Global citizens, teen US Open finalists have fans all over

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Emma Raducanu of Great Britain (left) and Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada. (AFP photos)
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Emma Raducanu practices during a training session on Day 12 of the 2021 US Open on September 10, 2021. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP)
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Leylah Fernandez reaches for a backhand against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus (not pictured) on Day 11 of the 2021 US.Open tennis tournament on Sept. 9, 2021. (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)
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Updated 11 September 2021
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Global citizens, teen US Open finalists have fans all over

  • Leylah Fernandez's mother is a Filipino Canadian and her father is an Ecuadoran
  • Emma Raducanu's mother is from China and her father is from Romania

NEW YORK: Emma Raducanu first met Leylah Fernandez at a tournament for players 12 and under, around the time one of Fernandez’s teachers urged her to give up the tennis dream.
They shared a love of the game and a connection to Canada, where Fernandez lived and Raducanu was born, helping build a quick relationship. But the teenagers have much more in common — maybe more than they realized.
They will attract an audience to their US Open women’s final Saturday that extends far beyond the fans who will be at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I just think that the matchup and what we’re seeing — those two ladies are touching a lot of young girls,” said Jorge Fernandez, Leylah’s father and coach.
People will be watching in Asia: The 18-year-old Raducanu’s mother is from China and the 19-year-old Fernandez’s is Filipino Canadian.
And in Latin America: Jorge Fernandez is from Ecuador.
And in Europe: Raducanu’s father is from Romania.
And, of course, in Canada: Fernandez was born in Montreal (although she has been based in Florida for several years); Raducanu was born in Toronto and still holds a passport from that country (her family moved to England when she was 2).

Beyond being terrific tennis players, these teenagers are citizens of the world.
“This can only be good for the tennis game and for the WTA altogether,” said Jorge Fernandez, who answered questions during a Zoom interview Friday in English, Spanish and French.

Leylah Fernandez was relatively unknown in the Philippines and Ecuador before beating defending champion Naomi Osaka in the third round. She has since drawn plenty of attention from local media in both countries, with mentions of her family’s roots.
Char Abalos was among the fans who woke up early Friday in Manila to watch Fernandez beat No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka in a semifinal match that took place Thursday night in New York.
“She looks very calm but at the same time cheerful in the court,” Abalos said, noting that many tennis players are often quick to frown. “Leylah is so calm, just making sure that the crowd is enjoying.”
The player who emerges Saturday as a new face of tennis will be a lot like last year’s US Open champion. Osaka was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, with the family moving to New York when she was young.
Tennis also sent this year’s finalists on the move — in Fernandez’s case, her mother moved to California to help support the family while Leylah and her father remained in Canada to train.
Now, they live together in Florida, where Jorge Fernandez has remained during these two weeks while coaching from afar via phone conversations. He’s noticed the messages of encouragement that in recent days included tweets from Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Leylah Fernandez didn’t always have such support.




Leylah Fernandez of Canada celebrates after match point against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus on Day 11 of the 2021 US.Open tennis tournament. (Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports)

She remembers being in the fifth or sixth grade and being encouraged to quit spending so much time on her backhand and pay more attention to the blackboard.
“I remember one teacher, which was actually very funny — at the time wasn’t, but now I’m laughing,” Fernandez said. “She told me to stop playing tennis, ‘You will never make it and just focus on school.’”
Instead, her family dug in more, with Jorge Fernandez remembering his daughter winning a tournament at 12 that featured players who were 16. Perhaps that got her ready for a US Open draw that featured three players ranked in the top five.

