Australian Open: First week memories

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Venus Williams of the US reacts during a news conference after losing her match. (REUTERS)
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Switzerland's Roger Federer celebrates beating France's Richard Gasquet in their men's singles third round match on day six of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 20. (AFP)
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Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka reacts during their women's singles first round match against Australia's Ashleigh Barty on day two of the Australian Open. (AFP)
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Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts against Spain's Albert Ramos-Vinolas during their men's singles third round match on day six of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 20, 2018. (AFP)
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Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine rests during a break in her match against Elina Svitolina of Ukraine. (REUTERS)
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Simona Halep of Romania reacts during her match against Lauren Davis of the US. (REUTERS)
Updated 21 January 2018

Australian Open: First week memories

As the Australian Open enters its second week, Arab News look back at the memories from week one in Melbourne:

Day 1
Monday, Jan. 15
Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and CoCo. Vandeweghe — all semifinalists at least at the 2017 US Open — led a string of seeds sent tumbling out. Men’s eighth seed Jack Sock soon joined them in a calamitous day for American players with only three of the 15 in action progressing. With Venus departing, it became the first time since 1997 that no Williams sister made the second round, with Serena not playing after giving birth to her first child.

Day 2
Tuesday, Jan. 16
Consummate media performer Roger Federer urges his fellow professionals to act themselves and not like “robots” with the press to keep tennis interesting for the sporting public. With some of the greats of the modern game in their twilight years, he understands the need for more players to step up, and open up. “I would like to see more players just being really themselves in front of the press, being more relaxed about it, not worrying so much about making mistakes. You’d rather see that than robots left, right and center,” he said. The Swiss great said he always tried to “give it a little bit something extra” during his interviews to keep everyone happy.

Day 3
Wednesday, Jan. 17
The ear-busting grunting and screeching of rising Belarusian star Aryna Sabalenka grates on the center court crowd in her match against Aussie favorite Ashleigh Barty, with fans mocking the 19-year-old, earning a rebuke from the umpire. Long a divisive issue in tennis, Twitter lit up the following day with many calling for more to be done stamp out the racket. The women’s governing body, the WTA, said grunting “is a natural part of the game,” although it did acknowledge fan concerns. “Excessive grunting is being addressed through a commitment to an ongoing educational outreach,” it added, whatever that means.

Day 4
Thursday, Jan. 18
Melbourne’s notoriously fickle weather dished up a day of 40 degrees Celsius and it played havoc. Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils copped some of the worst of the scorching conditions in an afternoon match. The Serb called it “brutal” on court while Monfils complained he was suffering heatstroke. Caroline Garcia said her feet were on fire, but ice queen Maria Sharapova said she “loved summertime.” No matches were called off with the weather not considered severe enough to enforce the tournament heat policy.

Day 5
Friday, Jan. 19
Fifteen-year-old sensation Marta Kostyuk was the youngest woman into the Australian Open third round since “Swiss Miss” Martina Hingis in 1996, but her fairytale unraveled against fourth seed Elina Svitolina. She lost 6-2, 6-2 and was seen sobbing on her mum’s shoulder. Despite the loss, she relished the “free” tennis lesson from her fellow Ukrainian. “I had the chances, but because I thought, like, she is incredible, she’s a god, I cannot do anything against her, that’s the problem.” Kindly Svitolina predicted Kostyuk had a big future ahead.

Day 6
Saturday, Jan. 20
World No. 1 Simona Halep said she was “almost dead” after one of the longest Australian Open women’s matches ever. “I never played a third set so long. I’m almost dead,” said the Romanian after finally edging across the finish line 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 against Lauren Davis in 3hr 44min. “My muscles are gone. I don’t feel my ankle any more.” The longest match at Melbourne Park was in 2011 when Francesca Schiavone of Italy beat Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 in 4 hours 44 minutes.

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

Updated 24 May 2018

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.