Nadal ties Federer at 20 Slams by beating Djokovic in Paris

Nadal ties Federer at 20 Slams by beating Djokovic in Paris
Rafael Nadal with the trophy after winning the French Open final against Novak Djokovic in Paris. (AP)
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Updated 11 October 2020

Nadal ties Federer at 20 Slams by beating Djokovic in Paris

Nadal ties Federer at 20 Slams by beating Djokovic in Paris
  • When Nadal ended it with an ace, he dropped to his knees, smiled widely and pumped his arms

PARIS: Rafael Nadal tied Roger Federer with 20 Grand Slam titles by producing a nearly perfect performance against Novak Djokovic in the French Open final.

Nadal equaled long-time rival Federer for the most major singles tennis championships won by a man and added to his own record at Roland Garros with No. 13 on the red clay, courtesty of a surprisingly dominant 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 victory over the No. 1-ranked Djokovic on Sunday.

When Nadal ended it with an ace, he dropped to his knees, smiled widely and pumped his arms.

He did not cede a set in his favorite tournament this year.

Nadal, No. 2 in the rankings, improved to 100-2 at the French Open, including a combined 26-0 in semifinals and finals, and picked up his fourth consecutive title in Paris. The 34-year-old left-hander from Spain previously put together streaks of four French Open championships from 2005-08, then five in a row from 2010-14, to go alongside his four trophies at the US Open, two at Wimbledon and one at the Australian Open.

Nadal is now even with Federer for the first time since each man had zero Slams to his name in 2003. Federer’s first arrived at Wimbledon that year; Nadal, naturally, earned his first in France in 2005, by which point he trailed 4-0.

Djokovic’s loss left him at 17 majors; had he won, the trio’s standings would have read 20-19-18.

Nadal is the oldest French Open champion since 1972 and the more than 15 years between his first and most recent Grand Slam titles is the longest such span for a man.

This was the 56th installment of Nadal vs. Djokovic, the most meetings between any pair of men in the professional era, and their ninth in a Grand Slam final, equaling Nadal vs. Federer for the most.

Djokovic had won 14 of the last 18 matchups against Nadal, and led 29-26 overall, including a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win at the 2019 Australian Open final.

Nadal allowed Djokovic one fewer game this time.


Saudi driver Al-Rajhi back behind the wheel at Andalucia Rally

Saudi driver Al-Rajhi back behind the wheel at Andalucia Rally
Updated 11 May 2021

Saudi driver Al-Rajhi back behind the wheel at Andalucia Rally

Saudi driver Al-Rajhi back behind the wheel at Andalucia Rally
  • Fully recovered from a crash last March, Al-Rajhi is back and will be joined by co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz
  • Their itinerary includes a timed super special race over eight kilometers on Wednesday before the four-stage, off-road odyssey with a total distance of 1,473 km

The first round of the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies starts on Wednesday with the Andalucia Rally and Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi of the Yazeed Racing team has returned from a neck injury he suffered at the Sharqiya Baja Rally last March.

While Al-Rajhi’s medical team has given him the green light to return to racing after a full year of recovery, co-driver Michael Orr, who suffered injuries in the same accident, is not expected back until the Kazakhstan Rally in June.

So Al-Rajhi will get back behind the wheel alongside German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz for the Andalucia Rally, which runs through Sunday. Their Toyota Hilux is powered by the Belgian Overdrive Team.

The Saudi motorsport star, who is participating in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies for the eighth year in a row, is grateful for his recovery from a race touched by tragedy.

“Accidents are part of racing and drivers cannot predict them so we are very lucky that we both walked away,” Al-Rajhi said. 

“I wish a speedy recovery for my colleague and navigator, Michael, who cannot participate with me because he has to complete his treatment sessions, but I expect him to return in the next rally.”

At the Andalusia Rally, Al-Rajhi and von Zitzewitz have an itinerary that includes a timed super special race over eight kilometers on Wednesday before the four-stage, off-road odyssey with a total distance of 1,473 km.

