Roger Federer claims he is ready for Grand Slam No. 20

Roger Federer is once again in fine form in Melbourne
Updated 20 January 2018
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Roger Federer claims he is ready for Grand Slam No. 20

LONDON: Roger Federer has warned his rivals he is feeling fitter and more confident than this time last year when he shocked everyone to win his 18th Grand Slam title.
The Swiss sensation issued the warning after easily beating Richard Gasquet 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 in just under two hours to reach the last 16 in Melbourne.
Federer won 12 months ago on his return after six months out from injury, with many assuming the 36-year-old was no longer a Grand Slam threat. But having seen off the Frenchman he claimed he was in much better shape than a year ago and ready to win Grand Slam No. 20.
“I had a good season last year,” Federer said.
“The off-season was fantastic too and my last match was not that long ago.
“I’m coming in this year very fit, very well equipped knowing that five sets are not an issue, where as last year that was always the question mark.
“And with that question mark in mind there was always a tension there and I was carrying a groin injury for the last four or five matches because it was so intense.”
The Swiss has only lost twice to the stylish Frenchman in their 19 meetings, winning all their four Grand Slam encounters.
Significantly, Gasquet has not won a set against Federer since 2011, a run of 22 sets to the Swiss.
"I was able to stay more on the offensive than he was and maybe I was protecting my own serve better than him," Federer said.
"I was hoping I could play at that level. I'm very happy that I was able to rise to a level that I needed to beat Richard.
"It was tough. The score shows it, as well. I could have done it maybe a bit faster.
"At the same time I'm happy to have done it the way it happened. I was pleased. I think I had some good shots. I was happy the way I played. I also thought we both played a good level again, so it was fun."
Elsewhere, Novak Djokovic played down injury concerns after he sought a medical timeout for a lower back injury during his 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 win over Spanish 21st seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
The former world No. 1 sought a medical timeout early in the second set for treatment to his lower back.
Djokovic later played down the extent of the problem, saying: “It’s okay. Nothing major. I knew I wanted to use the medical timeout because I needed it,” he said.
“But at the same time I knew it was nothing major that can potentially raise a question mark on whether I can continue playing or not. It was fine.”


Saudi Arabia step up their World Cup preparations by flying to Switzerland for training camp

Updated 20 May 2018
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Saudi Arabia step up their World Cup preparations by flying to Switzerland for training camp

  • Squad of 28 to be based in Zurich
  • Friendlies on the horizon against Italy and Peru

Juan Antonio Pizzi has taken a 28-man squad to Zurich for the final stage of the Green Falcons’ World Cup preparations.
The party flew out of Jeddah late last night and landed in Switzerland early this morning. There they will be joined by Fahad Al-Muwallad and Salem Al-Dawsari who will fly in from Spain after playing for Levante and Villarreal on Saturday night.
The three-week training camp in the Swiss resort town of Bad Ragaz gives Pizzi the chance to get stuck into some intense tactical and physical work with his players and decide which five players to leave out of his squad. He must whittle down his list down to 23 by June 4, which gives the players get two final chances to stake their claim for a seat on the plane in friendlies against Italy on May 28 and Peru on June 3. By the time they play Germany in Leverkusen on June 8, Pizzi will have named his party for the assignment in Russia.
Pizzi is clearly much nearer knowing who he will take as he has only made minor changes to the squad he named for the recent wins against Greece and Algeria.
Al-Ittihad goalkeeper Assaf Al-Qarni replaces his club teammate Fawaz Al-Qarni as the fourth stopper in the squad, as Pizzi looks settled on retaining Al-Ahli duo Yasser Al-Mosaileem and Mohammed Al-Owais in addition to Al-Hilal’s Abdullah Al-Mayouf. One of those four will fail to make the cut as no team takes four goalkeepers to the World Cup.
There were no changes in the backline where the former Chile boss is opting for harmony. Eight of the nine defenders called up ply their trade at Al-Hilal or Al-Ahli, while Al-Nassr’s Omar Hawsawi rounds off the selection. One defender might have to make way and Al-Hilal teammates Mohammad Jahfali and Ali Al-Bulayhi could well find themselves vying for one spot on the plane to Moscow.
Abdullah Otayf and Taisir Al-Jassim look to be firm favorites to make the starting XI in the base of midfield, while the third central spot is up for grabs. Hussein Al-Moqahwi has regularly featured in that position, but Salman Al-Faraj’s return from a long injury saw him start both friendlies in the Spain training camp. Abdulmalik Al-Khaibari could emerge as the more conservative midfield enforcer against stronger sides.
The center of the pitch is where the most intense battle of positions will take place. As many as three midfielders could be left behind come June 4. Ibrahim Ghaleb has already been left out and he may be joined by Al-Shabab duo Hattan Bahebri and Abdulla Al-Khaibari. One of Mohammad Kanno and Mohammed Al Kuwaikbi could be the last man to be dropped in two weeks’ time.
Up front, Harun Kamara, a surprise call-up for the recent friendlies, failed to retain his spot in the squad so Mohannad Assiri and Mohammed Al-Sahlawi will battle it out for the sole striker position.

Squad
Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al-Owais, Yasser Al-Mosaileem (Al-Ahli); Abdullah Al-Mayouf (Al-Hilal); Assaf Al-Qarni (Al-Ittihad)
Defenders: Motaz Hawsawi, Saeed Al-Muwallad, Mansour Al-Harbi (Al-Ahli); Osama Hawsawi, Mohammed Jahfali, Ali Al-Bulayhi, Mohammed Al-Burayk, Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal); Omar Hawsawi (Al-Nassr).
Midfielders: Abdullah Al-Khaibari, Hattan Bahebri (Al-Shabab); Abdulmalik Al-Khaibari, Abdulla Otayf, Salman Al-Faraj, Mohammed Kanno, Nawaf Al-Abid (Al-Hilal); Taisir Al-Jassim, Hussein Al-Moqahwi (Al-Ahli); Mohammed Al-Kuwaikbi (Al-Ettifaq); Salem Al-Dawsari (Villarreal); Fahad Al-Muwallad (Levante); Yahya Al-Shehri (Leganes)
Forwards: Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (Al-Nassr); Mohannad Assiri (Al-Ahli)