Djokovic, Federer and teenage hope top Wimbledon bill on final ‘Manic Monday’

Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his third round match against Denis Kudla of the US on July 2, 2021. (REUTERS/Paul Childs)
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Updated 05 July 2021

Djokovic, Federer and teenage hope top Wimbledon bill on final ‘Manic Monday’

  • World number one Novak Djokovic of Serbia chasing a sixth Wimbledon
  • Eight-time champion Federer is in the Wimbledon last 16 for the 18th time

LONDON: Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer headline the final ‘Manic Monday’ at Wimbledon with the two Grand Slam heavyweights looking to edge closer to a dream title showdown.
World number one Djokovic, chasing a sixth Wimbledon and record-equalling 20th major, is already halfway to becoming just the third man to complete a calendar Grand Slam.
“I look to peak at the biggest tournaments in our sport. At this stage of my career, Grand Slams are the ones that matter the most,” said Djokovic who can reach the quarter-finals of a Slam for the 50th time.
The Serb faces Chilean 17th seed Cristian Garin who had never previously won a main draw match at the tournament before this year.
Eight-time champion Federer, who takes on Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego, can become the oldest quarter-finalist at Wimbledon in the Open era.
Federer, just five weeks shy of his 40th birthday, is in the Wimbledon last 16 for the 18th time.
In all, it will be his 69th appearance in the fourth round of a Slam but he was quick to salute Djokovic’s achievements.
“It’s just very, very impressive to see what he’s doing this year,” said Federer whose third round win over Cameron Norrie gave him the 1,250th victory of his career.
’Manic Monday’, when the entire men’s and women’s fourth round is played out, will not exist from next year as Wimbledon will stage matches on the middle Sunday.
There will be a further tweak in the schedule this week with the All England Club announcing that they will move to full capacity crowds from Tuesday’s quarter-finals onwards.
Meanwhile, second seed Daniil Medvedev, who staged a comeback from two sets down for the first time in his career to beat 2017 runner-up Marin Cilic, faces Hubert Hurkacz.
Polish 14th seed Hurkacz is the only player in the fourth round not to have dropped serve.
Sebastian Korda, whose father Petr made the quarter-finals in 1998, celebrates his 21st birthday on Monday.
He can reach the quarter-finals of a Slam for the first time by beating Russian 25th seed Karen Khachanov.

Denis Shapovalov, the Canadian 10th seed who put out two-time winner Andy Murray in the last round, faces Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, a semifinalist in 2019.
Meanwhile, Italy will have two men in the last 16 for just the third time and first time since 1955.
While Sonego faces Federer, seventh seed Matteo Berrettini faces Ilya Ivashka of Belarus, the 27-year-old world number 79 who had only previously won one match at a major before this Wimbledon.
Women’s world number one Ashleigh Barty, trying to win the title 50 years on from fellow indigenous Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s maiden crown, tackles French Open winner Barbora Krejcikova.
The only British player left in the singles draw is 18-year-old Emma Raducanu who has defied her ranking of 338 to make the second week where she meets Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic.
Raducanu has only just completed her final school exams and has attracted a host of new fans, including rock star Liam Gallagher, the former frontman of Oasis.
“BIBLICAL,” Gallagher tweeted in response to Raducanu’s third round win over Sorana Cirstea.
Germany’s Angelique Kerber, the only former champion left in the women’s event, takes on Coco Gauff.
Gauff, 17, is bidding to become the youngest woman to reach a Wimbledon quarter-final since Maria Sharapova in 2004.
Big-hitting will be a feature of the lower half of the women’s last 16 draw.
Belarus second seed Aryna Sabalenka faces 18th seeded Elena Rybakina.
Sabalenka, yet to make a quarter-final of a Slam, had 21 aces over three rounds, one fewer than Russian-born Rybakina.
Rybakina has won a tournament-leading 96 percent of her service games in the opening three rounds.
Former world number one Karolina Pliskova, the eighth-seeded Czech has also fired 22 aces and faces unseeded Russian Liudmila Samsonova.
Samsonova, ranked 65, has made the most of her wild card to register her best ever performance at a Slam.
Having won the Berlin grass court tournament as a qualifier in the run-up to Wimbledon, the 22-year-old is on a 10-match win streak.
Former French Open champion Iga Swiatek, the seventh seed who had won just one match in grass on the main tour before Wimbledon, takes on Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, the 21st seed.
Jabeur can become the first Arab woman to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals with victory.

