World number five Medvedev topbills first international tennis tournament in Saudi Arabia

World number four Daniil Medvedev is one of six confirmed names heading to the Diriyah for the first international tennis tournament to be staged in the Kingdom on December 12, 13 and 14. (Supplied)
Updated 22 November 2019

World number five Medvedev topbills first international tennis tournament in Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: Some of the greatest men’s players on the planet can use the upcoming $3 million Diriyah Tennis Cup in Saudi Arabia as ideal preparation for the Australia Open, says one of its big-name competitors.

World number five Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, is one of six confirmed names heading to the Diriyah Arena in the UNESCO world heritage site for the first international tennis tournament to be staged in the Kingdom, presented by Saudi Aramco on December 12 to and 14.

It has been a breakthrough year for the fan favorite, reaching six consecutive tournament finals, including one at the 2019 US Open and two at Masters 1000 events with a career high ranking of number 4.

Now Medvedev believes the competitive nature of the Diriyah Tennis Cup can provide an ideal platform to build on that success, especially with the first Grand Slam event of 2020, the Australian Open taking place a little more than a month after the Saudi tournament.

Medvedev said: “Saudi will be a big part of my preparation for the new season. Coming to Saudi the heat and conditions will be similar to Australia. It will be a great test for us.

“It’s in our pre-season so we’ll want to get that match time in to prepare for the new season – but the fans should expect us to fight hard like in any tournament. It will be competitive and hopefully they’ll be lots of fans coming to support us there.

“Hopefully I can play some great tennis, help the country raise awareness of the sport and inspire people to play. Looking at the players confirmed it’s a really great field.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about Saudi Arabia. I’m excited to promote tennis there especially as it’s the first tournament.

The tournament is part of the Diriyah Season, an epic month of showcase sports events being hosted by the GSA. 

The Diriyah Tennis Cup showdown has confirmed six leading players to date for the inaugural tournament. As well as Medvedev this includes three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland.

World number 12, Fabio Fogini, who was the first Italian to win an ATP Masters 1000 title this year in Monte Carlo and highly-rated David Goffin (Belgium), the former world number 7 will also present in Diriyah.

The big-serving American John Isner, with over 10,000 aces on tour, and five-time ATP champion Lucas Pouille of France, an Australian Open semi-finalist this year complete the current line-up. Officials will name the final two players in the coming weeks.

Medvedev will go into tournament with confidence after a great year, in the past week missed out on closing rounds of the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals which also included another epic showdown with World Number One, Rafael Nadal in London.

He said: “It’s been a great year for me, especially the second half. The highlights were in Washington and then finishing in Shanghai and winning that title. With six titles and two of them Masters titles, it wasn’t something I expected if I’m honest with you.

The 23-year-old Russian also gave some insight into what it has taken to reach the top echelon of the men’s game, as he closes in on ‘The Big Three’; namely Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. 

“To be successful in tennis you need to fight hard and play with passion. You need to fight hard on every single point. Look back on the times it doesn’t go well and always try to improve and always get better. Self-reflection is important. That might sound a bit tough for the kids, but that’s what it takes to break through."

Tickets are now available at www.diriyahseason.sa with nine different ticket categories available to suit all budgets – the perfect event for groups of friends and families.

The Diriyah Tennis Cup is taking place at the 15,000-seater Diriyah Arena being purpose built at the ancient site of the Kingdom’s first capital, known as the home of kings and heroes. The tournament will happen just a week after the same venue plays host to the Clash On The Dunes, the world heavyweight title fight between Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua OBE.


Joshua reveals he’s gone back to school ahead of Ruiz rematch

Updated 06 December 2019

Joshua reveals he’s gone back to school ahead of Ruiz rematch

  • “I really started studying boxing again”: Joshua

RIYADH: Former world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has admitted that he has been hitting the books just as hard as the gym in his six-month buildup to this weekend’s epic Clash On The Dunes bout in Riyadh.

