Medvedev wins US Open, ending Djokovic’s calendar Grand Slam bid

Daniil Medvedev celebrates with the championship trophy after defeating Novak Djokovic in the 2021 US Open on Sunday in New York. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 13 September 2021

Medvedev wins US Open, ending Djokovic’s calendar Grand Slam bid

  • Russian beats world number one in straight sets
  • Djokovic fails to win all four majors in the same year

NEW YORK: Novak Djokovic’s quest for a record 21st major title that would have completed the calendar year Grand Slam collapsed at the final hurdle in a stunning 6-4 6-4 6-4 defeat by Russian Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final on Sunday.
Medvedev, playing in his third major final, at last hoisted a Grand Slam trophy while avenging a straight sets defeat by Djokovic earlier this year in the Australian Open final.
The 34-year-old Serb was trying to become the first man in over a half-century to win all four majors (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open) in the same year.
It would have made him only the third man to achieve the feat after Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969), who was watching from a courtside seat.
“It’s a tough one to swallow, this loss, considering everything that was on the line,” said Djokovic.
“I was glad it was over because the build up for this tournament and everything that mentally, emotionally I had to deal with throughout the tournament in the last couple of weeks was just a lot.
“It was a lot to handle.”




Novak Djokovic smashes his racket on the court after losing a point to Daniil Medvedev during the men's singles final of the US Open tennis championships on Sept. 12, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

For the fifth consecutive match, Djokovic found himself playing catch-up after dropping the first set.
But this time there would be no way out as the rampaging Russian kept up the pressure with a barrage of aces while allowing Djokovic a single break.
In the second set Medvedev stepped up the pressure further and Djokovic showed the first signs of cracking, the Serb destroying his racquet in a fit of frustration after missing two break chances.
With Djokovic on the ropes Medvedev moved in with the knockout punch, breaking to clinch the second then racing to a double break 4-0 lead in the third.
Such was Medvedev’s domination that the only tiny bit of suspense came late in the third when the Russian was suddenly hit by a bout of nerves trying to close out the match.
Serving at 5-2 Medvedev double faulted on match point, allowing Djokovic to secure his break.
After the top seed held serve to trim the deficit to 5-4 Medvedev again had match point and again double faulted.
But the 25-year-old did not squander another chance, gathering himself to clinch the title on his third attempt.
Medvedev later revealed there might have been more drama had the match gone any further. He said he was starting to cramp up just as he began to close out the third and feared Djokovic would pounce if he saw any sign of vulnerability.
“At 5-4, my left leg, I almost couldn’t walk,” said Medvedev. “When I walked to the towel, my leg was just going behind.
“I was trying not to show it. If Novak feels it, it’s not good.”




Daniil Medvedev (R) and Novak Djokovic talk at center court after Medvedev won their final match of the 2021 US Open on Sept. 12, 2021. (Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP)

Weight of history
Djokovic arrived on Arthur Ashe Stadium court with the weight of history on his shoulders.
An extraordinary women’s final on Saturday between teenagers Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez had softened the spotlight’s glare on Djokovic but there was no shirking from it on Sunday with tennis fans around the world tuned in to witness history.
The women’s final was the first Grand Slam to feature two unseeded players but the men’s followed the form book to the letter with number one Djokovic meeting number two Medvedev.
The New York crowd had never really embraced Djokovic the way it wrapped its arms around Swiss Roger Federer and Spaniard Rafa Nadal, who have also won 20 Grand Slam titles.
It had also shown no real love for Medvedev, the lanky Russian who relished the role of US Open villain on his way to the 2019 final.
Perhaps sensing they were about to witness something special, the crowd rallied behind Djokovic from the moment he stepped on court, showering him with cheers and chants of his nickname: “Nole, Nole, Nole.”
“I felt something I never felt in my life here in New York,” said Djokovic. “The crowd made me (feel) very special.
“The emotion, the energy was so strong. I mean, it’s as strong as winning 21 Grand Slams.
“That’s how I felt, honestly.”
But no amount of support could lift Djokovic’s game.
The Serb had said he would treat the final as if it were the last match of his career but never came close to finding his best.
Medvedev was also keenly aware there was a line in the history books for him if he were the player to deny Djokovic the coveted calendar year Grand Slam.
“It definitely makes it sweeter,” said Medvedev. “He was going for huge history and knowing that I managed to stop him it definitely makes it sweeter and brings me confidence for what is to come.” 


