Wimbledon on collision course with ATP, WTA over Russia, Belarus ban

Wimbledon on collision course with ATP, WTA over Russia, Belarus ban
Russia's Daniil Medvedev reacts during his match against Poland's Hubert Hurkacz during the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London ib July 6, 2021. (AP file photo)
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Updated 21 May 2022

Wimbledon on collision course with ATP, WTA over Russia, Belarus ban

Wimbledon on collision course with ATP, WTA over Russia, Belarus ban
  • Wimbledon stripped of ranking points over Russia, Belarus ban
  • Decision by ATP, WTA reduces Wimbledon to exhibition event

The world’s most prestigious tennis tournament was on Friday set on a collision course with the sport’s global governing bodies after Wimbledon had its ranking points stripped by the ATP and WTA Tours over excluding players from Russia and Belarus.
The move by the men’s and women’s tours will reduce Wimbledon to an exhibition event but the AELTC, organizers of the Grand Slam, repeated their stance that the ban was the only viable option under British government guidance.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) also said it will not grant ranking points to Wimbledon this year for junior and wheelchair tennis events.
The AELTC decision to impose the suspension on Russian and Belarusian players at this year’s championships due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is the first time players have been excluded on grounds of nationality since the immediate post-World War Two era when German and Japanese players were banned.
The AELTC on Friday said they were considering their options and were in discussions with their Grand Slam colleagues.
“In addition, we remain unwilling to accept success or participation at Wimbledon being used to benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime,” the AELTC said in a statement.
“We therefore wish to state our deep disappointment at the decisions taken by the ATP, WTA and ITF in removing ranking points for The Championships.
“We believe these decisions to be disproportionate in the context of the exceptional and extreme circumstances of this situation and the position we found ourselves in, and damaging to all players who compete on Tour.”

Ranking integrity
The ATP and WTA have themselves banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions following the invasion, which Moscow calls a ‘special operation’, but allowed players from the two countries to compete as neutrals.
“The ability for players of any nationality to enter tournaments based on merit, and without discrimination, is fundamental to our Tour,” the ATP said in a statement.
“The decision by Wimbledon to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing in the UK this summer undermines this principle and the integrity of the ATP Ranking system. It is also inconsistent with our Rankings agreement.
“Absent a change in circumstances, it is with great regret and reluctance that we see no option but to remove ATP Ranking points from Wimbledon for 2022.”
WTA chief Steve Simon said the tour believes athletes participating in an individual sport “should not be penalized or prevented from competing solely because of their nationalities or the decisions made by the governments of their countries.”
“The recent decisions made by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to ban athletes from competing in the upcoming UK grass court events violate that fundamental principle,” Simon said.
“As a result of the AELTC’s position that it will not honor its obligation to use the WTA Rankings for entry into Wimbledon and proceed with a partial field not based on merit, the WTA has made the difficult decision to not award WTA ranking points for this year’s Wimbledon Championships.”

Ban slammed
Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian competitors has been slammed by top players such as 21-times Grand Slam champion Rafa Nadal who labelled it unfair, while world number one Novak Djokovic said he did not support the decision.
“Our rules and agreements exist in order to protect the rights of players as a whole. Unilateral decisions of this nature, if unaddressed, set a damaging precedent for the rest of the Tour,” the ATP added.
“Discrimination by individual tournaments is simply not viable on a Tour that operates in more than 30 countries.
“We remain hopeful of further discussions with Wimbledon leading to an acceptable outcome for all concerned.
“More broadly, we believe this matter again highlights the need for a united governance structure across professional tennis so that decisions of this nature can be made in a joint manner.”

Tune-up events
Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) also reciprocated the Wimbledon ban by excluding players from the two countries from its tune-up tour events.
However, the WTA said its tournaments at Nottingham, Birmingham, and Eastbourne would go ahead with ranking points on offer as “alternative and comparable playing and ranking point opportunities exist in the same weeks.”
The ATP had also said earlier this week that its events at Queen’s and Eastbourne will proceed as normal, offering full ATP ranking points.
While the LTA tournaments will continue to offer full ranking points, the British governing body is under review for sanctions from the ATP and WTA.
The ITF justified its decision not to award ranking points to Wimbledon this year for junior and wheelchair tennis events by saying it undermines the integrity of the competition.
“The ITF has determined that Wimbledon’s entry criteria banning Russians and Belarusians compromises the integrity of its international competition, in particular its ranking system, as there is a lack of alternative equivalent opportunities for players to compete for ranking points and prize money,” the ITF said.


