Dellacqua’s ‘crazy’ ride to last 16

Casey Dellacqua admits her stunning transformation from doubles contender to grand slam singles force is “crazy”, but says she’s not done yet at the US Open in New York.

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In an awesome display of unflinching counter-punching, Dellacqua defeated rising Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-3 3-6 6-4 in a high-quality third-round encounter on Saturday.

The big-hitting left-hander next plays Flavia Pennetta on Monday and victory over Italy’s 11th seed would thrust her into a grand slam quarter-final for the first time.

“It’s awesome,” Dellacqua said after pounding 30 winners on Show Court 17.

“I’ve got to the fourth round a couple of times at the Aussie Open before and been close (including this year), but I’d really like to make my first quarter-final.

“I really want to finish this slam off just as well as I started the year.”

After tumbling out of the world’s top 200 following a first-round defeat at Flushing Meadows last year, Dellacqua is incredibly now on the verge of cracking the top 25.

With former Open champion Samantha Stosur under pressure to defend a mountain of rankings points from three late-season finals appearance last year, Dellacqua is also favoured to end 2014 as Australia’s new No.1.

“It’s actually pretty crazy to think,” said the 29-year-old mother of one.

“This trip I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the past 12 months, probably because I haven’t had Blake around, so I’ve had a lot more time on my hands.

“But I’ve had a lot of time to reflect upon the last 12 months and it’s been quite a journey.

“This time last year I rocked up and was playing qualifying.”

Pliskova had trounced Dellacqua in straight sets in their only previous meeting, last October in Kuala Lumpar, but the West Australian once again proved she’s the most improved player in the game.

“The main goal for me now is just to be consistently be consistent. I don’t want to have results here and there,” Dellacqua said.

“I want to be a player that beats who I should beat and I want to be that player that girls are a bit frightened to play.”

Chuffed to have lived up to expectations by taking out three lower-ranked foes, Dellacqua is now bracing for her biggest test yet.

“I’ll be pumped and ready to go to play Flavia on Monday. I’m ready for the challenge,” she said.

“She’s obviously a high-quality opponent. She made the semis here last year, is No.11 in the world.

“I guess I’ll just approach it the way I always do, and that is do all the things that I do well.

“I’ll always fight hard and I’ll always have a crack.”

Pennetta powered into the last 16 with a 6-4 6-0 win over American qualifier Nicole Gibbs.

“It’s going to be a really tough challenge for me,” said Dellacqua, who made three grand slam doubles finals in 2013 and won the 2008 mixed doubles title.

“She fights hard and both sides – forehand, backhand – she’s pretty solid and has a decent serve.

“So if she brings her A game, I’m going to have to bring a really high level to beat her.”

The winner will play either two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, the 16th seed, or Serbian qualifier Aleksandra Krunic on Wednesday for a semi-final spot.

29-CASEY DELLACQUA trails 11-FLAVIA PENNETTA (ITA) 1-0

2007 Bangkok, hard, R16, Pennetta 2-6 6-3 7-5

CASEY DELLACQUA

Age: 29

Ranking: 32

Plays: left-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US2,596,408 ($A2.81 million)

Career titles: 0

Grand slam titles: 0

US Open win-loss record: 5-5

Best US Open performance: 4th round 2014

FLAVIA PENNETTA

Age: 32

Ranking: 12

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US9,041,806 ($A9.78 million)

Career titles: 10

Grand slam titles: 0

US Open win-loss record: 23-9

Best US Open performance: semi-finalist 2013

Johnson likely to play against Hawks

Geelong coach Chris Scott expects to welcome back game-breaking utility Steve Johnson for Friday night’s AFL qualifying final against arch-rivals Hawthorn.

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Johnson has missed the Cats’ past three matches, including the 62-point romp over Brisbane at Simonds Stadium in the concluding round of the home and away season.

D-day for the triple premiership star will be Geelong’s main training session on Wednesday.

“(Johnson’s recovery is) still going to plan, and the plan revolves around him training this week and then playing on Friday night,” said Scott.

