Australia court rules minister acted rationally in canceling Novak Djokovic’s visa

Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday night, where he hoped to win a record 21st major title at the Australian Open. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 January 2022

Australia court rules minister acted rationally in canceling Novak Djokovic’s visa

  • ‘An iconic world tennis star may influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him’

MELBOURNE: An Australian court said on Thursday it dismissed tennis superstar Novak Djokovic’s challenge to his visa cancelation as the minister who revoked it reasonably believed Djokovic, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, may be a risk to the community.
The Federal Court also rejected the argument there was no evidence that Djokovic had ever urged anyone not to get vaccinated, saying it was open to infer that the public would perceive that he was opposed to vaccinations, since he said he had not been vaccinated.
“An iconic world tennis star may influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him. This is not fanciful; it does not need evidence,” the judges said.
Djokovic’s saga has fueled global debate over the rights of people who opt not to get vaccinated as governments look to protect the community from the coronavirus pandemic.
Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday night, just hours after the court dismissed his effort to stay in the country to play at the Australian Open, where he hoped to win a record 21st major title.
That followed an 11-day rollercoaster involving two visa cancelations, two court challenges and five nights in two stints at an immigration detention hotel where asylum seekers are held.
His lawyers had argued the cancelation should be quashed on the grounds that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision was irrational, he lacked evidence that Djokovic’s presence in Australia may stoke anti-vaccination sentiment, and had failed to consider that deporting Djokovic might inflame anti-vax sentiment.
The Federal Court said while another minister might have decided not to cancel the visa, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke had followed the right steps under the law which allows him to cancel a visa as long as he is satisfied the visa holder “may be a risk to the health or good order of the Australian community.”
“The minister reached that state of satisfaction on grounds that cannot be said to be irrational or illogical or not based on relevant material,” Chief Justice James Allsop and judges Anthony Besanko and David O’Callaghan said in their reasons handed down on Thursday.
The Serbian now risks missing the next tennis Grand Slam event — the French Open — as the country’s Sports Ministry has said there would be no exemption from a new vaccine pass law approved on Sunday.


AP Source: Mbappé to stay at PSG after rejecting Real Madrid

Updated 30 sec ago

AP Source: Mbappé to stay at PSG after rejecting Real Madrid

PARIS: Kylian Mbappé is set to stay at Paris Saint-Germain after again turning down the chance to join Real Madrid.
The France forward has agreed to a three-year contract extension that is close to being signed, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the contract talks publicly.
The 23-year-old Mbappé’s contract is expiring in June and he would have been available on a free transfer.
Instead of joining 13-time European champion Madrid, which have chased him for so long, Mbappé is staying to try to deliver PSG their first Champions League title.
Madrid managed to beat PSG in the Champions League this season but not in the transfer market once again.
The Spanish giant’s failure to sign Mbappé is a significant blow for its president, Florentino Pérez, who has been trying to get the transfer over the line for a year.
PSG turned down Madrid’s official bid of 180 million euros ($190 million) — the same amount they signed Mbappé for from Monaco in 2017 — and even another reported amount of 200 million euros ($211 million) was not enough to sell their star despite him having only a year remaining on his contract. Mbappé said he wanted to leave at the end of last season, but only on the right terms for PSG.
The non-transfer reflects the shifting power dynamics in European football. Pérez was one of the architects of the European Super League breakaway from the UEFA Champions League that imploded within 48 hours in April 2021.
PSG opted out of joining the 12 Super League founders, allowing their president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, to gain one of the most powerful roles in the game as head of the European Club Association.
Pérez is still pursuing his Super League dream in conflict with UEFA.
Signing Mbappé would have provided a statement signing for Pérez from a team that only emerged as a rival in the last decade through its Qatari funding.
But the energy expended in pursuing the transfer, and optimism from Madrid, which are chasing their record-extending 14th European Cup win when they meets Liverpool in next Saturday’s Champions League final in Paris, has come to nothing.
The tension between the clubs was evident when PSG were knocked out of the Champions League in the Round of 16 by Madrid in March — despite leading 2-0 overall with two Mbappé goals — and Al-Khelaifi remains under UEFA investigation for allegedly confronting match officials after the loss.
Madrid are being thwarted yet again, having tried to sign Mbappé after he left Monaco in 2017 — and even before that.
He visited Madrid’s facilities aged 14, and was greeted by France great Zinedine Zidane, but he instead chose to launch his stellar career at Monaco.
Mbappé’s first professional goal came at the age of 17 years, 62 days, which beat the Monaco club record held by Thierry Henry.
Henry is France’s record scorer with 51 goals. Mbappé is already on 26 and may well overtake him as a PSG player.
He is PSG’s second-highest scorer with 168 goals and could surpass Edinson Cavani’s record of 200 next season.
However, Mbappe misses out on the chance to play alongside France teammate Karim Benzema for Madrid in what would have been a devastating partnership and the envy of Europe.
Over the past year they have been prolific together for Les Bleus and both netted when France won the Nations League final.
But when France defend their World Cup title later this year in Qatar, they’ll only be teammates on the national team.

