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Halep ready for “mentally-hard’’ quarantine at Australian Open

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Simona Halep finds the prospect of 14 days of quarantine ahead of the Australian Open daunting, and is counting on experience to deal with it.

She believes the experience of playing at bio-secure tournaments last year will help her get through it.

The 29-year-old Wimbledon champion had an eventful 2020 season in which she ran up a 17-match winning streak, skipped the U.S. Open over health fears but then contracted the coronavirus.

The start to her 2021 campaign will involve the long journey to Australia in mid-January before two weeks in quarantine ahead of the start of the year’s first Grand Slam on Feb. 8.

“I know that it will be hard mentally, but I feel like my experiences in bubbles in 2020 will help me know a little more what to expect,” Halep told Reuters, adding she was grateful for the five-hour window to train every day during quarantine.

“I am also less stressed because I know that they have COVID so well under control in Australia and that once we are out of quarantine, we will be free!

“This year in lockdown has meant that we are all a lot more used to spending time inside than we used to be.”

Halep’s last competitive match was at the French Open in early October.

She will now hope to get some matches under her belt in a WTA 500 event at Melbourne Park to warm up for the hard court Grand Slam.

With the Asian swing, including the season-ending WTA Finals, cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, it was a long pre-season.

But Halep said she had enjoyed being at home and let her body and mind recover from a stressful year.

“I worked a lot on my fitness,” Halep said in an e-mail interview. “I have to take care of my body now more than ever. So, lots of strengthening exercises and speed work, and from the beginning of December we really stepped up the work on court.

“Lots of drills and repetition and now finally I am playing sets against other Romanian girls, getting ready for the first matches in Australia.”

Halep had skipped the hard court swing in the U.S. due to concerns over the pandemic and her worst fears were realised when she contracted the virus in October.

“I didn’t get too sick with it thankfully. But, of course, as a professional athlete, I was worried about my lungs. So, we did lots of tests and everything was great,” the 2018 French Open winner said.

Halep was not able to add to her two Grand Slam successes in 2020 during which young American Sofia Kenin and Iga Swiatek from Poland announced themselves with first major titles.

Halep did, however, win titles in Dubai, Prague and Rome.

“I look back on my 2020 season with pride and a sense of achievement, especially given the circumstances with COVID-19,” said Halep, who aims to play both singles and doubles at the Tokyo Olympics and win a medal.

“When the season shut down … it was unclear if we could play any tennis at all in 2020. That was tough mentally. It gave me some time to appreciate tennis, to be grateful when we were given the chance to play again.”

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Spain: Ajibade seals Champions League spot for Atletico Madrid

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Super Falcons forward Rasheedat Ajibade scored the decisive goal as Atletico Madrid defeated Villarreal 1-0 in the final match of the season.

Atletico Madrid secured a place in the UEFA Women’s Champions League following the win.

Ajibade netted the winning goal 15 minutes from time.

The winger contributed 10 goals and six assists in 30 league games for Atletico.

Atletico Madrid finished in third place, ahead of Levante.

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Why I step down as Super Eagles head coach – Finidi George opens up

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Finidi George has explained why he decided to step down as the head coach of the Super Eagles.

The 53-year-old turned in his resignation to the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, on Saturday.

This comes days after the NFF issued a statement revealing they are planning to bring in a foreign technical adviser to work alongside Finidi.

In a video posted on social media hours later, a former media officer of the Eagles, Colin Udoh, confirmed he had spoken to Finidi after his decision.

“Finidi confirmed to me that he resigned his position indeed,” Udoh said.

“The reason being that he met with the NFF on Thursday and they had a very good conversation.

“They spoke about the things they need to do going forward and he (Finidi) asked if he will be back.

“At no point during that meeting did anyone tell him they were going to appoint a foreign technical adviser.

“The NFF board had met on Wednesday and made that decision. But it was when Findi landed in Port Harcourt after that meeting that someone called him and informed him. He (Finidi) had to park his car and read the link to see that it actually was true.

“So he waited for two days to see if anyone would contact him but nobody spoke to him. So he (Finidi) felt they didn’t want him anymore and so he decided to turn in his resignation.”

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Borussia Dortmund appoint Nuri Sahin new manager

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The former BVB player himself joined the coaching staff earlier this year and will now lead the team through June 2027.

A late Friday statement from the club’s website reveal this.

Nuri Sahin, 35, was appointed following discussions between BVB Managing Director for Sport Lars Ricken, Sporting Director Sebastian Kehl and Nuri Sahin today (Friday).

The club’s new head coach has signed a 3-year contract, and he succeeds Edin Terzic (41), who requested to be released from his contract at BVB.

Sahin said, “It is a great honour for me to be head coach of Borussia Dortmund.

“I would like to thank everyone in the club’s senior management team for the faith they have shown in me, and I am hugely looking forward to my new role at BVB.

“From day one we will do everything we can and work with energy and passion to make this club as successful as possible.”

According to the statement, Managing Director, Lars Ricken, said: “We are delighted to appoint a coach who represents the younger generation in Nuri Sahin.

“He has worked very hard in recent years to prepare for a career as a coach, and he will show great dedication in his new position and help the team progress. As former players, we will work closely together and we have great ambitions.

“Nuri knows the club and its staff, and BVB is in his DNA as a player and as an assistant coach. We have no doubt that Nuri is the right head coach for us.”

Nuri Sahin played 274 competitive games for Borussia Dortmund, scoring 26 goals. With BVB he won the Bundesliga in 2011 and the DFB Cup in 2017.

From 2021 to 2023 he managed Turkish Süper Lig side Antalyaspor, and in January 2024 he returned to BVB as assistant coach.

The club will announce further details about the coaching staff around Nuri Sahin in due course.

Rumours had it that Terzic had a clash with captain, Mat Hummels about the June 1 Champions League final tactics which Dortmund lost to Real Madrid.

However, Hummels, just a day after, on Friday, also confirmed his exit from the club.

BVB Sporting Director Sebastian Kehl said, “Nuri Sahin helped us reach the final of the UEFA Champions League last season.

“He has the experience here as a player and assistant coach to know how BVB works – and above all he knows how to be successful.

“With his natural authority and expertise he has a good relationship with our team, and he knows what we need to work on collectively. Nuri has our full confidence and our full support.”

Meanwhile, a post on Sahin’s appointment on the club’s TikTok handle on Saturday featured the new manager’s humble beginning as a ball boy who now rose in ranks over the years to be the coach.

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