Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai

Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai
Ramkumar is the first Indian player to reach an ATP world tour singles final. (AP)
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Updated 17 October 2021

Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai

Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai
  • A new TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament will culminate with final on the evening of the main event at the Coca-Cola Arena on Oct. 22

Indian Davis Cup representative Ramkumar Ramanathan is the latest player to join the Tie Break Tens Dubai Presented by Zone, joining Taylor Fritz, Dustin Brown, Dan Evans and Gaël Monfils at the tournament being held on Oct. 22 at City Walk’s Coca-Cola Arena.

Ramkumar is the first Indian player to reach an ATP world tour singles final since Somdev Devvarman in 2011. He plays both singles and doubles games and is well known for his attacking serve, which will come in handy in the Tie Break Tens short-form of the sport.

“Ramkumar is a great addition to the inaugural Dubai TB10s line-up, and is sure to be a particularly big attraction for the UAE’s passionate Indian sports fans. He has a very aggressive style on the serve and second shot, so he is another player that promises to do well with the tie breaker format. Whoever he is pitted against, one thing is for sure: It’ll be quick and dramatic,” said Jimmy Poon, the tournament director.

As the build-up to the Middle East’s first ever TB10 tennis tournament continues, the organizers have also announced the launch of the inaugural TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament. This new competition will culminate in some of the UAE’s best young players battling it out in the finals ahead of the main tournament itself on the evening of Oct. 22 at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena.

Qualifying rounds are taking place each Friday, leading up to the main event at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai’s City Walk. The TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament will further support young Emirati talent in the sport, with the finals for the under-18 competitors set to take place in front of the international stars and a packed arena on the night of the main event.

The TB10s format is the only officially recognised short form of tennis. It is already proving popular among the participating youngsters, and up to 16 players of ages ranging from 12 to 18 are competing in each of the Friday tournaments, drawn from tennis academies and schools across Dubai. The finals will be played between the players who accrue the most points across the three weeks.

As well as the Friday competitions, a tennis clinic will be held the day before the main TB10s evening for competition winners from schools in Dubai.


Australia resolves tricky leadership problem as 71st Ashes series gets underway

Australia resolves tricky leadership problem as 71st Ashes series gets underway
Updated 18 sec ago

Australia resolves tricky leadership problem as 71st Ashes series gets underway

Australia resolves tricky leadership problem as 71st Ashes series gets underway
  • For 1st time since 1961, bowler appointed as Australian captain while former disgraced captain officially re-integrated into leadership group as vice captain

After the burlesque of the Indian Premier League and T20 World Cup in the UAE, the game’s playing focus has switched eastwards. The 71st Ashes series between Australia and England started on Dec. 8 in Brisbane, where England has not won since 1986. And the English did not begin well.

Elsewhere, India has dominated New Zealand to win a two-match series, 1-0, although one of New Zealand’s bowlers, born in Mumbai, achieved the extraordinary feat of taking all wickets to fall in a single innings, only the third man in Test match history to do so.

Bangladesh has just hosted Pakistan in a two-match Test series, before Pakistan receives the West Indies for two white ball competitions. India will tour South Africa from Dec. 17.

Hence, there is no shortage of international cricket this month. Nor has there been any shortage of background noise. Apart from the continuing fallout from the Azeem Rafiq racism affair in England, there has been the unseemly situation that has led to changes in the leadership of the Australian team.

On March 24, 2018, at Cape Town, in the third Test match of a bitterly fought series between South Africa and Australia, the youngest player in Australia’s team was caught on television hiding yellow sandpaper in his trousers during play. This can be used to rough up the ball.

Apparently, it was during the lunch interval that the captain, vice captain, and player had hatched a plan. In a press conference at the end of the day’s play, the captain and player admitted to attempting to alter the condition of the ball.

At the time, the penalty for this offence was a fine of 50 percent to 100 percent of the match fee and/or ban for one Test or two one-day internationals. The captain was banned for one Test and the player fined, a punishment very much in line with that doled out to previous offenders. Ball-tampering has since been elevated to a level-three category, which carries a ban of up to six Tests or 12 ODIs.

Overnight, the Australian prime minister expressed his “shocking disappointment” to Cricket Australia and urged the authorities to take as stringent action as possible. Before play on the next day, both captain and vice captain were removed from post for the remainder of the Test, with the team’s wicketkeeper taking over as captain.

