Djokovic absence from US Open ‘very sad’: Nadal

Djokovic absence from US Open ‘very sad’: Nadal
Rafael Nadal of Spain during media day before the start of the US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Aug. 26, 2022 in New York City. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 27 August 2022

Djokovic absence from US Open ‘very sad’: Nadal

Djokovic absence from US Open ‘very sad’: Nadal
  • Djokovic confirmed on Thursday he will play no part in the tournament after refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 — placing him at odds with US government travel requirements for international visitors

NEW YORK: Rafael Nadal said Friday he is saddened by Novak Djokovic’s absence from the US Open as he returns to the tournament for the first time in three years.

The Spanish legend has not played in New York since defeating Daniil Medvedev in five sets to lift the 2019 title.

Nadal has added three more Grand Slam singles titles to his haul since that victory, taking his total to 22 — the all-time men’s record.

While the 36-year-old will be looking to add to that tally over the next fortnight in New York, Nadal admitted on Friday that the absence of Djokovic left him “very sad.”

Djokovic confirmed on Thursday he will play no part in the tournament after refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 — placing him at odds with US government travel requirements for international visitors.

“From my personal perspective, it’s very sad news,” Nadal said.

“It’s always a shame when the best players of the world are not able to play a tournament because of injuries or because of different reasons.

“In this case, not having one of the best players of the history in the draw of Grand Slam is always an important miss, no? Tough for the fans, tough for the tournament. In my opinion, tough for the players, too, because we want to have the best field possible.”

Yet despite Djokovic’s absence, Nadal is adamant that the tournament will not be diminished by the non-participation of the Serbian great, who is just one behind the Spaniard in Grand Slam singles titles with 21.

“I repeat what I said plenty of times: the sport in some ways is bigger than any player,” Nadal said.

“I missed a lot of important events in my tennis career because of injuries, without a doubt. Last year I was not here. Two years ago I was not here. The tournament continues. The world of tennis keep going.

“Even if is not a good news for everyone, the world continues and the tennis will continue after me, after Novak, after Roger (Federer).”

Nadal started 2022 in blistering fashion, winning both the Australian and French Opens before an abdominal muscle injury forced him to scratch from the Wimbledon semifinals.

He returned from that injury at the Cincinnati Masters this month but exited in the second round. Nadal said Friday he had been protecting the injury during his Cincinnati comeback.

“It’s a tough injury because it’s dangerous, it’s risky,” he said. “When you have a scar, it’s a place that you put lot of effort when you are serving.

“I take it very easy in the Cincinnati, too, in the practices. The match, I try my best without putting all the effort there on the serve.”

Nadal, who opens his US Open campaign against Australian wild card entrant Rinky Hijikata on Tuesday, was cautiously optimistic about his preparations.

“I am doing things the best way that I can,” he said. “I hope to be ready for the action, no? That’s the only thing that I can say.

“Taking care with the serve, being honest. But in general terms, yes, I am practicing at high level of intensity.”


Al-Ittihad beat Al-Feiha 2-0 in Saudi Super Cup Final

Al-Ittihad beat Al-Feiha 2-0 in Saudi Super Cup Final
Updated 30 January 2023

Al-Ittihad beat Al-Feiha 2-0 in Saudi Super Cup Final

Al-Ittihad beat Al-Feiha 2-0 in Saudi Super Cup Final
  • Although Al-Feiha had defeated defending league champions Al-Hilal 1-0 on Thursday, they were the underdogs against Al-Ittihad

Two goals from Abderrazak Hamdallah gave Al-Ittihad a 2-0 win over Al-Feiha on Sunday in the Saudi Super Cup Final in Riyadh to hand the Jeddah giants their first major piece of silverware in five years.

The victory also gave former Tottenham Hotspur and FC Porto boss Nuno Santo his first trophy in Saudi Arabia.

Although Al-Feiha had defeated defending league champions Al-Hilal 1-0 on Thursday, they were the underdogs against Al-Ittihad.

The victory handed the Jeddah giants their first major piece of silverware in five years. (SPA)

And Hamdallah, who featured for Morocco in the World Cup, struck early in each half to give the Tigers a big win against their 10-man opponents.

The first goal came in the third minute. Al-Ittihad’s Romarinho picked up the ball just outside the Al-Feiha half and the Brazilian’s pass fed Hamdallah who took one touch on the edge of the area and then coolly lifted the ball over Vladimir Stojkovic.

It was a great start for the Jeddah giants and it got better for them midway through the first half as Al-Feiha were reduced to 10 men. Abdulrahman Al-Safari went in high with his studs on Egyptian midfielder Tarek Hamed and was shown a straight red card from the referee.

Five minutes before the break it looked as if the in-form Romarinho had extended his side’s lead but the Brazilian, who finished smartly from close range, was adjudged by the referee’s assistant — and also VAR — to have been offside.

Al-Ittihad had a chance to tighten their grip on the trophy just before the break as Stojkovic was penalized for bringing down Hamdallah inside the penalty area and the referee pointed to the spot. However, Abdulrahman Al-Oboud dragged his shot wide.

