MIAMI GARDENS, Florida: Daniil Medvedev never gave Andy Murray a chance.
The top-seeded Medvedev opened his bid to reclaim the No. 1 ranking Saturday by topping Murray 6-4, 6-2 in the second round of the Miami Open. Medvedev never faced a break point in any of his nine service games.
He can regain the No. 1 spot by making the Miami semifinals.
“Definitely, I have a lot of motivation to try and get it back,” Medvedev said.
Only five men in the past 18 years have held the No. 1 ranking that is currently held by Novak Djokovic. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are also past No. 1’s — while Medvedev and Murray are the others. Murray was No. 1 from November 2016 through August 2017, and that distinction was handed off between Djokovic, Federer and Nadal since before Medvedev got there for the first time on Feb. 28.
Medvedev’s stay was brief; his three-week reign ended officially on Monday when Djokovic returned to the top of the rankings. But with three more wins in Miami, Medvedev would be back on top.
“I still felt like in the rallies and stuff I could hang with him, and I didn’t feel like from the back of the court I was getting like really outplayed,” said Murray, who got into Miami on a wild card and is continuing his comeback after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery. “I’m sure some people will think otherwise.”
Murray is a two-time Miami Open winner, those victories coming at the tournament’s former home in nearby Key Biscayne. His loss meant only one past Miami men’s winner remains in the field — that being defending champion Hubert Hurkacz, the No. 8 seed who defeated Arthur Rinderknech 7-6 (5), 6-2 and moved into the third round.
Meanwhile, Naomi Osaka moved into the fourth round without ever taking the court. Osaka — the former women’s No. 1-ranked player who got straight-set wins on Wednesday and Thursday to get into Round 3 — got a walkover victory Saturday when Karolina Muchova withdrew citing a need for recovery.
“I’m sad that I cannot put up a battle against Naomi today,” Muchova wrote on Twitter. “After a long break from tennis, 2 tough matches in row have been a lot for my body and I need longer to recover.”
Muchova missed about seven months because of an abdominal injury and hadn’t played since the US Open before returning in Miami. She recorded straight-set wins over Tereza Martincova and Leylah Fernandez in Miami, but neither was easy — three of the four sets went to tiebreaks and she spent nearly five hours on the court.
Osaka topped No. 13 Angelique Kerber in the second round and won’t have to face another seed until at least the quarterfinals. The earliest No. 22 seed Belinda Bencic could see one is in the semifinals; Bencic, one of only three seeds — out of a possible 16 — to make the third round on the top half of the draw, rolled past Heather Watson 6-4, 6-1.
“It depends on me, how I play, how I feel,” Bencic said. “I’m not always looking at the draw so I have no idea what’s going on.”
Another seeded third-round winner on the women’s side was Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins of the US The No. 9 seed played through some neck soreness and downed Vera Zvonareva 6-1, 6-4.
A number of men’s seeds were beaten in their second-round matches Saturday, including No. 7 Felix Auger-Aliassime, No. 23 Karen Khachanov, No. 24 Daniel Evans, No. 27 Christian Garin and No. 32 Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Sebastian Korda of the US saved a match point on the way to topping Ramos-Vinolas 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3.
Tommy Paul of the US got the upset over Khachanov, winning 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3). Paul improved to 14-7 on the year and will next meet No. 11 Taylor Fritz, the highest-ranked American. Fritz — coming off a win at Indian Wells, even after injuring an ankle — needed three sets to beat qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin on Saturday.
“I was a little worried about my ankle,” Fritz said. “I have been definitely kind of holding back in practice the last couple of days, kind of just went once a day, took it easy. Today it felt great, honestly. It’s getting better and better every day.”
Other seeded men’s winners included No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut, No. 25 Alex De Minaur and No. 29 Aslan Karatsev.
Medvedev, eyeing No. 1 ranking, tops Murray at Miami Open
Medvedev, eyeing No. 1 ranking, tops Murray at Miami Open
- Only five men in the past 18 years have held the No. 1 ranking that is currently held by Novak Djokovic
MIAMI GARDENS, Florida: Daniil Medvedev never gave Andy Murray a chance.
