Tunisia’s Jabeur hungry for more after historic Madrid title

Tunisia’s Jabeur hungry for more after historic Madrid title
Jabeur improved to 2-4 in WTA finals and to 3-2 head-to-head against Pegula.(AFP)
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Updated 08 May 2022

Tunisia’s Jabeur hungry for more after historic Madrid title

Tunisia’s Jabeur hungry for more after historic Madrid title
  • Jabeur, who is the first Arab player — man or woman — to crack the top 10, owns a tour-leading 12 victories on clay so far this season

MADRID: Ons Jabeur says she is hungry for more success after she claimed the biggest title of her career, becoming the first Arab or African player to win a WTA 1000 title thanks to a 7-5, 0-6, 6-2 victory over American Jessica Pegula on Saturday in Madrid.
The Tunisian trailblazer picked up her second WTA trophy and is set to return to her career-high ranking of number seven in the world on Monday.
Jabeur, who is the first Arab player — man or woman — to crack the top 10, owns a tour-leading 12 victories on clay so far this season and picked up a 20th win overall in 2022.
“I honestly still can’t believe it. I went through a roller coaster of emotions during the past few days, just after the semifinal. I was really stressed trying to breathe,” said Jabeur, who had won just one of her previous five WTA finals.
“I really didn’t want to get disappointed again. I thought my heart was going out of my chest today. I’m very happy and trying to realize that I won today really.”
Pegula had to save four break points in her opening two service games before she upped the pressure on the Jabeur serve to break for 3-1.
The Tunisian struck back in game seven, finding her range on the return and was soon on level terms with Pegula.
Jabeur faced a set point in an error-strewn 10th game but weathered the storm to hold then broke Pegula to love using a signature drop shot return. The world number 10 closed out the set on the 54-minute mark.
Pegula was in trouble at the start of the second set, but she swatted away three break points and it was her turn to attack as she swept the next six games in under 30 minutes.
The first three games of the decider went against serve until Jabeur finally consolidated a break to inch ahead 3-1. The 27-year-old doubled her advantage and fell to her knees when she wrapped up a milestone victory.
Jabeur improved to 2-4 in WTA finals and to 3-2 head-to-head against Pegula, who will rise to a career-high number 11 in the world on Monday.
“I think for both of us, the last two weeks proved a lot. We’ve come a long way from a few years ago, we were ranked 75 and 76, we were right next to each other. So that’s pretty amazing,” Pegula told Jabeur during the trophy ceremony.
The 28-year-old American has shown great consistency at WTA 1000 tournaments, winning 28 matches at that level since the start of the 2021 season. Only one player has tallied more victories within that span at such events — world number one Iga Swiatek.
Meanwhile, Jabeur has already shifted her focus onto her next tournament in Rome, where she faces Romanian Sorana Cirstea in the opening round on Tuesday.
“Definitely all those matches I’ve won on clay will give me a lot of confidence. I’m just going to try to take as many (ranking) points as I can in Rome. I know I didn’t play last year, so it’s extra points for me,” said Jabeur.
“When you’re confident like that and you win a lot of matches, I think I should take this opportunity to go, like, really forward and win.”


Carlos Sainz claims maiden F1 win in epic British Grand Prix

Carlos Sainz claims maiden F1 win in epic British Grand Prix
Updated 6 sec ago

Carlos Sainz claims maiden F1 win in epic British Grand Prix

Carlos Sainz claims maiden F1 win in epic British Grand Prix
SILVERSTONE, UK: Carlos Sainz claimed his first Formula One victory in his 150th race on Sunday when he drove his Ferrari to a spectacular triumph in a furious and crash-hit British Grand Prix.
The 27-year-old Spaniard, starting from his maiden pole position, resisted a charging Sergio Perez of Red Bull, who recovered from 17th, to take the flag by 3.7 seconds in front of a record 142,000 crowd at the high-speed Silverstone circuit.
Home hero seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes took third, to claim a record 13th podium finish on home soil, an unprecedented total by any driver at a single event.
Drawing on his fresher tires in the closing stages, Hamilton resisted and passed Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari, who finished fourth ahead of two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Alpine and Lando Norris of McLaren.
World champion and series leader Max Verstappen finished seventh for Red Bull, recovering after picking up debris and suffering a puncture, ahead of a revitalized Mick Schumacher of Haas, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin, who had started 18th and Kevin Magnussen in the second Haas.
“I don’t know what to say,” said a beaming Sainz. “It is amazing. My first win in Formula One on my 150th race and for Ferrari at Silverstone! It’s amazing.”
Perez was also delighted. “It was a great comeback,” he said.
“We never gave up and we kept pushing. We kept trying. It was epic in some of those final laps.”
Hamilton paid tribute to the crowd, saying Silverstone was unmatched around the world for the scale and depth of enthusiasm demonstrated at the British event, which on Sunday provided stunning entertainment.
“I gave it everything today,” said Hamilton. “I tried to chase, but the Red Bull and the Ferraris were too quick on the straights.”


