No. 3 seed Denis Shapovalov advances, Alexei Popyrin plays out boyhood dream despite loss

No. 3 seed Denis Shapovalov advances, Alexei Popyrin plays out boyhood dream despite loss
Alexei Popyrin was once a ball kid at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. (ATP Tour)
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Updated 17 March 2021

No. 3 seed Denis Shapovalov advances, Alexei Popyrin plays out boyhood dream despite loss

No. 3 seed Denis Shapovalov advances, Alexei Popyrin plays out boyhood dream despite loss
  • Popyrin returns to Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships where he was once a ball kid

DUBAI: Denis Shapovalov came through an intimidating opening match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday, defeating Jan-Lennard Struff 6-1 6-3 to reach the third round.

The No. 3 seed could have been forgiven for feeling a sense of despair when he saw the draw as he had lost the last four matches he had played against his German opponent, his lone victory coming in 2018.

But the Canadian was on the front foot right from the start and never looked in any danger of conceding his advantage.

His turnaround in fortunes was at least partly due to having former two-time Dubai runner-up Mikhail (Misha) Youzhny in his coaching corner.

“Misha told me the balls would be flying but that pretty much suits my game. From the first practice, I was able to feel the court well,” said Shapovalov, who is making his debut in Dubai this week.

“I knew it was a very difficult match. I’ve had difficulties with him in the past, so I knew it was going to be a tough match for me, but I feel any match is a new match and it’s always starting from zero zero. So, the past doesn’t really mean much.

“I definitely played very well. I was just trying to pick my target on my serve to be honest, playing the way I’ve been playing in practice. I didn’t really change my game plan compared to the other times I played him.

“I was just trying to make a lot of returns, to place the ball on my serve, and I was able to put a lot of pressure from the beginning on the returns and I think he felt that pressure and started throwing in a couple of double faults and more second serves so I was getting a lot of looks,” he added.

No. 8 seed, Russian player Karen Khachanov, was stretched to the limit by tournament wild card Alexei Popyrin, edging through 6-4 3-6 7-6(4) after a grueling two hours and 16 minutes. The 21-year-old Australian won the first title of his career last month in Singapore, and once worked as a ball kid at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

“I came out to practice on court and remembered center court being much bigger than it actually is,” said Popyrin.

“It’s a beautiful center court and I remember just, you know, just being part of a group with the ball boys, having my friends there around. I remember having lunch and dinner at the back where the ball boys usually were. And, you know, the smells. The smell is very similar, and they bring the pictures back of me being a ball kid,” he added.

Aslan Karatsev continued his remarkable run of success since the season began by overcoming No. 12 seed and 2020 semi-finalist, British player Dan Evans, 6-4 4-6 6-4.

The tournament wild card was the sensation of the recent Australian Open, where he won eight matches to advance all the way from the qualifying rounds to the semi-finals, when his run was ended by eventual champion Novak Djokovic. His only other defeat this year came last week in Doha to world No. 4 and Dubai top seed Dominic Thiem, although as consolation he won the doubles with Andrey Rublev.

It took Karatsev two hours and 22 minutes to overcome a resilient Evans. The Russian ended a run of three successive first set breaks by leading 4-3, and fortunes swung one way and then the other in the second set as Evans rallied from 2-4 to level the match. The final set was even more closely contested, with Karatsev breaking in the first game but then having to fight off two break points as he served out the match.

Malek Jaziri’s tournament was ended 7-5 6-2 by 11th seed Dusan Lajovic, 13th seed Hubert Hurkacz beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4, 16th seed Jannik Sinner defeated Alexander Bublik 2-6 7-6(2) 6-4, and 17th seed Lorenzo Sonego overwhelmed qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-2 6-2.


US men’s basketball team fall to France in first Olympics loss since 2004

US men’s basketball team fall to France in first Olympics loss since 2004
Updated 26 July 2021

US men’s basketball team fall to France in first Olympics loss since 2004

US men’s basketball team fall to France in first Olympics loss since 2004
  • The USA face Iran in their next game on Wednesday when France take on the Czech Republic

SAITAMA, Japan: The US men’s basketball team suffered a shock 83-76 defeat at the hands of France on Sunday, losing at the Olympics for the first time since 2004 and for just the sixth time in the history of the tournament.
The French had upset the US men when they last met in the 2019 FIBA World Cup quarter-finals and they had their number again on the first day of group play at the Saitama Super Arena, powered by a game-high 28 points from Evan Fournier.
“It felt good, it felt good,” Fournier told Reuters.
Moustapha Fall had high praise for his teammate.
“He is the offensive leader for us, always aggressive, always trying to score,” Fall said of Fournier. “We knew he was going to be our leader offensively and he assumed this role, so he is good for us.”
The Americans got out to a good start in the first half, leading 45-37 at the break on the back of their defensive energy, but were outscored 25-11 in a disastrous third-quarter with France taking the lead.
Team USA clawed back to briefly regain the lead in the fourth quarter, but the French wouldn’t go away and took their first ever Olympic win versus the United States.

