Djokovic cruises into Rome Masters quarterfinals

Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns the ball to Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain during their match Thursday in the Rome Masters tennis tournment.
Updated 18 May 2017
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Djokovic cruises into Rome Masters quarterfinals

ROME: Second seed Novak Djokovic reached the Rome Masters quarterfinals on Thursday after a 6-4, 6-4 third round win over Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.
Djokovic, beaten in the final by Britain’s Andy Murray last year, will now face either Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro or Japanese seventh seed Kei Nishikori.
Rafael Nadal, enjoying his best season on clay in two years, will look to book his place in the last eight later when he meets American Jack Sock, seeded 13th, on center court.
The Spaniard, a seven-time champion in Rome, swept Djokovic aside in the semifinals of the Madrid Masters last week before going on to secure the title.
Meantime, Italian Fabio Fognini could be hit with sanctions after a foul-mouthed tirade at the chair umpire on his way to another early exit from the Rome Masters on Thursday.
Fognini’s defeat of Britain’s out-of-form defending champion Andy Murray earlier this week raised hopes he could finally make it past the third round for the first time in his career.
But in a 1hr 19min clash that drew whistles from his own fans on center court, the fiery Italian, ranked 29 in the world, was brought crashing back to earth by the clinical game of 20-year-old German prodigy Alexander Zverev.
“You’re f..... arrogant,” Fognini shouted at chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani at the end of a match which saw the Italian smash his racquet on the ground on several occasions and kick a linesman’s chair.
Lahyani, a Swede of Moroccan origin, soaked it all up. He is already popular with tennis watchers following his officiating of the combustible Wimbledon final in 2013 that saw Murray end Britain’s 77-year title drought.
Fognini also labelled him a “clown” and “loudmouth” on his way to crashing out before the business end of the tournament in Rome.
Zverev, the 16th seed who is the youngest player in the ATP top 50, will meet the winner of the clash between Tomas Berdych and Milos Raonic, to be played later Thursday.
In the women’s tournament Venus Williams overcame determined Briton Johanna Konta to win their third-round clash 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.
In the absence of sister and defending champion Serena, she will now meet Germany’s Julia Goerges or Spain’s Garbine Muguruza on Friday for a place in the semis and a possible matchup with Czech second seed Karolina Pliskova.
Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, the seventh seed, won’t be going so far after she exited following a 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 defeat to Australian qualifier Daria Gavrilova.
Gavrilova will meet the winner of the match between Dutch 15th seed Kiki Bertens and unseeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova.


Mohamed Salah’s brilliance and impact better seen off-pitch than on it

Updated 26 April 2018
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Mohamed Salah’s brilliance and impact better seen off-pitch than on it

  • Jurgen Klopp praises the positive impact Mohamed Salah has had on attitudes towards Islam and the Arab World
  • Salah has 43 goals in all competitions this season and is a serious Ballon d'Or contender

LONDON: “Mohamed Salah is the best footballer in the world at the moment,” “Salah is up there with Messi and Ronaldo,” “Salah has the world at
his feet...”
In a world ever more prone to hyperbole and after yet another masterclass from the Egyptian ace, it is not surprising that such grandiose statements get bandied about with the regularity of a Salah goal. The 25-year-old was simply sublime during Liverpool’s 5-2 destruction of Roma on Tuesday night.
He has now scored 43 times this season, has a genuine chance of winning the Ballon d’Or, and with every match looks more deserving of the superstar mantle his admirers have given him.
But while we can sit back and marvel at his talent, all those tributes are perhaps missing the point. We can debate whether he is a world-beater on the pitch, but what is not in doubt is that Salah is a game-changer off it — and that is the true mark of just how impressive he has been since moving to Liverpool.
Go to Anfield for any match now and, once the rousing rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” has died down, it is likely you will next hear the Liverpool fans’ hymn to Salah. Sung to the tune of “Good Enough” by Britpop band Dodgy, it goes like this: “If he’s good enough for you, he’s good enough for me, if he scores another few, then I’ll be a Muslim, too.” Such is the “Salah effect.”
Britain is a hugely fractured country at the moment. The Brexit vote and debate surrounding it has held up a mirror to an island ill at ease with itself, with regressive attitudes to race, religion and immigration out in the open.
That Salah has been welcomed with open arms and lauded in that climate — albeit in a city with a proud tradition of tolerance — is quite something, not least at a time when Islamaphobic attacks in the UK are on the rise and when, as recently as 2016, a national newspaper ran a headline that claimed “1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis.”
The context of the Salah worship evident not just in Liverpool, but also around the country has not been lost on his manager, Jurgen Klopp.
“(The hero status of Salah) is fantastic. It’s exactly what we need in these times,” the German told Channel 4 News.
“To see this wonderful young man, full of joy, full of love, full of friendship, full of everything, in a world where we all struggle a little bit to understand all the things happening around on this planet — so it’s just fantastic.
“He is a Muslim and he is doing all the things that Muslims are doing before a game, washing procedures and stuff like that … like Sadio (Mane) by the way, like Emre Can, by the way; they all do that. Nobody says what we have to be…
“Now we wait, that’s completely normal in a team and that’s how in an ideal world the world would work; we all try to understand each other and deal with all the little strange things for the one or the other.”
Sport sometimes aims for profundity when there is none. Witness any stomach-churning statement of national brilliance during an Olympics, or any underdog story, and you will find people deriving a lot more from some match than the simple “team scores more to win game” narrative that is most set in reality.
But the “Salah effect” has prompted real change off the pitch. From fans singing “I’ll be a Muslim, too” to appreciating the Liverpool talisman simply as a great player regardless of background, the “Egyptian King” is a genuine role model for his country, the region and Islam at a time when the world needs it most.
“We are all kind of ambassadors and sometimes we fit to that role and sometimes not, and at the moment Mo is the perfect ambassador for Egypt, for the whole Arabic world. I love that,” Klopp said.
So it is immaterial whether Salah wins the Champions League for Liverpool, beats Ronaldo to the Ballon d’Or or leads Egypt deep in the World Cup — he has already done more than most footballers do.
Should the positive image of both Arabs and Muslims he has created endure, then that will be his true mark of greatness.