Djokovic wins record-equalling 20th Grand Slam and sixth Wimbledon title

Djokovic wins record-equalling 20th Grand Slam and sixth Wimbledon title
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Serbia's Novak Djokovic kisses the winner's trophy after beating Italy's Matteo Berrettini during their men's singles final match of the Wimbledon Championships. (AFP)
Djokovic wins record-equalling 20th Grand Slam and sixth Wimbledon title
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Serbia's Novak Djokovic shows off the winners trophy to the crowd as he walks around Centre Court after defeating Italy's Matteo Berrettini in the men's singles final. (AP)
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Updated 11 July 2021

Djokovic wins record-equalling 20th Grand Slam and sixth Wimbledon title

Djokovic wins record-equalling 20th Grand Slam and sixth Wimbledon title
  • Serb joins legends Nadal and Federer on most grand slams won

LONDON: Novak Djokovic won a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title and sixth Wimbledon on Sunday with a four-set victory over Italian slugger Matteo Berrettini with rival superstar Roger Federer hailing the achievement as a “wonderful performance.”
The world number one triumphed 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to move level on 20 majors with Federer and Rafael Nadal.
His win also put him three-quarters of the way to the first calendar Grand Slam of all four majors since 1969.
“I could definitely envisage that happening and I hope I will give it a shot. I’m in great form and played well and having my best form at Grand Slams is my number one priority,” said Djokovic.
A sixth victory at the All England Club for Djokovic, who was playing in his 30th final at the Slams, added to his nine Australian Opens, two Roland Garros titles as well as three at the US Open.
Should he win a fourth title in New York in September, he will become just the third man in history after Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) to complete the calendar Grand Slam.
“It was more than a battle. He is a true Italian hammer I felt it on my skin,” said Djokovic of Berrettini.
Of sharing the record with Federer and Nadal, he said: “It means none of us three will stop. Roger and Rafa are legends, they are the reason I am where I am today.
“They showed me what I needed to do to get stronger, physically, tactically and mentally. Over the last 10 years it has been an incredible journey that’s not stopping here.”
Federer — who bowed out in the quarter-finals while Nadal did not play — tweeted his congratulations.
“Congrats Novak on your 20th major,” said Federer, an eight-time champion at Wimbledon.
“I’m proud to have the opportunity to play in a special era of tennis champions. Wonderful performance, well done.”
Djokovic also now has 85 career titles while he has become the first man to break the $150 million prize money barrier.
A gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics could give him the first ever Golden Grand Slam by a male player.
“Novak is a great champion, he is writing history on this court,” said Berrettini.
Djokovic overcame a nervy start to break for 3-1, which he stretched to 5-2.
He even had a set point in a marathon eighth game which the Italian saved after eight deuces.
Reinvigorated, he broke Djokovic when he served for the set and then dominated the tiebreaker which he sealed with his fourth ace of the contest.
The top seed stormed to a 5-1 lead in the second set on the back of a double break.
Berrettini, bidding to be Italy’s first men’s Grand Slam winner since Adriano Panatta at the 1976 French Open, clawed his way back to 4-5, saving three set points, but Djokovic this time served it out for a set apiece.
Djokovic struck first again for a 2-1 lead in the third set and fought off three break points in the sixth game, a show of defiance which brought watching Hollywood star Tom Cruise to his feet.
That was Berrettini’s last chance of the set as Djokovic served it out in the 10th game.
A weary Berrettini then served up a double fault on break point to hand Djokovic a 4-3 lead in the fourth set.
Djokovic kept coming, sprinting from the back of the court to pull off a wondrous pick-up and he held on for 5-3.
Berrettini, hoping to be Italy’s first singles champion at Wimbledon, saved two championship points in the eighth game.
But he was powerless on the third as Djokovic swept to his place in history.
“It is not the end, it is the beginning for me,” said Berrettini.
“Without my family, friends and team all this would not have been possible so I just say Grazie Grazie.”

