Andy Murray wins five-set epic on return to Australian Open

Andy Murray, ranked 113 and playing as a tournament wild card, showed his trademark fighting spirit to edge home in the gripping final set. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 January 2022

Andy Murray wins five-set epic on return to Australian Open

  • The three-time Grand Slam champion is playing with a metal hip following career-saving surgery in 2019
  • ‘It’s amazing to be back and winning a five-set battle like that, I couldn’t ask for any more’

MELBOURNE: Andy Murray battled to his first win at the Australian Open since 2017 with an epic five-set victory over 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili on Tuesday.
The three-time Grand Slam champion, playing with a metal hip following career-saving surgery in 2019, wrestled with the Georgian for almost four hours before claiming his place in the second round.
Scotland’s Murray, ranked 113 and playing as a tournament wild card, showed his trademark fighting spirit to edge home in the gripping final set and clinch a 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 victory in 3 hours and 52 minutes on John Cain Arena.
It comes after his tearful exit from the 2019 Melbourne event with the hip injury which raised the possibility of his imminent retirement from tennis, before he went ahead with surgery just weeks later.
“Amazing, been a tough three or four years. Put in a lot work to get back here,” a relieved Murray, 34, said on court.
“I’ve played on this court many times and the atmosphere is incredible.
“It’s amazing to be back and winning a five-set battle like that, I couldn’t ask for any more.”
It continued a keen rivalry between the pair with Murray rallying from a set down to defeat the big-hitting Georgian last week in Sydney and also prevailing over four sets in the first round at Wimbledon last year.


Thailand showcases halal food offerings at LuLu festival

Updated 34 min 15 sec ago

Thailand showcases halal food offerings at LuLu festival

LuLu Hypermarkets across Saudi Arabia are hosting this week the “Thailand Halal Food Festival 2022,” featuring in-store promotions and online offers for more than 500 products from Thailand.

The event coincided with the visit of Don Pramudwinai, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Thailand, to the Kingdom from May 15-18.

The festival was inaugurated at LuLu’s outlet in Riyadh’s Atyaf Mall by the visiting minister, in the presence of Shehim Mohammed, director of LuLu Hypermarkets Saudi Arabia. In Jeddah, it was launched by Soradjak Puranasamriddhi, the consul general of Thailand, at the Amir Fawaz branch.

LuLu’s in-store promotion was co-organized by the Royal Thai Embassy and Team Thailand in Saudi Arabia. The event, which is running across all the hypermarket branches in Saudi Arabia from May 15-21, aims to introduce Thai products and cuisine to Saudi citizens and expatriates residing in the Kingdom.

Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, especially among those who appreciate historic architecture, pristine nature, and an abundance of flavorful food choices. As a beacon of cultural diversity, Thailand welcomes all nationalities, races, and religions from around the world. The country has a strong presence in the global halal supply chain as all Thai halal products consumed domestically and internationally are certified by the relevant national Islamic authorities.

Thailand leverages science, technology and innovation to ensure the quality and safety of its food products, reaffirming its capacity as the “Kitchen of the World” in the global food supply chain.

“Thailand is one of the food storehouses of the world and is known for its abundant agricultural produce,” said Mohammed. “Thai food is one of the trending and popular cuisines of the world and at LuLu, we work with suppliers to offer shoppers a wide variety of top-quality Thai goods. All this is being showcased at our Thai festival, which is part of a series of year-round national spotlights that add variety, dimension and excitement to the unique LuLu retail experience.”

Currently, Thailand practices the bio-circular-green economy model, which aims to utilize natural assets more efficiently with the least possible adverse impact on the environment. The key strategic areas are based on Thailand’s economic foundation and strengths namely, food and agriculture; medical and wellness; energy, material, and biochemicals; and tourism and creative economy.

Thailand plans to support innovative agricultural products and methods to enhance productivity and hopes to achieve comprehensive security in the key areas of food, health, energy, employment, and sustainable natural resources and environment. Important best practices and lessons learnt could also be exchanged with Saudi Arabia, as Thailand’s BCG model and the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 are implemented respectively in the years ahead. 


