Ronnie O’Sullivan fully committed to growth of snooker in Saudi Arabia

England's Ronnie O'Sullivan reacts during his first round match against Wales' Jackson Page at the World Snooker Championship at The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. (Action Images via Reuters)
England's Ronnie O'Sullivan reacts during his first round match against Wales' Jackson Page at the World Snooker Championship at The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. (Action Images via Reuters)
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Updated 25 April 2024
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Ronnie O’Sullivan fully committed to growth of snooker in Saudi Arabia

Ronnie O’Sullivan fully committed to growth of snooker in Saudi Arabia
  • ‘I always try to support the youngsters coming through and I’ll be doing the same in Saudi Arabia,’ star says after 1st-round win at the 2024 World Championship in Sheffield
  • The 7-time world champion this month signed a 3-year partnership with Riyadh Season, and plans were announced for a snooker academy in the Kingdom bearing his name

LONDON: Snooker superstar Ronnie O’Sullivan, the hot favorite to win the 2024 World Championship that is underway in the English city of Sheffield, said he is fully committed to the development of the sport in Saudi Arabia.

The seven-time world champion this month signed a three-year partnership agreement with Riyadh Season, and plans were announced to establish a snooker academy in the country bearing his name.

Speaking after a 10-1 first-round victory over Jackson Page at The Crucible on Thursday, O’Sullivan reiterated his dedication to the development of snooker in the Kingdom and the wider Gulf region.

“I love helping grassroots snooker,” he told SportsBoom.com. “I’ve done a lot in China, previously, and I have a lot of academies out there. I always try to support the youngsters coming through and I’ll be doing the same in Saudi Arabia.

“It’s great for snooker; we need grassroots. It’s great to be a part of helping that new generation coming through.”

O’Sullivan said he is eager to work with Saudi investors to help grow snooker in the region and expand its global reach from its traditional heartland in the UK. He added that he will visit the Kingdom several times a year, even outside of tournament appearances, in his efforts to actively contribute to the expansion of the sport.

“We haven’t decided but whatever his excellency (Turki Alalshikh, chairperson of the General Entertainment Authority) wants to do, I’ll be happy to discuss anything with him.”

O’Sullivan’s enthusiasm for raising the profile the sport in the Kingdom is supported by Barry Hearn, the president of promotions company Matchroom Sport.

Hearn said O’Sullivan is the ideal person to help develop the game in previously untapped markets and will play a pivotal role in the plans for Saudi Arabia. He drew parallels with the effect British boxer Anthony Joshua has had on the development of boxing in the Kingdom.

“We’ve opened 16 gyms over there since Joshua did his first fight and we’ll be looking to open a similar amount of snooker clubs, with Ronnie as the spearhead,” he said.

Hearn also confirmed the plans to establish a dedicated Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy to help grow the sport in the region and said Matchroom will supply coaches to work there.

“The Ronnie O’Sullivan Academy will be opened this year, which will be the focal point, and we’ll be sending some of our coaches over to Saudi (Arabia) full-time,” he added.

O’Sullivan is due to take on Ryan Day on Sunday in the second round of the World Championship.


Amr Zedan clinches Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024 at Windsor

Amr Zedan clinches Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024 at Windsor
Updated 13 July 2024
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Amr Zedan clinches Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024 at Windsor

Amr Zedan clinches Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024 at Windsor
  • Saudi Polo Federation’s President Amr Zedan wins for second time in row
  • Zedan participated in the US Polo Assn team, which was led by Prince William

LONDON: The US Polo Assn team, led by the Prince of Wales, Prince William, and with the participation of the Saudi Polo Federation’s President Amr Zedan, have won the Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024.
It was Zedan’s second triumph in a row in the competition, which was held at the Guards Polo Club fields in Windsor, London, with the Japanese company Out-Sourcing Inc sponsoring the tournament.
The US Polo Assn team were crowned after drawing with the Malaysian team BP 4-4 and surpassing them on goal difference in the championship rounds.
Alongside Prince William and Zedan in the attack were Ayawat Srivaddhanaprabha, the CEO of King Power, representing Thailand, and Mark Tomlinson, representing the UK. Khaled Al-Ajmi, a board member of the SPF, and Faisal bin Dwaid, the federation’s CEO, were also present.
Zedan’s participation helped in furthering the SPF’s role in local and international social responsibility, while helping it toward its goals through participation and support in social events.
British media reports said that Prince William had taken part in the polo match to help raise more than $1.5 million for his charities. According to the UK’s royal family website, the funds raised by the match will be distributed across 11 charities and causes supported by Prince William and the Princess of Wales.


Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini

Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini
Updated 13 July 2024
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Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini

Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini
  • Her first major championship, as an unseeded player at the French Open three years ago, certainly was a surprise
  • “It’s just unreal what just happened. Definitely the best day of my tennis career — and also the best day of my life,” said Krejcikova

LONDON: Barbora Krejcikova kept insisting that nobody — not her friends, not her family, not even herself — would believe she won Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam title.
Her first major championship, as an unseeded player at the French Open three years ago, certainly was a surprise. This one, which came via a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Jasmine Paolini in the final at the All England Club on Saturday, was maybe just as unpredictable, sure, but perhaps now it’s time to recognize that these sorts of results from Krejcikova are not only possible but make perfect sense.
“It’s just unreal what just happened. Definitely the best day of my tennis career — and also the best day of my life,” said Krejcikova, a 28-year-old from the Czech Republic, who thanked her late mentor, 1998 Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna, for pushing her into professional tennis.
Even while holding her gold champion’s plate, Krejcikova described herself as “the lucky one” for getting past the seventh-seeded Paolini, who also was the runner-up at the French Open last month.
Krejcikova was only the 31st of 32 seeds at the All England Club after illness and a back injury this season limited her to a 7-9 record entering this tournament. Then came a three-setter in the first round last week, adding to the doubts.
But by the end of the fortnight, there Paolini was during the trophy ceremony, telling Krejcikova: “You play such beautiful tennis.”
Krejcikova is the eighth woman to leave Wimbledon as the champion in the past eight editions of the event. Last year’s champion also is from the Czech Republic: unseeded Marketa Vondrousova, who lost in the first round last week.
Paolini is the first woman since Serena Williams in 2016 to get to the finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same season — and the first since Venus Williams in 2002 to lose both.
Saturday’s finalists took turns being in charge.
Playing coolly and efficiently — seemingly effortlessly — Krejcikova claimed 10 of the first 11 points and quickly owned a double-break lead at 5-1.
As much as the crowd, likely because of a desire to see a more competitive contest, pulled loudly for Paolini, yelling “Forza!” (“Let’s go!”) the way she often does, or “Calma!” (“Be calm!”), Krejcikova never wavered.
She has net skills, to be sure — that’s part of why she has won seven Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, including two at Wimbledon — but Krejcikova mainly was content to stay back at the baseline, simply delivering one smooth groundstroke after another to its appointed spot and getting the better of the lengthiest exchanges.
There really was no need for anything other than Plan A in the early going in front of a Center Court crowd that included actors Tom Cruise, Kate Beckinsale and Hugh Jackman.
Paolini did try to shake things up a bit, with the occasional serve-and-volley rush forward or drop shot, but she couldn’t solve Krejcikova. Not yet, anyway.
After the lopsided first set, Paolini went to the locker room. She emerged a different player, one who no longer looked like someone burdened by residual fatigue from the longest women’s semifinal in Wimbledon history, her 2-hour, 51-minute win over Donna Vekic on Thursday.
Paolini had come back from dropping the first set in that one, so she knew she had it in her. And she began the second set against Krejcikova in style, using deep groundstrokes to grab a 3-0 advantage.
Once the match was tied at a set apiece, it was Krejcikova who left the court to try to recalibrate.
Her shots that suddenly went so awry in the match’s middle — after just four winners in the second set, she accumulated 14 in the third — were back to being crisp and clean.
“I was just telling myself to be brave,” Krejcikova said.
At 3-all in the deciding set, it was Paolini who faltered, double-faulting for the only time all afternoon to get broken.
Krejcikova then held at love for 5-3, but when she served for the championship, things got a little tougher.
She needed to save a pair of break points and required three match points to get across the finish line, winning when Paolini missed a backhand.
“Nobody believes that I got to the final. And I think nobody’s going to believe that I won Wimbledon,” Krejcikova said several minutes later. “I still cannot believe it. It’s unbelievable.”


Former France boss Laurent Blanc takes over at Saudi club Al-Ittihad

Former France boss Laurent Blanc takes over at Saudi club Al-Ittihad
Updated 13 July 2024
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Former France boss Laurent Blanc takes over at Saudi club Al-Ittihad

Former France boss Laurent Blanc takes over at Saudi club Al-Ittihad
  • Frenchman will be reunited in Jeddah with one star from his 2012 Euro squad Karim Benzema

PARIS: Former France manager Laurent Blanc has been hired as coach of Al-Ittihad, the Saudi Arabian club announced on Saturday.
Blanc, who had been out of work since being fired by Lyon last September, will be reunited in Jeddah with one star from his 2012 Euro squad Karim Benzema.
After the team finished fifth in the Saudi league last season, the 36-year-old striker, the club’s star recruit, reportedly campaigned for a French-speaking coach.
This prompted the resignation of club president Louay Nazer, who had reportedly reached an agreement with Italian Stefano Pioli, who had left AC Milan.
The Al-Ittihad squad also includes N’Golo Kante, a starter in the France team that reached the last four at the current Euros, and former Monaco and Liverpool Brazilian Fabinho.
The 58-year-old Blanc was at the heart of the France defense as they won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.
In his second season as a manager he led Bordeaux to a League 1 title. He coached France from 2010-12.
He guided Qatari-own Paris Saint-Germain to three Ligue 1 titles and five domestic cups between 2013 and 2016, had a stint in Qatar with Al-Rayyan from December 2020 to February 2022 and a painful 11 months from October 2022 when he was unable to reverse Lyon’s decline.
Al-Ittihad have not specified the length of Blanc’s contract.
He will be the club’s third coach in a year following Nuno Espirito Santo, who led the club to a ninth Saudi title in 2023, and Marcelo Gallardo.
Last season the club finished only fifth in the table, 42 points behind runaway champions Al-Hilal. They failed to qualify for the Asian Champions League.
Argentine Gallardo, who dropped the misfiring Benzema for a time, was fired in July after less than seven months in the job.