First since Serena Williams and Martina Hingis

After beating all of them in three sets, including Osaka, her opponent is Raducanu, who wasn’t even in the top 350 a few months ago. Nor was she even guaranteed to be in the US Open a few weeks ago, having to play her way into the main draw through the qualifying rounds.
She is the first qualifier to reach a Grand Slam final. Raducanu beat Fernandez in the junior Wimbledon tournament in 2018, but their skills — and fans — have only grown.
“Obviously since then, we’ve both come very far in our games and as people,” Raducanu said. “I’m sure it’s going to be extremely different to when we last encountered each other.”
This meeting is the first Grand Slam final between teenagers since the 1999 US Open, when Serena Williams, 17, beat Martina Hingis, 18.
Fernandez will be trying to give Canada its second 19-year-old champion in three years, after Bianca Andreescu beat Williams to win the 2019 title.
If that match felt like a changing of the guard in women’s tennis, well, Saturday’s final seems like another sped-up version of that, pitting players born 2 months apart in 2002.

Raducanu still remembers watching the 2011 French Open final, when Li Na became the first player from Asia to win a Grand Slam singles title in a match viewed by more than 115 million people in China.
“I think for me, having a Chinese mom, she definitely instilled from a young age hard work, discipline,” Raducanu said. “I think for me, when I was younger, I would take a lot of inspiration from Li Na, even now, just the way she was such a fierce competitor.”
Jorge Fernandez sees his wife’s influence providing the same fighting spirit on his daughter’s game.
“She’s got Filipino blood in her,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”
Their pursuit of tennis success from opposite sides of the Atlantic made it difficult for Fernandez and Raducanu to keep up the relationship that started when they bonded over their Canadian roots during a tournament in Florida.
Raducanu said they say hello whenever they see each other. On Saturday, they can do it standing across the net from each other in the biggest stadium in the sport.
“I’m sure there will be a good atmosphere for both of us,” Raducanu said.
The world will be watching.


Newcastle thrash Sheffield United 8-0 in Premier League

Updated 57 min 57 sec ago
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Newcastle thrash Sheffield United 8-0 in Premier League

  • Victory lifts Newcastle up to eighth and within five points of the top four

SHEFFIELD: Newcastle came close to matching the Premier League's record margin of victory as they thrashed Sheffield United 8-0 at Bramall Lane on Sunday.
Eddie Howe's side ran riot with goals from Sean Longstaff, Dan Burn, Sven Botman, Callum Wilson, Anthony Gordon, Miguel Almiron, Bruno Guimaraes and Alexander Isak.
The biggest winning margin in the Premier League era is 9-0, a score recorded by Manchester United against Ipswich and Southampton in 1995 and 2021 respectively.
Liverpool won 9-0 against Bournemouth last year, while Leicester managed it against Southampton in 2019.
Sheffield United's largest ever league defeat sent the Blades to the bottom of the Premier League table.
With just one point from their first six games back in the English top flight, Paul Heckingbottom's future as manager is now in doubt.
"The first-half goals we conceded were really poor, but it's the second half I'm upset with," said Heckingbottom.
"The errors that led to goals, a lot of things I'd never seen before, and there's certain things that aren't acceptable."
Newcastle had lost three of their opening five league games of the season to dampen expectations that the Saudi-backed Magpies could challenge for the title.
Howe's men had been in the Champions League for the first time in 20 years on Tuesday as they played out a 0-0 draw away to AC Milan.
But Newcastle showed no signs of fatigue and they exhibited their strength in depth as they became the first side in Premier League history to have eight different scorers in one match, not including own goals.
"I thought we were really good, and once the goals came the confidence returned," said Howe.
"What a response from the players in the past week."
Sheffield United had started the game brightly at an emotional Bramall Lane as tributes were paid to Maddy Cusack.
The 27-year-old, who was the longest-serving player in the club's women's side and also worked in the club's commercial department, died earlier this week.
However, the hosts fell apart as Newcastle struck three times in a 14-minute spell.
Longstaff swept home Gordon's cross before centre-backs Dan Burn and Sven Botman headed home from Kieran Trippier crosses.
Trippier had a hat-trick of assists shortly after the break as he set up Wilson.
It was 5-0 just after the hour mark when Gordon capped a scintillating display by cutting inside and curling a fine 20-yard shot into the bottom corner.
Almiron's sweet strike found the bottom corner to make it six before Guimaraes converted a loose ball in the area.
Substitute Isak completed the rout by latching on to a loose header from Tom Davies.
Victory lifts Newcastle up to eighth and within five points of the top four.


