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Simona Halep receives Madrid Open wildcard after doping ban

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Former Wimbledon champion Simona Halep has been given a wildcard at this month’s Madrid Open as she continues her comeback from a doping ban.

Halep, 32, returned to the WTA Tour last month after her four-year ban was reduced to nine months on appeal.

The Romanian was free to return immediately and was given a wildcard for the Miami Open, where she lost to Spain’s Paula Badosa in round one.

Madrid will be the two-time Grand Slam champion’s second tournament back.

“Muchas gracias for this wildcard opportunity,” Halep posted on X.

“Madrid has always been a special tournament for me, with happy memories and I’m grateful to be able to make more.”

The Madrid Open starts on 22 April and concludes on 5 May.

Former French Open champion Halep is a two-time winner of the clay-court event, which is part of the WTA 1,000 series and one of the leading tournaments outside the four Grand Slams.

It is one of the key pillars of the European clay-court season, which culminates at the French Open in June.

Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, who returned in August after having two children, has also received a wildcard, along with Japan’s injury-hit Kei Nishikori and Spanish teenager Martin Landaluce in the men’s singles.

Meanwhile, the ATP has announced the Madrid Open will launch the trial of a new men’s doubles format which the governing body says aims to “increase the exposure and marketing appeal”.

The major change will see 16 spots in the 32-team draw being given to pairs made up of singles players.

There will also be a streamlined five-day schedule for the event, while time between shots and changeovers will be reduced in an attempt to speed up matches.



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Deontay Wilder: Ex-WBC world champion confident of Anthony Joshua fight

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Former WBC world champion Deontay Wilder tells BBC Sport he is “90%” sure a fight with Anthony Joshua will happen in the future, as he prepares to face Zhilei Zhang on 1 June.

READ MORE: Wilder says Joshua fight will be revived with big win over Zhang



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Taulupe Faletau: Wales number eight set for Cardiff return

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Taulupe Faletau back in training with Cardiff
Taulupe Faletau has played 14 games for Cardiff after joining from Bath in 2022

Cardiff and Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau is set to return to action after a six-month injury lay-off.

Faletau, 33, suffered a broken arm in Wales’ World Cup victory against Georgia in Nantes in October 2023 before missing this year’s Six Nations with a calf injury.

The British and Irish Lions Test star has since returned to Cardiff training.

Faletau is available for the United Rugby Championship (URC) trip to face Ulster on Friday night.

Faletau, who has played 104 times for Wales, returns to action with the summer tour to Australia on the horizon.

Head coach Warren Gatland has lost senior figures in Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, George North, Dan Biggar, Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb to international retirement in the last 12 months.

In Faletau’s absence, Cardiff back-row duo Alex Mann and Mackenzie Martin have been capped by Wales, while Aaron Wainwright has filled the national number eight role.



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Ross Molony: Leinster locks signs for Bath Rugby on three-year contract from 2024-25

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Ross Molony
Ross Molony has won four league titles and the European Champions Cup with Leinster

Bath have announced the signing of Leinster lock Ross Molony on a three-year contract.

The 29-year-old will join up with the Somerset club ahead of the 2024-25 season.

Molony has made 177 appearances for Leinster and has won four league titles and the European Champions Cup with the Dublin club.

Leinster are currently five points clear at the top of the United Rugby Championship table.

They face Premiership leaders Northampton Saints on Saturday, May 4, for a place in a third Champions Cup final in a row.

“Ross is a true professional and his journey in rugby is a testament to this,” director of rugby Johann van Graan told the club’s website.external-link

“His work ethic and leadership are some of his key characteristics and I believe he will play a huge part in our journey in the next number of years.”

Bath are currently second in the Premiership, five points behind Northampton.



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