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Update March 2019


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With batteries 'recharged,' Zidane back as Real Madrid coach

Newly appointed Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane smiles during a press conference in Madrid, Monday March 11. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Tales Azzoni

Madrid (AP) — Real Madrid picked one of its most successful figures to try to end one of its worst crises.

Zinedine Zidane is returning to coach Madrid, the club he led to three straight Champions League titles before quitting while on top nine months ago.

Madrid announced Monday that Zidane accepted an offer to replace Santiago Solari and signed a contract until June 2022 to try to get the club back on track after a disastrous season.

The coaching change came less than a week after two losses to Barcelona and another to Ajax — results that eliminated the club from the Champions League and the Copa del Rey and virtually ended its hopes of winning the Spanish league.

"I'm very happy to be back home. I've recharged my batteries and now I'm ready again for the experience of being Real Madrid's coach. I'm motivated to be coaching again," Zidane said. "What I want to do now is return to work and put the club back where it belongs."

Spanish television channel La Sexta was the first to report Zidane's return. The announcement came after the board of directors met Monday in Madrid.

"You have an incredible history with the club, both as a player and as a coach," Madrid president Florentino Perez told Zidane. "We are proud to have you with us again. You represent the grandiosity of this club. Thank you for your loyalty."

Zidane, who won the 2002 Champions League while playing for Madrid, said he was never in doubt after receiving the offer from Perez.

"I love this club, and when the president called me, I couldn't say no," Zidane said. "I'll give everything I have to make this club better."

Zidane quit not long after Madrid won the Champions League title last season, saying that he and the club needed a change in command to keep succeeding. He won nine titles in his first stint with Madrid.

Zidane will be in charge of Tuesday's practice session, and his first game back will be on Saturday at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium against Celta Vigo. Madrid trails leader Barcelona by 12 points with 11 matches left and is five points behind second-place Atletico Madrid.

"I've been watching the season closely and I'm also not happy with how things have gone," Zidane said. "We have to see what we can (do) to improve and make sure things can be different going forward."

Solari led the team to a 4-1 win at Valladolid on Sunday and was in charge of practice on Monday. The club said it offered him an opportunity to remain in a different position. The former Argentina and Madrid player had been the "B'' team's coach before taking over the main squad in October.

Solari led Madrid to 22 wins, eight losses and two draws in all competitions, and helped the team win the Club World Cup in December.

Zidane's name was a unanimous choice within the club but few thought he would accept returning so soon after deciding to take a break.

The level-headed coach took over in January 2016 and immediately won over the squad with his calm manner and easygoing attitude. In addition to the three Champions League titles, he also led Madrid to the 2017 Spanish league title, the club's first since 2012. His other titles in his first coaching stint included two Club World Cups, two UEFA Super Cups and one Spanish Super Cup.

Shortly after Zidane left, Cristiano Ronaldo left to join Juventus, and Madrid has endured an up-and-down season that led to the humiliating losses to Barcelona and Ajax at the Bernabeu.

Zidane was replaced by Julen Lopetegui, the former Spain coach who was fired before the World Cup for taking the Madrid job. He lasted only a few months at the helm.

Solari took over from Lopetegui as an interim coach and eventually was given a full-time job — with a contract until 2021 — after putting the team back on track. Unlike Zidane, though, he struggled to manage the squad and was at odds with some of its key players, including Marcelo and Francisco "Isco" Alarcon.

Jose Mourinho, fired by Manchester United last year, was another strong candidate to replace Solari after succeeding with Madrid in the early 2010s. Other names mentioned included Juergen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino, Joachim Loew and Antonio Conte, who was highly touted to take over from the fired Lopetegui.

Some even wanted the club to consider former star Raul Gonzalez, who has just started coaching one of Madrid's youth squads.

But it will be the great Zidane at the helm again.

"We'll get back to work and try to do the right things," Zidane said. "We have 11 matches left in the league, then we will start thinking about next year and beyond."


Valtteri Bottas: "I'm going to beat everyone this year"

In this file photo dated Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, Mechanics prepare Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland car during a Formula One pre-season testing session at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, outside Barcelona, Spain. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)

Daniella Matar

Turin, Italy (AP) — Last season's Formula One campaign was so demoralizing for Valtteri Bottas that he got drunk to forget all about it.

