Good to Be Back Home for Struggling Ricciardo

Formula One F1 - United States Grand Prix - Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, U.S. - October 21, 2021 McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo ahead of the Grand Prix. (Reuters)
Formula One F1 - United States Grand Prix - Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, U.S. - October 21, 2021 McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo ahead of the Grand Prix. (Reuters)
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Good to Be Back Home for Struggling Ricciardo

Formula One F1 - United States Grand Prix - Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, U.S. - October 21, 2021 McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo ahead of the Grand Prix. (Reuters)
Formula One F1 - United States Grand Prix - Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, U.S. - October 21, 2021 McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo ahead of the Grand Prix. (Reuters)

Daniel Ricciardo thinks he might once have taken the Australian Grand Prix for granted but three years without any Formula One action at Albert Park has left him hankering for a race on home soil.

The 32-year-old will get his wish this weekend when the world championship circuit returns to Melbourne for the first time since the 2020 race was called off at the 11th hour as the COVID-19 pandemic first took a grip on Australia.

The eight-times Grand Prix winner's last race in Melbourne, his first for Renault, was effectively ended in the first few seconds when he lost his front end in the trackside grass, leaving him with even more of a sense of longing.

"In a way, it's kind of like, 'You don't know what you've got until it's gone'," the Australian told the Herald Sun newspaper.

"When I look back, obviously we were there in 2020 but we did not race, we were there in 2019 but my race did not last very long.

"It feels like the last time I actually had a proper race there was in 2018 so it has been a long time so I am very, very excited to get back.

"Whether we are competitive or not I think just to race on home soil will be a good time."

Now in his second season at McLaren, Ricciardo has good reason to question the competitiveness of his car after finishing 14th at the season-opener in Bahrain and being forced to retire in Saudi Arabia.

That is a stark contrast with his former team Red Bull, who have already got their first win of the season through world champion Max Verstappen.

Ricciardo, who twice finished fourth at Albert Park with Red Bull, accepts that there will always be questions about his decision to walk away from the team at the end of the 2018 season.

"It doesn't bother me," he added. "Obviously at the time I felt like that was the right thing for me. You kind of stand by that ...

"It's not something I look back on and regret it, or think I should have done differently."



Belgian Van Eetvelt Hits the Heights to Claim UAE Tour

UAE Tour winner Lennert Van Eetvelt only turned professional last year © Giuseppe CACACE / AFP
UAE Tour winner Lennert Van Eetvelt only turned professional last year © Giuseppe CACACE / AFP
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Belgian Van Eetvelt Hits the Heights to Claim UAE Tour

UAE Tour winner Lennert Van Eetvelt only turned professional last year © Giuseppe CACACE / AFP
UAE Tour winner Lennert Van Eetvelt only turned professional last year © Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

Belgium's Lennert Van Eetvelt produced a dramatic summit finish on Jebel Hafeet to claim the final stage and overall victory in the UAE Tour on Sunday.

The 22-year-old Lotto rider powered clear around two kilometres from the line to take the 161km seventh stage by 22 seconds from Pello Bilbao and Ben O'Connor, AFP reported.

With a 10 sec time bonus Van Eetvelt shot to the top of the overall standings, two seconds ahead of Australia's O'Connor, with Bilbao completing the podium.

O'Connor's compatriot, UAE Team Emirates' Jay Vine began the day in the lead but his hopes bit the dust in the closing climb.

"I was expecting a difficult stage," Van Eetvelt said, adding that he had been able to stay on the wheels of the leaders.

"Then when we began the climb I told myself I had to give my all.

"I couldn't be happier," beamed the rider who was adding this to a race win in Mallorca last month.

Van Eetvelt only turned professional last year, making his Grand Tour debut in the Vuelta a Espana where he came in 32nd overall.


Riyadh Will be a Stop for Global Champions Arabians Tour 2024

A general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
A general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
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Riyadh Will be a Stop for Global Champions Arabians Tour 2024

A general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
A general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (SPA)

Riyadh is set to host one of the legs of the Global Champions Arabians Tour (GCAT) in 2024, joining a series of events held across various countries throughout the season. Previously, Doha hosted the event, and upcoming stops on the tour include Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Cannes in France, Valkenswaard in the Netherlands, Rome, and Paris, SPA reported.

The Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation (SAEF) will be the host in the capital, Riyadh.
Prince Abdullah bin Fahd bin Abdullah, President of the Saudi Equestrian Federation, expressed gratitude to the leadership for their substantial support of equestrianism in the Kingdom.

