Djokovic survives Melbourne furnace to beat Monfils

Tennis - Australian Open - Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia
Tennis – Australian Open – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia, January 18, 2018. Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates winning against Gael Monfils of France. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

January 18, 2018

By Martyn Herman

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Six-times champion Novak Djokovic emerged from the Rod Laver Arena furnace and into the third round of the Australian Open after putting suffering Gael Monfils out of his misery with a scrappy victory on Thursday.

Both men struggled physically as air temperatures peaked at 39.9 degrees Celsius with reports of 69 degrees being measured down on the court surface.

But 12-times grand slam champion Djokovic, playing his first tournament for six months because of an elbow problem, was the more durable as he recovered from a woeful start to claim a 4-6 6-3 6-1 6-3 win and take his record over Monfils to 15-0.

The 14th seeded Serb will play Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the third round.

“It was brutal,” Djokovic who wore a compression sleeve and employed a truncated service action, said.

“I thought, it is going to be a big challenge for both of us. Gael is one of the best athletes in our sport.

“It was about just hanging in there.”

Monfils looked in danger of keeling over from the middle of the second set and throughout the third — pleading with the match umpire to give them more than 25 seconds between points.

“I was dying on the court for 40 minutes,” the 31-year-old told reporters later after having revived in a cold tub.

“It was really warm. It was tough to breathe. I think it was the hardest (conditions) I have played in.

“I tried to cool down. But even with the ice towel, the water, I think my body was super warm.”

Djokovic was rumored to have requested to play his match in the middle of the afternoon, despite the predicted heatwave.

But if it was supposed to earn him an advantage that plan quickly unraveled as he opened the match with two double faults and lost his first two service games.

He then broke back twice to level the set.

“They should put this in the washing machine and start again,” Channel Seven commentator Jim Courier, twice an Australian Open champion, said on air about the scrappy nature of the opening exchanges.

It did improve but Djokovic, with coach Andre Agassi watching on, dropped serve again 3-3.

The former world number one wasted two chances to break back as Monfils served at 5-4 and was powerless to stop the elastic-limbed Frenchman taking the opening set with a volley after running Djokovic ragged.

Monfils hung in for the first seven games of the second set but was clearly in distress — seeking out the shade behind the baselines to catch his breath between points.

Djokovic showed no mercy and broke for 5-3 before sealing the set on serve, at which point Monfils called the doctor and went off court to visit the bathroom — leaving his opponent to roast on his courtside chair.

The third set was a non-event but Monfils burst back into life in the fourth and despite breaking for a 5-3 lead it was Djokovic who became flustered as he struggled to seal victory.

On his first match point Djokovic blazed a forehand long, then he had two fend off two break points, before another match point came and went with an unforced error.

Monfils saved a third with an angled forehand but Djokovic converted at the fourth attempt with a volley.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Sudipto Ganguly)

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Euro hits three-year high as bullish bets hit record level

FILE PHOTO:  A picture illustration of U.S. dollar, Swiss franc, British pound and Euro bank notes
FILE PHOTO: A picture illustration of U.S. dollar, Swiss franc, British pound and Euro bank notes January 26, 2011. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration/File Photo

January 15, 2018

By Tommy Wilkes

LONDON (Reuters) – The euro rose to a three-year high against the dollar on Monday, fueled by growing economic optimism in the euro zone and expectations that the European Central Bank will tighten monetary policy.

The currency’s rise against a broadly weakened dollar has been particularly marked, with the euro zone’s improving economic outlook spurring more investors to rebalance their portfolios toward the region.

Speculators boosted net long positions in the euro to a record high in the week to Jan. 12, according to the latest futures data. Against a basket of currencies, the euro is at its highest since late 2014.

The dollar has weakened as markets grow increasingly confident that a global recovery would outpace U.S. growth and prompt other major central banks led by the ECB to unwind its easy policy quicker than market expectations.

Measured against a basket of currencies, the dollar was down 0.5 percent on Monday <.DXY>, its lowest since early 2015.

“There will be a correction [for the euro] at some point,” said Kit Juckes, London-based global strategist at Societe Generale. “But as long as the [economic] data remains strong, the market is going to believe in the idea that there is more coming. That tapering is going to be brought forward.”

