Unvaccinated Djokovic out of US Open; can’t travel to States

Unvaccinated Djokovic out of US Open; can’t travel to States
Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, will not play in the US Open, as expected, because he is not vaccinated against COVID19 and thus is not allowed to travel to the US. (AP/File)
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Updated 25 August 2022

Unvaccinated Djokovic out of US Open; can’t travel to States

Unvaccinated Djokovic out of US Open; can’t travel to States
  • Djokovic announced his withdrawal from the year’s last Grand Slam tournament on Twitter on Thursday
  • Foreign citizens who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 are currently unable to enter the US or Canada

NEW YORK: Novak Djokovic will not play in the US Open, as expected, because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and thus is not allowed to travel to the United States.

Djokovic announced his withdrawal from the year’s last Grand Slam tournament on Twitter on Thursday, hours before the draw for the event was revealed.

“Sadly, I will not be able to travel to NY this time for US Open,” Djokovic wrote, wishing luck to his fellow players, and said he would “keep in good shape and positive spirit and wait for an opportunity to compete again.”

Play is scheduled to begin at Flushing Meadows on Monday.

Djokovic is a 35-year-old from Serbia who owns 21 major championships, one behind Rafael Nadal for the men’s record. Three of Djokovic’s Slam trophies came at the US Open, in 2011, 2015 and 2018.

He also was the runner-up there a half-dozen times, including last season, when his pursuit of the first calendar-year Grand Slam in men’s tennis since 1969 ended with a loss in the final to Daniil Medvedev.

Foreign citizens who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 are currently unable to enter the USor Canada, and Djokovic has said he won’t get the shots, even if that prevents him from playing in certain tournaments.

The US Tennis Association has said all along it will follow government rules about vaccination status for this year’s Open. There is no vaccine mandate at the tournament for players or their support teams — meaning that an unvaccinated American would be allowed to compete — and spectators will not be required to wear masks.

“Novak is a great champion and it is very unfortunate that he will be unable to compete at the 2022 US Open, as he is unable to enter the country due to the federal government’s vaccination policy for non-US citizens,” said Stacey Allaster, the US Open tournament director. “We look forward to welcoming Novak back at the 2023 US Open.”

Djokovic missed the Australian Open in January after a protracted legal saga ended with his deportation from that country because he isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19. He also sat out four significant tournaments in North America in 2022, including in Montreal and Cincinnati recently.

He did play in the French Open, where he lost in the quarterfinals to Nadal, and at Wimbledon, where Djokovic won the title.

After beating Nick Kyrgios in the Wimbledon final on July 10, Djokovic said he “would love” to participate in the last Grand Slam tournament of the year at Flushing Meadows, but he also acknowledged, “I’m not planning to get vaccinated.”

About three weeks later, Djokovic posted on social media that he was holding out hope of getting the chance to play in the US Open, writing: “I am preparing as if I will be allowed to compete, while I await to hear if there is any room for me to travel to US. Fingers crossed!”

Djokovic has spent more weeks at No. 1 than anyone else in the history of the ATP rankings. He is No. 6 this week, in part because no rankings points were awarded at Wimbledon this year.

Among the other players who will not be at the US Open for various reasons are No. 2-ranked Alexander Zverev, the 2020 runner-up in New York; 2016 champion Angelique Kerber; 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova; Gael Monfils and Reilly Opelka.


Lewandowski hits two as Liga leaders Barca cruise past Elche

Lewandowski hits two as Liga leaders Barca cruise past Elche
Updated 02 April 2023

Lewandowski hits two as Liga leaders Barca cruise past Elche

Lewandowski hits two as Liga leaders Barca cruise past Elche
  • The Polish forward has endured a small dip in form recently but was back to his lethal best to continue the Catalans’ procession toward the title