Desperate times at Yorkshire County Cricket Club amid racism scandal

Azeem Rafiq (L) and Colin Graves (R) during hearings on racism in cricket. (Screenshots)
Updated 01 March 2024

Desperate times at Yorkshire County Cricket Club amid racism scandal

  • Following allegations of racism at Yorkshire CCC, a number of complaints were upheld and formally accepted by the club

LONDON: My cricket column this week referred to a follow-up hearing on Feb. 20 by the UK House of Commons Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport into racism in cricket.

It focused specifically on what measures had been put in place since its initial hearing in November 2021, and after the recommendations of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket were published in June 2023.

The key catalysts for this have been Yorkshire County Cricket Club and one of its former players, Azeem Rafiq, who made allegations of racist behavior at the club. A number of the allegations were upheld and formally accepted by the club, although not, it seems, by all parties involved in cricket. Another figure in the saga has emerged, or rather re-emerged, in recent weeks.

Colin Graves was executive chair of YCCC between 2012 and 2015, and then chair of the England and Wales Cricket Board from 2015 until 2020. Prior to that he was part of a consortium that rescued YCCC from insolvency in 2002. Repayment of club debt was consolidated into Graves Trust funds, to which the club currently owes almost £15 million ($19 million).

Graves said that since his stint at the ECB ended four years ago, he “has not been involved with running any form of cricket.”

Ongoing financial difficulties at YCCC, exacerbated by costs generated by payouts to previous employees, have brought it, once again, to the brink of insolvency, and so the club’s board sought a financial rescue package.

A consortium led by Graves put forward a proposal that was accepted by a majority of the 25 percent of members who chose to vote. It seemed like there was a general feeling of inevitability about the outcome, inside and outside of Yorkshire.

Nevertheless, some have voiced concerns about the potential effects of Graves’ return to the club appointment as chair of the board. He accepted an invitation to appear at the last week’s hearing of the Parliamentary Select Committee, during which its members articulated some of those concerns.

Asked whether he intends to bring back any of the previous backroom and coaching staff, his response was: “It has not been discussed by the board. We have our first board meeting on Monday (Feb. 26), and I am sure that the future, the structure, everything will be discussed. But at this point in time it has not been discussed.”

On the afternoon of Feb. 27, an article appeared in The Cricketer magazine, written by George Dobell, who has been closely associated with reporting on and supporting Rafiq’s case.

The article reported that, incredibly, the board of the YCCC was considering bringing back Mark Arthur, who was its CEO from 2014 until his resignation in November 2021. He stepped down days before the initial hearing of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Nov. 16, 2021. During that hearing, Roger Hutton, who served as chair of the YCCC board between April 2020 and November 2021, alleged that the CEO had attempted to prevent further investigation into the racism allegations.

During his tenure, Hutton commissioned a law firm to conduct a review of the allegations of racism. Only a summary of its findings has been released publicly. During his appearance at the Select Committee hearing on Feb. 20, Graves referred twice to this fact, though it was not clear why.

Seven of the 43 allegations made by Rafiq were upheld on Sept. 10, 2021, by an independent panel appointed by YCCC. It confirmed he had been the “victim of racial harassment and bullying.” Perhaps the fact that 36 allegations were not upheld provides YCCC’s new board with some hope for exoneration.

Much water has flowed under the bridge since that verdict. Part of that has been an acceptance, albeit in some cases reluctantly, that racism has been present in the game. Indeed, Graves proffered an apology during the recent Select Committee hearing to those from ethnic-minority backgrounds who had experienced discrimination or racism at the club, including Rafiq.

He said it “should never have happened, it never will be acceptable, and it certainly will not be going forward.”

Arab News asked Rafiq whether he felt the timing of the apologies ahead of the YCCC’s extraordinary general meeting to decide whether Graves would return as chair of the board, and those made during the Select Committee hearing last week, were coincidental and whether they could they be accepted as sincere. He declined to comment.

During the recent Select Committee meeting, Graves was asked whether he or his representatives had sent a legal letter to the publishers of “It’s Not Banter, it’s Racism,” a book by Rafiq that is due to be published in April. He said solicitors acting on behalf of YCCC had asked to see an advance copy. He denied that the tone of the letter was intimidatory and agreed to make public its contents. The reasons for requesting a copy of the book were not clear.

