Egypt’s Mayar Sherif ‘honored’ to be at Australian Open as she raises her nation’s sporting profile

Egypt’s Mayar Sherif ‘honored’ to be at Australian Open as she raises her nation’s sporting profile
Mayar Sherif of Egypt plays a forehand return to Heather Watson of Britain during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 18 January 2022

Egypt’s Mayar Sherif ‘honored’ to be at Australian Open as she raises her nation’s sporting profile

Egypt’s Mayar Sherif ‘honored’ to be at Australian Open as she raises her nation’s sporting profile
  • Cairo 25-year-old climbs world rankings after becoming first Egyptian woman to reach a WTA final

Last year, on a midsummer day in Cluj-Napoca in northern Romania, tennis player Mayar Sherif made history by becoming the first Egyptian woman to reach a WTA final.

On the same day, thousands of miles to the east in Tokyo, Feryal Abdelaziz became the first Egyptian woman to win Olympic gold when she emerged victorious in the karate competition.

Women’s sport in Egypt is enjoying an unprecedented high, and Sherif, who kicks off her Australian Open campaign on Tuesday against Heather Watson, is honored to be playing her part in the movement.

“I feel the pressure and the responsibility. I feel like I want to reach much higher than where I am right now, but I still need to work and learn to so many things,” the 25-year-old Cairo player told Arab News ahead of her Melbourne opener.

“But I’m striving for more. I’m not satisfied, I’m not feeling like, ‘Oh, this is so good, this is so amazing.’ No, I’m always looking forward and always looking for more,” she said.

That unrelenting drive to improve is what makes Sherif one of the standout Arab athletes at the moment, and explains why she became the first Egyptian woman to be ranked in the top 100.

Sherif, ranked 62 in the world, is now able to gain direct entry into most of the biggest tournaments on tour — unfamiliar territory for the rising star.

Her trip to Australia so far has resulted in two opening round defeats. However, her loss to world No.37 Liudmila Samsonova in Adelaide last week was a tight affair that saw Sherif challenge her higher-ranked Russian opponent.

“It’s not easy, of course; there are expectations. But I want to go forward and move up the rankings,” Sherif said, explaining her hopes for the 2022 season.

“But I have to think on my goals, on what I have to do. It’s a good opportunity to be directly into the main draws, which will give me experience. Maybe it’s not going to pay off now, but it’s going to pay off soon, I hope. It’s going to come.”

Against Samsonova, Sherif fired 14 aces and displayed a smooth rhythm on her serve throughout the match, getting broken just once in the final game of the contest.

“I’ve been working on improving the style of my serve for the past two years, and more recently we were working almost every day on the serve, to have the kind of consistencythat I had in the match against Samsonova,” said Sherif.

“The work has paid off. The last couple of years I wasn’t so consistent on my serve. We kept changing little things. The style of my serve was disastrous, so we were changing one thing after the other and now, thankfully, it’s almost complete.”

Adjusting to the WTA will take time and Sherif said that stepping up to the top tier of the women’s competition will require greater attention to detail.

“The little things matter. Like against Samsonova, I had many break points in the first set. I had a set point, but in the important moments I didn’t play well. These are the little things that matter. If you have a chance, you have to take it because if you miss the chance, it might not come back,” she said.

“At ITFs, you can miss one or two balls and still win the game. Here, you miss a couple of balls, it’s not going to work. You have to be consistent all the match, not giving anything away.”

Transitioning to the WTA tour is not just about improving her level to compete with the game’s best, but also about making friends on the circuit and getting comfortable with her new surroundings.  

“I’m getting to know more people. Last week I played doubles with (Tereza) Martincova. We literally met up five minutes before our first match. We were like, ‘Which side will you play? The backhand side? Great, let’s do it.’ And it turned out well,” said Sherif, who made it to the doubles final of the Melbourne 250 event alongside Martincova.  

“Of course, a chance like this, I wouldn’t have had it if my ranking wasn’t high enough to get me into these WTA tournaments. I’m playing doubles for the first time at the Australian Open, people are starting to call me up to see if we should play together, so naturally I’m making friends, I’m knowing more people. And Justo (Gonzalez), my coach, talks to everyone, everywhere, so he’s making friends for me.”

