Coach class as legends hit Open limelight

If Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic have done their jobs properly, then Monday’s US Open final will be between Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic.

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Becker and Ivanisevic may not be playing tennis anymore but they are having an impact in New York as two of the weekend’s four-strong celebrity coaching brigade.

Becker works with world number one Djokovic, former Wimbledon winner Ivanisevic is in Cilic’s corner, Stefan Edberg is the power behind Roger Federer while the US Open’s fourth semi-finalist, Kei Nishikori, hired 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang.

If their own playing head-to-head records were duplicated in Saturday’s semi-finals, then Djokovic and Cilic would come out on top – Becker enjoyed a record of 5-1 against Chang, while Ivanisevic was 10-9 against Edberg.

However, Federer won’t be influenced by such history after Edberg, a back-to-back US Open winner in 1991 and 1992 and a six-time major champion, engineered the Swiss star’s stunning fightback from two match points down in his five-set quarter-final win over Gael Monfils.

“I started to serve and volley some more as the match went on,” said Federer, who takes a 5-0 career lead over Cilic into his semi-final.

“I’m happy I’m spending some time at the net, because that’s going to keep giving me confidence to keep on doing that as we move along in the tournament.”

Of all the star coaching appointments, Becker’s was undoubtedly the most surprising when he signed up with world No.1 Djokovic.

The six-time major winner – including the 1989 US Open – enjoyed a lucrative media career when he agreed to work alongside Marian Vajda, who has handled the Serb since his teenage years.

“He believes in my game,” said Djokovic who faces Nishikori in his semi-final on Saturday looking to reach the US Open final for a fifth successive year.

Becker said that he sees similarities between himself and Djokovic, both equally extrovert on and off the court.

“I see in Novak a little bit of Boris Becker,” he said.

“I see him against Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and he doesn’t always get a fair deal from the crowd. I live with Novak. Whenever he makes a mistake I feel that I make it too.”

Ivanisevic started working with Cilic in November 2013 just as the young Croat was returning to the tour after serving a doping ban.

Together, they reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon and now a first-time spot in the US Open semi-finals.

“The main part that is coming from Goran to me and what I feel in this relationship is big confidence,” said Cilic, who made the last-four by knocking out sixth-seeded Czech Tomad Berdych.

Chang has been with Nishikori since December and has his own little bit of history at the US Open – in 1987, aged 15, he became the youngest man to win a match at the tournament.

Nishikori, the first Japanese man since 1918 to make the semi-finals, has a 1-1 record against Djokovic and Chang believes that there’s no reason why the 24-year-old can’t take a second win.

“Absolutely. He’s beaten Novak before. There’s no reason why he’s not able to do it again. Come Saturday, I think it’s going to be a great match,” Chang told the New York Post.

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Spartak enjoy long-awaited home comforts in Red Star draw

Spartak, 12-times Soviet champions and nine-times Russian title winners, had never before in their 92-year existence had a ground of their own until new owner Leonid Fedun got the 15 billion rouble (248.

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64 million pound) project underway in 2007.

“When building the stadium, we looked for help from our colleagues in England,” Fedun, chairman of oil giant Lukoil, said. “Now the only problem we have is paying the taxes on such a large structure.”

Russian minister for sport Vitaly Mutko’s address to the 42,000-capacity crowd was drowned out by whistles, while President Vladimir Putin did not attend, having visited the stadium last week.

“The most modern sports stadium has opened today in Moscow,” Mutko said. “There will be a few improvements ahead of the 2018 World Cup, but everything is practically ready.”

Dynamo Kiev were initially invited to play the inaugural match but the Ukrainian club rejected the invitation due to the civil war raging on its eastern borders against pro-Russia separatists.

With Russia head coach Fabio Capello watching, Spartak captain Dmitry Kombarov scored for the hosts and Luca Jovic netted for the Serbian side.

The first official match at the stadium will be Spartak’s Sept. 14 Russian Premier League derby against Torpedo Moscow.

The stadium will host Confederations Cup matches in 2017 and, after having its capacity increased to 45,000, it will stage World Cup finals matches in 2018.

It was the second new stadium to be completed for the World Cup finals in the last two months after the Kazan Arena.

(Reporting by Dmitriy Rogovitskiy, editing by Rex Gowar)

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Iranian asylum seeker Hamid Khazayi dies after life support switched off

The government has confirmed 24-year-old Hamid Khazayi has died after being transferred from the Manus Island detention centre to a Brisbane hospital for treatment.

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Mr Khazayi was taken from the centre after a cut on his foot became infected, and he developed severe septicaemia.

Septicaemia occurs when disease-causing bacteria overwhelms the bloodstream.

He was declared ‘brain dead’ earlier in the week, and this afternoon, his family gave permission for life-support to be switched off, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said.

“An Imam was present at the time of death and the Government of Iran will be informed,” Mr Morrison said in a statement.

“I am very saddened by this man’s passing and on behalf of the Australian Government I extend our deepest sympathy to the man’s family and friends.”

“My department has and will continue to provide support to the family and has been in contact with family members during the course of the man’s treatment.”

Earlier, Mr Morrison had rejected suggestions Mr Khazayi had recieved inadequate care and said people in mainland and offshore detention centres recieved outstanding medical care.

