Djokovic makes stylish return at Laver Cup as Federer watches on

Djokovic makes stylish return at Laver Cup as Federer watches on
Team Europe’s Novak Djokovic, celebrates after winning a match against Team World’s Frances Tiafoe on second day of the Laver Cup tennis tournament at the O2 in London, on Saturday. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 19 October 2022

Djokovic makes stylish return at Laver Cup as Federer watches on

Djokovic makes stylish return at Laver Cup as Federer watches on
  • Djokovic showed no signs of rust as he played for the first time since winning the seventh Wimbledon crown
  • The 35-year-old's dominant victory over Tiafoe put Team Europe 6-4 up at London's O2 Arena

LONDON: Novak Djokovic made an impressive return after two months out of action as the Team Europe star thrashed Team World’s Frances Tiafoe 6-1, 6-3 with Roger Federer cheering him on at the Laver Cup on Saturday.
Djokovic showed no signs of rust as he played for the first time since winning the seventh Wimbledon crown of his remarkable career in July.
The 35-year-old’s dominant victory over Tiafoe put Team Europe 6-4 up at London’s O2 Arena, with Djokovic set to return to court with Berrettini for a doubles match against Sock and Alex de Minaur on Saturday evening.
Djokovic, a 21-time Grand Slam champion, missed the US Open in September due to his unvaccinated status, leaving him to take an enforced break from competitive action.
He was quickly back in the old routine against US Open semifinalist Tiafoe as he broke in the fourth game and again in the sixth to take the opening set in just 23 minutes.
Djokovic went for the kill as he landed yet another break in the first game of the second set and cruised to the finish line with Federer waiting to congratulate him at courtside.
Federer said a tearful goodbye to tennis late on Friday night when the 20-time Grand Slam champion and doubles partner Rafael Nadal were beaten by Tiafoe and Jack Sock.
The 41-year-old announced earlier this month that he would retire after the Laver Cup due to the knee problems that had kept him on the sidelines since Wimbledon in 2021.
Federer’s fitness issues meant he could only play one doubles match, so Matteo Berrettini was called into the Team Europe squad to replace the Swiss legend after the last game of his incredible career.
With Federer watching on, Berrettini proved a capable deputy as he defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (13/11), 4-6, 10/7 in Saturday’s first game.
The 26-year-old Italian, who finished as the 2021 Wimbledon runner-up, had to dig deep to hold off a spirited challenge from Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old Canadian rising star.
On the first day of his life after tennis, Federer could have been forgiven for following Nadal’s example and heading off for a well-earned rest.
But Federer showed his passion for tennis is unlikely to fade anytime soon as he sat courtside to support Berrettini with the rest of the Team Europe squad despite the post-midnight finish to his emotional finale.
Federer, who was involved in setting up the Ryder Cup-style Laver tournament, had said “we can all party together” as the 17,500-crowd raised the roof with their acclaim for one of the sport’s all-time greats after his final match.
There was an inevitable hangover at the O2 Arena as the atmosphere during Berrettini’s clash with Auger-Aliassime struggled to live up to the great man’s swansong.
But Federer looked relaxed as he mimicked Berrettini’s clenched-fist celebration as the Italian took the first set after Auger-Aliassime saved five set points in the tie-break.
Auger-Aliassime was unfazed by losing that 75-minute opening set and levelled the match in the second set before Berrettini finally closed out the victory in the first to 10 points ‘Laver Breaker’.
In the day’s second singles match, Team World’s Taylor Fritz beat British world number eight Cameron Norrie 6-1, 4-6, 10/8.
Norrie was only playing because Nadal had opted to pull out of the rest of the tournament after the Federer doubles match for what organizers said were “personal reasons.”
The Spanish world number three has been struggling with an abdominal injury while his wife is heavily pregnant.


Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan tells players: ‘We want more, we’re very ambitious’

Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan tells players: ‘We want more, we’re very ambitious’
Updated 42 min 2 sec ago

Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan tells players: ‘We want more, we’re very ambitious’

Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan tells players: ‘We want more, we’re very ambitious’
  • Al-Rumayyan hosted the first team squad at his residence this week during their mid-season training camp in Riyadh
  • Head coach Eddie Howe said that Al-Rumayyan took the opportunity to discuss the team’s current form and plans for the club’s future

RIYADH: Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the chairman of Newcastle United, delivered a rallying cry to the Champions League-chasing players and coaching staff this week during their mid-season trip to Saudi Arabia.

