Ambassador Nadal set to inspire future Saudi tennis stars

Ambassador Nadal set to inspire future Saudi tennis stars
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Rafa Nadal and Saudi No. 1 Yara Alhogbani. (Supplied)
Ambassador Nadal set to inspire future Saudi tennis stars
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Rafa Nadal, Minister of Sport Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki and Saudi Tennis Federation President Arij Almutabagani. (Supplied)
Ambassador Nadal set to inspire future Saudi tennis stars
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The Spanish superstar paid a surprise visit to a junior tennis clinic, hosted by the STF, in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Ambassador Nadal set to inspire future Saudi tennis stars
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The Spanish superstar paid a surprise visit to a junior tennis clinic, hosted by the STF, in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 January 2024
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Ambassador Nadal set to inspire future Saudi tennis stars

Ambassador Nadal set to inspire future Saudi tennis stars
  • Saudi Tennis Federation announces new ambassador role for global tennis icon
  • Rafa Nadal: Beyond playing I want to help the sport grow far and wide across the world and in Saudi there is real potential

RIYADH: Newly appointed Saudi Tennis Federation (STF) ambassador Rafa Nadal is set to bring his unique brand of inspiration to the Saudi tennis scene.

The new role is announced following a recent surprise visit to a junior tennis clinic in Riyadh hosted by the STF and will see the Spanish superstar spend time in the Kingdom each year to help nurture and plan the development of boys and girls in the sport as well as grow further interest in tennis among the country’s young population.

Beyond encouraging the growth of the sport overall, plans are also being put in place to develop a new Rafa Nadal Academy to nurture talent and serve as a center of excellence to help aspiring players fulfill their tennis dreams.

Nadal, who has won 22 Grand Slam men’s singles titles to date, is set to support tennis in one of the fastest growing countries in the world, with sport becoming an increasingly important part of daily life, especially for the Kingdom’s 20 million people aged under 30 years old.

Speaking on his new role as an ambassador to the Saudi Tennis Federation, Nadal said; “Everywhere you look in Saudi Arabia, you can see growth and progress and I’m excited to be part of that. I continue to play tennis as I love the game. But beyond playing I want to help the sport grow far and wide across the world and in Saudi there is real potential. The kids here today are looking to the future and have a real passion for all sports. If I can help them pick up a racquet or simply get fit and enjoy the benefits of healthy living, then I’ll be happy to have made a difference.”

Under Vision 2030, sports participation across men and women in Saudi Arabia has rapidly increased and is now close to 50 percent, more than tripling since 2015. The number of sporting federations have also tripled during this time with the STA a perfect example of the growth story underway.

Nadal will look to accelerate the momentum which has been building across the entire tennis ecosystem from the grassroots up. In 2023 an estimated 30,000 school children took their first steps in tennis thanks to the ‘Tennis For All’ program, a unique partnership between the STF and Saudi Sports For All Federation, which saw tennis introduced to the physical education curriculum in 90 schools. Future plans are already in place to roll the program out in 200 schools in 2024 and 400 in 2025.

Today Saudi Arabia is home to 177 tennis clubs, up 146 percent since 2019. In the last four years, the number of registered players has increased by 46 percent to 2,300 and under-14 players by 100 percent — from 500 to +1,000. STF also now holds 40 national tournaments annually — including hosting three ITF Juniors tournaments in the past year.

Saudi Tennis Federation President, Arij Almutabagani, added: “Rafa embodies all the values we hold dear in a true champion on and off the court. He’s simply the ideal role model for our young boys and girls to look up to. It’s clear Rafa lives the best version of himself every single day. His dedication to training, his commitment to every shot and the way he fights for every point are values we hope to instill in our own future stars. Not just to develop them as players but as people.

“Rafa transcends the sport of tennis and continues to inspire generations around the world. I’ve no doubt he will have the same impact on Saudi. We feel blessed to call him our ambassador and our young players can’t wait to work with him!”

Nadal and his coaching team are also set to develop a program of values to inspire ‘Team Saudi’, the national teams who represent the Saudi Olympic & Paralympic Committees in international tournaments and will share their knowledge with all players and their coaches.

Under Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s ongoing social and economic transformation, the country has become a welcoming host for some of the biggest global sports events. Since 2018 the Kingdom has staged over 85 international events for both male and female athletes including football, motorsports, tennis, equestrian, esports and golf, attended by over 2.6 million sports fans.

