Tsitsipas survives world No. 66 Musetti in marathon five-setter as French Open clouded by Wimbledon row

Tsitsipas survives world No. 66 Musetti in marathon five-setter as French Open clouded by Wimbledon row
Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas plays a backhand return to Italy's Lorenzo Musetti during their men's singles match on Day 3 of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament in Paris on May 24, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 25 May 2022

Tsitsipas survives world No. 66 Musetti in marathon five-setter as French Open clouded by Wimbledon row

Tsitsipas survives world No. 66 Musetti in marathon five-setter as French Open clouded by Wimbledon row
  • Tsitsipas came into the tournament on the back of a successful defense of his Monte Carlo title and a runner-up spot in Madrid
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a former Australian Open runner-up and world No. 5, bid an emotional goodbye to tennis after losing in the first round to Casper Ruud

PARIS: Stefanos Tsitsipas came back from the brink to reach the French Open second round as Roland Garros was again overshadowed by the crisis engulfing Wimbledon.

Fourth seed and 2021 runner-up Tsitsipas defeated world No. 66 Lorenzo Musetti 5-7, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in a match which finished early Wednesday.

Greek star Tsitsipas triumphed as 20-year-old Musetti collapsed from the brink of a famous Paris win for the second year in succession.

Twelve months ago, the Italian took the first two sets against Novak Djokovic in the last 16 before injury forced a final set retirement.

He enjoyed a flying start when the night session first round tie started Tuesday, sweeping through the first two sets, out-hitting Tsitsipas just as he had done against Djokovic.

But then came the familiar power failure and Tsitsipas comfortably pocketed the next two sets.

Tsitsipas came into the tournament on the back of a successful defense of his Monte Carlo title and a runner-up spot in Madrid.

He was also on a season-leading 31 wins which became 32 in the decider courtesy of two more service breaks.

“It was positive and a good effort in the end. I wasn’t feeling very good in the first two sets, something was off with my game. Lorenzo wasn’t giving me any rhythm,” said the 23-year-old.

World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev eased into the second round but could not escape the shadow of Wimbledon, the Grand Slam tournament where he has been declared persona non grata.

Medvedev routed Argentina’s 103rd-ranked Facundo Bagnis 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 on the back of 35 winners.

“I love Roland Garros, especially since last year,” said Medvedev, who had lost in the opening round on his first four trips before reaching the quarter-finals in 2021. “I hope this year I can go further.”

One place he will not be going, however, is the All England Club next month after Wimbledon banned all Russian and Belarusian players in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The ATP and WTA responded by stripping the sport’s most prestigious tournament of ranking points.

One day after former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka revealed she was “leaning toward not playing” Wimbledon while defending champion Novak Djokovic said he will play despite losing 2,000 points, the controversy showed no signs of abating.

“I will go there to get my prize money, as I would for an exhibition tournament,” said Frenchman Benoit Paire after a 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 loss to Ilya Ivashka.

Claiming that “99 percent” of players want a Wimbledon with points, he added: “I’m sorry for Russia and Russians, but they are the ones causing all the trouble.”

Denis Shapovalov, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2021, said he objected both to the ban and the decision to strip the points.

“I think they could have gone with it a different way, maybe keep 50 percent like they have in the past,” said the Canadian.

The biggest loser on the women’s side will be Karolina Pliskova who will drop the 1,000 points by finishing runner-up to the now retired Ashleigh Barty in 2021.

She too wants 50 percent of the points to be retained. She intends to return to the All England Club.

“If you love the game you’re still going to go and play,” said 2017 Paris semifinalist Pliskova after making the second round by beating Tessah Andrianjafitrimo 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Russia’s Andrey Rublev, the world No. 7, described the atmosphere as “toxic” after seeing off South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in his Roland Garros opener.

Meanwhile, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a former Australian Open runner-up and world No. 5, bid an emotional goodbye to tennis after losing in the first round to Casper Ruud.

The 37-year-old Frenchman was beaten 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 7-6 (7/0) by the Norwegian eighth seed.

“I hope the world can soon find as much peace I found today. Thank you Roland Garros. Thank you Mister Tennis. I love you,” said Tsonga.

Elsewhere, 19-year-old Holger Rune of Denmark marked his main draw debut with a 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) dismissal of 14th-seeded Shapovalov who committed 53 unforced errors.

Spanish third seed Paula Badosa, a quarterfinalist last year, swept into the second round with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over French wildcard Fiona Ferro while 2018 champion.

Simona Halep, the 2018 champion, defeated Germany’s Nastasja Schunk, an 18-year-old lucky loser from qualifying, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1.