French sports minister takes a dip in the Seine ahead of Paris Olympics

French sports minister takes a dip in the Seine ahead of Paris Olympics
Updated 13 July 2024
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French sports minister takes a dip in the Seine ahead of Paris Olympics

French sports minister takes a dip in the Seine ahead of Paris Olympics
  • Oudéa-Castéra, dressed in a body suit, dove into the famous river after an initial slip and swam a few meters near the Alexandre III bridge
  • She was accompanied by Alexis Hanquinquant, the Paralympic flag bearer for France

PARIS: French sports minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra took a symbolic dip in the Seine on Saturday in a bid to ease concerns about water quality before the start of the Paris Olympics.
Oudéa-Castéra, dressed in a body suit, dove into the famous river after an initial slip and swam a few meters near the Alexandre III bridge, where the Olympic open water swimming competition will be held.
“We held our promise,” she said to BFMTV, referring to an earlier pledge to swim in the Seine before the Games begin on July 26.
She was accompanied by Alexis Hanquinquant, the Paralympic flag bearer for France.
Ever since swimming in the Seine was banned in 1923 due to pollution levels, French politicians have promised to make the river swimmable again. Former Paris mayor and later president Jacques Chirac famously vowed in 1988 that the river would be clean enough to swim in by the end of his term, a promise that went unfulfilled.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also plans to swim in the Seine to prove its cleanliness.
In February, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to take a dip, too. But he added: “I’m not going to give you the date: There’s a risk you’ll be there.”
Hanquinquant, a para-triathlete, joined Oudéa-Castéra in Saturday’s swim and experienced firsthand the conditions he will face in competition on Sept. 1.
If water quality issues arise, organizers have backup plans.


Saudi stars Mostafa Nada, Hattan Al-Saif thrill Riyadh crowd at PFL MENA 2

Saudi stars Mostafa Nada, Hattan Al-Saif thrill Riyadh crowd at PFL MENA 2
Updated 13 July 2024
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Saudi stars Mostafa Nada, Hattan Al-Saif thrill Riyadh crowd at PFL MENA 2

Saudi stars Mostafa Nada, Hattan Al-Saif thrill Riyadh crowd at PFL MENA 2
  • Saudi Arabia’s Mostafa Nada needed just a little over two minutes to knock out Abdel Rahmane Driai with a flurry of strikes
  • The inaugural PFL MENA season will continue on Sept. 20 with the PFL MENA playoffs in Jeddah

RIYADH: The Professional Fighters League hosted the second event of the inaugural PFL MENA season at The Green Halls in Riyadh on Friday.

Athletes in the lightweight and welterweight divisions took to the SmartCage looking to secure their spots in the PFL MENA playoffs taking place on Sept. 20.

In the main event, Saudi Arabia’s Mostafa Nada needed just a little over two minutes to knock out Abdel Rahmane Driai with a flurry of strikes.

In the co-main event, Mohammad Al-Aqraa punched his way into the welterweight semifinals with a dominant third-round TKO win over Youcef Ouabbas.

Earlier on the card, Jarrah Al-Selawe made quick work of Rayan Atmani in their welterweight regular season bout, winning by rear naked choke submission in the first round to move on to the semifinals.

Also in the welterweight division, Badreddine Diani defeated Amir Fazli by unanimous decision to claim his spot in the semifinals.

Mohsen Mohammadseifi put his striking power on full display as he stopped Josh Togo by TKO in the first round to advance to the lightweight semifinals.

Souhil Tahiri earned a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over Ahmed Amir in a lightweight regular season bout to secure his spot in the semifinals.

Omar El-Dafrawy put on a dominant performance against Anthony Zeidan, winning by unanimous decision and advancing to the welterweight semifinals.

In a women’s flyweight amateur showcase bout, Saudi Arabia’s Hattan Al-Saif earned her second straight TKO win, defeating Eman Baraka in the second round.

Abdullah Saleem secured his spot in the lightweight semifinals by submitting Omar Reguigui with a triangle choke in the first round.

In the first regular season lightweight bout of the night, Georges Eid outclassed Abbas Khan for three rounds to pick up a unanimous decision win and advance to the semifinals.

Kicking off the card’s action in a flyweight showcase bout, Ziyad Ayman Mokhtar showed off his grappling skills by submitting Hadi Omar Al Hussaini by rear-naked choke in the third round.

The inaugural PFL MENA season will continue on Sept. 20 with the PFL MENA playoffs in Jeddah. The event will start with the bantamweight and featherweight divisions.