Pliskova breezes to title as Australian Open nears

Karolina Pliskova won all but five points in the first six games to set up a 6-0, 6-3 rout of Alize Cornet in the Brisbane International final Saturday in Australia, setting an ominous tone for the first Grand Slam.

The U.S. Open finalist will move to a career-high No. 5 ranking for the Australian Open, which begins Jan. 16, after winning her first Brisbane title and seventh on the WTA tour.

The first set lasted less than 20 minutes, with the third-seeded Pliskova not dropping a point on serve until the last game. Cornet, who was unseeded and ranked No. 41, didn’t get on the scoreboard until she held to open the second set.

Novak Djokovic successfully defended his Qatar Open championship by defeating the top-seeded Andy Murray 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in the final at Doha.


TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS: Justin Thomas drove the 14th green and made eagle to take control at Kapalua, Hawaii.

Thomas holed the 20-foot eagle putt and closed with a two-putt birdie from just short of the green on the par-5 18th for a third straight round of 6-under 67, giving him a two-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama of Japan. Matsuyama, who had eight birdies in his round of 66, has won four of his last five tournaments worldwide dating to Oct. 16.


FA CUP: Wayne Rooney stands one goal away from becoming Manchester United’s outright record goal-scorer after equaling club great Bobby Charlton’s mark of 249.

With the 79-year-old Charlton watching from the stands, Rooney guided in Juan Mata’s cross after seven minutes as the defending FA Cup champion swept aside second-tier Reading 4-0 in the third round.

SPANISH LEAGUE: Real Madrid tied Barcelona’s league record of 39 games unbeaten in all competitions by crushing Granada, 5-0. Real Madrid is six points ahead of second-place Barcelona, which plays fifth-place Villarreal on Sunday.


ROYALS: Veteran pitchers Al Alburquerque, Brandon League and Bobby Parnell were among 22 nonroster players invited to big league spring training next month.

Most of the invitees announced were in the organization last year, including young left-handers Jonathan Dziedzic, Eric Skoglund and Eric Stout, and right-handers Malcom Culver, Luke Farrell and A.J. Puckett.


WORLD CUP: Marie Dorin Habert won the women’s 10-kilometer pursuit at Oberhof, Germany, and Gabriela Koukalova seized the overall lead.

In windy and difficult conditions with snow falling, Dorin Habert missed just two targets, in prone and standing, and finished 38.8 seconds ahead of Koukalova, who started first after winning the sprint Friday.


GIANT SLALOM: Alexis Pinturault held off the hard-charging Marcel Hirscher to win Switzerland’s classic World Cup race at Adelboden.

Pinturault won a pulsating duel by just 0.04 seconds after the five-time defending overall champion Hirscher put pressure on by posting the fastest second run.

JUMPING: Sara Takanashi stretched her large lead in the women’s World Cup standings with her fourth victory in five events, winning at Oberstdorf, Germany.

– News service report

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