Guerschon Yabusele of France shoots againnst Edrice Adebayo of the US. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Star US player Kevin Durant was saddled with foul trouble early and found it hard to get into a rhythm. He fouled out near the end of the game.
The United States is always the team to beat at basketball — they now have a 138-6 record and have won gold 15 times since joining the Olympic program in 1936 — boasting more depth than any other country with their star-studded NBA line-ups.
But their recent form suggested reaching the top of the podium would not be as easy as in the past, after they dropped two straight exhibition games this month including a surprise loss to world 22nd-ranked Nigeria.
Preparations were also disrupted by the absence of players due to this year’s late NBA playoffs and late replacements due to COVID-19 protocols and injury.
Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton were finally able to join the team after the last game of the NBA finals on July 20. Holiday scored a team-high 18 points on Sunday despite having flown into Japan the day before.
US head coach Gregg Popovich said his team had to be more consistent, pointing to several leads they had let slip away.
“We gave all of those up. Because of a lack of consistent defense, too many errors on offense, possessions where we didn’t move and took ill-advised shots. So you understand it, look at it, put in the work and try to get better.”
In other Group A action on Sunday, the Czech Republic held on to beat Iran 84-78 after the Iranians had cut a 22-point deficit down to four points with less than a minute to go.
In Group B, Australia overcame a 22-turnover performance to top Nigeria 84-67, while Italy fought to a 92-82 win against Germany that saw the Italians pull away late after tightening up their defense.
In their next games on Wednesday, the United States will take on Iran and France will meet the Czechs, while Australia will face Italy and Germany will take on Nigeria. 


Tickets for F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix now on sale

Tickets for the inaugural Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix are now on sale. (Supplied)
Tickets for the inaugural Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix are now on sale. (Supplied)
Updated 25 July 2021

Tickets for F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix now on sale

Tickets for the inaugural Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix are now on sale. (Supplied)
  • Initially, 40 percent of the tickets will be released
  • All ticket holders will also gain access to the festivals and live concerts

LONDON: Tickets for the inaugural Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix are now on sale now for fans in the Kingdom and fans living abroad, it was announced on Sunday.

The first ever F1 race taking place in Saudi Arabia will be run around the Jeddah Circuit on the weekend of December 3 to 5.

Initially, 40 percent of the tickets will be released, with hopes of increasing to full capacity over time, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, Minister of Sports, announced the opening of ticket sales and thanked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his continued support for bringing major sporting events to the Kingdom.

“We will prove to the whole world — God willing and with ambitious leadership — that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has become an exceptional home to the most prestigious racing series in the world, and we look forward to presenting an unforgettable race for all motorsport lovers and enthusiasts, whether those watching at the track or on TV screens,” he said.

“Today we mark a new step on our way to hosting the first Formula 1 race in the Kingdom, as we enter the most exciting stages of hosting the event,” Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, said.

“We look forward to experiencing a great race in the latest, fastest and longest street circuit in Formula 1, in addition to various types of entertainment over three days outside the circuit,” he added.

F1 fans will be able to choose from three types of ticket: Paddock Club, Premium Hospitality and Grandstand, with package prices starting at SR1,800 ($480).

Grandstand tickets will allow fans to see the start and finish line as well as the hyper-fast final section of the track, while Premium Hospitality tickets give you a fuller racing experience with the best views of the racing action.

Fans can also visit the F1 Paddock Club to enjoy the race weekend in style in the Pit and Team Building overlooking the Red Sea coastline. 

All ticket holders will also gain access to the festivals and live concerts taking place across the circuit and F1 Fanzone.


UAE shooter Saif Bin Futais aiming to improve on Olympic best at Tokyo 

UAE shooter Saif Bin Futais aiming to improve on Olympic best at Tokyo 
Updated 25 July 2021

UAE shooter Saif Bin Futais aiming to improve on Olympic best at Tokyo 

UAE shooter Saif Bin Futais aiming to improve on Olympic best at Tokyo 
  • The 47-year-old Emirati finished 29th in the Men’s Skeet at Rio 2016

TOKYO: Emirati shooter Saif Bin Futais racked up 70 points in the three rounds of Tokyo 2020’s Skeet Men’s qualification on the first day of the event, held at Asaka Shooting Range in the Japanese capital.

