Power keeping it simple in title bid

Never before has Will Power been this close to finally securing an IndyCar championship.


The 33-year-old Australian heads into this weekend’s 500-mile season finale in California with a healthy 51-point lead in the series and knows a sixth-place finish or better will land him the title.

It’s the fourth time Power has led the championship going into the final race of a campaign after the 2011 finale was cancelled due to the tragic death of British driver Dan Wheldon mid-race.

While those past three attempts have ended in heartbreak, in none of those battles was he this far ahead nor as strong as he has made himself on the American-style oval circuits.

Power himself says he’s just taking a simple keep-it-clean approach after crashes in the 2010 and 2012 finales to cost himself any chance of becoming the first Australian to win an IndyCar title.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to be there at the end to have a shot,” Power said.

“Make sure you’re there at the end and that you have a competitive car. They’re the two things that will really help me win the championship.”

The Toowoomba product could already have held an even greater lead going into this weekend’s race, dominating the early stages of the Grand Prix of Sonoma last Sunday (Monday AM AEST) before a costly spin midway through the race left him to battle to a 10th-place finish.

Power says that unforced error was a wake-up call if any was needed that nothing is assured until he crosses the finish line under lights at the two-mile D-shaped Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

The Team Penske driver actually claimed his first full-length oval race win at the venue in 2013 but says that victory won’t count for much going into Saturday evening’s (Sunday midday AEST) race.

“Obviously it was definitely a great finish to the year last year, but it’s a different field, and actually things just get tougher and tougher all the time in this series,” he said.

“Winning last year definitely doesn’t make me feel comfortable going in. I know that it’s going to take a lot of hard work and a very good race to win the championship, so I’m just, like I said, focusing on the things I can control.

“Just aim for a top 5 finish, absolutely.”

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Myer says consumer gloom is a challenge

Myer sees gloomy shoppers as a challenge after posting a disappointing flat first quarter result and losing womenswear sales.


But the department store’s chief executive Bernie Brookes insists Myer can capitalise on the busy Christmas sales period, despite a key economic indicator showing consumers are at their most pessimistic since the global financial crisis.

“The consumers’ ability to spend their discretionary income with us has been a challenge for quite a few years,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

The retailer’s total sales rose by just 0.1 per cent for the 13 weeks to October 25, compared with the same period in 2013.

The $691.6 million result was well shy of market analysts’ expectations of a 2.5-3.0 per cent increase, sparking a sharp drop in Myer’s share price.

“They are a big disappointment. That’s the only polite way of saying it,” IG market strategist Evan Lucas said.

Womenswear, which comprises about a fifth of Myer’s sales, faltered with Mr Brookes blaming foreign competition and marketing.

“We’ve had four-and-a-half years of womenswear being one of our two or three best performing categories so, therefore, a quarter where it’s performed a little disappointing is not a great concern for us,” he said.

Mr Lucas said womenswear was Myer’s bread and butter.

“The fact that it is underperforming would be a major concern for them,” he said, adding the department store could be losing customers to online and specialty stores.

Mr Brookes said rising living costs were more likely to dent the earnings of Myer and its rivals in poorer suburbs, as the latest Westpac-Melbourne Institute barometer of consumer sentiment showed pessimists outnumbering optimists in October for the longest time since the GFC.

But Mr Lucas said Myer was performing even worse than rival David Jones did before South African retail giant Woolworths Holdings took it over, adding Myer’s falling share price made it an attractive prospective for a private equity buyer.

“People are now running out of belief that the turnaround sales are there,” he said.

During the past year, Myer has closed stores in at Elizabeth, in northern Adelaide, and Dandenong in outer Melbourne.

But its refurbished Adelaide city store has made South Australia a top-performing state.

Myer has also recently re-opened stores at Indooroopilly, in Brisbane, and in Sydney’s Macquarie Centre.

It also has opened a new store at Mount Gravatt, also in Brisbane.

