Federer ‘pumped up’ as he targets ninth Wimbledon crown

Switzerland's Roger Federer during a press conference on June 26, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 June 2021

Federer ‘pumped up’ as he targets ninth Wimbledon crown

  • Seeded sixth and with just eight tour matches under his belt this year he will face a tough first round opponent in France’s Adrian Mannarino

WIMBLEDON: Roger Federer says he is “excited” and “pumped up” as he targets a ninth Wimbledon title — a far cry from the disgruntled figure who exited Halle in the second round earlier this month.

The 39-year-old Swiss accepted the manner of his 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 defeat by Felix Auger-Aliassime both on and off the court had fallen short of the high standards he has set over the past two decades.

“I mean, I had a mental moment where I was just, you know, not happy with how things were going in the match,” Federer said at his pre-Wimbledon press conference.

“The good thing now looking back is I know it will not happen here because I’m ready, I’m excited, I’m pumped up.”

Seeded sixth and with just eight tour matches under his belt this year he will face a tough first round opponent in France’s Adrian Mannarino, who has reached the Last 16 at Wimbledon on three occasions.

Federer, though, insists that having got used to the Wimbledon bubble — due to the coronavirus pandemic — both in the hotel and at the All England Club he is raring to go. He had a hit out on the Wimbledon courts with two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray on Friday — something he said they had not done for the best part of 15 years.

He says he has taken whatever positives he can out of the Halle situation — a tournament he had won 10 times and used as his annual prep for Wimbledon.

“I think I got to take the positives out of these last few weeks that I’m actually here at Wimbledon right now and I have a chance,” he said.

“I know if I get rolling, I get into the second week, which is the goal here right now, that I get stronger and stronger as every match goes by, I believe it’s very much possible.

“I come here feeling mentally strong rather with the last set I played in Halle, which was clearly not the standard I like.”

Federer has like great rivals Murray and to a lesser extent Rafael Nadal — both younger than him but in their mid 30’s — struggled with fitness issues.

He withdrew from the French Open — where he had been drawn in the same half as Novak Djokovic and Nadal — before his fourth round match.

This was to give himself extra rest after two operations on his right knee in 2020 and a year of rehab.

He says he is uncertain what his program for the rest of the year will be as so much hangs on Wimbledon and how he performs.

He would love to go to the Olympics in Tokyo — unlike Murray and Nadal he has yet to win the singles title although he did take Olympic gold in the doubles in 2008 — but it is not a done deal.

“My feeling is I would like to go to the Olympics,” he said.

“I would like to play as many tournaments as possible.

“But I think we decided now let’s just get through Wimbledon, sit down as a team, and then decide where we go from there.”

Federer — who admitted he missed the routine of setting the family up in a house close to Wimbledon and seeing his children run around — said the aging process made it tougher to make such calls.

“I wish I could tell you more,” he said.

“In previous years it was definitely easier.

“At the moment things are not as simple as in the past.

“With age you have to be more selective.

“You can’t play it all.”

How Ronaldo’s arrival turned Riyadh into top footballers’ favored destination

Updated 27 sec ago

How Ronaldo’s arrival turned Riyadh into top footballers’ favored destination

  • Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr and Al-Shabab among Saudi clubs reshaping global football landscape
  • The announcement that top clubs would be privatized ushered in a new, golden era

RIYADH: Cristiano Ronaldo opened the door and the rest followed.

What was a one-man mission to put the Saudi Pro League on the world map just a few months ago, has become a full-blown revolution.

So much so that when Brazilian superstar Neymar joined Al-Hilal from Paris Saint-Germain in August, it felt more like the apogee of a project rather than the scarcely believable.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s announcement that Saudi Arabia’s top clubs would be privatized has ushered in a new, golden era for football in the Kingdom, with Riyadh’s clubs leading the way.

When Ronaldo was first linked with a move to Al-Nassr, the reports were dismissed as fanciful across the world. On Dec. 31, 2022, the perception of Saudi football changed overnight.

Suddenly, a move to the SPL was not just attractive, but almost irresistible for some of the world’s top players.

Al-Hilal were not going to take lightly losing their Saudi Pro League and AFC Champions League titles last season. A major rebuilding operation has seen Portugal’s Reuben Neves join from Wolves and Serbia’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic arrive from Lazio; two players at the peak of their careers. This put to rest the argument that leagues in the Middle East and GCC were retirement homes for players nearing the end of their careers.

