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Djokovic urges govt to support players for playing Australian Open

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Novak Djokovic.
Novak Djokovic.

World number one Novak Djokovic has called on authorities to allow players to compete before the Australian Open while undertaking their mandatory quarantine period.

The start of the 2021 season remains in limbo, with officials declining to endorse Tennis Australia’s plans to have players arrive mid-December and be free to compete at the ATP Cup and other events ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam.

Australia is effectively closed to non-residents due to COVID-19 protocols and international arrivals must spend two weeks in quarantine before they can move around freely.

Serbian Djokovic said he would do whatever was required to play at the Australian Open but hoped the government could also be accommodating.

“I hope that there is going to be support and understanding from the Victorian and Australian government for the players and for Tennis Australia and that they will allow players to compete in the second week of quarantine,” he told reporters at the ATP Finals on Wednesday.

“I mean, hopefully that’s going to help tremendously with the calendar and everything, and you won’t be then losing a week.

“You will be able to have at least a tournament or two prior to the Australian Open, which for majority of the players is important.

“Having no official match before the Australian Open, before a Grand Slam, is a huge thing.”

Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews said on Wednesday he was confident the Australian Open would go ahead at Melbourne Park but declined to confirm Tennis Australia’s scheduling for the Jan. 18-31 Grand Slam and other events in the leadup, including the team-based ATP Cup.

Djokovic led Serbia to victory in the inaugural $15 million ATP Cup last January and hopes to defend the title.

REUTERS

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PELE VS MARADONA: A RIVALRY THAT FOUND PEACE IN BITTERNESS

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PELE VS MARADONA

On October 1, 1977, Brazilian football superstar Pele was handed the microphone to address the crowd ahead of a friendly between New York Cosmos, the team he had played with for over two years, and his beloved Santos, where his career started and reached dizzying peaks. Among the sold out crowd at the Giants Stadium in New Jersey was boxing legend Muhammad Ali and England’s World Cup winning former captain Bobby Moore, apart from Pele’s father and wife.

“Love is more important than what we can take in life,” he told the crowd before commencing the game, in which he played for the Cosmos in the first half and Santos in the second. The match ended in rainy conditions and with it, marked the end of the career of football’s first true global superstar.

Almost exactly a year before that, a diminutive 15-year-old made his senior debut for Argentinos Juniors, becoming the youngest to play in Argentina’s top flight. Young Diego Armando Maradona set stadiums alight around the country and took his performances to international football in the light blue and white of Argentina.

He was a goalscorer, just as Pele was, although he played a deeper role than the Brazilian and was often involved in the defensive side of the game. The skills and the cleverness with which he manoeuvred on and off the ball on the pitch convinced coaches before long that they needed to make their teams block passing routes to Maradona as much as possible. Football has always been an escape from social ills for the Argentinean people and amid the poverty and destruction that came with the Dirty War in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Maradona — the boy who rose from the slums of the national capital — was increasingly deified. Comparisons with Pele was probably the most unsurprising by-product of Maradona’s rise.

While Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi may be the argument that has dominated the game since the turn of the century, the focus was mostly on Pele vs Maradona before that. As is the case with Ronaldo and Messi, the two players weren’t exactly carrying similar responsibilities in the team.

“I lost a great friend and the world lost a legend. There is still much to be said, but for now, may God give strength to the family members. One day, I hope we can play ball together in the sky,” Pele said in his tweet.

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GRAND SLAM BOX TICKED, THIEM TARGETS TOKYO PODIUM

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GRAND SLAM BOX TICKED, THIEM TARGETS TOKYO PODIUM

Having fulfilled his dream of joining the Grand Slam winners club by taking the U.S. Open title this year, Austrian Dominic Thiem is setting out his goals for 2021 and hopes to be standing on the podium at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 27-year-old lost three Grand Slam finals before finally winning at Flushing Meadows in September, becoming the first player outside the trio of Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic to win a major since 2016.

Thiem skipped the Rio Olympics in 2016 and was set to miss Tokyo due to scheduling issues before the Games were pushed back to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While next year’s tennis calendar has yet to be confirmed, the men’s world number three said Tokyo was pencilled into his plans. “I am going to participate at the Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo starting on July 23!” Thiem said in a post on his website. “I have been thinking about it for a longer period of time, and next year it eventually fits into my tournament schedule.” REUTERS

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KLOPP SAYS RETURN OF FANS A SMALL STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION

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Jürgen Klopp

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp welcomed the news that 2,000 fans will be allowed into Anfield starting from next month as a small step in the right direction on Friday.

The city of Liverpool has been placed under Tier 2 COVID-19 restrictions by the government, paving the way for a limited return of fans for the first time since March.

While London clubs will also be permitted to allow fans back in small numbers next month, many Premier League clubs including Manchester United, Manchester City, Newcastle United and those in the Midlands will not as they are in Tier 3 areas.

Liverpool’s game at Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday will be without fans, as the new measures come in next week. However, 2,000 fans will be permitted to attend Liverpool’s home game with Wolverhampton Wanderers next weekend.

Klopp was asked whether it would be an advantage for his title winners.

“I said before I knew which tier Liverpool would be in that’s it’s not about discussing the advantage or disadvantage of this or that,” he told a news conference.

“It’s making small steps in the right direction. I’m happy that we can bring in 2,000 people, nobody knows how long we will be able to do that, but I think we should discuss not on the basis of an advantage for this or that team

“The world is in a difficult place and we all wait for small steps. This is a small step in the right direction.”

Klopp was less happy, however, with the scheduling which means his side face Brighton in a 1230GMT kickoff on Saturday having played Atalanta in the Champions League on Wednesday. REUTERS

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‘Always going to be difficult without sixth bowler’

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Always going to be difficult without sixth bowler

India skipper Virat Kohli lamented the lack of a sixth bowling option as India conceded 374 runs, before succumbing to a 66-run defeat to Australia in the first ODI at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday.

