Unseeded Krejcikova wins maiden Grand Slam title in Paris

Unseeded Krejcikova wins maiden Grand Slam title in Paris
Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova defeated Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Saturday. (AFP)
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Updated 12 June 2021

Unseeded Krejcikova wins maiden Grand Slam title in Paris

Unseeded Krejcikova wins maiden Grand Slam title in Paris
  • 25-year-old Czech champion pays emotional tribute to her mentor Jana Novotna

PARIS: Barbora Krejcikova won her maiden Grand Slam singles title at the French Open on Saturday, beating Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to become the first Czech woman in 40 years to conquer Roland Garros before dedicating her victory to former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna who died four years ago.

Krejcikova, ranked 33 in the world and playing just her fifth main draw in a Slams singles event, triumphed 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 for a second career title.

The 25-year-old emulates compatriot Hana Mandlikova who claimed the trophy in Paris in 1981.

The 25-year-old Krejcikova paid an emotional tribute to her mentor Novotna, who died of cancer at the age of 49 in 2017.

“It’s hard to put into words. I cannot believe I have just won a Grand Slam,” said Krejcikova who was still outside the top 100 when the 2020 French Open took place last October.

“I spent a lot of time with Jana before she died. Her last words to me were ‘enjoy tennis and try and win a Grand Slam’.

“I know she’s looking after me. All this is pretty much because she is looking after me.

“It was amazing that I got the chance to meet her. She was such an inspiration. I miss her and I hope she’s really happy,” added Krejcikova who had to save a match point in her semifinal to defeat Maria Sakkari.

Krejcikova, who can also win a third Grand Slam women’s doubles title on Sunday with Katerina Siniakova, was presented with the trophy by Czech-born Martina Navratilova who won two French Opens in 1982 and 1984 but as an American citizen.

Krejcikova will rise to number 15 in the world as a result of her win on Saturday as she became the sixth successive first-time major winner in Paris.

She is also the third unseeded champion at Roland Garros in the last five years after Jelena Ostapenko in 2017 and Iga Swiatek in 2020.

If she adds the doubles on Sunday, she’ll be the first player since Mary Pierce in 2000 to claim both titles at the same Roland Garros.

Pavlyuchenkova was playing in her first Slam final at the 52nd attempt and was attempting to become the third oldest first-time winner of a major.

“I was preparing a speech for this moment ever since I was a little kid and now I am lost for words,” said the 29-year-old.

“Many thanks to my friends who came here from all over the world for one match — maybe they thought this was my one and only chance!

“Congratulations to Barbora. I don’t know how you play singles and doubles. I was dead on the last point.”

In a nervy start to the final, Krejcikova was broken in the first game, serving up two double faults.

However, the Russian was unable to capitalize and dropped the next six games as her Czech opponent grabbed three breaks and raced way with the opener inside half an hour.

Krejcikova was rewarded for her bold attacking, hitting 13 winners to the Russian’s seven.

Pavlyuchenkova, who made her Slam debut back in 2007, was the more composed player in the second set, stretching out to 5-1.

A medical timeout at 5-2, during which she was seen munching Haribo gummy bears, merely delayed the Russian leveling the final.

In the decider, the players exchanged breaks in the third and fourth games, before the Czech broke to love for 4-3 on the back of a 10-shot rally. Pavlyuchenkova saved two championship points in the ninth game and a third in the 10th but Krejcikova became champion on the fourth when the Russian hit long.

Both women capitalized on a draw in which the top seeds fell and just kept falling.

World No. 1 and 2019 champion Ashleigh Barty hobbled out in the second round.

Serena Williams was knocked out in the fourth round, world number two Naomi Osaka withdrew after one match, while 2018 champion Simona Halep never even made it to Paris.


