updated 10:58 AM UTC, Nov 14, 2019

Federer withdraws from inaugural ATP Cup

Roger Federer said on Wednesday he has withdrawn from the inaugural ATP Cup in Australia in January next year so he can spend more time with his family.

Federer’s decision to withdraw means Switzerland can no longer take part in the nation-based event on Jan. 3-12 and that six more countries will now qualify, based on the world rankings of their top players.

"It is with great regret that I am withdrawing from the inaugural ATP Cup event," Federer, who is currently ranked number three in the world, said in a statement here

“After much discussion with both my family and my team about the year ahead, I have decided that the extra two weeks at home will be beneficial for both my family and my tennis.

“It pains me to not be a part of the most exciting new event on the calendar, but this is the right thing to do if I want to continue to play for a longer period of time on the ATP Tour.”

The $15 million dollar ATP Cup will be hosted in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney.

Eighteen countries qualified for the tournament after a first round deadline in September, with hosts Australia given a wildcard spot.

The six additional nations will be added after the second entry deadline on Nov. 13.

The countries will play in six groups of four for group stage, round-robin play, with the group winners and the two best second-placed finishers across the groups reaching the ATP Cup Finals in Sydney.

Each tie comprises two singles and one doubles match.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic and world number two Rafa Nadal have confirmed they will play, as has former world number one Andy Murray.

Medvedev's winning run ends in defeat by Chardy

Fourth seed Daniil Medvedev suffered a shock defeat by home favourite Jeremy Chardy on a bad day for Russians at the Paris Masters but Alexander Zverev boosted his chances of qualifying for the ATP Finals.

Medvedev, who will make his debut at the ATP Finals in London next month after a barnstorming season, lost for the first time since the U.S. Open final, going down 4-6 6-2 6-4.

Earlier defending champion Karen Khachanov was bundled out by Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, losing 7-6(5) 3-6 7-5.

The 29-year-old Struff finished off the eighth seed with a superb smash from the baseline. Defeat ruled Khachanov out of the running for the ATP Finals.

Medvedev was on a nine-match winning run taking in St Petersburg and Shanghai where he took his tally of titles this season to four, but he came up against an inspired Chardy.

The Russian, who had reached six successive finals, looked in control when he took the first set but he ultimately paid for failing to convert 14 of the 15 break points he carved out.

Chardy even saved one as he served for the match in the decider, going on to reach the third round at the Paris event for the first time at the 10th attempt.

Chardy will face Chile’s Cristian Garin or 2016 finalist John Isner of the U.S. in the next round.

Struff chiselled out a tough first set with a backhand winner at 5-5 in the tiebreak before serving an ace.

Khachanov roared back to win 12 of the first 17 points of the second set on his way to levelling.

Struff let slip a 3-1 lead in the decider but broke again when Khachanov served at 5-6.

Zverev, who won last season’s ATP Finals and is bidding to take one of the remaining two slots for this year’s event with a strong showing in Paris, needed less than an hour to beat Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 6-1 6-3.

The German, who is seventh in the Race to London standings, will face Denis Shapovalov or Fabio Fognini in the next round.

Top seed Novak Djokovic begins with a second-round clash against French lucky loser Corentin Moutet.

Second seed Rafa Nadal, playing his first tournament since getting married this month, also begins against a Frenchman in wildcard Adrian Mannarino.

Shoulder injury ends Benn's comeback bid

Former world boxing champion Nigel Benn has called off his bid to make a comeback to the ring 23 years after his last professional fight due to a shoulder injury.

The 55-year-old had said in September he would fight Cameroon-born Australian Sakio Bika, 40, a former world champion, in Birmingham on Nov. 23.

It would have been Benn’s first professional bout since 1996 but the injury has forced the ‘Dark Destroyer’ to accept his career is over.

“With a heavy heart I am sad to say I had to make the hard decision today to hang up my boxing gloves,” Benn said in a post on Instagram.

“I’d like to thank you all for supporting me throughout my career but the time is up for me. I thank you all for giving me an unbelievable career. God bless you all.”

