic Outlook released in Washington on Friday, the IMF expects neighbouring New Zealand to gain a boost as its post-earthquake reconstruction is accelerated.

It has cut its economic growth forecast for the region to 5.1 per cent for 2013, down from a 5.7 per cent prediction made in April.

For 2014 growth is now seen at 5.3 per cent rather than six per cent.

It says activity among emerging economies in the region lost their impetus during the first six months of 2013.

“Tepid external demand from advanced economies and a slowdown in China dampened industrial activity throughout much of emerging Asia,” it says.

At the same time, many of these economies have endured tighter financial conditions as a result of expectations that the US Federal Reserve will start winding back its monetary policy stimulus.

In India, one of Australia’s major trading partners, the fallout from financial stress has likely left corporate and bank balance sheets vulnerable, leading to a further downward revision to growth forecasts that were already historically lower.

While China has been insulated from recent financial market vulnerability, the IMF expects continued measures to slow credit demand from the excesses of the past should put the economy on a slower trajectory.

The IMF has cut its growth forecasts for emerging Asia by 0.9 per cent since April for both 2013 and 2014 to 6.3 and 6.5 per cent respectively.

Among advanced countries in the region, an economic upswing in Japanese growth has been a “bright spot” and is starting to lift the country out of chronic deflation.

“In Australia, a slowdown in the resource investment boom will drag down growth but in New Zealand continued low interest rates and the acceleration of post-earthquake reconstruction will provide a boost to the economy,” it said.

As in the World Economic Outlook released earlier this week, the IMF lowered its Australian forecasts to 2.5 per cent for this year and 2.8 per cent for the next, bringing it more into line with Australian Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Australia’s forecasts.