Pogacar, Copenhagen buzzing ahead of Tour de France opener

Pogacar, Copenhagen buzzing ahead of Tour de France opener
Updated 9 sec ago

Pogacar, Copenhagen buzzing ahead of Tour de France opener

Pogacar, Copenhagen buzzing ahead of Tour de France opener
  • The sport’s greatest race attracts up to 15 million roadside fans per year and the opening three days in cycling-obsessed Denmark on the 109th edition will provide the same festive atmosphere so beloved to the French
  • The first of the 21 stages is a short, fast, technically and psychologically challenging 13.2km individual time trial around downtown Copenhagen

COPENHAGEN: Fans and riders were buzzing with excitement as the Tour de France’s Grand Depart arrived on Friday while globally over a billion television spectators are also expected to tune in over the 21 days.

When the fresh-faced 23-year-old champion Tadej Pogacar said he was thrilled with the Danish public and could not wait to get started, the sentiment was widely shared.

The sport’s greatest race attracts up to 15 million roadside fans per year and the opening three days in cycling-obsessed Denmark on the 109th edition will provide the same festive atmosphere so beloved to the French.

“I’m ready personally and my team is ready too, and you can only be happy with the kind of reception we have had here,” said UAE Team Emirates leader Pogacar.

Belgian powerhouse Wout Van Aert, winner of a time-trial, a sprint and a mountain stage at the 2021 Tour, was also buzzing after two editions impacted by COVID-19.

“I was surprised by the amount of people on the road sides. After two years, we can finally have a Grand Depart with huge crowds,” he said.

The first of the 21 stages is a short, fast, technically and psychologically challenging 13.2km individual time trial around downtown Copenhagen.

Contestants compete on specialized bikes for the time-trial that would be too dangerous for any casual cyclist to ride.

They also wear tailored aerodynamic outfits that cost up to and above €4,000 ($4,161).

Frenchman Jeremy Lecroq will be the first rider down the starters ramp at 1600 (1400GMT) outside the Tivoli theme park and next to Copenhagen’s eye-catching central train station with its gothic wooden balustrades and tiled interior.

The 176 riders embark at one-minute intervals with UAE Emirates’ Marc Soler the last to go at 1855 (1655GMT).

Ineos’ world champion time-triallist Filippo Ganna accepted his favorite tag to win the opener and thereby don the overall race leader’s jersey.

“It would be nice to wear the yellow jersey, nothing is easy but I want to try and put that in my museum,” the Italian said.

Saturday’s second stage runs 202.5km from Roskilde to Nyborg along verdant roads adjacent to fjords and it culminates with a 20km crossing of the Great Belt Bridge.

Sunday’s final day in Denmark is a 182km run from Vejl to Sonderborg.

The Tour de France caravan transfers to France next Monday for a treacherous week featuring old, cobbled mining roads.

The race then heads across the Alps, including an epic climb up the legendary Alpe d’Huez, and into the Pyrenees where the equally fearsome Hautacam summit awaits.

If those mountains have not been enough to produce a winner, the 40.7km individual time-trial ending in Rocamadour on the penultimate stage should do the trick.

While Pogacar is the best rider, Dutch outfit Jumbo-Visma appear to be the strongest team, and the once mighty Ineos have promised to race aggressively to wrestle back the title.


Nadal, Swiatek survive wobbles to progress at Wimbledon

Nadal, Swiatek survive wobbles to progress at Wimbledon
Updated 01 July 2022

Nadal, Swiatek survive wobbles to progress at Wimbledon

Nadal, Swiatek survive wobbles to progress at Wimbledon
  • The 22-time Grand Slam champion, who has not played at Wimbledon since reaching the 2019 semifinals, admitted he needed to step up his game as he prepares to face Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego
  • Swiatek surpasses Monica Seles’ 36-match winning streak from 1990 and matches Martina Hingis’s 37-match winning run from the beginning of the 1997 season

LONDON: Rafael Nadal was again forced to dig deep to reach the Wimbledon third round on Thursday as women’s top seed Iga Swiatek survived a stumble to win her 37th match on the spin.

The Spanish second seed, chasing a calendar Grand Slam, recovered from losing the third set for the second straight match to beat Lithuanian journeyman Ricardas Berankis 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Earlier, Spanish 17th seed Roberto Bautista Agut became the third potential dangerman in Nadal’s half of the draw to pull out with coronavirus, following the withdrawals of 2021 runner-up Matteo Berrettini and 2017 finalist Marin Cilic.

Nadal has also benefited from a shock first-round exit for Canada’s sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who took him to five sets at the French Open.

Nadal looked comfortable in the first two sets against Berankis but was broken in his first service game of the third set and could not claw his way back.

But the Spaniard regrouped and raced into a 3-0 lead in the fourth set, sealing the match with an ace after it resumed under the roof following a sharp rain shower.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion, who has not played at Wimbledon since reaching the 2019 semifinals, admitted he needed to step up his game as he prepares to face Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego.

“I didn’t play much on grass in three years,” he said. “It gives me the chance to keep going, so very happy for that.

