Cilic bombs 33 aces past Rublev into 1st French Open semifinal at age 33

Cilic bombs 33 aces past Rublev into 1st French Open semifinal at age 33
Croatia's Marin Cilic celebrates after beating Russia's Andrey Rublev in their men's quarterfinal singles match on Day 11 of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 1, 2022. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 02 June 2022

Cilic bombs 33 aces past Rublev into 1st French Open semifinal at age 33

Cilic bombs 33 aces past Rublev into 1st French Open semifinal at age 33
  • The Croatian is the fifth active man to complete a full set of at least one semifinal run at all four Slam events, joining Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, each of whom has been ranked No. 1 and won multiple majors

PARIS: Marin Cilic is 33, nearly eight seasons past his one Grand Slam title at the 2014 US Open — and, until Wednesday, more than four full years removed from his most recent trip to the semifinals of a major tournament.

If he keeps serving like this, there’s no reason to think about quitting tennis anytime soon.

Cilic delivered 33 aces to get to the final four at the French Open for the first time, edging No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (10-2) on Wednesday in a 4-hour, 10-minute test of strength and will.

“Andrey played incredibly well. One had to go down,” the 20th-seeded Cilic said, “and today was my day.”

The Croatian is the fifth active man to complete a full set of at least one semifinal run at all four Slam events, joining Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, each of whom has been ranked No. 1 and won multiple majors.

Cilic was the runner-up to Federer at Wimbledon in 2017 and the Australian Open in 2018; the latter had been Cilic’s most recent trip to a Slam semifinal.

On Friday, Cilic will take on No. 8 Casper Ruud for a spot in the final. The other men’s semifinal is 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, who eliminated Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, against No. 3 Alexander Zverev.

Ruud, a 23-year-old from Norway, beat Rune, a 19-year-old from Denmark, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3 to get to his first Grand Slam semifinal.

He might be a decade older than his next opponent, but Cilic feels good these days.

When he had a physical exam at the end of 2021, he said, his doctor told him: “Your body’s like 25.”

Continued Cilic: “Don’t tell my wife I’m saying this, (but) I might be playing another 10 years.”

All kidding aside, he said: “How long? We’ll see. But definitely three, four years, if I can be competitive like this.”

He dropped Rublev’s career mark in major quarterfinals to 0-5. That was thanks in part to Cilic’s overwhelming ability to strike serves and groundstrokes for winners — 88 in all, more than twice as many as Rublev’s total of 35.

“It was hard emotionally, because he played some games very well,” Cilic said. “When you play this long, there’s always be some ups and down, so I had to keep my focus.”

Rublev twice displayed good sportsmanship, indicating early in the tiebreaker that one of Cilic’s strokes was indeed in and, earlier at 1-all in the fifth set, volunteering to replay a point after Cilic complained that a shot that was called out had touched a line.

As part of an agreement among the four Grand Slam hosts to standardize one element of the sport, this is the first time the French Open has used a tiebreaker in fifth sets of men’s matches — and third sets of women’s matches.

Cilic ran away with the first-to-10 format against Rublev, collecting the match’s last nine points after trailing 2-1 in the tiebreaker.

The 6-foot-6 (1.98 meter) Cilic has one of the biggest serves on tour, and he delivered them at up to 133 mph (214 kph) on Wednesday, with an average speed of 123 mph (199 kph).

He came up with three aces in the tiebreaker.

“Almost all the important points he was winning with his serve,” Rublev said, “and was really, really tough to read or to return.”


Lewandowski scores at World Cup, Poland beat Saudis 2-0

Lewandowski scores at World Cup, Poland beat Saudis 2-0
Updated 52 min 21 sec ago

Lewandowski scores at World Cup, Poland beat Saudis 2-0

Lewandowski scores at World Cup, Poland beat Saudis 2-0
  • The 34-year-old Lewandowski also set up the opener in the 40th minute when he kept the ball in play
  • Al-Owais denied Lewandowski from scoring a second goal late in the match

AL RAYYAN, Qatar: Robert Lewandowski finally scored at the World Cup on Saturday, helping Poland beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 and boosting his team’s chances of reaching the knockout stages.
Lewandowski shed tears after scoring in the 82nd minute. He raced toward the corner with his arms outstretched, then stayed slumped on the field as teammates rushed to congratulate him. He got up, rubbed his face, and blew a kiss to the crowd.
It was the Poland forward’s first World Cup goal in his fifth appearance at the tournament.
The 34-year-old Lewandowski also set up the opener in the 40th minute when he kept the ball in play after goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais’ initial block, then laid it back for Piotr Zielinski to knock in.
Al-Owais denied Lewandowski from scoring a second goal late in the match.
Poland was scrambling for long periods at the Education City Stadium as the Saudi team was pushed forward by enthusiastic fans in what seemed like a home game.
Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saved Salem Al-Dawsari’s penalty at the end of the first half. He then blocked Mohammed Al-Burayk’s shot from the rebound.
Poland will next face Argentina, while Saudi Arabia will meet Mexico in their last Group C games.


