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‘Incredible’ Djokovic doubles up as Serbia reach Davis Cup semi-finals

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Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Kazakhstans Alexander Bublik

World number one Novak Djokovic performed double duty to lead Serbia into the Davis Cup semi-finals for the fifth time on Wednesday with a come-from-behind win over Kazakhstan.

Serbia, the 2010 champions, will face neighbours Croatia on Friday for a place in the final.

Djokovic comfortably preserved his 10-year undefeated Davis Cup singles record when he eased past 36th-ranked Alexander Bublik 6-3, 6-4 in 77 minutes to level the quarter-final at 1-1.

The 34-year-old then teamed with Nikola Cacic to see off Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 in the decisive doubles.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our fighting spirit. We dropped in level in the second set, but we managed to bounce back, stay calm and turn the tide,” said Djokovic.

Djokovic had not won a Davis Cup doubles match since 2015 and went into Wednesday’s decider on a run of three defeats – including a loss against Golubev and Nedovyesov in 2016.

Earlier Wednesday, Mikhail Kukushkin saved four match points to defeat Miomir Kecmanovic to give the Kazakhs the opening point of the quarter-final.

Kukushkin, the world 182, triumphed over 69th-ranked Kecmanovic 7-6 (75), 4-6, 7-6 (1311) after more than three hours on court.

“We were unlucky in the first match, we came so close. But Novak was incredible in singles and doubles,” said Serbia captain Viktor Troicki who had played alongside Djokovic in the team’s last appearance in the finals in 2019.

Twenty-time Grand Slam title winner Djokovic has not lost a singles match in the competition since retiring against Juan Martin del Potro in Serbia’s 2011 semi-final defeat to Argentina.

His win over Bublik, secured with a break in either set, was his 18th in a row in singles.

Kecmanovic, preferred by Troicki over higher-ranked Dusan Lajovic and Filip Krajinovic, had been on course for victory after winning seven games in a row on his way to a 3-0 lead in the decider in the day’s opening clash.

“You know this kind of match for sure is going to be special in my life,” said the 33-year-old Russian-born Kukushkin.

Read Also: Germany knock out Britain to reach Davis Cup semi-finals

“I don’t even know what was the score in the tiebreak. This is why we love the Davis Cup, it’s about these kind of matches.

“I’m so honoured to play for my country. Our fans are the best in the world. They gave that kind of support for so many years. I was fighting a lot, it was such a difficult match.”

Germany will face either Sweden or Russia in the other semi-final with the final also being played in Madrid on Sunday.

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Germany wing-back Gosens joins Inter Milan from Atalanta

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INTER 1

Inter Milan have completed the signing of Germany international Robin Gosens from Atalanta on a deal until 2026, the Italian champions announced on Thursday.

Gosens has signed a four and a half year contract in Milan and moves on loan with an obligation to buy.

The 27-year-old becomes the Serie A leaders’ first signing of the January transfer window and will compete with Ivan Perisic for the left wing-back spot in Simone Inzaghi’s side.

“I’m so proud to have joined one of the biggest clubs in Europe,” Gosens said. “I’m thrilled to be here and can’t wait to get started.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision for me. I didn’t need any convincing because I also know it’s a huge club.

“Some incredible German players have made history at this club. I hope to be part of that myself. That’s my ambition.”

Inter’s statement did not mention a fee, but Sky Italia reported that the buyout clause is set at 25 million euros ($27.87 million) plus three million euros in bonuses.

Gosens played a key role at Atalanta achieving three consecutive third-place finishes in Serie A, and started every match for Germany at Euro 2020 last year.

However, this season the left wing-back has been sidelined since September with a hamstring injury and is not expected to return for at least another month.

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Read Also: Mane and Salah on track for AFCON final showdown

Gosens joined Atalanta from Dutch club Heracles in June 2017 and became one of the best wing-backs in Serie A.

The German’s threat going forward flourished in Gian Piero Gasperini’s attack-minded side and Gosens has scored 20 goals and provided 14 assists over the last two seasons.

He has been limited to eight appearances in all competitions this term, scoring twice, before suffering injury in a Champions League group match against Young Boys.

The Nerazzurri are four points clear in Serie A, with a game in hand over Napoli and AC Milan below them.

They face their local rivals in the Milan derby on February 5 in a key moment for the title race.

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AFCON: Injury blow for AC Milan and Senegal’s Ballo-Toure

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Ballo Toure

Bad news continues to arrive from the African Cup of Nations because AC Milan will be without Fode Ballo-Toure for some time.

