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Djokovic season over as Serbia beaten by Croatia in Davis Cup

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Novak Djokovic’s dream of adding a second Davis Cup to his 20 Grand Slam titles was shattered on Friday when Serbia were defeated by Croatia in the semi-finals.

Djokovic and partner Filip Krajinovic lost 7-5, 6-1 to top-ranked Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic, the Olympic and Wimbledon champions, in the decisive doubles rubber.

Croatia, the 2005 and 2018 Davis Cup winners, will face either Russia or Germany in Sunday’s final.

Djokovic had earlier defeated Marin Cilic for the 18th time to keep Serbia alive.

The world number one, unbeaten in singles in the tournament since 2011, triumphed 6-4, 6-2 to pull Serbia level at 1-1 in the tie.

It was his 19th successive Davis Cup singles win.

In the opening rubber, Borna Gojo, ranked a lowly 279, pulled off a surprise win over world number 33 Dusan Lajovic, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Cilic, a former world number three now down at 30, carved out eight break points on the Djokovic serve but was unable to convert a single one.

Defeat for Serbia meant Djokovic closed his 2021 season having agonisingly missed out on the first calendar Grand Slam by a male player in more than half a century when he lost the final of the US Open.

His hopes of a first Olympic singles gold medal were also dashed in Tokyo.

However, he still ended the year tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 Slams, claimed the year-ending world number one ranking for the seventh time and will on Monday mark a total of 350 weeks in the top ranking.

Djokovic has also extended his record Masters collection to 37 titles.

Gojo has played well above his world ranking in the tournament so far and showed real mettle against Lajovic to come back from a set down, especially after letting slip a 4-2 and 40-0 lead in the first set, losing 17 of the next 18 points.

He also saw off Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego (ranked 27) in the quarter-final and Australia’s Alexei Popyrin (67) in the group stages.

“In the first set I was up 4-2 40-0, I was in control, I slipped in that game there. I got down on myself a little bit, but then the captain and the teams and the fans picked me back up,” said Gojo.

“Obviously Davis Cup is a special competition where the pressure is bigger on everyone and I managed to play some of my best tennis here at this tournament.

Djokovic sends Davis Cup semifinal into doubles decider

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“I’m very happy that I managed to get those big wins, ranking wise, but for me it’s more important that I managed to get the point for the team.”

Croatia had lost both their previous meetings with their Balkan neighbours.

The first came in Split in 2010 when Serbia won 4-1 in the quarter-finals en route to winning the competition.

They also romped to a 5-0 triumph in 2015.

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I’m in Denmark to improve myself, says youthful Mukairu

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Nigerian striker, Paul Mukairu, has expressed his excitement after his ₦900million move to former champions .of Denmark FC Copenhagen.

The 22-year-old winger dumped Turkish side Antalyaspor after three years with the former Turkish champions.

Mukairu has seen his reputation rise tremendously since he joined Antalyaspor in 2019. Within four months of his arrival in Turkey, he made it to the Antalyaspor first team, scoring three goals and assisting one in his first season.

read also:Juve reject Aston Villa’s £20.5m bid Rodrigo

He spent last season on loan at Belgian Jupiler League side Anderlecht, where he scored two goals and assisted four in 23 league appearances.

Before his departure to Copenhagen, Mukairu had already scored three goals in 20 appearances for the Scorpions this season.

The Abuja-born forward is a quick player, and although he is a winger, he can play as a striker.

The pacy forward was all smiles at his unveiling and expressed his happiness whilst stating his readiness to become better at his new club.

“I feel very happy to be here, the welcome was really nice, it was amazing. I’m so happy to be in this great club.” He told Copenhagen TV.

“I have a lot to learn, and here is a good place to improve myself with the people surrounding me”, he added.

The 22-year-old is yet to make an appearance for the Super Eagles, but if he can continue with his eye-catching displays at his new side, it would only be a matter of time before it happens.

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Arsenal gave me a ‘good slap’, says Saliba

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William Saliba has revealed how he was given a rude awakening on his arrival at Arsenal back in July 2019.

The French defender joined the Gunners from Saint-Etienne for around £27million.

But he is yet to play for the senior side and last summer was shipped off to Marseille on loan.

Now the 20-year-old has admitted his time in the reserves was like a ‘slap in the face’ and hasn’t ruled out a permanent move away from the Emirates.

He told RMC: “Before going to Arsenal, I said to myself I was going to play, I was sure, I was wondering who I would play alongside.

read also:W/Cup Qualifier: Di Maria, Martinez on target in Chile defeat

“I arrive, I play zero matches. I played for the U23s. That gave me a good slap.

“Things go so fast in football. I don’t want to think about the future. I am going to give my all. Then there will be discussions in summer.”

Reports earlier this month suggested Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was preparing to give Saliba a chance in the senior squad next season.

The centre-back has turned in a string of impressive performances to propel Marseille to third in the Ligue 1 table.

According to L’Equipe, Arsenal are set to reject l‘OM’s attempts to make the deal permanent in the summer.

On his progress, Arteta said earlier this season: “I know that sometimes it’s difficult to explain or understand after the money that the club has spent trying to bring him in, to send him on loan.

“But a lot of things have happened to him, he’s a long-term player for us and we need to protect him as well. And giving him three or four games is not enough.”

 

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Senegal bench on Mane recovery watch ahead E/Guinea clash

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The Senegal technical bench are still monitoring captain Sadio Mane’s recovery ahead of Sunday’s AFCON 2021 quarterfinal date against Equatorial Guinea in Yaoundé.

Mane was taken off in the 70th minute of Senegal’s 2-0 victory over Cape Verde of their last 16 meeting on January 25 with a suspected concussion after earlier colliding with opposition goalkeeper Vozniha who was sent-off in the 56th minute following a second booking for dangerous play.

Senegal national team technical director Mayacine Mar told Sud Quotiden that the bench was observing both Mane and Bamba Dieng who sustained a knock in training.

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

“Bamba had a little knock but it’s not bad. The doctors preferred to keep him in treatment. Sadio too, but he is doing very well. He feels no pain. He will be operational for the quarter-finals. Maybe tomorrow he will resume training,” Mar said.

Mane is Senegal’s leading scorer at AFCON 2021 on two goals after scoring his second of the tournament with Senegal’s first goal in the victory over Cape Verde.

Senegal are chasing a second successive AFCON final appearance after finishing second in 2019.

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