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Three PSG Players Test Positive For COVID-19

(FILES) Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP.

Three Paris Saint-Germain players have tested positive for coronavirus, the French club announced on Wednesday, in a setback to their preparations for the scheduled start of their Ligue 1 campaign next week.

French sports daily L’Equipe reported the players in question were Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes, but PSG did not reveal any names.

“Three Paris Saint-Germain players have confirmed positive Sars CoV2 tests and are subject to the appropriate health protocol,” PSG said in a statement.

“All of the players and coaching staff will continue to undergo tests in the coming days.”

The French champions, who last month lost the Champions League final to Bayern Munich, had already said on Monday that two unnamed players had reported back with coronavirus symptoms following a holiday.

L’Equipe reported the players in question were Argentinian duo Di Maria and Paredes. Now it claims Neymar is the other squad member to test positive.

The three were among several PSG stars who travelled to the Spanish Mediterranean island of Ibiza last week for a holiday in the aftermath of their Champions League campaign, mixing with friends and family after spending the previous weeks isolated in a secure bubble with teammates in Portugal.

That was after the controversial decision was taken to postpone a league game away at Lens, initially scheduled for last Saturday, in order to give the PSG squad a break after their Champions League ‘Final Eight’ exertions.

The match at Lens has been rescheduled for next Thursday, September 10, with PSG due to entertain Marseille three days later.

Strict French league rules stipulate that collective team training sessions must be cancelled if a club has at least four positive tests over an eight-day period, with match postponements possible.

The cases raise questions about why the French league decided to postpone PSG’s match in Lens, only for so many of their players to travel abroad on holiday during a pandemic.

The postponement was granted in order to give PSG players a rest after their European run, despite France’s richest club having only played five competitive games in six months.

The last French season was ended early, with 10 rounds of matches unplayed, because of the health crisis, and the start of the new French season has already been impacted.

In recent weeks, several Ligue 1 clubs have reported positive tests, including Strasbourg, Lyon, Marseille, Rennes, Nantes and Montpellier.

Marseille’s game against Saint-Etienne on August 21, which was set to be the season opener, was postponed.

AFP

Serena, Murray Advance On 2020 US Open Day Two

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 01: Serena Williams of the United States serves the ball during her Women’s Singles first-round match against Kristie Ahn of the United States on Day Two of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 1, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP
AL BELLO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Serena Williams’ quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam got off the mark as Andy Murray rolled back the years with a vintage comeback at the US Open Tuesday.

Six-time winner Williams powered past 96th-ranked Kristie Ahn after Murray came from two sets down to win a five-set thriller in his first singles Slam match in 18 months.

The pair both progressed to the second round on day two of a US Open that is unrecognizable from previous tournaments, without spectators and with stringent measures to prevent Covid-19 infections.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 01: Serena Williams of the United States serves the ball during her Women’s Singles first-round match against Kristie Ahn of the United States on Day Two of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 1, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP

Williams defeated Ahn 7-5, 6-3 as she started the latest bid of her protracted pursuit to match Margaret Court’s Grand Slam title with a straight-sets win at Flushing Meadows.

The 38-year-old overcame the loss of her first service game in the opening set to advance at a virtually empty Arthur Ashe Stadium, where artwork by black artists is displayed in honour of the Black Lives Matter movement against racial injustice.

“I was really happy with how I just fought for every point no matter how I was playing,” said Williams.

It has been more than three years since Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open — when she was already pregnant with daughter Olympia.

She has come close since, reaching four major finals only to come away empty-handed, but should have a better chance this time around with several top players absent because of coronavirus concerns or injury.

World number one Ashleigh Barty, the second-ranked Simona Halep and Canadian Bianca Andreescu — who stunned Williams in last year’s final — are all absent from the behind-closed-doors tournament.

A title win for Williams would also see her become the most decorated women’s player at the US Open in the modern era. She is currently tied with Chris Evert on six.

– Navarro tribute –

Murray secured a stunning 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 come-from-behind victory in a bruising 4 hr and 39 min encounter against Japan’s 49th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka.

The Scotsman, who who has barely played in 2020, said he had learnt a lot about his physical condition and the metal hip he received during surgery last year.

“I’ve just played a four-and-a-half-hour match when I never thought I’d be able to,” he told reporters.

“I’m not sitting here with my hip throbbing and aching. I’ll be able to sleep fine tonight,” Murray added.

Tenth seed Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 French Open champion and 2017 Wimbledon winner, advanced to round two with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Japan’s Nao Havino.