An Al-Feiha player comforts a forlorn colleague after the Al Majma'ah-based club's loss to Al-Ittihad. (SPA)

The frustration for watching fans in Jeddah did not last long as Hamdallah doubled Al-Ittihad’s lead three minutes after the restart, much to the dismay of Stojkovic. The Serbian goalkeeper came a long way off his line in an attempt to punch away a free-kick from deep, and Hamdallah’s head got there first to send the ball looping into the net.

Al-ittihad were on top for much of the second half and worked hard to ensure that they stayed in front.

Boss Santo said: “It was a good performance from us and we worked hard. It was a tough game and we are delighted that we ended up winning.”

Santo, who arrived last summer after spells with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Spurs, looked delighted as his players collected the trophy.

There is still the challenge of becoming champions of Saudi Arabia for the first time since 2009, but Santos is pleased with the progress his side have made so far.

He said: “We know that there is still a long way to go this season.

“The most important thing is that we stay together and work hard. If we can do that then who knows what can happen?

“It is great to lift this trophy but we hope that this is just the beginning.”


Madrid frustrated by Sociedad, loses ground to Barcelona

Madrid frustrated by Sociedad, loses ground to Barcelona
Updated 30 January 2023

Madrid frustrated by Sociedad, loses ground to Barcelona

Madrid frustrated by Sociedad, loses ground to Barcelona
  • Vinícius played well overall and created some good opportunities for himself, but in the end was thwarted by a great performance from Sociedad goalkeeper Álex Remiro

MADRID: Vinícius Júnior had his share of chances to break the deadlock. More than once, the Brazil forward was in front of the opposition goal with only the ‘keeper to beat.
But Vinicius and his teammates couldn’t get the job done on Sunday as Real Madrid was held to a 0-0 draw at home by third-place Real Sociedad to lose ground to Barcelona at the top of the Spanish league.
The result left defending champion Madrid five points behind the Catalan rival, which won 1-0 at Girona on Saturday. Sociedad stayed three points behind Madrid, and eight behind Barcelona. Both Madrid and Barcelona have a game in hand.
Vinícius played well overall and created some good opportunities for himself, but in the end was thwarted by a great performance from Sociedad goalkeeper Álex Remiro. He made three key saves against close-range attempts by Vinícius, and also saw the Brazilian send the ball wide in a one-on-one situation.
“Vinícius played a good match, if he had scored it would have been a spectacular one,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “He has been playing well. Sometimes he will miss, but he is always trying.”
Karim Benzema and Rodrygo also couldn’t break through the Sociedad defense as Madrid was held scoreless for the first time this season despite more than 20 attempts against Sociedad, which also had its opportunities in an intense match at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.
“We played a very complete game but couldn’t score,” Ancelotti said. “We were close. I’m satisfied with the draw because we played well.”
Madrid, coming off a home win in the derby against Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey, remains unbeaten against Sociedad since a 4-3 home loss in the quarterfinals of the Copa in 2020, a competition the Basque Country side won.
Sociedad was coming off a 1-0 loss at Barcelona in the Copa quarterfinals, a result that ended its nine-game winning streak in all competitions. It had been one of the hottest teams in Spain until the consecutive setbacks against the powerhouses.
ATLETICO REBOUNDS
Atletico Madrid bounced back from its Copa elimination against Madrid with a 1-0 win at seventh-place Osasuna.
Substitute Saúl Ñíguez scored the winner less than 10 minutes after he had entered the match in the 65th.
Atletico relinquished a late 1-0 lead against Madrid to lose 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey on Thursday. The cup was the only competition Atletico realistically had a chance to win as it had already been eliminated from the Champions League and the Europa League, and it currently trails league leader Barcelona by 13 points.
“We are out of the Champions (League) and the Copa, but the motivation to play for Atletico remains,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “I’ll always demand that from my players.”
It was the third win in four games in all competitions for Simeone’s team, while struggling Osasuna remained winless in four straight.
Osasuna has only one victory in eight matches overall, though it hadn’t lost since last year.
Atletico hadn’t won an away match in the league since October at Real Betis.
WILLIAMS’ RUN ENDS
Iñaki Williams’ absence in Athletic Bilbao’s 1-0 loss at Celta Vigo ended his record of 251 consecutive league appearances. He did not play in Vigo because of injury.
Williams had played in every league match for Bilbao since April 2016.
Veteran striker Iago Aspas scored Celta’s winner in the 71st. The result moved Celta to 16th place, while Bilbao remained eighth.
Bilbao is winless in five league games, since a 3-0 home victory against Valladolid before the World Cup.
VALENCIA’S STRUGGLES
Valencia’s struggles continued with a 1-0 loss at Valladolid, adding pressure on coach Gennaro Gattuso.
Valencia has only one win in its last 10 league games, against Real Betis before the World Cup. It dropped to 14th place and one point above the relegation zone.
Canadian forward Cyle Larin scored a 90th-minute winner for 17th-place Valladolid, which ended its five-game losing streak across all competitions.


