Roger Federer’s last match is doubles loss with Rafael Nadal

Roger Federer’s last match is doubles loss with Rafael Nadal
Federer announced last week his plan to retire. (AFP)
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Updated 24 September 2022

Roger Federer’s last match is doubles loss with Rafael Nadal

Roger Federer’s last match is doubles loss with Rafael Nadal
  • Federer: “It’s been a perfect journey. I would do it all over again.”

LONDON: This day, this match, had to come, of course, for Roger Federer, and for tennis, just as it inevitably must for every athlete in every sport.
Federer bid adieu Friday night with one last contest before he heads into retirement at age 41 after a superlative career that included 20 Grand Slam titles and a statesman’s role. He wrapped up his days as a professional player with a loss in doubles alongside his longtime rival Rafael Nadal for Team Europe in the Laver Cup against Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock of Team World.
The truth is that the victors, the statistics and the score (OK, for the record it was 4-6, 7-6 (2), 11-9) did not matter, and were all so entirely beside the point. The occasion was, after all, about the farewell itself. Or, better, the farewells, plural: Federer’s to tennis, to the fans, to his competitors and colleagues. And, naturally, each of those entities’ farewells to Federer.
“It’s been a perfect journey,” Federer said. “I would do it all over again.”
When the match, and with it, his time in professional tennis, ended, Federer hugged Nadal, then Tiafoe and Sock. And then Federer began crying. As cascades of clapping and yells of affection came from the stands, Federer put his hands on his hips, his chest heaving. Then he mouthed, “Thank you,” while applauding right back toward the spectators who had chanted, “Let’s go, Roger! Let’s go!” during the concluding moments of a match that lasted more than two hours and ended at about 12:30 a.m.

The Swiss star announced last week that the three-day team event, which was founded by his management company, would be his final event before retirement, then made clear the doubles outing would be his last match. His surgically repaired right knee — the last of three operations came shortly after a loss in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in July 2021, which will go down as his final official singles match — is in no shape to allow him to continue.
“For me, just personally, (it was) sad in the first moment, when I came to the conclusion it’s the best decision,” Federer said in an interview with The Associated Press this week about his emotions when realizing it was time to go. “I kind of held it in at first, then fought it off. But I could feel the pain.”
A couple of hours before Friday’s match, Federer tweeted: “I’ve done this thousands of times, but this one feels different. Thank you to everybody who’s coming tonight.”
He had said he wanted this to feel more like a party than a funeral, and the crowd obliged, rising for a loud and lengthy standing ovation when Federer and Nadal — each wearing a white bandanna, blue shirt and white shorts — emerged together from a tunnel leading out to the black court for the last match on Day 1 at the O2 Arena. The spectators remained on their feet for nearly 10 minutes, through the pre-match warmup, holding aloft phone cameras to capture the moment.


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


They came ready to roar for him, some with Swiss flags, some with homemade signs, and they made themselves heard with a wall of sound when Federer delivered a forehand volley winner on the match’s second point. Similar reactions arrived merely at the chair umpire’s announcement before the third game of “Roger Federer to serve,” and again when he closed that game with a 117 mph service winner.
Doubles requires far less movement and court coverage, of course, so the stress on his knee was limited Friday. Federer showed touches of his old flair, to be sure, and of rust, as to be expected.

As his parents and wife sat in front-row seats behind a baseline, there were a couple of early forehands that sailed several feet too long. There also was a forehand that slid right between Sock and Tiafoe and seemed too good to be true — and, it turned out, was: The ball traveled through a gap below the net tape and so the point was taken away from Federer and Nadal.
Although it amounted to, essentially, a glorified exhibition, all four doubles participants played as if they wanted to win. That was clear when Sock leaped and screamed after one particularly terrific volley or when Tiafoe sent a couple of shots right at Federer and Nadal.
But the circumstances did allow for moments of levity.