He emphasized how the leadership's unwavering support has positioned Saudi Arabia as a global hub for equestrian sports. Prince Abdullah highlighted that the Kingdom's well-organized and diverse events align with a clear vision, aiming to establish the country as the world's premier destination. He conveyed his appreciation to Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the Minister of Sport, for his continuous support and close involvement in the sector.


Liverpool Beats Chelsea 1-0 to Win the English League Cup

Liverpool’s captain Virgil van Dijk and head coach Jurgen Klopp and teammates celebrate after winning the EFL Carabao Cup final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium in London, Britain, 25 February 2024.  EPA/ANDY RAIN
Liverpool’s captain Virgil van Dijk and head coach Jurgen Klopp and teammates celebrate after winning the EFL Carabao Cup final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium in London, Britain, 25 February 2024. EPA/ANDY RAIN
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Liverpool Beats Chelsea 1-0 to Win the English League Cup

Liverpool’s captain Virgil van Dijk and head coach Jurgen Klopp and teammates celebrate after winning the EFL Carabao Cup final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium in London, Britain, 25 February 2024.  EPA/ANDY RAIN
Liverpool’s captain Virgil van Dijk and head coach Jurgen Klopp and teammates celebrate after winning the EFL Carabao Cup final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium in London, Britain, 25 February 2024. EPA/ANDY RAIN

Virgil van Dijk headed Liverpool to a record-extending 10th English League Cup trophy by securing a 1-0 win against Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday.
The center back's header in the 28th minute of extra time settled a tense clash that had ended 0-0 in regulation.
It clinched an eighth piece of major silverware for Jurgen Klopp and ensured the Liverpool manager will not end his final season at the club empty-handed.
Klopp will step down at the end of the season, but victory in the League Cup has kept his team on course for an improbable quadruple of trophies.
Liverpool currently leads the Premier League table and is still in contention for the FA Cup and Europa League.
Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino was hoping to win his first major trophy in England after previous spells with Southampton and Tottenham.
He will have to wait, while Klopp can look ahead to more glory before walking away.
Liverpool and Chelsea had met in both domestic finals in 2022 and on both occasions Liverpool came out on top to lift the League Cup and FA Cup on penalties after two goalless draws.
This was another close match that saw both teams have goals ruled out for offside and other chances missed.
Eventually Van Dijk came up with the decisive moment and perhaps the start of a trophy-laden end to Klopp's reign.


Senor Buscador Secures ‘Saudi Cup’ Victory, Defending Home Turf

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz crowned Sharaf Al-Hariri, owner of the horse “Senor Buscador,” winner of the “Saudi Cup” at the King Abdulaziz Equestrian Arena in Riyadh (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz crowned Sharaf Al-Hariri, owner of the horse “Senor Buscador,” winner of the “Saudi Cup” at the King Abdulaziz Equestrian Arena in Riyadh (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Senor Buscador Secures ‘Saudi Cup’ Victory, Defending Home Turf

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz crowned Sharaf Al-Hariri, owner of the horse “Senor Buscador,” winner of the “Saudi Cup” at the King Abdulaziz Equestrian Arena in Riyadh (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz crowned Sharaf Al-Hariri, owner of the horse “Senor Buscador,” winner of the “Saudi Cup” at the King Abdulaziz Equestrian Arena in Riyadh (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, acting on behalf of King Salman bin Abdulaziz, has crowned America’s Senor Buscador as the winner of the 5th edition of the Saudi Cup 2024 horse race at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh.

Following an electrifying race, Senor Buscador emerged victorious, securing the top position in the 9th round of the Saudi Cup race.

This prestigious equestrian event, known globally, offered significant prize money totaling $37.6 million across 17 rounds.

The Saudi Cup, with a prize of $20 million, saw a record-breaking participation of 244 horses.

Upon arrival at the venue, the Crown Prince was received by Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Equestrian Authority and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia.

The Crown Prince watched the final round of the horse race competition that attracted the finest thoroughbreds and top jockeys from around the globe.

The participating horses moved from the grooming arena to the parade ground in front of the Crown Prince before the race commenced. All participating jockeys were also present on the parade ground.

The Crown Prince then congratulated the owner of the horse Senor Buscador, for winning the race and presented them the Saudi Cup.

He also congratulated the horse trainer and jockey and presented them with a horse replica and a cavalry horse helmet respectively.

