Jelena Ostapenko stuns Simona Halep to reach final of Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Jelena Ostapenko stuns Simona Halep to reach final of Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
Ostapenko had won just two matches in her previous five appearances in Dubai. (dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com)
Short Url
Updated 19 February 2022

Jelena Ostapenko stuns Simona Halep to reach final of Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Jelena Ostapenko stuns Simona Halep to reach final of Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
  • The Latvian will face Veronika Kudermetova who received a walkover in her semi-final

DUBAI: Jelena Ostapenko earned a surprise victory over two-time former champion Simona Halep on Friday to reach the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Her opponent will be Veronika Kudermetova, who received a walkover when Marketa Vondrousova forfeited her semi-final due to a right adductor injury.

Ostapenko had won just two matches in her previous five appearances in Dubai, but the 2017 French Open winner has overcome four former Grand Slam champions this week, beating Sofia Kenin, Iga Swiatek and Petra Kvitova before claiming a 2-6 7-6 6-0 win over Halep.

Halep seemed to be in control as she comfortably took the first set, surrendering just five points on serve and closing out the set with an ace. Ostapenko responded by reducing her errors, becoming more aggressive and taking a 3-0 lead in the second set. Halep managed to level at 3-3 but Ostapenko continued to raise her level.

“Again, playing a Grand Slam champion fourth match in a row, it’s not easy,” said Ostapenko. “She was playing completely different tennis from what Petra (Kvitova, her quarter-final opponent) was playing. She was playing much slower, almost no pace comparing to Petra. So I really had to step in from the beginning, which I didn’t do. I was stepping back. I didn’t go into the court. When I understood it and changed things, so it started to go my way.”

With Ostapenko leading 6-5, Halep was forced to save two set points on her serve as the set went to a tiebreak, which Ostapenko astonishingly took 7-0. She won the final set 6-0 in just 21 minutes as Halep crumpled in the face of Ostapenko’s confident assault.

“I knew I have to play aggressive no matter what, no matter what the score is,” Ostapenko added. “She really doesn’t like to play against players who are playing aggressive and take time away from her. I really knew that I have to do it today, all the match, even if I miss sometimes, which I did. I think it helped me to win.”

Halep admitted she let the match get away from her, but she still has positive thoughts about her week.

“I kind of stopped playing after the second set,” she said. “That is the only one moment that I’m disappointed. But the rest I think was a good game. I lost the focus a little bit. Probably I need more matches in tension to get more used to it. I just mentally stopped playing and I didn’t make anything anymore.

“I’m happy with the week I played here. The game was good. Everything was good. I never expect to win all the matches because it’s just the beginning of the year and I’m really patient with myself.”

Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, congratulated the two finalists, saying: “Ostapenko’s success here means that she will return to the top 20 next week for the first time since October 2018, and Kudermetova has also earned wins over two former Grand Slam winners and world number ones this week, beating both Victoria Azarenka and our defending champion, Garbine Muguruza. We can now look forward to what is certain to be a very interesting final.”

Vondrousova revealed that she had been feeling uncomfortable before having to withdraw from the tournament.

“The injury, it started a few days ago and I’ve played so many matches here which has aggravated the injury,” she said. “I’m really sad to leave the tournament this way but I’ve still enjoyed a great week and proud of how I’ve played. I’ve played six amazing matches this week having come through qualifying and proud of my performances so it’s unfortunate this has happened.”


Cancel Africa’s debts as global crises worsen, Mauritanian FM tells UNGA

Cancel Africa’s debts as global crises worsen, Mauritanian FM tells UNGA
Updated 9 min 54 sec ago

Cancel Africa’s debts as global crises worsen, Mauritanian FM tells UNGA

Cancel Africa’s debts as global crises worsen, Mauritanian FM tells UNGA
  • Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug urges international community to help Sahel region combat instability, terror
  • Emphasizes Mauritania’s support for ‘sovereignty and dignity’ of the Palestinian people

LONDON: Mauritania’s foreign minister on Monday urged the international community to cancel foreign debt for African nations amid the intensifying global financial crisis.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York, Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug also asked for support for the Sahel region in countering terrorism.

He thanked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for his “diligent efforts aimed at promoting the UN and bolstering its role” amid “very difficult and complex international conditions.”

Merzoug highlighted a perfect storm of issues, from the Russia-Ukraine conflict to the COVID-19 pandemic, terrorism and climate change-related natural disasters, noting how these events are placing disproportionate pressure on poorer countries, especially in Africa.