Al-Kholood boss Fabiano Flora eyes Al-Ittihad giant-killing in King’s Cup

“Of course, this is one of the biggest matches of my coaching career, Fabiano Flora said ahead of the King’s Cup clash.
Updated 24 September 2023
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Al-Kholood boss Fabiano Flora eyes Al-Ittihad giant-killing in King’s Cup

  • Sharing the spotlight with Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and Fabinho will give the second-tier club belief in its quest for promotion, says coach

Among a host of fascinating King’s Cup ties this week is the visit of star-studded Saudi Pro League leaders Al-Ittihad to second-tier side Al-Kholood on Tuesday.

While there is every chance that Nuno Espirito Santo will rest some of his big players, opposite number Fabiano Flora is hoping that the likes of Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, Fabinho and Jota will take to the field at Al-Kholood’s modest 8,000-capacity ground, which they share with Saudi Pro League side Al-Hazem.

“Of course, this is one of the biggest matches of my coaching career, Flora told Arab News ahead of the King’s Cup clash.

“Al-Ittihad is not just the biggest team in Saudi Arabia as the champions last season. This is a club that is one of the most important in Asia, too, and has the capacity to win the AFC Champions League.

“It is a tough game against Nuno because they have a great team with high-quality players. We know all of them — Benzema, Fabinho, Kante. It’s a big team and a big challenge, but at the same time it is a great experience for me and my players.”

Flora has admired the work done at Al-Ittihad by fellow Portuguese coach Nuno.

“Nuno has obviously had a great career now, working with big clubs and with big experience,” Flora said. “He has clear principles in the way he wants his team to play and from what I see, he tries to keep things simple for his players.

“Al-Ittihad are adaptable to different formations and tactics, but the football they play is not complex — they play effectively with simple processes. We know this will be a difficult game.”

Flora has been in charge of Al-Kholood for just three weeks, but has made an immediate impact, leading the club to three successive wins in the Saudi First Division since his arrival. Al-Ittihad will represent a different challenge entirely, but the 38-year-old insists his side are primed to cause a cup upset.

“It is still early days for me, but I think the team is improving and we feel ready to compete,” he said. “In the league we have beaten Al-Batin, who came from the Saudi Pro League last season, and also Al-Arabi, who have spent a lot of money to try to get promotion this year.

“We are in a good moment so let’s see. Everything is possible in football; with good organization, with a good mentality, I think we can play a very good match and we can compete with Al-Ittihad.”

Flora hopes that the experience of playing against the reigning Saudi Pro League champions will give Al-Kholood players the belief that they can gain promotion this season, although he recognizes that the Saudi First Division is hugely competitive.

“I came here because I believe we can do some something important. We know it is difficult for us because there has been some big investment from four or five teams this season, but we also know that there is quality in our team.”

Flora’s coaching career has been a globetrotting adventure that began in traditional surroundings at the academy of Serie A side Lazio, but has also taken in less-traditional footballing nations, including Myanmar, Madagascar and Timor-Leste.

“Working in different places gives you such a rich experience as a coach — you are not just learning about the tactical and technical side of the game but about society and culture, too. You become more adaptable as a coach.”

Managers such as Arrigo Sacchi, Jose Mourinho and Carlos Alberto Parreira have demonstrated that you do not need to have a professional football career to become a successful coach, and it is a blueprint that Flora is trying to follow.

“Of course, when you are a player and have lived inside the group, you understand the feelings players have in certain moments.

“But when you don’t play, you have more time to learn. This is a big difference. You start to think early on about football — how you can improve players, how you can improve as a coach — and you can study the game in more depth. As a player, you just don’t have this time.”

Flora spent a number of years at Lazio before working at Juventus when Antonio Conte was first-team coach.