Sherif is not daunted by the prospect of facing tougher opposition now that she is rising through the rankings and has a clear vision of what she hopes to accomplish this year.

“I want to step on court and compete; I want to feel the competition, it doesn’t matter, win or lose, I want to get experience. I want to be there,” she said.

“Consistency throughout the year is very important, and that’s something I didn’t do a very good job at last year. And the start of this year, I’m starting a little slow, that’s something I need to work on, to start the season more fit, more competitive, I would say.”

She added: “And I want to go throughout the year with the same rhythm. Because last year, the first six months, I didn’t compete at all, I got COVID-19 in the middle of that period, but still I could have done better. So, hopefully, I try to compete all year round and get points from everywhere I play.”

Sherif said that she is willing to step down to some of the smaller tournaments, such as the $100,000 or $125,000 events on the ITF circuit, because she believes these will help her gain match toughness.

“I enjoy playing $100k or $125k series to get rhythm and confidence before moving up to the WTA 250s. Just because my ranking is 60-something doesn’t means I won’t play these $100ks or even $60ks,” she said.

“Competition is always good, to feel those victories, to get the feel for those important moments, and ultimately, those were the kind of matches that got me into competition mode last year.”

Sherif spent most of her offseason training in Alicante, but had two weeks in Cairo, where she hosted an event that brought together all of her sponsors and backers, and some key figures in the Egyptian sports industry, to thank them for their support.

“It’s amazing, because every time I go to Cairo, people want to meet me, they want to congratulate and tell me they’re proud of me. I always get these kind of comments when I’m there, and that gives you a feeling of, not on a tennis level, but on a personal level, that I really did something big for my country,” she said.

“It’s beyond ranking and winning or losing tournaments. So that is always amazing.”


Chelsea takeover imminent after final agreement reached

Chelsea takeover imminent after final agreement reached
Updated 28 May 2022

Chelsea takeover imminent after final agreement reached

Chelsea takeover imminent after final agreement reached
  • The club said Saturday that “a final and definitive agreement was entered into last night” to sell to the Boehly and Clearlake Capital consortium
  • The price is 2.5 billion pounds ($3.2 billion) — the highest ever for a sports team

LONDON: The sale of Premier League club Chelsea is expected to be completed Monday after a “final and definitive” agreement was reached with the consortium fronted by Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly.
The club said Saturday that “a final and definitive agreement was entered into last night” to sell to the Boehly and Clearlake Capital consortium. The price is 2.5 billion pounds ($3.2 billion) — the highest ever for a sports team.
“It is expected that the transaction will be completed on Monday,” the club said.
The announcement followed a series of approvals allowing Roman Abramovich to sell after he was sanctioned over his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine.
Abramovich has owned the club for 19 years.
The British government, which had sanctioned Abramovich, approved the sale this week after ensuring that the Russian oligarch could not profit from it. The Premier League had earlier given its approval.
Chelsea have been operating under a government license since Abramovich’s assets were frozen in March and it expires Tuesday.
“It has been an honor of a lifetime to be a part of this club,” Abramovich said in a statement posted on Chelsea’s website.
“My goal has been to ensure that the next owner has a mindset that will enable success for the men’s and women’s team, as well as the will and drive to continue developing other key aspects of the club, such as the academy and the vital work of Chelsea Foundation,” he added.
The men’s team have won 21 trophies during Abramovich’s ownership. Chelsea fans have become accustomed to lavish spending under Abramovich, with more than $1 billion net spending on players.
Boehly’s group was chosen earlier this month after pledging to invest 1.75 billion pounds ($2.2 billion) in the teams and infrastructure.
The consortium also features Dodgers principal owner Mark Walter, Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, and funding from private equity firm Clearlake.
“I am pleased this search has now come to a successful conclusion,” Abramovich said. “As I hand over Chelsea to its new custodians, I would like to wish them the best of success, both on and off the pitch.”