Angel Di Maria leaving PSG after seven seasons

Updated 21 May 2022

Angel Di Maria leaving PSG after seven seasons

  • The Argentina winger's contract is expiring and the French champions announced his departure late Friday night
  • Al-Khelaifi urged fans to “head down to the Parc des Princes to give him the tribute he deserves” when PSG host Metz later Saturday

PARIS: Angel Di Maria is leaving Paris Saint-Germain after seven seasons with the club.
The Argentina winger’s contract is expiring and the French champions announced his departure late Friday night.
“Angel Di Maria has left a permanent mark on the history of the club,” PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said. “He will remain in the memories of the supporters as someone with an irreproachable attitude, who has defended our colors with faultless commitment.”
Al-Khelaifi urged fans to “head down to the Parc des Princes to give him the tribute he deserves” when PSG host Metz later Saturday.
In his 295th and final game for PSG, Di Maria will look to add to his 91 goals and club-record 111 assists.
The season finale kicks off with no confirmation yet on Kylian Mbappe’s future. The striker’s contract is expiring and he’s being pursued by Real Madrid.
The 34-year-old Di Maria scored 15 goals and had 25 assists across all competitions in his first season after joining in 2015, including the record for most league assists with 18.
Di Maria had some brilliant spells with PSG, where his combination of slick passing, speed down the wing, quick feet and excellent finishing carved defenses open.
However, at other times, a lack of work rate when tracking back was criticized in some of the biggest games, especially when PSG lost tight contests in the Champions League.
He won five league titles and French Cups as well as four League Cup trophies.


Pakistan’s Azhar Ali makes unbeaten double hundred in English county game 

Updated 21 May 2022

Pakistan’s Azhar Ali makes unbeaten double hundred in English county game 

  • Azhar reached his double century in the final over of the day with a cover drive for four 
  • Azhar arrived at Worcestershire’s headquarters after a successful Test series against Australia 

LONDON: Pakistan’s Azhar Ali made an unbeaten double century as he helped Worcestershire rewrite the record books in an English County Championship match against Leicestershire on Friday.
Azhar and former England Under-19 international Jack Haynes put on 281 for the third wicket — a record partnership against Leicestershire, surpassing the 278 by Cyril Walters and Harold Gibbons in 1934.
Their stand was the cornerstone of Worcestershire’s 456 for three, a lead of 308, at stumps on the second day of four at New Road.
Haynes was eventually dismissed for 127 but Azhar reached his double century in the final over of the day with a cover drive for four off Rehan Ahmed.
By that stage Azhar had faced 328 balls, with one six and 18 fours, and also shared in another century stand with Brett D’Oliveira (52 not out).
Azhar arrived at New Road, Worcestershire’s headquarters, after a successful Test series against Australia which included a marathon 185 spanning 11 hours at Rawalpindi.
The 37-year-old struggled at first with the change to English conditions and his opening six innings for Midlands county Worcestershire yielded 34 runs.
But the former Pakistan captain has found his form since hitting 92 against a Durham attack including new England skipper Ben Stokes.


Wimbledon on collision course with ATP, WTA over Russia, Belarus ban

Updated 21 May 2022

Wimbledon on collision course with ATP, WTA over Russia, Belarus ban

  • Wimbledon stripped of ranking points over Russia, Belarus ban
  • Decision by ATP, WTA reduces Wimbledon to exhibition event

The world’s most prestigious tennis tournament was on Friday set on a collision course with the sport’s global governing bodies after Wimbledon had its ranking points stripped by the ATP and WTA Tours over excluding players from Russia and Belarus.
The move by the men’s and women’s tours will reduce Wimbledon to an exhibition event but the AELTC, organizers of the Grand Slam, repeated their stance that the ban was the only viable option under British government guidance.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) also said it will not grant ranking points to Wimbledon this year for junior and wheelchair tennis events.
The AELTC decision to impose the suspension on Russian and Belarusian players at this year’s championships due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is the first time players have been excluded on grounds of nationality since the immediate post-World War Two era when German and Japanese players were banned.
The AELTC on Friday said they were considering their options and were in discussions with their Grand Slam colleagues.
“In addition, we remain unwilling to accept success or participation at Wimbledon being used to benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime,” the AELTC said in a statement.
“We therefore wish to state our deep disappointment at the decisions taken by the ATP, WTA and ITF in removing ranking points for The Championships.
“We believe these decisions to be disproportionate in the context of the exceptional and extreme circumstances of this situation and the position we found ourselves in, and damaging to all players who compete on Tour.”

