Brooks Koepka and Bryson Dechambeau to tee it up at Saudi International

Brooks Koepka is looking forward to the inaugural event north of Jeddah. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Brooks Koepka and Bryson Dechambeau to tee it up at Saudi International

  • Former world No.1 Koepka to join Dustin Johnson and Co. at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club at the end of the month.
  • US world No.5 Dechambeau to also play in the European Tour event.

LONDON: Brooks Koepka and Bryson Dechambeau have added their names to the star-studded list set to tee it up at the inaugural Saudi International this month.
The tournament completes the Middle East swing of the European Tour and now arguably has the strongest field of the trio of tournaments taking place in January — the Abu Dhabi Championship and Dubai Desert Classic being the other, more established, events.
The two Americans join an impressive field looking to win the first title at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.
The new stop off on the European Tour wanted to make a statement and it has by landing Koepka, meaning the tournament now has the past three world No.1s in the field — Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson are heading the event.
Added to that impressive threeball is Masters champion Patrick Reed, while Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter have also been confirmed.
With Dechambeau being ranked world No.5 that means the Saudi International can boast of having four of the world’s top five players teeing it up at the Red Sea course.
That is something that that can only be good for the growth of golf in the Kingdom, according to 
Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation.
“Our intention from the outset was to secure one of the strongest fields in world golf to compete in our inaugural event,” Al-Rumayyan said. “(The announcement of Koepka and Dechambeau) is the final step and completes a headline roster befitting a championship of this significance and will attract major national and international interest.”
There has long been a battle between Abu Dhabi and Dubai to bag the strongest fields. For years Dubai could boast of having Tiger Woods take on the iconic Majlis course, while Abu Dhabi have attracted big names such as Phil Mickelson to grace the fairways of the UAE capital. Both are now firmly established events but took some time to attract the stellar names that they do on a regular basis now. So to have such an impressive field for the inaugural event is a big statement of intent by the Saudi International.
Koepka cannot wait to get on to the first tee.
“I started my professional career in Europe and the diversity of tournaments and experiences I enjoyed has undoubtedly helped broaden my game and helped me to perform on the international stage,” the three-time Major winner said.
“It’s always exciting to line up against the best players in the world and I am looking forward to experiencing the culture of a new country.”
Completing the impressive list of golfing talent on show are 
European Ryder Cup heroes Lee Westwood and Thorbjørn Olesen and four-time Major winner Ernie Els.
The South African played in an exhibition match against Saudi golfer Othman Almulla last year and said: “I’ve played golf all over the world and was delighted to be invited to play Royal Greens.
“The place is spectacular and it will be a great venue for the event.
“I’ve spent some time getting to know a little bit about the 
Kingdom’s plans to accelerate golf development in the country and I’m privileged to be a part of it,” the South African added.


Maria Sharapova looks back to her best as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal show no signs of slowing down

Updated 18 January 2019
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Maria Sharapova looks back to her best as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal show no signs of slowing down

  • Sharapova dumps out defending champion Caroline Wozniacki.
  • Rafa and Roger brush aside young guns in straight sets victories.

LONDON: It is coming up to the end of the first week of the Australian Open, so we thought we would take a look and see how some of the big names fared on day five of the year’s first Grand Slam.

MARIA SHARAPOVA

Maria Sharapova warned she is in the sort of form to win the Australian Open after she dumped Carolina Wozniacki out with an impressive 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win. It was the Russian’s best win since her return from a drugs ban and she looked like a winner-in-waiting.
“I thought the level was quite high. I knew I’d get a tough match — she (Wozniacki) is the defending champion,” the five-time Slam champion said.
“I haven’t played many matches in the last year against top players so it was really rewarding to win that last set. These are the kinds of matches I train for.”



ROGER FEDERER

Ageless Roger Federer marked his 100th Rod Laver Arena match Friday by storming past Taylor Fritz, then looked forward to a “high quality” last-16 clash against another young gun, Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion continued his quest for a record seventh Australian Open title with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 third-round demolition of 21-year-old American Fritz in just 88 minutes of flawless tennis.
Next up is 14th seed Tsitsipas. And the 37-year-old Federer is looking forward to taking on the fiery young Greek, who is 17 years his junior.
Federer played him in the recent mixed teams Hopman Cup, winning a closely contested singles 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4), and said he was impressed.
“I think he played really well there. I actually did too. I thought it was really high quality tennis,” Federer said.
“This is obviously a different type of match, it being best of five, it being a fourth round of a Slam.”



RAFAEL NADAL

Rafael Nadal declared “everything is a step forward” after brutally brushing aside Alex de Minaur at the Australian Open Friday in just the Spaniard’s third match since the US Open.
The world No. 2 was in ominous form as he continued his quest for an 18th Grand Slam by punishing the Australian teenager in a third-round tennis masterclass 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
“In general terms, everything is a step forward. So that’s positive news for me,” said the man who won the Aussie Open in 2009.
“I’m very happy for the victory against someone who had won seven matches in a row, winning a tournament.”
On his fitness Nadal added: “Probably 10 years ago it would have been difficult not playing much tennis in the build-up but now I have been in this situation many times with the injuries I have had.
“I have to deal with the ups and downs of my body but I try to enjoy any moment on the court.”



MARIN CILIC

The former US Open champions was made to work for his place in the last 16 as he struggled to beat Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-3. Verdasco showed glimpses of the form that once made him a top-10 player and had a match point, one he frittered away with a double fault.
I was just slightly luckier in those crucial moments,” the sixth-seeded Cilic said.
“(It is) unbelievable. Emotions were up and down,” Cilic said.
“When I was down two sets to none, it was a big hill to climb.”
It’s the seventh time in Cilic’s career that he has emerged to win a match after dropping the opening two sets.



ANGELIQUE KERBER

Second seed Kerber received a gift ride into the Australian Open fourth round for her 31st birthday when she overpowered local wildcard Kimberly Birrell 6-1, 6-0.
The Wimbledon champion swept world No. 240 Birrell aside in just 58 minutes to set up a last-16 clash with unseeded American Danielle Collins.
Kerber, a winner at Melbourne Park in 2016, said she was used to celebrating her birthday on the road at the season-opening Grand Slam.
“I think it’s the 12th time in a row,” she said. “I’m getting older but I have the best time here and I’ll never forget my birthdays here in Australia.”
Kerber reached the semifinals last year but lost to Simona Halep in a tight three-setter.