New Zealand players reach Dubai after ‘credible threat’ derails Pakistan tour 

Updated 19 September 2021

New Zealand players reach Dubai after ‘credible threat’ derails Pakistan tour 

  • “We were advised this was a specific and credible threat against the team,” New Zealand Cricket says 
  • New Zealand was visiting Pakistan for first time in 18 years and was due to play five Twenty20 matches 

WELLINGTON: New Zealand was warned of a “specific, credible threat” against its team, the country’s cricket board said on Sunday, elaborating on the rationale for abruptly abandoning the tour of Pakistan as the squad reached Dubai. 

New Zealand had pulled out of the limited-overs tour on the day of the opening fixture in Rawalpindi on Friday citing a New Zealand government security alert. 

“What I can say is that we were advised this was a specific and credible threat against the team,” New Zealand Cricket (NZC) chief executive David White said in a statement. 

“Everything changed on Friday. The advice changed, the threat level changed and, as a consequence, we took the only responsible course of action possible. 

“Unfortunately, given the advice we’d received, there was no way we could stay in the country.” 

New Zealand had been visiting Pakistan for the first time in 18 years and also had been due to play five Twenty20 matches in Lahore. 

Top teams have largely shunned Pakistan following an attack by Islamist militants on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009 that killed six policemen and two civilians. 

The players left Islamabad by a chartered flight on Saturday and reached Dubai where the 34-strong contingent are undergoing 24-hour period of self-isolation, the NZC said in a statement. 

Twenty four of them will return home next week, while the rest would join New Zealand’s Twenty20 World Cup squad for the showpiece tournament scheduled in the United Arab Emirates and Oman from Oct. 17. 

Stung by the shock withdrawal, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has threatened to take up the matter with the governing International Cricket Council. 

Even Prime Minister Imran Khan’s telephone discussion with New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern could not save the tour and prevent a major blow to Pakistan’s hopes of hosting top international teams. 

Prime Minister Ardern said NZC “made the right decision” to pull out of the tour. 

“You will understand why we are not in a position to give further information as to the nature of the intelligence, other than to say, it was a direct threat, and it was a credible threat,” she told reporters on Sunday. 

The advice was also supported by NZC’s security consultants and other independent sources, the cricket board said. 

While the general tenor of the threat was immediately shared with the PCB, White said specific details could not, and will not, be disclosed. 

White also addressed a report on news website www.stuff.co.nz that claimed a member of the team had received death threats before embarking on the tour of Pakistan. He said the email threats were “forwarded to our security provider,” and “were proved to be hoax and not credible.” 


Pakistan battling isolation as cricket host after New Zealand pull out

Updated 18 September 2021

Pakistan battling isolation as cricket host after New Zealand pull out

  • New Zealand would have been the highest profile team to play in Pakistan in more than a decade
  • Pakistan have only hosted South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe since the 2009 attacks

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan cricket began confronting its worst fear Saturday, with the national side staring at another era of isolation from hosting international matches after New Zealand abandoned its tour, citing a security threat.
The All Blacks called off their first Pakistan series in 18 years with Wellington’s backing on Friday just before the first one-day international was due to start in Rawalpindi.
The decision has left cricket-crazy Pakistan reeling, with the nation still recovering from the 2009 militant attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore that wounded six players.
Already struggling to convince foreign teams to tour, Pakistan were forced to play home matches at neutral venues — primarily in the UAE — following the assault.
The decision left a generation of cricket fans growing up having never attended a live game.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, a former international cricketing hero, and the Pakistan Cricket Board will now have to work overtime to avoid another period of exile.
“With the administration they now have in place at the PCB and how closely linked to the PM it is, there’ll be a real push to ensure they have to play as little as possible in a neutral venue,” cricket writer Osman Samiuddin told AFP.
Their first task will be to convince England, who decide Sunday whether to send their men’s and women’s teams for a scheduled tour to Pakistan next month.
Those tours are to be followed by a series against the West Indies in December and Australia’s first visit since 1998 in February next year.
“England are now likely not to tour. Australia... will also probably not come. So that will be a hit,” Samiuddin said.
“And for fans too, they’ve only just started getting used to going to big games again so for the prospect of that being taken away, it’s going to hurt.”
The newly elected chairman of the PCB Ramiz Raja admitted Saturday that Pakistani cricket was facing “a lot of pressure,” though not for the first time — and that the nation was resilient.
“Your pain and my pain is the same, it’s a shared pain. Whatever happened was not good for Pakistan cricket,” he said.
The PCB bled $200 million in losses during the country’s cricket exile.
Now, alongside the upcoming tours, its bids to host six international events — including the World Cup and Champion’s Trophy between 2024-31 — could also be in jeopardy.
Former players say keeping international cricket in Pakistan is the key priority.
“All cricketers are with the PCB and we have to find ways to avoid further isolation, for the sake of our next generations,” former captain Rashid Latif told AFP.
New Zealand would have been the highest profile team to play in Pakistan in more than a decade.
Pakistan have only hosted South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe since the 2009 attacks.
Ex-player Naushad Ali said his country needs to restore the confidence of the cricketing world.
“Pakistan will have to prove that New Zealand’s decision was wrong and I think only that will earn them sympathy,” said Ali.
“We should not give up our hosting rights and should lobby with other countries.”
But former captain Shahid Afridi believes they have sacrificed a lot over the years and deserve “a better deal.”
“We have done more than enough for them,” he said.
“We toured England and New Zealand (last year) despite fears of pandemic and we want them to reciprocate.”