Federer and Nadal were able to laugh after a bit of confusion over which should go for a ball on a point they lost. After Nadal somehow flicked one back-to-the-net shot around the post, only for it to land barely wide, Tiafoe crossed over to extend a hand with congratulations for the effort.
In the first set, the two greats of the game couldn’t quite hear each other between points, so Federer trotted from the net back to the baseline to consult with Nadal, then pointed to his ear to signal to the fans what the issue was.
Before Federer, the men’s mark for most major tennis championships was 14 by Pete Sampras. Federer blew past that, accumulating eight at Wimbledon, six at the Australian Open, five at the US Open and one at the French Open, setting a new standard that Nadal, now with 22, and Novak Djokovic, with 21, equaled, then surpassed, as part of a golden era for the sport.
Federer’s substantial resume includes 310 weeks at No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a Davis Cup title and Olympic medals. Beyond the elegance and effectiveness while wielding a racket, his persona made Federer an ambassador for tennis, someone whose immense popularity helped attract fans.


Surely, there are those who would have found it particularly apt to see Federer finish across the net from Nadal, often an on-court nemesis but eventually an off-court friend. Maybe it could have taken place about 15 miles away at Center Court of the All England Club, say, or in Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros, or Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park, or even Arthur Ashe Stadium, the centerpiece of the US Open, the lone Grand Slam tournament at which they never faced off, somehow.
Perhaps they could have provided everyone with one final installment of a head-to-head matchup as memorable as any in the long history of their sport — or, indeed, any other.
Roger vs. Rafa — just one name apiece required — belongs up there with McEnroe vs. Borg (as it happens, the two Laver Cup team captains, John and Bjorn), Evert vs. Navratilova, Sampras vs. Agassi, Ali vs. Frazier, Magic vs. Bird, Brady vs. Manning, and so on.
Over the years, Federer and Nadal showed off individual greatness and compelling contrasts across their 40 matches, 14 at Grand Slam tournaments, nine in major finals: righty vs. lefty, attacker vs. grinder, seeming effortlessness vs. relentless intensity.
And yet, there was an unmistakable element of poetry with these two men who challenged each other and elevated each other performing as partners, slapping palms and sharing smiles.
“Two of the ‘GOATs’ playing together,” said Sock, using the popular acronym for “Greatest of All-Time.”
This goodbye follows that of Serena Williams, the owner of 23 major singles championships, at the US Open three weeks ago after a third-round loss. It leaves questions about the future of a game he and she dominated, and transcended, for decades.
One key difference: Each time Williams took the court in New York, the looming question was how long her stay would endure — a “win or this is it” prospect. Friday WAS it for Federer, no matter the result.

“All the players will miss him,” said Casper Ruud, who beat Sock in singles 6-4, 5-7, 10-7.
The other results, which left Team Europe and Team World tied at 2-2: Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 6-1 in a match interrupted briefly when an environmental protester lit a portion of the court and his own arm on fire, and Alex de Minaur got past Andy Murray 5-7, 6-3, 10-7.
Due to begin playing shortly after the end of Murray’s loss, Federer and Nadal first provided him with some coaching tips, then watched part of that one on TV together in a room at the arena, waiting for their turn. When Federer and Nadal were in action, it was Djokovic’s turn to suggest strategic advice.
The last hurrah came after a total of 103 career singles trophies and 1,251 wins in singles matches for Federer, both second only to Jimmy Connors in the Open era, which began in 1968.
At the height of his powers, Federer appeared in a record 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals, winning eight, from 2005-07. Extend that to 2010, and he reached 18 of 19 major finals.
More than those numbers, folks will remember the powerful forehand, the one-handed backhand, the flawless footwork, the spectacularly effective serve and eagerness to get to the net, the willingness to reinvent aspects of his game and — the part of which he’s proudest — unusual longevity.
“I don’t think we’ll see another guy like Roger,” Tiafoe said. “The way he played, and the grace he did it with, and who he is as an individual.”

 

 


FIFA’s shortsightedness in World Cup expansion could make Qatar 2022 the last ‘classic’ tournament

FIFA’s shortsightedness in World Cup expansion could make Qatar 2022 the last ‘classic’ tournament
Updated 27 sec ago

FIFA’s shortsightedness in World Cup expansion could make Qatar 2022 the last ‘classic’ tournament

FIFA’s shortsightedness in World Cup expansion could make Qatar 2022 the last ‘classic’ tournament
  • As a competitive Qatar 2022 group stage ends, Arab News looks at why expansion in four years’ time might backfire

LONDON: Competitive teams. Fair, hard-fought competition with no chance of blow-out scorelines or one-sided matches. A gripped, captivated global viewership of billions.

