Djokovic hopes for warm welcome on Australian Open return

Djokovic hopes for warm welcome on Australian Open return
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic of Falcons, returns the ball to Austria’s Sebastian Ofner of Kites, during a match of the World Tennis League at Coca-Cola Arena, in Dubai on Dec. 23, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 23 December 2022
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Djokovic hopes for warm welcome on Australian Open return

Djokovic hopes for warm welcome on Australian Open return
  • A nine-time champion at Melbourne Park, Djokovic was deported from Australia over fears he would incite anti-vax sentiment
  • As a result of his deportation, Djokovic was banned from entering Australia again but that decision has been reversed

DUBAI: Novak Djokovic is hoping he will receive a warm welcome from the public when he returns to the Australian Open next month, now that the drama surrounding his vaccination status and deportation is officially behind him.
A nine-time champion at Melbourne Park, Djokovic was unable to compete in the opening Grand Slam of the season in 2022 after he was deported from Australia over fears he would incite anti-vax sentiment.
As a result of his deportation, Djokovic was banned from entering Australia again but that decision has been reversed and the world number five is pleased he will get the chance to vie for a 10th title in Melbourne and a men’s record-equalling 22nd major crown overall.
“I always ask the best from myself so let’s see. Over the years I’ve been really fortunate to start very strong in Australia and I love playing there,” Djokovic told reporters at the World Tennis League in Dubai on Friday.
“After obviously what happened earlier this year, hopefully I can have a decent reception there and hopefully that can help me play some good tennis.”
The 35-year-old Djokovic was unable to compete in two of the four majors this year as his vaccination stance meant he was also forced to sit out the US Open.
However, he finished his 2022 campaign with a bang, winning titles in Tel Aviv, Astana and the ATP Finals in Turin, as well as reaching the final of the Paris Masters.
He also picked up trophies in Rome and Wimbledon and tallied up a 42-7 win-loss record throughout the season.
The Serb had mentioned in the past he would like to play into his 40s.
Asked if he still felt that way, Djokovic said: “I would like to play as long as I possibly can. I don’t have really any number in my head. Things are progressing so far pretty well for me. I can’t complain. So as long as I play at this level, as long as I have the fire, I’ll keep going.”
Meanwhile, world number one Iga Swiatek was happy to see herself land in the fifth spot on Forbes’ annual list of the world’s highest-paid female athletes.
However, the 21-year-old Pole admits she hopes to expand her endorsement portfolio so her earnings aren’t just dependent on her performances on court.
According to Forbes, Swiatek has made $14.9 million over the past year, $9.9 million of which came from tournament prize money.
Meanwhile, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams — who have spent significantly less time competing on tour in 2022 — are the top two athletes on the list, with the former reportedly earning $51.1 million and the latter making $41.3 million.
“It’s not my motivation. The most fun I have on court is when I actually don’t think about things like that,” assured Swiatek, who won eight titles in 2022, including two Grand Slams.
“I’m pretty happy that my life changed so much that I can compete at the highest level and earn so much money from it because this is also something that is really helping us appreciate the sport we have.”


Women’s sport revenues tipped to break $1 billion barrier

Women’s sport revenues tipped to break $1 billion barrier
Updated 16 sec ago
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Women’s sport revenues tipped to break $1 billion barrier

Women’s sport revenues tipped to break $1 billion barrier
  • Fresh from a highly successful 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, football’s revenue is expected to reach $555 million
  • The booming popularity of women’s sport is expected to lead to more prime-time broadcasting slots and visibility on streaming platforms

LONDON: Global revenues from women’s sport will top $1 billion for the first time in 2024 thanks to an explosion in popularity, according to financial experts Deloitte.

Fresh from a highly successful 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, football’s revenue is expected to reach $555 million out of a total predicted figure of $1.28 billion in 2024.

But more than 50 percent of total revenue for women’s sport is still generated in North America despite the growth of women’s football in Europe.

Deloitte expects valuations for teams and leagues will continue to rise, with several team values predicted to exceed $100 million next year.

“Over the last few years we have seen exceptional growth in women’s sport across the globe, driving a significant uplift in its commercial value, which in turn has led to growing interest from investors,” said Jennifer Haskel, insights lead for Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.

“Crucially, women’s sport is increasingly being viewed as a unique product that is becoming ever more distinct from men’s elite sport.

“This surge in fan and investor engagement is leading to new and improved opportunities for clubs and leagues, including greater commercial partnerships, increased participation and bigger match days.”

