Mubadala tennis championship thrills again with top performances

Mubadala tennis championship thrills again with top performances
Stefanos Tsitsipas came out on top in a thrilling final over Andrey Rublev. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 December 2022

Mubadala tennis championship thrills again with top performances

Mubadala tennis championship thrills again with top performances
  • Tsitsipas beats Rublev as players prep for new season
  • Abu Dhabi event is mainstay on global calendar

ABU DHABI: The 14th Mubadala World Tennis Championship served up another memorable three-day festival here at the weekend, with a new champion crowned in front of thousands of spectators.

An exciting week at the Arabian Gulf’s leading tennis experience was capped in fine style with Stefanos Tsitsipas coming out on top in a thrilling final over Andrey Rublev, which underlined the championship’s status as one of the most anticipated events on the region’s sporting and social calendar.

Following the UAE Special Olympics tennis demonstration earlier on the weekend, Mohammed Al-Yammahi, aged 11, a champion equestrian athlete at the Abu Dhabi Club for People of Determination, undertook the coin toss for the final. Rublev and Tsitsipas then took their friendly rivalry to the next level with an exceptional match.

Tsitsipas, who had looked impressive all week in victories over Cam Norrie and world No. 3 Casper Ruud, came bursting out of the blocks breaking the Rublev serve in the first game and continued to dominate, breaking again in game five before sealing the opening set 6-2.

The second set went with serve and Tsitsipas had to dig deep with some big shots to square matters at 3-3. The set continued with serve until Rublev produced some stunning counter play to break his Greek opponent in game 10, taking the set 6-4 and sending the match into a deciding set.

In a repeat of the opening set, Tsitsipas broke the Rublev serve, held his own and broke again for a 3-0 lead that he would hold on to, finally wrapping up the set 6-2 to secure a first MWTC title at the second time of asking, having made the final on his first appearance in 2019.

“I would just like to thank everyone for coming out to support us, especially knowing there was a World Cup final happening a bit later, we really appreciate the support. It was great to get three matches in here this week and search for some big preparation for the coming season. Andrey is a great competitor and we had a great match,” said Tsitsipas as he collected the new championship trophy.

“What we as players are trying to do is unite people, bring them together through tennis. I’m really happy to be playing in the Middle East. I’ve said before we should be playing more tennis events here. It’s the perfect location and can host big events.”

Outgoing champion Rublev added: “What we are looking for here is to play these matches at a great level ahead of the new season against some good players and that’s what we had. It was a great tournament and I’m always happy to be here. It’s been a pleasure to be back in Abu Dhabi playing in front of you guys.”

It was a fitting finale to a week in which world No. 2 Ons Jabeur made history in becoming the first woman to win back-to-back MWTC titles following her victory over British No. 1 and 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu.

Earlier in the day, Ruud sealed third place at his maiden MWTC with a commanding 6-1, 6-4 victory over world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, who was making his regional debut.

“The first match didn’t go my way, but I performed well in today’s game. I’m having a longer season in comparison to others as I’ll be taking some time off after Australia so events such as these have really helped me work on my game and get me ready to perform on the big stage,” said Ruud.

Manchester United back in the black ahead of potential sale

Manchester United back in the black ahead of potential sale
Updated 30 March 2023

Manchester United back in the black ahead of potential sale

Manchester United back in the black ahead of potential sale
  • Net profit came in at 6.3 million pounds ($7.78 million) in the three months to Dec. 31
  • The Old Trafford club did not provide any details about the sale on Thursday

