MELBOURNE, Australia: Novak Djokovic received a warm and enthusiastic welcome in his return to Melbourne during an exhibition match against Nick Kyrgios on Friday.
Djokovic’s visa for entering Australia was revoked and he was deported ahead of last year’s Australian Open because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. He still hasn’t gotten the shots, but the country’s coronavirus rules have been relaxed.
So the nine-time Australian Open champion was allowed to return for this year’s tournament beginning Monday.
After enjoying what he said was a “fantastic” response from fans in Adelaide during a tournament last week, Djokovic admitted he was unsure how he would be received in Melbourne a year after he was deported.
But an emotional Djokovic walked into a sold-out Rod Laver Arena to loud cheers from the crowd of 15,000.
“It just feels great to be back in Australia, back in Melbourne,” Djokovic said. “This is the court and the stadium where I created the best memories of my professional tennis career.
“Back in 2008 was the first time I won a Grand Slam, it was here, and 15 years later I’m here again and I’m competing at the high level. I must be very grateful for this opportunity to be here so thank you guys for welcoming me in a good way tonight.”
Djokovic showed no signs of the hamstring issue that has troubled him this month and repeatedly played up to the crowd during the lighthearted exhibition for charity.
Kyrgios pulled out of the recent United Cup and Adelaide International tournaments with knee and ankle complaints and has not played a serious match since late last year. But Australia’s top-ranked player moved well against Djokovic, who beat him in the Wimbledon final last year. The two could meet in the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park.
Kyrgios takes on Roman Safiullin in the first round while Djokovic opens his bid for a 10th Australian Open title against Roberto Carballes Baena.
During the exhibition match, Djokovic and Kyrgios delivered trick shots, fake outbursts and mid-match TV interviews. They took a set each under Fast4 conditions before teaming up with wheelchair players and juniors for a third-set tiebreak.
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Djokovic receives warm welcome in Melbourne return
Djokovic receives warm welcome in Melbourne return
- Last year, Djokovic was deported ahead of last year’s Australian Open because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19
MELBOURNE, Australia: Novak Djokovic received a warm and enthusiastic welcome in his return to Melbourne during an exhibition match against Nick Kyrgios on Friday.
Twins end historic playoff win drought as Major League Baseball post-season begins
- Minnesota’s victory ended the epic post-season futility run
- Twins get 1-0 lead in the American League best-of-three first round series
WASHINGTON: Royce Lewis smashed home runs in his first two playoff opportunities and the Minnesota Twins snapped the longest post-season win drought by games in American sport history, defeating Toronto 3-1 on Tuesday in a Major League Baseball series opener.
The Twins had lost 18 consecutive playoff contests, the most in any major North American sports league, since beating the New York Yankees in the first game of the 2004 American League division series.
They were also swept out of the MLB playoffs in 2006, 2009, 2010, 2017, 2019 and 2020.
Minnesota’s victory ended the epic post-season futility run and gave the host Twins a 1-0 lead in the American League best-of-three first round series, which continues on Wednesday.
“It means a lot,” Lewis said of snapping the historic drought. “And it means a lot that the fans encouraged us and they had that energy for us. They brought it and we brought it for them.”
Also winning their AL playoff opener were the Texas Rangers, who blanked host Tampa Bay 4-0 as US pitcher Jordan Montgomery struck out six without allowing a walk over seven shutout innings.
National League first-round openers later Tuesday find Arizona at Milwaukee and Miami at Philadelphia.
Atlanta, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and the defending champions Houston all received first-round byes.
Minnesota’s Lewis, the 2017 MLB Draft top pick, blasted a two-run homer in the first inning off Toronto starter Kevin Gausman and tagged him for a solo homer in the third for a 3-0 Minnesota edge.
The 24-year-old US third baseman, who recovered from a sore hamstring just in time for the playoffs, matched Gary Gaetti from 1987 as the only Twins with two homers in a playoff game.
“This crowd was special,” Lewis said. “We’re just going to feed off that energy and keep going tomorrow.”
Toronto pulled within 3-1 in the sixth when Bo Bichette singled, advanced on a walk to Alejandro Kirk and scored on a Kevin Kiermaier single.
But Twins outfielder Michael Taylor leaped high above the outfield wall and grabbed an inning-ending out to deny Toronto’s Matt Chapman a three-run homer that would have put the Blue Jays ahead.
