Nadal keeping expectations low ahead of comeback

Updated 31 January 2013
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Nadal keeping expectations low ahead of comeback

MAJORCA, Spain: Spaniard Rafa Nadal is keeping his expectations low ahead of his long-awaited return to competitive action in early February after seven months out of tennis with a knee injury.
The 26-year-old French Open champion has not played since losing to Czech Lukas Rosol in the second round at Wimbledon in June due to a partial tear of the patella tendon and inflammation in his left knee.
His planned return at the end of last year was delayed due to illness and he is scheduled to play on his favored clay at three events next month, starting in Vina del Mar, Chile, on Feb. 4 and taking in the Brazil Open in Sao Paulo from Feb. 11 and the Mexico Open in Acapulco from Feb. 25.
“Well I am going to play (after) a long time in a tennis tournament, professional tennis tournament, after seven months,” Nadal told reporters after training on his home island of Majorca yesterday.
“The motivation, the illusion is big, so very happy to be back in the competition but just you know, with patience to know how the knee will answer after a long time without the top level,” he added.
“The most important thing for me is the knee...that I can support the pain of the knee and then if I am able to play these three tournaments in a row I think it will work very well for me because I will have three important weeks to prepare for the rest of the season.
“I know that the first three tournaments are going to be difficult in terms of results but I am going to try everything. I will need a few weeks to see how things improve.”
Nadal’s absence deprived tennis of one of the “big four” who have dominated the sport in recent years.
During his spell on the sidelines, Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic won the 2012 World Tour finals and the Australian Open, No. 2 Roger Federer of Switzerland won Wimbledon and third-ranked Briton Andy Murray the US Open and Olympic gold.
In the latest ATP rankings published on Monday, Nadal, who won a record seventh Roland Garros crown in May, slipped below compatriot David Ferrer to No. 5.
Rain stops play
at Pattaya Open
In Pattaya, Thailand, rain washed out play yesterday at the Pattaya Open with defending champion Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia yet to play her first round match.
Organizers have rescheduled the remaining three singles matches of the first round and all the eight second round matches for Thursday.

Top-seeded Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, whose first round match against Ayumi Morita of Japan was suspended due to rain on Tuesday, will resume leading 6-3, 5-7, 2-1. Seventh-seeded Elena Vesnina of Russia will resume against Greek veteran Eleni Daniilidou 6-3, 1-0.
Two-time champion Hantuchova will take on Olga Puchkova of Russia to complete the first round.


Saudi Arabia step up their World Cup preparations by flying to Switzerland for training camp

Updated 51 min 4 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia step up their World Cup preparations by flying to Switzerland for training camp

  • Squad of 28 to be based in Zurich
  • Friendlies on the horizon against Italy and Peru

Juan Antonio Pizzi has taken a 28-man squad to Zurich for the final stage of the Green Falcons’ World Cup preparations.
The party flew out of Jeddah late last night and landed in Switzerland early this morning. There they will be joined by Fahad Al-Muwallad and Salem Al-Dawsari who will fly in from Spain after playing for Levante and Villarreal on Saturday night.
The three-week training camp in the Swiss resort town of Bad Ragaz gives Pizzi the chance to get stuck into some intense tactical and physical work with his players and decide which five players to leave out of his squad. He must whittle down his list down to 23 by June 4, which gives the players get two final chances to stake their claim for a seat on the plane in friendlies against Italy on May 28 and Peru on June 3. By the time they play Germany in Leverkusen on June 8, Pizzi will have named his party for the assignment in Russia.
Pizzi is clearly much nearer knowing who he will take as he has only made minor changes to the squad he named for the recent wins against Greece and Algeria.
Al-Ittihad goalkeeper Assaf Al-Qarni replaces his club teammate Fawaz Al-Qarni as the fourth stopper in the squad, as Pizzi looks settled on retaining Al-Ahli duo Yasser Al-Mosaileem and Mohammed Al-Owais in addition to Al-Hilal’s Abdullah Al-Mayouf. One of those four will fail to make the cut as no team takes four goalkeepers to the World Cup.
There were no changes in the backline where the former Chile boss is opting for harmony. Eight of the nine defenders called up ply their trade at Al-Hilal or Al-Ahli, while Al-Nassr’s Omar Hawsawi rounds off the selection. One defender might have to make way and Al-Hilal teammates Mohammad Jahfali and Ali Al-Bulayhi could well find themselves vying for one spot on the plane to Moscow.
Abdullah Otayf and Taisir Al-Jassim look to be firm favorites to make the starting XI in the base of midfield, while the third central spot is up for grabs. Hussein Al-Moqahwi has regularly featured in that position, but Salman Al-Faraj’s return from a long injury saw him start both friendlies in the Spain training camp. Abdulmalik Al-Khaibari could emerge as the more conservative midfield enforcer against stronger sides.
The center of the pitch is where the most intense battle of positions will take place. As many as three midfielders could be left behind come June 4. Ibrahim Ghaleb has already been left out and he may be joined by Al-Shabab duo Hattan Bahebri and Abdulla Al-Khaibari. One of Mohammad Kanno and Mohammed Al Kuwaikbi could be the last man to be dropped in two weeks’ time.
Up front, Harun Kamara, a surprise call-up for the recent friendlies, failed to retain his spot in the squad so Mohannad Assiri and Mohammed Al-Sahlawi will battle it out for the sole striker position.

Squad
Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al-Owais, Yasser Al-Mosaileem (Al-Ahli); Abdullah Al-Mayouf (Al-Hilal); Assaf Al-Qarni (Al-Ittihad)
Defenders: Motaz Hawsawi, Saeed Al-Muwallad, Mansour Al-Harbi (Al-Ahli); Osama Hawsawi, Mohammed Jahfali, Ali Al-Bulayhi, Mohammed Al-Burayk, Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal); Omar Hawsawi (Al-Nassr).
Midfielders: Abdullah Al-Khaibari, Hattan Bahebri (Al-Shabab); Abdulmalik Al-Khaibari, Abdulla Otayf, Salman Al-Faraj, Mohammed Kanno, Nawaf Al-Abid (Al-Hilal); Taisir Al-Jassim, Hussein Al-Moqahwi (Al-Ahli); Mohammed Al-Kuwaikbi (Al-Ettifaq); Salem Al-Dawsari (Villarreal); Fahad Al-Muwallad (Levante); Yahya Al-Shehri (Leganes)
Forwards: Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (Al-Nassr); Mohannad Assiri (Al-Ahli)