UEFA says FIFA snubs request for talks on World Cup concerns

Updated 1 min 32 sec ago

UEFA says FIFA snubs request for talks on World Cup concerns

UEFA says FIFA snubs request for talks on World Cup concerns
LONDON: Intensifying its opposition to FIFA’s push for biennial World Cups, UEFA complained Wednesday that Gianni Infantino’s world body has yet to respond to its request for talks to discuss the concerns of European nations.
Infantino has been deploying retired players and former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger in a campaign to win support for the overhaul of world football, which UEFA said is a sign of “promotional campaigns of unilaterally pre-determined concepts” rather than an open consultation process.
Doubling the frequency of World Cups would create significant disruption for club competitions, continental tournaments, including the European Championship, and existing global events like the Olympics.
“UEFA is disappointed with the methodology adopted, which has so far led to radical reform projects being communicated and openly promoted before having been given, together with other stakeholders, the chance to participate in any consultation meeting,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has already said that Europe could boycott the World Cup if Infantino succeeds in securing approval for his plan from the FIFA Congress of 211 member associations. Most of those countries never get to play at the World Cup, which will feature 32 men’s teams for the last time in 2022 before expanding to 48 nations in 2026.
“There are real dangers associated with this plan,” UEFA said in a statement after an executive committee meeting, “the dilution of the value of the No. 1 world football event, whose quadrennial occurrence gives it a mystique that generations of fans have grown up with; the erosion of sporting opportunities for the weaker national teams by replacing regular matches with final tournaments; the risk to sustainability for players, forced to engage in summer high intensity competitions every year instead of longer recuperation breaks in alternate years.”
More than a week after asking FIFA “to organize a special meeting with them to be able to voice their concerns on the impact of such plans,” UEFA said it “to date not yet received a reply.”
Major women’s tournaments, such as the World Cup and continental events like the European Championship, are currently held in odd-numbered years. The men’s World Cup and Euros are held in even-numbered years. FIFA’s new vision would mean every year would feature a men’s tournament, including continental events.
“We are grateful for the attention reserved to the UEFA European Championship, with the proposed double frequency of its final event,” UEFA said, “but we prefer to address such a sensitive matter with a comprehensive rather than speculative approach.”
UEFA flagged up “the risk for the future of women’s tournaments, deprived of exclusive slots and overshadowed by the proximity of top men’s events.”
A World Cup would also clash with the Olympics, unlike now, if the new plans are approved.
UEFA highlighted “the impact on the global sports system and respect that football, as the most followed sport worldwide, must show to consolidated spaces of exposure and exploitation used by other sports.”
FIFA has been stepping up the publication of in-house interviews featuring former players stating the case for a review of the international match calendar and for holding the World Cup every two years. Infantino has not been made available for comment since May.
“The serious concerns that the FIFA proposal provokes ... cannot be dispelled simply with unsubstantiated promotional slogans on the supposed benefits of a thicker calendar for final tournaments,” UEFA said.
“The respect for a consultation process with the stakeholders — which should be unbiased — would suggest abstaining from promotional campaigns of unilaterally pre-determined concepts that nobody has been given the possibility to see in detail and which have wide-ranging, often unexpected, effects.”

Canelo Álvarez, Caleb Plant trade blows at news conference

Canelo Álvarez, Caleb Plant trade blows at news conference
Updated 22 September 2021

