Swiss Legend Federer To Retire From Tennis

Switzerland's Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Britain's Cameron Norrie during their men's singles third round match on the sixth day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 3, 2021. Ben STANSALL / AFP
In this file photo, Switzerland’s Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Britain’s Cameron Norrie during their men’s singles third-round match on the sixth day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 3, 2021. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer is to retire after next week’s Laver Cup after admitting on Thursday his battles with a knee problem had forced him to call time on his historic career.

“The Laver Cup next week in London will be my final ATP event,” he said in a statement posted on his Twitter account.

The 41-year-old winner of 20 Grand Slam titles has been out of action since a quarter-final loss at Wimbledon in 2021, after which he underwent his third knee surgery in 18 months.

His fellow tennis legend Serena Williams is all but certain not to play again after bowing out of the US Open in the third round this month.

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Federer said that his body had effectively told him it was time to bring the curtain down.

“I’ve worked hard to return to full competitive form,” he wrote.

“But I also know my body’s capacities and limits, and its message to me lately has been clear.

“I am 41 years old. I have played more than 1500 matches over 24 years.

“Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career.”

AFP

Alcaraz Wins US Open, Becomes Youngest World Number One

Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz celebrates with the trophy after winning against Norway’s Casper Ruud during their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament men’s singles final match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 11, 2022. (Photo by Kena Betancur / AFP)

 

Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz claimed his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open on Sunday and became the youngest man to ascend to the world number one ranking.

The 19-year-old dragged his weary body to a 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7/1), 6-3 victory over Norway’s Casper Ruud in the final.

Alcaraz, the first teenager to claim the top ranking, is the youngest Grand Slam men’s champion since Rafael Nadal at the 2005 French Open after a performance that yielded 55 winners and 14 aces.

On a day of landmarks, he is also the youngest champion in New York since Pete Sampras in 1990.

It was a gruelling tournament for Alcaraz who claimed the record for most time spent on the court at a single Grand Slam event, passing the 23 hours and 21 minutes it took Kevin Anderson to finish runner-up at Wimbledon in 2018.

Defeat for Ruud, who was also vying for the world number one ranking, was his second in a Slam final this year after he was routed by Nadal in the French Open.

With the roof closed, the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd observed a moving moment’s silence on the 21st anniversary of the September 11 attacks before the final got off to a tentative start.

Both men saved break points in their opening service games before Alcaraz gained the only break of the first set for a key 3-1 lead.

Ruud dropped the set but triumphed in terms of sportsmanship when he called a double bounce on himself in the eighth game, conceding the point to the Spaniard.

Alcaraz served it out to love and a one-set lead courtesy of his 13 winners to six for the Norwegian.

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Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz (L) celebrates with the trophy after winning against Norway’s Casper Ruud during their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament men’s singles final match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 11, 2022. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)

 

The Spanish teenager, who went into the final with a 2-0 winning record over Ruud, squandered a break point at 2-2 in the second set.

Ruud made him pay, edging ahead for 4-2 and then levelling the final on a second set point after another careless Alcaraz drop-shot opened the court invitingly for the Norwegian.

At that moment, Alcaraz had been on court at the tournament for almost 22 hours, passing the mark set by Andy Murray when the Briton claimed the 2012 title.

He was ahead for 2-0 in the third set before Ruud hit back.

The 23-year-old Norwegian had two set points in an 11-minute 12th game but was unable to convert as Alcaraz put away inch-perfect back-to-back volleys.

Alcaraz made the most of his reprieve, racing through to his first tiebreak success of the tournament as Ruud’s game fell suddenly apart.

The Spaniard sensed his chance, breaking for 4-2 in the fourth set before taking his aces count to 12 to lead 5-2.

Ruud held to love but Alcaraz claimed his slice of history on a second match point before collapsing to the court in celebration.

AFP

Alcaraz To Face Ruud For US Open Title After Epic Semi-Final Triumph

Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz celebrates after winning against USA’s Frances Tiafoe during their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament men’s singles semi-final match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 9, 2022. (Photo by KENA BETANCUR / AFP)

 

Carlos Alcaraz defeated Frances Tiafoe in a gladiatorial US Open semi-final on Friday, setting up a showdown for the title and world number one ranking against Casper Ruud.

The 19-year-old Spaniard triumphed 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3 to become the youngest men’s Grand Slam finalist since compatriot Rafael Nadal captured the first of his 22 Slams at the 2005 French Open.