It is the “Holy Grail trifecta” for sport governing bodies the world over in their quest for audiences, viewing figures and lucrative sponsporships. And, even with all their arrogance and bravado, for the most powerful of the lot — FIFA.

Finally, in the ongoing World Cup in Qatar, as the group stage closes and the high-drama of knockout football gets underway, the FIFA bigwigs might have finally found a winning formula.

But, in true FIFA fashion, in four years’ time the governing body will be throwing the baby out with the bathwater and tinkering, fine-tuning and meddling at the most inopportune moment.

The 1998 tournament in France was the first to feature the now-established 32-team format that fans have grown to know, love and plan their lives around for the quadrennial six-week run of a FIFA World Cup.

Eyebrows were raised back then. Even more so as Spain thumped Bulgaria, Netherlands hammered South Korea and Argentina dismantled Jamaica. Letting in the so-called “also-rans” was watering down the tournament, reducing the quality and cheapening the product, said the naysayers.

“24-team tournaments just work,” they bemoaned. “Look at the quality of the European Championship (at the time an intense, high-drama 16-team battle to be continental champions),” they cried. “The smaller teams will just devalue the competition,” they howled.

But, FIFA stuck to its guns and in the ensuing two decades since has produced three World Cups arguably very near the top of most people’s lists of “favorite World Cups,” especially within the big-spending, sought after millennial generation. Germany’s fiesta of football in 2006 stands out for this writer, in particular.

Of course, the mathematical, logical argument of 32 going into 16 was also a major factor in FIFA’s decision-making. Long gone were the complicated best-third-placed teams equations to work out and unfair criteria of tournaments past. It was now a case of: “Finish in the top 16 spots, you progress.”

And so, 24 years on from France’s shock triumph over Brazil in a home tournament, the benefits are being reaped in the Middle East.

We have seen one of the most memorable group stages of a World Cup in living memory in Qatar. Saudi Arabia beating Argentina, Japan toppling Germany, Morocco looking like world-beaters on their way to topping their group, more Asian teams in the Round of 16 than South American sides for the first time.

The list goes on.

FIFA’s 32-team format this year has gripped the world and, bar an anomalous seven-goal demolition of Costa Rica by Spain proving the exception rather than the rule, fans tuned in to every game truly pondering who might come out on top — even in so-called “David vs. Goliath on paper” clashes.

As the old adage goes, the game is not played on paper.

So, much like the Euros losing some of its magic and allure when UEFA expanded its showpiece tournament to 24 teams in 2016, it is likely that the type of memories-of-a-lifetime made in Doha will fade away when FIFA expands to 48 teams in US, Canada and Mexico’s 2026 tournament.

Adding another 16 teams, some most likely playing in their first World Cup, has the danger of making the tournament too protracted, too long and too complicated.

FIFA’s quest to “spread the game as wide as possible,” giving nations a chance of playing on the biggest stage and delivering millions more people the joy of watching their national heroes taking to a World Cup pitch is a laudable, noble one.

But, with all due respect to any nations competing, would TV audiences and (more importantly for FIFA) wealthy sponsors with deep pockets want to spend their money or tune in for a Dominican Republic vs. Hungary match? A Finland vs. Sierra Leone match? Or a potential blowout match between France and Haiti?

FIFA has a difficult task of making the World Cup as egalitarian as possible, while maintaining the captivating, high-drama competition that has already marked out Qatar 2022 for high praise.

Perhaps, rather than throwing more teams into the mix, an overhaul of the whole qualification procedure would work? Or, maybe, addressing the obvious imbalance in favor of UEFA’s European monopoly of qualification berths for each tournament might help?

Whatever the solution for FIFA, having finally hit the nail on the head with a winning product in the World Cup final tournament itself, as another well-known saying goes … “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”


Brazil soccer legend Pele has respiratory infection, but remains stable

Brazil soccer legend Pele has respiratory infection, but remains stable
Updated 03 December 2022

Brazil soccer legend Pele has respiratory infection, but remains stable

Brazil soccer legend Pele has respiratory infection, but remains stable
  • The medical team diagnosed a respiratory infection, which is being treated with antibiotics
  • The 82-year-old will remain hospitalized for the next few days to continue treatment

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian soccer legend Pele was diagnosed with a respiratory infection but remains in a stable condition, a medical report showed on Friday.
“The medical team diagnosed a respiratory infection, which is being treated with antibiotics. The response has been adequate, and the patient, who remains in a common room, is stable, with general improvement in health status,” said the report from hospital Albert Einstein.
The 82-year-old will remain hospitalized for the next few days to continue treatment, his medical staff added.
Pele was admitted to the hospital in Sao Paulo on Tuesday to reevaluate his treatment for cancer after he had a tumor removed from his colon in September 2021.
On Thursday, the former forward posted a photo on Instagram thanking his supporters for the positive messages he has received.


