Djokovic ready to face ‘biggest rival’ Nadal for 58th time

Serbia's Novak Djokovic, left, and Spain's Rafael Nadal all set for their "great battle” on Friday in the French French Open tennis tournament in Paris. (AP/Reuters photos)
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Updated 10 June 2021
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Djokovic ready to face ‘biggest rival’ Nadal for 58th time

  • Djokovic secured the eagerly-awaited clash after beating Italy’s Matteo Berrettini
  • Nadal beat Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman to make the semifinals for the 14th time

PARIS: Novak Djokovic said facing Rafael Nadal for the 58th time on Friday, with a place in the French Open final on the line, will be “a great battle” against his “biggest ever rival.”
Djokovic secured the eagerly-awaited clash when he reached his 40th Grand Slam semifinal with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5 win over Italy’s Matteo Berrettini.
It will be his 11th appearance in the last-four in Paris where he was champion in 2016.
Nadal, the 13-time winner, beat Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 to make the semifinals for the 14th time.
He will be playing in his 35th Slam semi.
“I’ll probably pick Rafa as the biggest rival I’ve ever had in my career,” said world number one Djokovic.
“The anticipation for the match against him, any match, any surface, any occasion, is always different from any other.
“Let’s have a great battle.”
Although Djokovic has the edge at 29-28 in their overall rivalry stretching back 15 years, Nadal enjoys a 7-1 record in their French Open meetings and is 19-7 overall on clay.
Djokovic’s last win over the Spanish star on a clay court was in Rome five years ago.
Nadal’s record in Paris now stands at 105 wins against just two losses.
One of those defeats, however, was at the hands of Djokovic in 2015.

With Djokovic’s quarter-final extending beyond the national 11pm curfew, play was halted for around 20 minutes at 3-2 in the fourth set so that 5,000 fans could be funnelled out of Court Philippe Chatrier.
Djokovic eventually claimed the match on a third match point in the 12th game but only after he kicked out at an advertising board in frustration at missing the first two.
His scream into the humid night air told of his relief as his bid to win a 19th Grand Slam and be the first man in more than 50 years to claim all four majors twice stayed on course.
“It was a release of all the emotions I had kept inside me,” said Djokovic who hit 44 winners and saved all three break points he faced against the Italian.
“After all the fans left and the little break it wasn’t easy to find rhythm. It was really a very difficult match for me.”
He added: “It was a great battle against a player who serves well and is powerful. Maybe I could have finished on the tie break, but I’m happy to have won.”
Nadal also has a landmark in view in Paris.
If he gets to Sunday’s final and wins, he would secure a record-setting 21st major, edging ahead of Roger Federer in the all-time race.
Wednesday’s night session was the 10th and last at this year’s tournament but was the first to allow in fans after the 9pm Covid-19 curfew was pushed back to 11pm.
The previous nine sessions were played in an empty Court Philippe Chatrier, not a good look for streaming giant Amazon who had secured the broadcast rights.
“I thought the atmosphere was Davis Cup like, to be honest,” said Djokovic.
“It was a lot of fans involved, every single point cheering, screaming. Just electric atmosphere out there.
“I’m happy that I had that experience of playing in front of the crowd in the night session.”


US tops medal tally in World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships in Riyadh

Updated 44 sec ago
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US tops medal tally in World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships in Riyadh

  • More than 1,700 athletes represented over 100 countries
  • US first with 11 medals, Italy second with 14, France third with 6

RIYADH: American fencers won 11 medals to top the table of medal winners at the World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships, which concluded in Riyadh on Saturday.
Sheikh Salem Al-Qasimi, president of the Asian and Arab Fencing Federations, and Abdul Muneim Al-Husseini, vice president of the International Fencing Federation, crowned the winners on the final day of the championships held in King Saud University’s Arena Hall.
More than 1,700 athletes represented over 100 countries during the competition, which took place on April 12-20.
The US team won the gold medal in the Sabre (team) under 20, defeating Romania who won silver, while Italy won bronze.
Lamia Al-Fawzan, a member of the Saudi Fencing Federation board, and Ahmed Al-Sabaan, president of the Saudi Fencing Federation, awarded the winners of the Sabre (female teams) under 20. France won gold after beating Italy, while Hungary won bronze.
Al-Sabaan presented the championships’ flag to the representative of China as the upcoming hosts of the 2025 edition.
American fencers won four gold medals, two silver medals and five bronze medals. Italy came second on the table of medalists with 14 medals — two gold, five silver and seven bronze. France ranked third with six medals — two gold, one silver and three bronze.
The organizing committee honored the participating sponsors: MOTUS, Al-Arabiya, Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Hospital, Gormet, Nova, and the Hadaya Alam Association.


