Djokovic beats Nadal as Serbia win inaugural ATP Cup

Novak Djokovic got the better of fellow tennis heavyweight Rafael Nadal as Serbia beat Spain 2-1 to lift the inaugural ATP Cup title in Sydney.

The world number two beat the world number one 6-2, 7-6 as the first-ever final was graced by two of the sport's greats at Ken Rosewall Arena.

Sixteen-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic needed to win as Spain had taken the opening rubber thanks to Roberto Bautista Agut's 7-5, 6-1 win over Dusan Lajovic.

Bautista Agut moved to a record of six wins and no defeats at the ATP Cup but was forced to watch on as Serbia turned the final around.

Djokovic returned for the decisive doubles less than an hour after the singles clash but Nadal, surprisingly, did not.

Pablo Carreño Busta and Feliciano López were Spain's selections but they were rolled aside 6-3, 6-4 by Djokovic and Viktor Troicki.

"I'll remember this experience for the rest of my life as definitely one of the nicest moments in my career," Djokovic said. 

"I've been very fortunate and blessed to have an amazing career the last 15 years, but playing for the team, playing for the country with some of my best friends for a long, long time, you can't match that. 

Serbia won the decisive doubles rubber to win the tournament ©Getty Images
Serbia won the decisive doubles rubber to win the tournament ©Getty Images

"That's just too special."

Troicki added: "I want to thank Novak for playing with me again. 

"It was a great experience like always. 

"I remember playing with him since we were nine, 10. 

"To share such a moment on the court with him, I cannot describe it with words." 

Spain were hoping to add the ATP Cup title to the Davis Cup crown they won on home soil in Madrid in November. 

The ATP Cup is seen as a new rival to the traditional men's team tennis event, which was last year held with 18 teams across a single week for the first time.

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Real Madrid's victory was recovering their greatness

Maybe an explanation is needed to understand what happened at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night.It's lawful to be indignant. It was known. Because referee Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez is always wrong on the same side in the Clasico.

But the mistakes he made a few years ago were different. Real Madrid could take some solace from the non-existence of VAR, but those errors aren't as expectable now with its presence.Madrid, though, have more reasons to be happy than upset after the draw.

1.Zinedine Zidane has done it again. He's built a team from ashes and breathed life into a group who looked utterly defeated.

2. The depression of losing Cristiano Ronaldo has been overcome. What was a near-fatal disease is now forgotten, and they even delivered that Camp Nou performance without their biggest star in Eden Hazard.

3. The commitment to young players is bearing fruit. Fede Valverde cost five million euros and Frenkie de Jong cost Barcelona 75 million euros.

4. Isco has returned and Zidane is recovering a player who seemed finished at Real Madrid.

5. Gareth Bale is at a level that seemed impossible for him to rediscover in a white shirt just a few weeks ago.

6. Zidane said that LaLiga Santander was priority this season, and it shows.

In recent seasons the title had been lost before December, but they're still in the race this year.Yes, the refereeing was bad. But Zidane's team showed a lot at the Camp Nou. That, in some ways, was their victory.

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LaLiga: First El Clasico of season between Barcelona and Real Madrid to be won or lost in midfield

Up until Jornada 10, LaLiga seemed to be going a different way in comparison to the previous few seasons. The dominance of Real Madrid, Barcelona for the top spot had been questioned and the gap at the top was little. Newly-promoted and smaller of the Andalusian teams in Granada occupied the top spot. They were leading the Primera Division for the first time in 46 years! As a football fan, you felt giddy, you hoped for some sort of fairytale to happen — much like the Leicester City of Premier League or Deportivo La Coruña in 2000.

But a week later, the duo scored five goals each against Leganes and Real Valladolid to make it one-two battle once again.

 LaLiga: First El Clasico of season between Barcelona and Real Madrid to be won or lost in midfield

Barcelona were held to a 2-2 draw by Real Sociedad on the weekend. They come into the Clasico as league leaders. AP

You win, I win. You draw, I draw. That has been the theme to things ever since. When Barcelona slipped at Levante (losing 3-1), Real Madrid were held to a stalemate by Betis. Four wins later for both, Barca were once again the first to drop points. Real Sociedad denied Barca all three points at Anoeta while Real Madrid needed a 95th-minute goal from Karim Benzema to get something from Mestalla.

Now we come to the big one. It was scheduled for 26 October but was postponed due to protests in Barcelona following sentences handed out to political leaders as part of the independence referendum. La Liga wished it to be played on 4 December but the clubs' agreed date, and that ratified by Spanish FA, of 18 December, stuck.

16 matches played, 35 points apiece but Barcelona sit top thanks to a better goal difference — which at the end of the season counts for nothing. In Spain, the head-to-head is the tiebreaker if two teams finish on points. Where Barca have scored 43 goals, Real have tallied 33. At the back, Barca have let in 20 goals while Madrid have conceded 12. This stat highlights the major strengths and concerns for both teams.