The 28-man Magpies squad were guests of honor at his Riyadh residence on Monday evening. Head coach Eddie Howe said that Al-Rumayyan, who is also governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, took the opportunity to discuss the team’s current form and plans for future developments at the club.

“It was a really, really special moment for the chairman to welcome us to his home,” said Howe, whose side sit third in the Premier League after 15 top-flight games. “It wasn’t underestimated by us; it was a really nice gesture. It’s not every day that you have that invitation, so we were humbled to accept it.

“He was really, really good with us, communicated his thoughts and visions on the future. I really enjoyed spending time with him and his family. He was very welcoming and open and I’m sure the players feel the same way. He was very good with them. He interacts and talks with them in a really good way.”

Howe, who in November 2021 was the first major appointment of the Saudi era at the club, has transformed United from a team that was battling relegation at the start of this year to one that is now fighting it out at the top with the Premier League’s traditional “big six.”

A lot of what he has built and achieved has come as a result of hard work and building a strong team spirit, and this was something that Al-Rumayyan reiterated to the squad, Howe said.

“I think he’s very much for the team,” the coach added. “He wants to acknowledge that and bring everyone together. He speaks really well and honestly, and I’m sure the players appreciated his words.

“It was, ‘Well done but we want more, we’re very ambitious.’ I think that’s what the players want to hear. He just (wants us) to continue to work as hard as (we) are and stick together as a team. He’s been really pleased watching the team, how it’s fought for everything.

“They were team messages but very effective messages. I think it was an acknowledgment from him to the staff as well. I think it was just nice for everyone to share that moment.”

When asked what the chairman’s home was like, Howe was diplomatically coy.

“Quite small, actually,” he said in jest. “It was an amazing place but he’s earned his success through hard work and it was a real privilege to be there.”

One thing on the minds of many monitoring developments at Newcastle is what lies ahead in the January transfer window. This was not a topic of conversation with Al-Rumayyan, Howe said.

“I didn’t think it was the right time, with his wife and children there,” he joked.

But he added that he has since met co-owners Jamie Reuben, Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi to discuss budgets.

The training camp in Saudi Arabia is Newcastle’s second trip to the Kingdom this year. They will take on Saudi Pro League champions Al-Hilal in a friendly at Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium at 8pm on Thursday.


British tennis chiefs slam ATP over $1m fine for Russia player ban

British tennis chiefs slam ATP over $1m fine for Russia player ban
Updated 07 December 2022

British tennis chiefs slam ATP over $1m fine for Russia player ban

British tennis chiefs slam ATP over $1m fine for Russia player ban
  • The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) came under pressure from the British government to impose a ban
  • The All England Club, which runs Wimbledon, also barred them from competing at this year's edition of tennis' oldest Slam

