‘It’s OnSerena’: Williams comeback reaches Eastbourne doubles semifinals

‘It’s OnSerena’: Williams comeback reaches Eastbourne doubles semifinals
Serena Williams of the United States and Ons Jabeur of Tunisia return a ball to Shuko Aoyama of Japan and Hao-Ching of Taiwan during their quarterfinal doubles match at the Eastbourne International tennis tournament in Eastbourne, England, Wednesday. (AP)
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Updated 23 June 2022

‘It’s OnSerena’: Williams comeback reaches Eastbourne doubles semifinals

‘It’s OnSerena’: Williams comeback reaches Eastbourne doubles semifinals
  • Serena admitted on Tuesday that she had doubts if she would ever make it back after her injury layoff, but her competitive juices are flowing again with Wimbledon on the horizon
  • Petra Kvitova battled into the Eastbourne women’s singles quarterfinals as the former Wimbledon champion fought back to beat Britain’s Katie Boulter 5-7, 6-0, 7-5

EASTBOURNE, England: Serena Williams stepped up her comeback as the American star powered to a second successive victory in the Eastbourne doubles with her partner Ons Jabeur on Wednesday.

Williams and Tunisia’s Jabeur defeated Shuko Aoyama and Chan Hao-ching 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the Wimbledon warmup event at Devonshire Park.

Serena, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, is playing her first tournament since she made a tearful, injury-enforced exit from Wimbledon last year.

Williams, 40, had initially looked rusty on her first appearance for 12 months in Tuesday’s victory over Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova.

But she grew into that match and was more like her old self in the second step on her comeback trail.

It took only two minutes for the American to send down an ace before several clinical volleys provided the first break.

The opening set was wrapped up in 25 minutes and another break inspired by Serena in the ninth game of the second set put them on the brink of victory.

One more ace for Williams’ tally helped get her and Jabeur over the line and they are now just two victories away from securing the title.

“I don’t know if you know the team name? It’s ‘OnSerena’!” Serena said of her partnership with Jabeur, who had never played with the American until this week.

“I have had some really good training leading up to Wimbledon and up to this tournament, really hitting the ball well. I feel like I have been serving well so that’s been really good.

“It was actually good match play and match practice, which is exactly what I needed. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Serena admitted on Tuesday that she had doubts if she would ever make it back after her injury layoff, but her competitive juices are flowing again with Wimbledon on the horizon.

“I will always enjoy the competitive side. There is a part of me that will always miss it, no matter what happens,” she said.

“I was just recovering and taking time off, just taking mental breaks. Now when I’m back, it’s like, especially this match in particular, OK, you really remember the competitiveness.”

Before Williams made the surprise announcement of her return last week, rumors of retirement had swirled around her for several months.

But with Wimbledon starting on June 27, Williams has finally resumed her career.

She has been given a wildcard to play in the singles at Wimbledon as she restarts her history bid.

Williams is one Grand Slam crown away from equalling Australian Margaret Court’s record of 24 singles titles at the majors.

The last of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles came at the Australian Open in 2017.

Since then she has lost four Grand Slam finals, including at Wimbledon in 2018 and 2019.

Williams won the seventh and most recent of her seven Wimbledon singles titles in 2016.

Serena, who became a mother in 2017, has plummeted to 1,204th in the WTA rankings due to her period out of action.

Earlier Wednesday, Petra Kvitova battled into the Eastbourne women’s singles quarterfinals as the former Wimbledon champion fought back to beat Britain’s Katie Boulter 5-7, 6-0, 7-5.

Kvitova, who won Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014, was in danger of a shock defeat against Boulter after the world number 127 took the first set of their last-16 clash.

Boulter had knocked out last year’s Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova in the previous round.

But former world No. 2 Kvitova showed her class as she took the second set at a canter.

The Czech, who last reached a Grand Slam final in Australia in 2019, held her nerve in a tense decider to win in two hours and 23 minutes.

In the men’s singles, Cameron Norrie defeated Brandon Nakashima 6-4, 6-2 for his first win on grass this season.


