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Nadal, Djokovic beaten at ATP, setting stage for Medvedev, Thiem final

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Daniil Medvedev sent Rafael Nadal packing after a gruelling slugfest at the ATP Finals in London on Saturday to set up a title match against Novak Djokovic’s conqueror Dominic Thiem.

The Spanish world number two, who has never won the elite event in his illustrious career, faltered when serving for the match in the second set and was beaten 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.

Earlier, US Open champion Thiem recovered from 4-0 down in the third-set tie-break against Djokovic to win 7-5, 6-7 (10/12), 7-6 (7/5).

Russian giant Medvedev — who has won nine matches in a row — put Nadal’s serve under intense pressure in the early stages of their evening match at the empty O2 Arena.

But he was unable to make his chances count and a drop in his level allowed the Spaniard to break to love to lead 5-3 before he served out for the set.

Medvedev immediately found his focus at the start of the second set, winning his first service game to love before Nadal, a two-time finalist at the event, double-faulted to give the Russian a 2-0 lead.

Just when it seemed as though Medvedev was cruising, Nadal, 34, broke back twice to take total control and stepped up to serve for the match.

But in another astonishing twist, the 20-time Grand Slam champion played a sloppy game, allowing the Russian back into the match, and Medvedev won the eventual tie-break.

The deciding set hinged on the seventh game — the Russian produced an overhead winner on his third break point, breaking again to beat Nadal for the first time.

The Spaniard entered the match on a 71-match winning streak after taking the opening set, but 24-year-old snapped that run with a gritty mental and physical performance over two hours and 36 minutes.

“I felt really strange until 5-4 for him in the second set, when he was serving for the match,” said the fourth seed, who lost all three of his matches on his debut at the season-ending tournament last year.

Djokovic agony

Thiem’s victory against Djokovic ended the world number one’s hopes of equalling Roger Federer’s record of six titles at the eight-man event.

The 2019 runner-up faced an uphill battle psychologically after squandering four match points in the second-set tie-break.

But he was quickly back in the groove and rallied from a desperate situation in the final-set tie-break, winning six successive points to earn two match points, taking the second of those.

“It was for sure a mental battle,” said Thiem. “I got so tight in the second-set tie-break, first of all because to play these legends is always going to be something special.”

The Austrian is only the second player in 2020 to win a tie-break against Djokovic, who entered the third-set decider with a 15-1 tie-break record this season.

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Arsenal agree £50m deal for Brighton’s defender

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Arsenal has agreed on a deal in principle for the £50m transfer of Brighton & Hove Albion defender Ben White.

White was a late call-up to Gareth Southgate’s England Euro 2020 squad.

It completes a meteoric rise for the 23-year-old, who was released by Southampton as a youngster before being signed by Brighton.

He went on a number of loans from the Seagulls, including to Leeds’ Championship title-winning side in 2019-20.

White’s performances for Leeds attracted the attention of many leading clubs and prompted Brighton to secure him on a new four-year contract last summer.

That deal put the Seagulls in a strong negotiating position this summer and it is understood they rejected two bids from the Gunners before agreement was finally reached amid interest from other Premier League clubs.

White is on holiday so the transfer, including his medical, will not be completed until he returns.

The transfer comes as Arsenal part ways with Brazil defender David Luiz after his contract expired.

The Gunners have also signed 21-year-old left-back Nuno Tavares from Benfica for £8m this summer.

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Messi to sign new five-year Barcelona contract, take 50% wage cut

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Lionel Messi will sign a new five-year contract at Barcelona and take an incredible 50 per cent wage cut, Goal can confirm.
Messi has spent his entire career to date on Barca’s books, having initially made his debut for the club as a teenager in 2004, but dropped into the free agency pool at the start of July after reaching the end of his contract.
The Argentine won’t be embarking on a new challenge away from Camp Nou anytime soon, though, with the Blaugrana set to announce that they have tied the six-time Ballon d’Or winner down to a fresh long-term deal.
Messi earned a staggering €550 million (£468m/$650m) over the course of his last five-year contract at Camp Nou, which equates to around €75m (£64m/$89m) per season.
However, Barca were unable to hand the 34-year-old similarly lucrative renewal terms after exceeding La Liga’s wage limit at the end of the 2020-21 campaign .
League president Javier Tebas warned that the Blaugrana could not legally register Messi without significantly reducing their salary costs, with the likes of Junior Firpo, Jean-Clair Todibo, Carles Alena and Juan Miranda all subsequently sold to raise extra funds.
Messi has also agreed to halve his yearly earnings in order to re-sign for Barca, and Goal has learned that they will formally announce his new contract in the coming weeks after a few minor details are finalised.
Did Messi have any other offers on the table?
Messi became available on a free transfer upon the expiration of his last deal, and it has been reported that the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Inter have all shown an interest in signing the Argentina international.
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A possible return to boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys was also mooted, along with a potential foray into MLS with David Beckham-owned franchise Inter Miami.
Goal understands that Messi received several formal offers, including an attractive proposal from PSG, but he ultimately decided to remain a one-club man and continue playing for Barca until 2026 – at which point he will be 39 years of age.
-Goal

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