Murray secures 45th career title with Dubai win

World No. 1 Andy Murray of Great Britain with his championship trophy after winning his ATP final tennis match against Spain's Fernando Verdasco during the Dubai Duty Free Championships on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 04 March 2017
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Murray secures 45th career title with Dubai win

DUBAI: Andy Murray clinched his first title of 2017 and 45th of his career as he dominated Spain's Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-2 to win the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday.
World No. 1 Murray claimed the trophy in the emirate for the first time after losing the final five years ago to Roger Federer.
The Scot finished the job in just 73 minutes on the first of three match points, an untouchable service winner.
“It’s obviously nice to finally win here,” said the top seed. “It feels great to take the trophy for the first time.”
“I played a good match today. I had a bit of a slow start, but we’ve had a lot of late nights this week. But once I got going, I was moving well and finished strong.”
Murray improved his record over 35th-ranked left-hander Verdasco to 13 wins and just one loss.
He was playing in his second final of 2017 after losing to Novak Djokovic in nearby Doha during the opening week of the season in January.
The first three games of the contest featured breaks of serve before Murray steadied, breaking for 5-3 and taking the opening set.
In the second, Murray earned a 2-1 lead as he eased to victory.
Murray now makes the long flight halfway around the world to Los Angeles to prepare for the start of the Indian Wells Masters.
His win on Saturday allowed Murray to become the first British champion in the 25-year history of the Dubai tournament.
He was playing in his seventh final in his last eight tournaments and 14th final in his last 16 events.
Nadal roars into ATP Acapulco showdown with Querrey
Two-time champion Rafael Nadal raced past third-seeded Marin Cilic 6-1, 6-2 to reach the ATP Mexico Open final, where his perfect Acapulco record will be put to the test by Sam Querrey.
Querrey ousted Nick Kyrgios 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 to bring the sixth-seeded Australian's giant-killing run to a halt a day after Kyrgios stunned world No. 2 Novak Djokovic in straight sets.
Second-seeded Nadal, playing his first tournament since falling to Roger Federer in an epic five-set final at the Australian Open in January, has won all 14 matches he has played in Acapulco, where he lifted the trophy in 2005 and 2013.
Nadal roared through the opening set against Cilic, building a 5-0 lead before the former US Open champion, who advanced to the semi-finals on a walkover when scheduled opponent Steve Johnson withdrew, showed signs of life with a service hold for 5-1.
Croatia's Cilic seized a 0-40 lead on Nadal in the next game, but the Spaniard saved four break points to hold for the opening set.
After receiving treatment on his right ankle, Cilic promptly dropped his serve to open the second set, and while he mustered break chances in each of Nadal’s first three service games of the second set, he couldn’t convert.
Nadal, firing on all cylinders from the baseline, muscled two winners past Cilic as he broke again for a 5-2 lead and served it out with one last forehand winner.
“I have to be playing well to win like this against a player like Marin, so I’m pleased with the performance,” said Nadal, who withdrew from last month’s tournament in Rotterdam after doctors told him he needed some rest after his run to the final in Melbourne.
“I’m happy with my focus in important moments, saving break points with good shots,” Nadal said. “I enjoyed the atmosphere here, so it's great for me to be in the final.”
Querrey and Kyrgios were neck and neck in the third set when the American produced the first break of the set in the final game to seize the victory.
Querrey had saved the only break point he faced in the set with a 135 mile per hour serve in the fifth game.
Kyrgios, 21, had appeared on his way when he closed out the first set by winning four straight games.
But after leading 40-15 in the opening game of the second set he was broken, and suddenly seemed at sea and Querrey took the set in just 23 minutes as Kyrgios’ mistakes multiplied.


Meet the Saudi Arabian businessman shaping squash’s Olympic dream

Updated 14 November 2018
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Meet the Saudi Arabian businessman shaping squash’s Olympic dream

LONDON: A Saudi Arabian businessman is driving the bid to get squash included in the Olympics for the first time.
The World Squash Federation has petitioned three times for squash to join the Games, but each bid has been rejected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The decision has prompted frustration in the squash community, particularly as sports such as climbing, surfing and skateboarding have been admitted.
Ziad Al-Turki is the Chairman of the Professional Squash Association (PSA) and has done wonders in marketing the game and broadening its appeal. He is now pushing hard for the game to be showcased on the biggest stage of all at the 2024 Olympics Games in Paris.
Squash has huge global appeal, with the men’s singles final in the last Commonwealth Games attracting a TV audience of more than one million.
“Everyone’s ultimate goal is the Olympics,” said Al-Turki. “The main push comes from the World Squash Federation (WSF) and for many years they were stuck in their ways. We changed a lot at the PSA and ticked every box with the IOC. The WSF just stayed stagnant and didn’t do anything. They didn’t want to put our hand in their hand and work together.”
Relations between the PSA and the WSF came to a head in 2015 in the wake of squash losing out to wrestling for a spot at the 2020 Olympics. A statement from the PSA described the then president of WSF, Narayana Ramachandran, as an “embarrassment to the sport.”
“Nothing could happen with the president of the WSF. Nothing would change. It was just a one-man show. We tried to help but he wouldn’t accept any help,” Al-Turki said. “We have a new president now and they are all very keen,” he added.
Jacques Fontaine is the new president and at his coronation in 2016 he encouragingly said “the Olympic agenda remains a priority.”
“The WSF love the sport and they understand the needs of the IOC,” said Al-Turki.
“They understand the PSA is at a completely different level to the WSF and we’ve now joined forces and are working together. Hopefully 2024 will be the year squash is in the Olympics. Right now, the way we are working together is the strongest collaboration ever and hopefully we can tick all the boxes for the IOC.
“We ticked all the right bodies as a professional association but the WSF didn’t. Now they are putting their hands in ours and we will tick all the right boxes for the ICO.”
Al-Turki, once described as the Bernie Ecclestone of squash, has certainly transformed the sport since he took up office in 2008.
“When I joined the PSA we didn’t have any media coverage,” he said. “Right now we are live in 154 countries. the women’s tour has just grown stronger and stronger — the income has gone up by 74 percent.
“I just love the squash players. I think they are incredible athletes are are some of the fittest athletes in the world. I felt they deserved better and I wanted them to have better.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to reach the levels of football and tennis in terms of exposure and prize money, but I want to reach a level where they will retire comfortably. It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world right now.
“It’s all about the player and their well being. Nick Matthew retired recently and I think he’s retired comfortably. I think I’ve contributed to this as the income has improved. That’s all I want – nothing more.”