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

Saudi driver Al-Rajhi back behind the wheel at Andalucia Rally
Yazeed Al-Rajhi has recovered from recent injuries to take part in the Andalucia Rally. (Yazeed Racing Team)
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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.”


Nadal bounced by 50th-ranked Lloyd Harris in Washington

Nadal bounced by 50th-ranked Lloyd Harris in Washington
Updated 06 August 2021

Nadal bounced by 50th-ranked Lloyd Harris in Washington

Nadal bounced by 50th-ranked Lloyd Harris in Washington
  • The 24-year-old Harris is 6-foot-4 with big serves that regularly topped 120 mph and produced 16 aces on Thursday
  • Nadal lost to Novak Djokovic at the French Open finals and skipped Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics

WASHINGTON: The good news for Rafael Nadal was that his painful left foot felt much better Thursday at the Citi Open. The bad news? His debut appearance at the tournament ended after two rough outings.
A day after needing three sets and more than three hours to get by at the hard-court tuneup for the US Open, Nadal was eliminated 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 under the lights by 50th-ranked Lloyd Harris of South Africa.
“I need to keep working,” Nadal said.
He is a 20-time Grand Slam champion. Harris has only once made it as far as the third round at a major.
“All the credit to him that he played aggressive,” Nadal said. “He played well. He was brave.”
The 24-year-old Harris is 6-foot-4 with big serves that regularly topped 120 mph and produced 16 aces Thursday.
“His serve,” Nadal said, “was huge.”
Nadal’s, admittedly, was not. That might be a sign of rust, which would be understandable given that the 35-year-old Spaniard hadn’t competed anywhere in nearly two months — not even picking up his racket for about three weeks after a semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic at the French Open.
Nadal skipped Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics and certainly never quite played the way he can during his first trip to the US capital.
Thursday’s match ended when Nadal got broken for the second time, with Harris dropping his racket in disbelief after delivering a lob winner to close the proceedings.
“I played this last game really bad,” said Nadal, who was the top seed. “My serve was not working the proper way.”
This was less of a physical tug-of-war between a pair of heavy hitters than Nadal’s victory over 192nd-ranked Jack Sock on Wednesday, which was decided by a third-set tiebreaker.
About 3 1/2 hours before returning to the main stadium to face Harris, Nadal made his way to tiny Court 5 for a training session.
As fans shouted “Vamos, Rafa!” and snapped photos and video with their phones from the stands at an adjacent court, Nadal didn’t do much running. Instead, he mostly stayed in place while smacking groundstrokes, then practicing volleys, serves and returns for 45 minutes with Emilio Gomez, a 29-year-old from Ecuador who is ranked 165th and lost in the Citi Open’s first round.
Not at all taxing by Nadal’s usual exacting and exhausting standards.
And against Harris, when the points mattered, it took Nadal a bit to get going. It wasn’t really until the second set that he seemed into it, as did the fans, many of whom rose to salute when Nadal broke to lead 3-1 with a forehand passing winner.
But down the stretch in the third set, it was Nadal, surprisingly, who faltered. He now will try to regroup ahead of the US Open, which he missed last year during the pandemic but won the last time he entered, in 2019.
Harris, meanwhile, continues the pursuit of a first ATP title, which would leave him 87 behind Nadal’s total.
“To be honest, tennis-wise, I did a lot of good things,” Harris said. “I think the best thing was to stay in the moment, keep my composure.”
Next for him is a match against 2015 Citi Open champion and 2014 US Open finalist Kei Nishikori on Friday.
Other quarterfinals: Mackie McDonald vs. Denis Kudla in an all-US contest, No. 5 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy vs. Steve Johnson of the US, and No. 11 John Millman of Australia vs. Jenson Brooksby of the US
Sinner beat Sebastian Korda 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3) in a matchup between two youngsters considered possible future stars of men’s tennis who also happen to be doubles partners this week.
Sinner, 19, reached the French Open quarterfinals last year and the fourth round there this year before losing to 13-time champion Nadal each time. Korda, 21, is only the third man in the last 50 years to reach the fourth round in his debuts at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
They got to know each other on tour; Sinner said Korda texted him about joining up in doubles. After facing each other on a breezy, 90-degree afternoon, they reached the doubles semifinals at night by beating Nick Kyrgios and Frances Tiafoe.
Brooksby, 20, beat No. 2 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 6-4.
“He’s going to be dangerous in the future,” said Auger-Aliassime, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist last month.
For Nadal, the past two months were not easy.
“I had a lot of problems with my foot. I was not able to practice all the days that I really wanted, but I did as much as I could,” he said. “And I tried hard here, no?”


