Canadian Bianca Andreescu will skip this week’s Grampians Trophy and instead return to action at the Australian Open.
Andreescu was scheduled to return to the court for the first time in 15 months at the Grand Slam tune-up event before the WTA announced on Monday that the Mississauga, Ont., native has withdrawn to focus her time on the Aussie Open.
The 20-year-old, who last played at the WTA Finals in October 2019 before suffering a knee injury, had a first-round bye as the No. 1 seed at the Grampians Trophy and would have made her long-awaited return against the winner of a match between American Sloane Stephens and fellow Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez in the second round.
The tune-up tournament is for players coming out of hard quarantine following COVID-19 exposure on charter flights to Australia.
The Australian Open is scheduled to start Feb. 8.
Here’s <a href=”https://twitter.com/Bandreescu_?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Bandreescu_</a>’s statement, via <a href=”https://twitter.com/WTA_insider?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@WTA_insider</a> <a href=”https://t.co/qMdyAahOKK”>pic.twitter.com/qMdyAahOKK</a>
“Following the last two weeks in quarantine, it feels so good to finally be back on the court. After discussing it with my team, we have decided to focus this week on training for the Australian Open and miss the Grampians,” Andreescu said in a statement.
“Many thanks to Tennis Australia and the WTA for their hard work in providing us all of these choices. See you all at the Australian Open.”
As the NBA and Major League Soccer continue their preparations to resume play in Florida, the league slated to be first out of the gate was forced to regroup Monday in the wake of positive COVID-19 tests in the Sunshine State.
The Orlando Pride withdrew from the NWSL Challenge Cup, set to start Saturday in Utah, after six players and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The number and breakdown of those affected was provided by the National Women’s Soccer League.
While the women’s soccer tournament is to be played some 3,000 kilometres away in Utah, Orlando is the destination for both the NBA and MLS, who plan to set up shop in the Disney complex next month
The Toronto Raptors were scheduled to fly to Fort Myers on Monday to continue training before moving to the Orlando area in early July.
Orlando, whose roster includes Canadian internationals Erin McLeod and Shelina Zadorsky, was due to play the Chicago Red Stars on Day 1 of the NWSL tournament in Herriman, Utah, near Salt Lake City.
The Pride said those affected were asymptomatic, adding “it would be in the best interest of the health and safety of the players, the staff and the rest of the league that the Pride voluntarily withdraw.”
WATCH | Pro leagues plan return despite growing COVID-19 rates:
As professional sports leagues plot their return to action, CBC News’ Cameron MacIntosh details the recent spike in the number of athletes who have contracted COVID-19. 2:43
The NWSL said the tournament will go ahead with eight teams.
“The health and safety of our players and staff is our No. 1 priority and our thoughts are with those players and staff fighting this infection, as well as the entire club in Orlando that have been impacted as a result,” NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement.
“We’re all obviously disappointed, but in the current environment, this is a situation that we have prepared for and we will now adjust our plans and schedules to reflect the circumstances.”
Daryl Osbahr, the Pride’s team doctor, called the decision to pull out of the tournament “necessary and in the best interest for the health of our players and staff.”
“The decision goes far beyond just the positives, but also taking into consideration roommates or partners,” he added.
The league said a second round of tests will be conducted to confirm the initial result. Osbahr, meanwhile, said “important protocols” and timelines for contact tracing made it “logistically impossible” for the club to participate.
The club said the affected players and staff have received medical attention and will be isolated for at least 14 days. Those who may have had close contact with the team members, including housemates, have been notified and are being monitored for symptoms and will continue to undergo additional COVID-19 testing.
The Pride said those in question had not had any direct interaction with any players or coaching staff from Orlando City SC, the men’s team which is preparing for the MLS tournament scheduled to start July 8.
Pride closes training ground, Florida cases rise
The Pride’s training ground, which is 70 kilometres from the Orlando City training ground, has been closed and will be sterilized.
Florida’s COVID cases have been rising in recent days, spiking on Saturday with some 4,700 new cases for state residents, according to the Florida Department of Health, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection. The number dropped Sunday to some 2,800, according to the state figures.
The NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning closed its training facilities last week and sent everyone home after three players and additional staff members tested positive.
A rise in positive tests last week in Florida caused MLB to close all 30 training camps for deep cleaning and disinfecting. The Philadelphia Phillies announced Friday that five players had tested positive for COVID-19 and a person familiar with the process, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that 40 players and team employees had tested positive as of noon ET Sunday.
Florida was quick to open its doors to sports despite the pandemic, with both the WWE and UFC staging shows without fans.