“I learned a lot in in Italy; I think they stay one step in front of all coaches in the world in terms of their tactical approach,” Flora said.

“When you work in the youth leagues with these big clubs with a great history, of course I was able to connect with people like Filippo Inzaghi and Paolo Negro — important players who have had valuable experience. You learn from them and the way they think about football.”

Just 15 months ago, Flora’s colorful coaching career had taken him to Latvia, but on Monday he will test his tactical acumen against a world-class coach and a team bursting with talented players. It is an opportunity he is relishing.

“It’s a good feeling, of course, when you play against a big club with big players. When you are young or early in your career, you are always thinking about the future and whether these moments might come.

“You want to believe it will happen so when it does, this feels like a great reward for the decisions you have made, the places you have coached, the challenges you have taken. Really, I feel a great satisfaction and I am looking forward to this match.”


Trevor Peek ‘has a tough fight in front of him and I’m coming for the kill,’ says UAE’s mixed martial arts warrior

Updated 24 September 2023
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Trevor Peek ‘has a tough fight in front of him and I’m coming for the kill,’ says UAE’s mixed martial arts warrior

  • Mohammad Yahya will make his UFC bow against Peek on Oct. 21 at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena
  • Yahya believes the home court advantage will tip the odds in his favor

A month out from his historic debut in the UFC next month, UAE’s Mohammad Yahya is already talking a big game.

The first fighter from the Emirates, and the Gulf region, to sign with the world’s leading MMA promotion, Yahya will make his UFC bow against Trevor Peek on Oct. 21 at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena.

Peek may have experience on his side given it will be his third UFC outing, but Yahya believes the home court advantage will tip the odds in his favor.

“He has one win, one loss in the UFC. But he’s coming to my turf, he’s coming to my land, so he’s the one who’s going to be nervous,” Yahya told Arab News in an interview.

“I’ve fought in Etihad Arena, I defended my belt there, three, four times. That arena is basically my home. So he’s coming to fight me there, he’s the one who needs to be nervous and he has a tough fight in front of him and I’m coming for the kill.”

Yahya’s words sound all the more convincing when you realize that they are accompanied by a soft-spoken voice and an ice-cold demeanor.

The 29-year-old has indeed defended his UAE Warriors Arabia lightweight championship title on three occasions at Abu Dhabi’s state-of-the-art indoor arena, most recently last February, and enters his clash with Peek at UFC 294 carrying a five-fight winning streak.

Based in Dubai and training out of TK MMA Fit gym in Media City, Yahya first fell in love with mixed martial arts at the age of 14, watching it on television with his brother and cousins.

“My brother said it’s kind of like WWE, but they actually fight. I was shocked that they were actually hitting each other for real and they’re fighting,” Yahya said.

“And then over the years we just kept following the UFC, watching the events and then the Ultimate Fighter came out, I watched a few of their seasons.

“I wanted to find somewhere to train in the UAE but there weren’t that many gyms, so I ended up finding some kung fu gym and trained there; ended up loving it and had my first fight and just loved it and kept on doing it.”

Yahya began his career in Tam Khan’s Dubai Fighting Championship in 2012 before joining regional promotion Desert Force. He signed a multi-fight deal with Bellator in 2017 then made his way to UAE Warriors two years later.

It has admittedly been a long road, but Yahya insists that he always knew the day would come where he would step into the octagon on the sport’s grandest stage.

“Honestly from a very young age, I always knew I would (make it to the UFC). I stood out and I always put the training in,” he said.

“I think anyone can achieve their dreams with a lot of hard work and determination. And obviously we are in the land of opportunities, the fight capital of Abu Dhabi.

“I had a feeling that I was going to be on this card for maybe about a year. I knew UFC came last year. And then I said, ‘OK, maybe I’ll get on next one’. Then I see the poster and I just felt like I would be on this event and I finally got the opportunity.”

Yahya has had the support of his parents from the start and says that they were particularly pleased with how it introduced discipline to his life “in a different way” during his teen years.

