Osaka fined $15K for skipping French Open media; Thiem out

Japan's Naomi Osaka returns the ball to Romania's Patricia Maria Tig during their first round match of the French open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium on May 30, 2021 in Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
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Updated 31 May 2021

Osaka fined $15K for skipping French Open media; Thiem out

  • Tennis players are required to attend news conferences if requested to do so
  • The maximum fine is not a big deal to Osaka, the world’s highest-earning female athlete

PARIS: Naomi Osaka was fined $15,000 when she skipped the news conference after her first-round victory at the French Open on Sunday — and drew a stunning warning from all four Grand Slam tournaments that she could face stiffer penalties, including disqualification or even suspension, if she continues to avoid the media.
Osaka returned to Roland Garros after sitting out the tournament last year and turned in a mistake-filled 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory over 63rd-ranked Patricia Maria Tig at Court Philippe Chatrier on Day 1. She had declared Wednesday on social media she would not speak to the press and kept that promise.
Hours later, Osaka turned to her preferred method of communication these days, tweeting: “anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable.”
Other results perhaps were more newsworthy than a straight-set win by the No. 2-ranked Osaka — US Open champion and two-time French Open runner-up Dominic Thiem’s 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 loss to 68th-ranked Pablo Andujar comes to mind — but the events that unfolded after the Japanese superstar’s match were of high interest.
Tennis players are required to attend news conferences if requested to do so. The maximum fine, of course, is not a big deal to Osaka, the world’s highest-earning female athlete thanks to endorsement contracts totaling tens of millions of dollars.
She framed the matter as a mental health issue, saying that it can create self-doubt to have to answer questions after a loss.
“She’s capable of making her own choices and obviously she will do always what’s best for her,” Tig said. “I think that’s what’s happening now.”
Other players, notably 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal and No. 1-ranked Ash Barty, have said they respect Osaka’s right to take a stance but explained that they consider speaking to reporters part of the job.
The fine was assessed by the tournament referee at Roland Garros and announced in a joint statement from the president of the French tennis federation, Gilles Moretton, and counterparts at the sport’s other majors: Tennis Australia President Jayne Hrdlicka, All England Club Chairman Ian Hewitt and US Tennis Association President Mike McNulty.
“A core element of the Grand Slam regulations is the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans and for themselves,” they said. “These interactions allow both the players and the media to share their perspective and for the players to tell their story.”
They said they understand the importance of protecting athletes’ mental health but also noted that “rules are in place to ensure all players are treated exactly the same, no matter their stature, beliefs or achievement.”
The statement said Osaka had been approached and asked to reconsider her position but there was a “lack of engagement.”
Osaka, the group of Slam leaders said, has been “advised” that “should she continue to ignore her media obligations during the tournament, she would be exposing herself to possible further Code of Conduct infringement consequences.”
Citing the rule book, the statement noted that “tougher sanctions” from “repeat violations” could include being defaulted from the tournament and “the trigger of a major offense investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions.”
Osaka’s agent did not reply to an emailed request for comment from the AP.
Her sister, Mari, wrote in a post on Reddit, which she later deleted, that Naomi was “not OK mentally” after a first-round loss this month in Rome.
“Her confidence was completely shattered and I think that everyone’s remarks and opinions have gotten to her head and she herself believed that she was bad on clay,” Mari wrote. “This isn’t true and she knows that in order to do well and have a shot at winning Roland Garros she will have to believe that she can. ... So her solution was to block everything out.”
After her win Sunday, Osaka did go ahead with the perfunctory exchange of pleasantries with an on-court French Open “interviewer” who lobs softball questions so spectators can hear something from the athletes.
The topic of Osaka’s troubles on clay arose in that chat with former player Fabrice Santoro.
“I would say it’s a work in progress,” said Osaka, who has won four Slam titles on hard courts but never been past the French Open’s third round. “Hopefully the more I play, the better it will get.”
Unlike Osaka, Thiem has shown plenty of prowess on clay, never before losing in the first round at Paris and making it as far as the final twice before losing to — who else? — Nadal in 2018 and 2019.
Andujar, who beat Roger Federer on clay in Geneva this month, had never managed to come back to win after dropping the initial two sets for a match.
Two other past Grand Slam champions exited: Svetlana Kuznetsova bowed out against two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in three sets, while Angelique Kerber was beaten in two by Anhelina Kalinina, a qualifier from Ukraine ranked 139th and making her French Open debut.
It was Kerber’s third consecutive first-round exit in Paris; she’s won each of the other Slams once apiece.
With Thiem gone, there are zero past major champions on the bottom half of the men’s draw. There are four on the top: Nadal, Federer, Novak Djokovic — with a combined 58 Slam trophies — and Marin Cilic, with one.
One man who could take advantage of the lopsided nature of the bracket is No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev, the runner-up to Thiem at Flushing Meadows last September. Zverev did not look ready to contend for much of anything Sunday, however, needing a comeback of his own from two sets down to get past 152nd-ranked qualifier Oscar Otte 3-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-0.
Zverev acknowledged he stepped on court Sunday aware — maybe too aware — of his good friend Thiem’s surprising loss.
“You try to focus on yourself. You try to not pay too much attention. But you do know the draw. You know who is where. You know that Dominic is one of the best clay-court players, especially here, one of the toughest opponents you can have. And then he’s out,” Zverev said.
“It does affect you a little bit,” he said. “Maybe that was part of the reason why I was a little bit nervous in the beginning.” ___
Leicester reported from Paris, Dampf reported from Rome. AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich contributed from Washington.


Pope, Trippier help Newcastle grind out 0-0 draw at Brighton

Updated 20 sec ago

Pope, Trippier help Newcastle grind out 0-0 draw at Brighton

BRIGHTON, England: Nick Pope conjured two fine saves and Kieran Trippier made a goal-line clearance as Newcastle’s two England internationals helped the team grind out a 0-0 draw at Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday.
Pope racked up a second straight clean sheet since joining Newcastle from relegated Burnley, thwarting both Adam Lallana and Solly March at the Amex Stadium.
March thought he had scored with a low shot through a crowd of players in the first half, only for Trippier to clear off the line at the very last opportunity.
Brighton midfielder Pascal Gross then turned the ball the wrong side of the post near the end, after Kaoru Mitoma’s neat cutback.
Newcastle struggled for clear openings despite high endeavor in searing heat, with both teams still unbeaten after two Premier League outings. Newcastle opened with a win over Nottingham Forest and Brighton won at Manchester United.
Brighton increased their domination the longer the match wore on, but Graham Potter’s team was unable to strike again after last weekend’s 2-1 victory at United.

Manchester City earn second win by thrashing Bournemouth 4-0 in Premier League

Updated 35 min 36 sec ago

Manchester City earn second win by thrashing Bournemouth 4-0 in Premier League

  • Haaland was mostly crowded out by Bournemouth who sat deep with plenty of men behind the ball in a match that resembled an attack vs. defense training exercise

MANCHESTER: Erling Haaland might not hog all of Manchester City’s goals this season, after all.
Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden were City’s scorers — along with an own-goal — in a 4-0 win over Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday, with Haaland barely getting a sight on goal at Etihad Stadium.
The Norway striker scored both of City’s goals in their opening-weekend 2-0 win at West Ham but was mostly crowded out a week later as Bournemouth sat deep with plenty of men behind the ball in a match that resembled an attack vs. defense training exercise.
City’s midfielders reaped the benefits of the extra focus on Haaland.
Gundogan’s goal did involve City’s new star striker, with Haaland holding off his marker with his back to goal and clipping a ball through to the Germany midfielder. Gundogan’s left-footed finish found the bottom corner in the 19th for his 50th goal for City.
De Bruyne scored the pick of the goals, the playmaker cutting inside on a counterattack led by Foden in the 31st, beating a defender and bending his shot with the outside of his right foot into the far corner.
De Bruyne returned the favor for Foden six minutes later, slipping a brilliant pass through the legs of a defender and into the path of his teammate, who took a touch and fired in a deflected shot that beat goalkeeper Mark Travers.
Haaland’s best chance fell in the 73rd when he mishit a first-time shot wide from Jack Grealish’s cut-back. The striker was substituted moments later.
The scoring was completed by Jefferson Lerma, who unwittingly turned a cross from Joao Cancelo into his own net from inside Bournemouth’s six-yard box.
It was a wake-up call for Bournemouth after the promoted team started the season with a surprisingly comfortable 2-0 win over Aston Villa last weekend.
City manager Pep Guardiola again chose to start with Bernardo Silva on the bench. The Portugal midfielder has been linked with a move to Barcelona and didn’t start against West Ham, either.