LONDON: British tennis chiefs said Wednesday they were “disappointed” at being fined $1 million by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) for banning Russian and Belarusian players from its events.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) came under pressure from the British government to impose a ban.
The LTA stages five events — Queen’s Club in London, Eastbourne, Surbiton, Nottingham and Ilkley — in the calendar of the ATP, which runs the men’s professional tennis tour outside of the four Grand Slams.
Russian and Belarusian players were barred from all five tournaments.
The All England Club, which runs Wimbledon, also barred them from competing at this year’s edition of tennis’ oldest Slam.
Both the ATP and the Women’s Tennis Association stripped Wimbledon of its ranking points in protest at a ban labelled “crazy” by Novak Djokovic.
The Women’s Tennis Association had also previously issued a fine of $1 million to British tennis authorities, split between $750,000 to the LTA and $250,000 to the All England Club.
It is also understood the LTA has been threatened with expulsion from the ATP Tour if it repeats the ban.
The LTA, responding Wednesday to the latest sanction, accused the ATP of a “lack of empathy” over the situation in Ukraine, saying in a statement: “The LTA is deeply disappointed with this outcome.
“The ATP, in its finding, has shown no recognition of the exceptional circumstances created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or the international sporting community and UK Government’s response to that invasion.
“The ATP appear to regard this matter as a straightforward breach of their rules — with a surprising lack of empathy shown for the situation in Ukraine, and a clear lack of understanding of the unique circumstances the LTA faced.”
The statement said the fines would have a financial impact on the LTA’s ability to “develop and host” tennis in Britain.
It added: “We will carefully consider our response and we await the outcome of our appeal against the WTA’s decision and sanction.”
Michelle Donelan, the British government’s Culture Secretary, also urged the ATP and WTA to reconsider their punishments.
“We are clear that sport cannot be used to legitimize this deadly invasion, and that athletes representing the Russian or Belarusian states should be banned from competing in other countries,” she said.
“Despite widespread condemnation, the international tennis tours are determined to be outcasts in this, with investment in the growth of our domestic game hampered as a result.
“This is the wrong move by the ATP and WTA. I urge them to think carefully about the message this sends, and to reconsider.”
Speaking after an executive board meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, IOC president Thomas Bach also took aim at the British government for politicizing participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.
Despite ice hockey players from the two countries playing in the NHL, Bach said, “on the other hand we had Wimbledon, the British Government interfering and forcing the Wimbledon organizers to exclude Russian and Belarusian players.”
“Governments should not decide on political grounds who is participating in which sports events.
“The qualification for sports events must be on sporting merits and not on political interference.”
Bach accused the British government, and others, of going against the Olympic Charter — guarantor of the IOC’s political neutrality.
“To take a decision, a political decision, on a sports competition is clearly not in line with these resolutions and with these commitments and is not in line with the mission of international sports,” he said.


Saudi Sports for All Federation to host the Jeddah Half-Marathon

Saudi Sports for All Federation to host the Jeddah Half-Marathon
Updated 07 December 2022

Saudi Sports for All Federation to host the Jeddah Half-Marathon

Saudi Sports for All Federation to host the Jeddah Half-Marathon
  • Runners will take part in 4km, 10km and 21km races on Dec. 10 across the Formula One circuit in Jeddah
  • The end of the half-marathon will see 24 winners awarded SR1 million ($266,000) in cash prizes

The Saudi Sports for All Federation has completed its preparations to host the Jeddah Half-Marathon on Sunday, Dec. 10, with the support of the Ministry of Sports and the Quality-of-Life Program.

Through this important event, the SFA aims to promote an active lifestyle and foster a competitive spirit among participants.

The SFA has called on the public to take part in the event, which will include 4km, 10km and 21km races. Participants can visit the Marathon Village, which will be open on Dec. 9, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., to collect their race numbers and racing tools. The village will host a range of entertainment events and provide food and beverages.

The tracks will cross Jeddah’s Formula One circuit, while the end of the half-marathon will see 24 winners awarded cash prizes, estimated at SR1 million ($266,000) in total.

The federation’s preparations to host the race were made in alignment with the Kingdom’s ongoing Vision 2030, which encourages Saudi citizens and residents to practice regular physical activity and participate in sporting events.

The SFA also organized a successful full marathon in Riyadh, the Kingdom’s first, which included a 42km track and attracted more than 10,000 participants from around the world.


Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women

Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women
Updated 07 December 2022

Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women

Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women
  • Judy Murray, Barbara Schett-Eagle and Mats Wilander hold tennis try-outs for women on sidelines of Diriyah Tennis Cup
  • Judy Murray: ‘To be able to come here against the backdrop of the Diriyah Tennis Cup, which is a mens’ event, and have a whole womens’ program going on around it, is very, very important’

Female students from Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University (PNU) Riyadh participated in tennis coaching sessions with leading international coaches and former players as part of the Diriyah Tennis Cup program.

The students were coached by Judy Murray, mother of leading players Jamie and Andy Murray, former World Number 1 Mats Wilander from Sweden and Austrian Barbara Schett-Eagle.

Some of the women students held a racquet in their hands for the first time and were introduced to the sport by the tennis legends.

“At the sessions we had a real mix of complete beginners who want to learn the game, some people who have been playing for years and wish to improve and also teachers and coaches,” said Judy Murray.