Juckes said that the market was repricing the euro to account for the perceived change in the ECB’s monetary stance and, with fair value of the euro estimated at between $1.25 and $1.30, the single currency had further room to rise.

The euro <EUR=> was up 0.5 percent at $1.2258 after hitting a high of almost $1.23, adding to gains made last week after the ECB said it could revisit its communication stance in early 2018. That heightened expectations policymakers were preparing to reduce the stimulus program.

Hopes that a pro-European governing coalition is set to form in Germany have also boosted confidence in the continent.

“We remain bullish on the euro in coming months because we expect that the political risks in the euro zone will finally start abating on a more sustained basis after the March election in Italy,” Credit Agricole said.

“In addition, we expect the ECB to continue to taper its asset purchases and, ultimately, stop expanding its balance sheet.”

Still, with the euro at three-year highs, some analysts said that its strength would soon worry the ECB, encouraging it to talk down the currency.

The British pound continued to rack up highs not seen since the June 2016 vote to leave the European Union. The pound added to Friday’s surge – triggered by a report that two EU member states wanted Britain to remain as close as possible to the EU after its exit – and traded as high as $1.3819.

Against the yen, the dollar slipped to its lowest since mid-September as comments from the head of the Bank of Japan highlighted Japan’s economic recovery.

The dollar was down 0.4 percent at 110.585 yen <JPY=>.

(Editing by Saikat Chatterjee and David Goodman)

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Resilient Svindal back on form and gunning for gold

January 12, 2018

By Brian Homewood

WENGEN, Switzerland (Reuters) – When Aksel Lund Svindal discovered that he would have to undergo knee surgery for the second time in a year, his reaction was simply: “Here we go again”.

One year on, the remarkably resilient Norwegian is not only back skiing but leads the World Cup downhill standings and is hoping to crown his career with an Olympic gold in the blue riband event at the age of 35.

It would be a fitting reward for a skier who has savoured the taste of success and endured the pain and frustration of injury in almost equal measure.

Svindal’s last two seasons ended prematurely in January due to knee injuries, the most recent at Wengen where he will race in the prestigious downhill on Saturday.

Those came on top of an absence of nearly a year following a crash at Beaver Creek in November, 2007 and another long layoff in 2014 with an Achilles tendon injury he sustained kicking a ball around with his team mates.

But each time he has bounced back, making him something of an expert in injury recovery.

Part of his secret, he told Reuters in an interview, was focusing on the positives rather than negatives.

“I’m good at focusing on what’s important,” he said. “When you’re in hospital on crutches, there’s a lot you can’t do so you have to focus on what you can do.”

He also looked on it as a challenge.

“You sense that people think that this is going to be a tough one…..you hear them say ‘I’m not sure he’ll make it back this time’,” he said.

“As well as proving them wrong, it’s also a personal challenge….I want to do this again and see how far I can take it.”

SKIING WELL

Svindal said it was surprising how quickly his goals went from simply being able to ski again to skiing well and then winning.

“You start wondering if you can win World Cup races and it’s strange how quickly the mindset changes,” he said.

But he confessed it has been tough.

“I’m really happy I’m back because, honestly, the last two years were not super easy. A big knee injury is probably the worst injury you can have as a ski racer.”

At the moment, it bothers him more in practice than when racing.

“I can race with it, but I have a hard time in training because then it’s hard to forget about it,” he said.

Despite all the interruptions to his career, Svindal has won the overall World Cup title twice and is a five-times winner of the Super G category, twice downhill champion, once giant slalom and once combined.

He has also won five world championship golds, plus an Olympic gold in the Super G in Vancouver in 2010. The Olympic downhill would fit nicely into his medals cabinet.

“If I could choose one race to win this year, it would be the Olympic downhill,” he said, adding that he was at a disadvantage from not having raced in Pyeongchang before.

“The rest of the guys have been racing there and I haven’t. I was in hospital when they were racing…so I haven’t seen the course. That’s a disadvantage but it’s not a hopeless situation,” he said.

“I need a good start…if there’s bad weather and the training runs are canceled, that’s going to be a problem.”

