France’s Simon shines in the Brisbane sun

Updated 02 January 2013
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France’s Simon shines in the Brisbane sun

BRISBANE: France’s Gilles Simon began his fine-tuning for the Australian Open with a hard-fought win over Colombia’s Alejandro Falla in the second round of the Brisbane International yesterday.
In temperatures as high as 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) on one of the Queensland Tennis Center’s outside courts, Simon edged out Falla in two tiebreak sets 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/5).
The third-seeded Simon, a semifinalist in Brisbane last year, was unconcerned about being relegated to one of the minor show courts, albeit one with a roof.
“It was very hot, even with the roof, and it was very difficult playing today,” Simon said. “But that’s good, that’s why I came here. It’s such good preparation for Melbourne.”
Simon had a disappointing Australian Open campaign in 2012, suffering from an injury in the lead-up then falling in the second round to countryman Julien Benneteau.
“I couldn’t play for five days beforehand, then in the first round I went to five sets (against Thailand’s Danai Udomchoke), it just took too much out of me,” he said.
“This year I want to do my best to get my body ready for the Open. In the off season I didn’t work on my game at all because I know that’s in good shape.
“I just wanted to tune up physically.” Falla, the world number 54, took the game right up to the Frenchman, with Simon just edging two fiercely contested tiebreaks.
“Alejandro plays a nice game and he is very difficult to play against,” Simon said.
The Frenchman now plays crowd favorite Marcos Baghdatis, who upset sixth-seeded German Florian Mayer 6-4, 6-2.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the fifth seed, joined Simon and Baghdatis in the quarterfinals with an impressive 6-3, 6-3 win over Spaniard Tommy Robredo.
Fourth seed Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine progressed when Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen retired with a migraine with Dolgopolov ahead 6-2, 4-1.
Top seed Andy Murray and second-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic both play their second-round matches today after being given first-round byes.
In the women’s section, ever-dissatisfied world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka began her build-up to the Australian Open with an imposing 6-3, 6-3 victory over big-serving Sabine Lisicki yesterday.
The defending Australian Open champion made light work of the German to set up a quarterfinal clash against qualifier Ksenia Pervak.
“I’m such a picky person that I probably never will be satisfied,” Azarenka told reporters.
“That’s a good thing because I have a lot more matches to play and I can always improve. But it was pretty good. I felt like the things that I’ve been working on are there. I’m getting into the competitive groove and I’m happy where I’m at right now.” Azarenka faces a challenge to her top ranking from world No. 2 Maria Sharapova and No. 3 Serena Williams when the Australian Open begins at Melbourne Park on Jan. 14.
“I actually don’t really look at defending anything — I’m just looking to win,” she said.
“I’m going to have the same mindset for as long as I’m playing. That’s what I’m looking forward to — improving my game as I always do and match those big challenges, the big players.
“At the beginning of the year, you’re obviously hungry to play. The atmosphere here in Australia brings out the best in me. The motivation is always extraordinary. I really like it here.” Williams will follow Azarenka on to Pat Rafter Arena today when she plays fellow countrywoman Sloane Stephens.
The powerful and athletic 19-year-old is regarded as the successor to Serena and Venus Williams as the face of American tennis.
“She’s so sweet,” Stephens said of Serena Williams.
“I love her. Obviously she’s been a really great influence on my tennis career. I’m excited to play her and get on the court with her tomorrow. I think it’ll be fun.” Men’s top seeds Andy Murray and Milos Raonic start their campaigns on Thursday against Australia’s John Millman and Bulgarian Grigor Dmitrov respectively.


‘We want to make Saudi Arabia proud’: Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

Updated 22 June 2018
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‘We want to make Saudi Arabia proud’: Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

  • Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday
  • Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious

ROSTOV-ON-DON: “Keeping possession of the ball seems to be the absolute and most important thing, but then when you sometimes find issues in getting the ball into your opponent’s half, you have to find other movements and ways of doing that,” said Oscar Tabarez after watching his lackluster Uruguay rely on a solitary Luis Suarez goal to eliminate Saudi Arabia from the World Cup. 
Tabarez was talking about his own team’s struggles, yet the assessment is considerably more applicable to the Green Falcons, who dominated possession and retained the ball with ease in midfield, yet for the second match running looked absolutely bereft of ideas in the final third. With Uruguay and Russia now on six points, Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday.
The Green Falcons coach Juan Antonio Pizzi confirmed he intends to stay at the helm of the side for the long-haul, yet is only too aware that the potential of this team is being hamstrung by its inability to score. He called it “our weakness”, adding that his side enjoyed “good ball possession, but no effectiveness”. They, he said, did not have the sufficient “weapons or tools” to equalize.
Pizzi’s side have found the net now just twice in their past five games and against Uruguay managed only three shots on target in 90 minutes — two of which came in added time and were so tame they would hardly have troubled the opposition goalkeeper Fernando Muslera had he been relaxing at his far post sipping a drink. In the 5-0 defeat to Russia last week, they failed to muster a single shot on target. 
Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious. One passage of play in the opening exchanges saw Saudi Arabia complete 16 passes untroubled without the ball entering the opposition penalty box. When Uruguay finally won possession, they required only four quick exchanges to find Edinson Cavani on the left wing drilling the ball across the front of goal. 
“I don’t share that assessment,” said Pizzi, when it was put to him that his team was too slow to attack. “We played at the speed that was necessary. We need to be accurate, but if you step up the speed you lose accuracy with your passes. We had control of the game and that was why.”
Striker Mohammed Al-Sahlawi had been the focal point of much criticism from Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of Saudi’s General Sports Authority, after the Russia “fiasco” and was dropped from the side against Uruguay. So too was goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, another who Al-Sheikh name-checked as having been at fault.
Pizzi, asked whether the scathing assessment from his bosses had forced his hand when it came to team selection, calmly dismissed the suggestion. He also ruled out the notion that administrative issues between the players and the country’s football federation had caused unrest in his squad.
“I have a list of 23 players here and they are all available to play. We are here together and pushing in the same direction. 
“I wanted — and still want — to make the Saudi Arabian people feel proud of our energy and the desire we show in matches. Unfortunately we were unable to do that against Russia and will be playing our next match without any hope of progressing. I hope now they will feel a little more proud even though we are out of the World Cup,” he said.