Federer Set For French Open Pullout And End Four-Decade Paris Stretch

Switzerland's Roger Federer serves the ball to Germany's Dominik Koepfer during their men's singles third round tennis match on Day 7 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 5, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP
Switzerland’s Roger Federer serves the ball to Germany’s Dominik Koepfer during their men’s singles third round tennis match on Day 7 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 5, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Roger Federer could end his French Open career which has stretched over four decades with an injury-enforced withdrawal on Sunday as the 39-year-old rests his weary bones for an assault on his primary objective, a ninth Wimbledon title.

The 20-time Grand Slam title winner, who will be 40 in two months’ time, battled over three and a half hours until 12:45 Sunday morning to reach the last 16 in Paris.

He is due back on court on Monday to tackle Matteo Berrettini for a place in the quarter-finals.

However, having undergone two knee surgeries in 2020, the Swiss star admitted there are doubts he’ll make it.

“I don’t know if I am going to play,” said Federer who is likely to be playing his last French Open.

“I have to decide whether or not to continue. Is it too risky to keep putting pressure on the knee? Is it a good time to rest?

“Every match I have to reassess the situation and see the next morning in what state I wake up and how my knee is doing.

“It may be even more true after a match as long as the one tonight.”

If his knife-edge 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 win over 59th-ranked Dominik Koepfer was his last match in Paris, it will be remembered as a gripping affair on the court, but soulless off it.

Wimbledon target

Due to a government-imposed Covid-19 curfew, Court Philippe Chatrier was devoid of fans and atmosphere.

Federer is playing only his third tournament since last year’s Australian Open and has always said Wimbledon is his main goal.

He is chasing a ninth title at Wimbledon which starts on June 28.

He is also scheduled to play the warm-up grass court tournament in Halle beginning on June 14, the day after the French Open ends.

Federer, who made his Roland Garros debut in 1999 and was champion in 2009, was playing a night session for the first time.

However, the almost empty 15,000-capacity court was eerily silent.

“I might have been more nervous if the stadium had been full,” added Federer.

“All the matches I’ve played since the injury are information for the rest of the season.

“It gives me real pleasure to be able to play 3hr 30min at a high level against a very good player. It shows that I’m on the right track.”

As Federer weighs up leaving a tournament where Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were always the title favourites, fellow veteran Serena Williams resumes her bid for a historic 24th Grand Slam title.

Serena eyes history

Seeded seventh, the 39-year-old Williams is the second-highest ranked player left in the women’s draw.

After Naomi Osaka’s shock withdrawal, Simona Halep missing the event through injury and early losses for Bianca Andreescu and Angelique Kerber, none of the players who have beaten Williams in Grand Slam finals since her last title at the 2017 Australian Open are still in the competition.

The former world number one, still just one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record of major trophies, takes on Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Williams has not gone beyond the fourth round in Paris since losing the 2016 final to Garbine Muguruza.

She arrived at this year’s French Open with just one win on clay this term.

“I’ve had a rough clay court season thus far, so I’m happy to get some wins on the clay,” Williams said after beating fellow American Danielle Collins in round three.

Tamara Zidansek on Sunday became the first Slovenian woman to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam when she defeated Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (7/4), 6-1.

The world number 85, who knocked out former US Open champion Andreescu in round one, will face either 2019 Roland Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrousova or Paula Badosa for a place in the semi-finals.

The 23-year-old had never previously got beyond the second round of a major.

Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas is seen as a favourite to reach his first Grand Slam final, with Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all in the other half of the men’s draw.

A semi-finalist at the past two majors, Tsitsipas was beaten in a thrilling five-setter by Djokovic in Paris eight months ago.

On Sunday, he faces 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta.

He could then meet twice Grand Slam finalist and second seed Daniil Medvedev, the Russian who plays Chile’s Cristian Garin in the last 16.

