Nadal wins on own court to reach Barcelona Open third round

By Rik Sharma

BARCELONA, Spain Rafael Nadal saw off Rogerio Dutra Silva 6-1 6-2 on Wednesday to reach the last 16 of the Barcelona Open, while Andy Murray advanced after opponent Bernard Tomic withdrew.

Playing on the newly renamed Rafa Nadal court at the Real Club de Tenis, the Spaniard made light work of his Brazilian opponent to set up a tie against South African Kevin Anderson on Thursday.

Italian FA president backs Napoli coach Sarri for Italian job

Napoli's highly rated coach Maurizio Sarri has been backed by Italian FA president Carlo Tavecchio to become boss of Italy's national team - but not yet.

"Life gives everyone opportunities and I hope that Sarri will get this chance, as well," Tavecchio said on Wednesday.

But he told reporters in Rome: "Right now we are very busy with making it to the next round and qualifying for the World Cup. I have never thought of alternatives to (Giampiero) Ventura."

Sarri, 58, took over at Napoli in the summer of 2015 and extended his contract last year until 2020.

Stockholm won't seek 2026 Winter Games - Social Democrats

STOCKHOLM The Swedish capital Stockholm has decided not to apply to host the 2026 Winter Olympics, with the Social Democrats, the largest in a four-party coalition currently running the city, citing a lack of broad political support and uncertainty over costs.

A feasibility report in late January was initially positive on hosting the games.

But with only the Social Democrats coming out in support, the idea has now been shelved, the party said in a statement.

Junior world championships moved to Croatia from North Korea on security concerns

The International Judo Federation has relocated the 2017 Junior World Judo Championships to Zagreb, Croatia, from North Korea's Pyongyang due to security concerns, judo's governing body said in a statement.

Earlier this week, the North Korean military conducted a live-fire exercise to mark its foundation, while a U.S. submarine docked in South Korea in a show of force amid growing concern over the North's nuclear and missile programmes.

Burnley's Barton banned for 18 months over betting

By Simon Evans

MANCHESTER, England Burnley midfielder Joey Barton has been suspended from the game for 18 months with immediate effect after admitting to an FA misconduct charge over betting on matches.

Barton, who said he will appeal the length of his ban, was charged with placing 1,260 bets on football matches or competitions from 26 March, 2006, to 13 May, 2016, in breach of FA rules which outlaw gambling on games.

Murray advances in Barcelona Open after Tomic pulls out

By Rik Sharma

BARCELONA Andy Murray has advanced to the third round of the Barcelona Open without playing a stroke after opponent Bernard Tomic withdrew on Wednesday.

Australian player Tomic pulled out because of a lower back injury after reaching the second round with a three-set win over German Dustin Brown on Tuesday.

World number one Murray entered the tournament with a wildcard after his third-round defeat by Spain’s Albert Ramos-Violas from the Monte Carlo Masters last week.

Zidane rests Ronaldo for Deportivo clash despite Clasico stumble

By Rik Sharma

BARCELONA, Spain Cristiano Ronaldo has been rested for Real Madrid’s trip to Deportivo La Coruna on Wednesday, the team sheet on Real's website showed.

The Portuguese striker has been dropped for his third consecutive league away game by coach Zinedine Zidane and misses the trip to the Riazor despite Madrid’s Clasico defeat on Sunday.

That loss drew Barcelona level on 75 points with Madrid at the top of the table, although Los Blancos have a game in hand.

Hammers clash key for Stoke to secure top-half finish, says Shawcross

Stoke City need a victory when they host West Ham United in Saturday's Premier League clash if they are to secure a top-10 finish for the fourth consecutive season, captain Ryan Shawcross has said.

Mark Hughes's Stoke lost 2-0 at Swansea City last weekend and remain 11th in the league, one point behind 10th-placed Watford, who have a game in hand.

On the other hand, Slaven Bilic's West Ham, currently placed 14th, could revive their own top-half finish hopes and leapfrog Stoke with a victory at the bet365 Stadium this weekend.

This time Manchester derby is all about points not managers

By Simon Evans

MANCHESTER, England If the first Manchester derby of the season was excessively dominated by the focus on a fascinating coaching rivalry, Thursday's encounter is strictly business.

This time, few care about the Pep Guardiola-Jose Mourinho head-to-head records or their previous meetings in Spain's La Liga.

The stakes are high - City are fourth in the Premier League, just a point ahead of United after the same number of games.

China's richest man deepens sports foray with global marathons deal

BEIJING China's Dalian Wanda Group, controlled by the country's richest man Wang Jianlin, has signed a deal to sponsor races with the world's top organizer, Abbott World Marathon Majors (WMM), the latest move by Wanda to expand its global sports business.

Wanda's sports division and WMM on Wednesday signed a deal that will see Wanda hold three WMM races in the Asia-Pacific region in the next ten years, including a race in China.