Norway’s seventh-ranked Ruud earlier defeated Russia’s Karen Khachanov 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 to also reach his first Grand Slam final.

Tiafoe went down fighting, however, saving three match points and retrieving breaks in both of the last two sets.

“We are in the semi-final of a Grand Slam, we have to give everything we have inside, we have to fight until the last ball,” said Alcaraz, the youngest US Open finalist since Pete Sampras in 1990.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re fighting for five hours or six hours. It doesn’t matter, you have to give everything on court.”

For Alcaraz, who unleashed 59 winners, it was his third successive five-setter as he closes in on a maiden Slam and becoming the youngest ever world number one.

“It’s my first time in a final of a Grand Slam. I can see the number one in the world, but at the same time it’s so far away,” he added.

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‘Give everything’ 

“I’m going to give everything that I have. I will have to handle the nerves of being in the final of a Grand Slam but obviously I’m really happy.”

Tiafoe hailed his conqueror.

“I gave everything I had, too good from Carlos tonight,” said Tiafoe.

“Honestly I came here wanting to win the US Open, I feel like I let you guys down. This one really hurts.”

Alcaraz saw two break points come and go in the seventh game of the opener before needing to save a set point in the 12th which featured a breathtaking rally that the Spaniard claimed from two seemingly losing positions.

The teenager saved three more set points in the tiebreak but Tiafoe converted his fifth when Alcaraz served up his third double fault of the 64-minute opener.

Alcaraz saved a break point in the third game of the second set, at one stage stretching for a winning point with his back facing Tiafoe to win another memorable rally.

His flamboyance was rewarded when he broke for 4-2 on his way to levelling the semi-final thanks to Tiafoe burying a return in the net.

Alcaraz had needed nine hours and 10 sets in his last two rounds, including a quarter-final which finished at 2:50 a.m. Thursday, to reach the semi-final.

Match points saved 

However, he looked the fresher of the two men when he raced to a double break, 4-0 lead in the third set, allowing Tiafoe just three points.

For good measure, Alcaraz broke the American a third time in the seventh game.

World number 26 Tiafoe, who knocked Nadal out of the tournament in the last-16, was hoping to become the first American man in a major final since Andy Roddick at Wimbledon in 2009.

He gamely retrieved two breaks in the fourth set, saved a match point in the 10th game with a nerveless drop shot before claiming the tiebreak to send the clash into a decider.

It was an eighth successful tiebreak out of eight for the American.

Alcaraz broke for 2-0 in the fifth set only for Tiafoe to again claw his way back to 2-2.

The American, however, double-faulted to hand the advantage back in the fifth game.

Tiafoe saved two more match points in the ninth game before Alcaraz went on to seal victory in four hours and 19 minutes when his opponent netted a weary backhand.

Ruud will be appearing in his second Grand Slam final of the season after finishing runner-up to Nadal at the French Open in June.

“After Roland Garros, I was extremely happy but at the same time humble enough to think that could be my only final in a Grand Slam in my career,” said Ruud.

“They don’t come easy. So here I am a couple of months later – it feels beyond words to describe.”

The 23-year-old Norwegian set the tone for his dominance early in the semi-final when he came out on top in a 55-shot rally to convert a third set point in the opening tiebreak which his Russian rival described as “crazy”.

AFP

Retirement: How Serena Williams Legacy Spans Present, Future

File photo of US player Serena Williams during the 2019 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London.  GLYN KIRK / AFP

 

Whether it’s in the powerful groundstrokes of players like Coco Gauff or the growing numbers of African-American youngsters surging into tennis camps across the United States each year, Serena Williams’ influence will be felt long after she hangs up her racquet.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion is expected to confirm her retirement at some point during the next US Open fortnight, ending a career that has straddled four decades and yielded a slew of records that may never be beaten.

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A sporting and cultural icon, Williams, 40, along with elder sister Venus, has played a transformative role in changing the face of tennis around the world.

“I think (Serena) as an athlete, not just as a tennis player, has been one of the most important athletes in the history of the sport,” was the verdict of Rafael Nadal, the 22-time Grand Slam singles king.

Daniil Medvedev, the reigning US Open men’s singles champion, added: “In 100 years we’re still going to talk about Serena Williams.”

Martin Blackman, the United States Tennis Association’s general manager of player development, has witnessed first-hand the effect that the rise of the Williams sisters has had on the sport.

Blackman, a former tennis professional who is African-American, says Serena and Venus Williams will leave lasting legacies inside and outside of tennis, noting the sisters’ rise from the mean streets of south Los Angeles to the pinnacle of their sport.

