In today’s news: Naomi Osaka marks her return to clay with a victory, England are drawn against Northern Ireland in World Cup qualifying, and a sporting boycott of social media begins.
Naomi Osaka marks return to clay with victory
Osaka triumphed in her opening match at the Madrid Open, defeating fellow Japanese player Misaki Doi 7-5, 6-2. The four-time Grand Slam winner will now meet Karolína Muchová in the second round.
It was Osaka’s first appearance on clay since the 2019 French Open. She skipped Roland Garros and other clay contests last year due to a hamstring injury.
“I feel like I started playing better in the second set, so movement-wise I think it can only get better,” Osaka said after her opening match. “Hopefully as I put in more hours on the court, it will just keep improving.”
Elsewhere, third seed Simona Halep beat Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain 6-0, 7-5, and sixth seed Karolína Plíšková overcame rising star Coco Gauff 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
England drawn against Northern Ireland in World Cup qualifiers
England, Northern Ireland, Austria, North Macedonia, Latvia and Luxembourg have all been drawn into Group D of the European qualifying event for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Scotland are in Group B alongside Spain, Ukraine, Hungary, Faroe Islands, while Wales will face France, Slovenia, Greece, Kazakhstan and Estonia in Group I. Ireland have been placed in Group A with Sweden, Finland, Slovakia and Georgia.
A record 51 countries will take place in the European qualifying, with matches scheduled for between September 2021 and September 2022.
Australia and New Zealand are set to host the 2023 World Cup, which will feature 32 teams for the first time.
Birmingham City charged by FA for fielding Littlejohn
The Football Association have charged Birmingham City for playing midfielder Ruesha Littlejohn when she should have been suspended.
Littlejohn, who was supposed to be serving a one-game suspension, had been fielded for Birmingham’s tie against Reading last weekend. She had sat out her club’s FA Cup clash against Coventry United just days before.
Birmingham, who were under the impression missing the Coventry match meant Littlejohn’s ban had been served, described the incident as an “administrative error”.
The case is now expected to go to an FA tribunal. It could have a significant impact on the Women’s Super League relegation battle, which Birmingham is in the midst of. The team are currently three points off bottom-placed Aston Villa, but a points deduction punishment could prove fatal.
Sarah Hunter returns to captain Red Roses against France
Hunter has been gradually returning to rugby from over a year out with injury, making two appearances for England during the Women’s Six Nations this month.
The number eight has been named as captain for England’s game against France this evening, a rematch of the Six Nations grand finale last weekend. England won that clash 10-6.
Tonight's game starts at 8pm and is being played at Villeneuve d'Ascq in Lille.
Start of social media boycott
Football clubs, players, athletes and other sporting organisations have begun a four-day social media boycott to protest against abuse and discrimination on platforms. This includes all WSL and Women's Championship teams, organisations such as Women in Football, and players such as Manchester City’s Steph Houghton.
The boycott began at 3pm today and will run until 11:59pm on Monday.
Former England international turned pundit Rachel Brown-Finnis spoke to GiveMeSport Women about the importance of the boycott.
"I’m hoping that the blackout this weekend and the introduction of this policy for BT’s ‘Draw the Line’ is a line in the sand whereas from this day forwards, it [online abuse] is not tolerated," she said. "Not just not tolerated but made clear of how we action against it."News Now - Sport News