Minnesota reliever Jhoan Duran entered in the ninth, struck out Kiermaier and Chapman then walked Whit Merrifield before George Springer grounded out to first for the last out to complete the historic triumph, touching off an emotional on-field Twins celebration.
At Tampa Bay, left-hander Montgomery scattered six hits to baffle Rays batters in the fourth scoreless outing from his past five starts.
“I think he had everything,” said Texas slugger Corey Seager, who had two hits, scoring one run and driving in another.
“He had them off balance. He was just really impressive to be able to come out here and shut that lineup down at home.”
Tampa Bay made three fielding errors in the first three innings and fell behind early.
“We did take advantage of the mistakes they made and got the win,” Seager said.
Texas opened the scoring in the second inning when Nathaniel Lowe singled up the middle, took third on a Leody Taveras single to right and scored on Josh Jung’s sacrifice fly.
The Rangers doubled their lead in the fourth when Seager doubled, took third on an Adolis Garcia single and scored on a wild pitch by Tampa Bay’s Tyler Glasnow.
Texas made it 4-0 in the sixth when Evan Carter and Marcus Semien walked and Seager drove in both with a single up the middle and throwing error by Rays centerfielder Jose Siri.
It was the first shutout playoff victory since 2011 for the Rangers, who missed out on a first-round bye and division title with a loss on the final day of theå regular season.
Mbappe dazzles Newcastle but United are not just making up Champions League numbers, says PSG boss
- Tyneside besotted by the man many consider the best player in the world, but Paris Saint-Germain manager Luis Enrique is aware of the challenge his side faces on Wednesday
- Kieran Trippier, the player tasked with neutralizing the Mbappe threat says he does not fear the Frenchman and always relishes the chance to play against the world’s top players
NEWCASTLE: Cameras flashed, phones lit up and the cries of “Kylian” and “Mbappe” echoed into the Tyneside night from the huddle of fans who had gathered beside the players’ entrance under the famous old Milburn Stand at St James’ Park, home to Newcastle United.
This was not a Hollywood premiere, though it certainly might have felt a bit like like one to the young Newcastle fans. No, this was just the world’s best player, arguably, leaving their ground the day before he faces their team, on their turf.
You might pardon such “small club mentality” when it has been such a long, long time since this little part of the North East of England last hosted stars such as those who will don the bleu et rouge of Les Parisiens on Wednesday night in the Champions League.
The last time Newcastle experienced this level of European football before this season was 2004. That year the likes of Barcelona, Inter Milan and Juventus came to town. This time, it is the turn of Paris Saint-Germain to enjoy a Geordie welcome on Wednesday night, followed in the weeks ahead by Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan.
United fans have been captivated by their visitors from France, with hundreds enjoying a Sela-sponsored drone show that lit up the gloom on Monday night, greeting the PSG players on arrival at their Quayside hotel on the banks of the River Tyne, or lining up at the entrances and exits to St James’ Park on Tuesday night in hope of catching a glimpse of the French champions, who were training on the pitch.
While the build up might have something of a “summer friendly” feel about it, things will get serious very quickly as kick-off approaches, with Mbappe set to play and looking to dent Newcastle’s Champions League hopes.
The question on everyone’s lips this week has been, “How do you solve a problem like Kylian Mbappe?” The Magpies kindly gave the media the chance to ask the man tasked with doing precisely that, Kieran Trippier.
Trippier, who was set to hand over the captain’s armband to returning Jamaal Lascelles against PSG after Sven Botman was ruled out, said he feels no fear about taking on the man many people consider the best in the business.
“I’ve played against him on his debut for Monaco, when I was at Spurs. I played against him for England on my debut, quite a few years ago,” said the 33-year-old, who was the first signing made by the Saudi Public Investment Fund following their takeover of the club.
“He’s a fantastic player. You want to play against the best in the world. It will be a great occasion for the club and a game we think we can win.
“He’s been incredible but every single game we always prepare how we can win the game and hurt the opposition. Tomorrow is no different. You always have to respect the opposition but you have to find a way to win.
“It’s a challenge I’m ready for. I’ve played against plenty of good wingers and tomorrow is no different. The Champions League is where I want to play.”
It was clear that Trippier was keen to move the conversation away from Mbappe and onto the magic surrounding Newcastle being back in the competition for the first time in two decades. The journalists had different ideas.