Benn held the WBO middleweight title in 1990 and the WBC super-middleweight title from 1992-96. He lost his last professional fight to Irishman Steve Collins in November 1996.

“I had to call it quits today, I wanted a hard spar, but it just wasn’t happening,” Benn added. “My shoulder started playing up and I could not throw a right hand at all.

“Today’s the day I hand over the baton to my son Conor, who is going to carry on the name, but with me it comes to an end today.”

British media reported earlier this month that Benn’s comeback bid had been opposed by the British Boxing Board of Control, and that the bout was sanctioned by the rival British and Irish Boxing Authority instead.

Shoulder injury ends Osaka's WTA Finals hopes

Naomi Osaka’s struggles at the WTA Finals continued on Tuesday as the world no. 3 was forced to withdraw from this year’s tournament in Shenzhen with a shoulder injury.

Her exit from the competition comes two days after the Japanese right-hander won her opening match against Petra Kvitova, the first time she had secured victory at the season-ending competition.

“It’s not ideal,” said Osaka, who lost all of her matches on her debut in Singapore 12 months ago.

“This is the second time I had to withdraw from the finals. I mean, the last time I at least played, so a retirement instead of a withdrawal.

“It kind of sucks because I thought I was playing well. I definitely wanted to win here.”

Osaka made her first appearance at the WTA Finals last year after winning the US Open but lost her first two matches before pulling out midway through a match with Kiki Bertens with an injury.

On Sunday evening she ground out a 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4 win over Kvitova to give herself a shot at progressing to the semi-finals, but a recurrence of a shoulder issue which first surfaced during the China Open this month meant the 23-year-old could not continue.

“I did this in the finals of Beijing,” Osaka said.

“I didn’t serve for a while when I was in Japan. I just started serving the last two days. Felt better, came here, then I played my match.

“I felt it immediately. When I woke up the day after, it was like throbbing and stuff. Didn’t serve at all yesterday. Hit for like five minutes.”

Despite ending the season on a sour note, Osaka leaves Shenzhen able to look back on a successful year.

She won the Australian Open in January and was ranked world No. 1 in the world before putting a drop-off in form mid-season behind her with tournament wins at the Pan Pacific Open in Japan and the China Open.

“Surprisingly, I think this year is better than last year, even though I cried way more this year than I did last year,” she said.

“I also think that’s a lesson that I learned. It’s just like you have the opportunity to change the things that are happening to you, even though it might not seem like it at the moment. I definitely think that this year was somehow better.”

Osaka’s place in the Red Group is taken by Bertens, and the Dutch player will face current world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty on Tuesday evening before meeting Belinda Bencic on Thursday.

FIA will discuss yellow flag safety issues with Verstappen

Formula One’s governing body will emphasize to Max Verstappen and others the importance of respecting yellow warning flags for safety after the Red Bull driver failed to slow in Mexican Grand Prix qualifying.

The Dutch 22-year-old was handed a three-place grid drop for Sunday’s race, stripping him of pole position for a race he had won the previous two years.

The penalty came after Verstappen recognised in a post-qualifying news conference that he was aware Valtteri Bottas had crashed his Mercedes at the end of the session but had not slowed as required.

Race director Michael Masi said he had already asked stewards to investigate before the youngster made the comments to reporters, and the Dutchman had not talked himself into a penalty.

“What he said was irrelevant to me because I was already in motion,” said the official for the governing FIA, adding that the reason it took time for Verstappen to be summoned was because stewards were dealing with another incident.

Drivers are warned routinely that they have to slow for yellow warning flags and be prepared to take immediate action to avoid any wreckage or marshals on track.

French driver Jules Bianchi suffered ultimately fatal head injuries when he crashed his Marussia car at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

Yellow flag rules were revised after a panel investigating that accident found Bianchi “did not slow sufficiently to avoid losing control” when he crashed into a recovery tractor at a wet Suzuka.

