Terry Rozier and the Boston Celtics played down Kyrie Irving's criticism of the NBA hopefuls.

Irving told reporters the Celtics did not understand what it takes to be a championship-level team following a defeat on Saturday.

On Monday, Celtics star Irving said he would never call out his team-mates publicly again, but Boston have not disputed anything he said.

"Kyrie said a lot after the last game and it was probably stuff that people didn't want to hear," Rozier told Yahoo. "But it's showing."

Rozier continued: "I feel like we have them talks throughout the season, but it didn't turn out that good. You see guys get into it with each other, but that's part of the game. You gotta be real with each other."

Rozier said Irving's talk was needed, and Boston tea-mate Jayson Tatum agreed.

"It's the truth," Tatum told Yahoo. "He knows what it takes to win a championship and most of us don't. Sometimes you have to be brutally honest in this profession to get the best out of one another. It came from a good place."

The Celtics have had their fair share of problems and seemingly everyone has a reason for why.

"I don't think we've all been on a team like this," Rozier said. "Young guys who can play, guys who did things in their career, the group that was together last year, then you bring Kyrie and [Gordon] Hayward back, it's a lot with it."

When asked if the team might almost be too talented, Rozier answered: "Too talented, yeah. Too talented."

Boston (25-18) have lost three games in a row (after winning their  previous four)t o drop to fifth in the Eastern Conference standings.

Similar to the AFC, Sunday's NFC championship game will pit a young gun against a savvy veteran under center.

Los Angeles Rams third-year quarterback Jared Goff takes his squad to New Orleans with the hope of defeating Saints QB Drew Brees after the 40-year-old helped his team secure the top seed in the NFL playoffs and best odds to win the Super Bowl.

Brees and the 24-year-old Goff have an age gap of nearly 16 years, which is the third largest between two quarterbacks in postseason history. While much of Goff's history remains unwritten, Brees has sealed his status as a Hall of Famer.

Here, we break down their season to this point and what to expect from Sunday's showdown.

How they stack up this season


Regular season

Jared Goff
Completion percentage:
64.9
Yards: 4,688
Touchdowns: 32
Interceptions: 12
Rating: 101.1

Drew Brees
Completion percentage: 74.4
Yards: 3,992
Touchdowns: 32
Interceptions: 5
Rating: 115.7

 

Post divisional round

Goff v Dallas Cowboys
Completion percentage:
53.6
Yards: 186
Touchdowns: 0
Interceptions: 0
Rating: 74.4

Brees v Philadelphia Eagles
Completion percentage: 73.7
Yards: 301
Touchdowns: 2
Interceptions: 1
Rating: 103.1

 

Beyond the numbers

While Goff's offense seemed to sputter toward the end of the season, Brees' only got better, and it could be argued that his supporting cast gave him the edge.

Yet, the Saints could be slowed by the Rams' dominating defensive front led by NFL Defensive Player of The Year favourite Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers.

 

Getting Goff going

Though the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes stole the show under center during the regular season, Goff was still in the mix for MVP along with Brees, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers. However, Goff's performance cooled down the stretch before igniting once again in the final two weeks before the postseason began. He then put on a lacklustre performance at the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round, leaving his consistency in question entering a crucial rematch in New Orleans.

Los Angeles were the league's lone undefeated team when they visited the Saints in week nine but left with a 45-35 loss after a lopsided outing. That outcome was in line with Goff's overall struggles on the road this season, as he has thrown for 10 touchdowns with nine inteceptions and a 82.7 passer rating away from the Coliseum.

 

Breesing on through

Brees has been in top form this season, playing as well as ever in his 18th year in the league. While the regular season marked the first time since 2005 that he did not throw for more than 4,000 yards, he achieved three notable milestones through the first 10 weeks of action in becoming the NFL's all-time passing leader while also reaching the second-most passing touchdowns and most career completions.

Furthermore, Brees is an even bigger threat in front of a home crowd as he posted a 133.3 passer rating at the Superdome in the regular season.

Brees' experience gives the Saints an advantage at the game's most important position in most matchups, and Sunday is no exception.

Sunday's AFC championship game will showcase a special matchup that features the NFL's past and future: the greatest of all time against the kid.

