Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia crowned Australian Open badminton champion

Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia hits a return against Japan’s Kodai Naraoka during their men’s singles final match at the Australia Open badminton tournament in Sydney on June 16, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 16 June 2024
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Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia crowned Australian Open badminton champion

SYDNEY: Malaysian Lee Zii Jia outlasted Japan’s Kodai Naraoka in the men’s singles final to be crowned Australian Open badminton champion Sunday, while Aya Ohori of Japan clinched the women’s title.
With many of the top-ranked players giving the tournament a miss, world number eight Lee took advantage to upset his sixth-ranked opponent 21-19, 11-21, 21-18 in Sydney.
It was his sixth career win on the BWF World Tour and came on the back of victory at the Thailand Open last month.
Ohori triumphed with a gutsy 17-21, 21-19, 21-16 come-from-behind beating of 35th-ranked Indonesian teenager Ester Nurumi Tri Wardoyo.
It was only her second title on tour, having won her first at the Thailand Masters this year.
In the men’s doubles final, China’s He Ji Ting and Ren Xiang Yu swept past Indonesian pair Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan 21-11, 21-10
But another Indonesian duo, Febriana Dwipuji Kusuma and Amallia Cahaya Pratiwi, broke through to win the women’s doubles, having lost previous finals at the Spain Masters and Thailand Open.
They recovered from a game down to oust Malaysia’s Lai Pei Jing and Lim Chiew Sien 12-21, 21-7, 21-13.
Chinese top seeds Jiang Zhen Bang and Wei Ya Zin overcame countrymen Guo Xin Wa and Chen Fang Hui in the mixed doubles decider by two-games-to-one.
The circuit moves to Fort Worth in the United States next.


Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown

Updated 8 sec ago
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Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown

LONDON: Carlos Alcaraz overpowered seven-time champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets to retain his Wimbledon title on Sunday in a brutal statement that the new era of men’s tennis has arrived.
The Spanish third seed produced a performance combining awesome power with delicate touch to win 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4), collecting the fourth Grand Slam of his young career.
Alcaraz equals the Open Era record for most Grand Slams won at the age 21 or under, joining Boris Becker, Bjorn Borg and Mats Wilander.
And he is just the sixth man to win the French Open and Wimbledon back to back.
Djokovic, 37, who had knee surgery just weeks ago, was aiming to win a 25th Grand Slam — which would have been a record in the men’s and women’s game.
But he had no answers in the Center Court sunshine as the electric Alcaraz pounded him from the back of the court and treated the crowd to an array of his trademark drop shots.
“Honestly, it is a dream for me winning this trophy,” said the Spaniard. “I did an interview when I was 11 and I said my dream is to win Wimbledon.
“For me this is the most beautiful tournament, the most beautiful court and the most beautiful trophy.”
Alcaraz paid tribute to his beaten opponent, who only found his range in the third set.
“Djokovic is an unbelievable fighter, I knew he was going to have his chances,” said Alcaraz who had needed five sets to defeat the Serb in the 2023 final.
“It was difficult but I tried to stay calm going into the tie-break and tried to play my best tennis. I was glad at the end I could find the solutions.”
Alcaraz seized the initiative in a first game of breathtaking quality lasting 14 minutes, taking advantage of his fifth break point.
The Spaniard settled quickly into his routine on serve and went up a double break when Djokovic double-faulted in the fifth game.
The shell-shocked Serbian, playing in his 10th Wimbledon final, held serve to love to close the gap to 5-2 but dumped the ball into the net to hand the Spaniard the first set.
Alcaraz was immediately on the front foot in the second set, forcing a break in the first game and fending off pressure on his own serve to take a 2-0 lead.
A Djokovic backhand into the net in the seventh game handed Alcaraz another break point and a double fault put the defending champion 5-2 up and on the cusp of a two-set lead.
The Center Court crowd, including Catherine, Princess of Wales, looked on in disbelief as their hopes for a titanic tussle evaporated.
The under-par Djokovic fended off another of clutch of break points early in the third set to stay alive and showed signs that he was finding his rhythm.
But Alcaraz broke for a 5-4 lead and moved to 40-0 on his own serve, only to suffer a wobble as Djokovic saved all three championship points, breaking for the first time in the match.
He recovered his composure quickly and the set went to a tie-break.
Djokovic went wide with a forehand to give Alcaraz a 5-3 lead and the Spaniard won the title with his fourth championship point, clambering up to the players’ box to celebrate with his family and coaching team.
The champion struck 42 winners to Djokovic’s 26 over the course of the match.
Princess Catherine, patron of the All England Club, handed over the trophy.
Last month she tentatively returned to British public life for the first time since her diagnosis, attending a military parade in London to mark King Charles III’s official birthday.
Djokovic, still without a title this year, will now turn his attention to the Paris Olympics as he seeks to win gold for the first time.
“It obviously was not the result I wanted but of course in the first couple of sets the level of tennis wasn’t up to par from my side,” he said.
“But credit to Carlos for playing elite tennis, especially from the back of the court, he had it all today.”