Myer shares fell 14 cents, or 7.4 per cent, to a two-year low of $1.76.


* Comparable store first quarter sales up 0.7pct

* Cosmetics, toys, childrenswear and menswear were the strongest sales performers

* Lego, Nike, R.M. Williams and Trent Nathan sales highlighted

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Death will affect NASCAR driver ‘forever’

NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart says that the death of Kevin Ward Jr.


will “affect my life forever” as he returned to the track for the first time since his car struck and killed the fellow driver during a sprint-car race in New York three weeks ago.

“I’ve taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way,” Stewart said.

“It’s given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted.

“I miss my team, my teammates and I miss being back in the race car and I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.”

Stewart said he could not answer questions about the incident – it remains under police investigation – and he left the news conference after reading a short statement.

Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood said it was “100 per cent” Stewart’s decision to race and that his 43-year-old driver was “emotional” but ready to go on Sunday night in Atlanta.

The three-time NASCAR champion has not raced since his car hit Ward at an August 9 sprint car event in upstate New York.

Stewart pulled out of the race at Watkins Glen the next morning, then skipped races at Michigan and Bristol Motor Speedway.

Stewart, who was described by police as “visibly shaken” the night of Ward’s death, has been in seclusion ever since.

Stewart’s only comment since the crash was a statement the day after the crash in which he said “there aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.”

Ward had climbed from his car after it had spun while racing for position with Stewart.

The 20-year-old walked down onto the racing surface waving his arms in an apparent attempt to confront Stewart.

Authorities said the first car to pass Ward had to swerve to miss hitting him. The front of Stewart’s car then appeared to clear Ward, but Ward was struck by the right rear tyre and hurtled through the air, dying of blunt force trauma.

Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero has said investigators did not have any evidence to support criminal intent by Stewart, though the investigation is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, the NASCAR superstar will move forward with his career and attempt to salvage his season.

NASCAR released a statement saying that Stewart was eligible to return because he “has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities.”

Since Ward’s death, NASCAR has announced a rule that prohibits drivers from exiting from a crashed or disabled vehicle – unless it is on fire – until safety personnel arrive.

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Saker on the fence for ‘enthralling’ Ashes

David Saker won’t offer any insider information to Australia this winter, admitting his loyalties will be divided during the Ashes.


Saker mentored England’s pace attack over the past five years, but recently left the ECB to return home and coach Victoria.

Saker worked closely with James Anderson and Stuart Broad, but is now managing Victoria’s Sheffield Shield defence and plotting James Pattinson’s Test return.

It makes the upcoming showpiece series somewhat awkward.

“I’ll try not to barrack for anybody. I’ll sit on the fence,” Saker said in Melbourne on Tuesday.

“I’m a part of Australian cricket, of course, but I’ve got a lot of fond memories of being in the English team and I’ve got a lot of good friends in that (dressing) room.

“I’m going to be quite divided.”

Australia coach Darren Lehmann is yet to ask Saker for any tips on England’s attack.

“And to be fair, it wouldn’t sit that well with me. Just leaving after five great years with them, I don’t think I’d pass too much on,” Saker said.

Saker steered clear of making an Ashes prediction, but felt it would be decided by the ball.

In that regard, both sides are well placed for the “enthralling” series according to Saker.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad were largely ineffectual when Australia cruised to a 5-0 win in the 2013-14 Ashes.

Saker suggested it would be wrong for Australia’s batsmen to take too much confidence from the way they negotiated the new-ball pairing then.

“James Anderson is, in my opinion, as good a player as there is in the world,” he said.

“Stuart Broad, when the big games come along – and Australia is a big game – he seems to find something.

“In this (current) New Zealand Test series, I think they’ve done really well. I wouldn’t be writing those two off, that’s for sure.”

The same goes for England.

“Australia know that if they take their eye off the ball, England will jump all over them,” he said.

“At home, they’re a very hard team to beat. Over my years there, there was only one side that went there and beat them.”

Saker nominated Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris as Australia’s bowlers most likely to fire in English conditions.

“Ryan Harris is a big key for Australian cricket. His record is phenomenal, he puts the ball in an area that makes it really difficult,” he said.

Harris, Australia’s leading wicket-taker in their 2013 Ashes tour, is skipping the West Indies series but will link up with the squad in London.

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Pele happy to see Cosmos match play role in U.S.-Cuba detente

The Cosmos have scheduled the first match of an American professional sports team in Cuba since the two countries announced in December they would seek to end half a century of animosity.


“It makes me happy that once again football is helping with peace, between United States and Cuba,” Pele told a news conference on Monday to promote the match at Havana’s 28,000-seat Pedro Marrero Stadium.

“We see unhappily that there are a lot of political problems everywhere. But football brings people together. For me it’s a big responsibility,” said Pele, 74, whose real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

U.S.-Cuban relations have been hostile, particularly in the early 1960s when the United States organised an invasion of Cuba by a force of Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs, and when Washington and Moscow nearly came to nuclear war over Soviet missiles stationed in Cuba.

Relations remained sour even after the fall of the Soviet Union until last December, when U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced separately and simultaneously they would seek to improve ties.

Since then, the United States and Cuba have held bilateral talks in both capitals and the two presidents have met face-to-face at a regional summit in Panama, moving them closer to restoring diplomatic relations.

“I hope this match will be one more step towards much better relations,” said Raul, 37, the former Real Madrid striker and Spain team captain who is the international star in today’s Cosmos.

The Cosmos became a sensation in the 1970s when they signed Pele and other international stars to play in the North American Soccer League (NASL). The league folded in the 1980s and was re-established in late 2009 as the second tier of U.S. club football, below Major League Soccer (MLS).

Now the league hopes to make inroads into Cuba, where football is gaining on baseball as the country’s most popular sport.

NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson said the match was a starting point to explore cooperation with on player development, coaching and officiating.

“Everything can be on the table and we’ll take it one step a time and manage the relationship carefully,” Peterson said.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Qld family reject teen killer’s apology

A “callous” killer’s courtroom apology has been rejected by his victim’s family, who say a life prison sentence isn’t punishment enough.


Convicted murderer Warrick David Lindenberg, 29, expressed his “regret and deep sympathies” to the family of 19-year-old Shaune Gibson from a Brisbane Supreme Court dock shortly before he was sentenced to life imprisonment on Tuesday.

Standing in the same dock, accomplice Valerie Jeanette Chambers, 47, expressed no emotion when she was handed the same punishment for her role in Mr Gibson’s August 2012 murder.

Outside court Mr Gibson’s family labelled the apology a joke and said justice had finally been served for the 19-year-old, who was bound, beaten and strangled.

“They got what they deserved as far as I’m concerned,” Mr Gibson’s uncle Gordon Scott said.

“I still wish that they had the death sentence in Australia because they deserve it.”

The court heard Lindenberg, Chambers and a 16-year-old girl lured Mr Gibson to an Ipswich house where he was tied with fencing wire, assaulted with a pool cue and a machete, and strangled with wire.

His body was buried in a shallow grave by a deserted country road at Churchable, west of Brisbane.

The killers dug up Mr Gibson’s arm five days later to prove to the 16-year-old girl he was dead.

Lindenberg, who strangled the teen, said the attack was in retaliation for Mr Gibson’s threats to him and harassment of the 16-year-old.

However Justice David Boddice found little evidence of any behaviour to justify or explain Mr Gibson’s “horrible” death.

“It was despicable on the part of both of you, it was callous, and what you did thereafter was even more callous,” the judge said.

A teenage girl, now 19, is awaiting sentence after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

Lindenberg and Chambers won’t be eligible for parole until 2027.

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Temporary houses for NT cyclone victims

Almost four months after Cyclone Lam destroyed homes in Galiwinku community on the NT’s Elcho Island, families have been moved into the first lot of temporary transportable houses.


