Tennis: Dream comes true as tearful Simona Halep powers to number one

Simona Halep of Romania hugs a floral bouquet in the shape of the number one after beating Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in their women’s singles semifinal in the China Open tennis tournament at the Diamond Court in Beijing. (AP)
Updated 07 October 2017
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Tennis: Dream comes true as tearful Simona Halep powers to number one

BEIJING: Emotional Simona Halep called it the best day of her life as she surged to number one in the world for the first time after reaching the China Open final on Saturday.
The Romanian, who said her next goal was to win a maiden Grand Slam, defeated Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4 in their semifinal.
Her ousting of Spaniard Garbine Muguruza at the top of the women’s game will be officially confirmed on Monday when the latest rankings are released.
The 26-year-old Halep is the fifth woman to hold top spot this year, but the first Romanian in the history of the WTA.
She smiled broadly, then cried and was presented with a flower arrangement in the figure “1” — which she hugged tightly — to celebrate the landmark moment.
“My dream is true now, in that moment you cannot believe 100 percent that it’s happening, so I was in tears a little bit,” she said.
“Maybe first time on court (to cry) nice tears... It’s the best moment in my life and I want just to keep it.
“Now tomorrow already I have just to restart everything, to start again to play the same and to work harder.
“And I have a few more dreams in my career.”
Asked by AFP what those were, she smiled: “I tell you one, only one: to win a Grand Slam, which you know.”
Halep saw off former number one Maria Sharapova earlier this week in Beijing and Saturday’s defeat of Ostapenko had a whiff of revenge — the 20-year-old won their duel in the French Open final earlier this year.
Halep will face either Caroline Garcia of France or Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in Sunday’s China Open final.
She was always in control against the world number eight Ostapenko and put herself on the way to victory when she broke the talented Latvian in the first game of the first set.
Halep’s ascension to the top brings Muguruza’s four-week reign as number one to an end, while the others who held the honor in 2017 are Angelique Kerber, Serena Williams and Karolina Pliskova.
The outstanding Williams is temporarily out of tennis after having her first child.
In the lead-up to Beijing, Halep said she was unconcerned about becoming world number one, but admitted with a grin: “Of course I wanted it.
“When I was five points away I felt that I want it more and more.”


What now for Saudi Arabia’s big four teams?

Updated 19 April 2018
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What now for Saudi Arabia’s big four teams?

  • Al-Hilal won their 15th top-flight title this season.
  • Big summer for Saudi Arabia football with the Green Falcons at the World Cup.

Now the Saudi Professional League season is over for another year Arab News can look back at their title tilts and what the big four clubs have to do over the coming months ahead of the next season.

 



AL-HILAL

Finished: Champions

Coaching situation: Ramon Diaz was in charge for much of the season, but was fired in February after setbacks in the Champions League.
Assistant Juan Brown did Okay in the final stretch, but a top-class coach could get more out of this team.

Squad priorities: A reliable goalscorer to support Omar Khribin and with veteran defender Osama Hawsawi leaving for pastures new, a replacement center-back with leadership qualities. Welcoming back the major stars — Carlos Eduardo, Khribin, Nawaf Al-Abed and Salem Al -Dawsari — will be a major boost.

Aim next season: Win the AFC Champions League

 



AL-AHLI

Finished: Second

Coaching situation: Sergiy Rebrov is out of contract at the end of June. His future is likely to depend on how the team fares against Al-Sadd in the second round of the AFC Champions League in May.

Squad priorities: There is not much wrong. The Jeddah giants were the highest scorers in the league last season and had the second best defense. Keeping star midfielder Leonardo fit will help as will a little cover in the center of defense. Star striker Omar Al-Somah fell out with the coach in a public way in the penultimate game of the season. It may be that one of them has to go. The Syrian has been player of the year for three years and has a longer contract than Rebrov.

Aim next season: Win the league. Maintain good performances in Asia.


 
AL-NASSR

Finished: Third

Coaching situation: Krunoslav Jurcic arrived in January and the former Croatian national team boss produced an upswing in results. May just be a temporary appointment and it needs to be sorted quickly.

Squad priorities: Looks good with the Saudi Arabia national team keeper, a strong center-back pairing of Omar Hawsawi and Bruno Uvini and the full-back position seemingly sorted with the January signing of Saad Suhail. They probably need a defensive midfielder and have to keep Junior Kabananga. The DR Congo striker has shown enough in his few weeks at the club to suggest that he could be a real star next season, especially with Leonardo pulling the strings behind him.

Aim next season: A genuine title challenge and getting through the play-offs into  the 2019 AFC Champions League.

 


AL-ITTIHAD

Finished: Ninth

Coaching situation: A bottom half finish is unacceptable for a team with Al-Itithad’s stature and history. Chilean coach Jose Luis Sierra may find that winning domestic cups is no substitute for challenging for the title.

Squad priorities: There is too much reliance on players such as Carlos Villanueva, a creative spark in the team, and Fahad Al-Ansari, the midfield engine, who are the wrong side of 30. The possible return of star winger Fahad Al-Muwallad will help, but an introduction of energy is needed.

Aim next season: Top three and, if the team wins the King’s Cup, a good showing in the 2019 AFC Champions League.