Tennis champion Rafael Nadal not sure about 2020 US Open

Tennis champion Rafael Nadal not sure about 2020 US Open
Rafael Nadal holds the trophy after his win over Daniil Medvedev during the men’s singles Finals match at the 2019 US Open on September 8, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 04 June 2020

Tennis champion Rafael Nadal not sure about 2020 US Open

Tennis champion Rafael Nadal not sure about 2020 US Open
  • ‘If you (ask) me today, I will say, ‘No’’
  • Tennis, like most sports, has been on hold since March because of the COVID-19 outbreak

If it weren’t for a pandemic-caused postponement, the French Open would have been in Week 2 now, and Rafael Nadal might still have been in contention for a 20th Grand Slam title. Instead, he’s home in Spain, practicing lightly — and wondering along with everyone else in tennis whether the next Grand Slam tournament, the US Open, will be held.
“If you (ask) me today, I will say, ‘No,’” Nadal said with a shake of his head during a video conference call with The Associated Press and other wire services Thursday.
“In a couple of months? I don’t know. Hopefully, ‘Yes,’” he continued. “But we need to wait probably until we have more clear information about how the virus evolves and how the situation is going to be in New York in a couple of months. Because, of course, New York has been one of the places that have been very strongly hit by the virus. So, let’s see.”
Nadal thinks there are two key requirements for the US Open to happen — and for tennis to resume anywhere: assurances about being protected from the coronavirus and having everyone be able to fly internationally.
“We can’t come back until the situation is completely safe enough in terms of (health),” he said, “and fair enough in terms of all the players from every single (country) can travel to the tournaments under safe circumstances to compete.”
Tennis, like most sports, has been on hold since March because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The ATP and WTA tours are suspended at least until late July. The French Open’s start was pushed back from May until September. Wimbledon was canceled for the first time in 75 years.
A decision about the US Open is expected within weeks; the tournament’s main draw is scheduled to begin in New York on Aug. 31.
The US Tennis Association’s chief executive for pro tennis, Stacey Allaster, told said on Saturday that contingency plans include providing charter flights from around the world for players and requiring proof of negative virus tests before travel.
“I really believe we need to be patient, be responsible,” Nadal said, “and we need to (be) calm and do the things the right way.”
Nadal, who turned 34 on Wednesday, said he didn’t touch a racket for more than two months before recently resuming training in a less-intense way than normal and “not testing my body.”
“I am going very slow, step by step, not playing every single day and not practicing much,” he said.
Usually at this time of year, he is exerting himself on the red clay of Roland Garros, where he has won a record 12 of his 19 major championships.
He’s neither optimistic nor pessimistic right now about whether the French Open can be played later in 2020.
“I miss playing tennis. I miss playing the tournament that I love the most,” Nadal said. “But at the same time, my mind is not thinking about that. My mind is focused on trying to recover the normal life. The first thing we have to do is recover the normal.”


Tuchel eyes first Chelsea trophy as Leicester chase FA Cup history

Tuchel eyes first Chelsea trophy as Leicester chase FA Cup history
Updated 14 May 2021

Tuchel eyes first Chelsea trophy as Leicester chase FA Cup history

Tuchel eyes first Chelsea trophy as Leicester chase FA Cup history
  • Foxes are aiming to win the FA Cup for the first time in their first final appearance since 1969

LONDON: Thomas Tuchel plans to ruin Leicester’s bid to make history, as the Chelsea manager eyes the first trophy of his reign in Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley.

Tuchel has enjoyed a superb run since replacing the sacked Frank Lampard in January.

The German has led Chelsea to the FA Cup and Champions League finals, while taking them back into the Premier League’s top four.

Winning his maiden silverware in English football would be further evidence of Tuchel’s impact.

But Leicester, two points above Chelsea in the Premier League, will pose a significant threat to Tuchel’s ambitions under the astute guidance of boss Brendan Rodgers.

The Foxes are aiming to win the FA Cup for the first time in their first final appearance since 1969.

No club have appeared in more FA Cup finals without lifting the trophy than Leicester, who have lost four times in the showpiece match.

In contrast, Chelsea have won the FA Cup eight times, with their last victory coming against Manchester United in 2018.