England bond over cards ahead of Senegal World Cup clash

England bond over cards ahead of Senegal World Cup clash
Updated 03 December 2022

England bond over cards ahead of Senegal World Cup clash

England bond over cards ahead of Senegal World Cup clash
  • Werewolf, a game of roleplay and deduction, has become a popular pastime for the squad between games “
  • It’s about being the best liar,” said midfielder Declan Rice

DOHA: For a nation that has frequently flattered to deceive at soccer’s major tournaments, a card game that relies on the art of deception is strengthening the bond among England’s players ahead of their match against Senegal in the World Cup round of 16.
Werewolf, a game of roleplay and deduction, has become a popular pastime for the squad between games.
“It’s about being the best liar,” said midfielder Declan Rice. “The villagers have got to snuff out the wolves and the wolves have got to lie and tell everyone why they are not a wolf. There is a lot of teamwork, ganging up.”
Whatever England are doing at their base in Qatar, it’s working so far.
They play Senegal on Sunday after topping Group B and tying Spain as leading scorers in the tournament so far with nine goals.
No other team picked up more than the seven points England recorded on their way to the knockout round and they are only one of three still undefeated.
Yet the message from coach Gareth Southgate and captain Harry Kane this week has been about maintaining focus and standards.
Belgium and Germany were high-profile departures from the group stage, while defending champion France, along with Argentina, Spain, Brazil and Portugal have all been on the wrong end of upsets.
And to think England’s 0-0 draw with the United States was considered enough of a shock that it prompted loud jeers from Three Lions fans after that match last week.
“I think it’s always difficult when you see big teams or big players in teams that don’t have the success that you want or don’t live up to the expectation of a nation or where they see themselves,” said defender John Stones. “We don’t ever want to fall into that category. I think that is great motivation for us as a reminder — you never want to take anything for granted or who you are playing against.”
England may be considered a major soccer nation, but their only tournament success came when they hosted and won the World Cup in 1966.
The years since have been pitted with disappointment and underachievement.
There has been an upturn under Southgate, who led the team to the semifinals of the World Cup in Russia in 2018 and to the final of last year’s European Championship, which they lost on penalties to Italy.
The bond he has developed among the players is seen as a key factor in England’s improvement.
Southgate is also meticulous about his planning, from psychological help to deal the pressure of taking penalties to even the most minor details.
At a team meeting this week, players were reminded about leaving their socks out the “right way” for the kitmen to collect after training.
“We get on each other for things like that because we have created those standards,” said Stones. “If you start getting sloppy with the little things, the bigger things start to get sloppy very easily. Any one percent or two percent of things that we can do to get better … obviously those are small things, but they matter to us.”
So there should be no danger of England taking Senegal lightly.
The African Cup of Nations winner finished second in Group A behind the Netherlands. That was despite suffering the pre-tournament disappointment of star striker Sadio Mane being ruled out.
“They’re knockout games now: if you win, you get to stay here; if you lose, you go home,” said Senegal coach Aliou Cissé. “There’s no need to overthink things, every team is at the same level.
“Our squad is experienced today, they’ve gone through a lot together and they know how to prepare for this type of game now, in competitions like this one,” he added.