AFP

Thiem Suffers ‘Very Tough’ First-Round Defeat By Andujar At French Open

Austria's Dominic Thiem reacts as he leaves after lossing against Spain's Pablo Andujar during their men's singles first round tennis match on Day 1 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on May 30, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP
Austria’s Dominic Thiem reacts as he leaves after lossing against Spain’s Pablo Andujar during their men’s singles first round tennis match on Day 1 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on May 30, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

 

Fourth seed Dominic Thiem blew a two-set lead and slipped to a “very tough” first-round loss at the French Open against Spanish veteran Pablo Andujar on Sunday.

The 35-year-old Andujar staged a remarkable comeback to defeat the two-time Roland Garros runner-up 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 after almost four-and-a-half hours on Court Philippe Chatrier.

It is Thiem’s first opening-round exit at Roland Garros and the first time he has failed to reach at least the quarter-finals of the tournament since 2015.

“It does feel very tough, as I was used since 2016 to play very deep in this tournament,” said the 27-year-old.

“But at the same time, the last first-round exit in a Grand Slam, US Open 2019, is not that long ago.

“So (I) was not like the big three who are never losing before the quarters. I mean, I had early losses before, but especially here where since 2015 I didn’t have them, it feels weird and it feels very difficult.”

It is the first time in his 17-year career that Andujar has come from two sets behind to win.

“It’s a very special moment because I’m 35 and I don’t know how long I’m going to play,” said Andujar. “I had to believe to be able to get this result.”

Austrian Thiem lost both the 2018 and 2019 French Open finals to 13-time champion Rafael Nadal, but did win his maiden Grand Slam title last year at the US Open.

His form had been patchy this season, though, having lost to Lorenzo Sonego in Rome and Cameron Norrie in Lyon over the past two weeks.

“Lyon and here, the shots and all how I moved and everything was just not the real me, I would say, or my version who is able to play for big titles,” admitted Thiem. “It’s just not good enough at the moment.”

‘Strange’ situation for Thiem

He seemed to be in total control when clinching the second set, before also missing a breakpoint in the third game of the third set.

Thiem also wasted an opportunity to take a 3-1 lead in the decider and ended the match having taken just six of 19 breakpoints.

“Losing after being two sets to zero up, it’s very strange to me, and, I mean, I have to analyse it and think about what’s wrong at the moment,” he added.

“And then of course try to hit back as soon as possible.”

Andujar, the world number 68, had not beaten a top-10 player since 2015 until a win over Roger Federer in Geneva last week.

“Probably that win helped today,” he said. “I didn’t think I was in my best shape, but the belief was the key to the win today.”

Andujar will face either Argentina’s Federico Delbonis or Moldovan Radu Albot in the second round.

It will be an especially bitter blow for Thiem, though, after he had been placed in the opposite half of the draw to Nadal, world number one Novak Djokovic and Federer.

AFP

Neymar Says Nike Claim Of Split Over Sex Assault Probe A ‘Lie’

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar warms up prior to the UEFA Champions League first leg semi-final football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester City at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on April 28, 2021. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Neymar said Friday Nike’s claim that it parted ways with him last year because he refused to cooperate with its internal investigation into an employee’s accusation he sexually assaulted her was an “absurd lie.”

The allegation is the latest to stain the image of the Brazilian superstar, whose 222-million-euro ($270 million) transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 makes him the world’s most expensive footballer.

Nike said Thursday it had ended its sponsorship deal with Neymar over an employee’s claim he tried to force himself on her and his failure to cooperate with its investigation.

“(To) state that my contract (with Nike) was terminated because I did not contribute in good faith to an investigation is an absurd lie,” Neymar wrote on Instagram.

“I was not given the opportunity to defend myself. I was not given the opportunity to know who this person was that was allegedly offended. I don’t even know her. I’ve never had any kind of relationship or approach with this person.”

Nike said the alleged assault happened in 2016, but was only reported to the company in 2018.

The US sportswear giant had sponsored Neymar, 29, since he was a 13-year-old prodigy.

It did not give a reason when it terminated its deal with him in August 2020.

The superstar is now a poster boy for Puma. His deal with the German sportswear giant was announced in September 2020.

‘They did nothing’

The Nike employee accused Neymar of trying to force her to perform oral sex on him in a New York hotel room during a promotional trip for a new line of sneakers, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first broke the story.

