‘Maybe it was good to lose,’ says Jabeur after French Open shock

‘Maybe it was good to lose,’ says Jabeur after French Open shock
Ons Jabeur plays a forehand return to Magda Linette during their singles match on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Roland-Garros, Paris, France, May 22, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 22 May 2022

‘Maybe it was good to lose,’ says Jabeur after French Open shock

‘Maybe it was good to lose,’ says Jabeur after French Open shock
  • The sixth-seeded Tunisian crashed out to Poland’s 56th-ranked Magda Linette 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-5
  • Jabeur came into the event with a season-leading 17 wins on clay in 2022 and with the prestigious Madrid title under her belt

PARIS: Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur suffered a shock French Open first round exit on Sunday but admitted: “Maybe it was good to lose.”
The sixth-seeded Tunisian crashed out to Poland’s 56th-ranked Magda Linette 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-5.
The 27-year-old was seen as a potential champion in Paris, despite never having previously got past the fourth round.
Jabeur came into the event with a season-leading 17 wins on clay in 2022 and with the prestigious Madrid title under her belt and a runners-up spot in Rome against world number one Iga Swiatek in Rome.
However, she was undone Sunday by 47 unforced errors in the two hour 28-minute match.
“Obviously I was expecting better but we say maybe something happens bad because there is something good happening in the future,” said Jabeur.
“Hopefully the grass season, hopefully Wimbledon, I don’t know, but it’s definitely a great time to reflect and to see what’s going to happen next.”
“So maybe it was a good thing to lose today. I would rather say this and be really tough with myself than waste all the good energy that I got from Madrid and Rome.”
Jabeur said she was not happy to see that she was starting proceedings on Court Philippe Chatrier on the opening day of the tournament, the first French Open with full crowds since 2019 after a pandemic-affected two years.
“Well, honestly, I wasn’t happy to play on a Sunday at 11,” she added.
“I’ve got quite a peculiar relationship with this court, I like it and I don’t like it at the same time.”
Linette had lost to Jabeur in the third round in 2021 having stunned an injury-hit top seed Ashleigh Barty in her previous match.
“I just tried to stay focused after the first set and tried to make her uncomfortable. I was happy to fight for every single point,” said Linette who needed treatment on a leg injury after dropping the first set.
“I shifted my attention to play faster and my racquet speed was faster than in the first set.
“I wanted to put her in the situation where she couldn’t move me around as much.”
Linette, a quarter-finalist on clay at Charleston and Strasbourg this year, next faces either 2020 French Open quarter-finalist, and weekend Rabat champion Martina Trevisan of Italy or Britain’s Harriet Dart for a spot in the last 32.


Cosmin Contra apologizes to Al-Ittihad fans for SPL title race collapse, promises strong comeback next season

Cosmin Contra apologizes to Al-Ittihad fans for SPL title race collapse, promises strong comeback next season
Cosmin Contra has apologized to Al-Ittihad for the club's late SPL title race. (Arriyadiyah)
Updated 15 sec ago

Cosmin Contra apologizes to Al-Ittihad fans for SPL title race collapse, promises strong comeback next season

Cosmin Contra apologizes to Al-Ittihad fans for SPL title race collapse, promises strong comeback next season
  • Romanian coach’s team blew 16-point February lead over Al-Hilal to lose title by 2 points on last day of season

RIYADH: Al-Ittihad coach Cosmin Contra has apologised to club supporters for his team’s late collapse in the 2021-22 Saudi Pro League title race which allowed Al-Hilal to claim a record-extending 18th championship.

And the Romanian coach promised that the Jeddah club would return stronger in the coming season.

In February, the 46-year-old manager’s team were 16 points clear of the Riyadh giants, but a poor run of form, including two defeats to Al-Hilal, saw them lose the title by two points on the last day of the campaign.

Writing on his official Twitter account, Contra said: “I would like to apologize that we let you down at the last minute, and although we did our best, we did not live up to the aspirations of our fans.”

He highlighted that great champions bounce back from big disappointments by learning from their mistakes. “Al-Ittihad will return next season stronger to achieve the title that we have been waiting for a long time,” he added.

In his tweets, Contra finished by thanking Al-Ittihad fans for the support they had provided to the team throughout the season.