Senegal’s Kalidou Koulibaly from Chelsea, and Brazil’s Malcom from Zenit Saint Petersburg, had already joined the Blues, before Neymar’s landmark announcement was followed by the arrival of Moroccan goalkeeper Yasine Bounou (Sevilla) and Serbian forward Alexander Mitrovic (Fulham).

At Al-Nassr, the club that started the deluge of foreign imports, Sadio Mane (Senegal) from Bayern Munich, Marcelo Brozovic (Croatia) from Inter Milan, Seko Fofana (Ivory Coast) from RC Lens, and Alex Telles (Brazil) from Manchester United, have made the move to Riyadh as bona fide stars and not just Ronaldo’s supporting cast.

The late summer transfer window additions of Spanish international defender Aymeric Laporte from Manchester City, and Portuguese midfielder Otavio from Porto, will only bolster the Yellows’ bid to become champions this season.

Rounding up Riyadh’s trio of iconic clubs are Al-Shabab which in 2022-2023 finished fourth in the SPL and for long periods of the season were seen as genuine title contenders.

Belgium’s Yannick Carrasco joined from Atletico Madrid and will forge a midfield partnership with Ever Banega, the Argentinian who has already enjoyed a fine career with Shabab since 2020.

Meanwhile Colombian midfielder Gustavo Cuellar has made the move across to Riyadh after spending four trophy-laden years at rivals Al-Hilal.

Keeping goal behind this international trio is Kim Seung-gyu of South Korea, who joined Al-Shabab last year.

Last season, when Ronaldo said that within a few years the Saudi Pro League would be ranked in the world’s top five competitions, cynics scoffed at the pronouncement.

It seems his words could become true even quicker than he might have anticipated because global broadcasters are now screening live matches from the SPL on a weekly basis, and international players are increasingly looking to make Riyadh their new home.

’Eiffel Tower’ lights up quiet suburb in Chinese city of Asiad host Hangzhou

Updated 22 September 2023

’Eiffel Tower’ lights up quiet suburb in Chinese city of Asiad host Hangzhou

  • Tianducheng is a quirky relic of the country’s turn-of-the-century craze for everything foreign
  • The tower is one of many replicas of Western architecture that dot the country where developers once looked to Europe and North America for inspiration

HANGZHOU: As decorative fountains frame a view of the Eiffel Tower and a fashionable young woman walks a poodle nearby, you might mistake China’s Tianducheng neighborhood for Paris — if not for the concrete towers in the distance and Chinese signs on every shopfront.

Built in the 2000s, the residential area lies on the outskirts of Hangzhou, the city hosting around 12,000 athletes for the Asian Games that open on Saturday — a key stop for many of the world’s top athletes before the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Tianducheng is a quirky relic of the country’s turn-of-the-century craze for everything foreign.

Apartment blocks decorated with the City of Light’s iron balconies and mansard roofs flank a “boulevard” where motorized delivery tricycles zip past a braised duck-head stall.

Pensioners clutching plastic bags of groceries pause to take in the sights under a grey sky, while weathered horse statues rear up from a fountain that could have come out of the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Once advertised as a luxury community and a venue for French cultural festivals, Tianducheng languished for years with unfilled shop units and uninhabited apartments before Hangzhou’s booming tech industry brought eager buyers to its leafy avenues.

The tower is one of many replicas of Western architecture that dot the country where developers once looked to Europe and North America for inspiration, including a British-inspired Thames Town in Shanghai and a subtropical Interlaken in tech hub Shenzhen.

And in Jujun, a 2001 development in outer Beijing that literally translates to “Orange County,” McMansions complete with parched lawns bring a slice of Southern California to the Chinese capital.

They are relics of a bygone era, with China’s communist leaders clamping down on “bizarre,” foreign-inspired structures in recent years.