Neymar denied the accusation, and said Nike had nevertheless continued sending him on promotional tours.

“In 2017 I traveled again to the USA for another advertising campaign, with the same people, and nothing was told to me, nothing changed!” he wrote.

“In 2017, 2018, 2019 we made trips, advertising campaigns, countless shooting sections. And they told me nothing. Such a serious matter and they did nothing.”

In a previous statement, a Neymar spokeswoman said he and Nike had split for commercial reasons.

The player’s father accused the company of “blackmail.”

“It’s all very strange” that the accusation only came to light years later, after Neymar left Nike, he told Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.

Tarnished star

Nike said in a statement it was prepared to investigate in 2018 when the woman first came forward, but “respected the employee’s initial desire to keep this matter confidential and avoid an investigation.”

The firm therefore did not go further until 2019, when she expressed an interest in pursuing the matter, it said.

That was the same year another woman filed a rape complaint against Neymar in his native Brazil.

He vehemently denied that accusation, and the case was eventually dropped.

Neymar is currently in Brazil training with the national team north of Rio de Janeiro ahead of two upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

The superstar seemed “normal, the same as always,” teammate Emerson told a news conference.

Neymar extended his contract with French champions PSG earlier this month, through the 2024-2025 season.

With his on-pitch exploits and huge following on social media, Neymar is one of the biggest names in sports.

But his shine has often been tarnished.

His image as an eternal spoiled child was revived late last year by rumors of a huge year-end party he organized in Brazil in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

He has also raised eyebrows with his alleged diving, hard-partying lifestyle, and love of bling, which critics say contrasts with the relative lack of it in his trophy case.

AFP

France Winger Villiere To Undergo Surgery And Miss Six Nations

Toulon’s French wing Gabin Villiere (R) celebrates with teammates at the end of the French Top 14 rugby union match between RC Toulon and Racing 92 at the Mayol stadium in Toulon, on March 6, 2021. Christophe SIMON / AFP

 

France winger Gabin Villiere will miss the last three rounds of the Six Nations after injuring a hand playing in the Top 14, his club Toulon said on Sunday.

Toulon said Villiere would undergo surgery later Sunday and be out for at least six weeks.

He sustained the injury as Toulon beat Racing 92 25-21 on Saturday evening. Villiere scored his team’s only try after 14 minutes and completed the match.

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Villiere started both games as France opened the Six Nations with victories over Italy and Ireland.

He will miss the visit to England on March 13 and the home game against leaders Wales on March 20 as well as the home game against Scotland, postponed after a coronavirus outbreak in the French camp. Villiere was one of the players to test positive.

Lyon Hold Off Juventus To Reach Champions League Quarter-Finals

 

Lyon qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Friday despite losing 2-1 to Juventus in Turin.

A goal up after winning February’s first leg, French side Lyon will face Manchester City at the final tournament in Lisbon after drawing 2-2 on aggregate and going through on away goals.

Lyon squeezed past the Italian champions thanks to Memphis Depay’s 12th-minute penalty which put Rudi Garcia’s side two goals ahead in the tie and left Juve with a mountain to climb.

READ ALSO: Man City Pounce On Varane Mistakes To Dump Out Real Madrid

Needing to score three unanswered goals in order to go through, Cristiano Ronaldo tried his best to drag the Italian champions over the line.

He levelled the scores on the night with a penalty of his own with two minutes left in the opening period before crashing a second home on the hour mark.

However Juve performed poorly and Lyon managed to hold on to set up a clash with Pep Guardiola’s City, who put out 13-time winners Real Madrid, on August 15.

AFP

Three PSG Players Found To Have Virus During Lockdown

 

Three Paris Saint-Germain players and another member of staff were found to have contracted coronavirus during lockdown but are “no longer contagious” after further tests, the French champions said Tuesday.

PSG said the unnamed players were free to take part in training when it resumes later this week after undergoing “serological tests” on Monday.

READ ALSO: French Football Season Declared Over, PSG Awarded Title

“Those concerned had symptoms during confinement when they weren’t in contact with each other,” PSG said in a statement. “They are no longer contagious and can carry on their training programme.”

