Barty survives as French Open reels from Osaka shockwave

Australia's Ashleigh Barty serves to United States's Bernarda Pera during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 1, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 02 June 2021

Barty survives as French Open reels from Osaka shockwave

  • The Australian had arrived on court with a heavy strapping on her leg having also suffered a tournament-ending abdomen injury in Rome two weeks ago

PARIS: World No. 1  Ashleigh Barty survived a French Open scare on Tuesday as the fallout from Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal and revelations over depression and anxiety sent shockwaves through Roland Garros.

Top seed Barty marked her return to Paris for the first time since her 2019 title triumph by beating American southpaw Bernarda Pera 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

Barty, 25, skipped the defense of her title in 2020 due to the pandemic but this year has won trophies at the Yarra Valley Classic, Miami and on clay in Stuttgart in the run-up to Roland Garros.

After easing through the first set on Court Philippe Chatrier, Barty went off the boil in the second and called for the trainer at the changeover.

The Australian had arrived on court with a heavy strapping on her leg having also suffered a tournament-ending abdomen injury in Rome two weeks ago.

However, she broke the 70th-ranked Pera for a 4-2 lead in the decider and never looked back.

Meanwhile, the fallout from Osaka’s withdrawal continued to be felt. The 23-year-old world No. 2, and four-time major winner, pulled out on Monday after she was fined $15,000 and threatened with disqualification for refusing to attend press conferences.

Osaka claims traditional post-match media conferences are akin to “kicking people when they’re down” and were having a detrimental effect on her mental health.

She revealed she had been suffering bouts of depression since her 2018 US Open title breakthrough as well as anxiety attacks.

Her decision attracted widespread sympathy and accusations over the role of the media in the affair.

“There’s a sense of voyeurism around how it presently works,” wrote Peter Terry, a professor of psychology at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia on theconversation.com.

“Perhaps some want to see athletes crumble and break down into tears, having put them on a pedestal.

“Osaka is a young, introverted, anxious person. We should by now understand that sports stars are not super human, that they have the same doubts and mental health issues as everyone else.”

Ironically, another Roland Garros press conference led Tuesday to the injury-enforced withdrawal of two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

The Czech 11th seed, a Roland Garros semi-finalist in 2012 and 2020, had saved a match point in her first-round win over Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen on Sunday.

“It is with great disappointment that I announce my withdrawal from Roland Garros,” said the 31-year-old.

“During my post-match press requirements on Sunday I fell and hurt my ankle. Unfortunately, after an MRI and much discussion with my team, I have made the tough decision that it would be unwise to play on it.”

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina recovered from a 2-5 second set deficit to beat French teenager Oceane Babel 6-2, 7-5.

Svitolina, a three-time quarter-finalist in Paris, will face world No. 75 Ann Li of the US for a place in the last 32.

Li marked her French Open debut with a 45-minute 6-0, 6-1 demolition of Margarita Gasparyan.

Svitolina said she hoped to see Osaka back on tour.

“She made her decision, and I wish her a speedy recovery because it seems like it really damaged her mentally,” said the Ukrainian.

Later Tuesday, 13-time champion Rafael Nadal begins his bid for a record-setting 21st major against Australia’s Alexei Popyrin.


Morocco fire coach Halilhodzic ahead of World Cup

Updated 11 August 2022

Morocco fire coach Halilhodzic ahead of World Cup

  • The fall-out appears to have come over Halilhodzic's handling of two of his star players
  • He sidelined Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech and Noussair Mazraoui of Ajax for disciplinary reasons

RABAT: World Cup qualifiers Morocco have split with coach Vahid Halilhodzic three months ahead of the finals in Qatar.
The fall-out appears to have come over Halilhodzic’s handling of two of his star players.
He sidelined Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and Noussair Mazraoui of Ajax for disciplinary reasons and qualified for the World Cup without them, but it seems the federation wanted them back.
“We came to an amiable agreement to part ways due to divergences on preparations for the World Cup,” the Moroccan federation said.
Neither Ziyech and Mazraoui were part of the squad that reached the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon in January and Halilhodzic omitted both from the World Cup qualifying play-off matches against the Democratic Republic of Congo in March.
The World Cup starts November 20 in Qatar where Morocco take on Croatia, Belgium and Canada in Group F.
Halilhodzi has previously qualified for the World Cup finals with Ivory Coast and Japan.


Norwegian woman climber on track to break 'super peaks' record

Updated 11 August 2022

Norwegian woman climber on track to break 'super peaks' record

  • Kristin Harila successfully summit Pakistan's Gasherbrum I on Thursday  
  • Pakistan has enjoyed a record-breaking climbing season this year

