Przygonski fastest as Al-Attiyah closes in on FIA World Cup title

Przygonski fastest as Al-Attiyah closes in on FIA World Cup title
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Poland’s Jakub Przygonski beat Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah by 69 seconds to claim the fastest time on the second 314-kilometer selective section of the Hail Cross-Country Rally on Thursday morning. (SPA)
Przygonski fastest as Al-Attiyah closes in on FIA World Cup title
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Poland’s Jakub Przygonski beat Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah by 69 seconds to claim the fastest time on the second 314-kilometer selective section of the Hail Cross-Country Rally on Thursday morning. (SPA)
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Updated 10 December 2021

Przygonski fastest as Al-Attiyah closes in on FIA World Cup title

Przygonski fastest as Al-Attiyah closes in on FIA World Cup title
  • Al-Attiyah said: “I am quite happy. It was a good stage and we took good points yesterday and today

HAIL: Poland’s Jakub Przygonski beat Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah by 69 seconds to claim the fastest time on the second 314-kilometer selective section of the Hail Cross-Country Rally on Thursday morning.

But the bonus point that the Qatari collected for setting the second-quickest time, coupled with the 1.5 points he earned for being fastest on Wednesday, pushed him ever closer to the FIA World Cup title in his duel with Toyota team-mate Lucio Alvarez. Al-Attiyah now leads the event by 7 minutes and 11 seconds, with his title rival down in sixth place, 24:28 behind.

Al-Attiyah said: “I am quite happy. It was a good stage and we took good points yesterday and today. This is good (progress) towards the FIA World Cup. We opened all the way and it was not easy. But we lost only one minute. Tomorrow we start behind Kuba (Przygonski).”

Przygonski and German navigator Timo Gottschalk moved to within three seconds of Denis Krotov’s hold on second place, as the two X-raid Mini John Cooper Works Buggy drivers enjoyed another strong day in the An Nafud desert.

Fellow Mini Buggy driver Sebastien Halpern overhauled Vladimir Vasilyev’s BMW X5 to snatch fourth place, but delays in the desert dropped Spaniard Laia Sanz out of the top 10.  

The decision was taken on Thursday afternoon to withdraw Yazeed Al-Rajhi’s Toyota from the event. The Saudi driver had lost too much time because of gearbox issues to challenge for the win and so took early retirement.

Martin Prokop continued test-and-development work on the 2022 specification Ford Raptor Cross-Country, while Juan Cruz Yacopini and Ronan Chabot gained more valuable time with the Overdrive Toyota Hilux T1+.

Three T4 Can-Ams now feature in the overall top 10. Poland’s Michal Goczal holds a fine seventh overall — and the lead in the FIA T4 section from his brother Marek and Ukraine’s Ievgen Kovalevych in a third South Racing-built machine. Australia’s Molly Taylor dropped several minutes to her rivals on the day and slipped to fourth in T4, with Dubai-based Briton Thomas Bell in fifth.

Saleh Al-Saif extended his FIA T3 lead to 35:17 with another fastest time. Dania Akeel came home in an unofficial second place, but Mashael Al-Obaidan displaced Germany’s Annett Fischer to snatch second in the category. Ukbekistan’s Anvar Ergashev was forced to retire on Wednesday evening: he felt pain in his arm 500 meters after the start of the first stage and, even though he completed the opening test, it was later discovered that he had a fracture.

Othman Al-Ghfeli was the fastest of the motorcycle entrants on the second stage by 3:22 from Mishal Al-Ghuneim and the Saudi moved into a lead of 13:47 over his rival. Italy’s Mauro Torrini came in third and climbed to fifth in the standings behind Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera and Ahmed Al-Jaber.

Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi maintained an unofficial advantage in the quad standings with his second stage win. Haitham Al-Tuwaijri and Hani Al-Noumesi came in second and third respectively, but the result was unofficial pending any penalties imposed by rally officials.

Saeed Al-Mouri was the unofficial winner of the stage in the National category in his Can-Am. The Saudi beat fellow countryman Al-Mashna Al-Shammeri by nine seconds to hold the outright lead. Aliyyah Koloc is classified third.

Japan’s Teruhito Sugawara (Hino) pipped Frenchman Teo Calvet to the stage win in the Truck section, but Calvet and his Czech crew of Josef Kalina and Tomas Sikola continue to lead the category in their Tatra.

On Friday, competitors tackle a third selective section of 249 km that starts 229 km from the bivouac and features passage controls after 77 km, 172 km and 232 km. A short liaison of 47 km returns teams to the bivouac in Hail.


Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur’s date with history

Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur’s date with history
Updated 8 sec ago

Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur’s date with history

Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur’s date with history
  • Coach Nabil Mlika recalls training a talented girl ‘determined to stand out’ against both female and male peers

HAMMAM SOUSSE, Tunisia: Ons Jabeur will make history on Thursday when she walks on to the Centre Court at Wimbledon as the first Arab woman to compete in a Grand Slam semifinal.

Fifteen years ago, Ons Jabeur’s young tennis sparring partner could see the Tunisian was destined for glory — even if he suffered a broken arm in the process.

Omar Laabidi remembers being repeatedly beaten by a 12-year-old Jabeur.

“We used to call her ‘Roger Federer’,” Laabidi said.

He was talking at the tennis club where it all began, in the North African country’s coastal town of Hammam Sousse.

“One time during a training match she hit a drop shot that I tried so hard to return that I broke my arm,” he said.

Jabeur had started by playing on courts belonging to local hotels but she soon joined the Tennis Club Hammam Sousse, which now bears a huge portrait of its most famous graduate.

Coach Nabil Mlika recalls training a talented girl “determined to stand out” against both female and male peers.

It is a determination that has taken her all the way to the world No. 2  spot — one place behind Poland’s Iga Swiatek.

But Mlika, who trained a young Jabeur for 10 years, said there was a moment where she almost quit the sport.

“She had great ball control, to the point where other coaches tried to attract her to handball,” said the 55-year-old.

“Ons thought seriously about switching sports — but decided to stick to tennis.”

The 27-year-old Tunisian’s fighting spirit has been on show throughout her career.

Despite crashing out in the first round of the French Open in May, she surged back to win the Berlin WTA singles title a few weeks later.

Her appearance in the Wimbledon semis — against close friend and ‘barbecue buddy’ Tatjana Maria — comes just two weeks after she was forced to withdraw from the Eastbourne tournament, where she was partnering Serena Williams in the doubles, with a knee injury.

Jabeur, known to many Tunisians as “the minister for happiness,” was born in the southern coastal town of Ksar Hellal, one of four siblings.

She moved to the capital, Tunis, at the age of 12 to train at a highly rated state-backed sports club.

She has been married to her physical trainer, and former fencer, Karim Kamoun, since 2015.

The right-hander is known for her stamina and the variety of her play.

 

 

“She hates playing at one pace,” said Mlika. “She’s always trying to create a spectacle by switching up the game with shots that surprise her opponents, especially with drop shots.

“She’s really the queen of the drop shot.”

Jabeur made a splash on the global scene in 2011, winning the girls’ singles at the French Open at the age of 16.

Laabidi also moved to Tunis around the same time as the adolescent Jabeur and joined the same academy, where they continued sparring.

“She was always fun and quickly got to know strangers,” he said.

“But she was always provocative and competitively debating on all subjects.”

Those who knew her as a teenager say she has changed little despite her growing fame.

“She still runs around gathering up all the balls during training, which she’s been doing since she started playing,” said Mlika.

Unsurprisingly, as her fame has spiralled membership levels have skyrocketed at her home club, from 320 in 2018 to more than 700 today.

For Yousra Koubaa, the mother of eight-year-old student Yasmine, Jabeur is “an example of hope, one we’re always showing to our children.”

Mlika says he uses photos of a young Jabeur to inspire his students today.

“She was a spark of enthusiasm, always moving and wanting to show that she was the best,” he said.

“She always put me in a difficult position because I had to balance between taking the training up a level, or waiting for her peers to catch up with her level and her pace.”


Nadal to face Kyrgios after surviving Wimbledon injury scare

Nadal to face Kyrgios after surviving Wimbledon injury scare
Updated 6 min 2 sec ago

Nadal to face Kyrgios after surviving Wimbledon injury scare

Nadal to face Kyrgios after surviving Wimbledon injury scare
  • The second seed lost the first set and had to take a medical time-out in the second
  • Nadal admitted after the match that he was suffering from an abdominal problem

LONDON: Rafael Nadal beat Taylor Fritz in a gruelling five-setter on Wednesday to set up a blockbuster Wimbledon semifinal against Nick Kyrgios, but revealed that an abdomen injury almost forced him to quit mid-match.
The second seed lost the first set and had to take a medical time-out in the second but raised his game to win 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10/4) in a match lasting four hours and 21 minutes.
Earlier, Australian maverick Kyrgios cruised past Chile’s Cristian Garin 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5).
Nadal admitted after the match that he was suffering from an abdominal problem, which forced him to leave the court.
“I had to find a way to serve a little bit different,” he said. “For a lot of moments I was thinking I would not be able to finish the match but the crowd, the energy, thanks for that.”
He added: “I honestly enjoy a lot playing these kind of matches in front of you guys. I can’t thank you enough for the support.”
Kyrgios, ranked 40th in the world, trails Nadal 6-3 in their head-to-head meetings but he beat the Spaniard on his way to the quarter-finals in 2014 and is seen as a major threat to his hopes of reaching a sixth Wimbledon final.

