Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios reached the Australian Open third round on Thursday after the weather-disrupted tournament faced a new challenge: dirty rain which left courts muddy and unplayable.
After a day of clean-up operations and delays, Australia’s Kyrgios fought his way past Frenchman Gilles Simon in four sets and Wimbledon champion Simona Halep stamped her class with a win over Britain’s Harriet Dart.
Nadal, a 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 winner over Argentina’s Federico Delbonis, miscued a shot that hit a ballgirl in the head, but he melted hearts when he apologised and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“I was so scared for her, honestly,” the 19-time Grand Slam winner said. “The ball was quick and straight on the head. She’s a very brave girl.”
Kyrgios, increasingly popular with home fans after his fundraising efforts for Australia’s bushfire crisis, was cruising at two sets up when he dropped the third set and with it, his composure.
But just when it looked like he would suffer one of his trademark implosions, he rallied for a 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 victory.
“I definitely lost my way a little bit… but I decided to refocus,” Kyrgios said of his mini-meltdown in the third set. “I could have gone to a very dark place in the fourth set but I put it away.”
Kyrgios and Nadal stay on course for a fourth-round clash and the next instalment in their grudge match after the Aussie hit back at criticism from the “super salty” Spaniard last year.
Their victories followed a day of upheaval caused by the dirty rain, the latest weather problem at a tournament which has contended with bushfire smoke, heavy downpours and strong wind.
Rain mixed with a dust storm coated the Melbourne Park facilities in a fine layer of mud which took hours to clean and made many outside courts temporarily unusable.
‘I was freaking out’
As action resumed Alexander Zverev, another man who has a running feud with Kyrgios, showed signs of a return to form as he downed Egor Gerasimov 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 7-5.
The German seventh seed has been practising up to seven hours a day after a winless ATP Cup and the hard work paid off as he safely reached the third round.
“Definitely much better than the ATP Cup. Now in the third round, I’m very happy about that,” said the 22-year-old, who beat Italy’s Marco Cecchinato in round one.
However, fifth seed Dominic Thiem had a scare as he was taken to five sets by Australia’s 140th-ranked Alex Bolt before recovering his composure to win 6-2, 5-7, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-2.
“It was all of a sudden a really tight third set that shouldn’t happen. That’s why I was freaking out inside and also outside today,” said the two-time French Open finalist.
A nosebleed was one of Daniil Medvedev’s biggest challenges in his win over Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez, while Gael Monfils, who injured his racquet hand playing computer games before the tournament, downed Ivo Karlovic.
In the women’s draw, Halep beat Dart 6-2, 6-4, while Belinda Bencic knocked out former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko — she was playing despite the sudden death of her father this month.
Two-time Major winner Garbine Muguruza, who scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in the off-season as she searches for a return to form, dispatched home hope Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Dubai Airport, one of the world’s biggest aviation hubs, said on Thursday it would carry out thermal screening of all passengers arriving from China amid an outbreak of a deadly virus.
“Dubai Airports confirms… that all passengers arriving on direct flights from the People’s Republic of China must receive thermal screening at the gate upon arrival,” a statement said.
China has locked down two major cities to fight the spread of the coronavirus that has already claimed 17 lives and spread to a number of other countries.
Dubai’s government said on Thursday that some 989,000 Chinese tourists visited the glitzy emirate last year and that the number was expected to cross the one-million mark in 2020. Some 3.6 million Chinese transited through the airport in 2019.
“The screening will be conducted on secured, closed gates at the airport by Dubai Health Authority and its Airport Medical Centre team,” the statement said.
Dubai International Airport in 2018 served 89.15 million passengers, retaining its world-number-one spot of welcoming the largest number of foreign passengers for the fifth year in a row.
There was no announcement as yet from authorities in the neighbouring emirate of Abu Dhabi which also has a large airport.
The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
Like SARS, it can be passed among people through the respiratory tract.
US President Donald Trump had said his administration was preparing to add a “couple of countries” to the controversial list of states whose citizens are subject to travel bans or severe restrictions on entry to the United States.
