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Djokovic crushed the Grand Slam dream of Greek trailblazer Stefanos Tsitsipas in the one-sided final match by winning 6-3 7-6(4) 7-6(5), a rematch of the 2021 French Open decider.


Djokovic at Australia Open

Djokovic at Australia Open [Photo Credit; Sky Sports]

Novak Djokovic was ruthless on Sunday as he resumed his reign over Melbourne Park by winning a record-extending 10th Australian Open title.

Djokovic crushed the Grand Slam dream of Greek trailblazer Stefanos Tsitsipas in the one-sided final match by winning 6-3 7-6(4) 7-6(5), a rematch of the 2021 French Open decider.

He used the victory at Rod Laver Arena to reclaim the world number one ranking and again deny Tsitsipas a maiden major title.

The atmosphere was electric, and the crowd often unruly as Serbian and Greek fans bayed in the terraces as if roaring on football teams.

But at the finish, “Nole! Nole” chants won out as Djokovic stormed to a 5-0 lead in the final tie-break.

He closed out the match with a thumping forehand down the line, which Tsitsipas could only hit long.

Unleashing a roar, Djokovic pumped his fists and then cried as he hugged his mum.

Djokovic’s 22nd Grand Slam triumph is now matching Rafa Nadal.

It was the ultimate redemption a year on from his sensational deportation from Australia on the eve of the Grand Slam due to his lack of COVID-19 vaccination.

Despite repeatedly saying he bore no grudges over his deportation, Djokovic left none in doubt that the events of last year would be fuel for his success.

He has had plenty of other spurs at this tournament, such as heckling fans and snide comments about the severity of his hamstring injury.

There were also calls for his father, Srdjan, to be barred from Melbourne Park for mixing with Putin supporters bearing banned Russian flags.

“I have to say this has been the most challenging tournament I have played in my life,” Djokovic said as he cradled the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.

“Not playing last year, coming back this year.

“This is probably the biggest victory in my life, considering the circumstances.”

As in the semi-final, there was no Srdjan in the players’ box, but Djokovic had ample support all around the show court.

Where his left thigh had strapping in the semi-final and before, there was only a bit of tape poking out of his shorts-leg.

It was a bad omen for Tsitsipas, who at Roland Garros in 2021 gave up a two-set lead to lose to the Serb.

He had his chances on Sunday, including a set point in the second set, but he could not convert them.

“Novak brings the best out of me, and these are the matches I’ve been working my entire life for,” Tsitsipas said in a gracious runner-up speech.

Facing a man in his 33rd Grand Slam final, Tsitsipas, in his second, was tense.

He double-faulted to drop serve in the fourth game, and in a flash, Djokovic was 4-1 ahead, pumping his fist at the net.

A wide, kicking serve wrapped up the set for the Serb, who marched to his chair contented.

Tsitsipas focused on his serve and found some respite.

He had a small victory when he had Djokovic tumbling on the court in pursuit of a backhand at 3-3.

Djokovic grew frustrated with Tsitsipas’s resilience on serve and began mouthing off at his non-plussed coach Goran Ivanisevic.

He gave up a set point at 5-4 with a backhand error to the delight of Greek fans but saved it with a forehand winner down the line.

The crowd grew unruly as the set went to a chaotic tie-break, with one fan belting out a song during a rally at 4-4.

Tsitsipas cracked, hitting long twice, and Djokovic sealed the set as he did the first, with a wide kicking serve.

With the match slipping from his grasp, Tsitsipas needed a bit of luck.

It came as Djokovic dropped serve with a messy opening game in the third set.

Tsitsipas’s moment had arrived, but it was quickly gone when he missed a forehand with an open court begging.

The Greek barked expletives, and Djokovic pounced, breaking straight back with a patch of brilliant shot-making.

From there, the Serb locked down the match with trademark control before bashing a forehand down the line to bring up three match points in the final tie-break.

He blew one with a backhand, and Tsitsipas saved a second with a huge serve, but Djokovic made no mistake on the third.

With his entourage having changed into T-shirts emblazoned with “10”, Djokovic held the winner’s trophy aloft once more.

This has come 15 years after hoisting it for the first time as a 20-year-old in 2008.


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Osimhen, Chukwueze Doubtful As Super Eagles Eye Arsenal’s Goalkeeper



Nigeria may be without forwards, Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze, when they host Lesotho in a 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo.