World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round

World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round
Updated 27 June 2022

World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round

World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round
  • She will face either Rebecca Marino of Canada or Poland’s Katarzyna Kawa for a place in the last 32

LONDON: World number two Ons Jabeur eased into the Wimbledon second round on Monday with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Swedish qualifier Mirjam Bjorklund.
Jabeur, a quarter-finalist in 2021 and fresh from the grass-court title in Berlin, will face either Rebecca Marino of Canada or Poland’s Katarzyna Kawa for a place in the last 32.


2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress
Saudi Arabia recently won the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan. (SAFF)
Updated 27 June 2022

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress
  • The Young Falcons won the Kingdom’s debut U-23 Asian Cup title
  • Saudi women’s team took second pace in the WAFF Futsal Championship

RIYADH: The triumph of the Young Falcons at the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup and the recent successes of the women’s national team has marked yet more milestones for Saudi Arabian football this year, after the senior team qualified for the World Cup in Qatar and the Kingdom’s clubs rack up great results in continental competitions.

Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) President Yasser Al-Misehal said: “The success of the Saudi national teams demonstrates that our strategy is yielding positive results. Bringing back to the Kingdom the AFC U-23 Asian Cup for the first time ever with our very own Saudi national coach, Saad Al-Shehri, is a source of great pride and satisfaction.

“The players who achieved this great feat will be part of the main drivers of the success of our National Team going forward.”

He added: “This gives us greater confidence and trust in our younger generation, beside the achievements we had this year for both men’s and women’s football. We are working on developing a pathway tailored for every up-and-coming Saudi footballer on the grassroots level.

“We are working on extending a very large pool of Saudi talent with the support needed for the upcoming generations of Saudi football to match the highest professional levels of the game, be it in the technical and tactical aspects of the game, as well as the dietary, psychological, physical and athletic aspects.”

The U-23 victory comes soon after the senior Green Falcons team qualified for their sixth World Cup participation ahead of this year’s tournament in Qatar. Herve Renard’s team topped their qualification group, which featured continental giants such as Japan and Australia.

The Saudi Pro League continues to grow in quality and importance at the Asian level, with Al-Hilal currently the holders of the AFC Champions League title. This year, three Saudi teams are set to feature in the competition’s round of 16, with Al-Hilal, Al-Shabab and Al-Faisaly having topped their respective groups in the first round.

Earlier this month, the Saudi Futsal National Team also grabbed the silver medal in the West Asian Football Federation’s Futsal Championship. The Green Falcons demonstrated incredible quality throughout the tournament, before narrowly losing 5-3 to hosts Kuwait in the final. The team continued their fine run of form on the road reaching the quarterfinals in the Futsal Arab Cup taking place in Dammam following a thrilling 3-2 encounter against Iraq that ended their campaign.

Saudi women have also enjoyed their fair share of success in football this year. In February, the newly launched Saudi Women’s National Team played its first ever official games against the Seychelles and the Maldives, winning both games with the same 2-0 result. 

The Kingdom concluded their successful hosting of the 2022 West Asian Football Federation’s Women’s Futsal Championship in Jeddah, where the Saudi Women’s Futsal National Team made its debut in the competition and claimed a silver medal following a 4-2 defeat in the final against Iraq.


WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut
Updated 27 June 2022

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut
  • June 2022 had been dedicated to the legendary wrestler’s arrival on SmackDown two decades ago

RIYADH: Twenty years on from John Cena’s arrival on SmackDown, the legendary wrestler makes an appearance on RAW tonight, the highlight of the WWE’s month-long celebration of his career.

Cena has since those early days become a household name in the WWE, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. The WWE had dedicated the month of June 2022 to the performer.

While his return opponent is yet to be announced, the WWE Universe is in for an action-packed edition of the red brand as Cena steps into the ring for a landmark match tonight.

A joint-record 16-time world champion, Cena has won the WWE Championship 13 times which is also a record. He is also a five-time US Champion, a four-time world tag team champion, a two-time Royal Rumble match winner, a one-time Money in the Bank victor, and has headlined many major WWE events, including WrestleMania five times.

His first US title win was in New York’s Madison Square Garden, opening the 20th edition of WrestleMania in 2004, and delivering two “Attitude Adjustments” to the “Big Show” Paul White. That moment solidified his status as a rising attraction for the promotion.

A year later at WrestleMania 21 Cena would challenge John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL) for the main event which marked the first world championship win for “The Champ.” His “I Quit” match against the former champion at Judgement Day in 2005 is still considered a classic.

