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Tunisia’s Jabeur exits the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open – ARN News Centre




World Number 6, Ons Jabeur, exited the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council following a straight-sets defeat at the hands of Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Elena Rybakina and Lidmila Samsonova will meet in the semi-finals, having both won today.

A passionate crowd inside Stadium Court heavily backed Jabeur, but the Tunisian could not replicate the form she produced in Wednesday’s impressive win over Emma Raducanu.

Haddad Maia, also through to the semi-finals of the doubles competition alongside compatriot Luisa Stefani, won the first set 6-3, and while Jabeur produced flashes of quality, she was unable to find the consistency to seriously trouble the Brazilian.

Having saved one match point, the writing was on the wall for Jabeur when Haddad Maia, on her serve, forced another, and the second time around, she made it count to set up a semi-final clash against Daria Kasatkina.

Samsonova was the first player to book her spot in the last four as she triumphed in the day’s opening contest on Stadium Court, the 25-year-old overcoming World No. 12 Barbora Krejčíková in straight sets.

It marks a second consecutive semi-final at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open for Samsonova, who defeated Qinwen Zheng at the same stage last year before losing in the final to Belinda Bencic.

After eliminating Anhelina Kalinina in the quarter-finals, Samsonova edged two close sets in the UAE sunshine, progressing 7-5 and 6-4.

She said, “I’m so happy with the way it went because I knew it would be a match at a high level. Barbora is an amazing player and it’s incredible the way I managed today, I’m so happy.

“My game is coming together because, of course, it’s important to serve well, but I’m returning well too and together, it’s a great mix.”

Also, through to the last four is Kazakhstan’s Rybakina, who recorded a straight-sets victory over Cristina Bucșa.

The 2022 Wimbledon champion was forced to come from behind against Danielle Collins in the quarter-finals, but it was a different story today as she took control from the outset and quickly won the first set.

Bucșa responded well in the second and, at one point, looked on course to force a third set, but after breaking her opponent’s serve, World No. 5 Rybakina saw the match out to win 6-1, 6-4.

Rybakina and Samsonova go head-to-head today for a place in the final. In the day’s final match, Kasatkina made light work of Cîrstea with a truly dominant display.

The 2022 French Open semi-finalist started well and got better as the match progressed, blowing her opponent away to win 6-2, 6-0. She plays Haddad Maia today with a place in the final up for grabs.

Linda Noskova and Heather Watson are through to the final of the doubles competition following a thrilling quarter-final win over Nicole Melichar and Ellen Perez.

Noskova and Watson advance straight to the final via Walk Over due to the fact their scheduled semi-final opponents, Magda Linette and Bernarda Pera, have withdrawn after Linette sustained an injury to her left thigh.

They will face either Haddad Maia and Stefani or Sofia Kennin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who play today, in Sunday’s final.

Kennin and Mattek-Sands traded competing on the tennis court for some high-speed track action as they headed to nearby Yas Marina Circuit, home of the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, for a karting session. The duo face Haddad Maia and Stefani in the semi-finals of the doubles competition today.

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Humbert dominates Bublik to seal ATP 500 glory – ARN News Centre




Ugo Humbert produced a ruthless masterclass to defeat Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik in straight sets and seal ATP 500 victory in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday night.

The French No5 seed, who rises to a career-high World No14 after his heroics in Dubai, made it a clean sweep of six titles in six ATP finals with a clinical 6-4, 6-3 dismantling of No7 seed Bublik, the World No19, at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.

Humbert, who defeated compatriot Gael Monfils, Britain’s Andy Murray, World No8 Hubert Hurkacz, and World No4 Daniil Medvedev to reach the final, unleashed his full repertoire of booming forehands and laser-like double-handed backhands to eclipse Bublik, who progressed past 2022 Dubai champion Andrey Rublev in a dramatic semi-final, which saw the No2 seed disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct. 

After tight opening exchanges where the pair were evenly matched, the final stayed on-serve until the 10th game when Humbert, who had failed to convert break points in Bublik’s two previous service games, finally broke the Kazakh’s resistance to clinch the first set 6-4. 

With Bublik delighting the Dubai crowd with a combination of whipped forehands and a deft array of dropshots, Humbert, relaxed and controlled, raced into a 3-1 second set lead after breaking Bublik. From there, the 25-year-old left-hander relied on his own dominant serve – unbroken throughout the final – to close out the match on his second Championship point.