“It’s actually pretty simple.

“He’s got a sore foot. If it’s pain free and he trains, he plays.

“We don’t have any reason to believe that won’t happen. We’re preparing for him to play.”

Tom Hawkins was the best forward on the ground against the Lions, finishing with a career-high seven goals and will head into September in peak form and fitness.

It is a far cry from last season, when Hawkins was hampered by a back problem throughout a campaign which ended when the Cats were edged out by Hawthorn in an epic preliminary final .

“So many things change so it’s a bit simplistic to just say we were one kick away from a grand final last year with Tom pretty lame and this year that he is a dominant player it will make all the difference,” said Scott.

“Our team is very different, we’re more inexperienced again and that’s exciting for us because we have some players who we know can play the footy that is good enough.

“Maybe the rest of the competition and even our supporters haven’t seen it as consistently as they saw it from (Paul) Chapman and (Joel)Corey and Josh Hunt.

“We’re still extremely positive.”

Tall fringe players Josh Walker and Mitch Brown both did some impressive things against the Lions, but they are effectively playing for the one spot – at most – in the team with ruckman Hamish McIntosh certain to return against the Hawks.

The Cats will be further strengthened by the inclusions of Steven Motlop and Allen Christensen, with Johnson shaping as the wildcard.

Day, Palmer share Deutsche Bank lead

Australia’s Jason Day fired a three-under-par 68 to match American Ryan Palmer for the lead after Saturday’s second round of the US PGA Deutsche Bank Championship.

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Day and Palmer, who shot an even-par 71, stood on eight-under-par 134 after 36 holes with Americans Matt Kuchar and Billy Horschel on 135 and Americans Bill Haas, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Russell Henley and Keegan Bradley on 136 at the TPC Boston.

Only the 70 points leaders after this week’s second event of the US tour’s season-ending playoffs with advance to next week’s BMW Championship in Denver, which will decide the 30 qualifiers for the Tour Championship in two weeks.

Day sizzled at the start with five birdie putts on the front nine, the longest a 40-footer at the par-4 sixth.

He also dropped a pair of six-foot birdies at the fourth and ninth and 15-footers at the par-5 second and seventh holes.

But Day took a bogey at 12 after a penalty drop and another at 14 after finishing a greenside bunker.

He sank a seven-foot birdie putt at the par-3 16th to grab the lead alone but took a bogey at the par-5 18th, missing a six-foot par putt on the second-easiest-playing hole on the course.

“It’s not playing easy,” Day said. “I made it look easy on the front nine, rolled in a lot of good birdie chances.

“On the back nine I just made a few errors. I got off to a cracking start and came home a little rough. But I’m confident heading into tomorrow.”

Day is seeking his first PGA victory after sharing or leading after 36 holes.

“I’ve got to keep my head down, stay aggressive and hopefully I win this one,” he said.

Palmer endured a roller-coaster round that began with a birdie followed by a double bogey at the second and a bogey at the par-3 third.

He followed with back-to-back birdies at four and five but stumbled with a bogey at the par-3 eighth.

Palmer began the back nine with a bogey but answered with a 19-foot birdie putt at 12 and a closing birdie after putting his approach inches from the cup.

Kuchar began on the back nine and fired six birdies in a row for the first time in a PGA event, making nine in all on his way to a 66.

After two birdies and two bogeys in his first six holes, Kuchar began his birdie run at 17 and moved into contention before stumbling late with bogeys at seven and nine around a birdie at eight.

“It was a good stretch,” Kucher said. “A lot of those are birdie holes. That stretch is one you would hope to take advantage of.”

Kuchar has been playing with a heavy heart in the wake of the unexpected death of his caddie Lance Bennett’s wife, Angela, on Wednesday after suffering a seizure.

“Today was easier,” he said.

“Still felt like Angela was on my mind almost every hole, every shot. But yesterday I had a hard time following through a couple of times.”

Bennett was not at the event, staying at home in Dallas making plans for Tuesday’s funeral.