Patriots veteran Tom Brady will head to Kansas City for New England's eighth straight conference title game appearance as the Chiefs host their first AFC championship game with second-year gunslinger Patrick Mahomes leading the way.

Brady, 41, and Mahomes, 23, are separated by the largest age gap between two starting quarterbacks in postseason history, but they share common ground in the NFL record books.

Here, we break down their season to this point and what to expect from Sunday's showdown.

 

How they stack up this season

Regular season

Patrick Mahomes
Completion percentage: 66.0
Yards: 5,097
Touchdowns: 50
Interceptions: 12
Rating: 113.8

Tom Brady
Completion percentage:
65.8
Yards: 4,355
Touchdowns: 29
Interceptions: 11
Rating: 97.7

Post divisional round

Mahomes v Indianapolis Colts
Completion percentage: 65.9
Yards: 278
Touchdowns: 0
Interceptions: 0
Rating: 85.2

Brady v Los Angeles Chargers
Completion percentage: 77.3
Yards: 343
Touchdowns: 1
Interceptions: 0
Rating: 106.5

 

More than numbers

Mahomes has outperformed Brady in only his second season in the league, both from a statistical standpoint and a talent perspective as he flawlessly threw left-handed and no-look passes during his 2018-19 campaign as a first-year starter.

On the other hand, Brady will be in an unusual spot on Sunday as the Patriots are underdogs for just the second time since 2007 entering Arrowhead Stadium. And if his outing in the divisional round against the Chargers is any indication, Brady will not be playing like he did during the regular season. In fact, it could be argued that the pressure brings out his best performances.

 

Mahomes just getting started

This season has been all about Mahomes and his magnificent growth after former starter Alex Smith was traded to the Washington Redskins last January. Mahomes capped his MVP-worthy season in historic fashion when he became just the second NFL player to throw for 50 touchdowns and 5,000 passing yards in a single season.

He then helped the Chiefs secure their first playoff victory since 2015 and first at Arrowhead since 1993.

But Mahomes has seen the Brady effect firsthand before. Kansas City rallied from a 15-point deficit against New England in week six but fell 43-40 on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal as time expired. The loss was a learning experience for Mahomes as he realised his team "cannot make mistakes" even after he threw for an impressive 352 yards and four touchdowns.

 

Brady or bust

With five Super Bowl rings and eight AFC titles, Brady is the most successful postseason quarterback in the league's history. But even the most seasoned signal-callers get worn down eventually.

Despite no signs of slowing down, retirement has been a common topic last offseason and likely will be again in 2019. However, Brady's focus now is firmly on helping the Patriots win their first playoff game on the road since the 2006 season.

In contests Brady has started, New England had been favoured in 67 straight games. The probability of him winning on Sunday, however, has taken a hit as his age was exposed at times this season.

The Philadelphia 76ers acquired a new forward after signing veteran Corey Brewer to a 10-day contract.

NBA Eastern Conference contenders Philadelphia announced Brewer's short-term deal on Tuesday.

Brewer appeared in 72 games in 2017-18, splitting time between the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder. 

The 32-year-old averaged 5.3 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 16.8 minutes per game for the season.

Philadelphia are fourth in the Eastern Conference and could use some depth on the wing. Jimmy Butler and Furkan Korkmaz are the only players listed as small forwards on the team's 15-man roster.

The 76ers will face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James continues to take steps towards returning to the court.

The 34-year-old, who has not played since straining his groin on December 25, participated in half-court shooting and passing drills during the Lakers' shootaround on Tuesday. He is set to be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

Lakers coach Luke Walton said he thinks the team will hear positive news after James is re-examined.

"I'm optimistic about life," Walton said, via ESPN. "So yes, that would be covered in that … I think we'll get good news back."

Walton said he was "encouraged" by James' participation in some parts of Tuesday's workout.

"[James] does a lot of [running] when we're not here," Walton said. "I don't know the [exact] amount of running he's doing. I just know he seems to be in good spirits. He's got another test tomorrow to get some more information on it."

James originally suffered the injury in the third quarter of the Lakers' win over the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day. He met with trainers on the court, appeared to tell them he "felt it pop" and then headed to the locker room without assistance.

James underwent an MRI the following day and wrote on Twitter he "dodged a bullet". But, he has missed the Lakers' last 10 games. Los Angeles have tallied a 3-7 record in his absence.

