Andy Murray gets walkover into Shanghai Masters third

Andy Murray strolled into the third round of the Shanghai Masters without playing a game after the withdrawal of Florian Mayer.

The German cited a rib injury for his non-appearance in China on Wednesday.

Having already received a first-round bye, third-seeded Murray will face Gilles Simon or Alexandr Dolgopolov for a spot in the quarter-finals, while second seed Noval Djokovic eased through his round two match.

Murray, champion in China for the last two seasons, admitted earlier this week he was slowly adjusting to life as a Grand Slam winner.

The US Open champion told Sky Sports: "It's been more fun and I've felt less pressure to perform in every single match and tournament.

"I always felt I was trying to prove something and I'll just try to keep improving. The courts here are slower and the balls are faster so it takes a while to get used to that."

Serbia's Djokovic, desperate to get his world No 1 ranking back from Roger Federer, overcame Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 6-2.

Fourth seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic defeated Italian Andreas Seppi 6-3 6-3.

Tony Martin powered to an impressive victory on stage two at the Tour of Beijing

The German (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) attacked over the top of the final climb and held off his rivals for upwards on 20 kilometres to take the victory by 46 seconds on the chasing pack.

Seven riders gave chase following the second category ascent, Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) getting the best of the bunch sprint ahead of Eros Capecchi (Liquigas-Cannondale) into Mentougou.

A short, reduced-length stage saw attacking from the very start, with the race splitting to pieces on the opening first category climb.

That set the tone for the day with groups strewn across the parcours, Martin proving the strongest as he opened up a 50-second lead over Gavazzi.

Edvald Boasson Hagen retained fourth overall for Team Sky as he finished in the second chase group on the road.

After a straightforward opening criterium on day one, the introduction of more climbs had the desired effect as the race blew apart.

Kicking off at the Bird's Nest Stadium, scene of Tuesday's opening sprint finish, 126km lay in front of the riders as the race went in search of climbs.

Five riders combined to go clear early on, making up 3:15 on the bunch, yet surprisingly the gap plummeted as the race hit the first climb of the day.

The first category ascent split the peloton to pieces, a select group heading clear with Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Tony Martin the most prominent names to hit out and open up a gap.

With both Martin's reeled in the lead group were motivated to keep their gap to the group behind, Euskaltel-Euskadi and AG2R La Mondiale pushing the pace onwards to peg the margin at around the 1:30 mark.

Tony Martin attacked out of the darkness, plummeting down the descent to remain clear for his first non-time trial stage victory for two and a half years.

Verratti ready to make lasting impact with Italy

After swapping Pescara for Paris-Saint Germain FC, promising Italy midfielder Marco Verratti has gone from strength to strength and is poised to make his mark against Armenia on Friday.

Seasoned coach Zdeněk Zeman has forged a glowing reputation for bringing the best out of mercurial talent, but all too often players have left his side only to fade into obscurity. Italy prodigy Marco Verratti is something of an anomaly, however.

After leaving Pescara – who returned to Serie A under the stewardship of Zeman last term – the 19-year-old has made a seamless transition to life at Paris-Saint Germain FC, establishing himself as a fans' favourite. Verratti, who was handed his senior Italy debut by coach Cesare Prandelli against England in August, oozes patriotism and is eager to make his mark on the international stage. "At the moment I am focusing on the present. I am desperate to represent the national team even if that means I end up playing in goal," he said.

After collecting four points from their opening two FIFA World Cup Group B qualifiers against Bulgaria and Malta, Italy travel to Armenia on Friday and Prandelli is keen to find a place for Verratti in his team. "I think he can play alongside Pirlo, maybe slightly in front of him. They could even switch positions during the game," said the tactician." Verratti added: "I played a few games behind the striker at Pescara last season so I see myself as a versatile player. But, of course, I will play anywhere for Italy."

Premier League preview

Man City face Sunderland; Newcastle host Man Utd

October 5, 2012


It promises to be another pulsating weekend in the Premier League as the action kicks off with Manchester City at home to Sunderland and concludes with Manchester United's trip to Newcastle.

The early weeks of the season have ben gripping and it is Chelsea who lead from Everton ahead of the latest round of matches, while at the bottom there are three teams still waiting for a first victory.

Defending champions Manchester City remain unbeaten in the league but have been far from convincing, having left it late to beat Fulham last week and then escaped with a 1-1 draw against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League after an inspired performance by goalkeeper Joe Hart. Next up on Saturday is a home clash with Sunderland, who took four points off Roberto Mancini's men last season and will be looking to extend their own undefeated record after Steven Fletcher's goal against Wigan halted a run a four straight draws.

Manchester United are level on 12 points with City after an equally tricky start to the season in which they have developed a habit of falling behind and then having to hit back. They were left with too much to do as they went down 3-2 at home to Tottenham last time out and now face a difficult journey to St James' Park, where they lost 3-0 last term. Newcastle United have yet to replicate in 2012/13 the sort of performance they produced that night but Alan Pardew will be hoping the big occasion brings the best out of his players as they aim to push on from mid-table.

Firm favourites

Chelsea will be looking to strengthen their position at the top of the table before the Premier League takes a break for a fortnight to allow international football to take centre stage. Roberto Di Matteo's Blues negotiated their sternest test to date as they won at Arsenal last weekend and start as firm favourites against Norwich City. The Canaries have yet to taste success this season and were thumped 5-2 at home by Liverpool in their most recent outing.