“The time I was recovering gave me a short break to recharge all my mental and physical strength for a new season of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies,” Al-Rajhi said. “I am really excited to take up the challenge behind the wheel again.”

As a pair, Al-Rajhi and von Zitzewitz have achieved some strong results in several cross-country rallies since 2019.

“Dirk is back on board with me and we had a great collaboration the last time we were together,” Al-Rajhi said. “So we are looking forward to winning this rally.”

Al-Rajhi and von Zitzewitz won two stages on home soil at the Dakar Rally in January.

“I am very excited to be back alongside Yazeed on the Toyota Hilux,” von Zitzewitz said. 

“I am looking forward to a very intense and challenging race, as the competition will be strong at the Andalucía Rally. I am happy and looking forward to a great race.”


Joshua set to fight Fury in Saudi Arabia in August, says promoter Eddie Hearn

The all-British fight between Anthony Joshua (L) and Tyson Fury for the undisputed world heavyweight title will take place in Saudi Arabia, according to promoter Eddie Hearn. (AFP/File Photos)
The all-British fight between Anthony Joshua (L) and Tyson Fury for the undisputed world heavyweight title will take place in Saudi Arabia, according to promoter Eddie Hearn. (AFP/File Photos)
Updated 11 May 2021

Joshua set to fight Fury in Saudi Arabia in August, says promoter Eddie Hearn

The all-British fight between Anthony Joshua (L) and Tyson Fury for the undisputed world heavyweight title will take place in Saudi Arabia, according to promoter Eddie Hearn. (AFP/File Photos)
  • Hearn, who represents Joshua, said the fight is likely to take place on Aug. 7 or Aug. 14

LONDON: The all-British fight between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury for the undisputed world heavyweight title will take place in Saudi Arabia, promoter Eddie Hearn said on Tuesday.

Hearn, who represents Joshua, said the fight is likely to take place on Aug. 7 or Aug. 14. He said Aug. 14 is his preferred date because the Olympic Games in Tokyo will have finished, making the Joshua-Fury fight a bigger “global spectacle.”

“It’s a very bad secret that the fight is happening in Saudi Arabia,” Hearn told British broadcaster Sky Sports. “To be honest with you, I don’t mind giving you that information.”

Fury’s US promoter, Bob Arum, has previously said Saudi Arabia would be the location of the fight.

Hearn has yet to respond to AP requests to confirm the details of the fight.

READ MORE

On a rainy night in Diriyah in 2019, Anthony Joshua regained his world heavyweight titles after a unanimous points decision from the judges over Andy Ruiz Jr in an epic night of boxing in Saudi Arabia. Read how it happened here.

It would be Joshua’s second fight in the kingdom. He reclaimed his WBA, IBF and WBO belts from Andy Ruiz there in December 2019.

Joshua’s only fight since saw him retain his titles by knocking out Kubrat Pulev in December.

Fury hasn’t fought since beating Deontay Wilder in February last year to capture the WBC title.

Fury and Joshua have called each other out over Twitter over the last 24 hours, both urging the other to finalize terms for the fight.

Hearn said the “deal is done” but there was frustration on both sides that the fight had not been officially announced.

“From our perspective and AJ’s perspective, we’re ready to go,” he said. “From Tyson Fury’s perspective, they’ve got a couple of lawyers across it from their point.

“We have to nail this,” Hearn added, “and I’m not going to stop until I nail it, and everyone has just got to move forward collectively. We’re ready to go from our side. We’re not far away from their side and it is inevitable.”


Finland FA partners with Nike to donate hijabs to all female footballers in the country

Jerseys, shorts and socks are often given to players by their clubs, but not hijabs, and this can deter some players from taking part, the Finnish FA said. (Supplied/Finland FA/palloliitto.fi)
Jerseys, shorts and socks are often given to players by their clubs, but not hijabs, and this can deter some players from taking part, the Finnish FA said. (Supplied/Finland FA/palloliitto.fi)
Updated 11 May 2021

Finland FA partners with Nike to donate hijabs to all female footballers in the country

Jerseys, shorts and socks are often given to players by their clubs, but not hijabs, and this can deter some players from taking part, the Finnish FA said. (Supplied/Finland FA/palloliitto.fi)
  • The move marks 50 years of organized women’s football in Finland

LONDON: The Football Association (FA) of Finland has pledged to give sports hijabs to every female footballer in the country who wishes to wear one while playing.

