Press Association Liverpool have confirmed that striker Mario Balotelli has been given compassionate leave after he missed the first day of pre-season training on Monday. Balotelli tweeted over the weekend: “Thanks everyone for the support. I really wanna thanks everybody. My family thanks all of you too.” Liverpool are due to head off on their pre-season tour to the far east and Australia at the weekend, and the indications are that the Italy international will join up with the squad for the trip. Balotelli, a £16million signing from AC Milan last summer, was born in Palermo to Ghanaian parents, but raised by the Balotelli family in Brescia from the age of two. He endured a difficult first campaign on Merseyside, during which he scored just four goals – only one of them in the Barclays Premier League – and has been linked with a move away from Anfield during the current transfer window. The 24-year-old Italian was due to return along with the rest of the squad, but was not with his team-mates when they reassembled amid reports of the death of his adoptive father Francesco at the weekend. Liverpool confirmed that Balotelli has been granted compassionate leave, but insisted that the details remain private.
Venus Williams and Garbine Muguruza will meet in the Wimbledon womenâ€™s singles final at the end of an intriguing and â€˜wide openâ€™ draw. Johanna Konta’s ambitions of becoming the first British female winner at Wimbledon since Virginia Wade in 1977 were ended by Venus Williams while Muguruza dismissed Magdalena Rybarikova, the story of the tournament, in convincing fashion.Will it either be Williams, at 37, who secures her sixth Wimbledon title or Muguruza lifting the Venus Rosewater dish for the first time today? We profile both playersâ€¦ Â Venus WilliamsVenus has enjoyed a stellar career, albeit often overshadowed by her younger sister Serena, winning seven Grand Slam titles but remarkably she is still competing at the top echelons of women’s tennis.The American, playing at her 20th Wimbledon, is back in her first singles final at the All England Club since 2009 – when she succumbed to Serena – after gathering momentum and form as the tournament has progressed.The seven-time Grand Slam champion has had to battle her way into contention at the major tournaments over recent years after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, Sjogren’s Syndrome, in 2011.The condition had a debilitating effect on her energy levels and she did not make it past the last 16 in the singles at a Grand Slam tournament between 2011 and 2014.Fast forward on a few years and Williams has reached her second Grand Slam final this year after she suffered another defeat to Serena in Melbourne at the start of the year. She had gone nearly eight years prior to the Australian Open final without reaching a showpiece major final.Venus is breaking records at this year’s Wimbledon. Having already become the oldest player to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam she is now a step away from becoming the oldest Grand Slam champion in the Open Era (since 1968).“I’ve played a lot of finals here, it’s been a blessing,” Venus said ahead of Saturday’s final. “I can’t ask for more, but I want a little more.”Williams is a household name not only for the tennis fraternity but across global sport and Venus has now played at the French Open and the ongoing Wimbledon without 23 Grand Slam winner Serena, who is preparing to give birth to her first child later this year.Williams, the No 10 seed, has showed her power from both wings throughout her performances at Wimbledon this year and her fitness has looked impeccable, highlighted by her comprehensive victories over rising stars Naomi Osaka and Ana Konjuh alongside recent French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in successive rounds.Garbine MuguruzaMuguruza, who won the French Open last year, is aiming to become the first female Spanish player to win at Wimbledon since Conchita Martinez, her coach, in 1994.She has had the tougher path to reach the final, including defeating world No 1 Angelique Kerber in three tight sets and former two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, but is into her second Wimbledon final.The 23-year-old, who is into her third Grand Slam final, is once again facing a Williams. However, this time it will not be Serena but Venus and on current form, she has the artillery to become a Grand Slam champion for a second time.Her victory against Kerber, who will lose her world No 1 spot at the end of the tournament, showed her mental resilience having lost the first set, while her victory against the unseeded Magdalena Rybarikova in the semi-finals was a demonstration of her consistent power hitting from the baseline.Muguruza’s regular tour coach Sam Sumyk is absent from Wimbledon and from what we have seen over the past two weeks there can be no doubts about the positive influence Martinez is having.The 2015 Wimbledon finalist has always appeared to have a game well-suited to grass. Her tall frame enables her to get a good early strike on her opponents with her first delivery and she has backed this up with assured groundstrokes and a willingness to approach the net when the opportunity presents itself.