Next Gen ATP Finals in Saudi Arabia raising profile of future tennis stars

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Arthur Fils. (ATP)
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Luca Van Assche. (ATP)
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Updated 27 November 2023

Next Gen ATP Finals in Saudi Arabia raising profile of future tennis stars

  • Frenchmen Luca Van Assche, Arthur Fils looking forward to tournament taking place from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2

RIYADH: The Next Gen ATP Finals is set to make history as the first international tennis event hosted in Saudi Arabia when it takes place at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2.

The ground-breaking tournament not only showcases the prowess of men’s under-21 tennis players but also promises a fusion of talent, culture, and innovation.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, two promising young players, Luca Van Assche and Arthur Fils, both from France, shared their excitement ahead of the tournament and their eagerness to compete in Saudi Arabia.

Van Assche said: “I am delighted to participate in the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah, as it introduces me to a part of the world I have yet to explore. I am also eager to immerse myself in a new culture. What intrigues me the most is the weather and the modernity of the city.”

Fils felt the Jeddah event could be a catalyst for a surge in tennis interest in the region.

He said: “I believe it’s a prime location, offering a new sport to the country. Consequently, I anticipate a significant turnout of fans who will come to watch and understand this sport.”

Van Assche noted that participating in Jeddah offered a golden opportunity for players to gain worldwide recognition.

“It is a great opportunity for each player to be known by the whole world. It teaches us how to deal with very big events,” he added.

On the impact of Saudi Arabia hosting the event, Van Assche said: “There will be a lot of people watching this tournament; it’s a worldwide event, so it will, of course, have a big influence on this region. And I hope it will follow the same path as football, for example, and become a very popular sport there.”

Inspired by the success stories of current tennis champions who emerged from the Next Gen ATP Finals, Fils viewed the tournament as a crucial milestone.

“It’s very nice to play this tournament because a lot of champions now played like Alcaraz, Tiafoe, Sinner, De Minaur, and all these guys. So, let’s try to have the path of progress like these players.

“I think that a lot of young people will come and like this sport, so maybe there will be new players and champions from this region in the world,” Fils added.

With some rules set to be changed for the 2023 Next Gen ATP Finals, the event continues to lead in tennis innovation, aiming to enhance the experience for players and fans.

“Of course, it will change a lot from the ATP tournaments. These rules are not easy, and it complicates the game a lot. But I will try to understand them well and do my best,” Van Assche added.

Keeping an open mind, Fils welcomed the new rules cautiously.

He said: “It’s funny and nice to have new rules. I don’t know if it’ll be a good idea to change the game in this way, but let’s see how it is because it’s my first time.”

The tournament, traditionally held in Milan since 2017, will see the prize money for the hardcourt competition increased to a record $2 million — up from $1.4 million last year — in the Saudi edition.

The record prize money for the 2023 tournament was “another source of motivation” for Van Assche, while Fils pointed out that while money itself did not directly influence his motivation, “it can help young players to fund their year or a part of the year.”

Van Assche and Fils will be joined by a lineup of accomplished players at the 2023 Next Gen ATP Finals. The roster includes American Alex Michelsen, Serbian Hamad Medjedovic, and Luca Nardi and Flavio Cobolli from Italy. Swiss player Dominic Stricker and Abedallah Shelbayh from Jordan will also be part of the ensemble.

Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final

Updated 21 April 2024

Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final

  • Red Devils win shootout at Wembley 4-2, with Rasmus Hojlund scoring the decisive spot kick

LONDON: Manchester United overcame an astonishing collapse to beat Coventry on penalties in an FA Cup classic on Sunday, setting up a second straight FA Cup final against Manchester City.

Erik ten Hag’s men won the shootout at Wembley 4-2, with Rasmus Hojlund scoring the decisive spot kick after the teams were level at 3-3 after extra time.

The game perfectly encapsulated a chaotic season for Ten Hag’s men, who are well off the pace in the Premier League and had a Champions League campaign to forget.