Heidi Pihlaja, head of football development at the association, said the initiative is intended to promote more equality in the sport and marks 50 years of organized women’s football in Finland.

The move comes in cooperation with the country’s top female league, the Subway National League, and sportswear giant Nike, which will give its Nike Pro sports hijabs to girls and women who require one as part of their kit.

Jerseys, shorts and socks are often given to players by their clubs, but not hijabs, and this can deter some players from taking part, a Finnish FA statement said.

“We are constantly working to ensure that sports belongs to everyone, regardless of the player’s starting point,” Pihlaja said. “Finland is becoming increasingly diverse, and we want to take better account of different needs when girls become part of the football family. The game is open to everyone. 

“We hope that we, in leading by example, encourage other sports and football associations to join us in promoting equality and equity in sports,” she added.

Sara Salmani, one of Finland’s most experienced diversity and inclusion specialists, also said the move was key to combatting discrimination, in particular Islamophobia, and taking a stand on a set of values the Finnish FA wished to promote.

“Over the past month, the use of the hijab and its ban have made headlines around the world, showing that Islamophobia is still prevalent in the world today,” she said. “It is great that Finland is leading the way, showing that diversity belongs not only in sports but also in everyday life. 

“The donation of sports hijabs is a testament to the fact that the National League really stands behind its values and continues its active work against racism,” Salmani added.

“We share the same values with the National League, and we could not be prouder of the way they are taking sports toward the future. Sports has the power to make the world a better place, and our vision is to make sports a part of everyday life,” Nike’s David Nordbeck said.


Dubai teen-led tennis initiative raises awareness for autism 

Dubai teen-led tennis initiative raises awareness for autism 
Updated 11 May 2021

Dubai teen-led tennis initiative raises awareness for autism 

Dubai teen-led tennis initiative raises awareness for autism 
  • Two-week tournament saw a 32-draw men’s competition and a unisex under-14’s doubles contest
  • The initiative, called ACE FOR GOOD, was set up by high school student Hussein Nada

DUBAI: A tennis initiative set up by a Dubai teen has garnered support for Autism Awareness Month.

The initiative, called ACE FOR GOOD, was set up by high school student Hussein Nada in order to bring together tennis lovers to play in support of a good cause.

The initiative comprised of a tournament organized by Rackets Academy and 17-year-old Hussein.

“I decided to create ACE FOR GOOD’which will allow tennis players to give back to the community through supporting a charitable cause,” she told Arab News. “ACE FOR GOOD’s 2021 Dubai tournament perfectly (suited) Autism Awareness Month, (as did) the willingness of the tennis community to support and … make a difference.”

The two-week tournament saw a 32-draw men’s competition and a unisex under-14’s doubles contest.

It was backed by several sponsors including Brand for Less (BFL) Group, Daoud Group, Loca restaurants, Head, Marina Pharmacy Group and the Flower Co.

“BFL Group is so proud of this sponsorship, as we always strive to work for philanthropic causes, since this reflects our values. Nevertheless, sports and fitness-related activities always get our support as we believe in their key role in maintaining our mental health and wellbeing,” Yasser Beydoun, co-founder and managing partner of BFL Group, said.

“We salute Hussein for his initiative and efforts, which made us so excited to take this sponsorship opportunity and support him in achieving this great cause. He showed us that age is never a barrier for doing good; we can all do something good for the community as long as we believe in the cause and in our abilities,” Beydoun added.

As a result of the positive feedback received from players, sponsors, and the tennis community, ACE FOR GOOD is now set to become an annual event in Dubai, with plans also in the works to take it abroad, with a tournament set to take place in Egypt in August.