Brazil with plenty of options to replace Neymar at World Cup

Brazil with plenty of options to replace Neymar at World Cup
Updated 26 November 2022

Brazil with plenty of options to replace Neymar at World Cup

Brazil with plenty of options to replace Neymar at World Cup
  • Neymar hurt his right ankle in Brazil’s opening 2-0 win against Serbia on Thursday
  • The most straightforward option would be to use Rodrygo in Neymar’s position, keeping Raphinha, Vinícius Júnior and Richarlison in attack

DOHA: With Neymar out for at least another match, Brazil coach Tite must now start thinking about a replacement — and this time he has plenty of options.
Brazil are not as Neymar-dependent as they used to be, and Tite could go several different ways to replace the Paris Saint-Germain forward for Monday’s Group G match against Switzerland.
Neymar hurt his right ankle in Brazil’s opening 2-0 win against Serbia on Thursday. He has ligament damage and team doctors have not given a timetable for his recovery — or said if he will be able to recover at all.
Tite brought nine forward to the World Cup, and could also add a midfielder as Neymar’s replacement if wanted.
The most straightforward option would be to use Rodrygo in Neymar’s position, keeping Raphinha, Vinícius Júnior and Richarlison in attack. Rodrygo plays more as an attacker at Real Madrid, but he has trained in Neymar’s “No. 10” playmaking position while with Brazil in Qatar.
Another alternative would be to put an extra midfielder in Neymar’s position — Manchester United’s Fred or Newcastle’s Bruno Guimarães, for example — freeing up attacking midfielder Lucas Paquetá, who played closer to defensive midfielder Casemiro against Serbia.
Another attacking midfielder available to Tite is Everton Ribeiro, while the other forward in the squad are Gabriel Jesus, Antony, Gabriel Martinelli and Pedro.
Neymar attracted most of the attention from the tough Serbian defense, which kept roughing him up from the start. He was fouled nine times during the game, the most by any player at the World Cup in the first round of matches in the group stage.
Neymar is Brazil’s second-best all-time scorer with 75 goals, two behind Pelé’s record with the national team. The last time he was out at a World Cup — because of a back injury sustained in the quarterfinals against Colombia in 2014 — Brazil went on to get embarrassed by Germany 7-1 in the semifinals.
Tite won’t be able to count on right back Danilo, who also sprained his ankle against Serbia. Danilo’s replacement will likely be veteran Daniel Alves, although Tite could also use central defender Éder Militão in the position.
Brazil, seeking their first World Cup title in two decades, faces Cameroon in their last group match. They can reach the round of 16 in advance with a win on Monday if Cameroon do not defeat Serbia in the other group match.


Ronaldo’s ‘total genius’ won World Cup penalty, says FIFA group

Ronaldo’s ‘total genius’ won World Cup penalty, says FIFA group
Updated 26 November 2022

Ronaldo’s ‘total genius’ won World Cup penalty, says FIFA group

Ronaldo’s ‘total genius’ won World Cup penalty, says FIFA group
  • The veteran striker went down after a tackle by Mohammed Salisu on Thursday before scoring the resulting spot-kick
  • "Maybe the strikers are getting smarter," former Nigeria international Oliseh told a press conference

DOHA: Cristiano Ronaldo showed “total genius” by winning a controversial penalty in Portugal’s World Cup win over Ghana, FIFA technical study group member Sunday Olizeh said on Saturday.
The veteran striker went down after a tackle by Mohammed Salisu on Thursday before scoring the resulting spot-kick to become the first man to net at five World Cups.
Ghana coach Otto Addo described the penalty decision as a “gift” to Ronaldo and said it was a “really wrong decision.”
“Maybe the strikers are getting smarter,” former Nigeria international Olizeh told a press conference when asked why more penalties were being awarded at the tournament so far than in previous years.
“If you look at the penalty Ronaldo got, let’s face it, people can say what they want about this man, but the genius thought to just be patient and put my foot to touch the ball first before you, continue my leg so that you make contact with my leg — that is total genius.
“Let’s give the strikers the compliment for getting smarter.”
Nine penalties were awarded in the first round of group-stage matches.
“VAR is also a major reason why this (more penalties being awarded) is happening because the referees can now look at it three or four times and decide,” added Olizeh.
Portugal take on Uruguay in their second match on Monday before finishing their Group H campaign against South Korea four days later.