Japan’s Ushba Tesoro claimed the second position in this high-stakes horseracing event.

Moreover, the horse “Tower of London” won the top spot in the Red Sea Cup, covering 3,000 meters on grass and earning a prize of $1.5 million for its owners.

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson also celebrated victory as his horse “Spirit Dancer” claimed first place in the Howden Neom Turf Cup.


Khachanov Ends Mensik's Dream Qatar Run to Clinch Sixth Title

Champion: Russia's Karen Khachanov celebrates © KARIM JAAFAR / AFP
Champion: Russia's Karen Khachanov celebrates © KARIM JAAFAR / AFP
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Khachanov Ends Mensik's Dream Qatar Run to Clinch Sixth Title

Champion: Russia's Karen Khachanov celebrates © KARIM JAAFAR / AFP
Champion: Russia's Karen Khachanov celebrates © KARIM JAAFAR / AFP

Karen Khachanov ended Jakub Mensik's bid to become the 10th youngest ATP champion with a straight sets win in the Qatar Open final on Saturday.

The 17th-ranked Russian won 7-6 (14/12), 6-4 to claim a sixth career title against 18-year-old Mensik, the youngest finalist at a tour event since Carlos Alcaraz at Umag in 2021.

"Every title is a special one," Khachanov, who didn't drop a set all week, said on court, AFP reported.

"Every time, you want to win. We play around 22 tournaments per season and at the end of the day, you compete every week. For sure here in Doha it is one of the nicest trophies."

Czech teenager Mensik, ranked 116 who will break into the top 100 next week, was playing in just his third main draw event following breakout runs to the third round of the 2023 US Open and a second-round appearance at the Australian Open last month.

On his way to the Doha final, he knocked out former world number one Andy Murray as well as top seed Andrey Rublev.

He had his chances in a marathon opener on Saturday when his 27-year-old Russian opponent saved four set points.

"I thought yesterday's tie-break was preparation for today," added Khachanov who had claimed a 14/12 breaker against Alexei Popyrin on Friday in the semi-finals.

"Today I couldn't believe it was the same score, same tie-break... I stayed strong, I'm extremely happy that I won the first set. It lifted me a lot and gave me a lot of confidence to step up in the second."

Khachanov also faced down 16 aces from the young Czech.

"For a minute, I thought I was playing John Isner and not Jakub Mensik today," said the Russian.


Merlier Beats Sprint Rivals for Third UAE Tour Stage Win

The peloton leaving Al Dhafra Walk on the 141km desert run to Liwa © Giuseppe CACACE / AFP
The peloton leaving Al Dhafra Walk on the 141km desert run to Liwa © Giuseppe CACACE / AFP
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Merlier Beats Sprint Rivals for Third UAE Tour Stage Win

The peloton leaving Al Dhafra Walk on the 141km desert run to Liwa © Giuseppe CACACE / AFP
The peloton leaving Al Dhafra Walk on the 141km desert run to Liwa © Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

Tim Merlier burst past a clutch of top sprinters to secure his third win of the UAE Tour on Saturday, winning the sixth and penultimate stage by a convincing margin.

The 31-year-old Belgian cut through the field from around 150 metres out and opened a 20-metre gap before easing off with his left arm raised in triumph at the Abu Dhabi Breakwater finish line.

In the overall standings, Jay Vine of UAE Team Emirates leads his Australian compatriot Ben O'Connor of Decathlon AG2R by 11 seconds, while American Brandon McNulty is third at 13sec.

Only 134 riders set off from the Louvre Abu Dhabi start line Saturday after British veteran sprinter Mark Cavendish pulled out sick.

"He doesn't feel good today, he has some fever," said Astana sports director Dmitry Fofonov. "So we took the decision not to start today because there is hot weather."

Cavendish will be back in action at the Tirreno Adriatico stage race in early March.

Sunday's UAE Tour finale features a 10km climb up Jebel Hafeet mountain which will decide the winner, with Spanish rider Pello Bilbao at 22sec in fifth one of the main men to watch out for.


