Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis
Former world number one Victoria Azarenka acknowledged that forcing people to be jabbed could prove problematic. (AFP)
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Updated 19 January 2022

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis
  • Veteran Azarenka is a long-time member of the powerful WTA Players’ Council

MELBOURNE: Two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka threw her support Wednesday behind a vaccine mandate on the women’s tour, as tennis wrestles with the fall-out of the saga surrounding unvaccinated Novak Djokovic.
The veteran Azarenka is a long-time member of the powerful WTA Players’ Council, which is working through the challenges posed by coronavirus.
Those were laid bare by the chaos and confusion that engulfed vaccine-skeptic Djokovic, who was deported on the eve of the Australian Open.
Speaking in Melbourne, Azarenka admitted it could be legally challenging to enforce but she believes it would be “helpful for everybody” if the WTA Tour considered a no-jab, no-play policy.
“Well, from my standpoint it’s been very clear. I believe in science. I believe in getting vaccinated, that’s what I did for myself,” the 32-year-old Belarusian said.
“If you ask me just for my opinion if that should be the case, I think it would just be helpful for everybody in the world, especially when we are traveling internationally.”
But the former world number one acknowledged that forcing people to be jabbed could prove problematic.
“Some countries will not allow mandates. I think to impose something legally on the WTA Tour can be a challenge, I think that’s something that we are facing,” she said.
To play at the Australian Open players must be vaccinated, unless they have a medical exemption.
Djokovic believed he was exempt based on recently contracting COVID-19, but it was challenged by Australian authorities and after a high-stakes legal battle he flew out of Melbourne on Sunday.
Azarenka said the drawn-out controversy became “a circus” and there “should be a really hard look on this situation moving forward.”
“I think as soon as there is a grey area in the rules, that gives a bit too much questions, and situations like this happen,” said the Belarusian, who revealed she caught COVID-19 in November.
“On certain things I think black-and-white approach is necessary. In my opinion, this should be the case.”


Saudi Arabian Football Federation appoints Nasser Larguet as new technical director to oversee ambitious grassroots project

Saudi Arabian Football Federation appoints Nasser Larguet as new technical director to oversee ambitious grassroots project
Updated 46 sec ago

Saudi Arabian Football Federation appoints Nasser Larguet as new technical director to oversee ambitious grassroots project

Saudi Arabian Football Federation appoints Nasser Larguet as new technical director to oversee ambitious grassroots project
  • Ex-Marseille and Morocco national team technical director set to lead strategic transformation program addressing youth development, training national coaches and activating international partnerships to develop Saudi football

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation announced the appointment of Nasser Larguet as technical director, who will be taking on the responsibilities previously held by Ioan Lupesco.

The Moroccan joins SAFF after spending the past three years at French club Olympique de Marseille, where he contributed as a director to the development of one of the world’s most successful youth academies.

Prior to that, Larguet led the Moroccan national team as a technical director from 2014 to 2019, achieving the first World Cup qualification in 20 years for the North African nation. During his career, he held multiple positions within renowned French youth academies, including Cannes, Rouen, Caen, Strasbourg and Le Havre.

In September 2021, SAFF announced a seven-pillar strategy that aims to position Saudi Arabia among the elite football nations by the time World Cup 2034 arrives. Larguet will be playing a central role in the execution of this strategy as he will oversee a high-performance pathway with a comprehensive plan for every Saudi footballer, starting from the age of 6 through to turning professional. This is to be obtained through optimizing the existing regional centers and developing new grade-A centers across different regions in the Kingdom.

Commenting on the appointment, Yasser Al-Misehal, SAFF president, said: “The Saudi football landscape is currently witnessing a massive transformation, as our set ambition is to become genuine contenders on the global stage.

“The hiring of Larguet builds on our success so far and represents an important milestone in the path we are forging. His vast experience in youth development will provide us with the necessary guidance to develop our infrastructure and upgrade our processes to untap the great potential of Saudi youth.”

The Saudi national team is set to take part in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, in what will be the Green Falcons’ sixth World Cup participation. This follows consistent improvement shown by the Saudi national men’s team over the past few years, moving up the FIFA ranking from 70 in 2019 to 49 this month.

