Lionel Messi to miss Barcelona match for ‘personal reasons’

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi looks on during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Girona FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on February 24, 2018.(AFP)
Updated 10 March 2018

Lionel Messi to miss Barcelona match for ‘personal reasons’

BARCELONA: Lionel Messi announced that he and his wife Antonella Roccuzzo had become parents for a third time on Saturday.
"Welcome Ciro!!! Thank God, everything went perfectly. He and his mummy are doing very well. We are super happy!!!" wrote Messi on his Instagram account, accompanying the post with a photo of the baby's hand.
Ciro is a brother to five-year-old Thiago and Mateo, who is two.
Messi had pulled out of Barcelona's squad for Saturday's La Liga match at Malaga to be present for the birth.
The club tweeted: "Change to the squad. Messi is out for personal reasons and Yerry Mina takes his place."
The Argentinian couple, both 30, first met in their home town, Rosario, in 1996 and started going out a decade later. They were married last year in Rosario.
Barcelona, who face Chelsea in the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie at the Camp Nou on Wednesday, have an eight-point lead over Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga.


No fans, no problem as Serena wins on return

Updated 12 August 2020

No fans, no problem as Serena wins on return

  • The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion looked to be flirting with an early exit in the second set

LOS ANGELES: Serena Williams shrugged off the absence of fans to make a winning return from her six-month coronavirus layoff on Tuesday, defeating lowly ranked Bernarda Pera in three sets at the WTA Top Seed Open tournament in Kentucky.

Williams, who before Tuesday had not played a competitive game since a Fed Cup appearance in February, came from behind to defeat American world No. 60 Pera 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in two hours and 15 minutes at the Top Seed Tennis Club in Lexington.

The former world No. 1’s first round victory played out to an empty arena. This week’s tournament — the first WTA event in the US since the COVID-19 pandemic — is taking place without spectators.

Williams, 38, later revealed that the sedate surroundings had suited her game.

“It was a really calm atmosphere, it was really chill,” Williams said.

“I can’t say I disliked it. I didn’t mind it at all. I’ve been through so many things in my career and this was totally different. I think I won today because I was calm for once in my career.

“Kind of reminds me of junior days. Something nostalgic about that. I kind of enjoyed it.”

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion looked to be flirting with an early exit in the second set, but recovered from 0-40 down at 4-4 before holding and eventually winning the set.

“I just knew I could do better,” Williams said. “It was an interesting game. I just had to get used to her game a little bit. She played really well.”

Williams will now play either sister Venus or Victoria Azarenka in the second round.

Pera had seized an early advantage in the first set, breaking Williams to take a 3-2 lead before holding for the remainder of the set to win 6-4.

Williams was soon in trouble on her service game in the second set, falling 0-40 in the opening game before battling back to hold.

Williams moved into a 3-1 lead with a break of Pera’s serve in the fourth game, but her Croatia-born opponent hit back immediately with a break of her own before holding to level at 3-3.

With the next two games going to serve, Williams looked to be in trouble after falling 0-40 down in the ninth game. But she dug deep to hold for a 5-4 lead and then broke for the set when Pera sent a forehand return wide.

The momentum spilled into the deciding set, and another misdirected forehand from Pera handed Williams a break to move into a 3-1 lead.

Another break took her into a 5-1 lead and she closed out the win by holding to love, wrapping up victory with a cross-court forehand that left Pera stranded.

This week’s WTA tournament is the first to be staged in the United States since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the tennis season earlier this year.