ELCHE, Spain: Robert Lewandowski struck twice as Barcelona moved 15 points clear at the top of La Liga with a comfortable 4-0 win at Elche on Saturday.
The Polish forward has endured a small dip in form recently but was back to his lethal best to continue the Catalans’ procession toward the title.
Ansu Fati also found the net for the first time since October in the league and Ferran Torres rounded out the comfortable win, as Xavi was able to play some reserve players ahead of Wednesday’s Copa del Rey semifinal clash with Real Madrid.
Elche, playing under new coach Sebastian Beccacece for the first time, are bottom of the table and never seemed likely to trouble the runaway league leaders. Champions Madrid, second, host Real Valladolid on Sunday.
“We’ll see what Madrid do tomorrow, (but) if we win our games, we will be champions,” Eric Garcia told Movistar.
“The coach told us all at the start of the season, everyone is important.
“We have an important game on Wednesday and he was able to rest some players.”
Barca coach Xavi took the chance to experiment by deploying Garcia in Sergio Busquets’ usual pivot role, and made several other changes to his usual side.
Torres and Fati started on the flanks, the latter having made headlines this week after his father complained about the Barca number 10’s lack of minutes.
“(Goals) always give confidence to the forward, today it went perfectly,” Xavi told Movistar.
“Two goals for Robert, one for Ferran, one for Ansu, and Ansu’s work — he ended up exhausted, that’s the truth.
“Aside from the goal, that is very positive for him and his confidence, how he worked for the team, it’s really important for me, and the goal is a consequence of his work and his talent.
“I’m especially happy for Ferran, Ansu, the players that maybe deserved goals, today they scored.”
Lewandowski broke the deadlock after 20 minutes with his first goal in four league matches, scuffing a finish into the ground, with the ball looping over a defender and into the net.
The Polish international and the top goalscorer in the league grabbed his 16th and 17th strikes of the campaign — he has 27 across all competitions.
Barcelona should have increased their lead in the first half but Lewandowski nodded over from Torres’ cross from just six yards out, while Elche defender Omar Mascarell slid in to clear a Jules Kounde effort off the line.
Gavi pulled the strings in midfield as Barcelona dominated at the Martinez Valero stadium, securing a 20th clean sheet of the season in the top flight.
Fati stretched Barcelona’s advantage 10 minutes into the second half, running from the halfway line with the Elche defense backing off, before drilling into the bottom corner.
Lewandowski pounced again after Gavi won the ball back for the third and then played a fine long ball to Torres, who drifted inside and slotted home the fourth.
Xavi handed midfielder Aleix Garrido, 19, his debut in the final stages, as the hosts showed a few signs of life.
Fidel Chaves headed against the crossbar but like so many other sides this season, Elche could not beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen, with the German goalkeeper denying Josan Fernandez.
Elche are 14 points from safety with 11 matches remaining.


Kvitova wins Miami Open, beating Rybakina

Kvitova wins Miami Open, beating Rybakina
Updated 02 April 2023

Kvitova wins Miami Open, beating Rybakina

Kvitova wins Miami Open, beating Rybakina
  • Czech Kvitova, appearing in her first Miami final at the age of 33, triumphed 7-6 (16/14) 6-2 at Hard Rock Stadium

MIAMI GARDENS, United States: Petra Kvitova drew on all her experience to claim her 30th WTA singles title with a straight sets Miami Open victory over Elena Rybakina on Saturday.
Czech Kvitova, appearing in her first Miami final at the age of 33, triumphed 7-6 (16/14) 6-2 at Hard Rock Stadium, a victory which will return the veteran to the top 10 in the world rankings.
Rybakina came into the final on a career-best 13-match winning streak after winning the title at Indian Wells and was looking for the rare ‘Sunshine Double’ of both WTA Masters events.
It was a tight, serve-dominated battle until Kvitova broke to go 5-4 up but Rybakina, who represents Kazakhstan, immediately broke back.
The tie-break was a thrilling 22-minute, 28-second, 30-point shoot-out in which two-time Wimbledon Kvitova saved five set points to emerge triumphant from when Rybakina returned to the net.
Kvitova took that momentum into the second set, breaking early to go 2-0 up and from then on she never looked like letting her opponent, 11 years her junior, back into the contest.
Rybakina couldn’t convert a break point in the next game and then she herself was broken again when serving to stay in the match at 5-2 down.
Kvitova, who has now won 30 of 41 career finals, said the tie-break had turned the contest in her direction.
“I’m still surprised. I think the tie-break really decided the whole match in the end...it was probably the longest in my career and somehow I managed it,” she said.
“(She hit) so many aces at the beginning of the tie-break, I was like oh my God, I couldn’t even play, so it was a little difficult,” added Kvitova, who now has nine WTA 1000 titles.
“I had to slowly serve it out very well today and I am glad I made it in the end but to be honest I have no idea how I did it,” she added.
Kvitova won 78 percent of her service points (52 of 67) and finished with 29 winners to 14 unforced errors
Rybakina fired 12 aces in the match and became the first player since Serena Williams at 2016 Wimbledon to hit 10 or more aces in six consecutive matches in a single tournament.
The ATP final on Sunday features Russia’s Daniil Medvedev against Italian Jannik Sinner, who beat Carlos Alcaraz in Friday’s semifinal.


