Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list

Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list
Eighth-seeded Ons Jabeur had gone toe-to-toe with top seed Coco Gauff before losing a one-hour 14 minute first set tiebreak 11/9 before packing her rackets in her bag and walking off. (dpa via AP)
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Updated 22 June 2024
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Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list

Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list
  • Injured stars lose their delayed quarterfinals in the Wimbledon warm-up event

BERLIN: Aryna Sabalenka and Ons Jabeur joined the procession of injured stars limping off the Berlin grass as they retired Saturday while losing their delayed quarterfinals in the Wimbledon warm-up event.
Second-seeded Belarusian Sabalenka retired against unseeded Russian Anna Kalinskaya trailing 5-1 in the first set, in one of the quarterfinals pushed back to Saturday morning by rain on Friday.
Eighth-seeded Jabeur had gone toe-to-toe with top seed Coco Gauff before losing a one-hour 14 minute first set tiebreak 11/9 before packing her rackets in her bag and walking off.
“It doesn’t feel like a win,” said Gauff on court. “Especially as we had such a great first set.”
“It’s not the way you want to finish a match, especially with someone who is so nice on and off the court.”
Gauff said the Tunisian had indicated she was not seriously injured.
“I know she’s going to feel better tomorrow and should be fine for Wimbledon.”
Trailing 4-1, Sabalenka called a medical timeout to have her shoulder and neck treated. She played on for one game before stopping. It was the first time the Belarusian had retired injured in a WTA tournament, said the women’s tennis body.
“I played really good. I had a good start. I’m happy to be in the semifinals,” Kalinskaya said. “I’m happy to have three matches (here), fourth one on grass. That gives me confidence.”
On Thursday, reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova retired with a right hip injury from her second-round match, also against Kalinskaya.
On Friday, former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina pulled out while trailing Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals.
Azarenka will play Kalinskaya in one semifinal later on Saturday.
Gauff will face compatriot Jessica Pegula who beat Czech Katerina Siniakova 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 6-3 on Saturday. The fourth-seeded American had led 4-2 in the third set when rain halted play on Friday.
Gauff said her training regime prepared her to play twice in one day.
“I’ll be ready for later today,” said Gauff.


Iga Swiatek: Clay queen targets Olympic gold

Iga Swiatek: Clay queen targets Olympic gold
Updated 36 sec ago
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Iga Swiatek: Clay queen targets Olympic gold

Iga Swiatek: Clay queen targets Olympic gold
  • The Polish world No. 1 has been dominant on the red clay of Paris, winning four of the past five tournaments
  • Swiatek has sporting pedigree — her father Tomasz represented Poland in rowing at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul

PARIS: Iga Swiatek is returning to a happy hunting ground as she seeks a first Olympic crown to add to her four French Open titles at Roland Garros.

The Polish world No. 1 has been dominant on the red clay of Paris, winning four of the past five tournaments and is unbeaten there since a quarterfinal loss to Greece’s Maria Sakkari in 2021.

The five-time Grand Slam champion, who won the US Open in 2022, is seeking to go much further than she did at the Tokyo Games in 2021, where she lost to Paula Badosa in the second round.

Swiatek, 23, has had plenty of time to prepare for the Paris Olympics after her early exit from Wimbledon, where she lost in the third round to Yulia Putintseva.

The painful defeat on the grass at the All England Club brought Swiatek’s 21-match winning streak to a shuddering halt.

She was asked afterwards how she would prepare for the Olympics in Paris.

“For sure I’m going to take a lesson and rest a bit more,” she said. “I don’t know, I feel like even though I didn’t perform well at this tournament, because of how the whole season is looking, I deserve it.

“I should literally do it better because I’m not going to be able to go through the whole season playing good tennis.”

In 2020, Swiatek announced herself to the tennis world when she won the French Open without dropping a set.

She was the first Polish player, male or female, to win a Grand Slam singles title and has dominated the event since, with her one blip coming three years ago.

