Raonic makes winning return, Nadal and Nishikori advance

Nadal advanced past Israeli Dudi Sela 6-3 6-4, taking the critical second-set break in the seventh game, while Nishikori cut down South African Kevin Anderson 6-4 6-3.

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Third seed Raonic has been sidelined by a right leg injury that forced him to concede a walkover in the Delray Beach Open final last month and to withdraw from the Mexican Open and BNP Paribas Open.

“I have to be very happy with just the outcome, that I was able to get the win today, that I have another chance to play in two days,” said the world number five.

Raonic breezed through the opening set and led 3-1 in the second before Serbia’s Troicki battled back.

World number 38 Troicki, who has reached the fourth round in Miami twice, drew level at 5-5 before Raonic’s pressure helped him secure the deciding break.

Raonic advanced to play American Jared Donaldson, a 6-4 6-4 winner against 28th seed Mischa Zverev of Germany.

Raonic said he has been helped by the addition of former world number 69 Jesse Levine to his coaching support.

“He’s somebody that I get along with great, is a little bit closer to my age as well, and somebody that I can play with on court and put in hard hours with,” he added.

A string of upsets unfolded later in the day with world number 13 Grigor Dimitrov eliminated in straight sets by Argentinean Guido Pella 6-3 7-6(4).

Dimitrov, who lost to Nadal in the Australian Open semi-final, has now lost three of his last six matches since winning the Sofia Open last month.

American Donald Young knocked out 11th seed Lucas Pouille 6-2 6-4, Federico Delbonis took down 15th seed Pablo Carreno 1-6 7-5 6-2, while Frenchman Gilles Simon fell to German Jan-Lennard Struff 6-1 6-1.

In earlier action, Frenchman Jeremy Chardy defeated seventh-seeded former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia for the first time since 2009 to move into the third round with a 6-4 2-6 6-3 win.

(Reporting by Larry Fine and Jahmal Corner; Editing by Andrew Both and Peter Rutherford)

Man guilty of attacking backpackers in SA

A man has been found guilty of a violent attack on two female backpackers on the sand dunes of a remote South Australian beach.

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The 60-year-old was on trial for sexually assaulting a Brazilian woman and hitting a German woman with a hammer at Salt Creek, east of Adelaide, in February 2016.

The SA Supreme Court jury delivered its verdict on Saturday, finding the man guilty of six charges including indecent assault, aggravated kidnapping and endangering life.

But he was acquitted of attempted murder, with the 11 jurors instead finding him guilty of the lesser charge of aggravated attempted causing serious harm with intent.

The accused met the backpackers through classifieds website Gumtree, where the Brazilian woman had advertised for a ride from Adelaide to Melbourne.

He picked them up from a train station in Adelaide and drove them in his 4WD to the remote spot in SA’s Coorong National Park where he attacked them.

The man was found to have hit the German woman over the head with a hammer several times, inflicting four deep lacerations on her scalp that left her drenched in blood.

An image of the crime scene presented to the Adelaide court.AAP

She fought back and broke free but she was then repeatedly rammed by the man in his 4WD as she fled across the sand.

Moments earlier, while walking in the sand dunes with the Brazilian woman, he dragged her to the ground, tied her up with rope, cut off her bikini and sexually assaulted her, the jury found.

The women, both 24, managed to escape the attack and the man was arrested in his car on the beach.

In a statement delivered on behalf of the German woman by SA Commissioner for Victims’ Rights Michael O’Connell, she said her life-threatening injuries had a profound effect on her.

“She knows she survived because other people – good Samaritans – came to her aid,” Mr O’Connell said.

He said the verdicts gave both women a sense of justice.

“They wanted to see justice done, not only for them but for the people of South Australia,” he told reporters outside court.

“They’re both extremely brave. They’ve demonstrated that bravery at the time of the incident .. and as witnesses.

“They are beautiful young people who now deserve the sense of justice that’s been given to them.”

Prosecutor Jim Pearce QC said the case against the man was overwhelming, and the two backpackers were honest and impressive throughout the two-week trial.

“There is no mystery here about what happened. There is no mystery because the two women told you,” Mr Pearce said in his closing submissions.

“You saw two very impressive young women who sat in the witness box and did their best to describe to you a very harrowing ordeal.”

It took the jury 12 hours of deliberations to reach their verdict, seeking clarification from Judge Trish Kelly on several occasions about the intent to kill required for the attempted murder charge.

