Tsitsipas injury blow as Greece beaten by Poland at ATP Cup

Tsitsipas injury blow as Greece beaten by Poland at ATP Cup
Stefanos Tsitsipas. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 January 2022

Tsitsipas injury blow as Greece beaten by Poland at ATP Cup

Tsitsipas injury blow as Greece beaten by Poland at ATP Cup
  • World No. 4  Tsitsipas was a late withdrawal from his match with ninth-ranked Hubert Hurkacz

SYDNEY: Greece badly missed elbow-injury victim Stefanos Tsitsipas in the singles when it was beaten by Poland on the opening day of the 16-team ATP Cup tournament on Saturday.

World No. 4  Tsitsipas was a late withdrawal from his match with ninth-ranked Hubert Hurkacz, who went on to beat replacement Aristotelis Thanos 6-1, 6-2 to give Poland an unassailable 2-0 lead after Kamil Majchrzak had defeated Michail Pervolarakis 6-1, 6-4 earlier.

Tsitsipas watched from the team bench, with ice wrapped around his right elbow, as the 1,076th-ranked Thanos was outclassed by Hurkacz.

Greece then gained some consolation when Tsitsipas combined with Pervolarakis in the doubles to overcome Szymon Walkow and Jan Zielinski 6-4, 5-7, 10-8.

Tsitsipas had an operation in late November, with a flare-up a concern ahead of this month’s Australian Open.

“The recovery from my elbow surgery is on track and today was a precautionary step to make sure I make Melbourne,” Tsitsipas said. “We will see day-by-day, match-by-match until then.”

Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman and Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut led their respective teams to comfortable victories earlier on Saturday.

Argentina beat Georgia 3-0, while Spain easily accounted for Chile by the same margin at the tournament being played across two Sydney stadiums. World No.  13 Schwartzman defeated Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1, 6-2, after compatriot Federico Delbonis won by the same score against Aleksandre Metreveli to give Argentina a 2-0 lead from the singles matches.

Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni then gave the Argentines a clean sweep defeating Georgian pair Saba Pertseladze and Zura Tkemaladze 6-1, 6-2 in the doubles tie to give Argentina a 3-0 win.

World No. 20 Pablo Carreno Busta gave Spain an early lead as he rallied from being a break down in both sets to defeat Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).

Roberto Bautista Agut appeared in excellent form as he disposed of Chile’s world No.17 Cristian Garin 6-0, 6-3 to seal the tie for Spain.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Pedro Martinez clinched a clean sweep for Spain with a 7-6 (3), 4-6, 10-7 win over Chile’s Tomas Barrios Vera and Tabilo.

Even without Rafael Nadal, whose preparation for the Australian Open has been disrupted by a positive test for coronavirus, Spain showed why they are among the favored teams at the tournament.

“Today was a good start for me, a very solid game, really happy. I like these conditions,” world No.19 Bautista Agut said.

The other eight teams begin play Sunday: Russia vs. France, Italy vs. Australia, Canada vs. the US and Germany vs. Britain.


1981 cup hero Alan Kennedy urges Mohamed Salah to become an all-time Liverpool legend, stay at Anfield

1981 cup hero Alan Kennedy urges Mohamed Salah to become an all-time Liverpool legend, stay at Anfield
Salah has said he will be at Anfield for his final year but has not yet agreed a new long-term deal. (AFP)
Updated 14 sec ago

1981 cup hero Alan Kennedy urges Mohamed Salah to become an all-time Liverpool legend, stay at Anfield

1981 cup hero Alan Kennedy urges Mohamed Salah to become an all-time Liverpool legend, stay at Anfield
  • Former left-back scored Liverpool’s winner in European Cup final against Real Madrid in Paris, believes Egyptian star should stop at club

RIYADH: During his five years at Liverpool, Mohamed Salah has become revered and respected, but it will be longevity that makes him a legend at a club with such a storied history.

That is the belief of Alan Kennedy, no stranger to Anfield acclaim himself with match-winning goals that clinched two of their six European Cup victories.

