Herve Renard looks to solve World Cup selection issues as Saudi face Ecuador in friendly 

Herve Renard looks to solve World Cup selection issues as Saudi face Ecuador in friendly 
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Herve Renard with his players at their training camp in Alicante, Spain. (SAFF)
Herve Renard looks to solve World Cup selection issues as Saudi face Ecuador in friendly 
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(SAFF)
Herve Renard looks to solve World Cup selection issues as Saudi face Ecuador in friendly 
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(SAFF)
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Updated 22 September 2022

Herve Renard looks to solve World Cup selection issues as Saudi face Ecuador in friendly 

Herve Renard looks to solve World Cup selection issues as Saudi face Ecuador in friendly 
  • Mohamed Kanoo and Fahad Al-Muwallad return after lengthy suspensions while question could arise over exclusion of goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf

A little history will be made on Friday as Saudi Arabia take on Ecuador in Spain. According to reports, Herve Renard will take charge of the national team for the 31st time, equalling the number reached by Jose Peseiro from 2009 to 2011. It is an impressive record and would have been even better had COVID-19 not hit in 2020.

The Frenchman won’t care too much about that as his time will not be judged only on what he has done since his appointment in July 2019 but what happens in November and, hopefully, December in Qatar.

Unlike Peseiro, Renard has taken the Green Falcons to the World Cup and finished qualification on top of a group that also included Japan and Australia. It was an impressive campaign. Renard crafted a team that was more cohesive, flexible and tactically astute than before and got his just rewards with a contract extended to 2027 and a spot at Qatar 2022 in a group with Argentina, Poland and Mexico.

Preparations started almost immediately with June friendlies against Colombia and Venezuela in Spain, two South American opponents that had not qualified for the World Cup. Both games were lost 1-0 and showed there was work to do.

There was a little too much space behind the defense and perhaps a little too much respect given to the opposition, especially Colombia. Still, there were some absences, including star player Salem Al-Dawsari, and Renard himself missed the first due to illness and, as tests go, they were valuable.

Just how valuable will be seen on Friday against a South American team that will be at Qatar — and will face the hosts in their opening match and see Saudi Arabia as good preparation for that — and then a clash with the US four days later.

After three years in charge, Renard has a good idea of his best team and there were few surprises in his squad. An eyebrow or two had been raised at the exclusion of Al-Hilal right-back Mohammed Al-Breik, though there are decent options in this position. The main talking point concerned goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf. The 35-year-old retired from international football in 2019 but then indicated earlier this year that he would be available once more.

It is not going to happen.

“His level is excellent at the moment but Al-Mayouf decided to retire more than three years ago,” Renard said. “We currently have a good goalkeeper, Muhammad Al-Owais, who has played well with the national team.”

Al-Mayouf himself has said that he respects the decision.

As always, a coach will live and die by such decisions but this is an unusual situation and will be discussed by the international media at the World Cup. Al-Mayouf is the number one at Al-Hilal while Al-Owais is his number two and therefore not playing regularly. Many feel that the former is the best domestic shotstopper in a league that is dominated by foreign goalkeepers and not only that, is better on the ball and playing out from the back. He also recently broke the league record for total number of clean sheets.

Yet Al-Owais did perform well in qualification and it is understandable that a coach wants to stay loyal to the man that has consistently delivered. It may be wise, however, to consider taking Al-Mayouf to Qatar to at least give some strength in depth if anything does happen to Al-Owais. Any goalkeeping mistakes in Spain in the next few days will surely lead to a greater debate at home in the next few weeks.

Renard has also called two players who have been serving lengthy bans: Mohamed Kanoo and Fahad Al-Muwallad. Both served well during qualification and will be looking to show the fans, as much as the boss, what they can do. Al-Muwallad has recently left Al-Ittihad to join Al-Shabab and the winger’s attacking qualities are likely to be needed in Qatar. Their experience appeals especially as captain Salman Al-Faraj has been picking up knocks on a regular and worrying basis of late. All hope that the Al-Hilal man stays fit for the big event.

In attack, Renard has recalled Haroune Camara, understandably so, given the lack of options. The mercurial Al-Ittihad forward has not played much this season but has scored one good goal and offers something a little different. Abdullah Al-Hamdan is out, perhaps paying the price for the striking riches that his club Al-Hilal have, which means he is very much a squad player, while club-mate Saleh Al-Shehri is still injured with an achilles tendon and so is touch-and-go for November. Saudi Arabia would welcome any sign of goalscoring prowess from anyone but, at the moment, Firas Al-Buraikan is the main man, even if some feel he is more effective coming off the bench.