“I was doing better in school, I wasn’t getting in trouble and they could see how dedicated I was to the sport. Now they’re super proud of me that I’m in the UFC,” he said.

“It’s called mixed martial arts, it’s an art. And some people love to express their feelings in what they do and how they perform. So it might look like a crazy sport to some people, and violent, but it’s basically our way of expressing ourselves to people.”

Yahya comes off as an exceptionally calm person, and he says that it is an attribute he relies on heavily in the cage.

“I’m kind of calm in the cage, too. When I was younger, I was more energetic and more wild but now I feel like I’m just focused and I’m very wise and do what I need to do in the cage,” he said.

That level-headedness will come in handy as the hype continues to build up for UFC 294, which will be headlined by Islam Makhachev and Charles Oliveira, in a rematch of their UFC 280 bout in Abu Dhabi last year.

Yahya is well aware that being the first from the GCC region comes with great responsibility and this is something that he does not taking lightly.

“Obviously, I’m representing the whole nation, I’m representing my country as I’ve always done. I wouldn’t have accepted this opportunity if I wasn’t ready. I knew I can do this and I’m looking to make a lot of people proud on 21 October,” he said.

“My approach is as every fight, normally I’m very calm for the fight, I’m never nervous. Obviously, this is a whole different game, it’s the Ultimate Fighting Championship, so it’s the ultimate. And obviously there’s going to be 15,000 16,000 people there and observe. I think the last pay-per-view on this when Islam and Oliveira fought, it sold 50 million pay-per-views, or 40 million pay-per-views.

“No one wants to get knocked out in front of those people and lose. So I’m taking this fight very seriously. The pressure is obviously there but you have to overcome it, that’s what makes you different to other people, it’s how you deal with all that pressure.”


Dominant champion Al-Qemzi grabs pole in Portugal

Updated 24 September 2023
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Dominant champion Al-Qemzi grabs pole in Portugal

  • Team Abu Dhabi star underlines F2 superiority as battle for silver and bronze goes down to the wire

VILA VELHA DE RODAO: Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi underlined his dominance of the 2023 UIM F2 World Championship on Saturday with another stunning performance to secure pole position for Sunday’s final Grand Prix of the season in Portugal.

Having wrapped up his fourth F2 world title with one round to spare last weekend, the Emirati driver produced another impressive display to win the seven-boat qualifying shoot-out in dramatic fashion at Vila Velha de Rodao.

Lithuania’s Edgaras Riabko briefly looked to be heading for a repeat of his pole position success in Peso da Regua when he squeezed ahead of Al-Qemzi late in the session, but the champion responded with a brilliant final lap to take the honors.

Norway’s Tobias Munthe-Kaas set the third-fastest qualifying time ahead of Portugal’s Duarte Benavente, Estonian Stefan Arand, Team Abu Dhabi’s Mansoor Al-Mansoori and Sweden’s Mathilda Wiberg.

While the title race pressure is removed for Al-Qemzi, he is determined to complete the season with a third Grand Prix success of the campaign tomorrow afternoon following wins in Lithuania and Italy.

The battle for the championship’s silver and bronze medal positions is still wide open, however, and there was fierce competition for qualifying places, with the intensity set to continue tomorrow.

It was on the Tagus River at Vila Velha de Rodao two years ago that Al-Qemzi scored a second Grand Prix victory in the space of eight days to wrap up his third F2 world title.

Happy to be back at the venue, a week after adding to his title triumphs in 2017, 2019 and 2021, Al-Qemzi was fastest in the free practice session, while Abu Dhabi teammate Al-Mansoori made a late surge to set the third-best time.

Al-Qemzi then cruised through the first of two qualifying rounds behind Benavente, with Wiberg setting the third-quickest time ahead of Al-Mansoori.

With just 13 points separating Riabko, Arand, Monaco’s Giacomo Sacchi, Britain’s Colin Jelf and Al-Mansoori in the tussle for the two remaining overall podium places, the stage is set for a big climax to the season.