Nagelsmann named coach of Euro 2024 hosts Germany

Updated 22 September 2023

Nagelsmann named coach of Euro 2024 hosts Germany

  • Germany fired Flick with the national team struggling, the German football association (DFB) fearing another embarrassing performance in a major tournament
  • Former Bayern Munich boss Nagelsmann has signed a deal until the end of next July, allowing the 36-year-old to leave after Euro 2024

MUNICH, Germany: Julian Nagelsmann has been given nine months to revive flailing Germany ahead of hosting Euro 2024 after being named as the sacked Hansi Flick’s successor as national team coach on Friday.
Germany fired Flick with the national team struggling, the German football association (DFB) fearing another embarrassing performance in a major tournament, this time as hosts at next year’s European championships.
Former Bayern Munich boss Nagelsmann has signed a deal until the end of next July, allowing the 36-year-old to leave after Euro 2024.
“We have a European Championship in our own country — that’s something special,” Nagelsmann said in a statement.
“I have a great desire to take on this challenge.”
Nagelsmann said he signed the short-term deal “to keep the Euros in focus” but insisted he “would not rule out” an extension.
Flick, who became the first coach in Germany history to be sacked, had won just four of 17 matches leading up to his dismissal and took the team to a disappointing group-stage exit at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The four-time world champions were also knocked out in the group stage at the 2018 World Cup in Russia under previous boss Joachim Loew.
DFB president Bernd Neuendorf called Nagelsmann “an outstanding coach” and said: “We are convinced (he) will ensure that the national team inspires its fans and that the Euros are also a sporting success.”
Flick was sacked after a humiliating 4-1 friendly loss to Japan in Wolfsburg in early September.
Nagelsmann, who also succeeded Flick as Bayern coach, has been jobless since he was sacked by the German champions in March.
DFB sporting director Rudi Voeller called Nagelsmann “an absolute football expert” and said he had “proven himself at a very young age for a head coach.”
Voeller took the reins on a “one-off” basis for Germany’s 2-1 win over France in Dortmund, but said his main task was to find a permanent successor.
Nagelsmann said the victory over France was “the beginning” of the team’s journey to Euro 2024.
Benjamin Glueck and Sandro Wagner have been appointed as Nagelsmann’s assistants.
Nagelsmann was seen as a rising star after impressive spells at Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig, before getting the top job at Bayern.
Nagelsmann was mentioned as a possible candidate for a number of top club vacancies over the summer, being linked with English sides Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, as well as Paris Saint-Germain.
Nagelsmann told a press conference he would focus on a playing style which was “easy to implement,” saying: “Especially in difficult moments, it’s important to give players something they can grasp.”
Nagelsmann spoke out for the first time about his “painful” Bayern exit.
“What hurts most in a separation like that is that it is painful to sit in front of the TV and watch your team in the Champions League, but know that you aren’t able to help them and work with them,” he said.
The Bavaria native, who became the youngest coach in Bundesliga history when he took over as head coach of Hoffenheim aged 28, added: “For me as a person, Julian Nagelsmann, I don’t define myself by the job.
“There can be phases where it doesn’t go perfectly. That’s part of the job. But I know when I lie down in bed in the evening, there’s other things that define me, not just the job as a football coach.”
Nagelsmann said he was “looking forward” to meeting his former Bayern players in the national team setup again.
“I really enjoyed working with those players.”
Nagelsmann also confirmed Barcelona midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who Flick named as captain to replace the injured Manuel Neuer, would keep the top job.
“I’m extremely convinced of Ilkay as a person and as a player.”
Germany’s next assignment is a tour to the United States in October, playing friendlies against the USA and Mexico.

Pakistan open to welcoming Mohammad Amir to World Cup squad — chief selector

Updated 22 September 2023

Pakistan open to welcoming Mohammad Amir to World Cup squad — chief selector

  • Fast bowler retired from international cricket in 2020 citing discrimination, ‘mental torture’
  • Chief selector says if Amir to be considered for World Cup is willing to play domestic cricket

ISLAMABAD: Chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said on Friday Pakistan was ‘open’ to the possibility of welcoming former fast bowler Mohammad Amir back into the squad ahead of the World Cup if he consistently performed well in domestic competitions.
Amir announced his retirement from international cricket at the age of 28 in December 2020, claiming he could no longer play in an atmosphere where he did not feel welcome in the national team.
Amir, who was jailed in 2011 for his part in a spot-fixing scandal, served three months in prison and a five-year ban from all forms of cricket before returning to the Pakistan squad in January 2016.
The left-arm bowler excelled in limited-overs cricket after that, helping Pakistan to the Champions Trophy title in 2017, but was dropped from the squad to tour New Zealand in 2020.
Questioned about the chance of Amir returning to the squad for the upcoming cricket World Cup starting next month in India, the chief selector said “the doors are open for everyone, including Amir.”
“Aamir is a great cricketer and he had decided to retire,” the official said.
“If he wants to play for Pakistan, the doors are open for everyone. If he comes back and plays first-class cricket and performs well, he will definitely be considered … I have said this before, neither the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) nor the selection committee closes the door [of opportunity] for anyone.”

