Matthieu Pavon secures maiden DP World victory at Spanish Open

Matthieu Pavon secures maiden DP World victory at Spanish Open
Matthieu Pavon with the trophy after scoring his maiden DP World Tour victory at the Spanish Open on Sunday. (IMG)
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Updated 16 October 2023
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Matthieu Pavon secures maiden DP World victory at Spanish Open

Matthieu Pavon secures maiden DP World victory at Spanish Open
  • Pavon: It means everything, 8 years without winning any tournament, and that was a long wait, but it was worth it
  • Marcel Siem, a five-time DP World Tour winner, produced the lowest round of the day and finished tied fourth with Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti

MADRID: In his 185th DP World Tour start, Matthieu Pavon clinched his first victory at the ACCIONA Open de España presented by Madrid, carding an impressive final round 7-under 64. With this win he becomes the third French winner of the Spanish Open.

“It means everything, 8 years without winning any tournament, and that was a long wait, but it was worth it,” Pavon said. “It was tough like I was very emotional, like yesterday so really had to get back and focus on the thick of things. I had some great notes in my book and I read them on every shot I play today just keep me in the present moment,” Pavon said as he discussed the nerves he felt going into the final round.

Starting his round strong, Pavon carded a birdie on the first hole and continued to build his lead adding three more birdies, including consecutive ones on the 6th and 7th holes. His front-nine score of 32 set the stage for a brilliant back-nine performance, where he added three more birdies, resulting in a flawless round and his first trophy in eight years.

“I mean the game wasn’t perfect at first, I miss a couple shots but ended up pretty good with the chips and the putts. Big momentum was that birdie on No. 6. That was a huge momentum for me. Then a great birdie on seven and then all of a sudden I really felt like I had it in my hands. I felt comfortable on the golf course even if it was as I said stressful day but I managed it well. And I done the job,” added Pavon.

Having spent his childhood in Madrid with his late grandfather, a win here meant everything to the Frenchman. “He is up there,” said Pavon as the tears began to flow after holing the winning putt. “A part of my heart is here in Spain for sure. My grandfather was from here and lived in France because of Franco. I really thought about him on the course today and it was really hard to keep the tears inside, now I can let them go a little bit.”

 South Africa’s Zander Lombard secured his third second-place finish of the season with a bogey-free final round of 64. Meanwhile, England’s Nathan Kimsey also posted a flawless round of 67 to finish in solo third place.

Marcel Siem, a five-time DP World Tour winner, produced the lowest round of the day and finished tied fourth with Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti. Siem started the day in tied 34th position and carded an incredible 10-under 61 in the final round, which included six bridies and two eagles. This performance is projected to boost his ranking to 18th on the Race to Dubai standings, putting him in contention for a top-10 finish at the end of the year and reach his dream of making it to the PGA Tour next season.

“It was always my dream to play on the PGA TOUR. I love the DP World Tour so much and all the friends. I spoke to Romain Langasque about it yesterday, if we have a cool crew of ten guys going over there and sharing houses and stuff it would be amazing,” said Siem. “But there’s a lot of golf to be played before that and especially at my age, I’m thinking about seniors golf later — it’s only six-and-a-half years so that’s a milestone to have a chance to play over there.”

Defending champion Jon Rahm, secured a tied 9th place finish at his home open after posting a 7-under final round of 64. The World No.3 completed an impressive front nine with eight birdies, four of which came in the opening four holes, all without missing a fairway or green.

“Today was a good day obviously, it was the start I wanted not the back nine I needed. I gave myself a chance to hope but unfortunately, Marcel took the back nine and he did what was needed to be done to contend a little bit,” Rahm said. “Still proud to come and compete and finish with a top-10, its good for the stats and its good for the soul, but I might have just run out of energy a little bit this week.”


Ivan Rakitic: Luka Modric moving to Saudi Arabia would be ‘amazing’

Ivan Rakitic: Luka Modric moving to Saudi Arabia would be ‘amazing’
Updated 22 April 2024
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Ivan Rakitic: Luka Modric moving to Saudi Arabia would be ‘amazing’

Ivan Rakitic: Luka Modric moving to Saudi Arabia would be ‘amazing’
  • Al-Shabab midfielder would waste no time in promoting the Kingdom to his former Croatia teammate if he decides to leave Real Madrid

LONDON: Ivan Rakitic hopes his strong brotherly bond with his former Croatia team-mate Luka Modric can persuade the timeless maestro to join him at Al-Shabab in the Saudi Pro League.

