Garbine Muguruza suffers blistering exit at Australian Open

Spain’s Garbine Muguruza walks off the court after losing her women’s singles second round match to Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei on day four of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2018
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Garbine Muguruza suffers blistering exit at Australian Open

MELBOURNE: Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza refused to blame her heat-blistered feet as she became the biggest casualty of the Australian Open so far on Thursday
The third seed, whose preparation was hampered by a thigh injury, was always trailing against the 88-ranked Hsieh Su-wei from Taiwan before being edged out 7-6 (7/1), 6-4 in one hour and 59 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
“I maybe could have done things better, but at the end, she deserves to win. That’s really it,” Muguruza told reporters.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza struggled from the start to keep pace with the tenacious 32-year-old whose last WTA Tour singles title came at Guangzhou back in 2012.
The tall Spaniard had a medical timeout at 2-5 in the first set and after having a blistered foot re-taped looked briefly regalvanized.
Muguruza said her feet were suffering in the heat as temperatures soared above 39 Celsius (102 Farenheit).
“I think the surface of the court, I don’t know how much heat, it’s terrible, very, very hot, and it’s easy to get blisters and red,” she said.
“I don’t think that was the reason why today it didn’t go my way. It was already wrapped (foot), but very quickly I started to feel a blister was coming, and I’d rather prevent it than having the problem after.”
Muguruza then broke back twice but Hsieh, who works closely with former Australian Open tournament director Paul McNamee, ran away with the tiebreak 7-1.
“He’s always been around me and supported me and was amazing,” she said of McNamee’s influence.
“My goal to hire him at the beginning was to win a Grand Slam,” she added.
Muguruza saved a first match point in the second set to get back to 5-4 but Hsieh made no mistake in the next game.
“I knew she was going to give me a lot of pressure,” said Hsieh, who was ranked number one in doubles for five weeks in 2014.
“At 5-4 I thought I’d keep hanging there and try and take my spot,” she said.
“It’s never easy to play against top 20 girls. I think mentally for sure they are much better, so when we go on the court we have to forget who we are playing and focus on our game.”
Hsieh, whose previous best at Melbourne Park was a last-16 defeat to Justine Henin 10 years ago, goes on to meet 26th seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in the third round.


Benevolence, not bluster: How ‘Brand Salah’ bucks the trend

Updated 24 May 2018
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Benevolence, not bluster: How ‘Brand Salah’ bucks the trend

  • Mohamed Salah lines up for Liverpool in the Champions League final against Real Madrid on Saturday
  • Mohamed Salah has been unveiled as DHL’s new brand ambassador for the MENA region

LONDON: On Saturday Mohamed Salah will line up for Liverpool in the Champions League final against Real Madrid.
He will do so not only with the every member of the Red army behind him, but also the entire Arab world.
That is testament to his stratospheric rise — over the past nine months the Egyptian ace has gone from being a very good player, but one deemed as needing to justify his $52 million transfer fee, to a global superstar and cultural phenomenon.
As with any sporting star, with the adulation and attention comes potential pitfalls and, invariably, a new lexicon. So it was not surprising to hear the 25-year-old speak of “his brand” when he was unveiled as DHL’s new brand ambassador for the MENA region on Wednesday. Stars becoming brands is almost cliche now and one that Salah has clearly taken on board — he now has even his own logo.
“We are proud of him. Over the past two years, no has done what he has done. He has proved himself as one of the best and we wanted to deal with no one else, just him,” CEO of DHL in the Middle East and North Africa, Nour Suliman, said. “He is competing on another level and is the star of the Arab world. No one in the Arab world has done what he is doing. We are very proud to have him.”
Those types of corporate events, where a big multinational signs a deal with the latest big, young thing, lend themselves to the odd dollop of hyperbole. But there is little doubting the impact Salah has had on the pitch for Liverpool and Egypt, and off it in becoming a true Arab icon. And his utterance of the word “brand” is where Salah as a walking cliche begins and ends.
Every year in Egypt ahead of Ramadan the best dates are named after the most popular person in the country — the man or woman revered by the nation at that moment. In the past, the staple food of the holy month has tended to be named after political leaders.
This year there was no competition: The most succulent date has been named after Salah. At the DHL press conference he was presented with a packet of dates emblazoned with his face and name.
It said much about the man that he both looked and confessed to being “embarrassed.”
This week the British Museum in London displayed Salah’s green football boots as part of its Modern Egypt exhibition. And in a documentary about the player broadcast in the UK, he was credited with increasing attendances at England’s oldest mosque in Liverpool and improving the image of Islam by Dr. Abdul Hamid, a trustee at the mosque.
So while the signing of big deals hints he is very much the modern-day footballing superstar, everything else off the pitch suggests something else.
Salah is on social media, but does not, like many sports stars, live on it; he knows he is a hero for many, but pays more than mere lip service to his position as a role model; and he embraces attention (of both opposition defenders and fans) rather than seemingly getting annoyed by it if things are not going his way.
“I am not heavy into social media, I am on it and aware of it, but I don’t follow it that closely. It does not influence me,” he said.
“I am aware young people look up to me and I feel great that they do and that I can influence a young footballer to play better or train harder, or do better; that that makes me proud.”
This season Salah has done what few footballers have done before, transcend the game, and he has done so in a way characterized by benevolence rather than bluster.
Against Real Madrid he can again illustrate just what a talent he is — and if he does lead Liverpool to their sixth European Cup triumph, you get the feeling he will not let the adulation go to his head.