Defending champions Surprise stunned in NAS volleyball opener

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Going for the spike: Surprise and F3 A

The reigning NAS volleyball champions Surprise, boasting two of the world’s top spikers in their ranks and high on confidence, were expected to open their 2018 Nad Al Sheba Sports Tournament campaign with a win against F3 ‘A’. Instead, Surprise were stunned 3-2, despite battling back from 2-0 down.

In the deciding fifth set, the two teams were 7-7, but then F3 ‘A’ started inching ahead to eventually prevail 25-20, 25-17, 14-25, 13-25, 15-12 in an engrossing battle that lasted an hour and 55 minutes.

In the second volleyball match of the night, F3 registered a 3-0 (29-27, 25-15, 25-23) win over Leader Sport.

“Surprise are the champions from 12 months ago and they also have two of the world’s best players in their rank,” said an elated Humaid Mohammed, the F3 ‘A’ coach. “So this win is a huge boost for us. It will certainly raise our morale going forward in this tournament.”

The two players he was talking about was Surprise’s decorated Cuban duo of Robertlandy Aties and Yoandy Leal, who helped their national team win silver at the 2010 World Championship. Now they are team-mates at Brazilian club Sada Cruzeiro, with whom Aties has won a FIVB Club World Championship. Leal has won three Club World Championship titles with Sada Cruzeiro, and a silver and bronze.

At last year’s Club World Championship, Leal picked up the ‘Best Outside Spiker’ award, while Aties was voted as the ‘Best Middle Blocker’.

Together at Surprise, Leal and Aties did the bulk of the scoring at the Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex on Friday night, with the first scoring 14 points and the latter a game-high 24. Thanks to them, Surprise won the battle of the points 99-92. But they lost the war, due to some astute planning by the F3 ‘A’ coach.

“In the fifth set, we decided to starve Leal of the ball,” Humaid Mohammed said. “We made sure we did not hit much in his direction. And we also put two men to focus on just Aties and deny him.”

The strategy worked for F3 ‘A’ and their Cuban import Yosvany Hernandez, who led the points chart for the winners with 16, is now looking forward to the rest of the campaign.

“This is the first match of the tournament and it is always important to start with a win,” said Hernandez. “But this win is even more important because it comes against the reigning champions. So this is a very important for us and you could say, it is worth double the points.

“Surprise have some amazing players in their team. But we have good players as well. We play together and fight as a unit, and that is what took us across the line tonight.”

In the Padel tournament, Javier Lopez and Sandy Farquharson scored a facile 6-1, 6-1 win over Tony Salord and Pyotor Bakass, while Benjamin Cassaigne and Xavier Masson defeated Abdulla Ahli and Saeed Al Marri 6-2, 6-2.

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Top squash players head to Dubai for ATCO PSA World Series Finals

Nick Watkins 18/05/2018
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Stretch: Marwan ElShorbagy in action

The countdown has begun to the ATCO PSA World Series Finals, as the best squash players get set to go head-to-head in Dubai.

In the five-day competition, supported by the Dubai Sports Council, players compete in a best-of-three group stage as they battle it out for a place in the knockout rounds. As well as the championship title, players are competing for a share of the Dhs1,175,408 ($320,000) prize money, which is split equally between the men’s and women’s events.

To qualify for the tournament, which takes place at Emirates Golf Club between June 5-9, players must finish in the top eight on the PSA World Series standings. Qualifying points are up for grabs at all eight World Series tournaments throughout the 2017/18 season.

Defending champion, England’s Laura Massaro has qualified with a third consecutive title in her sights while Camille Serme (France), Nouran Gohar (Egypt) and Sarah-Jane Perry (England) make up the final three spots in the top eight. New Zealand’s Joelle King is also on her way to compete in Dubai for the first time.

Fan favourite: Camille Serme

Fan favourite: Camille Serme

In the men’s line-up, 2016 champion Gregory Gaultier’s second round win in the British Open will see him return to Dubai. Former World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad is still in contention to secure a place in the tournament despite losing in the second round in Hull, UK.

Egypt’s Mohamed ElShorbagy, Marwan ElShorbagy, Ali Farag and Tarek Momen, along with Simon Rosner (Germany), have all sealed their spots in the men’s competition. The complete line-up will be confirmed following Sunday’s British Open final.

Tickets for the ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals can be purchased at www.dubai.platinumlist.net with prices starting at Dhs55. More information on both the PSA World Series and the PSA World Tour, can be found at www.worldseriesfinals.com

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Queensland and Australia legend Cameron Smith announces shock retirement from all representative games

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Cameron Smith has announced his retirement from all representative Rugby League

Cameron Smith has announced his retirement from representative football after winning 56 caps for Australia and playing 42 State of Origin matches for Queensland.

The 34-year-old Melbourne Storm hooker, who led the Kangaroos to a successful defence of their World Cup title in December, says he made the decision for family reasons.

“The responsibility of playing for your club, state and country all in one season eventually proved a balance too difficult to strike,” Smith said.

“It was getting more difficult to be away from my wife and children.

“My eldest one now being 10 years of age, there are things with my family and school that I am now missing out on.

“That is a big commitment and a sacrifice for myself to make but also a bigger sacrifice for my family.

“When you get your children asking why you can’t be in attendance at some of your events, that is not a great feeling.”

Playing for Australia: (L to R) Cooper Cronk, Mal Meninga, Cameron Smith and Darius Boyd.

Playing for Australia: (L to R) Cooper Cronk, Mal Meninga, Cameron Smith and Darius Boyd.

Australia coach Mal Meninga said: “Cameron is a wonderful captain, both in the way he plays on the field as well as the way he carries himself off the field.

“He has been an outstanding representative of the Kangaroos’ values in the green and gold. He is highly competitive and highly respected but above all that he is a great person.

“Obviously he will be missed but what he has done over 56 matches for the Kangaroos as well as during his time with the Maroons will leave an important legacy for future players and future leaders.”

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said: “Cameron will retire as one of the greatest ever representatives of both the Kangaroos as well as the Maroons.

“He will also be revered as one of the greatest captains.

“What he has achieved over such a long period of time for both Australia and for Queensland is simply phenomenal.”

Meanwhile, Fiji will replace Lebanon in the 2018 Pacific Test Invitational at Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney, on Saturday, June 23.

The Cedars withdrew from the tournament for political reasons so Fiji, who have resolved their own World Cup pay dispute, will line up alongside Tonga, Samoa and Papua New Guinea.

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