This year has also seen a driver fatality at a grand prix weekend, Frenchman Anthoine Hubert in the F2 support series at Spa in Belgium.

Verstappen’s response on Saturday to a question about safety sounded dismissive.

“Do we have to go there? To safety? I think we know what we are doing — otherwise we would not be driving an F1 car,” replied the driver, who also collected a three place grid drop in Russia last year for the same offence.

“It’s qualifying and, yeah, you go for it.”

Masi said the subject of yellow flags would be raised with all the drivers before next weekend’s U.S. Grand Prix in Austin.

“We’ll have that discussion at the next drivers’ meeting with all of them. As we have done in a collaborative manner all year,” he said.

“I’ve read the comments but I’ll speak at Max and the other drivers one on one and go from there. We’ll have a discussion and deal with it as we do other matters.”

Verstappen finished sixth in Sunday’s race after an eventful opening few laps in which he was in collision with both Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Bottas and went to the back of the field.

Race winner Hamilton said he had been “torpedoed” by Verstappen, and referred to the Dutch driver as someone who needed to be left a lot of space.

Johnson urges quick return to training for Tokyo aspirants

As athletics’ elite rest up from the latest world championships on record, 12 times global gold medallist Michael Johnson has some advice for Tokyo medal seekers: don’t stray too far from the track or exercise room.

“If you take too much time off, that’s just going to extend the amount of time you have got to take to get back into training shape,” the former 200 and 400 metres world record holder told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“And there’s not going to be that kind of time.”

Track and field athletes had 348 days from the end of the 2015 Beijing world championships to the start of the 2016 Rio Olympics (August 30, 2015 to August 12, 2016).

This time the difference is 299 days with the Doha championships concluding on Oct. 6 and athletics at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics starting on July 31, 2020.

“If it were me, I would probably not take more than a week completely off after the season,” said Johnson, now a BBC analyst.

He offers the advice not only as one of the world’s top all-time sprinters but using the experience of his staff at Michael Johnson Performance in Dallas, where hundreds of athletes in sports ranging from global athletics to the National Football League come to enhance their athletic development.

While sitting on the beach or spending time with family after a strenuous 2019 season no doubt would be the preferred option, athletes are understanding that long breaks will not be forthcoming this year, Johnson said.

“Many of the athletes I’ve spoken with have already made plans to significantly shorten, if not pretty much eliminate the traditional off-season break,” the 52-year-old Texan said.

“Maintain as much (fitness) as you can. I wouldn’t let the type of conditioning get all the way down to zero.”

If you do, things will go much smoother when those rapidly approaching November days of training return.

Russia's Trusova dominates in Skate Canada win

An inspired Alexandra Trusova of Russia landed three quadruple jumps as the Russian teenager won Skate Canada’ ladies programme in British Columbia on Saturday.

The 15-year-old, despite falling on her first of four quadruple attempts, scored a world-leading 241.02 points in her senior International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix debut.

A massive 166.62 points in Saturday’s free skate, another best, vaulted the twice world junior champion to the championship.

Trusova had been only third after Friday’s short programme but dominated Saturday’s competition.

Japan’s Rika Kihira, the short programme leader, finished second with 230.33 points and South Korean You Young joined them on the podium with 217.49 points.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier gave Canadians their own reason to cheer when they overcame two-time world medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the United States to win the ice dance competition.

Gilles and Poirier, second after Friday’s rhythm dance, surged to the top in Saturday’s free dance to claim their first International Skating Union Grand Prix gold medal with 209.01 points.

Hubbell and Donohue took second (206.31) with Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson third (195.35).

Verstappen pays the price for failing to slow

Max Verstappen was stripped of his Mexican Grand Prix pole position and handed a three place grid drop on Saturday for failing to slow for yellow warning flags.

Formula One stewards also imposed two penalty points on the 22-year-old Red Bull driver for the incident after Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas crashed on the final corner at the end of qualifying.

Verstappen compounded the offence by appearing defiant in a news conference before he was summoned.

“I was aware that Valtteri crashed,” the Dutchman, whose pole now goes to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, had said.

