Serena says goodbye to Canada after defeat by Bencic

Serena says goodbye to Canada after defeat by Bencic
Serena Williams waves to the crowd as she leaves the court after losing to Belinda Bencic during the National Bank Open, part of the Hologic WTA Tour, at Sobeys Stadium on Aug. 10, 2022 in Toronto. (AFP)
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Updated 11 August 2022

Serena says goodbye to Canada after defeat by Bencic

Serena says goodbye to Canada after defeat by Bencic
  • Williams didn’t specify an actual retirement date but is expected to compete next week in Cincinnati before traveling to the US Open, which starts on Aug. 29

TORONTO: Serena Williams, who said this week she will soon call time on her storied tennis career, departed the WTA Toronto Masters for the last time Wednesday with a 6-2, 6-4 loss to Belinda Bencic.

The second-round defeat by Switzerland’s reigning Olympic gold medallist was hardly unexpected, with the 40-year-old Williams competing in only her third match of 2022.

Bencic fired eight aces and broke Williams twice in the first set and once in the second, advancing on her first match point after 78 minutes.

But as Bencic herself said in the post-match interview on court: “Tonight is about her.”

Williams’s farewell on-court interview was threaded with emotion.

“I love playing here, I’ve always loved playing here,” she said, choking up as fans who cheered her throughout the match called out their appreciation.

“I wish I could have played better tonight, but Belinda was playing so well.”

Williams, who turns 41 next month, had beaten Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz on Monday for her first singles victory since the 2021 French Open, 14 months ago.

But it sent shockwaves through the sport when she revealed in an essay in Vogue magazine and an Instagram post on Tuesday that “the countdown has begun” to her retirement from the sport.

Williams didn’t specify an actual retirement date but is expected to compete next week in Cincinnati before traveling to the US Open, which starts on Aug. 29.

She has lifted the US Open title six times, including her first Grand Slam triumph at the age of 17 in 1999.

“It’s been a pretty interesting 24 hours,” said Williams, who remains one shy of the all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles won by Margaret Court.

“Like I said in my article, I’m terrible at goodbyes,” she said, her voice breaking.

“But, goodbye,” she said, then adding with a laugh “Toronto.”

“I’ve always had an amazing time here on and off the court,” Williams said. “I’ve had some really good matches and some really cool wins.

“It’s been a joy playing here all of those years.”

Williams’s match was preceded by a video tribute played for fans. Before she left the court she was presented with jerseys from the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs — and with a child’s version of the same for daughter Olympia.

In explaining that she was “evolving away” from tennis in the Vogue article, Williams said she wanted to focus on family life and new business ventures.

Her appearance highlighted a day that saw US teenager Coco Gauff — who says Williams was “the reason why I play tennis” — overcome 13 double-faults to battle past Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and into the third round.

Gauff beat Rybakina 6-4, 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (7/3) while world No. 1 Iga Swiatek — who beat Gauff in the French Open final this year — sailed past Australian Ajla Tomljanovic 6-1, 6-2 in 55 minutes.

Gauff lost out on four chances to close out a straight-sets victory as a quartet of match points came and went.

Kazakhstan’s Rybakina, aided by Gauff’s service struggles, had looked as if she might pull off another marathon victory after squeezing past Marie Bouzkova in the first round only for Gauff to finally prevail.

Swiatek, in contrast, needed just 55 minutes to advance. The top-seeded Pole, with six titles this season, saved six of the nine break points she faced.

“From the first practice I played here I felt really good,” Swiatek said.

Defending champion Camila Giorgi made it to the third round with a 6-3, 7-5 defeat of Belgian Elize Mertens. Spanish fourth seed Paula Badosa lasted for just 13 games before retiring as she trailed 7-5, 1-0 against Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.


Leverkusen fires coach Gerardo Seoane, appoints Xabi Alonso

Leverkusen fires coach Gerardo Seoane, appoints Xabi Alonso
Updated 14 sec ago

Leverkusen fires coach Gerardo Seoane, appoints Xabi Alonso

Leverkusen fires coach Gerardo Seoane, appoints Xabi Alonso
LEVERKUSEN, Germany: Bayer Leverkusen have fired coach Gerardo Seoane and replaced him with Xabi Alonso.
The Bundesliga club said Wednesday that they had “parted ways” with the Swiss coach and appointed the 40-year-old former Spain midfielder, who was to be given a contract through June 2024.
Seoane’s last game in charge was a 2-0 loss at Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday, days after his team were routed 4-0 at Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.
Leverkusen are second from bottom in the German league with just five points from the opening eight rounds. Seoane’s team were also knocked out in the first round of the German Cup by third-division team SV Elversberg.
Seoane led Leverkusen to third place in the Bundesliga last season after joining from Swiss team Young Boys in 2021.
Leverkusen said they would present Alonso at a news conference on Thursday.