“The transformation is already showing results, as we have opened a total of 22 regional centers across the country, which will support us in scouting and developing Saudi talent. Our national teams are also enjoying unprecedented success at every level, as the U23 Olympic team were present at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for the first time after 24 years, and our men’s team just delivered the best Saudi World Cup qualification campaign ever,” said Al-Misehal.

“We have also established our women’s team, and they are already starting to show a lot of promise. We are moving forward with a strong foundation, but we expect Nasser’s experience and know-how to help us further accelerate our progress,” he added.

The new technical director will lead the efforts to construct a new uniform coaching curriculum tailored to Saudi strengths, which will be adopted in developing and training Saudi national coaches. These coaches will in turn play a key part in driving the success of the Saudi youth structure program. In his new role, Larguet will also be leveraging his network to establish and activate international partnerships that can support Saudi football development.


Curry, Warriors outgun Doncic, Mavs in West finals series opener

Curry, Warriors outgun Doncic, Mavs in West finals series opener
Updated 58 min 31 sec ago

Curry, Warriors outgun Doncic, Mavs in West finals series opener

Curry, Warriors outgun Doncic, Mavs in West finals series opener
  • Dallas had rained in buckets against Phoenix in Arizona on Sunday, but the scoring dried up against the six-time NBA champions
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr was able to withdraw his starters with five minutes left in the game, earning valuable rest for what could be a long series

SAN FRANCSCO: Stephen Curry scored 21 points as the Golden State Warriors bottled up Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks to win their Western Conference finals series opener 112-87 on Wednesday.

Three days after Doncic destroyed the Phoenix Suns with a virtuoso performance, the Slovenian star found the going harder against a ruthless Golden State at San Francisco’s Chase Center.

Dallas had rained in buckets against Phoenix in Arizona on Sunday, but the scoring dried up against the six-time NBA champions.

The Warriors started slowly but pulled clear decisively in the second half after leading 54-45 at half-time.

With Doncic appearing to be nursing a sore shoulder, the Warriors outscored the visitors 34-24 in the third quarter to lead by 19 points heading into the final period.

An 8-0 start to the fourth quarter left the Warriors cruising 27 points clear at 96-69 to effectively put the game out of reach.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr was able to withdraw his starters with five minutes left in the game, earning valuable rest for what could be a long series.

Curry led the scoring with 21 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, while Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins had 19 points apiece.

“We did what we were supposed to do — we won the first game, but there’s a lot of work left,” Curry said.

“We had a specific game plan coming in and for the most part we executed it. It’s going to take that same effort three more times to beat this team.

“They’re a really good team. You’ve got to stay locked in. Hopefully we’ll come out on Friday (in game two) and get it done again.”

Klay Thompson failed to score a point in the first two quarters but got into the groove in the second half with 15 points. Seven Warriors players finished in double figures.

Doncic led the Mavericks’ scoring with 20 points, but cut a disconsolate figure after a defeat where Dallas trailed for almost the entirety of the game.

Dallas somehow had only trailed by nine points at halftime after a wayward shooting performance in the first two quarters.

The Mavs made just 14 of 44 attempts from the field in the first half, and only seven of 29 three-point attempts.

Yet they were able to remain within sight of the Warriors, who shot 22 of 39 but made only five of 18 attempts from beyond the arc.

Thompson made only four attempts from the field in the first half — and missed them all — while Curry was also off target from long range, converting only one of six three-point attempts.

The Mavericks pulled to within two points at 35-33 midway through the second quarter, but a brisk 11-2 run, with Curry setting up three-pointers for Poole and Wiggins, saw the Warriors pull clear once more to lay the foundations of victory.

Game two of the series takes place in San Francisco on Friday.

The winner of the Western Conference finals will play the winner of the Eastern Conference, either Boston or Miami, in the NBA Finals.


Teen machines: Alcaraz looks to join elite Grand Slam club at French Open

Teen machines: Alcaraz looks to join elite Grand Slam club at French Open
Updated 19 May 2022

Teen machines: Alcaraz looks to join elite Grand Slam club at French Open

Teen machines: Alcaraz looks to join elite Grand Slam club at French Open
  • Nadal was the last teenage man to win a Slam — a feat which eluded his great rivals Djokovic and Federer

PARIS: At just 19, Carlos Alcaraz is bidding to become only the eighth teenager to win a Grand Slam men’s singles title at the French Open which gets underway at Roland Garros on Sunday.