Barcelona have a strong forward line and can get goals aplenty with Lionel Messi on 12, Luis Suarez on 9 and Antoine Griezmann on 6. Real Madrid have put their faith squarely in Benzema to get goals. He has 12 with defender Sergio Ramos the next best at 3.

In defence, Barcelona have looked shoddy throughout the season and have lacked the solidity that is needed. For the fixture tonight, Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet make up the centre back pairing with Sergi Roberto likely to occupy the right side. Jordi Alba, fit once again, is expected to come in at left-back and provide the attacking threat with his galloping runs and off the ball movement provide.

Real Madrid players celebrate the goal of their goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Valencia and Real Madrid at the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia, Spain, Sunday, December 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

Real Madrid salvaged a point at Mestalla courtesy a Karim Benzema goal in stoppage time. AP

For Real, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane will take shape at centre back, Dani Carvajal at right-back. The left-back slot remains up for grabs with Marcelo injured. Zinedine Zidane could bring in Ferland Mendy who is once again available following suspension, or stick to Nacho Fernandez. Mendy would be a smarter guess considering his ability to whip in neat crosses and solid defensive skills.

Midfield dictates play, it dictates flow from back to forward and most importantly, the tempo of the game. The game will be won or lost by the team which does well in the midfield. Barcelona are expected to have three in the middle: Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong. Messi and Suarez can drop in deep if the situation demands, leaving Griezmann for the counter-attacking moves which are a strong possibility with this Real Madrid side, which can be caught out between the lines.

Another option is to have Griezmann hug the touchline with Suarez becoming the goal-scoring threat in the middle and Messi playing as the number 10.

Alba, if he plays, also provides an option to run in on the wings with Messi's clinical through balls or chips to keep Carvajal busy. Alba then has what it takes to provide neatly struck cutbacks for the attackers to slot home.

Real Madrid's Casemiro (in white) squares off with Barcelona's Lionel Messi. Source: LaLiga

Casemiro stayed on the bench against Valencia but is expected to marshal the midfield and defence at Camp Nou. Source: LaLiga

Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Federico Valverde and Casemiro could all come in and form the playing XI with either a 4-4-2 or 4-3-2-1 style helped by the attacking options in Benzema and Rodrygo. Modric and Kroos had started the season, not in the fittest of shapes or with the sharpest of football on the pitch but as things have progressed, they've improved. This has shown in how Real have played their football as well. What is important is to keep that level high in order to put the pressure on Barcelona. At Valencia, Real started well, moved the ball around quickly but fizzled as it drew forward.

Other formations could be a 4-1-3-2 with Modric, Kroos and Valverde in midfield, Casemiro the linkup between defence and midfield with Rodrygo and Benzema upfront. It appears unlikely that Zidane would start with Vinicius Jr. or Gareth Bale. When asked about the Welshman (again) in the buildup to the fixture, Zidane said he was someone who was training well and "an important player" without dwelling on his chances of getting a second start since early October.

If Zidane were to be bolder, he could play a 4-1-2-3 with Casemiro doing the dirty, mopping up work behind Kroos and Modric/Valverde with Isco, Benzema and Rodrygo starting.

For all the permutations and combinations, Casemiro being a part of the playing XI is a certainty and his role extremely important — a fact established further by the Brazilian getting to warm the bench at Valencia in order to not get suspended for the Clasico.

There are quite a few options for both Zidane and Ernesto Valverde to explore for the first Clasico of the season. If things hold up with how LaLiga has turned out this season, it could matter a whole lot by Jornada 38!

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Four dead, 16 missing from capsized raft off Spain's coast

Madrid, November 29 (RHC)-- Spanish authorities have rescued 58 migrants from another failed expedition trying to cross the Mediterranean.  Three bodies were recovered from the water and another died after being taken to shore, while 16 more migrants are missing, as they attempted to cross from North Africa to Europe in a small raft, a spokeswoman for Spain's coastguard reported.

European and Spanish authorities deployed boats and a plane in the search for the bodies that were not found, 58 were rescued.  They are also tracking another craft carrying 78 migrants that are believed to have set off from Morocco on Tuesday night, News Agency Reuters reported.

Sea-borne migration to the continent has decreased since peaking in 2015 but thousands still attempt the dangerous Mediterranean crossing every year, looking to escape poverty and conflict in their home countries.

The latest group was brought to Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla, where a Reuters photographer saw survivors being helped ashore and given medical assistance by the Red Cross. Wrapped in thermal blankets, some of the migrants appeared to be in a state of shock after their ordeal.

According to the International Organization for Migration before these deaths, at least 1,136 migrants had already died or gone missing at sea so far this 2019. "Events of the past few days prove once more that crossing the Mediterranean is still extremely dangerous,” the Director of the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean Laurence Hart said.

