MEXICO CITY: World champion Max Verstappen of Red Bull will start the Formula 1 Mexico City Grand Prix from pole for the first time on Sunday night.
In 2019, Verstappen was quickest in qualifying but had to drop three grid places for a yellow flag infringement, promoting Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to pole. There were no such problems for the 25-year-old Dutchman this time, who recorded a best lap of 1:17.775 and an average lap speed of 199.220 km/h to secure his sixth pole of 2022 and the 19th of his F1 career.
“Very lovely that,” the Dutchman told his team after holding off the Mercedes duo of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton. “It was a close one. We made a few adjustments and the car got into a better rhythm.”
The hopes of hundreds of thousands of Mexican fans were dashed when Sergio Perez could not join his team-mate on the front row, after finishing fourth fastest.
“It was a big shame,” said Perez. “We had an electrical issue throughout qualifying. I was pretty much blind, I had no indication of my lap times. To be P4 is not the end of the world, but today I believe we could have fought for pole.”
But Verstappen lifted the Mexican mood: “Checo will be there tomorrow,” he said, “I’m sure we’ve got a fast race car.”
Russell complained of brake problems throughout the hour but apologized to his Mercedes team after his final run when he ran wide on entry to the Foro Sol and lost any chance of catching the Red Bull.
“The team deserved more today,” said the 24-year-old Englishman. “They’ve produced a really great car for this weekend — it was just a terrible lap from me.”
Ferrari could do no better than fifth for Carlos Sainz and seventh for Charles Leclerc, as Sainz complained: “We were fighting the car too much,” but the surprise package was Valtteri Bottas sandwiched between them.
Bottas, now 33, was on pole at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez last season for Mercedes, but to be in the top six in his Alfa Romeo is in some ways an even more outstanding effort.
“It’s really uplifting for the whole team,” said the Finn. “It’s been an easy car to drive and since FP1 I’ve had confidence.”
The last three positions in the top 10 are shared by the McLaren of Lando Norris and the two Alpines of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon — another mouth-watering prospect for Sunday — as those two teams battle for fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Right behind them is Daniel Ricciardo in the second McLaren, who was eliminated in Q2 along with Chinese newcomer Zhou Guanyu in the other Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri pair Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly, in addition to Kevin Magnussen’s Haas.
There had been a landmark moment for the Haas team as Magnussen made it into the second stage of qualifying — the first time the American team has got one of their drivers out of Q1 in Mexico. However, Magnussen carries a grid penalty and will drop back, while team-mate Mick Schumacher was sixth at one point, until his best lap time was deleted for exceeding track limits in Turn 2 and the German was also eliminated.
There was no joy for 2017 Mexican pole-winner Sebastian Vettel. In his final appearance at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the Aston Martin driver could manage only 17th in Q1.
Mercedes, winless and with just one pole position in 2022 so far, threw down the gauntlet to the field in the third practice session as Russell and Hamilton made it a 1-2 for the Silver Arrows.
VIENNA: Daniil Medvedev celebrated becoming a father for the first time earlier this month with his second ATP title of the year in beating Canada’s Denis Shapovalov 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in Sunday’s final in Vienna.
The 26-year-old former world No. 1 dropped his first set of the week as Shapovalov produced some eye-catching tennis by firing down 21 winners.
However, Medvedev — whose wife Daria gave birth to a baby girl on Oct. 14 — did not buckle and stormed back to level the match with some terrific shots of his own.
The third set was a procession as the Russian broke Shapovalov several times and eventually took the title with his sixth match point.
“I am really happy,” said Medvedev, who had reached the quarterfinals on the only other occasion he played in Vienna.
“This match was the best of the week because Denis was really playing unreal until probably 4-3 in the second set.
“He dropped his level by maybe two percent and I was able to use it.
“This is one of the best victories when you know your opponent is on top of you, but you try and stay there and do what you can.”
Medvedev’s 15th career title sets him up nicely for the final two targets for him this season.
First up is the Paris Masters, where he was runner-up to Novak Djokovic last year, which get underway on Monday and the ATP Finals in Turin on November 13-20. Medvedev won that event in 2020.
“I like to play indoor hard courts at the end of the season,” said Medvedev.
“I feel that I do a great job with my team not to arrive burnt out.
“I am looking forward to the last two tournaments of the year which are really important and I usually play well.”
For Shapovalov, it was his second loss in a final this month after he was beaten by Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in Seoul and the defeat leaves him with just the one title, in Stockholm in 2019.