Bottas didn't win a single race in 2018 despite driving for the dominant Mercedes team. But having pressed the reset button over the winter break, the Finnish driver believes he can be a genuine challenger for the F1 title this season.

"I got to Finland, got properly smashed a few times, did anything I wanted to do basically," Bottas said during an event for Mercedes' sponsors in Turin. "Then I got a camera, I started photographing, it's like a new hobby now so sometimes went for a walk somewhere and took pictures.

"I also travelled with my wife and some friends to South America, just for a proper holiday, didn't think about Formula One. When I came back I decided that I'm going to beat everyone this year."

That means going up against Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, who is chasing a sixth world title and a fifth since joining Mercedes in 2013.

"Yes, that is my aim and I feel I can do it," Bottas said when asked if he could be a genuine challenger. "That's the goal but how to get there, that's going to be hard work."

Bottas competed with Hamilton on occasions last season but a mixture of bad luck, tentativeness and team orders saw him finish the year with seven second-place finishes and no wins.

In Baku, a puncture at the end cost him victory , while he failed to launch an attack on Sebastian Vettel for victory in the closing stages of the Bahrain GP. In Germany and Russia, Bottas was forced to follow Hamilton home because his chances of challenging for the title were over.

A somewhat clumsy comment from team boss Toto Wolff describing Bottas as a "sensational wingman " affirmed the widely held view Bottas was effectively No. 2 at Mercedes. It stung Bottas' pride, but he still didn't win.

However, the newly bearded Bottas looks leaner, meaner and keener as he bids to turn his fortunes around.

Last season "was tough, quite tough, but it's over it's done," Bottas said. "It's made me tougher. I feel it's a nice fresh start."

He needs to make a strong start and maintain it, regardless of the pressure that comes with it.

"I've learned that the first half of the season is always very important," said Bottas, who will be 30 in August. "I started the year pretty well, just sometimes lost some points because of different things. I'm ready to go for it and try to be a better me."

The new season starts next Sunday at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. The pressure will be on Bottas and on Mercedes, with Ferrari quicker than Mercedes in pre-season testing .

Bottas needs to perform in order to get a new contract for 2020, or risk losing his seat to Frenchman Esteban Ocon.

"It's not the moment at the beginning of the season to talk about that. He knows that he has our support," Wolff said of the 2020 contracts. "His seat is super safe for 2019 and he knows what he has to do."

Still, it noticeably took Wolff until July of last year to give Bottas a new contract for 2019 .

Hardly an overwhelming show of confidence.

Bottas probably needs to win at least three races, the same number he managed in 2017 after replacing world champion Nico Rosberg.


Osaka advances in straight sets at Indian Wells

Naomi Osaka, of Japan, returns a shot to Danielle Collins at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament Monday, March 11, in Indian Wells, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Associated Press

Indian Wells, Calif. (AP) — Naomi Osaka rolled past Danielle Collins 6-4, 6-2 in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open on Monday night, keeping the world's No. 1 player on track to defend her title.

Collins struggled with her serve throughout the match, committing seven double faults and connecting on just 47 percent of her first serves.

Osaka's first serve percentage was 66 and she won 70 percent of her first-serve points.

Osaka won her first career title at Indian Wells a year ago, propelling her to a career-best year in which she defeated Serena Williams for the U.S. Open title. She began this year winning the Australian Open and moving to the top of the rankings.

Novak Djokovic, the world's top-ranked men's player, had a night match.

Venus Williams is turning back her own clock, moving into the fourth round with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over qualifier Christina McHale.

Williams is seeking her 50th career WTA Tour title in the desert, where she has never won the event. And at 38, she's showing vintage form.

"I don't really play that often, so when I do, I need to play well," she said. "It's extra motivation for me to play just a little bit better out there."

Serena, a two-time champion at Indian Wells, retired from her match on Sunday because of a viral illness.

Ranked 36th in the world, Williams endured three sets in her first two matches. She rallied past Andrea Petkovic in the opening round and followed up by outlasting No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova in a third-set tiebreaker.

Kvitova had made the finals in two of her first three tournaments this year.

