Nadal returns from injury with straight-set win in Madrid

Nadal returns from injury with straight-set win in Madrid
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Spain's Rafael Nadal in action against Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic during their 2022 ATP Tour Madrid Open tennis tournament singles match at the Caja Magica in Madrid on May 4, 2022. (AFP)
Nadal returns from injury with straight-set win in Madrid
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Tunisia's Ons Jabeur during her match against Romania's Simona Halep in the 2022 ATP Tour Madrid Open tennis tournament singles match at the Caja Magica in Madrid on May 4, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 05 May 2022

Nadal returns from injury with straight-set win in Madrid

Nadal returns from injury with straight-set win in Madrid
  • Eighth-seeded Ons Jabeur of Tunisia wins her second WTA 1000 semifinal by defeating two-time Madrid champion Simona Halep 6-3, 6-2

MADRID: Rafael Nadal got off to a good start in his return from injury, defeating Miomir Kecmanovic in two sets to reach the third round at the Madrid Open on Wednesday.

Nadal showed few signs of rustiness in his 6-1, 7-6 (4) opening win at home. He cruised in the first set and recovered in the second after twice losing his serve following a rain interruption.

“My preparation has not existed. You cannot expect great things at the beginning,” he said. “In general I have done a good match. First set was very good. The second set I don’t consider it a bad set, but as I am saying, when you have been a long time without competing, it’s normal that you have up-and-downs in a match because you have to recover your routine.”

The match lasted nearly two hours, but it was fast enough to allow Nadal to watch Real Madrid’s Champions League game later Wednesday night in the Spanish capital. Tournament organizers said Nadal asked to play in the afternoon so his match would not coincide with Madrid’s semifinal game against Manchester City.

“Yeah, going to be a spectacular atmosphere there. I would love to arrive a little bit before, but I am answering the questions enough well and I think long enough, to be fair with you,” Nadal said, smiling, at the post-match news conference.

Nadal is a Madrid fan and on Saturday gave the ceremonial kickoff at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium before the team clinched the Spanish league title with a win against Espanyol.

The fourth-ranked Nadal had been out for nearly 45 days after a rib stress fracture halted his great start to the season, highlighted by winning his record 21st Grand Slam title with victory at the Australian Open.

“Coming from injury I always need to play many matches to regain my best form,” Nadal said. “Winning is very important to give me confidence.”

Nadal was cruising before getting injured in the semifinals in Indian Wells, where he lost the final to Taylor Fritz for his first defeat of the season. Nadal missed tournaments in Miami, Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

The third-seeded Nadal had been downplaying expectations of winning his sixth Madrid Open title, and first since 2017.

The 35-year-old Nadal looked sharp in the first set, though, breaking serve twice against the 32nd-ranked Kecmanovic. He struggled more after the match was interrupted for about half an hour with Kecmanovic leading 1-0 in the second set as the center-court roof had to be closed. Nadal was broken twice, including while serving for the match at 6-5, but eventually prevailed in the tiebreaker by converting his first match point with an ace.

Nadal could face a quarterfinal against Spanish teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz, and a semifinal against either top-ranked Novak Djokovic or former No. 1 Andy Murray.

If he wins in Madrid, Nadal will move level with Djokovic on a record 37 titles in Masters 1000 tournaments.

Defending champion Alexander Zverev earlier rallied past Marin Cilic 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, setting up a third-round encounter with American Sebastian Korda.

The third-ranked Zverev is seeking his first title of the season. He lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Monte Carlo semifinals. Zverev also won in Madrid in 2018.

“I thought I played very well. I just lost focus in the first set,” Zverev said. “Marin is a difficult opponent, especially with the altitude here, so I am happy with this match.”

Qualifier Dusan Lajovic upset fifth-seeded Casper Ruud 7-6 (7), 2-6, 6-4, while ninth-seeded Cameron Norrie defeated American John Isner 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4.

Daniel Evans needed nearly three hours to defeat 17th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (2).