“I need to improve. The fourth set was much better.... I have to keep working, be humble, even when things are not going well.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Australian maverick Nick Kyrgios remain two of Nadal’s biggest challenges and they will meet in a mouthwatering contest on Saturday.

Kyrgios was on his best behavior on court as he steamrollered Serbian 26th seed Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 in just 85 minutes.

The 27-year-old, who made the quarter-finals on debut at the All England Club in 2014, did not face a single break point.

“I just wanted to remind everyone that I am pretty good,” he said. “I was nowhere near my best in the first round but today I was in my zone.”

Kyrgios’s five-set opening win over Paul Jubb of Britain was marred by his admission that he spat in the direction of fans, accusing them of being disrespectful.

“There was just nothing the media possibly could tell me I did wrong today,” he said. “I just know that you can’t possibly ask me anything and stir anything up.”

Late Thursday, Kyrgios was fined $10,000 for Tuesday’s incidents.

Fourth seed Tsitsipas had few problems in defeating Australia’s Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-3, 7-5.

“I feel like everyone here knows who Nick is,” said the Greek player.

“We have had many great matches against each other. I respect him for his game and the way he fights when he wants to.”

Poland’s Swiatek needed just over two hours to see off Dutch lucky loser Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Swiatek was in early trouble before winning four games in a row to take the first set but went down a break in the second and could not recover.

In the end, though, Swiatek took charge in the decider, breaking for a 3-1 lead and closing out the match.

She surpasses Monica Seles’ 36-match winning streak from 1990 and matches Martina Hingis’s 37-match winning run from the beginning of the 1997 season.

“I would say the grass is pretty tricky for me, I’m not going to lie,” said Swiatek, who faces France’s Alize Cornet next.

“I guess you can see that I’m not playing maybe as efficiently as on other surfaces.

“Basically my confidence is getting better overall. But this tournament is tricky and I’m still feeling out how to play the best game here.”

British wildcard Katie Boulter shocked 2021 finalist Karolina Pliskova 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 before dedicating her win to her late grandmother, who died this week.

Fourth seed Paula Badosa set up a clash against two-time champion Petra Kvitova after both had straightforward wins.

Coco Gauff eased past Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-2, 6-3 — hammering the fastest serve of the women’s tournament, a screamer clocked at 122 miles (192 kilometers) per hour — and will next meet fellow American Amanda Anisimova.


Duplantis soars to outdoor pole vault record, Olympic champion Jacobs in late withdrawal

Duplantis soars to outdoor pole vault record, Olympic champion Jacobs in late withdrawal
Updated 01 July 2022

Duplantis soars to outdoor pole vault record, Olympic champion Jacobs in late withdrawal

Duplantis soars to outdoor pole vault record, Olympic champion Jacobs in late withdrawal
  • In yet another dominant pole vaulting display in the final major meet before the July 15-24 worlds in Eugene, Oregon, Duplantis had the competition wrapped up after his third effort at 5.83m

STOCKHOLM: Armand Duplantis warmed up for next month’s world championships in perfect style at Stockholm’s Diamond League meet on Thursday, delighting home fans by setting an outdoor pole vault record.

While Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs was a late withdrawal from track’s blue riband event, the men’s 100m, Duplantis ensured there was drama guaranteed to the end in the field.

In yet another dominant pole vaulting display in the final major meet before the July 15-24 worlds in Eugene, Oregon, Duplantis had the competition wrapped up after his third effort at 5.83m.

The US-born vaulter then nailed 5.93 and 6.03m before clearing 6.16 on his second attempt, the best-ever performance outdoors that bettered by 1cm his previous outdoor best set in Rome in September 2020.

“I feel like I am definitely in shape to win my title and maybe to do something special in Eugene,” said the 22-year-old Olympic champion who holds the overall world record of 6.20m, set at the world indoor championships in Belgrade in March.

The outdoor record, Stockholm-based Duplantis said, felt “quite amazing... but really wasn’t that much of a surprise for me.”

“There’s better things that I can do. I felt really good jumping today but it wasn’t like I did everything so perfect that I don’t think I can do any better.

“It’s extra special when you’re jumping on the track where you train. I live about 10 minutes away so you want to defend your home territory first and foremost!“

With little time to fine-tune preparations ahead of the Eugene worlds, Jacobs— a shock gold winner at the Tokyo Olympics last year — pulled out of the 100m in another blow to his injury-hit season.

His coach Paolo Camossi, however, played down the latest setback for his sprinter, who kicked off the season with world 60m indoor gold in Belgrade before a thigh injury in mid-May disrupted track plans.

“The situation is under control,” Camossi said. “He has a little pain in his glute muscle.

“It would have been too risky to run today, that’s why we decided to withdraw him from the 100m. The risk is just too high with the eye on the world championships in Eugene next month.”