Asked whether he had backed off, he replied: “Didn’t really look like it, did it? No.”

Yellow flags warn drivers that they must reduce speed for safety reasons and be prepared to change direction suddenly.

Verstappen was handed a three-place grid drop at last year’s Russian Grand Prix for failing to slow for yellow flags in qualifying, and a similar drop looked likely from the moment of the summons.

Asked about the safety perspective, Verstappen had said: “I think we know what we are doing, otherwise we wouldn’t be driving an F1 car.

“It’s qualifying and you go for it. If they want to delete the lap, then delete the lap.”

The comments drew a firm response from Bottas’s team mate Lewis Hamilton, who now starts third and could seal his sixth championship if results go his way in Sunday’s race, when asked about respecting the flags.

“I think it’s really, really important that the FIA are very, very strict with the double yellow flags. There could be marshals on the scene,” he told reporters, recalling previous incidents that raised safety concerns.

“He didn’t even need to stay flat out, he’d already got pole basically.

“Luckily there were no marshals on the track. For all he knew, Valtteri could have been in the middle of the circuit and marshals could have been there. That’s what double yellow means — could be a massive incident ahead.

“The fact that he ignored it, I mean it’s not great, but it’s done and hopefully the right calls are made and put in place. The drivers need to know to respect those things,” added the Briton.

Verstappen set his pole time with the first flying lap of the final top-10 session and faced yellow flags on his later second effort.

He has a chequered record with stewards, particularly in Mexico — in 2016 he was demoted from third to fourth in the race after stewards ruled he had gained an advantage by leaving the track limits.

Cavendish joins Bahrain Merida team for 2020 season

British sprint specialist Mark Cavendish is joining Bahrain Merida for the 2020 season, the professional cycling team said on Friday.

The “Manx Missile”, who has won 30 stages on the Tour de France, completes a rider roster that includes Spaniard Mikel Landa, Dutchman Wout Poels, and 2019 Tour stage winner Dylan Teuns of Belgium.

“Joining this team is the fulfilment of a long-held ambition for me...and is super exciting and motivating. You could even say a dream come true,” the 34-year-old said in a team statement.

“Having worked closely with McLaren in the past, and seen the benefits of their technology and processes, this was an opportunity I jumped at.”

Bahrain Merida is a joint venture between the kingdom of Bahrain and the McLaren Group, of which the Formula One team is a part.

Cavendish achieved world championship success in 2011 on a bike designed in collaboration with McLaren Applied Technologies.

“Mark is a proven champion and has a lot to contribute – both on and off the bike,” said Bahrain Merida principal Rod Ellingworth, who worked with Cavendish at British Cycling and Team Sky.

“Having last worked with him at the 2016 Rio Olympics and Qatar World Championships, I’ve been delighted to see that his energy and determination to succeed are greater now than ever.”

Cavendish missed the 2019 Tour after being left out of the Dimension Data squad. The rider, who is chasing Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins, said then that he was “heartbroken” to miss out.

Barty, Osaka drawn in same group for WTA Finals

World number one Ash Barty and Japan’s Naomi Osaka were drawn in the same group for the round robin matches of the WTA Finals to be held in Shenzhen, China next week, with the year’s four Grand Slam champions split evenly between the two groups.

French Open champion Barty and Australian Open winner Osaka were joined by the Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova and Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic in the Red Group.

“I’ve played Naomi and Petra recently in Beijing,” Barty said. “(I’m) looking forward to playing Belinda, I don’t think I’ve actually ever played her before. It’s a really exciting group.”

Wimbledon winner Simona Halep and U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu were drawn in the Purple Group with Czech Karolina Pliskova and Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.

“I played Svitolina and Pliskova once this year, so I kind of know what to expect,” Andreescu said.

“Simona, I’ve never played her, but I’ve looked up to her. It’ll be a really interesting match up, so I’m excited.”

The tournament, which runs from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3, is being held in Shenzhen for the first time and a total of $14 million in prize money is up for grabs.

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