“Unfortunately, Hardik is not fit enough to bowl, and we don’t have other allround options to pick from either, someone like Stoinis or Maxwell,” said Kohli.

Except for Mohammed Shami, none of the bowlers could keep the run rate below six with spinner Yuzvendra Chahal going for 89 runs in 10 overs and picking just one wicket.

India had no one as a back-up bowler to take the load off Chahal had a bad day.

In contrast, for Australia both Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis could chip in to finish the fifth bowler’s quota. Both shared 13 overs. Stoinis could have bowled more but for his injury.

Kohli said that there was no other option for batsmen except to go after the bowling.

“From the batting point of view, we had a chat briefly now. All the batsmen committed to it which is why you saw us playing with intent. I think we gave ourselves the best chance. Hardik’s innings was the best example of that. As a batting unit we committed nicely to positive cricket and we are going to do that in the future as well,” he said.

Pandya, who made 96 off 76 deliveries, too said that the team missed a sixth bowler. “It was always going to be difficult without a sixth bowler (with the regular bowlers going for runs). The sixth bowler’s role is more to give cushion to someone from among the regular bowlers who is having a bad day. Maybe, we’ll have to find someone who has played for India and groom him. Maybe, we should look into Pandya family,” said the batsman, who hit seven fours and four sixes in his 90-run innings.

India skipper Virat Kohli hit out at his team for not getting into 50-over format rhythm for the ongoing three-match series despite getting enough time to practice in Australia during the quarantine period.

India betrayed lack of 50-over format match practice on the field, especially after midway through Australia’s innings, as they succumbed to a 66-run defeat after conceding 374 runs to the hosts in the first One-day International at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday. They dropped catches and conceded runs through misfielding to allow Aussies to get to biggest total against India in ODIs. The Indian players, who finished the Indian Premier League in UAE on November 10, had arrived much ahead of the start of this series against Australia as they had to undergo a 14-day quarantine. However, they were allowed regular match practice during the quarantine period thanks to permission given by the New South Wales state government.

Kohli said that there were no excuses for the loss. He added that the body language wasn’t great after 25 overs.

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STOINIS DOUBTFUL FOR 2ND ODI AFTER PICKING SIDE INJURY

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STOINIS DOUBTFUL FOR 2ND ODI AFTER PICKING SIDE INJURY - Copy

SYDNEY: A Australia all-rounder Marcus Stoinis may be a doubtful started for the second ODI against India as he picked up a side injury during the first ODI at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday.

According to an ESPNcricinfo report, Stoinis left the field two balls into his seventh over, and although Australia called the decision not to bring him back out precautionary, Stoinis is set to have a scan on Friday night. Australia won the opening game by 66 runs after an all-round performance and took a 1-0 lead in the three-match ODI series. The quick turnaround between matches — the second game is on Sunday — would seem to make it unlikely he would be available for the next game.

The all-rounder bowled 6.2 overs and gave just 25 runs after failing to put up a show with the bat. Stoinis was picked up by Yuzvendra Chahal for a first-ball duck.

Cameron Green, the Western Australia allrounder, could come in as a replacement for Stoinis.

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Smith and Finch hit tons as Aussies beat India in 1st ODI

Hardik Pandya’s career-best effort fails to compensate for a forgettable bowling effort as Team India loses by 66 runs against Australia in the tour opener.

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Smith and Finch hit tons as Aussies beat India in 1st ODI 1

Steve Smith and Aaron Finch led the way with centuries as Australia opened their home summer with a one-day victory over India by 66 runs on Friday in the first men’s international played in front of a crowd since March.

The capacity of the Sydney Cricket Ground was reduced by 50% because of social distancing rules but a crowd of 17,821, mostly backing the tourists, were treated to some fireworks from the home batsmen in the afternoon sun.

Finch scored 114 in an opening stand of 156 with David Warner (69) to lay a platform before his predecessor as captain Smith smashed 105 off 66 balls to drive Australia to 374 for six — their highest total against India.

India, who were forced to spend two weeks in quarantine on arrival in Australia, always looked like struggling to chase down the third highest tally they had conceded in any one-dayer.

Hardik Pandya thumped four sixes in a bright 90 to give them hope but the innings petered out after his fifth-wicket partnership of 128 with opener Shikhar Dhawan (74) was broken and India limped to 308-8 in their 50 overs.

“I’ve been searching for something for a couple of months but a few days ago something just clicked,” Smith said of his batting. “It was nice to contribute to a good win.”

The teams lined up in a “Barefoot Circle” in recognition of indigenous Australians before the match and moments of silence remembered Dean Jones, who died last month, and Phillip Hughes, who suffered a fatal injury at the ground exactly six years ago.

There was another short pause early in the Australia innings when two environmental protesters ran on the field but Finch and Warner were soon back pillaging runs again.

Spinner Adam Zampa (4-54) redeemed himself with ball in hand after dropping Kohli in the deep when the India captain was on one, but his was only one of a string of misfields from both sides.

Paceman Mohammed Shami was the pick of India’s bowlers (3-59) and skittled Smith with a full toss in the final over of the innings.

Josh Hazlewood (3-55) stalled a blistering start to India’s innings by removing Mayank Agarwal and then dismissed Virat Kohli (21) and Shreyas Iyer in the 10th over.

India play two more one-dayers in Sydney and Canberra before a three-match Twenty20 series and four tests around the new year.

“I think we had enough preparation so no excuses,” said Kohli. “The key to keeping the batsmen in check is picking up wickets and we couldn’t do that.

REUTERS

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