The booming popularity of women’s sport is expected to lead to more prime-time broadcasting slots and visibility on streaming platforms.

Commercial income still accounts for more than 50 percent of total revenue, but that percentage share is falling thanks to bigger broadcast deals and attendances on match days.


Bucks, Kings and Celtics advance in NBA In-Season Tournament

Bucks, Kings and Celtics advance in NBA In-Season Tournament
Updated 24 min 6 sec ago
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Bucks, Kings and Celtics advance in NBA In-Season Tournament

Bucks, Kings and Celtics advance in NBA In-Season Tournament
  • On the final night of group-stage play in NBA’s inaugural version of a World Cup, the Bucks won the East Group B crown at 4-0, taking the top Eastern Conference seed in the fight to reach next month’s semifinals in Las Vegas
  • The quarterfinals will find Boston at Indiana and New Orleans at Sacramento on Monday, with New York at Milwaukee and Phoenix at the Los Angeles Lakers next Tuesday

MIAMI: Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points and Damian Lillard added 32 as the Milwaukee Bucks beat Miami 131-124 on Tuesday to reach the knockout rounds of the NBA In-Season Tournament.

On the final night of group-stage play in the NBA’s inaugural version of a World Cup, the Bucks won the East Group B crown at 4-0, taking the top Eastern Conference seed in the fight to reach next month’s semifinals in Las Vegas.

“We completed the task,” Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton said. “To get to Vegas now, we’ve got to do a little bit more.

“We want it. We’re hungry for it. It’s exciting times for us. We want to go to Vegas so we’re happy.”

The quarterfinals will find Boston at Indiana and New Orleans at Sacramento on Monday, with New York at Milwaukee and Phoenix at the Los Angeles Lakers next Tuesday.

Boston routed Chicago 124-97 to win East Group C and advance while New York, second behind Milwaukee in Group B, beat Charlotte 115-91 and advanced as a wildcard based on superior point differential over Cleveland 42-29.

Sacramento edged Golden State 124-123 to win West Group C, rallying from 24 points down in the second quarter to advance.

The Warriors knew they had to win by 12 points to win the group on a point differential tiebreaker and took a 72-55 half-time lead before the Kings, led by 29 points from De’Aaron Fox, rallied late to trim the margin then swipe the triumph.

“We still wanted to win the game, it counts for the regular season, but we knew what the number was,” Fox said.

Phoenix took a West wildcard spot when Minnesota beat Oklahoma City 106-103 while New Orleans won West Group B when the Dallas Mavericks downed visiting Houston 121-115.

At Miami, the Bucks opened a 15-2 lead, Miami answered with a 16-4 run, then Milwaukee closed the first quarter on a 12-4 spurt for a 31-22 lead.

“We started out great, but it’s hard,” Middleton said.

“You’re just not going to knock a team down in the first five minutes. They did a great job coming back. We did a great job keeping our composure and finding a way to close this thing out.”

Miami, lacking Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro due to ankle sprains, led 97-93 after three quarters.

Middleton, who had 17 points and eight rebounds, hit back-to-back jumpers for a four-point lead and dunks by Brook Lopez and Antetokounmpo settled matters.

“Thankfully I was able to hit a couple shots,” Middleton said.

“I’m just happy we won a tough game.”

Antetokounmpo made 11-of-16 from the floor and 10-of-13 from the free-throw line and grabbed 10 rebounds with five assists while Lillard, 9-of-18 from the floor and 10-of-10 from the line, added nine assists.

At New York, Julius Randle scored 25 points and grabbed 20 rebounds while Immanuel Quickley had 23 points off the bench to spark the Knicks.

Boston needed a lopsided win to advance and got it as Jaylen Brown scored 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds and passed off six assists to lead the hosts over Chicago.

Jayson Tatum added 21 points and Al Horford had 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the Celtics.

Golden State’s Chris Paul went out in the first quarter with lower left leg soreness and Gary Payton II went down with a right calf injury in the third quarter at Sacramento, which had lost two prior meetings with the Warriors this season.

Golden State’s Draymond Green, back from a five-game ban for putting Minnesota’s Rudy Gobert in a headlock, received a technical foul in the fourth quarter for arguing referee calls.

Dallas star Luka Doncic dominated Houston with 41 points, nine rebounds and nine assists while Kyrie Irving added 27 points for the Mavs, keeping the Rockets winless on the road this season.

Western Conference overall season leader Minnesota (13-4) hung on to top spot by edging visiting Oklahoma City (11-6).