AFC U-23 Asian Cup won by Saudi Arabia was competition’s most engaging

AFC U-23 Asian Cup won by Saudi Arabia was competition’s most engaging
The AFC’s Twitter account generated the highest improvement in impressions. (@SaudiNT)
Updated 12 min 31 sec ago

AFC U-23 Asian Cup won by Saudi Arabia was competition’s most engaging

AFC U-23 Asian Cup won by Saudi Arabia was competition’s most engaging
  • Record-breaking 340m social media impressions for tourney’s 5th edition

The AFC U-23 Asian Cup won by Saudi Arabia in Uzbekistan last month saw a record-breaking 340 million social media impressions — a massive increase of 193.8 percent from the fourth edition in Thailand two years ago.

Asia’s top 16 teams competed for 19 days across 32 matches in the cities of Tashkent and Qarshi, with the Kingdom clinching the coveted fifth crown by defeating hosts Uzbekistan 2-0 in a captivating decider.

The biggest increase was observed through the video content which received 46.9 million views on the AFC’s digital platforms, a rise of 1,066 percent from the 2020 edition, while the newly launched AFC TikTok account also garnered 9.3 million views with close to a million engagements.

The AFC’s Twitter account generated the highest improvement in impressions with a 217 percent increase from 2020 to 33 million, followed by Instagram, which received 115.65 million impressions or an increase of 119 percent, while the AFC’s Facebook impressions rose by 80 percent to nearly 110 million.

At the same time, engagement on the AFC’s social media channels grew by 141.2 percent from 7.3 million in 2020 to 17.68 million in 2022. This was thanks to the multi-lingual approach through the AFC’s platforms in English, Arabic, Farsi, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Thai and Vietnamese.

The AFC’s Facebook account saw the highest uptake with nearly 10 million engagements, 315 percent higher than the last edition, with the confederation’s Twitter account increasing by 84 percent to 1.6 million engagements, while Instagram rose 61 percent to 6 million engagements.

On the pitch, the continent’s attacking prowess was also palpable with a total of 81 goals scored across the 32 matches, averaging approximately two goals per match, as the young Green Falcons became the first side in the tournament’s history to maintain an unblemished defensive record across all six matches in their impressive march to the title.

The tournament also saw spectator attendance records rewritten on several occasions, with 28,670 fans gathering at the Pakhtakor Stadium when hosts Uzbekistan opened their campaign against Turkmenistan, before a notable 32,268 supporters attended the thrilling final between the host nation and Saudi Arabia.


Boost for embattled Iraq football as host of Gulf Cup 2023

Boost for embattled Iraq football as host of Gulf Cup 2023
Iraq is one of Asia’s biggest football nations. (File/AFP)
Updated 25 min 45 sec ago

Boost for embattled Iraq football as host of Gulf Cup 2023

Boost for embattled Iraq football as host of Gulf Cup 2023
  • Many delays to 25th edition of the 8-team tournament now set for next January

The 25th Gulf Cup that was scheduled to take place in December 2021 will be held in the Iraqi city of Basra in January 2023, the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation announced on Thursday. The body voted unanimously to return the competition to the country for the first time since it was staged in Baghdad back in 1979.

That was also the first time Iraq won the title and the team repeated the feat in 1984 and 1988. But the last time the eight-nation biennial tournament took place was in December 2019 in Qatar when Bahrain lifted the trophy. The 2021 version was postponed as facilities including stadiums and hotels in the southern Iraqi city were not ready. It was expected to take place in 2022 but that proved to be impossible due to a crowded international schedule, which included World Cup qualifiers, Asian Cup qualifiers and the Arab Cup, not to mention the World Cup itself.

Basra has been working hard to improve its sporting facilities and general infrastructure and after inspection by AGCFF officials, the go-ahead was given to stage the first major football competition in the country since the US-led invasion in 2003. FIFA has been concerned about the security situation in the country for a while, due to the Iran-Iraq war in the eighties and the first Gulf War in the following decade.

The prospect of eight teams — Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen —coming to the southern port city is thus a big deal for the host nation.

“Congratulations to Iraq and the dear Basra for hosting the 25th Gulf Championship,” said the country’s president Barham Salih, adding “it is a merit worthy of Iraq and its people after more than four decades deprived of that.”

Salih paid tribute to “all the governmental and popular efforts and our sports fans that contributed to achieving this achievement, which embodies the Iraqis’ ethos of generosity and hospitality.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi was also delighted and promised that Basra would put on a great show.

“We congratulate our beloved Iraq and Basra after this long-awaited tournament (has been awarded to us). We promise our people and our brothers in the Gulf that this football event will be a model in football circles.”