Ranking integrity
The ATP and WTA have themselves banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions following the invasion, which Moscow calls a ‘special operation’, but allowed players from the two countries to compete as neutrals.
“The ability for players of any nationality to enter tournaments based on merit, and without discrimination, is fundamental to our Tour,” the ATP said in a statement.
“The decision by Wimbledon to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing in the UK this summer undermines this principle and the integrity of the ATP Ranking system. It is also inconsistent with our Rankings agreement.
“Absent a change in circumstances, it is with great regret and reluctance that we see no option but to remove ATP Ranking points from Wimbledon for 2022.”
WTA chief Steve Simon said the tour believes athletes participating in an individual sport “should not be penalized or prevented from competing solely because of their nationalities or the decisions made by the governments of their countries.”
“The recent decisions made by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to ban athletes from competing in the upcoming UK grass court events violate that fundamental principle,” Simon said.
“As a result of the AELTC’s position that it will not honor its obligation to use the WTA Rankings for entry into Wimbledon and proceed with a partial field not based on merit, the WTA has made the difficult decision to not award WTA ranking points for this year’s Wimbledon Championships.”

Ban slammed
Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian competitors has been slammed by top players such as 21-times Grand Slam champion Rafa Nadal who labelled it unfair, while world number one Novak Djokovic said he did not support the decision.
“Our rules and agreements exist in order to protect the rights of players as a whole. Unilateral decisions of this nature, if unaddressed, set a damaging precedent for the rest of the Tour,” the ATP added.
“Discrimination by individual tournaments is simply not viable on a Tour that operates in more than 30 countries.
“We remain hopeful of further discussions with Wimbledon leading to an acceptable outcome for all concerned.
“More broadly, we believe this matter again highlights the need for a united governance structure across professional tennis so that decisions of this nature can be made in a joint manner.”

Tune-up events
Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) also reciprocated the Wimbledon ban by excluding players from the two countries from its tune-up tour events.
However, the WTA said its tournaments at Nottingham, Birmingham, and Eastbourne would go ahead with ranking points on offer as “alternative and comparable playing and ranking point opportunities exist in the same weeks.”
The ATP had also said earlier this week that its events at Queen’s and Eastbourne will proceed as normal, offering full ATP ranking points.
While the LTA tournaments will continue to offer full ranking points, the British governing body is under review for sanctions from the ATP and WTA.
The ITF justified its decision not to award ranking points to Wimbledon this year for junior and wheelchair tennis events by saying it undermines the integrity of the competition.
“The ITF has determined that Wimbledon’s entry criteria banning Russians and Belarusians compromises the integrity of its international competition, in particular its ranking system, as there is a lack of alternative equivalent opportunities for players to compete for ranking points and prize money,” the ITF said.


PSG coach Pochettino in the dark over Mbappe future

Updated 20 May 2022

PSG coach Pochettino in the dark over Mbappe future

  • Mbappe is expected to reveal in the coming days whether he will join Real Madrid or accept a lucrative offer to stay at PSG
  • "I don't know what his decision is. I think it's a personal matter for Kylian and for the club," Pochettino said

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino insisted Friday he has no idea where Kylian Mbappe will play his club football next season as the striker’s contract in the French capital comes to an end.
Mbappe is expected to reveal in the coming days whether he will join Real Madrid or accept a lucrative offer to stay at PSG, with an announcement potentially being made in the hours after the French champions play their final game of the Ligue 1 season at home to Metz on Saturday.
“I don’t know what his decision is. I think it’s a personal matter for Kylian and for the club,” Pochettino said at a press conference ahead of the Metz match.
“There are lots of rumors going around but the player is the one who will have to talk about this.
“If I knew what his decision was I wouldn’t be the one to talk about it.”
Mbappe, who joined PSG from Monaco in 2017, last week won the Ligue 1 Player of the Year prize and comes into the final weekend of the season as the division’s top scorer with 25 goals.
Rumours are swirling in France and in Spain about when he will confirm where his next contract will be.
“Mbappe, end of the suspense on Sunday,” claimed the headline in French sports daily L’Equipe on Friday.
Pochettino said he hoped the 23-year-old would remain at PSG even if uncertainty surrounds the coach’s own future despite the Argentine and his staff having a year left on their own deals.
“I hope Kylian is still here for many years to come but I also can’t lie. I don’t know what is going to happen,” he said.
“We have a year left on our contracts so we will potentially be here next season. I just hope tomorrow (Saturday) we can enjoy celebrating the club’s 10th league title.”
One player who is definitely expected to move on is Angel di Maria, with the 34-year-old Argentine winger’s own contract expiring and PSG understood to be happy for him to leave.
PSG have cantered to the Ligue 1 title, equalling Saint-Etienne’s French record for most league championships, but their season has been soured by defeat against Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16 in early March.
The Parisians were 1-0 up away to Madrid an hour into the second leg thanks to a Mbappe goal, and led 2-0 on aggregate, only to implode and go out to a Karim Benzema hat-trick.
“I hope the best is still to come. I think everyone at Paris Saint-Germain wants to win the Champions League. That has become an obsession for this club and I hope we can win it,” Pochettino added.
“That spell in the second half in Madrid saw us not get the result we wanted and created lots of questions and emotions that we have not been able to control in recent months.
“Despite that the players deserve to be congratulated because they have shown the ability to lift themselves and finish the season.”