Salah will try to help the Reds land a seventh title when they face Real Madrid in Paris on Saturday — redemption for the 2018 showpiece when the Egyptian forward left the field in tears, injured after a first-half challenge by Sergio Ramos, as the Spanish side triumphed 3-1.

But only by staying longer at Liverpool and helping them to repeated success will he be elevated alongside — and perhaps even surpass — Kenny Dalglish, all-time top goalscorer Ian Rush, or Steven Gerrard as the club’s greatest player.

Out of contract at the end of next season, Salah has said he will be at Anfield for his final year but has not yet agreed a new long-term deal.

With 11 major trophies in eight years — including five league titles — after joining from Newcastle in 1978, Kennedy is better placed than most to discuss the club’s finest.

He said: “When you are saying if he is the best Liverpool player ever then, when you have played with Dalglish, Rush, and Graeme Souness, automatically then you think back to those days and think ‘what a player he was or what he did was incredible.’

“That was a great era for Liverpool. Dalglish was special, he did it every game and he played for 13 years. Every game he put in a shift, showed his quality, and so did Rush who had 15 years in total, so did Souness.

“I think what the players do today is sensational, but how long they do it for also matters,” Kennedy added.

“Sometimes people will say we don’t see it in every game from Salah or Sadio Mane, so it’s a difficult one to say who is the very best, especially with the difference in football to when I played.

“Mo Salah doesn’t give up, he’s very assured of himself, and has found the right way to play and the right team to play with — it’s perfect.”

Kennedy, however, believes he should stay at Anfield longer to be considered among the club’s greats.

He said: “That’s the important thing, to maintain standards and repeat the performances — and repeat the success. He is one of the best players Liverpool have ever had, but we need to know if he’s eventually going to stay or go because the uncertainty of it all means it affects his game as well.

“If he’s saying he wants to stay, then sign the contract and look forward.”

Kennedy, 67, would love for Salah to stay and be the hero against Real Madrid, and so end a proud 41-year record held by the left-back and his former team-mates.

Paris also played host when he drove home a left-footed finish in the 81st minute to seal their 1981 success, the last time 13-time winners Los Blancos lost a European Cup final.

Three years later, Kennedy hit the decisive penalty that sealed a tense shoot-out win over A.S. Roma after a 1-1 draw at the Italian side’s Stadio Olimpico home.

It was a glorious era for Liverpool, a side single-minded in their pursuit of honors and among the greatest to ever grace the game.

They won three successive English First Division titles between 1982 and 1984 — and only the FA Cup eluded them in 1984 when they claimed a treble of the league championship, League Cup, and European Cup under Joe Fagan.

Having lifted the League Cup and FA Cup this season, Liverpool’s bid for a historic quadruple was ended when Manchester City took the Premier League by a point.

But the valiant efforts of Jurgen Klopp’s men have now seen them lauded in a similar way to the heroes of yesteryear.

“Yes, they have that similarity. This current team has got a great mentality, that same belief and desire to win every game,” Kennedy told Arab News.

“They know they’re on a great run, have a great manager who can motivate players and you feel as though there is still more to come, and that’s why they could go on and achieve even more.

“Klopp also has that same aura of the great Liverpool managers. This team is certainly up there with the old teams, but do you give them the title of being the best?”

A win on Saturday would go a long way to answering that question.

Kennedy said: “If they win the Champions League and win three trophies in a season then that would put them right up there, of course, and would equal what we did in 1983-84.

“We got close to all four, failed in the FA Cup, but it was a great side and maybe we had a little bit more character in that 1983-84 season.

“It’s always hard to compare teams from different times because football has changed, but this current team should be looked upon possibly as Liverpool’s best ever.

“They are really strong throughout from the keeper, defense, to the attack, but it’s about the winning and getting the trophies, not about individuals or how close you got.

“There’s also one thing at Liverpool and that is the club comes before any player.

“If it was me scoring the winning goal, Phil Neal, or Kenny Dalglish, it didn’t matter. It was about winning for the team and as a team. That’s what these players are also doing now,” he added.