Winners of Prince Faisal bin Fahad Award for Sports Research announced

Winners of Prince Faisal bin Fahad Award for Sports Research announced
Updated 28 May 2022

Winners of Prince Faisal bin Fahad Award for Sports Research announced

Winners of Prince Faisal bin Fahad Award for Sports Research announced
  • The $2 million international research grant program was launched in 1983 by the late Prince Faisal bin Fahad Al-Saud

Seventeen project proposals exploring topics related to sports in Saudi Arabia have been chosen in the latest funding round of the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Award for Sports Research.

The $2 million international research grant program was launched in 1983 by the late Prince Faisal bin Fahad Al-Saud, President of the General Presidency of Youth Welfare (later the Ministry of Sport) and chairman of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, to capitalize on the tremendous role research played for the development and training of world-class Saudi athletes.

Selected from more than 400 proposals – covering  public health, coaching and education, or youth and grassroots tacks – coming from over sixty countries, the winning projects were awarded grants ranging from $80,000 to $120,000 to execute a year-long research project focused on sports in Saudi Arabia. An independent scientific committee appointed by the International Academy of Sport Science and Technology based in Lausanne, Switzerland selected the winners.

The recipients include Dr. Amanda Visek from The George Washington University, whose project explores why Saudi youth opt out of sport participation and their motivations to opt in and stay involved with sports; Dr. Matthew Reeves from the University of Central Lancashire, whose project examines the talent identification and talent development processes and practices in football in Saudi Arabia; Prof. Hussein Ageely from Jazan University, whose project examines the effects of a home-based physical activity program on the quality of life for Saudi type-2 diabetes patients

Also chosen was Dr. Deepti Adlakha from North Carolina State University, whose project explores the correlation between physical activity, sedentary behavior, and weight status in adolescents, and neighborhood environments in Saudi Arabia; and Dr. Ahmed Alanezi from Alfaisal University, whose project explores the governance and the gender equality agenda of professional football clubs in Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Mahmoud Abulmeaty of King Saud University on the development and validation of new predictive equations for energy requirements in Saudi athletes and Dr. Abdulrahman Alshabeb of Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University on Fun Move Saudi: Promoting physical activity and health in children through fundamental movement skill development will also be funded.


Butler, Heat drag Celtics to Game 7 in Miami

Butler, Heat drag Celtics to Game 7 in Miami
Updated 28 May 2022

Butler, Heat drag Celtics to Game 7 in Miami

Butler, Heat drag Celtics to Game 7 in Miami
  • Butler’s 47 points were the seventh-most in NBA history for a player facing elimination

BOSTON: Jimmy Butler had 47 points, nine rebounds and eight assists and the Miami Heat forced the Eastern Conference finals to a decisive seventh game by beating the Boston Celtics 111-103 on Friday night.

Ten years after LeBron James had 45 points in Boston to help the Heat avoid Game 6 elimination en route to the first of their back-to-back NBA titles, Butler scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to top him and send the series back to Miami.

With a victory at home Sunday, the Heat would advance to the NBA Finals for the second time in three years.

“This is the way it should be, with these two teams. It should have gone seven games,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I’m just really thrilled that our group gets an opportunity to compete in a Game 7 in front of our home crowd.”

In the most back-and-forth game of the series, Boston took a 97-94 lead on Derrick White’s 3-pointer with under five minutes to play — the first time all series the lead has changed hands in the fourth quarter. Kyle Lowry answered with a 3 and then added two free throws as Miami scored 11 of the next 13 points.

Lowry finished with 18 points and 10 assists before fouling out with 2:18 left. Butler made 16 of 29 shots, hitting 4 of 8 from 3-point range and all 11 free throws.

“Matching his intensity from the start wasn’t there,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “Understanding that he was going to put it on his shoulders, and we didn’t match it.”

Jayson Tatum had 30 points and nine rebounds and Derrick White came off the bench to score 11 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter for Boston. The Celtics are trying to reach the finals for the first time since 2010.