Aston Villa leapfrog Chelsea into top half of Premier League

Aston Villa leapfrog Chelsea into top half of Premier League
Updated 01 April 2023

Aston Villa leapfrog Chelsea into top half of Premier League

Aston Villa leapfrog Chelsea into top half of Premier League
  • Defeat saw Chelsea drop into the bottom half of the table to increase the pressure on Blues manager Graham Potter
  • This was Villa's fifth away win since Unai Emery became manager of the Birmingham club in October

LONDON: Aston Villa climbed above Chelsea and into the top half of the Premier League table with a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Ollie Watkins gave Villa an early lead before a superb strike by John McGinn, fresh from starring in Scotland’s shock Euro 2024 win over Spain, made it 2-0 in the 56th minute.
Defeat saw Chelsea drop into the bottom half of the table to increase the pressure on Blues manager Graham Potter, with the London club booed off the field by their own supporters at full-time.
This was Villa’s fifth away win since Unai Emery became manager of the Birmingham club in October and they have now won 16 points on the road, a tally equalled only by champions Manchester City in that period.
All 10 of Chelsea’s league wins this season have come against bottom-half opponents, but this reverse meant they drop into 11th place in the table.
Villa moved up into ninth, one point off Liverpool in eighth, and just two points off a European place.
Emery’s men almost gifted Chelsea the lead soon after kick-off when goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez rolled the ball short to Boubacar Kamara, who was dispossessed by Mykhailo Mudryk.
The Ukrainian, however, was denied by Martinez when one-on-one with the Argentina World Cup-winner.
Villa responded quickly, Watkins pulling a shot wide before McGinn hit the crossbar in the 15th minute with a curling shot.
But the in-form Watkins broke the deadlock in the 18th minute, capitalizing on a slack header from Marc Cucurella before lobbing the ball over Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Martinez preserved Villa’s lead by diving low to his left to deny Kai Havertz.
Chelsea were on top, playing attractive and attacking football but with no goals to show for their efforts.
In the match as a whole, Villa only had five shots on target to Chelsea’s 27 but, significantly, they made two of them count.
Villa captain McGinn doubled the lead in style with a well-struck curling effort from 25 yards out.
Chelsea worked hard but rarely threatened a goal, with the one consolation for the Blues the sight of defender N’Golo Kante, a 2018 World Cup winner with France, coming off the bench in the 57th minute as he made his first senior appearance for the Blues under Potter, having been sidelined since August.


Bayern put four past Dortmund on Tuchel debut to go top

Bayern put four past Dortmund on Tuchel debut to go top
Updated 01 April 2023

Bayern put four past Dortmund on Tuchel debut to go top

Bayern put four past Dortmund on Tuchel debut to go top
  • A shocking own goal from Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel, as well as two trademark poacher's finishes from Thomas Mueller had Bayern 3-0 up by the 25th minute
  • Kingsley Coman added a fourth shortly after half-time to send Bayern two points clear of the visitors