It has been a fiercely competitive championship season, and Al-Qemzi has risen to the challenge superbly to join Swede Erik Stark in the record books as a four-time F2 champion.


Ominous China make golden start on first day of Asian Games

Updated 24 September 2023
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Ominous China make golden start on first day of Asian Games

  • China won six of the seven golds at the Fuyang Water Sports Center rowing venue on Sunday morning
  • Sun successfully defended his men’s changquan wushu title from 2018, ahead of Indonesia’s Edgar Xavier Marvelo

HANGZHOU: Hosts China swept the first gold medals at the Asian Games in Hangzhou on Sunday in a statement of intent on day one of the region’s answer to the Olympics.

China claimed the first gold when Zou Jiaqi and Qiu Xiuping dominated the women’s lightweight double sculls rowing to kick off a medal rush for the home nation.

The Chinese pair finished in 7min 6.78sec, with Uzbekistan’s Luizakhon Islamova and Malika Tagmativa taking silver — almost 10 seconds behind.

“I am very excited as it’s my first Asian Games,” said Zou, clutching her gold medal.

“Stepping on to the podium today is a new starting point to help us prepare for next year’s Paris Olympics,” said Qiu.

Indonesia’s Chelsea Corputty and Rahma Mutiara Putri won bronze.

The hosts soon doubled up on the rowing lake as the men’s lightweight double sculls gold was won by Fan Junjie and Sun Man, who finished five seconds clear of India’s Arjun Lal Jat and Arvind Singh.

China won six of the seven golds at the Fuyang Water Sports Center rowing venue on Sunday morning with only Hong Kong’s Lam San-tung and Wong Wai-chun getting in on the party by winning the men’s pairs.

China’s shooters also claimed the women’s 10m team air rifle.

The hosts’ rip-roaring start to the 19th Asian Games, which end on October 8, continued as Sun Peiyuan won the first martial arts gold.

Sun successfully defended his men’s changquan wushu title from 2018, ahead of Indonesia’s Edgar Xavier Marvelo with Macau’s Song Chi-kuan third.

“I’m so very excited, I’m lost for words,” said Sun.

China won 10 of the first 11 golds in the early action on Sunday.

Swimming is one of the highlights of the Games and will see seven finals later on Sunday at the Hangzhou Olympic Center Aquatic Sports Arena, where China are also expected to dominate.

Triple breaststroke world champion Qin Haiyang upstaged Olympic gold medallist Wang Shun in the morning heats to qualify fastest for the men’s 200m individual medley final.

Qin burst on to the scene at the July world championships in Fukuoka, becoming the first man in history to sweep all three breaststroke titles and also setting a new world record in the 200m.

Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Zhang Yufei, also from the host nation, fired off a warning shot of her own with a dominant 200m butterfly swim, touching more than three seconds clear of teammate Yu Liyan and Japan’s Airi Mitsui.

South Korean sensation Hwang Sun-woo got the better of breakout Chinese freestyler Pan Zhanle in their 100m heat, though China’s Wang Haoyu qualified fastest in 48.13.

Elsewhere, India’s women cricketers ripped through Bangladesh, dismissing them for just 51 in the first semifinal.

They knocked off their target in just 8.2 overs and will face either Pakistan or Sri Lanka in Monday’s final of the Twenty20 competition.

Other sports beginning on Sunday include boxing, rugby sevens, hockey and the wildly popular eSports — where superstars such as South Korea’s “Faker” are expected to draw huge crowds for its debut as a full Asian Games medal event.

President Xi Jinping opened the Games on Saturday night after a delay of a year because of China’s now-abandoned zero-COVID policy.

With more than 12,000 competitors from 45 nations and territories, the Asian Games has more participants than the Olympics.

They will battle for medals in 40 sports across 54 venues.

Most events take place in Hangzhou, a city of 12 million people near Shanghai, but some sports are being staged in cities as far afield as Wenzhou, 300 kilometers (180 miles) to the south.