Real Madrid sign deal worth $380m for Santiago Bernabeu management

Updated 20 May 2022

Real Madrid sign deal worth $380m for Santiago Bernabeu management

  • The deal with the US-based companies comes with Madrid close to signing Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe, who would arrive as a free agent but command a club-record salary
  • The Bernabeu is undergoing major renovation, getting a new roof, modern video screens and a retractable field in a project that was expected to cost close to €1 billion ($1.05 billion)

MADRID: Real Madrid have signed a stadium management deal for the Santiago Bernabeu worth €360 million ($381 million), the club said Thursday.

The agreement was reached with investment firm Sixth Street and “experiences company” Legends, which specializes in organizing sports and other events and is partly owned by Sixth Street.

The deal with the US-based companies comes with Madrid close to signing Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe, who would arrive as a free agent but command a club-record salary. One of soccer’s top stars, the 23-year-old Mbappe’s contract with PSG expires at the end of this season.

Real Madrid said the money from the deal can be invested in “any of the club’s activities.”

Madrid have not signed any top players in the last few transfer windows and currently hold the league’s highest spending limit at €739 million ($783 million).

The club this season won a record-extending 35th Spanish league title and will be looking to win a record-extending 14th European trophy when it faces Liverpool in the Champions League final on May 28 in Paris.

Sixth Street acquired the right to participate in the operation of certain new businesses of the Bernabeu for 20 years, Madrid said. The exact stake the company will have was not immediately disclosed by the club.

Legends, meanwhile, “will contribute its experience and knowledge in the operation of large stadiums and leisure centers, allowing for the optimization of the management” of the stadium.

“This alliance with Sixth Street and Legends, world leaders in their respective disciplines, will be fundamental in providing unique experiences in a stadium where multiple events can be hosted throughout the year,” Madrid said in a statement. “This agreement strengthens our goal of continuing to significantly increase the stadium’s revenues from both sporting and other types of events.”

Sixth Street said it manages over $60 billion in assets globally and is also linked to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA, as well as to Airbnb and Spotify. Last year it invested a majority stake in Legends, which was formed in 2008 by affiliates of the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys.

“Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu is hallowed ground in the world of football, and we are honored to be joining this partnership to invest in the innovative, long-term strategic vision that has guided the club’s consistent success over its storied history,” said Alan Waxman, co-founder and CEO of Sixth Street.

The Bernabeu is undergoing major renovation, getting a new roof, modern video screens and a retractable field in a project that was expected to cost close to €1 billion ($1.05 billion). The goal was to have it completed by the end of the year. Last season, the team played at the small Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium at the club’s training center. The renovation work was expedited as fans were not allowed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Madrid rival Barcelona will also renovate their Camp Nou Stadium. It recently reached a naming rights deal for the venue with streaming company Spotify believed to be worth €400 million ($424 million) over 12 seasons.

Barcelona and Madrid did not join in the Spanish league’s deal with private equity firm CVC, which will bring in about €2 billion ($2.1 billion) in investment to Spanish clubs. They say the deal gives too much power to CVC over the clubs’ television rights deals for the next five decades.

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Al-Fayha shock Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final to claim first-ever major trophy

Updated 20 May 2022

Al-Fayha shock Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final to claim first-ever major trophy

  • The underdogs took the Saudi and Asian champions to extra time after holding them to a 1-1 draw in normal time, before winning 3-1 on penalties

Al-Fayha defeated Al-Hilal 3-1 in a penalty shootout on Thursday to claim the King’s Cup, the first major trophy in the club’s history.

After two hours of football ended 1-1 at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, the men from Al-Majma’ah were the ones celebrating after Panagiotis Tachtsidis fired home the decisive spot-kick.

It was a stunning ending to the game, during which a Salem Al-Dawsari goal deep into first-half stoppage time broke the deadlock and put Al-Hilal ahead, before Ramon Lopes equalized for the underdogs midway through the second half.

The Riyadh giants had more of the game in terms of possession and chances but nevertheless found it hard going against determined opponents who have the best defensive record in the country. Had Al-Hilal been a little more clinical during the opening exchanges it might have been a very different evening.

It was a breathless opening by the favorites. Coach Ramon Diaz had talked before the game about how his team needed to take their chances because Al-Fayha have the tightest defense in the country, and had they heeded those words Al-Hilal could have almost put the game beyond reach within the first 10 minutes.

