Djokovic says he will play Tokyo Olympics ‘with much pride’

Novak Djokovic presents his tennis racquet to a young fan after winning the men's singles final of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London on July 11, 2021. (AP file photo)
Novak Djokovic presents his tennis racquet to a young fan after winning the men's singles final of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London on July 11, 2021. (AP file photo)
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Updated 21 July 2021

Djokovic says he will play Tokyo Olympics ‘with much pride’

Djokovic says he will play Tokyo Olympics ‘with much pride’
  • The 34-year-old has already won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles this year
  • He needs Olympic gold and then the US Open to become the first man to capture the Golden Grand Slam

PARIS: World number one Novak Djokovic said Thursday he will play at the Tokyo Olympics, giving him the opportunity to achieve the first calendar Golden Slam by a male player.
“I booked my flight for Tokyo and will proudly be joining #TeamSerbia for the Olympics,” tweeted Djokovic in English.
“With much pride I’m packing for Tokyo and joining our national team in the fight for the brightest medals at the Olympic arenas,” he then tweeted in Serbian.
“For me playing for Serbia was always a special joy and motivation and I will give my best to make us all happy. Let’s go.”
The 34-year-old has already won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles this year.
He needs Olympic gold and then the US Open to become the first man to capture the Golden Grand Slam.
The calendar Golden Slam has only ever been achieved once in the women’s game when Steffi Graf swept the board of all four majors and Olympic gold at Seoul in 1988.
Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and Andre Agassi have claimed career Golden Slams.
Djokovic’s path to potential gold in Tokyo had already been eased by the decision of rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to skip the tournament.
US Open champion Dominic Thiem is also an absentee.
Djokovic won a bronze medal in singles at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing where he was defeated by Nadal in the semifinals before beating James Blake of the United States for third place.
At London in 2012, he carried Serbia’s flag at the opening ceremony but was again a semifinal loser at the hands of Andy Murray.
He was defeated by Juan Martin del Potro in the bronze medal match.
Del Potro also beat him in the first round in Rio four years later.
Djokovic’s announcement on Thursday came just four days after he had cast doubt on his participation at the Games.
Having defeated Matteo Berrettini for a sixth Wimbledon title and 20th career Grand Slam crown on Sunday, Djokovic admitted he had cooled on making the trip, saying it was only “50/50” if he would participate.
“As I said, my plan was always to go to the Olympic Games. But right now I’m a little bit divided. It’s kind of 50/50 because of what I heard in the last couple of days,” said Djokovic.
The Serb had always insisted he would think twice if the Covid-19 protocols in Japan became too strict and if fans were banned.
All venues at the Games, which start on July 23, will be closed to spectators as the Japanese authorities look to limit the risks of Covid-19.
Foreign visitors have been barred as have family members of visiting athletes.
“That was really disappointing to hear. I also hear that there’s going to be a lot of restrictions within the Village,” said Djokovic.
“Possibly you would not be able to see other athletes perform live.
“I can’t even have my stringer that is a very important part of my team. I’m limited with the amount of people I can take in my team as well. I’ll have to think about it.”
The Olympics tennis event will also be missing Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber and Bianca Andreescu — all major winners — from the women’s tournament.
Other absentees from the men’s side include British number one Dan Evans, Australian crowd pleaser Nick Kyrgios, David Goffin of Belgium and Canadian duo Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil.
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Golf fans set to return to 2021 DP World Tour Championships in Dubai

Golf fans set to return to 2021 DP World Tour Championships in Dubai
Updated 26 sec ago

Golf fans set to return to 2021 DP World Tour Championships in Dubai

Golf fans set to return to 2021 DP World Tour Championships in Dubai
  • European Tour’s season-ending tournament will take place at Jumeirah Golf Estates from Nov. 18-21

DUBAI: Spectators are set to return to the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, where the world’s best golfers will battle it out to be crowned European No.1 at the fourth Rolex Series event of the 2021 season.

The 13th edition of the DP World Tour Championship will take place from Nov. 18-21 at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.

“It’s great to see the return of major sporting events into Dubai’s social calendars,” Tom Phillips, European tour head of Middle East, said.

“The UAE has become synonymous with hosting world-class events and now, while celebrating the country’s 50th anniversary, we hope to set a new example of how to do so safely for all to enjoy.”

The 50 highest-ranked players on the Race to Dubai rankings will take on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates — designed by two-time Open champion Greg Norman — competing for a share of the $9 million prize pot. 

Free tickets to watch the golf, along with other hospitality options for the event, are now on sale.