There was no hint of what was to come when United coasted into a 3-0 lead against their second-tier opponents in the London sunshine, with goals from Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes.

But they have made a habit of tossing away leads in recent weeks and the match against Coventry proved no different.

Second half strikes from Ellis Simms and Callum O’Hare gave the 1987 FA Cup winners hope and Hajji Wright leveled from the penalty spot in the 95th minute, capping a scarcely credible comeback.

Coventry fans taunted Ten Hag with chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning” as belief infused the massed ranks of supporters clad in blue.

Coventry manager Mark Robins famously played a key part in United’s FA Cup final win in 1990, a victory that launched two decades of success under Alex Ferguson.

But his team’s push to reach the Championship playoffs has faded in recent weeks and they traveled to Wembley as underdogs despite United’s stuttering season.

United, 12-time winners of the competition, settled early and took the lead in the 23rd minute after a fine move down the right.

Alejandro Garnacho fed the overlapping Diogo Dalot, whose cross went under the hands of the diving Bradley Collins and was tapped in by McTominay from close range.

Marcus Rashford forced a fine save from Collins late in the first half but United doubled their lead from the resulting corner, with Maguire heading home from Fernandes’ cross.

Coventry, who scored twice in stoppage time to beat Premier League Wolves in the quarter-finals, struggled to make inroads against an organized United team.

They looked brighter in the early stages of the second half.

But the wind was taken out of their sails when Fernandes’s shot found its way past Collins in the 58th minute, courtesy of a deflection off defender Bobby Thomas.

O’Hare headed over from an angle as Coventry continued to probe but they pulled a goal back when top scorer Ellis Simms connected with a cross from substitute Fabio Tavares in the 71st minute after United’s defense switched off.

They made it 3-2 in the 79th minute when O’Hare’s shot from just outside the box looped off Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s back and over Onana.

Coventry’s fans were now in full voice as their team mounted waves of attacks.

Substitute Victor Torp hit a stinging shot from the edge of the area with five minutes of normal time to go, forcing Onana into a sharp save.

But Coventry still were not finished. Wan-Bissaka was adjudged to have handled in the penalty area and Wright scored from the spot to take the match into extra time.

Coventry looked the more likely winners in 10 long minutes of stoppage time but could not find a winner.

United captain Fernandes rattled the crossbar in the fourth minute of extra time when set up by substitute Amad Diallo.

Simms then smashed a shot off the underside of the crossbar as time ran out.

Coventry thought they had won it in the dying moments when Torp poked the ball past Andre Onana but a VAR check ruled that Wright was marginally offside.

The Championship side drew first blood in the shootout when Casemiro’s weak penalty was saved by Collins.

But O’Hare and captain Ben Sheaf failed to convert, leaving Hojlund with the job of sending United through and he made no mistake.

Manchester City beat Chelsea 1-0 in the other semifinal on Saturday.

Kolkata beat Bengaluru by one run in IPL as Kohli fumes at dismissal, Titans beat Kings

Updated 21 April 2024

Kolkata beat Bengaluru by one run in IPL as Kohli fumes at dismissal, Titans beat Kings

  • Kolkata, who jumped to second in the table with their fifth win in seven matches, started strongly with Salt’s explosive knock