Ecuador finished fourth in CONMEBOL qualification and have a squad with plenty of experience in their home continent, Europe and MLS. They arrive in Spain full of confidence and on the back of an unbeaten run of four games, which includes draws against Argentina and Mexico and a win over Nigeria.

So a tough test awaits, which is how it should be just two months out of the World Cup. For Saudi Arabia and their record-breaking coach, it is as much about the performance and fine-tuning the team ahead of Qatar as it is about the result and not falling to a confidence-sapping third defeat in a row against Latin American opposition.


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 10 sec ago

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.


Portugal beat Czechs, Spain lose to Swiss in Nations League

Portugal beat Czechs, Spain lose to Swiss in Nations League
Updated 25 September 2022

Portugal beat Czechs, Spain lose to Swiss in Nations League

Portugal beat Czechs, Spain lose to Swiss in Nations League
  • Spain failed to disturb the Swiss in attack and their defense conceded two goals on corner kicks featuring Swiss defender Manuel Akanji

BARCELONA, Spain: Diogo Dalot helped Portugal take control of its Nations League group by scoring his first two international goals in a 4-0 rout at the Czech Republic on Saturday.

Spain blew their lead of Group A2 after flopping in a 2-1 loss to Switzerland in front of their disappointed fans in Zaragoza.

Portugal moved two points ahead of Spain before the neighbors meet in Braga on Tuesday in a winner-take-all clash to see which advances to the tournament’s final four next June.

While his Portugal rolled in Prague, Cristiano Ronaldo had a rough night, first enduring a nasty blow to his face that made his nose bleed and required a small bandage. International soccer’s all-time leading scorer with 117 goals also committed a penalty that, fortunately for him, the Czechs failed to convert with the score 2-0.

Dalot put Portugal ahead in the 33rd minute when the right back scored from a pass by Rafael Leão.

Bruno Fernandes doubled the lead in first-half injury time moments before Ronaldo was guilty of the handball inside his own area. But Patrik Schick wasted the penalty kick by sending it onto the crossbar.

Dalot put the result beyond all doubt in the 52nd with a curling shot into the corner.

Ronaldo finished with an assist for Diogo Jota to take a fourth goal in the 82nd.

Spain flops

Luis Enrique, who last year guided Spain to the semifinals of the European Championship and the final of the Nations League, is known for making unpopular decisions and sticking to them.

And, once again, he surprised by starting Marco Asensio, who has been relegated to a substitute role at club Real Madrid, as a false nine while leaving pure strikers Álvaro Morata and newcomer Borja Iglesias on the bench.

Spain failed to disturb the Swiss in attack and their defense conceded two goals on corner kicks featuring Swiss defender Manuel Akanji.

Akanji struck with a great header in the 21st when he outjumped his marker and drove the ball off the turf and into the top corner of the net.

Asensio finally managed to pick apart Switzerland’s defense in the 55th when he dribbled past four players before laying off for Jordi Alba to rifle in the equalizer.

But Switzerland hit right back three minutes later when Akanji was left unchecked at the near post to use one touch to redirect a corner kick into the six-yard box where Breel Embolo nudged it over the line.

“They said that it was easy to beat Switzerland and we have seen that is not true in the least,” Luis Enrique said. “They stopped us from playing our game, and you have to add to that our very sloppy first half. We improved in the second half, showed more precision, but just when we scored, we conceded another goal from a corner. Now we have to go to Portugal and win.”

Iglesias and 20-year-old Nico Williams debuted for Spain as substitutes. Nico’s older brother and clubmate Iñaki Williams debuted for Ghana on Friday after he changed allegiance from Spain.

Switzerland hosts the Czech Republic in St. Gallen on Tuesday to decide which avoids relegation. Switzerland has two more points than the Czechs in last place.

Portugal, Spain and Switzerland will all play in the World Cup in November.

League B

Israel were promoted from Group B2 after it beat Albania 2-1 thanks to a goal by Tai Baribo in injury time.

It is all level between Serbia and Norway atop Group B4 ahead of their game in Olso to see which joins League A.

Erling Haaland scored for Norway but Slovenia fought back for a 2-1 home win, while Serbia’s Aleksandar Mitrovic netted a hat trick to lead a 4-1 victory over Sweden in Belgrade.

Scotland remained in charge of Group B1 after edging Ireland 2-1 in Glasgow. Ukraine is two points behind after routing Armenia 5-0 before it plays the Scots in Krakow.

League C

Greece earned promotion from Group C2 despite losing to Cyprus 1-0 thanks to Northern Ireland’s 2-1 comeback win over Kosovo.

