On the Radar: IPTL Dubai, Desert Runners

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Tennis and lots of high-level fitness activity are happening in the UAE this week.

There is no shortage of sporting action in the UAE this week and Sport360 has come up with our top picks.

From the the start of the Dubai leg of the IPTL, which features crowd favourite Roger Federer, to the Desert Road Runners 5K event at the Dubai Autodrome, there is an event to suit all interests this week.

INTERNATIONAL PREMIER TENNIS LEAGUE (IPTL), DUBAI LEG

Monday, December 14-16

Tennis fans in Dubai are in for a treat this week as Roger Federer and Andy Murray come to town. The 17-time Grand Slam champion will play for the Obi UAE Royals during the Dubai leg of the IPTL against Murray, who is fresh from winning the Davis Cup with Great Britain and will compete for the Oue Singapore Slammers. 

The clash between two heavyweights of the game will be played on December 15 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium while the overall event runs between December 14-16.

Tickets are still available.

Federer downed Murray in the final of the Dubai Duty Free event in 2013.

WHERE: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium
INFO: International Premier Tennis League (IPTL)

DESERT ROAD RUNNERS 5K 2015
Monday, December 14

The annual 5K foot race is back for the fourth time at the Dubai Autodrome as runners complete up to two laps of the floodlit racing track in Motorcity.

Hundreds of runners will take to the circuit in the cooler evening temperatures between 7pm and 9pm while young people aged up to 17-years have the chance to run half of the distance.

Desert Road Runners club members are granted complimentary registration for the event while other forms of registration are now closed.

The annual 5km foot race is back for the 4th time at the Dubai Autodrome.

WHERE: Dubai Autodrome
INFO: Dubai Desert Road Run

MEYDAN RACE NIGHTS 2015-16 (RACE 4)
Thursday, December 17

The full season of racing at Meydan continues this week as local and regional racers battle it out for spots in premiere races like the Dubai World Cup carnival and ultimately the season-ending Dubai World Cup in March 2016.

The last race of 2015 at the venue is expected to be a highly competitive Meydan meet and the racing begins at 7pm, with the gates to the facility opening for spectators 90 minutes prior.

General admission is available at the venue while there are ticketed options to sit in Meydan's new GrandStand.

Thursday's meet is the last of the year at the venue.

WHERE: Meydan Racecourse
INFO: Dubai Racing Club

GIANT DUATHLON SERIES
Friday, December 18

The 6-Race Giant Bicycles Duathlon Series is aimed at triathletes, duathletes, cyclists, runners and fitness enthusiasts of all ages and abilities.

Each race comprises off a bike ride, run and then a further ride on the saddle and is open for individuals or teams of two people. Age groups of the riders are calculated on the day of the racing.

People are advised to arrive early before the scheduled 7.15am start time and registration for the races is open until December 16, with each contestant receiving refreshments at support stations during the activities, as well as a photo download of them in action, goodie bag and a medal if they perform well!

Children are welcome and encouraged to ride on the traffic friendly courses.

The event will take place at the Hamdan Sports Complex.

WHERE: Hamdan Sports Complex
INFO: Giant Duathlon Series

AL AIN AIRSHOW
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, December, 17-19

The Al Ain Air Airshow is one of the longest running events held in the UAE.

The weekend is one of the largest and most prestigious aerobatic performance festivals on the map, and features a glittering array of military, civilian aerobatics teams and flying champions.

The Al Ain Air Championship is set to be a fun-filled weekend in the UAE.

WHERE: Al Ain International Airport, Al Ain
INFO: Al Ain Airshow

ARABIAN GULF LEAGUE
Saturday, December 19

The UAE's premier football league gets back into the swing of things with an exciting week 12 fixture list, which sess struggling Al Jazira, who recently sacked boss Abel Braga, take on Emirates on home turf.

Week 12's fixture line-up in the AGL.

Website: AGL

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Long and Marin lose in Dubai Superseries

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Ecstatic: Wan Yihan.