Paris joins big screen boycott of World Cup games from Qatar

Paris joins big screen boycott of World Cup games from Qatar
Updated 05 October 2022

Paris joins big screen boycott of World Cup games from Qatar

Paris joins big screen boycott of World Cup games from Qatar
  • It follows similar moves by other French cities, despite France going in as the defending champion
  • The move comes despite the city's football club, Paris Saint-Germain, being owned by Qatar Sports Investments

PARIS: Paris will not broadcast World Cup matches on giant screens in public fan zones amid concerns over rights violations of migrant workers and the environmental impact of the tournament in Qatar.
It follows similar moves by other French cities, despite France going in as the defending champion. Some other European teams or federations are also looking at ways to protest.
Pierre Rabadan, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of sports, told reporters in the French capital that the decision against public broadcasting of matches is due to “the conditions of the organization of this World Cup, both on the environmental and social level.”
He said in an interview with France Blue Paris that “air-conditioned stadiums” and the “conditions in which these facilities have been built are to be questioned.”
Rabadan stressed that Paris is not boycotting the soccer tournament, but explained that Qatar’s “model of staging big events goes against what (Paris, the host of the 2024 Olympics) wants to organize.”
The move comes despite the city’s football club, Paris Saint-Germain, being owned by Qatar Sports Investments.
“We have very constructive relations with the club and its entourage yet it doesn’t prevent us to say when we disagree,” Rabadan said.
Denmark is staging its own protest: Its team jerseys at the World Cup will include a black option to honor migrant workers who died during construction work for the tournament. And several European soccer federations want their captains to wear an armband with a rainbow heart design during World Cup games to campaign against discrimination.
A growing number of French cities are refusing to erect screens to broadcast World Cup matches to protest Qatar’s human rights record.
The mayor of Strasbourg, the seat of the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights, cited allegations of human rights abuses and exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar as the reason for canceling public broadcasts of the World Cup.
“It’s impossible for us to ignore the many warnings of abuse and exploitation of migrant workers by non-governmental organizations,” Jeanne Barseghian said in a statement. “We cannot condone these abuses, we cannot turn a blind eye when human rights are violated.”
And then, there’s the impact on the environment, Barseghian said.
“While climate change is a palpable reality, with fires and droughts and other disaster, organizing a soccer tournament in the desert defies common sense and amounts to an ecological disaster,” she said.
Arnaud Deslandes, a deputy mayor of Lille, said that by canceling public viewing of matches, the northern city wanted to send a message to FIFA about the irreparable damage of the Qatar tournament to the environment.
“We want to show FIFA that money is not everything,” Deslandes told The Associated Press in an interview.
As for residents’ reactions to the city’s decision, he added: “I have yet to meet a person in Lille who was disappointed by our decision.”
The gas-rich emirate has been fiercely criticized in the past decade for its treatment of migrant workers, mostly from south Asia, who were needed to build tens of billions of dollars’ worth of stadiums, metro lines, roads and hotels.
Qatar has been equally fierce in denying accusations of human rights abuses, and has repeatedly rejected allegations that the safety and health of 30,000 workers who built the World Cup infrastructure have been jeopardized.
Qatar has also said that it is mindful of environmental concerns and has committed to offsetting some of the carbon emissions from the World Cup events through creating new green spaces irrigated with recycled water and building alternative energy projects.
Environmental activists across France have supported the cancelation of public broadcasting in fan zones because outdoor viewing of the Nov. 20-Dec. 19 tournament would use energy that the country has been storing for winter.


Ukraine to join Spain and Portugal in 2030 World Cup bid

Ukraine to join Spain and Portugal in 2030 World Cup bid
Updated 05 October 2022

Ukraine to join Spain and Portugal in 2030 World Cup bid

Ukraine to join Spain and Portugal in 2030 World Cup bid
  • “Now the Ukrainian delegation will unite with us,” the Spanish football association’s president said
  • Portugal held the 2004 European Championship while Ukraine was a joint host with Poland of Euro 2012