“The first level of (Serena’s) legacy will be a woman along with her sister and their family who were able to come out of a tough situation growing up in Compton, not a lot of resources and play a sport that was still traditionally white and quite expensive, and that story of being able to make that journey to be a champion is the first one,” Blackman told AFP.

 Transcending tennis

Together, Blackman said, the Williams sisters have transcended tennis.

“I happen to be an African-American man. When I saw Serena and Venus come up and I saw them being confident and comfortable in their skin, that was something that showed me they were really grounded, really secure, really confident. That was a shock to the established tennis society,” Blackman said.

“African-American girls out there wearing braids, being themselves, unapologetically. I think at first there was some resistance. I think the commentating was a little bit different. For them to do that it sent a message to all diverse people -– regardless of whether black, Hispanic, gay, or lesbian –- that you can be successful being yourself.

“That you can be authentic and pave your way without compromising who you are. Over time, that’s probably the biggest cultural transformation that they have driven within the sport of tennis.”

Blackman said the Williams effect is reflected in the increasing numbers of African-American girls entering USTA tennis camps along with the increasing numbers of black players on the WTA Tour.

“Our numbers in terms of diverse youth have gone up consistently in the last two or three years,” Blackman said.

“We have a network of camps throughout the country and I have seen more and more African-American girls coming into the game through those camps, which means they are the best in the country.”

At the elite level, a record 12 African-American women played in the main draw of the US Open in 2020.

African-American tennis players have also increasingly graced Grand Slam finals.

Prior to the Williams sisters’ emergence, Zina Garrison was the only African-American woman to reach a Grand Slam final in the Open era.

In the past five years, African-American players such as Gauff, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys have all played in Slam finals, while Japan’s Naomi Osaka, whose father is Haitian-American, has won four Grand Slams.

‘We followed her’

“If you look at everyone that’s our skin color, clearly we followed her,” Osaka said on Saturday. “I think I’m a product of what she’s done. I wouldn’t be here without Serena, Venus, and her whole family.”

Gauff, the 18-year-old from Florida who reached the final of the French Open this year, said Serena Williams had been her role model on and off the court.

“Before Serena came along, there was not really an icon of the sport that looked like me,” Gauff said.

“So growing up I never thought that I was different because the number one player in the world was somebody who looked like me.

“Sometimes being a woman, a black woman in the world, you kind of settle for less. I feel like Serena taught me that, from watching her. She never settled for less.”

For Gauff, Williams’ dominance across different decades is enough to settle any debate about whether she ought to be regarded as the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time).

“For me, she’s always going to be considered the G.O.A.T,” Gauff said.

“She didn’t dominate one generation. She didn’t dominate for two generations. She dominated for three-plus generations.”

Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, the 2021 US Open finalist, said Williams would be remembered as a champion for both female and male players.

“She’s set out a good path for all of the WTA players, even the ATP players, to reach their own goals, voice their thoughts, keep fighting for what they believe in,” Fernandez said.

“It’s a great way to leave the sport.”

AFP

Serena Williams’ Comeback Cut Short By Jabeur Injury

US player Serena Williams (R) and Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur react as they play against Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo and Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova during their round of 8 women’s doubles tennis match , on day three, of the Eastbourne International tennis tournament in Eastbourne, southern England on June 21, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

 

 

Serena Williams’ return to tennis action has been cut short after doubles partner Ons Jabeur withdrew from the Eastbourne tournament because of a knee injury.

The WTA event had seen tennis great Williams, 40, play her first two competitive matches since she limped out of last year’s Wimbledon in tears with a hamstring problem.

The American and Tunisian partner Jabeur made it through to the semi-finals with a narrow last 16 win over Maria Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo, before a more convincing quarter-final victory in straight sets against Shuko Aoyama and Chan Hao-ching.

 

Winners Serena Williams of the US (R) and Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur (rear R) congratulate Japan’s Shuko Aoyama (L) and Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching (rear L) at the end of their women’s doubles quarter final tennis match on day four of the Eastbourne International tennis tournament in Eastbourne, southern England on June 22, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

 

 

Serena Williams of the US (R) and Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur (L) celebrate after winning against Japan’s Shuko Aoyama and Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching at the end of their women’s doubles quarter final tennis match on day four of the Eastbourne International tennis tournament in Eastbourne, southern England on June 22, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

 

Williams will now focus on Wimbledon where she has accepted a wild card into the women’s singles in a bid to win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.