Boston’s Jaylen Brown scored 20 points, missing a pair of free throws with the game tied at 99 after Lowry fouled out. Brown fouled out himself on a charge offensive that was assessed after a challenge on a missed dunk with 13 seconds left and the Celtics down by four.

Butler’s 47 points were the seventh-most in NBA history for a player facing elimination.

Elgin Baylor had 61 against Boston in Game 5 of the 1962 finals. Wilt Chamberlain topped 50 three times, Sleepy Floyd had 50 against the Lakers in 1987 and Jamal Murray scored 50 against Utah in 2020.

It was also the third-most to stave off elimination against the Celtics. In addition to Baylor, Chamberlain had 50 in Game 5 of the East finals in 1960.

James’ 45 against Boston in Game 6 of the 2012 conference finals set the stage for a Game 7 win in Miami.

The Heat are hoping Butler’s performance can do the same.

“I get it, people can easily draw the comparisons between the two,” Spoelstra said. “That’s a different era. That’s a different team. I want our guys to embrace this moment.”

Miami guard Tyler Herro missed his third straight game with a strained groin, costing the team its No. 2 scorer. Kyle Lowry (hamstring), Max Strus (hamstring) and P.J. Tucker (knee) had been listed as questionable but were in the starting lineup.

Boston’s Marcus Smart (sprained right ankle) and Robert Williams III (sore knee) tested their injuries pregame and were also in the lineup.

TIP-INS

Heat: Butler had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists in the first. He scored or assisted on 24 of Miami’s 29 points in the quarter.

Celtics: Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who was inducted into the ballclub’s Hall of Fame on Thursday night, was courtside. Ortiz threw out a ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park earlier in the evening. Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez was also at the game, wearing his World Series ring.


Bouwman rules Giro 19th mountain stage, Carapaz keeps leader’s pink jersey

Bouwman rules Giro 19th mountain stage, Carapaz keeps leader’s pink jersey
Updated 28 May 2022

Bouwman rules Giro 19th mountain stage, Carapaz keeps leader’s pink jersey

Bouwman rules Giro 19th mountain stage, Carapaz keeps leader’s pink jersey
  • Bouwman negotiated the jostling on a sharp final bend to beat his four breakaway companions for his second stage win after Potenza in southern Italy two weeks ago
  • The Giro will go down to the wire with Saturday’s stage in the Dolomites now looking crucial to the outcome

CIVIDALE DEL FRIULI, Italy: Dutch rider Koen Bouwman won a sprint finish in the mountains for stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia at Santuario di Castelmonte on Friday as Richard Carapaz held the leader’s pink jersey.

Ecuador’s 2019 Giro winner Carapaz holds a slim three-second advantage on Australian Jai Hindley two days before the race finishes with a time-trial in Verona.

Bouwman negotiated the jostling on a sharp final bend to beat his four breakaway companions for his second stage win after Potenza in southern Italy two weeks ago.

Quick Step’s Mauro Schmid of Switzerland was just behind with Italian Alessandro Tonelli of Bardiani three seconds off the pace.

“After I won one stage I said anything else would be a bonus,” said Jumbo-Visma’s Bouwman who is assured of the top climber’s blue jersey providing he finishes the race.

“Today I rode for the Maglia Azzurra and I’m glad I secured it.

“I knew about the last corner but I didn’t expect it to be that sharp.

“I had to break but it’s great that I was in the best position there. That gave me the win. I’m delighted.”

Carapaz survived the setback of losing his key mountain lieutenant Richie Porte early in the 178km stage from Marano Lagunare which included four climbs and crossed into neighboring Slovenia.

Ineos Grenadiers rider Porte was dropped from the peloton on the first climb of the day, the third-category Villanova Grotte, after 70km of racing. Organizers later confirmed the 37-year-old Australian had withdrawn from the Giro.

“It’s been a pretty hard stage,” said Carapaz.

“It’s a pity that we lost Richie Porte early in the race but the team has done a great job and Pavel Sivakov is in a great shape.

“All top three riders, we’re together. It’s fine with me. Whatever happens tomorrow will be fine with me too.”