Marc López retired after losing his doubles match with Alcaraz 6-3, 3-6, 10-7 to Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski. López, who won the Olympic doubles gold medal with Nadal in 2016, is joining the coaching staff of the Spanish great.

In the women’s draw, eighth-seeded Ons Jabeur won her second WTA 1000 semifinal by defeating two-time Madrid champion Simona Halep 6-3, 6-2.

“It’s never easy to play Simona,” said Jabeur, who lost to Halep in Dubai earlier this year. “Really happy with the fact that I took my revenge. I can see that I’m progressing in my game and in other stuff. I hope I can continue with this level to play the other matches.”

The 21st-ranked Halep had 20 unforced errors and only eight winners.

Jabeur will next face Ekaterina Alexandrova, who defeated American Amanda Anisimova 6-4, 6-3.


Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup
Updated 12 sec ago

Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup
HELSINKI: This time, there were only two goals.
David Alaba and Karim Benzema scored in each half for Real Madrid to win the UEFA Super Cup with a 2-0 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday.
Alaba prodded the opener home from close range in the 37th minute when Casemiro cushioned Benzema’s header back after a corner. The French star then sealed Madrid’s record-equaling fifth Super Cup title in the 65th thanks to an assist from the lively Vinícius Júnior.
It was Benzema’s 324th goal for Madrid, overtaking club legend Raúl. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has more after scoring 450 goals for the club between 2009-18.
But the game between the Champions League winners, Madrid, and Europa League champions, Frankfurt, failed to match the spectacle of their previous meeting.
Their only other competitive game was the 1960 European Cup final, when Alfredo Di Stéfano scored three goals and Ferenc Puskás chipped in with four to give Madrid a 7-3 win and fifth consecutive European crown.
Frankfurt goal-scorer Erwin Stein and teammate Dieter Stinka were in Helsinki for the rematch 62 years later, but it was the 93-year-old José Santamaria — the only remaining Madrid player from that final in Glasgow — who celebrated another win. The three veterans embraced warmly when they met before kickoff.

Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia

Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia
Updated 10 August 2022

Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia

Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia
  • New centers will be in Jouf, Hail, Al-Hudud Ash Shamaliyah and Al-Baha

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation is set to establish four new regional associations to help promote the sport across the Kingdom.

The federation told Arab News on Wednesday that is has 15 official associations representing the sport in nine regions, but aims to establish new associations in the remaining four regions “to make sure that we have future cricket activities all around the Kingdom.”

The long-term aim is for Saudi Arabian cricket teams to compete professionally at regional and international competitions, with the national teams taking on world’s best.

In recent years, the SACF has introduced several competitions and programs to encourage the country’s youth to take up one of the world’s oldest and most popular sports.

In October 2021, it signed an agreement with sports management company JSW Sports to develop cricket in Saudi Arabia, focusing on high-performance academies.

The SACF was established in 2020 and lined up a series of major initiatives the following year, including a national cricket championship, a corporate cricket tournament, a cricket league for expatriate workers, and a social program in several cities.

The initiatives are part of a mission to promote healthy and active lifestyles under the Saudi Vision 2030’s Quality of Life scheme, with the SACF — supported by the Ministry of Sports and Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee — mandated to increase physical activity levels by 40 percent over the next decade.

In November, the SACF partnered with Saudi’s Sports For All Federation to launch the Kingdom’s first cricket talent-spotting program.


