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2021 French Open – COVID-19 time limit ruins Novak Djokovic’s quarterfinal celebration



COVID-19 time limit ruins Novak Djokovic’s quarterfinal celebration. From a deafening silence to a jubilant chorus and back to silence once more.

Roland-Garros woke up on Wednesday, with 5,000 fans packed into Court Philippe Chatrier for the night session, a feeling of normalcy seemingly returning to the tennis world as France began to relax its COVID-19 restrictions.

And then, reality set in once more, as Novak Djokovic and Matteo Berrettini walked off court, the extended 11 p.m. time limit – from 9 p.m. – still not late enough for the match to be finished before the spectators had to go.

Watching the fans be forced to leave and seeing the players finish in an empty stadium- – just as Djokovic had experienced at the Australian Open earlier this year – left a sour taste after what had been, until that point, a celebration.

“It’s unfortunate for the tournament and the crowd to have the time limit,” said Djokovic, whose 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 victory over Berrettini set up a semifinal conflict against 13-time champion Rafael Nadal. “We knew it before the match. I thought the atmosphere was Davis Cup-like, a lot of fans involved on every single point, cheering, screaming, just electric. I’m happy I had that experience of playing in front of the crowd in the night session.”

After nine official night sessions when the only sounds that punctuated the silence were a creaky entryway and the odd stray noise from workers nearby, the 10th and final one brought Roland-Garros to life once more.

“Pop, Ole” rang out the natural chant, an anthem taken from an old bullfighter’s tune, while the crowd whistled and jeered when umpire James Keothavong descended from his chair to analyze any contentious call.

After months of tournaments with very barely any, fans, because of the pandemic, 13,146 fans were allowed inside the grounds on Wednesday, albeit still under strict protocols, wearing masks and requiring either evidence of being vaccinated, a negative COVID-19 result or being immune.

A maximum of 5,000 spectators were permitted in the fundamental Court Philippe Chatrier for what was the last of the 10 official night sessions, brought in for first time this year as part of another TV deal with Amazon Prime in France.

Despite the fact that it was only a third of the usual capacity, the fans made up for it, thundering their support for Djokovic and Berrettini.

Tickets for the match were not easy to come by, but many Serbian fans had managed it, with one big Serbia flag draped at the bottom of the top tier of seats, while the chants of “Nole, Nole, Nole” permeated the stadium.

The tournament was moved back seven days from its usual dates to enable more fans to be allowed in for the last five days, fitting in with the relaxation of government protocols.

With COVID-19 restrictions relaxed in Paris from Wednesday, the check in time was moved two hours, with organizers convinced the night session would envelop with time.

Originally set for a 8 p.m. start – an hour earlier than the previous nine night sessions – the stroll on time was pulled forward by 10 minutes and the match actually got under path earlier than originally scheduled. In any case, leaving no more than three hours for a dirt court match between two top-10 players was consistently a risk.

Fellow Forget, the French Open’s tournament director who was sitting in the stands, said a couple of days ago that he felt players pausing while fans left the building was “horrible for the tournament and the fans.” And here he was, his worst nightmare come true.

At 10.30 p.m., emcee Mark Maury announced that fans would have to leave at each change of ends, a notice that was greeted by boos. Understandably, the fans were not happy, some chanting, “We paid.”

Twenty-five minutes later, with Djokovic leading 3-2 on serve in the fourth set, the umpire told the players they would have to leave the court briefly.

The Serb said it had been hard to get going again when they returned 19 minutes later.

“We had a 15-20 minute break and I had a little quiet time by myself, to regroup, reset and understand what I needed to do,” Djokovic said. “I realized the atmosphere would have been completely different, it took a little bit of time for us booth to warm up. I felt going back from break I was the better player.”

Eventually, after Berrettini’s final backhand went into the net, Djokovic let out a progression of thunders in the direction of his support group, repeating throughout the arena.

“It was a very stressful match,” he said. “The reaction in the end was me liberating.”


Sergio Ramos leaving Real Madrid after 16 years



Sergio Ramos leaving Real Madrid after 16 years. Sergio Ramos will leave Real Madrid after 16 seasons with the La Liga giants when his contract expires at the end of the month, the club announced on Wednesday.

Madrid have scheduled a farewell ceremony for their longtime captain in the presence of club president Florentino Perez on Thursday.

Ramos, 35, wanted another two-year deal to stay at Madrid, but sources told ESPN that Perez was not prepared to break his policy of handing only one-year contracts to players over 30.

Conversations between Perez and Ramos have been ongoing throughout the past year and continued into June. Nonetheless, neither party was prepared to compromise.

Despite reports to the contrary, sources told ESPN that Ramos didn’t demand a compensation ascend to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Ramos, who made 671 appearances for Madrid, scoring 101 goals, has still not made a firm decision on his future and isn’t expected to announce his next destination at Thursday’s goodbye event.

ESPN revealed recently that Manchester City are the front-runners to land his signature, although there are other options on the table.

The Premier League champions are prepared to offer a two-year deal until the summer of 2023. From that point, depending on performances and Ramos’ own arrangements, the defender could either continue for a third season at City or take up an option to join Major League Soccer side New York City FC, who are also owned by the City Football Group.

Ramos is a direct petition from City coach Pep Guardiola. The former Barcelona boss qualities the experience he would add to his squad and the competition and direction he would provide for younger center-backs Ruben Dias and John Stones.