Verstappen remained on top of the title race with 181 points ahead of Perez on 147 and Leclerc on 138 and Sainz on 127.
After a long delay following a high-speed multi-car collision at the start of the race, which saw Zhou Guanyu make a remarkable escape after his car skidded upside down through a gravel trap, the contest re-started an hour later using the original grid order.
Three drivers were missing — Alfa Romeo’s Zhou, Williams’ Alex Albon and George Russell of Mercedes — as the lights went out and Sainz, in ferocious fighting mood, boldly resisted Verstappen to retain the lead from his maiden pole position.
Leclerc also made an aggressive start and banged wheels with Perez, who suffered front wing damage, and Verstappen before the order settled on lap five.
Hamilton, who had lost an early position to Norris, swept past him to the delight of his army of fans to regain fourth on lap six as Perez re-joined 17th at the back after a slow pit-stop.
In a frantic spell of action, Sainz ran off-track and across the grass at Becketts on lap 10, gifting Verstappen the initiative again, but two laps later the Dutchman slowed and pitted with a puncture.
Sainz led again as a 3.1 seconds stop for Verstappen, who reported he had hit debris, dropped him to sixth.
Amid this drama, Hamilton closed on Leclerc before, on lap 21, Sainz pitted from the lead, Leclerc taking over ahead of Hamilton with the Spaniard re-joining third ahead of Norris.
Clearly inspired, Hamilton pushed again as Verstappen pitted again before Leclerc pitted on lap 25. He returned in third, behind Sainz, while Hamilton stayed out on his ‘mediums’ and revelled in leading a race for the first time this year.
Behind him, Ferrari told their drivers they were “free to fight” as Leclerc chased second-placed Sainz, who was 18 seconds adrift of Hamilton, but warned that a swap was needed. It duly came on lap 31 when Sainz let Leclerc by on Wellington Straight for second.
This left Hamilton 18.7 seconds ahead, before he pitted on lap 34 for ‘hards’, emerging third 3.4 seconds behind Sainz, but with tires that were 13 laps fresher until a Safety Car intervention with 12 laps to go when Esteban Ocon’s Alpine came to a halt.
On the re-start, Perez surged past Hamilton and Sainz overtook Leclerc to lead again, but it was tense stuff and as the Spaniard pulled clear, the trio behind him scrapped and swapped places with ferocious abandon.
Perez muscled his way to second, Leclerc and Hamilton fought and both Alonso and Norris closed to within a second, setting up a furious finale.

Uncertain times for Al-Ahli as reality of relegation sinks in

Uncertain times for Al-Ahli as reality of relegation sinks in
Updated 5 min 39 sec ago

Uncertain times for Al-Ahli as reality of relegation sinks in

Uncertain times for Al-Ahli as reality of relegation sinks in
  • Shocked fans will worry that star players will leave and who will be the coach next season as they take part in Saudi second-tier football for the first time

LONDON: Monday, June 27, 2022 will live long in the memory of Jeddah football fans. It was a bad day for clubs in the city but it could actually have been worse for fans of Al-Ittihad and Al-Ahli.

Followers of the former may be devastated as their team threw away a double-digit lead at the top of the Saudi Professional League and a perfect chance to win a first title since 2009, but as bad as that was, at least they can see their bitter local rivals have it worse. That is because Al-Ahli are dealing with something that has never happened before in their illustrious history: Relegation.

Experiencing that unprecedented event would have been even more painful if their fans could have heard their Ittihad neighbors celebrating becoming champions of Saudi Arabia.

That there have been no such celebrations won’t be a comfort for too long however. Al-Ittihad have become used to not winning the title but this is new territory for Al-Ahli as they enter the second tier for the first time.