FIFA looks to start World Cup in Qatar 1 day earlier

FIFA looks to start World Cup in Qatar 1 day earlier
Updated 10 August 2022

FIFA looks to start World Cup in Qatar 1 day earlier

FIFA looks to start World Cup in Qatar 1 day earlier
  • FIFA is looking at a plan to let the host nation play Ecuador on Nov. 20
  • The World Cup is set to open on Nov. 21 with the Netherlands facing Senegal

GENEVA: Host nation Qatar is set to play in the opening game of its own World Cup tournament after all — and on a stand-alone day being added to the schedule barely 100 days before kickoff.
Soccer’s marquee tournament is now set start one day earlier than originally scheduled seven years ago in a move that would allow Qatar to play Ecuador on Nov. 20, a person familiar with the proposal told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the matter.
The proposal will be put before a committee comprised of FIFA president Gianni Infantino and the heads of the six continental soccer bodies, the person said. A decision is expected this week.
According to a letter sent by FIFA this week and seen by the AP, the governing body is asking for approval from the continental soccer bodies by Thursday.
Qatar should now get an exclusive Sunday slot for its opening ceremony and World Cup debut at the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium.
The World Cup is currently scheduled to start on Nov. 21, a Monday, based on a FIFA decision in 2015 after it agreed to push back the tournament to avoid the extreme desert heat in June and July. FIFA also got agreement for a shorter, 28-day program to minimize disruption to domestic soccer, especially in Europe, which will shut down ahead of the World Cup.
Recent World Cup tradition gave 2014 host Brazil and 2018 host Russia exclusive opening days to play their first opponents. But the tighter schedule in Qatar called for four games daily for the entire group stage — 48 games in 12 days.
At the tournament draw in Doha on April 1, the Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador landed in Group A with Qatar. The Dutch and Senegal were allocated the 1 p.m. local time start and Qatar was to play Ecuador in the third game with an evening kickoff six hours later.
The proposal to create a 29-day tournament instead of 28 has been favored by Qatari officials and South American soccer body CONMEBOL, with talks also involving the Qatar and Ecuador soccer federations, the person told the AP.
FIFA acknowledged in its letter that changing the date, after tickets have been sold, would affect some traveling fans. However, FIFA said “any risk is sufficiently outweighed by the value and benefits of the proposal” commercially.
A Qatar-Ecuador game involves only a few players who are with European clubs. Several on the likely Ecuador roster play for clubs in Spain, the United States and Mexico, where leagues stop play ahead of the Nov. 12-13 weekend.
The schedule switch would have been tougher to agree to if Qatar was scheduled to open against the Netherlands, which has key members playing until Nov. 13 with clubs in England and Italy.
Because of the proposal, FIFA is expected to push back the Netherlands-Senegal from the lunchtime start to the early evening slot that would be vacated by Qatar.
While an opening game on a Sunday evening in Qatar should play well with viewers in Asia and Europe, in the United States it puts the World Cup in direct competition with NFL games. The US soccer team plays its World Cup opener against Wales as the late Monday game in Qatar.
The 2022 World Cup is the first in the tournament’s 92-year history to be played outside of the traditional northern hemisphere summer. The previous 21 editions were all played between late-May and the end of July.
The Nov. 21-Dec. 18 tournament schedule was agreed to so European clubs could play on the Nov. 12-13 weekend before releasing their players to the 32 World Cup teams. Changing opening day should not alter the tournament rule that players must report from their clubs to national teams no later than Nov. 14, FIFA said in its letter.
The final will be played on Qatar’s National Day, a Sunday, allowing a full week for players to return to clubs before the Premier League plays its traditional Boxing Day games on Dec. 26.
Qatar original bid was made to host the tournament in June-July, promising innovative stadium cooling technology to overcome heat expected to reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) during the first World Cup held in the Middle East.
In December 2010, Qatar won a controversial bid contest beating the United States 14-8 in a final round of voting by the FIFA executive committee, a group later widely discredited by corruption scandals.
More than four years later, FIFA moved the tournament to be played on dates when temperatures should be around 25 to 30 degrees C (77 to 86 degrees F).
Now, a further seven years later, the dates are set to change again.