World champions Chen Long and Carolina Marin were both beaten in the semi-finals on an extraordinary day when in which the season’s form book was torn up, and not one defending champion made it through to the finals of the Dubai World Superseries Finals.

Chen, the defending champion who has won seven Superseries tournaments this year, lost to Viktor Axelsen, the world number six from Denmark, with the Chinese player rarely showing his best form.

Briefly Chen advanced to 17-15 but his movement was not by his great standards exceptional, and he also made numerous mistakes, eventually losing 21-12, 21-17 and admitting himself that he had not played well.

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Marin, who has five major titles from her finest year, lost a little less surprisingly by 21-11, 21-12 to Nozomi Okuhara. It was the second time in 24 hours she had been beaten in straight games by the Japanese player, having lost to her in the group stages, and it was also her third defeat in the tournament.

The slow conditions made it difficult for the Spaniard to impose her attack-minded methods against a superbly mobile opponent who consistently returned the shuttle into safe places.

“Yesterday I was very lucky to qualify,” Marin said, referring to the defeat of former world number one Saina Nehwal which allowed to progress on a countback of games.

“It’s difficult for me to control the shuttle in these conditions and my opponent played better than me. But it has been my best year and I just want to go home to recover.”

Yihan.

Marin fought to the end but Chen by contrast was oddly subdued and error-prone. Axelsen did well to tie up the world’s best player up at the net quite a lot of the time, thus negating his tall opponent’s long reach in mid-court and steep overhead counter-attacks.

“I didn’t play so well,” Chen admitted. “I know that my opponent played better than I did. But I am happy about my performance for most of the year.” He already had an eye on his preparation for the 2016 Olympics, he half-admitted.

Chen was surely not as happy as Axelsen after the biggest win of his career, who was he said “overwhelmed”.

Later he added: “My game was to stay a relaxed as possible, to enjoy it and to play with variation – and so to try to smile.”

Axelsen will not have a final that he may have hoped for against his compatriot Jan Jorgensen, the world number two, who lost 21-19, 21-18 to Kento Momota, the 2014 Thomas Cup hero from Japan who has since risen to five in the world.

Axelsen.

Momota trailed 7-11 in the second game, but even then appeared more dangerous with his good movement and sudden ambushing jump smashes.

Despite this he claimed he had often been apprehensive about the outcome. He did not seem so thrilled at the prospect of Sunday’s final either, even though the biggest title of his career beckons. “I don’t have a feeling of happiness,” he said. “Maybe that’s because I am a bit scared.”

A Japanese double triumph is very possible.  Okuhara plays the Women’s Singles final against Wang Yihan of China who overcame Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand with unexpected comfort, by 21-12, 21-12 in a match between former world champions.

“I didn’t expect this to happen,” said Wang, who has not won any title of significance during 2015. She did not sound as if she expected much to happen on Sunday either. “The last time I played Okuhara, in the French Open, I lost,” she added. “So I don’t know if I can win the title.”

The only other titleholders surviving on the fourth day were Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong, and they were eliminated 21-17, 22-24, 21-15 by Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan, the world champions from Indonesia.

The penultimate exchange was a contender for the rally of the tournament, lasting 50 shots, at the end of which both Ahsan and Yoo were on the floor. 

Momota.

There is also a possibility of history being made by Chris and Gabby Adcock, the husband and wife pair who could be the first players from England to win a World Superseries Finals title. 

The Adcocks reached the final of the mixed doubles with a 21-17, 22-20 win over Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto of Indonesia, after being behind for much of the first game and then facing defeat when their four-point second game lead evaporated into a 16-17 deficit.

On Sunday they face Ko Sung Hyun and Kim Ha Na, the world’s sixth ranked pair from Korea.

Despite China’s Men’s Singles disappointment the sport’s leading nation can still win three of the five titles, with finalists in both the women’s doubles (Luo Ying and Luo Yu) and the men’s doubles (Chai Biao and Hong Wei) as well as the women’s singles. 