The Blues, beaten in last year’s final against Arsenal, will be making their fourth appearance in the competition’s denouement in the last five years.

Having already beaten managerial luminaries Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, Diego Simeone, Zinedine Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti since arriving at Chelsea, Tuchel will pit his wits against Rodgers for the first time as Blues boss.

After a frustrating end to his spell at Paris Saint-Germain — where he won the French title and reached last season’s Champions League final before being forced out following a power struggle with sporting director Leonardo — Tuchel has quickly erased any doubts about his suitability for Chelsea.

Cleverly covering up for the lack of goals in his misfiring attack by focusing on defensive discipline and work ethic, Tuchel has revitalized a Chelsea side who were spiralling down the Premier League by the time Lampard left.

Tuchel has energized the likes of N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Antonio Rudiger, with England midfielder Mason Mount growing more influential by the week.

But Chelsea’s limp 1-0 defeat against Arsenal on Tuesday — just the third loss under Tuchel — emphasized the importance of solving the issues with forwards Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech sooner rather than later.

Tuchel blamed himself for that defeat, claiming he made too many changes after last weekend’s emotional win at champions Manchester City.

Ahead of a crucial final week in the Premier League — featuring games against Leicester and Aston Villa — it will be intriguing to see if Tuchel fields his strongest team at Wembley.

He has already confirmed Kepa Arrizabalaga will start instead of first choice keeper Edouard Mendy.

“He starts the FA Cup final,” Tuchel said. “We trust him and he deserves it, that is the basis of why we put him in the lineup.”

Rodgers also has Leicester’s top-four ambitions to consider as he plots his lineup against Chelsea, but the chance to create history will be his only focus at Wembley.

“We have earned the right to be in the final and we will arrive with an opportunity to make our own history. We feel we’re in with a chance and if we can play to our level we have a great chance,” Rodgers said.


Critics of Tokyo Olympics submit petition urging cancellation

Critics of Tokyo Olympics submit petition urging cancellation
Updated 14 May 2021

Critics of Tokyo Olympics submit petition urging cancellation

Critics of Tokyo Olympics submit petition urging cancellation
  • The petition was submitted to the Olympic and Paralympic committee chiefs as well as Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike

TOKYO: Critics of Japan’s plan to hold the Tokyo Olympics despite a fourth wave of coronavirus infections submitted a petition on Friday signed by 350,000 people over nine days calling for the Games to be canceled.

“Stop Tokyo Olympics” campaign organizer Kenji Utsunomiya said the global festival of sport — already postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic — should take place only when Japan can welcome visitors and athletes wholeheartedly.

“We are not in that situation and therefore the Games should be canceled,” he told a news conference. “Precious medical resources would need to be diverted to the Olympics if it’s held.”

The petition was submitted to the Olympic and Paralympic committee chiefs as well as Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.

It came as Japan added three more areas to a state of emergency now covering Tokyo, Osaka and four other prefectures amid surging case numbers, exactly 10 weeks from the scheduled July 23 opening of the Games.

Asked about the campaign against the Games, Tokyo Governor Koike said she would work towards a “safe and secure” Olympics.

“Though there is a global pandemic, it is important to hold a safe and secure Tokyo 2020 Games,” she told a regular news conference.

The new areas under the state of emergency include Hokkaido prefecture, where the Olympic marathon will take place, after it reported a record high of 712 new coronavirus cases on Thursday.

Nationwide, Japan has seen about 656,000 confirmed cases, with 11,161 deaths.

Opposition to the Games has also come from doctors, while some high-profile Japanese athletes have expressed concern, including Masters golf champion Hideki Matsuyama and top women’s tennis player Naomi Osaka.

Business leader Masayoshi Son, chief of SoftBank Group Corp , added his voice to the chorus of trepidation on Thursday, saying in unusually blunt remarks he was afraid of what might happen if the Games went ahead.

Dozens of towns that had been due to host visiting athletes at pre-Games events have canceled those plans, saying they could not guarantee medical help amid strains on the health system.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, asked whether the Games would go ahead despite the increase in COVID cases, said organizers were looking to the International Olympic Committee’s backing for the Games.

“I am aware that many are concerned that it will lead to an outbreak of cases,” Nishimura told parliament.