ISLAMABAD: Norwegian climber Kristin Harila has just three mountains left in her bid to climb the world's 14 "super peaks" in record time after successfully summiting Pakistan's Gasherbrum I, officials said Thursday.
Nepali Nirmal Purja holds the record for climbing the world's 8,000 meter-plus (26,000 feet) mountains -- six months and six days -- but Harila now has until early November to complete her quest and beat his time.
Harila's latest successful summit was reported on her official social media pages and confirmed by Karrar Hadri, secretary of Pakistan's Alpine Club.
"The second phase in Pakistan was very challenging and dangerous: ever-changing weather conditions, being hit by a rock, illness and a very tight schedule," read a message on Harila's Instagram page.
"But here we are with only three peaks left."
Five of the 14 super peaks are in Pakistan -- including K2, the world's second highest mountain -- and the country has enjoyed a record-breaking climbing season this year.
Sajid Hussain, head of the tourism department in Gilgit Baltistan, told AFP they had issued about 1,780 permits for the top peaks.
"It has boosted our tourism and has increased our foreign exchange," he said.
Only around 40 people in history have summited all 14 of the super peaks, but none have come close to Purja's 2019 expedition.
He demolished the previous record for accomplishing the feat with supplemental oxygen, set by Poland's Jerzy Kukuczka in the 1980s at seven years, 11 months and 14 days.
In an interview with AFP earlier this year, 36-year-old Harila said she was inspired to show women were as capable as men of achieving great mountaineering feats.
"In history and until now, it has been the strong macho men going out climbing mountains," she said.
"When I talk to people that are not in this sport, they believe that men are more capable than women... If we are going to change, we need to get attention and show that women are just as capable."
The three remaining mountains for Harila are Cho Oyu (sixth highest, in Nepal/China), Manaslu (eighth, Nepal) and Shishapangma (14th, China). 


Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

Updated 11 August 2022

Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

HELSINKI: This time, there were only two goals.
David Alaba and Karim Benzema scored in each half for Real Madrid to win the UEFA Super Cup with a 2-0 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday.
Alaba prodded the opener home from close range in the 37th minute when Casemiro cushioned Benzema’s header back after a corner. The French star then sealed Madrid’s record-equaling fifth Super Cup title in the 65th thanks to an assist from the lively Vinícius Júnior.
It was Benzema’s 324th goal for Madrid, overtaking club legend Raúl. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has more after scoring 450 goals for the club between 2009-18.
But the game between the Champions League winners, Madrid, and Europa League champions, Frankfurt, failed to match the spectacle of their previous meeting.
Their only other competitive game was the 1960 European Cup final, when Alfredo Di Stéfano scored three goals and Ferenc Puskás chipped in with four to give Madrid a 7-3 win and fifth consecutive European crown.
Frankfurt goal-scorer Erwin Stein and teammate Dieter Stinka were in Helsinki for the rematch 62 years later, but it was the 93-year-old José Santamaria — the only remaining Madrid player from that final in Glasgow — who celebrated another win. The three veterans embraced warmly when they met before kickoff.


Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia

Updated 10 August 2022

Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia

  • New centers will be in Jouf, Hail, Al-Hudud Ash Shamaliyah and Al-Baha

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation is set to establish four new regional associations to help promote the sport across the Kingdom.

The federation told Arab News on Wednesday that is has 15 official associations representing the sport in nine regions, but aims to establish new associations in the remaining four regions “to make sure that we have future cricket activities all around the Kingdom.”

The long-term aim is for Saudi Arabian cricket teams to compete professionally at regional and international competitions, with the national teams taking on world’s best.

In recent years, the SACF has introduced several competitions and programs to encourage the country’s youth to take up one of the world’s oldest and most popular sports.

In October 2021, it signed an agreement with sports management company JSW Sports to develop cricket in Saudi Arabia, focusing on high-performance academies.

The SACF was established in 2020 and lined up a series of major initiatives the following year, including a national cricket championship, a corporate cricket tournament, a cricket league for expatriate workers, and a social program in several cities.

The initiatives are part of a mission to promote healthy and active lifestyles under the Saudi Vision 2030’s Quality of Life scheme, with the SACF — supported by the Ministry of Sports and Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee — mandated to increase physical activity levels by 40 percent over the next decade.

In November, the SACF partnered with Saudi’s Sports For All Federation to launch the Kingdom’s first cricket talent-spotting program.

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Zamalek president jailed for insulting rival

Updated 10 August 2022

Zamalek president jailed for insulting rival

  • Al-Ahly and Zamalek are historic rivals whose fans regularly clash after matches
  • Zamalek boss, Mortada Mansour, was initially sentenced to one year in prison for insulting Mahmoud al-Khatib, president of Al-Ahly

CAIRO: An Egyptian appeals court has sentenced the president of Zamalek football club to a month in prison for insulting the president of bitter rivals Al-Ahly, a judicial source told AFP on Wednesday.
Al-Ahly and Zamalek, the country’s two biggest clubs and among the continent’s most successful, are historic rivals whose fans regularly clash after matches.
The 70-year-old Zamalek boss, Mortada Mansour, was initially sentenced to one year in prison for insulting Mahmoud Al-Khatib, president of Al-Ahly and a former star player, and his family in a video posted on social networks and on Zamalek’s club channel.
On Wednesday, Mansour’s sentence was reduced to one month in prison and a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (500 euros).
A former magistrate and member of parliament, Mansour is regularly in the news. He has had a long-running battle with Al-Ahly and has physically attack his counterparts.
His parliamentary immunity had for a while enabled him to avoid legal proceedings after complaints of insults and defamation.
In 2007, he was sentenced to three years in jail by a criminal court in Cairo for “insulting” court officials and levelling accusations of corruption against them.

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