Canelo Álvarez, Caleb Plant trade blows at news conference

Canelo Álvarez, Caleb Plant trade blows at news conference

BEVERLY HILLS, California: Canelo Álvarez and Caleb Plant couldn’t wait until Nov. 6 to start throwing hands.
The super middleweight champions traded blows at their news conference Tuesday to promote their upcoming title unification bout, and the exchange left Plant with a cut under his right eye.
The fighters scuffled after exchanging verbal barbs during the ceremonial faceoff before the news conference began in the garden of the Beverly Hilton. Apparently in response to a comment from Plant about Álvarez’s mother, the Mexican superstar knocked Plant backward with a two-handed shove.
“You can say whatever you want to me, but not about my mother,” Álvarez said afterward.
Plant stepped forward and threw a left hook at Álvarez, who mostly dodged it and countered with a left hand to Plant’s face. Plant said the blow struck his sunglasses, which jammed into his cheek and caused the cut.
“We were just saying things, just the normal back-and-forth banter, and then he did what he did,” Plant said.
Álvarez put it succinctly on Twitter while posting video of the brouhaha: “Don’t talk about my mom.”
The fighters’ camps eventually separated them, but Plant was left dabbing at the blood on his cheek. He eventually put on his sunglasses for a frosty, combative news conference in which Plant repeatedly called out Álvarez for his doping violations in 2018.
Álvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) will risk his WBC, WBA and WBO super middleweight titles against Plant (21-0, 12 KOs), the unbeaten IBF champion from Tennessee, when they meet at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Plant repeatedly said Álvarez and trainer Eddy Reynoso are “cheaters.” Álvarez was suspended for six months for clenbuterol detected in a drug test, although the Mexican champ claimed the banned substance came from tainted meat.
“This sport is too dangerous for people to be popping positive,” Plant said. “He’s a cheater. It’s not up for discussion. Did he get suspended? Did he test positive? It’s not about what I say. It’s about what the (athletic) commission said. You have to take that up with them, not me.”
Reynoso responded angrily when pressed on Álvarez’s past positive test and the more recent failed doping test for Oscar Valdez, Canelo’s training partner. Speaking in Spanish, Reynoso didn’t directly address Plant’s comments, but instead profanely suggested Plant wasn’t training hard enough to win in seven weeks.
“Taking illegal substances doesn’t happen because you’re confident,” Plant said. “It happens because you’re afraid. That just gives me more confidence. I’ve dedicated a lot to this sport, and it will be my life’s work coming together in that one moment when I beat him. It would etch my name in the history books, and that’s what I’m here to do.”
Álvarez is unbeaten in 15 fights since his only career loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2013. He traded insults with Plant after their physical exchange, but kept his public comments more brief.
“For me, it’s for history, for Mexico, for my team,” he said. “I’m going to knock out this guy in less than eight rounds.”

Golden Shoe winner Lewandowski hopes to become ‘even better’

Golden Shoe winner Lewandowski hopes to become ‘even better’
Updated 22 September 2021

Golden Shoe winner Lewandowski hopes to become ‘even better’

Golden Shoe winner Lewandowski hopes to become ‘even better’
  • Lewandowski netted 41 times in 29 games for Bayern in the 2020-21 season

MUNICH: Europe’s “Golden Shoe” winner Robert Lewandowski sent out a warning to defenses around Europe on Tuesday when he likened himself to a ‘good wine’ that was still improving.
The Bayern Munich striker also offered warm praise and thanks to his wife Anna when he received the award as top scorer in European football last season.
Lewandowski netted 41 times in 29 games for Bayern in the 2020-21 season, breaking the great Gerd Mueller’s record of 40 goals in a Bundesliga season, set in 1971-72.
His tally represents the highest in Europe since Cristiano Ronaldo bagged 48 goals for Real Madrid in 2014-15.
The 33-year-old forward insisted, though, that there were still plenty more goals and titles yet to come.
“I’m still here, and I will be here for a long time!” said Lewandowski.
“Age is just a number, I feel very good, my form indicators have never been so good.
“I know that with my body I can still play for years at the highest level. I am like good wine and I hope to become even better.”
This season, Lewandowski has already scored seven goals in five days as champions Bayern top the early Bundesliga table.
“It’s not over yet, we are still hungry for titles,” said Lewandowski who hopes to help Bayern to a second Champions League title to add to the one he won with them in 2020.
“I don’t need to go and prove myself in another league,” said the striker who was linked with Real Madrid a few years ago.
“With the Champions League, I can measure myself against the best. I am 100 percent focused on Bayern and I don’t think about anything else.”
At the ceremony held at Bayern’s Allianz Arena, the Poland striker was effusive in his praise for his wife who is also his personal “motivation coach.”
“I have to thank my wife, she is a great support for me and a motivation when things are not going so well,” he said.
A former Polish international karateka, Anna Lewandowska is also a nutritionist and oversees her husband’s diet.
“I am very proud of him,” she said. “He is extraordinary as a person, as an athlete, as a partner, as a friend and as a husband.”
Lewandowski is only the second Bundesliga player to win the award after Mueller, who won in 1970 and 1972.
Lionel Messi has won the award a record six times while Ronaldo has taken it four times but they only scored 30 and 29 goals respectively in 2020-21.

Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon returns for 15th edition in February 2022

Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon returns for 15th edition in February 2022
Updated 22 September 2021

Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon returns for 15th edition in February 2022

Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon returns for 15th edition in February 2022
  • The northern emirate will once again welcome leading international athletes, regional participants and residents to the world’s fastest half marathon

RAS AL-KHAIMAH: The Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon is set to return to the northern Emirate on Feb. 18, 2022.