The man, who can’t be named for legal reasons, was remanded in custody for sentencing submissions at a later date.

Demons aim to back up solid AFL start

After showing their mettle, Melbourne now need to prove their consistency.

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The Demons rallied from a slow start to overwhelm St Kilda in their much-hyped AFL clash, with a 10-goal streak through the second and third quarters propelling them to a 30-point win.

No round-one match had more attention on it, given these are two teams expected to break into the top eight after several lean sessions.

Within minutes of the final siren, commentators were already noting that Melbourne have had a bad habit of not backing up such solid performances.

They will start strong favourites next Sunday against Carlton.

“There will probably be a little over-reaction either way, whether you win or lose, but I’m really happy for our supporters,” said new coach Simon Goodwin.

“That’s the challenge for us as a group – we want to play this way every week and this is just a starting point.”

Melbourne ended a 14-game losing streak against St Kilda and Saturday was the first time they had beaten the Saints since the 2006 elimination final.

But history is bunk to Goodwin.

“I said coming into the game that those sorts of things are irrelevant to this group,” he said.

“They want to create their own journey and this is really just the starting point.”

Melbourne trailled by 24 points early in the second term and Goodwin said the solution was basic – work harder

“Ultimately we were getting beaten in the contest – we were probably poor at clearance early, beaten around the ball,” he said.

“As I said to the boys at quarter-time, it was just about getting back to what we trained all summer.”

Ruckman Max Gawn shone with 49 hitouts and Goodwin praised their experienced players, especially defenders Tom McDonald and Bernie Vince and onballers Nathan Jones and Jordan Lewis.

Gawn dominated after having to leave the game for 10 minutes early for treatment on a minor back injury.

“When he came back, I just thought he was sensational,” Goodwin said.

“His hitouts to advantage were terrific and he’s an incredible player.”

Gawn looms as one of the big winners this season out of the AFL’s ban on third-men up at ruck contests.

“It’s an interesting one … clearly his ruck work and his tap work is very good,” Goodwin said.

But one lowlight for Melbourne was first-gamer Joel Smith, who suffered a dislocated shoulder midway through the first quarter and faces an extended layoff.

An electoral committee, protests and China: The Hong Kong vote explained

Hong Kong will select a new leader on Sunday in a vote skewed towards Beijing that has once more opened up the city’s political divisions.

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Pro-democracy campaigners describe the election process as a farce and predict weekend protests as the prospect of political reform in the semi-autonomous city appears more unattainable than ever.

How the vote works

Hong Kong’s next leader will be chosen by an electoral committee rather than the general public and the person selected has to be formally approved by Beijing. 

The majority of the 1,194 representatives on the committee belong to pro-establishment special interest groups such as agriculture and real estate which lean towards China. Only a quarter come from the pro-democracy camp. 

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It is the first leadership election since mass rallies in 2014 calling for Hong Kong residents to have the right to vote for the city’s highest-ranking official failed to win change, and comes as concerns grow that Chinese authorities are tightening their grip.  

The favourite

Former deputy leader Carrie Lam is seen as Beijing’s favourite for the job, and some pro-establishment members of the electoral committee say they have come under pressure to vote for her.

Lam is intensely disliked by the pro-democracy camp after promoting the Beijing-backed political reform package which prompted 2014’s “Umbrella Movement” that paralysed parts of the city for more than two months.

The proposal had promised a public vote for city leader in 2017, but said candidates must be vetted. It was dismissed as “fake democracy” by opponents and rejected in parliament by pro-democracy lawmakers.

Since then the political reform process has been shelved.

‘Selection, not election’

Those opposed to Lam cast her as just another version of unpopular current leader Leung Chun-ying.

Her main rival is ex-finance chief John Tsang, perceived as a more moderate establishment choice and the public’s clear favourite in opinion polls.

Known as “Mr Pringles” for his resemblance to the moustachioed crisp brand mascot, Tsang has cast himself as a unifying candidate. 

Pro-democracy protesters dressed in Halloween costumes hold a yellow umbrella in the occupied areas outside government headquarters in Hong Kong in 2014AP

Most pro-democracy members on the electoral committee will vote for Tsang to keep Lam out and did not field their own candidate for fear it would split the anti-Lam vote. 

That leaves the third and most liberal nominee, former judge Woo Kwok-hing, who is unlikely to make a dent. 

But many young activists reject the vote outright. 

Pro-democracy campaigner Joshua Wong, the face of the 2014 protests, says he does not endorse any of the candidates and will join protests outside the harbour-front voting venue. 

