‘Future of tennis’ Marta Kostyuk to face fourth seed next

Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk makes a forehand return to Australia's Olivia Rogowska during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. (AP)
Updated 17 January 2018

‘Future of tennis’ Marta Kostyuk to face fourth seed next

MELBOURNE: Teenage sensation Marta Kostyuk was hailed as the “future of tennis” Wednesday after she became the youngest Australian Open second-round winner since “Swiss Miss” Martina Hingis in 1996.
The 15-year-old was rewarded with an all-Ukrainian clash against fourth seed Elina Svitolina as her fairytale run at the year’s first Grand Slam continued with a win over local wildcard Olivia Rogowska 6-3, 7-5.
It had commentators gushing that Kostyuk was “the future of tennis” as she extended her win streak at Melbourne Park to an incredible 11 matches after lifting the Australian Open girls’ title in 2017 and coming through qualifying this year.
“This is the future, ladies and gentlemen. Fifteen years of age,” said former British number one Sam Smith on Australia’s Channel 7. “This is an incredible story. This is the future of tennis on your screen.”
Before the start of this week Kostyuk’s total career prize money was $6,733, but she already has plans for the bumper $142,500 pay day she will earn even if she loses to Svitolina in the third round.
“Maybe I will get presents for my family, first of all, of course, because I have big family,” she said. “And then for myself a bit. Yeah.”
Playing since the age of five and watched by tennis-playing mum and coach Talina Beyko, who once reached 391st in the world, in her player’s box on Margaret Court Arena, Kostyuk said she had been used to setting new standards.
“I think I broke some records every year so I feel OK about it,” she said.
In the first round she had dismantled Chinese number one and 25th seed Peng Shuai in straight sets in just 57 minutes.
The talented Kostyuk continued in the same vein against Rogowska, taking the first set in 39 minutes.
“I didn’t feel like she was 15 at all,” said Rogowska. “I feel she’s going to be a dangerous player when she grows up. Obviously she had some silly errors, I think with experience she’ll clean that up.”
Svitolina clearly knows what to expect when she faces her young compatriot on Friday.
“I little bit watched her first round,” said the world number four after coming through a three-set battle against Katerina Siniakova.
“You know, she has nothing to lose, she goes just for everything. You know, a little bit like a headless chicken.”
The youngster is managed by former player Ivan Ljubicic, Roger Federer’s coach, and said she was pleased to have such experience in her corner.
“He is always helping me, telling me what was wrong, even when I win,” she said laughing. “I am lucky to have his experience.”
And long hours of practice, she said, was the key to her success.
“Well, I heard a lot of times that I’m talented, and I know that,” she told reporters with all the swagger of confident youth.
“But I know that only talent will not help me to play good. So I can say that I’m working pretty hard.”


Africa Cup switch to winter sends a chill through European leagues

Updated 21 January 2020

Africa Cup switch to winter sends a chill through European leagues

  • High-profile African players playing in England include the Arsenal duo Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang of Gabon and Nicolas Pepe of Cote d’Ivoire

CAIRO: There is little doubt that the switch by the Africa Cup of Nations from summer to winter competition will have a big impact on European competitions, with those at the top of the Premier League perhaps most affected.

The confederation confirmed that from 2021 when Cameroon will play host, the tournament will revert back to being played in January and February.

The tournament was moved to a June-July slot for last year’s edition in Egypt, which meant minimal disruption to the European domestic season. But plenty of Premier League managers will be left with problems this time next year, with several stars likely to leave for up to six weeks, including pre-tournament preparations.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp appears to face the biggest headache given that two of his star attacking players, Mohamed Salah from Egypt and Sadio Mane from Senegal, both featured in the African tournament last summer and are almost certain to be involved in the 2021 competition in some capacity.

High-profile African players playing in England include the Arsenal duo Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang of Gabon and Nicolas Pepe of Cote d’Ivoire, while Manchester City will lose Riyad Mahrez should Algeria feature.

Klopp is critical of the decision to move the tournament dates, calling it “a catastrophe.” Salah and Mane’s absence would leave huge gaps in the Liverpool side. There is also Cameroon’s Joel Matip and Guinea’s Naby Keita to worry about. Matip has become solid at the back. Keita, too, would be a loss given his recent resurgence.

The Liverpool manager is upset because last year’s tournament was moved to mid-year to end a long-standing clash between clubs and countries over the release of their players. It was felt that common sense had prevailed when the tournament, which since 1960 had always been held during winter, reverted to summer. African players in western European clubs would no longer find themselves the target of competing claims for their attention every other season, which would benefit the players and their clubs and countries, and lead to fewer squabbles.

But then Cameroon changed its mind about hosting the tournament in summer next year, changing the dates from June and July to between Jan. 6 and Feb. 6. Why? The weather. It’s simply too hot in Cameroon in summer.

Organizers said they had agreed to the change after discussions with player and coach representatives.

But didn’t Cameroon know beforehand that its summers are too hot, too humid and right in the middle of its rainy season? That the country does not enjoy ideal conditions for football in summer could not have taken its organizers by complete surprise.

The situation serves as a vivid reminder of the botch-up of the 2022 Qatar World Cup. The host and FIFA decided that the World Cup, which is forever played in summer, would be moved to winter because of Qatar’s oppressive heat — but that decision came only after Qatar won the bid. That change, again, will mean a head-on clash with international tournaments and club competitions.

A football tournament simply cannot keep changing when it will be held as often as people change their socks. This is especially true for the Africa Cup of Nations, which is played every two years.

A major sports tournament must have fixed times. And, to be sure, its organizers should understand that you can’t please everybody. A championship’s times are bound to clash with some tournament or other. The African tournament, for example, will avoid a clash with FIFA’s revamped 24-team Club World Cup to be played in China in June and July 2021. But it cannot but conflict with European leagues. The important thing is to stay the course. Once a date is picked, it should be stuck to like glue.