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 19 October 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.
 


Olympic skate star helps launch Mideast’s largest park in Sharjah

Olympic skate star helps launch Mideast’s largest park in Sharjah
Updated 29 November 2022

Olympic skate star helps launch Mideast’s largest park in Sharjah

Olympic skate star helps launch Mideast’s largest park in Sharjah
  • Final phase of facility at megaproject Aljada was designed by Australia’s Keegan Palmer, the sport’s first-ever gold medalist

SHARJAH: Aljada Skate Park, the largest facility of its kind in the Middle East, has opened in Sharjah.

Located in the Madar family entertainment district of the Aljada community, the facility was opened by Australia’s Keegan Palmer, the skateboarding Olympic gold medalist, who designed its third phase.

Launched by developers Arada and spread over a 90,000 square foot (8,361 square meter) area, Aljada Skate Park contains sections for every level, from beginner to professional.

The pro-level phase of the facility contains design elements inspired by famous skate parks from around the world, including Bondi Beach and Salt Lake City, where Palmer has competed. This includes a large vert wall that can also be found at the Ariake Urban Sports Park in Tokyo, where he won the gold medal in 2021.

“This is not only the largest but also the most challenging and creative skate park anywhere in the region,” said Palmer. “Aljada Skate Park is now a focal point for the growing skate community here in the UAE, and I’m very excited about the future plans that we have for this amazing facility.”

Ahmed Alkhoshaibi, group CEO of Arada, said: “Our strategy has always been to deliver world-class facilities to inspire residents and visitors to our communities, and Aljada Skate Park is no exception. We’re delighted to support this rapidly growing sport here in the UAE and will shortly be sharing our plans to put Sharjah on the map as a global destination for professional skateboarding.”

Among those who joined Palmer and Alkhoshaibi at the park’s launch on Nov. 26 were Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, vice chairman of Arada, and Sabatino Aracu, president of World Skate, the global governing body.

Over the course of the weekend, skaters from across the UAE and beyond heard Keegan talk about his Olympic and Aljada journeys, as well as the chance to learn tricks at special clinics. In addition, another of the world’s top skaters, Pedro Barros, who won silver at Tokyo in 2021, also impressed the crowd with his skills.

On Saturday, skaters were able to show their skills and compete to win prizes during the Skate & Chill event hosted by California shoe brand Vans. The organizers gave away prizes for the best tricks performed over six sections of Aljada Skate Park, with visitors also treated to a festival atmosphere along with giveaways, a DJ, food and the opportunity to customize the brand’s shoes.

Special guests from the Gabriel Can Foundation, which aims to teach children diagnosed with autism to skate, were given a warm welcome with an hour-long event designed for them.

Spread over a 24 million square foot (2.2 million square meter) area and with 25,000 homes, Aljada is Sharjah’s largest-ever project. Since opening in early 2020, the Madar at Aljada entertainment district has welcomed over three million visitors.

The first phase of Madar contains the Aljada Discovery Center, the Zad food truck district, a free-to-enter drive-in cinema, a children’s adventure playground, an indoor events space, and an outdoor amphitheater. Scheduled to open next year, the second phase of Madar will contain a Wellfit gym — Sharjah’s largest fitness space — and a BOUNCE trampoline park.


Chelsea draws trip to Manchester City in FA Cup third round

Chelsea draws trip to Manchester City in FA Cup third round
Updated 29 November 2022

Chelsea draws trip to Manchester City in FA Cup third round

Chelsea draws trip to Manchester City in FA Cup third round
  • Chelsea will head to Manchester when the big guns enter the competition over the weekend of Jan. 6-9

LONDON: To reach a fourth consecutive FA Cup final, Chelsea will have to go through Manchester City in the third round.
Chelsea will head to Manchester when the big guns enter the competition over the weekend of Jan. 6-9.
The Blues have made it to Wembley in each of the last three years, but have ultimately gone down to Arsenal, Leicester and Liverpool respectively.
Liverpool, which beat Chelsea on penalties last season to lift the trophy for the eighth time, launches its defense at Anfield against English Premier League struggler Wolverhampton.
Erik ten Hag will get his first taste of world football’s oldest club competition when Manchester United hosts Everton. West Ham makes the short trip to Brentford, and Southampton travels to Crystal Palace.
Premier League leader Arsenal and high-flying Newcastle drew away games at League One sides Oxford and Sheffield Wednesday.
Tottenham hosts League One’s Portsmouth, and Brighton travels to Middlesbrough in FA Cup winner Michael Carrick’s first taste of the competition as Boro boss. Championship rivals Cardiff host Leeds, and Burnley go to Bournemouth.
Nottingham Forest and Fulham both face second-tier opposition on the road in the shape of Blackpool and Hull respectively.
Aston Villa welcome fourth-tier Stevenage, and Leicester face either fifth-tier Dagenham & Redbridge or League Two’s Gillingham.


