Call for Saudi, Spanish Super Cups to be played on consecutive days in the Kingdom

Call for Saudi, Spanish Super Cups to be played on consecutive days in the Kingdom
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Updated 17 August 2021

Call for Saudi, Spanish Super Cups to be played on consecutive days in the Kingdom

Call for Saudi, Spanish Super Cups to be played on consecutive days in the Kingdom
  • No date set yet for clash between SPL champions Al-Hilal and King’s Cup winners Al-Faisaly

DUBAI: Al-Faisaly Club President Fahd Al-Madlaj has told the Arabic sports daily Arriyadiyah that the Saudi Super Cup should be played the day before the Spanish equivalent, scheduled to take place in the Kingdom in mid-January.

As the winner of the 2020-21 The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup, or King’s Cup, Al-Faisaly are set to face reigning Saudi Pro League (SPL) champions Al-Hilal in the annual showpiece match, but no date has been confirmed for the latest edition.

The 2020 Saudi Super Cup was held on Jan. 30, 2021, and saw then cup winners Al-Nassr beat league champions Al-Hilal 3-0 at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.

Meanwhile the Spanish Supercopa de Espana is set to return to Saudi Arabia after a year’s absence.

The competition was first held in the Kingdom in January 2020 and included La Liga champions Barcelona, runner-up Atletico Madrid, Copa del Rey winner Valencia (who had beaten Barcelona in the final) and Real Madrid.

The 2020-21 edition of the four-team tournament was not held in Saudi Arabia due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though the organizers in the Kingdom continued to be one of its sponsors.

Now, keeping with the same format, the Spanish Super Cup looks set to welcome back the winner and runner-up of La Liga, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, and the two Copa del Rey finalists — winner Barcelona and runner-up Athletic Bilbao.

The Spanish Super Cup in its most recent incarnation began in 1982 as a showdown between the winners of La Liga and the Copa del Rey. Until 2017 it was contested over two legs, and then, in 2018, Barcelona beat Sevilla 2-1 in a one-off match played at the Stade Ibn Batouta in Tangier.

Following the first-ever hosting in the Kingdom, the 2020-21 tournament returned to Spain and saw Athletic Bilbao beat Barcelona 3-2 after extra time in Seville, a match in which Lionel Messi received his first red card at club level.


NBA free agency opens Thursday, starting deal-making season

NBA free agency opens Thursday, starting deal-making season
A person familiar with the situation said James Harden chose not to exercise his $47.4 million option for next season. (AP)
Updated 7 sec ago

NBA free agency opens Thursday, starting deal-making season

NBA free agency opens Thursday, starting deal-making season
  • The largest deal, in terms of actual dollars, coming in the next few days almost certainly won’t have anything to do with a free agent: All signs point to two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic being offered a supermax extension in the $260 million range

NEW YORK: Let the talking begin. The trading, too, and eventually the signing.

Free agency officially opens Thursday in the NBA, with teams able to begin negotiating at 6 p.m. Eastern with players who are not under contract — although, in reality, free agency and the slew of offseason movement is already off and running.

James Harden declined his $47 million option for next season with Philadelphia on Wednesday and became a free agent — but told the team he intends to stay on a new deal that will allow the 76ers the flexibility they need to sign other players this summer, according to a person with direct knowledge of that situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither Harden nor the 76ers confirmed those plans publicly.

And Harden’s decision came almost simultaneously Wednesday with another massive move — the San Antonio Spurs are trading All-Star guard Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks for Danilo Gallinari and three first-round picks, according to another person with direct knowledge of the terms of that deal who spoke to AP with anonymity because the trade had not been announced by either side. ESPN first reported the completion of that deal, which pairs Murray with another All-Star in Trae Young in the Hawks’ backcourt.

Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook have already made their decisions; both could have been free agents this summer and found a combined 84 million reasons not to hit the open market — $47 million for Westbrook to opt-in for the last year of his deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, and nearly $37 million for Irving to do the same with the Brooklyn Nets.

Jalen Brunson will be in demand early, with the expectation that he’ll quickly agree to leave Dallas and become the new point guard in New York. And there will be players who might decide to look elsewhere, or accept huge $200-million-plus deals with their current teams — opportunities that are presenting themselves to Zach LaVine with Chicago and Bradley Beal with Washington.

The largest deal, in terms of actual dollars, coming in the next few days almost certainly won’t have anything to do with a free agent: All signs point to two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic being offered a supermax extension in the $260 million range by the Denver Nuggets. The only question there will be how quickly he finds a pen to put to that paper.

Minnesota can give Karl-Anthony Towns a supermax of about $210 million this summer, as can Phoenix with Devin Booker.