“The organizers are currently working together closely, based on the decision by the International Olympic Committee to hold the Tokyo 2020 Olympics,” he said.

Organizers are determined to host the Games with coronavirus mitigation measures in place. A skateboarding event on Friday was the latest test for their precautions.

Organizers told reporters after the event that athletes and coaches had been told to follow measures and avoid the usual celebratory hugs and cheers on the sidelines.

“This kind of behavior is not OK in terms of COVID-19 measures,” said Yasuo Mori, the deputy executive director of Tokyo 2020’s operations bureau.

“We’d usually take videos together but now we have to stay masked and two meters apart,” said skateboarder Ryuto Kikuta, 17, adding that he understood the measures were necessary but they still felt strange.


‘We will talk:’ Klopp unfazed by Mane’s handshake snub

‘We will talk:’ Klopp unfazed by Mane’s handshake snub
Updated 14 May 2021

‘We will talk:’ Klopp unfazed by Mane’s handshake snub

‘We will talk:’ Klopp unfazed by Mane’s handshake snub
  • Liverpool manager plans to talk with Sadio Mane after the Senegal winger declined to shake his hand
  • Klopp had opted not to start Mane in what was a vital match for Liverpool

ENGLAND: Add an upset player to Jürgen Klopp’s list of team problems as Liverpool scrambles for a Champions League qualification spot.
The Liverpool manager said Friday that he plans to talk with Sadio Mane after the Senegal winger declined to shake his hand as they left the field following Liverpool’s 4-2 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Thursday.
Klopp had opted not to start Mane in what was a vital match for Liverpool to gain ground for a top-four finish in the Premier League. Mane was brought on as a substitute in the second half.
Mane’s scoring pace is off this season but he had netted twice in the previous three games. He shook his head and kept walking when Klopp reached out to him.
“Do you want these things happening? No. But it’s not the first time in my life and I’m afraid to say it will probably not be the last time,” the German manager said at a news conference ahead of Sunday’s game at West Bromwich Albion.
“We will talk about it, and then it will be sorted.”
Klopp went with a front three of Diogo Jota on the left — in Mane’s usual spot — Roberto Firmino in the middle and Mohammed Salah on the right.
After the match, Klopp told Sky that he had made a late decision in training on Wednesday to go with Jota but that he had no time to explain the decision to Mane, which he said he would normally do.
Jota scored in the 34th minute, Firmino netted twice, and Salah added the fourth as Liverpool closed the gap to fourth-place Chelsea to four points, and the Reds have a game in hand.
Klopp, whose team has been slowed by injuries this season, insisted he’s not bothered by the snub.
“If somebody shows me five million times respect and one time not, what is then more important? The world is in a situation where you then make this one time bigger than necessary,” he said.
As a player, “what I did out of emotion, it was insane — and I’m a completely normal guy,” Klopp said.
“Football is an emotional game and everybody expects from us that we control our emotions always, and that doesn’t work out always.”


Turkish F1 canceled, replaced by second Austrian GP

Turkish F1 canceled, replaced by second Austrian GP
Updated 14 May 2021

Turkish F1 canceled, replaced by second Austrian GP

Turkish F1 canceled, replaced by second Austrian GP
  • Turkish Grand Prix, which was drafted onto the calendar as a replacement for the cancelled Canada GP two weeks ago, was axed Friday
  • Covid-19 protocols forces Formula One chiefs to return to the sport's safe haven of Austria

PARIS: The Turkish Grand Prix, which was only drafted onto the Formula One calendar as a replacement for the canceled Canada GP two weeks ago, was itself axed on Friday.
Formula One chiefs, forced into another change due to Covid-19 protocols, announced that they will instead return to the sport’s safe haven of Austria.
The decision was made in the wake of the “announcement of new travel restrictions imposed by several countries in which F1 teams are based, affecting travel from Turkey,” they said.
“Following discussions with the promoter in Turkey and relevant stakeholders, it will not be possible to have the race in Turkey between June 11-13.
“The promoter has requested that we look at the potential opportunity for the race to be rescheduled later in the season if possible, alongside China who made the same request earlier this year.”
Formula One confirmed that there will now be two races in Austria, back to back, with the first race, the Styrian Grand Prix, taking place on June 25-27 and the Austrian Grand Prix taking place on its original date of July 2-4.
As a result of this change the French Grand Prix will move one week earlier to June 18-20.