Arsenal swoop for ‘£50 million’ Brighton defender White

Arsenal swoop for ‘£50 million’ Brighton defender White
Updated 30 July 2021

Arsenal swoop for ‘£50 million’ Brighton defender White

Arsenal swoop for ‘£50 million’ Brighton defender White
  • Ben White, 23, a member of England's Euro 2020 squad, has now completed a medical
  • "Ben was a top target for us and it's great that we've completed his signing," said Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta

LONDON: Arsenal have signed England defender Ben White from Premier League rivals Brighton, the London club announced on Friday.
The 23-year-old, a member of England’s Euro 2020 squad, has now completed a medical.
Although no fee, nor the exact length of a “long-term” deal has been disclosed, British media reports suggest White has moved to the capital for a fee of £50 million ($70 million).
“Ben was a top target for us and it’s great that we’ve completed his signing,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta told the club’s website.
“Ben has been educated with two very good clubs, Brighton and Leeds, in recent seasons. He has benefitted well from two very good coaching set-ups and has shown with both Brighton and on loan with Leeds what a strong talent he is.”
White played 36 games for Brighton last season.
“We are incredibly proud of him and what he has achieved and much credit must go to our academy, who have played such an important role in developing Ben from a younger age,” said Brighton manager Graham Potter.


Four footballers killed in Somalia blast

Four footballers killed in Somalia blast
Updated 30 July 2021

Four footballers killed in Somalia blast

Four footballers killed in Somalia blast
  • 10 players from Jubaland Chamber of Commerce and Industry club were heading to Kismayo city stadium when the blast hit
  • Four football players were killed and five others wounded in the explosion

MOGADISHU: Four local footballers in Somalia were killed when a powerful explosion ripped through their bus on Friday in what the country’s president branded a “barbaric terror attack.”
Ten players from the Jubaland Chamber of Commerce and Industry club were heading off for a game at the Kismayo city stadium in southern Somalia when the blast hit.
“The players were riding in a bus when the explosion went off, presumably inside the vehicle. There are investigations going on but we presume the device was planted onto the bus,” said police officer Mohamed Sadiq.
He said four football players were killed and five others wounded in the explosion, believed to have been caused by a bomb.
In a statement on Twitter, Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed condemned the “barbaric terror attack that claimed the lives of innocent Somali sports people.”
Witness Ibrahim Ahmed said the blast was “huge” and set off a fire which gutted the bus.
“People rushed to remove the dead bodies and wounded players,” he said.
“I saw the burning bus and three dead bodies of the players — this was horrible because football players are not politicians,” added another witness, Said Adan.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast in Kismayo, capital of the southern state of Jubaland which borders Kenya.
Jubaland was the first state to start voting this week in long-delayed national elections in Somalia that the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabab jihadist group has threatened to disrupt.
The extremists have been fighting to overthrow the federal government since 2007 and frequently attack government, security and civilian targets.


Japan expands virus emergency after record spikes amid Games

Japan expands virus emergency after record spikes amid Games
Updated 30 July 2021

Japan expands virus emergency after record spikes amid Games

Japan expands virus emergency after record spikes amid Games
  • Prime Minister declared an emergency in Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba and Osaka effective Monday until Aug. 31
  • Upsurge in Tokyo cases despite over 2 weeks of emergency measures is raising doubts that they can effectively slow infections