“These crises, and the economic, social and humanitarian repercussions of them, are unprecedented,” he said, adding how, for instance, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has affected food and fuel supply lines to developing countries.

He praised the international community for work on securing agreements for the shipment of grain through the Black Sea, but called for “ramped up efforts to find solutions that would guarantee peace, security and dignity for all the peoples of the world,” which, he said, should include canceling African debts.

“The Islamic Republic of Mauritania calls upon the international community to fulfil its responsibilities to developing and poor countries, to assist them as quickly as possible to address the challenges threatening their food security as well as to counter other negative effects of these crises,” he said.

Merzoug added that Mauritania has made progress across a raft of issues, including “re-establishing the values of justice, equity, democracy, individual and collective freedoms, the freedom of the press, and the adoption of dialogue and consultation to manage government affairs with participation by civil society.”

He highlighted the country’s efforts to protect human rights by combating human slavery and child trafficking, as well as illegal migration.

He also discussed government programs to support the poor and youngest in society by building schools and medical centers, and providing clean water.

“We have prepared programs to train youth and to empower youth so that they will be positive elements when joining the labor market. We have also worked to promote women’s participation in political life,” he said.

Merzoug added that Mauritania has taken in and provided assistance to 85,000 refugees from neighboring Mali, but called for greater efforts to resist instability and terrorism in the region.

“Mauritania has always taken care to establish an interlocking approach to combating terrorism in all its forms,” he said.

“We believe that the countries of the Sahel represent a key force to resist terrorism and to establish development throughout the region. Here, we call for support for this group of countries as we move and overcome those obstacles they face today.”

Merzoug reiterated Mauritania’s commitment to the environment and renewable energy, saying the country is focused on sustaining 40 percent of its power from “clean, renewable” sources.

He added that Mauritania will make the most of its “enormous natural resources” in wind and solar potential to expand this weighting in the future. 

“We have achieved significant results in our efforts to address desertification through agricultural reforms in those areas that have been affected by droughts,” Merzoug said.

“We are looking to improve our use of water resources and to protect biodiversity. Here, we are very hopeful about COP27, which is to be held in Egypt from Nov. 6-18, and we hope that all states will respect their commitments there.”

Merzoug emphasized his country’s support for the “sovereignty and dignity” of the Palestinian people, calling for a “political solution that maintains Palestine’s territorial integrity and independence.”

He also called for support for the “legitimate powers” in Mauritania’s “brother country” of Yemen, adding: “We call for a peaceful solution.”


US ambassador praises Abe’s contribution to Japan-US relations

US ambassador praises Abe’s contribution to Japan-US relations
Updated 34 min 47 sec ago

US ambassador praises Abe’s contribution to Japan-US relations

US ambassador praises Abe’s contribution to Japan-US relations

TOKYO: US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel issued a statement Monday ahead of former Prime Minister ABE Shinzo’s state funeral emphasizing how Abe’s work had brought Japan and the United States together.

“I am honored to be part of the Presidential Delegation and to have the opportunity to pay my respects to the former Prime Minister at the state funeral,” Rahm said in the statement. “As President Biden said on the day of Abe-san’s death: ‘The United States stands with Japan in this moment of grief’.  It was true then; it remains true today.”

Rahm said the attendance of Vice President Kamala Harris at the funeral “demonstrates the respect President Joe Biden has for former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and his family, and sends a strong signal of our deep commitment to the Japanese people. While we are allies by treaty, we are friends in our hearts.”

Rahm also noted the achievements of Abe in the context of Japan-US relations: “Abe-san lived a life worth living. He was a great statesman with strong connections to America and Americans; he was the first and only Japanese Prime Minister to address a joint session of the US Congress; he accompanied President Obama on the first visit by a sitting US President to Hiroshima; and he was the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit the memorial aboard the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.”

“These were historic events that show his unwavering commitment to the US-Japan Alliance and our two countries’ friendship. Abe-san was indispensable for developing the strong relations between us, and his vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific informs strategic architecture across the region.”

Originally published in Arab News Japan


World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly

World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly
Updated 45 min 50 sec ago

World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly

World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly
  • Faisal Mekdad issues strongly worded attack on Western countries over ‘wars of occupation’
  • Attempts to ‘break the will of Syria and isolate it from the world’ have failed

LONDON: The Syrian regime has criticized Western-led interventions in the Middle East, telling the UN General Assembly on Monday that the world is at a “critical, dangerous point.”

