Serena loses in Wimbledon comeback, Nadal digs deep to advance

Serena loses in Wimbledon comeback, Nadal digs deep to advance
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Serena Williams of the US reacts during her first round match against France‘s Harmony Tan at Wimbledon Tennis in London on June 28, 2022. (Reuters)
Serena loses in Wimbledon comeback, Nadal digs deep to advance
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Spain’s Rafael Nadal returns to Argentina's Francisco Cerundolo in a first round men's singles match on Day 2 of the Wimbledon tennis championships. (AP)
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Updated 29 June 2022

Serena loses in Wimbledon comeback, Nadal digs deep to advance

Serena loses in Wimbledon comeback, Nadal digs deep to advance
  • Title contender Matteo Berrettini was forced to pull out with coronavirus while women’s top seed Iga Swiatek extended her winning streak to 36 matches

LONDON: Serena Williams tasted bitter defeat on her return to singles tennis at Wimbledon on Tuesday as Rafael Nadal overcame a huge scare to progress to the second round.
Elsewhere on day two of the Championships, title contender Matteo Berrettini was forced to pull out with coronavirus while women’s top seed Iga Swiatek extended her winning streak to 36 matches.
Seven-time champion Williams went down to unseeded Harmony Tan of France 7-5, 1-6, 7/6 (10/7 in her first singles encounter since an injury forced her out of her first-round match at Wimbledon last year.
Williams, 40, won the last of her Wimbledon singles titles six years ago but reached the final in 2018 and 2019.
“I’m so emotional now,” said Tan. “She’s a superstar. When I was young, I was watching her so many times on the TV.
“For my first Wimbledon it’s wow — just wow.
“When I saw the draw, I was really scared. She’s such a legend. I thought if I can win one game, two games, that would be really good for me.”
Williams was far below her imperious best on Tuesday, struggling from the start with her form and fitness.
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, cheered by the crowd as she made her entrance, lost the first set but broke early in the second set and went on to level the match.
But she faltered while serving for the match and faded badly in the third-set tie-break after taking a 4-0 lead.
She finished with 61 winners but 54 unforced errors the 3-hour, 11-minute evening match.
Earlier, an off-key Nadal, already halfway to a calendar Grand Slam after winning the Australian Open and French Open, dug deep to beat Francisco Cerundolo 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
The two-time Wimbledon champion, who has not played at the tournament since 2019, thanked the crowd for their wholehearted support.
“It’s not a surface that we play very often, and especially in my case, for different reasons, the past three years I didn’t put any foot on a grass court, so it always takes a while,” said Nadal, 36.
“It was my first match and as I know, every day is a test and today was one of these important tests.”
The Spaniard appeared to be coasting to victory when he took a two-set lead but his Argentine opponent found a new level, winning the third set and going a break up early in the fourth.
But from 4-2 down the second seed found an extra gear, winning the next four games to seal the match in a little over three and a half hours, roared on by the Center Court crowd.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion played the entire French Open with his troublesome left foot anaesthetised but he has received treatment since then and was moving well on Tuesday.
Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, who took Nadal to five sets at the French Open, crashed out of the tournament at the hands of American Maxime Cressy.
The sixth seed lost 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 7-6 (11/9), 7-6 (7/5), removing another potential obstacle in the path of Nadal, who next faces Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis.
Men’s fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Swiss qualifier Alexander Ritschard in four sets.

The early action at the All England Club was overshadowed by the announcement from Berrettini — last year’s runner-up — that coronavirus had forced him out of the tournament.
“I am heartbroken to announce that I need to withdraw from @wimbledon due to a positive COVID-19 test result,” the 26-year-old Italian wrote on Instagram.
Berrettini was widely regarded as one of the biggest threats to defending champion Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, having captured back-to-back grass-court titles in Stuttgart and Queen’s.
He is the second man to withdraw from Wimbledon with Covid in two days after 2017 runner-up Marin Cilic of Croatia also tested positive.
The Italian was a potential semifinal opponent for Nadal.
It is business as usual at the Grand Slam this year after the tournament was canceled due to Covid in 2020 and last year was played in front of reduced crowds.
The All England Club said in a statement that protocols remained in place to minimize the risk of infection.
Poland’s world number one Swiatek, who has won her past six tournaments — coasted into the second round with a routine 6-0, 6-3 victory against Croatian qualifier Jana Fett.
There were also straightforward wins in the women’s draw for 2019 champion Simona Halep and fourth seed Paula Badosa.
Beaten French Open finalist Coco Gauff, the 11th seed, recovered from losing the first set against Romania’s Elena-Gabriela Ruse to win 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.