“I played a fantastic level all through the week, but it was not easy,” said Humbert, who claims the winner’s prize of $550,140. “I really don’t know how I stayed calm. I have too much respect for [Bublik], he’s such a nice guy on and off the court, and congratulations to him on a great start to the year.”

A beaten but upbeat Bublik reflected: “This week has had almost everything for me, and I can’t wait to come back here again in 2025. Before the final, I thought if I won I would dedicate it to my son, but sorry, maybe next time,” said the 26-year-old, who pockets the runner-up prize of $296,000.

In the men’s doubles final, the Netherlands’ Tallon Griekspoor and Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff narrowly defeated Croatia’s Ivan Dodig and the USA’s Austin Krajicek 6-4, 4-6, 10-6. With a pair of service breaks enough to settle the opening two sets, Griekspoor and Struff came from 1-3 down in the deciding super tiebreak, winning nine of the last 12 points to claim a maiden Dubai title and shared prize pool of $180,700. Beaten finalists Dodig and Krajicek share a runners-up purse of $96,370.
“It’s the first time we’ve played together, so maybe we should keep it one week,” Griekspoor joked during the post-match ceremony. “We played really well and had a great time, it was a lot of fun on court. I had such a pleasure on court this week.”

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. 

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F1 season opens with Verstappen in ‘a different galaxy’ – ARN News Centre




Max Verstappen could not have hoped for a better start to his bid for a fourth-consecutive Formula One title, with even rivals hailing his crushingly dominant display in Saturday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix as being in “a different galaxy”.

The Dutch driver took the chequered flag 22.4 seconds clear of his teammate Sergio Perez driving a similar RB20.

He did it having started from pole, led every lap and with the fastest lap to complete a ‘grand slam’.

“Unbelievable, I think today went even better than expected,” said Verstappen.

“It was a lot of fun, I felt really good in the car.

“It’s special to have these kind of days, where it all feels perfect and you feel at one with the car.”

A close-run qualifying on Friday and a constant changing of the guard in practice, with three different teams occupying top spot in the three sessions and none of them Red Bull, had raised the prospect of a closer-run race on Saturday.

The seemingly untroubled ease of Verstappen’s win in the first race of a record 24-round season swiftly dashed those hopes, instead giving way to a sense of resignation and foreboding.

The 26-year-old, barely breaking a sweat as he got out of the car, had similarly won last year’s Bahrain season-opener from pole.

But that wasn’t as commanding as his win on Saturday, with his winning margin then half what it was this year and no fastest lap.

Nevertheless, it set the stage for Verstappen to sign off 2023 with 19 wins from 22 races.

With his Red Bull harder to catch, at least on the evidence of the 2024 season opener, there is every possibility he could go better.

Rivals are not ruling out the prospect.

“Unfortunately, yes,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said when asked if Verstappen could be uncatchable. “(We) just have to acknowledge his performance levels are really strong.

“I think today Max is not in a different league but he’s in a different galaxy — the performance is extraordinary.”

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Ireland claim first ever test victory – ARN News Centre



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Ireland claimed their first test victory when they beat Afghanistan by six wickets on Friday in a one-off match in Abu Dhabi.

Irish skipper Andy Balbirnie took charge in the run chase with an unbeaten half-century.

Ireland, who acquired test status along with Afghanistan in 2017, had lost seven straight matches before they eventually beat the Asian side in a low-scoring affair that finished inside three days.

“A lot of our guys didn’t get to play test cricket. Hopefully people back home want to be test cricketers. We knew it would be attritional stuff,” Balbirnie said.

“There’s a lot of cricket in the world… We’ve created results, and created history. The monkey is off our back, very special to do that.”

After dismissing Afghanistan for 155 in the first innings where seamer Mark Adair picked up five wickets (5-39), Paul Stirling (52) helped guide Ireland to a total of 263 to give them a 108-run lead.

Adair picked up three more wickets to clean up the top order in the second innings but Afghan skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi (55) helped them post 218 to give Ireland a modest target of 111 runs to win.

Ireland found themselves in deep trouble at 13-3 when Naveed Zadran dismissed Peter Moor and Curtis Campher for ducks in the second over, but Balbirnie led from the front with an unbeaten knock of 58.

Lorcan Tucker also came in and steadied the ship (27 not out) as they patiently stitched together a 72-run partnership before Tucker hit the winning runs for a famous victory.

“I’m buzzing. Obviously very nice to get a win. Absolutely chuffed,” said Adair, who was named player of the match.

“Test cricket is pretty difficult. I think we’ve got a really good bowling group. In the last year, we’ve played a lot of cricket.”

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