Salah strike helps Liverpool to top of the table with Palace win

Updated 18 September 2021

Salah strike helps Liverpool to top of the table with Palace win

  • Defending champions Manchester City drop two points at home to Southampton
  • Arsenal beat Burnley and continue climb up table

LONDON: Martin Odegaard scored his first goal since his permanent switch to Arsenal on Saturday to further ease the pressure on Mikel Arteta as Sadio Mane helped fire Liverpool to the top of the Premier League.
Defending champions Manchester City dropped two points at home to Southampton after a 0-0 stalemate while struggling Wolves lost their fourth match in five against 10-man Brentford.
Arsenal were rock bottom of the table before last week’s fixtures but wins against Norwich and now Burnley lifted them to the relative comfort of 12th spot before the late kick-off between Aston Villa and Everton.
Odegaard, who signed from Real Madrid last month after spending part of last season at the Emirates on loan, broke the deadlock in the 30th minute, curling home a free-kick to give the visitors a 1-0 lead at Turf Moor.
Arsenal breathed a sigh of relief when VAR overturned a penalty awarded to Burnley in the second half after Matej Vydra tumbled to the turf following a challenge by goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
Liverpool forward Mane continued his eye-catching run against Crystal Palace, netting in his ninth league match in a row against the London side to send Jurgen Klopp’s men top of the table with a 3-0 win.
Mohamed Salah’s glancing header from Konstantinos Tsimikas’ corner was kept out by goalkeeper Vicente Guaita but Mane pounced to lash home his 100th goal for Liverpool in all competitions.
Salah doubled the Reds’ lead in the 78th minute before Naby Keita sealed the win with a sweetly struck volley.
Liverpool, champions in 2020, have made an impressive start to the season, scoring 12 goals in their opening five games and conceding just once.
Manchester City will rue their inability to beat Southampton at the Etihad after consecutive 5-0 home wins.
It could have been worse for them after referee Jon Moss pointed to the spot when Kyle Walker bundled into the back of Adam Armstrong in the area, showing the England international a red card.
But the incident was reviewed by VAR and Moss eventually decided to overturn both decisions.
The build-up to City’s match was dominated by a row over attendance levels at the Etihad, with manager Pep Guardiola urging fans to fill empty seats in comments that irritated some supporters.
But fans were frustrated by battling Southampton, who kept City’s attackers at bay despite relentless pressure.
The home side thought they had snatched victory in the dying minutes after goalkeeper Alex McCarthy saved a Phil Foden header and Raheem Sterling tucked in the rebound but the flag was raised.
Watford beat Norwich 3-1 to condemn the newly promoted Canaries to their fifth consecutive defeat.
Watford took the lead in the 17th minute through Emmanuel Dennis but Teemu Pukki equalized before half time. Ismaila Sarr put the visitors back in front in the 63rd minute and scored again with 10 minutes to go.
In the early kick-off, Ivan Toney scored a goal and created another as 10-man Brentford beat Wolves 2-0 to maintain their impressive start to their first Premier League campaign.
The 25-year-old striker won and converted a penalty before setting up Bryan Mbeumo as the Bees prevailed at Molineux despite Shandon Baptiste’s red card in the second half.
Tottenham host Chelsea on Sunday while Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United travel to West Ham.


New Zealand Cricket silent on security threat ending Pakistan tour

Updated 18 September 2021

New Zealand Cricket silent on security threat ending Pakistan tour

  • The foreign ministry in Wellington says the country’s cricket board makes its own security decisions for foreign tours
  • New Zealand Cricket had said on Friday it was abandoning the Pakistan tour following its government’s ‘security alert’