The 30-year-old revealed that, as well as sparring with up to five fighters in a row, he committed to learning as much as he could about the “science of boxing” in his preparations for the rematch following his June defeat to Mexican-American fighter Andy Ruiz.

The pair meet again on Saturday in the jewel in the crown of Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Season — with tickets selling fast in the face of phenomenal demand.

To Joshua, the fight is his chance of redemption following Ruiz’s shock win in New York’s Madison Square Garden, so he has left no stone unturned in his quest to produce the perfect performance under the lights and with the eyes of the world watching.

“After that fight, I knew my mistakes,” he told Arab News. “That’s why I said: ‘You were the better man that day. I give you it. First-ever Mexican champion. Hats off to you.’”

He continued: “I wasn’t low because I know I’m better than that and that I’ve got a lot more I needed to give. I just knew that me and Andy are different in every aspect — the only thing we have in common is time. So I made sure I used my time wisely because I knew I was going to get it right. I knew what I needed to work on. It was more strategic planning.

“Ever since I walked into boxing I’ve been dominating. From the amateurs — bosh, championship. Turned pro — bosh, championship. You never really understand what (you have) until it’s taken (from you).

“Then I had time to think and that’s when I really started studying boxing again. There is no doubt I can fight. I’ve been fighting top-level fighters. I’ve never really had an introduction level. I’ve just been straight on. I’ve now had the time to reflect, get my head right, get my head back in the game, and boost myself again and do what I did 10 years ago: take over this division.”

When asked what his studying entailed, Joshua — who won a gold medal in the heavyweight category at the 2012 London Olympics — explained: “Loads of videos. Sometimes you can put fighters side-by-side — both 6 feet 6 inches, both weighing roughly the same amount — but you can see one is more disciplined with technique than the other, you can then see why they became more successful in their field and you learn about the discipline of following through your tactics. Stuff like that.

“You learn about when you move to the left against an orthodox fighter: Is that a dangerous move or is that a smart move to control a fighter? What does it mean to move to the right? What’s the first art of defensive boxing? It’s your feet — get out the way. You start to indulge yourself in the sweet science. Before I was more, ‘I’ve just come to fight.’ Now I’ve learned about the sweet science of the sport, which is important as well.”

In line with his learning, Joshua has ensured his 3,000-mile trip from London does not impact his training and fight preparation. In the lead-up to June’s defeat, he spent seven weeks away from home in Miami. On this occasion, he has arrived only two weeks prior — allowing him to maintain a “training camp vibe” to his buildup.

He believes he is now in the perfect place ahead of Saturday’s blockbuster bout, admitting he actually finds the actual fight the least nerve-wracking part of the whole experience.

“I just kept a training routine and focused on business: Keep my focus and get the job done,” he said. “I’m not nervous at all. I’m confident. I don’t think I’ve ever been nervous for a fight. I’ve probably been more nervous sparring. I trap myself in a dungeon, so I feel like I’m an experiment in a lab. I then come and present my efforts to you.

“That’s why I feel I’ve got so much pressure on myself, because behind closed doors I work so hard mentally and physically to try and stay at the top. I spar, like, five guys in a row who come to take my head off, and I’ve got to be sharp in every second of that round, which will ultimately (affect) what I do on fight night. Training is the hardest part, I think. That’s why I’m never nervous about a fight, because I put so much work in in the gym.”

Ruiz’s win over Joshua in June sent reverberations across all divisions of the sport, with many considering it one of boxing’s biggest ever upsets. So, could lightning strike twice?

“I think it’s kind of like an exam, isn’t it?” said Joshua. “You go through it once, you fail. Most people fail their first driving test, then they go again and prepare better, so I think I’m better prepared if I’m honest with you. You will definitely see the energy in the fight a bit different this time.”

Asked what the outcome would be if he were to suffer a second defeat to Ruiz in seven months, Joshua said: “Definitely catastrophic. But I’m not even thinking about losing. It’ll be big business when I win. I just got to keep focusing on the win.”

He added, “Everyone fails their first driving test. I think I got mine the second time.”