CA immediately launched an investigation, announcing on March 27 that the three players had been charged with bringing the game into disrepute, suspended, and sent home. Twenty-four hours later, the player was banned for nine months, along with the captain and vice captain, each for one year, as well as stripping them of their roles. In the case of the vice captain, he would not be considered for team leadership positions in the future, while the captain was given at least a 12-month cooling-off for leadership positions following re-entry to cricket. No one else in the team was held to account.

Although the team coach was found not guilty of any wrongdoing, he quit his post soon afterwards.

In addition, the other team members, especially the bowlers, indicated that they had no prior knowledge of the pre-meditated action. This surprised many commentators and former players, who felt that the bowlers would have noticed an attempt to change the condition of the ball. However, as the bowlers later pointed out, once the images surfaced on the TV coverage, the umpires inspected the ball, but did not change it as its condition had not been altered.

Tampering with the ball does not guarantee success but is not unusual. In this case, the public outrage and lack of dissenting voices reflected that the pre-mediated action was tantamount to cheating.

The position of captain of the cricket team is a privilege, not a right, and holds a lot of importance and, for him to be involved, amounted to a breach of trust. However, opinions varied widely as to whether the punishment fitted the crime. In addition, there was lingering suspicion that knowledge had been limited to just three individuals.

Following CA’s initial investigation, it commissioned reviews into cultural, organizational, and governance issues within Australian cricket. The results and recommendations were released in October 2018. At its heart, the review opined that, in becoming even more focused on a business model in which successful team performance drove corporate and financial outcomes, a culture had been created that, inadvertently, was at odds with the vague, but sacred, concept of the spirit of cricket.

Assumptions that cricket’s core values and law-enforcing mechanisms would prevail to prevent excesses had not been realized.

Since the review was conducted changes occurred at the top of CA. During these changes, the wicketkeeper, who stood in as captain in March 2018, continued successfully in post, looking set to be in charge for the Ashes. Astonishingly, three weeks ago, it was revealed that he sent inappropriate text messages to a female co-worker in late 2017.

This had been investigated by CA before he was appointed captain and he was found not to have breached CA’s code of conduct.

Who was responsible for resurrecting the incident is not clear, but the upshot is that the captain stood down and is taking a break from cricket. Remarkably, CA’s current chair has said that, faced with the same situation and information today, CA would not have made the same decision as was made in 2018.

In response to a series of seemingly unconnected events that would do justice to a Shakespearean plot, Australia has filled its leadership vacuum in an ironic way. It has appointed as captain one of the bowlers who played in the Cape Town Test and who claimed not have been aware of the ball-tampering plan.

This is the first time that a bowler has been appointed as Australian captain since 1961. More controversially, CA has officially re-integrated its former disgraced captain into its leadership group as vice captain. The early evidence from Brisbane suggests that Australia has benefitted, the new captain claiming five first-innings wickets.


Hamilton, Verstappen can inspire young drivers in Middle East, Africa: Ben Sulayem

Hamilton, Verstappen can inspire young drivers in Middle East, Africa: Ben Sulayem
Updated 09 December 2021

Hamilton, Verstappen can inspire young drivers in Middle East, Africa: Ben Sulayem

Hamilton, Verstappen can inspire young drivers in Middle East, Africa: Ben Sulayem
  • MENA Karting Nations Cup ‘paying dividends’ by raising standards for future F1, rally stars

DUBAI: As Abu Dhabi prepares to serve up one of the most dramatic ever finishes to a Formula 1 season, former UAE rally ace Mohammed Ben Sulayem has predicted that the Middle East’s top young drivers are on course to reach the top level in motorsports.

Sunday’s showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is one of the most anticipated in years, and capable of inspiring a new generation of young talent, said the president of the Emirates Motorsports Organization.

That was the objective behind the launch last year of the MENA Karting Nations Cup, instigated by Ben Sulayem, and the regional FIA vice president for sport sees clear indications that the championship is already paying dividends.

“It has given many of the region’s top drivers a chance to compete on the same stage for the first time, and the early signs are very encouraging.

“What we’re noticing is that the best drivers are getting better, and those chasing them are also making advancements. This is the basic aim of the MENA Karting Nations Cup – to raise standards all round,” he added.

“In all branches of motorsport, when you come up against the best drivers at your level, you quickly get to understand what you need to improve and get ahead.