“Hong Kong is just implementing a selection, rather than an election,” 20-year-old student Wong told AFP, describing all three nominees as pro-establishment.

“No one will deny that Carrie Lam is the worst one and a nightmare for us — but it doesn’t mean we can put aside our principles and endorse any pro-China candidate,” he said.

Long-term battle

Lam has questioned whether the environment is right for reintroducing the political reform debate, while Tsang says any changes must adhere to the unpopular framework laid down by Beijing. 

There was little scope for any new leader to diverge from Beijing’s script, said Yvonne Chiu, assistant professor at Hong Kong University’s department of politics and public administration.

“The chief executive internally can do a lot of things, but at the same time will always have an eye on what Beijing is interested in and what Beijing is willing to accept,” said Chiu.

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China is taking an increasing interest in the way Hong Kong is governed after a turbulent five years under Leung, added Chiu. 

Following the failure of the “Umbrella Movement” to win reform, a new brand of activist advocating a split from the mainland rather than just greater autonomy has emerged, sparking fury from Beijing.

The history

Hong Kong is governed under a semi-autonomous “one country, two systems” deal since being handed back to China by Britain in 1997.

China’s premier Li Keqiang shut down any notion of Hong Kong independence last month, saying the idea “would lead nowhere”, and each of the three candidates has also rejected the idea.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Hong Kong described Sunday’s vote as not only a concern for the city “but also the central government’s exercise of sovereignty and governance over Hong Kong”.

Although Lam is a divisive figure, some say Beijing sees her as a softer touch than Leung but still able to deliver hardline policies.  

“It’s really a sexist view in Beijing’s eyes I think – a ‘woman’s touch’,” said Suzanne Pepper, honorary fellow at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. 

Pepper said Lam’s decision to focus on social issues reflected Beijing’s wishes for the city leader to downplay big-picture politics. 

But for activist Wong, the fight for a more representative political system remains a priority. 

“Without democracy, political struggle and instability will still continue in the future,” he said.

WATCH: Hong Kong to elect a new leader

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Port shock Swans in AFL upset at SCG

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley hailed one of the proudest days of his tenure and celebrated some payback for milestone-setting captain Travis BoaK, in their drought breaking 28-point AFL round one upset win over Sydney.

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The stunning 17.8 (110) to 12.10 (82) victory at the SCG on Saturday was Port’s first in eight matches and 11 years at the SCG, and their first anywhere over the Swans in their past six contests, going back to 2013.

“It’s certainly one of the proudest days I’ve had I reckon since I’ve been here,” Hinkley said.

Port kicked five goals to two in the third quarter to break open a previously close game and took a 22-point lead into the last change.

Sydney were unable to get the deficit below 13 and were also outscored in the final quarter.

The visitors’ accurate goalkicking and unrelenting tenacity, which earned them a 163-139 advantage in contested possessions, were big factors in their win.

Port’s kicking into their forward line improved significantly after halftime and Sydney conceded more than 16 goals for the first time since the 2015 season, while booting just four second half majors of their own.

Ollie Wines, (33 touches) Brad Ebert (25 and 11 tackles) and Boak, (26 possessions), who was making his 200th appearance, all won plenty of ball for Port.

“It’s pretty special for a bloke like Travis, who over the journey he’s made some courageous decisions to be part of this footy club and I think he got a fair bit of payback today,” Hinkley said.

He thought some of the things Port focused on over the summer were starting to come through.

“We had four months to work on stuff and we’ve been able to put some things in place that are non-negotiable for us and I’m sure from a Port Adelaide point of view that starts with contest and effort,” Hinkley said.

Sydney coach John Longmire acknowledged his side came off second best in the contest area they pride themselves in.

“We showed it in spurts but you cant afford to play AFL football in spurts,” Longmire said.

“We just lost too many 50-5O contests, whether it’s in the air or on the ground.”

Port ruckman Patty Ryder was strong in his first competition game back from his anti-doping ban.

Chad Wingard and Aaron Young both kicked thee goals and debutant Sam Powell-Pepper nailed a couple of long distance majors for the travelling side.

New captain Josh Kennedy starred for Sydney gathering a team-high 28 touches and plenty of clearances and forward Lance Franklin also worked hard, kicking 4.2.

Swans’ midfielder Dan Robinson suffered an injury to the same shoulder which he hurt last season, with scans to determine the severity of the latest issue.

