Federer plans a party not a wake as he prepares to lay his professional career to rest

Federer plans a party not a wake as he prepares to lay his professional career to rest
Federer’s legendary, 24-year career will come to an end at the Laver Cup. (AFP)
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Updated 23 September 2022

Federer plans a party not a wake as he prepares to lay his professional career to rest

Federer plans a party not a wake as he prepares to lay his professional career to rest
  • Swiss tennis legend teams up with long-time rival Rafael Nadal for a doubles match at the Laver Cup in London

As Roger Federer prepares to say farewell to competitive tennis on Friday, teaming up with his greatest rival, Rafael Nadal, for one last doubles match, his millions of adoring fans around the world are bracing themselves for what is sure to be an emotional weekend.

Federer’s legendary, 24-year career will come to an end at the Laver Cup, where the Swiss maestro is part of Team Europe along with the other members of the so-called tennis Big Four: Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

 

 

They will take on Team World at London’s O2 Arena, which witnessed numerous battles between the formidable European quartet during the years it served as host venue for the season-ending ATP Finals.

London is also where Federer claimed 11 percent of his career victories, lifted the Wimbledon trophy eight times, and clinched two of his six ATP Finals titles.

As such, it is one of many places around the globe that have played a significant part in Federer’s storied career, during which he gained unrivaled popularity that made it seem like he had home-court advantage wherever he competed.

As we reflect on that career, it is impossible to ignore Federer’s connection to the Middle East, especially Dubai, which for nearly 15 years was considered his second home.

He first competed at the Dubai Tennis Championships and the Qatar Open in Doha in 2002. After a visit to the UAE in 2004 he decided to buy an apartment there and use it as a second base for training at various points during the tennis season.

“On the way back from Bangkok, when I beat (Andy) Roddick in the finals there, I came through Dubai, met up with Tony Roche for a practice session, sort of an undercover operation,” Federer once said of that 2004 trip.

“I remember it was brutally hot, I think like 39 degrees every day. I had a good time practicing. It was peace and quiet and I kind of enjoyed it here. I think I came back one more time for a vacation and practiced some more. I was like, I think this works well for practice and leisure.

“The next thing I knew, I had an apartment. It all happened quite quickly. It was funny how it all worked out.”

Between 2002 and 2019, Federer competed in the Dubai Tennis Championships 14 times. He retires with a 53-6 win-loss record there, and lifted the trophy eight times. It is one of four tournaments he has won eight or more times, the others being the Halle Open (10), the Swiss Indoors (10) and Wimbledon (eight).

While Federer has played to sell-out crowds at stadiums the world over and enjoyed a tremendous amount of support from fans at each and every venue, his supporters in Dubai treated him like a local hero because essentially that is what he was. The annual tennis tournament there became one of the most-attended sporting events on the emirate’s busy calendar in large part because of him.

A video recently shared by the Tennis Channel showed a match in Dubai between Tomas Berdych and Borna Coric that was temporarily halted early in the first set because of a noisy commotion coming from outside the stadium. The reason? Federer had arrived and was being mobbed by screaming fans looking for autographs and photos taken with him.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Tennis (@tennischannel)

Federer’s last appearance at the Dubai tournament, in 2019, recorded its own slice of tennis history when he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final to claim the 100th title of his career.

In some ways it was a “full-circle” moment as it came 17 years after Federer first competed in the emirate, a debut in which he was accused of tanking by the tournament director, who tried to withhold his prize money.

Reflecting on that 2002 controversy after his victory in 2019, Federer said: “Tanking second round? I played frustrated the last couple of games in the match against Rainer Schuettler because I was young and crazy. I was so fed up with my game. I just started to go for big shots.

“The tournament director wasn’t happy with what he saw. Anyway, he withheld everything but the tour said, ‘No chance you can do this. Roger tried, so it’s all good.’

“Then I came back the next year, wanted to prove a point. I ended up going for four in a row, so … that’s what happens sometimes. You have to learn it the hard way.”

It wasn’t long before Federer became a serial winner not only in Dubai but on all of the sport’s grandest stages.

