New York, Sep 10 (AP/UNB)— The U.S. Open final suddenly appeared to be slipping away from Novak Djokovic. He dropped three consecutive games. He was barking at himself, at his entourage, at a crowd vocally supporting his opponent, Juan Martin del Potro. He was, in short, out of sorts.
And then came Sunday's pivotal game, a 20-minute, 22-point epic. Three times, del Potro was a point from breaking and earning the right to serve to make it a set apiece. Three times, Djokovic steeled himself. Eventually, he seized that game — and del Potro's best chance to make a match of it.
A year after missing the U.S. Open because of an injured right elbow that would require surgery, Djokovic showed that he is unquestionably back at his best and back at the top of tennis. His returns and defense-to-offense skills as impeccable as ever, Djokovic collected his 14th Grand Slam title and second in a row by getting through every crucial moment for a 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory over 2009 champion del Potro at Flushing Meadows.
"There was always part of me that imagined and believed and hoped that I can get back (to) the desired level of tennis very soon," said Djokovic, whose operation was in February. "But at the same time, life showed me that it takes time for good things, it takes time to really build them, for things to fall into place, so you can center yourself, balance yourself and thrive. The last two months have been terrific."
This was Djokovic's third championship in New York, along with those in 2011 and 2015. Add in the trophies he has earned at six Australian Opens, one French Open and four Wimbledons, most recently in July, and the 31-year-old Serb pulled even with Pete Sampras for the third-most majors among men, trailing only Roger Federer's 20 and Rafael Nadal's 17.
""He's my idol. Pete, I love you," Djokovic said.
Federer lost in the fourth round in New York, while Nadal retired from his semifinal against del Potro because of a bad right knee. That put the 29-year-old Argentine back in a Grand Slam final for the first time since his breakthrough nine years ago, a comeback for a guy who had four wrist operations in the interim.
"I believe he'll be here again with the champion's trophy. I really do," said Djokovic, who gave his pal a hug at the net, and then went over to console del Potro as he wiped away tears at his sideline seat.
Del Potro spoke this week about the low point, in 2015, when he considered quitting the sport. But supported by a dozen or so friends from back home, whose "Ole!" choruses rang around the arena, he climbed up the rankings to a career-high No. 3 by thundering his 100 mph (160 kph) forehands and 135 mph (215 kph) serves.
Those produce free points against so many foes. Not against Djokovic, who always seemed to have all the answers — and who said he convinced himself that all of those "Oles" were actually people calling out his own nickname, "Nole."
Djokovic was better than del Potro on their many lengthy exchanges, using his trademark body-twisting, limb-splaying court coverage to get to nearly every ball, sneakers squeaking around the blue court in Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the roof was closed because of rain.
"I was playing almost at the limit, all the time, looking for winners with my forehands, backhands, and I couldn't make it," del Potro said, "because Novak (was) there every time."
Never was that more apparent than the game that stood out on this evening, with Djokovic serving while down 4-3 in the second set. They went back and forth, through eight deuces and all those break opportunities for del Potro, until he slapped one forehand into the net, and another sailed wide.
Those were high-risk shots, but, as del Potro put it: "It's the only way to beat these kind of players."
Djokovic's coach, Marian Vajda, called that moment the match's "turning point, obviously."
When it ended, with Djokovic holding to 4-all, spectators began leaving their seats, perhaps thinking it was time for a changeover, even though it wasn't. That prompted to chair umpire Alison Hughes to chastise them.
It was a brief request, though, unlike her many other pleas for quiet, mainly as fans were shouting and chanting and clapping in support of del Potro. It all bothered Djokovic, who started yelling and gesturing toward the seats. At one moment, he pressed his right index finger to his lips, as if to say, "Shhhhhhh!" Later, after winning a point, Djokovic put that finger to his ear, as if to say, "Who are you cheering for now?!"
The tiebreaker was resolved thanks to more del Potro miscues on his forehand side, as he looked more and more fatigued. He made one last stand by breaking and holding for 3-all. But that was that.
When it ended, thanks to a three-game closing run by Djokovic, he flung his racket away and landed on his back, arms and legs spread wide.
He had hit his peak, Vajda said, at "just at the right time."
Djokovic had never gone through an extended absence until 2017, when he sat out the second half of the season because of elbow pain that had plagued him for more than a year. He tried to return at the start of this season, but couldn't, and opted for surgery.