As part of the ultimate fan experience, spectators can enjoy access to the 16th green hospitality lounge, with views of the course as well as access to the Jumeirah Golf Estates clubhouse and the preferential viewing platform on the 18th green.

The 18th fan experience will offer spectators access to the preferential viewing platform on the 18th green and to the clubhouse.

The DP World Tour Championship will again host the European Disabled Golfers Association Dubai final from Nov. 19-20, with eight of the leading players already having qualified to battle it out on the Earth Course in their bid to become champion.

It will be the first time the DP World Tour Championship will have fans attending since the 2019 edition after last year’s tournament, which was won by England’s Matt Fitzpatrick, was played behind closed doors due to pandemic restrictions.

The European Tour will work closely with the Dubai government and Dubai Sports Council on precautionary measures to ensure player and spectator safety.


Mano Menezes pays heavy price for Al-Nassr’s poor start to Saudi Pro League season

Mano Menezes pays heavy price for Al-Nassr’s poor start to Saudi Pro League season
Updated 56 min 30 sec ago

Mano Menezes pays heavy price for Al-Nassr’s poor start to Saudi Pro League season

Mano Menezes pays heavy price for Al-Nassr’s poor start to Saudi Pro League season
  • Coach fired as criticism mounts despite Riyadh club’s progress to AFC Champions League final eight

Al-Nassr coach Mano Menezes has been fired just five days after leading the team into the quarterfinals of the AFC Champions League.

The dismissal, which ends the 62-year-old’s five months in charge, does not come as a surprise. Fair or not, it had been coming.

Saturday’s 3-1 loss at home to Al-Ittihad meant that Al-Nassr had collected six points from the first four games of the season, leaving the Riyadh giants six points behind the leaders, although with a game in hand.

“Mano Menezes is not Al-Nassr’s coach anymore,” Menezes posted on his social media accounts. “The club has decided to interrupt the contract. Mr. Menezes and his crew would like to thank Al-Nassr supporters and players for the time they spent together and also the Saudi people for the kind reception. We’ve learned a lot during this period.”

Menezes’ time in Saudi Arabia began well. His first act in April was to steer Al-Nassr to top spot in a tough Champions League group, finishing above the lauded Al-Sadd and Xavi Hernandez, the coach of the Qatari team who is tipped to be heading back to Barcelona before too long.

Al-Nassr recruited well in the summer, adding the Brazilian Talisca and striker Vincent Aboubakar — though Menezes seemed unsure at times just how to use the Cameroonian — and there was an expectation of a title challenge.

Defeat to Al-Faisaly in the second game put the pressure on, but there was a vote of confidence from the board. Despite that there were still noises coming out of the club that all was not quite well.

Menezes had come in for plenty of criticism from the media and former players in recent weeks. The play was seen as predictable, with a lack of creativity coming from midfield despite the arrival of the talented Talisca.

Performances were disjointed and with big characters such as Morocco’s Abderrazak Hamdallah in the team, there were concerns about whether Menezes was strong enough to keep everyone in line and the team happy.

All knew, rightly or wrongly, that an exit from the Champions League last Monday would spell the end of the Brazilian’s time in Riyadh, but Al-Nassr defeated Tractor of Iran 1-0. The victory, coming against an understrength opposition, failed to convince the critics, but at least the club were in the last eight with a favorable draw against Al-Wahda of the UAE.

The loss to Al-Ittihad was the end, however. The Tigers played with more intensity and discipline, and deserved the 3-1 win. It did not go unnoticed at Al-Nassr that their opponents, and SPL leaders, had moved quickly earlier this season to change their coach and had won all four games since doing so.

With just four games of the season gone, it seems a knee-jerk reaction but, like their counterparts in Jeddah, Al-Nassr’s board felt it was best to act quickly while there is still time for a new man to come in and mount a title challenge.

It now remains to be seen who that new man will be. The team’s next three league games are all very winnable, coming against opponents who are in the bottom four. Nine points will put Al-Nassr in the midst of a title race.

The  names already in the hat will be familiar to fans of Al-Hilal. Cosmin Olaroiu was last seen winning the Chinese Super League title with Jiangsu FC before the team folded earlier this year. The Romanian led Al-Hilal to the league title in 2008 and had a brief spell in charge of the Saudi national team.

Also mentioned is Jose Morais, the Portuguese boss who came to Riyadh toward the end of last season to deliver the title.

That will be the job of the new man at Al-Nassr.