Cyclone Lam hit on February 20 as a category four storm, followed a month later by category three Cyclone Nathan.

There were no serious injuries or deaths, but over 300 people were displaced with around 200 people living in a tent city while waiting for more permanent accommodation.

More than 80 houses in Galiwinku were severely damaged and Chief Minister Adam Giles said in a statement it will take many months to rebuild them.

“These transportable houses ensure these residents will have suitable, comfortable accommodation until they can move back into their homes,” he said.

The accommodation is being progressively installed around the community.

Each one is made up of two transportable buildings joined by a covered breezeway, providing accommodation for around ten people.

Housing Minister Bess Price says they were designed in consultation with Elcho Island community leaders.

Mr Giles said last month’s NT budget included $90 million for recovery and rebuilding work but the total cost across four communities is expected to tip $100 million.

He said the government was working with community leaders in Galiwinku, Ramingining, Milingimbi and Gapuwiyak to create jobs, training and business development opportunities through the rebuilding process.

The first phase of the rebuilding program involves repairing half of the most damaged houses to get most seriously affected families back into permanent accommodation.

This will be followed by a longer-term three to four year training and jobs program so community members can make the most of the twin disasters.

The last of the transportable homes are expected to be installed by the end of June.

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South Korea reports first MERS deaths as officials scramble to contain outbreak

A 58-year-old woman, who had contact with South Korea’s first patient, died of acute respiratory failure on Monday, the Health Ministry said.


A 71-year-old man who had been on respiratory support with a history of kidney ailments also died.

The ministry reported new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to 25. South Korea now has the third highest number of cases after Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

South Korean authorities were considering a ban on overseas travel for the nearly 700 people isolated for possible infection.

South Korea’s Hyundai Motor, the world’s fifth-biggest automaker together with affiliate Kia Motors, has asked employees to avoid traveling to the Middle East over concerns about MERS, a company spokesman said.

“As this is a matter directly linked to the public’s lives and safety, we will bring together all our health-related capabilities now and work to dissolve anxiety and concerns quickly,” said Choi Kyung-hwan, the country’s finance minister and deputy prime minister.

Choi said the credibility of the government was at stake, after criticism grew against authorities for failing to contain the spread of the virus after the first patient’s symptoms were initially overlooked.

First identified in humans in 2012, MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered China’s deadly 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). There is no cure or vaccine.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said last week there had been no sustained human-to-human spread in South Korea, and that it was not recommending screening of passengers or the imposition of travel or trade restrictions.

WHO put the total number of cases globally at 1,154, with at least 431 related deaths.

China last week reported its first MERS case. A South Korean man who tested positive after breaking a voluntary house quarantine last week, flying to Hong Kong and then traveling to mainland China.

Chinese health authorities have said it was likely the disease would spread as the infected South Korean patient had taken a bus from Hong Kong, crossed a busy border checkpoint and stayed in a hotel before being taken to a hospital.

Some tour agencies have started seeing overseas groups cancelling trips to South Korea, Yonhap news agency said, with a group of 300 Chinese scrapping a visit this week.

First identified in humans in 2012, MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered China’s deadly 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). There is no cure or vaccine.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said last week there had been no sustained human-to-human spread in South Korea, and that it was not recommending screening of passengers or the imposition of travel or trade restrictions.

WHO put the total number of cases globally at 1,154, with at least 431 related deaths.

China last week reported its first MERS case. A South Korean man who tested positive after breaking a voluntary house quarantine last week, flying to Hong Kong and then traveling to mainland China.

Chinese health authorities have said it was likely the disease would spread as the infected South Korean patient had taken a bus from Hong Kong, crossed a busy border checkpoint and stayed in a hotel before being taken to a hospital.

Some tour agencies have started seeing overseas groups cancelling trips to South Korea, Yonhap news agency said, with a group of 300 Chinese scrapping a visit this week.