Last month she beat Italy’s Jasmine Paolini in a one-sided final, becoming the fourth woman in the modern era to lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen four times after Justine Henin, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf.

The world No. 1 also completed a Madrid-Rome-Roland Garros clay treble. The only other woman in history to do it in the same season is Serena Williams.

Swiatek has sporting pedigree — her father Tomasz represented Poland in rowing at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

“Normally a small child has trouble hitting even one or two balls but she could keep it going for dozens of shots,” recalls Artur Szostaczko, her first coach.

“She was a fighter.... I knew that if it went to a super tie-break, there was no need to worry — Iga wouldn’t crack under the pressure.”

Szostaczko taught Swiatek until she was 10 years old.

She was then coached by Michal Kaznowski, who remembers that Swiatek always wanted to be treated on an equal footing with her hard-working big sister Agata.

“Iga got really mad at me because I proposed some basic drill where I would feed Agata eight balls but only six to Iga because she was younger,” he said

“That made her angry. She went to her dad and said she wants just as many as Agata.”

Swiatek will hope that determination carries her all the way to the gold medal on her favorite courts in Paris.
 


Late-night gamer Verstappen eyes redemption at Belgian Grand Prix

Late-night gamer Verstappen eyes redemption at Belgian Grand Prix
Updated 25 July 2024
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Late-night gamer Verstappen eyes redemption at Belgian Grand Prix

Late-night gamer Verstappen eyes redemption at Belgian Grand Prix

A week after ranting on the team radio in Budapest, Max Verstappen heads to the Belgian Grand Prix warned to take “nothing for granted” and advised by Red Bull to give up late-night simulation racing during race weekends.

The series leader and three-time world champion departed Hungary in a petulant mood after finishing a frustrated fifth, swearing on team radio and in post-race interviews, having gone to bed at three am before the race.

It was his and Red Bull’s third consecutive race without a win and he will need to deliver a more composed and professional performance on his preferred circuit on Sunday to avoid extending his winless run to four for the first time since 2020.

Another defeat and his commanding supremacy of the past, he won 19 of 22 races last year, will be forgotten.

“Hungary was a tricky race and a weekend to forget and move forward from,” said Dutchman Verstappen, whose combative manner did not go unnoticed.

“We have been working to optimize our performance and get the best out of the car that we possibly can.

“Spa has always been my favorite track with fast corners and lots of opportunities to overtake. The fans are also great and we get a lot of support there,” he added.

After winning the last three Belgian Grands Prix, Verstappen will be seeking to return to form with a fourth victory, but he may have to start from the back half of the grid if, as expected, Red Bull, fit his car with a fifth new engine of the season.

The limit for new power units is four, but Verstappen has proved at Spa in the past that he can overcome grid penalties when he seizes the momentum.

Born in Belgium to a Belgian mother, but grew up in the Netherlands, Verstappen always enjoys passionate backing from the local crowd and he may need it as he bids to extend his lead, trimmed to 76 points last Sunday, ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris.

Coincidentally, Norris, who was also involved in some colorful ‘team orders’ radio exchanges last Sunday, also has a Belgian mother and he will be seeking to reduce the gap further by winning on Sunday, after handing victory last weekend to his team-mate Oscar Piastri following instructions to do so.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has warned the threat from McLaren, the in-form team with the fastest car, and both Mercedes and Ferrari, could wreck their season if they cannot respond and gather points more emphatically than they have.

“We’re just going to develop the fastest car we can, and that’s what we’ll continue to do,” said Horner.

“In the drivers’ championship, obviously Max has a good lead — but that can diminish very quickly, so, nothing can be taken for granted.”

The team’s influential director Helmut Marko, a close adviser and confidante to the world champion, told speedweek.com: “We agreed that he would no longer run simulations so late in the future.”

Most attention may be focussed on the leading title contenders, but that will suit Piastri who showed commendable assurance as he claimed his maiden victory last Sunday.