As he fielded yet another Mbappe-themed query, Trippier said: “This is football. This is the level you want to play at. You want to be against the best players and the best teams.
“Paris have got unbelievable players. Mbappe is one of the best in the world but they’ve got quality all over the pitch. (But) on our day, we can hurt anyone.”
Trippier went on to reveal that even his own son has not stopped talking about the player who will be looking to run his dad ragged on Wednesday.
“I was having banter with him last night,” he said. “He wants to walk out with him tomorrow night and not me. I’m not happy. I’ve told him if he gets to walk out with him, don’t look at me in the tunnel.”
Of course, one player or one duel will not determine who wins or loses this encounter. Newcastle know they need to be at their very best, unlike their opening game, when they drew a blank in a goalless draw in Milan. The big difference this time is that they will be on home turf, with the backing of 52,000 Geordies.
That point is not lost on PSG boss Luis Enrique, himself no stranger to the magic that can happen at St James’ Park. In 1997, he scored against United there but a Faustino Asprilla hat-trick gave the Magpies a 3-2 victory in their first-ever game in the Champions League proper.
“We’re coming to St James’ Park and it’s a hostile atmosphere, but hostile from a sporting point of view,” he said. “It’s a spectacular place to come and play and it will be good to see what our players are made of playing here.
“I’m envious of my players because they’re going to get to experience that firsthand out on the pitch tomorrow.”
Recalling his visit in 1997 as a player, he said: “It was a tough game — 26 years ago seems a lifetime. I was certainly a lot younger than I am now. It is true that I scored in the 3-2 but they had great players and a great atmosphere. It wasn’t easy then and it won’t be easy tomorrow.”
While Group F has been dubbed the “Group of Death,” Enrique does not consider Newcastle the weak link in danger of elimination. In fact, he said, they are the team everyone else hoped to avoid.
“They are the team in the fourth pot that no one wanted,” he said. “We know they play at a high level. They are a complete football team and they will be playing in front of extremely passionate supporters as well.
“All teams can go far in the Champions League and there’s no reason why Newcastle can’t go far. No one wanted to play them because we saw how well they played last season.”
Referees governing body announces changes to VAR protocols after fallout from Diaz’s disallowed goal
- PGMOL said a new VAR Communication Protocol would be developed to improve communication between the referee and the VAR team
- A win would have seen Jurgen Klopp’s team move to the top of the Premier League
MANCHESTER, England: The governing body for England’s referees will introduce changes to VAR following the errors that led to Luiz Diaz’s disallowed goal for Liverpool against Tottenham last weekend.
The Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) has completed a review of the incident in Liverpool’s 2-1 loss at Spurs on Saturday.
It had already admitted its mistake after Video Assistant Referee (VAR) Darren England failed to award Diaz’s goal, despite replays clearly showing the forward was onside. On Tuesday, it revealed new protocols that will be put in place to avoid a repeat in the future.
“We recognize standards fell short of expectations and acknowledged the error to Liverpool immediately after the conclusion of the fixture,” the PGMOL said. It added that it had made “key learnings to mitigate against the risk of a future error.”
PGMOL said a new VAR Communication Protocol would be developed to improve communication between the referee and the VAR team.
The VAR will also have to confirm the outcome of its check with the assistant VAR before informing on-field officials of the final decision.
The PGMOL also said it would reiterate that the speed of decision-making must not be at the expense of accuracy.
Liverpool had raised questions about “sporting integrity” after the loss. A win would have seen Jurgen Klopp’s team move to the top of the Premier League.
The club issued a statement on Sunday saying it would “explore the range of options available given the clear need for escalation and resolution.”
“It is clear that the correct application of the laws of the game did not occur, resulting in sporting integrity being undermined,” Liverpool said. “We fully accept the pressures that match officials work under but these pressures are supposed to be alleviated, not exacerbated, by the existence and implementation of VAR.”
Saturday’s error appeared to have been one of concentration and communication, with the VAR believing Diaz’s goal had initially been given. Upon review the verdict was to say the check was complete, meaning it was correct for the goal to stand.
But as the original on-field decision was to adjudge Diaz offside, the response of “check complete” appeared to confirm the offside decision was correct.
VAR Darren England and his assistant Dan Cook were stood down from further duty over the weekend and will not officiate any games during the next round of fixtures.
PGMOL said a detailed report, including audio between officials, had been submitted to the Premier League and subsequently shared with all of the top-flight clubs.
