Novak Djokovic finds form on return in Monte Carlo

Updated 16 April 2018
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Novak Djokovic finds form on return in Monte Carlo

  • Serb returns to courts after early exits at both Indian Wells and Miami
  • Former world No.1 has slipped to No. 13 in the world rankings

Former world No.1 Novak Djokovic showed signs of rediscovering his form with a dominant 6-0 6-1 victory over Dusan Lajovic in the opening round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Monday.
Djokovic’s start of the season was disrupted by an elbow surgery, and has since suffered defeats in consecutive opening matches at Indian Wells and Miami.
But there were no signs of his recent struggles as he kickstarted his claycourt campaign in style to record a victory over fellow Serb Lajovic in just 57 minutes.
Djokovic, a two-time winner at Monte Carlo, dropped just eight points as he wrapped up the first set with his opponent well off the pace.
Lajovic, ranked 93 in the world, offered resistance in the second set to level at 1-1 but failed to capitalize on a break point as the 12-time grand slam winner roared back to book a second round meeting with Borna Coric of Croatia.
Earlier in the day, Japan’s Kei Nishikori came back from a set down to see off Czech 12th seed Tomas Berdych 4-6 6-2 6-1 and reach the second round.
Nishikori, who missed a large part of last season with a wrist injury, started the season in the Challenger Tour events before reaching the second round at Miami.
He was playing close to his best tennis despite calling for a medical timeout for his troublesome wrist.
“It’s not great but first match on clay, you know, I’m expecting little soreness,” Nishikori said.
“Hopefully I have a day off tomorrow. If I have to play tomorrow, I got to be ready tonight.”
The 28-year-old, who is making his first Monte Carlo appearance since 2012, will face Russian Daniil Medvedev in the next round.
World No. 51 Jared Donaldson confronted an umpire after disagreeing with a call made in his first-round defeat by last-year’s finalist Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
While 6-3, 3-2 down, the 21-year-old American became outraged when a serve by the Spaniard was called in by Arnaud Gabas when he believed it was out.
Donaldson eventually lost 6-3 6-3 and apologized to Ramos-Vinolas but refused to shake Gabas’ hand.


Juventus crowned Italian Super Cup champions

‘I’m very happy to have won my first title with Juventus,’ Cristiano Ronaldo said. (Photo/General Sports Authority)
Updated 17 January 2019
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Juventus crowned Italian Super Cup champions

  • Ronaldo’s glancing header sinks AC Milan 1-0 at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City Stadium

JEDDAH: A historic Wednesday evening at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium saw Italian champions Juventus beat AC Milan in the final of the 31st annual Supercoppa Italiana.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning goal as Juventus lifted the Supercoppa Italiana for the first time since 2015 with a 1-0 victory in front of a sold-out 61,235-capacity crowd.

As only one should expect when two of the most successful Italian clubs go head to head, a tactical and elegant, albeit very physical, display of football was at hand. 

Cheerful roars from the Jeddah crowd resonated throughout the night, in the kind of buzzing atmosphere that only a cup final brings.

Juventus, the Serie A champions, began brightly and were the first side to settle into the game, threatening with frequent sweeping moves.

Juventus and Portuguese international Joao Cancelo could have opened the scoring in the 16th minute after being played through on goal, but the defender’s zooming effort lacked the necessary precision and whisked past the far post with the Milan keeper rooted in his spot.

A maddening crescendo of noise erupted when Juventus and French international Blaise Matuidi thought he had opened the scoring in the 33rd minute after being played through by Costa before being flagged offside. 

Juventus did not have too much longer for another opportunity though, with Ronaldo’s acrobatic half volley from just outside the six-yard box bouncing and nestling agonizingly just over the bar and sparing Donnarumma’s blushes in the process.

Christiano Ronaldo has scored eight goals in his last seven finals. (Reuters)

Milan, who qualified for the final as runners-up to Juventus in last season’s Coppa Italia, had struggled throughout the first half to settle into the game. They gradually grew into their own though, and nearly broke the deadlock at the stroke of halftime with a stinging drive from Turkish international Hakan Calhanoglu.

After a slew of opportunities had Juventus failing to build a halftime lead, Milan nearly made them pay for their squandered chances by starting the second half like bats out of hell. 

Milan’s confident pressing start to the half was almost rewarded in the 47th minute when a Ronaldo tackle inadvertently set up Cutrone with a clear sight on goal.  The striker turned and blasted an effort that rattled off the crossbar — the closest either team had come thus far.

And just when the tide seemed to have turned for Milan in the second half, their confidence building with every minute, a perfectly floating cross from Pjanic found Ronaldo with yards of space, and he made no mistake directing a swift header into the back of the net in the 61st minute and sending Juve supporters into a frenzy.


• AS IT HAPPENED: Cristiano Ronaldo's goal gives Juventus Supercoppa Italiana victory over AC Milan in Jeddah >>

• Arab News Matchday gallery >>


Things went from bad to worse for Milan in the 73rd minute. Franck Kessie came rushing in with a recklessly timed tackle, crunching his studs into the shins of Emre Can, which resulted in him seeing a straight red and leaving Milan with 10 men and a subsequent insurmountable uphill battle.

The final whistle came soon after, and with it brought Juventus a record eighth Supercoppa. It goes without saying that there is nothing quite like the atmosphere of a cup final, but this was a historic and monumental occasion for Jeddah. 

The first major European cup final match being held in Saudi Arabia is now in the books, and with it brought an added sense of passion and excitement. 

Thousands of men, women and children showed up enthusiastically, were highly supportive of both teams, and were thoroughly entertained. It was a successful and memorable night that will surely pave the way for many more.

Addressing a prematch press conference on Tuesday night, Juventus Captain Giorgio Chiellini had defended the choice of Jeddah as the venue for the game against a backdrop of criticism by some. He said that it was “right” to give the Saudi port city the chance to host the showpiece match.

“We (footballers) cannot change the world but initiatives such as this can provide a new start.”

Juventus had been experiencing a worrying trend in cup finals of late. Despite securing the Serie A and Coppa Italia double for three seasons running, they had lost back-to-back Supercoppas and seven out of nine European Cup finals. 

Chiellini, however, firmly believed that his team would change the trend and the team did make their captain proud. 

Juventus now holds the outright record of most Italian Super Cups with eight titles. (Arab News photo by Ali Khamg)