(Additional reporting by Henrik Stolen in Oslo; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Microsoft halts some AMD chip Meltdown patches after PCs freeze

The Microsoft logo is shown on an electric car at the Auto Show in Los Angeles
FILE PHOTO: The Microsoft logo is shown on an electric car at the Auto Show in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 28, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

January 9, 2018

By Eric Auchard

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O> said on Tuesday it had suspended patches to guard against Meltdown and Spectre security threats for computers running AMD <AMD.O> chipsets after complaints by AMD customers that the software updates froze their machines.

Microsoft said in a support blog that it was working with AMD to resolve the issues and would resume Windows operating system software updates to affected AMD devices via its Windows Update process as soon as possible.

AMD shares dipped 1.3 percent in pre-market U.S. trading. Last week the stock rose nearly 20 percent as investors speculated AMD could wrest market share from Intel, whose chips are exposed to risks from possible Meltdown and Spectre attacks.

“To prevent AMD customers from getting into an unbootable state, Microsoft will temporarily pause sending the following Windows operating system updates to devices with impacted AMD processors at this time,” Microsoft said in its statement.

Microsoft said it had received complaints from AMD customers that their machines stopped loading the Start menu or taskbar after installing Windows operating system security updates.

Upon investigation, Microsoft said some AMD chipsets did not conform to technical documentation the chipmaker had provided, preventing Microsoft from successfully patching affected machines.

In its blog post, the software giant said the patches had caused computer screens to freeze up, or have so-called “blue screen errors” on Windows 10, Windows 8.1 and Windows 7.

Meltdown and Spectre are two memory corruption flaws which could allow hackers bypass operating systems and other security software to steal passwords or encryption keys, on most types of computers, phones and cloud-based servers.

AMD said last week that differences in its chip designs from rival Intel Corp meant its products were at “zero risk” from Meltdown flaw but that one variant of the Spectre bug could be resolved by software updates from vendors such as Microsoft.

AMD was not immediately available for further comment.

(Reporting by Eric Auchard; Editing by Georgina Prodhan and Edmund Blair)

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VW U.S. sales chief quits amid falling deliveries: Automotive News

FILE PHOTO: A Volkswagen logo is pictured at Volkswagen's headquarters in Wolfsburg
FILE PHOTO: A Volkswagen logo is pictured at Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo

January 6, 2018

BERLIN (Reuters) – A senior U.S. sales manager has quit Volkswagen’s <VOWG_p.DE> North America operations, Automotive News reported, just as the carmaker’s deliveries in the world’s second-largest auto market fall steeply.

Ron Stach, senior vice president of sales at Volkswagen of America, left the automaker on Jan. 4, the magazine reported late on Friday.

Spokespeople at VW’s global headquarters in Wolfsburg didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Stach, who joined VW’s North America operations in 2006 and previously worked at Mazda Motor Corp’s <7261.T> division in the region, couldn’t be reached for comment.

VW said last Wednesday that its U.S. sales rose 5.2 percent to 339,676 brand models last year but plunged 19 percent in December after posting their first monthly drop in 2017 in November.

Stach will be replaced temporarily by Derrick Hatami who joined VW of America last June as executive vice president for sales and marketing, Automotive News reported.

(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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Iran holds pro-government rallies after sixth day of protests

People protest near the university of Tehran
People protest near the university of Tehran, Iran December 30, 2017 in this picture obtained from social media. REUTERS

January 3, 2018

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin

LONDON (Reuters) – Pro-government rallies in several Iranian cities drew thousands of marchers on Wednesday, following six days of rare unrest that took the country’s leaders off guard.

State television broadcast live pictures of rallies in Kermanshah, Ilam and Gorgan, where marchers waved Iranian flags and pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The boldest challenge to Iran’s established order in almost a decade had continued into Tuesday night, with postings and video footage on social media showing riot police deployed in force in several cities.

Hours earlier, Khamenei accused Iran’s foes of fomenting the unrest.

On Wednesday, marchers voiced their support for Khamenei, chanting: “The blood in our veins is a gift to our leader” and “We will not leave our leader alone”.

The protests, which began over economic hardships, have taken on a rare political dimension, with a growing number of young people calling on Khamenei to step down.

They are the biggest since unrest in 2009 that followed the disputed re-election of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

At least 21 people have been killed during the unrest, including two members of the security forces.