The latest addition, the Next Gen ATP Finals signals the country’s intent to make tennis a major part of its international calendar and is the first of many likely professional tennis tournaments to be held in the country, with Nadal now committed to supporting future events in an ambassadorial role.

Almutabagani, continued: “Yes, we want to host the world’s best to inspire and help our young people fall in love with the game. But looking ahead one day we also want to play alongside and compete against the world’s best male and female players. We know it’s a long journey ahead but we’re investing in our children and committed for the long-term. And hopefully with Rafa’s support we’ll go along that journey a little bit faster and as a fit and healthy nation.”


KL Rahul shines as Lucknow Super Giants beat Chennai Super Kings in IPL

KL Rahul shines as Lucknow Super Giants beat Chennai Super Kings in IPL
Updated 9 sec ago
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KL Rahul shines as Lucknow Super Giants beat Chennai Super Kings in IPL

KL Rahul shines as Lucknow Super Giants beat Chennai Super Kings in IPL
LUCKNOW: KL Rahul’s solid 82 runs off 53 balls helped Lucknow Super Giants comfortably beat Chennai Super Kings by eight wickets in the IPL on Friday.
Rahul’s time at the crease, which saw him smash nine fours and three sixes, played a key role in pushing Lucknow past Chennai’s 176-6 with six balls to spare.
“I felt that if we bat well, we could chase it down... when your partnership goes on, you can take a few more chances. Glad that it happened,” said Rahul.
Chennai got off to a slightly jittery start after being invited to bat first, losing Rachin Ravindra (zero) and skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad (17) in the first five overs. Ajinkya Rahane looked to steady the side, with the help of Ravindra Jadeja, but fell in the ninth over after racking up a respectable 36 runs off 24 balls.
Lucknow’s clinical bowling restricted Chennai in the middle overs, with Shivam Dube (three) not being able to pop off.
But Jadeja soldiered on for the rest of the game, getting his half-century in the seventeenth over.
Reliable warhorse M.S. Dhoni, who smacked 28 runs off 9 balls, helped Chennai turn up the heat in the last three overs and pushed the team to 176-6.
Lucknow openers Quinton de Kock and KL Rahul set up the chase with a superb 134-run partnership, before de Kock, who hit five fours in his 43-ball 54, fell in the fifteenth over.
Rahul went onto smash an incredible 82 runs off 53 balls before being dismissed in the eighteenth over. A final push by Nicholas Pooran (23) helped seal the victory for Lucknow.
“We lost wickets regularly and were 10-15 short,” said Gaikwad.
“Good to play them again soon, will come back with homework done.”

Saudi Arabia’s PIF signs sponsorship deal with Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament

Saudi Arabia’s PIF signs sponsorship deal with Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament
Updated 32 min 18 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s PIF signs sponsorship deal with Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament

Saudi Arabia’s PIF signs sponsorship deal with Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament
  • Agreement is latest in wider partnership with the ATP

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund announced on Friday it had agreed a multi-year deal to sponsor the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament.

The deal is the latest in PIF’s wider tennis partnership with the Association of Tennis Professionals as a Platinum Partner and as the official naming partner of the PIF ATP Rankings.

The fund said the agreement marked its continued investment in growing tennis globally, along with a wider focus on its four sponsorship pillars: inclusivity, sustainability, youth, and technology.

As part of the partnership, PIF will develop a platform to allow tennis fans new and old to engage and train with legendary players and coaches on the ground in Madrid, and youth-focused fan zones.

A statement said: “PIF is committed to providing opportunities for young players across all levels of the game, inspiring participation, enhancing talent discovery and developing new pathways for future generations of tennis players around the world.

“As part of this priority, PIF is engaging local tennis academies in Spain and supporting future players through the PIF tennis bootcamp.”

PIF has also partnered with ATP Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells, Miami and the Nitto ATP Finals, in addition to the Beijing ATP 500 event, and the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by PIF, to be hosted in Jeddah until 2027.


John Catlin sets himself up for victory going into final round of Saudi Open in Riyadh

John Catlin sets himself up for victory going into final round of Saudi Open in Riyadh
Updated 19 April 2024
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John Catlin sets himself up for victory going into final round of Saudi Open in Riyadh

John Catlin sets himself up for victory going into final round of Saudi Open in Riyadh
  • American shoots men’s course-record 62

RIYADH: John Catlin continued his dominance at the 2024 Saudi Open on Friday as he shot a men’s course-record 62 to open up an eight-shot lead at the top of the leaderboard at Riyadh Golf Club.

