Top Arab player Malek Jaziri set to face Grigor Dimitrov in Dubai

Malek Jaziri reached the quarterfinal in Dubai in 2014. (AFP)
Updated 25 February 2018

Top Arab player Malek Jaziri set to face Grigor Dimitrov in Dubai

DUBAI: Top seed Grigor Dimitrov feels he cannot afford to ease into the Dubai Championships when he faces top Arab player Malek Jaziri on Tuesday.
Dimitrov has been pitched against Malek Jaziri for the first time in his career in the round of 32 tie at the Aviation Club and knows he cannot expect an easy ride from the world No. 109.
“For sure I need to be ready,” said Dimitrov, the Australian Open quarterfinalist. “Every opponent you play, you cannot underestimate. Anyone here can come out and play unbelievable. Maybe it’s their day. On any given day they can just produce a different tennis. In a way, players have nothing to lose when they play against a higher seed. They’re a bit more loose, a bit more freely swinging. All these things are adding up to the occasion. That’s why I think you have to be ready. You should never underestimate an opponent you play.”
Jaziri is a tricky customer. He reached a career-high ranking of 47 last year and won gold at the Pan Arab Games in 2011. He reached the quarterfinals in Dubai four years ago and pushed Andy Murray in the first set of last year’s tournament before going down 6-4, 6-1. The 34-year-old will be seeking to perhaps take advantage of the fact Dimitrov has been under the weather. He is still hoarse from the virus which left him out of energy as Roger Federer dominated last week’s final in Rotterdam.
“I’m getting out there,” said Dimitrov. “It’s still been a little up and down. I came here a little bit earlier to acclimatize to the conditions. I’m still talking a little nosey here, but I’m better, overall better. Pretty much been practicing every single day. That helps me just push through days. Hopefully with each day, I’m going to be better and better.”
The world No. 4 heads the field in Dubai as Federer is absent. Federer, a seven-time winner of the event, will concentrate on his March title defenses at Indian Wells and Miami and will not make the trip this month to his winter training base in the Gulf.
“I think always these kind of draws are creating very big opportunities for everyone to do their best, to do better, to push themselves more,” said Dimitrov. “One of the most important things for me has been to really focus on myself, to start to build up again. My goal is to be better with each match. This is what I did the last week, the week before. I feel like this is the key that I really need to focus on.”


Kuol makes debut as Australia win final World Cup warmup

Updated 25 September 2022

Kuol makes debut as Australia win final World Cup warmup

AUCKLAND: Teenager Garang Kuol, who is being chased by Newcastle United, made his international debut on Sunday in Australia’s 2-0 away win over New Zealand in their final World Cup warmup.

A Mitchell Duke header and Jason Cummings’ penalty in the second half at Auckland’s Eden Park ensured Australia head to the World Cup with two straight wins over their neighbors.

Attacker Kuol, who only turned 18 in mid-September, plays for the Central Coast Mariners but is reportedly set to sign for Premier League side Newcastle United in January.

The fleet-footed teenager came on with 20 minutes left and made his case for a spot in the squad for Qatar when he prised open the New Zealand defense in the buildup to Cummings’ penalty.

“He’s a kid, he’s just turned 18. I told just to go out and enjoy himself,” said Australia coach Graham Arnold.

“I just wanted to give him the experience.

“He showed some quality when he came on, but this is just the first step for him.”

This was Australia’s last game before their opening World Cup match against reigning champions France in a Group D also containing Tunisia and Denmark.

“Overall it was a good performance, but we know the boys can do better,” added Arnold, who changed his entire starting lineup from the side which beat New Zealand 1-0 in Brisbane last Thursday.

“The first half was scrappy, but for the second half the boys really came through.”

New Zealand missed out on a place at the Qatar finals after losing a playoff to Costa Rica.

Australia initially labored against a New Zealand side fired up in front of a crowd of 34,985 watching their first men’s home international for five years.

The Eden Park surface was in impressive condition apart from the odd divot less than 24 hours after hosting a rugby Test match between New Zealand and Australia. Burly New Zealand striker Chris Wood had an early chance, but the Newcastle man was forced off after 30 minutes following a heavy challenge.

Australia squandered the best chance of a goalless first half when Duke drew New Zealand keeper Oli Sail, but Marco Tilio fluffed his shot at an open goal from six yards out. Australia raised the tempo after the break and broke the deadlock early in the second half when Connor Metcalfe floated in a cross from the left and Duke sent his header past Sail.

The visitors doubled their lead when Kuol broke down the left and squared into the middle, where Cummings’ shot was eventually blocked by a New Zealand hand. Scotland-born Cummings stepped up to drill home the penalty and seal Australia’s morale-boosting win.

