Mohamed Salah favorite to complete awards hat-trick

Mohamed Salah's career has taken off since he moved to Liverpool. (AFP)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Mohamed Salah favorite to complete awards hat-trick

ACCRA: Egypt star Mohamed Salah hopes to add the African Player of the Year award in Ghana on Thursday to his rapidly expanding collection of individual honors.
The Liverpool forward, scorer of 23 goals in all competitions midway through his first season at Anfield, has been voted BBC African Footballer of the Year and Arab Player of the Year.
Salah, Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane of Senegal and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund and Gabon are the contenders for the highest African individual football honor.
The scoring feats of Salah have installed him as the public and media favorite to succeed Algerian Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City as the number one African footballer.
“I want to be the best Egyptian footballer ever,” said Salah after receiving the BBC award last month.
“When I came to Liverpool I hoped to show everyone my abilities. I scored a lot of goals with Roma and am very happy being successful at Liverpool.”
Salah and Mane will leave Accra soon after the awards ceremony as Liverpool have a Friday night FA Cup third-round derby date with Everton.
However, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp did not hesitate to release his African duo for the Accra ceremony, which will include six other awards.
“It is a sign of respect,” he told reporters in Liverpool. “We sleep in a hotel and they sleep in a plane. That is the only difference.”
Salah is a doubt for the Merseyside showdown, though, having missed the English Premier League victory at Burnley this week owing to a groin strain.
Should Salah be named Player of the Year, he will be only the second Egyptian after 1983 winner Mahmoud al Khatib to hoist the symbol of individual brilliance.
It would be the first time since 1986 that north Africans have won successive editions of the annual poll, which this year involved national coaches, journalists, officials and the public.
Morocco midfielder Mohamed Timoumi was the 1985 winner, followed by compatriot Badou Zaki, one of two goalkeepers to be voted the best African footballer.
Footballers from the west of the continent have dominated recently with Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon and Yaya Toure of the Ivory Coast each winning four times.
While Salah has made the top three for the first time, prolific Bundesliga scorer Aubameyang finished first once and second twice in the past three award ceremonies.
Mane came third last season, but his valuable input for Liverpool has been overshadowed by Salah, second in the Premier League scorers’ charts behind Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur.

THE CONTENDERS
Player of the Year
:
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (GAB, Borussia Dortmund/GER), Sadio Mane (SEN, Liverpool/ENG), Mohamed Salah (EGY, Liverpool)
Women’s Player of the Year:
Chrestina Kgatlana (RSA, UWC Ladies), Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene (CMR, CSKA Moscow/RUS), Asizat Oshoala (NGR, Dalian Quanjian/CHN)
Youth Player of the Year:
Patson Daka (ZAM, Liefering/AUT), Krepin Diatta (SEN, Sarpsborg/NOR), Salam Giddou (MLI, Guidars)
Coach of the Year:
Hussein Amoutta (Wydad Casablanca/MAR), Hector Cuper (EGY), Gernot Rohr (NGR)
Club of the Year:
Al Ahly (EGY), TP Mazembe (COD), Wydad Casablanca
National Team of the Year:
Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria
Women’s National Team of the Year:
Ghana U-20, Nigeria U-20, South Africa


Rafael Nadal not satisfied after reaching 12th Monte Carlo final

Updated 23 min 23 sec ago
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Rafael Nadal not satisfied after reaching 12th Monte Carlo final

  • Super Spaniard looking for a record-breaking 11th Monte Carlo Masters title.
  • Nadal faces Japan's Kei Nishikori in Sunday's final.

Rafael Nadal’s priority after reaching his 12th Monte Carlo Masters final was to whip out his phone and frantically text coach Carlos Moya.
Despite a comfortable 6-4, 6-1 win against No. 5-ranked Grigor Dimitrov, he had a pressing concern given how quickly he was texting.
What frantic emergency could command such attention?
“I was texting Carlos to tell him that we need to book a court quick,” Nadal said. “I wanted to hit some forehands winners that I think I need for tomorrow.”
So the top-ranked Nadal, a 10-time French Open champion with 75 career titles, hurried to another clay court just for forehand practice ahead of Sunday’s final against Kei Nishikori, an opponent he has beaten nine times out of 11.
While it may seem absurd, it is a reminder of the relentless perfectionist Nadal is even on his best surface.
No matter that he has not dropped a set in six matches since coming back from a recurrence of a right hip injury; he is more focused on ironing out even the smallest of flaws.
Even though he crushed Dimitrov, as he had Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals on Friday, Nadal was not satisfied.
“I really had a lot of chances in the first set to have (a) little bit better score. I didn’t convert (them),” he said. “The only way to hold the level, and to hold the chances to keep winning after 10, 12 years, is to improve things.”
He remains on course for a record-extending 11th Monte Carlo title and record 31st Masters. He shares the Masters record with Novak Djokovic, whose 30 wins include two here.
Nishikori, who is making an encouraging return from a serious right-wrist injury, beat No. 4 Alexander Zverev 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“It’s getting there,” said Nishikori, who has missed the past two majors because of a torn tendon. “Little bit sore still.”
Nishikori won on his first match point when Zverev scooped a backhand wide. The German player looked jaded, having finished a long and grueling quarterfinal at 9 p.m. on Friday.
Nishikori has never won a Masters and last reached a final two years ago in Montreal. He beat Nadal in their last encounter two years ago to take the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
He knows it will be a different challenge toppling him in Monte Carlo.
“He’s been dominating crazy this week,” Nishikori said. “On clay he’s the king.”
Nadal never looked imperious as he beat Dimitrov for the 11th time in 12 career meetings.
“In the second set, he started to miss more,” Nadal said modestly. “I was there solid. That’s all.
“Being in 12 finals already here is something difficult to imagine,” added Nadal, who has lost only one, to Djokovic in 2013.
Dimitrov came out firing, but he was mostly more miss than hit.
The Bulgarian cracked trying to serve for 5-5. He made consecutive double faults and hit a wild forehand long to trail 15-40. He saved one set point but Nadal was in ruthless mode and took the next chance.
Two consecutive love breaks and three easy holds made it 5-0 to Nadal in the second set.
Nadal’s victory at Monte Carlo last year made him the first men’s tennis player in the Open era to win the same title 10 times. He then won a 10th title at Barcelona and at Roland Garros.