A 12-man breakaway approached the main climb of the day, the Kolovrat over 10.3 km and with a 9.2 percent gradient, with more than nine minutes on the peloton.

The four survivors only lost a little over a minute on this climb near Caporetto, the site of a historic defeat for the Italians in the First World War.

Neither Carapaz nor Hindley tried to pull ahead in the final climb having made several attempts earlier along with Spaniard Mikel Landa, third in the standings.

The Giro will go down to the wire with Saturday’s stage in the Dolomites now looking crucial to the outcome.

The 20th stage, the last in the mountains, includes three great climbs — the San Pellegrino, the Pordoi for the highest point of this year’s race at 2,239 meters above sea level concluding at the Fedaia, with a spectacular steep climb in the last 5,400 meters.

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


World No.1 Scheffler clings to a  share of lead at PGA Colonial 

World No.1 Scheffler clings to a  share of lead at PGA Colonial 
Updated 28 May 2022

World No.1 Scheffler clings to a  share of lead at PGA Colonial 

World No.1 Scheffler clings to a  share of lead at PGA Colonial 
  • After winning his first US PGA title at Phoenix in February, Scheffler won at Bay Hill and captured the WGC Match Play title in March then won his first major title at the Masters in April to overtake Spain’s Jon Rahm as world No. 1 

LOS ANGELES: Top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler fired a 5-under par 65 to keep a share of the lead after Friday’s second round of the US PGA Charles Schwab Challenge.

Scheffler, chasing his fifth victory of the year, stood alongside fellow Americans Beau Hossler and Scott Stallings on 9-under 131 after 36 holes at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

After winning his first US PGA title at Phoenix in February, Scheffler won at Bay Hill and captured the WGC Match Play title in March then won his first major title at the Masters in April to overtake Spain’s Jon Rahm as world No. 1.

“I’ve definitely enjoyed the stuff that comes with winning majors and winning the other tournaments that I have,” Scheffler said. “It has been a lot of fun.”

Scheffler has not made a bogey in the first two rounds.

“I love that stat,” Scheffler said. “I kept the stress off myself for the most part.”

Scheffler missed the cut at last week’s PGA Championship, giving him a much-needed break before a hometown event.

“It has been busy,” he said. “Definitely a good reset. I came home and did nothing on Saturday and had a relaxing practice on Sunday. It was definitely a good little break.”

Hot and windy weather is forecast for the weekend.

“I like it when the conditions are really hard and so I’d rather it be very difficult than very easy,” Scheffler said. “If you’re playing really good golf, you can extend yourself and I’m really excited for the challenge this weekend.”

Scheffler opened with back-to-back birdie putts from about four feet and made a par save from just inside 10 feet at the par-4 seventh.

He began the back nine with a birdie then holed a 24-foot birdie putt at the 12th and a 14-footer for birdie at the 17th to share the lead again after being among eight co-leaders following the first 18 holes.

“I worked really hard just improving my iron play and creating a lot of different shots for myself,” Scheffler said. “This course is a lot about the approaches to the green and it looks like the hard work is paying off out here.”

Stallings fired a 64, the best round so far this week. He closed the front nine with a 20-foot birdie putt at the eighth and holeout from 37 feet at the ninth, then sank a birdie putt from just inside 29 feet at the 18th to share the lead.

“Had some good looks early,” said Stallings. “I felt good on the greens, felt good with my stroke and nice to see them fall in there toward the second half of the round.”

Hossler holed birdie putts at the par-3 eighth from 24 feet and the par-3 13th from 21 feet to highlight his bogey-free 65.

“Played a solid round,” Hossler said. “Nothing too exciting. Hit a lot of greens and just made the round relatively stress free.”

Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, was fourth on 132 with fellow Americans Pat Perez and Chris Kirk sharing fifth on 133.

Justin Thomas, who won his second major title at last week’s PGA Championship, and fellow American Will Zalatoris, who lost at Southern Hills in a playoff, each missed the cut.

Chile’s Mito Pereira, who missed out on the PGA playoff after a 72nd-hole collapse on Sunday, fired a 66 to stand on 136.