Modric may be 38 but Rakitic said that his enduring class was something his fellow Real Madrid midfielder, the free-scoring tyro Jude Bellingham, could learn from.

Modric’s Real Madrid contract expires in the summer, and rumors of a move to Saudi Arabia have been swirling. Rakitic, eager to reunite with his former teammate, would be delighted to help facilitate it.

“If you come to Saudi but don’t come to Al-Shabab, you’re going to have some problems with me,” Rakitic told Arab News with a laugh when asked what he would tell Modric, whom he has said “is like a brother to me.”

Rakitic suffered an injury inlets month’s 4-3 home defeat to Al-Hilal and was absent from Al-Shabab’s 5-0 win over Abha on Thursday, a result that sees them sit ninth in the Saudi Pro League table.

The 36-year-old joined the Riyadh club from La Liga side Sevilla in January and told Arab News over Zoom that he would be thrilled to share a pitch again with Modric, with whom he played for Croatia for 12 years until his international retirement in 2019.

The pair’s midfield majesty helped to propel Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final, which they lost 4-2 to France.

“If he decides to move, it would be amazing. I would call him directly after two minutes to try to do everything for Al-Shabab, for Saudi, to bring him to the Saudi Pro League, or give him all the information that maybe he needs.

“If he decides to stay in Madrid for one more year, I think enjoying Luka at the highest level would also be amazing.”

A renowned playmaker after trophy-laden spells at Barcelona and Sevilla, Rakitic is well-placed to assess the merits of other leading midfielders.

Of the credentials of England’s Bellingham, who, at only 20, has enjoyed a marvelous debut season with Real Madrid and scored a stoppage time winner in Sunday’s 3-2 win over Barcelona, Rakitic said: “Of course, (there are many talented young players) and Jude is one of the first we look for but I like the old generation. I like Luka, (Kevin) De Bruyne, Bernardo. I have (so much) respect for Real Madrid because they were able to understand they had to do this change of generation step by step by giving the opportunity to big talents like Bellingham, (Federico) Valverde, (Eduardo) Camavinga. But there are still many things to learn from Luka and Toni (Kroos).”

Bellingham, Camavinga, Modric and Kroos are all set to appear at Euro 2024 in the summer and Rakitic expects “a really special” tournament. He said there would be “surprises for sure” and cited hosts Germany, France, and Portugal as his top contenders.

Rakitic also believes Croatia and the evergreen Modric can have “a big tournament” — despite being in a tough group with Spain and Italy.

He is similarly enthusiastic about Saudi Arabia hosting the 2034 World Cup.

“I think it will be the best World Cup because if the Saudis are at the top in something it is in organization and motivation,” he said.

An interview with Rakitic would not be complete without mentioning the iconic triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez with whom Rakitic enjoyed halcyon days at Barcelona.

“Why not? I think we can do many, many, many important things together,” Rakitic said when Arab News mooted the dream scenario of him and the legendary trio joining forces in Saudi Arabia.

Messi may have rejected Al-Hilal’s $399 million-a-year deal last summer in favor of joining Inter Miami in the US but remains the Kingdom’s tourism ambassador.

Xavi has vowed to quit as Barcelona manager in the summer and has significant experience in the Middle East, having played for and managed Al-Sadd in Qatar between 2015 and 2021.

Iniesta is already in the region after joining Emirates Club in the UAE on a one-year deal in August.

“I think the season we did together, 2014-2015, I think (we were) the best team in the history of football,” Rakitic said.

Barcelona won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the Champions League, becoming the first European team to secure the treble twice — a feat Bayern Munich emulated in 2020.

“(We achieved) the perfect Champions League that season (beating) the French champions (Paris Saint-Germain), the English champions (Manchester City), the German champions (Bayern Munich) and the Italian champions (Juventus). It was the best season possible.”

Messi reportedly asked the Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham to persuade Rakitic to join his club last year.

But Rakitic said he “never spoke” to the former England, Real Madrid and Manchester United star.

“Hopefully I can speak to him because I’m a big fan,” he said.

“I wear my (Adidas) Predators because I saw him taking his free-kicks with (those boots). If David would like to meet and even take some free-kicks together, it would be amazing.”


Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup
Updated 22 April 2024
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Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup
  • A 4-1 win secured second spot in Group A of the tournament which also provides a pathway to 2024 Olympic Games in Paris

DOHA: Indonesia on Sunday beat Jordan 4-1 at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha to reach the quarterfinals of the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup.

Indonesia has now secured second spot in Group A behind already-qualified hosts Qatar, who drew 0-0 against Australia on the same day at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Al-Rayyan.

The tournament, which runs until May 3, provides a pathway to the men’s football competition at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Indonesia led 2-0 at half time thanks to Marcelino Ferdinan’s penalty on 23 minutes and Witan Sulaeman’s strike five minutes before the break.

Ferdinan made it 3-0 after 70 minutes before Jordan’s consolation nine minutes later came via an own goal from Justin Hubner.

Komang Teguh ensured there would be no late drama by making it 4-1 with four minutes of the 90 left.

In Monday’s action, a draw against Iraq will be enough for Saudi Arabia to secure top spot in Group C, while Thailand and Tajikistan meet at Al-Janoub Stadium in Wakrah.

After two rounds of matches, Saudi Arabia lead the group with a maximum of six points while Thailand are second with three points on goal difference from Iraq. All three can still qualify for the quarterfinals while bottom-of-the-table Tajikistan, with no points, have already been eliminated.

Monday will also see the conclusion of Group B. South Korea meet Japan, with both having already ensured progress; and the UAE and China clash in a dead rubber having amassed no points between them so far.

The tournament has 16 nations split into four groups, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. For the Olympic Games in Paris this summer, the winners of the two semifinals secure automatic qualification.

The two losing semifinalists will compete for third place, with the winner also booking a place in Paris. The fourth-place finisher has a final chance with a playoff against an African qualifier.


Mixed martial artist Paul Hughes joins Professional Fighters League

Mixed martial artist Paul Hughes joins Professional Fighters League
Updated 22 April 2024
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Mixed martial artist Paul Hughes joins Professional Fighters League

Mixed martial artist Paul Hughes joins Professional Fighters League
  • The 27-year-old has inked an exclusive, multi-fight contract with Saudi Arabia-backed PFL

NEW YORK: The Saudi Arabia-backed Professional Fighters League has signed Ireland’s Paul Hughes (11-1) to an exclusive, multi-fight contract.

“I am absolutely ecstatic to sign with the PFL. The regular season format, in my eyes, is the ultimate form of MMA competition and is for the ultimate prize of one million dollars,” Hughes said, according to a press release issued Monday. “I’m ready to prove that I am the best lightweight on the planet.”

The PFL’s CEO Peter Murray said: “The Professional Fighters League is always going to be in the mix when it comes to the free-agency market and this was certainly the case with Paul Hughes, someone we have had our eye on for quite some time. I’m looking forward to seeing Paul continue his journey with PFL in big fights that continue to test his skills.”

Hughes, 27, a former Cage Warriors featherweight champion, is on a five-fight winning streak, with eight of his 11 victories coming via stoppage.


‘I have nothing to hide,’ says motorsport boss Mohammed Ben Sulayem

‘I have nothing to hide,’ says motorsport boss Mohammed Ben Sulayem
Updated 22 April 2024
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‘I have nothing to hide,’ says motorsport boss Mohammed Ben Sulayem

‘I have nothing to hide,’ says motorsport boss Mohammed Ben Sulayem
  • The UAE national, a former rally driver, was also cleared by the FIA ethics committee of influencing the results of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix last year
  • The reasons why FIA president would have wanted to prevent the Las Vegas race from taking place have never been explained

SHANGHAI: Motorsport boss Mohammed Ben Sulayem says he has “nothing to hide” and “I play by the rules” after being cleared of accusations that he interfered with the organization of the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix.

The president of governing body the FIA had been accused of asking officials “to find some concerns to prevent the FIA from certifying the (Las Vegas) circuit” before it hosted a grand prix for the first time in 2023, according to an internal FIA report.

The UAE national, a former rally driver, was also cleared by the FIA ethics committee of influencing the results of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix last year.

“I wish it was only an accusation, but I was already convicted in the court of public opinion,” Ben Sulayem told media including AFP at the Chinese Grand Prix at the weekend.

“I have nothing to hide.”

“I’m proud of the work I’ve accomplished,” added Ben Sulayem of his tenure since being elected FIA president in December 2021.

The reasons why the president of the FIA would have wanted to prevent the Las Vegas race from taking place have never been explained.