The Luos will meet Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl, while last year’s runners-up Chai Biao and Hong Wei will play Setiawan and Ahsan.

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Chris, Gabby in Dubai Superseries final

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Chemistry: Chris and Gabby Adcock.

Chris and Gabby Adcock, the husband and wife from England achieved arguably their finest mixed doubles performance together when they reached the final of the Dubai World Superseries Finals on Saturday.

The Adcocks earned their place in the final with a 21-17, 22-20 win over Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto of Indonesia, having been behind for much of the first game and then facing defeat when a four-point second game lead evaporated into a 16-17 deficit before coming back to win 22-20.

Their triumph followed a great comeback from 15-17 down in the final game in their final group match yesterday against Lee Chun Hei and Chau Hoi Wah of Hong Kong, when they were close to exiting the tournament.

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Fighting qualities and tactical nous have characterised their fine performances which have also included a win over Tontowi Ahmad and Lilyana Natsir, the former world champions from Indonesia.

“Today’s match was very enjoyable, because neither pair wanted to lift (the shuttlecock)”, said Chris. “It was very dangerous to do that,” he added, meaning that both he and Praveen have big smashes which can create unstoppable attacks, with both women capable of finishing off any replies at the net.

“We’ve been behind a lot of the time this week, but we have been very resilient," he added. "We took two weeks at home to prepare for this tournament and I think it has paid off.”

The Adcocks wrested back the initiative at the end in today's semi-final with a flick serve winner from Gabby to reach 18-17, and two hard-to-read left-handed smashes from Chris which earned match points at 20-19 and 21-20.

The second of them was finished by a smash and overhead drop combination from Chris.

“We’ve done really well, but this will be our great dream to win it,” said Gabby, who won the Commonwealth Games gold medal with Chris in Glasgow last year.

They will face Ko Sung Hyun and Kim Ha Na, the world’s sixth ranked pair from Korea, who may start slight favourites but had to battle hard to get past Lee Chun Hei and Chau Hoi Wah by 21-15, 20-22, 21-12.

Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong.

Earlier the top seeds in the men’s doubles, Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong, who came into the tournament as favourites after a run of consecutive Superseries titles late in the season, were knocked out of the competition by Indonesia’s Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan, the same pair who denied them world championship gold in August.

With a noisy and supportive crowd behind them, Setiawan and Ahsan triumphed  21-17, 22-24, 21-15.

The penultimate rally was a contender for the rally of the tournament. It lasted 50 shots, at the end of which Ahsan dived to block back a Yoo smash, got up and attempted a kill which caused Yoo also to throw himself across the court, only narrowly failing to retrieve it.

“We can win it now, if we approach it the same way,” said Ahsan. They face Chai Biao and Hong Wei, a rising Chinese pair who saved five match points to win 17-21, 21-19, 24-22 against Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen, the Olympic silver medallists from Denmark.

Before that however the top seeds did make a final – in the women’s doubles, with a pairing which often attracts extra attention. 

Luo Ying and Luo Yu, twin sisters from China, won 21-19, 21-19 against Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, the defending champions from Japan, in a match full of manoeuvring and changes in fortune.

Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong.

There was plenty of time for spectators to enjoy both pairs’ skills and speed and to recognise which Luo was which, because though it only lasted two games the match lasted almost an hour and a half.

Slow conditions made quick finishes to the rallies rare, placing a premium on patience, tenacity, and good positioning.

The two Luos know well that if they rotate the front and back positions while attacking their opponents may not in a split second recognise which of them is at the net. “It’s an advantage, our opponents can get confused – psychologically,” says Luo Ying.

This could conceivably have been a factor in the steady recoveries which the twins made in both games, from 15-17 down in the first game and from 11-15 and 17-19 in the second.

China, which had player in the semi-finals of both singles events, kept in with a chance of winning four of the five events. But there may yet be other nations – apart from the English – who will have something to say about that.

The remaining semi-finals will be played on Saturday, with the finals commencing at 1pm on Sunday.

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