She will find out who she faces in the first round when the draw is made on Friday.

 

 

Serena Williams of the US, playing with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, returns the ball to Japan’s Shuko Aoyama and Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching during their women’s doubles quarter final tennis match on day four of the Eastbourne International tennis tournament in Eastbourne, southern England on June 22, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

 

 

US player Serena Williams celebrates after winning with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur against Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo and Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova at the end of their round of 8 women’s doubles tennis match, on day three, of the Eastbourne International tennis tournament in Eastbourne, southern England on June 21, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

Djokovic Makes It 370 Weeks At Number One

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic holds the winner’s trophy after winning the final match of the Men’s ATP Rome Open tennis tournament against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas on May 15, 2022 at Foro Italico in Rome. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic extended his record at the top of the ATP rankings to 370 weeks on Monday while Rafael Nadal drops down a place to number five.

The Spaniard was knocked out of the Italian Open in the last 16 and is leapfrogged by the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas who made it all the way to the final where he was turned over in straight sets by an inspired Djokovic.

The Serb, who claimed his sixth Italian Open title, has now spent 60 weeks more at number one than the next man on the list Roger Federer (310). Nadal is sixth on the all-time list with 209.

With the French Open starting on Sunday, Djokovic is guaranteed top seeding at Roland Garros and will retain the top spot for at least another two weeks.

Norwegian Casper Ruud climbs two places from tenth to eighth after reaching the semi-finals in Rome while Italian Matteo Berrettini, who had an operation on his right hand at the end of March and will miss the French Open, goes the other way.

Rankings (players representing Russia and Belarus are banned from competing under the name or flag of Russia or Belarus until further notice):

1. Novak Djokovic (SRB) 8,660 pts

2. Daniil Medvedev 7,990

3. Alexander Zverev (GER) 7,200

4. Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 6,170 (+1)

5. Rafael Nadal (ESP) 5,525 (-1)

6. Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) 4,770

7. Andrey Rublev 3,945

8. Casper Ruud (NOR) 3,940 (+2)

9. Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 3,850

10. Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 3,805 (-2)

11. Cameron Norrie (GBR) 3,355

12. Jannik Sinner (ITA) 3,195 (+1)

13. Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 3,095 (-1)

14. Taylor Fritz (USA) 2,920

15. Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 2,671 (+1)

16. Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 2,505 (-1)

17. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 2,135 (+1)

18. Reilly Opelka (USA) 2,090 (-1)

19. Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 1,903

20. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 1,785

AFP

Rublev Beats Djokovic To Win Serbia Open

Rublev and Djokovic.

 

World number one Novak Djokovic was denied his first title of the year on Sunday, falling in three sets to Russia’s Andrey Rublev in the final of the Serbia Open.

Second seed Rublev won through 6-2, 6-7 (4/7), 6-0 against the top seed who had been looking to regain winning form before his French Open title defence next month.

The Belgrade event was only Djokovic’s third of 2022 after he was deported from Melbourne – and denied the chance to defend his Australian Open title – after entering the country unvaccinated.

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However, the 20-time Grand Slam winner was let down by his lack of physical form.

The 34-year-old, who lost in the quarter-finals in Dubai and suffered a shock second-round defeat in Monte Carlo, battled past Laslo Djere, Miomir Kecmanovic and Karen Khachanov in three sets before the court time caught up with the top seed against Rublev.

Djokovic got off to a bad start, dropping serve twice, to lose the first set after have an hour.

Bouyed by the support of the 8,000 crowd, Djokovic fought back in a marathon second set which lasted just over an hour, levelling in the tie-break despite wasting six set points, before running out of steam in the third.

Rublev captured his third title of the season, days after blasting Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players as “complete discrimination”.

Wimbledon banned all Russian and Belarusian players from this summer’s Grand Slam tournament due to the invasion of Ukraine.

It was a decision condemned by the ATP and WTA as well as a host of players including world number one Novak Djokovic who described the sanction as “crazy”.

Rublev has now equalled Spaniard Rafael Nadal for the most tour-level titles in 2022, having also clinched crowns in Marseille and Dubai in February.

AFP

Lagos To Host 2022 ITTF Club Championships, African Cup From May 19

A table tennis court in Lagos.

 

Nigeria’s commercial city, Lagos has been chosen by the African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF) to host the World Championships regional qualification tournament, the African Club Championships and African Cup.

The three tournaments will begin from May 19 to 28 at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall, Teslim Balogun Stadium Surulere.

The World Championships regional qualification for West Africa teams will kick-start the tournament on May 19 to 21 while the African Club Championships follow on May 23 to 25. The African Cup which is a singles tournament will climax the event on May 26 to 28.

ATTF President, Khaled El-Salhy confirmed the choice of Lagos was based on the remarkable organization of previous tournaments coupled with the positive comments from players, coaches, and participating teams.

“Lagos has the best bid to host the African Cup in 2022 together with the African Clubs, as ATTF is always satisfied with the remarkable organisation in Lagos coupled with full capacity of spectators in the venue throughout any major competition,” he said.

The ATTF boss said the African Cup would now be a continental qualification for WTT Cup Finals. “The new thing is that the ITTF World Cup may not be held this year and the other option will be the WTT Cup Finals which will include the same policy that continental cup winners will represent each continent.”

Top African players are expected in Lagos for the African Cup where Egypt’s Ahmed Saleh and Dina Meshref are expected to defend their titles against the best players in Africa at the three-day tournament at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.

“All top players will be competing for the Cup, while they will be aiming for ranking points as well as qualification to represent Africa at WTT Cup Finals taking place later in the year,” he added.

For the African Cup, each participating country will nominate two players each in men’s and women’s events while the host country will nominate four players each for the cup.

Meanwhile, a nine-man Main Organising Committee (MOC) has been approved by the continental ruling body with Wahid Oshodi chairing the committee. President of Cote D’ivoire Table Tennis Federation, Prof. Alfred Germain Karou will deputise Oshodi in the MOC.

Other members include the Executive Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC) Sola Aiyepeku, Dr. Adesoji Tayo, Kweku Tandoh and Tunisia’s Mokhtar Toukabri.

Aruna Sets Another African Record In Qatar

Aruna Quadri

 

Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna has become the first African player to reach the semifinals stage at the WTT Star Contender after an outstanding 3-0 (11-8, 11-8, 11-7) win over China’s Zhou Qihao in the quarterfinals of the Men’s singles in Doha, Qatar today.

En route to the semis, Aruna has now defeated three Chinese players at the tournament. The Nigerian cruised past Liu Dingshuo in the round of 32 and Zhao Zihao in the round of 16.

Aruna’s next opponent is South Korea’s Lim Jonghoon. He will be hoping to avenge his 1-3 loss to the South Korean in the round of 32 at the WTT Contender which took place at the same venue a week ago.

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The World Table Tennis (WTT) has described the Nigerian’s performance as outstanding.

“Quadri Aruna has been China’s kryptonite in Doha. The Nigerian superstar has added another name to his hit list, defeating Zhou Qihao 3-0 (11-8, 11-8, 11-7) to advance to the Men’s Singles semi-final. That makes three consecutive Chinese team members which Aruna has sent packing. Most amazingly, he has won the last two matches in straight games. Does this make the Nigerian World No.14 the new favourite to take the title?” said WTT.

The semifinal matches will be played on Thursday, March 31, and will be streamed live via the World Table Tennis (WTT) website.

Federer’s Ukrainian Conqueror Swaps Racquet For Kalashnikov

Former Ukrainian tennis man Sergiy Stakhovsky walks prior to an interview with AFP journalists at Independence Square in Kyiv, on March 15, 2022.  Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

 

In 2013 he achieved one of the great shocks in tennis history, knocking defending champion Roger Federer out of Wimbledon.

Today, the Ukrainian player Sergiy Stakhovsky is a volunteer fighter on a military patrol in Kyiv, which he vows to defend “to the end” against Russian forces.

Now 36, he looks much the same as the journeyman player ranked 116 in the world who lay stretched out in his tennis whites on the hallowed London turf after toppling Federer in the second round nine years ago.

But his outfit now could not be more different as he patrols Maidan Square, symbol of Ukraine’s “fight for democracy”, armed with a Kalashnikov, a pistol in his belt, and his 1.93 metre (6 ft 4 in) frame dressed in khaki camouflage.

“I cannot say that I feel comfortable around a rifle. I am not sure how I am going to react to shooting at somebody,” he tells AFP. “I wish I would never have to be preoccupied with these things.”

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It’s been just over two weeks since he returned to Ukraine and signed up for the territorial brigade, the volunteers tasked with helping the army against the Russian invasion launched on February 24.

“I knew I had to go there”, he says.

‘Despair’

On the eve of the invasion, Stakhovsky was on holiday in Dubai with his wife and three children aged four, six, and eight, having hung up his racquet as a professional player in January after the Australian Open.