Along the way he would stop off in the UAE for preseason training and would even practice there in the summer, sometimes, to build endurance and stamina in the extreme heat.

He was regularly spotted on the courts at Al-Qasr or Meydan. He frequented popular restaurants such as Tasha’s or Flamingo Room. He even invited young players to train with him from time to time. Soon, other players started to follow his lead and use Dubai as a training base.

“Maybe I set the trend a little bit,” Federer said in 2015. “I’m very happy I took that decision and I’m sure it’s helped me, in the process, to be mentally more sane as well on the tour. Knowing I have a place to come back to, I can leave my bags, I come home and feel like, maybe I’m not in Switzerland but it still feels a little bit like home. It’s been good for me.”

Federer’s most striking moment in Dubai did not come during competition. Instead, it took place in 2005 when he played tennis with Andre Agassi on a court laid out on the helipad of the seven-star Burj Al-Arab hotel, 690 feet above the ground. Video footage of the spectacle, which was organized to promote the Dubai Tennis Championships, is arguably among the most watched in all of sports. Organizers claim it has been viewed more than three billion times.

 

 

“I didn’t know at the time when we were doing this that it was going to have such an impact,” said Federer.

“I had an idea of how we could make it better by making sure we had a helicopter that was going to film it all around to really show what kind of a platform we were playing on, instead of maybe just having a picture taken from the hotel where you couldn’t really tell how high up we are. And I think that made one of the differences.

“And ever since, everybody talks about it and I hear stories of people saying, ‘Can we play tennis here at the tennis court?’ And they tell them, ‘We don’t have one.’ And they’re like, ‘No, no, I know you do.’ It’s just a myth now, which is fantastic.”

This weekend’s action in London at the Laver Cup is shaping up to be something very special. On Thursday, Federer, Nadal, Murray and Djokovic shared a court during a doubles practice session in front of packed stands at the O2.

Federer and Nadal will take on Team World’s Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock in a doubles match on Friday. It is set to be Federer’s only game during the event and will mark the last time the 41-year-old plays a competitive professional game.

“It would be safe to say that everyone would like to be part of that (doubles match),” Team World captain John McEnroe said on Thursday.

“No one was running away from that one, believe me. I don’t think it gets a whole lot more exciting than that, to be part of sort of history. We had to flip some coins there.”

For Federer, ending his career at a team event such as a Laver Cup and partnering with his fiercest rival for his final match is the kind farewell party he was hoping for.

“I was in a very worried, scared place to face the music, the media, the fans and everything, being able to talk about it in a normal fashion without getting emotional, just because I know how much it means to me,” Federer said of his retirement.

“But I feel like I probably went through a lot of different stages — I don’t know if you can call it grieving — and then you get to, I really don’t want it to be a funeral. I want it to be really happy and powerful and party mode, rather than the other side.”

Judging by the photo Federer shared online on Thursday of the Big Four on a boat in tuxedos as they headed to the Laver Cup Gala, the party has already started.
 


Portuguese coach suspended after harassment accusations

Portuguese coach suspended after harassment accusations
Updated 30 September 2022

Portuguese coach suspended after harassment accusations

Portuguese coach suspended after harassment accusations
  • Famalicão said they were suspending coach Miguel Afonso “until the truth of the facts is ascertained”
  • Público said that it had contacted Afonso but he declined to comment on the accusations

LISBON, Portugal: Portuguese soccer club Famalicão suspended the coach of its women’s team on Friday after a leading newspaper in Portugal published accusations of verbal sexual harassment by him of his players at a previous club.
Famalicão said that “in view” of the report published by Público newspaper that they were suspending coach Miguel Afonso “until the truth of the facts is ascertained.”
The club said they were putting themself at the “total disposition of all parties involved and the competent authorities to assist in obtaining the truth.”
The alleged verbal harassment of players, some of which were 19 years old at the time, reportedly took place while Afonso coached fellow Portuguese club Rio Ave during the 2020-21 season.
Público said that it had contacted Afonso but he declined to comment on the accusations.
In a statement, Rio Ave acknowledged that they had been “aware of some circumstantial comments reported by athletes regarding alleged inappropriate approaches by the coach.”
But, Rio Ave said they took no action because “the coach denied such situations and, at the request of the athletes, the matter was not followed up.”
Famalicão, in a separate statement preceding the suspension of Afonso, said that when they hired Afonso they were not aware of the accusations.


