Novak Djokovic aims to cut ‘gentle giant’ Juan Martin Del Potro down to size in US Open final

Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts after his win against Japan's Kei Nishikori during the Men's semifinals at the US Open. (AFP)
Updated 10 September 2018
0

Novak Djokovic aims to cut ‘gentle giant’ Juan Martin Del Potro down to size in US Open final

NEW YORK: Novak Djokovic hailed Juan Martin del Potro as a “gentle giant” but said he will have no hesitation in attempting to cut his close friend down to size in Sunday’s US Open final.
Djokovic, the 2011 and 2015 champion, will be looking to complete the Wimbledon-US Open double for a third time when he tackles the 2009 winner in New York with a 14th major and a place among the game’s greats within touching distance.
And he will start the heavy favorite, boasting a 14-4 record over the Argentine who will be playing in just his second Grand Slam final.
But whatever the outcome on Sunday, Djokovic insists their personal bond will remain strong.
“He’s a gentle giant,” the 31-year-old Serb said of the 6’6” Del Potro affectionately dubbed the “Tower of Tandil,” after his home town.
“He really is. He’s very tall, has a big game, but at the same time he nurtures the right values in life. He cares about his family. He cares about his friends. He respects everyone.
“He fights every match from the first to the last point. I think people can relate to that and appreciate what he brings to the tennis. He treats others the way he wants others to treat him. I think that’s why people love him.”
While Djokovic can pull level with Pete Sampras on 14 majors — and move to within three of Rafael Nadal and six back from Roger Federer — Del Potro’s career at the Slams has been torpedoed by a series of wrist injuries.
A number of surgeries pushed him to the brink of retirement in 2015 when his world ranking slumped to 581 in the world. Now he goes into Sunday’s final at a career-high three.
Djokovic has never lost to Del Potro at a Grand Slam, winning twice at the US Open in 2007 and 2012, Roland Garros in 2011 and an epic five-set semifinal at Wimbledon in 2013.
But Djokovic will not under-estimate the 29-year-old who was two sets to love ahead of Nadal in the semifinals on Friday when the world number one retired with a knee injury.
“We have never played in the final of a Grand Slam and he’s playing the tennis of his life, without a doubt, in the last 15 months,” said the Serb.
Meanwhile, Nadal — whose injury meant Del Potro made it to the final — has vowed to come back from his Flushing Meadows heartbreak.
“I know what I have,” he said after limping off Arthur Ashe Stadium having lost two sets to third-seeded Argentine Juan Martin del Potro. “I know what is going on with the knee. I know how I have to work to be better as soon as possible.”
“All my career everybody said that because of my style, I will have a short career,” he noted. “I’m still here.
“I’m still here because I love what I am doing. I still have the passion for the game.
“I’m going to keep fighting and working hard to keep enjoying this tour and keep having chances to compete at the highest level. So that’s all.”


Algeria sink Senegal in fiery final to claim second Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 20 July 2019
0

Algeria sink Senegal in fiery final to claim second Africa Cup of Nations

CAIRO: Baghdad Bounedjah’s early goal propelled Algeria to a first Africa Cup of Nations title in 29 years after a fiery 1-0 victory over Sadio Mane’s Senegal in Friday’s final in Cairo.
Bounedjah gave Algeria a dream start in the second minute when his deflected shot looped over Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, and it proved enough for the 1990 champions to lift the trophy on foreign soil for the first time.
For Senegal, who lost to Algeria by the same scoreline in the group stage, the long wait for a first continental crown goes on as coach Aliou Cisse, the captain of the 2002 runners-up, again fell short in the final.
It was the first title-decider to feature two African coaches since 1998, with Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi completing a whirlwind 12 months at the helm after inheriting a side that failed to make it out of the group stage two years ago.
With defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly suspended for Senegal, Salif Sane deputised at the back and Ismaila Sarr was recalled in attack, while Belmadi kept faith in the same side that overcame Nigeria with an injury-time free-kick from Riyad Mahrez.
Senegal had understandably feared the absence of Napoli star Koulibaly, banned after two bookings in the knockout rounds, although the towering Sane was desperately unlucky as Algeria grabbed the lead with scarcely a minute played.
As Bounedjah took aim from 20 yards his effort smacked off Sane and arced high into the air before dropping underneath the crossbar and beyond a static Gomis, sparking delirious celebrations from both players and fans, some of whom arrived for the final on military planes provided by the Algerian government.
It was the first time Gomis had conceded in almost 400 minutes in Egypt having replaced the injured Edouard Mendy ahead of Senegal’s final group game.
Henri Saivet, who missed a penalty in the 1-0 victory over Tunisia, tried to catch Rais Mbohli out with a free-kick while Mbaye Niang fizzed a powerful drive just over as Senegal gradually showed signs of life before the half ended with both sets of players embroiled in a scuffle as they headed for the tunnel.
Senegal thought they had won a penalty on the hour when Cameroonian referee Alioum Alioum pointed to the spot for a suspected handball by Adlene Guedioura, but the official reversed his decision after a VAR review.
Niang rounded an advancing Mbohli after a searching ball through from Cheikhou Kouyate but the forward sliced wide of the target from a tough angle, with the Algeria ‘keeper then acrobatically tipping over a rasping drive from Youssouf Sabaly.
The Desert Foxes started to look jaded as Senegal brought on fresh legs in Krepin Diatta and Mbaye Diagne, but Youcef Belaili nearly made it 2-0 when his cross brushed the head of a defender and skimmed the roof of the net.
Sarr blazed over on the volley as Algeria clung on to their advantage in the closing minutes, the final whistle greeted by an outpouring of raw emotion as the North Africans emerged worthy winners of the expanded 24-team event.