The Milan defender suffered an adductor injury in the round of 16 game he played with Senegal at AFCON earlier this week. He came on inside the final quarter of the game but was unable to finish it, coming off in pain during the fifth minute of added time at the end of the 90.

read also:Everton Job: Friday is D-day for Lampard, Pereira
According to Calciomercato.com – who cite an announcement from the Senegalese Football Association – Ballo-Toure’s tournament is over and he will play no further part in his country’s run.

The statement from them explains that the injury will keep the defender out for three weeks, which is a worry for the Rossoneri given that Theo Hernandez is one yellow card away from reaching the threshold for a one-game ban, with no natural back-up aside from Ballo-Toure.

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Mane and Salah on track for AFCON final showdown

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Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have helped Liverpool conquer England and Europe, now both crave Africa Cup of Nations winners’ medals.

Both sharpshooters will be in quarter-finals action on Sunday in Cameroon with Mane-inspired Senegal tackling surprise packets Equatorial Guinea while Salah and his Egypt teammates confront Morocco.

Mane says he would “swap all the medals he has won for a Cup of Nations gold gong” while Salah talks of the “desperation of the Egyptian people for another title” after last being champions in 2010.

If they continue winning, twice runners-up Senegal and record seven-time champions Egypt will meet in the February 6 final of the marquee African sporting event.

Here, supersport.com looks ahead to the quarterfinals with Tunisia, Cameroon, Egypt and Senegal favoured, but shocks are almost inevitable in a tournament where the form book has constantly been mocked.

BURKINA FASO V TUNISIA

One of the biggest shocks came last weekend when struggling Tunisia took the lead over previously impressive Nigeria through veteran Youssef Msakni and held on for a 1-0 last-16 triumph.

The Carthage Eagles should be stronger on Saturday as they welcome back head coach Mondher Kebaier and several stars, including captain and forward Wahbi Khazri, who have recovered from coronavirus.

Tunisia have been unpredictable and are the only quarterfinalists to lose twice in Cameroon, but Burkina Faso have been equally hard to judge when winning once, drawing twice and losing once.

The countries have met twice at the last-eight stage with the Stallions winning both and hopes of a ‘hat-trick’ will hinge heavily on how well captain and Aston Villa forward Bertrand Traore performs.

CAMEROON V GAMBIA

Five-time champions Cameroon have scored nine goals in four outings — the most of any contender — but the Indomitable Lions are also the only one of the quarter-finalists to concede in every match.

Six of the goals have come from captain and tournament chart-topper Vincent Aboubakar and fellow forward Karl Toko Ekambi has netted the other three, so Gambia know where the main threats will come from.

Debutants Gambia have been the surprise team among the 24 qualifiers, defying being ranked 150th in the world to remain unbeaten and conceding only once, from a penalty.

Musa Barrow from Italian Serie A club Bologna has become an overnight star in Cameroon and Ablie Jallow is another Gambian Cameroon need to shackle.

EGYPT V MOROCCO

This showdown between north African giants stands out as the highlight of the four quarter-finals with Morocco holding a 3-2 lead from previous Cup of Nations tournament clashes.

Egypt showed the defensive solidity the country is famed for when holding a star-studded Ivory Coast attack goalless in the round of 16 before winning on penalties.

Salah works tirelessly but has scored only once in Cameroon — the winner against Guinea-Bissau — and the extra shooting practice ordered by coach Carlos Queiroz has yet to deliver dividends.

Morocco boast potential match-winners in forwards Youssef En-Nesyri and Sofiane Boufal while last-16 victims Malawi will attest to the free-kick expertise of Paris Saint-Germain full-back Achraf Hakimi.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA V SENEGAL

Mane says he is “very well” and “what does not kill you makes you stronger” amid concerns that he may have been concussed in a collision with Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha in a laboured last-16 win.

Read Also: AFCON: Egypt quarterfinal clash with Morocco moved forward by CAF

Only when the Cape Verdeans were reduced to nine men by two red cards did Senegal score, and they have failed to find the net in two of four matches.

But a defence marshalled by Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly with Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy behind him has not conceded a goal — they are the only quarter-finalists to achieve four clean sheets.

Having ended the 35-match unbeaten run of Algeria and upset Mali after a shoot-out, the Equatoguineans will look to outstanding central defenders Saul Coco and Esteban Obiang to contain Mane.

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