The next day, after seeing the television images of Russian bombs falling on his homeland, he says he was plunged into a mixture of “despair” and “misery”.
Much of his family still lived in Ukraine. He spent the next three days at the hotel in a blur as he tried to get information about the situation on the ground, to find shelter for people

“I was full of adrenaline, I slept three or four hours (overall), I didn’t eat”.
He then told his wife he had decided to go back.

“My wife was really upset, I mean, she knew, she understood but she was really upset,” he said. But “now she understands that I couldn’t really do it other way”.

The heartbreaking decision torments him every time he thinks of his family.
“Leaving the kids is not something I’m proud of,” he says.

“My kids don’t know that I’m here, well, they know that I’m not at home, but they don’t know what war is and I’m trying to not get them involved. I told them I’d be right back, it’s been 15 days now… And God knows how many more it’s going to be”.

Like all Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60, Stakhovsky is eligible for call-up by the army and cannot leave the country when the country is at war.
He says that he finds the strength to go because of his countrymen, whom he has seen sign up “in their thousands”.

“If we don’t stand up, we don’t have a country to live in,” he said.
Federer ‘hopes for peace’

The former tennis pro now carries out two patrols a day lasting two hours each to guard the centre of Kyiv from possible infiltrations, particularly around the palace of President Volodymyr Zelensky, the hero of the resistance against Moscow.

“Listen, I am here on foot patrolling,” he said, adding of Zelensky that he was “remarkably brave and knows what he’s doing, and we all believe he knows what he’s doing.”

People from “India to South America” have sent thousands of messages of support and asking how they can help Ukraine, says Stakhovsky.

Among those are “hundreds” of professional tennis players who have not forgotten their former colleague, who rose to a world ranking of 31 in 2010 and was an unofficial spokesman for junior players.

Tennis legends have also offered their support — including the man he stunned at Wimbledon, Roger Federer himself.

“He said that he wishes that there will be peace soon,” said the Ukranian, adding that Federer and his wife were trying to help Ukranian children through their foundation.

One message that particularly touched him came from Serbian world number two Novak Djokovic.

“He lived through this when he was young so he knows exactly what our kids are going through. So from him, that message is, I would say, heavier in terms of meaning.”

As the Russians close in on Kyiv there are fears it could face the same fate as destroyed cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol.

“That’s disturbing”, he said, because “they don’t care whether they’re going to kill a child or military personnel, they just don’t care”.

AFP

Nadal Beats Medvedev To Win Record 21st Grand Slam

Spain’s Rafael Nadal kisses the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup trophy following his victory against Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in their men’s singles final match on day fourteen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 31, 2022. Martin KEEP / AFP

 

Rafael Nadal roared back from two sets down to win a titanic five-set duel with Daniil Medvedev and claim a record 21st Grand Slam men’s title in the Australian Open final on Sunday.

 

The Spanish great looked dead and buried as the Russian world number two carved out a two-set lead but Nadal surged home for one of his mightiest comeback wins 2-6, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in 5hr 24min on Rod Laver Arena.

READ ALSO: Barty Makes History After Winning First Australian Open

Nadal came out on top in the physical war of attrition to move ahead of era rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on the all-time list of men’s major winners.

Djokovic missed his chance to improve on his nine Australian Open wins when he was deported over vaccination issues on the eve of the tournament, while Federer is injured.

It was one of the 35-year-old Spanish warrior’s greatest title victories in his 29th Grand Slam final winning his second Australian Open, 13 years after his first in 2009.

Nadal also became only the fourth man to win each of the four Grand Slams twice and the third-oldest man in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam title, behind Ken Rosewall and Federer.

The final went down to the bitter end with Nadal being broken as he served for the championship only for the Spaniard to break back.

On his second attempt to serve it out, Nadal powered to three match points to win amid chaotic scenes in his player’s box and the frenzied crowd.

It is the fourth time in his storied career that Nadal had clawed back to win from two sets down and the second time Nadal had denied Medvedev in a Grand Slam final, winning a five-set epic at the 2019 US Open.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal reacts after winning against Russia’s Daniil Medvedev during their men’s singles final match on day fourteen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne early on January 31, 2022. Paul Crock / AFP

 

It crowned an extraordinary effort from Nadal at the year’s opening major, having to modify his game to compensate for a degenerative bone disease in his left foot that ended his 2021 season last August.

He then caught Covid in December which, he said, made him “very sick”.