‘Phenomenal’ Abu Dhabi infrastructure ideal for esports, says CEO of gaming platform BLAST
- Robbie Douek spoke to Arab News about development of gaming resources and culture in the UAE and wider region
- World’s best Counter-Strike teams will take part in BLAST Premier World Final at Etihad Arena on Dec. 16-17
The closing months of the year are traditionally a time when many sporting events dominate the entertainment industry in the Gulf region, and particularly the UAE.
Formula 1, UFC, NBA and Supercross events have already graced the 2023 calendar, with tennis yet to come.
You can now add esports to that list.
On Dec. 16-17, the BLAST Premier World Final returns to Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi with world’s finest Counter-Strike players competing for a total prize pool of $1 million.
Robbie Douek, CEO of BLAST, says he is “proud” to be involved with Abu Dhabi Gaming for the event, and highlights the rapid growth of the Danish platform since it launched in 2020.
“We cut our teeth in Counter-Strike a few years ago, and have now built up a global esports business across all the big titles: Fortnite and Rainbow Six, and FIFA and Dota, and various others,” he said. “We have our own streaming platform called Blast TV.”
Based in Copenhagen and London, BLAST today creates, produces, broadcasts and distributes premium esports entertainment through industry-leading technology.
“This is one of the biggest events in the region that’s ever taken place. And we’re privileged because it’s our return to Abu Dhabi,” said Douek. “We came last year; it went very well. We had 6,000 people through the doors and, of course, many, many millions watching online. This year, we’re expecting a similar size, probably more I would suggest, because the hype is there. And the format is slightly different because we have a festival feel to this one this time. So, there’s much more for the fans to do in and around the world final itself, which is very exciting.”
Douek says he saw the potential in the Middle East during his time at two tech and media giants.
“I’ve been a great believer in the region for many years, during my work and time at Google and Disney, the strong imprint that they have in the region across multiple territories,” he said. “So, when I took on the mantle of chief executive of BLAST, I knew that there would be a massive amount of development in the region, in the Middle East, and that it was something that we should focus on. Clearly, esports had been developed in a large way in Northern Europe and in America, but the development in the Middle East did not really started until about 2018-19.”
Bringing the World Final to Abu Dhabi was a culmination of building a “strong relationship” with the region, says Douek.
“We hosted a version of a World Final in Bahrain in 2019,” he said. “At the time, I’d say that was probably the largest esports event in the region that’s ever happened. I think that the pandemic set us back a little bit. But now, it’s very much there. I mean, if you take the infrastructure that’s in play in Abu Dhabi, and in the UAE, it’s phenomenal.
“There are over 70 gaming companies housed just in Abu Dhabi alone, and they have infrastructure there to support many, many more,” Douek added. “Now you’re finding that there’s the advent of multiple arenas that are available within the region, there are multiple gaming centers, there are multiple destinations for people to play, to feel, to touch. And I think that is a fantastic sign that the region has developed massively in the gaming space.”
Douek says that the world’s leading gamers will be at Etihad Arena for the showpiece final.
“You’ve got eight of the best teams in the world playing,” he said. “You’ve got Team Vitality which won the major. You know, FaZe Clan, and Ninjas in Pyjamas. The biggest teams in the world are present and correct; they’re the best players in the world. These teams are ranked top 10 in the world; the players are insanely good on the server. From a profile themselves they have the biggest audiences and the biggest social media followings.”
While the world’s best gamers will be descending on the UAE capital in the coming weeks, recent years have also seen the emergence of regional esports stars.
“I think that started with (Musaed) Al-Dossary and I think that, ultimately, he was a big catalyst in the success and the profile for the region,” said Douek. “There is now a very strong cohort of young aspiring talent, from a professional standpoint, playing at a very high level, from you know, Jordan to Saudi Arabia, and I think that is a very positive scene and sound for the region.”
Douek praised the venue for the BLAST World Final, calling it a “beautiful arena.”
He added: “The Etihad in Abu Dhabi is really like the creme de la creme of global arenas.”
“(The BLAST World Final) is a celebration of everything that is esports. It’s a festival feel, there will be thousands, probably 10,000 people, in attendance. It is broadcast around the world, we’re in 32 languages, 230 million homes, a global showpiece. And I think that is important, it puts Abu Dhabi very much firmly on the map as one of the leading destinations globally for esports.