LONDON: Reiss Nelson was the unlikely hero as Arsenal retook top spot in the Premier League with a 5-0 thrashing of Nottingham Forest on Sunday.
Nelson was introduced for the first time in the Premier League this season after Bukayo Saka was forced off with a concerning injury for England boss Gareth Southgate just weeks ahead of the World Cup.
Saka set up the opening goal for Gabriel Martinelli after just five minutes before being replaced due to an ankle injury.
Nelson struck his first Premier League goal since July 2020 early in the second half to give Arsenal breathing space.
He added a second just three minutes later and then teed up Thomas Partey to curl into the top corner.
Martin Odegaard rounded off a performance that shrugged off doubts over Arsenal’s ability to contend for the title by firing high past Dean Henderson 13 minutes from time.
Victory lifts Mikel Arteta’s men a point above Manchester City at the top of the table.
The Arsenal players came together to show support to teammate Pablo Mari before kick-off.
Mari, who is on loan at Monza, was stabbed during a knife attack in an Italian supermarket this week that left one person dead.
That incident put Arsenal’s bad week on the field into perspective after a 1-1 draw at Southampton last weekend was followed by a 2-0 defeat to PSV Eindhoven in the Europa League.
Any fears that the Gunners were beginning to feel the fatigue of a packed schedule were blown away in a blistering opening.
Martinelli ducked to meet Saka’s inviting cross with his head to open the floodgates.
The Brazilian saw another effort cleared off the line, while Gabriel Jesus, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Odegaard also had chances.
But Saka’s departure is a major worry for Arteta ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Chelsea next weekend.
Forest had begun to find some form on their return to the top flight for the first time in 23 years in recent weeks, including a famous 1-0 win over Liverpool last weekend.
But only toward the end of the first half did they ever threaten to cause the hosts problems as Tomiyasu threw himself in front of Jesse Lingard’s effort.
Nelson quickly settled the game after the break as he blasted past Henderson after his first effort was saved and then turned in Jesus’ cross at the near post.
Partey made it four in style as caressed the ball into the top corner from 25 yards.
Jesus was trying everything he could to end a seven-game goal drought, but had to settle for a second assist as from his pass, Odegaard found the space to fire home the fifth.
ABU DHABI: Saudi Arabia were held to a goalless draw with Honduras in a friendly on Sunday at Al-Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
The match formed part of the third phase of the preparatory program for the FIFA World Cup 2022, which begins in Qatar next November.
The draw maintains the Green Falcons unbeaten run in the training camp matches, having beaten North Macedonia 1-0 and drawn 1-1 with Albania earlier this month.
The squad was also put through a 90-minute training maneuver against the national under-23 team, with head coach Herve Renard utilizing players that did not participate in the friendly match.
Saudi Arabia continue their World Cup preparations with two friendly matches for the green at this stage against Iceland and Panama.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s rising tennis star Yara Al-Hogbani on Sunday defeated Russia’s Tamara Ermakova in the final of the J5 Isa Town Tournament in Bahrain.
Al-Hogbani, 18, had already made headlines by beating Isabell Bilaus of Israel in the semi-final on Saturday.
It was the second victory for the Saudi player, after the two previously met in 2021 in the second round of the J4 Isa Town, when Al-Hogbani won 6-1, 6-0.
Al-Hogbani is the first Saudi female tennis player to turn professional and has been registered at Al-Ittihad club since 2018.
The 2022 WTA Finals kick off on Monday in Fort Worth, Texas, where the top eight women will battle it out for one last time this season.
Back in the US for the first time since 2005, the season-ending championships will take place at the impressive Dickies Arena from Oct. 31 to Nov. 7.
World No. 1 Iga Swiatek headlines the field that includes Ons Jabeur, Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff, Maria Sakkari, Caroline Garcia, Aryna Sabalenka and Daria Kasatkina.
Here’s a look at the main talking points heading into the WTA’s season finale.
Historic debut for Jabeur
One of four WTA Finals debutantes in the singles draw in Fort Worth, Tunisian Ons Jabeur will write yet another chapter to her name in the history books as she becomes the first Arab or North African player to qualify for the season-closing championships.
The 28-year-old fell just short of making it to the WTA Finals last year, but a strong 2022 campaign that saw her win a maiden WTA 1000 crown in Madrid and reach two Grand Slam finals at Wimbledon and the US Open helped her secure her place in this prestigious competition.
“It just proves that this year was amazing. Just being part of the eight players that qualified here is something that I always wanted. I started wanting it two years ago, but it happened this year. Definitely proves I belong with the best players in the world,” Jabeur told reporters in Fort Worth on Saturday.