MANCHESTER, UK: Manchester United swung to a second-quarter net profit on the back of higher commercial revenue and lower wages, the club said on Thursday.
Net profit came in at 6.3 million pounds ($7.78 million) in the three months to Dec. 31, against a 1.4 million pound loss a year earlier.
Revenue fell almost 10 percent to 167 million pounds, with increased commercial revenue outweighed by a drop in broadcasting revenue and lower match-day revenue because there were fewer home games than in the same period last year.
United’s American owners, the Glazer family, launched a formal sale process late last year and have received several bids, including from Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani, British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe and Finnish businessman Thomas Zilliacus.
The Old Trafford club did not provide any details about the sale on Thursday.
United said ticket sales for the current 2022/23 season have surpassed the record set in 2016/17, hitting a cumulative 2.3 million tickets sold.
The 20-times English soccer champions won the domestic League Cup in February for their first trophy since winning the Europa League in 2017 — their longest wait for silverware since 1983.
The Red Devils currently sit third in the Premier League and have reached the semifinals of the FA Cup and quarter-finals of the Europa League.
Prices for adult season ticket renewals have been increased by about 5 percent for next season, the club said.
Short-term borrowing at the end of last year jumped 95 percent to 206.2 million pounds, the club said.
Forecasts for annual revenue and core profit remain unchanged, United added.

Kings end playoff drought, Mavs’ woes deepen

Kings end playoff drought, Mavs’ woes deepen
Updated 30 March 2023

Kings end playoff drought, Mavs’ woes deepen

Kings end playoff drought, Mavs’ woes deepen
  • Rookie Keegan Murray expressed satisfaction that the Kings have finally ended their long wait for a playoff berth
  • LA bounced back from Sunday’s home loss to Chicago by taming the Bulls on the road in Windy City, winning 121-110.

LOS ANGELES: The Sacramento Kings ended their record-breaking 17-year NBA playoff drought on Wednesday as the Dallas Mavericks’ chances of reaching the postseason suffered a blow with a crucial loss to Philadelphia.

Sacramento, who had not advanced to the playoffs since the 2005-2006 season — the longest streak of futility in NBA history — clinched their postseason berth with a 120-80 rout of the Trail Blazers in Portland.

Malik Monk led the Kings’ scoring with 19 points while four other players made double digits, including rookie Keegan Murray, whose 13 points included his 188th three-pointer of the season — a new NBA record for a rookie.

Murray expressed satisfaction that the Kings have finally ended their long wait for a playoff berth, 12 months after finishing 12th in the Western Conference with a 30-52 record.

“We’ve had really good teams throughout that 17 years and I think this one exemplifies all of them,” Murray told ESPN.

“It’s really cool to be on this team but we know we have a lot more to do.”

The Kings sit in third place in the West on 46-30, trailing Denver and Memphis.

But while Sacramento are now looking forward to a playoff campaign, the Dallas Mavericks risk missing the postseason altogether just a year after reaching the conference finals.

The Mavericks slumped to a 116-108 defeat to Philadelphia, with the 76ers overturning a 12-point deficit as Joel Embiid inspired a fourth quarter rally to end a three-game losing streak.

Embiid led the scoring with 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists as Philadelphia outscored the Mavericks 27-17 in the final quarter to seal the win.

James Harden added 15 points with 12 assists on his return from injury while Tyrese Maxey finished with 22 points for the Sixers.

Dallas are now 11th in the Western Conference at 37-40, with only five regular season games remaining.

Luka Doncic led the Dallas scoring with 24 points while Kyrie Irving finished with 23.

However, Dallas were left ruing a feeble fourth quarter shooting performance, making just seven of 19 from the field as the Sixers pulled away down the stretch.

Doncic refused to concede defeat in the Mavericks playoff push.

“We still have chances, we shouldn’t give up yet,” Doncid said.

But the damage for Dallas was compounded by the fact that two of their nearest rivals for a place in the play-in tournament — the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder — both won on Wednesday.

LA bounced back from Sunday’s home loss to Chicago by taming the Bulls on the road in the Windy City, winning 121-110.

Anthony Davis produced a dazzling display for the Lakers at both ends of the court with 38 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

LeBron James added 25 points while Austin Reaves scored 19 points and D’Angelo Russell chipped in with 17.

The Lakers are eighth in the Western Conference with a 38-38 record.

Oklahoma City meanwhile occupy 10th place in the West — the last of the play-in spots — after a last-gasp 107-106 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

Jalen Williams was the hero for Oklahoma City with a layup in the final second to clinch a crucial win for the Thunder.

Williams finished with 27 points to lead the Oklahoma City scoring, with Luguentz Dort adding 20.