If Chelsea suffer a surprise loss then Everton could climb to the summit by beating Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium. The Toffees' 3-1 triumph against Southampton kept them in touch and fuelled discussion about whether David Moyes' current squad is the finest he has assembled in a decade at Goodison Park. Wigan have slipped towards the drop zone after losing three in a row and Roberto Martinez's week got even worse when he was fined £10,000 for recent comments about officials.

Southampton are just below Wigan in the table following their loss to Everton and will be eager to bounce back when they entertain Fulham on Sunday. Neither team has drawn yet this season and the Cottagers will view the St Mary's encounter as an ideal opportunity to cement a top-half spot after last Saturday's setback against Manchester City.


Upton Park provides the setting for a London derby on Saturday as West Ham United tackle Arsenal. Sam Allardyce welcomed Andy Carroll back from injury as a substitute in Monday's 2-1 win against Queens Park Rangers, and the Hammers will be keen to extend or at least maintain their two-point advantage over Arsenal. The Gunners lost their unbeaten record when they went down to Chelsea and will not want to lose any further ground on the leading pack.

No pressure

Bottom-of-the-table Queens Park Rangers have insisted that Mark Hughes is not under pressure after just six games but the manager would surely sleep more easily during the international break if his new-look team can break their duck and win for the first time this season at West Bromwich Albion. Steve Clarke's Baggies have been one of the surprise packages of the season and a win on Saturday would keep them flying high in the top seven.

Michael Laudrup was earning rave reviews similar to Clarke earlier in the season but the honeymoon period is now over for the new Swansea City boss after a run of three consecutive defeats. The Welsh side have not managed a goal in any of those three games and Laudrup has told his players it is vital to halt the slide against Reading, who have picked up just two points so far and had to settle for a 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle last weekend.

Liverpool found form in emphatic style as Luiz Suarez netted a hat-trick against Norwich to lift the Reds up the standings, and Brendan Rodgers will be looking for a repeat display in front of the Anfield faithful on Sunday. Stoke City, boasting former Reds stars such as Peter Crouch and Michael Owen in their ranks, are the visitors to Merseyside and will be hoping to build on their win over Swansea.

Tottenham Hotspur are beginning to click into gear after a slow start to the campaign and their triumph at Old Trafford will have raised expectations about what Andre Vilas-Boas could achieve in his first season at the helm. Spurs will be now be looking to put on a show at White Hart Lane against Aston Villa, who remain in the bottom half following a 1-1 draw with Midlands rivals West Brom.


Clásico comes just in time for Madrid

With FC Barcelona preparing to host Real Madrid CF in Sunday's clásico, Graham Hunter and Paul Bryan share their thoughts on how the two great rivals are shaping up for the contest.

View from Barcelona: Graham Hunter
This is one of the occasions which, specifically, helped Tito Vilanova to be hired for the FC Barcelona job. An alumnus of the Camp Nou talent school, he has been living this clásico fixture for the better part of his life – as a fan, a junior player on the Barça books and then as assistant to Josep Guardiola while the club ran up a series of famous victories against Real Madrid CF.

A contest which can draw the breath from your body, send the adrenalin thundering through the veins and induce erratic behavior will hold no tremors for Vilanova.

Naturally, a great deal of the Camp Nou focus will be on Carles Puyol's unavailability, the possibility that Gerard Piqué’s ankle will not allow him to return in time and the fact that Andrés Iniesta, too, is just back after an enforced absence.

However, over the years during which they have been close friends, Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas has consistently said that if he were allowed to pluck a single player out of the Barça side before a clásico, it would always be Xavi Hernández. The midfield maestro has been on top form this season, loves rising to the occasion and will be the nerve centre of the home side's performance if they are to win and establish a daunting 11-point gap in early October. If the champions can smother his creativity, then perhaps they can register a second consecutive Liga win at the CampNou.

View from Madrid: Paul Bryan
For a very brief period at the end of August, José Mourinho must have radiated with satisfaction as he watched Madrid stun Barcelona with a ferocious attacking display that at first sight seemed to signal a regime change at the top of Spanish football.

Thrown a lifeline at the end of their Spanish Super Cup first-leg defeat away to the Blaugrana, the Liga champions roared back at the opening of the return. They took a 2-0 lead and looked as hungry as their opponents had that famous night at the Camp Nou two years ago when Mourinho suffered his most chastening experience as a coach.

Yet where Barcelona were relentless in chalking up a 5-0 win in November 2010, the Merengues – despite winning the Supercopa – sunk into a shell that left their coach frustrated. Winning a 32nd Liga title in May with record hauls of 100 points and 121 goals was supposed to be just the beginning. Incredibly, though, Spain's most successful club find themselves already trailing their rivals by eight points after just six games this term.

Confidence is steadily growing again thanks to a four-match winning run, but the general consensus is that any successful title defence requires the champions to extend that sequence to five.


Clásico stats
Wins: Barcelona – 87, Madrid – 88, draws – 46
Most appearances: Xavi Hernández (34, Barcelona), Raúl González (37, Madrid)
Top scorers: Lionel Messi (15, Barcelona), Alfredo Di Stéfano (18, Madrid)

Last ten meetings
Madrid 2-1 Barcelona (Spanish Super Cup)
Barcelona 3-2 Madrid (Spanish Super Cup)
Barcelona 1-2 Madrid (Spanish Liga)
Barcelona 2-2 Madrid (Copa del Rey)
Madrid 1-2 Barcelona (Copa del Rey)
Madrid 1-3 Barcelona (Spanish Liga)
Barcelona 3-2 Madrid (Spanish Super Cup)
Madrid 2-2 Barcelona (Spanish Super Cup)
Barcelona 1-1 Madrid (UEFA Champions League)
Madrid 0-2 Barcelona (UEFA Champions League)