Nine of the world’s top 10 female players announced for Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Nine of the world’s top 10 female players announced for Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
Two-time champion Simona Halep is returning to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next month. (WTA)
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Updated 25 January 2022

Nine of the world’s top 10 female players announced for Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Nine of the world’s top 10 female players announced for Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
  • Five returning champions will take part in the tournament next month

DUBAI: Nine of the world’s top 10 — and 17 of the top 20 — women players will compete for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships trophy next month, with no less than five Dubai winners seeking to lift the trophy once again.

Following a week of women’s action, the tournament will then celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ATP Tour event, featuring many more star names.

“We are immensely proud to have hosted so many of the very best players in the world at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and every year the tournament has witnessed fantastic entertainment and great drama,” said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Competition has always been fierce and this year will be no different with the world’s best women’s players returning to Dubai once again. We are also looking forward to an equally exciting 30th anniversary year of the men’s tournament in which competition is certain to be as strong as ever.”

In the women’s tournament, reigning champion Garbine Muguruza, two-time winners Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina, 2013 champion Petra Kvitova and 2019 winner Belinda Bencic will all be hoping to repeat their success, but they face a formidable challenge against one of the strongest fields assembled outside of the four Grand Slams.

Among the top contenders bidding for their first Dubai title will be 2021 Wimbledon and US Open semi-finalist Aryna Sabalenka, who after winning in Doha in 2020 and Abu Dhabi in 2021 will be hoping to claim a Middle East treble. Another top challenger will be Barbora Krejcikova, who won the WTA Most Improved Player of The Year award after her run to the 2021 Dubai final inspired her to win her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open and further titles in Strasbourg and Prague, before she continued her success in 2022 with a recent appearance in the Sydney final.

Former Dubai runner-up Karolina Pliskova went all the way to the Wimbledon, Rome and Montreal finals in 2021, and she will clearly be someone to watch. Eyes will also be on Paula Badosa, who will be making her Dubai debut after winning Indian Wells and Belgrade and reaching the semi-finals of the WTA Finals, and she already has a 2022 title to her name after she won in Sydney.

Further star names include Iga Swiatek, who by winning the 2020 French Open became the youngest singles champion at the tournament since Rafael Nadal in 2005, and the youngest women’s singles champion there since Monica Seles in 1992. Maria Sakkari has emerged as one of the world’s best by reaching the semi-finals of the French and US Opens and at the WTA Finals in 2021, and everyone will be wary of 2021 WTA Finals runner-up Anett Kontaveit, who last season celebrated victories over Dubai winners Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic.

Many local fans will cheer on Ons Jabeur, the highest-ranked Arab player in WTA and ATP Tour history. In 2021, she enjoyed victories over Dubai champions Garbine Muguruza and Venus Williams at Wimbledon and Elina Svitolina in Chicago. And many eyes will also be on rising star Cori Gauff, who last season not only reached the quarter-finals of the French Open and the semi-finals in Rome, but won the Emilia-Romagna Open in Palma, where she became the youngest player to win both the singles and doubles titles at an event since 2004 when Maria Sharapova won both titles in Birmingham.

“The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships has once again attracted an incredible field of women players which is second to none,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “Despite so many of the game’s very top names competing, success is never guaranteed and over the years many hopeful contenders have sprung a surprise and produced some stunning and unexpected upsets. With this year’s entries stronger than ever, we look forward to not only finding who will emerge as our winner from such a star-studded WTA field, but also seeing who will become our 30th year ATP champion.”


Ledecky grabs another gold, Australian quartet sets world record

Ledecky grabs another gold, Australian  quartet sets world record
Updated 25 June 2022

Ledecky grabs another gold, Australian quartet sets world record

Ledecky grabs another gold, Australian  quartet sets world record
  • It’s Ledecky’s 19th gold at a worlds and her fourth this week including the 4x200 freestyle relay
  • Australia’s team clocked 3:19.38 in the 4x100 to shave two-hundredths of a second off the record set by the US at the last worlds in Gwangju, South Korea, in July 2019

BUDAPEST: Katie Ledecky extended her record haul of medals and Australia set a world record in the mixed 4x100 meters freestyle final at the world swimming championships on Friday.

American star Ledecky won the 800 freestyle final for the fifth time at the worlds to seal her fourth consecutive 400/800/1,500 triple at the event.

She clocked 8 minutes, 8.04 seconds to finish more than 10 seconds ahead of her rivals. Australia’s Kiah Melverton was 10.73 behind in second and Italy’s Simona Quadarella 10.96 behind for third.

It’s Ledecky’s 19th gold at a worlds and her fourth this week including the 4x200 freestyle relay.

“Really good end to a great week,” Ledecky said.

Her 22 medals are the most for a female swimmer in world championships history. Only Michael Phelps, who won 26, has more.

Australia’s mixed relay team of Jack Cartwright, Kyle Chalmers, Madison Wilson and Mollie O’Callaghan clocked 3:19.38 in the 4x100 to shave two-hundredths of a second off the record set by the US at the last worlds in Gwangju, South Korea, in July 2019.