Silva strikes late as Man City sink Chelsea to reach FA Cup final

Updated 20 April 2024
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Silva strikes late as Man City sink Chelsea to reach FA Cup final

  • Pep Guardiola’s side were second best for long periods of the semifinal
  • Chelsea wasted a string of chances before Silva delivered the knockout blow six minutes from full-time

LONDON: Bernardo Silva fired Manchester City back into the FA Cup final as the Portugal midfielder’s late strike sealed the holders’ 1-0 win against Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s side were second best for long periods of the semifinal, but Chelsea wasted a string of chances before Silva delivered the knockout blow six minutes from full-time.
Shaken by their Champions League quarter-final loss against Real Madrid on penalties in midweek, City took a while to shake off the gloom from the end of their treble bid.
They were hampered by the absence of Norway striker Erling Haaland after he suffered a knock against Real, with Julian Alvarez unable to make an impact as his replacement.
City were bailed out by Chelsea striker Nicolas Jackson’s profligacy and Guardiola will hope the hard-fought success provides a timely lift as they chase a Premier League and FA Cup double.
City face Manchester United or Coventry, who meet on Sunday, in the final on May 25 and will retain the Premier League title if they win their last six games.
It will be City’s 13th final in the competition and potentially a repeat of last year’s 2-1 win over United in the Wembley Manchester derby.
Beaten by Liverpool in the League Cup final in February, Chelsea’s wait to win their first domestic trophy since the 2018 FA Cup goes on for another season.
It was a bitter blow for Blues boss Mauricio Pochettino, who has endured a difficult first season in charge and remains without silverware in England.
The semifinal was billed as in-form Chelsea forward Cole Palmer’s chance to punish his old club for selling him to the Blues in September.
Guardiola said Palmer was asking to leave City for two years before he eventually joined Chelsea, where he has scored 23 goals in all competitions this, including 11 in his last six games.
Palmer, who scored four times in Monday’s 6-0 rout of Everton, was a constant threat for Chelsea, but ultimately it was his team’s lack of killer instinct that proved decisive.
Palmer’s pin-point pass sent Jackson racing into the City area early on, but his strike lacked the accuracy to beat Stefan Ortega in a miss that foreshadowed Chelsea’s fate.
Jackson wasted a golden opportunity to give Chelsea the goal their dominance deserved.
Enzo Fernandez’s pass split the City defense, but Jackson opted to go around Ortega rather than shoot and the chance was gone as Nathan Ake scurried back to clear.
Playing with more purpose and quality than City, Pochettino’s team threatened again as Palmer cleverly shimmied past Rodri for a low drive from 12 yards that was well saved by Ortega.
It was the first time lethargic City had failed to muster a first half shot on target since a game against Everton in February.
Jackson, in the midst of a terrible debut season, was put clean through on goal by Conor Gallagher immediately after the interval.
But the much-maligned striker’s shot was palmed away by Ortega, who clawed away a close-range header from Jackson seconds later.
City finally tested Djordje Petrovic through Phil Foden’s snap-shot, but the Serbian was equal to his powerful strike.
Chelsea appealed in vain for a penalty when Jack Grealish’s arm blocked Palmer’s free-kick, while Moises Caicedo was fortunate to escape a second booking for a crunching tackle that forced Grealish to limp off.
Grealish’s replacement Jeremy Doku drew an immediate save from Petrovic with a near-post blast.
Doku’s presence lifted City and the Belgian played a part as they stole the victory in the 84th minute.
Advancing with intent toward the Chelsea area, Doku slipped a pass to Kevin de Bruyne, whose low cross was pushed out by Petrovic to Silva for a close-range finish that deflected home as Guardiola punched the air in relief.


