Novak Djokovic has to comply with rules to go to Spain, PM says

Novak Djokovic has to comply with rules to go to Spain, PM says
Novak Djokovic travels regularly to Spain where he owns a house in the southern resort of Marbella. (AFP)
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Updated 18 January 2022

Novak Djokovic has to comply with rules to go to Spain, PM says

Novak Djokovic has to comply with rules to go to Spain, PM says
  • ‘Any sportsperson who wishes to compete in our country must comply with the health rules of Spain’
  • Novak Djokovic travels regularly to Spain where he owns a house in the southern resort of Marbella

MADRID: World men’s tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic will have to comply with Spanish health rules to be able to travel to Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday.
Answering a question on whether Djokovic would be allowed to enter Spain to compete after Australia deported him for being unvaccinated against COVID-19, Sanchez said: “Any sportsperson who wishes to compete in our country must comply with the health rules of Spain.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was visiting Spain on Monday and stood beside Sanchez during the news conference, also insisted the different rules in the different countries must be respected. “We all have to abide by them, no matter who we are,” he said.
Djokovic travels regularly to Spain where he owns a house in the southern resort of Marbella. He spent a few days in late December and early January and video footage showed him training there.
Spanish rules currently require people to have either a vaccine certificate, a PCR negative test or a certificate of having recovered from COVID-19. The country imposes strict quarantines on people who test positive.
During the same news conference, the Spanish Prime Minister made an impassioned call for vaccination. Even though vaccination is not mandatory in Spain, the vaccination rate is one of the highest in Europe.


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.


Cavendish thwarted as De Bondt wins Giro 18th stage

Cavendish thwarted as De Bondt wins Giro 18th stage
Updated 27 May 2022

Cavendish thwarted as De Bondt wins Giro 18th stage

Cavendish thwarted as De Bondt wins Giro 18th stage
  • The powerfully-built 30-year-old De Bondt outsprinted Jumbo’s Edoardo Affini for a photo finish as Magnus Cort of EF was third and Davide Bardiani of CSF fourth after they had worked together over two laps of a tight downtown circuit at Treviso

TREVISO, Italy: Belgian Dries De Bondt won stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday as a quartet of escapees defied a frantic bid from the sprinters to reel them in over the final kilometer.

The final flat stage on this 21-day race around Italy was supposed to be the last chance for sprinters such as Arnaud Demare and Mark Cavendish, but in a rare event the mass bunch sprint was denied by the escape group.

“It’s a we question, not an I question. It was a collaboration (working together) until the last kilometer,” De Bondt said.

“Everyone said Cavendish or Demare or (Alberto) Dainese was going to win — it was written in the stars.

“But there was no moment of doubt, nobody skipped one turn,” he said of the escape.

The powerfully-built 30-year-old De Bondt outsprinted Jumbo’s Edoardo Affini for a photo finish as Magnus Cort of EF was third and Davide Bardiani of CSF fourth after they had worked together over two laps of a tight downtown circuit at Treviso.

The sprint pack started that 20km slog with a deficit of only 2 minutes, and would have caught the quartet on a less technically demanding circuit.

Frenchman Demare of FDJ still leads in the sprint points rankings with a tally of 254 while the 37-year-old Cavendish is second on 132.

Ecuadorian former Giro winner Richard Carapaz of Ineos maintains his 03sec lead in the overall standings on Australian Jai Hindley.

“Today was a fast stage. We thought it was going to be relaxed and easy but it went quickly today,” said Carapaz, who had been hoping for a slower run ahead of the finale.

Hindley had a fright on Thursday when he took a puncture late in the race.

“The rules say if it’s in the last 3km its ok, you don’t lose time,” said a relieved Bora director Jens Zemka.

“We are highly motivated for the run in,” he said.

Bahrain Victorious leader Mikel Landa is third at 1min 05sec.

“If I see any opportunities I’ll attack,” said the Spaniard. “There’s no fear of losing my podium place now (Joao) Almeida is out.”

Almeida’s hopes of finishing on the podium ended overnight as he withdrew after testing positive for Covid-19 when he was just 49 sec off third-placed Mikel Landa.

Friday’s ride from Marano Lagunare to Santuario di Castelmonte features four climbs.

But Saturday’s high altitude affair will be the real showdown as it climbs over 2000m altitude three times.

Sunday’s final stage is a medium length 17.4km individual time-trial into Verona where Carapaz claimed overall victory three years ago.