A pumped-up Nadal raced out of the blocks on Center Court to take a 3-1 lead but then lost five straight games to lose the first set.
The players swapped breaks in the second set but Nadal was not moving freely and when leading 4-3 he took a medical time-out.
When he returned, American 11th seed Fritz served out to love, with Nadal’s movement still looking hampered.
But the Spaniard twice held serve comfortably to lead 6-5 and a backhand volley into the open court sealed the second set, to roars from the crowd.
Nadal, 36, was now moving more easily but the pendulum swung again early in the third set when the two-time Wimbledon champion double-faulted to hand his opponent a break, with Fritz repeating the dose to take the third set.
There were five breaks in a topsy-turvy fourth set but Nadal came out on top to level the match.
The first six games of the deciding set went with serve before a break apiece as the pressure mounted.
The set went to a tie-break and Nadal seized control, racing into a 9-3 lead and completing the win on his second match point.
Nadal, who has already won the Australian Open and the French Open this year, is halfway to the first calendar Grand Slam by a man since Rod Laver in 1969.
He is also bidding to win his 23rd Grand Slam title and equal Serena Williams in second place on the all-time list for most Grand Slam singles titles. Margaret Court is the leader on 24 titles.

Kyrgios reached the last four at the All England Club with relative ease.
The 27-year-old was broken just once by Garin and hit 35 winners as he reached his first Grand Slam semifinal.
“I never thought I’d be in the semifinal of a Grand Slam,” said the Australian. “I thought that ship had sailed, that I may have wasted that little window in my career.
“I am really happy I was able to come out here with my team and able to put on a performance.”
Kyrgios is the first Australian man into the semifinals at Wimbledon since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005.
But he went into the match under a new cloud of controversy after it emerged he faces an Australian court next month to answer an allegation of assault.
His 2022 Wimbledon has also been a rollercoaster on the court.
Brilliant, crowd-pleasing shot-making has been accompanied by $14,000 in fines and an ugly, bitter spat with third-round rival Stefanos Tsitsipas.


Saudi football delegation attends World Cup workshop in Qatar

Saudi football delegation attends World Cup workshop in Qatar
Updated 25 min 8 sec ago

Saudi football delegation attends World Cup workshop in Qatar

Saudi football delegation attends World Cup workshop in Qatar
  • The representatives of the Kingdom’s national team learned about the preparations for world football’s showpiece event, which kicks off on Nov. 21

RIYADH: A delegation of officials representing the Saudi national football team took part in a workshop for the nations that will compete at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, during which they learned about the ongoing preparations for the showpiece event, which begins on Nov. 21.

The workshop in Doha covered a number of topics relating to the competition and its venues during a series of detailed sessions, including technical issues, medical provision, security, transportation, logistics, media, marketing, football-related technologies and arbitration.

The Saudi delegates also visited the camp at which the national team will stay throughout their participation in the World Cup, and was briefed on the specific preparations at their designated training ground.

The Kingdom’s delegation was led by Hussein Al-Sadiq, director of the Saudi national team, and Nawaf Al-Dakhil, the team’s executive director.


Former champion Simona Halep back in Wimbledon semifinals

Former champion Simona Halep back in Wimbledon semifinals
Updated 06 July 2022

Former champion Simona Halep back in Wimbledon semifinals

Former champion Simona Halep back in Wimbledon semifinals
  • The 16th-seeded Romanian reached the semifinals and stretched her winning streak at the All England Club to 12 matches
  • “I struggled a lot last year,” Halep said, “and now I’m just trying to build my confidence back”