Anthony Edwards, who left the game with a bruised right hip, led the Timberwolves with 21 points while Gobert added 17 points and 16 rebounds.

But Phoenix took the West wildcard on point differential 34-0 over Minnesota.


Eddie Howe slams referee call as Newcastle United are robbed of Champions League ‘history’ at PSG

Eddie Howe slams referee call as Newcastle United are robbed of Champions League ‘history’ at PSG
Updated 29 November 2023
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Eddie Howe slams referee call as Newcastle United are robbed of Champions League ‘history’ at PSG

Eddie Howe slams referee call as Newcastle United are robbed of Champions League ‘history’ at PSG

PARIS: Eleven lads in black and white dared to dream in Paris - and they came within a whisker of achieving what so many said was impossible.

You have to go back to 2004 for the last time Paris Saint-Germain suffered a home defeat at the Parc des Princes in the Champions League group stages. And Newcastle United, down to their bare bones and staring elimination in the face, saw their three point dream robbed by a controversial VAR call in added time.

With just two minutes of an inexplicable eight added remaining, Szymon Marciniak was sent to evaluate his decision to not give a spot-kick for the ball clipping Tino Livramento’s elbow after hitting his side. He pointed to the spot, and Kylian Mbappe obliged with the finish from 12 yards.

And with that, Newcastle writing their own little bit of history, in completing arguably their greatest ever European away day result, went up in smoke.

While disappointment will be the overriding emotion for everyone associated with the Magpies in the short term, it won’t take long for pride to expel such thoughts. Adversity may well be the buzzword on Tyneside at the moment, but write Eddie Howe’s team off at your peril - they are made of sterner stuff these days.

When asked whether he felt a sense of injustice, Howe responded: “Yes I do. It was, in my opinion, not the right decision. So many things to take into account. I think the speed first, it was a ricochet that when slowed down looks totally different from the live event.

“The ball hits his chest first then comes up, and hits his hand. I don’t think his hand is in an unnatural position. It’s done by his side, he’s in a running motion. I feel it’s a poor decision.

“It was hugely frustrating for us because in that moment because in that moment you know how little time there is left in the game. Nothing we can do about that.”

Unlike fellow Premier League boss Mikel Arteta, Howe decided to keep his counsel when faced with VAR controversy. Arteta faces an FA charge for his remarks after his defeat at St James’ Park earlier this month.

“I have to control myself, that’s my job. It doesn’t do any good to lose control of what you think and say,” said the head coach.

“But I just feel for the players after what they’ve given today and how we’ve performed in very difficult circumstances and what that decision does to the group. Now the destiny is not with us, but that’s tough to take after being so close.

“I was fearing the worst. I can’t remember how many times it had happened in the game when you fear that due to numbers one is going to go against you. You should feel every decision is independent.

“But of course, when he goes to the monitor you fear the worst and you just hope the referee, in that moment, can see it clearly for what it is, rather than the opinion they’re getting somewhere else.”

The wider picture for Newcastle has become much clearer when it comes to Champions League progression. While defeat on Tuesday would have put the Magpies out of the competition, a point has kept things alive. In fact, a win over AC Milan would guarantee European football, either in the last 16, or in the Europa League.

Howe said: “We’re still in it. That’s another thing we can’t forget. We could easily have come here and have not been in the competition anymore. We still believe. As much as it’s a huge, deflating feeling - it could be another story in our season.”

“Nick [Pope] was like he was against AC Milan away when we needed a giant performance from him. The players accepted we had to defend well and defend our goal like our life depended on it. It looked like we got there. They missed some chances, you can’t deny that.

“When we’ve defended so well in that shape, with that personnel for so long, sometimes you make a change and it creates a mistake. Sometimes you twist, sometimes you stick. We decided to stick and obviously it didn’t work out.”


Immobile fires Lazio past Celtic and to brink of Champions League knockouts

Immobile fires Lazio past Celtic and to brink of Champions League knockouts
Updated 28 November 2023
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Immobile fires Lazio past Celtic and to brink of Champions League knockouts

Immobile fires Lazio past Celtic and to brink of Champions League knockouts
  • Italy forward Immobile struck twice in the final 10 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome
  • Immobile’s double was a rare high point for Lazio who are 11th in Serie A

