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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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Ronaldo hits back at ‘lies’ about Ballon d’Or rivalry with Messi

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Cristiano Ronaldo has hit back at comments made by Ballon d’Or organiser Pascal Ferre, saying the editor-in-chief of France Football “lied” about his rivalry with Lionel Messi.

Ferre told the New York Times on Friday that Manchester United forward Ronaldo’s sole ambition was to retire with more of the awards for the world’s best player than Messi.

Argentine Messi beat Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Chelsea midfielder Jorginho to claim a record-extending seventh Ballon d’Or award.

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“Pascal Ferre lied, he used my name to promote himself and to promote the publication he works for,” Ronaldo, who has won the award five times, said in an Instagram post on Monday.

“It is unacceptable that the person responsible for awarding such a prestigious prize could lie in this way, in absolute disrespect for someone who has always respected France Football and the Ballon d’Or.”

“I always win for myself and for the clubs I represent, I win for myself and for those who love me. I don’t win against someone,” added the Portugal forward.

“The biggest ambition of my career is to leave my name written in golden letters in the history of world football.”

 

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Ronaldo criticises France Football editor over Messi Ballon d’Or claims

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Cristiano Ronaldo has hit back at the editor of France Football who claimed the Manchester United forward’s only ambition is to “retire with more Ballons d’Or than Lionel Messi”.

The Portuguese, who has won the prestigious accolade five times, took to social media on Monday to refute the claims made by Pascal Ferré, who spoke to the New York Times ahead of the 2021 awards.

Messi won the men’s award for a record seventh time at the ceremony in Paris on Monday.

Ferré told the New York Times: “Ronaldo has only one ambition and that is to retire with more Ballon d’Or [awards] than Messi. I know because he has told me.”

However, Ronaldo has disputed that version of events and took to Instagram to claim that Ferré “lied” during the interview.

“Today’s outcome explains the comments by Pascal Ferré last week, when he stated that I confided in him that my only ambition was to finish my career with more Ballons d’Or than Lionel Messi,” a Ronaldo statement said.

“Pascal Ferré lied and used my name to promote himself and to promote the publication that he works for. It’s unacceptable for the person responsible for handing out such a prestigious award to lie in this way and to show disrespect to someone who has always respected France Football and the Ballon d’Or. He lied again today to justify my absence from the ceremony due to an alleged quarantine that has no reason to exist.

“I always congratulate whoever wins, in tandem with the sportsmanship and fair play that have underpinned my career since the start and I do that because I’m never against anyone. I always win for myself and for the clubs that I represent. I win for myself and for those who love me. I don’t win against anyone.”

Ronaldo added: “My biggest ambition in my career is to win trophies at club and international level, for the clubs that I play for and my national team. My biggest ambition in my career is to set a good example for everyone who is or wants to be a professional footballer. My biggest ambition in my career is to have my name written in gold in world football history.

“I’ll finish up by saying that my focus is already on Manchester United’s next game and everything that we can still achieve this season alongside my teammates and our fans. As for the rest, the rest is just that…”

 

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Messi wins record seventh Ballon d’Or

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Lionel Messi has claimed a record seventh men’s Ballon d’Or award, beating Robert Lewandowski.

The award ceremony was held at the Théâtre du Chatelet in Paris, France on Monday evening.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward ended his long wait for a major international trophy when he helped Argentina win the Copa America in the summer.

He also guided Barcelona to Copa del Rey glory before moving to the French capital in August.

Lewandowski, however, won the maiden ‘Striker of the Year’ award – one of the two new awards introduced by France Football in 2021.

In the women’s category, Alexia Putellas, Barcelona’s midfielder, clinched the Ballon d’Or to become the third woman to achieve the feat.

The 27-year-old captained her club to the Champions League title last season, ending Lyon’s five-year reign.

She was recently named ‘UEFA Player of the Year’ and also lifted the Spanish league and cup last season, completing the treble.

Pedri claimed the Kopa Trophy, the award for best performing player under the age of 21.

The 19-year-old Spaniard, who recently won the ‘Golden Boy’ prize, also came 24th in this year’s Ballon d’Or.

 

Gianluigi Donnarumma beat Edouard Mendy, Jan Oblak, Ederson, and Manuel Neuer respectively to clinch the Yashin Trophy, which is the award for best goalkeeper.

The Italian claimed the prize after finishing 10th in the Ballon d’Or.

 

Aside from the regular categories of the men and women’s Ballon d’Or, Kopa Trophy, and Yashin Trophy, France Football also introduced the ‘Best Club’ and ‘Best Striker of the Year’ in the 2021 class.

 

The 2021 Balloon d’Or is the 65th annual award ceremony organised to recognise the best footballers in the world.

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