Kennedy said he was just “the lucky guy” to claim the winning goal against Real after overcoming a broken wrist to play, but Liverpool were a driven team totally focused on “trying to win everything” at that time.

It is an approach that resonates with Real Madrid, who are chasing a fifth Champions League in nine seasons.

Led by Karim Benzema, the La Liga champions overcame Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, and Manchester City with stunning comebacks to reach this stage.

Kennedy added: “Real are an exceptional team and to beat Manchester City how they did with those late goals was just awesome.

“There aren’t too many weaknesses in their side, they are very controlled and don’t rely too much on Benzema like some people say. Liverpool should have enough in their locker to beat them, but this is against Real Madrid and that’s the thing, we all know what they are capable of.

“If you want to be remembered for being great then you have to show it — you can’t hide in cup finals.”


Best of the West: Warriors seal return to NBA Finals with Game 5 victory over Mavericks

Best of the West: Warriors seal return to NBA Finals with Game 5 victory over Mavericks
Updated 27 May 2022

Best of the West: Warriors seal return to NBA Finals with Game 5 victory over Mavericks

Best of the West: Warriors seal return to NBA Finals with Game 5 victory over Mavericks
  • The Warriors have not lost a playoff game at home this season, the first post-season run in their new arena in San Francisco after leaving behind their old home in Oakland
  • After missing the playoffs the past two seasons while rebuilding, the Warriors are playing for the trophy again with champion core stars Curry, Thompson and Green back setting the pace

SAN FRANCISCO: Klay Thompson scored a game-high 32 points and the Golden State Warriors advanced to the NBA Finals for the sixth time in eight seasons by defeating Dallas 120-110 on Thursday.

The Warriors, chasing a fourth title in eight campaigns, won the best-of-seven Western Conference finals 4-1 and secured a place in June’s title showdown against either the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat.

The Celtics carry a 3-2 series lead into Friday’s sixth game of the Eastern Conference finals at Boston.

Golden State won NBA crowns in 2015, 2017 and 2018 by defeating the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers each time but lost the finals in 2016 to the Cavs and in 2019 to Toronto.

“This is a blessing for us to get back here, to get back where we belong,” said Golden State guard Stephen Curry, who was named the Western Conference playoff Most Valuable Player.

Andrew Wiggins scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Warriors while Draymond Green added 17 points and nine assists, Jordan Poole scored 16 points off the bench, Curry added 15 and nine assists, and Kevon Looney added 10 points and 18 rebounds.

The Warriors have not lost a playoff game at home this season, the first post-season run in their new arena in San Francisco after leaving behind their old home in Oakland.

“It’s special to do it in our new building,” Curry said. “This isn’t the ultimate goal but we’ve got to celebrate this for all we went through the past three years.”

After missing the playoffs the past two seasons while rebuilding, the Warriors are playing for the trophy again with champion core stars Curry, Thompson and Green back setting the pace.

“This one is special because this is a group no one thought would ever be back here,” Green said.

“This group put the work in every day and we’re here. We’re back.”

It will be the sixth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals for Thompson, who missed the entire 2019-20 campaign after left knee surgery and the entire 2020-21 season with a torn Achilles tendon.

“I’m so happy to be back,” Thompson said. “I’m thankful for this team. I can’t believe we’re back. We’ve still got four more to go.”

Thompson made 12-of-25 shots from the floor, including 8-of-16 from 3-point range.

The Mavericks haven’t reached the NBA Finals since winning the crown in 2011.

Slovenian star guard Luka Doncic had 28 points, nine rebounds and six assists to lead the Mavericks while Spencer Dinwiddie added 26 points off the Dallas bench.

“We didn’t play our best game but we accomplished a lot,” said Mavericks coach Jason Kidd, whose team upset top seed Phoenix in the second round.

“We’ve laid a foundation. Now we can start building.”

Dinwiddie’s corner 3-pointer at the buzzer lifted Dallas within 28-23 after the first quarter.