It is difficult not to feel a sense of unease about how the latest turn of events at YCCC might unfold. Graves deflected any detailed discussion during the Select Committee meeting of senior management appointments on the grounds that the club’s board had not yet met to discuss them.

This prompted one of the committee members to note that Graves “did not say that he would not bring back any of the old guard who were fired.” It was further noted that such people were those who had failed to notify the chair of problems that were subsequently shown to have existed.

Graves offered assurances that equality, diversity and inclusion measures put in place in the past two years would be guaranteed and fully supported. A new board member, Sanjeev Gandhi, will be appointed specifically to oversee the development of these EDI measures. Gandhi previously worked with Graves at the ECB on the creation of The Hundred tournament.

There was no mention or recognition of the measures to address EDI issues that were initiated by Kamlesh Patel, senior independent director of the ECB, during his time as chair of YCCC between November 2021 and March 2023. Instead, he has faced heavy criticism as the person who purged the old guard at a damaging cost to the County.

As far as can be seen, none of the British media has picked up the The Cricketer’s story. YCCC has not responded to requests for confirmation of its claims.

The ECB seems to be impotent in terms of intervention in a matter that, so far, is solely the YCCC’s business. It is difficult to avoid the feeling, however, that there is an underlying process of retrenchment at play, in which financial considerations are to the fore.

There is an old adage that suggests a strong Yorkshire (in cricket terms) means a strong England. The truth of this is about to be tested off the field. Graves has a responsibility not to undermine the progress that has been made since Rafiq’s allegations came to light, and to match his own words of apology and his commitment to equity with commensurate actions for the good not only of Yorkshire, but for English and Welsh cricket as a whole.

Trust needs to be reestablished. A good place to start might be to rebuild some trust with Rafiq, rather than reappointing a previous CEO.

Al-Hazm stun Al-Nassr to rescue draw in 8-goal thriller

Updated 29 February 2024

Al-Hazm stun Al-Nassr to rescue draw in 8-goal thriller

  • Al-Nassr took the lead on four occasions, thanks to a hat-trick from Anderson Talisca and a late penalty from Sadio Mane, only for Al-Hazm to respond each time
  • SAFF’s Ethics and Discipline Committee suspended Cristiano Ronaldo for the game after he was found making an offensive gesture following his team’s victory over Al-Shabab

Cristiano Ronaldo was a mere bystander on Thursday, along with 19,000 fans, as Al-Nassr were somehow held to a 4-4 draw by relegation strugglers Al-Hazm.

The Riyadh giants stay second in the Roshn Saudi League but are now six points behind leaders Al-Hilal who have a game in hand.

It was an incredible game as star-studded Al-Nassr took the lead on four occasions, thanks to a hat-trick from Anderson Talisca and a late penalty from Sadio Mane. Yet somehow, the visitors, who arrived in the capital bottom of the table, came back four times to earn a much-needed point.

It added to what had already been a roller-coaster week for Ronaldo, who watched from the stands first in delight, then frustration, then delight again, before disbelief.

In the early hours of Thursday, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s Ethics and Discipline Committee suspended the Portuguese star for one game after he was found making an offensive gesture following his team’s victory over Al-Shabab in the Saudi Pro League on Sunday.

The home fans chanted the player’s name before the game started and then they did the same again with seven minutes on the clock, in honor of his shirt number. He acknowledged the support with his fist in the air.

Toze netted for the visitors midway through the first half but the Portuguese forward’s emphatic strike was ruled out for offside.

Al-Nassr took the lead after 31 minutes. Sami Al-Najei was brought down in the area by Paulo Ricardo and after VAR had taken a look, Talisca made no mistake in finding the bottom corner.

Al-Nassr continued to push forward in an attempt to give themselves a cushion and immediately after the restart Al-Najei netted but the goal was ruled out for offside.

The Yellows were left to rue that decision after 55 minutes as Ahmad Al-Mhemaid headed home at the far post after Al-Nassr had failed to clear a corner.

Just after the hour, Talisca put Al-Nassr back in front, but the lead lasted only four minutes, Toze sprinting free of the defense to slot home for 2-2, despite some offside doubts.

Both teams were struggling at the back and it was no surprise when Talisca completed his hat-trick after 71 minutes, heading home an Alex Telles cross in majestic fashion.