Mueller bags brace, Kane hits goal 33 as Bayern thump Union

Updated 20 April 2024
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Mueller bags brace, Kane hits goal 33 as Bayern thump Union

  • Just a week after Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen broke Bayern’s 11-year title run, the visitors were dominant and clinical in the German capital
  • Mueller, playing his 470th Bundesliga game for Bayern, scored both of his goals in the second half, either side of a strike from Tel

BERLIN: Harry Kane claimed his 33rd league goal of the season and Thomas Mueller scored twice as Bayern Munich hammered Union Berlin 5-1 away in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
Just a week after Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen broke Bayern’s 11-year title run, the visitors were dominant and clinical in the German capital.
Kane blasted in an excellent free-kick and laid on a second-half goal for Mathys Tel and has now 51 goal involvements in all competitions this season, his best-ever mark.
In the Bundesliga, the England captain is eight shy of Robert Lewandowski’s single season record with four games remaining.
Bayern rested star attacking midfielder Jamal Musiala after Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Arsenal sent them through to the final four of the Champions League but they had no difficulty creating chances against the Union defense.
Handed a rare start, French teenager Tel set up Leon Goretzka’s 29th-minute opener, with Kane scoring a superb free-kick in first-half stoppage time.
Mueller, playing his 470th Bundesliga game for Bayern, scored both of his goals in the second half, either side of a strike from Tel.
Union, who faced Real Madrid and Napoli in the Champions League this season, pulled one back late through Yorbe Vertessen, have now won just one of their past eight and sit three points clear of the relegation places.
Earlier , RB Leipzig tightened their grip on fourth place, the final guaranteed Champions League spot, with a 2-1 win at Heidenheim as Lois Openda scored his 23rd goal of the season.
Leipzig striker Benjamin Sesko opened the scoring shortly before half-time, pouncing on some disorganized defending from the home side for his 10th league goal this term.
Heidenheim, who have beaten Bayern Munich and drawn with Dortmund twice in their first season in the top division, struck back with 20 minutes remaining, Nikola Dovedan heading in following a free-kick.
Leipzig, who are in a battle with Champions League semifinalists Dortmund for fourth place and host them next week, grabbed the winner with five minutes remaining when Openda tapped in a Mohamed Simakan pass.
Leipzig sit three points clear of Dortmund who host champions Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. Fourth place is guaranteed to play Champions League but fifth could also qualify due to the strong performances of German sides in the competition this season.
RB captain Willi Orban was pleased his side made it through an “incredibly difficult match,” telling Sky “plenty of top sides have dropped points here, but we’ve taken all three — it was deserved.”
Elsewhere, a hat-trick from Borussia Moenchengladbach’s Robin Hack was not enough as his side lost 4-3 at Hoffenheim.
Hoffenheim led 3-1 midway through the second half before Hack scored twice in 11 minutes to level the score with just a minute remaining, but Anton Stach scored in stoppage time for the home side to snatch victory.
Bottom side Darmstadt won their first league match since October, beating second-last Cologne 2-0 thanks to goals from Oscar Vilhelmsson and Cristoph Klarer.
Despite the win, Darmstadt remain 10 points from safety with four games remaining.
Cologne’s chances of beating the drop are falling fast. They are five points away from 15th-placed Bochum, the final safe spot.
Bochum lost 1-0 at Wolfsburg, with Ralph Hasenhuettl’s side winning thanks to a goal from Jonas Wind.
Wind’s goal deepened Bochum’s woes a week after sacking coach Thomas Letsch, with the side just one point clear of the relegation spots.


Leicester go top of Championship as Southampton stumble

Updated 20 April 2024
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Leicester go top of Championship as Southampton stumble

  • Leicester had lost three of their previous five league games to put their return to the Premier League in jeopardy
  • Leicester move two points ahead of Ipswich and four clear of third-placed Leeds