Spieth to play Australian Open

Young American star Jordan Spieth will join Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day as marquee stars in the Australian Open later this year.

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Spieth, the 21-year-old Texan and 13th ranked player in the world will make his first trip to Australia in search of the Stonehaven Cup and line up in Sydney at The Australian Golf Club from November 27-30.

After breaking through with his first win in 2013, Spieth went toe-to-toe with Bubba Watson at the Masters this year before finishing second.

A Presidents Cup player in 2013 as a captain’s pick, Spieth has this year earned his way automatically onto the USA Ryder Cup squad where he will compete in Scotland after the US PGA tour playoffs end.

He helps bolster an impressive field with defending champion and world No.1 McIlroy, world No.2 Scott and current world No.7 Day already committed to play.

McIlroy famously denied Scott the Australian Triple Crown last year with a final hole birdie, kick starting his resurrection towards the top of the rankings.

“I’m extremely excited to be going to Australia as I’ve always wanted to go given my instructor comes from Melbourne, plus there’s a lot of Australian players on tour saying how great their country is,” Spieth said.

“So the fact it has worked out with my scheduling is awesome.

“I’ve heard Sydney is a great place, and never having been to Sydney before it’s going to be a great experience.

“I’ve also heard the golf course, The Australian, is incredible and top three in Sydney, and maybe in the whole of Australia, so I’m looking forward to getting down there.”

While Spieth is adamant he won’t be treating the trip as a holiday, and will be out to add his name to the famous trophy, he did admit he would like to enjoy some of the local sights.

“I know I want to get out on a boat on the harbour and also catch all the cliche places to visit,” he said.

“I want to see as much as I can and I am really looking forward to it.”

Morrison optimistic of TPV support

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is optimistic Senate crossbenchers will support reintroducing temporary protection visas for refugees.

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The visas were a key plank of the Abbott government’s asylum seeker boat crackdown but the upper house blocked their reinstatement last year.

The government has been negotiating with crossbenchers holding the balance of power following the Senate changeover in July.

Mr Morrison had talks with Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer and other crossbenchers a fortnight ago.

“I’m encouraged by their response,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

Mr Palmer wants children to be released from detention centres and greater safeguards for families.

In mid-August the government announced it would release 150 children, aged under 10, and their families, who had arrived by boat before July 19, from mainland detention centres.

But hundreds more will remain locked up on Nauru and Christmas Island.

“Labor and the Greens largely dealt themselves out of wanting to get children out of detention, by insisting on their political opposition to temporary protection visas,” Mr Morrison said.

The inability to hand out temporary visas to people who had arrived by boat after July 19 had left many stranded.

“The only thing the Senate is providing me at the moment … is permanent visas in Australia and that’s just not going to happen,” the immigration minister said.

Mr Morrison said 24,000 asylum seekers would have been processed already if the visas were available.

Under the Howard government the temporary visas gave refugees protection for up to three years but banned them from applying for permanent protection.

Last week, a group of Christmas Island asylum seekers pleaded to be released on the temporary visas rather than languish in detention with deteriorating mental health.

Aust women’s rugby world cup squad

The Wallaroos squad that will head to Paris for the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup in August has been announced with three regulars from the Australian women’s sevens team named.

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Sharni Williams, Shannon Parry and Cobie Jane Morgan make a return to the Wallaroos squad after a successful performance on the world sevens circuit.

The Wallaroos are aiming to improve on their third place in the 2010 world cup. Head coach Paul Verrell said the players’ preparation has been good with two strong hit-outs against New Zealand and Canada during the Tri Nations tournament in New Zealand earlier this month.

“Although we didn’t get the results we wanted, from a coaching perspective we now know exactly what we need to target and have adjusted our training programs accordingly,” Verrell said.

“Having three representatives from our hugely successful sevens set-up highlights how the ARU’s Wallaroos and sevens program are working in tandem for this world cup campaign.”