The American began the third round one shot ahead of Scott Hend and Haotong Li and signaled his intentions early with two birdies in his first five holes.

It was a special back nine that saw him pull away from the field as six birdies, including two in his final two holes — which also earned him the PIF Moment of the Day — put him in the driving seat for a sixth Asian Tour victory.

Thai favorite Kiradech Aphibarnrat made the biggest move of the chasing pack and will head out with Catlin in the final group on Saturday.

His round of 67 moved him into second place with Wade Ormsby, David Puig, Hend and Li one further back.

If he is victorious on Saturday it will mark back-to-back wins on the Asian Tour for Catlin after he lifted the International Series Macau trophy in March, but the 33-year-old is taking nothing for granted ahead of the final round.

He said: “My game has felt in good shape. Today was just one of those days where the putter just gets hot and it’s like you can’t miss. I kept going and tried to make as many birdies as I could because there are so many good players out here and there are plenty of birdies to be made tomorrow. I knew I had to keep the pedal to the metal.

“Nothing changes tomorrow: the job is not finished. David (Puig) has shown he can shoot some really low numbers and there are a lot of other guys very capable of doing that here.”

It is Catlin’s second trip to Saudi Arabia but his first to Riyadh, and after his record-breaking day he admitted he will be back in the Kingdom whenever he gets the chance.

“I’ve loved it here. The people have been so friendly to me, the facilities are really good and I love the course. I will be back whenever there is a tournament here,” he said.

South African Jaco Ahlers produced the day’s second-best round with his 65 moving him to 7 under par, while LIV Golf star Peter Uihlein catapulted himself up the leaderboard after four birdies in four holes to start his back nine took him to the same score. Uihlein is looking forward to an attacking final round.

He said: “You’ve got to shoot 10 under tomorrow to win — I’m going to try. Hopefully my caddie will let me hit the driver on some holes where I probably shouldn’t, and just have a go.

“I played nicely on the front, but it was a different wind. I felt like the back nine, with the way the wind was, is easier than the first couple of days, so I thought I could make some birdies. I didn’t birdie the 15th or 18th hole, which is disappointing.”

Moroccans Othman Raouzi and Ayoub Lguirati, the two invited Arab golfers who managed to make the cut, endured difficult days and both sit over par heading into the final round.


FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem receives Arab and MENA backing

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem receives Arab and MENA backing
Updated 19 April 2024
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FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem receives Arab and MENA backing

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem receives Arab and MENA backing
  • Statement condemns “false allegations” of interference in sporting decisions during 2023 Formula One season

DUBAI: The FIA Members for Sport for MENA region and Arab Council of Touring and Automobile Clubs sub-region have released a statement of support for FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem against what they see as “false allegations” of interference in sporting decisions during the 2023 Formula One season.

“Knowing that Mr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been committed to promoting transparency within the FIA since he was elected president of the FIA, his full co-operation with the FIA Ethics Committee and the Compliance department during the 30 days of investigations is highly regarded,” the statement said.  

“The Ethics Committee were unanimous in their determination that there was no evidence to substantiate allegations of interference of any kind involving the FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem and strong evidence beyond any reasonable doubt was presented to support the determination of the FIA Ethics Committee.” 

The statement said that the FIA president was cleared of any wrongdoing over allegations he interfered with the stewards’ decision at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2023, and cleared of any wrongdoing regarding allegations that he attempted to interfere with the track certification process for the Las Vegas Grand Prix 2023.

The statement continued: “The FIA Members for Sport for MENA Region and ACTAC Sub-Region condemn, and at the same time are profoundly disappointed with the unjust and relentless attempt to undermine the integrity of the FIA Leadership by such unfaithful allegations to serve narrow personal agendas, and we strongly encourage the FIA administration to initiate legal actions against those responsible for those allegations against the FIA President. 

“We are confident that Mr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem will continue to serve the FIA and its Members in a transparent manner implementing the FIA Code of Ethics as top priority.

“We also would like to assert our support to Mr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s leadership of the FIA and will continue our co-operation with him in his efforts to serve and develop the FIA and its Members,” it said.  


USA Olympic basketball team announced, set to play 2 matches in Abu Dhabi

USA Olympic basketball team announced, set to play 2 matches in Abu Dhabi
Updated 19 April 2024
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USA Olympic basketball team announced, set to play 2 matches in Abu Dhabi

USA Olympic basketball team announced, set to play 2 matches in Abu Dhabi
  • Team coached by Steve Kerr of Golden States Warriors will face Australia (July 15) and Serbia (July 17) in the UAE capital

COLORADO SPRINGS: The 2024 USA basketball men’s national team has been announced for this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris, taking place July 26-Aug. 11

The team, selected by national men’s team managing director Grant Hill and approved by the USA Basketball Board of Directors, will also play two preparation matches in Abu Dhabi against Australia (July 15) and Serbia (July 17).

Starring for the team will be 12 athletes with extensive international experience, including three-time Olympic champion Kevin Durant (Phoenix Suns) and the NBA’s all-time scoring leader LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), who owns a pair of Olympic gold medals.

In addition to Durant and James, the team features Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns), Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers), Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), Tyrese Haliburton (Indiana Pacers), Jrue Holiday (Boston Celtics), Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers) and Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics).

The squad boasts a combined 11 Olympic appearances and 10 Olympic gold medals as well as three FIBA World Cup titles. In total, the US will take 12 NBA All-Stars, four NBA MVPs and six NBA champions to Paris.

“It’s an honor to introduce the men’s national team,” Hill said. “I’m grateful to these 12 men for their commitment to represent USA Basketball. The US is home to some of the best basketball players in the world and I appreciate the vast interest in being part of this roster. These decisions weren’t easy, but it was a pleasure to go through the process and reach this outcome.

“We have the utmost respect for the level of competition we will face this summer. The Olympics represent the pinnacle of sport and the world will be watching the USA as we play in the toughest basketball tournament in history.”

Durant, who is also a 2010 World Cup gold medalist, is the USA’s all-time Olympic statistical leader in total points (435), scoring average (19.8 ppg), field goals (146), 3-point field goals (74) and free throws (69). He ranks third in rebounds (118) and blocks (16), and fourth in games played (24) and assists (71).

James, who has scored 273 points (3rd all-time among Americans) in the Olympics, will compete in his fourth games and first since 2012. He won gold in 2008 and 2012, and made his Olympics debut in 2004 (bronze). James also owns a 2007 FIBA Tournament of the Americas gold medal.

Adebayo (2020), Booker (2020), Davis (2012), Holiday (2020) and Tatum (2020) have won Olympic gold medals and are part of a group that has gone 34-4 in Olympic competition since James’ debut in 2004.

Curry is a two-time World Cup champion (2010, 2014) and will make his Olympic debut this summer. He is one of six players who has competed at the World Cup, including Davis (2014), Durant (2010), Edwards (2023), Haliburton (2023), James (2006) and Tatum (2019). Of the seven World Cup participants, three (Curry; Davis, 2014; Durant, 2010) have also won gold and two (Edwards, 2023; Durant, 2010) have taken home All-Star Five honors. Edwards and Haliburton competed at the 2023 FIBA Men’s World Cup in Manila, helping to secure the US’ Olympic bid.

Embiid and Leonard will make their USA Basketball national team debuts when the US hosts Canada on July 10 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to open the USA Basketball Showcase.

The men’s national team will be led by head coach Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors), assisted by Mark Few (Gonzaga University), Tyronn Lue (LA Clippers) and Erik Spoelstra (Miami Heat). Last summer, the quartet coached the side to a fourth-place finish at the 2023 FIBA Men’s World Cup in Manila.

“My staff and I are honored to coach this amazing group of players in our quest to win Olympic gold in Paris,” Kerr said. “We plan to represent USA Basketball with the utmost class and we hope to make our country proud.”

The US officially qualified for the Paris Games as one of the top two nations from the FIBA Americas zone at the 2023 FIBA World Cup in September. The American men will compete for their fifth straight — and 17th overall — Olympic gold medal.

As part of Group C, the US will face Serbia on July 28, South Sudan on July 31 and the winner of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico on Aug. 3 in the first round of the Olympic tournament. The five-on-five Olympic basketball group phase will take place in Lille, France, before the tournament moves to Paris for knockout and medal rounds.