Kuol makes debut as Australia win final World Cup warmup

Kuol makes debut as Australia win final World Cup warmup
Updated 25 September 2022

Kuol makes debut as Australia win final World Cup warmup

Kuol makes debut as Australia win final World Cup warmup

AUCKLAND: Teenager Garang Kuol, who is being chased by Newcastle United, made his international debut on Sunday in Australia’s 2-0 away win over New Zealand in their final World Cup warmup.

A Mitchell Duke header and Jason Cummings’ penalty in the second half at Auckland’s Eden Park ensured Australia head to the World Cup with two straight wins over their neighbors.

Attacker Kuol, who only turned 18 in mid-September, plays for the Central Coast Mariners but is reportedly set to sign for Premier League side Newcastle United in January.

The fleet-footed teenager came on with 20 minutes left and made his case for a spot in the squad for Qatar when he prised open the New Zealand defense in the buildup to Cummings’ penalty.

“He’s a kid, he’s just turned 18. I told just to go out and enjoy himself,” said Australia coach Graham Arnold.

“I just wanted to give him the experience.

“He showed some quality when he came on, but this is just the first step for him.”

This was Australia’s last game before their opening World Cup match against reigning champions France in a Group D also containing Tunisia and Denmark.

“Overall it was a good performance, but we know the boys can do better,” added Arnold, who changed his entire starting lineup from the side which beat New Zealand 1-0 in Brisbane last Thursday.

“The first half was scrappy, but for the second half the boys really came through.”

New Zealand missed out on a place at the Qatar finals after losing a playoff to Costa Rica.

Australia initially labored against a New Zealand side fired up in front of a crowd of 34,985 watching their first men’s home international for five years.

The Eden Park surface was in impressive condition apart from the odd divot less than 24 hours after hosting a rugby Test match between New Zealand and Australia. Burly New Zealand striker Chris Wood had an early chance, but the Newcastle man was forced off after 30 minutes following a heavy challenge.

Australia squandered the best chance of a goalless first half when Duke drew New Zealand keeper Oli Sail, but Marco Tilio fluffed his shot at an open goal from six yards out. Australia raised the tempo after the break and broke the deadlock early in the second half when Connor Metcalfe floated in a cross from the left and Duke sent his header past Sail.

The visitors doubled their lead when Kuol broke down the left and squared into the middle, where Cummings’ shot was eventually blocked by a New Zealand hand. Scotland-born Cummings stepped up to drill home the penalty and seal Australia’s morale-boosting win.

It was a sad end to the international career of New Zealand captain and former West Ham defender Winston Reid, who retired after the game.

The home skipper came off with 16 minutes left to a standing ovation. “We would have liked to have done better, but it was really nice to play my last game at home,” said Reid.


Russia’s Alexandrova shines in Seoul for third title

Russia’s Alexandrova shines in Seoul for third title
Updated 25 September 2022

Russia’s Alexandrova shines in Seoul for third title

Russia’s Alexandrova shines in Seoul for third title

SEOUL: Ekaterina Alexandrova overcame nerves to win the third title of her career as she dismantled injury-hampered top seed Jelena Ostapenko 7-6 (7/4), 6-0 in the final of the Korea Open on Sunday.

The two battled to a lengthy tiebreaker after an evenly matched hour-long first set in front of more than 10,000 spectators, a record for the Seoul event.

But everything changed in the second set as Russia’s second-seeded Alexandrova dominated the former French Open champion from Latvia, who required a medical timeout at 3-0 down for a foot problem.

“I think it was tough for me to start because I was really nervous and I couldn’t find the rhythm in the first couple of games,” said Alexandrova, 27.

“But the longer we played, the better I felt on the court.

“I think maybe somewhere in the end of the first set I finally found the rhythm and I just continued to keep it that way in the second set.”

The Russian is enjoying the best season of her career, having also won the Libema Open in the Netherlands in June, and is set to rise to a career-high 21 in the world.

“You always want to achieve more,” Alexandrova added.

“I want to go higher and maybe end the year top 20 in the best-case scenario.”

Ostapenko had advanced to the Korea Open final after former US Open winner Emma Raducanu retired in the third set of their semifinal with injury.