Also named in the squad was Wallaroos veteran five-eighth Tui Ormsby, who will represent Australia in her fourth women’s world cup, the first Australian woman to do so. Verrell is hoping Ormsby’s experience will help guide her 12 teammates who will be playing in their first world cup.

“Tui showed in New Zealand why she is considered such a strong leader in the team,” Verrell said.

“She is a great mentor for the younger players and her experience going into a tough world cup campaign will be invaluable for the entire squad.”

Australia have been drawn in Pool C alongside Wales, South Africa and host nation France.

Australian squad for IRB Women’s World Cup: Tricia Brown, Louise Burrows, Chloe Butler,

Cheyenne Campbell, Rebecca Clough, Dalena Dennison, Mollie Gray, Natasha Haines, Alisha Hewett, Ashley Hewson, Ashley Masters, Nita Maynard, Danielle Meskell, Michelle Milward, Cobie Jane Morgan, Tui Ormsby, Shannon Parry, Liz Patu, Madeline Putz, Brooke Saunders, Oneata Schwalger, Hanna Sio, Rebecca Smyth, Caroline Vakalahi, Margaret Watson, Sharni Williams

Nhulunbuy more than 24 hours without power

Residents of Nhulunbuy have been left without power for more than 24 hours.

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Rio Tinto subsidiary Pacific Aluminium generates the power for the region, but due to a problem with a boiler lost power shortly after 4pm CST on Sunday.

Labor Member for Nhulunbuy Lynne Walker said communications between the NT government, Rio Tinto and the community has been appalling.

Parents sent their children to school on Monday because they received no official advice, and Nhulunbuy High School had to send students back home, she said.

Rio Tinto has posted 10 updates on its community Facebook page since the outage informing the 4000-odd residents of the town of how power restoration is progressing.

It was expecting a progressive restoration between 4pm and 6pm CST, it said, beginning with the township area, including Ski Beach, Yirrkala and Birritjimi.

Rio Tinto’s alumina refinery operation will end next month and more than 1000 workers are expected to be affected.

“I understand that with the winding back of the Rio Tinto operation, critical expertise has been lost and they are clearly struggling to get the power back on,” Ms Walker said in a statement.

Operations at Gove airport had been disrupted, using a manual hand-written system to issue boarding passes to passengers on Sunday night and Monday morning.

“The local bakery was unable to bake last night and possibly again tonight and cafes and other businesses have had to close unless they have a generator,” Ms Walker said.

“I’m also concerned about the town’s water supply. Without power, water cannot be pumped from the bore and reserves in the tank on Mt Saunders must be closely monitored.”

She said residents and businesses would be calling for compensation for loss of refrigeration and freezers.

Minister for Essential Services Willem Westra van Holthe should offer the services of experts at PowerWater Corporation (PWC) to help get the generator back up and running, Ms Walker said.

But PWC is only the retail arm of Rio Tinto’s power generation and is not responsible for power generation.

The Minister’s office is directing all inquiries about the failure to Rio Tinto.

Too many ship types lift navy cost: Griggs

If a car hire firm had to buy cars the way the navy has to buy ships, it could go broke, Navy chief Vice Admiral Ray Griggs reckons.

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For an overall fleet of 52 vessels, the navy operates 14 different classes from 13 different ship designers with engines from 13 different makers.

Ship radars come from 11 different firms and there are 14 different control systems.

“If you ran a small hire car fleet with this sort of overhead you would be tearing your hair out, if you weren’t broke. Yet commonality too often takes a back seat to upfront acquisition costs,” he told the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Vice Admiral Griggs, who leaves the navy top job next month, says Australian naval shipbuilding is at a crossroads.

With the air warfare destroyer program running late and local shipbuilders performing below international standards, the government has warned it could look offshore for the navy’s next frigates.

The stop-start nature of shipbuilding projects means having to relearn lessons and paying the price in delays and cost increases.

Vice Admiral Griggs thinks they should either buy everything offshore or maintain a continuous build program to gain the full economic benefits.