But Thompson scored eight points in a 12-5 Warriors’ run, starting and ending the spurt with 3-pointers to put Golden State ahead 45-32 with 7:30 remaining in the second quarter.

Reserve Moses Moody scored seven points in a 9-0 Golden State run to stretch the lead to 56-38 with 4:00 to play in the period on the way to the Warriors taking a 69-52 edge at half-time.

Thompson scored 19 points in the first half on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor with 5-of-8 made from 3-point range while Dinwiddie led Dallas with 17.

Early in the third quarter, Green delivered a spectacular no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass to Thompson for a wide-open 3-pointer that gave Golden State a 74-53 lead.

But the Mavericks stung the Warriors with a 15-0 run to the final seconds of the third quarter, pulling within 92-84 as Golden State went scoreless for almost four minutes until managing the final basket of the period.

Doncic scored 15 points in the third quarter to lift Dallas back into the contest, but Golden State opened the fourth quarter with a 7-1 run for a 101-85 advantage and held the Mavs at bay from there.


Leclerc seeks to regain F1 lead at his unlucky home track

Leclerc seeks to regain F1 lead at his unlucky home track
Updated 27 May 2022

Leclerc seeks to regain F1 lead at his unlucky home track

Leclerc seeks to regain F1 lead at his unlucky home track
  • Leclerc has four F1 wins among his 17 podium finishes and desperately wants to add Monaco to the list
  • The late Ayrton Senna experienced difficulties at his home Grand Prix in Brazil, winning it only at the eighth attempt

AP MONACO: Charles Leclerc has a problem to solve this weekend at his home track.

After losing the Formula One championship lead last week, Leclerc is determined to claim it back from world champion Max Verstappen at the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.

The problem? Leclerc has never finished an F1 race on the famed street circuit in the tiny Principality.

That’s even more frustrating given that he grew up in an apartment overlooking the circuit and actually learned to swim on part of it.

“It’s not been the luckiest track for me overall, but it’s part of motorsport and sometimes things just don’t go your way. Hopefully this year they will,” Leclerc told reporters on Thursday. “I love it here and obviously it’s a very special event for me, having grown up here, and these roads I know so well.”

Leclerc has a unique bond with the street circuit, which passes by a swimming pool.

“My favorite part of the track is definitely the Piscine, which is the corner combination of two esses by the swimming pool,” he said. “It just feels amazing, I really enjoy driving there. It’s also where I learned how to swim as a child, so I have an emotional attachment to it, making it even more meaningful.”

Last year felt particularly cruel for Leclerc.

He was in pole position when he crashed his Ferrari on his final timed lap in qualifying, with Verstappen pressuring his leading time. The team worked hard to fix his car overnight but he pulled out just before the start of the race with a gearbox problem.

The crash moved Verstappen up to pole, and he won to claim the lead from Lewis Hamilton and top the leaderboard for the first time in his career.

Leclerc first raced here for Sauber in 2018, crashing into the back of another car late in the race. Then in his first season with Ferrari in 2019, Leclerc retired early because of damage to the car’s floor. All engines were off in 2020 when the race was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Leclerc has four F1 wins among his 17 podium finishes and desperately wants to add Monaco to the list. The late Ayrton Senna experienced difficulties at his home Grand Prix in Brazil, winning it only at the eighth attempt.

“I’d like to win (here) as soon as possible,” Leclerc said. “Ayrton was my idol and I’ve often seen his on-board (cameras) here in Monaco, which were super impressive.”

Leclerc’s retirement last Sunday in Spain due to engine failure, when he was coasting in front for Ferrari, allowed Verstappen a win and moved the Red Bull driver six points ahead — having trailed Leclerc by 46 points after just three races.

But a 52-point swing has turned momentum Verstappen’s way.

“Of course when you look at it, losing 52 points isn’t great. But once again, what I look at in the difficult moments was that the performance was there,” Leclerc said. “We’d got on top of things more with the tires and in qualifying. The championship is still long, and I’m sure we’ll have our chances to make up for it.”