Barcelona sells more assets to clear Lewandowski for opener

Updated 13 August 2022

Barcelona sells more assets to clear Lewandowski for opener

  • The troubled Spanish club were only able to ensure that their star signing will be available against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday
  • They sold 24.5% of their Barça Studios production hub to Orpheus Media in a deal worth $103 million

BARCELONA, Spain: Working against the clock, Barcelona sold off even more of their club assets on Friday so they could meet the Spanish league’s financial rules and clear Robert Lewandowski and other summer signings to play in their season opener.
The troubled Spanish club were only able to ensure that their star signing will be available against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday after they sold 24.5 percent of their Barça Studios production hub to Orpheus Media in a deal worth 100 million euros ($103 million).
That improved their financial balance enough to satisfy the Spanish league, which added Lewandowski and fellow newcomers Raphinha, Franck Kessié and Andreas Christensen as well as the recently renewed Ousmane Dembélé and Sergi Roberto to their list of eligible players.
But, by late Friday, the league had yet to declare eligible France defender Jules Koundé, who arrived to Barcelona from Sevilla last month. The club will still need to reduce their current salary load by selling one or more current players to register Koundé.
Last month Barcelona sold an initial 25 percent stake in their production hub to Socios.com, a blockchain provider, for another 100 million euros as well as 25 percent of their Spanish league television rights for the next 25 years for nearly 670 million euros ($689 million).
All told, the heavily indebted Catalan club has mortgaged their future for 870 million euros ($895 million) to sign Lewandowski, Raphinha and Koundé for a combined 160 million euros ($165 million). Kessié and Christensen arrived as free agents.
But the Spanish league has strict financial requirements that limit the amount clubs can spend on players’ salaries and transfers based on the clubs’ financial health. Despite efforts to reduce costs and pay down their debt, Barcelona still hold 1 billion euros ($1 billion) in debt and has seen their salary cap slashed by the league in recent seasons.
Earlier on Friday, coach Xavi Hernández said he was “optimistic” that he can have his new players available for the first game of the season.
“Everyone at the club is very optimistic,” Xavi said. “We have until two hours before the match.”
The club are also pushing to sell players with big salaries like Frenkie de Jong or players unwanted by Xavi such as Samuel Umtiti and Martin Braithwaite.
Orpheus Media is run by Catalan businessman Jaume Roures, the owner of Mediapro, a major television company involved in Spanish soccer but whose 2020 broadcast rights deal for the French league collapsed. Roures was a major financial backer of Barcelona club president Joan Laporta when he returned to run the financially troubled club in 2021.
Roures said on Friday that he was not sure if the money he paid Barcelona would be sufficient.
“The league won’t have any problems with this operation,” Roures told Cadena SER radio. “If the 100 million euros are enough, I don’t know. If it isn’t, the (necessary) amount must be close to that.”
Xavi also said that Barcelona may not be done signing new players, but that any arrivals would have to come after current players were sold. Barcelona are linked to interest in Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso, who would provide competition for Jordi Alba at left back.
Laporta at least was able to avoid the embarrassment of having Lewandowski watching from the Camp Nou stands on Saturday.


Ancelotti ‘surprised’ by Kroos absence from Ballon d’Or nominees

Updated 13 August 2022

Ancelotti ‘surprised’ by Kroos absence from Ballon d’Or nominees

  • New signing Antonio Rudiger is also on the list but there was no room for the German midfielder Kroos
  • "It surprises me a bit, because Kroos had a fantastic season," quipped Ancelotti in a press conference

MADRID: Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti on Saturday said he was surprised that German midfielder Toni Kroos did not feature on the list of 30 finalists for the Ballon d’Or.
Five members of the Champions League winning side were nominated on Friday in the shape of Thibault Cortois, Casemiro, Luka Modric, Vinicius Junior and favorite Karim Benzema.
New signing Antonio Rudiger is also on the list but there was no room for the German midfielder Kroos.
“It surprises me a bit, because Kroos had a fantastic season... But it’s true that it could be a problem if we named all the Real Madrid players, I can understand that,” quipped Ancelotti in a press conference ahead of Madrid’s Liga opener at Almeria on Sunday.
“But (Federico) Valverde, (Eder) Militao, (David) Alaba... all deserve to be there.
“All of them had a fantastic season. I’m not talking about winning the Ballon d’Or, but they deserve to be on the list.”
Ancelotti was particularly pleased with the inclusion of Brazilian forward Vinicius on the 30-strong list of nominees.
“He scored the winning goal in our 14th Champions League, he had an incredible season,” said the Italian.
“He doesn’t care if he finishes fourth or second. For the players, only victory matters. He will do better in the future. But unfortunately for Vini, this season, we already have the winner with us.”
Ancelotti was in little doubt, it seems, that French striker Benzema, who is hotly tipped to succeed would walk away with the award.
The Ballon d’Or will be awarded on October 17.
Real Madrid will kick off the defense of their La Liga title at newly-promoted Almería.
“We are feeling good, we have all the hope in the world as we start this season,” said Ancelotti, adding that “each game will be very difficult, starting tomorrow.”


