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Roland Garros: Nadal, Djokovic, Serena begin quest for title

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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.

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Cristiano Ronaldo served with court papers in US rape lawsuit

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Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo has been served with court papers related to a rape lawsuit in the United States, according to documents filed by his lawyers on Friday.

Five-time world player of the year Ronaldo is accused of rape by Kathryn Mayorga, who claims the Portuguese soccer star assaulted her in a Las Vegas hotel in 2009.

Ronaldo, 34, the former Manchester United and Real Madrid player, has strongly denied the accusations against him, insisting their encounter was consensual.

The legal process in the civil case had been held up as “federal court’s rules on serving foreigners” meant an identical state-level case needed to be dropped, Mayorga’s attorney said last week.

A motion filed in federal court in Nevada on Friday said “the parties have agreed to deem Defendant effectively served,” meaning Ronaldo has officially received court documents in the case, allowing it to move forward.

Former model Mayorga made the accusations against Ronaldo, who now lives in Turin, in a complaint filed last year.

She said that while she had agreed to a financial settlement with Ronaldo shortly after the alleged incident, her emotional trauma at the time did not allow her to participate in the mediation process.

Mayorga’s attorney added that the model agreed to an out-of-court settlement to keep her name from going public, but was inspired to speak out by the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.

Ronaldo’s lawyers have said that the non-disclosure agreement signed with Mayorga was “by no means a confession of guilt”.

Following her renewed accusations, Las Vegas police reopened an investigation last year.

Ronaldo is widely considered one of the greatest footballers in the history of the game, having won the Champions League title five times — once with Manchester United and four times with Real Madrid.

He also led Portugal to the Euro 2016 title in France.

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CAF president apprehended in France

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The president of the Confederation of African Football Ahmad Ahmad has been arrested in Paris hotel by French police.

According to Jeune Afrique, Ahmad was picked up around 8:30 am at the Berri Hotel in Paris, by the services of the Central Office for the fight against corruption and financial and fiscal offences (Oclif).

It said the arrest may be related to the alleged misappropriation and corruption involving French company, Tactical Steel.

Former secretary-general of the confederation Amr Fahmy accused Ahmad of corruption before he was sacked in April.

Fahmy in a document sent to FIFA investigations committee accused the president of costing CAF an additional $830,000 because he ordered equipment through Tactical Steel.

Sabine Seillier, president of Tactical Steel, however, insisted that her company won the contract on a transparent basis. She noted that her company was the only one that could guarantee delivery of the equipment sought in a tight timeframe of three weeks.

When she was questioned if Tactical Steel was been involved in kickbacks to Ahmad or his associates, Seillier replied: “Absolutely not. Tactical Steel complies with French law.”

There are reports that Seiller’s husband is a friend of an acquaintance of Ahmad.

CAF is currently battling a major controversy with its flagship club competition, the CAF Champions League, ordered to be replayed after Tunisian club, Esperance were declared the winner. Wydad Casablanca walked off the field an hour into the second leg fixture because VAR was unavailable to judge a goal disallowed by the referee.

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Neymar accused of rape in Paris

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Star striker Neymar has been accused of raping a woman at a hotel in Paris, Brazilian media reports said Saturday, charges that the player’s father slammed as attempted blackmail.

According to a complaint filed with Sao Paolo police and reported by the UOL and GloboEsporte websites, the Paris Saint-Germain star is accused of “using violence to have sex with the victim without her consent.”

Sao Paulo’s security secretariat would not provide a copy of the complaint to AFP, confirming only that one had been filed but saying its contents were classified.

The unidentified woman, who lives in Brazil, allegedly met Neymar through Instagram, and after exchanging messages, the footballer invited her to visit him in Paris in mid-May.

According to the complaint, Neymar arrived at the hotel “apparently intoxicated,” and the two chatted and exchanged “caresses.”

But then “he became aggressive and used violence to have sex with the victim without her consent,” the document said.

Neymar’s father, who is also his agent, categorically denied the accusations in an interview with Brazilian broadcaster Bandeirantes.

“This is not true, he has never committed any crime,” said Neymar Santos, arguing that his son was a victim of blackmail. “We have all the evidence and we already gave everything to the lawyers.”

According to Neymar Santos, his son and the woman went on a date, but Neymar did not want to see her again. Since then, the woman has tried to extort money from the player and his family, he said.

“My son can be accused of many things, but I know what kind of man he is … it’s clear that this was a trap,” he said, adding that the family was prepared to release WhatsApp messages that would exonerate Neymar.

According to the media reports, the accuser was in Paris from May 15 to 17, but waited until last Friday to file the complaint in Brazil because she was “emotionally shaken.”

Neymar, 27, is currently in Brazil preparing for the Copa America, which takes place in the country from June 14 to July 7.

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