More than 450 protesters have been arrested in the capital Tehran in recent days, and hundreds of others were detained around the country, according to officials. A judicial official said some could face the death penalty.

“The seditionist rioters should be executed,” marchers chanted on Wednesday, while posters they carried said hostile “hidden hands” guided from the United States, Israel and the United Kingdom should be cut off.

In at attempt to control the flow of information and calls for anti-government gatherings, Tehran authorities have restricted access to the Telegram messaging app and Instagram, owned by Facebook Inc.

High prices, alleged corruption and mismanagement are fuelling the anger.

President Hassan Rouhani championed a deal struck with world powers in 2015 to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of most international sanctions.

However, he has failed to deliver on promises of prosperity in the OPEC oil producer where youth unemployment reached 28.8 percent last year.

The nuclear deal is facing its biggest challenge since it was struck, with U.S. President Donald Trump due to decide by mid-January whether to continue waiving U.S. sanctions or reimpose them.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; editing by John Stonestreet)

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Ukraine hostages freed after police storm post office

Members of a police special operations unit gather outside a post office, where a man took people hostage, in Kharkiv
Members of a police special operations unit gather outside a post office, where a man took people hostage, in Kharkiv, Ukraine December 30, 2017. REUTERS/Stanislav Belousov

December 31, 2017

KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainian police on Saturday freed the remaining hostages being held in a post office by an man believed to be strapped with explosives, and arrested the hostage taker after an hours-long standoff in the city of Kharkiv.

“All hostages freed in Kharkiv. The assailant was arrested,” President Petro Poroshenko wrote on Twitter, while Interior Minister Arsen Avakov published a picture of the man, with blood streaming down his face, being held by a policeman.

None of the hostages were harmed. A Reuters witness saw special force police in green camouflage rushing to the entrance of the post office, a yellow-and-white building at a road junction in the northeastern city near the Russian border.

In earlier statements, police said the man had entered the post office wearing a mask and taken 11 people hostage with the intention of robbing the place. Five of the hostages — three women and two children — were released early.

Regional police chief Oleg Bekh told reporters the man had a history of antisocial behavior and drug-related offences.

“He probably needs the help of a psychiatrist,” Bekh said. “During the detention, he received minor injuries. He was not in a normal state … the hostages said he was drinking alcohol.”

Police were able to enter the building after one of the hostages opened the door for them, Kharkiv regional prosecutor Yuriy Danylchenko told reporters.

Police earlier said they had been in contact with the man via the telephones of the hostages, describing his manner as calm and not making any demands.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Avakov, said employees at the post office and customers had been among the hostages. One of them had managed to call the police from inside the building.

“The patrolmen came to the place of the robbery in a few minutes,” Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook. “The robber realized that he could not now safely leave the crime scene with the loot and he decided to declare that he was taking everyone hostage.”

One of the children released by the hostage taker told local media that the man had put explosives into two bottles and threatened to blow himself up if police did not listen to him. The man also said he had brain cancer, according to the child.

The man at one point voiced concern about the recent prisoner exchange between the Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian separatists and thought more prisoners should have been released, police said.

Ukraine and the separatists swapped hundreds of prisoners on Wednesday in the biggest such exchange since the outbreak of a conflict in the eastern Donbass region that has killed more than 10,000 people. [nL8N1OR249]

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; writing by Matthias Williams; editing by David Evans)

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Kremlin says Putin critic Navalny’s protest call to be investigated

Russian President Vladimir Putin toasts with attendees after a state awards ceremony for military personnel who served in Syria, at the Kremlin in Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin toasts with attendees after a state awards ceremony for military personnel who served in Syria, at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia December 28, 2017. REUTERS/Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool

December 28, 2017

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Thursday that a call by opposition leader Alexei Navalny to hold nationwide protests to back a boycott of next year’s presidential election would be investigated to see if it broke the law.

Navalny, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, on Wednesday announced a series of rallies across Russia on Jan. 28 to press home his call for a boycott of the election, in which he has been barred from running.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Navalny’s move would be carefully studied.

“We have the appropriate agencies who, as you know, check such calls and plans to see if they are lawful,” Peskov told a conference call with reporters. “There is no doubt that this will be done.”