Los Angeles signed James to a four-year, $153.3million contract in July. He is averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 34.6 minutes per game this season.

The Lakers will host the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday. They will enter that matchup with a 23-21 record and on a two-game losing streak.

Telenet Giants Antwerp produced a stunning fourth quarter to take a step closer to the Basketball Champions League play-offs, beating CEZ Nymburk 85-72 on Tuesday.

Nymburk had an opportunity to close within one win of the Giants in Group C but a 26-7 fourth quarter swung the match in the hosts' favour in Antwerp, sending them three points clear in fourth.

The result puts paid to Nymburk's own hopes of making the play-offs.

Hapoel Bank Yahav – already assured of their progression – sit top of the group following a 91-77 win against Montakit Fuenlabrada.

Telekom Baskets Bonn suffered a shock 70-63 defeat to Fribourg Olympic to deal a blow to their post-season chances, as Babacar Toure finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Bonn are now a point off the top four but three of their nearest rivals – PAOK, UNET Holon and Nanterre 92 – are yet to play in this round of fixtures.

In the group's other match, Iberostar Tenerife suffered only their second defeat of the season against Umana Reyer Venezia, who won 80-78 in Tenerife to all but secure a play-off berth.

The combined margin of Tenerife's two defeats is only three points, and they were already through to the next round.

In Group D, there were wins for Besiktas Sompo Japan and Neptunas Klaipeda over Promitheas Patras and SIG Strasbourg respectively to leave the pool finely poised heading into the final weeks of the round-robin phase.

The only match to take place in Group A on Tuesday saw Ventspils beat Le Mans 88-77.

Doug Pederson has confirmed the Philadelphia Eagles remain committed to Carson Wentz as their starting quarterback.

Speaking in a news conference on Tuesday, the head coach insisted the Eagles will stick with Wentz as the starter, despite him missing the past two postseasons due to injuries, including their Super Bowl triumph last season.

Wentz being out meant back-up Nick Foles came under center once again, and he had great results. 

After leading the Eagles to glory last year, he helped them into the playoffs this year and beat the Chicago Bears in the Wild Card round before being knocked out of the playoffs by the New Orleans Saints in agonising fashion this past weekend.

But Pederson has not been tempted to make a change, saying: "Yes, Carson Wentz is the quarterback going forward.

"In Nick's case, listen, we'd love to have everybody back throughout the roster but as I've said many times, it's not about one guy, it's about the team, and we're going to do what's best for the team."

Foles, who was the Super Bowl MVP when the Eagles defeated the New England Patriots, was 4-1 as the starter for the Eagles in the 2018 campaign, with the only loss coming to the Saints. 

He has a $20million option for the 2019 season, which the Eagles must opt into no later than one week after the Super Bowl. If the team does not exercise the option, Foles can be a free agent this offseason. If they do, he can pay $2m to opt out himself, or play out another year and be available in 2020.

"We would love to keep Nick Foles," executive vice-president of football operations Howie Roseman said. 

"You talk about a guy we drafted here and we've grown incredibly close with. I don't know a team that wouldn't want to have Nick Foles on their roster. Certainly as we go into the substance of those discussions, we haven't had them yet, but there's no question we love having Nick Foles as an Eagle in Philadelphia and we'd love to keep him."

Wentz, who was coming off a severe knee injury from the 2017 season, threw for 3,074 yards with 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 11 games before a fractured vertabra derailed him. Wentz said Monday he does not expect his back to be a lingering issue.

"We have a lot of confidence in Carson and his ability to be our quarterback and to hopefully be a 19-game starter when we look at the season and what we're trying to do," Roseman said. 

"That being said, coach, from the day he came here, [said] quarterback's always going to be a priority position for us, we're always going to try and have talent at that position. 

"We've got great quarterback teachers in this building. We're always going to be looking at that spot and trying to improve like any other spot that's important to our football team."

Fifteen quarterbacks in NFL history have started games after turning 40. Come Sunday, that number will rise to 16.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees celebrated his milestone birthday on Tuesday and is poised to keep his record-breaking season going strong into the NFC championship against the Rams and possibly to Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta next month. The Saints haven't been to the championship game since they capped their 2009-10 season with the Lombardi Trophy.