Williams, who made the semifinals in the desert last year, was playing McHale for the first time. Williams rallied from early breaks down in both sets to win.

"I never played her, so it's also you're out there learning," Williams said.

Karolina Pliskova eased past qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure 6-3, 6-2. No. 8 Angelique Kerber outlasted qualifier Natalia Vikhlyantseva 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 and No. 9 Aryna Sabalenka defeated 24th-seeded Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 7-5.

Two seeded women lost: No. 11 Anastasija Sevastova, who retired trailing 5-0 in the first set against No. 21 Anett Kontaveit, and No. 15 Julia Goerges, who lost to Mona Barthel 7-5, 1-6, 6-4.

On the men's side, No. 3 Alexander Zverev lost to German countryman Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-1.

Playing just his third tournament of the year, Zverev said he's been sick for a week.

"That hasn't changed, unfortunately," he said.

Dominic Thiem, seeded seventh, defeated No. 27 Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-1. No. 13 Milos Raonic got a challenge from American qualifier Marcos Giron before winning 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Miomir Kecmanovic, a lucky loser from Serbia, got past No. 30 Laslo Djere 6-2, 7-6 (3).


Rockets beat Hornets 118-106, run win streak to 9 games

Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) shoots after being fouled by Charlotte Hornets' Malik Monk (1) as Frank Kaminsky (44) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, March 11, in Houston. The Rockets won 118-106. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Associated Press

Houston (AP) — James Harden scored 28 points and Eric Gordon added 22 as the Houston Rockets cruised to their season-high ninth straight win, 118-106 over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night.

A night after Gordon ended a streak of 43 straight games where Harden led the team in scoring, the Beard was Houston's top scorer again. But Gordon had another strong outing, making five 3-pointers for the third straight game and the fourth in five games.

The Rockets won despite a big performance by Kemba Walker, who finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists as the Hornets lost their second in a row.

NETS 103, PISTONS 75

NEW YORK (AP) — Spencer Dinwiddie scored 19 points and Brooklyn routed Detroit to move into sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Allen Crabbe finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, Rodions Kurucs scored 13 points, and Joe Harris and Caris LeVert each added 12 as the Nets took control early in the game and never let up.

The Nets (36-33) won their fourth straight and leapfrogged Detroit (34-32) into the No. 6 spot in their final game before leaving for a seven-game road trip.

Andre Drummond led the Pistons with 13 points and 20 rebounds. Blake Griffin finished with 10 points, but only shot 1 of 10 from the field as Detroit was held to its lowest point total of the season. The Pistons had their five-game winning streak snapped.

CAVALIERS 126, RAPTORS 101

CLEVELAND (AP) — Collin Sexton scored 28 points, Kevin Love had 16 points and 18 rebounds, and Cleveland routed Toronto.

Toronto's Serge Ibaka and Cleveland's Marquese Chriss were ejected for fighting late in the third quarter. Ibaka went to the floor after the two were battling for position under Cleveland's basket as the Raptors attempted a full-court pass that sailed out of bounds.

Ibaka shoved Chriss from behind and grabbed near his neck before throwing a punch. Chriss responded with a punch before players from both teams separated the two. Ibaka immediately headed for the locker room and both players were kicked out after the officials conferred.

Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points after sitting out Sunday's victory in Miami, but his return didn't help the Raptors, who have the league's second-best record.

WIZARDS 121, KINGS 15

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bradley Beal scored 21 of his 27 points after halftime, helping Washington beat Sacramento despite twice giving back double-digit leads.

Beal added nine rebounds and nine assists for the 11th-place Wizards, who moved within 3 1/2 games of the eighth Eastern Conference playoff spot currently held by idle Miami.

Jabari Parker added 18 points off the bench and Bobby Portis had 17 points and 13 rebounds as Washington began a five-game homestand.

De'Aaron Fox scored 23 points for the Kings, who started Monday four games back of three teams tied for the last three Western Conference playoff spots.
 


DAILY UPDATE

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

With batteries 'recharged,' Zidane back as Real Madrid coach

Valtteri Bottas: "I'm going to beat everyone this year"

Osaka advances in straight sets at Indian Wells

Rockets beat Hornets 118-106, run win streak to 9 games