It was a sad end to the international career of New Zealand captain and former West Ham defender Winston Reid, who retired after the game.

The home skipper came off with 16 minutes left to a standing ovation. “We would have liked to have done better, but it was really nice to play my last game at home,” said Reid.


Russia’s Alexandrova shines in Seoul for third title

Updated 25 September 2022

Russia’s Alexandrova shines in Seoul for third title

SEOUL: Ekaterina Alexandrova overcame nerves to win the third title of her career as she dismantled injury-hampered top seed Jelena Ostapenko 7-6 (7/4), 6-0 in the final of the Korea Open on Sunday.

The two battled to a lengthy tiebreaker after an evenly matched hour-long first set in front of more than 10,000 spectators, a record for the Seoul event.

But everything changed in the second set as Russia’s second-seeded Alexandrova dominated the former French Open champion from Latvia, who required a medical timeout at 3-0 down for a foot problem.

“I think it was tough for me to start because I was really nervous and I couldn’t find the rhythm in the first couple of games,” said Alexandrova, 27.

“But the longer we played, the better I felt on the court.

“I think maybe somewhere in the end of the first set I finally found the rhythm and I just continued to keep it that way in the second set.”

The Russian is enjoying the best season of her career, having also won the Libema Open in the Netherlands in June, and is set to rise to a career-high 21 in the world.

“You always want to achieve more,” Alexandrova added.

“I want to go higher and maybe end the year top 20 in the best-case scenario.”

Ostapenko had advanced to the Korea Open final after former US Open winner Emma Raducanu retired in the third set of their semifinal with injury.


Pakistan snatch victory from jaws of defeat, level England series 2-2

Updated 25 September 2022

Pakistan snatch victory from jaws of defeat, level England series 2-2

  • Pakistan beat England by 3 runs as Shan Masood runs out Topley in last over
  • Needing 167 runs to win, England were bundled out for 163

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan won the fourth T20 clash against England on Sunday, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in a thriller that went down to the last over before the hosts emerged victors in Karachi. 

Playing their 200th T20I, Pakistan managed to win by 3 runs, levelling the four-match series 2-2. Set a target of 167 runs to win, England were bundled out for 163 after Reece Topley was run out by Shan Masood in the last over. England needed only four runs to win at that point but had only one wicket in hand.  

Mohammad Nawaz and Haris Rauf both played their part perfectly in Pakistan’s victory, finishing up with figures of 3/35 and 3/32 respectively.  

Pakistan were cruising to victory at one point before Liam Dawson walked in and smashed Hasnain for 24 runs in the 18th over. All seemed lost for Pakistan until Rauf bowled brilliantly the next over, dismissing Dawson and Olly Stone off successive deliveries.  

Mohammad Wasim bowled the last over. Topley dashed for a run but was several inches short of his crease as Masood hit the stumps, ensuring a dramatic Pakistan victory.  

Earlier, Pakistan’s Muhammad Rizwan played another stellar innings, top-scoring with 88 runs. He shared another half-century partnership with skipper Babar Azam, who scored 36 off 28 balls.  

For England, Topley picked up two wickets while Dawson and Willey took one each. Pakistan finished at 166/4 at the end of 20 overs.


Thailand’s Atthaya grabs LPGA NW Arkansas lead

Updated 25 September 2022

Thailand’s Atthaya grabs LPGA NW Arkansas lead

  • After birdies at the first, third and fifth Atthaya picked up four shots in her last three holes

 

 

LOS ANGELES: Thai rookie Atthaya Thitikul fired an eagle and eight birdies in a 10-under par 61 on Saturday to seize the lead in the LPGA NW Arkansas Championship.

The 19-year-old chasing a second LPGA victory, had a 13-under par total of 128 and a one-stroke lead over Japan’s Yuka Saso, who carded a 6-under par 65 at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.

Former amateur No. 1 Lilia Vu carded her second straight 65 for solo third on 130 heading into the final round of the 54-hole event.

Atthaya teed off on 10 and picked up three strokes in her first nine holes.

After birdies at the first, third and fifth she picked up four shots in her last three holes.

She eagled the seventh, where her four-iron approach from 210 yards out left her two feet from the pin, and birdied the eighth and ninth.

“I think my mind was blank and just nothing there,” she said of her mindset as she picked up steam coming in. “Just hit a shot, just tap it in, putt it in, just like totally blank.”

She said she plays her best golf when she keeps her mind clear and her plan is to “keep that blank mind for tomorrow.”

The 19-year-old has plenty of experience to draw on come Sunday.

Her 11 international victories include a win in the Ladies European Thailand Championship as a 14-year-old amateur in 2017.

Since winning her first LPGA title in March she has top-10 finishes in the Women’s PGA Championship, the Evian Championship and the Women’s British Open.