The diversity of navy ships and systems adds to training requirements, cost, complexity of support and the size of the spares inventory.

Recently a ship had to sail without fully operational communications because the three contractors in Australia who could work on the system were not around.

Two were overseas on holidays and one had gone bush and was out of mobile range.

Greater fleet commonality would reduce the likelihood of this occurring.

“We need to get better at understanding the balance of benefits. Is it better to accept a higher acquisition cost in the interest of commonality,” he said.

NSW budget to return to surplus sooner

Just two months into the job, Treasurer Andrew Constance is set to announce NSW’s finances are heading toward surplus earlier than previously expected.

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It is understood Tuesday’s budget, which is the last to be delivered by the Baird government before next year’s March election, will predict a surplus by 2015/16.

That’s one year earlier than forecast by former treasurer and now premier Mike Baird six months ago.

Mr Constance is expected to deliver the good news in his first budget on Tuesday, which will mark the start of the Baird government’s pitch to voters before next year’s March election.

“We have a state economy that is going gangbusters, driven by our focus on housing and jobs,” he told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

Borrowing a phrase synonymous with US politics, Mr Constance said his “Super Tuesday” budget would focus on infrastructure, with more than $60 billion going toward roads, rail and hospitals over four years.

But Opposition Leader John Robertson dismissed the announcement, saying NSW governments had always spent about $60 billion on infrastructure each budget.

Meanwhile, the treasurer acknowledged the state’s finances had been affected by cuts in federal funding and said there would be “challenges” in health beyond the forward estimates.

It is understood an Abbott government decision to deliver a $703 million payment for the Pacific Highway upgrade this financial year is set to affect the 2014/15 bottom line, leaving it further in deficit.

Mr Robertson expects the budget to be “built on cuts”, despite “record revenue” from stamp duty and speed cameras.

“Mike Baird as treasurer has shown that when it comes to cutting, he can cut with the best of them with the deep cuts that we’ve seen for the last three years,” Mr Robertson said.

The treasurer is expected to spruik the government’s plan to raise $20 billion from the sale of NSW’s electricity assets in his budget speech.

Blog: Favelas hide Rio’s dangerous underbelly

Driving past Rocinha is awe inspiring, thousands upon thousands of homes, crammed side by side, rickety layers up to a dozen high.

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Rios largest favela stretches as far as the eye can see, and overlooks one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares. It’s also set on a spectacular backdrop. Huge mountainous rocks, with homes built on them until physically impossible.

In here live about 150,000 cariocas, or Rio Brazilians. One of them is Peanut.

The 56-year-old has called Rocinha home his whole life. He’s married, has eight kids and is a grandfather.

He jokes saying he was aiming for a football team of 11, but his wife told him the factory was closed!

He complied, saying “alright sister”.

Peanut is a character. Walking through Rocinha with him, we feel like instant celebrities. There’s no one here he doesn’t know. He tells the girls he loves them, asks the men whether they want to play football.

Then we bump into some youths painting their tight “laneway”. Peanut tells us there’s a competition based on the World Cup, and whoever designs the best artwork will win a prize. Apparently that prize is money.

But money is in short supply here. And so is sanitation. Rocinha has one of the highest levels of tuberculosis in Rio’s slums. An illness barely seen in the developed world. And the breathtaking views from the very top of the favela, where the pacification police are based, masks a dangerous underbelly.

On the surface, Rocinha seems like an urbanised favela. But you don’t have to look far to see the darker side.

The sounds of gunshots occasionally ring through the streets.The drug trade has been curbed somewhat by the presence of the UPP, but when we try to ask locals about it, they remain tight lipped.

People here are still living in fear – fear of a stray bullet, fear their children will end up a drug runner, fear they’ll fall ill because they lack clean water.

Peanut has seen pacification projects come and go here. He’s scared about what happens when the pacification police leave, retelling a story years ago when dozens were killed in a street fight.

This time, once all the tourists visiting for the World Cup and 2016 Olympics have gone, he hopes his country doesn’t suddenly forget about the place he calls home.