Novak Djokovic using warm-up tournaments to test Australian Open fitness

Novak Djokovic will take part in two exhibition tournaments next week before deciding if he can play at the Australian Open. (AP)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Novak Djokovic using warm-up tournaments to test Australian Open fitness

MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic has said he plans to take part in two exhibition tournaments next week before deciding on his participation at the Australian Open.
The 30-year-old former world number one has been out for the last six months with an elbow injury, and the problem forced him to withdraw from recent events in Abu Dhabi and Qatar.
He is due to play at the Kooyong Classic and the Tie Break Tens evening exhibition at Melbourne Park in the week leading up to the Australian Open. The 12-time Grand Slam winner, whose last Grand Slam title was at the 2016 French Open, has won the Australian Open six times.
Djokovic has not played since retiring against Czech Tomas Berdych in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in July.
He pulled out of last week’s Mubadala WTC exhibition in Abu Dhabi only hours before his match with Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut when the pain in his right elbow flared up and also withdrew from the Qatar Open in Doha.
The Australian Open begins in Melbourne on 15 January.


How Arsene Wenger lost his way, and the Arsenal fans

Updated 21 April 2018
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How Arsene Wenger lost his way, and the Arsenal fans

  • Arsene Wenger had "carried on as normal" despite new arrivals behind the scenes.
  • Arsenal have not won a single league point away from home this year.

As the news broke just before 
10am on Friday morning, Arsenal fans suddenly felt able to relive the glory years under Arsene Wenger. Previous apathy could give way to a warm wash of nostalgia and the anticipation that change can bring.   
The Arsenal years from 1996 to 2006 were a time of pulsating football and heart-stopping excitement. And the contrast could hardly have been greater to what had become of the club. With little riding on it, today’s London derby with West Ham was set to be played in front of an Emirates Stadium pockmarked with great swathes of empty seats. But now, with three home games left for Arsenal this season, the stage is instead set for what chief executive Ivan Gazidis on Friday described as “the send off he deserves.”
While Sir Alex Ferguson, his great rival from Manchester United and now retired for five years, got to write his own epitaph with a final, 13th Premier League title, Wenger hung on far too long and leaves at the lowest ebb of 22 years as manager of Arsenal. 
Arsenal are all but guaranteed to finish the season sixth in the Premier League table, their worst in 23 years. They have forged on in the Europa League but news of pulling Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid in the semifinal draw was greeted with a pessimistic gloom now converted into the hope that Wenger signs off with the European trophy missing from his curriculum vitae. 
Something had to give. Arsenal have not collected a single league point away from home in 2018, the worst record of any club in the top five divisions of English professional football. And those empty Emirates seats attested to a fanbase that had found something better to do. 
Gate money was still rolling in, since almost every seat is tied to a season ticket, but there were concerns within the club that the waiting list for those tickets, previously as long as 10 years, had shrunk. A once buoyant resale market for individual matches was barren.
Wenger’s abdication was a shock but not surprising. Behind the scenes, the organization’s tectonic plates had been shifting, with an influx of new executives working around the previously omnipotent Wenger. Ex-Borussia Dortmund chief scout Sven Misilintat and former Barcelona negotiator Raul Sanllehi came into the fold, while Josh Kroenke, son of American majority owner Stan Kroenke, has been spending time in London.  
The word, though, from a source close to the club, is that such arrivals had not prevented Wenger from attempting to carry on regardless. Eventually, matters came to a head and once Wenger was informed that Kroenke and Gazidis had decided his contract, with a year left to run, would be terminated it was agreed his departure would be stage-managed as a long goodbye that paid tribute to his historic achievements in North London. Misilintat and Sanllehi can now begin to properly prepare for a future beyond Wenger.
They and whomever the new Arsenal manager might be have a considerable rebuilding job, with many cobwebs to clear. At least Arsenal have started to spend big, having previously been hamstrung by repayments on building the Emirates, opened in 2006. 
In January, Mesut Ozil signed a new contract worth £350,000 ($490,000) a week and strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette cost a combined transfer outlay of around £100 million. Such expenditure, though, has brought no improvement to a team with great, aching deficiencies in midfield and defense. In this season’s Premier League, Arsenal have lost touch with their peers in English football’s top six. 
Off the pitch, further modernizsation is required. Football finance expert Kieran Maguire sees Wenger’s later years as a litany of missed opportunities. “Look at their commercial brand compared to Manchester United and Liverpool,” he told Arab News. “Arsenal should be the premier club in London but they have let Spurs and Chelsea catch up.”
Maguire thinks Wenger, historically resistant to lucrative pre-season tours from which clubs pull in multimillion pound deals and endorsements even if in recent years he had agreed to Far East junkets, had hampered Arsenal’s bottom line. “It helps when the manager is as big as your best player. What we have seen with (Liverpool manager) Jurgen Klopp and (Manchester City manager) Pep Guardiola is that they can expand the number of sponsors. Klopp is a fantastic ambassador.” 
And meanwhile, fans like Tim Stillman, who has not missed a home game for 19 years or an away match for 16, have the change they waited for. “Even if the next thing after Wenger is a failure then at least it’s something else,” he says. “At the moment, it feels like Arsenal has been cryogenically frozen.”
Arsenal, and the fans’ regard for their club’s greatest ever manager, can now thaw out.