“This is exactly what Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen did during their karting careers. Seeing these two fantastic drivers going head-to-head in Abu Dhabi on Sunday can only fire up those who dream of following them,” Ben Sulayem said.

The MENA Karting Nations Cup has been designed as a multi-year development project for young drivers on track to become future F1 and rally stars.

Last month’s second edition, staged by the Oman Automobile Association at the Muscat Speedway, attracted 138 drivers from 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

It was a particularly successful event for the UAE, whose national team replaced the host country as overall champions, with Oman finishing runners-up, and Lebanon taking third place.

In addition, UAE drivers finished on the podium in each of the Rotax Max Challenge (six), RD1 Elite Endurance, and RD1 Elite Sprint race categories.

The UAE team was Faris Haroun, Maxim Bobreshov, Kaiden Higgins, Max Murray, Conor Clancy, Harry Hannam, Theo Kekati, Lewis England, Sebastian Murray, Mohammed Matar Al-Shamsi, Kyle Kumaran, Aly Beig, Mohammed Haroun, Hussain Umid Ali, and Greg Watt.


Barcelona out of Champions League in loss to Bayern Munich

Barcelona out of Champions League in loss to Bayern Munich
Updated 09 December 2021

Barcelona out of Champions League in loss to Bayern Munich

Barcelona out of Champions League in loss to Bayern Munich

MUNICH: Barcelona will not play in the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the first time in 18 years after a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich on Wednesday ensured the Catalan club was eliminated from European soccer’s premier competition.
Barcelona drops into the Europa League playoffs after finishing third in Group E, thanks to Benfica’s 2-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv in the other game of the evening.
That ended a Barcelona campaign which would have been unthinkable in the club’s heyday with Lionel Messi up front and Pep Guardiola as coach from 2008 through 2012. The group stage began with a 3-0 loss to Bayern at the Camp Nou and got worse with a 3-0 defeat and 0-0 draw against Benfica. Barcelona scored only two goals in six games, both against last-place Dynamo, and conceded nine.
“We start a new era, from zero, from here, to work hard and to recover Barca and to put Barca in the place that we deserve, that is in the top of the Champions League,” coach Xavi Hernández told broadcaster DAZN. “This is our reality. We are out of Champions League, we are in Europa League, but this is not the place of Barcelona.”
The five-time European champion last failed to make the Champions League last 16 in 2003-04. That season, Barcelona missed the Champions League entirely and played in what was then the UEFA Cup, thanks to a poor Spanish league finish the season before.
Defeat in the snow in Munich will deepen Barcelona’s already overwhelming financial problems as it misses out on lucrative prize money and exposure for sponsors. Sitting seventh in La Liga means Barcelona may not even qualify for next year’s competition.
“We need to work hard, many things that put Barcelona in this situation. But this is our reality. I cannot say anything else,” Xavi said. “We need to win Europa League, work hard for recovering points in La Liga, win the cup, win the Super Cup, this is what Barcelona deserve ... We will try to work hard. We have many injuries. Maybe we can sign some players now in January. Let’s see.”
Unlike the hammer blow of Barcelona’s 8-2 loss to Bayern in August 2020, this time the German champions calmly took their time dismantling a Barcelona team which only registered two shots on target.
The first goal Barcelona conceded Wednesday was one of fine margins, with goal-line technology required to show Thomas Müller’s looping header had crossed the line before Ronald Araujo belatedly attempted to clear.
The second was a simple goalkeeping error as Marc-André ter Stegen let Leroy Sané’s speculative long-range shot bounce off his arm and in. That left Xavi’s team 2-0 down at halftime and needing either its own stunning comeback or a similar feat from last-place Dynamo against Benfica.
The deficit worsened in the 62nd minute when Alphonso Davies, the Canadian left-back whose pace had caused problems all game, cut the ball back from the touchline for Jamal Musiala, who applied a simple finish from within a crowd of Barcelona players.
Playing at home in an empty stadium because of new pandemic-related restrictions, Bayern was already assured of qualifying as the group winner and finished with six wins from six games, matching Liverpool and Ajax on a perfect record this season. Coach Julian Nagelsmann told DAZN his team could have scored “more than three” goals against Barcelona.
Bayern is the only German team in the round of 16 after Borussia Dortmund, Leipzig and Wolfsburg all fell short in the group stage. The last time that happened was 2017-18.
Besides the shock of not qualifying, Barcelona may have to deal with an injury for Jordi Alba after the full-back limped off with an apparent thigh problem.