There is still shock as to how it came to this. From 2013 to 2020, the Jeddah giants didn’t finish outside the top four and won the title in 2016 and finished second in the following two seasons. The warning signs were there though, with an eighth-place finish last time around. There were reports of dressing room unrest; too many foreign players came in who did not make the difference and the quality of the local talent was not what it was. After goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais moved to Al-Hilal in January, there are no Al-Ahli players who are regular starters for the national team.

Coaches have come and gone too, without making much of an impact. There were high hopes for Besnik Hasi. The Kosovan-Albanian had done a great job with Al-Raed and came in last summer. Despite a slow start to the season, the management persevered with the former Legia Warsaw, Anderlecht and Olympiakos boss in the belief that he would turn things around. It was a rare show of patience by a big Saudi Arabian club but it didn’t work. Despite a fairly gentle start in terms of opponents, Al-Ahli did not win any of their first seven. There were just two clean sheets in their first 16 games but the 2012 Asian Champions League runners-up were still clear of the drop zone in early March when Hasi was finally fired. 

The replacement came out of left-field but Robert Siboldi was unable to offer anything different. In fact it was worse. The Uruguayan won the first game against Al-Tai but four points from the final six matches, at a time when relegation rivals were starting to collect points, meant that it all ended in disaster. Even so, had they scored just once against Al-Shabab in the final game then top-flight status would have been preserved.

What now? As well as the humiliation, the worst thing is the uncertainty. Nobody can say for sure when Al-Ahli will be back. If all goes well, the time spent out of the big time will be short but for every Newcastle United who bounce back stronger, there are teams such as Nottingham Forest, Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday who spend years and years down before returning, if they return at all.

Former club president Abdullah Al-Batraji wondered if there was a chance that the planned expansion of the league from 16 to 18 teams might somehow take place this summer instead of next, thereby keeping Al-Ahli in the top flight. Such hopes are understandable but the route back to the top may be a little more traditional. Like any team that gets relegated, there are questions as to who will go and who will stay — especially as funding may be reduced.

One who fans will want to stay is star striker Omar Al-Somah. The Syrian striker still managed 10 goals in a struggling team and despite being 33, is very much in demand. There are links with clubs in Egypt, Qatar and elsewhere. The forward could also stay where he is, his current club would love that to happen, but a move does seem the likeliest and Al-Ahli are reluctant to see him move to another club in Saudi Arabia. It is also going to be hard to keep hold of Ezgjan Alioski, the other big success of the season after arriving from Leeds United last year. The Macedonian has been one of the standouts in the entire league, scoring six goals and assisting in nine. Many of the other foreign players did not impress.

There may be a shake-up in the management of the club but the big question is the coach. Siboldi was put in a difficult position in his first job in the region. The Uruguayan was not the right man to save Al-Ahli and is certainly not the right one to take them back to the big time. The question of who that may be has to be resolved, and the quicker the better.

The same can be said of Al-Ahli’s top-tier status. The quicker they return the better for football in Saudi Arabia, and even Al-Ittihad fans may agree with that.


Edoardo Mortara wins Marrakesh E-Prix in round 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship

Edoardo Mortara wins Marrakesh E-Prix in round 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship
Updated 03 July 2022

Edoardo Mortara wins Marrakesh E-Prix in round 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship

Edoardo Mortara wins Marrakesh E-Prix in round 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship
  • Antonio Felix da Costa finished in second place, with Mitch Evans third
  • ROKiT Venturi Racing driver Mortara tops podium for the third time this season with victory in Marrakesh, and takes lead in drivers’ championship

MARRAKESH: Edoardo Mortara hit the top of the Drivers’ World Championship with victory in the Marrakesh E-Prix round 10 as the ROKiT Venturi Racing driver fended off pressure from DS TECHEETAH teammates Antonio Felix da Costa and Jean-Eric Vergne throughout.

Da Costa started on pole position and, after falling behind Mortara during the early stages, he clung to the back of the Swiss driver’s car as the race reached its climax. But the Season 6 champion couldn’t make it past the Venturi driver who remained unflustered on the way to the top step and his third win of the season, as well as the standings lead.

“I must admit after Free Practice 2, we had a lot of issues and I was not thinking we could turn this thing around, but I have an incredible team behind me and they managed to do an incredible job already in quali,” said Mortara. “Then during the race, they had a plan, they had a strategy, we executed it and it was perfect.”

“You have the guys putting you under a lot of pressure. I was trying to be intelligent, trying to manage,” he said. “There was a lot to manage today — tires obviously, but also battery temperatures, energy. It was very difficult. I had some issues with the car today, I was a little bit by myself, let’s say, but we did that and I’m extremely happy.”