Saudi women’s team draw 3-3 with Bhutan in first ever international at home

Saudi women’s team draw 3-3 with Bhutan in first ever international at home
Updated 25 September 2022

Saudi women’s team draw 3-3 with Bhutan in first ever international at home

Saudi women’s team draw 3-3 with Bhutan in first ever international at home
  • The side led by German coach Monika Staab previously played only Seychelles and Maldives abroad

The Saudi women’s national football team made history on Saturday night at Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Stadium with a 3-3 draw against Bhutan in their first ever international played on home soil.

The team, led by German coach Monika Staab, had previously played only two internationals, against the Seychelles and Maldives in February.

Bhutan took the lead in the fifth minute through Bima Shoden, before Bayan Sadaka equalized with a powerful shot from outside the penalty area 10 minutes later.

The visitors retook the lead through Dickie Yangdon on 40 minutes and extended their advantage only two minutes later with a goal from Sonam Shoden to leave the Falcons trailing 3-1 at the break.

However, Staab’s team produced an inspired second half performance with Al-Bandari Mubarak reducing the deficit in the 75th minute, before Noura Al-Ibrahim managed a 90th minute leveler.

The Saudi team will meet the same opponents again on Wednesday at Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Stadium in the Asir region.


Toyota’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi cruises to comfortable victory at Rally Asir

Toyota’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi cruises to comfortable victory at Rally Asir
Updated 25 September 2022

Toyota’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi cruises to comfortable victory at Rally Asir

Toyota’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi cruises to comfortable victory at Rally Asir
  • ‘It’s great to make such a good start to the Saudi Toyota Championship’
  • Kingdom’s driver ready for round 2 at Rally Qassim from Oct. 12-14

ABHA: Toyota Hilux driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz stayed clear of trouble to clinch an emphatic victory at the Abha-based Rally Asir, round one of the 2022 Saudi Toyota Rally Championship.

The Saudi was fastest on both selective sections on Friday and Saturday and a time of 1 hour 36 minutes and 54.6 seconds for the longer of the two stages earned the Toyota man a winning margin of 26 minutes and 1.5 seconds.

Al-Rajhi said: “This was a challenging rally, not easy, but the car was perfect and Dirk did a great job with the navigation. It’s great to get back to winning ways and to make such a good start to the Saudi Toyota Championship.”

Event stewards awarded Miroslav Zapletal and his Slovakian co-driver Marek Sykora a 12-minute penalty for a timing infringement on Friday afternoon and the Czech was pushed down from second to sixth place before the final 186.73-kilometer selective section got underway. The Ford F-150 driver’s misfortune promoted Al-Saif into second place and the Can-Am driver started the day 14:44 behind Al-Rajhi.

The final day’s action was split into two sections and passed between Tareeb and Al-Qa’ah. Al-Saif and his Spanish co-driver Oriol Vidal were unable to hold on to their position and set the fourth quickest time in the Black Horse Can-Am Maverick X3. The Saudi duly finished fourth overall, sealing victory in the T3 category in the process.

Zapletal was second on the day and managed to overhaul four crews, including Al-Saif and third-placed Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri and his Peruvian co-driver Hector Garcia, to regain second position in the overall standings. Khalid Al-Feraihi and French navigator Sébastien Delaunay finished fifth.

Hamad Al-Harbi and Russian co-driver Alexey Kuzmich managed to fend off a late challenge from Dania Akeel and her Uruguayan navigator Sergio Lafuente to confirm sixth overall and second in T3 in their Al-Shegawi Racing Can-Am. Akeel was seventh, despite finishing the stage with a cracked windscreen after hitting a tree branch.

Saudi Border Guard team driver Jafar Al-Qahtani secured eighth and outright success in the T2 section for series-production cross-country vehicles. SBG teammate Haylan Al-Subaie and Ahmed Al-Shegawi were second and third in the showroom section.

Both Saeed Al-Mouri and Maha Al-Hamali failed to finish the opening stage and the duel for the T4 category win was fought out over the final morning with both drivers carrying massive time penalties from the previous day. Al-Mouri and his Jordanian co-driver Ata Al-Hmoud pipped Al-Hamali and her Spanish co-driver María de Los Angeles to the day’s stage win and snatched T4 success, courtesy of having less time penalties for missing waypoints.

Mubarak Al-Zubaidi and Abdullah Al-Sanad joined Muneef Al-Salmani on the list of retirements, as 17 crews tackled the final stage. Ibrahim bin Sahnan and Fahad Al-Maioweed withdrew during the morning.

The event was organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation in conjunction with the Ministry of Sport, the Saudi Motorsport Marshals Club and the Saudi Motorsport Company, in partnership with Abdul Latif Jameel Motors Toyota.