Venus braves the weather to beat Brazilian, Vesnina stunned

The biggest upset of the day came when Elena Vesnina, fresh off her victory at Indian Wells, suffered a stunning 3-6 6-4 7-5 loss to world number 594 Ajla Tomljanovic.

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Williams told the Miami Herald she struggled with the windy conditions.

“It wasn’t easy out there, the wind felt like a gale force,” she said. “I never saw her before. I didn’t know what to expect. I’m very impressed with her game and determination, and that will take her very far.” Top seed Angelique Kerber also prevailed in her evening match, beating Duan Yingying Duan 7-6(3) 6-2.

Croatian wild card Tomljanovic led 13th seed Vesnina 5-3 in the third set on Thursday when a thunderstorm halted play and returned on Friday to finish the job, sealing the victory on her third match point to move into the third round.

Vesnina, five days removed from the biggest victory of her career at the BNP Paribas Open, committed a dozen double faults in the two hour, 12 minute match.

French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, whose opening match on Thursday was also interrupted, fared better than Vesnina.

The sixth-seeded Spaniard trailed 46th-ranked American Christina McHale 6-0 3-2 when play was suspended on Thursday but staved off a match point in the tiebreak before emerging with an 0-6 7-6(6) 6-4 victory.

Romanian third seed Simona Halep was pushed to three sets by Japanese teenager Naomi Osaka before advancing 6-4 2-6 6-3, while seeds Timea Babos and Roberta Vinci were eliminated.

American Madison Keys made quick work of Viktorija Golubic 6-1 6-2.

(Reporting by Larry Fine and Jahmal Corner; Editing by Frank Pingue/Peter Rutherford)

Sydney no strange name to China: Keqiang

Premier Gladys Berejiklian took to strengthening China’s love affair with NSW as she met with the country’s second most powerful leader in Sydney.

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“It’s an absolute pleasure to meet with you personally but also to welcome the provincial leaders,” Ms Berejiklian said, as she sat down with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during their first official meeting on Saturday evening.

Those leaders were able to have “very fruitful discussions” at the second China-Australia State/Provincial Leaders’ Forum in Sydney on Friday, she said.

China is NSW’s largest two-way trading partner in goods, and trade was understood to be high on the agenda during the brief 20-minute meeting with Premier Li.

The Emerald City’s appeal to Chinese tourists was also not lost on the premier.

“NSW and in particular Sydney are no strange names to the Chinese people,” Premier Li said, as he pointed out that he had stopped by the city on all three of his Australia visits.

Ms Berejiklian will return the favour in December to attend the NSW-Guangdong Joint Economic Meeting, it was later announced.

She will also lead a delegation to Guangdong touring business centres and tech hubs across the country in her first official visit as premier.

The trip would be a “clear sign of our continued strong friendship with the People’s Republic of China,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Education and tourism remain key trade sectors in NSW, with Chinese tourists spending $2.7 billion in the year to September 2016.

Chinese students represent more than 40 per cent of higher education international enrolments.

Victoria chase Sheffield Shield three-peat

Victoria head into the Sheffield Shield final against South Australia confident that their in-form bowling attack – led by Test paceman James Pattinson – can secure a record third successive state crown.

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The match, commencing Sunday, is a repeat of last year’s final, which Victoria won by seven wickets in Adelaide.

The Bushrangers are aiming to become the first side to win three Sheffield Shields in a row since Queensland completed the feat in 2002 – and the first-ever from Victoria.

The Vics are set to recall Fawad Ahmed after the leg-spinner took five wickets in Alice Springs earlier this month.

And in Pattinson, Victoria have arguably the form bowler of the past month in the Shield.

Pattinson collected 5-7 in a remarkable final-round spell a fortnight ago as Queensland were routed for just 61.

“Our attack is in pretty good form and have been the past few games,” Victoria captain Cameron White said.

“Having Patto (James Pattinson) back has been really handy for us.

“He was on fire in the last game, so I reckon he comes into this game peaking.

“Four games back into his comeback, he is ready to run the race of his life.”

Paceman Chris Tremain is also in form for the Vics, as is spinner Jon Holland, while medium-pacer Dan Christian ensures a balanced attack.

Though Victoria won hosting rights, they chose to take the match to Alice Springs due to a lack of suitable options in Melbourne.

The Bushrangers, however, seem at home in the Red Centre, having won four and drawn the other match there over the past three seasons.

South Australia have never played at the Traeger Park venue.