Gaikwad stars as Chennai wins opener of revived IPL

Gaikwad stars as Chennai wins opener of revived IPL
Updated 20 September 2021

Gaikwad stars as Chennai wins opener of revived IPL

Gaikwad stars as Chennai wins opener of revived IPL
  • The 14th edition of the COVID-19 hit Twenty20 tournament resumed in the United Arab Emirates with limited spectators back in the stands in Dubai

DUBAI: India’s Ruturaj Gaikwad smashed an unbeaten 88 as Chennai Super Kings beat holders Mumbai Indians by 20 runs in the first match of the revived Indian Premier League on Sunday.
The 14th edition of the COVID-19 hit Twenty20 tournament resumed in the United Arab Emirates with limited spectators back in the stands in Dubai.
The tournament was halted in May because of a devastating surge in pandemic deaths in India, prompting foreign players to rush home.
Many have not come back including England’s Ben Stokes and Pat Cummins of Australia to take some sheen out of the world’s most popular T20 league.
The event restarted with Gaikwad, an opening batsman, lifting the team from a precarious 24-4 to 156-6 with key partnerships which took the attack to the opposition bowlers.
Pace bowler Dwayne Bravo then returned figures of 3-25 from his four overs as Chennai bowlers kept down five-time champions Mumbai to 136-8.
“I felt Rutu and Bravo got us more than what we expected,” said skipper M.S. Dhoni. “We thought of 140, to get close to 160 was tremendous.”
Bravo, who also hit a useful eight-ball 23 batting at number eight, was ably supported by pace spearhead Deepak Chahar who took two key wickets including Quinton de Kock for 17.
Gaikwad though remained the hero as he hit nine fours and four sixes in his 58-ball knock after the Kieron Pollard-led side were invited to bat by Dhoni.
Five-time champions Mumbai were without regular skipper Rohit Sharma but began with a flourish as pace bowlers Trent Boult and Adam Mile rattled the Chennai top-order.
The pace duo took two wickets each and a quick delivery from Boult hit Ambati Rayudu on the forearm with the batsman retired hurt on nought.
Dhoni said Rayudu “was smiling, so he hasn’t broken his arm.”
Jasprit Bumrah also took two wickets in his 100th IPL appearance.
Gaikwad hit back with a 81-run stand with Ravindra Jadeja, who made 26, to take the team to what turned out to be a winning total.
The win took Chennai to top of the eight-team table with Delhi Capitals second, Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore third and Mumbai fourth.
Bangalore will take on Kolkata Knight Riders in Abu Dhabi on Monday.


Paulinho won’t be missed by Al-Ahli after sudden departure

Paulinho won’t be missed by Al-Ahli after sudden departure
Updated 19 September 2021

Paulinho won’t be missed by Al-Ahli after sudden departure

Paulinho won’t be missed by Al-Ahli after sudden departure
  • Brazilian midfielder has had his contract terminated by the club after returning home for personal reasons

Paulinho’s last meaningful act as an Al-Ahli player was getting bundled over in the box after 15 minutes to earn his team a penalty against Al-Fateh. That was on Friday but the very next day it was announced that his three-year contract with the Saudi Arabian giants had been terminated after just two months.

It is a blow to the club, struggling with five points from the first five games constituting the second worst-ever start to the season, and the league. Paulinho’s arrival after six successful years in China (a spell punctuated by a year in Barcelona) was another suggestion that the Saudi Professional League had become Asia’s go-to competition for talented foreign stars.

The understandable question for those fans in Jeddah and around the country is: What happened? 

The club’s official statement revealed little. “Al-Ahli club management, headed by Mr. Majed bin Ayed Al-Nefaie, has completed the procedures for terminating the contract of the Brazilian professional player “Paulinho” by mutual consent,” it said. It added: “The termination of the contract with Paulinho comes due the emergency circumstances, he spoke with the club’s management recently, which was reflected in his performance on the field during the past rounds, expressing his inability to provide the desired addition to the team.”

 

 

Speaking to Saudi television, Paulinho, who scored two goals in his four appearances, said that many things had been happening in life, including a fire breaking out at his house in Brazil, also home to his parents. A Brazilian radio show said that Paulinho was leaving Saudi Arabia for personal reasons and had recently been approached by Luiz Felipe Scolari, his former coach in Guangzhou and Brazil, currently in charge of Gremio.

The expectation in Brazil had been that the 33-year-old would return home after his China spell ended — his contract at Guangzhou was terminated because travel restrictions in place in China meant he could not enter the country. The expectation will now again be that he will return to sign either for his former club Corinthians, which he left in 2013 to sign for Tottenham Hotspur, or Gremio. This is the feeling at Al-Ahli too. 

Al-Nefaie added to the club’s statement, saying that there was no reason to keep a player who did not want to be there. 