Friendlies

Senegal prepared for the World Cup by beating Bolivia 2-0 in a friendly in Orleans, France.


US lead Presidents Cup as Kim gives Internationals a spark

US lead Presidents Cup as Kim gives Internationals a spark
Updated 25 September 2022

US lead Presidents Cup as Kim gives Internationals a spark

US lead Presidents Cup as Kim gives Internationals a spark
  • The Internationals split the morning matches, and the way this Presidents Cup has gone for them, not losing ground felt like a win

CHARLOTTE, US: The Americans have a juggernaut in Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas that moved them closer to another victory in the Presidents Cup on Saturday.

The International team has a spark plug in 20-year-old Tom Kim, who delivered the emotion and big putts that made it clear the Americans will have to work for it.

The day started with the Americans having a mathematical chance to clinch the cup. It ended with them holding an 11-7 lead, with 12 singles matches left on Sunday.

Spieth and Thomas became only the second US partnership to win all four team matches in the Presidents Cup, handily winning their foursomes match in the morning and their fourballs match in the afternoon.

The Internationals split the morning matches, and the way this Presidents Cup has gone for them, not losing ground felt like a win.

And then it got better.

They rallied over the final hour in two matches to turn deficits into 1-up wins, taking the afternoon session by winning three of the four matches.

The star was Kim, the youngest player at Quail Hollow and perhaps the biggest personality. He started the comeback with a 55-foot eagle putt on the par-4 11th hole against Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele.

They were all square going to the last, Si Woo Kim already out of the hole, and Tom Kim facing a 10-foot birdie putt for the win. He took a few steps back as the ball neared the hole, dropped his putter and slammed his cap to the ground in a raucous celebration.

“I wanted that putt more than anything in the world,” Kim said.

Moments later, Adam Scott and Cameron Davis rallied from 1 down with three holes remaining when Davis made a 12-foot eagle putt on the 16th and a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to go 1 up.

On the final hole, Sam Burns hit his approach to 4 feet that gave him and Billy Horschel a chance to earn a halve. And then Davis made a 10-foot birdie for another point.

Every point is big for the International team, already depleted from four players who left the PGA Tour for Saudi-funded LIV, and already dealing with eight straight cup losses.

The Americans are still very much in control, needing only four wins and a halve from the 12 singles matches in the final session.

Spieth and Thomas have led the way. The only other US tandem in a Presidents Cup to go 4-0 was Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker at Harding Park in 2009. The Internationals had Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace do the same in South Korea in 2015.

Thomas and Spieth have been close friends for 15 years, dating to junior golf and international outings. This is the first time in a Presidents Cup that they have been paired together, and both are on their games. It a lethal combination.

Even so, the end of the matches gave Spieth pause.

“We’ve got to go get the job done tomorrow and win two more points for our team,” Spieth said. “I’d love to get a singles win, and I know Justin would, too. We’re going to be close enough where our two would be obviously extremely important.”

Kim won both his matches Saturday, teaming with K.H. Lee in morning foursomes to beat Burns and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, 2 and 1.

Scott is playing on his 10th team — eight losses and one tie — and was shut out until he and Hideki Matsuyama took down Collin Morikawa and Cameron Young in the morning, and Scott and Davis proved to be a great Australian duo in the afternoon.

“Any victory against the US team has got to be really hard fought,” Scott said. “So this feels good.”

Max Homa is still having the week of his life. After his late heroics the night before, he partnered with Tony Finau in a 4-and-3 victory over Si Woo Kim and Davis. Homa sat out the afternoon session. He is 3-0 in his debut playing in a cup.

Schauffele and Cantlay lost for the first time in three matches this week. They were 2 up after 10 holes and were 3 under the rest of the way, with Schauffele making a 40-foot birdie putt from short of the 15th green for a 1-up lead that looked like it would carry them to another point.

Instead, Si Woo Kim made a 4-foot birdie putt to square the match on the 16th, and a 5-foot par putt to keep it tied on the 17th. Tom Kim was so nervous he covered his eyes and was peaking through his fingers, pumping his fist when the putt dropped.

And then the 20-year-old Korean had the stage to himself at the end, and he delivered a winner. Left to be seen is what one putt — one point — can do for an International team that still has a four-point deficit to overcome.


Federer, Nadal, Djokovic set new bar for next generations

Federer, Nadal, Djokovic set new bar for next generations
Updated 25 September 2022

Federer, Nadal, Djokovic set new bar for next generations

Federer, Nadal, Djokovic set new bar for next generations
  • Here we are, 20 years later, and Federer wound up with 20; Djokovic has 21; Nadal leads with 22

LONDON: Here is one way to look at what Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and the now-retired Roger Federer accomplished: The group known as the Big Three of men’s tennis accumulated so many Grand Slam titles — 63 in all — that it seems unlikely anyone will reach the standards they set.

