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Djokovic to compete at Paris Olympics

Published in Tennis
Tuesday, 18 June 2024 11:00

Novak Djokovic will compete at the Paris 2024 Olympics, the Olympic Committee of Serbia has announced.

This summer will be his fifth Olympic appearance, having competed in every Games since 2008.

Djokovic, 37, won bronze at his first Olympics but has lost the third-place match twice in his three appearances since.

In April, he said Paris 2024 is "a priority" for him this year as he targets an elusive gold medal.

The Games will be Djokovic's first appearance in Paris since the Serbian withdrew from the French Open last month with a knee injury before his quarter-final.

The tennis events in Paris will be held at Roland Garros, the home of the French Open, between 27 July and 4 August.

Several countries have confirmed their line-up for tennis events.

Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal are set to compete against Djokovic with the Briton saying it would be "fitting" to retire at the Games.

Ons Jabeur and Aryna Sabalenka, the world number 10 and three respectively, have said that they will not compete in the women's tournament to prioritise their health.

World number 56 Dusan Lajovic will also represent Serbia.

Alcaraz starts Queen's defence with win

Published in Tennis
Tuesday, 18 June 2024 12:22

Carlos Alcaraz continued where he left off on the British grass by starting his Queen's title defence with a straight-set victory over Argentina's Francisco Cerundolo.

The 21-year-old Spaniard won 6-1 7-5 in his first match on grass since lifting the Wimbledon title last year.

Alcaraz won the third major of his career on the French Open clay earlier this month, before switching back to the surface where he has played the least.

It looked a comfortable transition initially, but he ran into difficulty in his first-round match against 26th-ranked Cerundolo.

But the world number two recovered to earn his 12th straight win on a grass court.

"It doesn't matter what tournaments I'm playing, or everything I have achieved, I am still learning," said Alcaraz.

"Every time I step on a grass court I need to learn how to move better and play better."

Alcaraz dropped just 14 points in a one-sided first set before fighting back from a break down at 5-2 in the second.

Cerundolo could not serve out at 5-3 and had three set points at 5-4.

But he struck two backhands into the net, either side of Alcaraz saving the second with an ace, as the Spaniard escaped to hold for 5-5.

That proved costly as Alcaraz broke for 6-5 and served out to love.

"The first match in every tournament is never easy but even more difficult here on grass," said Alcaraz.

"Starting the grass season you want a good result and you have to deal with the expectations you put on yourself.

"It was a good test against Francisco. I'm really happy with what I've done and hopefully can keep going."

Alcaraz will play new British number one Jack Draper in the second round after the 22-year-old beat Argentina's Mariano Navone.

Evans, 34, fell at the back of the court in the first game of the deciding third set, letting out a loud cry and immediately signalling he could not continue.

The world number 59 has endured a tough season and looked to be in tears as he sat on his chair.

Having not won on the main ATP Tour since March, Evans played superbly to win the first set 6-4, before Nakashima levelled by taking the second 6-3.

"I'm heartbroken at the minute. It's tough," said Evans, who will have a scan in the next 48 hours to determine the extent of the injury.

"If I miss the Olympics or Wimbledon, it would be a tough one to swallow, no doubt."

Evans was the latest player to fall victim to the slippery surface, with American Frances Tiafoe and Australia's Thanasi Kokkinakis pulling out of matches because of injuries caused by the same court.

Queen's officials said the "exceptionally cooler and wetter weather" in the UK over recent months has been a key factor.

"Grass courts are a living surface and will always react to weather conditions in the lead up to the event, usually having a tendency to play more slippery at the start of the tournament," a tournament spokesperson said.

"The outstanding grounds team have done their very best to adapt to this, applying the same rigorous preparation as they always do."

On the court next door, 29-year-old Harris continued his late-blooming ascent with a notable win over Etcheverry.

Harris, who only earned his first win on the ATP Tour last year, recorded a 6-4 3-6 6-3 victory in his first-round match.

As a result, he will climb to a career-high ranking inside the top 150 next week.

The year is 1988. Seoul, South Korea, vibrates with Olympic spirit. But for table tennis players, the air crackles with a different kind of electricity their sport is finally gracing the biggest stage. This debut wasnt just a moment; it was the culmination of dreams, a testament to table tennis relentless pursuit of Olympic recognition.

Fast forward to 2024. Paris prepares to ignite the Olympic flame once more, and table tennis stands ready for its 10th Olympic chapter. From the backhand magic of Jan-Ove Waldner to rallies that leave audiences breathless, table tennis has consistently delivered heart-stopping moments on the grandest stage.