In Phoenix, Kevin Durant returned from injury to help the Suns claim a 107-100 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Durant finished with 16 points in what was his long-awaited home debut in Phoenix, while Devin Booker led the Suns scorers with 29 points.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, Jrue Holiday erupted for 51 points as the Milwaukee Bucks downed the Indiana Pacers 149-136 on the road.

Holiday’s masterpiece came from 20-of-30 shooting while Giannis Antetokounmpo added 38 points and Brook Lopez 21 as Milwaukee edged closer to locking down the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

In New York, the Knicks ground out a 101-92 victory over the Miami Heat to remain within touching distance of clinching a playoff berth.

But the win was overshadowed by an injury to Knicks star Julius Randle, who hobbled off the court in the second quarter after suffering a sprained left ankle.

In Memphis, meanwhile, Russell Westbrook delivered a vintage performance with 36 points and 10 assists as the Los Angeles Clippers outgunned the Grizzlies 141-132.

Robert Covington also starred for the Clippers, shooting seven of seven from three-point range in a 27-point haul off the bench.

Ja Morant led the Memphis scoring with 36 points.

Alonso seeks 33rd Formula 1 win after 100 podium finishes

Alonso seeks 33rd Formula 1 win after 100 podium finishes
Updated 30 March 2023

Alonso seeks 33rd Formula 1 win after 100 podium finishes

Alonso seeks 33rd Formula 1 win after 100 podium finishes
  • Alonso last won an F1 race in Spain in 2013, but his pair of podium finishes in 2023 have excited fans in his homeland

MELBOURNE: After claiming his 100th podium in Saudi Arabia in confusing and controversial circumstances, Fernando Alonso is looking for a better result at Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix than his two third-place finishes so far this Formula One season.

Maybe even his 33rd Formula One win, and first in 10 years.

The Aston Martin driver was behind the Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in the first two races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in what has been a one-sided championship so far.

Alonso believes the championship will become more competitive as the season progresses but is pleased with how his Aston Martin is performing leading into the Melbourne race.

Practice sessions for the Australian Grand Prix begin on Friday, with another session on Saturday prior to qualifying.

“At the moment we are extremely happy with the performance of the car, obviously. It was better than expected, especially in Jeddah,” Alonso said. “We arrived here with a good level of confidence. But, as I said, after a few events from now on, I think the cars will change a lot in a few areas through development.”

The 41-year-old Alonso became the sixth driver in Formula One to reach the 100-podium milestone when he finished third in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago in a race with a contentious postscript.

The Aston Martin driver was hit with a 10-second penalty for being slightly out of position at the start, which dropped him to fourth behind Mercedes’ George Russell.

Alonso was later reinstated to third after a successful appeal to FIA, arguing stewards had not informed Aston Martin of the penalty within the regulated timing.

Russell said on Thursday it was a strange situation but believes the correct call was made.

“Obviously it was the right decision. It was just a bit of a shame what a mess it was for everybody else,” Russell said. “I think from my side and our side, we didn’t feel like we deserved to finish in third position, but obviously it is quite a nice feeling when it is handed to you. But then when it is taken away, it was just all a bit silly.”

Alonso said although “the situation in Jeddah was not ideal,” he still enjoyed the experience of celebrating the achievement on the podium prior to the stewards’ deliberations.

As a result of the Jeddah situation, the grid box for the Australian Grand Prix and remaining races has been extended, with a center line added to help drivers start in the correct position.

Alonso last won an F1 race in Spain in 2013, but his pair of podium finishes in 2023 have excited fans in his homeland, including No. 1- ranked tennis player and compatriot Carlos Alcaraz.

Alcaraz dedicated a victory over Tommy Paul in the Miami Masters this week to the two-time world champion. After his triumph, Alcaraz wrote the words “33 soon” when signing off on the result on the broadcast camera lens. It prompted a friendly interaction between the pair on social media.

“It is crazy to see how Spain is now so enthusiastic again for Formula One, for everything that is happening. This is very nice to see,” Alonso said. “Hopefully we can reach that number, 33, and then go for 34.”

Verstappen, who leads the drivers’ championship by one point from Perez, believes Alonso is capable of ending the drought soon.