Medvedev had wrecked Djokovic’s calendar Grand Slam push and bid for a 21st title in New York four months ago and was aiming to do the same to Nadal in Melbourne.

Medvedev lost his second consecutive Australian Open final after falling in straight sets to Djokovic in last year’s final.

Nadal now leads Medvedev 4-1, with the Russian also losing to the Spanish lefty in his first major final at the 2019 US Open over five sets.

AFP

First 11: Nigeria’s AFCON Crash + This Week’s Biggest Sports Stories

First-Eleven

 

It’s been a week of drama at the Africa Cup of Nations. Nigeria’s shocking loss to Tunisia, and the red cards that marred the competition, were major talking points in the last seven days. Heartbroken fans trolled Maduka Okoye and Alex Iwobi following the defeat which sent out one of the tournament favourites.

These stories, FIFA’s linking of plans for a biennial World Cup to migration tragedies in the Mediterranean and others, headline First Eleven which gives a recap of the biggest sports gist for the week.

Tunisia Clip Eagles’ Wings

Tunisia’s players celebrate after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Nigeria and Tunisia at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 23, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

The week began on a sad note for football fans in Nigeria after the Super Eagles’ early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). Nigeria, three-time continental champions, were stunned 0-1 by Tunisia in a Round of 16 game in Cameroon.

Austine Eguavoen’s men went into the game as favourites having won all three group stage matches, the only team to do so. But a 47th-minute strike was enough for the North Africans to break the hearts of millions of fans in Nigeria. Although Nigeria battled to get the equaliser, a red card for former Arsenal star, Alex Iwobi, compounded the Super Eagles’ woes.

Fans Troll Okoye, Iwobi

A photo combination of Maduka Okoye and Alex Iwobi.

 

Iwobi’s sending off triggered a barrage of cyberattacks, not just on the midfielder but goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye. The Sparta Rotterdam man was faulted for not doing enough to stop the 2004 champions from scoring the lone goal in the match. Both were subjects of hate messages from fans who blamed the duo for the Super Eagles’ exit. Their names trended for days on social media, prompting them to disable comments on their Instagram accounts. Okoye, some of the fans claimed, was distracted by praises from female admirers.

Following the defeat, President Muhammadu Buhari had told Nigerians not to write off the team. In a short message on Monday, he asked fans to encourage the side, believing that they can do better in subsequent games.

“They gave everyone the confidence that they were up to it, and I am sure it was something they could have achieved,” a statement from a presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, read. “Nonetheless, we should not write them off”.

Red Cards Mar AFCON

The AFCON was tagged by many as a “tournament of red cards” following the number of players that were sent off in the competition.

 

Nigeria’s loss wasn’t the only thing that made headlines from the AFCON. In the first round of knockout fixtures, seven red cards were issued in eight games.  The development drew condemnation from several quarters. Fans on social media even dubbed the competition “AFCON of Red Cards”, throwing up further debates about the quality of officiating at Africa’s premier championship.

Coach Eguavoen was critical of centre referee, Maguette Ndiaye’s dismissal of the Everton star, describing the officiating as unfair. Aside from the former defender, Ghanaian ex-international, Mikel Essien, also questioned the number of red cards in the tournament. The former Chelsea player while lamenting the situation said it was “shocking” and wondered if the game had become soft.

Tragedy Rocks Tournament 

Supporters of the Comoros national soccer team celebrate their team goal during the match Cameroon vs Comoros in Moroni on Jan 24, 2022. Ibrahim YOUSSOUF / AFP

 

The red car controversy came amid a stampede that killed eight persons and wounded dozens of others before a match between the host nation, Cameroon, and Comoros.  The incident took place at the gates where final tickets checks are made. This prompted an investigation by Cameroonian authorities. The health ministry said the victims were immediately transported in ambulances but traffic slowed down their movement.

In a swift response to the tragedy, CAF blamed the incident on the closure of an entry gate at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde.

“If that gate was open as it was supposed to, we wouldn’t have had this problem we have now, this loss of life,” African football supremo, Patrice Motsepe, said during a press conference on Tuesday. “Who closed that gate? Who is responsible for that gate?”

A Case For Biennial World Cup

File photo: FIFA president Gianni Infantino speaks during the inauguration of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) new headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on October 30, 2018. Mohd RASFAN / AFP

 

The stampede happened days before FIFA tried to link migration tragedies in the Mediterranean to plans for a World Cup every two years.  Head of the football governing body, Gianni Infantino, said the move can give hope to migrants.