Al-Hilal’s new signing Marega has big shoes to fill to replace club legend Gomis

Al-Hilal’s new signing Marega has big shoes to fill to replace club legend Gomis
Updated 10 May 2021

Al-Hilal’s new signing Marega has big shoes to fill to replace club legend Gomis

Al-Hilal’s new signing Marega has big shoes to fill to replace club legend Gomis
  • The Malian striker will join up with the Riyadh club at the start of next season

LONDON: Al-Hilal may go through coaches at a rapid rate but when it comes to recruiting strikers, the Saudi Arabian giants have a far-sighted policy in place. No sooner had Bafetimbi Gomis become the fastest foreign player to score 100 goals for the club, it was announced that a new striker and a potential replacement was on his way to Riyadh. 

Moussa Marega was last seen scoring in the Portuguese league on April 22 to keep FC Porto’s title hopes alive and, from next season, the 30 year old will be an Al-Hilal player. As the French-born Mali international is out of contract at the end of the Primera Liga season and available on a free transfer, it marks a good bit of business from Al-Hilal, who will pay a reported 5 million euros ($6 million) a year over a three-year contract.

“In 1991, I was born in the French city of Les Ulis and in the same year, Al-Hilal won their first continental title,” Marega said as he was unveiled by the three-time Asian champions.

“These two stories continue to excite and they crossed again in 2020 when Al-Hilal won a hat-trick (of trophies) in Saudi Arabia and I did the same in Portugal,” he added, referring to his part in Porto’s triumph in the Portuguese League, Cup and Super Cup. “And now in 2021, my next destination is Saudi Arabia.”

Marega scored 52 league goals in his four seasons with Porto, and a further 10 in domestic cups. He also managed six goals in the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League as he became the joint-third highest scorer that year alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Aguero.

He was welcomed to Riyadh by Gomis, who wrote on Twitter: “Welcome to (the) Al-Hilal family my brother.”

Marega’s arrival is likely to herald the end of Gomis’ time in Riyadh. The French forward has been one of the most successful foreign imports in the history of Saudi Arabian football. His 100th goal on Friday, one of two he scored in the 5-1 win against second placed Al-Shabab, that sent the defending champions three points clear with four games to play, came in only his 126th appearance for the club. Sixty-eight of those goals came in the league, eight in the King’s Cup, 17 in Asia — he was top scorer as Al-Hilal won the tournament in 2019 — five in the Arab Championship and two in the Club World Cup.

Gomis turns 36 in August and the arrival of Marega means speculation the former Lyon and Swansea star will return to Europe will intensify. When he does leave, the striker has said that he wishes to do so as a hero of Al-Hilal, though he refuses to comment specifically on a date.

“One day I will definitely leave but I want to leave when we have won the title,” Gomis said. “I have won many titles and had many historical achievements.”

Gomis helped Al-Hilal to the Saudi title last year and the AFC Champions League the year before and wants more prizes before he departs.

“This will be the best end for me. I would like history to remember that I was one of the leading goalscorers at Al-Hilal.

“It is my duty to give everything to the team and the fans, I know they love me personally so I feel a great responsibility towards them. That is why against Al-Shabab, I tried to do everything I could, both in attack and defence, for the team and especially for those fans,” he added.

The two goals Gomis netted against Al-Shabab were not just typical strikes from the star — and not only meant Al-Hilal are in touching distance of a successive title — but also meant Gomis now has 20 for the season, four more than Abha’s Carlos Strandberg, and is top of the goalscoring charts.

“The game against Al-Shabab is not the most important this season, it is all about the title and success for Al-Hilal but it is true that winning here brings us closer to the title,” he said. “It is something very special and I am delighted to achieve it, but the most important thing is that the team wins.” 

Regardless of how long he has left with Al-Hilal, it is certain that Gomis will get his wish and leave a hero, and if it is in the coming weeks, it is increasingly likely that he will leave as a champion.