Air strikes and ground fighting in Yemen

Saudi-led warplanes have launched a fresh wave of air strikes across Yemen on Saturday, targeting Iran-backed rebels as fighting raged on the ground in the south of the country, witnesses said.

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The air raids pounded arms depots under the control of the Shi’ite Huthi rebels in the locality of Ghula, in Omran province north of Sanaa, residents said.

This followed similar bombardments of weapons storage facilities in the capital that sparked deadly explosions, and strikes on the Dhabwa military base, which is currently under rebel control.

In the western province of Hodeida, a military airport was twice bombed by coalition warplanes, according to residents.

The Arab coalition has stepped up raids on positions held by the Huthis and their allies since a humanitarian ceasefire ended late on Tuesday.

At Hajja in the north of the country, a gathering of Huthis was struck, killing at least 12 of the Shi’ite fighters, witnesses reported.

Air strikes also attacked rebel positions in Dhamar, officials there said, while tank and mortar fire sounded across some sectors of the central region where heavy fighting took place, according to tribal sources.

In southern Yemen warplanes targeted rebels locked in combat with tribesmen in Ataq, the capital of Shabwa province, military officials said.

The fighting killed at least 28 people, including 17 Huthis and 11 tribesmen, the sources said.

In Aden, clashes raged in the north, east and west of the port city between rebels and fighters loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, military sources said.

The Saudi-led coalition launched the air campaign against the Huthis on March 26, after the rebels seized the capital and advanced on Hadi’s stronghold of Aden, forcing him to flee to Riyadh.

The United Nations, which plans to hold a conference on Yemen in Geneva next week, says the violence has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced close to half a million more.


Kyrgios confident of French Open run

Call him cocky, he doesn’t mind, but Nick Kyrgios is confident of doing “special things” at the French Open in his maiden outing as a grand slam seed.

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The first player since Roger Federer to reach two men’s grand slam quarter-finals as a teenager, Kyrgios turned 20 last month but makes no apologies for retaining his youthful brashness and bravado.

“It’s not annoying at all,” Kyrgios said when asked by a French reporter if he was bothered by being dubbed “arrogant”.

“I think the greatest people in every sport have an unbelievable amount of self confidence and I think that’s one thing that makes me a good tennis player; I have a lot of belief in myself.

“You don’t see many 19 or 20-year-olds beating some of the greatest of all-time.”

The tennis world has seen Kyrgios do it twice in the past 10 months.

The Australian’s fourth-round victory over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last year brought him instant stardom, while his stunning win over Federer in Madrid this month secured his French Open seeding.

“So it definitely helps me on the court,” Kyrgios said of his volatile temperament.

“I’m still learning how to deal with my emotions on the court. I show a lot of anger at times, but I’m still learning and I think it’s a good thing.

“I’m not fussed about what others think at all.”

Kyrgios only answers to himself and he is once again asking for a lot in Paris.

“I’ve got pretty high expectations of myself,” the 30th seed said ahead of his first-round clash on Monday with Denis Istomin.

“Obviously I’ve had some pretty good results the last couple of weeks and I feel confident.

“I have belief in my body. I feel I have the metres in my legs. I’ve played a lot of five-set matches now, so I feel confident in the grand slams.

“I know it’s an emotional two weeks so you’ve got to try to keep those emotions in check for the first couple of matches if you happen to get through.”

Kyrgios retired midway through his second-round match at the Nice Open last week with elbow soreness, but insists it won’t be an issue at Roland Garros.

Still growing into his 193cm frame, Kyrgios is accustomed to playing injured.

He played just one ATP match in four months before powering into the Australian Open quarter-finals despite a stress fracture in his back.

“At the Australian Open, my back was really bad. I had to take a couple of months off afterwards,” he said.

“But I’m feeling way better than I felt then, so that in itself gives me confidence.

“If I can make the quarter-finals of the Australian Open with a bad back, I can do some special things healthy.”

Kyrgios’s optimism is in contrast to Bernard Tomic’s uncertainness entering his first-round match on Monday with lowly-ranked qualifier Luca Vanni.

The Australian No.1 also pulled the pin in Nice and said on Saturday he was still suffering from a virus that had him laying low for five days.

Tomic said he was “probably 80, 90 per cent” but hoped to improve before taking on the qualifier who edged him in a third-set tiebreaker two weeks ago in Madrid.

“His serve’s really good,” Tomic said.

“I played him at 900 metres altitude so I don’t know how he’s going to serve here, but he’s qualified so it’s not an easy match.”

If Tomic wins and Thanasi Kokkinakis beats Georgian qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili on his Roland Garros debut on Monday, the Davis Cup teammates will clash in a second-round blockbuster on Wednesday.

AUSTRALIANS IN ACTION AT THE FRENCH OPEN ON MONDAY (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING):

Women’s singles, first round

26-Samantha Stosur v Madison Brengle (USA)

Casey Dellacqua v Ajla Tomljanovic

Daria Gavrilova v Johanna Larsson (SWE)

Jarmila Gajdosova v Amandine Hesse (FRA)

Men’s singles, first round

27-Bernard Tomic v Luca Vanni (ITA)

30-Nick Kyrgios v Denis Istomin (UZB)

Sam Groth v 21-Pablo Cuevas (URU)

Thanasi Kokkinakis v Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO)

Marinko Matosevic v Thomaz Bellucci (BRA)


Porte may abandon Giro

Australian cycling star Richie Porte may cut his losses and look to the Tour de France after three disastrous days at the Giro d’Italia.