In the almost two decades since Iraq was invaded, only in 2011 have World Cup qualifiers been held in the country due to FIFA concerns over security. There was disappointment earlier this year as the world governing body, which had originally allowed Baghdad to host March’s qualifier against the UAE, switched the game to Saudi Arabia just days before kick-off after missile attacks in the north of the country.

This latest decision could mark the beginning of a new era for Iraqi football on and off the pitch. For as long as anyone, around the age of 50 remembers, Iraq’s home games have usually taken place in third countries such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. But once the Gulf Cup, which is not a FIFA-sanctioned competition, is done and dusted, then it is hoped that Iraq will be given the green light to play competitive games in Baghdad and elsewhere.

Iraq is one of Asia’s biggest football nations and won the 2007 Asian Cup despite the chaotic situation back home. The country has only appeared at one World Cup, back in 1986, and it is likely that there would have been other appearances had the team been allowed to play qualifiers on home soil. With the 2026 World Cup expanding to include eight automatic berths from Asia, doubling the current total of four, if the Gulf Cup leads to a change in FIFA’s stance, then Iraq will have a great chance of going to North America.

First though, there is a need to perform well off the field in January.

“We are now facing a great challenge, as we are only six months away from the start of the tournament,” said Adnan Dirjal, the president of the Iraq Football Association. “This requires everyone to do a great deal of work and to double their efforts.”

“We are looking forward to the challenge however and to welcoming the Gulf Cup to our country and putting on a great event.”


Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz leads LIV Golf Portland Invitational

Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz leads LIV Golf Portland Invitational
Carlos Ortiz watches his tee shot on 15th hole during the first round of the LIV Golf Portland Invitational tournament. (AP)
Updated 01 July 2022

Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz leads LIV Golf Portland Invitational

Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz leads LIV Golf Portland Invitational
  • Two-time major winner Dustin Johnson, one of the series’ most prized catches, was a stroke back on 68, capping his round with an unlikely par save with a shot through the trees on his final hole, where he was well right off the tee

LOS ANGELES: The first US event in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series teed off in Oregon on Thursday.

Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz, making his LIV Golf debut, took the lead in the 54-hole event, firing seven birdies with two bogeys in a 5-under par 67 at Pumpkin Ridge near Portland, Oregon.

Two-time major winner Dustin Johnson, one of the series’ most prized catches, was a stroke back on 68, capping his round with an unlikely par save with a shot through the trees on his final hole, where he was well right off the tee.

South Africa’s Branden Grace and Japan’s Hideto Tanihara could have joined Johnson at 4-under par, but late bogeys dropped them to tied third place alongside another LIV Golf debutant, Pat Perez.

Bannered by Johnson and Perez, the Four Aces led the team championship in the LIV Golf Portland Invitational by two shots at seven-under par. The champion team in London, the all-South African squad of Stinger, were second at -5.

Aussie Wade Ormsby was the best placed Asian Tour member, tied sixth at two-under par alongside four-time major champion Brooks Koepka and South African Hennie du Plessis.

“I hit a few of them close on my first nine, but that is the difficult half of the golf course. I just played steady and made a few birdies coming in,” said Ormsby, captain of the all-Australian Punches team this week and winner of three titles on the Asian Tour, including two Hong Kong Opens.


5 players, $1.1 billion: NBA free agency starts with a bang

5 players, $1.1 billion: NBA free agency starts with a bang
Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets agreed Thursday to a $264 supermax extension. (AP)
Updated 01 July 2022

5 players, $1.1 billion: NBA free agency starts with a bang

5 players, $1.1 billion: NBA free agency starts with a bang
  • Five players — Jokic, Beal, Towns, Booker and Morant — had more than $1.1 billion in money committed to them in their new deals, highlighting the moves made Thursday when the NBA’s annual free-agent negotiating window opened

NEW YORK: The NBA generated more basketball-related income than ever this past season, the total number coming up just short of $9 billion.

Business is good. The first night of free agency underscored how good.

Nikola Jokic agreed to the biggest contract in NBA history, Bradley Beal agreed to a deal worth a quarter-billion dollars, and the money just kept flowing. 

Shortly after midnight Friday in the Eastern time zone, three more players — Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and Ja Morant — also agreed to huge-money extensions.

Towns and Booker agreed to four-year deals that will commence in 2024 and are worth at least $224 million, their agent, Jessica Holtz of CAA, said. Morant will sign his first rookie extension, one that’ll be worth at least $193 million and could reach the $230 million range, according to Tandem Sports, which represents him.