It took him some time to find the right form, as evidenced by his quarterfinal loss at the French Open to a guy who was ranked 72nd and had never won a Grand Slam match until that tournament.
"I was very, very disappointed with my performance that day," Djokovic recalled Sunday, explaining that he went hiking in the mountains in France to clear his head after that setback.
Djokovic then got right back to work, and announced that he was, once more, himself by winning Wimbledon.
Now he's backed that up at the U.S. Open, the fourth time in his career he won multiple majors in a season.
"Difficult times, but you learn through adversity," Djokovic said. "I try to take the best out of myself in those moments."
Culiacan, Sep 10 (AP/UNB) — Diego Maradona, whose public battles with cocaine made him soccer's poster child for the perils of substance abuse, is setting up camp in Mexico's drug cartel heartland as the new coach of a second-tier team.
Draped in official club gear, the Argentine soccer legend arrived this weekend in Culiacan, home turf of the Sinaloa Cartel, to take over the bottom-dwelling Dorados in what some describe as a publicity stunt for the team and a last-ditch effort to resurrect a career marred by drugs and antics.
Maradona, 57, is a big fish for a little-known team founded just 15 years ago. He will reportedly earn $150,000 a month to coach a team where players complain of missed paychecks. A Dorados club representative could not be reached to confirm or deny the salary or missed payments.
Tom Marshall, who covers Mexican soccer for ESPN sports network, said the question floating among fans is whether the Maradona hire is part of a long-term plan to raise the prospects of the Dorados or an "ego trip" for the owners, the Tijuana branch of the politically connected Hank family which also owns casinos and horse racetracks?
Few expect Maradona to succeed in the post. Many anticipate an inevitable clash of personalities.
"Is this kind of a joke?" Marshall wondered. "Is this making Mexican football look a bit ridiculous?"
The gig marks a return to the country where Maradona scored one of the most controversial goals in soccer history during Argentina's World Cup quarterfinal against England in 1986. Photos and TV replays showed Maradona's hand helping the ball into the net. He attributed the assist to the "Hand of God."
The match 32 years ago exemplified Maradona's theatrics both on and off the field. Some consider him to be the greatest player to have ever played the sport. But he is also prone to outlandish outbursts, profanity-laced tirades and public debauchery.
Maradona struggled openly with drugs for more than a decade after FIFA briefly banned him for testing positive for cocaine in 1991. He again tested positive for drug use during the 1994 World Cup and was subsequently denied entry by the United States, leading him to seek drug rehabilitation treatment in Cuba. He was hospitalized in 2000 and again in '04 for heart problems blamed on cocaine.
The soccer great began coaching in 1994 with uneven results. He led the Argentine national team to the quarterfinals in the 2010 World Cup before notching stints with the Al Wasl and Al-Fujairah squads in the United Arab Emirates. He accepted a role as honorary president for the Belarus premier team Dinamo Brest in July before promptly departing for Argentina.
But Maradona has gotten more attention recently for his behavior as a spectator at Argentine matches than as a coach. At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Maradona launched his middle fingers into the air after Argentina bested Nigeria and was captured on video appearing seriously inebriated in the stands. At another match, he apparently pulled his eyes into slants while gazing at a South Korean soccer fan.
Culiacan locals are hopeful that Maradona's off-field tomfoolery won't interfere with his ability to lead the Dorados.
"We all make mistakes and we all deserve a second chance," says Culiacan resident Jose Luis Morales.
The northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa is an agro-business stronghold known for producing lots of beef, tomatoes and drug lords. By some estimates the drug trade accounts for 20 percent of Sinaloa's gross domestic product. Drug money permeates throughout Mexico, but narco culture is more visible in places like its capital Culiacan, where residents flash bling and expensive watches.
Sinaloa-raised Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman climbed to the cartel's top through a combination of brutal repression of rivals and Robin Hood-like handouts to the poor. The Sinaloa Cartel, run by his sons while El Chapo faces trial in Brooklyn, dominates wholesale distribution of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine in much of the U.S.
"The Sinaloa Cartel will love Maradona. They are patriots. They really love their home state and this will raise the profile of Sinaloa," said Mexico security specialist Alejandro Hope, who sees drugs and sports intersecting as much as drugs and music.