Not anytime soon, certainly.

Here was another way to think about things as the professional level of the sport began its post-Federer life on Saturday, following the last match of his career: What he and the other two members of that distinguished trio, along with Serena Williams, managed to do was demonstrate that it is possible to dominate for decades, not merely years, at a time.

And the 41-year-old Federer, for one, thinks up-and-coming players can learn from the way he and the others of his era went about it, from their self-belief and attitudes about setting goals to their training, nutrition and other methods of ensuring longevity.

He laughed when relaying a conversation with Bjorn Borg, who is the captain of Team Europe at the Laver Cup, about what life was like back when he was winning his 11 major championships from 1974 to 1981 before retiring in his 20s. During an interview with The Associated Press this week, Federer recalled a conversation in which Borg talked about getting one weekly massage and maybe the occasional hot bath during his time on tour.

Federer’s massage routine over his quarter-century as a player?

“Every day, probably. Sometimes I would get tired of them, so I would say, ‘Can we skip a day today?’ You know what I mean? I will not miss those. I mean, I loved my massages from time to time, but come on; number 1,423 gets a little bit like, ‘Jesus. I’d rather do something different,’” Federer said, then added through a self-aware grin: “Complaining at a high level here.”

When Pete Sampras won the 2002 US Open in his last match, he collected his 14th Slam trophy, two more than any other man in the history of tennis to that point. Indeed, there were those who wondered at the time whether that mark would ever be broken.

Seems quaint now. Here we are, 20 years later, and Federer wound up with 20; Djokovic has 21; Nadal leads with 22. The latter two are still adding to their counts: Nadal, 36, won the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June; Djokovic, 35, won Wimbledon in July.

“No. 1, it’s easier nowadays to run through different surfaces. Pete only made one semi at the French. Borg never went to Australia. ... And,” Federer said, “it was less professional back in the ‘70s.”

Federer also made this point: He, Nadal, Djokovic and Williams, and the rise of social media, all contributed to a change in the paradigm of Grand Slam importance vis a vis other tournaments and made chasing those records — and talking about chasing those records — more widely accepted and matter-of-course.

“It’s a different world now,” Federer said.

In bygone days, he said, “It was not about records. This whole record thing started, I’d say, with Sampras wanting to surpass the 12 of (Roy) Emerson. This is what set up this generation that we see with Novak and Rafa right now. For me, I don’t remember much, when I came up in the ‘90s, about all these records. I remember Pete was kind of chasing them, but I was not aware of it. They just said, ‘Oh, you play like Pete, so you’re going to be ‘the next Pete Sampras.’ I was like, ‘Oh, OK.’”

With that, he rolled his eyes.

Then Federer continued discussing Sampras: “I don’t even remember how many Slams he had at that time. I don’t even remember where he passed that record. It was a big moment, I’m sure, but I, a historian of the game, don’t really remember it.”

Players have changed. Media coverage has changed. Fans’ attention has changed.

“We behave different, in the process, as well, and we are driven in a different way. I don’t think you were planning years ahead: ‘OK, I have 10 years ahead, so let’s break it down. What do I have to do to achieve such a thing?’ Back in the day, it was ‘OK, what are we playing next week?’” Federer said. “I just think it’s different and that’s why I think we’ll see more successful players in the future and they’ll be able to play longer, because they’ll maintain their bodies.”

For the current crop of new talent, including US Open champion and No. 1-ranked Carlos Alcaraz, who is just 19, or French Open and US Open runner-up Casper Ruud, who is No. 2 at age 23, the example is there.

Now the question is: Can they follow it?

“They brought it to a whole different level and showed that anything is possible. Just imagine if one of the three was not there, how many the two other ones would have. They would probably be close to 30. ... It gives young players like myself and the younger generation inspiration to see how well it’s possible to play,” Ruud said. “I don’t think that record will be broken, ever, but let’s see in the future. Anything can happen.”

Felix Auger-Aliassime, a US Open semifinalist at age 21 last year, agrees that having something to aspire to is helpful.

As is having role models, which Team World vice captain Patrick McEnroe pointed out the Big Three are in terms of sportsmanship and the “way the game is actually played on the court.”

“Now the younger players are training hard, always trying to improve, being more and more professional,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It does raise the bar of the level and the competitiveness of the sport, which I think pushes the sport forward.”