Following a strongly worded attack on Western countries, Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad issued an appeal to “meet the challenges of food insecurity, terrorism and climate change together.”

He described Syria’s decade-long conflict as having originated from “attempts by some countries to impose hegemony on others,” condemning decisions to “put a stranglehold on economies”, “flout international law” and wage “wars of occupation.”

The conflict is “ultimately an attempt by the West to maintain control over the world,” he added, warning that the attempt to “break the will of Syria and isolate it from the world” had failed.

Mekdad said Western countries have intervened in the Middle East under the “excuse of spreading democracy and human rights,” adding that terrorist groups labeled “moderates” were “used as tools.”

He claimed that by a deliberate undermining of Syria’s access to medication, food, fuel and basic goods, the country’s people have been punished by the West.

He called for the creation of a multipolar world order, overseen by the UN, to fulfil the organization’s charter and support its purpose.

Mekdad said Israel’s practices had raised tensions and caused instability in the Middle East. He alleged that during the conflict in Syria, Israel had covertly supported terror groups fighting in the country, including Daesh and Al-Nusra Front, in what he described as an “act of military aggression.”

Israel’s activities in the Golan Heights — which it captured from Syria in 1967 and illegally annexed in 1981 — are also cause for concern, he added, warning that Damascus will seek to “hold it accountable for these crimes.”

Syria continues to support Palestine becoming a full-fledged UN member, Mekdad said.

He highlighted some of the steps that the regime is making toward ending the conflict in Syria, arguing that it had consistently called for “national and local reconciliation in order to promote national unity.”

In that regard, Mekdad said the regime had signed 21 amnesty orders, “enabling Syrians to return to normal lives” and ending fighting around the country.

But he warned that as a result of Western “economic terrorism,” Syria has lost an estimated $107 billion in oil and gas revenues since 2011, leading to further economic issues.

Syria will continue to seek compensation for the lost revenues, Mekdad said, adding that the regime is “doing everything possible” to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground.

Turning to international issues, he said Syria supports the “right of Russia to secure its national territory,” adding: “Russia is defending not only itself, but justice and the right of humanity to reject unipolar hegemony.”

He also spoke of Syria’s support for China, arguing that Beijing has the right to protect its national sovereignty against “Western attempts” to influence events in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang.


Russia’s FSB detains and expels Japanese consul for alleged spying: Agencies

Russia’s FSB detains and expels Japanese consul for alleged spying: Agencies
Updated 18 min 40 sec ago

Russia’s FSB detains and expels Japanese consul for alleged spying: Agencies

Russia’s FSB detains and expels Japanese consul for alleged spying: Agencies
  • The FSB said the consul was declared persona non grata after he was caught “red-handed” receiving secret information

MOSCOW: Russia’s FSB security agency said on Monday it had detained a Japanese consul in Russia’s Pacific port city of Vladivostok for alleged espionage and ordered him to leave the country, Russian news agencies said.
The FSB said the consul was declared persona non grata after he was caught “red-handed” receiving secret information on the effect of Western sanctions on the economic situation in Russia’s far east.
It said the classified information, which also concerned Russia’s cooperation with an unnamed Asia-Pacific country, had been obtained in return for a “monetary reward.”
Russia has protested to Japan, the agencies quoted the FSB as saying. There was no immediate reaction from Tokyo. 


Saudi ambassador to Yemen meets UN special envoy in Riyadh

Saudi ambassador to Yemen meets UN special envoy in Riyadh
Updated 26 September 2022

Saudi ambassador to Yemen meets UN special envoy in Riyadh

Saudi ambassador to Yemen meets UN special envoy in Riyadh
  • Al-Jaber emphasized the Kingdom’s support for UN efforts to extend the truce in Yemen

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Jaber met with the UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg in Riyadh on Monday.

During the meeting, Al-Jaber emphasized the Kingdom’s support for UN efforts to extend the truce in Yemen to reach a complete ceasefire and a comprehensive political solution in the war-torn country.

The truce was first implemented on April 2 and is due for renewal on Oct. 2.

Earlier this month, Grundberg met with the head of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council Rashad Al-Alimi in Riyadh where they discussed ongoing efforts to implement the truce and the importance of negotiating its extension and expansion.