Round two of the championship will be Rally Qassim from Oct. 12 to 14.

 

Asir Rally 2022 positions after leg 2 over 186.73 km:

 

1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Saudi)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (Germany) Toyota Hilux: 3:19:58.7

 

2. Miroslav Zapletal (Czech)/Marek Sykora (Slovakia) Ford F-150 Evo: 3:46:0.2

 

3. Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri (Saudi)/Hector Garcia (Peru) Nissan: 3:49:42.4

 

4. Saleh Al-Saif (Saudi)/Oriol Vidal (Spain) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3): 3:50:6.4

 

5. Khalid Al-Feraihi (Saudi)/Sébastien Delaunay (France) Nissan: 3:55:21.7

 

6. Hamad Al-Harbi (Saudi)/Alexei Kuzmich (Russia) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3): 4:07:45

 

7. Dania Akeel (Saudi)/Sergio Lafuente (Uruguay) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3): 4:16:48.2

 

8. Jafar Al-Qahtani (Saudi)/Ali Al-Yami (SAU) Nissan (T2): 4:51:57.4

 

9. Haylan Al-Subaie (Saudi)/Hussam Al-Zahrani (Saudi) Nissan (T2): 4:55:50.3

 

10. Ahmed Al-Shegawi (Saudi)/Waleed Al-Shegawi (Saudi) Nissan (T2): 5:00:10.9

 

11. Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh (Saudi)/Omar Al-Lahim (Saudi) Nissan: 5:05:23.6

 

12. Ahmed Al-Gashami (Saudi)/Nawaf Al-Enezi (Kuwait) Nissan: 5:26:18.3

 

13. Majed Al-Thunayyan (Saudi)/Fahad Al-Sufinay (Saudi) Nissan: 6:34:47.7

 

14. Saeed Al-Mouri (Saudi)/Ata Al-Hmoud (Jordan) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T4): 22:47:18

 

15. Maha Al-Hamali (Saudi)/María de Los Angeles (Spain) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T4): 24:11:56.9


Thailand’s Atthaya grabs LPGA NW Arkansas lead

Thailand’s Atthaya grabs LPGA NW Arkansas lead
Updated 25 September 2022

Thailand’s Atthaya grabs LPGA NW Arkansas lead

Thailand’s Atthaya grabs LPGA NW Arkansas lead
  • After birdies at the first, third and fifth Atthaya picked up four shots in her last three holes

 

 

LOS ANGELES: Thai rookie Atthaya Thitikul fired an eagle and eight birdies in a 10-under par 61 on Saturday to seize the lead in the LPGA NW Arkansas Championship.

The 19-year-old chasing a second LPGA victory, had a 13-under par total of 128 and a one-stroke lead over Japan’s Yuka Saso, who carded a 6-under par 65 at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.

Former amateur No. 1 Lilia Vu carded her second straight 65 for solo third on 130 heading into the final round of the 54-hole event.

Atthaya teed off on 10 and picked up three strokes in her first nine holes.

After birdies at the first, third and fifth she picked up four shots in her last three holes.

She eagled the seventh, where her four-iron approach from 210 yards out left her two feet from the pin, and birdied the eighth and ninth.

“I think my mind was blank and just nothing there,” she said of her mindset as she picked up steam coming in. “Just hit a shot, just tap it in, putt it in, just like totally blank.”

She said she plays her best golf when she keeps her mind clear and her plan is to “keep that blank mind for tomorrow.”

The 19-year-old has plenty of experience to draw on come Sunday.

Her 11 international victories include a win in the Ladies European Thailand Championship as a 14-year-old amateur in 2017.

Since winning her first LPGA title in March she has top-10 finishes in the Women’s PGA Championship, the Evian Championship and the Women’s British Open.

“I think (I’ll) just do my best out there and I’m trying to enjoy every moment of it,” she said. “You’re not going to be in the same moment anymore so just keep trying my best.”

Saso, who was among six players sharing the overnight lead, had six birdies without a bogey and she’s hoping she can add a victory to what has been an otherwise average season.

Last year she made her first LPGA title a major when she won the US Women’s Open, but she had her last top-10 finish in January.

Nine players shared fourth place, four shots off the lead. The group included overnight co-leaders Megan Khang, Ryann O’Toole and Lee5 Jeong-eun.

But South Korean Kim Sei-young, who was also among the first-round leaders, faded with a 1-under-par 70 that featured a triple-bogey at the par-four 14th.