Newcastle sign teenage Australia striker Garang Kuol

Newcastle sign teenage Australia striker Garang Kuol
Updated 30 September 2022

Newcastle sign teenage Australia striker Garang Kuol

Newcastle sign teenage Australia striker Garang Kuol
  • Born in Egypt, Garang Kuol moved to Australia with his family as a refugee and joined the Mariners’ youth system in January 2021

LONDON: Newcastle have reached an agreement to sign teenage striker Garang Kuol from Australian A-League side Central Coast Mariners in January, the Premier League club announced on Friday.
Kuol, 18, made his international debut for Australia against New Zealand last week, becoming the youngest Socceroo since Harry Kewell in 1996.
Born in Egypt, Kuol moved to Australia with his family as a refugee and joined the Mariners’ youth system in January 2021.
He only made his A-League debut for the Mariners in April but made an immediate impression, scoring four goals in his first seven appearances as a substitute.
Kuol told Newcastle’s official website: “It’s unreal. As a young boy in Australia, the Premier League is the main thing that everyone watches but nobody actually thinks they’ll reach those heights.
“To be one of those people, to be in the position I am, it’s amazing.
“Now that I’ve signed for Newcastle, I want to train hard, play hard, hopefully go to the World Cup and come back here.”
Newcastle United sporting director Dan Ashworth said: “Garang is a very promising young talent and we are excited that he’ll be continuing his development as a Newcastle United player.
“Our philosophy is to invest in our academy and in exciting young players for the future, as well as in players required to make an immediate impact in the first team.”


Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc

Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc
Updated 30 September 2022

Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc

Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc
  • Saudi driver will be joined by German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz in third round of World Rally Raid Championship

AGADIR: Saudi world champion Yazeed Al-Rajhi has completed last-minute preparations ahead of the 22nd edition of the Rallye du Maroc, the third round of the World Rally Raid Championship.

Al-Rajhi, will be accompanied by German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz, the replacement for Michael Orr, who was injured in an accident at Baja Poland three weeks ago.

Crossing the desert from Agadir, in the southwest of Morocco, to Tan Tan and Al-Ayoun on the Atlantic coast will represent a new challenge for Al-Rajhi.

Day one of the rally will be a qualifying stage, while the race will last six days in five stages from Oct. 1-6. Competitors will cover a total of 2,319 km, including 1,583 km of special stages on the sand, gravel tracks and golden dunes.

The Yazeed Racing team faces a busy period until the end of the year, with Al-Rajhi  competing in three championships, including the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship.

The international events are the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Baja and the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship, in which Al-Rajhi currently ranked third.

Al-Rajhi and von Zitzewitz tested the new Toyota Hilux over two days around the Moroccan city of Erfoud, which is known for its high sand dunes and varying terrain.

The Belgian team Overdrive prepared a new car similar to the vehicle that crashed in Baja Poland. The car is equipped with a V6 engine and twin turbocharger, unlike the one used in Aseer Rally few days ago.

“I’m looking forward to the Morocco rally a lot,” Al-Rajhi said.

“I thank my team for doing an amazing job as usual. We are looking forward to winning this rally and there is nothing stopping us from doing so. We need to focus and develop appropriate strategies to advance and collect points.

“Our challenge in the Morocco rally requires endurance and effort from man and machine. We have a long race ahead of us in the Moroccan deserts, and we hope that God will guide us on our way.”

Von Zitzewitz is looking forward to the challenge.

“Yazeed and I, along with the Overdrive team, believe we have what it takes to win the rally,” he said. “We have all the factors to win, and I pray that God will be on our side. The world of motorsport is unpredictable.”


Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets

Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets
Updated 30 September 2022

Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets

Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets
  • The giveaway will take place on the official FIFA partner’s Twitter account

RIYADH: Coca-Cola is giving fans in Saudi Arabia a chance to see their favorite teams on football’s biggest stage with the opportunity to win thousands of 2022 FIFA World Cup match tickets.

With Saudi Arabia’s participation at Qatar 2022 less than two months away, Coca-Cola, an official sponsor of the tournament since 1978, will provide the opportunity to claim the tickets on its official Twitter account in the coming weeks.

In addition, Coca-Cola will bring the original FIFA World Cup trophy to the Kingdom in November where thousands of fans will have the opportunity to see football’s most prized possession.

The FIFA sponsors also revealed they have plans to invest in development programs for local Saudi talent and will soon be making an announcement on this.


New chapter for women’s football in Saudi Arabia as national team conclude first ever matches at home

New chapter for women’s football in Saudi Arabia as national team conclude first ever matches at home
Updated 30 September 2022

New chapter for women’s football in Saudi Arabia as national team conclude first ever matches at home

New chapter for women’s football in Saudi Arabia as national team conclude first ever matches at home
  • Two fixtures against Bhutan saw a total of 12 goals and showcased the hosts development in only their third and fourth international matches
  • Players to return to clubs ahead of Premier League kick-off next month, as 50,000 girls register for inaugural nation-wide schools league

RIYADH: Following their launch last year, Saudi Arabia’s Women’s National Team has completed a historic week after taking on Asian counterparts Bhutan in their debut matches on home soil.

Taking place across four days at the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Stadium in Abha, both friendly fixtures witnessed six-goal thrillers.

The first match on Saturday saw the hosts bounce back from a 3-1 deficit at half-time to claim an 3-3 draw thanks to Al-Bandari Mubarak and Nora Ibrahim’s strikes in the closing 15 minutes. Both teams met again on Wednesday night with the visitors claiming an action-packed 4-2 victory.

Reflecting on the past week, SAFF Women’s Football Department Supervisor and board member, Lamia Bahaian, said: “We have been working very hard toward the moment we finally see our women’s national team compete at home.”

“We are extremely proud of how they’ve already inspired a nation and are helping pave the way for a career in the sport with over 50,000 young girls signing up for the first-ever schools league,” she said. “Since the launch of the team just last year, we’ve been grateful for the unconditional support shown to us by the Kingdom’s leadership. The players will now continue their development and progress in the Premier League’s inaugural season, in what is a hugely exciting moment in their careers.”

The matches represented the latest chapter in women’s football rapid journey in Saudi Arabia over the past few years. Since the establishment of a dedicated women’s football department at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation in 2019, it currently hosts 450 registered players, 49 qualified referees and more than 900 D, C and B licensed coaches.

The national team’s German head coach Monika Staab. (SAFF)

This progress is a result of a long-term strategy launched last year by the federation to grow interest and participation at all levels of the women’s game, with unprecedented investments in areas such as grassroots, player development, coaching, facilities, competitions and governance.

The national team’s players’ attention now turns toward their respective clubs ahead of the launch of the SAFF Women’s Premier League and return of the First Division League. Featuring eight clubs from across Saudi Arabia, most notably Saudi Pro League sides Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad for the first time, the newly formed Premier League takes place on a home-and-away basis with a total of 56 matches.

The First Division League, formerly known as the SAFF Regional Football League, will see a further 17 teams compete across three cities.

The national team’s German head coach, Monika Staab, said that she could not be prouder of the team’s performances and progress over the 180 minutes, in what were only the national team’s third and fourth matches following the encounters against the Seychelles and Maldives in February.

She believes playing the first meetings at home marks another historic milestone in the national team’s journey and the women’s game as a whole.

“This week will undoubtedly go down in the history of Saudi Arabian football. Playing our first matches at home was a massive source of pride for everyone involved in the women’s game across the country,” she said.

“I am extremely pleased with the experience gained by our girls and their performances against a tough opponent. They showcased their true fighting spirit and strong willingness to fight till the final whistle. We look forward to getting more international minutes under our belt, both at home and away, as we continue toward journey to achieve the ambitious goals set for women’s football.”