Brazil withdrew its bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, arguing on Monday it cannot offer FIFA the financial assurances it needs because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Brazilian Football Confederation also said in a statement it will support Colombia’s bid against Japan and the joint candidacy of Australia and New Zealand. South America has never hosted the tournament. A decision is expected on June 25.
The confederation said the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro told FIFA it could not offer financial guarantees “due to the scenario of fiscal and economic austerity, caused by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The confederation “understands the position of caution of the Brazilian government, and of other public and private partners, which stopped them from formalizing the commitments within time or in the required form,” the statement added.
Brazil’s economy is expected to contract this year by at least 7.4 per cent, investment bank Goldman Sachs predicts.
The country is the hardest hit by COVID-19 in Latin America, with more than 37,000 confirmed deaths.
Brazil’s soccer body also said the high number of big sporting events in the last decade could also harm the chances of its bid to host the Women’s World Cup.
Security forces set fire to anti-government protest tents in the southern Iraq early Saturday and re-opened key public squares in Baghdad that had been occupied by demonstrators for months.
The crackdown came hours after a powerful Shia cleric dealt the protest movement a blow by withdrawing his support, prompting his followers to pack up and leave the demonstration encampments.
One protester was killed and 44 wounded when security forces fired tear gas and live rounds to disperse them from nearby Baghdad’s Khilani Square, as clearance operations were underway, medical and security officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Near the square, demonstrators gathered around a torched tuk tuk, auto-rickhaw taxis that became the most potent symbol of the anti-government demonstration, which security forces had set ablaze.
Activists said the presence of Muqtada al-Sadr’s followers and his militia group had shielded the protesters from security forces and unknown groups looking to harm and suppress them. With that cover gone, many in the four-month-old movement feared the worst.
His decision to withdraw support came just hours after tens of thousands of his followers staged a separate anti-U.S. rally in a nearby Baghdad neighbourhood, which most anti-government demonstrators steered clear of. The succession of events amid an ongoing political tug-of-war over naming the next prime minister sent a clear message to Iraqi officials: The Iraqi street was al-Sadr’s domain.
It also comes as Iraq is embroiled in ongoing U.S.-Iran tensions that reached fever pitch when an American drone strike killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani outside Baghdad’s airport.
“He is reclaiming the mantle of populist leader with a popular base able to mobilize large crowds,” said Fanar Haddad, senior research fellow at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore.
‘We are all alone now’
In Tahrir Square, the hub of the anti-government protest movement in Baghdad, protesters said they were fearful of what would come next.
“We are all alone now,” said Mustafa, 24, who asked that his full name not be used fearing reprisals.
The demonstrations have been critical of government corruption, high unemployment and Iranian influence in Iraqi politics. Crackdowns by security forces have killed at least 500 protesters.
In a tweet Friday evening, al-Sadr indicated his “disappointment” toward anti-government protesters in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the anti-government protests.
“I am expressing my disappointment and my regret toward all those who doubted me among the Tahrir Square protesters,” said the tweet. “I thought they were supporters of me and of Iraq.” He also accused protesters of being “foreign paid tools.”
A spokesperson for al-Sadr said his supporters withdrew from Basra because protesters had insulted those participating in the anti-U.S. rally and even obstructed access to the rally point.
“The Sadrist movement’s position toward the demonstrations will be neutral, not with them or against them,” said Sheikh Salah al-Obaidi.
At around 2 a.m. local time Saturday, riot police set fire to a protest encampment in a central square in the oil-rich southern city of Basra, two activists said. The crackdown came after al-Sadr’s followers had packed up their tents and left.
“The protest square is now controlled (by the security forces), after they used force,” said Basra activist Nakeeb Lueibi. “This is considered a betrayal by the al-Sadr bloc. … There will be no peace after what has happened in Basra last night.”
In Baghdad, key squares and roads that had previously been a focal point of protest violence were re-opened for vehicle access, according to a statement from the Baghdad Operations Command.
Protesters feared the entry of security forces to Tahrir. At least eight tents occupied by al-Sadr’s supporters were removed, said two activists.
“(Al-Sadr’s statement) gave the green light for the government to suppress the demonstrations,” said Husanien Ali, a 35-year-old protester.
‘We are rebuilding the tents’
Others said they would remain resilient.
“We called for more people to join us in Tahrir,” said Noor, a protester who only gave her last name fearing reprisal. “We are rebuilding the tents.”
