Rafael Nadal apologizes after withdrawing from Asian tournaments with bad knee

World number one Rafael Nadal has announced his withdrawal from upcoming tournaments in Beijing and Shanghai due to his bad knee. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2018
0

Rafael Nadal apologizes after withdrawing from Asian tournaments with bad knee

LONDON: World number one Rafael Nadal has announced his withdrawal from upcoming tournaments in Beijing and Shanghai due to the right knee injury that forced him to retire from the US Open earlier this month.
Nadal had to pull out during his semifinal against Juan Martin del Potro in New York and also missed Spain’s Davis Cup defeat by France last weekend.
The 32-year-old said he visited doctors in Barcelona on Monday and has subsequently made the decision to play neither the ATP 500 event in Beijing nor the Masters 1000 in Shanghai.
“While the annoyances on my knee are nothing new, we have decided together with my medical and technical team not to participate in the Asian tour to recover the knee the way we have always done,” Nadal said on Wednesday.
“I’m sorry I can’t be with all the fans in China and with the organizers of the Beijing and Shanghai tournaments that have always had a great relationship with me and my team.”
Nadal is the defending champion in Beijing, where he beat Nick Kyrgios in the final last year. He was also runner-up in Shanghai, denied by champion Roger Federer.
Missing both tournaments next month leaves the way open for Novak Djokovic to finish 2018 top of the ATP world rankings, despite another positive season for Nadal.
The Spaniard clinched his 11th French Open title in June after also winning clay-court tournaments in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome.
He lost in the semifinals at Wimbledon to Djokovic before the knee problem hampered his progress at Flushing Meadows.


Result against Brazil doesn’t matter, says Argentina legend Mario Kempes

Updated 16 October 2018
0

Result against Brazil doesn’t matter, says Argentina legend Mario Kempes

  • Argentina legend admits side is in transition and says the performance matters more than the result.
  • Argentina likely to be changed from the side that thrashed Iraq 4-0 on Thursday.

LONDON: Argentina legend and 1978 World Cup winner Mario Kempes said the Albiceleste must focus on building a team as they take on Brazil in a friendly on Tuesday in Jeddah. 

“The game against Brazil is important because I wouldn’t attribute too much importance to the result, but rather focus on how you can form a good team,” Kempes told Arab News.

“It is a new team, it is a new coach. For me, the result isn’t interesting, but the development and the performance of the players are.”

On Friday, Argentina thumped a hapless Iraq 4-0 with a dominant display as Lautaro Martinez, Roberto Pereyra, German Pezzella and Franco Cervi all beat Iraqi goalkeeper Jalal Hassan to ensure a resounding victory.

The South Americans fielded an experimental side without star players Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, but overcame a defensive opponent in the second half following the introductions of Eduardo Salvio and Santiago Ascacibar, the substitutes allowing Argentina to play more direct. 

“It was important to win in this new chapter with new players and a new coach,” Kempes explained.

“These are players that haven’t really been long with in the squad of the national team and that is why it was significant to beat Iraq.” 

Brazil will provide Argentina with a first stern test after a disappointing World Cup in Russia, where they exited the tournament 4-3 at the hands eventual champions France in the second round. Argentina’s interim coach Lionel Scaloni, who took over from Jorge Sampaoli, has confirmed that only Sergio Romero, Pezzella and Paulo Dybala will be retained from the Iraq friendly, with the coach pondering Atletico Madrid’s Angelo Correa as a replacement for Martinez. 

In the final third Scaloni will count on Mauro Icardi. The Inter Milan striker, who has endured a lackluster start to the Serie A season, debuted for Argentina in a 2013 World Cup qualifier, but never established himself in the squad. It was rumored that Messi was behind Icardi’s exclusion from the team over personal entanglements. Icardi also did not make the final squad for the this summer’s World Cup. 

“Icardi hasn’t had a great past with Argentina, because he couldn’t show himself much,” said Kempes. “I think that Icardi should always be in the squad. He played only against Uruguay and later he wasn’t called up again. This time he gets a new chance and he has to size it.” 

Whatever impact Icardi may have against Brazil, the striker will not camouflage the glaring absence of Argentina’s superstar and talisman Lionel Messi, but Kempes, who scored two goals in the 1978 World Cup final against the Netherlands to secure Argentina’s maiden world title and today commentates for ESPN, believes this is a chance for Argentina to plant the seeds for a new team and rebuild. 

“You need a competitive team, a team that doesn’t simply depend on Messi,” the 64-year-old said.

“The team and Messi played together for practically 10 years and it is a pity that Argentina never won anything. Good, a change is needed from all, but not from Messi. I think Messi wants or needs rest. You need to give him rest and he may return fresher. Let us first find a team that plays without Messi. Once you have that team, you can play Messi again. Why? Because he is going to make the difference.” 

Messi’s national team future remains in doubt, but Argentina will look to next year’s Copa America in Brazil as a benchmark to measure progress. In 2015 and 2016 the Argentineans were on the wrong end of the last two continental finals when Chile prevailed twice on penalties after goalless draws, but Kempes sees next year’s tournament being a more transitional one for the Albiceleste.

He said: “I believe that Argentina has to use the Copa America in the sense of informing the team about big games when you will form a team, and not to win the tournament.

“Argentina can play a good role, seeking a balance between the players on the field.”