“We are adding a couple of countries to it. We have to be safe. Our country has to be safe,” he said on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, adding that the names of the new countries would be announced, “very shortly”.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that the administration planned to add seven countries including Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, and others in Africa and Asia.
It said the other nations being considered for new rules were Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Sudan and Tanzania.
These countries would not necessarily face blanket bans on US travel but could see certain types of visas curtailed, the paper said, quoting administration officials.
Some of these countries could see their nationals barred from participating in a visa lottery programme, which Trump has repeatedly railed against, saying he would prefer a skilled immigration policy along the lines of the systems in Canada or Australia.
Unlike the nations covered by the current ban, most of these new additions do not have Muslim-majority populations.
The paper added that administration officials were still debating whether to include one or two of the countries, and the new list would be announced on Monday.
Trump repeatedly promised during his election campaign to implement a complete ban on Muslims entering the US and announced his first package of travel bans and restrictions shortly after taking office in January 2017.
The move outraged critics and was struck down by a federal court which ruled it amounted to religious discrimination. The administration moved a second version of the policy in March 2017, which was struck down again for similar reasons.
But the third version of the policy was upheld by the US Supreme Court in June 2018 in a 5-4 ruling that affirmed the president had broad power to set immigration policy based on national security justifications.
The countries currently covered are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and North Korea, and political officials from Venezuela. The administration argued the inclusion of non-Muslim majority countries proved the policy was not driven by religious animus.
Speaking to reporters in Jamaica, where he is on a regional tour, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was the administration’s policy “to make sure that we are getting security right, to make sure that we work with every country to have processes in place” that ensured the security of the US.
The Journal’s reporting, including the naming of seven new countries, ties in with earlier reporting by US media, including BuzzFeed News which said earlier this month it had obtained a draft presidential proclamation about the expansion, but names of the countries were left blank.
Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said he expects an emotional return to his former club Napoli on Sunday as Lazio and Roma prepare for a derby clash in Serie A after both capital-city sides exited the Italian Cup during the week.
Sarri missed Juventus’ home game against Napoli with pneumonia in August and Sunday’s game at the Stadio San Paolo will be his first since leaving the club in 2018 before his move to Chelsea.
“It will be a tremendously difficult game, emotionally it will be particularly special. My relationship with Naples and above all the city was strong,” said Sarri, after Juve reached the Italian Cup semi-finals with a 3-1 win over Roma on Wednesday.
Juventus are top of the league with a four-point lead on second-placed Inter Milan, but Napoli — Serie A runners-up in the past two seasons — are struggling in 11th position, 14 points off the Champions League places.
“We must not look at their position in the table,” Sarri continued. “They have a strong team. They are going through a difficult time but have good players.
“There are three points at stake.”
Napoli lost 4-3 in the reverse fixture this season.
But the team are a shadow of the eye-catching side Sarri left in May 2018 to be replaced by Carlos Ancelotti.
Ancelotti helped the team maintain their runners-up position last campaign but was replaced at the troubled side by Gennaro Gattuso last month.
Gattuso has lost four of his five Serie A games in charge and the club have not won at home in the league since October 19.
But they have been boosted by booking their ticket to the Italian Cup semi-finals with a 1-0 win over in-form Lazio this week.
“We played with hunger, character and the right spirit, showing real grit, something we had been lacking up till now,” said Gattuso.
“Now, of course, we need to keep it up, to climb back up the table.”
Second-placed Inter Milan are at home against sixth-placed Cagliari this weekend, after their title bid was stalled with back-to-back draws.
Lazio — on a club-record 11-match league winning streak — are third, six points behind Juventus with a game in hand, and two adrift of Inter ahead of the Rome derby.
Paulo Fonseca’s Roma are seven points behind their city rivals in the final Champions League berth.
The teams played out a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture in September, and last season had a win each.
Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio are pushing for a first Scudetto since 2000, after crashing out of the Italian Cup, which they won last season.