City also have Nathan Ake, but they’ve lost Eric Garcia to Barca on a free transfer and Aymeric Laporte could also leave this summer after losing his place in the side.

Ramos turned 35 in March, but sources have told ESPN that City manage data that suggests he’s still able to perform physically at the level of a player “aged between 28 and 30.”

ESPN first reported on Jan. 4 that City were monitoring Ramos’ situation. Guardiola’s insistence has been the way to them continuing to follow developments with Madrid.

Notwithstanding, the player’s camp aren’t precluding anything, with several clubs expressing interest in recent months.

Madrid signed Ramos in 2005 from Sevilla, paying his €27 million release clause.

He soon became a critical member of the side and in 16 years at the club has won five La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, four Club World Cups, three European Super Cups, two Copa del Reys and four Spanish Super Cups.

In that time, he has also won two European Championships with Spain and the World Cup, although injury problems in 2021 led to him missing out on Luis Enrique’s squad for Euro 2020.

Ramos made just 21 appearances for Madrid in all competitions last season as Los Blancos ended the campaign without a trophy, missing out on the league title to rivals Atletico Madrid on the final day of the season.

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Euro 2020: Bale sparkles as Wales defeat Turkey in Group A



Bale sparkles as Wales defeat Turkey in Group A. Ribs captain Gareth Bale set up Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts to score for a 2-0 victory over Turkey in their Group A match at Baku’s Olympic Stadium on Wednesday to take a big step towards fitting the bill for the European Championship knockout stages.

Ramsey failed to convert two possibilities from the get-go in the first half but scored just before halftime when he made a run through the center to chest down Bale’s perfect ball over the defense and slip it past the goalkeeper.

Ribs could have doubled the lead at the hour mark when Bale was tripped by Zeki Celik and awarded a penalty, but the Welsh skipper skied his effort after a stuttering run up.

Ribs scored right at the death in injury time when a corner was played short and Connor Roberts was on hand to divert a Bale pass past goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir to seal the victory.

“I’m delighted with the success. We fought hard, we worked our socks off like we generally do,” Bale said after the game, adding that his contributions compensated for the penalty miss.

The surprise semi-finalists of Euro 2016 now have four points, after drawing with Switzerland in their opener. Their final game is against Italy next week. Turkey take on the Swiss.

Ramsey was twice picked out by Bale with superb defense-splitting passes but both times he failed to score, with Cakır denying him from a tight point in the sixth minute and then thundering a shot over the bar in the 24th.

There was nothing fortunate about the third time with Bale floating a superbly-timed cross in the 42nd minute for Ramsey who brought the ball down perfectly and slotted under Cakir.

With Turkish and Azeri Presidents Tayyip Erdogan and Ilham Aliyev in the stands, Turkey upped the pace after the break.

Captain Burat Yilmaz, who had missed a good possibility in the first half, ought to have scored 10 minutes after the restart when he was left completely unmarked in front of the Welsh goal but blazed a volley from three meters out well over the crossbar.

Ridges discovered space to counter attack and Ramsey’s low shot was blocked before Bale was brought down just inside the box to procure a spot kick at the top of the hour.

But the 31-year-old’s effort took off and wide to keep the Turks in the game, who then forced a good save from keeper Danny Ward when he punched a Merih Demiral header wide in the 87th.

With the Turks having run out of steam in stoppage time, Bale cut inside to feed Roberts for their second goal.

“We’re in a fantastic position now. In the event that you’d offered us 4 points at the start, we’d have bitten your hand off,” Bale said, paying tribute to Welsh fans who were intensely outnumbered by Turks in the stadium.

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Euro 2020: Finland sink to Russia defeat in first match since Eriksen collapse



Finland sink to Russia defeat in first match since Eriksen collapse. Finland lost 1-0 to Russia in Saint Petersburg in their second Euro 2020 Group B match on Wednesday, in their first match since Denmark’s Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest against them in their tournament opener.

Aleksey Miranchuk’s strike in first-half stoppage time was the difference between the two teams in Finland’s first match since their opening success over Denmark on Saturday, which was overshadowed by the incident which halted the game. Finland warmed up for Wednesday’s conflict wearing t-shirts with “Get well Christian” written across them.

Russia suffered a blow on 25 minutes when defender Mario Fernandes was taken off on a stretcher, but they almost went ahead when substitute Vyacheslav Karavaev looked set to tap-in, only to be denied by Finland defender Jere Uronen.

Both teams looked like they could not be separated going into the break but in first half stoppage time, the deadlock was broken. Miranchuk played a neat one-two with Artem Dzyuba inside the box, and then lifted a fine strike into the far corner.

Finland would have been 1-0 up after only three minutes with a superb header from Joel Pohjanpalo, but it was ruled out by VAR for offside. Ten minutes later, Russia missed an opportunity as Magomed Ozdoev’s attempt went wide.

Finland, who qualified for their first-historically speaking significant football tournament, made two late substitutions with Pyry Soiri coming on for Jukka Raitala and Lassi Lappalainen replacing Teemu Pukki, but could not make an attempt.

Belgium face Denmark on Thursday in Group B’s other game. Denmark manager Kasper Hjulmand has said Eriksen will watch the match from hospital.

Finland’s next Group B game is against Belgium on June 21 at St Petersberg, while Russia will face Denmark in Copenhagen around the same time.

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