Females ‘just getting started’ in esports, says Saudi federation official

(Supplied/Saudi Esports Federation)
(Supplied/Saudi Esports Federation)
Updated 30 January 2023

Females ‘just getting started’ in esports, says Saudi federation official

(Supplied/Saudi Esports Federation)
  • The esports scene has traditionally been dominated by men, and it remains as such, but has seen a substantial shift in attitude and mindset for the better in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Female participation in esports is only set to increase in the coming years, Reaam Alkhudairi, from the Saudi Esports Federation has said.

In the Kingdom alone, approximately six million people played games in 2020, with nearly half of the new players in Saudi Arabia being women.

The esports scene has traditionally been dominated by men, and it remains as such, but has seen a substantial shift in attitude and mindset for the better in Saudi Arabia, Alkhudairi said, adding that more changes will take place as Vision 2030 continues.

Saudi Arabia's gaming sector is thriving, and especially its esports scene, and experiencing more opportunities for women as well, she said.

Esports are an exciting and challenging endeavor, and Saudi Esports Federation is dedicated to encouraging and supporting youths and adults alike to take part, Alkhudairi said.

The Saudi Esports Federation is also seeking to improve the skills of females in esports as part of its mission, she added, citing the example of Najd Fahd, who is now recognized as the first Saudi Arabian female to win first place in FIFA 20 and who was also awarded Best Female Player of 2021 by the Saudi Esports Federation Awards (SEF Awards).


Mitoma magic inflicts more Brighton misery on Liverpool

Mitoma magic inflicts more Brighton misery on Liverpool
Updated 29 January 2023

Mitoma magic inflicts more Brighton misery on Liverpool

Mitoma magic inflicts more Brighton misery on Liverpool
  • Lewis Dunk leveled before the break for Brighton and they were well worthy of the victory given to them by a moment of magic from Mitoma

BRIGHTON: Liverpool’s disastrous season suffered another blow on Sunday as the holders were dumped out the FA Cup by a 2-1 defeat at Brighton.

Kaoru Mitoma’s brilliant control and finish in stoppage time earned the Seagulls a place in the fifth round.

Liverpool had led at the Amex through Harvey Elliott, but have now won just once in their last six games.

Lewis Dunk leveled before the break for Brighton and they were well worthy of the victory given to them by a moment of magic from Mitoma.

The Japanese winger cushioned Pervis Estupinan’s cross into his path, flicked the ball over Joe Gomez and fired high past Alisson Becker in the 92nd minute.

Liverpool are languishing in ninth in the Premier League, 21 points behind pacesetters Arsenal.

Their FA Cup exit leaves the Champions League as their only remaining shot at a trophy this season.

Last season, Jurgen Klopp’s men were on the brink of a historic quadruple, which included their first FA Cup triumph in 16 years.

But Klopp is still searching for answers to halt their decline after a second defeat on the south coast in 15 days.

The German described Brighton’s 3-0 win when the sides last met as the worst performance of his managerial career.

Liverpool did at least put up a fight this time and will rue two big early chances missed by Mohamed Salah.

The Egyptian did at least have a hand in Liverpool’s goal as he released Elliott, whose strike had too much power for Steele to keep out.

Brighton hit back within nine minutes when Tariq Lamptey’s powerful shot was deflected past the helpless Alisson by Dunk.

The hosts were without Moises Caicedo after the Ecuadorian took to social media on Friday to try and force through a move to Arsenal.

Brighton have already lost Leandro Trossard, who scored a hat trick against Liverpool earlier in the season, to the Gunners this month.

But those absences did not show as Liverpool were left riding their luck for most of the second period.

Ibrahima Konate and Fabinho were extremely fortunate to escape red cards for challenges on Alexis Mac Allister and Evan Ferguson.

Alisson threw himself in front of Solly March to make a brilliant save from Mitoma’s inventive cross and Konate did likewise to block from Ferguson.

But Brighton’s pressure finally got its reward when Mitoma struck his fourth goal in six games.


Diriyah Season to host first BMX Freestyle World Cup in region

Diriyah will host the BMX Freestyle World Cup, which will act as a qualifying event for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
Diriyah will host the BMX Freestyle World Cup, which will act as a qualifying event for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
Updated 29 January 2023

Diriyah Season to host first BMX Freestyle World Cup in region

Diriyah will host the BMX Freestyle World Cup, which will act as a qualifying event for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

DIRIYAH: Diriyah will host the BMX Freestyle World Cup, which will act as a qualifying event for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, on February 10 to 18 at the Elite Sports Center.

Hosted as part of the Diriyah Season, it will be the first time the event will held in the Middle East. 

More than 175 cyclists and bikers, representing 32 countries around the world, will compete for the title on a circuit especially made to host the championship at an arena capable of hosting up to 10,000 fans.

“Historic Diriyah will turn into the capital of urban sports in the world by hosting the World Cup, with the participation of a group of the most famous male and female athletes in the world, who will compete to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics,” Mai Al-Hellabi of Diriyah Season said.

Al-Hilabi indicated that the events accompanying the tournament will include a number of entertainment and sports activities and experiences that will be presented to the public for citizens and visitors from outside the Kingdom of all ages and groups.

Tickets can be booked here.