The unrest following al-Sadr’s decision to pull back his followers on Friday along with the calm of the anti-U.S. rally the previous day underscored the cleric’s ability to manipulate the street during a critical time in Iraqi politics, analysts said.
Political blocs have yet to agree on a consensus candidate to replace outgoing Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who resigned in December amid pressure from protests.
“For him it’s about political capital and relevance,” said Sajad Jiyad, managing director of the Bayan Center, a Baghdad-based think tank.
Al-Sadr, who’s Sairoon party won the largest number of seats in the May 2018 federal election, has rejected every proposed candidate put forward by rival bloc Fatah, headed by Hadi al-Ameri. His show of force on the street is one way to ensure the next premier brings a pro-Sadrist agenda to government, analysts said.
“Al-Sadr has shown the he can bring large numbers to the street, by asking his supporters to withdraw yesterday nigh is showing that he is the force behind the protests, and can put an end to them if necessary,” said Jiyad.
In Baghdad, the vital Mohammed al-Qasim highway, Tayaran Square and al-Nidhal Street were all reopened.
Ahrar Bridge, which had been partly occupied by protesters in a stand-off with security forces, was also reopened, according to Baghdad Operations Command. Concrete blocs has also been removed to re-open al-Khilani Square.
Protesters continued to occupy the Jumhuriya and Sinak bridges, which lead to the heavily fortified Green Zone.
Canada’s Bianca Andreescu says she is withdrawing from the WTA Finals due to an injury to her left knee.
Andreescu said results from an MRI on Thursday convinced her she should not play her final round-robin match against Elina Svitolina on Friday at the season-ending, US$ 14-million event.
The 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., was eliminated from championship contention after retiring from her match against Karolina Pliskova on Wednesday as a result of the injury.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Andreescu, who shook hands with Pliskova after losing the first set 6-3, dropping her record to 0-2.
“It’s the last tournament of the season. You want to go all out, but stuff happens. You just got to take a step back, re-evaluate. That’s what I did. I think this is the best decision for me right now.”
WATCH | Andreescu injures left knee:
Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., injured her left knee while returning a serve in her WTA Finals match against Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. Andreescu would later retire from the match. 1:50
American Sofia Kenin will replace Andreescu for the match against Svitolina.
Andreescu said she twisted her knee during a forehand return in the fifth game against Pliskova.
“I heard a crack,” she said. “After that, it was hard to put pressure on it. On the spot the physio thought it was my meniscus, so she taped it up. It was really hard to bend with the taping and the pain kept getting worse, so I had to stop.
“I fought with what I had, but I didn’t want to get it worse.”
WATCH | ‘I don’t want to stop,’ Andreescu tells coach:
Despite injuring her left knee, Bianca Andreescu vowed to carry on during the first round of her WTA Finals match against Karolina Pliskova. 0:40
The decision ends a year which was extremely successful, in spite of several injuries.
Andreescu reached a Canadian record No. 4 in the women’s tennis rankings after winning her first three career tournaments, including the U.S. Open for her first Grand Slam title.
In between winning her first and second events, Andreescu was sidelined for almost four months because of a shoulder injury.
The Canadian hurt her back in her opening match at the WTA Finals, a loss to Simona Halep, before suffering the season-ending knee injury.
“Definitely, I need some time off,” she said. “It’s been a short yet long season at the same time for me. I’m definitely going to take time off, be with my family, with my friends, recoup, then start my pre-season.
“I’ll become even stronger for 2020.”
Andreescu is the second player to pull out of the WTA Finals during the event because of injury. Japan’s Naomi Osaka dropped out because of a shoulder injury and was replaced by Kiki Bertens.
Syria’s army deployed near the Turkish border on Monday, hours after Syrian Kurdish forces previously allied with the U.S. said they had reached a deal with Damascus to help them fend off Turkey’s invasion.
The announcement of a deal between Syria’s Kurds and its government is a major shift in alliances that came after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered all U.S. troops withdrawn from the northern border area amid the rapidly deepening chaos.
The shift sets up a potential clash between Turkey and Syria and raises the spectre of a resurgent Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as the U.S. relinquishes any remaining influence in northern Syria to President Bashar al-Assad and his chief backer, Russia.
On Monday morning, Syria’s state news agency said that the army had moved into the town of Tal Tamr, which is about 20 kilometres from the Turkish border.
SANA said government forces would “confront the Turkish aggression,” without giving further details. Photos posted by SANA showed several vehicles and a small number of troops.
Turkey presses on
Tal Tamr is a predominantly Assyrian Christian town that was once held by ISIS before it was retaken by Kurdish-led forces. Many Syrian Christians, who make up about 10 per cent of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million, left for Europe over the past 20 years, with the flight gathering speed since the country’s conflict began in March 2011.