“I understand in Europe the World Cup takes place twice per week because the best players are playing in Europe,” he told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg.

“But if we think about the rest of the world… which doesn’t see the best players, which doesn’t participate in the top competitions, then we have to think about what football brings, which goes beyond the sport.”

Nadal Chases Record In Australia

 

Just as FIFA continues to make a case for a biennial World Cup, tennis stars are in Australia battling for one of the game’s biggest prizes. In a tempestuous match on Friday, Daniil Medvedev powered to a win over Stefanos Tsitsipas to book a date with Rafael Nadal in the final of the Australian Open.  The world number two beat Tsitsipas 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, the same day Nadal defeated Matteo Berrettini to reach his sixth Australian Open final in Melbourne. The Spaniard, pushing to become the all-all time men’s Grand Slam leader – 21 titles – claimed a 3-6 2-6 6-3 3-6 win.

The women’s category saw a ruthless Ashleigh Barty book a spot in the final. She won in straight-sets, demolishing Madison Keys, and will now face hard-hitting Danielle Collins in Sunday’s game.

Djokovic Still In The Court

In this file photo, Novak Djokovic of Serbia takes part in a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 13, 2022. Mike FREY / AFP

 

Although he is not in Australia, a leaked entry list, which made its way to social media, has indicated that Novak Djokovic would be playing at next month’s ATP Dubai tennis tournament. The Serb was in the news weeks ago after a COVID-19 vaccination row. But the list shared by tennis journalists showed that Djokovic was named as the top seed for the event.

This is coming weeks after he was deported by Australian authorities following a legal tussle. The unvaccinated player’s next move had become a subject of speculation since he landed at home in Belgrade, via Dubai. He was initially given an exemption to play at the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated but the Australian government later revoked his visa, a move upheld by the Federal Court.

Ranieri Fired 

In this file photo taken on April 01, 2018, ex-Nantes’ Italian head coach Claudio Ranieri attends the French L1 football match between Nantes and Saint-Etienne at The La Beaujoire Stadium in Nantes. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Earlier in the week, the English Premier League “sack race” continued. This time, Italian manager, Claudio Ranieri, was the latest casualty following his dismissal by Watford. He was sacked just after 14 games in charge as the Hornets’ boss, the club said in a statement earlier in the week. Ranieri was dismissed, just about three months after he got the job.

“The Hornets’ Board recognises Claudio as a man of great integrity and honour, who will always be respected here at Vicarage Road for his efforts in leading the team with dignity,” Watford said about the Italian.

The 70-year-old was brought on to stabilise the team which is battling relegation. But a string of poor results have left them in the murky waters of England’s elite league. The Hornets have only managed seven points since he arrived at the Vicarage Road. Ranieri’s last game in charge was a 3-0 loss to relegation rivals, Norwich, just last week. They are second bottom on the league log, following a loss of seven out of their last eight domestic matches.

Joshua Denies Pay Off Claims

In this file photo, Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk (L) fights British heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua at the end of their heavyweight boxing match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London on September 25, 2021. Usyk defeated Joshua on points. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

In boxing, Anthony Joshua has refuted reports claiming he agreed to a ($20 million deal to step aside from his heavyweight title re-match with Oleksandr Usyk. The reports had suggested that the Nigerian was ready to let the Ukrainian fight Tyson Fury in the unification title bout. But Joshua insisted the stories were false.

“I’m hearing people saying: ‘AJ accepts £15million to step aside’. I ain’t signed no contract; I ain’t seen no contract,” he was quoted as saying in a Talksport online video posted on Twitter. “So, as it stands, stop listening to the bullshit until it comes from me. I’m the man in control of my own destiny; I’m the man that handles my business.”

Usyk had defeated Joshua in September to deprive the 32-year-old of his World Boxing Association (WBA), International Boxing Federation (IBF), and World Boxing Organization (WBO) belts.

Buhari’s Message To Olympians

A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

And as the Winter Olympics inches closer, President Buhari has urged Nigerian athletes to make the country proud in the games. A statement from the presidency on Tuesday quoted Buhari as telling the nation’s representatives of his trust in their ability to deliver.

“The President trusts that Nigerian athletes participating in different events will excel at the competition, surpassing the previous record in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018, when the nation competed for the first time,”  the Nigerian leader told the athletes, according to a statement from Femi Adesina.

Buhari said the Olympic Games is an avenue to foster friendship among countries. This is as he hoped that athletes will put the core values of the event –  excellence, friendship, and respect – on display.