Seeded No. 2, Jabeur landed in the Nancy Richey Group alongside Pegula, Sabalenka and Sakkari. She owns a combined 6-5 win-loss record against her group rivals and arrives at the tournament feeling fresh, having not played a match since her quarter-final exit in Monastir over three weeks ago.
She commences her WTA Finals campaign against Belarusian No. 7 seed Sabalenka on Monday.
“It’s not the best to start playing against Aryna with all the balls coming very fast,” said Jabeur ahead of her opener.
“We practiced together yesterday. So it’s going to be a great match. It’s going to be tough. Whoever is going to be more solid on the court is going to win. Definitely I have my own tactic, and I will try my best to overcome her power.”
World No.2 @Ons_Jabeur gets ready to make her #WTAFinals debut pic.twitter.com/O76ZFUiVGo
Swiatek the outright favorite
During the draw ceremony, Kasatkina, Garcia and Gauff all giggled when they realized they had landed in the same group as the ever-dominant Swiatek.
The Polish world No. 1 is 7-0 against Gauff and Kasatkina this season alone and is 1-1 head-to-head overall against Garcia.
Swiatek has clinched eight titles in 2022, including Roland Garros and the US Open, and enters the WTA Finals having won 14 of her last 15 matches.
This is her second consecutive WTA Finals appearance, and she can take confidence from her 24-1 record on US soil this season.
“WTA Finals is a challenge, but she’s a challenge just by herself. She lost very few matches,” Garcia said of Swiatek.
The 21-year-old Swiatek begins her journey in Fort Worth against Kasatkina on Tuesday.
World No.1 @iga_swiatek talks to the media at the WTA Finals Fort Worth on Saturday pic.twitter.com/vRp1kveFhE
Pegula, Gauff carry home hopes
The first two American women to be ranked simultaneously in the top four since Serena and Venus Williams in 2010, Pegula and Gauff are making their first WTA Finals appearance and have also qualified together in doubles.
Pegula is fresh off the biggest title triumph of her career having lifted the trophy in the WTA 1000 event in Guadalajara last week, while Gauff reached a maiden Grand Slam final earlier this year at Roland Garros.
The 28-year-old Pegula started the year ranked No. 18 in the world and is now up to a career-high No. 3.
“I don’t think I started the year thinking about making WTA Finals, but I think as the year went on and it became more of a goal, it was something I’m more proud of now that I was able to accomplish,” she said.
“So, yeah, it’s a huge honor. I think we’re just all really excited to be here. I think it’s more of a reward for our really great season.”
Teen phenomenon Gauff is the youngest player to qualify for the WTA Finals since Maria Sharapova in 2005. The 18-year-old Floridian is also the youngest American to make it to the championships since Lindsay Davenport in 1994.
While these are impressive stats, they are not ones Gauff spends too much time focusing on.
“I don’t really pay attention to it. Not that I’m not grateful. Obviously I’m really grateful. When it comes to these statistics and stats about my age, I guess…I mean, it’s cool, but I feel like it’s my life, so I don’t look at it as amazing or outstanding as other people look at it,” she explained.
“I’ve gotten asked that a lot about different things in my age. But it is always crazy to me when I find somebody brings up a stat or something about my age, and I feel like almost every tournament is a new thing. It’s going to be somebody else’s turn soon,” she added with a laugh.
2009 – Cori Gauff and Jessica Pegula are the first pair to compete in both Singles and Doubles WTA Finals since Serena and Venus Williams in 2009 in Doha. Fellows.@WTA @WTA_insider @WTAFinals pic.twitter.com/BjELp1ruJ2
Prize money still not where it was
Three years ago, Ashleigh Barty claimed the highest paycheck in tennis history when she scooped $4.42 million for winning the WTA Finals title with a perfect record in the round-robin stage in Shenzhen.
The women’s tour had landed a historic 10-year deal with Shenzhen to stage the WTA Finals there from 2019 onwards, with the prize money committed to the event set at an unprecedented $14 million.
After the inaugural staging of the tournament in Shenzhen in 2019, COVID-19 struck, followed by the Peng Shuai controversy, and the WTA tour has not returned to China since.
Last year, the WTA Finals were hosted in Guadalajara, and this year they found a home in Fort Worth, albeit with a significantly smaller prize purse on offer.
The total prize money for singles this week is $4 million — less than what Barty won by herself in 2019 — with an undefeated champion walking away with a $1.68 million cheque.
The sport is doing everything possible to recover from a tough economic climate, but there is still a long way to go to get back to where it was financially, it seems.
A photo worth a thousand words