In that time, Brees has broken numerous records, with many coming this season as he led the Saints to a 13-3 record and an NFC South title for the second straight season.

Here we take a look at Drew Brees' milestones and numbers to know — with the help of Opta. 

10 facts about Drew Brees on his 40th birthday:

— Since joining the Saints before the 2006 season, New Orleans have gone 125-80 in games Brees has started. The franchise had won 125 games between 1989 and 2005. Additionally, Brees has helped lead the team to an 8-5 postseason record and the one Super Bowl win. Prior to 2005, the team were 1-5 in the playoffs.

— Brees holds six career passing records, including passing yards (74,437), passing touchdowns (520) and completion percentage (67.2 percent). Additionally, he has three of the top four highest completion percentages in a single season and has the fourth-most wins of any quarterback before turning 40 (155).

— He ranks second in regular-season history in game-winning drives (48) and third in comebacks (34). He has been selected to 12 Pro Bowls — only eight players have been chosen for more.

— He has thrown four or more passing touchdowns in 34 regular-season games. Only Peyton Manning (35) has more.

— Brees has thrown 30-plus touchdown passes in 10 of the last 11 seasons. Only two other quarterbacks in league history have thrown 30-plus TD passes more than seven seasons (Brett Favre and Peyton Manning with nine).

— In the regular season, Brees has thrown touchdown passes to 66 different players. Of the four players with 500-plus passing touchdowns, only one — Tom Brady (71) — has thrown touchdown passes to more players. Marques Colston caught 72 touchdowns from Brees – the seventh-most ever for a NFL duo.

— Brees has thrown 15 touchdown passes on fourth down, tied with Peyton Manning for the most since at least 1994.

— He owns a completion percentage of 66.4 per cent in the postseason, the highest of any player with 500 or more postseason pass attempts.

— There have been eight instances of a quarterback age 40 or older throwing 10-plus touchdown passes in a season. Since becoming a starter in 2002, Brees has averaged 30.5 touchdown passes per season.

— A quarterback aged 40 or older has thrown for 4,000 or more yards in a season three times in league history (Tom Brady in 2017 and 2018, Brett Favre in 2009). This regular season marked the first time since 2005 that Brees did not throw for more than 4,000 yards (he finished with 3,992).

Warrington Wolves have announced the signing of Gareth Widdop from St George Illawarra Dragons, with the England international set to join the Super League club in 2020.

Stand-off Widdop has signed a three-year contract at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, having spent five years with the Dragons and previously featured for Melbourne Storm, winning the NRL Premiership in 2012.

He has captained the Dragons since 2017 and last season boasted an 84 per cent conversion rate.

"With decisions like this there are a lot of things to look into," Widdop told Warrington's official website. "I think Warrington, in terms of the club itself, has got a lot of history, is a great team and is run very well.

"I have a lot of mates in the team and it's been a top club for a number of years. It's a club I want to be a part of and win some silverware with.

"I've been away from home for a long time now, and growing up in Halifax I always had dreams of playing in Super League. I'm at the stage in my career now when I have that opportunity... to come home and live out a childhood dream.

"I'm really excited for that. It's a long way off yet but it's something I'm looking forward to."

Warrington coach Steve Price previously signed Widdop for the Dragons and chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick says it is difficult to underestimate the significance of the deal.

"This is arguably the biggest signing in the club's history and quite possibly in the history of Super League," he commented. "Bringing in this world-class player is a major boost for the sport in this country.

"In 2020 Gareth will be a fantastic addition to an already formidable squad. This, once again, demonstrates the ambition of Warrington Wolves."

Once the move has gone through next year, the Dragons will hold first refusal to sign Widdop should he ever seek a return to the NRL.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland is confident his side can win his final Six Nations in the job after naming his squad on Tuesday.

Gatland announced a 39-man selection for the championship, which kicks off for Wales against France on February 1.

The New Zealander, who will be replaced by Wayne Pivac after the Rugby World Cup, has had to negotiate a number of injury concerns in shaping his squad - not least a broken arm sustained by Taulupe Faletau at the weekend.

But Gatland remains positive about his team's chances and says the opening fixture in Paris will be key to the success of their campaign.

“I think we’ve got a great chance of winning the Six Nations, if we win that opening game," Gatland said.