SANA did not say from which area the Syrian army had moved into the town.
Despite widespread criticism from its NATO allies in Europe and the U.S., Turkey has pressed on with its offensive into northern Syria.
Turkish forces appeared set to launch an operation on the town of Manbij farther west on Monday, according to CNN-Turk, which said the forces had reached the city’s edge.
The United States said it was pulling troops from northeast Syria, in a major shift which clears the way for a Turkish military offensive against Kurdish-led forces and hands Turkey responsibility for thousands of Islamic State captives.
A U.S. official said American troops had withdrawn from two observation posts on the border, at Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain, and had told the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces that the United States would not defend the SDF from an imminent Turkish offensive.
“Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” the White House said after President Donald Trump spoke to Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday.
“The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial “Caliphate,” will no longer be in the immediate area,” it added in a statement.
Turkey has long argued for the establishment of a roughly 30-kilometre “safe zone” along the border, under Turkish control, driving back the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia — which is the dominant force in the SDF alliance and which Ankara considers a terrorist organization and a threat to its national security.
The United States helped the YPG defeat Islamic State militants in Syria, and had been seeking a joint “security mechanism” with Turkey along the border to meet Turkey’s security needs without threatening the SDF.
The SDF accused Washington on Monday of reneging on an ally which spearheaded the fight against Islamic State in Syria, and warned that it would have a “great negative” impact on the war against the jihadists.
“The American forces did not fulfil their commitments and withdrew their forces from the border areas with Turkey, and Turkey is now preparing for an invasion operation of northern and eastern Syria,” it said in a statement.
SDF official Mustafa Bali said U.S. forces were “leaving leaving the areas to turn into a war zone.”
Islamic State captives
The White House statement appeared to hand over to Turkey responsibility for captured Islamic State jihadists who are currently held in SDF facilities to the south of Turkey’s initially proposed safe zone.
“Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years,” it said.
The statement also made pointed reference to Washington’s European allies, saying many of the captured ISIS fighters came from those countries, which had resisted U.S. calls to take them back.
“The United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer,” the White House said.
In the first Turkish comment following the statement, Erdogan’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey’s “safe zone” plan was within the framework of Syria’s territorial integrity.
“The safe zone has two aims: to secure our borders by clearing away terrorist elements and to achieve the return of refugees in a safe way,” Kalin wrote on Twitter.
“Turkey is powerful and determined,” he added.
Turkey says it wants to settle up to two million Syrian refugees in the zone. It currently hosts 3.6 million Syrians sheltering from the more than eight-year-old conflict in their homeland.
After the Erdogan-Trump phone call, the Turkish presidency said the two leaders had agreed to meet in Washington next month.
It said that during the call Erdogan had expressed his frustration with the failure of U.S. military and security officials to implement the agreement between the two countries.
The NATO allies agreed in August to establish a zone in northeast Syria along the border with Turkey.
Turkey says the United States moved too slowly to set up the zone. It has repeatedly warned of launching an offensive on its own into northeast Syria.
Ties between the allies have also been pressured over Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 defence missiles and the trial of local U.S. consulate employees in Turkey.
The U.S. formally withdrew from a landmark nuclear missile pact with Russia on Friday after determining that Moscow was in violation of the treaty, something the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.
U.S. President Donald Trump made the determination that the U.S. would terminate adherence to the 1987 arms control accord, known as the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), senior administration officials told reporters.
The treaty bans either side from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe. Washington signalled its intention six months ago to pull out of the agreement if Russia made no move to adhere to it.
“The United States will not remain party to a treaty that is deliberately violated by Russia,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement about the U.S. withdrawal.
“Russia’s noncompliance under the treaty jeopardizes U.S. supreme interests as Russia’s development and fielding of a treaty-violating missile system represents a direct threat to the United States and our allies and partners,” Pompeo said.
The senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Russia had deployed “multiple battalions” of a Russian cruise missile throughout Russia in violation of the pact, including in western Russia, “with the ability to strike critical European targets.”
Russia denies the allegation, saying the missiles range puts it outside the treaty, and has accused the U.S. of inventing a false pretext to exit a treaty Washington wants to leave anyway so it can develop new missiles.
Russia asks U.S. to refrain from deploying missiles in Europe
In response, Russia said it had asked the U.S. to declare and enforce a moratorium on the deployment of short and intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe.
“We have proposed to the United States and other NATO countries that they weigh the possibility of declaring the same kind of moratorium on the deployment of short and intermediate range missiles as ours, like the one announced by Vladimir Putin,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency.
