NBA All-Star Jokic shines as Serbia crank up World Cup assault

Nikola Jokic of Serbia in action against June Mar Fajardo of the Philippines. (Reuters)
Updated 02 September 2019

NBA All-Star Jokic shines as Serbia crank up World Cup assault

  • Serbia brought up a century of points at the start of the fourth quarter with a dunk by Marko Guduric

FOSHAN, CHINA: Serbia and their NBA All-Star Nikola Jokic turned on the style to reach the second round of the Basketball World Cup with a masterful 126-67 demolition of the Philippines on Monday.

The Serbs have a team packed with NBA talent and are the prime threat to reigning two-time champions the US, who are without their biggest names in China.

Serbia began their title tilt with a 105-59 thrashing of Angola on Saturday and were similarly ruthless in dismissing the Philippines in Foshan.

Lumbering Denver Nuggets ace Jokic, who has what it takes to be the player of the tournament and has been likened to an NFL quarterback in the way he dictates games, had 11 points and a game-best seven assists and seven rebounds.

Nemanja Bjelica of the Sacramento Kings led the scoring with 20 points.

Serbia brought up a century of points at the start of the fourth quarter with a dunk by Marko Guduric, who signed for the Memphis Grizzlies in July.

It is the first time that Serbia, losing finalists to Team USA in 2014, have won their first two games at the World Cup, underlining their scintillating form.

Serbia’s big win also propelled Italy into the second round — the two teams will face up on Wednesday in what promises to be a blockbuster for Group D supremacy. The pair are the first teams into round two.

An Angola player aimed a vicious headbutt at an opponent as Italy thrashed the Africans 92-61.

Italy look in ominous form, hammering the Philippines 108-62 in their opener before handing out more punishment to the Angolans in Foshan.

But there was a flashpoint involving all the players from both teams with seconds left of the match after Angola’s Leonel Paulo and Alessandro Gentile clashed.

The 26-year-old Gentile shoved Paulo and the latter responded in kind, before appearing to make contact with the Italian’s nose with his forehead.

Marco Belinelli of the San Antonio Spurs racked up 17 points and Kentucky-born Jeff Brooks also starred for Italy with 11 points, 11 rebounds and two steals.

“Serbia are the best team in the tournament but we are not scared about that,” said the 33-year-old guard.

Argentina also made it two wins out of two as they defeated Nigeria — touted by some as possible surprise packages before the World Cup — 94-81 in Group B.

Luis Scola scored 23 points to reach 611 points in his Basketball World Cup career and move to second on the all-time tournament scoring list.

The 39-year-old, taking part in his fifth World Cup, is however well behind Oscar Schmidt.

The legendary Brazilian finished his career with 906 points.


Diriyah Tennis Cup serves up top-class fare

Updated 13 December 2019

Diriyah Tennis Cup serves up top-class fare

  • Day one of the three-day tournament saw Fognini, Monfils, Medvedev and Goffin through to the semi-finals

RIYADH: A new chapter was written today in Saudi Arabia’s sporting history as the first international tennis matches took place as part of the epic month of Diriyah Season.

The Diriyah Tennis Cup presented by Saudi Aramco will certainly go down in history as eight of the world’s best tennis stars met in the Diriyah Arena for the first-ever international tournament played in the Kingdom. 

The event also goes down in tennis history as not only the first in Saudi Arabia, but also one of the first to use Hawk-Eye Live technology. Replacing the need for line judges and providing more accuracy, Hawk-Eye Live sends visual and audio cues to the chair umpire and off-court monitors within a tenth of a second of a ball bouncing, to show faults and out of bounds shots without relying on the naked eye.

The first day as part of a three-day tournament saw all eight players in action in the opening matches. First up on court was Italian and world number 12 Fabio Fognini taking on American John Isner world number 19 and holder of the third fastest serve of all time in Men’s Tennis. Although both players will be written into the Kingdom’s history books, it was Fognini who was the record breaker as he delivered the first international serve and match win ever recorded, 7-6 6-4. 

Speaking after his win, Fabio Fognini said: “I won the first game of the competition, it’s nice. It’s something I will remember for sure and the people will remember as it is the first year we play here. I know they want to do something more [grassroots tennis], especially to improve tennis in this country so I’m happy.”

Commenting after the historic match, John Isner also added: “Very unique to be here and be part of this. I never thought I’d be here playing in Saudi Arabia. Very grateful and happy to be here. The ball kids did great tonight, fantastic job.”

Second up on the Diriyah Arena court was Swiss Stan Wawrinka, the world’s number 16, against Frenchman Gael Monfils the world’s number 10. Monfils took the win in straight sets 6-3 6-3. Monfils rallied the crowd by encouraging them to cheer and danced after some of his winning shots.

“So far it’s great. The offering they have here for us to perform is incredible. The court is one of the best…it’s quite nice. The people are very nice. I feel very good.” said Monfils.

Daniil Medvedev of Russia and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany met in the third match of the evening. Medvedev made light work of Struff to take the win 6-3 6-1 and advance to the semi-finals.

Speaking after his win, Medvedev commented: “Was a great match. It’s never easy like this, after the end of the season, holidays and in the middle of pre-season to know how you are playing at this moment – are you strong or not? Today was a great match, beating Jan so easy is a great achievement because he’s a great player so I am really happy. The atmosphere was also really good and warm.”

In the final match of the night, Belgian’s David Goffin rallied with Lucas Pouille of France. Goffin took the final place in tomorrow night’s semi-finals beating Pouille 6-2 6-4.

After the match, Goffin commented: “Super organisation – the stadium is very nice. First time for me playing in Saudi, it’s a great atmosphere. I think for the people tonight it was something to see, professional tennis matches here. I think it was great for us and them as well. It’s a nice court and stadium – it could be a very nice center court in a big tournament.”

Today’s results will see Fognini of Italy meet Monfils of France in semi-final 1 and Medvedev of Russia will take on Goffin of Belgium on Friday 13th December. The remaining four players will still continue to play as part of the Consolation Bracket. The Diriyah Tennis Cup will conclude with the final on Saturday 14th December.