There was more terrible defending with six minutes of regulation time remaining as Al-Hazm equalized again. The ball was allowed to bounce in the area, despite the presence of multiple yellow shirts, and there was Faiz Selemani on hand to stroke home to make it 3-3.

It looked as if Al-Nassr had thrown it away, and Ronaldo was not the only one with his head in his hands.

But then, in the 91st minute, the hosts were thrown a victory lifeline as Al-Hazm goalkeeper Aymen Dahmen punched Meshari Al-Nemer after missing the ball. Sadio Mane stepped up to score what was surely the winning goal from the penalty spot.

But it proved not to be. With 100 minutes played, Al-Nassr failed to deal with another ball into the box and there was Ricardo to fire home from close range.

There was general disbelief in the stadium as the final whistle sounded. Ronaldo was shaking his head, Talisca was on his haunches, the atmosphere desolate.

Surely, amid the silence, the sound of Al-Hilal fans celebrating could have been heard. The leaders can go nine points clear if they defeat Al-Ittihad on Friday.

Bayern focused on hunting down Leverkusen

Updated 29 February 2024

Bayern focused on hunting down Leverkusen

  • New Bayern sporting director Max Eberl told reporters his side, who have won the past 11 Bundesliga titles were “now playing the role of the hunter”
  • Bayern play away at Freiburg on Friday, the same day Eberl officially starts work

BERLIN: Eight points behind leaders Leverkusen, Bayern Munich have cast themselves in the unfamiliar role of “hunters” with one third of the season remaining.
Bayern have 11 matches to close the gap on Xabi Alonso’s unbeaten side who are pushing for a first-ever Bundesliga crown.
New Bayern sporting director Max Eberl told reporters his side, who have won the past 11 Bundesliga titles were “now playing the role of the hunter.”
Bayern play away at Freiburg on Friday, the same day Eberl officially starts work.
Since Leverkusen’s dominant 3-0 home win over Bayern earlier in February, Alonso’s side have played before Thomas Tuchel’s side each weekend, throwing down the gauntlet to the under-pressure Bavarians.
With Leverkusen however now in action mostly on Sundays due to midweek Europa League commitments, Bayern can up the pressure on Alonso’s men by playing first most weekends.
After three straight losses equalled their worst run since 2015, Bayern beat RB Leipzig last week, albeit needing a stoppage-time strike from Harry Kane.
Tuchel said Thursday the “last-minute win gave us self-confidence and a positive atmosphere, which is what you need to play good and successful football.
“We stopped the negative series. It gave us energy and I think we did well.”
With Bayern on the verge of a last 16 exit in the Champions League, Tuchel had one eye fixed on Tuesday’s home clash with Lazio, with the Italian side holding a 1-0 advantage.
The Bayern coach said the Lazio clash was “a completely different game” but told reporters “the best preparation for the coming match is always a successful match before.”
Colorful Freiburg coach Christian Streich said Thursday “Bayern will want to win at all costs — we’ll do everything we can to make it difficult for them.”
An eight-point lead at this point of the season has never been chased down in the history of the Bundesliga.
Bayern however will be hoping that their winning history, along with five-time runners-up Leverkusen’s reputation for finishing second will give them an advantage in the final stretch.
Before that match, Tuchel had said “we are the last ones who will stop believing.”
Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke knows only too well what Bayern’s relentless pressure can do to a club.
Tuchel’s Bayern won the title on the final day of last season after Dortmund drew 2-2 at home against a Mainz side with nothing to play for.
“It’s not over” Watzke told AFP and other journalists on Tuesday.
“Don’t be sure that Bayern Munich is dead. Bayern is dead after the last match of the season and never before.”
Bayer Leverkusen have had several players hit career-best form this season under Xabi Alonso — but few have risen as far as forward Nathan Tella.
An Arsenal junior who spent most of his time in the lower divisions, the 24-year-old arrived in summer from Southampton, having impressed in a loan spell at Burnley.
The lightning-quick Tella has only improved since arriving in Germany — an achievement recognized by a Nigeria call-up.
He played a crucial role up front in Leverkusen’s 3-0 defeat of Bayern Munich which put the unbeaten side on course for a debut Bundesliga title.
Speaking with the Bundesliga website on Thursday, Tella credits Alonso for keeping the side focused.
“He doesn’t get too carried away. He doesn’t think too far in the future, only the next game and how to improve.
“If we won a game 3-0, he will look at why we didn’t win 4-0.
“We strive to be the best as a team — he brings that out of us.”
Bayer Leverkusen have 61 points with one third of the season remaining.
Last year, Bayern Munich won the title with 71.
Only five points separate Hoffenheim in seventh and Bochum in 15th in the Bundesliga’s mid-table traffic jam.
Freiburg’s Vincenzo Grifo has converted his past 13 penalties in a row in the Bundesliga.