KOLKATA: Kolkata Knight Riders survived a late charge by Royal Challengers Bengaluru batsmen to win by one run in an IPL thriller after Virat Kohli’s angry outburst at his dismissal on Sunday.
Bengaluru conceded 222-6 after electing to field first at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens with Phil Salt smashing 48 off 14 balls and skipper Shreyas Iyer hitting 50.
Needing 21 to win in the final over bowled by Mitchell Starc, Bengaluru’s number 10 Karn Sharma hit the Australian left-arm quick for three sixes before being caught and bowled.
Wicketkeeper Salt then ran out Lockie Ferguson on the last ball despite a wide throw by the fielder as Bengaluru were bowled out for 221.
Bengaluru slipped early in their chase when Kohli, who made a seven-ball 18, fell caught and bowled off Harshit Rana.
But the former India captain looked confident the high full-toss was above his waist as the umpires checked for a no-ball.
TV umpire Michael Gough declared it out after technology suggested the trajectory of the ball dipped below the waist of the batsman, who returned furious after exchanging words with the on-field officials.
“It was crazy. Rules are rules, Virat and myself in that space thought the ball was higher than his waist,” skipper Faf du Plessis, who was with Kohli at the other end when the drama unfolded, said.
“You always find one team happy and the other not so with such decisions.”
The drama did not help Bengaluru in their chase as the bottom-placed side in the 10-team table slumped to their seventh loss in eight matches.
Earlier Kolkata, who jumped to second in the table with their fifth win in seven matches, started strongly with Salt’s explosive knock.
Fast bowlers Yash Dayal and Cameron Green took two wickets each to dent Kolkata’s top and middle-order but Iyer kept calm to raise his fifty in 35 balls. He fell after a 40-run stand with Rinku Singh, who hit 24.
Andre Russell, who made 27 off 10 balls, and Ramandeep Singh, who hit 24 off nine, finished with a flourish in an unbeaten stand of 43.
Russell, who was named man of the match, then turned up with his pace bowling as he took three wickets and fellow West Indian Sunil Narine took two to dent the chase.
England batsman Will Jacks, who made 55, and Rajat Patidar, who hit 52, attempted to set up the chase in a 102-run third-wicket stand, which was broken by Russell.
Russell took down both the batsmen in one over and mystery spinner Narine came up with another double blow in one over including Green and Mahipal Lomror.
Dinesh Karthik with his 18-ball 25 and Sharma with 20 off seven balls tried their best to chase down the target but Kolkata held their nerve.
“We go through so many emotions, tough to stay calm,” said Iyer. “Elated to get these two points. I feel that every individual should take responsibility to deliver. Russell came on and completely changed the momentum.”
In the second match of the day, Gujarat Titans defeated Punjab Kings by three wickets after they bowled out the opposition for 142 in a low-scoring game.
Indian Sai Kishore returned figures of 4-33 and ably supported by fellow spinners Noor Ahmad, who claimed 2-20, and Rashid Khan, who had 1-15.
Gujarat looked in trouble at 103-5, but Rahul Tewatia steered the team home with five balls to spare as the left-handed batsman hit an unbeaten 36 off 18 balls.

Chapman-inspired New Zealand shock Pakistan in third T20I

Updated 21 April 2024

Chapman-inspired New Zealand shock Pakistan in third T20I

  • The 29-year-old left hander smashed a 42-ball 87 to anchor New Zealand’s chase of 179-run target in 18.2 overs
  • Shadab Khan (41) and Babar Azam (37) were main contributors in Pakistan’s 178-4 after the hosts were sent in to bat