Polls indicate that Putin, who has dominated Russia’s political landscape for 18 years, is on course to comfortably win re-election on March 18, but Navalny says his own exclusion makes a farce of the ballot.

An election boycott could pose a problem for the Kremlin, which is keen to ensure a high turnout in the election to help confer legitimacy on Putin’s expected victory amid some signs of apathy among voters.

Under Russian law, the time and place of public rallies must be agreed in advance with the authorities, who have often declined to authorize them in the past, citing conflicting events or security concerns.

When the opposition has gone ahead anyway, the police have broken up rallies by force and detained participants.

Navalny, who has organized some of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in years, has been jailed three times this year and charged with breaking the law for organizing public meetings and rallies.

(Reporting by Denis Pinchuk; writing by Andrew Osborn; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Philippines’ Duterte’s son quits as vice mayor of hometown Davao

FILE PHOTO: Paolo Duterte, Davao's Vice Mayor and son of President Rodrigo Duterte, testifies at a Senate hearing on drug smuggling in Pasay, Metro Manila
FILE PHOTO: Paolo Duterte, Davao’s Vice Mayor and son of President Rodrigo Duterte, testifies at a Senate hearing on drug smuggling in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

December 25, 2017

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s eldest son quit as vice mayor of the southern city of Davao on Monday, citing his being linked to a drug smuggling case by opponents and personal problems from a failed marriage as reasons for the move.

Paolo Duterte announced his resignation during a special session of the Davao City Council. Davao is President Duterte’s hometown and its mayor is Paolo’s younger sister, Sara Duterte-Carpio.

“There are recent unfortunate events in my life that are closely tied to my failed first marriage,” the vice mayor said, in a statement made available to media.

“These, among others, include the maligning of my reputation in the recent name dropping incident in the Bureau of Customs’ smuggling case and the very public squabble with my daughter.”

Paolo testified at a senate investigation in September into a seized shipment of around $125 million worth of narcotics from China after opponents of the president, who has instigated a fierce crackdown on the drugs trade, said they believe his son may have helped ease the entry of the shipment at the port in Manila, the Philippine capital. Paolo has denied any involvement.

More recently, he has been involved in an online spat with Isabelle, his 15-year-old daughter from his first wife. Paolo has called her “embarrassing” on Facebook after she complained on Twitter about being treated badly by her father.

The president’s office, the mayor’s office and other members of Paolo’s family did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comments.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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Iran denies British-Iranian aid worker might be released soon

Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is seen with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and her daughter Gabriella in an undated photograph handed out by her family
Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is seen with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and her daughter Gabriella in an undated photograph handed out by her family. Ratcliffe Family Handout via REUTERS

December 22, 2017

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin

LONDON (Reuters) – Iran’s justice ministry confirmed on Friday that authorities have opened a new case against British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been sentenced to five years in jail, and denied she might soon be released.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she was heading back to Britain with her two-year-old daughter after a family visit.

She was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.

British foreign minister Boris Johnson traveled to Iran this month to lobby for her release.

“Iran’s judiciary cannot confirm any of the claims in Western media about this case,” the head of the justice department in Tehran province, Gholamhossein Esmaili, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Friday.

“When a decision is made, it will be announced by the Islamic Republic’s judiciary or through diplomatic channels,” he said.

Tasnim said he specifically denied reports of a swap deal, but did not make clear what reports he was referring to.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe, who called on Iran to release his wife before Christmas, told the Guardian and other British media on Thursday that her lawyer said that her case has been marked as being eligible for early release.

The release of dual national prisoners in Iran in recent years has been mainly done through prisoner swaps.

“Besides serving her current sentence, she has also another ongoing case against her in court… We do not know if she would be found guilty or not,” Esmaili said.

His comments mark the first time a justice ministry official has acknowledged that a new case has been brought against Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Her family said in October that the new case carried charges that could bring mean another 16 years in prison.

The new charges included joining and receiving money from organizations working to overthrow the Islamic Republic and attending a demonstration outside the Iranian Embassy in London, the family said.

Iran refuses to recognize dual nationals and denies them access to consular assistance. It has arrested at least 30 dual nationals during the past two years, mostly on spying charges.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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