Flagging Atalanta, in fifth, travel to Torino, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s eighth-placed AC Milan visit Brescia on Friday looking to edge closer to the Europa League places.
Brescia striker Mario Balotelli will miss the game against his former club after being handed a two-match ban for arguing with the referee last weekend.
One to watch
Atalanta’s Duvan Zapata is desperate to end his three-match goal drought since returning from injury.
The 28-year-old scored six league goals in seven games before being sidelined for three months with a thigh injury.
It is the former Sampdoria forward’s longest stretch without scoring since his first goal for Atalanta back in November 2018.
50 – Atalanta’s league goals scored in 20 games
27 – Napoli’s points deficit to Juventus
23 – Ciro Immobile’s league goals for Lazio this season
12 – Ronaldo’s goals in last eight games
3 – Maurizio Sarri’s seasons as Napoli coach
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Brescia v AC Milan (1945)
SPAL v Bologna (1400), Fiorentina v Genoa (1700), Torino v Atalanta (1945)
Inter Milan v Cagliari (1130), Hellas Verona v Lecce, Parma v Udinese, Sampdoria v Sassuolo (1400), Roma v Lazio (1700), Napoli v Juventus (1945)
Football clubs worldwide splashed out a record $7.35 billion (6.63 million euros) on transfers in the men’s game in 2019, FIFA revealed in a report released on Wednesday.
The amount represents a 5.8 per cent increase in 2018, with English clubs accounting for the largest total outlay at just over $1.5 billion — a drop of 22.1 per cent on previous figures.
However, 80 per cent of all spending on transfer fees came from 100 clubs combined, according to the global transfer market report.
Portuguese clubs achieved the highest net balance with $384 million while those in England produced the largest negative net balance of $549.9 million.
A total of 18,042 international transfers were made — another record. They involved 15,463 players of 178 different nationalities.
There was also a 16.3 per cent increase in spending on women’s football, with the total figure rising to $652,000 from $560,000. The number of transfers climbed from 696 to 833.
“It is remarkable to see a new record number of transfers in the men’s market,” said FIFA’s chief legal and compliance officer, Emilio Garcia Silvero.
“We observe as well, increasing all-round figures in the women’s market, which is a sign of the positive overall development of women’s football over the last year which we trust will continue in 2020.”
Authorities will suspend on Thursday flights and trains out of the Chinese city at the centre of a deadly virus outbreak, and say residents should not leave without a special reason, state media said.
The move, effective at 10:00 am (0200 GMT), is meant to “resolutely contain the momentum of the epidemic spreading” and protect lives, the central city’s special command centre against the virus said, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
US presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard, who is in near the last place among Democrats in primary polling, filed a defamation suit Wednesday against Hillary Clinton after the former secretary of state called her a “Russian asset.”
Gabbard alleges that Clinton made the comments in retaliation for her support of Bernie Sanders, the former secretary of state’s rival in 2016 for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Clinton never mentioned Gabbard by name, stating only that she was referring to “somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary.”
“She’s the favourite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far,” Clinton said in a podcast that aired in October, adding that “Yeah, she’s a Russian asset.”
The next day, CNN asked Clinton’s spokesman if she was referring to Gabbard. He replied: “If the nesting doll fits.”
Gabbard, a 38-year-old Army veteran and Hawaii lawmaker who has criticized US involvement in Syria and received favourable coverage in Russian state media, said Clinton’s accusation, which was widely repeated on social media, was “devastating” to her reputation.
“Clinton’s peddling of this theory has harmed Tulsi, has harmed American voters and has harmed American democracy,” said Gabbard, who added that she has “spent her entire adult life serving this country.”
She said she had asked Clinton to retract the statement, to no avail.
One of 11 Democratic candidates seeking the party’s presidential nomination, Gabbard is polling at 1.3 per cent among likely primary voters, according to an average compiled by Real Clear Politics.
Clinton, a former first lady, was the Democratic nominee in 2016 but lost to Donald Trump in the November elections.
Real Sociedad striker Willian Jose withdrew from the squad to face Espanyol on Wednesday amid speculation he is close to joining Tottenham.