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Morris and Graham racing the clock

Canterbury duo Brett Morris and James Graham will be given until the last minute to prove their fitness ahead of Monday’s clash against St George Illawarra.


It will be Morris’ only chance to prove to NSW coach Laurie Daley he is over a troublesome hamstring issue that forced him on the sidelines since Round 5, before the Blues team is announced next Tuesday for Origin II.

Graham played just one match since the epic Good Friday defeat to South Sydney, a 27-minute cameo against the Roosters in Round 10 that was ended by concussion and a knee injury.

While both are expected to be named by coach Des Hasler on Tuesday evening they will be racing the clock to prove their fitness.

Veteran Sam Perrett said he was hopeful both players would be cleared for the clash against the NRL ladder-leaders.

“Fingers crossed. We’ve been watching the boys doing their fitness testing and they’re looking really good,” he said.

“We’ve got good medical staff there. They’re going to do everything they can to get out there.”

Should Morris be cleared to come back, it will be his first game against his former club since moving to Belmore over the summer.

The 28-year-old missed the 31-6 mauling they copped from the Dragons in Round 6.

“This’ll be a big one if he can make it back for this, definitely,” Perrett said.

“Anyone – if you play against your old club, you always bring out your best for them and you want to give your old mates a good run.”

However the biggest impact Morris’ return could make is on the make-up of Daley’s side for their must-win Origin clash in Melbourne.

Arguably the best winger in the world and a veteran of over 10 Origin appearances, a fit Morris would be a huge injection of speed and experience for the Blues team that badly lacked both in the series-opener.

But Perrett said his teammate would probably have to prove his hamstring could withstand the rigours of NRL football after his lengthy stint on the sidelines.

“His focus is definitely at club level first and getting everything right there. Origin and representative footy doesn’t happen if you’re not performing at club level,” he said.

Graham has played just the one game since the epic Good Friday defeat to South Sydney, a 27-minute cameo against the Roosters in Round 10 that was ended by concussion and a knee injury.

The Bulldogs captain missed the side’s last-start win over the Raiders but centre Tim Lafai said the long turnaround would give both Morris and Graham every chance of taking the field.

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Saker keen to get Pattinson on the park

New Victoria coach David Saker feels James Pattinson has the potential to be one of the best bowlers in the world.


Pattinson was ruled out of Australia’s tour of the West Indies due to a hamstring injury, the latest in a long line of setbacks.

Since being sent home from the 2013 Ashes tour due to a stress fracture of the lower back, the paceman has played only one Test.

That was against South Africa in 2014, when he suffered another back injury.

Prior to that there were foot and side issues, meaning the 25-year-old has played only 13 Tests.

“James is a special sort of talent. We’ve got to try and get him on the park, not just for Victoria but Australia,” Saker said on Tuesday.

“If he gets on the park, he’s one of the best bowlers in the world.

“He’s had some injury dramas, most fast bowlers do.

“But we can sort that out. I’m really excited to be working with him again.”

Saker was an assistant coach at Victoria when Pattinson first showed how well he could swing the ball and bother batsmen.

The former England bowling coach is confident the 25-year-old has the mettle to return to his best.

“I’m sure fast bowlers do go through that (self-doubt),” Saker said.

“But if you know the character he is, he’ll just keep fighting and keep fighting.”

The Bushrangers may be reigning Sheffield Shield champions, but there’s plenty for Saker to work on.

Take for example the state’s one-day record.

In the past 16 seasons, Victoria have only once won the 50-over competition.

It’s something the 49-year-old, who carved out an impressive playing career with Victoria and Tasmania, is desperate to change.

“Our one-day cricket last year was quite disappointing,” Saker said.

“Quite a lot of our pre-season will be focused on Matador Cup.

“We have to perform better than we did last year and with the team we’ve got, we should be able to do that.”

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Disturbing mobile phone video shows IS militants torturing Syrian boy

NOTE: This video contains graphic testimony and scenes of torture.