TOKYO: Japan expanded a coronavirus state of emergency to four more areas in addition to Tokyo on Friday following record spikes in infections as the capital hosts the Olympics.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared an emergency in Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba, near Tokyo, as well as in the western city of Osaka, effective Monday until Aug. 31. Emergency measures already in place in Tokyo and the southern island of Okinawa will be extended until the end of August, after the Olympics and well into the Paralympics which start Aug. 24.
The upsurge in cases in Tokyo despite more than two weeks of emergency measures is raising doubts that they can effectively slow infections.
Five other areas, including Hokkaido, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka, will be placed under less-stringent emergency restrictions.
Tokyo has reported a record increase in cases for three days in a row, including 3,865 on Thursday, before logging another 3,300 on Friday. The cases have doubled since last week, although officials say the surge is unrelated to the Olympics.
“Infections are expanding in the Tokyo and western metropolitan areas at an enormous speed that we have never experienced before,” Suga said as he declared the expansion of the state of emergency. If the spike continues at the current pace with the spread of the more contagious delta variant, Japan’s medical system could collapse, he said.
Japan has kept its cases and deaths lower than many other countries, but its seven-day rolling average is growing and now stands at 28 per 100,000 people nationwide and 88 per 100,000 in Tokyo, according to the Health Ministry. This compares to 18.5 in the United States, 48 in Britain and 2.8 in India, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Officials said 2,995 are hospitalized in Tokyo, about half the current capacity of 6,000 beds, with some hospitals already full. More than 10,000 others are isolating at home or in designated hotels, with nearly 5,600 waiting at home while health centers decide where they will be treated. Tokyo is also setting up a facility for those requiring oxygen while waiting for hospital beds.
Nationwide, Japan reported 10,687 cases Thursday, exceeding 10,000 for the first time. It has recorded 15,166 fatalities from COVID-19, including 2,288 in Tokyo, since the pandemic began.
The emergency measures focus on shortened hours and an alcohol ban at eateries and karaoke bars, but have become less effective because people are only requested to remain and work at home. Many have been defying the measures as they become tired of restrictions.
Suga said his key strategy will be largely unchanged — to target dining. He said subsides will be paid faster to business owners who cooperate, and local authorities will patrol “to increase the effectiveness of the measures.” Many bars and restaurants complain they are being unfairly targeted.
He said at a later news conference that the government has approved the use of an antibody cocktail treatment for patients with mild symptoms to prevent them from worsening. But as thousands of people wait for hospital beds, the treatment may be too late for many, experts say.
Suga, who has faced criticism for insisting on hosting the Olympics despite widespread health concerns, said the recent upsurge is not linked to the Games. He pledged to accelerate inoculations of younger people who are increasingly becoming infected.
But holding the Olympics “sends a conflicting message when people are being asked to limit their activities,” Tetsuya Shiokawa, an opposition Japanese Communist Party lawmaker, said in parliament Friday.
Earlier Friday, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike noted that people in their 30s or younger account for many recent cases and urged them to “share the sense of crisis” and follow basic measures such as mask wearing and avoiding having parties.
As of Thursday, 27 percent of the Japanese population has been fully vaccinated. The percentage of the elderly who are fully vaccinated is 71.5 percent.


Novak Djokovic fails in Olympic ‘Golden Slam’ quest as US-Russia doping row erupts

Novak Djokovic fails in Olympic ‘Golden Slam’ quest as US-Russia doping row erupts
Updated 30 July 2021

Novak Djokovic fails in Olympic ‘Golden Slam’ quest as US-Russia doping row erupts

Novak Djokovic fails in Olympic ‘Golden Slam’ quest as US-Russia doping row erupts
  • The Serb collapsed from a set and a break ahead as German fourth seed Zverev won 1-6, 6-3, 6-1