Man City pays record fee to sign Grealish from Aston Villa

Man City pays record fee to sign Grealish from Aston Villa
Updated 05 August 2021

Man City pays record fee to sign Grealish from Aston Villa

Man City pays record fee to sign Grealish from Aston Villa
  • City paid a fee of 100 million pounds ($139 million), Villa chief executive Christian Purslow confirmed
  • The 25-year-old Grealish signed a six-year contract with manager Pep Guiardiola's squad

MANCHESTER, England: Premier League champion Manchester City broke the British transfer fee record on Thursday to sign midfielder Jack Grealish from Aston Villa.
City paid a fee of 100 million pounds ($139 million), Villa chief executive Christian Purslow confirmed. That’s the most ever paid by a Premier League club.
The 25-year-old Grealish signed a six-year contract with manager Pep Guardiola’s squad.
“City are the best team in the country with a manager considered to be the best in the world — it’s a dream come true to be part of this club,” Grealish said in a team statement. “To play for Pep and learn from him is going to be special and it’s something any top footballer would want.”
The previous record fee was the 105 million euros ($124 million) that Manchester United paid Juventus for midfielder Paul Pogba in 2016.
Addressing Villa supporters, Purslow said in a video Thursday that the team set Grealish’s price at 100 million pounds last year when they extended his contract. Several teams expressed interest this summer, he said, but below the target.
“We simply refused to entertain those approaches. Finally, Manchester City notified us that they would be willing to pay the 100 million pounds it would take to trigger this clause,” Purslow said. “Ultimately, (Grealish) said it boiled down to wanting to play Champions League football now.”
The Birmingham-born Grealish had spent his whole career with Villa, with one season on loan to lower-tier Notts County in 2013-14, and now joins a formidable midfield with Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and others.
“Everyone knows how much I admire Kevin. It’s going to be a dream come true to play alongside him,” Grealish told club media. “Competing for trophies, for major trophies is something that I wanted to do. ... Playing in the Champions League was a massive thing for me — I haven’t done that yet.”
Grealish said the 21-year-old Foden is “like a little brother. When you have a connection with someone off the pitch, you can transfer that onto the pitch as well.”
The attacking midfielder was a bit of a late bloomer as a superstar, only debuting for England in September 2020. He originally played for Ireland at youth levels before switching to England in 2015.
Easily recognizable with his swept-back hair and bulging calf muscles, Grealish carries the ball superbly and with such pace and directness that it is no surprise he is constantly fouled.
“Jack’s development over the past few seasons both for club and country has been plain for everybody to see,” said Txiki Begiristain, City’s director of football. “His natural talent together with his commitment to improve as a player has seen him become one of the most exciting attacking players in world football today.
“Pep loves the way he plays, and we all feel he is an ideal fit for Manchester City,” he continued. “Our style and his style are a perfect match.”
Grealish was part of England’s team in the European Championship, though mostly as a substitute — and fan favorite. England lost to Italy in the final.
Grealish will wear the No. 10 shirt, which became available when striker Sergio Aguero left the club for Barcelona.
The playmaker made his Premier League debut in May 2014. Villa later slipped into the second-tier Championship but Grealish helped the squad win promotion after the 2018-19 season. The team finished 11th last season.
Grealish scored 32 goals and compiled 43 assists in 213 appearances for Villa.
City kicks off the new season at Tottenham on Aug. 15.


Madrid opposes Spanish league’s deal that secured $3 billion

Madrid opposes Spanish league’s deal that secured $3 billion
Updated 05 August 2021

Madrid opposes Spanish league’s deal that secured $3 billion

Madrid opposes Spanish league’s deal that secured $3 billion
  • The majority of the league's clubs are expected to give their final approval to the deal
  • “This agreement was reached without the involvement or knowledge of Real Madrid,” Madrid said in a statement