"That first game is going to be our toughest. We feel like we are in as good a position as anybody to do well.

"The whole thing about the Six Nations is momentum. If you can win your first couple of games, then you have a great chance of being in contention on the last weekend.

"This is competition time. The autumn was great, but it wasn’t about points.

"This is what we are going to experience in Japan [at the World Cup], so it’s about fronting up and winning games, playing some good rugby, but also thinking about tournament rugby."

Leigh Halfpenny and Ross Moriarty have been included despite being sidelined with concussion - the Scarlets full-back since November and the Dragons back-row forward since mid-December.

"It's important that we don't rush him [Moriarty] back and hopefully he starts training and potentially he will have a game before the Six Nations," he said.

"We'll see where he [Halfpenny] is at. He's been advised to continue training and ... if he's right, he'll be in contention but if not we'll have to make some other plans."

Gatland added of fly-half Dan Biggar (knee): "Dan has a medial injury but he's a fast healer and hopefully he might be in contention for this game."

Mikaela Shiffrin made more FIS Alpine World Cup history with an emphatic giant slalom victory in Kronplatz on Tuesday.

The American superstar became the first female skier to win at least 10 World Cup races in three different seasons, staying on course to claim a third successive overall title.

Shiffrin has won eight of her last 11 races after clocking one minute, 1.95 seconds in her first run and 1:02.80 in the second to secure her first World Cup giant slalom success in Italy.

Five other women had achieved 10 or more World Cup triumphs in a season twice, but Shiffrin is the only one to do it in three times.

The dominant Shiffrin now has 53 World Cup wins to her name at the age of only 23.

Tessa Worley was 1.21 seconds adrift of Shiffrin to take second place, with Marta Bassino taking third spot in her homeland.

Shiffrin leads Petra Vlhova by 496 points in the overall standings and has a 10-point advantage over Worley in the battle for the giant slalom crown.

Leinster scrum-half Luke McGrath will miss Ireland's Six Nations campaign after being ruled out for up to eight weeks with a knee ligament injury.

The 25-year-old sustained the issue in Saturday's 29-13 Champions Cup victory over Toulouse and was replaced by Jamison Gibson-Park midway through the second half.

Johnny Sexton will also be missing for this weekend's trip to Wasps as he continues to recover from his own knee injury but is expected to be back in the fold imminently.

"Johnny has been rehabbing a tendon in his knee and the week's not long enough, he just ran out of time," said Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty. "He's not far off at all but unfortunately for us, he's run out of time.

"We've made the decision, so Ross [Byrne] is there to cover. For Johnny, I don't see it being a huge issue for him going forward. He just needs to be in the right space physically so he can perform.

"That's our focus here, we want our players to be in the best physical condition so they can perform for us and for the national team. Johnny will get himself right and will be back."

Devin Toner (ankle), Sean O'Brien (arm) and Robbie Henshaw (hamstring) will all return to full training this week, while Fergus McFadden (hamstring) begins a lighter schedule.

Rob Kearney (quad) and Dan Leavy (calf) are to undergo further assessment. 

George Ford says his battle with Owen Farrell for England's number 10 jersey has become an "obsession" for people outside the England camp over recent years.

Farrell had generally been utilised as a centre in a system that accommodated both men until he was given a run of matches at fly-half in November, with Ford limited to only one start in the four fixtures – a 35-15 win over Japan at Twickenham.

With Ford's place in Eddie Jones' first-choice XV now at stake heading into a World Cup year, the perception could be that the rivalry between Ford and Farrell will intensify.

But Leicester Tigers man Ford insists he will always put the team ahead of his own personal ambitions in pursuit of international success.

"I think people get a little bit obsessed with it, to be honest," Ford told Omnisport, speaking on behalf of Land Rover at an off-road driving event.

"I think at the end of the day we want to both be part of a successful England team and that's what we're going to try and do because selection is up to Eddie and the coaches and whatever our roles are within that, we'll do it to the best of our ability. Because we want to be successful and we want to be a successful English team.

"I think we'll both try and improve and develop our games for ourselves but also for the good of the team as well so we can win games."

England were shock fifth-place finishers in last season's Six Nations and begin this year's championship in Dublin on February 2 against an Ireland side who completed the Grand Slam with victory at Twickenham in 2018.