It was performance equalled by 30 other participants, while French shooter Eric Delaunay and US shooter Hancock Finkett tied for first place with 75 points. Tammaro Cassandro of Italy and Jacub Tomecek of the Czech Republic followed, scoring 74 points each.

Each shooter was involved in three rounds of 25 attempts.

Bin Futais, 47, is taking part in his second Olympic games having finished in 29th place in the Skeet Men’s competition at Rio 2016.

Among the other Arab shooters taking part in the event are Saudi Arabian Saeed Al-Mutairi who clocked up 71 points, and Abdullah Al-Rashidi of Kuwait, who finished the day tied in sixth place.

The competition resumes on Monday morning, from 4:00 a.m. in Riyadh time, with a further two rounds for each of the competitors.


Pandemic-hit IPL to resume on Sept. 19 in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah

Under the new schedule, 13 IPL matches will be held in Dubai, 10 in Sharjah and eight in Abu Dhabi. (Twitter: @IPL/File Photo)
Under the new schedule, 13 IPL matches will be held in Dubai, 10 in Sharjah and eight in Abu Dhabi. (Twitter: @IPL/File Photo)
Updated 25 July 2021

Pandemic-hit IPL to resume on Sept. 19 in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah

Under the new schedule, 13 IPL matches will be held in Dubai, 10 in Sharjah and eight in Abu Dhabi. (Twitter: @IPL/File Photo)
  • The tournament was only half finished when it was halted in India on May 4 due to COVID-19

NEW DELHI: The Indian Premier League, the world's richest cricket tournament, will resume in the UAE on September 19, more than four months after it was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said Sunday.

“A total number of 31 matches will be played in the duration of 27 days,” said a statement by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

“The 14th season, which was postponed in May this year in the wake of the pandemic, will resume on 19th September in Dubai with a blockbuster clash between Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians.”

The tournament was only half finished when it was halted in India on May 4 after a number of players and team officials caught coronavirus despite being in bio-secure bubbles.

Under the new schedule, 13 matches will be held in Dubai, 10 in Sharjah and eight in Abu Dhabi.

The final will be staged in Dubai on October 15, just two days before the rescheduled Twenty20 World Cup gets underway, also in the Gulf.

In the new-look IPL, there will be seven double headers.

The final game of the league stage will be played between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals on October 8.

The first qualifier will be played in Dubai on October 10 with the eliminator qualifier 2 to be played in Sharjah on October 11 and 13.

The World T20 was originally meant to take place in Australia at the end of 2020 but it was called off as the pandemic swept across the globe causing widescale lockdowns.

It was then switched to India before it was rescheduled again to be staged in Oman and the United Arab Emirates from October 17 to November 14.

The BCCI remains the ‘host’ of the World T20 but the competition will now be held across four venues — the Dubai International Stadium, the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, the Sharjah Stadium, and the Oman Cricket Academy Ground.


Syrian athlete brothers separated by war hug at Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony

Alaa Maso from the Refugee Olympic Team — who will be competing in the men’s swimming — was photographed embracing his brother Mohamed Maso, who is competing in the triathlon. (Screenshot)
Alaa Maso from the Refugee Olympic Team — who will be competing in the men’s swimming — was photographed embracing his brother Mohamed Maso, who is competing in the triathlon. (Screenshot)
Updated 25 July 2021

Syrian athlete brothers separated by war hug at Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony

Alaa Maso from the Refugee Olympic Team — who will be competing in the men’s swimming — was photographed embracing his brother Mohamed Maso, who is competing in the triathlon. (Screenshot)
  • Both brothers, originally from the city of Aleppo in Syria, now live in Germany

DUBAI: A picture of two Syrian brothers — one representing the Olympic refugee team, the other the Syrian team — hugging on the sidelines of the Tokyo Games has been circulating on social media.

Many praised the image, with one Twitter user saying: “The most beautiful image from the #OpeningCeremony are the two #Syrian brothers, who were reunited.” Others called it “surreal.”

Alaa Maso from the Refugee Olympic Team — who will be competing in the men’s swimming — was photographed embracing his brother Mohamed Maso, who is competing in the triathlon.

Both brothers, originally from the city of Aleppo in Syria, now live in Germany.

Alaa left Syria in 2015 and resettled in Germany after his training facilities were damaged during fighting, according to his profile on the International Olympic Committee website. 

His brother Mohamed also fled the war in Syria for Europe in 2015. During his journey to Europe, “his Syrian triathlon suit and running shoes” were in his backpack, his profile read.

Alaa will also be competing alongside another Syrian refugee swimmer, Yusra Mardini.

About half a million people have been killed in Syria and millions more forced to flee their homes since anti-government protests in 2011 led to a deadly war.