The disturbing footage shows a blindfolded 14-year-old Ahmed beaten and electrocuted by IS militants, as he is hung by his wrists. 

Two masked militants interrogate and torture Ahmed as hangs from the ceiling. One man can be seen holding a knife and pistol, while the other carries an AK-47. 

The video was obtained by BBC journalist Quentin Sommerville. 

“When they electrocuted me, I used to scream calling for my mother,” Ahmed told the BBC, after fleeing to neighbouring Turkey. “But as soon as I did, [one of the torturers] used to up the voltage even more. ‘Don’t bring your mother in it,’ he used to say.”

“They pretend they’re religious, but they’re infidels. They used to smoke. They pretend to be enforcing the rules of Muslims, but they’re not. They hit and kill people”.

Ahmed, who sold bread for a living in the Syrian city of Raqqa, told the BBC he was tricked into placing a bag carrying a bomb near an IS meeting place. 

Though he was captured by the group and sentenced to death for his crime, the executioner released the boy out of pity. 

“It’s rare that I’m able to sleep,” Ahmed said. “When I first came to Turkey, I used to have nightmares all the time. I got some treatment. But I couldn’t sleep – I used to dream about it all the time.

“Whenever I closed my eyes, I used to have nightmares then stay up all night.”

BBC journalist Quentin Sommerville said he obtained the footage from an IS militant, who has since defected from the group. The man said they filmed Ahmed’s torture for “propaganda purposes”.

“I am regretting every moment,” the man told the BBC. “When I joined IS, I wasn’t convinced of it but I had to.

“Although I wasn’t particularly heavy-handed with people, I hope that the people I hurt will forgive me.”

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Pies heading in right direction: Buckley

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley is quietly confident Sunday’s stunning second-half comeback against North Melbourne is a sign of things to come for the Pies.


Buckley’s men were outplayed in the first half at the MCG and trailed by 39 points before a blistering attack propelled them back inside the top four with their sixth win of the season.

The coach believes his team is still very much a work in progress but, with 39 fit players to choose from this week, he’s bullish about their prospects.

“Our trajectory is going in the right direction,” Buckley said on Tuesday.

“Without the wins and losses taken into account, which is clearly what you end up being judged on, but looking at the general trend and the sort of footy that you see us play, I see that we’re heading in the right direction.

“What you see on the field week in and week out, we think that’s building. We’re finding out what we’re capable of, but in my view we’re just at the tip of the iceberg.”

After breaking his leg in the pre-season, former Kangaroo onballer Levi Greenwood moves a step closer to making his Collingwood debut when he plays his first VFL game of the season this weekend.

Heralded father-son recruit Darcy Moore also returns in the VFL after a hamstring injury, while Buckley said luckless defender Ben Reid had played his best game of the season in the reserves last weekend as he works toward an AFL return – most likely after the bye.

“You’re very rarely going to have 100 per cent choice on your list but we’re in as good a shape as we’ve been for four years,” Buckley said.

“It’s a positive sign. It’s something that we’ve got right that, if we put the right work in, we can take advantage of.”

The coach admitted that skipper Scott Pendlebury was carrying a niggling injury, but added that most AFL players were at this point of the season.

The Pies have a longer week as they prepare for the traditional Queen’s Birthday clash against Melbourne, with Buckley determined to taper his players’ preparation to have them ready to start strongly against the Demons.

“Melbourne have played some really strong, hard, contested football and I’ve been really impressed with some of their youth coming through,” he said.

“Their best footy’s been pretty good but on the other side they’ve allowed the opposition to score (freely).

“It’s not dissimilar to where we’ve been so we’re not taking anything for granted.”

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Nadal, Djokovic set for French Open epic

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal share the most enduring grand slam rivalry in professional tennis history.


They are the only two men to have clashed in all four major finals in the open era and are preparing for the 44th instalment of their decade-long series.

But the stakes have rarely been higher as the all-time giants of the game prepare for a French Open quarter-final for the ages on Wednesday.