TOKYO: World number one Novak Djokovic crashed out of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday and a defeated American swimmer launched doping accusations against a Russian rival.
As the athletics events began in a stadium deprived of spectators by anti-coronavirus measures, Jamaican sprint queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce made an impressive entrance.
Djokovic's bid for a calendar Golden Grand Slam -- all four Grand Slam tournaments plus the Olympics -- was dramatically ended by Alexander Zverev.
The Serb collapsed from a set and a break ahead as German fourth seed Zverev won 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 to set up a final against Russian Karen Khachanov.
In a bitter row at the pool, American swimmer Ryan Murphy accused Evgeny Rylov of doping after he was beaten by the Russian in the 200m backstroke.
Murphy said he had been "swimming in a race that's probably not clean".
Rylov said he was "surprised" by Murphy's "strange" suggestion.
The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) hit back on Twitter, saying "the broken record is once again playing the song about Russia doping and someone is diligently pressing the button on the English-language propaganda".
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency said Rylov had been tested three times this year and that he was "prepared and clean".
Russia are banned from Tokyo 2020 after being found guilty of state-sponsored doping, meaning their athletes cannot use the Russian flag and anthem.
But more than 330 Russian athletes have been allowed to compete under the ROC moniker, and they had won 10 golds by Friday evening to lie fourth in the medals table.
As competition began in the 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium, Fraser-Pryce successfully launched her bid to become the first woman to win an individual Olympic athletics event three times.
The Jamaican, 100 metres champion in 2008 and 2012, shut down with 20 metres remaining and strode over the line for a comfortable first-round victory in 10.84sec.
One of her rivals, the Ivory Coast's Marie-Josee Ta Lou, blasted to an African record-equalling 10.78sec and reigning champion Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica recorded 10.82sec on what appears to be a fast track.
"If you notice the heats, there's some really quick running. It's good for female sprinting. It's long overdue," Fraser-Pryce said.
The semi-finals and final of that event take place on Saturday evening.
World record-holder Karsten Warholm of Norway strolled to victory in his heat of the 400m hurdles heat, an event that could be one of the highlights.
"It was nice to get out on the track again," said Warholm. "I've been here for two weeks already, I'm starting to get bored so it was very nice to get around."
Qatar's Abderrahman Samba eased through but said he felt the absence of spectators: "It was really, really difficult. I really missed the crowd."
In the pool, South Africa's Tatjana Schoenmaker was overjoyed after becoming the first South African woman to win an Olympic swimming gold for 25 years as she obliterated the eight-year-old world record in the 200m breaststroke, timing 2min 18.95sec.
Australia's Emma McKeon claimed her fourth medal in Tokyo as she blazed to the women's 100m freestyle title in a new Olympic record of 51.96sec.
Hong Kong's Siobhan Haughey -- one of the surprises of the swimming events -- earned another silver medal to add to that from the 200m freestyle.
French judo superstar Teddy Riner came up short in his bid to win a historic third consecutive heavyweight title, losing to Russia's world number one Tamerlan Bashaev in the quarter-final. Riner had to settle for bronze.
The shadow of coronavirus hung over the start of the athletics with the Australian team saying three of its members would remain isolated from the rest of the squad "as a precautionary measure" after a scare.
The three are classed as close contacts of US pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, who has been ruled out of the Games after testing positive for Covid-19.
Ian Chesterman, the chef de mission of the Australian Olympic Committee, told a press conference: "They all tested negative which is good. They also confirmed the daily test results which have also been negative and confirmed their test results before they left Australia."
Coronavirus cases are surging in Japan a week into the Games.
On Friday, Tokyo 2020 organisers reported 27 new cases related to the event -- the highest daily figure yet -- although they insist there is nothing to suggest a link between the Games and rising infections in Japan.


Husein Alireza’s Olympic rowing adventure ends after injury hampered Tokyo 2020

Husein Alireza’s Olympic rowing adventure ends after injury hampered Tokyo 2020
Updated 30 July 2021

Husein Alireza’s Olympic rowing adventure ends after injury hampered Tokyo 2020

Husein Alireza’s Olympic rowing adventure ends after injury hampered Tokyo 2020
  • 27-year-old carried Saudi Arabia’s flag alongside sprinter Yasmine Al-Dabbagh at Olympics opening ceremony

RIYADH: Saudi rower Husein Alireza’s Tokyo 2020 journey at the Sea Forest Waterway has come to an end after an injury plagued Olympics.

He bowed out of the competition coming 24th in a field of 32 after finishing sixth in the men’s single sculls final D on Friday.

It was the fifth race in just over a week at the Olympics for Alireza, who has been competing with a lung injury that significantly affected his performances in the heat and humidity of the Japanese capital.

His first race took place on July 23, the same day he became one of the Kingdom’s two flagbearers at the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony, alongside 100 meters sprinter Yasmine Al-Dabbagh.

Alireza had suffered a punctured lung during an Olympic qualification regatta on May 5, which left him unable to train until June 22, just one month before the start of the tournament. The 27-year-old had been advised to give the Olympics a miss with the injury initially expected to heal in no less than three months without any physical exertions.

The handicap clearly affected his form, with his technical team devising a strategy that would see Alireza navigate the best path toward improving his ranking, with medal hopes not seen as realistic in any way.

He started rowing while studying for a master’s degree at Cambridge University in 2017, and it soon became clear he had the talent to go far in the sport. After graduation, he won two Saudi Indoor Rowing Championship golds as well as posting a first-place finish at the US Indoor Rowing Championships.

Alireza had a successful 2019 with wins at the Molesey Regatta in London and the Head of the River Fours, a bronze at the Asian Indoor Rowing Championships in Thailand, and participation at the Asian Rowing Championship in South Korea.

Earlier this year he won gold at the Asian Continental Qualifiers for the 2021 World Indoor Rowing Championships.