Other players are restricted free agents, meaning their current teams will have the right to match offers from other clubs. The most notable name on that list is Deandre Ayton, the Phoenix center who was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft but watched others in his draft class get their first extensions last summer.

Some players will be free agents in name only. John Wall, for example, will get $41 million in a buyout from the Houston Rockets, and has already decided that he wants to play for the Los Angeles Clippers next season. The Clippers are expected to use a $6.4 million exception to sign Wall, and that figure matches the money that Wall gave back to make the buyout of what would have been the final year of his contract happen.

“We’ll see what happens as free agency opens up and everything else,” Clippers owner Steve Ballmer said. “I think the sky’s the limit for our team. The sky is the limit. ... And of course, you’ve got to have a little bit of luck to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy, which is what we’d really like.”

That will be everyone’s goal come 6 p.m. Thursday, to find ways to get closer to the Larry O’Brien, whether that’s in 2023 or beyond.

Such thinking even applies to the champion Golden State Warriors, who have a slew of rotation players — Kevon Looney, Otto Porter, Gary Payton II among them — who just last week were enjoying a parade through San Francisco and are now free to go elsewhere if the opportunities and dollars are right.

“We still do need to surround the team with vets and that’s the plan in free agency,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said. “It’s easier to get some of the older players, we think, in free agency than young players. Young players are probably the most in-demand in free agency.”

True, and that’s another element of this time of year: Young players, and not grabbing them in free agency this year, but keeping them out of free agency in future years.

Ja Morant will surely be offered a max rookie extension by Memphis, one that will kick in with the 2023-24 season. The Zion Williamson situation in New Orleans will be interesting, as the Pelicans decide how much to offer to — or safely structure a deal for — a No. 1 pick who has missed the majority of his first three NBA seasons because of injury issues. Miami is planning to offer sixth man of the year Tyler Herro an extension, though the Heat will have to determine what number makes the most sense for them going forward.

And, of course, there is a LeBron James angle: The Los Angeles Lakers were a disaster last season and will aim to revamp their roster, plus can give James a two-year extension in August worth nearly $100 million. But before he signs, they have far more pressing concerns.

Officially, it all starts Thursday. A new season is already here.


Djokovic breezes through to third round as Murray exits Wimbledon

Djokovic breezes through to third round as Murray exits Wimbledon
Updated 51 min 37 sec ago

Djokovic breezes through to third round as Murray exits Wimbledon

Djokovic breezes through to third round as Murray exits Wimbledon
  • Top seed Djokovic brushed aside 79th-ranked Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia and will face Serbian compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic for a last-16 place
  • Former world No. 1 Murray, the 2013 and 2016 champion, went down to big-serving John Isner in his second-round clash

LONDON: Defending champion Novak Djokovic reached the Wimbledon third round for the 16th time on Wednesday as career-long rival Andy Murray suffered his earliest-ever exit from the All England Club.

Top seed Djokovic brushed aside 79th-ranked Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 and will face Serbian compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic for a last-16 place.

“I’m very happy with my performance. I started very well, solid from the back of the court,” said Djokovic, who is looking to join Pete Sampras as a seven-time Wimbledon champion.

“I made him work for every point and worked him around the court,” added the 20-time major winner.

Kokkinakis had likened Djokovic to a “brick wall” before the match.

“It was one-way traffic. I got chopped today,” said the 26-year-old Australian after his Center Court torment.

Former world No. 1 Murray, the 2013 and 2016 champion, went down 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-7 (3/7), 6-4 to big-serving John Isner in his second-round clash.

Murray, now 52 in the rankings, failed to break serve once against 2018 semifinalist Isner, who unleashed 36 aces and 82 winners in total.

“He didn’t give me lots of chances,” said Murray, whose previous earliest exits came in the third round in 2005 and 2021.

“My game was in a good place. I felt good on the court, just couldn’t get the win.”

Isner, 37, was gracious in the aftermath of his first win in nine meetings against the Briton.

“I am most definitely not a better tennis player than Andy Murray. I might have been a little bit better than him today,” said the American.

Isner also took his career aces total to 13,724 to sit just four behind the record held by Ivo Karlovic.

Third seed and French Open runner-up Casper Ruud, who was scheduled to face Djokovic in the semifinals, was knocked out by 112th-ranked Ugo Humbert, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.

But Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz stayed on course to meet the six-time champion in the last eight by reaching the third round for the first time.

Alcaraz, just 19, triumphed over Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands, 6-4, 7-6 (7/0), 6-3.

The flamboyant Spanish shotmaker goes on to face Germany’s Oscar Otte for a place in the last 16.

Otte needed just 15 minutes to reach the third round when American opponent Christian Harrison retired injured at 3-1 down in their second-round tie.

Alcaraz’s compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina suffered a controversial exit at the hands of Jiri Vesely.