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Cricket officials on Saturday threw a veil of secrecy over the security threat that forced the abrupt cancelation of their Pakistan tour.
According to Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Pakistan leader Imran Khan that the team feared an attack outside the stadium.
The cancelation is a huge setback for Pakistan, which has been trying to revive tours by foreign sides after home internationals were suspended in the aftermath of a terror attack on the Sri Lankan side in 2009.
The announcement on Friday that the series had been called off came just as the first one-day international was due to start at Rawalpindi Stadium, 10 kilometers (six miles) from the team hotel in Islamabad.
In a brief public statement, Ardern said the New Zealand government supported the cancelation as “player safety has to be paramount.”
The foreign ministry, which has been in contact with New Zealand Cricket, said there was an “ongoing and significant threat from terrorism throughout Pakistan” but would not comment on specific security concerns.
“New Zealand Cricket makes its own security decisions and has its own security arrangements in place for all international tours,” a ministry spokesman said.
When New Zealand Cricket first announced it was abandoning the Pakistan tour, it said the decision followed “a New Zealand government security alert” and advice from its own security advisers.
The side previously cut short a tour in 2002 after a suicide bombing outside their team hotel in Karachi killed 14 people, including 11 French naval engineers.
A New Zealand Cricket official told AFP no further comment was planned “at this juncture” and would not say if the security threat that caused the cancelation had been passed to the Pakistan Cricket Board or any other cricket-playing nation.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has said it will decide in the next 48 hours whether to withdraw from a tour planned for next month, while the West Indies and Australia are also scheduled to tour in the next six months.
Pakistan’s interior minister Ahmad was adamant there was “no threat to cricket in Pakistan, there was no threat to New Zealand and there is no threat to England.”
New Zealand were in Pakistan for the first time since 2003 and were due to play three ODIs, followed by five Twenty20 matches.
 


Guardiola defends his plea for ‘more fans’ at Man City game

Updated 17 September 2021

Guardiola defends his plea for ‘more fans’ at Man City game

  • A clash has broken out between City’s esteemed manager and a section of the team’s followers after Guardiola’s plea for “more people” to attend City’s Premier League home match against Southampton
  • The attendance against Leipzig was 38,062 and the Etihad’s capacity is about 55,000

MANCHESTER: For Pep Guardiola, it was a rallying cry ahead of what he expects to be a tough game.
For some Manchester City supporters, it was an ill-timed comment that questioned the loyalty of the club’s fan base.
A clash has broken out between City’s esteemed manager and a section of the team’s followers after Guardiola’s plea for “more people” to attend City’s Premier League home match against Southampton on Saturday — three days after a hard-fought 6-3 win over Leipzig in the Champions League at Etihad Stadium.
The attendance against Leipzig was 38,062. The Etihad’s capacity is about 55,000.
One of the people unhappy with Guardiola’s remarks was Kevin Parker, general secretary of City’s official supporters’ club, who accused the Spaniard of failing to understand the difficulties of attending games on a midweek evening and playing into the hands of opposition teams’ fans who often taunt City for not having capacity crowds at some matches.
“He’s absolutely the best coach in the world but, in the nicest possible way, I think maybe he should stick to that,” said Parker, who described Guardiola’s comments were “disappointing and uncalled for.”
Guardiola responded to Parker on Friday in a news conference ahead of the Southampton game, saying he would “definitely not” be apologizing for his comments and that there had been a “misunderstanding.”
“Don’t misunderstand or put words in my mouth that I didn’t say,” Guardiola said. “That’s what I don’t like. I never will be a problem for my fans. If I am a problem for my fans, I will step aside. Not a problem for me.”
Guardiola said he had seen his players look “exhausted” in the locker room after the end-to-end game against Leipzig and quickly realized they would need fans to get behind them against Southampton, given the quick turnaround of the games and Southampton’s pressing game and energetic style.
“When you play in the Champion League, it’s so demanding on your physicality, and mentally, when they (Southampton) have a long week to prepare the game,” Guardiola said. “So that’s why we need to be all together — the players, the supporters, everyone, to help us to do our best. I know exactly our fans will be there tomorrow to support, and hopefully Mr. Parker can come to watch us.
“Mr. Parker,” Guardiola added, should “review his comments.”
City has struggled to fill the Etihad for some home games in the Champions League, especially in the first one of each season’s group stage. It has led to some rivals fans using the nickname “the Emptyhad.”
There are some reasons given for the lower European attendances — some fans’ disaffection with the tournament organizer, UEFA, for what they perceive as unfair sanctions handed to, or affecting, City in the Champions League; City being involved in games in so many competitions that fans pick and choose matches; the pandemic affecting fans’ finances; a digital ticketing system that doesn’t allow fans to transfer tickets to others if they can’t attend a midweek game.
The fan bases of City’s main rivals in English soccer, including Manchester United and Liverpool, are far bigger globally.
“We are who we are. We are proud of who we are,” Guardiola said. “I know the history, I learned about the history of this club when it was in the lower division, and what it means to travel and follow the team. I respect it a lot.”
City has had near-capacity crowds for its first two home matches of the Premier League season — 5-0 wins over Norwich and Arsenal.