NYON, Switzerland: War-torn Ukraine will join Spain and Portugal in a bid to host the 2030 World Cup, presidents from the three countries’ football associations announced on Wednesday.
The original proposal was made public two years ago but has been given a political impetus by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The institutional headquarters are in Madrid, the administrative headquarters are in Lisbon. Now the Ukrainian delegation will unite with us,” the Spanish football association’s (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales said.
“In the coming months, we will come to work on practicalities,” he added.
RFEF, which organized the 1982 edition, said in a statement the idea was backed by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.
“The Royal Spanish Football Federation and the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) have incorporated the Ukrainian Football Association (UAF) into the Iberian Bid to organize the 2030 World Cup,” RFEF said.
“With the full support of Aleksander Ceferin, the Iberian bid incorporates the federation chaired by Andriy Pavelko in order to build bridges and project a message of unity, solidarity and generosity from all of European football,” it added.
Portugal held the 2004 European Championship while Ukraine was a joint host with Poland of Euro 2012.
“The example of tenacity and resilience set by the Ukrainian people is inspiring,” the FPF said.
The FPF added that the joint bid “aims to contribute through the power of football to the recovery of a country undergoing reconstruction.”
It added the terms of Ukraine’s role in the bid “will be discussed and defined in due course.”
It follows the announcement last month from an Egyptian official that Egypt, Greece and Saudi Arabia are in talks to jointly host the 2030 World Cup.
In August, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Paraguay launched their bid to host the event — which is the centenary of the first World Cup, held in Uruguay — with the hope of bringing the global showpiece back to its first home.
The 2026 edition has already been awarded to three countries — Canada, Mexico and the United States.
More than half of the 21 World Cup finals already staged have been in Europe but later this year Qatar will host the finals, the first time they have been played in the Middle East.


Christensen ruled out as Barca injury crisis deepens

Christensen ruled out as Barca injury crisis deepens
Updated 05 October 2022

Christensen ruled out as Barca injury crisis deepens

Christensen ruled out as Barca injury crisis deepens
  • The Denmark centre-back was taken off in the 1-0 defeat by Inter Milan on Tuesday
  • Barca are already without Ronald Araujo, Jules Kounde and Hector Bellerin in defence

BARCELONA: Barcelona defender Andreas Christensen has suffered a sprained ankle, the club confirmed on Wednesday, leaving the Catalans with only two fit center-backs.
The Denmark center-back was taken off in the 1-0 defeat by Inter Milan on Tuesday at the San Siro, and is a doubt for upcoming games, including the Clasico on October 16.
Barca are already without Ronald Araujo, Jules Kounde and Hector Bellerin in defense, as well as Dutch duo Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong.
“Tests carried out on Wednesday have confirmed that the first team player Andreas Christensen has a sprained left ankle,” said Barca in a statement.
“He is unavailable and his recovery will dictate his return.”
Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia are set to line up in the center of defense against Celta Vigo on Sunday in La Liga, with Xavi thin on alternatives beyond using players from the B team.
Inter visit Camp Nou on Wednesday October 12, a crucial game for Barca’s hopes of qualifying for the next round of the Champions Leagues, before the Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu.


Liv Golf makes long-awaited Asian debut in Thailand

Liv Golf makes long-awaited Asian debut in Thailand
Updated 05 October 2022

Liv Golf makes long-awaited Asian debut in Thailand

Liv Golf makes long-awaited Asian debut in Thailand
  • 48 world-class players to tee off for $25m in Bangkok
  • Innovative changes to sport ‘thrilling’ fans, says Greg Norman

BANGKOK: The 48 world-class players preparing to tee off at the $25-million LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok will have plenty to play for this week when they line up at the all-new Stonehill venue from Oct. 7 to 9.

“In our inaugural year with the Invitational Series, LIV Golf is already making waves among golf fans globally. Innovation creates energy that will further grow the sport into the future, and we are proud to be at the forefront of this movement,” said Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf.

“Our world-class players and new team format are generating a thrilling conclusion to this first year, and I’m eager to watch the action unfold in our final three tournaments of 2022.”

The world’s best are jostling for position in the individual standings, where a $30 million purse will be shared among the top three podium places at the end of the campaign.

This year’s champion in the final individual standings after the LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah will receive a first-place prize of $18 million, with $8 million to the runner-up and $4 million for third place.

In the individual standings, where points are awarded to the top 24 finishers within each tournament’s 48-player field, 2016 US Open and 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson leads the pack with 118 points. The American holds a healthy 39-point lead over his nearest challenger thanks to a win in Boston, top-three finishes in Bedminster and Chicago and consistent play throughout five events in which he has never finished outside the top 10.

South African Branden Grace (79) is in second place with a victory in Portland and is trailed by 2022 Open winner Cameron Smith (56).

The Australian currently holds third place after notable performances in just two events: A fourth-place finish in his LIV Golf debut in Boston, followed by a three-stroke win in Chicago, the largest margin of victory for any LIV Golf individual champion this season.

The team competition is building for an exciting finish, as LIV Golf’s 12 teams prepare for the back-to-back Asian swing in Thailand and Saudi Arabia before turning their attention to the season-ending LIV Golf Invitational Miami Team Championship at Trump National Doral Golf Club from Oct. 28 to 30.

The iconic Blue Monster course will stage the seeded three-day, knockout tournament featuring both match play and stroke play, as teams compete for a historic $50 million purse.