‘Game-changer’ Bynoe-Gittens propels Dortmund to comeback win over Freiburg

Updated 13 August 2022

‘Game-changer’ Bynoe-Gittens propels Dortmund to comeback win over Freiburg

  • The visitors dominated the early stages, with Anthony Modeste — playing in his first game for Dortmund just days after transferring from FC Cologne — striking up an immediate partnership with captain Marco Reus

BERLIN: Eighteen-year-old Englishman Jamie Bynoe-Gittens scored one and created another as Borussia Dortmund came back to defeat Freiburg 3-1 on Friday with all their goals coming in the last 13 minutes of the game.

With the game drifting toward defeat, Dortmund were again able to rely on their young brigade, with Bynoe-Gittens and 17-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko scoring two quick goals to see the visitors pick up a valuable three points in their quest for a sixth Bundesliga title.

Dortmund manager Edin Terzic lauded his side’s depth and praised “game-changer” Bynoe-Gittens.

“With him, it’s pretty simple — he’s got the skills to decide games,” said Terzic.

“He’s a game-changer and (I told him when he came on) I wanted to see that from him.

“We fought back, scored three goals through three substitutes and showed how good the squad is.”

The visitors dominated the early stages, with Anthony Modeste — playing in his first game for Dortmund just days after transferring from FC Cologne — striking up an immediate partnership with captain Marco Reus.

Reus teed up Modeste to run into the left side of the penalty box in the 20th minute, forcing Freiburg keeper Mark Flekken into a save.

Modeste also had a chance right in front in the 32nd minute after superb one touch football from Jude Bellingham and Raphael Guerreiro, but the Portuguese’s cross was inches too high.

As if stunned into action, Freiburg then flipped a switch, building pressure on a suddenly shaky Dortmund defense.

Roland Sallai won a free kick on the edge of the box with 33 minutes played.

Dead-ball specialist Vincenzo Grifo stepped up to force a fingertip save from Gregor Kobel in goal.

Freiburg took the lead minutes later, when former Dortmund defender Matthias Ginter found Michael Gregoritsch who deftly drifted a header over Kobel and into the top right corner of the goal.

Terzic turned to youth halfway through the second half, bringing on Bynoe-Gittens and Moukoko to introduce some potency to Dortmund’s attack.

Known more for his dribbling and assists, the Englishman equalized with a stunning strike from outside the box.

While his shot was helped by a poor attempted save from Freiburg keeper Mark Flekken, the goal spurred Bynoe-Gittens and Dortmund into action

The former Manchester City academy player had a chance to put his side in front after 82 minutes, but was unable to control a sharp Marius Wolf pass with the goal begging.

He then set up Dortmund’s second just a minute later when he slalomed past several Freiburg defenders on the edge of the area before delivering a no-look pass to Julian Brandt.

Brandt, who had also been brought on by Terzic in the second half, found Moukoko in the box, with the teenager whipping in from close range.

Wolf, another who was subbed on in the second half, then put the result beyond doubt in the 88th minute, striking powerfully across goalkeeper Flekken and into the bottom left corner of the net.

The game was manager Terzic’s ninth win in a row in charge of Dortmund, breaking a record set by former mentor Juergen Klopp a decade ago.

The loss continues a poor run of home form for Freiburg recently, with the Breisgauer now conceding 16 goals in their last six games at Europa Park Stadium.

Despite the loss, Freiburg manager Christian Streich said he was impressed by his side’s “unlucky” performance.

“We played a good game, I’m satisfied,” he said.

“Ultimately we lost, it’s a shame... but it doesn’t achieve anything to think we were unlucky to lose the game.”