ROME: Ciro Immobile shot Lazio to the verge of qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League with a late brace in Tuesday’s 2-0 win over eliminated Celtic.
Italy forward Immobile struck twice in the final 10 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome to move Lazio top of Group E, two points ahead of Atletico Madrid who are at third-placed Feyenoord later on Tuesday.
Lazio will be through to the next round if Feyenoord lose to their Spanish opposition as the Dutch outfit are four points behind the new group leaders.
Immobile’s double, which took his all-competitions tally for the season to seven, was a rare high point for Lazio who are 11th in Serie A.
“When a team goes through a difficult period, your personal situation should take second place,” assured Immobile.
“When I was on the bench, I just tried to see how I could help my team. We now need to find in the league the enthusiasm that we show in the Champions League.”
Defeat in the Italian capital confirmed Celtic’s exit from Europe’s top club competition.
Brendan Rodgers’ side will finish bottom of Group E following the defeat which left the Scottish champions with a single point from their five group matches.
Veteran striker Immobile broke the deadlock of a tense match in the 82nd minute when Gustav Isaksen’s shot was deflected right into his path with only befuddled goalkeeper Joe Hart to beat.
And the 33-year-old made sure of the points three minutes later, taking down Isaksen’s pass and shrugging off the Celtic defense before rolling home a neat finish.
Any hope of a Celtic comeback was finished once referee Halil Umut Meler denied their appeal for a stoppage-time penalty following a review of the pitch-side monitor.


Al-Dawsari scores wonder goal as Al-Hilal seal Asian Champions League knockout spot

Al-Dawsari scores wonder goal as Al-Hilal seal Asian Champions League knockout spot
Updated 28 November 2023
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Al-Dawsari scores wonder goal as Al-Hilal seal Asian Champions League knockout spot

Al-Dawsari scores wonder goal as Al-Hilal seal Asian Champions League knockout spot
  • Al-Dawsari atoned with some distinction for the four-time champions late on
  • The 2-0 win was enough to take Al-Hilal, runners-up last season, through to the last 16 as group winners, with one game to spare

ABU DHABI: Asian Player of the Year Salem Al-Dawsari missed two penalties but scored a wonder goal as Al-Hilal sealed a spot in the Asian Champions League knockout stages on Tuesday night.
The Saudi Arabian winger, who was last month named the continent’s best men’s player, spurned a spot-kick in either half in the Group D tie against Navbahor in Uzbekistan.
However, he was not made to pay as substitute Malcolm struck the game’s opening goal, and Al-Dawsari atoned with some distinction for the four-time champions late on.
Malcolm’s effort, a rebound from Al-Dawsari’s second saved penalty on 68 minutes, marked the Brazilian’s first touch of the match. The goal was also his first in the competition since a summer move from Zenit Saint Petersburg.
With four minutes remaining, Al-Dawsari then made safe the result lobbing Navbahor goalkeeper Utkir Yusupov from around 35 yards. Navbahor’s Ibrokhim Yuldoshev was sent off late on for a second bookable offense.
The 2-0 win was enough to take Al-Hilal, runners-up last season, through to the last 16 as group winners, with one game to spare.
Navbahor, though, are still well placed to advance also, with Iran’s Nassaji Mazandaran and Indian’s Mumbai City already eliminated. Nassaji defeated the Champions League debutants 2-0 on Tuesday to confine Mumbai to a fifth successive loss.
In Group A, UAE’s Al Ain suffered their first defeat of this continental campaign when they lost 3-1 at home to Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan. The result mattered little to the 2003 champions, though, since Al Ain had already secured their place in the last 16.
In the group’s other fixture, Saudi Arabian side Al Fayha got only a second win of this campaign with a 3-1 home victory against Turkmenistan’s Ahal. Pakhtakor are second going into the final matchday, level on seven points with third-placed Fayha.
In the East Asian side of the draw, Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale made it five wins from five Group I matches to ease into the knockout stage, defeating Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim 5-0 at home.
South Korean side Ulsan Hyundai stay second following a 3-1 victory against BG Pathum United in Thailand. Both BG Pathum United and Johor Darul Ta’zim will exit the competition at the group stage.
In Group G, Chinese Super League club Shandong Taishan went top by dispatching the already-eliminated Kaya FC-Iloilo of the Philippines 6-1 in Jinan, while Yokohama F Marinos suffered a potentially damaging 2-1 loss against South Korea’s Incheon United.
Incheon and Yokohama each have nine points, with the Korean club second given their superior head-to-head record.
The group stage, which this year returned to a home-and-away format for the first time since early 2020, runs until mid-December, with the 10 pool winners and the six best second-placed teams advancing to the knockout rounds starting in February. The final takes place, across two legs, in May.