Barcelona must wait as Xavi signs on at Al-Sadd

Barcelona must wait as Xavi signs on at Al-Sadd
Updated 14 May 2021

Barcelona must wait as Xavi signs on at Al-Sadd

Barcelona must wait as Xavi signs on at Al-Sadd
  • Spanish World Cup winner touted as Ronald Koeman’s replacement will now have fresh shot at AFC Champions League

RIYADH: It will not have escaped the attention of Barcelona President Joan Laporta that former boss Pep Guardiola won his third English Premier League title on Tuesday just as Ronald Koeman’s men drew with Levante to leave hopes of a La Liga title fading.

However, there was a bit of good news for Koeman this week when Xavi Hernandez signed a two-year extension to his contract as head coach of Qatar’s Al-Sadd. The Dutchman has never really looked secure in Spain and it did not help having a potential Guardiola Mark II waiting in the wings.

The name of Xavi, a former team-mate of Guardiola and a key member of his team that won four La Liga titles and two UEFA Champions League prizes and plenty more besides, has long been swirling around the Catalan city. Ever since the Spanish star, a visionary midfielder, hung up those boots, he has been talked about as a future Barca boss by people who know what they are talking about.

In 2019, Guardiola said: “Xavi was already a manager when he played. His eyes sparkled watching football. You have to give him time. Sooner or later, he will manage Barcelona. It would excite me to see him manage Barcelona.”

The current Manchester City boss is not the only one to manage Xavi and see his coaching potential. The midfielder became World and European champion with Spain under Vicente Del Bosque. “The time will come when he will be the ideal man for Barcelona,” Del Bosque said last year.

For some that time is now. Guardiola was 37 when he took over the first team, Xavi is 41, but while a return to Barcelona is surely going to happen, he may not quite be ready to follow in the footsteps of his former team-mate and boss just yet.

In May 2019, Xavi took his first coaching job, not in Spain or even Europe, but Qatar. He had finished his playing days with Al-Sadd and stayed in Doha in a different role. There were a couple of cups in 2020 but there has rarely been, anywhere, such a dominant campaign as the Qatar Stars League (QSL) just finished. Al-Sadd, full of Qatari internationals, not only won the title but did so unbeaten with a goal difference of, wait for it, plus 63.

Solid at the back, Al-Sadd were unstoppable going forward. Led by the fantastic Santi Cazorla and the prolific Algerian attacker Baghdad Bounedjah with the 2019 Asian Player of the Year Akram Afif darting around on the wings, the team carried threats from all over the pitch.

With such dominance at home, it was understandable Al-Sadd’s ambitions were turning toward the AFC Champions League long before the QSL season finished. If Xavi could add the continental title to his domestic success, then his status as one of the world’s most promising coaches would be assured.

He had Asian experience. The four-time UEFA Champions League winner led Al-Sadd to the last four and an exciting defeat at the hands of Saudi Arabian giants Al-Hilal in 2019. In 2020 there was a second-round loss to Persepolis of Iran. Expectations this year were high, especially as the group was winnable. There was Al-Nassr of Saudi Arabia, a team that entered the tournament on the back of inconsistent league form, Foolad — not one of Iran’s powerhouses — and Jordan’s Al-Wehdat.

Yet Al-Sadd fell at the first hurdle. It started with a draw against Foolad and a loss to Al-Nassr. Back-to-back wins against Al-Wehdat, making their first appearance in the tournament, and then victory over Foolad brought the second-round within sight. All that was needed was a draw in the final game to make it to the last 16 but Al-Nassr ran out 2-1 winners.

Xavi complained about the conditions of the pitches and refereeing decisions, but he did make some mistakes, especially in the two games with Al-Nassr. Under coach Mano Menezes, the Riyadh team drew Al-Sadd forward, and kept their nerve, shape, and discipline to hit on the break. It was the perfect tournament performance from the Saudis.

In the return match, there were some questionable decisions but ultimately, Al-Sadd failed to get through a group they should have got through.

It suggested that Xavi, who has already turned down an approach from Barcelona, needs more experience before heading to his former club. Two more years with Al-Sadd, and more challenges, could be a wise move.