MADRID: Real Madrid expressed its opposition Thursday to the Spanish league’s deal with an investment fund that secured $3.2 billion in funding to help its clubs.
The league’s executive committee unanimously approved the “strategic agreement” with international investment fund CVC Capital Partners on Wednesday. The majority of the league’s clubs are expected to give their final approval to the deal in an upcoming general assembly.
“This agreement was reached without the involvement or knowledge of Real Madrid and today (Thursday), for the first time, LaLiga has given us limited access to the terms of the agreement,” Madrid said in a statement.
As part of the agreement, the private equity firm which used to own Formula One would have a share of about 10 percent of the league’s revenues and a stake of 10 percent in a new commercial entity that values the league at 24.2 billion euros ($28.7 billion).
“The clubs have signed over their audiovisual rights exclusively for their sale on a competitive basis for a period of three years. This agreement, by way of a misleading structure, expropriates 10.95 percent of the clubs’ audiovisual rights for the next 50 years, in breach of the law,” Madrid said.
It said the negotiation “was carried out without competitive proceedings and the financial conditions” in the agreement gives this “opportunistic fund” annual returns “of over 20 percent.”
Madrid noted that CVC “tried and failed” to reach similar agreements with the Italian and German leagues.
“Real Madrid cannot support a venture which hands the future of 42 first and second division clubs over to a group of investors, not to mention the futures of those clubs who qualify over the next 50 years,” it said.
The league had said the funding would help the clubs’ finances and boost its global presence as it continues to try to catch up to the powerful Premier League, the world’s richest soccer league. It said CVC would not have control of the management of the competition, or the sale of its broadcasting rights.
The clubs would receive 90 percent of the money paid by CVC, with 70 percent aimed at long-term structural investments. Some of the money would also go toward paying off debts and increasing their spending limits on players and coaches.
Madrid and Barcelona are among the clubs with heavy losses because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Barcelona earlier Thursday announced that Lionel Messi will not stay at the club because the league’s financial regulations made it impossible to sign the Argentina star to a new contract.


Barcelona says Messi will not stay with the club

Barcelona says Messi will not stay with the club
Updated 05 August 2021

Barcelona says Messi will not stay with the club

Barcelona says Messi will not stay with the club
  • Lionel Messi will not stay with Barcelona after Spanish league financial regulations made it impossible to reach a deal
  • "Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled,” stated Barcelona

BARCELONA, Spain: Barcelona said Thursday that Lionel Messi will not stay with the club after Spanish league financial regulations made it impossible for a deal to be reached between the club and the player.
Barcelona said in a statement that a deal for a new contract had been reached but financial “obstacles” made it impossible for the player to remain with the club.
“Despite club and player reaching an agreement and their clear intention to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles,” the club said.
It blamed “Spanish league regulations” for not allowing the club to sign a new contract with the player. His previous one had ended on June 30.
“As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona,” it said. “Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.
“FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandizement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life,” the statement said.

 


Qatar to contest beach volleyball bronze medal match after semifinal loss to Russian Olympic Committee team

Qatar to contest beach volleyball bronze medal match after semifinal loss to Russian Olympic Committee team
Updated 05 August 2021

Qatar to contest beach volleyball bronze medal match after semifinal loss to Russian Olympic Committee team

Qatar to contest beach volleyball bronze medal match after semifinal loss to Russian Olympic Committee team
  • Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan have excelled in Tokyo but came up against formidable opponents in final four
  • Before their defeat to ROC, Younousse and Tijan had been on a five-match winning streak at Tokyo 2020

Qatar lost the Olympic Men’s Beach Volleyball semifinal 2-0 to the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) at Shiokaze Park on Thursday and will now take on Latvia in the bronze medal match on Saturday.

The Qatari duo of Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan have caught the eye at Tokyo 2020 with some brilliant performances that have seen them overcome more fancied opponents, including their impressive win over the Italian team of Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo 2-0 (21-17, 23-21) in the quarterfinal on Wednesday.

But on Thursday they came up against the formidable Russian duo Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy, who ran out winners in straight sets (21-19, 21-17).

Before their defeat to ROC, Younousse and Tijan had been on a five-match winning streak at Tokyo 2020.

The pair began their Olympic campaign on July 25, beating Switzerland 2-0 (21-17, 21-16) in their preliminary round, Pool C match.

They followed that up with two more group victories, beating Italy 2-0 three days later, and the USA 2-0 last Friday.

On Sunday, they beat the USA 2-1 (14-21, 21-19,15-11) in the round of 16 to reach the quarterfinal against Italy.