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The Tasmanian said he was feeling the effects of the previous day’s crash when he struggled through the stage-14 individual time trial on Saturday night (AEST).

It dashed whatever faint hopes he had left of a big overall finish in this year’s race.

Porte admitted he could abandon the Giro so he can focus on July’s Tour, where he is scheduled to support Sky leader and his good friend Chris Froome.

“In some ways it might make sense and get out of here and look forward to the Tour,” Porte said.

“It’s massively disappointing … I don’t think I did anything wrong, I’ve just been unlucky.”

The Tasmanian is now nearly nine minutes off the pace in the overall standings, a devastating blow given he entered the three-week Giro hoping to contend for a podium finish at least.

Porte went into the Giro as Team Sky’s designated team leader, the first time he had the role for a three-week Grand Tour.

Saturday was the third stage since last Tuesday where Porte has lost a big chunk of time.

It is a dramatic reversal of fortune after Porte had started this year with the best form of his career.

The Tasmanian could only manage 55th for the 59.2km time trial, a whopping four minutes 20 seconds down on Sky teammate and stage winner Vasil Kiryienka from Belarus.

Spaniard Alberto Contador finished third to regain the race lead, while Porte is now 17th overall at 8:52.

With less than 10km left in stage 10 last week, Porte was in an ideal position at third overall, just 22 seconds behind Contador.

But he punctured, costing him more than 40 seconds, and controversially was also penalised two minutes for accepting a wheel from Orica-GreenEDGE rider Simon Clarke.

He plummeted to 12th overall, more than three minutes off the pace.

The stage-14 time trial was a key moment for Porte and the hope was he could produce a storming ride that would propel him back into the top 10.

But he lost more time in a crash near the end of stage 13 and also hurt his knee and hip.

“I know where my form’s at – I’m in a little bit of pain and I couldn’t really push on the flat,” he said after the time trial.

“I didn’t really have it.

“It’s bittersweet with Kiryienkya doing so well there.

“In ‘recon’, it was a time trial that I liked, it suited me.

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen now – I’m in a fair amount of pain.”

Porte added that, in theory, he could try to chase a stage win through the mountains in the last week of the Giro.

He said he would talk to team officials before making the call.

“The way my knee and hip felt today I’m just not sure,” he said.

“I think it may be making up numbers to be honest.”


Budget set to again face Senate hurdles

Joe Hockey’s second budget may have won an initial round of applause from voters but that does not mean it will get an easy passage through parliament.

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A clutch of crossbench senators will likely hold sway on whether key items such as the treasurer’s childcare package and pension reform will get across the line.

Heading into a sitting fortnight for the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is urging the Labor Party to “work with us” in backing the $20,000 instant asset write-off for small business when budget bills start to be debated.

“We all know that the Labor government got us into a mess,” he told reporters in Brisbane on Sunday. “This is a chance for the Labor Party to be part of the solution rather than the problem.”

But Opposition Leader Bill Shorten still believes it is a “sneaky” budget that repackages last year’s poorly received effort for opinion polls.

Senators will be going through the budget with a fine toothcomb during two weeks of grilling government departments in Senate estimates.

Two key crossbench senators are not happy the government is sticking with last year’s cuts to family tax benefits to help pay for its new childcare package.

South Australian independent Nick Xenophon believes that while there is a lot of merit in the package, cutting benefits once a child turns six is “not a good way to negotiate”.

Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie describes it as holding the parliament to “ransom again”.

But she does support ending “double dipping” in the commonwealth’s paid parental leave scheme, even though she is yet to be convinced about the latest changes to the pension and is due to meet with Social Services Minister Scott Morrison on Monday.

“I want to see it all in black and white … I’m still sitting in the middle on that,” she told Sky News.

Greens deputy leader Scott Ludlam says he is “cautiously supportive” of some of the pension measures but he is arguing for a broader retirement income review.

“The elephant in the room is superannuation and its tax treatment,” he told Sky News.

Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm has broader concerns, like bringing the budget back to balance.

“There just seems to be this denial that we can spend more than we bring in,” he told Sky News.


Fever bounce back to win netball thriller

The West Coast Fever held off a fast finishing Adelaide Thunderbirds to score a much needed trans-Tasman netball league win in Adelaide on Sunday.

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After leading by as many as 10 goals at one stage through the third quarter, the Fever squandered the lead with just minutes remaining before regaining composure to win 63-61.

The result snapped a two game losing streak for the Perth-based side, which resulted in them surrendering top spot in the Australian conference.

It was also the first time in competition history West Coast have beaten the Thunderbirds twice in a season.

Coach Stacey Rosman said it was an important result just a week out from the finals.

“We knew the Thunderbirds were going to fight till the very end,” she said.

“They have shown all year they contest hard and they have got great athleticism and can contest four quarters and keep coming at you.

“I thought we did well to settle, particularly with such a parochial home crowd.”

Goal shooter Caitlin Bassett was impressive as always for the Fever landing 52 goals from 56 attempts while Carla Borrego slotted 44 for the Thunderbirds.

Adelaide coach Jane Woodlands-Thompson said her side showed guts to peg back the deficit.

“We gave it all we had and we certainly left nothing out there, it was just a few judgment errors in the first quarter,” she said.

“You can not afford to make those mistakes against a team like Fever with Bassett at the other end.

“I think we take a lot of heart from that, we set ourselves up in a winning position.”

Both sides end the regular season at home with the Fever hosting the New South Wales Swifts and the Thunderbirds host Central Pulse.