Kyrgios beats Zverev to reach China final

Nick Kyrgios has kept alive his hopes of qualifying for the ATP finals by beating Alexander Zverev to reach the final of the China Open in Beijing.

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The in-form Canberran prevailed 6-3 7-5 to set up a clash with world No.1 Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s decider.

Kyrgios has won nine of his last 11 matches and dropped just one set en route to the final where he’ll look to repeat his quarter-final victory over Nadal in Cincinnati Open in August.

The 22-year-old’s victory moved him to 15th spot in the ATP Race To London with the top 10 players qualifying for the prestigious end of season event in November.

However, with Stan Wawrinka, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, who are all ranked above Kyrgios, ruled out due to injury, he can put himself in genuine contention for a maiden appearance in the London showpiece with a third career win over the Spanish great.

Zverev sealed his spot in London on Friday, but was on the back foot throughout as the world No.19 dominated the first set.

He then hurled down seven aces in the second to chalk up a third victory in four previous encounters with the 20-year-old German.

Nadal beat Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 4-6 6-1 in his semi-final to reach his ninth final of the year.

The 16-time grand slam winner won 13 consecutive points on his own serve and broke Dimitrov to seal the first set in 35 minutes.

Nadal led the second 3-1 but Dimitrov fought back to level at 4-4 before clinching the set.

Bulgarian Dimitrov’s eye-catching shots were not enough to overcome the 31-year-old, however, and Nadal broke serve three times in the deciding set.

Red Bull duo hoping for a quick start in Japan

Australian Ricciardo was fourth fastest ahead of 20-year-old Verstappen but the duo will start third and fourth due to the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas dropping five places for an unscheduled gearbox change.

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Championship leader Lewis Hamilton was on pole for Mercedes with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, 34 points behind the Briton with five races remaining, second on the grid.

“I think the start will dictate a lot,” Ricciardo told reporters.

“It’s pretty tricky to overtake here and I’ve set my car up a little bit more for the race. I took some downforce off overnight so on the straights it will either give me a better chance to attack or defend.”

Verstappen, the winner in Malaysia last weekend who was also about a second off Hamilton’s pace at Suzuka, said Red Bull were just not as strong this time.

“I think more corners are flat-out this year and a lot faster so it becomes more of a straight, so it’s a bit more painful for us,” said the 20-year-old Dutch driver.

“And also it’s not as warm as Malaysia so it just seems that we don’t have that advantage like we had (there).”

Both drivers had sounded a very different tone last weekend, and also in Singapore where they showed pace capable of matching the two teams ahead of them.

The talk heading into the Japanese Grand Prix was of a three-way fight for race wins, with Red Bull potentially acting as kingmakers in the Hamilton versus Vettel title fight.

The team’s motorsport consultant Helmut Marko even said the outfit now had the best chassis on the grid.

“We definitely felt like ours worked better in Malaysia” said Ricciardo, who scored the team’s first win this year in Azerbaijan in June.

“But they (Mercedes) have obviously found the step they needed to here.”

(Editing by Alan Baldwin)

India continues Aussie pain in soggy T20

Even a change of format hasn’t been able to stop Australia’s batting collapses, with India easily chasing down a reduced target in the rain-curtailed first T20 international.

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The visitors lost 7-69 in Ranchi as they limped to 8-118 before weather ended their innings with eight balls remaining.

After a delay of almost two hours, India were given six overs to chase 48 which they hunted down with three balls to spare.

Rohit Sharma made 11 off seven balls before Nathan Coulter-Nile found a way through his defences to claim the only wicket of the innings.

Indian skipper Virat Kohli (22 off 14) and opener Shikhar Dhawan (15 off 12) did the rest, cruising to 1-49 after smashing three boundaries each.

Australia will have to win Tuesday’s match in Guwahati to avoid another series loss, after a deflating 4-1 drubbing in the one-day internationals.

Aaron Finch picked up where he left off in the ODIs, top scoring with 42 from 30 balls.

“I thought after we got off to a pretty good start with the bat, obviously losing our way through the middle order again,” Finch said.

“But it was a very challenging wicket to start on in particular against the spin.

“The guys were formulating a plan quite nicely, we just seemed to keep losing wickets at the wrong time.”

He smashed five boundaries including a six before a crafty piece of bowling from left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav turned him inside out and clattered into the stumps.