Qatari rally driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah boosts FIA World Cup hopes with Hail stage win

Qatari rally driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah boosts FIA World Cup hopes with Hail stage win
Updated 09 December 2021

Qatari rally driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah boosts FIA World Cup hopes with Hail stage win

Qatari rally driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah boosts FIA World Cup hopes with Hail stage win
  • The Toyota Gazoo Racing duo steered their Toyota Hilux to a time of 3hr 20min 01sec

HAIL: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French navigator Matthieu Baumel comfortably won the opening 258.14 km selective section of the Hail Cross-Country Rally early on Wednesday.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing duo steered their Toyota Hilux to a time of 3hr 20min 01sec and finished 6min 05sec in front of stage runner-up Denis Krotov.

Al-Attiyah’s stage performance boosted his already overwhelming odds of clinching the FIA World Cup title and, heading into the night halt in Hail, the Qatari found himself 22min 16sec ahead of Toyota team-mate and title rival Lucio Alvarez.

“We started first of the T1 cars, but the T1 2022 specification cars started before us,” Al-Attiyah’s co-driver Baumel said.

“We passed all three of them during the day and we opened the road half the way. It was not an easy stage. The first part was more navigation and off-track and the second part was faster. It was a nice day and we had a good result. We need to win two stages to get the World Cup. That is the goal for this rally.”

The X-raid Mini Buggies of Jakub Przygonski and Sebastien Halpern were third and fifth, sandwiching Vladimir Vasilyev’s BMW X3 in fourth.

“It was quite a nice stage with a lot of camel grass and it was quite soft,” said Przygonski. “We made a navigation mistake and got lost, but we enjoyed it. It was nice.”


Sixth Saudi Open golf championship gets underway

Sixth Saudi Open golf championship gets underway
Updated 09 December 2021

Sixth Saudi Open golf championship gets underway

Sixth Saudi Open golf championship gets underway
  • Saudi participants include professional player Othman Almulla, along with national team members Abdulrahman Al-Mansour, Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif
  • Chief Operating Officer of Golf Saudi Ed Edwards: Our vision and the goal of the mass participation programme is the training of Saudi youth to transform the golfing landscape

RIYADH: The sixth Saudi Open golf tournament tees off today at Riyadh Golf Club.

Prince Khalid bin Saud Al-Faisal, advisor to the Saudi Golf Federation, and Mohammed Al-Issa, Executive Manager of the Saudi Golf Federation, oversaw the launch of the championship at a press conference yesterday. The tournament will finish on Dec. 11.

During the briefing reporters were told that participation in the tournament is open to all professional and amateur golf players in the Middle East and North Africa who are registered with any golf club.

Al-Issa said: “We are proud to announce the launch of the sixth Saudi Open, which will give Saudi and Arab golf players the opportunity to participate in sports competitions of this kind. The events are a great opportunity for players to develop their skill levels and interact with players from different countries in the Middle East and North Africa in a competitive environment.”

The tournament is expected to attract wide interest from golf fans inside and outside the Kingdom. The Saudi Open will see the participation of leading players from the Gulf states and other Arab countries.

Saudi participants, who have all gone from strength to strength in recent years, as golf gains popularity in the Kingdom, include the only Saudi professional player Othman Almulla, along with national team members Abdulrahman Al-Mansour, Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif.

All four players will be in strong contention following their performances on the Asian Tour in Thailand last week, where they were in action at the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship and the Laguna Phuket Championship.

A lot will be at stake as the Saudi Open also represents a qualification opportunity for the 2022 Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers, which will be held next February. 

In a reply to Arab News, Ed Edwards, Chief Operating Officer of Golf Saudi, said: “Our vision and the goal of the mass participation programme is the training of Saudi youth to transform the golfing landscape. Saudi Arabia will be a regional sports hub.”

The Saudi Open is one of the events that Golf Saudi holds annually to raise awareness of the game in the Kingdom and to develop home-grown future talent. By working with other sports federations and the Ministry of Sport, Golf Saudi, which is the commercial development arm of the Saudi Golf Federation, is looking to underline the wider benefit of sports participation more generally as part of Saudi Arabia’s progress towards its Vision 2030 goals to improve its citizens quality of life.

Combined with grass roots training and education programmes that introduce people to the game at the earliest opportunity and with the greatest ease, Golf Saudi is committed to delivering a dynamic national development programme that transforms the golfing landscape.