In an interview with a local news channel when he retired, Amir said he had been “mentally tortured by the team management, subjected to frequent taunts, and felt deliberately sidelined.” 
Asked if he was leaving the sport altogether he said: “No, I’m not going away from cricket. If you have seen the atmosphere here and the way I’ve been sidelined, I got a wake-up call when I was not selected in the 35-man squad,” Amir had told Samaa TV.
“I don’t think I can play cricket under this management. I think I should leave cricket this time. I am being tortured mentally. I don’t think I can tolerate any more torture now.
“I’ve experienced a lot of torture from 2010 to 2015. I was away from the game and sentenced for my mistake. I’m being tortured again and again...”
Amir, who has 259 wickets across all formats, had retired from test cricket in 2019 to focus on the white-ball game.
He was the pick of the Pakistan bowlers in the 2019 50-overs World Cup in England with 17 wickets as they missed out on a semifinal spot.

LIV Golf Jeddah to stage regular season finale next month

Updated 22 September 2023

LIV Golf Jeddah to stage regular season finale next month

  • Individual and team titles, and 2024 league spots all on the line at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club from Oct. 13-15

JEDDAH: LIV Golf makes its highly anticipated return to Royal Greens Golf & Country Club here from Oct. 13 to 15, when the league’s 2023 regular season will reach its conclusion and set the stage for the Team Championship — and the future for many golfers.

The event marks the 13th tournament of the league’s first full season. There are 13 major winners who will compete in King Abdullah Economic City, including 2023 PGA Championship winner and 2023 US Ryder Cup Team selection Brooks Koepka, 2022 Open Champion Cameron Smith, World Golf Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson, 2020 US Open Champion Bryson DeChambeau, and two-time major winners Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer.

There will be much to play for amongst those atop the individual standings. Those further down the standings face a battle to secure their future, with players ranked 45 and below in the “Drop Zone” at season’s end facing relegation and losing their LIV Golf status for next year.

Smith currently leads the individual standings with 170 points after wins in London and Bedminster. In-form American Talor Gooch (149), a three-time individual champion this season, is in hot pursuit of the Australian. They are followed by seven contenders including 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed, 2022 LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah winner Koepka, 4Aces GC captain Johnson and Crushers GC captain DeChambeau, who shot a sensational 58 at LIV Golf Greenbrier earlier this year.

Those who finish in the top 24 in the overall standings will lock-in their position in the LIV Golf League for next season. Players finishing in the “Open Zone,” positions 25 to 44, however, may face trade or release by their respective teams. Meanwhile, those finishing in positions 45 and below sitting in the “Drop Zone” will be relegated and automatically qualify for the league’s promotional tournament, where they will have the opportunity to earn their spot back for the 2024 season.

Aside from the individual race, each player in the 48-man field has good reason to make their scores count, as the final team standings following LIV Golf Jeddah will determine seeds one to 12 for the LIV Golf Team Championship in Miami the following week, with the top four teams receiving first-round byes.

Through 11 events, 4Aces GC — featuring Johnson, Reed, Peter Uihlein and Pat Perez — sit atop the team standings with 172 points after wins in Adelaide and London. Torque GC, featuring Chilean stars Joaquin Niemann and Mito Pereira, Colombian Sebastian Munoz, and Spanish rookie David Puig, trail closely behind with 163 total points following wins in Orlando, D.C., Andalucia and Greenbrier.

The all-South African Stinger GC featuring major champions Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Dean Burmester, currently sit in third place with 156 points. DeChambeau’s Crushers GC (146 points), including Paul Casey, Charles Howell III and Anirban Lahiri, hold a three-point edge in fourth place over RangeGoats GC (143 points). They boast five top-three finishes this season thanks to standout performances by Gooch, Harold Varner III, Thomas Pieters, and captain Watson.