“We tried a lot but it was clear that he didn’t want to stay,” Al-Nefaie said, according to Saudi radio station UFM. “After several such attempts, we decided to terminate the contract rather than pay a high salary to a player who doesn’t want to be there. The club is more important than any player.”

The message coming from Al-Ahli is clear: Paulinho didn’t want to stay and so there was little point in keeping him.

The midfielder is not the first and won’t be the last foreign player to sign a lucrative contract in Asia only to leave soon after. Only he knows whether there was a genuine emergency at home that means he can’t stay in Saudi Arabia or whether he simply wants to go and play elsewhere. It is credit to the club that the situation has been dealt with and resolved so quickly. There is not going to be any distracting saga developing here. Paulinho has gone and Al-Ahli have to move forward.

It could be that Paulinho’s most significant contribution to the long-term success of Al-Ahli was his parting request for fans to be patient. After a disappointing season last time when the club finished eighth in the league and there were rows about reported unpaid salaries, there were high hopes this time around with a new coach in Besnik Hasi and new players like, well, Paulinho.

“It is difficult to change a club in just a few days,” Paulinho said. “I know that Al-Ahli is a big project and I say to the fans that they need to be patient for some time because the current administration will take the club back to the top.”

“I know that last season was not great and we did not start well in the league this season with all these draws not normal for a club the size of Al-Ahli. The situation will improve because those in charge are professional, they will definitely change this situation.”

That attempt will continue without him on Thursday with an important game against Al-Feiha. Fans will be curious to see where Paulinho turns up next, but he wasn’t around long enough to be missed.


Kafo triumph at first Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia

Kafo triumph at first Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia
Updated 19 September 2021

Kafo triumph at first Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia

Kafo triumph at first Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia
  • The winners will now represent the Kingdom at November’s GGWCUP grand finale in Iceland after coming out on top in the 26-team all-female tournament

RIYADH: Kafo have won the first ever Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia event in Diriyah and will now represent the Kingdom at the GGWCUP grand finale in Iceland this November.

Hosted by the Saudi Sports for All Federation at Elite Sports Center in Diriyah, the Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia was contested among 26 all-female teams advocating social and environmental sustainability while battling on the pitch in a 5-a-side football tournament as part of their campaigns to highlight the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The GGWCUP movement was launched in 2015 and since then it has invited women around the world to use sport and the 17 SDGs to make a positive impact in their communities.

“I congratulate all of the 26 teams for having the drive and conviction to take part in the first GGWCUP Saudi Arabia, and for all of their individual contributions to the success of this event championing the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” said Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, president of the Saudi Sports for All Federation.

“The determination the competitors have shown not just today but since the beginning of the GGWCUP is admirable, and they have set an example for us all on being people that can positively impact their local communities with a global ideal. Special congratulations to Kafo, who will be making us proud as they go on to represent Saudi Arabia on the international stage. We wish them the very best of luck and we will be there cheering them on.”

Over the past nine months, teams from across the Kingdom have been campaigning for and educating people about their chosen SDG, hosting community events, talks and awareness programs.

The GGWCUP Saudi Arabia event in Diriyah was the culmination of these efforts, which saw teams give presentations to a panel of judges at a private event on Thursday, followed by a two-day tournament open to members of the public.

Despite being the inaugural GGWCUP event in the Kingdom, this won’t be the first time a team from Saudi Arabia has been to the finals. In 2019, the SFA-founded Saudi Greens took second place at the finals in New York City. It was the first time a female sports team from the Kingdom had competed in the US.

Since then, the SFA has introduced several sports initiatives for women, such as the Women’s Football League, and an online Women’s Fitness Festival.

“GGWCUP Saudi Arabia is yet another fine example of how talented, skilled and passionate our nation’s women are,” said Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini, managing director of the Saudi Sports for All Federation.

“Over the past couple of years, we have worked hard to ensure sport and active opportunities are available to women across the Kingdom, and the success of these all-female teams and the event itself highlights the great strides we have made together.

“Congratulations to Kafo and good luck in Iceland.”

Majken Gilmartin, GGWCUP co-founder, added: “Congratulations to all the 26 teams for taking part in the tournament and their impressive community initiatives, their willingness to show up is what success is all about. The partnership with the Saudi Sports for All Federation to bring the first-ever GGWCup tournament in the Kingdom helps us reach our objective of inspiring women through sports while making an impact on SDGs with community initiatives. We look forward to seeing Kafo in the finals.”

GGWCUP Saudi Arabia, part of the SFA’s mission, is supported by the Ministry of Sport and mandated by Vision 2030’s Quality of Life Program to increase the number of people in the Kingdom exercising at least once a week to 40 percent by 2030.