Verstappen’s already up to 24 career wins at the age of 24. By comparison, seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton’s 24th win came when he was 29.

Verstappen’s hitting a groove and the Dutch driver has four wins from his four finishes, having retired the Red Bull car twice in the first three races. Leclerc has won the other two races this season, and Spain was his first retirement.

Leclerc is confident it was a blip.

“I think the team knows where it’s coming from so this gives me the confidence it won’t happen again,” he said. “I know the performance is in the car for us to do a great result this weekend.”

Leclerc leads with four pole positions this year, to Verstappen’s one, highlighting his one-lap speed. It was a different story last year, when Leclerc took an unexpected pole for Ferrari when the car was not as fast. Then came that crash.

“Last year’s incident was just trying to push too much and I clipped the inside wheel,” Leclerc said. “There’s no track that comes close to the adrenalin we get in Monaco. For me it’s part of F1’s history.”

For Hamilton, meanwhile, the wait goes on.

The veteran British driver is seven races without a victory since winning the penultimate race of last season at the Saudi Arabian GP. He has one podium for the struggling Mercedes and is sixth overall, 64 points behind Verstappen and 28 points behind his teammate George Russell, who is fourth.

Leclerc tips Mercedes to bounce back.

“There’s no question for me that they will be back very soon,” he said. “I hope they can join us to fight for wins because it should be exciting for Formula One to have a three-team battle, and to have George and Lewis also fighting for wins.”


Liverpool’s Salah eyes Champions League revenge against Real Madrid

Liverpool’s Salah eyes Champions League revenge against Real Madrid
Updated 27 May 2022

Liverpool’s Salah eyes Champions League revenge against Real Madrid

Liverpool’s Salah eyes Champions League revenge against Real Madrid
  • The Egypt forward made a tearful first-half exit after suffering a shoulder injury in a challenge with Real defender Sergio Ramos, who was accused of cynically slamming his opponent into the turf
  • Even though Ramos has since moved on to Paris Saint-Germain, Salah would dearly love to make Real pay when they meet again at the Stade de France this weekend

LONDON: “We have a score to settle,” Mohamed Salah posted on social media moments after Real Madrid set up a re-match with Liverpool in Saturday’s Champions League final.

Salah’s first appearance in European club football’s showpiece game came to an agonizingly premature end in Kyiv four years ago.

The Egypt forward made a tearful first-half exit after suffering a shoulder injury in a challenge with Real defender Sergio Ramos, who was accused of cynically slamming his opponent into the turf.

Madrid went on to win 3-1 and Salah has never been able to shake the bitter memories of that night.

“That was the worst moment in my career,” the 29-year-old said at Liverpool’s pre-match media day this week. “I was really, really down in that time.

“I was like: ‘We cannot lose this way.’ I never felt that feeling before in football, especially the first Champions League (final) for all of us.”

Salah made amends 12 months later, scoring a penalty as Liverpool beat Tottenham to be crowned European champions for the sixth time.

But even though Ramos has since moved on to Paris Saint-Germain, Salah would dearly love to make Real pay when they meet again at the Stade de France this weekend.

“I think it is revenge time,” Salah said as he picked up his award as the Football Writers’ Association player of the year earlier this month.

While Salah has retaliation on his mind, he travels to Paris besieged by concerns over his form, his fitness and even his long-term future at Liverpool.

His 23rd goal of the Premier League season against Wolves on Sunday meant he finished as the joint top-scorer in the competition alongside Tottenham’s Son Heung-min.

It is the third time he has topped the charts and he added luster to his season by also finishing as the top provider of assists.

Yet the stunning early-season form that secured Salah the writers’ honor has deserted him in recent months.

His 31st club goal of the campaign as Liverpool narrowly lost out to Manchester City in the Premier League title race on Sunday was just his third in his past 17 games for club and country.

That run includes a defeat on penalties against teammate Sadio Mane’s Senegal in a World Cup playoff, a repeat of the result in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year.