However, there have been claims of tensions over influence in the sport between the FIA and American group Liberty Media, who own the commercial rights to Formula One and organized the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

But Ben Sulayem said his relationship with Formula One Management (FOM) was “very good.”

“FOM is our partner,” said Ben Sulayem. “I don’t have any problems. I just want to continue doing business with them.”

As for the past allegations against him, Ben Sulayem was adamant that he played it by the book.

“I can stand tall and look you in the eyes and say I am a sportsman and I play by the rules,” he said.


Lillard leads short-handed Bucks over Pacers, Clippers and Celtics win playoff openers

Lillard leads short-handed Bucks over Pacers, Clippers and Celtics win playoff openers
Updated 22 April 2024
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Lillard leads short-handed Bucks over Pacers, Clippers and Celtics win playoff openers

Lillard leads short-handed Bucks over Pacers, Clippers and Celtics win playoff openers
  • The Bucks followed the blueprint laid out earlier Sunday by the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics, who both got off to strong starts in convincing Game 1 victories
  • Jayson Tatum’s first playoff triple-double of 23 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists propelled the Celtics

WASHINGTON: Damian Lillard scored all 35 of his points in the first half as the Milwaukee Bucks struck early in a 109-94 victory over Indiana in their NBA playoffs opener despite the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks followed the blueprint laid out earlier Sunday by the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics, who both got off to strong starts in convincing Game 1 victories.

Eastern Conference top seeds Boston raced to a 14-0 lead to set the tone for a 114-94 victory over the Miami Heat in the first game of their best-of-seven series.

The Clippers, with Kawhi Leonard sidelined with knee inflammation, led wire-to-wire in a 109-07 victory over Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, who put up just eight points in a shocking second quarter performance.

James Harden scored 28 points and handed out eight assists for the Clippers, drilling six of their 18 three-pointers.

Paul George added 22 points and Ivica Zubac scored 20 points with 15 rebounds for Los Angeles, who seized control early as Dallas and NBA regular-season scoring leader Doncic struggled.

The Mavs connected on just two of 21 attempts in the second quarter, putting up 30 in the first half to trail by 26 at the break.

Eight-time All-Star Kyrie Irving made all eight of his attempts on the way to 20 points in the third quarter as the Mavericks buckled down.

Doncic would finish with 33 points and 13 rebounds and Irving scored 31, but they were in too deep of a hole to escape.

“In the second half, that is how we should play the whole game,” said Doncic, who was named Sunday as a finalist for the NBA Most Valuable Player award along with Nikola Jokic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Mavs coach Jason Kidd said his players were too passive in the face of the Clippers early physicality, and Harden said that was just the effect the Clippers were going for.

“We know (what) offensive power those guys have over there,” Harden said. “We can’t ease into games. We’ve got to be the physicality team from the beginning and we did that.”

The Clippers beat the Mavs in the first round in both 2020 and 2021, but Harden said they expected Dallas to step it up when the series continues on Tuesday.

“We can’t get satisfied with winning the first game,” Harden warned.

In Milwaukee, the Bucks were more than up to the task without Antetokounmpo, who remained sidelined with a left calf injury.

Lillard’s explosive first half included a 19-point first quarter, and his 35 points were a record for any Bucks player in any half of a playoff game.

He made 11 of 22 shots, including six three-pointers to stake the Bucks to a 69-42 halftime lead.

He didn’t make a basket in the second half, but his teammates picked up the slack and the prolific Pacers offense was held under 100 points for just the second time this season.

Tyrese Haliburton, chosen ahead of Lillard for the US Paris Olympic squad, finished with just nine points for the Pacers, who were led by Pascal Siakam’s 36 points and 13 rebounds.

In Boston, Jayson Tatum’s first playoff triple-double of 23 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists propelled the Celtics.

Miami have emerged from the play-in as the East’s eighth seed for the second straight season.

Last year they beat Boston in the conference finals before falling to Denver in the championship series, but with Jimmy Butler nursing a knee ligament injury their chances of a similar run look remote.

Bam Adebayo led Miami with 24 points and six rebounds in Butler’s absence.

Tatum was one of six Celtics to score in double figures and Boston made 22 three-pointers to keep the Heat on their heels.

But Tatum was disappointed that the Celtics took their foot off the gas in the fourth.

“They’re not going to give up, they’re not going to lay down,” he said. “Human nature can play a factor, but you can’t relax.”