Gold medalists and new world record holders Australian quartet of Jack Cartwright, Kyle Chalmers, Madison Wilson and  Mollie O'Callaghan with their medals following the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay finals at the 19th FINA World Championships on June 24, 2022. (AFP)

“I don’t think there was any mention or any expectation or even a thought about being able to break that,” Wilson said. “So to do that and see that at the end was just unbelievable and a real surprise for us.”

Canada’s team of Joshua Liendo, Javier Acevedo, Kayla Sanchez and Penny Oleksiak finished 1.23 behind the Australians for silver, and the United States team of Ryan Held, Brooks Curry, Torri Huske and Claire Curzan was third, 1.71 behind.

Canada’s silver was the country’s ninth medal this week, eclipsing the eight it won in Gwangju.

Ben Proud won Britain’s first gold of the championships, clinching the men’s 50 freestyle in 21.32 – 0.09 ahead of American Michael Andrew and 0.25 ahead of France’s Maxime Grousset.

“We’re missing quite a few key players in the pool today,” Proud said, referring to the absences of Caeleb Dressel, Florent Manaudou and Bruno Fratus. “The whole podium from the Olympics last year wasn’t in the final.”

Dressel was due to race but withdrew from the worlds for unspecified reasons on Wednesday.

“It’s not the same without him,” Proud said. “As soon as he was out, that quite changed the dynamics of the competition. A lot of people had a different type of pressure leading in..”

Dressel, the world record holder, was also missing from the 200 butterfly.

Kristóf Milák followed up his win in the 100 butterfly – where he lowered his own world record – by adding the 200. The Hungarian swimmer delighted the home fans as he clinched the title in 50.14 ahead of Japan’s Naoki Mizunuma and Canada’s Josh Liendo.

Milák joined Phelps and South African Chad Le Clos as the only male swimmers to achieve the 100/200 butterfly double at a single worlds.

Sarah Sjöström won her fourth consecutive 50 butterfly title, clocking 24.95 to head off Melanie Henique of France and Yufei Zhang of China for a record-equaling eighth gold medal in butterfly events at a worlds. Phelps has to share his record.

American Torri Huske was sixth, 0.50 behind Sjöström, who claimed her 18th individual medal at the worlds. Only Phelps, with 20, has more.

After five silver medals, Australia’s Kaylee McKeown finally claimed a gold when she edged American Phoebe Bacon by just four-hundredths of a second in the women’s 200 backstroke.

Bacon’s teammate, Rhyan White, was third for her first medal at a worlds.

It was the closest result in this race at a worlds since 1986 when East Germany’s Cornelia Sirch was two-hundredths of a second ahead of American Besty Mitchell. Sirch later suffered health problems that she attributed to her country’s state doping program.


Chun tightens grip at Women’s PGA Championship

Chun tightens grip at Women’s PGA Championship
Updated 25 June 2022

Chun tightens grip at Women’s PGA Championship

Chun tightens grip at Women’s PGA Championship
  • Chun admitted she had felt under pressure after her scintillating opening round

Bethesda, Maryland:  In Gee Chun extended her lead at the Women’s PGA Championship on Friday, firing a 3-under-par 69 to open up a six-stroke advantage at the halfway stage as she hunts down a third major title.

The 27-year-old South Korean had demolished Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, in Thursday’s first round, shooting a course record 8-under-64 that left awed rivals in disbelief — and five shots adrift.

Chun found the going slightly harder on Friday, opening with three early birdies before back-to-back bogeys checked her progress just before the turn.

However, she regained those two strokes with birdies on the 10th and 18th to maintain a vice-like grip on the lead heading into the weekend on 11 under with a 36-hole aggregate 133.

Chun admitted she had felt under pressure after her scintillating opening round.

“I got a little pressure for sure because after I had a great first round, everyone (talked) about how you are, like, five-shot lead,” she said.

“Now I’m in a good position. Everyone’s expectations are really high.

“So it was a little tough to make focus, but I believe it’s another process in my life ... So I just want to enjoy my next two days.”

Chun’s nearest rivals are New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, who moved up the leaderboard with a 5-under-par 67, and in-form Jennifer Kupcho, who shot seven birdies and three bogeys in a 4-under 68.

Kupcho and Ko are five under for the tournament.

Former world No. 1 Ko is chasing her first major victory in six years.

The last of her two majors came at the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage in 2016 — the same year she finished second at the Women’s PGA Championship.

“It is hard to win, but I’m just trying to put myself more in that kind of position, and I think when you keep knocking on the door, you hope that one day that door will open,” Ko said.

Kupcho, chasing her second major win of the season after victory at the Chevron Championship in Rancho Mirage in April, said she will not change her strategy to try and catch Chun.

“If she’s going to continue to play well, that’s her game, and there’s really nothing anyone can do about it,” Kupcho said.

Five players are tied for fourth on four under, including Canada’s Brooke Henderson, Australia’s Hannah Green and South Korea’s 2020 Women’s PGA champion Kim Sei-young.

Lexi Thompson and Australia’s Minjee Lee are eight off the lead on three under, tied for ninth with three other players including Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum and South Korea’s Choi Hye-jin.

