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Uncertainty over players’ return as clubs begin to reopen

Evan Lewis

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Uncertainty over players' return as clubs begin to reopen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – NFL team facilities began to reopen for non-player staff on Tuesday, though the league’s chief medical officer told reporters it remains unclear when players could return.

FILE PHOTO: Dec 8, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) against the Pittsburgh Steelers at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports – 14294913/File Photo

All 32 clubs closed in March amid the coronavirus outbreak that shredded the professional sports calendar and sent players, coaches and personnel into lockdown.

The NFL outlined protocols for reopening earlier this month that included social distancing precautions, with the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons and Indianapolis Colts among the teams that opened their doors on Tuesday, according to U.S. media reports.

“We’ve really taken an approach that we want to do this opening in a very phased, progressive, civilized fashion,” Allen Stills, the league’s chief medical official, told reporters.

“I’ve sort of used the phrase that we want to walk, then jog, then run as we think about how to reopen our facilities.”

Under the league provisions, clubs can start by allowing 50% of non-player staff to return and coaches are not allowed.

Stills said it was unclear when and how players could return, however, as the league targets a Sept. 10 start to its season while many parts of the country remain on lockdown.

“Obviously bringing players back in and doing football activity presents many challenges and a lot of medical issues to work through,” said Stills, who said that the NFL was “not putting dates on the calendar at this point” in regard to June mini-camps.

Coordinating testing of players and personnel is also a concern, with Stills saying the league would ensure “that we’re in no way affecting the supply of tests” regionally or nationally.

Professional sports have slowly begun crawling back to life across North America, with golf and NASCAR putting on fanless events on Sunday, and Major League Baseball hoping to salvage its season.

Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Toby Davis

With a knack for storytelling, Evan started News Brig about a year ago. Covering substantial topics under the Sports,, he helps information seep in deeper with creative writing and content management skills.

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UFC star Conor McGregor: I’m retiring from fighting

Evan Lewis

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UFC star Conor McGregor: I'm retiring from fighting

Conor McGregor, who is considered the biggest star in UFC history, posted on Twitter late Saturday night that he’s retiring from the Octagon.

The announcement, which came after Amanda Nunes’ impressive flyweight title defense in UFC 250, came as a surprise, but already some believe it’s insincere and could be more of a publicity stunt. Retirements are often used as a bargaining tool in combat sports.

The 31-year-old McGregor, who has a 22-4 record in mixed martial arts, fought as recently as Jan. 18 when he scored a a first-round TKO victory over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in UFC 246.

“Hey guys I’ve decided to retire from fighting,” McGregor tweeted. “Thank you all for the amazing memories! What a ride it’s been!”

The skepticism from this retirement announcement comes from the fact that the controversial fighter has made this dubious declaration before. It’s now the third time in four years the former two-division champion has announced his retirement. He also said he was done with fighting in 2016 and 2019, only to return.

McGregor recently hasn’t sounded like a fighter ready to call it quits. On May 28, he posted on Twitter that he would accept a fight with Anderson Silva, another UFC legend. According to ESPN, this summer McGregor was once tied to a potential fight with current top lightweight contender Justin Gaethje, and there also had been speculation of a trilogy bout, tiebreaker bout against Nate Diaz.

Earlier this week, UFC president Dana White said McGregor might be best served to wait and face the winner of the title bout between Gaethje and Khabib Nurmagomedov, a McGregor nemesis who has a win over him.

After McGregor’s victory over Cerrone, there also was speculation that he would fight Floyd Mayweather again. But a boxing rematch vs. Mayweather would be a bit more challenging to hype again after McGregor was clearly beaten in his 10th-round TKO loss on Aug 26, 2017.

Though White likely would love to have McGregor in another high-profile fight, he told reporters Saturday night that if “The Notorious” wants to retire, he should call it quits, but also noted that people have been acting strangely during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Nobody is pressuring anybody to fight,” White said after UFC 250. “And if Conor McGregor feels he wants to retire, you know my feelings about retirement — you should absolutely do it. And I love Conor … there’s a handful of people that have made this really fun for me. And he’s one of them.”

White, who has been feuds UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and star Jorge Masvidal, said the “the amount of people that I have gunning at me right now is insane.”

But the famous promoter, who also has been feuding with HBO host John Oliver, chalked up the heavy amount of UFC intrigue to the turbulent times.

“If that’s what Conor is feeling right now — Jon Jones, Jorge Masvidal, I feel you,” White said. “It’s not like I’m going, ‘Holy s—, this is crazy, this is nuts.’ Nothing is crazy and nuts right now, because everything is crazy and nuts right now, on a certain level. I totally understand it and get it.”

McGregor, who has been a subject of controversy throughout his career, has made a lot of history in the Octagon. When McGregor knocked out Eddie Alvarez to win the lightweight belt at UFC 205 on Nov. 12, 2016, he became the first UFC fighter to hold two titles in two different weight classes at the same time.

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Tennis: Mouratoglou targets new fanbase with innovative league

Evan Lewis

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Tennis: Mouratoglou targets new fanbase with innovative league

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Patrick Mouratoglou, the long-time coach of Serena Williams, feels tennis needs to reinvent itself and hopes his new league will make the sport more attractive and engaging for a younger generation.

FILE PHOTO: Tennis – Wimbledon – All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain – July 12, 2019 Serena Williams of the U.S. coach Patrick Mouratoglou before practice REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

The Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS), which kicks off in France next Saturday, will have three top-10 players from the men’s ATP Tour in Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini and David Goffin, joining seven others to compete in a round-robin format over five weeks.

Among the changes from the main tour, players will not face sanctions for emotional outbursts on court while fans will be able to question them during changeovers as they watch a livestream of matches.