MUNICH, Germany: Bayern Munich went back to the top of the Bundesliga on Saturday, defeating Borussia Dortmund 4-2 at home to give Thomas Tuchel a winning start as coach of the Bavarian giants.
A shocking own goal from Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel, as well as two trademark poacher’s finishes from Thomas Mueller had Bayern 3-0 up by the 25th minute.
Kingsley Coman added a fourth shortly after half-time to send Bayern two points clear of the visitors despite two late consolation goals.
“We need the desire to get better, because we have to get better,” Tuchel said, although he praised his side’s “desire to fight for the ball.”
“It was the result we absolutely wanted.”
Dortmund came into the match in the unfamiliar position of first place, one point ahead of Bayern, who fired coach Julian Nagelsmann in favor of Tuchel last week.
Tuchel, who won a German Cup title during a two-year stint in charge of Dortmund, only had one training session with Bayern but it was Kobel who gifted them a flying start in the 13th minute.
The ‘keeper, who returned after a five-week injury layoff, charged out of his box to try, and clear Dayot Upamecano’s long pass, but could only make the faintest of contacts with the ball before watching helplessly as it rolled into the net.
Mueller scored from a corner just five minutes later and pounced when Kobel spilled Leroy Sane’s shot five minutes after that.
“Sometimes there are crap days and today was one of them,” Kobel told Germany’s Sky, blaming himself for the defeat.
But Dortmund coach Edin Terzic backed his ‘keeper, saying: “We can’t forget that this man is the reason we were on top of the table.”
Unlike earlier in the season when Dortmund came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at home with Bayern, there would be no miracle comeback this time around, with Coman sliding the ball under Kobel early in the second half.
Emre Can converted a consolation penalty after Serge Gnabry fouled Jude Bellingham in the box, while Dutch forward Donyell Malen added a second for Dortmund in the last minute of normal time.
Munich have won their last nine home league matches against Dortmund, scoring 37 goals and conceding just eight in the process.
Dortmund will need to regroup after the defeat, their first league loss in 2023, ahead of their German Cup quarter final at RB Leipzig on Wednesday.
Bayern face Freiburg twice in the space of a week, once at home in the Cup on Tuesday and then away in the league on Saturday.
Union Berlin kept up their surprise pursuit of the Bundesliga title with a 3-0 victory over rock-bottom Stuttgart.
Second-half goals from Sheraldo Becker, Kevin Behrens and an own goal from former Union player Genki Haraguchi took the third-placed side to just two points behind second-placed Dortmund and four from Bayern.
“After half-time, we played like we should,” said Union coach Urs Fischer.
Mainz dealt fifth-placed Leipzig’s bid for Champions League football next season a blow, winning 3-0 at the Red Bull Arena.
Freiburg missed a chance to take advantage of Leipzig’s loss, drawing 1-1 at home against struggling Hertha Berlin.
Bayer Leverkusen handed Schalke their first defeat in nine matches, winning 3-0 away thanks to second-half goals from Jeremie Frimpong, Florian Wirtz and Sardar Azmoun.
Elsewhere, a goal from Germany forward Felix Nmecha in the sixth minute of injury time stole a point for Wolfsburg, who drew 2-2 at home against Augsburg.


Saudi Women’s U-17 national team captain aims to inspire Saudi girls

Saudi Women’s U-17 national team captain aims to inspire Saudi girls
Updated 01 April 2023

Saudi Women’s U-17 national team captain aims to inspire Saudi girls

Saudi Women’s U-17 national team captain aims to inspire Saudi girls
  • At 16, Majd Alotaibi is one of the youngest players in the women’s First Division

RIYADH: Majd Alotaibi is dreaming big.

The captain of the U-17 Saudi Women’s National Football Team — established in February —hopes to inspire other girls across the Kingdom and dreams of winning the FIFA World Cup with the Green Falcons.  

The U-17 team, led by Croatian coach Stella Gutal, consists of 28 players and is captained by Alotaibi, who is one of the youngest players in the Saudi women’s First Division, in which she represents Al-Yamamah FC.

Alotaibi started playing football in 2013, aged six, in a team coached by her father, who was a professional football player himself.   

“My dad used to be a player so I felt like football was in my blood,” Alotaibi told Arab News. “It’s been a big part of my life since I was young.” Her family and friends “and everyone cheering me on” are her main motivation, she added. And she hopes to be a source of motivation for others too. “Being one of the youngest players in the (league and national team) means that I have to inspire younger girls,” she added. 

She is quick to credit her teammates at Al-Yamamah as well, saying: “I would like to thank my teammates first of all, because they helped make it easier for me; because I’m one of the youngest, they take care of me.”  

Alotaibi stressed that discipline and dedication are crucial for anyone hoping to become a professional.

“If you love the game and you want to do amazing things and achieve a lot, you need to believe 100 percent in what you’re doing,” she explained. “Always being there on time, always the first person on the field, last person off the field. If you have passion for something, you’re going to achieve a lot of great things.” 

On March 24, Saudi Arabia’s Women’s National Team entered the FIFA world rankings after nine international matches over the previous year.  

“Currently the Saudi national team is ranked 171 out of 188 national teams. That just proves how hard we have been working in such a short time so, inshallah, in the future you will see how far we come,” Alotaibi said.  

After a recent victory in an international friendly match, the team gathered for official pictures, and Alotaibi mimicked Manchester City star Erling Haaland’s ‘yoga meditation’ goal celebration.  

 “I know it’s Haaland’s move, but I was happy and wanted to celebrate and that was the first thing that came to mind,” she said. “Now it’s become a thing.”

She has another signature pose where she brings her hands together to create the letter “M.”

“It’s M for Majd,” she said. “Inshallah, for upcoming matches when I score, I will do it.” 

For now, Alotaibi is focusing on her career with Al-Yamamah and the Saudi national team, but would she consider a move in the future?

“What’s next for me is I want to become the best player in the league,” she said. “Regarding (other) clubs… to be continued.”