Mercedes-EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne was top of the Drivers’ World Championship going into the race but a braking glitch in qualifying left him down in 20th on the grid. He recovered to finish eighth but with just four points on the day, Mortara stands tall at the end of Round 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

Vergne had found himself in second heading into the closing stages with 2 percent of usable energy available before he slipped back behind da Costa to an eventual fourth position. Fellow title challenger Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) fought from sixth on the grid to the podium with a final lap lunge on Vergne for silverware and a handful of extra, crucial World Championship points.

In the searing 33-degree heat, drivers and engineers elected to jump early for their two mandatory Attack Mode boosts with the school of thought being that it would be more efficient and effective in the long run to ply that extra 30kW through the batteries and powertrain. In the mix was Lucas di Grassi (ROKiT Venturi Racing), who battled to fifth and vital points for the Monegasque team.

Reigning World Champion Nyck de Vries (Mercedes-EQ) clambered to sixth and Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) would have to settle for seventh. Vandoorne did make up an impressive 12 spots to finish eighth in the end after his qualifying disappointment. Sam Bird wound up ninth for Jaguar TCS Racing, and Oliver Rowland — who ran as high as second spot early on — rounded out the points-paying positions in 10th.

All that saw Mortara jump to an 11-point Drivers’ World Championship lead, with Vergne second and Vandoorne now third, having led heading into this Marrakesh E-Prix race weekend. Evans finds himself just 15 points shy of Mortara, with the top four breaking well clear of the chasing pack to set up a four-driver shootout over the final six races.

Next time out is the New York City E-Prix on July 16 to July 17 for rounds 11 and 12 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. The much-anticipated double-header takes place on the streets of the Red Hook district of Brooklyn against the spectacular backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. 

Two more double-headers close out Season 8, with the London E-Prix weekend on July 30 to July 31 before the championship climaxes with a first visit to Korea and the Seoul E-Prix weekend on Aug. 13 to Aug. 14.


Riyadh to host Italian Super Cup between Inter and AC Milan next year

Riyadh to host Italian Super Cup between Inter and AC Milan next year
Updated 03 July 2022

Riyadh to host Italian Super Cup between Inter and AC Milan next year

Riyadh to host Italian Super Cup between Inter and AC Milan next year
  • The showpiece match between Italy’s league and cup winners was last held in Saudi Arabia in 2019

The Italian Super Cup match between league champions AC Milan and cup winners Inter is set to take place in Riyadh on Jan. 18, 2023, Italy’s national professional league, Serie A, has confirmed.

No stadium has yet been assigned for the return of the showpiece match to Saudi Arabia.

The Italian Super Cup, or Supercoppa Italiana, has often been played abroad and was last hosted outside of Italy in Riyadh in 2019, when Lazio beat Juventus 3-1 at the King Saud University Stadium.

The competition has for the last two years taken place on home soil due to COVID-19 restrictions, with Juventus beating Napoli 2-0 in Reggio Emilia in 2020 and Inter beating Juventus 2-1 last year at Milan’s San Siro Stadium.

 


Saudi Arabia to play France, Poland and Slovenia at 2023 Handball World Championship

Saudi Arabia to play France, Poland and Slovenia at 2023 Handball World Championship
Updated 03 July 2022

Saudi Arabia to play France, Poland and Slovenia at 2023 Handball World Championship

Saudi Arabia to play France, Poland and Slovenia at 2023 Handball World Championship
  • The Saudi team has faced all three Group B opponents in previous competitions

The draw for the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship on Saturday placed Saudi Arabia’s handball national team in Group B alongside France, Slovenia and co-hosts Poland.

The tournament, organized by Sweden and Poland, will run from Jan. 12 to Jan. 29 in 2023.

The Saudi team has faced all three rivals in previous versions of the competition, having twice taken on Slovenia and Poland, while facing France once.

The first meeting against Slovenia was in 2001, ending in a 35-22 defeat for Saudi Arabia, while the second meeting in 2013 resulted in a 32-22 loss.

In 2003, Saudi Arabia faced France for the first time, in a match that ended in a 33-22 loss for the Green Falcons.

Poland, too, have won both of their encounters with Saudi Arabia — with a result of 28-14 in 2013, and 32-13 in 2015.

This will be the 10th time the Saudi national team has taken part in this competition, with the first of nine previous participations taking place in 1997, and the last in 2019. The team’s highest position was 10th in the 2003 competition played in Portugal.