Paolini Defeats Kalinskaya in Comeback Victory for Dubai Title

Jasmine Paolini of Italy celebrates with the trophy after winning the final match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis WTA Championships 2024 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 24 February 2024.  EPA/ALI HAIDER
Jasmine Paolini of Italy celebrates with the trophy after winning the final match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis WTA Championships 2024 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 24 February 2024. EPA/ALI HAIDER
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Paolini Defeats Kalinskaya in Comeback Victory for Dubai Title

Jasmine Paolini of Italy celebrates with the trophy after winning the final match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis WTA Championships 2024 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 24 February 2024.  EPA/ALI HAIDER
Jasmine Paolini of Italy celebrates with the trophy after winning the final match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis WTA Championships 2024 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 24 February 2024. EPA/ALI HAIDER

Jasmine Paolini earned her biggest title by defeating Anna Kalinskaya 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in the Dubai Championships final on Saturday.
Paolini fought back from a break down in the second and third sets en route to the second WTA singles title of her nine-year tour-level career.
The 26th-ranked Paolini and 40th-ranked Kalinskaya defied a field that started with 16 of the top 20 women, including the top four.
Paolini won her first title in Slovenia in 2021 and lost three finals since then. She lost to Kalinskaya a month ago in the Australian Open fourth round. Saturday’s victory assured the Italian of a top 15 debut when the rankings are updated on Monday.
“It's so special. I'm really happy and really surprised,” an emotional, smiling Paolini said on court, according to The Associated Press.
“I'm just happy that I believed I could win every match. I remember my first match this week. It was second set, I'd lost the first and was a break down, yet now I'm here winning the title. It's unbelievable.”
Paolini trailed 6-4, 3-1. Then she was 4-2 down in the third set. She stopped Kalinskaya serving for the match at 5-4.
Kalinskaya came through qualifying and beat three top-10 players in a row — including No. 1 Iga Swiatek — to reach her first final. Kalinskaya will debut in the top 30 on Monday.


FII PRIORITY Summit in Miami Discusses Investment in Sports

Discussions at the PRIORITY Summit, organized by the Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute in Miami, focused on the second day on investment in sports
Discussions at the PRIORITY Summit, organized by the Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute in Miami, focused on the second day on investment in sports
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FII PRIORITY Summit in Miami Discusses Investment in Sports

Discussions at the PRIORITY Summit, organized by the Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute in Miami, focused on the second day on investment in sports
Discussions at the PRIORITY Summit, organized by the Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute in Miami, focused on the second day on investment in sports

Sessions, discussions and dialogues at the PRIORITY Summit, organized by the Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute in Miami, focused on the second day on investment in sports.
One of the most important questions raised at the summit themed, "On the Edge of a New Frontier," was: What drives growth in sports assets and innovation in sports? How do investors and owners of sports teams reshape sports financially? Speakers pointed out that in recent years, sports investment has witnessed a major transformation with the increase in media broadcast rights for sports events and tournaments, and the achievement of high financial returns as a result of investment projects in this vital field, which attracts many followers around the world.
Speakers at the sessions explained that investing in sports is not just about winning games, but it is rather a huge platform that brings communities together and gets to know each other.
Participants also spoke about the development of sports investment with increasing financial returns in paid broadcasting rights, and about increasing demand, digital expansion, and accessing more global markets, as investors support shaping sports financially and practically, while taking advantage of modern technologies to attract new fans and followers in watching sports tournaments.
The participants also touched upon ways to invest in art, entertainment, museums and media, and the role of media and entertainment companies in developing content across various platforms to attract wider audiences, generate income effectively, and shape culture in their countries.


New Era at Man United Begins with Home Loss to Fulham

Marcus Rashford of Manchester United reacts after Fulham’s second goal during the English Premier League match between Manchester United and Fulham FC, in Manchester, Britain, 24 February 2024. (EPA)
Marcus Rashford of Manchester United reacts after Fulham’s second goal during the English Premier League match between Manchester United and Fulham FC, in Manchester, Britain, 24 February 2024. (EPA)
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New Era at Man United Begins with Home Loss to Fulham

Marcus Rashford of Manchester United reacts after Fulham’s second goal during the English Premier League match between Manchester United and Fulham FC, in Manchester, Britain, 24 February 2024. (EPA)
Marcus Rashford of Manchester United reacts after Fulham’s second goal during the English Premier League match between Manchester United and Fulham FC, in Manchester, Britain, 24 February 2024. (EPA)

The new era at Manchester United got off to a disappointing start as the team lost ground in the race for Champions League qualification with a 2-1 home loss against Fulham on Saturday.