"We don't want that [finishing fifth] to happen again," he continued. "I think from campaign to campaign. After that we went to from the South African tour [a 2-1 series defeat] to the autumn, we became tighter as a group and we took certain aspects of our game to a new level.

"We feel like we're improving and getting better but also feel there's a fair amount to go in terms of how good we can be. It's exciting for us as a team and we'll take each game as it comes in this campaign."

On England's Six Nations opener against Ireland, England team-mate Maro Itoje added: "It's going to be a great game.

"I'm sure it's going to be a very dramatic game, two teams going at it and trying to get the result for their respective nation. It's going to be great.

"As a player, hopefully I am looking forward to be part of it, and as an England fan as well, I'm looking forward to watching it back."

George Ford and Maro Itoje are Land Rover ambassadors. Land Rover has a heritage in rugby, sharing and understanding the values of the sport. @LandRoverRugby

Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev breezed into the second round of the Australian Open, while Milos Raonic consigned Nick Kyrgios to an emphatic defeat in his homeland on Tuesday.

Djokovic is the favourite for the title at Melbourne Park and the top seed started with a 6-3 6-2 6-2 defeat of qualifier Mitchell Krueger.

There were no big surprises in the men's singles on day two as Zverev eased past Aljaz Bedene 6-4 6-1 6-4.

Kyrgios fell at the first hurdle in his home major, Raonic firing down 30 aces in a straight-sets victory.

It was a late night for Dominic Thiem, who survived a Benoit Paire fightback to complete a 6-4 6-3 5-7 1-6 6-3 victory at almost 2.15am.

Marco Cecchinato was the only seed to bow out in the men's draw, 92-ranked Serbian Filip Krajinovic rallying from two sets down to beat the French Open semi-finalist 4-6 0-6 6-1 7-6 (10-8) 6-4.

Hyeon Chung produced a stunning run to the last four at the first grand slam of the year 12 months ago and produced more drama on his return, coming from two sets down to beat Bradley Klahn 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-2 6-4.

 

DJOKOVIC AWARE OF TSONGA THREAT

World number one Djokovic will face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in round two, 11 years after beating him in the final of the same major in their first meeting.

The 14-time grand slam champion is aware of the threat posed by the Frenchman, who saw off Martin Klizan 6-4 6-4 7-5 (7-5) at Rod Laver Arena in the first round.  

"He's another great player, champion, someone that has been very successful in the past, established top-10 player, played a grand slam final," said Djokovic. 

"Just very powerful, serve, forehand, big weapons. I know what to expect. I've played him many times. I lost to him, as well. In this court, as well, in Rod Laver I think back in 2010. I'm going to approach it as any other match.

"Really optimistic, but also respectful, trying to do whatever I can to win it."

 

ZVEREV UNTROUBLED BY SWOLLEN ANKLE

There were concerns over whether Zverev would be fit for the tournament after arriving in Australia with a hamstring injury and then damaging his ankle in practice.

The fourth seed revealed that his ankle is still swollen, but that did not hamper him in a comfortable win over Bedene.

Zverev struck 35 winners and broke six times to book a meeting with Jeremy Chardy, who came roaring back from two sets down to beat fellow Frenchman Ugo Humbert.

 

SCARY RAONIC WAS TOO GOOD – KYRGIOS

Kyrgios was no match for an inspired Raonic, who struck 53 winners in 6-4 7-5 (7-5) 6-4 win on Melbourne Arena

Raonic did not face a single break point, winning 90 per cent of points on his first serve in a one-sided encounter.

Kyrgios was troubled by a knee injury but said that was not the reason for his defeat.

"I actually didn't play that bad," he said. "I actually thought I played okay. I competed well. I probably would have beaten 75 per cent of the draw, but Milos played scary."

World number one Simona Halep insisted "the results don't matter any more", but nevertheless expressed delight after beating Kaia Kanepi in round one of the Australian Open.

Having brought her 2018 season to a premature end due to a back injury, Halep demonstrated admirable grit and determination in coming from a set and a break down against Kanepi.

The Estonian had beaten Halep in the opening round of last year's US Open, but paid the price for 62 unforced errors on this occasion as the top seed triumphed 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena.

"It was a great match. I think both of us played really well for first round," said Halep in a news conference following her win. "It was a tough draw, but I'm really happy with the victory.