The main event of WrestleMania 22 in 2006 saw John Cena beat “The Game” Triple H clean in the middle of the ring to retain his title. One year later WrestleMania 23 featured the now dominant WWE champion rise against D-Generation X counterpart and one of the greatest wrestlers of all time — “Mr. WrestleMania” Shawn Michaels.

The Royal Rumble is one of the biggest events on the WWE calendar, and Cena has been involved in many epic showdowns in that event, prevailing in 2008 and 2013 as the winner.

Many fans consider Edge to be Cena’s fiercest rival and their feud certainly elevated both men to new heights. Edge memorably cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on a wounded Cena at New Year’s Revolution 2006 for his first WWE Championship win. Edge and Cena’s rivalry saw the two battle over the WWE Championship for the majority of 2006, and over the World Heavyweight Title in 2009. Their matches captivated WWE audiences, and both superstars have an outstanding 27 World Titles between them.

Cena has also crossed paths with Randy Orton numerous times in his career. During the 2000s the two were believed to be the top stars in the WWE. Between their first match in November 2005 and their last match in February of 2017, Cena and Orton faced each other 22 times in televised matches. The record between the two men is 13-7 in favor of Cena.

Cena faced the Rock for the first time at WrestleMania 28 in what was billed as a “Once In A Lifetime” match. The Rock defeated Cena in a 30-minute classic, but a year later Cena shocked the world at WrestleMania 29 by defeating the Rock for the WWE Championship.

Cena is also a winner of the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award for 2018.


Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly
It will also be the third consecutive title for the reigning Saudi and Asian champions. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 June 2022

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly
  • The reigning Saudi and Asian champions need to match Al-Ittihad’s result against Al-Batin to secure a record 18th championship

DUBAI: Al-Hilal take on Al-Faisaly on Monday night at King Fahd International Stadium knowing that if they match Al-Ittihad’s result against Al-Batin, they will be crowned Saudi Pro League champions for a record 18th time.

It will also be the third consecutive title for the reigning Saudi and Asian champions.

The Riyadh giants trailed Al-Ittihad by 16 points earlier in the campaign but a remarkable run of form in the second half of the season now sees them lead the SPL table on goal difference. A win tonight will guarantee the title, regardless of what the team from Jeddah, who have suffered a late loss of form and nerve, does.

Although Al-Hilal are strong favorites to defeat Al-Faisaly and claim the league title, Argentine coach Ramon Diaz will warn against any complacency, particularly as he will be missing the services of defenders Ali Al-Bulaihi and Jang Hyun-soo.

History suggests, however, that Al-Hilal’s fans will be celebrating tonight, having seen their team defeat Al-Faisaly 17 times in their 23 meetings, with the other six ending in draws.

Meanwhile, Al-Faisaly, in 11th place, go into the match still unsure of whether they will be playing top tier football next season, an indication of just how many clubs are still fighting relegation as the season comes to a close.

Having played 12 consecutive seasons in the Saudi Pro League, Al-Faisaly are flirting with the drop going into the last day, as they did in the 2016-17 season.


Morocco and Iraq to meet in 2022 Arab Futsal Cup final

Morocco and Iraq to meet in 2022 Arab Futsal Cup final
Updated 35 min 24 sec ago

Morocco and Iraq to meet in 2022 Arab Futsal Cup final

Morocco and Iraq to meet in 2022 Arab Futsal Cup final
  • Victories over Egypt and Kuwait see the reigning champions and Iraq face off at the Green Hall in Dammam on Tuesday

DUBAI: Morocco and Iraq will meet in Tuesday’s final of the 2022 Arab Futsal Cup after successfully navigating their last-four clashes against Egypt and Kuwait respectively on Sunday night at the Green Hall in Dammam.

Morocco, who had beaten Libya in Friday’s quarterfinal, defeated Egypt 5-2 in their all-African clash, while Iraq — conquerors of hosts Saudi Arabia in the last eight — overcame Kuwait 2-1 in the other semifinal.

The 10-team tournament, organized by the Union of Arab Football Associations and hosted by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, kicked off on July 20, and is the sixth edition of the competition.

Previous winners include Egypt in 1998 and 2005, and Libya in 2007.