RAWALPINDI: Mark Chapman hit a robust half century to help an under-strength New Zealand to a shock seven-wicket victory over Pakistan in the third Twenty20 international in Rawalpindi on Sunday.
The 29-year-old left hander smashed a 42-ball 87 to anchor New Zealand’s chase of 179-run target in 18.2 overs against the much vaunted Pakistan bowling attack, silencing a packed 16,000 holiday crowd.
Shadab Khan (41) and Babar Azam (37) were the main contributors in Pakistan’s 178-4 after the hosts were sent in to bat by New Zealand.
Tim Robinson hit 28 off 19 balls and Tim Seifert 21 off 16 to set the tone for New Zealand’s chase.
New Zealand were strongly-placed at 53-2 in the sixth over before Chapman and Dean Foxcroft (31) took over, adding a solid 117-run in a third wicket partnership to square the five-match series at 1-1.
Pakistan won the second game by seven wickets while the first match was washed out after just two balls — both were also in Rawalpindi.
Chapman, whose only T20I hundred came at the same venue last year, clobbered four sixes and nine fours in his eighth half century in the format. He was ably supported by Foxcroft.
Pakistan skipper Azam brought spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi on in the 15th over with 61 to defend, but Chapman cracked two fours. He then smashed two sixes and two more fours off Naseem Shah’s next over to bring the target down to 21 of 24 balls.
Fast bowler Abbas Afridi, 2-27, dismissed Foxcroft, but by then New Zealand were just nine away from victory. Chapman and Jimmy Neesham (six not out) reached the target with ten balls to spare.
Earlier Shadab hit two sixes and four fours while Azam hit four fours and a six.
Opener Saim Ayub scored a 22-ball 32 and Muhammad Irfan Khan chipped in with a 20-ball 30 not out as Pakistan added 54 in the last five overs.
Azam and left-hander Ayub gave Pakistan a brisk start of 55 as the duo played some aggressive shots.
Shadab and Irfan boosted the innings with a brisk 62-run stand for the fourth wicket.
For New Zealand, leg-spinner Ish Sodhi was the best bowler with 2-25.
The final two matches are in Lahore on April 25 and 27.
Both teams are preparing for June’s Twenty20 World Cup in the United States and the West Indies.

Federations from Saudi Arabia, France sign agreement to develop fencing in Kingdom

Updated 21 April 2024

Federations from Saudi Arabia, France sign agreement to develop fencing in Kingdom

  • The World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships, which was organized by the Saudi Fencing Federation, brought together 169 female and 214 male competitors

RIYADH: The fencing federations from Saudi Arabia and France have announced a partnership to help develop the sport in the Kingdom.

The announcement was made on the sidelines of the World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships, which took place at the King Saud University Sports Center in Riyadh.

Sylvie Le Maux, executive director of the French Fencing Federation and vice president of esports at the Olympic Committee, told Arab News: “This convention is a continuation of an agreement signed between the French Olympic Committee and the Saudi Olympic Committee. We believe that our Olympic federations must get closer in our sports.

“We will welcome Saudi athletes to France in order to improve their performance (and) train against French athletes. We (will) also bring high-level coaches to help the Saudi fencing organization. We will work on the training of masters of arms and help the Saudis in the practice of fencing.”

Ludovic Pouille, the French ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said: “France has a long tradition of excellence in fencing, a tradition rooted in our history. For centuries we have been a bastion of fencing, producing some of the greatest masters of this noble art. And this week, our young fencers carried that legacy with honor at these world championships.”

France had a strong showing at this year’s championships as they collected five medals.

The World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships, which was organized by the Saudi Fencing Federation, brought together 169 female and 214 male competitors.

Pakistani woman cricketer Nida Dar completes 100 ODI wickets

Updated 21 April 2024

Pakistani woman cricketer Nida Dar completes 100 ODI wickets

  • Dar becomes second Pakistani woman to achieve the feat in her 108th ODI match against West Indies
  • Prior to her, former Pakistan captain Sana Mir reached the milestone, has 151 wickets from 120 ODIs

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani off-spinner Nida Dar on Sunday achieved her 100th One-Day International (ODI) wicket as her side lost their second game to West Indies at the National Stadium in Karachi.
This was 108th ODI match played by Dar, who became the second Pakistani woman to achieve the feat.
“Congratulations to Nida Dar being the second Pakistani female player to get over a hundred ODI wickets,” Lisa Sthalekar, former Australian woman cricketer and broadcaster, commented after the Pakistan-West Indies match.
“This shows you the long journey she has had. She is a fiercely character that loves that competitiveness.”
Prior to Dar, former Pakistan captain Sana Mir reached the milestone. She has taken 151 wickets from 120 ODIs.
In July 2021, the International Cricket Council announced that Dar had become the country’s first cricketer, male or female, to take more than 100 wickets in Twenty20 internationals.
She had accomplished the feat while playing a match against West Indies, though Pakistan were defeated in that game too.