US basketball star Griner goes on trial in Russia on drug charges

US basketball star Griner goes on trial in Russia on drug charges
Updated 7 sec ago

US basketball star Griner goes on trial in Russia on drug charges

US basketball star Griner goes on trial in Russia on drug charges
KHIMKI, Russia: US basketball star Brittney Griner went on trial in a court on the outskirts of Moscow on Friday to face drug charges that could see her face up to 10 years in prison.
The case, which coincides with fraught relations between Moscow and Washington over the conflict in Ukraine, was brought after Russian authorities said they found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in Griner’s luggage at a Moscow airport in February.
Griner, a star in the US-based Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), was arrested and charged with smuggling a large quantity of drugs.
The 31-year-old athlete was seen arriving at Khimki City Court in handcuffs shortly after noon Moscow time (0900 GMT) on Friday, wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt and sneakers without laces, which are forbidden in Russian jails.
The prosecutor told Griner that she was being charged with intentionally transporting narcotics. Griner spoke to say she understood the charges.
Three employees of the US embassy, including deputy of chief of mission Elizabeth Rood, were present in the courtroom. Griner was seated in a cage with a zip-lock bag of cookies and a bottle of mineral water.
Griner told a Reuters reporter she was finding detention hard because she was unable to speak Russian, and that she was unable to fully keep up with physical fitness, only general exercises such as stretching.
Her lawyers told Reuters they would not say yet whether or not she would be pleading guilty.

’ILLEGAL DRUGS’
Asked about the case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied it was politically motivated.
“I can only operate with known facts, and the facts indicate that the eminent athlete was detained with illegal drugs that contained narcotic substances. There are articles in Russian legislation that provide for punishment for such crimes,” he told reporters. “Only the court can pass a verdict.”
US officials and a score of athletes have called for the release of Griner — or “BG” as she is known to basketball fans. They say she has been wrongfully detained and should be immediately returned to her family in the United States.
Griner’s detention also prompted concerns that Moscow could use the two-time Olympic gold medallist to negotiate the release of a high-profile Russian in US custody.
The Kremlin has said that Griner violated Russian laws and denied she was being held hostage amid Russia’s stand-off with the United States.
Griner, a center for the Phoenix Mercury, had played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia during the WNBA off-season, like several other US players offered lucrative contracts by the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League.
However some have now left the Russian league, amid Griner’s detention and Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.
Griner’s partner, Cherelle Griner, told CNN in an interview on Thursday evening that she was hoping for a meeting with US President Joe Biden.
“I would love for him to tell me he cares,” Cherelle Griner said.
The US government has warned citizens against traveling to Russia in light of the “potential for harassment against US citizens by Russian government security officials.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week there was “no higher priority” than bringing home Griner and other Americans “illegally detained” abroad.

YouTube star Logan Paul signs with WWE

YouTube star Logan Paul signs with WWE
Updated 01 July 2022

YouTube star Logan Paul signs with WWE

YouTube star Logan Paul signs with WWE
  • The 27-year-old seeks revenge on former WrestleMania 38 partner The Miz

RIYADH: Logan Paul has officially become a member of the WWE locker room after signing a contract with the company this week.

The renowned American YouTuber took to social media to announce the news by sharing photos of his visit to the WWE headquarters. Paul was pictured signing his contract alongside Paul Levesque, aka Triple H, who serves as the executive vice president for Global Talent Strategy & Development, and his wife Stephanie McMahon who is interim chief executive officer for the WWE.

Paul didn’t waste any time and delivered a message to The Miz, Mike Mizanin, following their run-in at WrestleMania 38.

The social media star had previously teamed up with The Miz to take on the legendary masked luchador superstar Rey Mysterio and his son Dominik at the WWE showpiece event. Fans were impressed by his performance, as the 27-year-old mocked the late legend Eddie Guerrero with the Three Amigos and the Frog Splash.

Paul and The Miz emerged victorious on WrestleMania 38’s first night, largely thanks to the newcomer’s efforts.

However, after their The Showcase of the Immortals victory over the Mysterios, The Miz dropped Paul with a Skull-Crushing Finale. After much speculation that they might once again team up, Paul made it clear he’s out for payback at SummerSlam on July 30.

Last year, Paul attempted to kickstart a boxing career as he took on Floyd Mayweather in an exhibition. He managed to go the distance with the former world champion as the contest ended in a tie. Mayweather’s superior boxing was reflected by the CompuBox punch stats, with the tired champion having landed 43 punches of 107 thrown (40.2 percent), compared to Paul’s 28 landed of 217 thrown (12.9 percent).