“Spa’s not been the happiest of hunting grounds for us recently, but I’m confident we’ll be strong,” said the 22-year-old Australian.

“We’ve got a car that’s become a real all-rounder so I’m super confident and I think the team should be as well.”

After winning his home British race and then finishing third for Mercedes last weekend, seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton will also be a challenger on a track where he has won four times as will Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who took pole last year and won in 2019.


Moussa Diaby joins Al-Ittihad from Aston Villa

Moussa Diaby joins Al-Ittihad from Aston Villa
Updated 25 July 2024
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Moussa Diaby joins Al-Ittihad from Aston Villa

Moussa Diaby joins Al-Ittihad from Aston Villa
  • Moussa Diaby joins fellow Frenchmen Karim Benzema and Ngolo Kante in Jeddah

RIYADH: Frenchman Moussa Diaby has joined Al-Ittihad, the club announced on Thursday.
The Jeddah team posted an announcement video with the player wearing Ittihad’s black and yellow jersey.
He will join the Tigers on a five-year contract after successfully passing a medical exam in Alicante, Spain, a club statement said.
“Hello Tigers, I am here,” Diaby announces in the video, holding a vintage rotary phone.
“I am thrilled to join Al-Ittihad and be part of a project that aims to build a strong team reflecting the club’s rich history and values. I look forward to collaborating with my new teammates to achieve victories and bring joy to our dedicated fans,” said the Frenchman.
“Diaby has an impressive track record, having played in the top leagues of France, Germany, and England, where he has showcased his talent and skill as a winger,” the statement read.
Domingos Oliveira, the CEO of Ittihad, said: “Our sports committee identified the need to strengthen the winger position with an exceptional player, and we are confident that Moussa Diaby is one of the top players who stand out globally in this role.”
The 25-year-old midfielder played 54 games for English Premier League side Aston Villa, including 25 appearances last season during their impressive fourth place finish.
In Spain, the player was welcomed by the team’s sporting director, Ramon Planes, and introduced to his new teammates and the technical and administrative staff.
He joins fellow Frenchmen Karim Benzema and Ngolo Kante in the west coast city.
The left-footed Diaby, a pacy and versatile player, is not known for scoring lots of goals but his attacking threat will be an advantage for the Tigers.
Ittihad had a disappointing season last year with a fifth place finish, after winning the Saudi Pro League title a year earlier.
The Jeddah side has brought in veteran French player Laurent Blanc as coach to boost their chances against the other big three clubs in the SPL: Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr and Al-Ahli.
Ittihad are currently in pre-season training in Spain and will play Seville on Friday.


Egypt and Dominican Republic grind out goalless draw in their Paris Olympics opener

Egypt and Dominican Republic grind out goalless draw in their Paris Olympics opener
Updated 24 July 2024
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Egypt and Dominican Republic grind out goalless draw in their Paris Olympics opener

Egypt and Dominican Republic grind out goalless draw in their Paris Olympics opener
  • Peter Gonzalez has the ball in the net for the Dominicans in the 13th minute but referee disallows it for a foul on Egyptian defender Hossam Abdelmajeed
  • Egypt are competing in the Olympics football contest for the 13th time, the most of any African nation, while the Dominican Republic are making their debut