LONDON: Jamie Vardy scored and missed a penalty as Leicester beat West Brom 2-1 to return to the top of the Championship on Saturday.
However, Southampton’s automatic promotion push may be over after conceding in the 95th minute to lose 2-1 at Cardiff.
Leicester had lost three of their previous five league games to put their return to the Premier League in jeopardy.
However, they could now seal promotion as early as Tuesday when Southampton visit the King Power if Leeds lose at Middlesbrough on Monday.
Leicester’s wobble could have continued had West Brom made the most of their early chances.
Hamza Choudhury made three clearances off his own line, but defeat for the Baggies makes them wait to seal a playoff place.
“It was a crazy game. We need still two wins,” said Leicester boss Enzo Maresca.
“Every time you win, you see yourself closer and you celebrate. But it’s not over, we have to finish the job. It was only 12 months ago that we were relegated, it’s not easy to come back.”
Wilfred Ndidi calmed the home side’s nerves midway through the first half, but Vardy missed the chance to give his side a 2-0 half-time lead when his spot-kick came back off the post.
Vardy made amends when he headed in Abdul Fatawu’s cross 25 minutes from time.
Jed Wallace pulled a goal back but West Brom could not find an equalizer.
Leicester move two points ahead of Ipswich and four clear of third-placed Leeds.
Southampton had taken advantage of a sudden loss of form by all the top three to reignite their chances of finishing in the top two.
However, Saints remain five points behind Ipswich with three games to play after blowing an early lead at Cardiff.
Joe Aribo fired the visitors in front after 12 minutes.
Southampton were left to rue not building on that lead as Cardiff goalkeeper Ethan Horvath’s heroics kept his side in the game.
Cardiff levelled against the run of play when Famara Diedhiou slotted home Raheem Conte’s cross.
Cian Ashford’s deflected strike then snatched all three points for the home side deep into stoppage time.
Norwich edged toward securing their place in the playoffs despite being held 1-1 at home by Bristol City.
Hull remain six points behind both West Brom and Norwich with just nine left to play for after a 0-0 draw at Watford.
At the bottom, Huddersfield’s 4-0 thrashing at home to Swansea left them rooted in the bottom three.
Birmingham missed the chance to pull clear of the drop zone after a 0-0 draw at already-relegated Rotherham.
Stoke secured survival with a 3-0 win over Plymouth.
Millwall also ensured their second-tier status with a 1-0 victory at Sunderland.


American golfer John Catlin wins 2024 Saudi Open in Riyadh

Updated 20 April 2024
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American golfer John Catlin wins 2024 Saudi Open in Riyadh

  • ‘Pretty special to finish back-to-back events holding the trophy,’ Caitlin says
  • Australian Wade Ormsby finishes runner-up with final day 64

RIYADH: American professional golfer John Catlin won the 2024 Saudi Open, presented by the Public Investment Fund, after completing his wire-to-wire victory at Riyadh Golf Club on Saturday.
He finished seven shots ahead of his nearest challenger on 24-under-par.
From the moment he teed off on Wednesday, Catlin was in the groove, and his final round was a procession.
Having shot a men’s course record 62 on Friday, the American followed it up with 66 on Saturday, his fourth consecutive round in the 60s in Riyadh.
It is Catlin’s sixth Asian Tour title and his second in a row, having beaten Spaniard David Puig in a playoff at the International Series Macau in March, and his form was simply too hot for the rest of the field to handle.
“I am tired, but very, very happy,” Catlin said. “I’ve never gone back-to-back like that. It is pretty special to finish back-to-back events holding the trophy. It was just a special week and I feel very lucky to be the champion.
“I hope my victory shows the fans that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible. I have dreamt about being a professional golfer since I was about 8 years old and I just kept putting in the hard work.”
He added: “I never let anything stand in the way of what I wanted to do, and I’d say that to anybody: if you want to follow in my footsteps, you have to put in the hard work and be willing to sacrifice, then great things can happen.”
Catlin was full of praise for organizers of the 2024 Saudi Open, and said he looks forward to defending his title in 2025.
“It was very well organized. The tournament was awesome. From start to finish we were looked after amazingly, and the people were friendly. The hospitality has been great, the food has been awesome — everything about this event is top class and I look forward to coming back in the future.”
Wade Ormsby’s final day 64 saw him finish second, two ahead of Peter Uihlein and Kiradech Aphinbarnrat in third.
The Australian admitted that it just proved impossible to haul in the runaway leader.
Ormsby said: “John had a big lead, it was difficult, you just want to go out and play as well as you can. There were a couple of potential tiny openings there, but he closed the door straight away. I am really happy with the way I played.”
Reigning champion Denwit Boriboonsub finished in style after a disappointing Friday saw his chances of retaining his trophy slip away.
The Thai golfer shot 63, the joint-second lowest round of the week, but enjoyed his time back at Riyadh Golf Club.
The 20-year-old said: “I’ve enjoyed and relished being the defending champion. It helped me a lot with a two-year exemption on the Asian Tour, which relieves a lot of pressure, and winning means a lot. Yesterday wasn’t so good, but I bounced back and I’m very happy with the score.”