Thompson caught the eye with a 5-under 67 which included a spectacular eagle two at the par-four 17th, when she chipped onto the green from 102 yards, prodigious backspin sending her ball into the cup.

“I just came into today with a positive attitude and same going into the weekend if I go out and play like I did today, just solid and committing to my shots in the process of my routine,” Thompson said.

“We’ll just see where that takes me. You never know.”


Iraq beat KSA in final of WAFF Women’s Futsal Championship

Iraq beat KSA in final of WAFF Women’s Futsal Championship
Updated 25 June 2022

Iraq beat KSA in final of WAFF Women’s Futsal Championship

Iraq beat KSA in final of WAFF Women’s Futsal Championship
  • Host nation fell short of claiming title in first-ever participation in competition

Saudi Arabia fell short of glory in the final of the 2022 WAFF Women’s Futsal Championship after losing 4-2 to Iraq at King Abdullah Sports City Hall in Jeddah on Friday night.
The Saudi team had reached the final in their first-ever participation in the competition — organized by the West Asian Football Federation — after beating Bahrain 1-0 in Wednesday’s semi-final.
The Saudi team’s goals came from Leen Mohammed and Sara Al-Hamad, while Iraq’s were scored by Shokhan Salihi (2), Direen Mullabakar and Tbarek Al-Ghazawi.
The last day of action in the six-team tournament also saw Bahrain beat Kuwait 2-0 to claim third place.
On Wednesday, Palestine beat Oman 6-1 in the fifth-place playoff.


KSA exit Arab Futsal Cup after quarter-final loss to Iraq

KSA exit Arab Futsal Cup after quarter-final loss to Iraq
Updated 25 June 2022

KSA exit Arab Futsal Cup after quarter-final loss to Iraq

KSA exit Arab Futsal Cup after quarter-final loss to Iraq
  • Iraq now face Kuwait in last 4, while Morocco take on Egypt in other semi-final

Saudi Arabia have been eliminated from the 2022 Arab Futsal Cup after a 3-2 quarter-final loss to Iraq in extra time at the Green Hall in Dammam on Friday night.
The result means Iraq now have a semi-final date with Kuwait — who beat Palestine 4-1 on penalties after a 4-4 draw — on Sunday.
The other semi-final in the 10-team tournament will be contested between Morocco, who beat Libya 3-0, and Egypt, who overcame Mauritania 3-2.
Saudi Arabia had progressed to the last eight after finishing top of Group 3, which included Palestine in second place and Libya, who also progressed as one of the competition’s best third-place teams.
The four-team Group 1 also saw three teams — Morocco, Kuwait and Mauritania — through to the quarter-finals, while Somalia exited early.
Group 2 saw top-of-the-table Egypt and second-place Iraq qualify to the last eight, while Algeria were eliminated.


Jackson upsets Thompson-Herah to win Jamaica trials

Jackson upsets Thompson-Herah to win Jamaica trials
Updated 25 June 2022

Jackson upsets Thompson-Herah to win Jamaica trials

Jackson upsets Thompson-Herah to win Jamaica trials
  • The women’s 100m final gets under way after technical problems delayed the start
  • Jackson brushes off disruption and powers her way to a convincing win

KINGSTON: Shericka Jackson upset Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah to power to victory in the women’s 100m at the Jamaican National Championships in Kingston on Friday.

Jackson took advantage of the absence of in-form Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce to storm to victory in 10.77sec and claim her first national title.

The women’s 100m final got under way after technical problems delayed the start. However, Jackson brushed off the disruption and powered her way to a convincing win.

Kemba Nelson was second in a time of 10.89sec while two-time Olympic 100m champion Thompson-Herah was third in 10.89sec, never recovering after a slow start.

Fraser-Pryce, meanwhile, was a no-show for the final despite clocking a scorching 10.70sec in Thursday’s heats.

Reigning world champion Fraser-Pryce — who is already qualified for next month’s World Championships in Oregon — did not finish her semifinal, pulling up as soon as she left the blocks. It was not immediately clear why she had stopped.

In the men’s 100m final, 32-year-old Yohan Blake ran 9.85 seconds — his fastest time in 11 years — to beat the up-and-coming duo of Oblique Seville (9.88sec) and Ackeem Blake (9.93sec).

Yohan Black got off to a fast start and used his experience to get to the line first as the 21 year-old Seville and 20 year-old Ackeem Blake both booked their tickets to their first ever senior major championships.

Kerley blazes to 9.76sec in 100m semis at US World Championship trials

EUGENE, OREGON: Fred Kerley blazed to a world-leading 9.76sec in the semifinals of the men’s 100m at the US athletics World Championships trials on Friday.

Kerley’s blistering run, with a legal wind of 1.4m/sec, came a day after he posted a 2022 season-leding 9.83 in the heats, the Tokyo Olympics silver medallist’s career-best time setting the tone for the 100m final to come later on Friday.

Trayvon Bromell won the second semifinal in his season’s best 9.81sec, second fastest of the semis, followed by Marvin Bracey in 9.86 and reigning world champion Christian Coleman in 9.87.