She dedicated the win to compatriot Carla Suarez Navarro, who revealed Tuesday that she had been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and will require six months of chemotherapy.

“You know, she’s such a nice woman, so sweet, so kind, so humble. When these things happen to these good people, I feel, like, so sad about it,” said Muguruza.

Also in the women’s draw, second seed American Sofia Kenin needed just over an hour to score a 6-2, 6-2 win over unseeded Belgian Yanina Wickmayer at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

And ninth seed Johanna Konta beat compatriot Heather Watson 7-6 (9/7), 6-1 in a tie dubbed the “Battle of Britain.”

There was disappointment for 40-year-old Venus Williams though who bowed out in the first round for the first time in her career, losing in straight sets to Karolina Muchova.

Another veteran, Belgium’s 37-year-old Kim Clijsters, also fell at the first hurdle.

Clijsters making a comeback for the second time in her career and playing in her first Grand Slam draw since 2012, was beaten in three sets by Ekaterina Alexandrova, losing 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.

– Thiem advances –

In the men’s competition, number two seed Dominic Thiem progressed to round two when opponent Jaume Munar retired after the second set at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Munar abandoned before the start of the third set, with Austria’s Thiem leading 7-6 (8/6), 6-3.

Thiem now faces India’s Sumit Nagal, who became the first Indian man since 2013 to the reach the second round of a Grand Slam event with a 6-1, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over Bradley Klahn of the United States.

The US Open is taking place in a spectator-free bubble at the US National Tennis Center in New York.

Players movements are tightly controlled and everyone onsite is being tested regularly to minimize the risk of infection.

Argentina’s Guido Pella accused tennis chiefs of operating a double-standard over the handling of French player Benoit Paire’s positive COVID-19 case.

Paire was withdrawn on Sunday but several French players who had been in contact with him were allowed to remain in the tournament under enhanced safety protocols.

Pella was excluded from last week’s Western & Southern Open, a US Open tuneup, despite testing negative after his trainer contracted the virus.

“I am mad at them because of that because they change the rules when Benoit tested positive. So I want to know why,” he said after being knocked out in the first round.

AFP

Messi’s Father Lands In Spain As Barca Stand-Off Drags On

Jorge Messi, father and agent of Lionel Messi arrives at his apartment in Barcelona on September 02, 2020. Lionel Messi boycotted Barcelona’s first pre-season training session on Monday, as the striker upped the stakes in his battle to leave this summer.
LLUIS GENE / AFP

Jorge Messi, father and agent of Lionel Messi, landed in Barcelona on Wednesday, an AFP correspondent said, ahead of talks with the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu about the striker’s intention to leave this summer.

Messi senior flew in from the Argentine city of Rosario, landing at the private terminal in Barcelona’s El Prat airport on Wednesday morning.

“I don’t know anything,” he told reporters before getting into a taxi.

Jorge Messi will be hoping to unblock the stand-off between Barca and his son, which threatens to descend into an expensive and bitter legal battle if a resolution cannot be found.

The 33-year-old striker boycotted Barcelona’s first pre-season training session on Monday, as he tries to force his way out of the club he joined as a 13-year-old boy.

Messi had also failed to attend a coronavirus test at Barcelona’s training ground on Sunday.

File photo: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after Bayern Munich’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP)

Yet Barcelona insist their captain will only depart if his 700-million-euro ($833 million) release clause is activated, a stance that has been backed up by La Liga, who say that release clause still applies.

But Messi and his lawyers argue he is allowed to go for free this summer according to another clause in his contract, which they claim was triggered on August 25 when a burofax stating Messi’s intention to leave arrived at Camp Nou.

If Messi joins another club but loses in court, he could be liable to pay the 700 million euros Barcelona are owed.

Manchester City are the firm favourites to sign Messi, not least because of his previous success with City coach Pep Guardiola. Inter Milan, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are also interested.

AFP

Arsenal New Signing Gabriel Explains Why He Joined Premier League Side

Gabriel dos Santos Magalhaes. Photo: [email protected] FC

Gabriel Magalhaes said the influence of Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu convinced him to join the Gunners after completing a reported £22 million ($30 million) move from Lille on Tuesday.

The 22-year-old defender was also in demand from Manchester United and Napoli after impressing as Lille finished fourth in the curtailed 2019/20 Ligue 1 season.

Gabriel adds to Arsenal’s growing Brazilian contingent since the club’s former midfielder Edu left his role as coordinator for the Brazilian national team to become technical director last year.