But Sinaloa is now contested territory with Guzman in prison. The Sinaloa Cartel has fractured, with top lieutenants challenging the sons for power. And the Jalisco New Generation Cartel is waging war across Mexico, including in Sinaloa. "The whole system is destabilized," says Vanda Felbab-Brown, an expert on Mexican organized crime with the Brookings Institution.
Adding to the questions surrounding the Dorados, the Hank family's Tijuana-based gambling operations have long drawn suspicion from U.S. officials. Law enforcement agencies often see gambling as an easy way to launder illegal money, and Tijuana is a major corridor for drug traffic to the United States.
Yesenia Barraza, a 33-year-old soccer mom, hopes Culiacan can overcome the stereotype of being a drug hub. Moms like her are holding Maradona up to their children as a soccer star to emulate.
"As a city we are known for negative things; now we will be known for sports," she said.
Sirajganj, Sept 09 (UNB) – Chandaikona Union made a good start in the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibar Rahman Inter-Union Gold Cup Under-17 Football Tournament beating Sonakhara Union by 1-0 goal in the opening match at Raiganj Pilot High School ground here on Sunday.
Assistant Commissioner (Land) of Raiganj Upazila Nusrat Azmeri Haque inaugurated the meet Sunday afternoon.
Dhaka, Sep 9 (UNB) – Defending champions India defeated the Maldives by 2-0 goals in the Group ‘B’ last match of the seven-nation SAFF Suzuki Cup at Bangabandhu National Stadium (BNS) on Sunday.
India took the lead in the 36th minute as midfielder Nikhil Poojari’s right footed shot from the centre of the box fired the bottom right corner of the post, 1-0.
Indian forward Manvir Singh doubled the winning margin in the 44th minute by a right footed shot from the left side of the box to find the bottom right corner of the post off defender Jerry Lalrinzuala pass, 2-0.
Seven times champions India dominated throughout the match in terms of keeping 60 percent ball positions, but the Maldives were ahead of India in the contest in consideration of fruitless attacks.
India created eight attempts whiles the Maldives 14.
India will play Group ‘A’ runners-up Pakistan in the second semifinal while the Maldives will take on Group ‘A’ Champions Nepal in the 1st semifinal, both at BNS on September 12.
Despite the day’s loss, the Maldives reached into the semifinals from three-team Group ‘B’, favoured by toss winning.
The Maldives and Sri Lanka tied on one point each from two games apiece with a draw and a loss against India by 0-2 margins.
Sri Lanka eliminated from the race, starting the campaign with 0-2 against India and a goalless loss against the Maldives.
Dhaka, Sep 9 (UNB) - Bangladesh cricket team bowling coach Courtney Walsh hopes that pacer Mustafizur Rahman will gain his peak form in the upcoming six-nation Asia Cup, which will begin in Dubai on September 15.
“He [Mustafiz] has very special skills. We need to have him around to give us a chance to do well. I think he will always give you the edge. We are hoping he can reach his peak during the Asia Cup,” said Walsh.
The injury-prone cutter master has been in and out of action lately. He sustained shoulder and ankle injuries in 2017, and earlier this year he injured his left toe while playing for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.
“He is not where he’d like to be. He did well in the West Indies when he joined us. If, those injuries stay behind him, he will only get better,” Walsh added.
The Fizz subsequently missed the national side’s away series against Afghanistan in June, and the two-Test series in the Caribbean thereafter. He made his return in the limited-overs leg of the series, though, and recently revealed he had recovered fully, but needed to “find better rhythm”.
“I haven’t had a chance (to work with him) due to his injuries, but I am hoping during the Asia Cup, we can do some work. He is coming with some confidence. Hopefully, he will get a lot fitter. He keeps getting slight injuries.”
Walsh added that he was keen on fine-tuning Fizz’s considerable skill set. “I don't think his workload needs to be managed. He is bowling pretty well. I would like to do more skill work with him.”
Walsh came up with these comments a day before the Bangladesh cricket team left for the UAE on Sunday.
Two times Asia Cup finalists Bangladesh placed in Group ‘B’ alongside Sri Lanka and Afghanistan for the group campaign and will play Sri Lanka in the tournament opener on September 15 in Dubai before taking on Afghanistan on September 20 in Abu Dhabi.
However, Group ‘A’ comprises the defending champions India, Pakistan and the winner of the Asia Cup Qualifier 2018 Hong Kong.