Australian Open ‘likely’ to be delayed by two weeks

Australian Open ‘likely’ to be delayed by two weeks
Novak Djokovic holds the Norman Brooks Challenge Cup trophy after winning against Dominic Thiem in their men’s singles final match of the Australian Open in Melbourne on Feb. 3, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 25 November 2020

Australian Open ‘likely’ to be delayed by two weeks

Australian Open ‘likely’ to be delayed by two weeks
  • Australian Open chief Craig Tiley had originally wanted players to start arriving from mid-December
  • But the plan was thrown into doubt by Victoria state Premier Dan Andrews

SYDNEY: The Australian Open will likely be delayed by one to two weeks, officials said Wednesday, as talks continue over staging the tournament in Melbourne, which has only recently emerged from months of coronavirus lockdown.
A delay for a week or two to the first Grand Slam of the year, scheduled to begin on January 18, was now “most likely,” said Martin Pakula, the Sports Minister of the Victoria State government.
“I still think it’s much more likely that it will be a shorter rather than longer delay,” Pakula said.
The “very complex negotiations” were still under way but he remained confident it would go ahead in the early part of 2021.
For eight months, Australia has virtually closed off from the rest of the world, with a blanket ban on non-residents entering the country and citizens strongly advised against all foreign travel.
Australian Open chief Craig Tiley had originally wanted players to start arriving in Australia from mid-December so they could undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine before playing traditional warm-up events.
But the plan was thrown into doubt by Victoria state Premier Dan Andrews, who reportedly will not allow players to arrive before January, which would make it all but impossible to hold the high-profile ATP Cup and other tournaments the start of the Open.
Still under discussion is whether players will be able to train or compete during quarantine.
It comes as Grand Slam winner Andy Murray called for all players to be vaccinated against Covid-19 when it becomes available.
“I would hope that all the players would be willing to do that for the good of the sport — providing everything has proved to be safe, clinical trials and everything have been done and there are not any significant side-effects,” Murray said.
Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Nadal said it was an unprecedented situation and urged patience from players.
“That is difficult for everyone,” he said at the ATP Finals in London last week.
“We need to be flexible to understand the situation and to find a way to play as many tournaments as possible next year.”


Messi sent off, Athletic beats Barca in Spanish Super Cup

Messi sent off, Athletic beats Barca in Spanish Super Cup
Updated 2 min 24 sec ago

Messi sent off, Athletic beats Barca in Spanish Super Cup

Messi sent off, Athletic beats Barca in Spanish Super Cup
  • Iñaki Williams' goal in extra time gave Athletic the lead and a come-from-behind win

MADRID: Lionel Messi lost his cool after another Barcelona collapse on Sunday, hitting an opponent away from the ball and being sent off for the first time while playing with the Catalan club in the team’s 3-2 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Spanish Super Cup.
Iñaki Williams' goal in extra time gave Athletic the lead and a come-from-behind win. Barcelona had little chance of recovering when Messi swung his right arm toward the head of an Athletic player while trying to free himself. Messi was shown the red card following a video review.
The card came in his 753rd appearance with Barcelona. He has been sent off twice with Argentina, including in his national team debut in 2005. The other red card with Argentine came in the 2019 Copa America.
Messi could face a lengthy suspension for his ejection on Sunday.
After Athletic scored in the 90th minute to seal a 2-2 draw and force extra time, Williams netted the title-clinching goal with a neat curling shot from just inside the area, with the ball hitting the far post before going into the top corner.
“Because of what it meant for the team, this is the best goal of my career,” Williams said.
The goal three minutes into extra time secured Athletic its third Super Cup title, and first since it beat Barcelona in the 2015 final. The Basque Country club also won the title in 1984.
Barcelona was seeking its 15th Super Cup title, and third in the last five seasons. It was also looking to end its title drought after going without a trophy last season, something that hadn't happened since 2007-08. The team got off to a slow start this season and trails Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid in the Spanish league.
Messi, who asked to leave Barcelona in the offseason but had his request denied, had been doubtful to play in the final because of an unspecified fitness issue that had caused coach Ronald Koeman to leave him out of the semifinal against Real Sociedad on Wednesday, when Barcelona prevailed in a penalty shootout.
He helped set up Antoine Griezmann's first goal on Sunday but was far from his best throughout the match at the La Cartuja Stadium in Seville.
Barcelona opened the scoring with a shot from the middle of the area by Griezmann in the 40th minute but Athletic equalized two minutes later with a close-range strike by Óscar de Marcos after a well-placed cross by Williams. Griezmann put Barcelona ahead with another shot from inside the area in the 77th but Athletic evened the match again with Asier Villalibre finding the net following a set piece in the 90th.
Villalibre was the player hit by Messi in the final minutes as the players tangled together outside the area. The ball was already on the left side of the area when the incident happened.
Athletic, which beat defending champion Real Madrid 2-1 in the other semifinal, had a 57th-minute goal disallowed by video review because of offside following a header by Raúl García, who had netted twice in the semifinal.
The final was the third match in charge for Athletic coach Marcelino García Toral. His debut had been against Barcelona in a league game at home, when Messi scored twice to help the Catalan club recover from an early goal by Williams and secure a 3-2 victory.
“The players deserve all the credit for this achievement,” the new coach said. “They defeated Real Madrid and Barcelona to be able to win this trophy.”
Accompanying the Athletic squad in Seville was Aritz Aduriz, the club’s former striker who was forced to retire last season because of a hip injury.
When Athletic defeated Barcelona in 2015, the Spanish Super Cup final was still played in two legs between the Spanish league and Copa del Rey winners.
This year’s edition was moved to southern Spain after the coronavirus pandemic stopped it from being played in Saudi Arabia for a second straight season. The tournament’s revamped Final Four format includes the top two finishers in the Spanish league and the finalists of the Copa del Rey from the previous season.