Osimhen and Chukwueze were expected to return to top action last weekend, but feelers from Italy say their clubs, Napoli and AC Milan respectively, have deferred that to give them adequate time to recuperate.
Napoli FC coach, Rudi Garcia, has announced the return of Osimhen, who has been out of action for almost a month following a hamstring injury.
According to Garcia, Osimhen was expected to return to training yesterday, but would miss the Champions League game against Union Berlin.
Osimhen copped an injury when Nigeria met Saudi Arabia in a friendly game on October 13 in Portugal. Speaking at the club’s media parley on Tuesday, Garcia said Osimhen would return to action on November 25, which is nine days after Nigeria’s game against Lesotho.
Also expected to miss the game is Chukwueze.  Chukwueze was an unused substitute when AC Milan hosted Paris St. Germain in a Champions League game on Tuesday, but the Super Eagles Manager, Jose Peseiro, said he would not risk the former Villarreal star in the game against Lesotho.
He said: “We wish to avoid any risks, so Samuel Chukwueze and Victor Osimhen will not be called up during the next break.
“I apologised deeply for their injuries; players are paid by their clubs, and we work with them on a regular basis.”
In Osimhen and Chukwueze’s absence, the Eagles’ attack will be spearheaded by Victor Boniface and Taiwo Awoniyi. Sadiq Umar, Chuba Akpom, Terem Moffi, the rejuvenated Paul Onuachu and new kid on the block, Akor Adams, could also be handed the opportunity to stake their claim to the team’s striker’s roles.
Meanwhile, the Super Eagles have taken their search for a credible goalkeeper to Arsenal, where Nigeria’s Arthur Okonkwo is one of the shot stoppers.
Super Eagles’ current number one goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho, has been under fire since his mistake in Portugal gifted Saudi Arabia a goal during an international friendly.
Peseiro recently recalled Udinese goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye, as the team continue their build up to the Cote d’Ivoire 2024 African Cup of Nations.
Okoye was Nigeria’s number-one goalkeeper at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, but he was hounded out of the team by fans, who blamed him for Nigeria’s ouster from the Cameroon 2021 African Cup of Nations by Tunisia.
According to reports, Okonkwo is one of the goalkeepers Nigeria Football Federation’s (NFF) Technical Director, Augustine Eguavoen, is trying to bring to the Eagles.
Okonkwo is currently on loan from Arsenal to Wrexham, where he has been the first choice goalkeeper this season. Eguavoen, according to sources in the NFF, has held talks with Okonkwo with a view to a possible call-up to the Nigeria national team in the future.
Okonkwo, who has played for England’s junior teams at all levels, qualifies to play for the Super Eagles through his Nigerian dad, Uba Okonkwo, from Anambra State.


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Peseiro Rules Out Osimhen, Chukwueze From Lesotho  Clash



Recuperating Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze have been ruled out of Nigeria’s squad to kick off the 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Lesotho and Zimbabwe next weekend.

Super Eagles Head Coach, Jose Santos Peseiro, has confirmed the absence of the two key players who suffered hamstring injuries during Nigeria’s international friendlies with Saudi Arabia and Mozambique last month in Portugal.

Although both Osimhen and Chukwueze have resumed training at Napoli and AC Milan respective, the Portuguese gaffer appears to have heeded calls by stakeholders in the country’s football to allow them recover fully on the sideline.

Peseiro told an online news medium TV Play that he was not going to risk the duo in the clashes with Lesotho and Zimbabwe to avoid injuries that may prevent them from representing Nigeria at the AFCON 2023 kicking off in Côte d’Ivoire in January.

“Samuel Chukwueze and Victor Osimhen will not be called up during the next break. We want to avoid any risks,” Peseiro told  TV Play.

“I am very sorry for their injuries, the clubs pay the players and we constantly collaborate with them,” stressed the coach who is sad that both players have not been able to play for their respective clubs after the FIFA window.

Lesotho’s Likuena will take on the Super Eagles  on November 16 in Uyo and four days later in Rwanda against Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, leading newspaper in Lesotho, the Lesotho Times is celebrating the absence of some key players for the Super Eagles. It titled its story “Relief as key Nigerian players are ruled out of Likuena tie.”

“The Super Eagles are battling to overcome these injury concerns as they prepare to face Likuena who are eager to cause an upset at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo.

”The Super Eagles are ranked number 40 on the FIFA Coca-Cola world ranking while Likuena are ranked number 153.

”The injury concerns are threatening to disrupt Super Eagles’s coach Jose Peseiro’s hunt for a World Cup ticket after the team missed out on the 2022 World Cup,” the newspaper reported gleefully yesterday.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is expected to announce Peseiro’s squad for the two key matches any moment from today.

This Day

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University Of Uyo To Honour Enyeama With Honourary Degree



Uyo will stand still this weekend as the University of Uyo honours former Super Eagles’ goalkeeper, Enyeama Vincent with honorary degree at her 26th, 27th and 28th combined convocation.

Born 41 years ago, Enyeama is one of the three eminent Nigerians that will bag this year’s honorary degree of the oldest Federal University in Akwa Ibom State for making Nigeria proud in the world of sports.

Over 20 years, he has played for Ibom Stars, Enyimba, Iwuanyanwu Nationale, Bnei Yehuda, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Lille and Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Enyeama was a member, Nigerian football team between 2002 and October 2015, serving as its captain from 2013 until his retirement from international football in 2015.

With 101 caps, he is Nigeria’s most capped player of all time.

Despite his below-average height for a goalkeeper, Enyeama is popularly regarded as one of the greatest African goalkeepers of all time and of his era.

In March this year, he was ranked the greatest African goalkeeper in history selected above other legendary African goalkeepers such as Joseph-Antoine Bell, Thomas N’Kono, and Essam El-Hadary by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics.

The former Super Eagles captain represented the Nigerian national team in three World Cup tournaments and played a key role in the team’s victory in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

Enyeama had a decorated career as a goalkeeper with numerous individual awards including being named the best goalkeeper in the Israeli Premier League three times and the best goalkeeper in Ligue 1 in the 2013-2014 season.

He also holds the record for the most clean sheets in a season in the French top flight, with 21 shutouts in 2013-2014.

Enyeama is regarded as the greatest goalkeeper in Nigeria football history with his consistent impresssive performance in goal for the Super Eagles for many years.

I present to you, Vincent Enyeama, a proud son of Ika Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and a father of three.

c Harrison Essien

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