“I think Fernando should have won a lot more races. He deserves to. I would be happy to see him win No. 33 but also in a way, I would like to see him win more,” he said.

Gary Ballance joins rare band of cricketers who have played Test cricket for two countries

Gary Ballance joins rare band of cricketers who have played Test cricket for two countries
Updated 30 March 2023

Gary Ballance joins rare band of cricketers who have played Test cricket for two countries

Gary Ballance joins rare band of cricketers who have played Test cricket for two countries
  • Only 16 players have achieved that feat in 146 years of Test match history

On Feb. 4, 2023, Gary Ballance stepped out at Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, to represent his country of birth for the first time in a Test match at the age of 33. Although there are some 70 others who have made their debuts at an older age, Balance’s story carries a difference.

He had already played Test cricket for another country, England, on 23 occasions. This makes him the 16th male cricketer to play for more than one country in the 146 years of Test match history.

Given that there have been upwards of 3,140 players who have participated in Test matches since the first one in 1877, this is a minute percentage. Only four of the 16 have occurred in the last 50 years. Prior to Ballance, the most recent was Boyd Rankin, who was born in Northern Ireland and played twice for England against Australia in 2014-15.

Beset by injuries, his opportunities for further appearances were limited and he was selected to play in Ireland’s first-ever Test in 2019 against England. This was after Ireland, representing the whole of the island, became a full ICC member.

Political circumstances disrupted the careers of South African cricketers between 1971 and 1994. John Traicos played once in 1970 against Australia. In 1991, he played for Zimbabwe at the age of 45. The gap between his two appearances is the longest in Test history. Kepler Wessels settled in Australia and qualified to appear in 24 Tests for them between 1982 and 1985. He retired in 1986 and returned to South Africa. After the country’s readmittance to international cricket in 1991, Wessels played 16 Tests between 1992 and 1994, captaining in each one, before a second retirement from Test cricket.

One player has represented both India and England, Aftikar Ali Khan Pataudi. Although he scored a century in the first Test of the controversial 1932-33 body-line series in Australia, his disapproval of the England captain’s tactics led to him being left out of the final three Tests. After declining two invitations to captain India, he finally did so in 1946 at Lords.

The creation of Pakistan by India’s partition in 1947 led to circumstances in which three players represented both countries. The first, Abdul Kardar, played in India’s first Test match at Lords in 1946. He captained Pakistan in its first Test against India in 1952, playing another 22 times until 1958. Gul Mohammad played eight times for India in 1946 and 1952. In 1955, he took Pakistani citizenship and played one Test against Australia in 1956-57. Amir Elani played once for India against Australia in 1947 and five times for Pakistan in 1952-53.

After playing in five Tests against Australia and New Zealand for the West Indies in 1951-52, Sammy Guillen emigrated to New Zealand, which selected him to play three Tests, against the West Indies. All of the other dual representations occurred between 1887 and 1910. During those years, there were no hard and fast regulations concerning registration.

Billy Midwinter was born in England in 1851, his family emigrating to Australia in 1860. He played in the inaugural test between Australia and England in 1887. He then resettled in England, playing four times against Australia, before returning to Australia for whom he played another six times, until 1887. Sadly, his subsequent personal life was tragic. Midwinter’s wife and two of his children died and he, with ailing businesses, went into an asylum, where he died, aged 39.

Switching between Australia and England was also undertaken by four other Australians of the era.

Billy Murdoch, regarded as Australia’s finest batsman between 1880 and 1884, made four tours to England, the last in 1890 after which he settled in Sussex and played for that county. In 1892, he was selected to join England’s tour of South Africa, playing in one Test. This match also witnessed the appearance of another Australian, J. J. Ferris, in English colors. He had toured England with Murdoch in 1890 and chose to settle there.

Sammy Woods, born in Australia, but schooled in England from the age of 16, developed into a fine all-round sportsman. In 1888, the visiting Australian team suffered injuries and called up Woods, who played in all three Tests. He did not play again for Australia, making his life in England for which he played three Tests against South Africa in 1896 and captained Somerset for 12 years.

