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.


Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games clash against Iran

Updated 28 min 30 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games clash against Iran

  • Young Falcons hopeful of a semifinal spot.
  • Under-23 players keen on making a name for themselves in Indonesia.

JAKARTA: There is a widely held belief that to succeed in sport, you must start early.
Officials from the Saudi Arabia National Olympic Committee will be hoping it rings true this month as the Kingdom’s Under-23 football team prepares to prematurely kick-off its Asian Games campaign this afternoon in Jakarta, three days before the continent’s largest multi-sport competition officially begins.
Similar to the Olympics, the football tournament starts before the opening ceremony and finishes on the competition’s final day, Sept. 2. The fledgling Young Falcons face Iran today at the 28,000-capacity Wibawa Mukti Stadium in the Indonesian capital.
The Saudi NOC have brought a delegation of 169 athletes, including eight females, and will compete across 22 disciplines, including athletics, shooting, taekwondo and volleyball. The three-week Asian Games operate both as a continental precursor and, at times, a qualifying tournament for 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The Young Falcons made their football debut at the Asian Games in South Korea four years ago, reaching the quarterfinals in Incheon, before losing to Iraq. Their regional neighbors were inspired by legendary striker Younes Mahmoud, who had been included as one of Iraq’s three over-age players and scored twice in a 3-0 win.
Yet the impact of Mahmoud in Korea has not influenced the team’s selection. With the Saudi Pro League starting next week, coach Saad Al-Shehri has opted to forego athletes older than 23, instead selecting a squad consisting primarily of Al-Ahli development players and a smattering of Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ettifaq-based youths.
“We haven’t brought any overage players because we are playing here as preparation for the U23 Asian Cup, which will offer qualification for Tokyo 2020,” said Faisal Almarashdi, a spokesman for the team.
“We have brought to Indonesia only players who are 21 or under as they will all be eligible for Tokyo. Many have already played at the Under-20 World Cup under coach Saad, so there was never any discussion to use the three allocated over-age slots.”
Abdullah Otayf is the model example of how Asian Games experience can help a young career. Four years ago, the deep-lying midfielder was part of the squad that traveled to Korea. This summer he was an integral part of the Green Falcons side that played at the World Cup in Russia. 
With national team coach Juan Antonio Pizzi following the competition from afar, there will be chances to catch the eye for the likes of striker Haroune Camara and midfielders Abdullah Yahya Magrshi and Ali Hassan Al-Asmari ahead of January’s Asian Cup. Both midfielders have already made their full debuts for Ahli and featured in the Jeddah club’s Champions League campaign last season, while Al-Qadisiyah’s Camara was included in Pizzi’s provisional World Cup squad before being cut from the final 23.
“These Asian Games are very important for the young players involved,” Almarashdi added.
“They are the future of the senior team so if they play well here and at the U23 Asian Cup then, we hope, they will go to Tokyo 2020. From then on the pathway to the senior team is already very clear.”  
Much like the seniors, the U23 side is both short and slight, with only two of the 10 midfielders and forwards standing above 5 foot 8 (172m). Today’s opponents Iran are not only taller and more physical, they also have, in Croatian coach Zlatko Kranjčar, a manager who knows West Asian football after short spells in Qatar and the UAE. In their most recent preparation match, Iran lost 3-2 to China. 
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, beat the UAE last week in Malaysia following a pair of friendlies against local sides. Today’s match will kick-off at 4 p.m. local time, midday in Saudi Arabia.