“PGMOL are committed to enhancing VAR performance through a new training program which started this season and focuses on process and best practice for all VARs, AVARs and Replay Operators in their specific roles,” the governing body said.
It said work was being done to create a dedicated pool of VAR specialists and added that, along with the English Football Association, it would review the policy allowing officials to officiate matches outside of FIFA or UEFA appointments.
It emerged that England and Cook had both officiated a game in the United Arab Emirates on the Thursday prior to the Tottenham and Liverpool match.
More Bellingham heroics for Real Madrid in Champions League; Arsenal and Man United stunned
- The 20-year-old player has eight goals and three assists so far this season since joining Madrid from Borussia Dortmund
- Bayern kept up their record winning run in the Champions League group stage — now at 15 games going back to 2020
LONDON: It was an English player’s night in the Champions League, even as both of the English teams in action lost.
Jude Bellingham made the difference again for Real Madrid in a thrilling 3-2 win at Napoli on Tuesday as Manchester United and Arsenal were beaten by Galatasaray and Lens, respectively.
Nine games into his Real Madrid career and Jude Bellingham is fast becoming the team’s star attraction.
The England midfielder assisted Vinicius Junior for one goal to level the score at 1-1 and then tore apart the Italian champion’s defense on his own to score. Even then, it needed an own-goal from Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret — after some unfortunate deflections — to hand Madrid the win.
It was the second Champions League game in a row where Bellingham played a vital role for Madrid after scoring the winning goal against Union Berlin. The 20-year-old player has eight goals and three assists so far this season since joining Madrid from Borussia Dortmund.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti paid tribute to Bellingham, saying he found it hard to believe the midfielder was still only 20.
ENGLISH TEAMS LOSE
Manchester United and Arsenal both lost to teams whose better days in European soccer were in the late 1990s and early 2000s — before Bellingham was born.
A 3-2 loss at home to Galatasaray despite two goals from Rasmus Højlund — United’s sixth defeat in 10 games in all competitions — means more pressure on manager Erik ten Hag.
In the space of 10 minutes, United gave up a 2-1 lead and had midfielder Casemiro sent off as Ten Hag’s team fell apart late against its Turkish opponent. Galatasaray scored in the 71st, won a penalty and missed it — with Casemiro picking up a second yellow card in the process — then scored again in the 81st. The winning goal was scored by Mauro Icardi, who had missed the spot kick shortly before.
That leaves United bottom of their group and four points behind Galatasaray in second place. United has conceded seven goals in their opening two Champions League games after losing their opener 4-3 to Bayern Munich last month.
Elye Wahi scored one goal and set up another to propel Lens to a 2-1 win over Arsenal. Arsenal had the lead through Gabriel Jesus’ 14th-minute goal before Wahi assisted Adrien Thomasson in the 25th and then scored himself with a chip in the 69th. Arsenal midfielder Declan Rice said his team “missed some big chances,” but is “just warming up and getting into our rhythm” at this stage of the season.
Arsenal’s victory over PSV Eindhoven last time out was a landmark — a win in their first Champions League game since the 2016-17 season — but the wait for Lens was much longer. The French team last won a Champions League game back in 2002 against AC Milan and hadn’t qualified for Europe’s top club competition again until this season.
Bayern kept up their record winning run in the Champions League group stage — now at 15 games going back to 2020 — but it was a tricky feat in a 2-1 win over a determined Copenhagen team.
Bayern’s Jamal Musiala leveled the score after Lukas Lerager had given the Danish team the lead, and it was 18-year-old Mathys Tel who scored the winner after combining with 34-year-old teammate Thomas Müller. The action wasn’t over yet, and Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich had to dive to stop an own-goal deep into added time.
Bayern haven’t lost for 36 group-stage games going back to 2017.
HEARTBREAK IN BERLIN
Two games, two heartbreaking losses in stoppage time for Union Berlin. What an introduction to the Champions League!
The German club lost their first-ever home Champions League game 3-2 to Braga on a goal in the fourth minute of added time from Andre Castro, two weeks after a 1-0 loss at Madrid on an equally late goal from Jude Bellingham.
Union had been leading 2-0 on two counterattack goals from Sheraldo Becker, but let Braga back into the game with two goals after failing to clear set pieces before the late winner from 35-year-old midfielder Castro. Madrid and Napoli are the other two teams in the group, meaning Union’s qualifying chances have already taken a heavy blow.
