Nawaf Al-Abed on the road to recovery for Saudi Arabia and Al-Hilal

Nawaf Al-Abed has played more than 100 times for Al-Hilal. (@Alhilal_EN)
Updated 12 February 2018

Nawaf Al-Abed on the road to recovery for Saudi Arabia and Al-Hilal

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s World Cup preparations have been given a boost following the news that Nawaf Al-Abed has returned to the Kingdom to step up his recovery following surgery.

Al-Abed had been struggling for some time with a groin problem before he was forced off after just 14 minutes of the Saudi Professional League game with Ettifaq on Jan. 8. He was sent to France for treatment and underwent surgery at the hands of Dr. Gilles Reboul on Jan. 17. The trip and the surgery was paid for by the General Sports Authority, which is a sign of his importance to the national team.

Al-Abed, 28, has been continuing his post-op rehabilitation in France but has now returned to Riyadh to continue his recovery. He was on the sidelines at the King Saud University Stadium on Sunday watching the team prepare for the AFC Champions League tie with Al-Ain on Tuesday.

“Nawaf Al-Abid arrived yesterday in Riyadh coming from France after completing the first stage of his recovery and rehab process,” read a club tweet.

The news will be welcomed by Al-Hilal coach Ramon Diaz and national team boss Juan Antonio Pizzi. Diaz will need the playmaker to help his side have a real crack at the Asian Champions League while Pizzi is certain to name Al-Abed in his World Cup squad and possibly even in his starting XI.

Al-Abed has made 36 appearances for Saudi Arabia, scoring seven, including four in World Cup qualifying.

Federer sets up Djokovic showdown

Updated 54 min 1 sec ago

Federer sets up Djokovic showdown

  • Federer, 38, now goes into an unmissable semifinal with Djokovic

MELBOURNE: Swiss great Roger Federer said “I believe in miracles” after he saved seven match points in a five-set nail-biter against 100th-ranked Tennys Sandgren to go into an Australian Open semifinal with Novak Djokovic on Tuesday.

The six-time champion, struggling physically, saved three match points at 4-5 in the fourth set and four more in the tie breaker to scrape through 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-3.

Federer, 38, now goes into an unmissable semifinal with Djokovic, who blunted Milos Raonic’s razor serve to win 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7/1) and move two wins from an eighth Melbourne title.

Djokovic, despite trouble with his contact lenses, ended Raonic’s run of 63 straight games in the tournament without a break of serve and moves smoothly into the semis for the loss of just one set so far.

He paid tribute to the great escape by Federer, ahead of a semifinal that reprises his epic win over the Swiss in last year’s Wimbledon decider.

“What he did today was really amazing, to come back and save seven match points at his age,” Djokovic said.

“He’s still playing such a great tennis and proving that he deserves to be up there. He’s a great fighter. Obviously I have lots of respect for him.” Federer’s match was incident-packed and he received a rare warning for an audible obscenity before going off-court for treatment on a groin injury.

Still hampered by the injury, he somehow forced a fifth set and began to regain control against the big-serving American.

“I believe in miracles,” Federer said, revealing that he thought his groin strain had ended his chances. “There could be rain, there could be all kinds of stuff.

“(I thought) just let him finish me off in style, and he didn’t do that. I’m incredibly lucky tonight, today — I don’t even know what time it is.”

Sandgren, achingly close to becoming the lowest-ranked player to beat Federer at the Australian Open, can count himself unlucky especially after a ball girl accidentally collided with him during the pivotal tie-breaker, which he lost.

Federer has made heavy weather of reaching his 46th Major semifinal. He was two points from defeat by John Millman in a fifth-set tie-breaker in round three, and dropped a set against 67th-ranked Marton Fucsovics in round four.

In the women’s draw Australia’s world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty dismissed two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in impressive style to reach the semis for the first time.

The unflappable Barty beat the Czech 7-6 (8/6), 6-2 and will be favorite in her semifinal against America’s Sofia Kenin — sending hopes soaring of a first home winner in 42 years.