Swiss defender Elvedi says Brazil are beatable

Swiss defender Elvedi says Brazil are beatable
Updated 26 November 2022

Swiss defender Elvedi says Brazil are beatable

Swiss defender Elvedi says Brazil are beatable
  • "Every team in this world is beatable," the Borussia Moenchengladbach defender said ahead of Monday's game
  • A second-half goal from Elvedi's former Gladbach teammate Breel Embolo helped Switzerland to a 1-0 win over Cameroon

DOHA: Switzerland center-back Nico Elvedi said on Saturday his side would not be awed by the might of Brazil, saying they had enough quality to push the tournament favorites.
“Every team in this world is beatable,” the Borussia Moenchengladbach defender said ahead of Monday’s game against the five-time champions.
“We know the challenge, but we are not going to hide away. We know our quality and what we are able to show.”
A second-half goal from Elvedi’s former Gladbach teammate Breel Embolo helped Switzerland to a 1-0 win over Cameroon in their opening fixture.
Elvedi said that win “did us good” and “gave us a lot of trust.”
Switzerland have qualified for the knockout stage in four of their last five World Cup appearances.
Avoiding defeat against Brazil would put the side in a strong position to reach the last 16 ahead of what will likely be a crucial final group stage clash with Serbia.
Elvedi said the Swiss could draw little hope from the likely absence of Brazil talisman Neymar, who will miss the match with an ankle injury.
“It won’t change much for us,” he added. “They have enough top players who can play in that position.
“I will sleep exactly the same as always. I won’t be sleeping better because Neymar isn’t playing.”
Switzerland trail Brazil on goal difference in the early Group G standings.
Elvedi said his team would relish the chance to “measure ourselves against the best.”
“We know that this is a really difficult opponent... Brazil is one of the favorites but we are looking forward. We are hot for this game.”


Australia beat Tunisia 1-0 to revive their World Cup campaign

Australia beat Tunisia 1-0 to revive their World Cup campaign
Updated 26 November 2022

Australia beat Tunisia 1-0 to revive their World Cup campaign

Australia beat Tunisia 1-0 to revive their World Cup campaign
  • The result means Australia still have a chance to qualify for the round of 16
  • After a scrappy start from both sides, Australia went ahead with a play out of the back from their goalkeeper

AL WAKRAH, Qatar: Australia only needed to avoid defeat to stay in the World Cup. The Socceroos did more than that in a 1-0 win over Tunisia on Saturday.
Mitchell Duke gave Australia the lead midway through the first half with a header and Australia went on to register their first win at soccer’s biggest event since a victory over Serbia back in 2010.
The result means Australia still have a chance to qualify for the round of 16, despite losing 4-1 to defending champion France in their opening match.
France and Australia lead Group D with three points each, while Denmark and Tunisia have one point each.
France play Denmark later tonight.
In the final round of group games on Wednesday, Tunisia play France and Australia meet Denmark.
After a scrappy start from both sides, Australia went ahead with a play out of the back from their goalkeeper. Duke collected the goalkeeper’s pass near mid-field and made a quick touch to set Craig Goodwin down the left flank and Duke then sprinted forward to nod Goodwin’s deflected cross into the far corner.
Duke celebrated by making a ‘J’ with his fingers in a tribute to his son, Jaxson, who was in the stands.
The goal quieted the large contingent of red-clad Tunisia fans among the crowd of 41,823 inside Al Janoub Stadium, and sent the small pockets of Australian supporters dressed in yellow into delirium.
Tunisia impressed when they held European Championship semifinalist Denmark to a 0-0 draw in their opener but only occasionally threatened against Australia until the Aussies sat back and defended toward the end.
Australia had also gotten off to an early 1-0 lead over France in their opener but then was outplayed in a loss which they blamed on a series of defensive errors.
There were fewer errors this time, and some timely interventions, too – none bigger than a last-gasp sliding clearance from center back Harry Souttar to block Mohamed Dräger’s dangerous shot shortly before halftime.
Tunisia are still seeking to advance from the group stage for the first time in its sixth World Cup appearance but now needs to beat France.
During the second half, Tunisia fans held aloft a large Palestinian flag with the words, “Free Palestine” printed on it.