In the absence of Jacobs, South African Akani Simbine clocked a season’s best of 10.02sec to win the 100m ahead of the fastest European this year, Britain’s Reece Prescod (10.15).

World champion Dina Asher-Smith of Britain edged Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji, the world indoor 60m champion, in a photo-finish in the women’s 200m, both sprinters credited with 22.37sec.

Femke Bol ensured that, come Eugene, there will be anything but a smooth ride for American Sydney McLaughlin, who set a new world record of 51.41sec in winning the women’s 400m hurdles at the US trials last weekend.

The Dutch hurdler won in Stockholm in a Diamond League record of 52.27sec and her clash with Olympic champion McLaughlin and US teammate and reigning world champion Dalilah Muhammad will undoubtedly be one of the track highlights of the world champs.

“I am still hoping to do something very special also in Eugene,” Bol said. “It was a good race today but not perfect. In the end, I am very glad for this time.

“I am so excited for Eugene. When you see the results from the Hayward Field stadium, I am so excited to go there and I have some great competitors out there.”

India’s Olympic javelin champion Neeraj Chopra threw a national record of 89.94m, but that was only good enough for second place behind Anderson Peters of Grenada (90.31).

“I thought I could throw even over 90m today,” said Chopra, whose gold in Tokyo was India’s first ever Olympic track and field triumph.

“I am close to 90m now and I can throw it this year. Despite the fact that I did not win tonight, I feel very good because I did my best.”

Brazil’s Alison Dos Santos bested Karsten Warholm’s meet record as he set a world lead of 46.80sec in the men’s 400m hurdles.

“I am so proud about this performance. My preparations went well and this result shows it,” said the Brazilian who won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I think about the world record every day, every night, the Japanese capital.


Milan to host fourth round of UAE President’s Cup horse race

Milan to host fourth round of UAE President’s Cup horse race
Updated 30 June 2022

Milan to host fourth round of UAE President’s Cup horse race

Milan to host fourth round of UAE President’s Cup horse race
  • Nine horses participating in Italian round to win cup by racing over 2km distance

LONDON: The San Siro Racecourse in Milan will host the fourth round of the 29th edition of the UAE President’s Cup World Series for Purebred Arabian Horses, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

The cup’s races are supported and closely monitored by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, deputy prime minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, who also works to ensure the sustainability of the UAE’s efforts to enhance promote purebred Arabian horses globally.

The cup began in May in France, followed by the US and Tunisia, which is the first country in the Arab region to host the series, before returning to Europe, as part of the UAE's efforts to encourage owners and breeders and showcase Emirati heritage.

Nine horses are participating in the Italian round to win the cup by racing over a distance of two kilometers.

Matar Suhail Al-Yabhouni, chairman of the Supreme Organizing Committee of the cup, said the event in Italy would be attended by owners and breeders and will receive major media coverage, noting the ongoing plans to support activities involving purebred Arabian horses.

Faisal Al-Rahmani, general coordinator of the cup, said the event in Italy will be a successful gathering of horses from around the world, highlighting the significant turnout of Italian and European horses.


Gamers8 event to partner with Aramco for simulated racing competition

Gamers8 event to partner with Aramco for simulated racing competition
Updated 30 June 2022

Gamers8 event to partner with Aramco for simulated racing competition

Gamers8 event to partner with Aramco for simulated racing competition
  • World’s leading integrated energy, chemicals firm extends support of esports in Saudi Arabia
  • Aramco will be title partner of Aramco Sim Arena during Gamers8, starting July 14

RIYADH: Gamers8, the world’s largest esports and gaming event, has announced that Saudi Aramco will be a strategic partner of this summer’s showpiece in Riyadh.

Organized by the Saudi Esports Federation, the eight-week event beginning July 14 will stage elite tournaments featuring a series of festivals, concerts, and shows. Aramco will be a title sponsor of the Aramco Sim Arena, a simulator zone for racing enthusiasts to compete in daily community tournaments.

Beyond gaming activities, Gamers8 and Aramco are using the competition to identify top local simulated racing talent for the development program launched during Gamers Without Borders.

The top sim drivers selected will receive specialized training with international professional sim drivers and coaches in the UK. A documentary film team will follow the trainees’ journey for future broadcast.

Ahmed Al-Bishri, chief operations officer of the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “We are delighted to welcome Aramco on board as a strategic partner, and thank them once again for pledging their support to the esports and gaming sector in Saudi Arabia.

“Gamers8 is set to be an incredible, showpiece spectacle in Riyadh this summer, blurring the lines between the physical and virtual worlds. The addition of Aramco as a strategic partner adds another layer of excellence to an event that will be an unforgettable occasion.”

Gamers8 will focus on four main pillars, which include professional esports, festivals, music, and The Next World Summit, an esports and gaming conference that will bring together sector leaders and experts from around the world.