The 2-2 draw between PSV and Sevilla had more than its share of drama, with goals in the 86th, 87th and fifth minute of stoppage time as PSV twice recovered from a goal down.
Real Sociedad had a smoother time as it picked up its first Champions League win for 20 years, beating Salzburg 2-0 on first-half goals from Mikel Oyarzabal and Brais Mendez.
Marcus Thuram scored the only goal of the game for last season’s Champions League runner-up Inter Milan in a 1-0 win over Benfica to move level on four points with Sociedad at the top of their group.
‘Out of my mind’: Alcaraz collapse sends Sinner to China Open final
- Sinner pointed to a key turning point when, serving at 2-1 in the second set, he recovered from 0-40 to open up a healthy lead
- The China Open is taking place for the first time since 2019 after Beijing ditched its isolationist zero-COVID policy
BEIJING: Carlos Alcaraz said he went “out of my mind” during the second-set collapse that cost him his place at the China Open on Tuesday and handed Italy’s Jannik Sinner a spot in the men’s final against Daniil Medvedev in Beijing.
The world No. 2 had chances to take a decisive lead in a breathless first set but it tipped Sinner’s way when he cracked a blistering return off the Spaniard’s second serve to take the all-important tie-break.
Alcaraz — the Wimbledon champion and tournament favorite in Novak Djokovic’s absence — then fell apart, gifting Sinner three service games in an error-laden second set to give the world No. 7 a 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 victory.
Sinner and Medvedev will go toe-to-toe for the trophy on Wednesday.
“In the second set, I was out of my mind,” said Alcaraz at a post-match news conference.
“I was just complaining a lot, (and) it’s really difficult to play your best if you’re complaining or mad at yourself,” the 20-year-old added.
“(I’ve been) trying to take my chances. Today, (I didn’t),” he said.
Sinner pointed to a key turning point when, serving at 2-1 in the second set, he recovered from 0-40 to open up a healthy lead.
“There are a couple of points (that) can change the momentum completely,” the 22-year-old said.
“I managed somehow to win these kinds of moments today, which obviously helped me in the following games to stay very calm mentally and play with a lot of confidence,” he said.
Earlier, third-ranked Medvedev hailed a “perfect service match” as he eased into the men’s final with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Alexander Zverev.
The match got off to a close-fought start but Medvedev then notched a crucial break of serve and managed to see out the first set.
It was a similar story in the second set, with the Russian breaking for 5-3 and serving out the match with a pair of fierce aces.
“I don’t think there was one bad thing I can say about my serve (today),” Medvedev said at a post-match news conference.
“I think the fact that the play was faster — the faster the court is, the easier you can hit aces... (and) the easier you feel when stepping into the serve,” the 27-year-old said.
The top-ranked women’s player Aryna Sabalenka said her performances in “key moments” were crucial to surviving a major scare in the second round, after she defeated unseeded Katie Boulter 7-5, 7-6 (7/2) in Beijing.
Sabalenka saved seven break points at 5-5 and then forced the stubborn Briton, ranked 56th in the world, into a rare backhand error to clinch the opening set.
The Belarusian notched another must-win break in the second set to again draw level at 5-5 before triumphing in a tie-break by slamming down an unreturned serve.
She will battle Italy’s Jasmine Paolini in the next round for a place in the quarterfinals.
“I think what made the difference was that in the key moments I played a little bit better than her,” Sabalenka said at a post-match news conference.
“I think it was all about those last games in each set. She had the opportunity and I’m super glad that I didn’t give her those sets easily.”
US Open champion Coco Gauff also had to dig deep to get the better of Croatia’s Petra Martic in a rollercoaster tie that lasted three hours.
Martic was serving for the match against Gauff but the world number three fought back to take the game and went on to dominate the ensuing tie-break, winning 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (7/2).
“Today was a mental victory. I was happy I was able to get through it,” said Gauff, who will face Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova in her next match.
World number two Iga Swiatek shook off a rain delay to glide past France’s Varvara Gracheva 6-4, 6-1 and set up a date with fellow Pole Magda Linette.
Fourth-ranked Jessica Pegula bounced back from a set down to beat Russia’s Anna Blinkova 6-7 (2/7), 6-2, 6-1.
The China Open is taking place for the first time since 2019 after Beijing ditched its isolationist zero-COVID policy.