PSL 2024: Rutherford blitz ensures Quetta snatch last-ball win over Karachi

Updated 29 February 2024

PSL 2024: Rutherford blitz ensures Quetta snatch last-ball win over Karachi

  • Sherfane Rutherford scores 58 runs from 31 balls to hand Quetta the victory
  • Quetta spinner Abrar Ahmed returns figures of 3/31 to put Karachi Kings at bay

ISLAMABAD: West Indian batter Sherfane Rutherford handed Quetta Gladiators their fourth victory of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2024 tournament on Thursday, smashing a fiery half-century as the Gladiators edged out Karachi Kings, the home side, in a last-ball thriller.

Batting first, the Kings were considerably troubled by the Gladiators’ bowling line-up. Spinner Abrar Ahmed returned figures of 3/31 while Usman Tariq and Akeal Hosein finished with figures of 2/16 and 2/34 respectively.

James Vince top-scored for the Kings, scoring 37 runs from 25 balls while all-rounder Anwar Ali contributed with an impressive 25 runs from 14 balls. The Kings finished with a score of 165-8 from their 20 overs.

“#PurpleForce breathe.. we have won the thrilling encounter,” the Gladiators wrote on social media platform X after securing the win.

The Gladiators had a strong start to their batting, with opener Jason Roy scoring 53 runs from 31 balls while left-handed Saud Shakeel scored 24 runs from 20 balls. Middle order batters Khawaja Nafay, former skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed and Gladiators skipper Rilee Rossouw fell in quick succession, all failing to score in the double digits.

However, an 80-run stand between Rutherford and Hosein proved to be fatal for the Kings, who lost to Quetta by five wickets in the end.

Rutherford scored 58 runs from 31 balls, smashing six sixes and a four at a strike rate of 187.10. Hosein, on the other hand, scored 22 runs from 17 balls.

For the Kings, Hasan Ali and Zahid Mahmood were the best bowlers, returning figures of 2/39 and 2/17 respectively.

The Gladiators remain at number two on the PSL points table, with four wins from their five matches so far. The Kings remain at the number five spot with only two wins from their five matches in this year’s PSL.

Al-Shabab crowned inaugural Saudi Women’s U-17 football champs after defeating Al-Hilal in final

Updated 29 February 2024

Al-Shabab crowned inaugural Saudi Women’s U-17 football champs after defeating Al-Hilal in final

  • Their success in the knockout phase follows a group stage in which they were unbeaten, racking up 9 wins and a draw while scoring 116 goals and conceding just 2
  • Event serves as showcase for talent and potential of young female players and the rapid development of women’s football in the Kingdom, officials say

JEDDAH: Deem Saud scored the decisive goal as Al-Shabab defeated Al-Hilal 1-0 in the final of the inaugural Saudi Arabian Football Federation Women’s U-17 tournament.
The road to the final, which was played on Wednesday at Noon Academy in Jeddah, began in November with the group stages of the tournament, in which 18 teams from the Women’s Premier League, the First Division and SAFF regional training centers were split into four groups.
Al-Shabab were unbeaten in Group 1, topping the table with 28 points from nine wins and a draw, scoring 116 goals along the way and conceding just two.
In the knockout phase, they defeated Jeddah 2-1 in the quarter-finals, and Eastern Flames 2-0 in the semis.
Adwa Al-Arifi, the assistant minister for sport affairs at the Ministry of Sport, Lamia Bahian, the vice president of SAFF, and Aalia Al-Rasheed, the head of the women’s football department at SAFF, watched the final.
Officials said the competition offered a showcase for the talent and potential of young female players in the Kingdom, illustrating the rapid recent development of women’s football across the country. The players and clubs were praised for their skill, team spirit and passion for the sport.
SAFF congratulated Al-Shabab for their success, commended all of the clubs that took part, and thanked the players, coaches and fans for their enthusiastic support, which they said had helped make the championship a great success.