“The pitch looks pretty similar to the last few pitches we have had here,” White said.

“There is a bit of grass on the wicket at the moment.

“It is usually pretty flat here, and spins a bit later in the match.”

While Victoria are seeking to maintain their supremacy as Shield kings, South Australia are seeking to end a 21-year winless drought.

Despite scraping in to the final and suffering two defeats against the Vics this season, SA remain confident their bowlers can do the job in a match their opponents only need to draw.

“If we get enough runs to back the bowlers up, I’m sure we can take 20 wickets,” South Australia captain Travis Head said.

“We come in to this match relaxed after this week. Last year, after not being in a final for so long, there was a lot of excitement around Adelaide.

“We have played some good tough cricket in the past couple of weeks and we are ready to go.”

Cyclone Debbie turns towards Qld coast

Tropical Cyclone Debbie is expected to pick up pace as it continues to move towards the far north Queensland coast.

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The tropical low was moving relatively slowly when it was upgraded to a Category 1 cyclone on Saturday morning.

In its latest update on Saturday night, the weather bureau says it expects the low pressure system will adopt a steady west-southwest track.

Debbie is predicted to intensify and develop into a Category 4 by Tuesday morning, bringing wind gusts of up to 260km/h.

Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Andrea Peace said a Category 4 would cause “significant structural damage, dangerous airborne debris and also power failures”.

Ms Peace said heavy rain in excess of 200mm per day was expected to develop on Sunday along the far north and central Queensland coast, as well as in adjacent inland areas.

“Abnormally high tides are also expected to occur between at least Lucinda and Mackay as the cyclone approaches the coast,” she said.

“Large waves may also develop along the beachfront so coastal inundation is likely and those highest waves will be on the southern side of the cyclone.”

A cyclone watch zone for residents living between Ayr and St Lawrence – including Bowen, Mackay and the Whitsunday Islands – remains in place.

A flood watch is also current between Cairns and Gladstone.

Ms Peace said the BoM predicted Tropical Cyclone Debbie would make landfall between Cardwell and Hamilton Island either on Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Earlier on Saturday BoM Queensland regional director Bruce Gunn would not rule out the possibility it could intensify into a Category 5.

Residents in the watch zone are being urged to prepare for a cyclone.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told people not to wait until Sunday night or Monday because it could “be too late”.

A decision about school closures will be made on Sunday following the second meeting of the Queensland Disaster Management Committee.

Co-ordination centres in Cairns, Innisfail, Townsville and Mackay have also been activated.

Townsville Local Disaster Management group chair Jenny Hill urged residents to familiarise themselves with the council’s evacuation guide to determine whether their house may be at risk of flooding.

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services deployed 50 staff from its Disaster Assistance and Response Team to Cairns on Saturday afternoon to bolster local crews.

Reid’s form a plus for beaten Swans in AFL

An encouraging return from key forward Sam Reid was one of the few positives Sydney coach John Longmire has been able to extract from the wreckage of a stunning 28-point opening round AFL home loss to Port Adelaide.

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The Power had 22 more contested possessions than the Swans on Saturday and Longmire admitted they had few winners on the day.

One exception was 25-year-old Reid, who didn’t play a senior game last year due to calf and achilles issues.

Reid grabbed seven marks and kicked three goals at the SCG, the largest scoring contribution to the Swans outside of Lance Franklin’s 4.2.

“He was one of our winners I guess, particularly early,” Longmire said.

“He was able look really dangerous in our front half, he looked good and got his hand on the ball and got the score on the board for us.”

“He was a real positive to come out of the game considering how much footy he has lost.”

Longmire said former co-captain Kieren Jack ran out the game fine, despite not playing any of their pre-season matches.

Although Sydney fielded nine players with 31 games or less of senior experience, Longmire felt it wasn’t just the younger brigade who struggled.

“We didn’t have a lot of good players win their positions and that includes our experienced players,” he said.

“Maybe some of the younger kids struggled a little bit but we didn’t have a lot of winners for the whole game.”

Captain Josh Kennedy had 28 possessions and a double-digit tally of clearances but most of the Swans’ lauded midfielders were below their best.

Sydney have a six-day turnaround days before they face premiers Western Bulldogs in a grand final rematch.

“We’ll reflect and reset and get going again next week,” Longmire said.

“It’s a simple process, we’ve been thorough it before.

“We need to make sure we get it right this week.”

Swans midfielder Daniel Robinson will undergo scans on the shoulder he injured last season.