Returning for its 15th edition, the race will welcome back elite athletes, running enthusiasts and amateurs from across the globe, to participate in what is billed as the world’s fastest half marathon.

“Aligned with the continued recovery of the Emirate, we are delighted to welcome back an incredible line-up of elite athletes, as well as residents and visitors from across the globe, to the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon in February 2022,” said Raki Phillips, CEO of Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.

“We are extremely proud to have hosted this prestigious race for 15 editions, making the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon one of the most anticipated events on the global sporting calendar, adding to an expansive portfolio of world-class sporting events hosted in the Emirate,” he added. “We look forward to showcasing our stunning landscape and renowned hospitality to participants and spectators as they enjoy the world’s fastest half marathon.”

Taking place on Marjan Island, the event will include four established categories: Half marathon, a half marathon relay for teams of two, a 5km and a 1km fun run. The Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon is open to runners of all abilities and ages.

“We are delighted to announce the new 2022 date for the hugely popular Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon.” said Michele Napoli, CEO of race partners RCS Sports and Events. “Once again, it is an honour to support Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority as this fantastic race returns to Marjan Island on Feb. 18 2022.

“The Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon has undoubtedly grown from strength to strength, with each edition gaining traction on both a regional and international scale, and we cannot wait for participants to experience the highly anticipated 2022 edition.

“We look forward to announcing our all-new offers for runners shortly, and to welcoming an incredible line-up of elite athletes,” he said. “The Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience for everyone.’’

Saudi Sports for All Federation marking 91st National Day with campaign celebrating nation’s sporting achievements

Saudi Sports for All Federation marking 91st National Day with campaign celebrating nation’s sporting achievements
Updated 22 September 2021

Saudi Sports for All Federation marking 91st National Day with campaign celebrating nation’s sporting achievements

Saudi Sports for All Federation marking 91st National Day with campaign celebrating nation’s sporting achievements
  • The SFA is commemorating the occasion with a series of events aimed at getting people active

RIYADH: The Saudi Sports for All Federation is marking Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day with an online campaign that will allow residents from the Kingdom to share their sporting stories and achievements.

The federation’s activities leading up to National Day will be highlighted under a hashtag that translates into English as “Saudi sporting society” and which will serve as the banner for people from all walks of life to share their daily lifestyles and how they stay active throughout the day.

“The Sports for All Federation joins you all in congratulating the nation on the occasion of Saudi’s 91st National Day,” said SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal. “The federation, in step with the nation’s leadership, is consistently working towards a health-first mindset across all our communities.

“We congratulate His Majesty, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman, and HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the incredible accomplishments that have ignited the pride of our people all over the country. A healthy and active population is a prosperous one; we’ll be alongside you celebrating through our various activities that promote physical and mental well-being.”

Prince Khaled further highlighted that the support of the Quality of Life Program and a unified purpose under Vision 2030 continued to propel the SFA team to innovate programs and activities to meet the country’s wellness targets.

The federation is hosting several events to mark Saudi National Day. For example, Step Together, which organizes virtual walking and running challenges for communities throughout Saudi Arabia, is holding a special National Day challenge from Sept. 20 to 29. Participants completing the challenge will receive a medal to commemorate their achievement, along with a certificate of completion.

The SFA’s hosting of walking events and campaigns at Arabian Center malls across Saudi Arabia will also commemorate National Day. The walking track installed at Al-Nakheel Mall in Riyadh will host a National Day challenge, asking visitors to walk 2030 steps through the SFA app for a chance to win prizes. This initiative builds on the SFA’s goal of marking the nation’s progress through inclusive sporting events that bring people together irrespective of their age, ability, background or gender.

A special cycling event is also being held on Thursday in collaboration with the Saudi Cycling Federation and the MiSK Foundation. Cyclists in Riyadh, Jeddah and Khobar have signed up to cycle 15 km to mark the occasion.

The 91st Saudi National Day campaigns highlight the SFA’s support for the goals of the Quality of Life Program as mandated in the Saudi Vision 2030, which calls for increasing the number of people undertaking regular physical activity in the Kingdom to 40 percent by 2030.