“Our focus in care has been on this young man from the moment he presented to medical officers at Manus Island,” he said.

The man’s family has reportedly offered his organs for transplant and Mr Morrison said that was up to them.

The Immigration Department says a full report is being compiled by the department’s chief medical officer.

Refugee advocates had earlier accused the government of medical neglect in the case of Mr Khazayi.

“Hamid is a victim of the shocking conditions and medical neglect on Manus Island. It is inexcusable that he developed septicaemia on Manus Island,” Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, said on Wednesday.

“There are scores of infections on Manus Island, and many complaints of the lack of medical attention. Asylum seekers on Manus Island are often forced to walk through raw sewage.”

– With AAP

 

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UN tells Australia and East Timor to resolve spy row

The UN’s highest court has postponed a hearing in a bitter spy row between Australia and East Timor after both countries said they were pursuing an “amicable settlement.

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East Timor has dragged Canberra to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to seek the return of sensitive documents seized by Australia in a raid on an East Timor lawyer’s office in the capital.

The documents relate to a controversial oil and gas treaty between the two countries which East Timor wants torn up.

“The ICJ decided to grant the parties’ request to postpone the oral proceedings in the case,” it said in a statement on Friday.

Lawyers were to argue their cases at the hearing’s opening, set for September 17 before the ICJ, which rules in disputes between countries.

But in a joint letter dated Monday, both Dili and Canberra asked for a postponement “in order to enable them to seek an amicable settlement,” the court said.

ICJ judges in an interim ruling in March ordered Canberra to stop interfering with East Timor’s dealings with its lawyer and to ensure that the content of the seized documents be put under seal.

East Timor opened a case against Australia last December following a raid on the Canberra offices of Bernard Collaery, in which electronic and paper documents were seized.

East Timor contended that the seizure violated its sovereignty and rights “under international and any relevant domestic law.”

At the heart of the David and Goliath dispute is the treaty signed in 2006 between Dili and its southern neighbour, four years after East Timor’s independence from Indonesia.

Australia allegedly used an aid program as cover to bug East Timor’s cabinet offices so it could listen in on discussions about the treaty.

East Timor accused Australia of spying to gain a commercial advantage during 2004 negotiations over the Timor Sea gas treaty, called the Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea, or CMATS, which covers a vast gas field between the two nations.

East Timor now wants the treaty scrapped.

The two states are currently involved in a separate, behind-closed-doors case on the issue before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which is in the same building as the ICJ.

The ICJ did not give a postponement date.

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US rallies Western powers to defeat IS

US President Barack Obama says he’s confident he can gather a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, following two days of talks at the NATO summit.

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“I leave here confident that NATO allies and partners are prepared to join in a broad, international coalition,” Obama said on Friday after a meeting of the Western military alliance in Wales.

Following the beheading of two US journalists by the Islamic State, which has overrun swathes of northern Iraq and Syria, Obama said there was “unanimity” among NATO members that the group “poses a significant threat”.

Obama cautioned that “it’s not going to happen overnight”, but “we’re going to achieve our goal.

“We’re going to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL (IS’s previous name) the same way we’ve gone after al-Qaeda,” he said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to the Middle East to seek support of regional powers, Obama said, insisting that Arab involvement was “absolutely critical”.

The president added: “Our hope is the Iraqi government is actually formed and finalised next week. That, then, allows us to work with them on a broader strategy.”

Kerry on Friday co-chaired with Britain a meeting of ministers from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Turkey in a bid to win support for the fight against IS.

IS caught the world by surprise when it made huge territorial gains and declared an Islamic “caliphate” in an area straddling Iraq and Syria.

The US has conducted more than 100 air strikes in northern Iraq in recent weeks, allowing Kurdish and Iraqi forces to regain ground lost to the jihadists.

Other countries have provided humanitarian assistance and intelligence, while Germany and France are providing military equipment to Kurdish fighters battling IS in northern Iraq.

Australia has assisted with airdrops of humanitarian aid and military equipment.

Kerry stressed Friday that there would be “no boots on the ground” in the US strategy against IS, but added that “there are many ways in which we can train, advise, assist, and equip”.

He urged allies to consider how they could contribute so the US could have a plan at the UN General Assembly meeting later this month.

European allies, while supportive of the US initiative, are proceeding with caution.

Britain has left the door open to air strikes in Iraq, but Prime Minister David Cameron played down the prospect of any immediate action.

“This will take time, patience and resolve,” he told reporters at the end of the summit.

“We will proceed carefully and methodically, drawing together the partners we need, above all in the region, to implement a comprehensive plan.”

President Francois Hollande said France was ready to join a coalition against IS militants in Iraq, but warned it would not commit to actions in Syria that might aid President Bashar al-Assad.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stressed the effort was at an early stage.

“We are at the beginning in dealing with a group which nobody has a strategy to deal with in the long run,” he told reporters.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the military alliance was willing to help if there was a request from Baghdad, likely providing training and coordination with other countries’ efforts against IS.

“I think the international community has an obligation to do all it can to stop this dangerous terrorist organisation.”

Pressure to act has intensified since the executions by IS of two US journalists in videos showing a militant speaking in British English and threats that a British hostage would be next.

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