Top level padel event to be hosted in Dubai as part of 25-tournament season

Updated 21 min 41 sec ago
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Top level padel event to be hosted in Dubai as part of 25-tournament season

  • Organized by Dubai-based Gallop Global, the event will feature 256 players in separate formats for male and female pairs

LONDON: Top level padel will be returning to Dubai as part of a newly unified 25-tournament season spanning 18 countries, it was announced on Sunday.

The Dubai Premier Padel P1 event will be held at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium and feature the world’s best players. 

Organized by Dubai-based Gallop Global, the event will feature 256 players in separate formats for male and female pairs. The accumulated prize pool for both categories is €470,000 ($513,263).

The sport is coming to Dubai following a multi-year hosting agreement between the UAE Padel Association, the Department of Economy and Tourism, Dubai Sports Council, Premier Padel, and Gallop Global.

“The support of the inaugural Dubai Premier Padel P1 from His Highness Sheikh Mansoor will be a significant motivating factor in organising more events in the country,” said Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum bin Juma Al-Maktoum, UAEPA president.

“Since the sport’s formal introduction to the UAE in 2013, the UAE leadership has supported various padel events, as well as other events that followed in subsequent years.

“For example, the World Padel Championship, hosted by Dubai in 2022, was held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai and chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai. We thank the leaders for their invaluable support, which has led to the development of the sport in the emirate, as evidenced by the constantly growing infrastructure in line with the sport’s popularity over the years,” Sheikh Saeed added.

Saeed Mohammed Hareb, secretary-general of the Dubai Sports Council, said padel had experienced huge growth in the UAE, especially in Dubai.

Padel in the UAE is governed by UAEPA, which was founded in 2014 and is one of the first padel federations in Asia to be established. It has been affiliated with the International Padel Federation since 2016.

In 2014, the General Authority of Sports decreed the official recognition of padel as a sport with the government’s full support. Today, the UAE is home to 30 percent of padel courts in Asia and two percent of all courts worldwide.

“We have witnessed tremendous development and growth of padel in the UAE in general, and Dubai in particular, in terms of the number of practitioners and courts, as well as the organization of international tournaments, attracting top-ranked players in the world,” he said.
“This reflects the hard work of the UAE Padel Federation, headed by Sheikh Saeed and showcases the efforts to spread padel culture and the numerous benefits of playing the sport.

“This event plays a pivotal role in the growth of the padel community, not just in Dubai but also on a global scale, while also cementing Dubai’s position as a global hub for sports and events. Bringing world-class players to Dubai will also serve as a further catalyst for the growth of the sport and the emirate,” he added.


Spain and England to meet in European Championship final in front of Prince William and King Felipe

Updated 14 July 2024
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Spain and England to meet in European Championship final in front of Prince William and King Felipe

  • Spain is bidding to win the Euros for a record fourth time and for the first time since 2012
  • England lays claim to be the birthplace of soccer and hasn’t won a major title since the 1966 World Cup

BERLIN: Spain and England will meet in the European Championship final on Sunday, with much of the focus on a teenage wonderkid and whether one of the world’s most underachieving teams can end its decades-long wait for a title.
The match is scheduled to start at 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) in Berlin and is expected to be attended by Prince William, Spain’s King Felipe, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Keir Starmer, Britain’s new prime minister.
Spain is bidding to win the Euros for a record fourth time, breaking a tie with Germany/West Germany, and for the first time since 2012. The team’s new superstar is winger Lamine Yamal, a prodigy who turned 17 on Saturday.
England, who lays claim to be the birthplace of soccer, hasn’t won a major title since the 1966 World Cup and that was on home soil. This is the team’s second straight European Championship final, having lost in a penalty shootout in the final to Italy three years ago.
The teams have taken different paths to the final, which will take place at Berlin’s Olympiastadion — the 71,000-seat venue built for the 1936 Olympic Games and which hosted the 2006 World Cup final that featured Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt.
Spain has won all six of its matches and is widely regarded as the best team at Euro 2024, having seen off Germany and France in the knockout stage. England was unimpressive in the group stage and has shown resilience in coming from behind in all three of its knockout-stage games.


Olympics-Egyptian cyclist disqualified from Paris Games after collision uproar

Updated 14 July 2024
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Olympics-Egyptian cyclist disqualified from Paris Games after collision uproar