With less than five minutes on the clock, the men in blue almost took the lead when Nasser Al-Dawsari burst through onto a loose ball in the area and lifted his shot over the goalkeeper. It was heading toward the back of the net when, almost out of nowhere, Hussein Al-Shuwaish appeared and hooked the ball clear. Soon after, Al-Fayha goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic got down low at his near post to save well from Odion Ighalo.

Five minutes later, Al-Hilal again came close. Moussa Marega sent over a perfect cross from the right side for Al-Dawsari, who arrived unnoticed and unmarked. Somehow, the winger managed to head wide with the goal at his mercy.

Al-Fayha weathered this early storm during the first 20 minutes, during which they did not even manage to secure one fifth of the possession, before finally starting to venture into opposition territory. At the midway point of the first half, Ahmed Bamsaud sent a header over the bar. By that time, the game had settled into a scrappy affair and it looked likely that the two teams would go in goalless at the break.

But with virtually the last kick of the half, Al-Dawsari struck. Collecting the ball from Salman Al-Faraj just inside the left side of the area, the 30 year old took a touch and, with the goalkeeper perhaps expecting a curler into the top corner, fired a low shot with his right foot that beat the diving Stojkovic at the near post.

The half-time show lasted more than 30 minutes and after the restart it took a little time for the game to rediscover its rhythm but Al-Fayha were noticeably more aggressive. After 66 minutes, the underdogs were back on level terms.

It was not a great goal to concede, from Al-Hilal’s viewpoint. Defender Ali Al-Bulaihi completely missed a cross from the right and Lopes got to the ball ahead of Jang Hyun-soo around the penalty spot. His shot on the turn should have been saved by Abdullah Al-Mayouf, who instead could only palm the ball onto the underside of the bar on its way into the net.

Al-Fayha could have gone on to win the game in normal time but were unable to take their chances. The pace slowed in extra time and the play became cagey once more.

After 98 minutes, Al-Hilal’s two Al-Dawsaris combined down the left but the goalscorer pulled his shot just wide. As you might expect, the Asian champions made almost all the running in the 30 minutes of extra time but were just not able to find a way through.

And so to penalties. The shootout started well for the favorites as Al-Mayouf saved the first spot kick but Ighalo failed to capitalize, hitting the bar. After Al-Fayha got off the mark by scoring their second penalty, Al-Faraj blasted his attempt wide and it was all uphill from there for Al-Hilal, especially after Stojkovic then saved well from Abdullah Al-Hamdan.

In the end, it was left to Tachtsidis to fire home with his left foot, giving Al-Fayha the win and the first major trophy in club history.

Al-Hilal are now left to focus on the league, starting with a massive clash against leaders Al-Ittihad on Monday.

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Everton seal Premier League survival after epic escape, Burnley out of bottom three

Updated 20 May 2022

Everton seal Premier League survival after epic escape, Burnley out of bottom three

  • Their thrilling comeback was a microcosm of Lampard’s reign since he took over in January, with Everton staring disaster in the face before pulling back from the brink
  • Thursday’s drama was only an appetizer for what will be a thrilling final day of the season

LONDON: Everton staged a dramatic fightback from two goals down to preserve their Premier League status with a 3-2 win against Crystal Palace, while Burnley climbed out of the relegation zone after a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa on Thursday.

Frank Lampard’s side recovered from conceding twice in the first half as Michael Keane and Richarlison netted after the break before Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s late winner sparked wild celebrations at Goodison Park.

After a nerve-jangling battle to avoid playing outside the top-flight for the first time since 1954, Everton can finally relax with one game to play.

Their thrilling comeback was a microcosm of Lampard’s reign since he took over in January, with Everton staring disaster in the face before pulling back from the brink.

Everton are four points above the relegation zone, leaving fourth-bottom Burnley and third-bottom Leeds scrapping for survival.

“It is the character of this club, the fans and the players that dragged us through,” Lampard said.

“The players to a man were incredible. The fans lifted them and we created a special night in Everton’s history.

“The spirit of the club was immense. I’m overwhelmed.”

Burnley, who host Newcastle in Sunday’s final round of fixtures, climbed above Leeds on goal difference thanks to their point at Villa.

They will be safe if they match Leeds’ result at Brentford on the last day.

