International tennis tournament ‘watershed moment’ for Saudi Arabia

of Switzerland is among the players who will take part in the event. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 09 October 2019

International tennis tournament ‘watershed moment’ for Saudi Arabia

  • First event of its kind in Saudi Arabia has $3m prize money
  • Stan Wawrinka and Daniil Medvedev will take part in the hardcourt, outdoor tournament

RIYADH: The first international tennis tournament to be held in the Kingdom is a “watershed moment” for the country, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal has said.

The Diriyah Tennis Cup is a hardcourt, outdoor tournament with a $3 million prize.

It will be held from Dec. 12 to Dec. 14 on the outskirts of Riyadh and is attracting leading players, including three-time Grand Slam winner Stanislas Wawrinka and rising Russian star Daniil Medvedev. They have been confirmed alongside Fabio Fognini and David Goffin.

The prince, who is chairman of the Saudi General Sports Authority (GSA), said: “Hosting world class international tennis in Saudi Arabia for the very first time is another watershed moment for the Kingdom. There’s a deep passion for sport in Saudi Arabia and the Diriyah Tennis Cup will see us reaching new tennis fans, welcome even more international visitors as well as creating amazing memories for all.”

Wawrinka’s career highlights include three Grand Slam titles, an Olympic gold medal and Davis Cup victory.

Medvedev is enjoying a breakthrough 2019 with three titles to his name and was runner-up to Rafael Nadal in last month’s US Open Final.

World number 12 Fognini was the first Italian to win an ATP Masters 1000 title this year in Monte Carlo while Goffin, from Belgium, is a former world number seven.

The remaining four players will be announced later, completing the lineup. 

The 15,000-capacity Diriyah Arena will provide an intimate setting for the event, allowing tennis fans and newcomers to the sport to get up and close to the world’s very best players.

The tournament forms part of Ad Diriyah Season. It includes the Diriyah E-Prix, the “Clash On The Dunes” heavyweight boxing rematch between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua, and the Diriyah Equestrian Festival.

There are many other entertainment and cultural activities over a month-long period from Nov. 22 to Dec. 21.

Peter-Michael Reichel, co-chairman of Basel Sports Group, said: “The eyes of the tennis world will be on Saudi Arabia in December with some of the very biggest names in global tennis battling for the first-ever Diriyah Tennis Cup. The stunning UNESCO world heritage site in Diriyah will arguably be the most unique venue in tennis.”

The Diriyah Tennis Cup will work alongside the Saudi Tennis Federation to use the tournament as an opportunity to inspire Saudi players, new fans and followers of the game.

Cup tickets will be available at www.diriyahseason.sa while the latest news can be found on social media platforms: @diriyahseason. 

International travelers can apply for their tourist visa at www.visitsaudi.com.

Ad Diriyah Season is one of 11 festivals aimed at transforming the Kingdom into an important global tourist destination. 


Man United beats Chelsea 2-0, throws open race for Champions League spots

Updated 18 February 2020

Man United beats Chelsea 2-0, throws open race for Champions League spots

  • Headers by Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire ensured the win

LONDON: Manchester United threw open the race for the final Champions League qualification spots in the Premier League by beating fourth-place Chelsea 2-0 thanks to headers by Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire on Monday.
With 12 games remaining, seven points separate Chelsea and 11th-place Burnley, with the team finishing fifth also set to earn a place in next season’s Champions League following UEFA’s decision to punish Man City for serious breaches of financial regulations by handing the English champions a two-year European ban.
Martial glanced in a header off a right-wing cross by Aaron Wan-Bissaka to give United the lead in the 45th minute at Stamford Bridge, before Maguire planted home a corner from January signing Bruno Fernandes in the 66th.
Maguire, United’s captain, was perhaps fortunate to still be on the field, with the match officials opting not to punish the England defender for appearing to kick out at Michy Batshuayi after tumbling off the playing surface in front of the dugouts.
“I know I caught him but I felt like he was going to fall on me and the natural reaction was to straighten my leg so that if he was to fall on me, to hold him up,” Maguire said. “It probably looks worse than it was.
“I did catch him ... but I knew at the time I had no intent to hurt him or kick him.”
Chelsea was on the wrong end of two other decisions by VAR, firstly disallowing a volleyed goal by Kurt Zouma in the 56th because of a push by Cesar Azpilicueta on United left back Brandon Williams. Azpilicueta seemed to have been pushed a split-second earlier by Fred.
Then, with 13 minutes to go, substitute Olivier Giroud had a goal ruled out by VAR for a tight offside, leaving Chelsea manager Frank Lampard looking thoroughly glum as he sat in his technical area.
Chelsea has long been in fourth place, but has only won three of its last 11 games in the league to give a slew of rivals clubs hope of catching up.
One of them is United, which climbed to seventh place with this win — three points behind Chelsea and two adrift of fifth-place Tottenham.
“This season, we have been far too inconsistent,” Maguire said. “We have won at Manchester City, beat Chelsea at home, got a point against Liverpool, but we have let ourselves down against the teams where the pressure is on to break them down.”
Injury problems are starting to bite at Chelsea, too. Top scorer Tammy Abraham and winger Callum Hudson-Odoi missed the game because of injury, while central midfielder N’Golo Kante lasted 11 minutes before hobbling off. Center back Andreas Christensen didn’t come out for the second half after sustaining a knock to the head late in the first period, just before Martial beat the Denmark defender to a header for the first goal.
Lampard’s main gripe, though, was his team’s failure to finish off chances once again. Batshuayi was the biggest culprit, spurning two great chances in the first half in his first start in the league this season.
“We are fourth because of some of the good stuff we’ve done and because of the nature of the league, everyone taking points off each other,” Lampard said. “But there’s a lot of work to do because you can see the problem — that’s putting the ball in the back of the net.
“I feel like a broken record. We have to put things to bed by scoring goals.”
Chelsea hosts Tottenham on Saturday and would finally get overtaken with another loss.
“The season starts here,” Lampard said.
Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo, who signed for United on deadline day in the January transfer window, came on in second-half stoppage time for his debut and had a late chance saved by Willy Caballero, who again started in goal ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Two players struck the post from free kicks in the second half, Fernandes for United and Mason Mount for Chelsea.