Those five players — Jokic, Beal, Towns, Booker and Morant — had more than $1.1 billion in money committed to them in their new deals, highlighting the moves made Thursday when the NBA’s annual free-agent negotiating window opened.

Jokic agreed to a supermax extension to remain with the Denver Nuggets, the two-time reigning MVP guaranteeing himself at least $264 million over five seasons starting with the 2023-24 campaign. The final number may go up slightly depending on what the league’s salary cap is going into the ‘23-24 season and if it exceeds current projections.

Beal will make $251 million over the next five seasons after re-signing with Washington, one day after turning down $37 million for this coming season from the team with whom he’s spent the entirety of his 10-year career.

Towns and Booker got their deals not long afterward, as did Morant. More big-money extensions are coming at some point, particularly rookie extensions — Miami’s Tyler Herro and New Orleans’ Zion Williamson among the names on that list.

All those moves, even the biggest-money ones, were overshadowed by a piece of non-free-agent news that came earlier Thursday when Kevin Durant, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation, told the Brooklyn Nets that he wanted a trade. That undoubtedly had some sort of an impact on the decisions some teams were making, or were considering, with the surprise development that one of the world’s elite players is looking for a new place to play.

Jokic and Beal have signed lucrative contracts before. For some, the ones they get this summer will be their first.

Jalen Brunson, as had been widely speculated given his deep ties to the Knicks — his father played there, for starters — agreed to sign with New York, on a deal that ESPN reported would be worth $104 million over four years. He had earned about $6 million, total, in his four seasons with the Dallas Mavericks and saw his value soar by averaging 21.6 points in 18 playoff games this past season.

Anfernee Simons, who had a breakout season for the injury-plagued Portland Trail Blazers last year — taking advantage of his opportunity, and then some — agreed to a four-year, $100 million contract to remain with that club. And Lu Dort, undrafted three years ago and someone who made about $4 million combined in his three seasons with Oklahoma City, will stay with the Thunder for the next five years on a deal worth nearly $88 million.

 

NBA NUMBERS

The NBA set the new salary cap, luxury tax and other numbers that will be used this coming season and go into effect Friday.

The cap is $123.655 million, the tax level is $150.267 million. The minimum team salary level is $111.29 million and the exceptions were set as wel. The non-taxpayer mid-level is $10.49 million, taxpayer mid-level is $6.479 million, and the mid-level for a team with room under the cap is $5.401 million.

TUCKER TO PHILADELPHIA

P.J. Tucker is reuniting with Philadelphia general manager Daryl Morey and — assuming he re-signs, as planned — James Harden as well. Tucker agreed Thursday to a three-year deal with the 76ers for $33 million. Morey, Tucker and Harden were together with the Houston Rockets; Harden declared free agency Wednesday with the intention of coming back to Philadelphia. Tucker won a title with Milwaukee in 2021 and helped Miami to the Eastern Conference finals in 2022.

MCGEE CHOOSES MAVERICKS

Dallas and JaVale McGee — a three-time NBA champion and an Olympic gold medalist as well — agreed on a contract for two seasons and a third at McGee’s option worth about $20 million. McGee has played for eight NBA teams and is heading to Dallas for a second time; he played 34 games there in 2015-16.

PORTIS, INGLES TO BUCKS

Bobby Portis (four years, $49 million) is returning to Milwaukee, and the Bucks are adding veteran guard Joe Ingles as well. Ingles is signing a one-year deal, according to his wife, Renae Ingles, who tweeted that “CEO of the house, Renae Ingles, is thrilled for Joe and their family.”

HEAT DECISIONS

Miami will retain Victor Oladipo on a one-year, $11 million deal and Dewayne Dedmon on a two-year deal for about $9 million, though the second year has conditional protections.

MAGIC KEEPING HARRIS

Gary Harris signed with the Orlando Magic, the team said, with the sides agreeing on two years for $26 million for the guard. The Magic are also keeping center Mo Bamba on a two-year deal.

RAPTORS MOVES

Toronto is keeping forward Chris Boucher (three years, $36 million) and Thaddeus Young (two years, $16 million).

BAGLEY STAYING

Detroit moved quickly to lock up restricted free agent Marvin Bagley III, agreeing to keep him with a three-year, $37 million deal.

WRIGHT TO WIZARDS

In addition to keeping Beal, the Wizards also agreed to a two-year, $16 million deal with guard Delon Wright.