At match point down in the final set tiebreak, Davidovich Fokina hit a ball out of the court, was penalized a point and lost the tie.

“I don’t agree with it. That’s crazy... what a lousy way to end it,” US tennis great John McEnroe told ESPN.

In the women’s tournament, second seed Anett Kontaveit, ninth seed and former champion Garbine Muguruza as well as 10th-seeded US Open winner Emma Raducanu all exited.

Kontaveit lost 6-4, 6-0 to Germany’s Julie Niemeier as the Estonian endured another Grand Slam to forget.

Kontaveit has made the quarterfinals of a major just once in 29 attempts.

Muguruza, the 2017 champion, lost her delayed first-round clash 6-4, 6-0 to Belgium’s Greet Minnen.

Raducanu, bidding to become Britain’s first female champion at the All England Club in 45 years, was beaten 6-3, 6-3 by France’s 55th-ranked Caroline Garcia.

“I really enjoyed playing on Center Court, it was my first time and very special,” said Garcia, who fired 25 winners past the British teenager.

There were no such dramas for third seed Ons Jabeur or fifth-seeded Maria Sakkari, who went through to the last 32 in straight sets.

Lesia Tsurenko came out on top in three sets over Ukrainian compatriot Anhelina Kalinina to make the third round for the second time.

Tsurenko, ranked at 101, proudly wore a ribbon in the colors of Ukraine on her shirt.

“It was a big court. Two Ukrainian players but a lot of people were watching us. We felt amazing support,” said Tsurenko after her 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win.

“Today on the way from hotel to the club, we got a driver,” she added. “She has taken two people from Ukraine into her house.

“I think it’s amazing when people help Ukrainians so much.”


Ronaldo lawyers seek $626K from woman’s lawyer in Vegas case

Ronaldo lawyers seek $626K from woman’s lawyer in Vegas case
Updated 30 June 2022

Ronaldo lawyers seek $626K from woman’s lawyer in Vegas case

Ronaldo lawyers seek $626K from woman’s lawyer in Vegas case
  • In a bluntly worded court document, Ronaldo’s attorney, Peter Christiansen, asks US District Judge Jennifer Dorsey to make the woman’s attorney, Leslie Mark Stovall, personally responsible for the amount
  • Dorsey on June 10 kicked the case out of court to punish Stovall for “bad-faith conduct” and the improper use of leaked and stolen documents to pursue the case

LAS VEGAS: Cristiano Ronaldo is asking a US judge to order a woman’s lawyer to pay more than $626,000 for losing a lawsuit to get the international soccer star to pay millions of dollars after claiming in 2018 that Ronaldo raped the woman in Las Vegas nearly a decade earlier.

In a bluntly worded court document, Ronaldo’s attorney, Peter Christiansen, asks US District Judge Jennifer Dorsey to make the woman’s attorney, Leslie Mark Stovall, personally responsible for the amount.

Stovall did not immediately respond Wednesday to telephone and email messages. Text messages to associate Larissa Drohobyczer were not answered. They are due to file an answer with the court by July 8.

Dorsey on June 10 kicked the case out of court to punish Stovall for “bad-faith conduct” and the improper use of leaked and stolen documents to pursue the case.

Stovall “crossed the border of ethical behavior before he filed this action, and his disregard for the rules of this court has continued unabated,” the judge found.

Dorsey said in her 42-page order that dismissing plaintiff Kathryn Mayorga’s case outright with no option to file it again was a severe sanction, but said Ronaldo had been harmed by Stovall’s conduct.

The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Mayorga gave consent through Stovall and Drohobyczer to make her name public.

The bid for court costs and fees for Ronaldo’s attorneys, filed Friday, dwarfs the $375,000 hush-money payment that Mayorga received in 2010 to sign a confidentiality agreement and drop a criminal complaint alleging she was sexually assaulted.

“Given Stovall’s abuses and flagrant misconduct, Stovall should be made personally responsible for ensuring Ronaldo is reimbursed for having to defend against his vexatious and bad faith conduct,” Christiansen’s request for reimbursement said. He tallied attorney fees at between $350 and $850 per hour for nearly 1,200 hours of work.

Mayorga’s civil lawsuit — filed in 2018 in state court and moved in 2019 to federal court — eventually sought more than $25 million in damages, plus attorney fees for Stovall.

It alleged that Ronaldo or his associates violated the confidentiality agreement before a German news outlet, Der Spiegel, published an article in April 2017 titled “Cristiano Ronaldo’s Secret” based on documents obtained from what court filings term “whistleblower portal Football Leaks.”

Ronaldo’s attorneys accuse Stovall of obtaining stolen material containing privileged attorney-client communication and then trying repeatedly to make them pubic by attaching them to court filings.

