Last gasp puts Poland into Hopman Cup final

Updated 02 January 2014
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Last gasp puts Poland into Hopman Cup final

PERTH: Polish pair Agnieszka Radwanska and Grzegorz Panfil edged past Australia on Thursday to scrape into the final of the mixed teams Hopman Cup.
In their country’s first appearance at the event, the Polish duo advanced to Saturday’s final with a 2-1 win over the host nation that left them as the only unbeaten team in their group.
But the Poles didn’t secure their berth in the title decider until the last gasp.
Earlier on Thursday, the Canadian team of Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic had kept their hopes of reaching the final alive, notching a 3-0 win over Italy after Flavia Pennetta was forced out by a wrist injury during the opening women’s singles rubber.
The Canadians remained in the hunt for the final as Poland and Australia split the singles with Bernard Tomic giving the host nation the lead in the tie with an easy win over Panfil and the fifth-ranked Radwanska then squaring the ledger by beating Samantha Stosur in three tight sets.
That meant the Poles needed to win at least one set in the deciding mixed doubles to reach the final.
They achieved that when they prevailed in a tight second set to level the match after the Australians had taken the first easily and threatened to run away with the match, and in doing so hand Canada a berth in the final.
Radwanska and Panfil then claimed the third set in a match tiebreak to win 1-6, 7-5, 10-8.
Although Poland were the nominal top seeds for the tournament, they were given little chance of glory when Jerzy Janowicz was a late withdrawal and little-known world No. 288 Panfil took his place.
Panfil is on the verge of the biggest payday of his career and could scarcely believe his luck.
“It is a great week for me. We play in the final ... it is a good evening,” he said.
Unbeaten in his first two singles matches in Perth, including an astounding win over world No. 11 Raonic, Panfil produced his worst performance of the week against Tomic, capitulating meekly as the Australian won 6-1, 6-4.
Despite nursing a shoulder problem, Radwanska then came from a set down to beat Stosur, who was again plagued by problems with her misfiring serve, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
That set the scene for a dramatic mixed doubles encounter.
With the Australian Open just over a week away, Pennetta was forced to withdraw from her singles match against Canadian teenager Bouchard when trailing 4-0, due to soreness in her right wrist.
Milos Raonic then beat Andreas Seppi in straight sets in the men’s singles and the mixed doubles was forfeited.
Pennetta had an operation on the same wrist in 2012, but was confident the latest setback was nothing more than inflammation.
The world No. 31 said the wrist was sore when she awoke on Thursday and she was close to withdrawing before the start of the match.
She had strapping applied after the third game but the injury was clearly affecting her serve and forehand.
The 31-year-old Italian is still expecting to play in Hobart next week to complete her preparations for the year’s opening Grand Slam, starting on January 13 in Melbourne.
“It’s the wrist that I had the operation on... Sometimes it gives me some problem, I hope it’s nothing too serious,” she said. “I was thinking maybe with some warm-up it would get better but it did not.
“I will have some treatment. Maybe I won’t play for one or two days to help because I think it’s more something like inflammation, it’s not like a tear or ligaments.” In the men’s singles, world No. 11 Raonic overpowered the out-of-sorts Seppi 6-2, 6-4.
Seppi, ranked 25th in the world, retired from his first match at the tournament due to illness, and lost both his subsequent singles outings in disappointing fashion.
Raonic was a shock loser to Panfil on Sunday and was pleased to put that result behind him.


Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

Updated 22 June 2018
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Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

  • Saudi Arabia's 1996 Asian Cup-winning coach Nelo Vingada backs Pizzi to lead side into next year's Asian Cup.
  • Green Falcons face Egypt on Monday with both looking to land their first point in Russia.

MOSCOW: Saudi Arabia’s 1996 Asian Cup-winning boss Nelo Vingada has called on the country’s football authorities to keep faith with head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi despite a disappointing showing in Russia.
The Green Falcons still have to face Egypt in the final match of Group A, but have already been eliminated following a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Russia in the opening game on June 14 in Moscow and a 1-0 loss to Uruguay five days later in Rostov.
 “I was expecting a little more from Saudi Arabia to be honest,” Vingada told Arab News.
“In the first game they were disappointing but a first game of the World Cup is always hard and especially when it is the first game and everyone is watching. Plenty of teams at the World Cup did not play well in the first game.
“But playing Russia in Russia and to lose is what you would normally expect from Saudi Arabia and while it was far from positive, people should not get carried away.
“The game with Uruguay was much improved in terms of organization and defense and it showed more of the character of the Saudi Arabia team.”
In the past, coaches have been axed following disappointing World Cup campaigns but with the 2019 Asian Cup just seven months away, the Portuguese tactician would prefer to see some stability rather than yet another new man in the dugout.
 “The Asian Cup is in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia will be one of the contenders,” Vingada said. “It is better to stay with the same coach. He has a vision of how he wants the team to play and he now knows the players and the players know him.”
Constant changing has not helped Saudi Arabia in the past and Pizzi himself has been in the job just seven months.
“The problem is not the coach. He should not be changed, that has happened before but results did not improve, but the mentality has to change.”
Despite that Vingada, who has coached 
Egyptian club giants Zamalek and the country’s Under-23 team, believes that the Pharaohs, also eliminated, will prevail when the two regional rivals meet on Monday in Volgograd.
 “This is an important game for pride, the players and the countries. It is still the World Cup. Egypt have a little more quality I think and have Mohamed Salah too.” 
The Liverpool striker has been recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in late May and missed the opening game 1-0 loss to Uruguay. He played in the second game, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Russia, scoring from the spot late in the match to earn a consolation.
“Any coach would take Salah because he can win you games but overall Egypt have been a little disappointing and a little unlucky.”
The bad luck came when conceding a last-minute goal to Uruguay and a fluke own goal to get Russia off the mark. “Uruguay are a tough team and it is no shame to lose 3-1 to a Russia team at home who are playing to qualify for the next round. It showed that European and South American teams still have a little more quality.”
 “Egypt just made some mistakes at the wrong time but this is football and without mistakes there are no goals.”
Ahead of the clash against Egypt Pizzi confirmed his intention to stay as Saudi Arabia boss, looking to build on the seven months he has had to imprint his ideas on the team ahead of the Asian Cup.