New look for Formula E season 9 as Gen3 era set to begin

New look for Formula E season 9 as Gen3 era set to begin
Updated 29 November 2022

New look for Formula E season 9 as Gen3 era set to begin

New look for Formula E season 9 as Gen3 era set to begin
  • World’s best electric race car arrives for pre-season testing in Valencia next month
  • India, South Africa and Brazil to host races for the first time, as Maserati and McLaren debut in Mexico City on Jan. 14

LONDON: Formula E has unveiled a fresh new look ahead of season nine of the ABB FIA World Championship, with the debut of the Gen3 car accompanied by new races, cities, teams and sporting formats.

The Gen3 — the fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race car ever built — will make its competitive debut in round one in Mexico City on Jan. 14, following pre-season testing next month in Valencia.

The championship will continue with three new cities hosting Formula E races for the first time: Hyderabad, India (round four on Feb. 11); Cape Town, South Africa (round five on Feb. 25) and Sao Paulo, Brazil (round six on March 25).

McLaren and Maserati are new to the Formula E grid next season. They will join some of the biggest names in motorsport including Jaguar, Porsche and Nissan among the 11 teams and 22 drivers competing for world titles.

Sporting regulation updates include a return to racing over laps; rookie drivers taking a seat for teams in FP1 sessions; and a plan to introduce a 30-second 4 kilowatt-hours “Attack Charge” boost at select races, made possible through the development of the most advanced EV battery in the world today.


Swiss loss sets up enticing rematch with Serbia 

Swiss loss sets up enticing rematch with Serbia 
Updated 29 November 2022

Swiss loss sets up enticing rematch with Serbia 

Swiss loss sets up enticing rematch with Serbia 
  • Group G game between Switzerland and Serbia has been one to keep an eye on
  • It's not just because of the talented players on both teams, but because of the political tensions they brought on the field

DOHA: Switzerland’s loss made their upcoming World Cup rematch all the more enticing, and with a lot more on the line.

Ever since the match schedule was made in April, the Group G game between Switzerland and Serbia has been one to keep an eye on. Not just because of the talented players on both teams, but because of the political tensions they brought on the field when they met at the last World Cup.

Four years ago in Russia, Switzerland captain Granit Xhaka celebrated his goal against Serbia by making a double-headed eagle with his hands — thumbs representing the heads of the two eagles, fingers fanned to look like feathers. The figure is considered to be an Albanian nationalist symbol.

Xherdan Shaqiri added another goal in the final minute of the game, and did the same thing with his hands as the Swiss won 2-1 in the second of the three group matches.

Xhaka and Shaqiri both have ethnic Albanian heritage and family ties to Kosovo. They were teenagers growing up in Switzerland when Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, something the Serbs still don’t recognize 14 years later.

Both players were fined by FIFA during the tournament, and the government of Albania opened a bank account for people to contribute toward paying the 10,000 Swiss franc ($10,500) penalties.

On Friday, only one of the two teams will be able to advance to the round of 16 in Qatar. Brazil, who beat the Swiss 1-0 on Monday and defeated Serbia 2-0 last Thursday, have already assured themselves of a spot in the knockout round.

The Swiss likely need only a draw at Stadium 974, and Shaqiri should be available to play after sitting out the match against Brazil with a muscle injury.

Xhaka, now 30 and a mature leader for his country, brushed aside the controversial match from four years ago.

“(There’s) nothing in the history behind these two games,” the Arsenal midfielder said. “We are Switzerland, they are Serbia, that’s it. We are here to play football — them, us as well.”

Still, the Serbian delegation at this year’s World Cup has already made the politics of Kosovo an issue.

Serbia’s locker room ahead of their opening game against Brazil displayed a national flag with territory that included Kosovo and the slogan “No Surrender.” FIFA opened a disciplinary case against the Serbian soccer federation on Saturday.

The Kosovo Soccer Federation formally complained to FIFA after a photograph circulated and the country’s sports minister, Hajjrulla Ceku, described the image as using the World Cup to promote “hateful, xenophobic and genocidal messages.”

The Swiss advanced to the round of 16 in 2018 after a draw with Costa Rica in their final group match, while the Serbs were eliminated after losing to Brazil. This time, the teams go head-to-head in their final group game.

“Of course, the history is the history,” said Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer, who also played against Serbia four years ago in Kaliningrad. “But in this moment it will be the game that is important.

“We know this game already,” Sommer added. “We had it in Russia.”


Juventus board of directors and president Agnelli resign

Juventus board of directors and president Agnelli resign
Updated 29 November 2022

Juventus board of directors and president Agnelli resign

Juventus board of directors and president Agnelli resign
  • The stunning move follows a preliminary investigation by the Turin Public Prosecutor’s Office into fraudulent accounting

TURIN, Italy: Juventus’ board of directors and president Andrea Agnelli resigned en masse on Monday.

The stunning move follows a preliminary investigation by the Turin Public Prosecutor’s Office into fraudulent accounting, of alleged hidden payments to players.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Juventus said 23 players agreed to reduce their salary for four months to help the club through the crisis. But its claimed the players gave up only one month’s salary.

A shareholders meeting rescheduled for Dec. 27 was postponed again to Jan. 18 to choose a new board.