Albert Trott made a sensational debut for Australia against England in 1895, averaging 102.5 with the bat. This, coupled with bowling skills, were insufficient to gain selection for the tour of England in 1896. Undeterred, Trott travelled on the same ship as the Australians, to start a fresh life in England, where he played with great success for Middlesex. At the peak of his powers, Trott was selected for England’s tour of South Africa in 1899.

During the same era, two Englishmen also played for South Africa. In 1888-89, Frank Hearne played for England in South Africa to whence he emigrated for health reasons, representing the country in 1892 against England. Frank Mitchell played for England against South Africa in 1898-99, returning there during the Boer War and afterwards as a player and captain in state cricket. His success led to him being named as captain of a South African team which played against England in 1904. South African teams were not strong when these two played against them and the matches were awarded Test status retrospectively.

It can be seen that unique sets of circumstances, either personal or political, or a combination of the two, explain these dual representations. In Ballance’s case, a new dimension was added. He admitted using racist language against his former teammate and friend, Azeem Rafiq.

His decision to leave English cricket behind for Zimbabwe accords with the ICC’s regulations, three years elapsing since his last appearance for England in 2017. Furthermore, he may avoid disciplinary sanctions imposed by England’s cricket authorities.

Algiers the standout among the best of UAE’s horseracing season

Algiers the standout among the best of UAE’s horseracing season
Updated 30 March 2023

Algiers the standout among the best of UAE’s horseracing season

Algiers the standout among the best of UAE’s horseracing season
  • With the Dubai World Cup done, Arab News picks out the horse, jockey and emerging star of the year, among other highlights

All too soon, we’ve reached the pointy end of the UAE season. It’s far from over, as a three-way battle for the Trainers’ Championship will be played out over the final three meetings, but the big stuff is done. So, time for my unofficial end-of-season awards.

Horse of the Year

He didn’t win the Dubai World Cup, but Algiers is still the star of the season. Trained by Simon and Ed Crisford, he hacked up in the first two rounds of the Maktoum Challenge and was probably only undone by chasing a fast early pace when second in the big one. Hopefully, he’ll keep flying the UAE flag with a run at the Breeders’ Cup in the plans.

Jockey of the Year

No surprises here. It goes to Tadhg O’Shea who cruised to an amazing 11th UAE Jockeys’ Championship despite a tough year personally, due to the passing away of his mother. O’Shea’s hunger for winners remains as strong as ever and he’ll already be thinking about title number 12.

Emerging Star Award

This is a tie, between Panamanian rider Oscar Chavez, who cemented an excellent season with G1 Dubai Kahayla Classic victory on Hayyan, and Nisren Maghoub. Emerging from the shadow of trainer husband Mohammed Daggash, Nisren had eight winners in an outstanding first campaign with her own license. Chavez, meanwhile, is no newcomer, having ridden for two decades in Singapore, but thrived from his new base with Doug Watson, riding 16 winners at the time of writing.

The ‘Confidence Pays Off’ Award

Congratulations to Michael Costa, who predicted great things for Jebel Ali Stables when he took over last summer and achieved them. The Aussie saddled 14 winners from just 93 runners, and managed a Stakes win and DWC night runner with Mouheeb. An excellent start, by anyone’s standards, and it might even have been better if talented 3-year-old Seyouff hadn’t suffered a season-ending injury. He’ll be back next season, as will Costa, who will spend part of the summer recruiting horses in the UK and America.

The One to Watch Award

Saeed Bin Suroor had a low season, by his own high standards, but Mawj was the shining light, proving that she stays a mile with a scintillating win in the Jumeirah Fillies’ Guineas. She could make a splash in a European Guineas this year, too, with the English and French versions up for discussion.

The ‘So Close’ Award

It is to be hoped that the connections of Aegean Finale return for another Dubai World Cup Carnival as the gelding has unfinished business in Dubai, coming a close second on two of his three runs. He heads back to Turkey with plenty of prize money, however, and should make an impact in some big races back home this summer.

‘Wow’ Moment of the Year

This has to go to Equinox, who produced a spellbinding moment when beating eight other Group 1 winners and taking the G1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic on the bridle. He is the best turf horse in the world right now and it’s fascinating to see if this can propel him to further international success, possibly in November’s G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf.