Bottom-side Al Markhiya stunned second-placed Al Wakrah 2-1 in the Expo Stars League at the Al Janoub Stadium on Thursday. It was Al Markhiya’s only second win of the season after they rallied from a goal down to turn the tables on their fancied rivals.Al Wakrah led 1-0 at half-time before Al Markhiya came back to score two goals in the second half while defending well in the eight added minutes for a worthy victory and the three valuable points.While Hamdi Fathi gave Al Wakrah the lead in the 31st minute, Driss Fettouhi (58th minute) and Ruben Semedo (75th minute) did the scoring job for Al Markhiya. Al Wakrah’s only second loss of the season saw them stay in second place on 28 points. Despite the victory, Al Markhiya stay bottom with seven points, three adrift of 11th placed Muaither.Al Markhiya displayed intent right from the start even as Al Wakrah looked to make a strong start. In the 24th minute, Al Markhiya goalkeeper Omar Barry foiled a good Al Wakrah attempt as he blocked a powerful shot from Hamdy Fathy.Four minutes later, Al Wakrah’s Khalid Muneer challenged Barry with a shot from left of the box, but the goalkeeper was again adept making a diving save.The Blue Wave, however, hit back soon with a fine goal which involved the combination of three players. Ayoub Assal took a free-kick from right of the box and Lucas Sainsbury headed the ball, but it was saved. However, the ball fell out and an alert Fathi lunged ahead to kick the ball back into the net (1-0).The goal shook Al Markhiya’s confidence, but they came back strongly in the second half making attacking moves and looking to make inroads. Their persistent efforts paid off when a dangerously-moving Yusupha Nije was pulled down by Al Wakrah’s Ahmed Elsayed and the referee awarded a free-kick just outside the box.Fettouhi stepped up to take the kick and delivered a superb left-footed strike that swung into the top right of the net (1-1).Al Wakrah then tried hard to regain the lead, but were held back by some good defending. With Al Markhiya too looking to launch offensive, Al Wakrah also defended strongly. But Al Markhiya made the much-needed breakthrough with a patient and calculated move following a corner kick.With the ball falling to Naby Sarr, he made a solid strike which hit the middle of the crossbar and rebounded for Semedo to grab the chance and score the winning goal. The added eight minutes of injury time saw some frenetic action, but alert Al Markhiya foiled all attempts and hopes of Al Wakrah to clinch a creditable win.Earlier, Al Shamal and Muaither played out a goalless draw at the Al Bayt Stadium on Thursday. With the result, Al Shamal moved to 12 points, while Muaither now have 10.The teams went toe-to-toe from the blast of the whistle and the match was evenly balanced for most part of first half. Al Shamal were awarded a penalty in the 12th minute after Muaither’s goalkeeper, Ivanildo Rodrigues was adjudged to have fouled Ricardo Gomes inside the 18-yard box, but the decision was subsequently overturned after a lengthy VAR check.
The Lusail International Circuit was buzzing with excitement after an exhilarating start to the Qatar Airways Qatar 1812 KM, the season-opener of the FIA World Endurance Championship 2024, taking place for the first time in Qatar. On Thursday, the drivers got a feel of the high-speed Lusail circuit during a practice session. Fans witnessed drivers from FIA World Endurance Championship, Qatar Touring Car Championship and Lusail Classic offering a full spectrum of motor racing excellence. Elite drivers acquainted themselves with the circuit’s state-of-the-art facilities and high-speed turns, setting the stage for a thrilling qualifying round today and the main race tomorrow. Porsche Penske maintained advantage in the second free practice session as Kevin Estre became the first driver to go under the 100-second barrier with a fastest lap of 1m39.900s. The No 6 Porsche Penske 963 Hybrid Hypercar led the chasing packs by 0.782 seconds from the No 93 Peugeot TotalEnergies 9X8. Jean-Eric Vergne set the best time of 1m40.772s. Team JOTA grabbed third position as former Formula One champion Jenson Button set 1m40.782s to maintain impressive pace for Porsche customer team so far in 2024. Cadillac made it three manufacturers in the top four as Alex Lynn posted a 1m40.986s lap in blue Cadillac V Series R Hypercar No 5 Porsche Penske 963 with Matt Campbell behind the wheels ended the session in fifth place ahead of the second Team JOTA with a 1m41.328s made by team newcomer Callum IIott Fastest Ferrari in FP2 was the No.51 499P driven by Antonio Giovinazzi. The 2023 Le Mans 24 Hours winner put in a best lap of 1m41.426s. Kamui Kobayashi set the fastest Toyota time as he lapped in a best of 1m41.539s in the No 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid Hypercar to register eighth best time. The No 94 Peugeot 9X8 Hypercar and the No 83 AF Corse Ferrari entry completed the top 10 as Stoffel Vandoorne and Yifei Ye set the times respectively Of the new manufacturer entries in Hypercar for 2024, the Lamborghini SC63 Hypercar ended the session best placed in 12th, with Alpine 14th and 17th and the BMW M Hybrid V8s in 15th and 18th The session saw one red flag when the Isotta Fraschini Hypercar has to be extracted from the Turn 6 gravel in the first half of the running The LMGT3 category showcased equally impressive performances. Vista AF Corse took a 1-2 formation at the top of the times in FP2 with the No 55 Ferrari 296 LMGT3 heading the No.54 machine by just under 0.3s Simon Mann (1m55.190) and Francesco Castellacci (1m55.445) set the times as the Prancing Horse continued its consistently quick times in Qatar. Team WRT was placed third with the No 31 M4 LMGT3 car, as Sean Gelael makes progress up the pecking order Aston Martin were fourth with the D’Station Vantage as Erwan Bastard maintained his impressive introduction to the WEC with a time of 1m55.549s The third free practice session at Lusail International Circuit is scheduled for 11am today morning. This year’s lineup features an unprecedented 19 Hypercars and 18 LMGT3 entries from 14 manufacturers, including industry giants like Aston Martin, BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, McLaren, and Porsche. The world’s premier racing talents are set to deliver electrifying performances in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s season opener, racing in two categories (Hypercar and LMGT3) for nearly ten hours. On Thursday, there was a nostalgic presence too as the Lusail Classic Endurance Race reminded fans of the golden age of World Endurance Championship racing. In the 60-minute practice session, 24 veteran drivers from Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Lichtenstein, Portugal, Switzerland, and the USA competed, reviving the spirit of prototype and GT racing from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. Kyle Tilley, driving the 1974 Chevron B27S, set the pace with the fastest lap of 2:01.427. Tony Sinclair, in the 1973 Lola T292, followed with a close second lap time of 2:07.685, and Jamie Constable, driving the 1971 Chevron B19, completed the top three with a lap of 2:07.872.
Abdulrahman Alrajhi led a 1-2 for Saudi Arabia on the opening leg of the Global Champions Tour at the glittering Al Shaqab on Thursday. With 32 of the world’s best riders and horses in action in the CSI5* 1.45m speed class, Alrajhi trumped his countryman Abdullah Alsharbatly to claim the day one honours. Alrajhi aboard the head-turning 11-year-old Ventago stormed into the lead in 59: 28 seconds. In a nail-biting finish, he edged out his Alsharbatly and the spirited Dancing Wolf O.L by a mere 0.20 seconds, proving that every fraction of a second counts in the world of show jumping. Speaking after his victory, Alrajhi said: “It is always special to win a Global Champions Tour class and even more special in Doha, especially in front of this crowd. Such an amazing facility in Al Shaqab. Honestly, I must say Ventago is on fire, he is such a great horse and I am very happy to have him and I think he made it with almost zero effort... it felt like he was just playing with the class and he won it!” A beaming Alrajhi went on to add: “The class suited him, and of course, we had one of the best course designers in the world, Uliano Vezzani. It is a nice class to win without putting in an extreme effort, and I am thrilled with this preparation for the Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Doha this Saturday.” Adding to the international flair of the event, the Flying Frenchman, Olivier Perreau, clinched the third spot with Bresil de Carnaval Santa Rosa in 61:98 seconds, launching his week with style and finesse. With a total of 15 clear rounds, the competition was nothing short of exhilarating. Mouda Zeyada on Katia and Ines Joly aboard the vibrant Faylinn de Fondcombe rounded off the top five, leaving spectators on the edge of their seats. Notably, both Philipp Schulze Topphoff and Nadja Peter Steiner opted for a steady round, collecting time faults strategically to conserve their horse power for the high-stakes challenges ahead, hinting at the thrilling battles yet to come. After an extraordinary first day, the GCL Championship race will kick off today. GCL Doha promises an adrenaline-fuelled spectacle with two back-to-back rounds of top-tier team show jumping, setting the stage for an epic showdown of talent, teamwork, and triumph. Results CSI3* 2 Phases Special - Height: 1.35m - Prize: €5,000 Rank, Rider, Horse, Prize Money, Penalties, Time 1: Ali al-Khorafi, Karaat, €1,250, 0, 0, 28.35 Secs 2: Sheikh Khalifa al-Thani, Emiro Delle Sementarecce, €1,000, 0, 0, 29.14 3: Cyrine Cherif, Triple T Calamando Blue, €750, 0, 0, 29.74 CSI3* Against the clock NO Jump off - 1.45m - €28,200 1: Emanuele Gaudiano, Crack Balou, €7,050, 0, 57.25 2: Santiago Lambre, Cetano Van Aspergem Z, €5,640, 0, 58.52 3: Khaled Almobty, Diana Du Plevau Z, €4,230, 0, 58.69 CSI5* 2 Phases - 1.45m - €10,000 1: Oliver Fletcher, BP Pocahontas, €2,500, 0, 0, 27.50 2: Simon Delestre, Cayman Jolly Jumper, €2,000, 0, 0, 28.19 3: Sanne Thijssen, Con Quidam RB, €1,500, 0, 0, 28.26 CSI5* Against the clock NO Jump off - 1.45m - €28,200 1: Abdulrahman Alrajhi, Ventago, €7,050, 0, 59.28 2: Abdullah Alsharbatly, Dancing Wolf O.L, €5,640, 0, 59.48 3: Olivier Perreau, Bresil De Carnaval Santa Rosa, €4,230, 0, 61.98 CSI1* Against the clock NO Jump off - 1.20m - €5,000 1: Ghanim Nasser al-Qadi, Bonne Chance, €1,250, 0, 50.54 2: Mohamed Almulaifi, Quiro R Z, €1,000, 0, 51.34 3: Salman Mohamed al-Emadi, Sealine, €750, 0, 51.45 CSICh 2 Phases Special - 1.05m 1: Mohamed Faisal al-Marri, Dusty, 0, 0, 33.50 2: Hadi Mansour al-Shahwani, Beyonce, 0, 0, 36.08 3: Sheikh Abdul Aziz Jassim A J al-Thani, Clintess 2, 1, 0, 39.19 CSIY 2 Phases Special - 1.25m - €100 1: Louise Sadran, Je T’adore, 41.50, 0, 0, 42.56 2: Saif Mohamed al-Naimi, Sidney 184, 32.50, 0. 4, 38.82 3: Saif Mohamed S A al-Kaabi, Jethro Colado, 26.00, 4, 2, 49.92 CSIJ 2 Phases Special - 1.15m - €100 1: Tameem Ibrahim al-Hor, Jalieny Diamant Z, 29.00, 0, 0, 34.02 2: Suhaim Hamad al-Yafei, Just In Time, 23.00, 0, 0, 36.86 3: Sheikh Mohamed Jassim A J al-Thani, Verenice 2, 18.00, 0, 4, 27.91
Qatar’s Saleh al-Kaabi and Ali Abdullah al-Shahrani shared a one-point lead in the race for the senior individual title on the opening day of GCC Golf Championship 2024 – Qatar on Thursday.As golfers struggled in gusty wind at the Doha Golf Club, the Qatari pair returned with identical four-over-par 76 to take a one-point lead over Bahrain’s Khalifa Duaij Alkaabi.UAE’s Thomas Nesbitt, Saudi Arabia’s Khalid Attieh and Bahrain’s Ali Mohamed Alkowari finished the day on joined fifth.Meanwhile, Bahrain led the GCC Team Championship after the first day following an aggregate of 235 followed by the UAE (239), Saudi Arabia (239) and defending champions Qatar (240).This is the 26th edition of the senior championship and the 15th edition of the 18 and under championship.In the Junior Individual Category, UAE’s Rayan Ahmed secured opening day’s lead with a card of 75 while Oman’s Ayman Ghaleb (76) and UAE’s Mohamed Skaik (79) were second and third respectively. The UAE dominated the Junior Team Championship, registering a total of 154, leading second-placed Oman by 14 strokes, while Bahrain were third with a combined score of 184.Apart from the hosts Qatar, the other participating nations are – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Qatar Golf Association hosted the inaugural edition of the championship in 1992 and last staged the championship in 2016.
Lewis Hamilton on Thursday led teammate George Russell in a surprise Mercedes one-two at the top of the practice timesheets for Formula One’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen only sixth.Seven-times world champion Hamilton lapped the 5.4km floodlit Sakhir desert track in a best time of one minute 30.374 seconds with Russell 0.206 seconds adrift and Aston Martin’s double world champion Fernando Alonso in third.Reigning triple world champion Verstappen, who won in Bahrain last year and chalked up 19 victories in 22 races, was 0.477 off the pace.“It’s a shock to see us where we are but we’ll take it for now,” said Hamilton.“But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We need to keep our heads down and keep working on the setup...“I think our long run pace is nowhere near the Red Bulls for example so we’ve got some work to do there.”Verstappen, who has led the Formula One standings for a record 39 races going back to May 2022, had headed into the weekend favourite to open his pursuit of a fourth consecutive title with victory tomorrow.He ended up sixth in both sessions.Carlos Sainz was fourth for Ferrari ahead of Australian Oscar Piastri in his McLaren.Nico Hulkenberg put Haas in seventh ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.Charles Leclerc was ninth in the other Ferrari while Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez rounded out the top 10.Mercedes, who endured their first winless campaign since 2011 last year, have redesigned their car for the 2024 season to make it less “spiteful”.Their practice showing will offer Russell and Hamilton, who last won a race in 2021 and is replacing Sainz at Ferrari next year, encouragement of a return to the top step of the podium.Hamilton said he was much happier in the car than last year, with a more comfortable seat position.“I’ve got a better feel for the car approaching the corners but there are other areas that have been fixed and improved. It feels like a racecar for once and the last two cars didn’t feel like that,” he added.Russell refused to get carried away by the timesheets even if the qualifying pace looked strong.“We still need to try and understand why it was so good, we made some changes from the test and it exceeded our expectations but ultimately (on) the long run pace, which is where it all happens, Max was still ahead of us,” said the Briton.“It was very close with Fernando, with Lando and the Ferraris and Lewis and I were very similar as well so we’ve got a real fight on our hands.”Daniel Ricciardo ended the day 12th for rebranded Red Bull sister team RB.The Australian had gone fastest in the opening session of practice, run in unrepresentative conditions.The race in Bahrain and the following round at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia are being held on a Saturday to allow the Middle Eastern kingdoms to host races before the start of Ramadan.Qualifying will be held on Friday.
Nasser al-Attiyah surrendered his overall lead at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge but remains within striking distance of new leader Seth Quintero. The Qatari off-road legend and his French navigator Edouard Boulange finished seventh in Stage 3 on Thursday, and are 1:10 secs behind Quintero, who topped the stage. Al-Attiyah could have been further behind but capitalised on Juan Cruz Yacopini’s troubles and his own comeback to minimise the impact of his 20-minute halt. The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is second round of the World Championship rally-raid (W2RC) and will run until Saturday.
Athletics cannot shy away from change, says the president of the sport’s governing body, Sebastian Coe, who stressed it must keep pace with changing interests of viewers and sponsors to thrive.World Athletics recently announced plans to trial the elimination of fouls from the long jump event and, on the eve of the world indoor championships in Glasgow, Coe stressed these kinds of revisions must be embraced.“The holy grail of every sport is to remain salient, interesting, exciting to young people, we have can’t have a tin ear in their direction,” Coe said at the worlds’ opening press conference on Thursday.“We have to recognise that the way people consume sport – the way they consume entertainment – is different than it was even three years ago.”A third of all jumps at the 2023 outdoor world championships in Budapest were no-jumps, so eliminating fouls would make the event more appealing to the public.“Our sport is 150 years old and there are elements of it you are absolutely wanting to protect, they’re sacrosanct. (But) there’s stuff there that just leaves people a little cold,” Coe said. “We’re not going to back off innovation here, it is really important,” he added. “We have a responsibility to future proof the sport, to continue to create the landscape, financially particularly. World class businesses do not routinely want to join enterprises they think are going in the wrong direction.”The 19th worlds, which run from today through Sunday at the Emirates Arena, are the culmination of a strong indoor season, Coe said, pointing to three world records two weeks ago at New York’s Millrose Games alone.Femke Bol of the Netherlands (400 metres), American Grant Holloway and Devynne Charlton of the Bahamas (men’s and women’s 60m hurdles respectively) and Britain’s Josh Kerr (two mile) have all set world records this season and are in Glasgow.Kerr, an Edinburgh native and gold medallist in the 1,500m in Budapest, will be the fan favourite in the 3,000m.With his sights set on gold at this year’s Paris Olympics, the 26-year-old said he only decided to race in Glasgow after discussions with coach Danny Mackey.“The conversation had to be the training had to come more easily than it normally does indoors,” Kerr said.“It always takes a little bit more time to build up into these events and the short track isn’t the most beneficial on my knees and my hips. So, just making sure that the body wasn’t fighting the training. I didn’t want to give up the opportunity to try and win another Olympic medal because I was forcing my hand to be at a home championships was (Mackey’s) point of view,” he added.“I obviously wanted to be here and that meant I had to be extremely regimented in everything that I did (in preparation).”Kerr outkicked Olympic 1,500m champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen to win world gold in Hungary and, while the Norwegian will not race in Glasgow due to an Achilles injury he stirred the pot on their rivalry recently.“I would have beaten him in that (two-mile) race, blindfolded,” Ingebrigtsen told Norway’s TV2 of Kerr’s world record run. “But it’s good that people run better than they have done before.”Kerr declined to throw fuel on the fire.“No comment,” he said when asked about it on Thursday.
Daniil Medvedev raced to victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Thursday to reach the Dubai semi-finals and continue his excellent start to the year.The world number four wasted little time in wrapping up a 6-2, 6-3 win and will face Ugo Humbert who on Thursday beat Hubert Hurkacz in their quarter-final. Humbert won 3-6, 7-6, 6-3.“Alejandro can play very well,” Medvedev said on Thursday.“Sometimes during matches he can have a little down moment and then he goes up.“I knew that no matter the score, I needed to go until the last point.”The Russian is playing in just his second tournament of the season after reaching the Australian Open final, where he suffered an agonising defeat by Jannik Sinner after leading by two sets.Reigning champion Medvedev is bidding to defend an ATP title for the first time, having won 20 trophies at Tour-level events in his career but all at different tournaments. Medvedev eased through the opening set with breaks in the sixth and eighth games.He powered into a 4-0 lead in the second and sealed victory on his first match point, despite a brief rally from Davidovich Fokina, who has now lost all four of his meetings with Medvedev.Medvedev had to come from a set down against Lorenzo Sonego in the previous round, but said he may have been struggling with an illness.“I don’t know what happened yesterday. A few people around me got a small virus, so maybe it is this,” he said. “Some days that happens but I am happy today happened. I am not at my best shape yet but we have some more matches.”Alexander Bublik and Andrey Rublev will meet in the other semi-final after both were beneficiaries of retirements in their last-eight matches. Kazakhstan’s Bublik led 6-4, 4-1 when his opponent Jiri Lehecka quit their tie with injury.Second seed Rublev was 6-4, 4-3 ahead when American Sebastian Korda left the court in the second quarter-final. The win ended a run of three successive quarter-final exits for world number five Rublev.De Minaur into Acapulco QFs; Tsitsipas also winsAlex de Minaur has been in imperious form during his Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC title defence, losing only seven games en route to the quarter-finals. According to the Australian, who defeated Sebastian Ofner 6-1, 6-3 to make the last eight, one thing is always behind his success.“I’ve got a very big heart, I’ll tell you that,” De Minaur said in his post-match interview.“This heart is going to keep me going, no matter what the score is, where I’m at, what stage of my career I am (in). It’s what’s gotten me to this point so far, and it’s what’s going to hopefully get me further and further. It’s all about trying to put as much pressure as I can on my opponents every single service game,” De Minaur said. “And no matter what the result is in that game, just always try to stay in there and try to win a couple points here and there. To be honest, I don’t think I’m doing anything special out there. I’m just asking the question.”The Australian, who is No. 9 in the PIF ATP Rankings, will next play fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who ousted Italian qualifier Flavio Cobolli 6-3, 7-6(6).The 10-time ATP Tour titlist served for the match at 5-4 in the second set but was unable to convert. Tsitsipas also trailed 5/2 in the ensuing tie-break, but remained calm under pressure to emerge victorious in straight sets.Briton Jack Draper won a battle of lefties against Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 6-0 in the first completed match of the evening. The Briton hit 11 aces and saved all three break points he faced to capture the pair’s maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head encounter. He will next play Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, who eliminated German Daniel Altmaier 6-4, 6-4.German lefty Dominik Koepfer upset eighth seed Frances Tiafoe 6-4, 5-7, 6-1. The former college tennis star hit 11 aces and won a higher rate of second-serve points (68%) than he did first-serve points (67%).Aside from Tiafoe’s loss, it proved a good day for Top 20 players in the PIF ATP Rankings in Acapulco. Holger Rune, Casper Ruud and Ben Shelton all advanced to the quarter-finals with victories late in the day in Mexico.Rune beat Aleksandar Kovacevic 7-6(5), 6-2 to set a last-eight meeting with Koepfer.The No. 11-ranked Ruud downed Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 7-5.The Norwegian next faces a showdown with lefty Shelton, who pulled through a thrilling clash with Matteo Arnaldi 7-6(1), 3-6, 6-3 to reach his third tour-level quarter-final of the year.
Cameron Green slammed only his second Test century on Thursday to steer Australia to 279-9 at stumps on the opening day of the first Test in Wellington.The visitors were tottering on 89-4 after being put into bat at the Basin Reserve before Green dug in for a rescue mission with the help of Mitchell Marsh, who made 40.The 24-year-old Green brought up three figures with his 16th four in the final over to end unbeaten on 103 with Josh Hazlewood yet to score.“Obviously it feels really good, mainly with where we were as a team,” Green said.“It was a pretty tough wicket out there ... someone just needed to bat through so glad it was me. Was nice to stick it out, and hopefully put a semi-competitive total on the board.”Green, batting at number four, fought back after New Zealand seamer Matt Henry took the key wickets of Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja and Marsh to end with 4-43 on a green pitch.Henry dismissed Smith for 31 before lunch, bowled Khawaja for 33 after the break then snagged Marsh and Nathan Lyon, for five.Scott Kuggeleijn, restored to the side, also grabbed two wickets, removing out-of-form Marnus Labuschagne for one and Alex Carey for 10.Black Caps rising star Will O’Rourke, who took nine wickets on his debut this month, bagged two more in the shape of Travis Head (1) and Mitchell Starc (9).Green said the wicket would still offer plenty for the Australian quick bowlers today.“It’s pretty close, I reckon they are just on top,” he said.“They have a quality batting line-up and we have to bowl well tomorrow.”Marsh and Green offered the main resistance with a 67-run partnership off 77 balls.“We’re all very proud of him, probably more with the way he went about his innings. He looked calm from ball one,” Marsh said of Green.“It was a fantastic innings to get us back in the game.”After winning the toss on Thursday, Tim Southee and New Zealand’s pace bowlers were frustrated by Smith and Khawaja as they put on 61 before Henry got the breakthrough.Smith, promoted to open for the second Test in a row after the retirement of David Warner, lasted 71 deliveries, crunching four boundaries.Henry induced him to play back to a delivery that nipped and took the edge, with wicketkeeper Tom Blundell collecting a sharp diving catch in front of first slip.Labuschagne departed after a defensive knock, getting a thick outside edge to Daryl Mitchell at slip off Kuggeleijn, with Khawaja and Head following in quick succession.Henry’s inswinger took out the stump of Khawaja before Head went after O’Rourke but clipped the ball to Blundell. Marsh crashed six fours and a six before Henry struck again straight after tea, with Australia’s Twenty20 skipper attempting a pull shot that landed in Blundell’s gloves.Carey departed for 10 before O’Rourke had Starc caught at second slip.Pat Cummins was trapped lbw by spinner Rachin Ravindra with Henry taking his fourth when Lyon was also caught behind.“That was a hell of a knock from Cam Green today, but in general, we did a good job,” said Henry.“Hopefully tomorrow morning we can finish the job.“We created enough pressure for a long period of time, but it’s Test cricket and can change just like that.”New Zealand are looking for a first Test victory over Australia since 2011 and came into the two-match series on the back of a 2-0 sweep against South Africa this month.SCOREBOARDAustralia 1st inningsS. Smith c Blundell b Henry 31U. Khawaja b Henry 33M. Labuschagne c Mitchell b Kuggeleijn 1C. Green not out 103T. Head c Blundell b O’Rourke 1M. Marsh c Blundell b Henry 40A. Carey c Williamson b Kuggeleijn 10M. Starc c Latham b O’Rourke 9P. Cummins lbw b Ravindra 16N. Lyon c Blundell b Henry 5J. Hazlewood not out 0Extras (b11, 1b6, nb2, w11) 30Total (for 9 wkts, 85 overs) 279Fall of wickets: 1-61 (Smith), 2-65 (Labuschagne), 3-88 (Khawaja), 4-89 (Head), 5-156 (Marsh), 6-176 (Carey), 7-211 (Starc), 8-244 (Cummins), 9-267 (Lyon)Bowling: Southee 20-4-68-0 (nb1), Henry 20-7-43-4, O’Rourke 20-8-59-2 (w2), Kuggeleijn 17-1-56-2 (nb1, w1), Mitchell 4-0-17-0, Ravindra 4-0-19-1Toss: New ZealandUmpires: Michael Gough (ENG), Marais Erasmus (RSA)
Former West Indies star Chris Gayle hopes the T20 World Cup will help cricket crack the lucrative American sports market and lift the game onto a new global level.The Twenty20 showpiece, which starts on June 1, is being jointly hosted by the United States and Gayle’s native West Indies, where big crowds are expected.But it will be the first major international cricket tournament staged in the United States, with a sell-out crowd expected for the clash between arch-rivals India and Pakistan at a temporary 34,000-seat venue in Long Island, New York.Gayle believes the success of last year’s inaugural Major League Cricket, a US-based T20 franchise competition, has given the game a foothold in America.“The ICC (International Cricket Council) has been trying to get cricket on a global scale within the USA,” Gayle told AFP in an interview marking 100 days to go until the start of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024.“India v Pakistan is in New York, I’m sure it’s going to be phenomenal.“They (the USA) had a T20 tournament last year and it was a success. It’s a big market, we just have to hope it will be a success within the United States.” West Indies have pedigree in limited-overs cricket, winning the first two men’s one-day international World Cups in 1975 and 1979, but they failed even to qualify for last year’s 50-over tournament in India.“We missed out on the 50-over World Cup so this will be something fantastic for the guys to actually play for something,” said Gayle, speaking via video call from Barbados.“We just want to be in the (June 29) final here in Barbados. Anything is possible when you make it to the final. I’m excited for the people, to actually see a bit of cricket,” added big-hitting opener Gayle, who in 2007 became the first batsman to score a T20 international century.The 44-year-old, a member of the West Indies teams that become T20 world champions in 2012 and 2016, said the current side had enough “options and experience” to relieve holders England of their title, even though they are a lowly seventh in the world rankings.The West Indies lost their recent ODI series in Australia 3-0 and went down 2-1 in the T20 series but they drew the Test series 1-1 as an under-strength team won a thriller in Brisbane by just eight runs against the reigning world champions in the five-day format.It was the first time West Indies – who dominated Test cricket in the 1980s and 1990s – had won a Test in Australia since 1997 and Gayle said it was huge achievement for the side.“The adrenaline, the excitement, to beat Australia (in a Test) after so many years, you know I’ve been a part of that struggle as well as a captain in Australia.“To be able to get that win, in that fantastic manner as well, is something superb.“To see the likes of (batting great) Brian Lara when he was actually doing the (television) commentary, how excited he was, we saw (former batsman) Carl Hooper shed tears as well.”One pressing issue for global cricket chiefs is that top players no longer need to play internationals to make a living in an era of worldwide franchise competitions.Former West Indies captain Jason Holder missed the Test series in Australia to play T20 cricket in the United Arab Emirates instead.Gayle, one of the original globe-trotting T20 “guns for hire”, who had several run-ins with Caribbean cricket chiefs over availability, said it was down to administrators to rebalance the schedule.“I’m in favour always of the players making their earnings, it’s their livelihood, it’s their job,” he said.“Cricket is actually a big business, so we can’t beat down on a player to choose a franchise over his particular country, because there’s no loyalty from both sides. There’s just too much cricket and it takes away a bit from international cricket, unless there’s two big teams playing. They just need to structure it a bit better to make sure both teams are competitive when they are going against each other at international level.”
Pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah will reunite with the India team for the fifth and final Test against England, but middle order batter KL Rahul has not fully recovered from a quadricep tendon injury, the Indian cricket board said on Thursday.India rested Bumrah for the fourth Test in Ranchi, where Rohit Sharma and his men grabbed an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series.Rahul remains sidelined since hurting himself in the opening Test in Hyderabad and, according to media reports, was in London to consult a specialist.“The BCCI medical team is closely monitoring him and co-ordinating with specialists in London for further management of his issue,” Board of Control for Cricket in India secretary Jay Shah said in a statement.Akash Deep impressed in his test debut in Ranchi as India’s second seamer alongside Mohamed Siraj, and could join Bumrah in India’s pace attack for the final test in Dharamsala from March 7.Frontline seamer Mohamed Shami missed the entire series with a heel injury and underwent a surgery earlier this week.“He is recovering well and will soon head to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru to commence his rehabilitation process,” Shah said of Shami.
Ireland put themselves in a strong position to claim their first Test victory at the eighth attempt despite a late fightback from Afghanistan on day two of their one-off Test in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.Resuming their first innings on 100-4, 55 runs behind Afghanistan’s opening effort, Ireland’s middle and lower order dragged them to 263 all out and a 108-run lead.When Afghanistan were reduced to 38-2 a two-day finish looked possible, but despite losing Noor Ali Zadran for 32, an unbroken 41-run stand between captain Hashmatullah Shahidi and Rahmanullah Gurbaz took the nominal hosts to 134-3.“There was pressure but I kept it calm and simple... Because as a captain you have to lead by example,” Shahidi said after ending the day 53 not out, his second Test fifty.“Last two Tests my performance was not good but today I felt good... Tomorrow is a big day for us. We have to win the first session to be in the mix.”Any first-innings lead for Ireland looked a way off when Harry Tector was dismissed by Naveed Zadran to leave them 106-5.But Paul Stirling made 52, putting on 80 runs with wicket-keeper Lorcan Tucker, who later fell to Zia-ur-Rehman Akbar for 46.A useful 38, though, from Andy McBrine, who was last man out, put Ireland in a strong position.Left-arm spinner Akbar finished with 5-64 from his 30 overs.Irish seamer Mark Adair followed up his first-innings five-wicket haul by taking the crucial wickets of Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmat Shah.Ibrahim Zadran was brilliantly taken in the gully by Peter Moor before Shah nicked behind to Tucker.Noor Ali Zadran and Shahidi rebuilt steadily before the veteran opener was bounced out by Barry McCarthy.But Rahmanullah, making his Test debut, counter-attacked, hitting two sixes in his unbeaten 23.Afghanistan, who like Ireland played their first Test in 2018, will be hopeful of notching their fourth victory in the format if they can set the tourists a testing run chase on a pitch already showing signs of significant turn.BRIEF SCORESAfghanistan 155 all out (I. Zadran 53; M. Adair 5-39) and 134-3 (H. Shahidi 53 not out) v Ireland 263 all out (P. Stirling 52; Z. Akbar 5-64)Match situation: Afghanistan lead by 26 runs with seven second-innings wickets remainingToss: Afghanistan
Jenson Button says his ‘expectations are high’ but called his team as ‘underdog that is hungry to succeed’ as the former Formula One champion embarks on a new chapter with a full-time Porsche Hypercar ride in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with Team JOTA.The Brit will team up with Phil Hanson and Oliver Rasmussen at this weekend’s season opener, the Qatar 1812km at the Lusail International Circuit.A bumper crop of 26 WEC rookies are on the grid at the Qatar 1812km, of which eight are entered in Hypercar and 18 in the new-for-2024 LMGT3 class. And Button is ready to lead JOTA’s charge in their debut season with two Hypercars, setting their sights on more than just the FIA World Cup for Hypercar Teams title.Button’s return to the forefront of endurance racing marks his first full-time race programme since 2019, following a podium finish at the prestigious 24 Hours of Daytona with WTR Andretti. And Button is going full tilt to make it a memorable season.“Expectations are always high,” said Button on Wednesday. “You don’t go into a season hoping to finish second or third in the championship. But you have to be realistic because we are racing against mighty manufacturers. We are, I would say, an underdog. But an underdog hungry to succeed and that’s what is exciting about it. It reminds me of my 2019 F1 season, when I raced for Brawn and won the World Championship. So hopefully history will repeat itself,” the 44-year-old said.Button’s experience in diverse racing categories should help him and his team transition to prototype racing. Button said he enjoyed his first experience of driving at Lusail in the Prologue test on Monday and Tuesday.“There’s something about the asphalt that’s very tricky,” said the British driver. “It’s very edgy, and it’s easy to lose the car on corner entry. It makes it difficult to push aggressively, but it also makes it fun, because you can drive the car in a manner that you can’t at most circuits. It kind of feels like driving a go-kart, when you see the steering inputs. It’s a challenging but fun circuit to drive.”Button, who won 15 races and finished on the podium 50 times in 300 races in his 17-year long F1 career, was excited with the challenge of endurance racing.“It’s good. Unlike F1, we get to test all week, so we’ve been doing a prologue. It’s basically our test before the season. So we’ve been driving on track and it’s been really good. The championship is in a really good place. There’s 19 cars in hypercars, and then you’ve also got the GT3 cars racing. So, endurance racing is in a really good place right now and it’s such an exciting championship with many different manufacturers involved as well as privateer teams like Team Jota,” he said.Unlike the cutthroat competition within F1 teams where teammates are often viewed as adversaries, endurance racing demands a unified effort. And Button relished the prospect of teamwork with his teammates Rasmussen and Hanson“In terms of teamwork, it’s very similar to Formula 1 in terms of you need to work closely with your engineers and strategists and what have you. And it’s obviously on a slightly smaller scale, but still very, very professional,” Button observed.“The difference here is that you actually work with your teammates to succeed rather than fighting your teammate. You know, in F1 the most important person for you to beat is your teammate, whereas here you’re working with your teammates because you’re all driving the same car. So it’s almost a 10-hour race, I think we’ll have it under the lights here in Doha. So, yeah, it’s a busy week, but a fun week and really good gelling with my teammates, Oliver Rasmussen and Phil Hanson,” he added.After the stint in Qatar, Button will have a chance to tackle some of the most famous endurance races in motorsport, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, while also visiting some of the venues that he raced at during his F1 career such as Imola, Spa, Interlagos, Austin, Fuji and Sakhir.Button said he feels energised ahead of the season and is ready for more. “From 2019 to now I’ve had two kids, but they’re a little older now. It makes it easier now when I’m travelling,” he explains. “During Covid we all felt like we lost years, and I would have been racing in something full time, I think, but it didn’t work out.“So I did NASCAR, Le Mans, Petit Le Mans. I enjoyed it, but jumping in and out, you don’t get the best out of yourself. I want to dig deep into the details and technology. I’m excited about competing in a full season. I don’t see this as a one-year deal. I don’t want to be jumping around now. I am 44, I won’t be racing for many more years. I’m fully on it in wanting to achieve over the next couple of years. I don’t want to be switching championships. I think I’ll be doing WEC for the next couple of years.”
Following consecutive victories in the last two editions, Saleh al-Kaabi will look to keep the momentum going and will aim for his third title on the trot in the 26th GCC Golf Championship 2024 at the Doha Golf Club.The Qatari golfer is eager to continue the winning run in the championship, which will be played from today until March 3. However, he feels this time the competition will be tougher.“The level of competition is rising every year and I am expecting a tough competition from my opponents this time,” al-Kaabi said during the opening ceremony of the championship on Wednesday. The 30-year-old won the title in 2023 in Abu Dhabi and in 2022 in Bahrain. “The conditions are challenging here, but we are used to playing in strong winds so I am hopeful of getting good results in this championship,” the Aspire Academy graduate said, while talking about the conditions.The two-time defending champion is also part of the four-member Qatar team which is also looking for the third title in the row. The other members of the team are – Ali al-Shahrani, Abdul Rahman Abdullah al-Shahrani and Abdulaziz Almuhanedi.“Completing a hat-trick of team and individual titles in this edition would be great and will give me confidence for the future tournaments,” he said.This is the 26th edition of the senior championship and the 15th edition of the 18 and under championship. The senior championship will be played over four rounds with the top three scores from the team contributing per round.The 18 and under competition will be played over three rounds with the top two scores per round, contributing to the teams’ overall results. A simple but impressive ceremony marked the opening of the regional tournament with the Qatar Golf Association (QGA) President Hassan Nasser al-Naimi welcoming the visiting delegations during his speech. The QGA is hosting the championship for the third time.QGA hosted the inaugural edition in 1992 and last staged the championship in 2016. Apart from Qatar, the other participating nations are – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah finished in second place in the Stage 2 of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge to maintain his overall lead. The Qatari star driving a Hunter Prodrive car alongside his French navigator Edouard Boulanger was 2 minutes 44 seconds behind stage winner Guerlain Chicherit of Overdrive Racing. Seth Quintero was third in the factory Toyota Gazoo Racing car.Al-Attiyah maintains the overall lead by 8:31 seconds over Lucas Moraes, who was fourth on Wednesday. Today’s Stage 3 of the second round of the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) is a daunting 414 kilometre loop around Liwa City, with 251kilometres of special stages, and is 52% dunes. This means that the competitors will be contending with challenging crests, as well as the fierce heat and changes in the sand.
Hani Taleb Ballan, CEO of the Qatar Stars League (QSL), participated in the Web Summit Qatar 2024, hosted by the State of Qatar from February 26 to 29, 2024, at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, with the participation of many inspiring thought leaders and representatives of companies and institutions, who present their vision for transformation.The discussion dealt with technology that affects every sector and society, the social, environmental and commercial impacts of future technology, and its transformation, accompanied by many challenges.The QSL CEO spoke at the summit entitled ‘Football for All’, with the participation of Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA) CEO Emmanuel Meideiros. Standards of integrity, transparency, governance and the use of technological development in the world of sports and football were discussed.Hani also reviewed the tremendous development that the State of Qatar has witnessed at the sports level over the past years, and as part of its successful and distinguished preparations and hosting of the best FIFA World Cup, in addition to the development of professional football in Qatar, which enjoys a prominent position at the regional, Asian and international levels.He talked about the QSL, its goals and vision, stressing that there is an opportunity for further development in the coming seasons, in addition to the use of technology in the field of refereeing, which greatly helps match referees make accurate and correct decisions.It may be noted that the Web Summit is the largest gathering of startup companies in the Middle East, and the largest technology conference in the world that discusses the future of technology and how to enable it. It represents an opportunity to connect a new generation of founders in the Mideast with investors, partners and others from all over the world.It is also a chance to highlight specific efforts and initiatives, and insight into the capabilities and highly-efficient digital infrastructure that the State of Qatar enjoys.
The Global Champions Tour and GCL team series will return to Al Shaqab today, marking the much-anticipated kickoff for the 2024 season. The three days of exhilarating action will see top-tier horses and riders compete for supremacy.For the sixth year running, the season opener will be held in Doha, where a stellar rider line-up has assembled. Around 35 riders from 19 countries will be competing in the CSI5* class with the winner of the Grand Prix winner qualifying for the Super Grand Prix at the final showdown of the year – the GC PlayoffsLeading the pack in World No 1 Henrik von Eckermann (Sweden), who will face stiff competition from big names such as Marcus Ehning (Germany), John Whitaker (Britain), CHI Al Shaqab Grand Prix winner Malin Baryard-Johnsson (Sweden), Edwina Tops-Alexander (Austria), Christian Ahlmann (Germany), as well as Simon Delestre (France).Last year’s GCT Championship runner-up Maikel van der Vleuten will also be determined to kick-start his campaign with a strong start. One of the most anticipated moments of the tour is the return of Marco Kutscher, adding an extra layer of excitement as fans eagerly await his performance after his hiatus from the tour.The Under-25 talent will also be out in full force this week as the likes of Jodie Hall McAteer (Britain), Jeanne Sadran (France) and Harry Allen (Ireland) are among the riders entered for the first GCT event of the season.Edwina Tops-Alexander, a two-time Global Champions Tour Champion and previous GCT Grand Prix of Doha winner, said competition on the tour is getting stronger. “Competing in Doha is always a highlight of the season. The level of competition and the electrifying atmosphere make it a truly unforgettable experience. The competition on the tour is getting stronger and stronger, the riders are really fighting to be strong from the first show and put pressure on the rest of the riders and teams,” the Australian said.“Winning the tour is like the world championships of our sport and what is so special about it is how each venue is unique, different circumstances – the small arenas, big arenas, grass or sand and that is what makes the rider a champion. To be consistent throughout the year competing against the best riders is what makes it very exciting and challenging,” she added.Doha Falcons back intothe GCL team seriesMeanwhile, Doha Falcons will return to the GCL team series after a two-year hiatus. With an electrifying lineup and the support of sponsors like Al Shaqab, Qatar Equestrian Federation and Team Qatar, the Falcons are ready to spread their wings and dominate the competition. The Doha Falcons have left no stone unturned in assembling a dream team, blending experience and fresh talent for an unbeatable combination. Leading the charge is none other than Simon Delestre, the powerhouse rider who has swapped teams from the St Tropez Pirates.Wilm Vermeir, a seasoned rider returning to the GCL teams after a brief hiatus, is a rock-solid addition to the squad and will be a force to be reckoned with, adding depth to the Falcons’ already formidable lineup. Joining the Falcons from the St Tropez Pirates is the young and dynamic under-25 rider, Michael Pender. With a reputation as one of the best rising talents around, Pender’s move to the Falcons promises thrilling performances and a fresh perspective. Rashid al-Marri, a familiar face from the Falcons’ past, renews his allegiance to the squad, adding a touch of continuity and experience to the team’s resurgence.Jerome Guery, acquired in a trade from the Rome Gladiators, brings his unique skills and style to the Falcons’ roster. Guery’s addition is a strategic move that solidifies the Falcons’ position as serious contenders in the GCL. Last but certainly not least, Julien Anquetin, makes a triumphant return after a hiatus since 2020, is set to be a top face and a fan favourite for the Falcons.