And Arteta, who has guided the Gunners to the FA Cup and Community Shield in his first nine months in charge, also helped swing Gabriel’s final decision.

“Edu and I had several chats about Arsenal and the new project, we had many good conversations,” Gabriel told Arsenal Digital.

“As the days went by I was getting very excited about it, then I had a call from the coach and that was very reassuring.

“Having the coach himself calling you to say he wants you in his squad motivates you a lot. That is the very reason I am here today.

“We did not talk about (details), he just told me he is aware of my quality, my capacity and how far I can go. He also said he will be very demanding with me.”

Despite their cup success, Arteta was looking for defensive reinforcements after finishing eighth in the Premier League last season — Arsenal’s lowest league finish since 1994/95.

“He has many qualities which will make us stronger as a defensive unit and as a team,” said Arteta. “He has proved with Lille that he is a defender with many outstanding attributes and we are looking forward to watching him grow as an Arsenal player.”

Gabriel joins experienced Brazilian international duo David Luiz and Willian, who is Arsenal’s only other signing so far in the close season.

“He is a player we have been studying for a while and he was in demand from many clubs, so we are proud to have agreed and completed this transfer with Lille and the player,” said Edu.

“Gabriel is a player of high quality and Mikel and his coaches are looking forward to integrating him into the club.”

Arsenal are also reportedly close to agreeing to another season-long loan deal for Dani Ceballos from Real Madrid, while Arteta said after Saturday’s Community Shield victory over Liverpool that club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is close to extending his contract to remain at the Emirates.

AFP

Venus Crash Out Of US Open In First Round For First Time

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 01: Venus Williams of the United States returns a volley during her Women’s Singles first-round match against Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic on Day Two of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 1, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York City. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP

Venus Williams bowed out of the US Open in the first round for the first time in her professional career on Tuesday, losing in straight sets to Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic.

The 40-year-old Williams, making her 22nd appearance at Flushing Meadows in a career that has spanned four decades, was beaten 6-3, 7-5.

It marked Williams’ second consecutive first-round defeat at a Grand Slam event after exiting the Australian Open at the same stage in January.

The seven-time Grand Slam champion has not been past the third round at a Slam event since 2017.

Williams, however, has no plans to hang up her racquet, revealing after her loss that she is already looking ahead to the rescheduled French Open and clay court swing through Europe.

“I love this game,” Williams said. “I’m good at what I do. It’s easy to stay motivated and excited about doing something so amazing.

“Not many people get to do this. Really fortunate and blessed to be someone who has gotten a chance to do it.

“But I look forward to a few days off. It’s been a lot of work. Looking forward to just having a little bit of a rest before the clay courts.”

Muchova — who was only one when Williams was playing in her first US Open final in 1997, where she lost to Martina Hingis — always had the veteran American star on the back foot on Tuesday.

After losing the first set, Williams rallied in the second and opened up a 5-3 lead, seemingly poised to force a third set.

But a string of unforced errors allowed Muchova to roar back into the match and she reeled off four consecutive games to close out the win.

“I think we both served pretty well,” Williams said. “I think I made just more unforced errors than she did.

“Just having some better shot selection. That comes with playing your way into the tournament, those sorts of things. Just ran out of time today.”

Muchova, the 20th seed, will play unseeded Russian Anna Kalinskaya in the second round.

AFP

Croatia Star Rakitic Rejoins Sevilla

File photo: Barcelona’s Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic runs during the Spanish League “Clasico”. Photo: JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

Barcelona said on Tuesday they had agreed to sell Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic back to Sevilla.

Under the deal the southern side will pay the Catalan outfit 1.5 million euros ($1.8 million) plus nine million euros in variables for the 32-year-old, Barca said in a statement.

“FC Barcelona publicly express their gratitude to Rakitic for his commitment and dedication and wish him good luck and success in the future,” the statement added.

Rakitic, who had a year left on his contract at the Camp Nou, spent three seasons with Sevilla and won the Europa League in the 2013/14 season right before he made his big switch in 2014.

He was one of several Barcelona players who were reportedly told they were not part of new manager Ronald Koeman’s plans.

On Monday, Lionel Messi boycotted Barca’s first pre-season training session as the striker upped the stakes in his battle to leave this summer.

After skipping coronavirus tests on Sunday, Messi missed Koeman’s first session in charge since being appointed last month.

It appears increasingly likely Messi will try to force a transfer by refusing to play in La Liga next season, which begins on September 12.

AFP