The Sports Matrix: Thursday 2 June 2011

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The Independent Online

Sharapova targets first Paris final

Maria Sharapova will attempt to reach her first final on the clay of Roland Garros when she faces LiNa in the semi-finals this afternoon. “I’ve improved on this surface,” she said. The Russian has not won a Grand Slam since the 2008 Australian Open. MORE

Liverpool home in on Henderson

Sunderland’s England international Jordan Henderson has emerged as a leading target for Liverpool this summer as they seek to strengthen their midfield. The 20-year-old has been identified as one of director of football Damien Comolli’s top targets.

Allardyce rages at ‘ugly’ reputation

The new West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has responded to fans’ concerns by denying that his teams play “ugly” football. “It’s always going to crop up,” he said. “If people cast their minds back, it’s a nonsense.” MORE

Murray and Nadal to meet in last four

Andy Murray will face Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals tomorrow after defeating Juan Ignacio Chela in straight sets yesterday. Nadal easily beat Robin Soderling in his quarter-final. Murray is bidding to become the first Briton in 74 years to reach the final. MORE

Tourists to face daunting assault

Sri Lanka can expect a savage onslaught from England’s tallest ever bowling attack in the second Test at Lord’s, which starts tomorrow. Steve Finn (6ft 7in) joins Chris Tremlett (6ft 8in) and Stuart Broad (6ft 6in) after James Anderson’s injury. MORE

Leading England role inspires Bent

Darren Bent, who is aiming to score his fourth goal in as many games for England in the Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland on Saturday, says he’s enjoying his new starring role. “I feel more confident than ever before in my career,” he said. MORE

Durham go top after beating Lancs

Durham climbed to the top of the County Championship yesterday after an innings and 125-run victory over Lancashire. It’s not all good news for Durham, though: the in-form Ben Stokes has been ruled out for six to eight weeks with a dislocated finger. MORE

Houllier and Villa part company

Aston Villa have confirmed the departure of Gérard Houllier as manager of the club, after nine months in charge at Villa Park. Fulham’s Mark Hughes and Wigan’s Roberto Martinez are the current favourites to replace the Frenchman. MORE

Wales give Henson World Cup lifeline

After two years in international exile, Gavin Henson will start for Wales against the Barbarians on Saturday, looking to secure a World Cup place. “It’s an opportunity for Gavin to do his talking on the pitch,” said the Wales coach, Warren Gatland. MORE

Opinion: James Lawton

The Football Association may feel it deserves credit for making the last stand against Sepp Blatter but it shouldn’t be too aggrieved if it is told: “Yes, it’s all very well, but where have you been for so long?” MORE

Blatter re-elected as world kicks FA appeal into touch

As sole candidate Sepp Blatter was re-elected as Fifa president for the next four years yesterday, the Football Association received some very public attacks from other Fifa delegates in Zurich, leaving it isolated on the international stage. Led by chairman David Bernstein, the FA had earlier proposed delaying the election, but that approach was rejected by most of the Fifa delegates, who voted 172 to 17 in favour of the election going ahead as planned. Then representatives from Haiti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cyprus and Fiji each launched stinging attacks on the FA. Blatter, who has been at the Fifa helm since 1998, was voted in for another term by an overwhelming majority, winning 186 votes of the 203 cast. MORE

Carrick forced out with hip injury

Michael Carrick has pulled out of the England squad to face Switzerland after picking up a knock in the Champions League final at Wembley. Meanwhile, his club team-mate Michael Owen has signed a new one-year deal with Manchester United.

Nicklaus heralds world No1 Donald

Luke Donald starts life as the world’s No 1 player at the Memorial today with a glowing reference from the invitational’s founder Jack Nicklaus. “There isn’t anyone who puts more time into his game than Luke,” he said. “I think that has been rewarded.” MORE