AFP Sport looks at the seven men to have won majors while still in their teens:

• In 1974, Sweden’s reluctant superstar Borg won the first of his six French Opens having just passed his 18th birthday when he defeated Manuel Orantes 2-6, 6-7, 6-0, 6-1, 6-1. Borg would win 11 majors, including five in a row at Wimbledon from 1976-1980 before retiring — for the first time — at 26. Borg was the first male tennis player to earn a million dollars in a season in 1979. “It’s tough when you’re No. 1. You don’t have any private life, you can’t even walk anywhere. I think that was one reason why I lost my motivation to play tennis,” said Borg when he quit.

• At 17, Sweden’s Wilander defeated Guillermo Vilas of Argentina 1-6, 7-6, 6-0, 6-4 in a marathon four hours and 42 minutes French Open final in 1982 despite being unseeded. Wilander was widely hailed for his sportsmanship in his defeat of Jose Luis Clerc in the semifinals when he requested a replay of match point after a forehand from his opponent was called long. Wilander would eventually become a world No. 1, ending his career with seven Grand Slam titles.

• Becker burst on the scene with his maiden Wimbledon triumph in 1985 at the age of 17. His 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 win over Kevin Curren made him the tournament’s youngest men’s champion and its first unseeded victor. The German served and volleyed and dived right and left, enchanting the Center Court crowd. Becker would win six majors but he fell from grace last month when he was jailed in the UK after a bankruptcy trial.

• Sweden’s Edberg was 19 when he won his first Slam at the 1985 Australian Open, beating Wilander 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 having seen off Ivan Lendl in a marathon semifinal 6-7, 7-5, 6-1, 4-6, 9-7. The elegant serve-and-volleyer won a second Australian Open in 1987 and also captured four more Slams at Wimbledon in 1988 and 1990 and at the US Open in 1991 and 1992.

• Chang became the youngest male player in history to win a Grand Slam tournament when he claimed the 1989 French Open at 17 years and three months. Chang defeated Edberg 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 having also knocked out world No. 1 Lendl in a 4-hour and 37-minute last 16 tie in which he was cramping and forced to serve underarm. He was the first American champion in Paris since Tony Trabert in 1955. The diminutive Chang was also runner-up at the 1996 Australian and US Opens.

• Just a month past his 19th birthday, ‘Pistol Pete’ won the first of his 14 Slams at the 1990 US Open, beating American compatriot Andre Agassi 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in the New York final having seen off Lendl and John McEnroe in the previous two rounds. Sampras ended his career with 64 titles, with a majors haul made up of seven at Wimbledon, two at the Australian Open and five US Open triumphs. His last major was in New York in 2002, bringing the curtain down with another victory against Agassi.

• At 19, Nadal defeated Mariano Puerta in the 2005 French Open final, 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 7-5. It was his first major title and the first of a record 13 Roland Garros triumphs. The Spaniard, who now has 21 majors, won on his Paris debut, the first man to do so since Wilander in 1982. He was also the youngest champion since Chang in 1989. Interestingly, 2005 also saw the French Open debut of Novak Djokovic who made the second round where he retired against Guillermo Coria. Nadal was the last teenage man to win a Slam — a feat which eluded his great rivals Djokovic and Federer.


Dainese becomes first Italian stage winner in 2022 Giro

Dainese becomes first Italian stage winner in 2022 Giro
Updated 19 May 2022

Dainese becomes first Italian stage winner in 2022 Giro

Dainese becomes first Italian stage winner in 2022 Giro
  • Spaniard Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek) retained the leader’s pink jersey after a 203-kilometer stage which was relatively comfortable other than the heat and wind

REGGIO EMILIA, ITALY: Alberto Dainese (DSM) became the first Italian winner in this year’s Giro d’Italia when he edged the sprint to take stage 11 in Reggio Emilia on Wednesday.

Dainese, 24, who had never previously won a stage in the Giro, beat the Colombian Fernando Gaviria in the dash for the finish. Another Italian Simone Consonni took third.

On the podium, the Italian was treated to the traditional giant bottle of prosecco, like his predecessors.

But significantly, the magnum had been uncorked as a precaution against a repeat of the accident that befell Biniam Girmay on Tuesday when he was injured in the left eye by the cork and subsequently ruled out of the race.

