Al-Rajhi, Al-Omar and Al-Masoud lead after opening stage of Riyadh Rally

Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr in a Toyota Hilux in action during the start of Riyadh Rally. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 29 November 2019

Al-Rajhi, Al-Omar and Al-Masoud lead after opening stage of Riyadh Rally

  • Forty-four cars, 12 NUTVs, 19 motorcycles, 18 quads and one truck passed the screening and started the event
  • Competitors will tackle a challenging 307km selective section through the deserts around neighboring Rumah on Friday

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Sufyan Al-Omar  and Sultan Al-Masoud led their respective car, motorcycle and quad categories after the opening Toyota super special stage at the Riyadh Rally, round four of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, on Thursday afternoon.

Al-Rajhi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr opened their account with the fastest time of 2min 20.6sec for the four-kilometer stage, and that put the Toyota Hilux crew 17.8 seconds quicker than Yasir Seaidan in his new MINI JCW Buggy. The current leader of the Saudi Toyota Desert rally series finished the stage in fifth position.

Dakar legend Stéphane Peterhansel was forced to switch co-drivers at the 11th hour after his wife Andrea failed a stringent pre-race medical check in Germany. Her place in one of two X–raid Buggies was taken by Portugal’s Paulo Fiuza. The Frenchman carded a time of 2min 28.9sec to hold third.

Peterhansel pointed out: “Right after the press conference last week in Paris, we had our yearly X-raid medical check. As there was not so much time left until the rally in Saudi Arabia we, X-raid and the doctor, decided to wait for the results and evaluations before Andrea gets back in a rally car. I have known Paulo for a long time through X-raid. We also know each other from the X-raid team trainings and he knows the terrain in Saudi Arabia from past events.”

Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal completed the stage in second place in his self-designed Ford F-150 Evo, 6.7 seconds behind leader Al-Rajhi. ED Racing’s Essa Al-Dossari was fourth and Ahmed Al-Qashimi rounded off the top six.

Reda Al-Shammeri led the T2 section for series-production cross-country vehicles by just 1.5 seconds from Yousef Al-Suwaidi.

Shaker Al-Tuwaijry topped the times in T3 in his Can-Am and Saleh Al-Saif led the NUTV category by 2.9 seconds in his Can-Am Maverick X3 from Yousef Al-Dhaif. Majed Al-Tuwaijri and Khalil Al-Tuwaijri tied to round off the top three.

Local rider Sufyan Al-Omar rode his Yamaha to the fastest time in the motorcycle section from Kuwait’s Abdullah Al-Shatti and fellow Saudi Abdullah Al-Malki. Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Balooshi, Saudi Arabia’s leading rider Mishal Alghuneim, Kiwi Philip Wilson and Al-Balooshi’s brother Sultan rounded off the top six. 

Sultan Al-Masoud set the unofficial quickest time among the quads to head Majed Al-Shegawi and series leader Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi at the overnight halt.

The Saudi trio of Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb completed the stage in a Mercedes truck entered in the T4 category in 3min 33.2sec.

Forty-four cars, 12 NUTVs, 19 motorcycles, 18 quads and one truck passed all the scrutineering and technical checks and started the event, which is being organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and supervision of former FIA Middle East champion Abdullah Bakhashab.

The rally runs with the support of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, the General Sport Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group.

Friday, competitors will tackle a challenging 307km selective section through the deserts around neighboring Rumah.

Mladenovic collapses again but blames umpire, Djokovic triumphs

Updated 30 September 2020

Mladenovic collapses again but blames umpire, Djokovic triumphs

  • The French player lost to Laura Siegemund of Germany 7-5, 6-3 after serving for the first set at 5-1

PARIS: Kristina Mladenovic’s first match since her nightmarish end to the US Open produced another collapse and a controversial umpire’s call at the French Open on Tuesday.

The French player lost to Laura Siegemund of Germany 7-5, 6-3 after serving for the first set at 5-1.

Mladenovic was furious with chair umpire Eva Asderaki for not spotting a double bounce on set point. During a 10-stroke exchange, Mladenovic hit a drop shot that Siegemund ran for and got back over the net — although a TV replay showed the ball bounced twice. Mladenovic slowed up, looked confused, and wound up touching the net, which automatically gave the point to Siegemund.

“Mistakes are human but I don’t see how the umpire can miss that. She didn’t see a double bounce,” Mladenovic said. “Unfortunately she will continue at Roland Garros, and I won’t continue at Roland Garros.”

For Novak Djokovic, though, his first Grand Slam action since his disqualification at the US Open went as smoothly as can be.

The top-ranked Serb, who is bidding for a second title here and an 18th major title overall, beat Mikael Ymer of Sweden 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 under a closed roof at Court Philippe Chatrier. The first set lasted just 20 minutes and Djokovic broke the 80th-ranked Ymer nine times overall.

Djokovic was defaulted from his fourth-round match at the US Open this month for accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball hit in anger after dropping a game.

On Tuesday it was was Siegemund who faced questions of unsportsmanlike conduct for not acknowledging the double bounce that should have handed Mladenovic the first set.

“If she would have done it, she would have all my respect and be super fair play,” Mladenovic said. “But she’s not the one responsible. I think the chair umpire is the one that should be really focused on that call.”

Siegemund also said it wasn’t up to her to make the call, and that she wasn’t sure right away whether the ball had bounced twice.

Mladenovic suggested tennis should start using video replays, like the highly controversial VAR system used in soccer.

“It would be great and we’d avoid a sad scenario like I had today,” Mladenovic said.

It wasn’t quite as sad as Flushing Meadows, though, where she served for the match at 6-1, 5-1 against Varvara Gracheva then lost a tiebreaker and lost 6-0 in the third set.

She called that the most painful loss of her career. Four days later, she was part of the top-seeded women’s doubles team dropped from the US Open for having been potentially exposed to COVID-19.

In other women’s first-round matches, second-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat Mayar Sherif 6-7 (9), 6-2, 6-4. Sherif was the first Egyptian player to qualify for the main draw at Roland Garros.

Danish teenager Clara Tauson earned her first tour-level victory by beating US Open semifinalist Jennifer Brady 6-4, 3-6, 9-7. The 17-year-old Tauson, who won the Australian Open junior title last year, saved two match points.

In remaining men’s first-round play, US Open semifinalist Matteo Berrettini defeated Vasek Pospisil 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. The seventh-seeded Italian next faces Lloyd Harris.

No. 20 Cristian Garin of Chile won against German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 and plays lucky loser Marc Polmans.