Saeed bin Mubarak Saeed Aljafali al-Naimi-owned Al Shomos under jockey Faleh Bughanaim sealed a comfortable three-length victory to secure the Lehwaila Cup at Al Rayyan Racecourse on Wednesday.The nine-year-old mare, trained by Ahmed Kobeissi, made comfortable work of her opposition in the 1200m Local Thoroughbred Handicap (50-70) during 30th Al Rayyan Meeting, which decided nine races.Szczepan Mazur guided Dhergham Bu Thaila to second place in the feature while Dohah with Jefferson Smith finished third after falling short by a head.In the penultimate race of the day, Hamad bin Abdulrahman bin Hamad al-Attiya-owned and Zuhair Mohsen-trained Mobilise won the Thoroughbred Handicap (65-85) for four-year-old+ contest. Abdulaziz Jassim al-Boenain, Al Uqda Complex Manager, crowned the winners.The 31st Al Rayyan Meeting including another nine races today will see eight challengers battling for the Loyalty Cup in the 1750m Local Purebred Arabian Graduation Plate feature race.RESULTS30th Al Rayyan Meeting -Lehwaila Cup DayWINNERS: (Horse, Trainer, Jockey)1 - Lehwaila Cup, Local Thoroughbred HandicapAl Shomos, Ahmed Kobeissi, Faleh Bughanaim2 - Thoroughbred Handicap (65-85)Mobilise, Zuhair Mohsen, Arnaud De Lepine3- Thoroughbred Handicap (55-75)Dramatic Sands, Mohamed Ali al-Saaq, Rashid Ali al-Marri4 - Thoroughbred Handicap (50-70)Ready Reckoner, Hamad al-Jehani, Szczepan Mazur5 - Local Thoroughbred Fillies Novice PlateBint Al Hareth, Mohamed Ghazali, Louis Nomis6 - Purebred Arabian Maiden PlateAl Zaeem, Mohamed Ghazali, Louis Nomis7 - Local Purebred Arabian Maiden PlateAneed Al Shahania, Rudy Nerbonne, Tomas Lukasek8 - Local Purebred Arabian Handicap (45-65)Muqtarib, Julian Smart, Samuel Legrix9 - Thoroughbred Handicap (45-65)Villain’s Voice, Dr. Fahad Salman FS al-Hajri, Salman Fahad al-Hajri.
Former world number one Andy Murray said on Wednesday he is “likely not going to play competitive tennis past this summer”.The British three-time Grand Slam champion, 36, has won just two of his eight matches this season and appears ready to put an end to his storied career.Murray, who fell to French fifth seed Ugo Humbert 6-2, 6-4 in the Dubai second round on Wednesday, has not recorded back-to-back victories since September and has faced persistent questions over his future.“I’m likely not going to play past this summer,” he said.“I get asked about it after every single match that I play, every single tournament that I play. I’m bored of the question, to be honest.“I’m not going to talk more about that between now and whenever the time comes for me to stop.“But yeah, I don’t plan on playing much past this summer.”Murray, who has been playing with a metal hip since he underwent resurfacing surgery in 2019, hopes to compete at the French Open in May, which would be his first appearance at Roland Garros since 2020.The Scot, who reached the final in Paris once in 2016, has played just 11 matches on clay in his last two campaigns and skipped the surface altogether in 2021.“Last few years I’ve tried to give myself maybe better preparation for the grass season, but that also doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to play really well on the grass,” said Murray.“I’ve had experiences through my career where I didn’t play the French Open in 2013 and I won Wimbledon.“I also played the French Open and did really well in 2016.“I don’t think it makes a huge difference if you get an extra week’s practice or so on the grass. So yeah, I would like to play (Roland Garros) one more time.”A two-time Olympic champion in 2012 and 2016, Murray says he is also eyeing the Paris Games, which will be staged on clay at Roland Garros after Wimbledon between July 27 and August 4.“I like the tournament. I like playing at Roland Garros. Obviously if you want to do well at the Olympics, you probably are going to have to play some tournaments and get matches in on the clay.“Yeah, even if the Olympics was not after Wimbledon, I would still want to play it,” Murray.Murray won the US Open in 2012 and Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016 and also reached the final of the Australian Open five times.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) on Wednesday announced a “multi-year strategic partnership” with the ATP, the governing body of men’s tennis, extending the kingdom’s influence on international sport.In a joint statement, the two bodies said that the partnership marked “a significant shared commitment to enhancing global tennis”.Since 2021, PIF has invested heavily in a number of major sports industries including setting up the LIV golf tour, a rival to the PGA, and purchasing English Premier League club Newcastle United.The statement did not give details of the amount of the investment which will see PIF become the official naming partner of the ATP rankings. PIF will also partner with ATP Tour events in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing and the ATP Finals, in addition to the Next Gen ATP Finals, hosted in Jeddah until 2027.“Our strategic partnership with PIF marks a major moment for tennis,” said ATP chief executive Massimo Calvelli in the joint statement.“It’s a shared commitment to propel the future of the sport. With PIF’s dedication to the next generation – fostering innovation and creating opportunities for all – the stage is set for a transformative new period of progress.”Last year, the kingdom hosted its first ATP Tour event – the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah – along with exhibition matches pitting Novak Djokovic against Carlos Alcaraz and Aryna Sabalenka against Ons Jabeur.In January Rafael Nadal, winner of 22 singles Grand Slams on the men’s side, was named ambassador for the Saudi Tennis Federation.PIF has reshaped the world of golf by setting up the LIV golf tour as a rival to the PGA.The first event took place in June 2022, causing a split within the sport that caused LIV-affiliated players to be excluded from the Ryder Cup, PGA tour events and consequently the world rankings.Reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm joined the LIV tour in December in a deal reportedly worth hundreds of millions of dollars.However, a framework deal between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and PIF is now under discussion with a view to ending the stand-off.PIF purchased English Premier League club Newcastle United in October and saw them qualify for this year’s Champions League.It also owns four football clubs in the Saudi Pro League and has spent over $885mn (€820mn) on some of the biggest names in football to play for its teams.The kingdom is also set to host the 2034 football World Cup. “Through our collaboration with ATP, PIF will be a catalyst for growth of the global tennis landscape, developing talent, fostering inclusivity and driving sustainable innovation,” said PIF’s Mohamed AlSayyad.Former world No.1 Andy Murray highlighted the commitment from the new partners to “collaborate to elevate the long-term future of tennis”.After he was knocked out of the ATP Dubai tournament on Wednesday, he said: “I don’t know exactly what it means by sponsoring the events. I don’t know what that will look like.“One of my concerns is obviously actually more about the investment in lower levels of the game and the grassroots of the sport.“I think that’s extremely important,” Murray said.