Whatever happens at the weekend is unlikely to surpass the emotion at Goodison, where fans wept tears of joy during a frenzied post-match pitch invasion.

The celebrations turned nasty when supporters taunted Palace boss Patrick Vieira, who responded by kicking one fan.

Palace had silenced the boisterous crowd with their 21st minute opener.

Vitalii Mykolenko allowed Jean-Philippe Mateta to get in front of him and the Palace forward headed in Eberechi Eze’s free-kick.

Several bottles were thrown toward Mateta and the atmosphere turned even more toxic in the 36th minute when Jordan Ayew poked home after Abdoulaye Doucoure failed to clear.

But Lampard had labelled the game “all or nothing” and Michael Keane gave Everton a vital 54th minute lifeline, the defender applying the finishing touch from Mason Holgate’s header.

Revitalized, Everton laid seige to the Palace goal and Richarlison hooked the equalizer past Jack Butland in the 75th minute.

With Goodison at fever pitch, Dominic Calvert-Lewin completed the comeback in the 85th minute with a clinical header that sparked a jubilant pitch invasion.

At Villa Park, Burnley’s Maxwel Cornet won a penalty on the stroke of halftime when he was bundled over by Emiliano Buendia.

Ashley Barnes sent Emiliano Martinez the wrong way with a cool strike for his first goal since February 2021.

In the 48th minute, Buendia volleyed Villa’s equalizer, with Burnley protesting that a foul throw should have been given in the buildup.

Burnley finished with 10 men after Matt Lowton was sent off for a high tackle on Calum Chambers in stoppage-time.

“Terrific point for us. We’re at home on the last day and it’s in our hands,” Burnley interim boss Mike Jackson said.

Chelsea effectively guaranteed a third place finish with a 1-1 draw against Leicester at Stamford Bridge.

Given their vastly superior goal difference advantage over fourth placed Tottenham, who sit three points behind them, the FA Cup runners-up will not be caught.

James Maddison gave Leicester a sixth minute lead from the edge of the area before Marcos Alonso volleyed home in the 35th minute.

Thursday’s drama was only an appetizer for what will be a thrilling final day of the season.

Manchester City will be crowned champions for a fourth time in five seasons if they beat Villa at the Etihad Stadium.

But second placed Liverpool, one point behind Pep Guardiola’s team, would steal the title if City drop points and they defeat Wolves at Anfield.

In the battle to qualify for next season’s Champions League, Tottenham need to win at Norwich to be certain of pipping Arsenal, who host Everton and are two points behind their north London rivals.

Manchester United can qualify for the Europa League with a win at Palace, although they would drop into the Europa Conference League with a defeat and a West Ham victory at Brighton.


Saudi dialogue sessions to stimulate creativity and innovation in Hajj and Umrah

Updated 20 May 2022

Saudi dialogue sessions to stimulate creativity and innovation in Hajj and Umrah

  • Challenges faced by the Hajj and Umrah sector were discussed

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia hosted a two-day session of virtual dialogue this week, aimed at “stimulating creativity and innovation in the field of Hajj and Umrah.”

The discussions addressed the challenges faced by the Hajj and Umrah sector, pioneering ideas in this field, and ways of promoting innovation within the sector.

Hisham Saeed, spokesman and undersecretary for Hajj and Umrah services at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, stressed that creativity and innovation are key pillars of Saudi Vision 2030.

“We aspire to impress the pilgrim throughout his journey, thanks to a creative and innovative work system in the field of Hajj and Umrah,” he said.

“If we want to innovate, we must have an ambitious vision founded on excellence and quality,” said Mohammed Saati, spokesman for the Hajj Smart Card Project. “The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah hopes to make the Hajj smart card a key tool in all pilgrims’ journey in the Kingdom.”

Dr. Naeem Al-Bihani, associate professor of entrepreneurship and head of business administration at Umm Al-Qura University, said the best ideas are generated in a stimulating culture and environment. “Innovation is not just about techniques and systems, it’s a way of life for individuals and institutions in all disciplines,” he noted.

Sami Sarhan, head of industrial partnerships at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, said it is vital to develop services provided to pilgrims from their arrival in the Kingdom until their safe return home.

Dr. Ammar Attar, CEO of Manaafi Consulting, stressed that a culture of innovation is essential for the Hajj and Umrah system.