CAIRO: An Egyptian cyclist was disqualified from the Paris Olympics on Sunday by the local Olympic committee after her selection caused a social media backlash stemming from a video that appeared to show her knocking a competitor off her bicycle months ago.
The largest Arab country is building its credentials for a possible bid for the 2036 Games, which if successful would bring the Olympics to Africa for the first time, spending billions on facilities and sending its biggest delegation to Paris.
During the national championship in April, a video showed Shahd Saied colliding with one of her challengers, Ganna Eliwa, pushing her to the ground before racing ahead.
Eliwa accused Saied of a deliberate attack and said she suffered concussion, a broken collarbone, bruises and temporary loss of memory. Saied insisted the incident was an accident but was handed a one-year ban from local competition.
The Egyptian Cycling Federation raised eyebrows on Tuesday when it named her for the Paris Games, saying she had qualified prior to the incident.
Saied started her career in her hometown in Fayoum, south of Cairo, about four years ago. She won two gold medals in individual contests at an African championship earlier this year.
Many Egyptians expressed anger and embarrassment, accusing the federation of disregarding sportsmanship.
“What is she doing there, didn’t she crash into her competitor on purpose?” asked one Facebook user under the announcement of Shahd’s participation in the games.
“This is beyond shameless and I hope you fail.”
After the country’s sports ministry asked for a review of the decision, the Olympic Committee ruled on Sunday that the local ban made her ineligible for international competitions.
Saied had, however, already told a local TV host she was retiring. “I’m not going to bike anymore. If they don’t want me to represent Egypt, fine, I won’t go to the Olympiad,” she said on Saturday.


Euro 2024 final: Spain goes for record 4th title, England looks to end 58-year wait for major trophy

Updated 14 July 2024
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Euro 2024 final: Spain goes for record 4th title, England looks to end 58-year wait for major trophy

BERLIN: Spain and England meet in the final of the European Championship on Sunday. Spain is seeking a record fourth title at the Euros to break a tie with Germany/West Germany, while England is bidding for a first major trophy in men’s soccer since the 1966 World Cup. Kickoff is at 9 p.m. local (1900 GMT) in Berlin. Here’s what to know about the match:
Match facts
— Spain will start as the favorite after winning all six of its matches at Euro 2024 and being widely regarded as the best team at the tournament. Winning the title would continue a strong period of success for Spanish national teams, with the men having captured the UEFA Nations League in June last year and the women following that up by winning the World Cup two months later.
— Lamine Yamal is Spain’s new star having set up three goals before the semifinals, where he scored a spectacular long-range strike in the victory over France — all at the age of 16. He turned 17 on Saturday, the day before the final. It is a breakthrough major tournament for Yamal, much like it was for a 19-year-old Kylian Mbappé at the 2018 World Cup and a 17-year-old Pelé at the 1958 World Cup.
— Spain last appeared in a final at a major tournament in 2012, when the team won the third of its European Championship titles by beating Italy 4-0. England played in the final of Euro 2020, which was played in 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and lost in a penalty shootout to Italy.
— England has shown resilience by coming from behind in all three of its knockout-stage matches at Euro 2024. Jude Bellingham scored an equalizer from an overhead kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time in the extra-time win over Slovakia in the last 16, Bukayo Saka equalized in the 80th minute against Switzerland in the quarterfinals before England won a penalty shootout, and substitute Ollie Watkins scored a winner almost exactly on 90 minutes against the Netherlands in the semifinals.
— England coach Gareth Southgate is often criticized for his in-game management but he has changed the culture inside the squad and is regularly getting the team deep at major tournaments. In Southgate’s tenure that started in 2016, England has reached the World Cup semifinals in 2018 and now back-to-back European Championship finals.
Team news
— Spain coach Luis de la Fuente said on Saturday that the injured Pedri and Ayoze Pérez are the only players unavailable, meaning captain Alvaro Morata can play. Morata was limping after the semifinal win over France when he was knocked to the ground in the post-match celebrations by a steward trying to stop a pitch invader. Right back Dani Carvajal returns from suspension, leaving de la Fuente’s only selection dilemma at center back, with Nacho or Robin Le Normand vying to partner Aymeric Laporte. Dani Olmo will likely fill in again for Pedri as Spain’s attacking central midfielder.
— Southgate has to decide who to play at left back — or left wing back — out of Kieran Trippier or Luke Shaw. Shaw is a natural on that side but has only made two appearances as a second-half substitute at Euro 2024 after recovering from an injury that had sidelined him since February. Otherwise, Southgate will choose the same players, with the 19-year-old Kobbie Mainoo having nailed down the problematic spot in central midfield alongside Declan Rice.
By the numbers
— Spain’s previous European Championship titles came in 1964, 2008 and 2012.
— There are six players on a tournament-high three goals at Euro 2024 and two are playing in the final: England captain Harry Kane and Spain playmaker Dani Olmo. The others are Georges Mikautadze of Georgia, Cody Gakpo of the Netherlands, Ivan Schranz of Slovakia and Jamal Musiala or Germany.
— It has been six years since Spain and England met in a senior men’s international. In 2018, they played a Nations League double-header, with Spain winning 2-1 at Wembley Stadium and England winning 3-2 in Sevilla a month later.
What they’re saying
— “I don’t say it becomes run of the mill but it’s a little bit more normal for us. That statement in itself is probably ridiculous given our history.” — England coach Gareth Southgate on reaching a second straight final at the Euros.
— “I would like him to work with the same humility, keep his feet on the ground in order to keep improving, learning with the same kind of attitude and that professionalism, that maturity that he shows on the pitch. He looks like a much more experienced player, to be honest.” — Spain coach Luis de la Fuente on Lamine Yamal.