“We’re proud to be associated with AD Gaming on that,” Douek said. “I think that in the region overall, it’s very exciting. It’s exciting, both from a professional standpoint, but also from a grassroots standpoint, you’re going to see the advent of new players coming through, and people working within the space.”
Juventus go top after scoring late to beat Monza 2-1 in dramatic Italian league encounter
- The Turin giants are now unbeaten in nine league games
- The result lifts Juventus into first place in Serie A, a point ahead of Inter Milan
ROME: Juventus moved to the top of the Italian league on Friday after a dramatic 2-1 win at Monza.
The Turin side led 1-0 for almost the entire game only to see Valentín Carboni equalize for Monza a minute into injury time.
However, the visitors reacted with aplomb and three minutes later Federico Gatti converted a cut-back from France midfielder Adrien Rabiot to give Juventus the lead again — and all three points.
The main action of the game until then came after 12 minutes. Monza goalkeeepr Michele Di Gregorio saved his team twice in quick succession, first from Dusan Vlahovic’s penalty and then again brilliantly from the rebound.
However, Rabiot rose to meet the resulting corner and power an unstoppable header into the net to give Juventus the lead.
The Turin giants are now unbeaten in nine league games.
The result lifts Juventus into first place in Serie A. They are a point ahead of Inter Milan, who play fourth-place and defending champions Napoli on Sunday.
Monza, who were promoted from Serie B last season and have surprised fans with their string of solid results, remain in 10th place with 18 points from 14 games.
Celtics hold off 76ers despite Tatum ejection, Magic roll on
- Tatum was ejected for just the second time in his career, and Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said he didn’t mind seeing that fire from his star
- Memphis Grizzlies triumphed 108-94 against a Mavericks team missing Slovenian star Luka Doncic, who was away from the team after welcoming the birth of his daughter
LOS ANGELES: Boston star Jayson Tatum was ejected in the third quarter but the Celtics clawed out a 125-119 NBA victory over short-handed Philadelphia on Friday as the Orlando Magic notched a ninth straight win.
Tatum scored 21 points before he was tossed for arguing a foul call after tangling with Robert Covington with one second left in the third. Covington made the technical free throw, and two free throws awarded in the wake of Tatum’s flagrant foul, to put the Sixers up 97-95 going into the final period.
Philadelphia’s reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid missed a second straight game with illness. Ailing Tyrese Maxey and injured Nicolas Batum were ruled out shortly before the game.
But they pushed Boston to the finish, pulling ahead 116-115 with 2:28 remaining before Al Horford’s driving basket put Boston up for good with 2:09 to go.
Patrick Beverley scored 26 points, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out seven assists for Philadelphia.
De’Anthony Melton scored 21 points before he fouled out with less than six minutes to go.
Jaylen Brown and Horford scored 20 points apiece for Boston, who made eight of 11 three-pointers in a sizzling 44-point first quarter, but surrendered 72 points in the first half to trail by three at the break.
Tatum had received a technical in the first quarter, and when he was whistled for a foul after colliding with Covington his objections were so strong that Celtics coaches moved to steer him away from the officials.
He was ejected for just the second time in his career, and Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said he didn’t mind seeing that fire from his star.
“I think that type of passion and caring about it ... I’d rather see that than nothing at all,” Mazzulla said.
Horford said the Celtics had to lock back in after Tatum’s departure.
“We just had to get stops, get gritty,” he said.
In Orlando, German forward Franz Wagner scored 31 points and Paolo Banchero added 28 with 13 rebounds and seven assists for the Magic, who tied a franchise record with their ninth straight win, 130-125 over the Washington Wizards.
Moritz Wagner added 18 points for Orlando, who seized the lead for good in the game that featured 13 lead changes on Wagner’s layup with 7:06 remaining, the basket igniting a 7-0 scoring run.
“Really proud,” Banchero said, after the Magic matched their nine-game winning streaks of the 1994-95, 2000-01 and 2010-11 seasons.
“Obviously the work’s not done, but it shows just how hard we’ve been working, the chemistry we’ve been able to build so far. We just want to keep it rolling.”
In Dallas, the Memphis Grizzlies triumphed 108-94 against a Mavericks team missing Slovenian star Luka Doncic, who was away from the team after welcoming the birth of his daughter.
Kyrie Irving couldn’t fill the void, scoring just 10 points on three-of-15 shooting.