On Feb. 3, 2018, following his white-collar amateur boxing match with Joe Weller, a British YouTuber who goes by the name of KSI (real name Olajide Olayinka Williams “JJ” Olatunji) challenged Paul to two boxing matches in which Logan and his brother Jake would fight KSI and his younger brother, Deji. While Jake Paul won his match, Logan’s ended in a draw.

In November 2019, Paul made his professional boxing debut in a rematch against KSI. The bout consisted of six three-minute rounds, and resulted in a win for KSI via split decision, with two judges scoring the fight 57–54 and 56–55 for KSI, and one judge scoring it 56–55 in favor of Paul.


Semi-automated offside technology to be used at FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar

Semi-automated offside technology to be used at FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar
Semi-automated offside technology will be introduced at Qatar 2022. (FIFA)
Updated 01 July 2022

Semi-automated offside technology to be used at FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar

Semi-automated offside technology to be used at FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar
  • System provides automated offside alert to video match officials, has been successfully tested at previous FIFA tournaments
  • 3-D animation improves communication to in-stadium fans, TV viewers

RIYADH: FIFA officials have announced that semi-automated offside technology will be used at the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar that kicks off on Nov. 21.

Bosses at football’s international governing body said the system would offer a support tool for video match officials and the on-field referee to help them make faster, more accurate, and more reproducible offside decisions on the biggest stage of all.

Following the successful use of video assistant referee technology at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, FIFA President Gianni Infantino declared in The Vision 2020-23 that his federation would strive to harness the full potential of technology in football and further enhance VAR.

He said: “At the FIFA World Cup in 2018, FIFA took the brave step to use VAR technology on the world’s biggest stage, and it has proven to be an undisputable success.

“Semi-automated offside technology is an evolution of the VAR systems that have been implemented across the world. This technology is the culmination of three years of dedicated research and testing to provide the very best for the teams, players, and fans who will be heading to Qatar later this year.

“And FIFA is proud of this work, as we look forward to the world seeing the benefits of semi-automated offside technology at the FIFA World Cup 2022.

“FIFA is committed to harnessing technology to improve the game of football at all levels, and the use of semi-automated offside technology at the FIFA World Cup in 2022 is the clearest possible evidence,” Infantino added.

By working with adidas and various partners, and especially with the Working Group for Innovation Excellence and technology providers, FIFA has spent the last few years further improving the VAR system, including the use of semi-automated offside technology.

The new technology uses 12 dedicated tracking cameras mounted underneath the roof of the stadium to track the ball and up to 29 data points of each individual player, 50 times per second, calculating their exact position on the pitch. The 29 collected data points include all limbs and extremities that are relevant for making offside calls.

Al Rihla, adidas’ official match ball for Qatar 2022, will provide a further vital element for the detection of tight offside incidents as an inertial measurement unit sensor will be placed inside the ball. This sensor, positioned in the center of the ball, sends ball data to the video operation room 500 times per second, allowing a very precise detection of the kick point.

By combining the limb- and ball-tracking data and applying artificial intelligence, the new technology provides an automated offside alert to the video match officials inside the video operation room whenever the ball is received by an attacker who was in an offside position at the moment the ball was played by a team-mate.

Before informing the on-field referee, the video match officials validate the proposed decision by manually checking the automatically selected kick point and the automatically created offside line, which is based on the calculated positions of the players’ limbs. This process happens within a few seconds and means that offside decisions can be made faster and more accurately.

After the decision has been confirmed by the video match officials and the referee on the pitch, the exact same positional data points that were used to make the decision are then generated into a 3-D animation that perfectly details the position of the players’ limbs at the moment the ball was played. This 3-D animation, which will always show the best possible perspectives for an offside situation, will then be shown on the giant screens in the stadium and will also be made available to FIFA’s broadcast partners to inform all spectators in the clearest possible way.

The workflow of semi-automated offside technology and the connected ball technology have been successfully trialed at numerous test events and live at FIFA tournaments, including the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 and the FIFA Club World Cup 2021.

More tests will be conducted in the coming months to fine-tune the system before a global standard is implemented to ensure that the new technology can be used in the world of football.

All details on the semi-automated offside technology set-up and the connected ball technology will be presented to the teams that have qualified for the FIFA World Cup 2022 at the Team Workshop in Doha on July 4 and 5 and then shared with the public.

Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, said: “We expect that semi-automated offside technology can take us a step further. We are aware that sometimes the process to check a possible offside takes too long, especially when the offside incident is very tight.

“The testing has been a major success and we are very confident that, in Qatar, we will have a very valuable support tool to help referees and assistant referees make the best and most correct decision on the field of play.

“I know that someone called it robot offside; it’s not. The referees and the assistant referees are still responsible for the decision on the field of play,” he added.


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 01 July 2022

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 01 July 2022

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.