Defending champion Rafa Nadal begins his French Open campaign on Monday, seeking his 12th title and 18th Grand Slam, while looking to dismiss any doubts about his form after three consecutive semi-final exits in the run-up to Roland Garros.
Three different players ousted the Spaniard in claycourt tournaments in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid before he roared back to his best to beat world number one Novak Djokovic in the final in Rome.
Nadal, a known stickler for routine and order, arrives at a revamped court Philippe Chatrier, which has been 80 percent rebuilt for this year’s tournament, but the 32-year-old said he will not be affected by the changes. He is generally a slow starter but should not have any problem getting past his first-round opponent, Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann.
The 27-year-old, who turned professional only four years ago, has never advanced past the opening round of a Grand Slam but he feels no pressure facing the championship favourite.
“I’ll know a lot about him and maybe he doesn’t know as much about me,” he said in an interview on the Roland Garros website. “I’ve been playing well. I’ve got a big game… So if my serve and return works, I can definitely do some damage.”
While the crowd may be overwhelmingly in favour of Nadal, it is not something that affects Hanfmann, who has a hearing impairment. “It’s an advantage on court,” he added.
“Maybe on Chatrier, it’ll be an advantage because I don’t hear that much that’s going on.” In the other half of the draw, Djokovic begins his quest to hold all four Grand Slam titles for the second time in his career when he takes on Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz.
Djokovic became the first man since Australia’s Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slams in 2016 when he won his only French Open title. Three-time Roland Garros champion Serena Williams is looking to win her 24th Grand Slam singles title and she takes on Vitalia Diatchenko who has never progressed to the third round.
Dominic Thiem, who comes into the tournament having won titles in Barcelona and Indian Wells this year, will be in action on court Suzanne-Lenglen against American Tommy Paul.
Stan Wawrinka, a winner in 2015, will be the star attraction on court Simonne-Mathieu when he takes on Jozef Kovalik while French veteran Richard Gasquet faces Mischa Zverev.
U20 WOMEN’S WORLD CUP: FIFA inspection team arrives today
FIFA inspection team will arrive in Nigeria today to inspect facilities for the country’s FIFA U20
Women’s World Cup 2020 hosting rights bid, the Nigeria Football Federation [NFF] confirmed on Sunday.
Christopher Exley, Sara Jane Booth, Kliment Taseski, Rhiannon Ceirwen Martin and Heyral Kaj Jurgen are the FIFA officials expected in Abuja by Nigeria’s top football officers.
The FIFA delegation from the headquarters of world football body in Zurich will make a detailed inspection of the hosts’ venues, training grounds, hospitals and stadia earmarked for the event.
In a statement to the press, NFF spokesman Ademola Olajire said Lagos, Asaba, Benin City and Uyo have been picked as the four host cities for the women’s age-grade tournament billed for the summer of 2020.
“A five-man inspection team from world football governing body, FIFA will arrive in Lagos on Monday for a four-day inspection of facilities and equipment that Nigeria has put forward to host the 10th FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup championship next year,” the statement read.
“The inspection team will begin its work in Lagos on Tuesday, with visits to the Onikan Stadium (match venue), St. Nicholas Hospital and Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (referral hospitals), Teslim
Balogun Stadium, National Stadium Legacy Pitch, Eagle Club, Campos Square and the University of Lagos Sports Centre (training sites) before a courtesy call on Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the Government House in Alausa.
“Joined by NFF President Pinnick, General Secretary Sanusi, Mainasara Illo (Coordinator of the Bid), Aisha Falode, Commissioner of Police Garba Baba (security) and Dr. Paul Onyeudo (medical), the team will fly to Benin City same day to inspect facilities at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium (match venue), Western Boys College and University of Benin Sports Centre (training sites) and the Edo Specialist Hospital and University of Benin Teaching Hospital (referral hospitals).
“The contingent will check out the facilities in Asaba and Uyo on Wednesday. In Asaba, the Stephen Keshi Stadium is the proposed match venue, while training sites are Asaba Squash Courts and St. Patrick’s College. The referral hospitals are St. Luke’s Hospital and Asaba General Hospital.
“In Uyo, the focus will be on the Godswill Akpabio Stadium (match venue), Ikot Ekpene Stadium and Godswill Akpabio Training Pitch (training sites) and Ibom Specialist Hospital and University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (referral hospitals).
“The inspection party will then fly to Abuja on Thursday for a meeting with the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports, Mr. Olusade Adesola (representing the Honourable Minister) and a courtesy call on His Excellency, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (GCON) at the Presidential Villa.”
Nigeria reached the final in 2010 and 2014 but lost to Germany on both two occasions.
No African nation has hosted a FIFA organised women’s football tournament – a streak Nigeria will be aiming to break by staging the 10th edition next year.
Nigeria beat Cameroon to reach Quarter-Finals
The Super Eagles of Nigeria have qualified for the quarter-finals of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, after defeating the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon 3-2 in Alexandria.
Odion Ighalo scored a brace, and Alex Iwobi got one goal to book Nigeria a match next Wednesday with the winner between Egypt and South Africa.
Buhari urges Super Eagles to honour Nigeria in AFCON
President Muhammadu Buhari has charged the Super Eagles to play every match for the honour of their motherland as they file out in their first match against Burundi in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON 2019), holding in Egypt.
The President, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, in Abuja on Saturday, urged the Eagles to lift the flag of Nigeria high, and reinforce the reputation of the country as a football powerhouse on the continent.
He said: “I will be watching, just as millions of Nigerians would also do.
“You have our solid support, and we will cheer you to victory,”he said.
He added: “Nigerians are known for their unconquerable spirit. Show this in the group stages, and even beyond. Nothing but lifting of the diadem is good enough for our country,”he stated.
He also enjoined the Super Eagles to be mindful of fair play, and sportsman like conduct, as they strive to return home with the AFCON trophy.