"For sure, it's really important for me, coming not very confident into this tournament. Since Cincinnati, I didn't win a match. It's a nice start, a nice day for me.

"I didn't give up, which was really important. I think that's why I could win the match."

After reaching the top of the world rankings and finally breaking her grand slam duck at the 2018 French Open prior to her injury lay-off, Halep is apparently keen to prioritise enjoyment in Melbourne.

"After these results that I've done, I see things differently," she added.

"I'm trying just to enjoy more and to be happy on court ... nothing else. The results don't matter any more. I just want to improve in myself and also in my game."

Halep is playing her first slam since splitting with long-term coach Darren Cahill, but revealed she had linked up with the Australian in Melbourne.

"It's weird and tough [without Cahill], but he's around," she explained. "He gave me some advice. He came on court with me for some practices. I really thank him for being so close. We are great friends. Even if we are not coach [and] player, we are friends.

"I still felt that he's my coach when he came on court. I didn't feel any difference. He was very open, gave me advice. It's great to have him around. Also it's tough that he's not in my team any more.

"I don't know what I'm going to do. For sure, I need a coach, because at this level you cannot do it alone. I'm just chilling for the moment, and we will see after this tournament."

Simona Halep was forced to battle hard to reach the second round of the Australian Open on a day when many of her rivals enjoyed straightforward wins.

Halep's victory certainly did not come easily, the world number one forced to come from a set and a break down to overcome Kaia Kanepi, the powerful Estonian who beat her in the first round of last year's US Open.

Kanepi's lack of consistency ultimately proved decisive as Halep triumphed 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 6-2 to claim her first win since August, having missed the latter stages of the 2018 season due to a back injury.

While Halep was pushed by her opponent, the likes of Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova all progressed in routine fashion.

Daria Kasatkina, Mihaela Buzarnescu and Dominika Cibulkova were the only seeds to bow out on Tuesday, suffering respective defeats to Timea Bacsinszky, Venus Williams and Zhang Shuai.

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka was beaten by Laura Siegemund and cut an emotional figure in her post-match news conference.

 

SERENA STARTS STRONGLY IN FAMILIAR COURT PURSUIT

Seven-time Australian Open champion Williams recorded a ruthless 6-0 6-2 win over Tatjana Maria in her first appearance at Melbourne Park since winning the 2017 women's singles when pregnant.

The 37-year-old is once again seeking to equal Margaret Court's record haul of 24 grand slam singles titles, having fallen agonisingly short with final defeats at Wimbledon and the US Open last year.

"I have been going for the record what seems like forever now, so it doesn't feel any different," said Williams of her latest bid to draw level with Court.

Next up for Serena is a meeting with Eugenie Bouchard in round two.

 

KANEPI ERRATIC EN ROUTE TO HALEP DEFEAT

Kanepi produced moments of the highest class against Halep, but also a string of woeful mistakes.

Always aggressive in her approach, the veteran looked set to repeat her US Open victory over Halep when she moved 2-1 up in set two after taking the first in a tie-break.

At that point, Kanepi was firing winner after winner, but she could not maintain her level and finished the contest with a remarkable 62 unforced errors as Halep took the decider with ease.

OSAKA NOT FOCUSED ON NUMBER ONE

Halep's position atop the rankings is under threat, with US Open champion Osaka among a host of players who could end the fortnight as the new world number one.

However, after beating Magda Linette 6-4 6-2, Osaka said: "That's not really my goal. I just want to play well in this tournament. I'll see how my ranking is after. Rankings were never that much of a concern to me."

Osaka will face Tamara Zidansek in round two after the unheralded Slovenian sprung a surprise with victory over home favourite Daria Gavrilova.

"I don't really know who my next opponent is. I've never really seen her play," admitted Osaka. "I think I need to watch a lot of [her] matches tomorrow, just try to figure out what I'm going to do."

 

STRUGGLING AZARENKA DETERMINED TO KEEP FIGHTING

Azarenka broke down in tears in a news conference following her loss to Siegemund, as she reflected on the challenges she is facing after missing much of the last three seasons due to injury, the birth of her first child and a subsequent custody battle.

The women's champion of 2012 and 2013 said: "My confidence level obviously is not there ... it's a struggle at the moment. It's not easy to sit here right now and be positive, but I don't have a choice. You've got to keep going. It's not going to stop me."

