Ailing Serena pulls out of Dubai tournament

Updated 20 February 2013
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Ailing Serena pulls out of Dubai tournament

DUBAI: Serena Williams has pulled out of the $2,000,000 Dubai Open, partly to consolidate her remarkable return to world number one two days ago by focusing on her home tournament, in Miami, in the second half of next month.
“I am just not well — it’s my back,” Serena explained. “All athletes really get this.
“I really can’t move. It would be a horrible performance for you guys. It’s just really sad for all of us. I hope to continue here, but unfortunately it won’t be this year.”
Yesterday’s belated and unexpected withdrawal follows that of Victoria Azarenka two days ago, which ensured that Williams would hang on to the top spot at least until the end of the Miami event on March 31st.
Azarenka, who beat Serena to defend her Qatar Open title last Sunday, cited a bruised heel as her reason for pulling out.
Williams competed last week with back and ankle injuries and a bad cold, but said Tuesday that she felt “so much better already,” before revealing she would not be appearing.
The 15 times Grand Slam winner also made it clear that having regained the pinnacle after two-and-a-half years during which her life and career were threatened following a freak 2010 foot injury which resulted in a pulmonary embolism it is no longer her main goal.
“OK, I have done it, let’s focus on my next goals which are the Grand Slams. I really want to continue doing really well in those,” Williams said, admitting that she already had at least half an eye on the French Open in Paris, starting on May 26th.
These absences are a hammer blow to a popular tournament which had already been without the sport’s two highest earners, Maria Sharapova and Li Na (according to Forbes magazine), and is now without any of the sport’s marquee names.
It is also a blow to the WTA, which has worked hard to introduce incentives and regulations to reduce the number of withdrawals from its tournaments.
Meanwhile, it increases the chances of Agnieszka Radwanska making a successful defense of her title which began with the world No. 4 from Poland making a hard-fought 7-5, 6-3 win over Yulia Putintseva, a highly promising 18-year-old wild card entry who broke serve to lead 4-3 in the first set.
The other front runners appear to be Caroline Wozniacki, the former world No. 1 from Denmark, and Petra Kvitova, the former Wimbledon champion from the Czech Republic.
Wozniacki won the title here two years ago, and again seemed comfortable in cool conditions by trouncing Zheng Jie, the former Wimbledon semifinalist from China, 6-0, 6-1.
She now plays Marion Bartoli, the former Wimbledon finalist from France, who enjoyed her second piece of good luck with her walkover against Williams.
Bartoli was earlier given a wild card into the tournament after submitting her entry late.
Kvitova, who was in great form last week, coming close to beating Williams, now overcame Ana Ivanovic, the former French Open champion from Serbia, 7-5, 7-6 (7-1), and now plays Radwanska.
Earlier, fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber, the fourth-seeded German who has been struggling with a back injury, was beaten 7-5, 6-1 by Roberta Vinci, the top 20 Italian, who had already accounted for Svetlana Kuznetsova, the former US and French Open champion.


‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

Updated 20 June 2018
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‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

  • A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half gave Uruguay a 1-0 win
  • Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance

ROSTOV-ON-DON: Good, but not good enough.
That was what Juan Antonio Pizzi stated as he declared himself pleased with his team’s performance in the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday night.
But he lamented his side’s lack of firepower as they exited the World Cup after just two matches.
Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance in Rostov-on-Don after losing their opening game 5-0 to hosts Russia in Moscow last week.
The Argentine got his wish with a display that saw the Green Falcons fight throughout and edge possession against a Uruguay side ranked 14th in the world.
A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half after poor goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais, however, was enough to hand the Green Falcons a 12th successive World Cup defeat.
The result means that even with a win against Egypt on Monday, the Green Falcons are no longer capable of progressing to the knock-out stages from Group A.
“We had a lot of ball possession and were able to impose our style of play and distribution,” said Pizzi. “We conceded a goal from a random play and didn’t have the weapons or tools to try to equalize. We kept the ball well and weren’t really troubled defensively, but lacked that ability to score.”
Indeed, for all their possession, Saudi Arabia have managed just three shots on target in 180 minutes of football. Against Russia, they failed to muster a single effort on target and the managed just three against Uruguay, two of which came in the final minutes when they knew they had to score or face elimination. None of the three shots came from a striker.
“This is our weakness. We have good ball possession, but no effectiveness. We lack the depth and skill required to win these games,” Pizzi added. “We have that deficiency and have looked for solutions, but we haven’t quite come up with one yet. But that is one of the reasons great forward are in high demand and are the elite players in world football.”
Pizzi had made four changes ahead of the match, dropping goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf in favor of Al-Owais and introducing Ali Al-Bulayhi at the heart of the defense alongside Osama Hawsawi. Further upfield, Hattan Bahberi came in for Yahya Al-Shehri and Fahad Al-Muwallad replaced Mohammed Al-Sahlawi. The changes, particularly the inclusion of Bahberi, seemed to give the side more impetus in midfield.
“The difference between the performance in the first game and this game is enormous,” Pizzi said. “The only way to compete at this level is to play at the level we did here. And even then it was not enough even to get a draw. Undoubtedly there were other factors aside from the pressure of playing in the opening game that made a difference, but it’s true that the difference was enormous.”
Many critics had predicted a deluge of goals from the likes of Suarez and Cavani, yet both were kept at bay. Save for a couple of half-chances early on, neither came close to scoring until the 23rd minute.
A corner from Carlos Sanchez sailed into the area and when Al-Owais came for it but failed to connect with his punch, Barcelona forward Suaréz was left with the simplest of tap-ins. He was so caught off-guard, he actually looked surprised as he reeled away in celebration.
“I believe you cannot be relaxed in any match,” Suarez said when asked by a Uruguayan journalist whether he had taken it easy against the Saudis.
“We wanted to win and to progress to the knock-out stage and this game simply showed how difficult it is. That’s the World Cup for you though and we are obviously delighted with how we have performed so far to progress.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez did not share his striker’s sentiments.
“Saudi Arabia wanted to excel and give a better account of themselves after losing to Russia,” he said.
“They did that very well and we have to respect them. But what surprised me the most is how we played. We underperformed.”