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Thiem beats Zverev to win US Open

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Dominic Thiem produced a historic comeback to beat Alexander Zverev in a nervy five-setter and win the US Open on Sunday for his first Grand Slam title.

The second-seeded Austrian beat the fifth seed 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) in 4hr 2min inside a near-empty Arthur Ashe Stadium.

It marked the first time in the US Open’s Open era history that a player had recovered from losing the opening two sets to win the title.

It was also the first time the final had been settled by a tie-break.

“I wish we could have two winners today. I think we both deserved it,” said Thiem.

The title is the 27-year-old Thiem’s maiden Grand Slam trophy after three previous defeats in the finals of tennis majors.

Thiem was runner-up at the Australian Open earlier this year and also lost in the last-two showdowns at the French Open in 2018 and 2019.

He also becomes the first new Grand Slam champion since Croatian Marin Cilic won at Flushing Meadows in 2014.

Thiem is also the first Grand Slam champion other than Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer since Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka won the third of his majors at the 2016 US Open.

Zverev, 23, smashed four aces and 16 winners in the first set as he displayed an impressive serve and volley game to take a 1-0 lead in just 30 minutes.

The German was helped by some sloppy serving from Thiem, who hit three double faults as he was broken twice, in games three and seven.

In set two, Zverev wasted three set points while 5-1 up but held on to take a 2-0 lead on his fifth set point.

The tide was beginning to turn though as Zverev’s play became increasingly cagey as his suspect second serve got slower and his forehand, another weakness, became more defensive.

– ‘Tough battle’ -After Thiem took set four, Zverev found himself serving for the championship at 5-3 in the fifth set.

But he could not hold and soon Thiem found himself 6-5 ahead. He took a medical timeout before it was his turn to serve for the championship.

However, like Zverev moments earlier, Thiem failed to clinch the match and it went to a tie-break.

He found himself 5-3 up after two double faults by Zverev but Thiem, by now exhausted and limping, blew two championship points.

He won the title and the winner’s cheque of $3 million on his third after Zverev hit it wide.

Thiem collapsed to the ground with his head in his hands before the pair, who are close friends, embraced on the court.

“Obviously I want to congratulate Dominic on the first of many Grand Slam titles,” said Zverev, who burst into tears during his runner-up speech.

“It was a tough battle. I wish you would have missed a little bit more so I could have hold that trophy up,” he added.

The match was watched by just a few dozen people, mostly officials, journalists and event staff after the coronavirus pandemic forced the tournament to be held behind closed doors.

It was a scrappy, timid affair, with both players desperate to win their first Slams.

Zverev smashed 15 aces compared to Thiem’s two. But the German also hit 15 double faults, with Thiem hitting eight.

Zverev hit more winners 52 to 43, but also more unforced errors, with 65 to 55.

This year’s field at the Billie Jean King US National Tennis Center in New York was depleted by the absence of Swiss legend Federer and defending champion Nadal.

The tournament was also blown wide open by the disqualification of world number one and heavy favorite Djokovic in the last 16 for hitting a line judge with the ball.

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Bale arrives at Tottenham to seal loan move

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Gareth Bale has arrived at Tottenham’s training ground after flying from Spain to complete his move back to the club from Real Madrid.

Bale completed a medical in Madrid on Thursday as he closes on a deal that will see him return to the club he left in a world-record £86m transfer seven years ago.

The Wales captain travelled to London Luton Airport accompanied on a private flight by Real Madrid team-mate Sergio Reguilon, who is set to join Spurs on a five-year deal for a fee that could rise to £32m after also completing a medical on Thursday.

Sky Sports News’ Paul Gilmour says Gareth Bale’s return to Tottenham from Real Madrid is just hours away from being completed

Lawyers in Spain and England have been drawing up contracts that will make Bale a Spurs player again on a season-long loan deal. Tottenham have agreed to pay about £20m in wages and loan fees.

Both Bale and Reguilon are likely to meet conditions that will enable them to avoid quarantining upon their arrival to London.

Along with having arrived from an elite sporting environment where coronavirus protocols have been adhered to, the players will both need to have returned negative test results within five days prior to entering the United Kingdom.

Although he played for Wales twice this month, he is not fully matched fit and it is expected that it will take a month for him to get back to his best.

Real Madrid have agreed to let him leave on loan in order to get his £500,000-a-week wages off their books and Tottenham has made all the running to sign him this week.

As well as being frozen out by Zinedine Zidane, Bale has had a difficult relationship with the Spanish media and Real fans, and he is looking forward to making a fresh start back at Spurs.

Manchester United considered making a move for him as a back-up option to Jadon Sancho, but they did not make an offer, even though they have tried to sign him on numerous occasions since he was at Southampton 13 years ago.

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Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open

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Japan’s Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the upcoming French Open with a hamstring injury.

The 22-year-old had her left hamstring taped when she battled back against Victoria Azarenka in the U.S. Open final in New York on Saturday to win her third Grand Slam title.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play the French Open this year,” the world number three wrote on social media in a message she also posted in Japanese.

“My hamstring is still sore so I won’t have time to prepare for the clay – these two tournaments came too close to each other for me this time.

“I wish the organizers and players all the best.”

French Open will be held from Sept. 27 to Oct. 11 after being moved from its usual late May-June slot due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The hamstring issue had prompted Osaka to withdraw from the final of the Western & Southern Open in the run-up to the U.S. Open but it did not appear to hamper her at Flushing Meadows.

Osaka made headlines in New York as much for her performances on court as for her commitment to social justice causes.

For each of her U.S. Open matches, she wore a different mask that carried the name of a Black American, aiming to highlight racial injustice in the United States to a wider audience.

The withdrawal of Osaka, who has never advanced past the third round at Roland Garros, comes as another blow to the tournament after world number one Ash Barty of Australia said she would not be defending her title due to COVID-19 concerns.

On the men’s side, Roger Federer will not compete as he continues to recover from knee surgery.

Osaka’s absence would improve Serena Williams’s chances of winning a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title if the American chooses to play.

The 38-year-old has pulled out of the Italian Open with an Achilles issue.

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) said on Thursday it would allow 5,000 spectators per day following a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the country.

It had previously said the clay-court major would permit a maximum of 11,500 fans per day.

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Juve terminate Higuain contract, to lose €18.3m

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Serie A champions Juventus confirmed on Thursday they had terminated Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain’s contract by mutual consent.

The former Real Madrid and Napoli forward is reportedly set to join David Beckham’s Major League Soccer franchise Inter Miami.

“This operation generates a negative economic effect of approximately €18.3m on the 2019/20 financial year due to the residual value write-down of the registration rights of the player,” Juve said in a statement.

Juventus paid the €90m release clause to sign Higuain from Napoli in 2016, and he had unsuccessful loans at AC Milan and Chelsea before returning to Turin last season.

But the 32-year-old was immediately told by new Juve coach Andrea Pirlo he was no longer part of the nine-time Serie A champions’ plans.

“He was a great champion, a great player but the cycle is over,” said Pirlo on his arrival in Turin.

“We looked at each other in the eyes, we talked and we made this decision.

“I admire him a lot, but we have decided that the paths will separate.”

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