The Spaniard Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek) retained the leader’s pink jersey after a 203-kilometer stage which was relatively comfortable other than the heat and wind.

Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz, however, pocketed three bonus seconds in an intermediate sprint to climb two places into second, equal in time with the Portuguese Joao Almeida, 12 seconds behind Lopez.

“I saw Carapaz gained some time in an intermediate sprint but I’m not as fast as him. There was nothing I could do,” said Lopez who has been leading since the fourth stage.

“Anyway, I’m very happy to keep the pink jersey for at least one more day.”

Eritrean Girmay, who on Tuesday became the first black African to win a stage at the Giro, pulled out before the start following Tuesday’s cork accident.

Intermarche’s team doctor Piet Daneels said tests showed “hemorrhage in the anterior chamber of the left eye.”

With temperatures hitting 30 degrees, the peloton largely stuck together apart from one wishful breakaway by Luca Rastelli and Filippo Tagliani which was reeled in just after halfway.

Belgian Dries De Bondt embarked on a solo raid 58 kilometers from the finish, which ended just 1,300 meters from the line.

In the sprint, French rider Arnaud Demare, who already has two stage wins to his name in this Giro, attacked from deep.

He was hunted down by Gaviria before Dainese, taking full advantage of the slipstream, came through to take the third victory of his career.

Last year, he finished second in a Vuelta stage, behind Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen.

The peloton faces its longest day in the saddle on Thursday with a mountainous 12th stage of 204 kilometers which crosses the Apennines from Parma to Genoa.


Newcastle’s pre-season plans scrambled following US tournament cancelation

Newcastle’s pre-season plans scrambled following US tournament cancelation
Updated 19 May 2022

Newcastle’s pre-season plans scrambled following US tournament cancelation

Newcastle’s pre-season plans scrambled following US tournament cancelation
  • The cancelation leaves United and Howe with a real summer conundrum, especially just a few days before the end of the Premier League season

NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United have expressed their disappointment after their pre-season plans were torn to shreds by US organizers.

The Magpies were due to travel to the States to take part in the inaugural Ohio Cup in Cincinnati and Columbus, starting in July.

However, Newcastle were informed this week by organizers that the tournament, which was also set to feature Wolverhampton Wanderers, Valencia and Villarreal, would no longer go ahead.

No definitive reason has been given for the call-off, although it is understood the cancelation is categorically nothing to do with Newcastle United or their Premier League counterparts Wolves.

And Arab News has learnt the club themselves are angry at the development and timing of it, having had plans for the camp in the pipeline for quite some time.

The cancelation leaves United and Howe with a real summer conundrum, especially just a few days before the end of the Premier League season.

Despite having a number of late summer games already scheduled, against high-quality opposition, the front end of their off-season looks light.

And club officials, with the help of Howe and his team, now face a race against time to get a warm weather summer camp plus friendlies arranged. The first game of the summer is likely to take place in about eight weeks.

The prospect of the club going ahead with a trip to America is not being ruled out, but appears, at this stage, the least likely of all of the options on the table.

A trip a little closer to home is much more likely this summer, with United now working through a list of back-up alternatives.

The issue facing trip planners, and why the late nature of the cancelation is so upsetting to the club, is that many of those back-up options have likely already been booked up by other clubs from across the continent.

While a trip to the Middle East, where United spent two spells earlier this year, is possible again in 2022, it’s unlikely that will happen in pre-season due to the high temperatures in the region.

Meanwhile, Howe was in a less-than-sentimental mood on Monday evening as he gave a run-out to just one United player who is likely to leave this summer.

Dwight Gayle was the only player to get minutes in the 2-0 win over Arsenal, albeit  totalling just three. The likes of Matt Ritchie, and others, who are likely to be shown the summer exit door, did not get the farewell some may have expected.

Discussing the situation and emotional exits at St. James’ Park on Monday night, Howe said: “It’s a difficult one for me to answer, I can only speak for myself really. It was just great to see the families of the players come on because players work incredibly hard and are away from their families a lot.

“It’s great to see the kids, wives, families, mums and dads come onto the pitch and be part of the experience. Brilliant moment to come together because it’s not often I get to see them be together as one. They’ve all played their part in this as well. Let’s not forget how much time the players spend away, they need good role models and good people around, so that was a really touching moment. The photo at the end in front of the Gallowgate End was a great thing.”