Epunchng - Most read newspaper in Nigeria Thursday, December 7, 2017 - Page 47

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2017 sports Ronaldo set to beat Messi to Ballon d’Or C •Serena Williams. Photo: AFP ristiano Ronaldo looks set to match his great rival Lionel Messi on Thursday by claiming a fifth Ballon d’Or as recognition for leading Real Madrid to a La Liga and Champions League double last season, AFP reports. Barcelona’s 30-year-old Argentinian superstar won the coveted award from 2009 to 2012 and in 2015. Portugal’s Ronaldo, who is 32, took the honours in 2008, 2013, 2014 and last year. The man who came to maturity under the watchful eye of ex-Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson clinched his fourth Ballon d’Or after an unforgettable season, first spearheading Real to the Champions League title before also leading his homeland to Euro 2016 glory in Paris. The France Football magazine award is decided upon by a journalists ballot (with 173 voting in 2016) with each naming a top five from a list of 30. British bookmakers have stopped taking bets on Ronaldo, who is a cramped 10-1 on favourite to win, with Messi, trophyless last season, at 6-1. Behind this pair the bookies round out their own top five with PSG’s gifted Brazilian forward Neymar, the veteran Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and the prolific England centre- forward Harry Kane all at 33-1. The 2016-2017 season was in a way just as glorious for Ronaldo, who started the season slowly before Real shaded Barcelona to the domestic title and then became the first side in the modern era to defend their Margaret Court and Belgian Kim Clijsters are the only three mothers in half a century of professional tennis to have won grand slam singles titles. But Williams is less than seven weeks away from becoming the fourth, according to Goolagong Cawley. “I think she will,” the former world No.1 told AAP “I hope so because she’s got so much talent and so much in her to win more tournaments. “I know that from my own experience, after I had my daughter Kelly, I felt great. I just wanted to get back on that court.” Serena ready for Aussie Open return S erena Williams will be ready to make her tennis comeback at the Australian Open with her return to Melbourne for the season’s opening Grand Slam “very likely”, organisers said on Wednesday, AFP reports. Williams, 36, won this year’s Australian Open while pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl in September. She has not played a competition since, raising questions over whether the 23-time Grand Slam winner would attempt to defend her title next month. But tournament director Craig Tiley is optimistic she will return for a crack at her seventh Melbourne Park crown after marrying Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian last month. “She’s got her visa, she’s entered, she’s practising and Copa Lagos organisers praise Ambode C opa Lagos beach football competition organisers, Kinetic Sports, have praised Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for his support for the sport. The tournament takes place at Eko Atlantic City from December 8 to 10. Managing Director of Kinetic Sports, Samson Adamu, told reporters on Wednesday that Ambode had been contributing to the development of beach football in the country. Adamu, who spoke at the joint press conference organised by the Lagos State Government and his organisation at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos, stressed that the governor’s efforts at developing the sport in the country had already been yielding fruits. The beach football chief said, “The governor has never said no to us. He gave us so much encouragement and that is Europa League Thursday 7TH DECEMBER 2017 Apollon v Everton 7pm Arsenal v BATE 9.05pm Prague v Astana 7pm Villarreal v Maccabi 7pm Kiev v Belgrade 7pm Istanbul v Braga 7pm Hoffenheim v Ludogorets 7pm Vienna v AEK 7pm AEK v Rijeka 7pm Rijeka v Milan 7pm Atalanta v Lyon 7pm why we are having a better event with every edition. Apart from the enabling environment created by the governor and people of the state, we have enjoyed his backing in all ways. “We are happy with the governor, especially because we went to some parts of the state where we also discovered some talents in the game.” Adamu added that the talents discovered would participate in the competition. He said Gidi Sharks would be managed by Swiss coach Angelo Shirinzi, who guided Tahiti to clinch silver at the last Beach Soccer World Cup. she’s probably just got to find a bit more space for a bigger entourage,” Melbourne’s Herald Sun quoted him as saying. “There’s no question that she’ll be ready in our view and she wants to break a record that is Margaret Court’s. It would be a pretty significant accomplishment for her to be able to do that.” Australian Court has 24 major titles, making her the most successful player in Grand Slam history. Tiley described the Australian Open, which will be held from January 15-28, as a “family-friendly event”. “We’ve had this before. Roger Federer travels with his four kids and we are a family-friendly event,” he said, referring to Williams and her baby. Meanwhile, tennis legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley believes Serena Williams will join her in one of the sport’s most exclusive clubs with a momentous Australian Open triumph as a doting mother. Goolagong Cawley, fellow Australian all-time great NCC tennis: Ndoma-Egba face Ndoma-Egba face Offikwu Team Offikwu in the T eam NCC Tennis League playoff for the third and fourth places at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club in Lagos on Thursday and Friday. Meanwhile, Team Civil Defence will take on Team Muller in the final on Saturday and Sunday at the same venue. The organisers of the competition International Tennis Academy promised thrilling clashes. “The matches will usually last through the evening with four matches following each other on the centre court. We expect tennis followers to consider it a picnic where they get refreshment and possibly walk away with a smart phone,” ITA boss Godwin Kienka said. Sylvester Emmanuel, Henry Atseye and Sarah Adegoke of Team Offikwu are expected to make up for their botched title defence by winning the consolatory third spot which attracts a N3m prize money. They will have to contend with Team Ndoma-Egba’s Thomas Otu, who recently won the Dala Hard Court Championship, Emmanuel Paul and Aanu Aiye