Italian star Fabio Fognini praises Diriyah Tennis Cup as ‘great opportunity’ for Saudis

The 32-year-old, who recently moved up international tennis rankings to number 12, will be joining seven other leading players to battle it out for the inaugural edition of the $3 million Diriyah Tennis Cup. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 November 2019

Italian star Fabio Fognini praises Diriyah Tennis Cup as ‘great opportunity’ for Saudis

RIYADH: International tennis star Fabio Fognini praised Diriyah Tennis Cup as a “great opportunity” for Saudis to attend a world class event live.

The 32-year-old, who recently moved up international tennis rankings to number 12, will be joining seven other leading players to battle it out for the inaugural edition of the $3 million Diriyah Tennis Cup presented by Saudi Aramco.

It will be the first international tennis tournament to be staged in Saudi Arabia.

“I think it is a great opportunity for the people of Saudi Arabia to be able to attend such world-class events live, and I believe it is good for the country as well,” Fognini said.

Fognini, who won the ATP Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo, believes the tournament will help tap into the growing interest in the game and drive up its popularity further.

“The Middle East is a region that has a lot of hunger for tennis and I believe we should be able to play in this region more often. It would help tennis develop and it would give players more opportunities,” he said.

The tournament takes place from December 12 to 14 in Diriyah, the UNESCO World Heritage site on the outskirts of the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

The cup will be staged at the purpose built 15,000-seater outdoor hard-court Diriyah Arena.

“It’s all different live; you hear the sounds of the game, which you miss on TV, and also the speed of the ball and the movement is completely different. [I think fans] will enjoy it!” said the 32-year-old.

Fognini will join a spectacular line-up of men’s tennis players next month for Diriyah Tennis Cup. Besides him will be three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka and the highly rated world No. 11 David Goffin of Belgium.

Big-serving American John Isner, with over 10,000 aces on tour, will also be present along with five-time ATP champion Lucas Pouille of France, who was an Australian Open semi-finalist this year.

Current world number five Daniil Medvedev wraps up the six confirmed names so far, with the final two names set to be announced in the coming weeks.

“It is a very competitive lineup. There are players with different styles. It will be interesting to see who will play better,” Fognini said of his competition in Diriyah.

The animated Italian, a popular character on the tour, is known for both his on-court antics and cheeky comments and has no intention in changing ahead of his debut in Saudi Arabia. “I am who I am, in the good and bad, I believe I show my emotions when I play, and this could me my weakness or my strength, but I think people also like to watch me play for that!”

Diriyah Tennis Cup is part of Diriyah Season, a month-long celebration of world-class sport and entertainment that kicks off with double-header of the futuristic Formula E race; followed by boxing world heavyweight title fight, dubbed Clash On The Dunes; then the Diriyah Tennis Cup; and elite Diriyah Equestrian Festival.


Grizzlies roll past Bucks 119-106, reach West play-in round

Updated 14 August 2020

Grizzlies roll past Bucks 119-106, reach West play-in round

  • The Grizzlies (34-39) tied for ninth place in the Western Conference with Phoenix, but advances to the play-in round because it owns the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over Phoenix

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: With their season on the line, Jonas Valanciunas and Ja Morant teamed up to make history and keep the Memphis Grizzlies’ playoff hopes alive.
Valanciunas and Moranth had triple-doubles, Dillon Brooks scored 31 points and the Grizzlies beat the Milwaukee Bucks 119-106 on Thursday to wrap up a spot in the play-in tournament that will determine the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
This marked the first time in franchise history that two Grizzlies had triple-doubles in a game. The team effort helped the Grizzlies bounce back after losing six of their first seven games since the NBA returned from a 4 1/2-month layoff.
“I’m happy that we responded,” said Valanciunas, who had 26 points, 19 rebounds and 12 assists. “We showed character. We’re not going home. We’re going to fight until the last second.”
Dillon Brooks added 31 points as Memphis never trailed while capitalizing on the fact Milwaukee was missing Giannis Antetokounmpo. The reigning MVP was serving a one-game suspension after head-butting Moritz Wagner in a 126-113 victory over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.
The Grizzlies (34-39) tied for ninth place in the Western Conference with Phoenix, which beat Dallas 128-102 on Thursday. Memphis advances to the play-in round because it owns the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over Phoenix.
Memphis now faces Portland (35-39), which earned a spot in the play-in round by edging the Brooklyn Nets 134-133 on Thursday night.
As the No. 9 team, Memphis must beat Portland two straight times to advance to face the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.
Memphis hasn’t been to the playoffs the last two years after making seven straight postseason appearances from 2011-17.
“It’s great to see in a meaningful game that our guys just stuck with it,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We’re going to need that on Saturday — even more and more and better and better.”
Valanciunas earned the game ball after getting his first double-double in his 559th career NBA game. The 28-year-old Valanciunas’ previous career high in assists was five.
“I’m definitely going to keep that ball for a long time to show my kids that Daddy did it,” Valanciunas said.
Morant had 12 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
This marked the first time two teammates posted triple-doubles in the same game since Miami’s Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler did it Dec. 10 in a 135-121 overtime victory over Atlanta. Valanciunas and Morant are the 12th pair of teammates to post triple-doubles in the same game, including the postseason.
Brook Lopez scored 19 to lead five Bucks in double figures. Frank Mason had 18, Donte DiVincenzo collected 17, Khris Middleton 14 and D.J. Wilson 12.
This game was meaningless for the Bucks, who already had clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for a second straight season. But it meant everything for the Grizzlies and Jenkins, who was an assistant on Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s staff last season and previously worked for him in Atlanta.
It was quickly apparent which of these two teams had the most incentive. Memphis led by as many as 23.
“You’d have to be head in the sand really deep to not understand everything that was at stake today,” Budenholzer said. “Taylor and his group have done such a great job this year. They earned it. They played well today. They were sharp. Guys really stepped up.”
TIP-INS
Bucks: Starting guard Wesley Matthews missed a second straight game with a sore right adductor. Budenholzer remains confident that Matthews will be ready for the playoffs. “We feel like everything’s in a reasonably good place,” Budenholzer said before the game. “Probably just smartest not to push it today, give him another day or two. We don’t expect it to linger or be a problem past today.”
Grizzlies: Morant ended the regular season averaging 17.8 points and 7.3 assists. The only rookies in NBA history to average at least 17 points and seven assists are Oscar Robertson (1960-61), Magic Johnson (1979-80), Isiah Thomas (1981-82), Damon Stoudamire (1995-96), Allen Iverson (1996-97) and Trae Young (2018-19). ... Valanciunas has collected at least 10 rebounds in seven straight games, the longest active streak in the NBA. ... Memphis was the designated home team. Former Grizzlies Tony Allen and Zach Randolph were included among the team’s “virtual fans” in the arena.
MIDDLETON JUST SHY OF 50-40-90
Middleton shot 5 of 13 and was just shy of becoming the ninth NBA player to finish a season shooting at least 50% from the floor, 40% from 3-point range and 90% from the foul line. He ended up shooting 49.7% on field-goal attempts, 41.5% on 3-pointers and 91.6% on free throws.
UP NEXT
The Bucks will face the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs starting Tuesday. The Bucks swept four regular-season meetings with Orlando.
The Grizzlies move on to the West’s play-in tournament.
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