Monday, March 27, 2006

Dubai heroes set for Ascot clash

Dubai Duty Free winner David Junior will be given a break by trainer Brian Meehan ahead of the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot on 21 June.

And he could meet Dubai World Cup winner Electrocutionist in the 10-furlong race at the summer meeting.

The four-year-old David Junior landed the Group One contest at Nad Al Sheba by three-and-a-half lengths.

"Wherever he goes now, for the rest of his career, he is going to be the horse to beat," said trainer Brian Meehan.

"At the moment the plan would be to run at Royal Ascot. We will have to see how he comes out of the race but that would be his target."

Electrocutionist is set to tackle the top middle-distance events, including the Coronation Cup and King George, this summer before heading to America for the Breeders' Cup meeting.

Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said Royal Ascot, which is returning to Berkshire after a massive redevelopment at the course, would be considered.

But he warned that impressive UAE Derby winner Discreet Cat was not certain to run in the Kentucky Derby in May.

Williams ends long wait for title

Wales' Mark Williams beat Scotland's John Higgins 9-8 in a dramatic China Open final to secure his first ranking title since 2003.

It was Williams' 16th ranking title but the first since he beat Higgins to win the LG Cup almost three years ago.

The victory will also secure Williams' place in the elite top 16.

"That probably goes down as one of my most satisfying wins ever," said the double world champion. "I haven't lifted a trophy for such a long time."

Williams, who moves up to seventh in the world rankings, and new world number two Higgins were deadlocked virtually all day and went into the evening session tied at four frames each.

Higgins won the opening frame with a 54 break, but the pair shared the next three frames in a series of fierce tactical battles.

Williams took the lead for the first time in frame five with his first 50 break, but again Higgins hit back. And the Scot should have gone 5-3 up but a miscue let Williams level at 4-4.

There have been times when I thought I might never get to lift a trophy again
Mark Williams

It was more of the same after the break, both players never more than one frame apart and neither man able to compile any sizeable breaks.

Fate looked to have conspired against Williams when, leading 8-7, he was presented with an easy chance to close out the match.

With the balls wide open, though, he suffered a big 'kick' that caused an otherwise simple black to go astray and allowed Higgins to save the match with a 64 break.

Then in the final frame Williams looked to have almost lost the match when, leading 17-15, he found himself trapped behind the green ball.

After three consecutive fouls, he was down 17-27, but Higgins then missed an easy red to let Williams back in.

Higgins had another chance to take the title when, trailing 44-51 and with all the colours still on the table, he missed an easy green.

And Williams then finally closed out the match, pocketing the remaining required colours.

Williams added: "There have been times in the last couple of years when I thought I might never get to lift a trophy again.

"Not only that - but to beat the best player in the world this season with the World Championship just around the corner, it couldn't really be much better."

Higgins said: "I'm throwing in a few bad shots and that cost me but generally my game is good.

"I'll go to the Crucible in a couple of weeks time with plenty of confidence."

J Higgins (Sco) 8-9 M Williams (Wal)

85-1 (54), 60-63, 66-60 (66,56) 52-72, 0-69 (60), 81-4 (74), 68-25, 32-73 (66), 0-67, 71-57, 42-78 (61), 58-39, 75-0 (67), 12-70 (69), 47-58, 87-28 (64), 44-69

Henman ready for German qualifier

Tim Henman will look to continue his good form on Monday when he faces German qualifier Simon Greul in the third round of the Nasdaq-100 Open.

Henman, who has already beaten Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt in Miami, is scheduled to play at 1700 BST.

Greul, ranked 130, has had wins over Paradorn Srichaphan and 17th seed Dominik Hrbaty in the early rounds.

"I've never played Simon before, but he must be playing well to have made it this far," Henman told his website.

"I won't make the mistake of underestimating him in the slightest.

"I feel I've got a good idea of what I need to do to make life difficult for him, so my main concern is to take care of business on my side of the net."

A victory for Henman would set up a last-16 clash with either fourth seed Andy Roddick or 31st seed Fernando Verdasco.

Shanghai kicks off 2007 Euro Tour

The £5m Champions Tournament in Shanghai will mark the start of the 2007 European Tour.

The tournament, in only its second year, will be co-sanctioned by the European, Asian and Sunshine Tours as well as the PGA Tour of Australasia.

David Howell won the inaugural event, the Englishman beating world number one Tiger Woods by three shots.

This year's competition will be held at the Sheshan International Golf Club from 9-12 November.

The Hong Kong Open, co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour, will take a place the following week.

The tour then heads Down Under for two events, which will be co-sanctioned with the PGA Tour of Australasia.

The New Zealand Open returns to the circuit 18 months after Niclas Fasth won a play-off to win the 2005 title.

The MasterCard Masters at the Huntingdale Golf Club in Melbourne has been a regular tournament since 1979 but never previously on the European Tour.

Two events from South Africa - the Dunhill Championship and the South African Open - complete the early season schedule.

They will both be co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour.