4-time major winner Naomi Osaka confirmed for Dubai Tennis Championships

4-time major winner Naomi Osaka confirmed for Dubai Tennis Championships
Naomi Osaka is returning to the Dubai Tennis Championships for the first time since 2019. (WTA)
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Updated 14 February 2024
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4-time major winner Naomi Osaka confirmed for Dubai Tennis Championships

4-time major winner Naomi Osaka confirmed for Dubai Tennis Championships
  • Osaka, who gave birth to her first child while she was away from the court, joins an already star-studded line up for the WTA Tour event
  • World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, two-time Australian Open winner Aryna Sabalenka, and 2023 US Open winner Coco Gauff will feature alongside 26-year-old Osaka

DUBAI: Former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka will return to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships five years since her last appearance in the competition.

After a 15-month break from competitive action for personal reasons, the four-time major champion made a comeback at the Brisbane International and Australian Open last month before appearing at both the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open and Qatar Open – where she has reached the round of 16.

Osaka, who gave birth to her first child while she was away from the court, joins an already star-studded line up for the Women’s Tennis Association Tour event – recently awarded permanent WTA 1000 status – with 17 of the world’s top 20 players in action.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, two-time Australian Open winner Aryna Sabalenka, and 2023 US Open winner Coco Gauff will feature alongside 26-year-old Osaka at the 24th edition of the WTA Tour tournament.

On Japanese player Osaka’s participation at the upcoming tournament, executive vice chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, Colm McLoughlin, said: “It is with great pleasure that we welcome Naomi back to Dubai for the latest installment of the WTA tournament, with many of the world’s best female players competing in the event.”

Osaka, a two-time winner at both the US Open and Australian Open, has spoken candidly about her mental health battles – most notably in an intimate and insightful Netflix documentary into her world.

Ranked a modest 48th in the world, Osaka then 20, reached the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in 2018 as a wildcard. It was after defeat to top seed Elina Svitolina that she took her first steps to stardom by winning the Indian Wells title, and just a few months later she stunned the tennis world with a historic victory over Serena Williams in the US Open final.

Joint chief operating officer of Dubai Duty Free and tournament director of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Salah Tahlak, said: “We’re delighted to have Naomi with us in Dubai for this year’s tournament.

“We have such a strong women’s line up this year, so having someone of Naomi’s pedigree and stature is even more good news.”


Yokohama takes a 2-1 lead into the 2nd leg of the Asian Champions League final against Al-Ain

Yokohama takes a 2-1 lead into the 2nd leg of the Asian Champions League final against Al-Ain
Updated 28 sec ago
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Yokohama takes a 2-1 lead into the 2nd leg of the Asian Champions League final against Al-Ain

Yokohama takes a 2-1 lead into the 2nd leg of the Asian Champions League final against Al-Ain
There will be celebrations in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday regardless of whether Yokohama F. Marinos can protect its 2-1 lead in the second leg of the Asian Champions League final or Al-Ain comes back to take the title.
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayad is not only president of UAE but has been club president of Al-Ain, based near the country’s border with Oman, since 1979.
His vice president Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed is the owner of Manchester City, the founding member of the City Football Group, a worldwide stable of 13 clubs which became a minority shareholder in Yokohama in 2014.
If the Japanese team wins it will participate in the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup where it could face its English stablemate as the English team qualified for the tournament, which will be expanded from seven to 32 teams, after becoming European champions in 2023.
Despite the first-leg lead from the opener in Japan, getting past Al-Ain won’t be easy. The 2003 Asian champions also reached the final in 2005 and 2016. The second loss is still fresh in the memory and serves as motivation.
“That’s why everybody wants this trophy so bad,” Al-Ain defender Khalid Al Hashemi said on the Asian Football Confederation’s official website. “I hope from the bottom of my heart that we can give happiness to everybody in our country.”
Al-Ain, coached by former Argentina striker Hernan Crespo, took an early lead through Mohammed Al-Baloushi at the Nissan Stadium on May 11 only for two late goals from Asahi Uenaka and Kota Watanabe to give Yokohama a slender advantage.
“We lost against great opponents who played very well but we did have chances which we didn’t put away,” Crespo said. “We have another opportunity at home and I hope it will be different,” said the ex-Milan, Inter and Chelsea forward.
“What we need is a little bit more quality in front to be dangerous. We had some chances, but it wasn’t enough and that is credit to Yokohama as they didn’t give us much space.”
Neither finalist has been able to transfer strong Asian form into domestic results. Al-Ain is in third in the league, 16 points behind leader Al-Wasl. Yokohama has won the J-League five times but currently sits 13th in the standings. The Japanese team has never been in the Champions League final.
Harry Kewell has been in charge since December and the former Leeds and Liverpool winger is close to achieving something that neither of his Australian predecessors Ange Postecoglou and Kevin Muscat managed at Yokohama.
“I’ve never been afraid of a challenge and I’m going to make sure my team’s not afraid of this challenge,” Kewell said. “It’s going to be tough . . . nothing’s given for free, you have to pay for it, you have to work for it. We have to suffer if we want to pick up this title.”

Brown shines as Celtics take 2-0 lead over Pacers, Haliburton hurt

Brown shines as Celtics take 2-0 lead over Pacers, Haliburton hurt
Updated 24 May 2024
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Brown shines as Celtics take 2-0 lead over Pacers, Haliburton hurt

Brown shines as Celtics take 2-0 lead over Pacers, Haliburton hurt
  • Brown tied a career playoff high to help the top-seeded Celtics break their Game-2 jinx
  • The Pacers have excelled at home, but now have concerns over All-Star point guard Haliburton

LOS ANGELES: Jaylen Brown scored 40 points to propel Boston to a 126-110 victory over Indiana and a 2-0 lead in the NBA Eastern Conference finals over a Pacers team rocked by an injury to Tyrese Haliburton.

Brown tied a career playoff high to help the top-seeded Celtics break their Game-2 jinx.

Winners of a league-best 64 regular-season games, Boston had dropped the second game before prevailing in each of the first two rounds.

But they head to Indianapolis for Game 3 on Saturday in control of the best-of-seven series.

The Pacers have excelled at home, but now have concerns over All-Star point guard Haliburton, who departed late in the third quarter with a left hamstring injury and didn’t return.

Brown, who sank a three-pointer to force overtime as the Celtics held off the Pacers in a game-one thriller, scored 10 points in a 20-0 Celtics run that saw Boston take the lead for good in the second quarter.

“It’s the playoffs, man,” Brown said. “Whatever it takes to get a ‘W’ — on defense, on offense — that’s what I’m going to do.”

“He has it going,” Jrue Holiday said of his teammate.

“Great player, great leader, but wants to win and takes things into his own hands. Having a guy like that on my side, I love it. I’ll ride for him.”

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said that even though the box score reflected just two assists for Brown, he did a good job of keeping his teammates involved on offense.

“He made the right play — that’s the most important thing,” Mazzulla said.

Indiana emerged from a tight first quarter that featured 10 lead changes with a 27-25 advantage.

But Holiday’s three-pointer in the final minute of the opening period launched Boston’s scoring binge and they were up 42-27 midway through the second.

The Celtics pushed the lead to 16 before the Pacers hit back. Pascal Siakam came up with four big buckets, including a dunk that cut the deficit to 56-51 at halftime.

Siakam struck again early in the third, and his three-pointer pulled Indiana within two.

But Boston pulled away again, their 16-5 scoring run swelling the lead to 13 going into the fourth quarter, when the Pacers wouldn’t get within double digits.

Jayson Tatum shook off a slow start to score 23 points. Derrick White also scored 23 and Holiday scored 15 points with 10 assists for Boston.

Siakam led Indiana’s scoring with 28 points. Haliburton had 10 points and eight assists before departing.

“I think they played a little better for more stretches than we did,” said Siakam, a title winner with Toronto who was acquired from the Raptors in January.

“They had a lot of good runs. We were getting there close but just not quite there.”

Siakam noted the Celtics’ edge in rebounding and second-chance points. The Pacers also produced 16 turnovers.

“They just played better,” Siakam said. “We’ve got to look at ourselves in the mirror and move on and think about the next game.”

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said Haliburton, who had left hamstring trouble during the season, had already had treatment on his leg at halftime.

He also had tests after taking a blow to the chest battling with Brown for a rebound.

“We’ll know more tomorrow and probably even more Saturday,” Carlisle said.


Djokovic cruises into Geneva Open semifinals

Djokovic cruises into Geneva Open semifinals
Updated 24 May 2024
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Djokovic cruises into Geneva Open semifinals

Djokovic cruises into Geneva Open semifinals
  • Djokovic saw off a first set challenge from Tallon Griekspoor to win 7-5, 6-1 in 77 minutes at the Parc des Eaux-Vives
  • Djokovic will face Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic in Friday’s semifinals

GENEVA: Novak Djokovic on Thursday booked his spot in the Geneva Open tennis tournament semifinals, putting the world No. 1 within two matches of his first trophy of 2024, days before his French Open title defense begins.

Djokovic saw off a first set challenge from Tallon Griekspoor to win 7-5, 6-1 in 77 minutes at the Parc des Eaux-Vives.

Griekspoor, the world No. 27, was the sixth seed at the 28-man Geneva tournament, which serves as a warm-up before next week’s second Grand Slam of the season in Paris.

The Dutchman had three set points against Djokovic in the first set.

“It was a great win. I thought the first set could have gone his way easily because I think he was a better player for most of the first set,” Djokovic said afterwards.

“We could have been having a completely different direction of the match if he converted those set points.

“I was lucky to find some really good serves, and from that moment onwards I really, really played some good, solid tennis.”

It was a bridge too far for Griekspoor, who earlier Thursday finished off his second-round match with Denis Shapovalov, beating the Canadian 6-7 (7/9), 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.

The match had been called off for the night in the second set on Wednesday due to rain.

Djokovic, who turned 37 on Wednesday, took a wild card to play in Geneva in a bid to rescue an alarming dip in form ahead of Roland-Garros next week.

Djokovic will face Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic in Friday’s semifinals.

The pair have only met once before, with Djokovic winning their contest in Dubai last year.

Machac, the world No. 44, will be appearing in his first semifinal on the ATP tour.

He saw off 19-year-old Alex Michelsen of the United States 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) in their quarter-final on the Geneva clay.

Friday’s second semifinal will see Norwegian second seed Casper Ruud face Italy’s in-form Flavio Cobolli.

Ruud, the world number seven, was the runner-up in the last two French Open finals, including a defeat to Djokovic last year.

Ruud, at home on the Geneva clay having won the title in 2021 and 2022, beat Argentinian fifth seed Sebastian Baez in a roller-coaster match, winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in a two-hour quarterfinal on Thursday.

“It was a tough match against Sebastian. He’s a great player, a great fighter and it was always going to be difficult against him,” Ruud said.

“It was a very close match in the end, back and forth, back and forth. But I’m very happy to be through, back in the semifinals here in Geneva, it’s a great feeling.”

Italian Cobolli, on a career-high ranking of 56, saw off Kazakhstan’s Alexander Shevchenko 6-4, 6-4 in the last eight, having knocked out US fourth seed Ben Shelton in the second round.


Saudi squad announced for upcoming World Cup qualifier against Pakistan, Jordan

Saudi squad announced for upcoming World Cup qualifier against Pakistan, Jordan
Updated 24 May 2024
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Saudi squad announced for upcoming World Cup qualifier against Pakistan, Jordan

Saudi squad announced for upcoming World Cup qualifier against Pakistan, Jordan
  • The Green Falcons will play Pakistan on June 6 in Islamabad and host Jordan on June 11 in Riyadh
  • A preparation camp will be held in Riyadh next Thursday, except for Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr players

RIYADH: Saudi national team boss Roberto Mancini announced the 31-player list in preparation for the fifth and sixth games of the 2026 World Cup and the 2027 Asian Cup qualifiers.

The Green Falcons will play Pakistan on June 6 in Islamabad and host Jordan on June 11 in Riyadh.

A preparation camp will be held in Riyadh next Thursday, except for Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr players, who will join their teammates on June 2, after the King’s Cup final between the two Riyadh giants.

Saudi National Team Squad for World Cup & Asian Cup Qualifiers

Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al-Owais, Ahmed Al-Kassar, Raghed Najjar, Mohammed Al-Yami, and Mohammed Al-Absi.

Defenders: Mutib Al-Harbi, Hassan Kadesh, Ali Al-Bulaihi, Aoun Al-Saluli, Ali Lagami, Hassan Al-Tumbakti, Saud Abdulhamid, and Mohammed Al-Buraik.

Midfielders: Mukhtar Ali, Abdullah Al-Khaibari, Musab Al-Juwair, Mohammed Kanno, Rayan Hamed, Sultan Al-Ghannam, Nasser Al-Dawsari, Faisal Al-Ghamdi, and Abbas Al-Hassan.

Attackers: Salem Al-Dawsari, Sami Al-Najai, Ayman Yahya, Marwan Al-Sahafi, Abdulrahman Gharib, Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, Abdullah Radif, Abdullah Al-Hamdan, and Firas Al-Burikan.

Al-Nassr’s Sultan Al-Ghannam returns to the squad after he and five other Saudi internationals were hit with punishments for disciplinary violations before the AFC Asian Cup held in Qatar.

The wing-back took to X and said he was happy to return to the squad.

“Representing the national team is an unparalleled honor. I thank those in charge of the team, including the administrative and technical bodies, and I hope that I, along with the rest of my teammates, will provide a level that is worthy of the reputation of Saudi football,” he added.


Yokohama take a 2-1 lead into the 2nd leg of the Asian Champions League final against Al-Ain

Yokohama take a 2-1 lead into the 2nd leg of the Asian Champions League final against Al-Ain
Updated 24 May 2024
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Yokohama take a 2-1 lead into the 2nd leg of the Asian Champions League final against Al-Ain

Yokohama take a 2-1 lead into the 2nd leg of the Asian Champions League final against Al-Ain
  • If the Japanese team win they will participate in the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup where they could face their English stablemate as the English team qualified for the tournament
  • Despite the first-leg lead from the opener in Japan, getting past Al-Ain won’t be easy. The 2003 Asian champions also reached the final in 2005 and 2016

DUBAI: There will be celebrations in the UAE on Saturday regardless of whether Yokohama F. Marinos can protect their 2-1 lead in the second leg of the Asian Champions League final or Al-Ain come back to take the title.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayad is not only president of UAE but has been club president of Al-Ain, based near the country’s border with Oman, since 1979.

His vice president Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed is the owner of Manchester City, the founding member of the City Football Group, a worldwide stable of 13 clubs which became a minority shareholder in Yokohama in 2014.

If the Japanese team win they will participate in the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup where they could face their English stablemate as the English team qualified for the tournament, which will be expanded from seven to 32 teams, after becoming European champions in 2023.

Despite the first-leg lead from the opener in Japan, getting past Al-Ain won’t be easy. The 2003 Asian champions also reached the final in 2005 and 2016. The second loss is still fresh in the memory and serves as motivation.

“That’s why everybody wants this trophy so bad,” Al-Ain defender Khalid Al Hashemi said on the Asian Football Confederation’s official website. “I hope from the bottom of my heart that we can give happiness to everybody in our country.”

Al-Ain, coached by former Argentina striker Hernan Crespo, took an early lead through Mohammed Al-Baloushi at the Nissan Stadium on May 11 only for two late goals from Asahi Uenaka and Kota Watanabe to give Yokohama a slender advantage.

“We lost against great opponents who played very well but we did have chances which we didn’t put away,” Crespo said. “We have another opportunity at home and I hope it will be different,” said the ex-Milan, Inter and Chelsea forward.

“What we need is a little bit more quality in front to be dangerous. We had some chances, but it wasn’t enough and that is credit to Yokohama as they didn’t give us much space.”

Neither finalist has been able to transfer strong Asian form into domestic results. Al-Ain are in third in the league, 16 points behind leader Al-Wasl. Yokohama have won the J-League five times but currently sit 13th in the standings. The Japanese team have never been in the Champions League final.

Harry Kewell has been in charge since December and the former Leeds and Liverpool winger is close to achieving something that neither of his Australian predecessors Ange Postecoglou and Kevin Muscat managed at Yokohama.

“I’ve never been afraid of a challenge and I’m going to make sure my team’s not afraid of this challenge,” Kewell said. “It’s going to be tough . . . nothing’s given for free, you have to pay for it, you have to work for it. We have to suffer if we want to pick up this title.”