More Than Just Medals: A Unifying Force

The sports inclusion was also about showcasing table tennis unique ability to unite athletes and fans across continents. From the lightning-fast reflexes of Asian powerhouses to the strategic finesse of European masters, table tennis transcends borders, languages, and cultures. Its a sport where anyone, anywhere, can dream of Olympic glory.

Beyond Victories: Breaking Barriers and Global Milestones

The Olympics have been a stage for remarkable individual stories and groundbreaking achievements. In 2004, Izzwa Medina from Honduras became the first Central American to compete in table tennis at the Games. Beijing 2008 saw Polish teenager Natalia Partyka become the first athlete to compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics, a milestone repeated by Australias Melissa Tapper in 2016 and set to be achieved again by Brazils Bruna Alexandre in Paris 2024.

Veteran players have also made their mark. Jörgen Persson, Zoran Primorac, and Jean-Michel Saive, all of whom debuted at the 1988 Seoul Games, hold the record for the most consecutive Olympic appearances (seven). Their final appearance together in London 2012 solidified their status as legends who transcended generations.

The  Rio 2016 Games marked another milestone with Nigerian player Quadri Aruna reaching the mens singles quarter-finals, the first African athlete to achieve this feat. Tokyo 2020 saw Japans Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito claim the first-ever Olympic gold medal for Japan in table tennis.

These milestones highlight how table tennis continues to evolve and inspire. With each Olympic chapter, new nations emerge, new stories unfold, and the sports global appeal strengthens.

A Spark Ignited, a Flame Rekindled: French Hopes Rise in Paris

The 2000 Sydney Games ignited a spark in a nation known for its love affair with all things finesse. The French duo of Patrick Chila and Jean-Philippe Gatien clinched a Mens Doubles bronze, a feat that still resonates with French fans. 24 years later, that spark has grown into a burning desire. A new generation of French players are ready to take centre court in Paris, fuelled by the roar of a home crowd hungry for table tennis glory. This year, on home soil, they have a unique opportunity to rewrite history and claim Frances first Olympic table tennis medal since Sydney.

The Quest for Paris Glory

The past is a source of inspiration, but the future beckons. With the qualification process concluding, the stage is set for another chapter in table tennis history. Who will rise to the challenge and become the next generation of Olympic champions? Stay tuned to ITTF.com and witness the culmination of a decade-long journey, the birth of new legends, and the continued evolution of a sport that embodies the true spirit of the Olympics.

Backs: Bundee Aki, Caolin Blade (both Connacht), Craig Casey, Jack Crowley (both Munster), Ciaran Frawley, Robbie Henshaw, Jordan Larmour, James Lowe (all Leinster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), Conor Murray, Calvin Nash (both Munster), Jimmy OBrien, Jamie Osborne, Sam Prendergast, Garry Ringrose (all Leinster), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster).

Forwards: Ryan Baird (Leinster), Finlay Bealham (Connacht), Tadhg Beirne (Munster), Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy (all Leinster), Rob Herring, Cormac Izuchukwu (both Ulster), Oli Jager (Munster), Ronan Kelleher, Joe McCarthy (both Leinster), Peter OMahony (capt, Munster), Tom OToole (Ulster), Andrew Porter (Leinster), Cian Prendergast (Connacht), James Ryan, Dan Sheehan (both Leinster), Nick Timoney (Ulster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster).

Gatland urges Wales to be 'mentally tough'

Published in Rugby
Tuesday, 18 June 2024 07:19

So an inexperienced Wales team taking on a South Africa side where lock Eben Etzebeth has more caps (119) than the entire Wales starting pack (118).

The Springboks might also be missing a few players, but will still have 10 World Cup winners in their match-day squad.

"It is part of the challenge," said Gatland.

"If you start doubting yourself you have to be able to overcome those sorts of challenges.

"Test match rugby is tough and physical, you have got to be able to handle adversity.

"It is probably not the politically correct thing at the moment in today's society, but you have to be mentally tough.

"You have to go through that pain sometimes and be able to come out the other side.

"There is nothing wrong with that. You have to be brave and overcome your fear factor.

"You are going out there and playing against big men, it's going to hurt and you have to go through some pain.

"There are going to be lots of different emotions and things to challenge yourself on, get through that and come out the other side."

Gatland believes some young Wales players have already benefitted from being exposed on the international stage.

"We have some individuals in the side who love that challenge and thrive on it like Dewi Lake and Dafydd Jenkins," said Gatland.

"They won't walk away from a challenge, they run towards it and see it as something they thrive on in terms of meeting it head on."