The INF treaty, negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ratified by the U.S. Senate, eliminated the medium-range ground-launched missile arsenals of the world’s two biggest nuclear powers and reduced their ability to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.
The treaty bans land-based missiles with a range between 500-5,500 kilometres.
Trump has sought to improve U.S. relations with Russia after a chill during the tenure of his predecessor, Barack Obama. He and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone on Wednesday about Siberian wildfires and trade.
Arms control did not come up in the call, the officials said.
European officials have voiced concern that if the treaty collapses, Europe could again become an arena for nuclear-armed, intermediate-range missile buildups by the U.S. and Russia.
Possible trilateral deal with China
The officials said the U.S. was months away from the first flight tests of an American intermediate-range missile that would serve as a counter to the Russians. Any such deployment would be years away, they said.
Trump has said he would like to see a “next-generation” arms control deal with Russia and China to cover all types of nuclear weapons.
He has broached the topic individually with Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, including at the G20 summit in Osaka in June.
China is not a party to nuclear arms pacts between the United States and Russia and it is unclear how willing Beijing would be to be drawn into talks.
China’s foreign ministry has reiterated that the country had no interest in joining such talks.
Katie Ledecky has withdrawn from the 200-metre freestyle at the world swimming championships because of medical reasons.
That’s according to a statement from U.S. national team managing director Lindsay Mintenko on Tuesday.
Mintenko says Ledecky hasn’t been feeling well since she arrived in Gwangju, South Korea on July 17.
It hasn’t yet been decided whether Ledecky will swim in the 1,500m freestyle final on Tuesday night in South Korea. She was the fastest qualifier for the grueling event in 15 minutes, 48.90 seconds — 2.68 seconds quicker than the No. 2 qualifier.
Ledecky was upset by Ariarne Titmus of Australia in the 400m free on Sunday.
Mintenko says precautionary measures are being taken with Ledecky “to allow her to focus her energy on an abbreviated schedule.”
Heather Nauert, U.S. President Donald Trump's pick to be the next American ambassador to the United Nations, has withdrawn from consideration, the State Department said.
Nauert, a State Department spokesperson, said in a statement that "the past two months have been gruelling for my family and therefore it is in the best interest of my family that I withdraw my name from consideration."
Her impending nomination had been considered a tough sell in the Senate, where she would have faced tough questions about her relative lack of foreign policy experience, according to congressional aides.
A potential issue involving a nanny that she and her husband had employed may also have been a factor in her decision to withdraw, according to one aide. That issue, which was first reported by Bloomberg on Saturday, centred on a foreign nanny who was legally in the U.S. but did not have legal status to work, according to the aide, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The aide said some involved in the vetting process saw Nauert's inexperience and questions about her ability to represent the U.S. at the UN as a larger issue.
Nauert's impending nomination had been considered a tough sell in the Senate, where she would have faced tough questions about her relative lack of foreign policy experience, according to congressional aides. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)
Trump's initial UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, served for nearly all of the administration's first two years. She announced her resignation in October with plans to step down by year's end.
That December, Trump said he would nominate Nauert, called her "very talented, very smart, very quick" and said he thought she would be "respected by all." In the wake of November elections that strengthened Republican control of the Senate, her confirmation appeared likely if not easy. Yet Trump never put Nauert's name forward with the Senate and no confirmation hearing was scheduled.
The State Department in its statement that Trump would announce a nominee for the U.N position "soon."
Made jump to State Department from Fox News
Nauert was a Fox News Channel reporter when she joined the State Department as spokesperson almost two years ago during Rex Tillerson's tenure was secretary of state. She rose to the upper echelons of the department's hierarchy after Trump fired Tillerson in March 2018 and Mike Pompeo replaced him.
In the department's statement, Pompeo said he respected Nauert's decision on the UN job and that she performed her duties as a senior member of his team "with unequalled excellence."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, said he respected Nauert's decision on the UN job and that she performed her duties as a senior member of his team 'with unequalled excellence.' (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Image via AP)
"Serving in the Administration for the past two years has been one of the highest honours of my life and I will always be grateful to the president, the secretary, and my colleagues at the State Department for their support," Nauert said in the statement provided by the department.
Before coming to the State Department, Nauert was a breaking news anchor on Fox & Friends. With a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, she had moved to Fox from ABC News, where she was a general assignment reporter.
Nauert, who did not have a good relationship with Tillerson and had considered leaving the department, was appointed acting undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs after his departure. The appointment ended in October.