On Sunday, Italian authorities saved 149 people from a capsized dinghy off the island of Lampedusa. The bodies of five women were retrieved and several others remain unaccounted for. Meanwhile, Spanish charity ships Open Arms and Aita Mari rescued more than 140 migrants from rafts off the Libyan coast last week and transported them to Italy.

As of 2019, close to 900,000 asylum seekers in the European Union are waiting to have their claims processed, according to figures from the European statistics office.

Edited by Ed Newman
  • Published in World

Cuban university students march in homage to eight medical students murdered in 1871

University students and residents of Havana are walking this Wednesday in tribute to eight innocent medical students that 148 years ago were executed by firing squad by Spanish colonial authorities for a crime they did not commit.

Mojamed Pérez Caldevilla, a member of the national secretariat of the University Student Federation, told Radio Reloj that the young people will descend the steps of the University of Havana to the Monument of La Punta to pay tribute to the murdered students.

The young students were falsely accused of desecrating the tomb of Spaniard Gonzalo Castañon, an act which was proven false.

Their execution was intended to curb libertarian sentiment among Cubans, although in practice, the result was just the opposite. Both the crime and the summary trials that preceded it, actually propelled the ideals of freedom on the Island, a victim of Spanish colonial rule.

Every year the day is remembered as a sad anniversary. The assassination provoked worldwide repulsion and heightened the independence sentiments among Cubans.

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Official: Luis Enrique will return as Spain boss for Euro 2020

Luis Enrique will take charge of Spain at Euro 2020 after returning to his role as head coach.The former Barcelona boss initially stepped away from the team in March before officially stepping down for personal reasons in June.

Robert Moreno took interim charge for the March qualifiers before taking on the job full time in June.

He guided La Roja to Euro 2020 qualification with six wins and two draws in his eight matches in charge.

"I think my options to continue at 10 out of 10," Moreno said on Sunday."

I consider Luis a friend and his friendship comes in front of everything," he had said in November."

If he wants to return one day, I will be delighted to step aside and work with him."Spain have changed their coach for the sixth time since 2016 when Vicente del Bosque left the role after Euro 2016.

Julen Lopetegui took over but was replaced by Fernando Hierro on the eve of the 2018 World Cup after taking the Real Madrid job.

Hierro didn't continue in charge after Spain were knocked out by the hosts in Russia and Luis Enrique was appointed before leaving in March.

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International Flamenco Day

While flamenco has its roots deep in Spain, it has become a universal art form and is danced and played from Japan to Latin America and the United States.

To mark International Flamenco Day (Saturday, November 16), a Madrid dance school has released a special video.

Under the motto "Flamenco doesn't make distinctions, it distinguishes us", it features artists from all origins and sexual orientations.

As artists like Rosalía keep reinventing this genre, the music used is a fusion of traditional flamenco and electronic music, further underlining its diversity.

"The video tries to reflect that in Flamenco everything has a place, regardless of gender, race, physical complexion or age," said the Fortea dance school in a statement.

"The students dance in front of changing backgrounds that symbolise diversity, and that come together at the end to form a single picture.

"In the choreographies there are high, low dancers of different races, they dance in mixed couples or of the same sex and have very different ages, as a sign of inclusion in an art that 'does not distinguish'."

Virginia Domínguez, the director of the Fortea dance school, said: "Our message this year has changed; in the social moment in which we live, we thought it was appropriate to highlight one of the values of Flamenco beyond its art and culture or what it means for us, the students and professionals who live it day by day.

"The capacity of Flamenco to welcome everyone, whatever their social, physical, sexual or cultural condition, can be "pulled up" in a dance, a few hand claps or a "cante" (singing), is one of its great things. It is, for us, a pride and privilege that Flamenco is part of our culture. And this is what we wanted to express, that Flamenco does NOT make distinctions, it distinguishes US."

The International Flamenco Day is held on November 16 to mark the day it was included in UNESCO's World Heritage list.

  • Published in Culture

Spanish king pays courtesy visit to Raul Castro

Spanish King Felipe VI paid a courtesy visit on Thursday to First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba Raul Castro Ruz, according to official broadcasting station Radio Havana Cuba.

The Cuban media did not offer details of the meeting between Castro and the king, who, together with his wife Queen Letizia, was on a three-day official visit to Cuba.

The royal couple arrived in Havana on Monday. The king met with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Tuesday and granted Havana historian Eusebio Leal Spain's highest civilian honor on Wednesday.

The royal couple also toured Havana's historic downtown area and a museum in the city of Santiago de Cuba.

The official visit, the first to Cuba by a Spanish king, coincides with the 500th anniversary of the founding of Havana.

  • Published in Cuba
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