PSG still have big matches to look forward in the coming months despite the Ligue 1 season being ended early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They are still to play in the French Cup and League Cup finals, as well as the Champions League ‘final eight’ tournament in Lisbon in August.

French Open Now Eyeing September 27 Start

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates after victory over Austria’s Dominic Thiem during their men’s singles final match on day fifteen of The Roland Garros 2018 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 10, 2018. Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

 

The organisers of the French Open, who were criticised for unilaterally moving the tournament to a September start without consulting other tennis federations, could delay the event by another week, a report said Friday.

The claycourt Grand Slam could now start on September 27 instead of September 20, preceded by a week of qualification matches, Le Parisien newspaper said.

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) declined to confirm the report, but said in a statement: “The FFT is in contact with the international bodies, the ATP, WTA and ITF, and is waiting for the calendar to be confirmed by them.”

The FFT caused surprise in the tennis world by announcing in mid-March, just as France was going into lockdown because of the pandemic outbreak, that it was moving from its original May 24-June 7 slot to the September date.

If the tournament is delayed until September 27, it would give a two-week pause after the US Open, which is currently scheduled to finish on September 13.

Wimbledon, which was to have been played from June 29 to July 12, has been cancelled.

PSG Still ‘Dangerous’, Warns Record-Breaker Haaland

 

Teenage record-breaker Erling Braut Haaland warned Borussia Dortmund still have it all to do to reach the Champions League quarter-finals even after his two goals sank Neymar’s Paris Saint-Germain.

Haaland netted either side of a Neymar equaliser on Tuesday as the Brazilian superstar scored on his return from injury as the French champions crashed to a 2-1 defeat at Dortmund in the last 16, first leg, tie.

“We want to go through, it’s going to be a hard game,” Haaland said of the return leg in Paris on March 11, “but we are a good team.

“The result is quite a dangerous one, as Paris has a very strong team and can still go through in the return leg.”

Haaland’s team-mate Emre Can, who alongside Axel Witsel worked tirelessly in Dortmund’s midfield to contain Neymar and France striker Kylian Mbappe, said the home side’s defence had been key.

“It was a big statement from the team how we defended today. We know it’s not over — it’s just half-time,” said Can, whose permanent transfer from Juventus was confirmed Tuesday.

However, the night belonged Haaland who has 11 goals in his first seven games for Dortmund and warned there is more to come.

“I feel like I still can do a lot better,” said Haaland.

“I have to work hard to improve to play better at this level.”

Having also scored eight goals for Salzburg in the group stages before his 20 million-euro ($22 million) transfer to Dortmund, Haaland made Champions League history on Tuesday.

His tally of 10 goals in his first seven Champions League matches is now a new record in the competition and makes him the joint top-scorer alongside Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.

The teenage goal-machine has so far scored 39 times in 29 games this season for Salzburg and Dortmund.

The 19-year-old had already sent records tumbling since arriving in Dortmund last month when he became the first player to score a hat-trick off the bench on his Bundesliga debut.

His incredible strike for his second goal on Tuesday overshadowed Neymar’s return from a rib injury with PSG desperate to break their last 16 jinx having exited at this stage in the competition in each of the last three seasons.

‘Important Neymar goal’

Paris defender Marquinhos said Neymar’s away goal could prove crucial in the home leg.

“We weren’t intense enough with or without the ball and did a lot of things badly, however the goal we got is important for the second leg,” he said.

The presence of the world’s most expensive player was a major boost for his team, after Neymar missed last season’s surprise last-16 loss to Manchester United with a foot injury.

He also sat out the second leg of their defeat by Real Madrid at the same stage in 2018.

PSG’s German coach Thomas Tuchel admitted Neymar’s lack of match fitness had been a factor in the away defeat, but said his team still has time to find their form.

“Neymar hadn’t played for a fortnight, but he is very important for Kylian (Mbappe), there is harmony between them and if Neymar lacks rhythm, it’s immediately noticeable,” said Tuchel.

“We didn’t have enough possession, we made too many easy mistakes, we weren’t smart enough and we lost the ball too early.