Desmond Bane led the Grizzlies with 30 points.
The San Antonio Spurs competed for the first time this season without star rookie Victor Wembanyama, who was sidelined with a sore hip.
The Spurs still managed to push the Pelicans in New Orleans, but even with relatively quiet nights for Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram — who scored 12 and 14 points respectively the Pelicans pulled away late for a 121-106 victory that marked the Spurs’ 14th straight defeat.
Messi leaves door open to 2026 World Cup
- Messi: I’m not thinking about the World Cup and I’m not saying 100 percent that I won’t be there because anything can happen. Because of my age, the most normal thing is that I won’t be there. Then we’ll see.
BUENOS AIRES: Lionel Messi is not ruling out another bid for World Cup glory with Argentina in 2026 despite acknowledging that time is working against him.
Messi, who recently won his eighth Ballon d’Or, raised the World Cup almost a year ago after starring for Argentina in the final against France in Doha.
The 36-year-old had suggested at the time that the tournament in Qatar would be his last and that he wouldn’t be around for the next tournament which will be co-hosted by the US, Canada and Mexico.
But having moved to Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami and continued performing for the national team in qualifiers for 2026, he says the door remains open.
“I’m not thinking about the World Cup and I’m not saying 100 percent that I won’t be there because anything can happen. Because of my age, the most normal thing is that I won’t be there. Then we’ll see,” said Messi in an interview with Argentina’s Star.”
The Argentina captain said his focus is on June’s Copa America which will be held in the US.
“Maybe we’ll do well at the Copa America and everything will work out for us to continue. Maybe not. Realistically it’s difficult,” he said of the chance of a sixth consecutive appearance in the World Cup.
Messi said he would be “the first to know when I can be there and when I can’t. I’m also aware that I’ve gone to a lesser league. But it’s all about the personal side of things and the way you deal with it and how you compete.
“As long as I feel I’m well and can continue to contribute, I’m going to do it. Today all I’m thinking about is getting to the Copa America. After that, time will tell if I’m there or not.
“I’m going to arrive at an age that, normally, doesn’t allow me to play in the World Cup. I said I don’t think I’m going to be there. It looked like after the World Cup I was retiring and it was the opposite. Now I want to be there more than ever,” he added.
Mitrovic: ‘I don’t think I’ve played a better derby’
Two-goal hero Aleksandar Mitrovic was full of praise for Al-Hilal fans after they generated an electric atmosphere in the 3-0 Riyadh derby victory over title rivals Al-Nassr.
Mitrovic snatched a late brace for Al-Hilal on Friday, adding to Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s opener to put Luis Castro’s side to the sword at the King Fahd Stadium. The victory extends their lead at the top of the Saudi Pro League to seven points.
And Mitrovic, who played in the West London derby for Fulham, Tyne-Wear derby for Newcastle and Belgrade derby for Partizan, claimed that Friday’s clash between Riyadh rivals Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr was the pick of them.
“(It was) amazing, really amazing,” Mitrovic said after the match. “I played derbies in many countries, but for sure this is, if not the best, for sure top, top of the list.
“The pressure before the game, the build-up with fans before the game (was) really, really amazing, something special. To be honest, I don’t think I ever played a better derby.”
Mitrovic has quickly become a fan favorite at Al-Hilal, helped by his 20 goals in 20 games across all competitions for the Riyadh heavyweights. The double against Al-Nassr meant the supporters were serenading their Serbian striker again.
“I’m lucky that everywhere I play, I always have a great relationship, but with these fans it’s amazing,” Mitrovic said.
“Since I arrived, from the first moment, we had a really special connection. They make me happy. I hope I will continue making them happy. It’s a happy marriage.”
Both sides had opportunities in the game, but it was the league leaders who were eventually more ruthless in front of goal, despite spurning some earlier chances.
“It was a very open game,” Mitrovic added. “From the beginning of the first half, we were better, we dominated; we had probably three, four clean chances to score goals, but we didn’t. We knew that of course, they have quality, a lot of experience.
“We knew that if we wanted to win the game, we had to keep a clean sheet. I think we scored the first goal on time, and we defended really, really well as a team.
“(With the) second goal, we killed the game, the third goal as well. I could even have scored a hat trick today with a little bit of luck. But overall, it was a great performance, a great game from us and a very big win for us and our fans.”