Gatland has spoken about Wales gaining some respect and hopes they can achieve that against the Springboks this weekend.

"We are not very experienced in terms of the number of caps and guys on the bench," said Gatland.

"There's a great opportunity for this team to go out and perform after we've been training and working hard."

Key absences will make Ireland's SA trip even tougher

Published in Rugby
Tuesday, 18 June 2024 13:05

Having won two of three Tests in New Zealand two summers ago, and got the better of Australia and Argentina in previous trips, South Africa remain the last of the southern hemisphere's 'Big Four' that Ireland have never beaten in a Test series.

Indeed, prior to their last visit in 2016, they had never won an international on South African soil.

They would tick that particular box in the first Test eight years ago, winning despite a red card for CJ Stander after 22 minutes, but ultimately lost the series two games to one.

There are four survivors from that tour this time around in Conor Murray, Robbie Henshaw, Tadhg Furlong and Finlay Bealham.

Murray, Henshaw, and Furlong were also on the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa three years ago. Captain Peter O'Mahony, who missed out on the 2016 series through injury, Bundee Aki and Tadhg Beirne all joined them on that trip too.

Of course, the entire squad are now all used to visiting the country in the United Rugby Championship, with the Leinster contingent having tasted defeat to the Bulls on Saturday in a domestic semi-final played in the same Loftus Versfeld venue that will host the first Test.

Utah Hockey names agency vet as president of ops

Published in Hockey
Tuesday, 18 June 2024 14:11

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Hockey Club named Chris Armstrong president of hockey operations Tuesday, making him the latest agency veteran to run an NHL team.

Armstrong spent nearly 14 years at Wasserman, most recently serving as executive vice president of talent innovation and strategic development. He takes over control of the NHL team bought by Ryan Smith's Smith Entertainment Group and relocated from Arizona to Salt Lake City.

Smith said Armstrong "has cultivated strong relationships with top players, agents, and executives across the hockey world throughout his career, and his unique background and diverse skillset will be crucial as we establish the greatest possible hockey experience for our community, fans, players, coaches and front office."

The two teams in the Stanley Cup Final are each led by someone who went the agency route: Florida president of hockey operations Bill Zito and Edmonton CEO of hockey operations Jeff Jackson.

Zito was assistant general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets before the Panthers hired him. Jackson went right into his job with the Oilers last year after being the longtime agent of Connor McDavid and several other players.

Armstrong helped found Wasserman's Canadian business in 2010 and was part of the company's foray into hockey in 2018. He will oversee a department run on a day-to-day basis by Bill Armstrong -- no relation -- who is going into his fifth season as GM of the franchise formerly known as the Coyotes.

Rangers put depth forward Goodrow on waivers

Published in Hockey
Tuesday, 18 June 2024 15:03

The New York Rangers put Barclay Goodrow on waivers Tuesday, the first step of an offseason plan to clear salary cap space and prime for another deep playoff run.

Goodrow is signed for three more seasons at an annual cap hit of $3.6 million. That comes off the books if one of the NHL's other 31 teams claims him.

If Goodrow clears waivers, the Rangers have options to trade him or buy out the final three years of his contract. A buyout would save them $3.9 million next season, $2.6 million in 2025-26 and $139,000 in 2026-27 before costing an extra $1.1 million the following three seasons through 2030.

Goodrow, 31, has been a valuable depth center on several long playoff runs going back to San Jose's trip to the Western Conference final in 2019. He played a key role in Tampa Bay's back-to-back Stanley Cup-winning teams in 2020 and '21 and helped New York reach the Eastern Conference final in '22 and this postseason before losing to Florida.

The Toronto native has 169 points in 572 regular-season games and 24 more in 97 games in the playoffs since making his debut in the league in 2014.

Blues sign defenseman Perunovich to $1.15M deal

Published in Hockey
Tuesday, 18 June 2024 15:35

The St. Louis Blues on Tuesday signed defenseman Scott Perunovich to a $1.15 million contract for next season.

Perunovich, who turns 26 in August, was a pending restricted free agent with arbitration rights. The new deal gives him a sight raise from the $775,000 he was making last season.

Drafted in the second round in 2018, Perunovich has 27 points in 96 NHL regular-season and playoff games, averaging nearly 15 minutes of ice time. He had 17 assists in 54 games last season for St Louis.

Signing Perunovich gives the Blues cost certainty at the position with potential changes in the coming weeks. One or more of Justin Faulk, Torey Krug and Colton Parayko (each counting $6.5 million against the salary cap) and Nick Leddy ($4 million) could be moved, either by trade or buyout.

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