Yadav (2-16 off four overs) had his second victim when Moises Henriques (eight) advanced down the wicket to a leg break which kept low, clean bowling him.

Stand-in skipper David Warner made eight, while the injured Steve Smith ran the drinks and will return to Australia on Sunday.

Glenn Maxwell couldn’t play himself into form, struggling for his 17.

Maxwell pulled a long hop straight to mid-wicket off Yuzvendra Chahal who has claimed his wicket in all four of the Victorian’s innings on the tour.

Australia’s middle order again failed when they were needed, mimicking their efforts in the ODIs.

Travis Head (nine), Tim Paine (17) and Nathan Coulter-Nile (one) completed the sextet of Australians who were bowled.

“Especially after winning the toss and bowling first, that effort was required,” Kohli said.

“We don’t really understand the Duckword Lewis method. After getting them down to 118, we thought it would only be 40 or something. 48 was tricky,

Nate threatens US Gulf energy sites

Hurricane Nate is heading towards refineries, offshore oil platforms and other energy facilities in the central US Gulf Coast that largely were spared by Hurricane Harvey’s wrath nearly six weeks ago.

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The fast-moving storm has curtailed 92 per cent of daily oil production and 77 per cent of daily natural gas output in the US Gulf of Mexico, more than three times the amount affected by Harvey, which packed more of a punch when it hit the Texas coast.

Nate could become a Category 2 storm, the second weakest on a five-category scale used by meteorologists, with winds of up to 177km/h before landfall later on Saturday, the National Hurricane Centrr said.

Its track takes it closer to offshore production unlike Harvey, whose impact was greatest on refining centres.

Output shut in by Nate on Saturday amounted to 1.61 million barrels of oil per day and 2.48 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, according to the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

The Gulf of Mexico is home to about 17 per cent of daily US crude output and five per cent of daily natural gas output, according to US government estimates. Workers had been evacuated from 301 platforms and 13 rigs as of Saturday, the BSEE said.

Colby Goatley, a meteorologist at Weather Decision Technologies Inc, said his firm is helping about 10 drilling rig operators chart a course away from Nate, which is producing up to 9.1-metre waves near its centre, he said.

Nate is converging on refineries that remained in operation during Harvey, with Phillips 66’s Alliance plant, Valero Energy Corp’s Meraux facility, and PBF Energy’s Chalmette refinery closest to its current track. Chevron Corp’s Pascagoula, Miss., plant also is within the impact zone.

Harvey, which brought intense rains that flooded the Texas Gulf Coast, shut nearly a quarter of US refining capacity and a similar amount of Gulf of Mexico oil production. At least one of the Harvey-affected refineries is still working to resume full production.

US ports close ahead of Hurricane Nate

Major shipping ports across the central US Gulf Coast are closed to inbound and outbound traffic as Hurricane Nate intensifies and storm surges of up to 3.

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74 metres are expected.

The US Coast Guard on Saturday ordered port condition Zulu, a halt to all traffic, beginning at 8am local time for New Orleans; Gulfport and Pascagoula, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and Pensacola and Panama City, Florida.

New Orleans, which sits near the mouth of the Mississippi River, is an important transit point for energy, metals and agricultural commodities moving to overseas and domestic markets.

Nate is expected to strike the US coast on Saturday night as a Category 2 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, the National Hurricane Centre said on Saturday. At that intensity, it would have destructive winds of 154 to 177 km per hour.

Restrictions on New Orleans inbound and outbound traffic span the lower Mississippi River from the Huey P Long Bridge above Head of Passes to the Southwest Pass entrance at mile marker 20 below the head of passes, the Coast Guard said.

Gary LaGrange, executive director of trade group Ports Association of Louisiana, said he expected traffic restrictions to be lifted quickly once the fast-moving storm passes overnight.

“It’ll be short-lived based on the projected path and movement of the storm unless an unlikely event happens – such as two vessels colliding,” he said.

Vessels were still moving to secure berths at the ports on Saturday morning, he said.

The storm already has caused oil companies to evacuate workers at 66 production platforms and five rigs in the US Gulf of Mexico, according to the US government. As of Friday, operators had shut output equal to 1.24 million barrels per day of oil and 1.7 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas production in the US Gulf of Mexico due the storm, it said.

Phillips 66 also halted operations at its Alliance, Louisiana, oil refinery on Saturday. The refinery is south of New Orleans along the banks of the Mississippi River.