“I think she’s helping me to deal with the stress of the tournament, because it’s a long tournament,” said Muguruza about the influence of Martinez.“Not that I’m doing something different, honestly. But, you know, to have her by my side gives me also this confidence of having someone that has won before.”If Muguruza is able to replicate her 22 winners from the semi-final and keep her unforced errors down then she will be well placed to overcome Venus in her third career major final.Venus WilliamsÂ NameÂ Garbine Muguruza37 Age 23June 17, 1980 Birthdate October 08, 1993Palm Beach Gardens, FloridaResidenceBarcelona, Spain6′ 1″ (185 cm) Height 6′ 0″ (182 cm)160 lb (73 kg) Weight 161 lb (73 kg)Right-handed Plays Right-handed1994 Turned Pro 201124 Yrs on Tour 720 singles (0 doubles) YTD Wins 14 singles (0 doubles)$1,823,733 Earnings $2,999,388 Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram
Following a tough loss against No. 7 Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team (17-7, 9-4 Big Ten) will return home Tuesday night for a matchup with Head Coach Tom Izzo and the No. 11 Michigan State Spartans (19-5, 10-3). While the Badgers currently boast an impressive 9-2 home record, the Spartans will be no walk in the park. The now No. 20 Badgers will have to bring their A-game if they want to come out on top.Everything for Michigan State starts with point guard Cassius Winston, a 6-foot Detroit native leading the team in scoring with 18.6 points per game. But it’s deeper than just that single number — Winston is also shooting an outstanding 44.5 percent from beyond the arc, which forces the defense to apply constant pressure on the perimeter. When that happens, his speed and ball skills are effective enough to get himself past just about any defender. He’s a matchup nightmare, not only because Winston get himself a bucket, but he also averages a conference-high 7.4 assists per game.Men’s basketball: No. 19 Wisconsin comes up short as No. 7 Michigan wins 61–52 in Ann ArborThe No. 19 University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team (17-7, 9-4 Big Ten) fell to the No. 7 Michigan Wolverines Read…Most of the defensive duties on the Spartan star will likely be split between D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison, both of whom are looking to rebound after sub-par performances in the team’s loss to Michigan. Finishing with eight and nine points, respectively, the backcourt tandem couldn’t seem to find a rhythm against Michigan’s big, strong guards.Boding well for the UW backcourt, the Spartan’s guards don’t bring the same explosiveness in the half court, which means Davison and Trice should be able to play up tight on the perimeter and force them to drive. Winston attempts almost half of his field goals from downtown while starting two-guard Matt McQuaid shoots 65 percent of his field goal attempts from deep. The Badgers also have a distinct advantage that should allow them to keep the Spartans from dominating the paint — size. Between Ethan Happ and Nate Reuvers, the Badgers have a significant height and length advantage over Michigan State’s forwards, 6-foot-9 Nick Ward and 6-foot-8 Xavier Tillman. Wisconsin should be able to apply constant pressure to Michigan State’s three 40-percent plus 3-point shooters and bait guards into putting up contested layups. It’s what the Badgers, and Reuvers in particular, have been doing as of late. The sophomore has averaged five blocks a game over the past week, including a seven-block performance against Minnesota.But all of this only works if Wisconsin can slow down Michigan State in transition. The Spartans lead the Big Ten in scoring at 81.9 points per game, whereas Wisconsin averages just 70.6. Izzo loves to get his team out and running, which is part of why he recruits smaller frontcourt players. Despite being relatively undersized for their positions, Ward and Tillman are elite rim-running bigs, meaning they can get down the court before the defense gets a chance to set up for easy dunks.Men’s basketball: Is Nate Reuvers the real deal?Amid a sophomore season that has seen more efficient offensive production, a 42 percent three-point percentage and the occasional block Read…This really isn’t something the Badgers can compete with, as Michigan State’s bigs are simply more athletic. Wisconsin will need to try to slow the game down and keep play in the half-court, which is nothing new for Bucky — it’s been the calling card of the Wisconsin program for years — but if they can’t do it Tuesday night, things could get ugly fast.The Badgers’ return to the Kohl Center will be one of polar opposition, and whichever squad can force the other into playing their style of basketball will likely come out victorious. If it’s a slow, grit-and-grind game, Wisconsin should come out on top. But if they let Winston get going on the break, head coach Greg Gard and the Badgers could be in for a long night.Tip-off is set for Tuesday at 6 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2 or listened to live on the Badger Sports Network. Fans are expected to come wearing red, with the game being dubbed a “Sea of Red.”