“I think (I’ll) just do my best out there and I’m trying to enjoy every moment of it,” she said. “You’re not going to be in the same moment anymore so just keep trying my best.”

Saso, who was among six players sharing the overnight lead, had six birdies without a bogey and she’s hoping she can add a victory to what has been an otherwise average season.

Last year she made her first LPGA title a major when she won the US Women’s Open, but she had her last top-10 finish in January.

Nine players shared fourth place, four shots off the lead. The group included overnight co-leaders Megan Khang, Ryann O’Toole and Lee5 Jeong-eun.

But South Korean Kim Sei-young, who was also among the first-round leaders, faded with a 1-under-par 70 that featured a triple-bogey at the par-four 14th.


Portugal beat Czechs, Spain lose to Swiss in Nations League

Updated 25 September 2022

Portugal beat Czechs, Spain lose to Swiss in Nations League

  • Spain failed to disturb the Swiss in attack and their defense conceded two goals on corner kicks featuring Swiss defender Manuel Akanji

BARCELONA, Spain: Diogo Dalot helped Portugal take control of its Nations League group by scoring his first two international goals in a 4-0 rout at the Czech Republic on Saturday.

Spain blew their lead of Group A2 after flopping in a 2-1 loss to Switzerland in front of their disappointed fans in Zaragoza.

Portugal moved two points ahead of Spain before the neighbors meet in Braga on Tuesday in a winner-take-all clash to see which advances to the tournament’s final four next June.

While his Portugal rolled in Prague, Cristiano Ronaldo had a rough night, first enduring a nasty blow to his face that made his nose bleed and required a small bandage. International soccer’s all-time leading scorer with 117 goals also committed a penalty that, fortunately for him, the Czechs failed to convert with the score 2-0.

Dalot put Portugal ahead in the 33rd minute when the right back scored from a pass by Rafael Leão.

Bruno Fernandes doubled the lead in first-half injury time moments before Ronaldo was guilty of the handball inside his own area. But Patrik Schick wasted the penalty kick by sending it onto the crossbar.

Dalot put the result beyond all doubt in the 52nd with a curling shot into the corner.

Ronaldo finished with an assist for Diogo Jota to take a fourth goal in the 82nd.

Spain flops

Luis Enrique, who last year guided Spain to the semifinals of the European Championship and the final of the Nations League, is known for making unpopular decisions and sticking to them.

And, once again, he surprised by starting Marco Asensio, who has been relegated to a substitute role at club Real Madrid, as a false nine while leaving pure strikers Álvaro Morata and newcomer Borja Iglesias on the bench.

Spain failed to disturb the Swiss in attack and their defense conceded two goals on corner kicks featuring Swiss defender Manuel Akanji.

Akanji struck with a great header in the 21st when he outjumped his marker and drove the ball off the turf and into the top corner of the net.

Asensio finally managed to pick apart Switzerland’s defense in the 55th when he dribbled past four players before laying off for Jordi Alba to rifle in the equalizer.

But Switzerland hit right back three minutes later when Akanji was left unchecked at the near post to use one touch to redirect a corner kick into the six-yard box where Breel Embolo nudged it over the line.

“They said that it was easy to beat Switzerland and we have seen that is not true in the least,” Luis Enrique said. “They stopped us from playing our game, and you have to add to that our very sloppy first half. We improved in the second half, showed more precision, but just when we scored, we conceded another goal from a corner. Now we have to go to Portugal and win.”

Iglesias and 20-year-old Nico Williams debuted for Spain as substitutes. Nico’s older brother and clubmate Iñaki Williams debuted for Ghana on Friday after he changed allegiance from Spain.

Switzerland hosts the Czech Republic in St. Gallen on Tuesday to decide which avoids relegation. Switzerland has two more points than the Czechs in last place.

Portugal, Spain and Switzerland will all play in the World Cup in November.

League B

Israel were promoted from Group B2 after it beat Albania 2-1 thanks to a goal by Tai Baribo in injury time.

It is all level between Serbia and Norway atop Group B4 ahead of their game in Olso to see which joins League A.

Erling Haaland scored for Norway but Slovenia fought back for a 2-1 home win, while Serbia’s Aleksandar Mitrovic netted a hat trick to lead a 4-1 victory over Sweden in Belgrade.

Scotland remained in charge of Group B1 after edging Ireland 2-1 in Glasgow. Ukraine is two points behind after routing Armenia 5-0 before it plays the Scots in Krakow.

League C

Greece earned promotion from Group C2 despite losing to Cyprus 1-0 thanks to Northern Ireland’s 2-1 comeback win over Kosovo.

Friendlies

Senegal prepared for the World Cup by beating Bolivia 2-0 in a friendly in Orleans, France.