Willian Jose has been key to la Real’s strong first half of the season in La Liga but asked the club to be removed from the squad to face Espanyol in the last 32 of the Copa del Rey.
“Last minute change to the squad: Lobete (number 35) comes in instead of Willian Jose. The forward has asked the club to be left out until his situation is clarified,” read a message posted on Real Sociedad’s official Twitter account.
AS and Marca had both reported on Wednesday afternoon that only the final details of the transfer were still to be agreed between the Spanish side and Spurs.
The 28-year-old’s contract, which he signed in 2018, contains a 70-million euro release clause but it is unlikely Tottenham would pay the full amount.
Willian Jose has scored eight goals in 22 games this season. The Brazilian would be tasked with filling the void at Spurs left by the injured Harry Kane.
Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris returned for his first appearance under Jose Mourinho against Norwich on Wednesday after over three months out with a dislocated elbow.
The French number one suffered the injury in conceding the first goal of a dispiriting 3-0 defeat to Brighton in early October.
Just over a month later, Mourinho replaced the sacked Mauricio Pochettino.
The 32-year-old returned to training earlier this month but was not expected to feature until early February.
However, with Spurs badly in need of a win against the Canaries to boost their chances of a top-four Premier League finish, Mourinho dropped Paulo Gazzaniga to the bench, despite the Argentine saving a penalty in Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Watford.
Rocket fire targeted the Libyan capital’s sole functioning airport on Wednesday, dealing another setback to peace efforts a day before regional foreign ministers meet in Algeria to discuss the crisis.
Tripoli’s Mitiga airport was forced to suspend all flights for several hours after it was targeted by six Grad rockets, just nine days after it reopened following a truce.
The airport has been hit multiple times since the start of an offensive by forces led by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar to seize the capital from the Government of National Accord (GNA).
World powers have stepped up efforts in recent weeks to find a political solution to the grinding conflict, with neighbouring Algeria to become the latest country to host a meeting Thursday to discuss ways forward.
The Algerian foreign ministry said chief diplomats from Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger and Mali would meet in Algiers to advance “a political settlement to the crisis through an inclusive dialogue between all parties”.
Algeria, which has stayed neutral in the Libyan conflict, shares a border of almost 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) with its neighbour, rocked by violence since the 2011 toppling of dictator Moamer Kadhafi by NATO-backed insurgents.
The meeting comes after a summit last Sunday in Berlin, which saw world leaders commit to ending all foreign meddling in Libya and to upholding a weapons embargo as part of a broader plan to end the conflict.
The two sides also agreed to form a military commission charged with finding ways to reach a long-term truce.
It should include five members each from the United Nations-recognised government in Tripoli and from Haftar’s forces, which back a rival administration in Benghazi.
On Tuesday, the UN Security Council urged the parties to reach a ceasefire deal paving the way for a political process aimed at ending the conflict in the North African country.
Despite repeated appeals from the UN’s envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, Tripoli’s GNA-held airport has been the target of several air raids and rocket strikes since Haftar’s forces launched their offensive.
Located east of the capital, Mitiga is a former military airbase used by civilian traffic since Tripoli international airport was heavily damaged in fighting in 2014.
GNA forces spokesman Mohammed Gnunu branded the strikes as a “flagrant threat” to the safety of air traffic and a “new violation” of the most recent ceasefire.
Haftar’s forces, which accuse the GNA of using Mitiga for military purposes, say they target “Turkish drones” being launched from the airport to attack their troops in southern Tripoli.
The GNA has denied those accusations.
Turkey has backed the GNA, deploying troops to Libya since early January under a controversial November deal with the Tripoli-based administration.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected in the Algerian capital on Sunday at the start of a two-day visit also tied to the Libyan conflict.
Germany’s top diplomat Heiko Maas is also expected in Algiers Thursday, the Algerian foreign ministry said.
Algiers has hosted a string of foreign leaders and envoys for talks on the crisis, including Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the top diplomats of Egypt, Italy, Turkey and former colonial power France.