“For many years I have been worried about the future of tennis. The average age of a tennis fan is 61, which is very old for a fan base,” Mouratoglou told Reuters.

“Tennis is failing to renew its fanbase. And that’s very worrying, because the future doesn’t look bright.”

Mouratoglou teamed up with Alex Popyrin, the father of world number 103 Alexei, to create the league that he says will showcase “new tennis”.

“I mean different tennis. Taking into consideration what was better back in the 1970s and the 80s and also bringing some modernity,” he said in an interview.

“I’m excited to showcase that and to see if this is much more attractive to the younger generation.”

UTS will be held at Mouratoglou’s academy in Nice with 10 matches every weekend for a total of 50 matches and prize money on offer for each clash.

With the professional circuit halted at least until the end of July due to COVID-19, a number of exhibition events have recently been held as lockdown rules are slowly eased.

Mouratoglou, who has been working with 23-times Grand Slam singles winner Williams since 2012, said the UTS will not be another exhibition event.

“It’s a real competition and it’s a new tour,” he said. “The players are going to win points, they’re going to earn prize money. And at the end of the year there will be a champion.

“So they’re going to really compete with the same motivation as if they were playing a tournament.”

The games will be shorter and more dynamic and will “surprise” traditional fans, according to Mouratoglou, who turns 50 on Monday.

The event will be held without fans in attendance. They will, however, be able to listen to conversations between players and coaches as they watch from home.

The Frenchman feels fans currently miss personalities who are easily identifiable – such as those from the past like John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, Ilie Nastase and Yannick Noah.

“I want authenticity, I don’t want players to make a show. I want players to be able to be themselves on court and express all kinds of emotions,” said Mouratoglou.

The Frenchman added that they had studied what had made different formats in other sports successful while they had also taken inspiration from esports.

The event will be live-streamed and fans will be able to watch it on utslive.tv, subscriptions for which will be less than 10 euros (about $11) a month.

UTS will distribute a major part of its advertising and broadcasting revenue to help lower-ranked players, who have been heavily affected by the sport’s shutdown. Each match will have a prize pot with the winner bagging 70% and rest going to his opponent.

“The idea is to create the tennis of the future,” said Mouratoglou. “I don’t plan to be a competitor to the ATP and the WTA. My plan is to bring new fans to the game.

“And if it works, and if the ATP and the WTA want to have the UTS under their umbrella, I’ll be happy to.”

($1 = 0.8862 euros)

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Tenni: Mouratoglou targets new fanbase with innovative league

Evan Lewis

Published

on

Tenni: Mouratoglou targets new fanbase with innovative league

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Patrick Mouratoglou, the long-time coach of Serena Williams, feels tennis needs to reinvent itself and hopes his new league will make the sport more attractive and engaging for a younger generation.

FILE PHOTO: Tennis – Wimbledon – All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain – July 12, 2019 Serena Williams of the U.S. coach Patrick Mouratoglou before practice REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

The Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS), which kicks off in France next Saturday, will have three top-10 players from the men’s ATP Tour in Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini and David Goffin, joining seven others to compete in a round-robin format over five weeks.

Among the changes from the main tour, players will not face sanctions for emotional outbursts on court while fans will be able to question them during changeovers as they watch a livestream of matches.

“For many years I have been worried about the future of tennis. The average age of a tennis fan is 61, which is very old for a fan base,” Mouratoglou told Reuters.

“Tennis is failing to renew its fanbase. And that’s very worrying, because the future doesn’t look bright.”

Mouratoglou teamed up with Alex Popyrin, the father of world number 103 Alexei, to create the league that he says will showcase “new tennis”.

“I mean different tennis. Taking into consideration what was better back in the 1970s and the 80s and also bringing some modernity,” he said in an interview.

“I’m excited to showcase that and to see if this is much more attractive to the younger generation.”

UTS will be held at Mouratoglou’s academy in Nice with 10 matches every weekend for a total of 50 matches and prize money on offer for each clash.

With the professional circuit halted at least until the end of July due to COVID-19, a number of exhibition events have recently been held as lockdown rules are slowly eased.

Mouratoglou, who has been working with 23-times Grand Slam singles winner Williams since 2012, said the UTS will not be another exhibition event.

“It’s a real competition and it’s a new tour,” he said. “The players are going to win points, they’re going to earn prize money. And at the end of the year there will be a champion.

“So they’re going to really compete with the same motivation as if they were playing a tournament.”

The games will be shorter and more dynamic and will “surprise” traditional fans, according to Mouratoglou, who turns 50 on Monday.

The event will be held without fans in attendance. They will, however, be able to listen to conversations between players and coaches as they watch from home.

The Frenchman feels fans currently miss personalities who are easily identifiable – such as those from the past like John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, Ilie Nastase and Yannick Noah.

“I want authenticity, I don’t want players to make a show. I want players to be able to be themselves on court and express all kinds of emotions,” said Mouratoglou.

The Frenchman added that they had studied what had made different formats in other sports successful while they had also taken inspiration from esports.

The event will be live-streamed and fans will be able to watch it on utslive.tv, subscriptions for which will be less than 10 euros (about $11) a month.

UTS will distribute a major part of its advertising and broadcasting revenue to help lower-ranked players, who have been heavily affected by the sport’s shutdown. Each match will have a prize pot with the winner bagging 70% and rest going to his opponent.

“The idea is to create the tennis of the future,” said Mouratoglou. “I don’t plan to be a competitor to the ATP and the WTA. My plan is to bring new fans to the game.

“And if it works, and if the ATP and the WTA want to have the UTS under their umbrella, I’ll be happy to.”

($1 = 0.8862 euros)

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