The demands of an exhausting season are beginning to show even before the final in Paris, for a player who is rarely injured.

Salah was forced off early in Liverpool’s FA Cup final victory over Chelsea and did not start either of their final two league games to ensure he was fit to face Madrid.

The caution shown by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, whose side were chasing an unprecedented quadruple until they were pipped to the league title by City, is understandable.

In five seasons since returning to England Salah has scored 156 goals, playing a huge role in Liverpool’s first Premier League title for 30 years in 2020, as well as their runs to three Champions League finals.

One persistent cloud on the horizon is that his contract expires at the end of next season and negotiations have dragged on, with reports that he wants to be the Premier League’s highest-paid player.

Salah confirmed this week that he would at least see out the final year of his deal, but refused to commit his longer-term future to the Reds.

Despite his history with Madrid, Real could now prove the most likely destination should he choose to leave Anfield.

Los Blancos are in need of a superstar signing to soften the blow of being turned down by Kylian Mbappe, who has decided to remain at PSG.

Liverpool boast impressive attacking riches but a fit and firing Salah would be a huge weapon against Carlo Ancelotti’s Real — and the player himself has clearly not lost confidence.

“If you compare me with any player in my position, not only in my team but in the world, you will find that I am the best,” he told BeIn Sports.


World No. 1 Scheffler headlines leading bunch at Colonial

World No. 1 Scheffler headlines leading bunch at Colonial
Updated 27 May 2022

World No. 1 Scheffler headlines leading bunch at Colonial

World No. 1 Scheffler headlines leading bunch at Colonial
  • Among the other co-leaders, Nick Taylor was 5-under after an eagle at the 12th, but the Canadian also made a bogey on his final hole

LOS ANGELES: World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler bounced back from his missed cut at the PGA Championship to headline a group of eight players sharing the first round lead in the Charles Schwab Challenge on Thursday.

Masters champion Scheffler acknowledged it was frustrating to miss the cut at Southern Hills — his first missed cut since October.

But he said he didn’t let it prey on him, and came back strong at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, with four birdies in his 4-under par 66.

“You never want to miss a cut,” Scheffler said. “I hadn’t missed a cut in a while up to that point, so I think it makes it even more frustrating just knowing that I was playing really good golf and I just didn’t have it that week.

“That stuff happens. If I didn’t like bad draws or making crazy mistakes and stuff like that, I would have played a different sport. A lot of weird stuff happens in golf.”

Scheffler teed off on 10 and rolled in a six-foot birdie putt at the 14th and drained a 40-footer at the 17th — where he was in a fairway bunker.

He added birdies from inside three feet at the 18th and seventh to join the big leading bunch.

That group also included former Masters champion Patrick Reed, former US Open winner Webb Simpson, Harold Varner, Chris Kirk, Nick Taylor, Cam Davis and Beau Hossler.

Reed was five-under through 17 holes but bogeyed his final hole, the ninth.

“It was steady,” Reed said. “Hit a lot of fairways, and playing this golf course from the fairway, you’re able to attack.

“To go around and birdie all four of the par-threes always helps,” added Reed, who has missed five cuts this season and posted just one top-10 finish.

“It feels good to get a number out of it,” Reed said.

Among the other co-leaders, Taylor was 5-under after an eagle at the 12th, but the Canadian also made a bogey on his final hole.

Hossler, meanwhile, joined the leading group with his second eagle of the day at his last hole, the ninth, where he holed out from 135 yards out in the fairway.

The jampacked leaderboard saw another seven players a stroke back on 67: South African Dylan Frittelli, Colombian Camilo Villegas and Americans Kevin Na, Davis Riley, Scott Stallings, Pat Perez and Austin Smotherman.

Another 10 players were two shots off the lead on 68.

Justin Thomas, who won his second major title with a playoff triumph at Southern Hills on Sunday, carded a 1-over par 71. Will Zalatoris, beaten in the playoff, carded a 72.

Chile’s Mito Pereira, who missed out on the playoff after a 72nd-hole collapse on Sunday, opened with an even par 70.