WIMBLEDON, England: Simona Halep’s first appearance at Wimbledon since winning the title three years is going just as good as it did the last time.
The 16th-seeded Romanian reached the semifinals and stretched her winning streak at the All England Club to 12 matches by beating Amanda Anisimova 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday on Center Court.
Halep missed the chance to defend her title at Wimbledon twice, first in 2020 when the tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic and then again in 2021 when she had to sit out with a left calf injury.
“I struggled a lot last year,” Halep said, “and now I’m just trying to build my confidence back.”
In the semifinals, Halep will face Elena Rybakina. The 17th-seeded Rybakina beat Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 on No. 1 Court.
Rybakina, a 23-year-old Kazakh, is playing at Wimbledon for only the second time in her career. She lost in the fourth round last year.
In the men’s quarterfinals, two-time champion Rafael Nadal was to play Taylor Fritz on Center Court while Nick Kyrgios was to face Cristian Garin on No. 1 Court.
Halep is making her 10th appearance at Wimbledon and has reached the semifinals for the third time. She is the only Grand Slam champion left in the women’s tournament.
“I’m very emotional right now, because it means a lot to be back in the semis,” Halep said.
The match against Anisimova appeared to be as straightforward as her first four victories at this year’s tournament — all came in straight sets. But the 20th-seeded American broke Halep when she was serving for the match at 5-2.
Anisimova then had three more break points when Halep again served for the match at 5-4, but the Romanian won five straight points to finish the match.
“She could crush the ball in the end, and I didn’t know, actually, what to do,” Halep said. “But I just believed in myself. I said that I have to stay there, strong on my legs.”
Halep injured her calf more than a year ago, forcing her to withdraw from the French Open and Wimbledon. She started working with Patrick Mouratoglou, the former coach of Serena Williams, in April.


‘Brave’ new England try to shake up Test cricket

‘Brave’ new England try to shake up Test cricket
Updated 06 July 2022

‘Brave’ new England try to shake up Test cricket

‘Brave’ new England try to shake up Test cricket
  • Arguably the greatest revelation about England’s latest run-chase was how they attacked it from the start

BIRMINGHAM: Everything you know about Test cricket is wrong.

Well that might be the conclusion of some fans who watched a resurgent England make light of a chase of 378 in the Covid-delayed fifth Test against India.

It was the latest example of ‘Bazball’ in action, with a seven-wicket win in Birmingham England’s fourth successful chase in as many Tests under a new leadership duo of coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes following a 3-0 whitewash of Test world champions New Zealand.

That series saw England chase down seemingly stiff targets of 277, 299 and 296.

No England side, however, had previously made more to win in the fourth innings of a Test than 359, when Stokes’ brilliant century secured a thrilling victory over Australia at Headingley three years ago.

But with Joe Root (142 not out) and Jonny Bairstow (114 not out) sharing an unbroken partnership of 269, that mark was overhauled with ease at Edgbaston as England ended a five-match series all square at 2-2.

Yet as well as former England captain Root and Bairstow batted, they are in-form and experienced internationals.

Arguably the greatest revelation about England’s latest run-chase was how they attacked it from the start, with Alex Lees and Zak Crawley, both of whom had been struggling for runs, sharing a century opening stand in 19.5 overs — the fastest in England Test history.

Stokes said England’s approach was down to a change in attitude from a team that had won just one of its 17 previous Tests prior to the New Zealand series.

“When you’ve got real clarity in what you want to achieve as a team and how you want to play it makes things a lot easier,” said Stokes.

“We know what we were going to do — we knew we were always going to go out and try and chase that down from the get-go.

“A great way to explain is that teams are perhaps better than us, but teams won’t be braver than us.

“(England spinner) Jack Leach said that to me and it is a great way to sum things up at the moment,” the all-rounder added.

Scoring runs quickly in Test cricket is nothing new.

A celebrated West Indies team once chased down a target of 342 inside a day to beat England by nine wickets at Lord’s, with opener Gordon Greenidge making an unbeaten double century.

And the successful Australia teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s looked to score at a rate of four per over in order to give their bowlers as much time as possible to take the 20 wickets needed to win a Test.

But on Tuesday, England were scoring at a rate of nearly five an over, with the way Root reverse scooped medium-pacer Shardul Thakur for six a sign of how T20 shot-making, unknown to previous generations, is influencing the longer game.

Former New Zealand captain McCullum was credited for being the inspiration behind England’s rise from white-ball no-hopers to 2019 50-over World Cup winners and England clearly hope he will have a similar effect now he is directly involved with the Test side.

Four matches is a small sample size, however, and had Rishabh Pant stayed in for just a little longer in India’s second innings, Stokes may have been granted a wish where he “almost wanted them to get 450 (ahead), to see what we did.”

India coach Rahul Dravid, one of the best batsmen of his era, was impressed by England but said the way Pant had scored a typically dynamic 146, in a first innings where Ravindra Jadeja also made a hundred, proved Stokes’ side did not have a copyright on attacking play.

“When your players are doing well, are in good form, then you can play really positively, can take the game forward,” said Dravid.

“We also showed when Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja were playing in the first innings — we played pretty positive cricket.

“But when two positive players or attacking players are in good form, and can play such a big innings, and that happens in three to four matches continuously it looks good for cricket and also for them.”