“I have worked in tennis for over 30 years and the last twelve years I have really focused on encouraging women and girls. Not just to play tennis but to get involved in delivering tennis. We don’t have enough female coaches in tennis worldwide, so actually to be able to come here against the backdrop of the Diriyah Tennis Cup, which is a mens’ event, and have a whole womens’ program going on in the community around it, is very, very important.”

“As a — hopefully — role model and female coach I like to go out and share all the content I have created over many years. I am so passionate about getting more women and girls involved, so this is a lovely opportunity for me to come to Riyadh to do that.”

Former leading player Mats Wilander said: “People are very much into sport here. To play tennis with the female students was wonderful. Judy Murray has a wonderful program. It’s important, to bring tennis to the women of Saudi Arabia, women in general and people in general. Everybody should have a chance to experience and try out the sport.”

Former Austrian player Barbara Schett-Eagle added: “I had an unbelievable day playing tennis with the female students, some playing for the first time. I love tennis. It’s my love and my passion. At the end, they were all able to hit a tennis ball. Some never held a racket before. It was great, there were lots of smiles.”

The President of the Saudi Tennis Federation Arij Almutabagani said that she sees a bright future for tennis in the kingdom.

“There is a strong possibility of finding some young talent. We are really starting at the grassroots, at the beginning, but we have to start somewhere. I think Judy Murray is a great inspiration and I think this program with her is a good start and I hope we can work with her in the future,” said Almutabagani.


Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic

Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic
Updated 07 December 2022

Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic

Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic
  • Lowry joins the top-ranked player in the world Rory McIlroy and DP World Tour stars Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Fox and Tyrrell Hatton in January’s Rolex Series event
  • Irishman Lowry’s career highlight so far came when he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush, winning by an impressive six strokes

Shane Lowry, the 2019 Open Champion, has announced that he will compete in the Dubai Desert Classic.

Lowry joins the top-ranked player in the world Rory McIlroy and DP World Tour stars Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Fox and Tyrrell Hatton in January’s Rolex Series event.

Irishman Lowry’s career highlight so far came when he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush, winning by an impressive six strokes. A four-time winner on the DP World Tour, and twice on the PGA TOUR, Lowry secured his second Rolex Series title at the BMW PGA Championship in September, in a season that also included a top three finish at The Masters.

On the prospect of teeing off at Emirates Golf Club from 26th to 29th January — as he aims to add more silverware in the UAE following his 2019 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title — Lowry said: “I always enjoy going to Dubai and I am delighted to be returning to Emirates Golf Club for the Dubai Desert Classic in January.

“I’ve had success in the UAE in the past, and it would be great to add my name to the impressive list of players who have lifted this trophy.”

Fleetwood ended the 2022 season in style, securing his sixth DP World Tour title when he successfully defended his Nedbank Golf Challenge title in November. The former European Number One has also tasted success in the UAE with two wins in Abu Dhabi, and was runner-up to Ryder Cup team-mate and fellow fan favorite Lowry at the 2019 Open. It is his joint best Major outing to date, having also finished second at the US Open the previous year.

New Zealand’s Fox has had a stunning 2022, finishing second behind McIlroy in the season-long DP World Tour Rankings after winning the Ras Al Khaimah Classic in February and the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October. With a further eight top tens throughout the season, including a narrow playoff loss at the Dutch Open, the Kiwi, will be looking to take that impressive form into 2023 and his appearance in Dubai.

Englishman Hatton is another tournament addition with considerable pedigree, who has experienced recent success in the region following his 2021 triumph in Abu Dhabi. The two-time Ryder Cup star has six DP World Tour victories to his name, including four Rolex Series titles. After a runner-up finish at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, he will be aiming to carry on that form when he returns to Dubai in January.

The four will join two-time winner of the Dubai Desert Classic, four-time Major winner and current World Number 1 McIlroy, who has already confirmed his participation.

Simon Corkill, Executive Tournament Director of Dubai Desert Classic, said: “The latest player announcement shows the strength of the Dubai Desert Classic and its ability to attract the very best players in the world. Over the years we have been proud to assemble stellar line-ups for fans to enjoy some scintillating golfing action — and the 2023 edition will be no exception.”

“To add the 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton to the field guarantees that we have a world class field. Ryan Fox will come to us on the back of a brilliant 2022, his best career year to date and will be another excellent addition to our line-up,” added Corkill.