SAFF Integrity mobile app established to combat corruption in football

SAFF Integrity mobile app established to combat corruption in football
Updated 10 August 2022

SAFF Integrity mobile app established to combat corruption in football

SAFF Integrity mobile app established to combat corruption in football
  • The new app was officially launched through a collaboration between SAFF and Sportradar Integrity Services
  • The SAFF Integrity Unit will be responsible for handling reports received through the app

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has announced the launch of the SAFF Integrity mobile app, which allows players, officials and members of the public to report suspected match-fixing, match-manipulation or other integrity concerns in a safe and secure manner.
The SAFF Integrity mobile app, available in both Arabic and English, was established in collaboration with Sportradar Integrity Services.
The launch comes just in time for the start of the 2022-2023 season and will further support the work of the SAFF Integrity Unit, composed of experienced lawyers from the federation’s legal and governance department.
The SAFF Integrity Unit will be responsible for handling reports received through the app, investigating credible reports and initiating any necessary disciplinary procedures under the disciplinary and ethics regulations.
The new platform, which is closely modeled on the FIFA Integrity and AFC Integrity mobile apps, is one of a range of tools acquired by SAFF to combat match-fixing under a partnership agreement signed with Sportradar Integrity Services. It will further strengthen SAFF’s efforts in promoting and safeguarding the integrity of football in the Kingdom.
“Safeguarding the integrity of Saudi Arabian football is one of the biggest priorities at SAFF, and in looking to achieve this, we are delighted to be working with Sportradar Integrity Services, who are the clear leaders in the particular field of sports integrity,” said Ibrahim Alkassim, general secretary at SAFF.
“Monitoring services provided by their team of experts through the [Universal Fraud Detection System] will strengthen our existing integrity measures, whilst the Education and Prevention webinars will ensure that all stakeholders are adequately and appropriately educated in how best to tackle integrity challenges.”
As part of the agreement, several football competitions organized by SAFF will be monitored by Sportradar’s UFDS, a technically advanced bet monitoring system that has been independently assessed and verified by recognized experts in sports betting and integrity. Sportradar Integrity Services will also provide SAFF with an integrity risk assessment to identify any potential integrity risks.
In addition, teams, players, match officials and other key SAFF staff and stakeholders will also be educated on the importance of integrity via a series of informative webinars delivered in both English and Arabic. Players and officials from teams participating in the 2021-2022 Saudi Pro League were the first group to have attended the webinars, followed by SAFF staff members.
Sportradar Integrity Services Managing Director Andreas Krannich said: “It is an honor to partner with SAFF, and as the global leader in sporting integrity, we are confident that our experience and expertise can help protect SAFF against integrity-related issues. We look forward to working alongside them throughout the next few years and providing our support to their overall integrity program.”


Zamalek president jailed for insulting rival

Zamalek president jailed for insulting rival
Updated 10 August 2022

Zamalek president jailed for insulting rival

Zamalek president jailed for insulting rival
  • Al-Ahly and Zamalek are historic rivals whose fans regularly clash after matches
  • Zamalek boss, Mortada Mansour, was initially sentenced to one year in prison for insulting Mahmoud al-Khatib, president of Al-Ahly

CAIRO: An Egyptian appeals court has sentenced the president of Zamalek football club to a month in prison for insulting the president of bitter rivals Al-Ahly, a judicial source told AFP on Wednesday.
Al-Ahly and Zamalek, the country’s two biggest clubs and among the continent’s most successful, are historic rivals whose fans regularly clash after matches.
The 70-year-old Zamalek boss, Mortada Mansour, was initially sentenced to one year in prison for insulting Mahmoud Al-Khatib, president of Al-Ahly and a former star player, and his family in a video posted on social networks and on Zamalek’s club channel.
On Wednesday, Mansour’s sentence was reduced to one month in prison and a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (500 euros).
A former magistrate and member of parliament, Mansour is regularly in the news. He has had a long-running battle with Al-Ahly and has physically attack his counterparts.
His parliamentary immunity had for a while enabled him to avoid legal proceedings after complaints of insults and defamation.
In 2007, he was sentenced to three years in jail by a criminal court in Cairo for “insulting” court officials and levelling accusations of corruption against them.