Argentina, Netherlands eye quarters as World Cup last 16 kicks off

Argentina, Netherlands eye quarters as World Cup last 16 kicks off
Updated 03 December 2022

Argentina, Netherlands eye quarters as World Cup last 16 kicks off

Argentina, Netherlands eye quarters as World Cup last 16 kicks off
  • Business end of the tournament kicks off with 16 teams dreaming of plotting a path to the final in Doha on December 18

DOHA: Australia take on Lionel Messi’s Argentina in a David v Goliath World Cup showdown while the United States look to ambush the Netherlands as the World Cup knockout rounds get under way on Saturday.
After a group stage full of twists and turns, the business end of the tournament kicks off with 16 teams dreaming of plotting a path to the final in Doha on December 18.
The USA and the Netherlands open the second round at the Khalifa Stadium on Saturday, with the Americans aiming to advance to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2002.
Coach Gregg Berhalter’s USA squad booked their spot in the last 16 with a 1-0 win over Iran to secure second place in Group B behind England.
While the Dutch possess the greater historical pedigree, reaching three previous World Cup finals, the USA head into the knockout rounds brimming with confidence.
“It’s a great opportunity, but it’s not something that we’re going into it thinking it’s an honor,” Berhalter said.
“We deserve to be in the position we’re in.”
The US face a Dutch team who finished first in Group A ahead of Senegal, Ecuador and Qatar without really showing their best form.
The Netherlands’ veteran coach Louis van Gaal is wary of the threat posed by the energetic Americans, describing Berhalter’s team as one of the best in the tournament.
“They have an excellent team, I would say even one of the best teams,” said Van Gaal.
“It’ll be a tough match but it’s nothing we can’t overcome. We also have a good team.”
In Saturday’s other knockout game, South American giants Argentina face an Australia side who confounded all expectations by getting out of a Group D that included defending champions France, Denmark and Tunisia.
However Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is not ready to take anything for granted having already seen his team suffer a shock loss to Saudi Arabia earlier in the tournament.
“Whether or not they are inferior to us remains to be seen,” Scaloni said. “Forget who is theoretically favorites and let’s play football.”
Australia coach Graham Arnold meanwhile said he expects the Socceroos to raise their game once more against the star-studded Argentines.
“Playing against that type of talent, and that name I think resonates right across the world — it’s a football nation and it is inspiring to play against them,” Arnold said.
The conclusion of the group phase on Friday marked the departure of four more teams from the 32-nation tournament.
South Korea battled their way into the last 16 after a last-gasp winner in a 2-1 win over Portugal which in turn eliminated Uruguay, 2-0 victors over Ghana.
Tottenham forward Son Heung-min produced a brilliant assist for Hwang Hee-chan to score the goal that secured a 2-1 victory.
The Korean players then watched the final minutes of Uruguay’s match on a mobile phone as they waited for their place in the last 16 to be confirmed.
Uruguay, leading 2-0 against the Africans, needed one more goal to go through but fell agonizingly short despite piling on the pressure, crashing out by virtue of goals scored.
Uruguay’s campaign ended in disarray with veteran Luis Suarez in tears on the substitutes bench while striker Edinson Cavani angrily knocked over a pitchside VAR monitor as he left the field — an apparent protest at several decisions which went against the team.
Switzerland edged a bad-tempered encounter with Serbia to progress, winning 3-2 to earn a meeting with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.
Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka was at the center of a melee between players form both sides after a clash with Serbian defender Nikola Milenkovic.
Brazil won Group G despite dropping nine players from their starting lineup and losing 1-0 to Cameroon with Vincent Aboubakar heading in a stoppage-time winner to claim a memorable win that could not prevent the African side being eliminated.


Tickets for F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix open for booking 

Tickets for F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix open for booking 
Updated 03 December 2022

Tickets for F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix open for booking 

Tickets for F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix open for booking 
  • Saudi Arabia is one of the newest places on the Formula 1 calendar

JEDDAH: The Saudi Motorsport Company, the promoter of Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2023, offered access on Friday to early ticket packages for the third race of STC Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix — the second round of the F1 world championship — to be staged on the Jeddah Corniche circuit from March 17-19, 2023.

As of Friday, local and international audiences can pre-book tickets for 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on www.saudiarabiangp.com.

Early booking ticket holders will enjoy a discount of up to 10 percent for the premium hospitality category, and a 30 percent discount for the main stands and general admission category. This offer will be valid until the first week of January 2023 with a limited number of seats.

Saudi Arabia is one of the newest places on the Formula 1 calendar, as it hosted its first race in December 2021, and its second one after only four months in March 2022. 

In the first race, the competition intensified between Red Bull driver Max Verstappen and Mercedes driver and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, ending in a hard-fought victory for the Mercedes driver and both equal on points one round before the end of the season.

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2022 had Verstappen winning after a fierce competition with Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, who took the lead for most of the race until Verstappen managed to overtake him three laps before the finish line.