Madison Keys, Daniil Medvedev get first titles in Cincinnati

Madison Keys of the US, left frame, and Daniil Medvedev of Russia display their trophies at the Western & Southern Open in in Mason, Ohio on August 18, 2019. Keys defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia in the women's final and Medvedev beat David Goffin of Belgium in the men's final. (AFP photos)
Updated 19 August 2019
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Madison Keys, Daniil Medvedev get first titles in Cincinnati

  • Keys beat Svetlana Kuznetsova for her second title of the season and easily the biggest of her career
  • None of the Big Four — Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray — made it to the final

MASON, Ohio: Two unexpected champions embraced their first Rookwood championship trophies, concluding a week that brought more questions than clarity to the upcoming US Open.
Who’s going to be healthy on the women’s side? Will stumbles in the men’s bracket at the Western & Southern Open carry over to New York?
And are Madison Keys and Daniil Medvedev capable of carrying their newfound momentum into a Grand Slam event? After winning the biggest tournament title of their careers, they were already getting asked about how it might transfer to the bigger stage.
Keys rallied late in both sets and beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 7-6 (5) Sunday for her second title of the season and easily the biggest of her career. After flameouts in her last three tournaments and a tough draw for the week, she couldn’t imagine the outcome.
Back on the court to receive the trophy , she told the crowd: “If you told me this is where I would be a week ago, I would have laughed in your face!“
Yet there she was, back in the Top 10 on a surprising upswing heading to New York.
She’ll move up to the No. 10 ranking after a gritty showing that was typical of her week. She broke Kuznetsova to pull even in both sets at 5-5 and then pulled them out with a steady serve.
Keys hadn’t made it past the second round in her last three tournaments, including Wimbledon. Now she’s got a good feeling with her favorite Grand Slam event at hand.
“It’s definitely a great building block,” Keys said. “I want to do well in New York and have a good end to the season.”
At 34, Kuznetsova was the oldest finalist in the Western & Southern Open’s history. She beat three top-10 players in a tournament — Sloane Stephens, Karolina Pliskova and Ashleigh Barty — for the first time in her 19-year career.
The 153rd-ranked player got a late start on the season as she completed a seven-month recovery from a knee injury. In her ninth tournament of the season, she got her game together and got her best result in two years.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect to be so good at this tournament,” she said.
After what happened in Cincinnati during the week, nobody knows what to expect in the women’s bracket in New York.
Serena Williams dropped out of Cincinnati because of back spasms that also forced her to withdraw from the final in Toronto. Naomi Osaka, the defending US Open champion, withdrew from her semifinal match on Friday with discomfort in her left knee that left her worried about her condition heading to New York.
There’s some intrigue on the men’s side, too.
The bracket in Cincinnati was billed as a reunion of the Big Four — Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray back together for the first time since January. None of them made it to the final.
Nadal won the Rogers Cup last Sunday and withdrew from the Western & Southern, citing fatigue. Murray played singles for the first time since hip surgery in January and lost his opening match. Seven-time champion Federer was knocked out in the quarterfinals, and Djokovic lost to Medvedev in the semifinals with the crowd cheering him on.
The Russian thanked the crowd for its support after beat David Goffin 7-6 (3), 6-4 for his first Masters 1000 title Sunday. It was his third straight final, but the first time he’d won. Medvedev lost to Nadal on Montreal a week earlier, then went on to reach his sixth final of this season, most on the ATP tour. He’s won twice.
“To finally lift the trophy this week is an amazing feeling,” Medvedev said.
At age 23, he became the youngest Cincinnati champion since Murray at age 21 in 2008.
“Congratulations,” Goffin told him, “and I think you’re ready for New York.”


Iran assures FIFA that women can attend football qualifier

Updated 22 September 2019
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Iran assures FIFA that women can attend football qualifier

  • FIFA traveled to Iran ahead of the weekend for talks on the matter of women and football
  • The Islamic republic has barred female spectators from football and other stadiums since 1981

MILAN: FIFA has been “assured” that Iran will lift its 40-year ban and allow women to attend a World Cup qualifying game next month.

Football’s governing body wants Iran to end its ban on women entering stadiums that breaches international football statutes prohibiting discrimination.

Global attention on the ban followed the death this month of a 29-year-old activist, Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire outside a courthouse. She had been detained for dressing as a man to enter a football stadium in Tehran and faced six months in prison.

“There is women’s football in Iran but we need Iranian women as well to be able to attend the men’s game,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a speech at a conference on women’s football on Sunday. “And we need to push for that with respect but in a strong and forceful way. We cannot wait anymore.

“We have been assured, that as of the next international game of Iran, women will be allowed to enter football stadiums. This is something very important, it is 40 years that this has not happened, with a couple of exceptions, but it is important to move to the next level and to the next stage.”

FIFA sent an inspection team to Iran this week to meet government and football officials ahead of Iran’s match against Cambodia at the 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium on Oct. 10 — its first home match of the 2022 qualifying competition.

Infantino’s comments drew praise from United States outgoing coach Jill Ellis, who was at the same FIFA conference in Milan, two months after leading the American women’s team to a second successive World Cup title.

“I think it’s huge,” Ellis said. “FIFA has enough of a pull and ability to influence change and I think it’s absolutely the right thing. I mean I don’t think there should be any discrimination period and to not allow women to go see football I think is, I just can’t even wrap my brain around it in terms of it being something. I think if FIFA can influence that, I think it’s great.”