PARIS: Egypt and the Dominican Republic battled their way to a scoreless draw on Wednesday in their opening Group C match on the first day of the men’s soccer tournament at the Paris Olympics.
The Dominicans, who are playing for the first time ever in the football competition at the Games, had the ball in their opponents’ net in the 13th minute, courtesy of Peter Gonzalez, but the referee ruled it out over a foul Egyptian defender Hossam Abdelmajeed.
Both teams had chances throughout the match, which took place at Nantes’ Stade de la Beaujoire, but goalkeepers Xavier Valdez and Hamza Alaa were not to be beaten on the day. Alaa made a great save to tip away a Gonzalez free-kick in the 70th minute, and his Egyptian teammates worked hard to grab a winner late on but the Dominican defense refused to yield.
Egypt are competing in the Olympics football contest for the 13th time, the most of any African nation, but has never finished higher than fourth place, which it achieved in Amsterdam in 1928 and Tokyo in 1964. The team made reached the quarter-finals at Tokyo 2020, losing 1-0 to Brazil.
It had been hoped that Mohammed Salah might join the Egyptian side as a senior player at the Olympics but he declined to do so, opting instead to focus on Liverpool’s preseason preparations. Former Arsenal midfielder Mohammed Elneny captained Egypt.
Earlier, Spain, silver medalists in Tokyo three years ago, kicked off their Group C campaign with a 2-1 victory over Uzbekistan at the Parc des Princes. Their squad included two members of their Euro 2024-winning squad: Alex Baena and Fermin Lopez.


England’s Brook ‘won’t get ahead of myself’ after first home Test hundred

England’s Brook ‘won’t get ahead of myself’ after first home Test hundred
Updated 24 July 2024
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England’s Brook ‘won’t get ahead of myself’ after first home Test hundred

England’s Brook ‘won’t get ahead of myself’ after first home Test hundred
  • Brook’s dashing 109 helped lay foundation for England’s 241-run win over West Indies 
  • Twenty-five-year-old has five centuries now, with his first four 100s scored abroad

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom: England’s Harry Brook has no intention of letting success go to his head following a first Test century on home soil.
Brook’s dashing 109 helped lay the foundation for England’s 241-run win over the West Indies at Trent Bridge, a result that put the hosts 2-0 up in a three-match series ahead of this week’s finale at Edgbaston.
The 25-year-old Brook has now scored five Test hundreds, with his first four centuries scored abroad against Pakistan and New Zealand.
Brook’s average of 62.54 after 23 innings is the highest since Australia hero Don Bradman, widely considered to be Test cricket’s greatest batsmen, among players with over 1,000 runs in the format.
“I’ve only just started,” said Brook. “That could definitely fluctuate either way. I’ve not even played 25 innings in Test cricket yet so I won’t be getting ahead of myself.
“I’ll just keep enjoying playing Test cricket. Hopefully I can keep it that high but if not, so be it.”
At Trent Bridge, Brook shared a stand of 189 with Yorkshire team-mate Joe Root, who also scored his first Test century of the season.
Brook, whose 363 runs against Australia last year, helped draw the Ashes, said while he was glad to learn from Root, he was also determined to stay true to himself as well.
“I want to be my own batter, I want to be Harry Brook, not anybody else.”
But he added: “Rooty has just gone eighth in the all-time Test runs list, so I’d be stupid to not be tapping into his cricket knowledge.
“I was glad to get it (the hundred) on the board, being my first in England.
“I was nearly getting to the spot where I thought, ‘God, I need a hundred in England’. I didn’t get a big one in the Ashes last year, but I was happy with my performances.”
Brook withdrew from the Indian Premier League earlier this year following the death of his grandmother, having previously pulled out of England’s five-Test tour of India in January due to personal reasons. He later revealed his grandmother was “ill and didn’t have long left.”
And it was his grandmother Pauline, one of his biggest supporters, who was uppermost in Brook’s mind when he reached three figures in Nottingham.
“It was the first (century) with family there and obviously loads more English fans as well, it was a very nice moment.
“I’m not a massive celebrator at a hundred, I just try to soak it all in. I did it all for my grandma.
“As soon as I got it, it was just like, ‘Yes, a hundred’. But a couple of moments later I got a bit emotional inside, I just didn’t show it. I was thinking about her.”
England have four Tests left to play this season, with Sri Lanka arriving for a three-match campaign starting in August.
And for Brook, an in-demand multi-format player, Test cricket is still the pinnacle.
“I want to play every Test match I can for England,” he said. “Test cricket and playing for England is my priority.”