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Djokovic back to winning ways after US Open injury

JAPAN: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic displayed steady recovery of his left shoulder injury Tuesday by defeating an Australian challenger at the Japan Open, his first competition since pulling out of the US Open. The experienced Serbian top-seed claimed a 6-4, 6-2 victory against 20-year-old Alexei Popyrin, who fought bravely at the Ariake Colosseum, a venue…

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Djokovic back to winning ways after US Open injury

JAPAN: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic displayed steady recovery of his left shoulder injury Tuesday by defeating an Australian challenger at the Japan Open, his first competition since pulling out of the US Open.

The experienced Serbian top-seed claimed a 6-4, 6-2 victory against 20-year-old Alexei Popyrin, who fought bravely at the Ariake Colosseum, a venue for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Djokovic added his shoulder felt “good” and declared that he has set his eyes on an Olympic medal next year. Popyrin mixed big serves with delicate drop shots to stage courageous offensives against 32-year-old Djokovic.

But Djokovic, taking part in a Japanese competition for the first time, kept his calm to always stay a step above the Aussie, never giving his opponent a break point, consistently playing at a “high-level” with “good intensity.”

Djokovic nailed seven aces, against eight by Popyrin, and managed to win points on 84 percent of his successful first serves.

He finished the roughly 90-minute match by winning the final five games straight. He will now face Japanese wild card Go Soeda on Wednesday.

“Very pleased overall with the game,” Djokovic said after the win.

It was his first singles competition since he withdrew from his US Open fourth-round match against Swiss Stan Wawrinka due to a left shoulder injury.

Djokovic said he has no immediate worries about his shoulder.

“I have not felt anything in previous days, including today on the match. So I am very pleased to say that I feel healthy,” he said.

When asked about his ambitions about winning an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo next year, Djokovic said it would be “a dream come true.”

“It definitely is one of the greatest wishes, if I can say so, the gold in the next season and the rest of my career,” said Djokovic, a bronze medal winner at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

“Hopefully I can get at least a step further in Tokyo. I still feel young in my body and my spirit as well. I still feel motivated to do great things on the court,” he said.

Meanwhile, Djokovic was marking his 271st week as the world’s number one, claiming the title of the third longest weeks in the top spot, and passing the record of American great Ivan Lendl.

The Serbian is now chasing Pete Sampras with 286 weeks, and Roger Federer with 310 weeks.

In the rest of the Tokyo tournament, Japanese wild card Taro Daniel, ranked 127, pulled off an upset victory against second-seeded Borna Coric of Croatia, ranked 14th, with a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(7/5) win in a gruelling match that stretched over two hours and 30 minutes.

Japanese qualifier Yasutaka Uchiyama defeated French fourth-seed Benoit Paire 6-2, 6-2.

Reilly Opelka of the US defeated his countryman seventh-seed Taylor Fritz 6-3, 6-4.

Frenchman Gilles Simon cruised by Spanish qualifier Pablo Andujar 6-4, 6-0.

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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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