The week started with new co-owner Jim Ratcliffe completing his purchase of a minority stake in United and boldly setting out a three-year plan to return the club to the top of English soccer, knocking local rivals Manchester City and Liverpool “off their perch” in the process. It ended with Erik ten Hag's side getting mostly outplayed in its own stadium by an opponent in the bottom half of the standings and conceding the deciding goal in the seventh minute of stoppage time.

Not only did sixth-place United's four-game winning run in the league come to an end, fourth-place Aston Villa beat Nottingham Forest 4-2 and there is now an eight-point gap between the teams. Fifth-place Tottenham is three points ahead of United and has a game in hand.

It remains to be seen if the Premier League will have four or five places in next season's Champions League. Failing to qualify for the lucrative competition will be a huge blow to United's status and finances — and could yet spell the end for Ten Hag as Ratcliffe looks to raise the standards at the fallen giant.

There could be more twists in the title race later Saturday, with second-place City away to Bournemouth and third-place Arsenal hosting Newcastle. City is four points behind Liverpool and Arsenal is a further point back.

In other results, relegation-threatened Everton conceded an equalizer in the sixth minute of stoppage time to draw 1-1 at Brighton and newly hired Crystal Palace manager Oliver Glasner's tenure got off to strong start as his team beat next-to-last Burnley 3-0.


Leverkusen Extends Bundesliga Lead To 11 Points and Sets German 33-Game Unbeaten Record

 Leverkusen's Granit Xhaka celebrates after scoring the opening goal the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and 1. FSV Mainz 05 at the BayArena in Leverkusen, Germany, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP)
Leverkusen's Granit Xhaka celebrates after scoring the opening goal the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and 1. FSV Mainz 05 at the BayArena in Leverkusen, Germany, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP)
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Leverkusen Extends Bundesliga Lead To 11 Points and Sets German 33-Game Unbeaten Record

 Leverkusen's Granit Xhaka celebrates after scoring the opening goal the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and 1. FSV Mainz 05 at the BayArena in Leverkusen, Germany, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP)
Leverkusen's Granit Xhaka celebrates after scoring the opening goal the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and 1. FSV Mainz 05 at the BayArena in Leverkusen, Germany, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP)

Granit Xhaka scored his first goal for Bayer Leverkusen as the Bundesliga leader defeated Mainz 2-1 on Friday and set a German record of 33 games unbeaten across all competitions.

Leverkusen, which hasn’t lost a match since last season, stretched its lead to 11 points before 11-time defending champion Bayern Munich hosts Leipzig on Saturday. Eleven rounds remain after this weekend.

“We deserve to be where we are,” Xhaka said. “When you’re eight points, now 11 points, ahead of second-place Bayern, there is a lot to lose. But we’ll keep working day by day, game by game, stay positive, and I’m sure we’ll be able to keep getting our wins.”

The buildup to Friday’s match was dominated by speculation over the future of Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso, with his former clubs Bayern and Liverpool looking for new coaches for next season.

Alonso has no lack of suitors after taking Leverkusen from the relegation zone when he took over in October 2022 to a genuine title candidate in his first senior management job.

“It’s all just speculation, my head is totally here,” Alonso repeated on Friday. “We have so much to do, we’re in such a super position. So enjoying it, preparing, and that’s all that’s going on in my head.”

Supporters celebrated the German soccer league’s midweek decision to scrap its plan to bring in an outside investor for a share of media rights income by displaying a banner saying: “Football belongs to the fans.”

They didn’t have to wait long to celebrate again when Xhaka fired Leverkusen into a third-minute lead. The Swiss midfielder let fly from outside the penalty area for his first goal on his 31st appearance for the club.

But Dominik Kohr replied for the visitors with a header at the other end four minutes later.

Leverkusen went on to dominate possession. The home team’s urgency grew toward the end of the half, when Álex Grimaldo drew a good save from Robin Zentner with a free kick.

Leverkusen’s frustrations grew when Jeremie Frimpong was booked for complaining after he’d been tripped by Mainz defender Phillipp Mwene when he would have been through on goal. TV replays showed there was contact. Alonso was also booked for his complaints.

The frustration remained after the break as Leverkusen failed to find a way through.

Then the otherwise excellent Zentner failed to hold Robert Andrich’s harmless-looking shot and the ball looped in over his head in the 68th. It proved enough for the win as Mainz’s hopes were hit in the 80th when Jessic Ngankam was sent off after a VAR check for a dangerous tackle on Xhaka.

“We’ve played better,” Alonso said. “But that’s normal in a season, you can’t always play super.”