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15-year-old Wimbledon sensation Coco Gauff headlines Week 2

WIMBLEDON: Mom and racket-holding Dad joined two coaches and a hitting partner at Coco Gauff’s practice session on a cloudy Sunday afternoon at the All England Club as the 15-year-old American prepared for what could be the toughest test yet of her hard-to-believe Grand Slam debut. A qualifier who is ranked 313th and the youngest player to…

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15-year-old Wimbledon sensation Coco Gauff headlines Week 2

WIMBLEDON: Mom and racket-holding Dad joined two coaches and a hitting partner at Coco Gauff’s practice session on a cloudy Sunday afternoon at the All England Club as the 15-year-old American prepared for what could be the toughest test yet of her hard-to-believe Grand Slam debut.

A qualifier who is ranked 313th and the youngest player to make it to Week 2 at Wimbledon since Jennifer Capriati in 1991, Gauff put in extra work on her forehand as she got ready to face former No. 1 Simona Halep in the most-anticipated matchup of the fourth round when the tournament resumes Monday.

“I don’t know a lot about her,” said Halep, the 2018 French Open champion.

For all that she’s already accomplished over the past 1½ weeks — including a victory over seven-time major champion Venus Williams — and all of the attention she’s received — messages via social media from Michelle Obama, Beyonce’s mother and singer Jaden Smith thrilled her the most — what truly stands out about Gauff is her composure, both on and off the tennis court.

“You can kind of fake it ‘til you make it,” said Gauff, who lives in Delray Beach, Florida. “But I’m not faking it, at least right now.”

She was never overwhelmed by facing Williams, someone she has grown up admiring. She spoke about resetting her mind after that, and won her next match in straight sets, too, against a past Wimbledon semifinalist. 

And in the third round, at Center Court of all places, Gauff was not bothered by twice being a point from losing.

“My parents are just telling me to stay calm, stay focused, because the tournament is not over yet,” Gauff said. “That’s why I’ve been kind of celebrating the night after the matches, then the next day back to practice.”

That’s the sort of levelheadedness that could help her turn what right now is a brief, magical run into a lengthy, successful career.

“This is the easy part,” said Tracy Austin, who watched part of Gauff’s training session. “As she said, before she played Venus, she had one little boy ask her for a picture. And then after she beat Venus, everybody wanted her autograph, which is great, but just shows how well-known she is. And with that, now come all the expectations.”

Austin can relate.

She turned pro at age 15 in October 1978 and won her first professional singles title that month.

A year later, at 16, she reached the semifinals at Wimbledon, then beat Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert along the way to becoming the youngest US Open champion in history. She won that major championship again two years later.

“I just really hope that she has solid people around her, meaning her parents — they seem amazing — and coaches, agents, that make sure she just goes slow enough. You don’t need to grab everything. Make sure she has time to just be a kid. Carve out enough time for her to be a kid,” said Austin, who at 29 became International Tennis Hall of Fame’s youngest inductee.

“You can’t do all the endorsements. You’ve got to pick certain ones. First and foremost, she’s a tennis player who is coming into her own. And I hope the media, because she’s had great success here, doesn’t push her too fast and expect too much, too soon,” Austin said. “She’s still developing. She’s got 15 years ahead of her, if she wants. Maybe 20 years.”

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When Diego Maradona played in Saudi Arabia – Arab world mourns passing of a legend

DOHA: Andres Iniesta scored his first goal in the Asian Champions League as Vissel Kobe powered their way to the last-16 with a dominant 3-1 win over Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou Evergrande in their Group G clash on Wednesday. The Spain and Barcelona legend fired a right-footed shot from the center of the box in the 84th…

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When Diego Maradona played in Saudi Arabia – Arab world mourns passing of a legend

DOHA: Andres Iniesta scored his first goal in the Asian Champions League as Vissel Kobe powered their way to the last-16 with a dominant 3-1 win over Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou Evergrande in their Group G clash on Wednesday.

The Spain and Barcelona legend fired a right-footed shot from the center of the box in the 84th minute to help the Japanese side consolidate their position at the top of their group with two wins from as many matches.

They are now five points ahead of Guangzhou and Suwon Samsung Bluewings and assured of a spot in the knockout phase after the group was reduced to three teams following Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta’zim’s withdrawal from the tournament.

In another match on Wednesday, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors pipped Sydney FC 1-0 in Group H with Na Sung-eun scoring in the 44th minute.

It was the Australian side’s third defeat in four matches while Jeonbuk revived their hopes with their first victory.

Iniesta, who was declared MVP of the match, had been an influential presence for Vissel Kobe throughout the encounter with his quick thinking and crisp passing, and that reflected in their first goal in the 44th minute at the Khalifa International Stadium.

The Spanish veteran dashed his way up on the left flank to control a long diagonal pass and after advancing further turned around near the goalline to tap the ball onto the path of the advancing Kyogo Furuhashi who struck with a clean, low shot from close range.

Furuhashi’s personal joy at scoring lasted only 10 minutes as the forward first conceded a corner and then watched in horror as his attempted clearance from the resultant kick found his own net to give Guangzhou the equalizer.

Cannavaro made three substitutions in a desperate bid for victory after having drawn their opening game against Suwon Samsung Bluewings. But although the two-time champions enjoyed a couple of brief purple patches during which they had the Kobe defence under pressure, the goal they were looking for never materialized.

Vissel Kobe regained the lead in the 74th minute when Douglas, who had just come in five minutes prior, took advantage of a great back-heel from Daigo Nishi and blasted the ball home.

Brazil-born Elekson, now known as Ai Kesen, had a goal disallowed for off-side on eight minutes and when Iniesta struck two minutes later, it extended Cannavaro’s misery in Doha.

“The result is bad. We tried but I know that something in my team is not clear. I don’t know if they are afraid to play or they are not confident anymore,” the Italian complained after the match.

“I need to try and do my best to give them the confidence to play. This is my job. I know they are very good players, and we can do much, much, much better.”

Vissel Kobe had landed in Doha after a string of disappointing results back home, conceding a whopping 58 goals in 33 league matches and losing five games in a row.

But their coach Atsuhiro Miura was basking in joy on Wednesday, saying he was ready with a game plan against a side packed with several Brazilians.

“Guangzhou is a very strong side, they have several good Brazilian players but we analysed how they play and how to prevent them from playing to their strengths,” said Miura.

“We did everything well and everything went how we wanted it to. That’s why we got this result.”

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Going for goal: Saudi Arabia kicks off first women’s football league

RIYADH: First they opened the grandstands to women, now Saudi Arabia is encouraging them to cross the touchline and compete in the Kingdom’s first Women’s Football League tournament. The historic competition kicks off on Tuesday morning, with 24 teams across Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam competing for a championship cup, and a $133,000 cash prize. The…

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Going for goal: Saudi Arabia kicks off first women’s football league

RIYADH: First they opened the grandstands to women, now Saudi Arabia is encouraging them to cross the touchline and compete in the Kingdom’s first Women’s Football League tournament.

The historic competition kicks off on Tuesday morning, with 24 teams across Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam competing for a championship cup, and a $133,000 cash prize.

The Kingdom opened its stadiums to women football supporters in January, 2018, but this is the first time they will have been allowed to compete in a tournament.

The competition has been lauded as an important step for the Saudi sports world, with many in the game throwing their support behind the event.

Calling the competition a “positive step,” Abdullah Alyami, Saudi football coach and sports reporter, said he expects many more women to participate in future tournaments.

“This is a very happy day for all athletes, be they male or female. And based on what we’ve seen, and how beloved the sport of football is all over the Kingdom, I believe we will see many more of our sisters getting involved in professional sports,” he said.
عبدالله اليامي: انطلاق #الدوري_النسائي في #السعودية خطوة إيجابية.. وأتوقع إقبالا كبيرا على المشاركة في فرق كرة القدم النسائية#تواصل #قناة_الرسالة@m3sss3 pic.twitter.com/UxRa8pZSWo
— قناة الرسالة (@alresalahnet) November 17, 2020
Saudi sports reporter Riyan Al-Jidani tweeted his support.

“To all my dear sisters participating the Women’s Football League, your success in the tournament is a step in the right direction towards our dream of universality and representing our homeland to the outside world. Raising the flag on the field is a glory and pride,” he said.

The tournament was due to start in March – but the coronavirus pandemic stopped play.

But for some that just presented the opportunity to up their game.

“We started preparations early, and the delay due to the pandemic actually worked in our favor. We were able to take more than two months to prepare for the tournament,” Maram Al-Butairi, general manager and head coach at Dammam-based Eastern Flames FC.

Amal Gimie, 26, an Eritrean midfielder for Jeddah’s Kings United, previously told Arab News that she had been playing the beautiful game since she was eight.

“There was a match every weekend. The boys made us play as goalkeepers in the beginning, and in 2002, when I first saw the Women’s World Cup, it sparked my passion to learn more about this sport,” said Gimie, who is also a management information systems graduate. She joined her first female football team, Challenge, in Riyadh in 2014.

She said: “It was the first time I joined something organized. I was happy to be playing but at the same time I felt as though it was an unreachable goal (to become a professional athlete or join an official league), I felt like I was growing older without achieving anything.”

The matches won’t be broadcast, but Saudi’s army of football fans remain excited by the tournament.

Wejdan Al-Shammary, who grew up playing sports in school, said she would have tried for a team “in a heartbeat” if she had been just a few years younger.

“I played both basketball and football on my high school teams. I was a complete sports nut, but it makes me happy to know that even if it’s too late for me to achieve those dreams, there’s a chance now for young Saudi girls that I never had,” she said.

Najla Ahmed, a 16-year-old from Riyadh who plays on her school’s football team, said she would try for a local team in 2021.

“I’ll be 17, and therefore eligible, and I would love to see anyone try and stop me,” she said.

Both women said they hoped this was just the start and that more sports would be opened up to women.

“Football is just the beginning. I would love to see more focus on other sports, as well. Basketball, tennis, maybe even competitive swimming,” said Al-Shammary. “I’m sure we have so many potential Olympians among us who just need their talents nurtured.”

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NFL game postponed over Covid-19 cases

Tennessee Titans’ long snapper Beau Brinkley (left) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (right) have been put on the reserve/Covid-19 listThe NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday has been postponed because of Covid-19 cases.The game will be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday after the outbreak among Titans players and staff.On Tuesday,…

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NFL game postponed over Covid-19 cases

Tennessee Titans’ long snapper Beau Brinkley (left) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (right) have been put on the reserve/Covid-19 listThe NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday has been postponed because of Covid-19 cases.The game will be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday after the outbreak among Titans players and staff.On Tuesday, defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, long snapper Beau Brinkley and practice squad tight end Tommy Hudson were put on the reserve/Covid-19 list.The NFL has since shut down the team facility.According to the NFL network, a fourth player also returned a positive test on Wednesday.The Titans played the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis last Sunday.The Vikings’ facility was also closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and it is unclear whether their scheduled game with the Houston Texans will take place on Sunday.
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