“It’s difficult, but it’s 2-1 and we still have a few games left to get back into the rhythm.”

His counterpart Lucien Favre echoed Haaland’s insistence that the result gives Dortmund only a slender advantage with PSG’s passionate home fans set to get behind their team in the return leg.

“Of course it’s a dangerous result, but we played well in both defence and attack,” said Dortmund’s Swiss coach.

“However, as things stand it’s 2-1 to us.”

Neymar Dedicates PSG Goal To Kobe Bryant

 

Neymar dedicated his second goal at Lille to basketball legend Kobe Bryant, whose death on Sunday in a helicopter crash shocked the world.

The Brazilian slotted home the 52nd-minute penalty that put PSG two goals up in the French Ligue 1 clash and went over to the television cameras by the side of the Stade Pierre Mauro pitch to make the number 24 with his fingers in honour of Bryant’s shirt number.

Bryant, who had been nominated for the NBA Hall of Fame in December, was confirmed dead at 41 years old on Sunday after a helicopter crashed and burst into flames in foggy conditions in suburban Los Angeles, leaving five people dead.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials said there were no survivors from the morning crash on a rugged hillside in Calabasas, west of LA.

In an email to AFP, Mayor of Calabasas Alicia Weintraub confirmed Bryant was among the victims.

“Yes, it is confirmed,” Weintraub wrote.

Neymar Scores Injury-Time Winner As PSG Beat Strasbourg

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Racing Club de Strasbourg Alsace (RCS) on September 14, 2019 at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. Martin BUREAU / AFP

 

Neymar marked his return to action for Paris Saint-Germain for the first time in four months with a stunning overhead kick in injury time that gave his team a 1-0 win over Strasbourg on Saturday.

The world’s most expensive player, resigned to another season in France after failing to get the move back to Barcelona he so desired, had been given a hostile reception by angry PSG fans throughout the match at the Parc des Princes.

However, his acrobatic effort in the 92nd minute broke the deadlock and gave PSG a 1-0 win as they stay top of the Ligue 1 table.

Egan Bernal Wins 2019 Tour De France

 

Egan Bernal clinched victory in the Tour de France on Sunday after parading into Paris safely in the overall leader’s yellow jersey, becoming the first Colombian winner of cycling’s greatest prize and its youngest in more than a century.

With the sun setting behind the Arc de Triomphe, the 22-year-old Ineos rider completed the 21 stage, 3,409km (2,118 miles) marathon around France 1min 10sec ahead of 2018 champion and teammate Geraint Thomas.

READ ALSO: Neymar To Miss PSG’s Final Asian Matches Over Injury

Colombian spectators thronged the Champs Elysees to witness the traditional eight-lap finale, where Australia’s Caleb Ewan, also 22, won his third stage of the 2019 edition on the culminating mass bunch sprint.

AFP

Antoine Griezmann Signs For Barcelona

 

Barcelona announced the signing of Antoine Griezmann on Friday after the Spanish champions paid La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid the 120 million euro ($135 million) release clause required to sign the World Cup winner.

“The player will sign a contract with his new club for the next five seasons, through to 30 June 2024, with a buyout clause of 800 million euros,” Barca said in a statement.

Friday’s announcement brings to an end a dispute between the two clubs and Griezmann, who had long aimed to move to the Catalan giants.

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The 28-year-old failed to show up for his side’s pre-season gathering on Sunday after he had announced in May he would be leaving the Wanda Metropolitano, even though he could not reveal his destination until his release clause dropped from 200 million euros to 120 million euros at the start of the month.

last week Atletico accused Barcelona and Griezmann of a “lack of respect” after the Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed the two clubs had held talks about the former Real Sociedad forward.

Atletico also claimed that Griezmann had told the club that he had struck a deal with Barcelona in March, just days before the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Juventus, which saw them dumped out by a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick after winning the first leg 2-0 in Madrid.

Griezmann joined Atletico in 2014 and has scored 133 goals in 257 appearances, lifting the Europa League in 2018.

He finished top scorer at Euro 2016 when France were beaten in the final on home soil by Portugal before helping to guide his team to World Cup triumph in Russia last year.

AFP