Djokovic, the world No.1 and top seed, must win to keep alive his dream of following Nadal, Roger Federer, Andre Agassi and Rod Laver to become only the fifth man in the modern era to complete a career grand slam.

Nadal, the undisputed king of clay, is striving to become the first man in history to win the same slam 10 times, a colossal feat unlikely ever to be matched.

After enduring a wretched 12 months battling injury, illness and self doubt, the Spaniard is, by his legendary standards, seeded a lowly sixth in 2015 and playing down his chances.

By contrast, four crushing straight-sets wins have taken his unbeaten streak to 26 matches since losing to Federer in February and fuelled Djokovic’s belief that now is finally his time to reign in the French capital.

Nothing, though, can mask Nadal’s mastery over Djokovic at Roland Garros.

Six times the Majorcan has shattered the Serb’s title hopes in Paris, most painfully in 2012 when Djokovic had conquered Nadal in the Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open finals to stand on the verge of a rare grand slam sweep heading into the title match.

Nadal not only won, but then took the pair’s 2013 semi-final and 2014 final.

All up, he heads Djokovic 9-3 in best-of-five-set grand slam meetings.

The last time Djokovic denied Nadal at a slam, it took the Serb five hours and 54 minutes in their record-setting 2012 Australian Open final.

The 14-times major champion enters the latest clash – their earliest at a grand slam since the very first of their career meetings back in 2006 in Paris – having extended his decade-long Roland Garros record to 70 wins and just one defeat.

“It’s the biggest challenge I can have on clay,” Djokovic said after routing France’s Richard Gasquet 6-1 6-2 6-3 in a fourth-round cakewalk on Monday.

“Playing him here and playing him in any other tournament is completely different.

“The conditions are very suited to his style of game. He loves playing on Court Philippe Chatrier.

“I am trying to keep my routine the same and not give so much importance to the match. I know what to do, I know what’s expected of me.”

Despite his dominant record, Nadal is happy to play the underdog role this time around in a quarter-final being played on his 29th birthday.

“He’s the world No.1 and is having a great season. It’ll be a complicated match,” Nadal said after dropping his first set of the tournament in a 6-3 6-1 5-7 6-2 fourth-round win over the United States’ Jack Sock.

“To have any chance against him, I have to play my real best tennis.”


Nadal 9-3 in grand slam matches

2014 French Open, clay, F, Nadal 3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4

2013 US Open, hard, F, Nadal 6-2 3-6 6-4 6-1

2013 French Open, clay, SF, Nadal 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7 (3-7) 9-7

2012 French Open, clay, F, Nadal 6-4 6-3 2-6 7-5

2012 Australian Open, hard, F, Djokovic 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5

2011 US Open, hard, F, Djokovic 6-2 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 6-1

2011 Wimbledon, grass, F, Djokovic 6-4 6-1 1-6 6-3

2010 US Open, hard, F, Nadal 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-2

2008 French Open, clay, SF, Nadal 6-4 6-2 7-6 (7-3)

2007 Wimbledon, grass, SF, Nadal 3-6 6-1 4-1 – retired

2007 French Open, clay, SF, Nadal 7-5 6-4 6-2

2006 French Open, clay, QF, Nadal 6-4 6-4 – retired


Age: 28

Ranking: 1

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US78,397,032 ($A103.06 million)

Career titles: 53

Grand slam titles: 8 (Australian Open 2008, 2011-2013, 2015; Wimbledon 2011, 2014; US Open 2011)

French Open win-loss record: 46-10

Best French Open performances: finalist 2012, 2014


Age: 28

Ranking: 7

Plays: left-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US72,745,277 ($A91.90 million)

Career titles: 65

Grand slam titles: 14 (Australian Open 2009; French Open 2005-08, 2010-14; Wimbledon 2008, 2010; US Open 2010, 2013)

French Open win-loss record: 70-1

Best French Open performances: champion 2005-08, 2010-14

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