Leigh Halfpenny has been included in Wales' Six Nations squad and Thomas Young was also called up on Tuesday.

Halfpenny has not played since suffering concussion against Australia in November and is expected to miss at least the first two games of the competition.

The British and Irish Lions full-back was among the names in Warren Gatland's 39-man squad as he continues his recovery from his latest injury setback.

Young could make his Six Nations debut after he was given the nod along with fellow back-row Josh Turnbull.

Taulupe Faletau misses out after suffering another broken arm on his comeback from the same injury in Bath's win over Wasps last weekend, but Ross Moriarty, Rhys Patchell and Jake Ball were selected.

Jarrod Evans and Jonah Holmes, who made their international bows in November, were also in Gatland's squad.

Wales face France in Paris in the opening match of the tournament on February 1.

 

Wales squad:

Forwards: Rob Evans, Wyn Jones, Nicky Smith, Elliot Dee, Ryan Elias, Ken Owens, Leon Brown, Tomas Francis, Samson Lee, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Seb Davies, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Ross Moriarty, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Josh Turnbull, Aaron Wainwright, Thomas Young.

Backs: Aled Davies, Gareth Davies, Tomos Williams, Gareth Anscombe, Dan Biggar, Jarrod Evans, Rhys Patchell, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Owen Watkin, Scott Williams, Josh Adams, Hallam Amos, Steffan Evans, Leigh Halfpenny, Jonah Holmes, George North, Liam Williams.

Terence Crawford's WBO welterweight title defence against Amir Khan has been confirmed, with the duo set to face off in the United States on April 20.

The date for the contest was officially announced on Tuesday as the two boxers held a news conference in London.

A three-division world champion unbeaten in 34 bouts, Crawford is rated among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

Yet Khan (33-4), who recorded wins over Phil Lo Greco and Samuel Vargas in 2018 after a near two-year hiatus, insists he can spring an upset against the American.

"Crawford is beatable. I want that WBO world title. It's going to be one hell of a fight," said Khan, who went on to explain why he will not yet face fellow Briton Kell Brook - a man he has called out on numerous occasions.

"The decision as to fighting Crawford or Brook has been one of the most difficult decisions of my career to date but I could not turn down the opportunity to fight for the WBO world title. That is not to say that the Brook fight won't happen."

After knocking out Jeff Horn to claim the WBO strap last June, Crawford dominated Jose Benavidez in a successful first defence in October and will undoubtedly start as a heavy favourite against Khan.

"I'll be looking to go out there to seek and destroy," said Crawford. "I'm excited about this fight because I believe it can push my career to another level."

They are expected to face off in either New York or Las Vegas, but details have yet to be confirmed.

Willie le Roux and Nathan Hughes will leave Wasps at the end of the season, with the England number eight joining Bristol Bears on a three-year deal.

In a media release on Tuesday, Wasps confirmed both Le Roux and Hughes will depart the club, with director of rugby Dai Young stating: "It's always disappointing to lose players of such quality."

Bristol - who sit 10th in the Premiership table, four places below Wasps - promptly confirmed their capture of Hughes, who has earned 18 caps for England and appears likely to be part of Eddie Jones' Rugby World Cup squad later this year.

"It’s tremendous to secure Nathan's signing and to see how excited he is about coming to Bristol and helping us realise our vision," said Bears coach Pat Lam.

"He's a quality rugby player who brings physicality, power and brute strength to our game. At 27 years old, we're excited about how much better he can become as we continue to grow as a team.

"We are striving to be a Champions Cup team and a player of Nathan's quality can help us along our journey, on and off the field."

Hughes, who has made 118 appearances for Wasps after joining the club from Auckland in 2013, added: "When I talked to Pat about the direction of the club and the ambition at Bristol, it really excited me.

"There's still a lot I want to achieve and the quality of coaching and the squad at Bristol means that everything is in place to be successful.

"It's been a great six years at Wasps and even though it was a tough decision, I'm keen to test myself in a new environment."

Le Roux moved to Wasps at the start of 2017 and has since regained his place in South Africa's national team.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed my time at Wasps and would like to thank everyone involved with the club for their support," said the full-back. "I'll continue to give my all until the end of the season."

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