Seeds tumble in Miami as Roger Federer remains on course for Novak Djokovic final

Women's world No. 1 Naomi Osaka suffered a shock defeat at the Miami Open, but Roger Federer won through to keep his hopes for a final against Novak Djokovic on track. (AFP)
Updated 24 March 2019
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Seeds tumble in Miami as Roger Federer remains on course for Novak Djokovic final

LONDON: It was a weekend of shocks in both the men’s and women’s tournament at the Miami Open as world No. 1 Naomi Osaka was beaten, Serena Williams was forced to withdraw and Alexander Zverev fell to wildcard David Ferrer.
Elsewhere, Roger Federer kept the prospect of a matchup in the final with Novak Djokovic with a win over Radu Albot.
The Miami Open might have moved to a brand new location for this year, but Miami Gardens is already building a reputation as a seeds’ graveyard.
Williams withdrew on Saturday, blaming a previously undisclosed left knee injury. And less than two hours later, top seed Osaka lost to Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
Osaka’s shock exit equaled the record for the earliest ever in Miami by a top-seeded woman and, depending on results in the rest of the tournament, could see her lose her top spot in the world rankings.
“I feel like I’ve dealt with the stress of people asking me do I have pressure because I have the No. 1 next to my name,” Osaka said. “I thought I was doing fine with that, but I guess I’m not.”
She smiled when reminded it was the first time in 64 matches she lost after winning the first set.
“I know, it’s depressing,” she said. “I was thinking about it right after I lost.”
Osaka, 21, has won the past two Grand Slam tournaments.
Meanwhile, Williams’ withdrawal was surprising, having shown no signs of injury a day earlier while winning her opening match against Rebecca Peterson. Williams did not mention any injury problems during a news conference after the match, and the WTA had no information regarding when she was hurt.
Williams’ victory on Friday was her first at the Hard Rock Stadium, the Miami Open’s new center court. The tournament moved this year from Key Biscayne, where Williams has previously won eight titles.
“I am disappointed to withdraw,” she said in a statement. “It was an amazing experience to play at Hard Rock Stadium this year, and I would like to thank the Miami Open for putting on an amazing event. I hope to be back next year to play at this one-of-a-kind tournament in front of the incredible fans here in Miami.”
Williams, 37, still hasn’t won a tournament since the 2017 Australian Open, before she took a break of more than a year to become a mother. She has played only eight matches this year.
Williams’ stay at the Miami Open was also brief last year, when she lost in the first round to Osaka. Friday’s match was Williams’ first since she retired from Indian Wells two weeks ago because of a viral illness.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer briefly seemed headed for the exit but instead advanced to the third round by rallying past qualifier Radu Albot 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
“Radu put me through the ringer,” Federer said.
Federer, a three-time champion, lost serve only once — in the first game — but was on the ropes until he swept the final three games, to the relief of an enthusiastic stadium crowd.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Federer said. “It was electric. I think that’s why I played so well at the end.
“I’m happy I got it out of the way. I’m happy I was able to find a way tonight,” the 23-time Grand Slam winner said.
But there was no joy for second seed Alexander Zverev, who double-faulted 12 times on his way to losing against Ferrer, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Ferrer was delighted with taking the scalp of the German.
“It means a lot, it’s a special day because it’s the last year of professional tennis for me. Winning these type of matches against a top 10 player like Sascha is a gift. I’m very happy and I’m trying to enjoy every point and every moment.
“My motivation is playing at a high level and be competitive. It’s my goal. I can’t play at my best level anymore, but I want to have good energy and play my best in every match,” he said.


Algeria ready for ‘match of a lifetime’ — Guedioura

Updated 19 July 2019
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Algeria ready for ‘match of a lifetime’ — Guedioura

  • The Cup of Nations showpiece marks the climax not only of Algeria’s campaign on the field, but of their fans’ recent political campaign in the stands

CAIRO: Algeria midfielder Adlene Guedioura says Friday’s Africa Cup of Nations final against Senegal represents the “match of a lifetime” as his country bids to capture the title for a second time.

The Desert Foxes lifted their lone trophy on home soil in 1990 but coach Djamel Belmadi has reinvigorated a team that crashed out in the group stage two years ago and then flopped in World Cup qualifying.

“I think it’s the match of a lifetime for a lot of players in the team and for Algeria,” said Guedioura, who at 33 is the oldest member of the squad.

The Nottingham Forest journeyman has started five of six games in Egypt and insisted much of the credit for Algeria’s eye-catching performances must go to former national team midfielder Belmadi.

“He really knows the players and what he wants. The good thing is he knows how to get through to the players and how to listen,” said the 48-time international.

“If you don’t have a good cook you can’t have a good recipe. With that we realize we can be all together and it’s important to be a team.

“It’s important for Algeria because we used to have good individuals and now we feel very strong as a team and we want to achieve as a team.”

A Youcef Belaili goal earned Algeria a 1-0 victory over Senegal in the group stage, but Belmadi was quick to point out the statistics were heavily weighted in their opponents’ favor.

“Of course we can lose this match. We have an opponent that is number one in the FIFA rankings for Africa. They were at the World Cup. We were eliminated in the first round in 2017,” said Belmadi.

“If you get to the final, the aim is obviously to win it. The game in the group stage wasn’t decisive but now it is and that’s the difference.”

He added: “The most important is to stay concentrated and determined yet calm at the same time.”

Algeria will have the backing of an additional 4,800 fans for the final.

Some of them will arrive in Cairo on military planes organized by Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.

The Cup of Nations showpiece marks the climax not only of Algeria’s campaign on the field, but of their fans’ recent political campaign in the stands.

In April, long-standing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned after weekly Friday protests against his expected candidacy for elections, and football fans have been heavily involved in demonstrations.

“We know what’s happening. The people we represent have been wonderful,” said Guedioura

“It’s magnificent what is happening. We’re focused on football but we want to win the final for the people,” he added.