A second court filing on Friday asks Dorsey to seal part of the court record containing confidential documents.

Mayorga is a former model and teacher who lives in the Las Vegas area. Her lawsuit said she met Ronaldo at a nightclub and went with him and other people to his hotel suite, where she alleged he assaulted her in a bedroom. She was 25 at the time. He was 24.

Ronaldo’s legal team does not dispute Ronaldo met Mayorga and they had sex in June 2009, but maintained it was consensual.

Ronaldo, now 37, is one of the most highly paid and recognizable sports stars in the world. He plays for the English Premier League club Manchester United and has captained the national team of his home country, Portugal. He spent several recent years playing in Italy for the Turin-based club Juventus.

Las Vegas police reopened their rape investigation after Mayorga’s lawsuit was filed in 2018, but Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson decided in 2019 not to pursue criminal charges. He said too much time had passed to prove the case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

Stovall maintained that Mayorga didn’t break the hush-money settlement. Her lawsuit sought to void it, accusing Ronaldo and reputation-protection “fixers” of conspiracy, defamation, breach of contract, coercion and fraud.

The Las Vegas police report compiled about Ronaldo after Mayorga filed her lawsuit in 2018 might still become public under a public records lawsuit The New York Times filed in Nevada state court.

A US magistrate judge in Las Vegas said in March that a protective order that Dorsey imposed to prevent release of the 2010 agreement does not prevent the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department from releasing its file.

Attorney Margaret McLetchie, representing the newspaper, did not immediately respond to messages about that case.


Joshua ‘desperate’ to become world heavyweight champ again in his rematch against Usyk in Saudi Arabia

Joshua ‘desperate’ to become world heavyweight champ again in his rematch against Usyk in Saudi Arabia
Updated 30 June 2022

Joshua ‘desperate’ to become world heavyweight champ again in his rematch against Usyk in Saudi Arabia

Joshua ‘desperate’ to become world heavyweight champ again in his rematch against Usyk in Saudi Arabia
  • Usyk will be defending the IBF, WBA and WBO titles he claimed from Joshua in beating the British fighter at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September
  • While this will be Joshua’s second fight in Saudi Arabia — he avenged his only other defeat against Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019 in Diriyah with a points win — it will be Usyk’s first in the country

LONDON: Anthony Joshua admitted he is “definitely desperate” to become world heavyweight champion again when he faces Oleksandr Usyk in their rematch in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Aug. 20.

Usyk will be defending the IBF, WBA and WBO titles he claimed from Joshua in beating the British fighter at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September. Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) was outclassed by his Ukrainian rival, who defied disadvantages in height, reach and weight to win in London by unanimous decision.

“What happened then is in the past, I don’t really live in the past, I’m just present,” the 32-year-old Joshua told a news conference in London on Wednesday. “I’ll be looking to be competing round-by-round and if I follow my As, Bs and Cs, it should lead me to KO.”

The former two-time world heavyweight champion called for “Less talk, more action. I’m not a comedian, I’m not someone who likes big speeches.

“Let me get in there and do my job, that’s my priority. I’m definitely hungry, definitely desperate but how I perform will speak volumes to the masses.”

The 35-year-old Usyk, a former undisputed world cruiserweight champion, has won all 19 of his professional contests and wore a blue-and-yellow T-shirt with the message ‘Colors of Freedom’ in reference to his native Ukraine and Russia’s invasion of the country.

He helped with the war effort against Russia, initially putting in jeopardy a second fight against Joshua, before being given special permission to defend his world titles.

While this will be Joshua’s second fight in Saudi Arabia — he avenged his only other defeat against Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019 in Diriyah with a points win — it will be Usyk’s first in the country.

Usyk said money was not the driving factor in his decision to fight in Saudi Arabia.

“I’m not fighting for money or the recognition,” Usyk said. “The only thing I’m on my way to is to save my soul. Everything else that is happening to me is just life.”


Jabeur beats Kawa to reach Wimbledon 3rd round

Jabeur beats Kawa to reach Wimbledon 3rd round
Updated 29 June 2022

Jabeur beats Kawa to reach Wimbledon 3rd round

Jabeur beats Kawa to reach Wimbledon 3rd round
  • The Tunisian, 27, who won the Berlin grass-court title earlier this month, broke twice in the first set before steamrollering her opponent in the second

LONDON: Third seed Ons Jabeur eased through to the third round of Wimbledon on Wednesday, beating Polish qualifier Katarzyna Kawa 6-4, 6-0.
The Tunisian, 27, who won the Berlin grass-court title earlier this month, broke twice in the first set before steamrollering her opponent in the second.
Jabeur will play unseeded Frenchwoman Diane Parry, who beat Japanese qualifier Mai Hontama, in the last 32.