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US Open 2018: Nadal beats Dominic Thiem in epic semi-final qualification

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Defending champion Rafael Nadal dug deep to win the longest match of this year’s US Open in a classic five-set quarter-final against Dominic Thiem – which finished at 2:03am local time.

World number one Nadal lost the opening set 6-0 after being outpowered by the Austrian ninth seed in New York.

However, the 32-year-old Spanish top seed recovered to lead two sets to one before Thiem levelled in a tie-break.

Nadal edged a tense fifth-set tie-break to win 0-6 6-4 7-5 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-5).

The 17-time Grand Slam champion clinched victory when Thiem hit an overhead smash long on the first match point, the drama continuing until the last shot in an epic encounter lasting four hours and 49 minutes.

Nadal jumped over the net to console his Austrian opponent at the end, the pair embracing as those left inside Arthur Ashe Stadium rose to their feet to give them a thunderous ovation.

“I said to Dominic: ‘I’m very sorry and keep going.’ He has plenty of time to win. He will have his chances in the future without a doubt,” Nadal said.

“Suffering is the right word for the game. It was a great battle.” Nadal added.

He will however play Argentine third seed Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 champion, in Friday’s semi-finals.

24 Hours Across Africa

Hong Kong Activities face crucial weekend test after airport setback

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Source: AFP- Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement faces a major test this weekend as it tries to muster another huge crowd following criticism over a recent violent airport protest and as concerns mount over Beijing’s next move.

Ten weeks of protests have plunged the international finance hub into crisis with the communist mainland taking an increasingly hardline tone, including labelling the more violent protester actions “terrorist-like”.

Chinese state media have put out images of military personnel and armoured personnel carriers across the border in Shenzhen, while the United States has warned Beijing against sending in troops, a move many analysts say would be a reputational and economic disaster for China.

The nationalistic Global Times newspaper said there would not be a repeat of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, in which hundreds — or even thousands — are believed to have been killed, if Beijing moves to quash the protests.

“The incident in Hong Kong won’t be a repeat of the June 4th political incident in 1989,” it said, insisting the country now had more sophisticated approaches.

It was a rare reference to the bloody events, which are taboo in China.

Hong Kong’s protests were sparked by opposition to a plan to allow extraditions to the mainland, but have since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city.

Millions of people have hit the streets while clashes have broken out between police and small groups of hardcore protesters for 10 consecutive weekends.

For most of that time, US President Donald Trump has taken a hands-off approach to the unrest but began speaking up this week, suggesting any potential trade deal with Beijing could be upended by a violent response from the mainland.

Speaking on Thursday, Trump urged his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to meet protesters and solve the crisis “humanely”.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Italy’s League faces threat over new Government crisis

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Source: Rueters, Italy’s ruling League party could end up in opposition and risks looking stupid over its bid to bring down the coalition and trigger an early election, a senior League official said.

Renewed political turmoil in the euro zone’s third largest economy threatens to derail preparations for the 2020 budget in the autumn, as Italy attempts to rein in its huge public debt, the highest in the 19-nation bloc after Greece.

The League’s far-right leader Matteo Salvini said last week its alliance with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement was no longer workable and tabled a motion of no-confidence in the government.

The 46-year-old tough-talking Salvini’s gambit appeared to be an effort to capitalize on his popularity and bring on an election that could see him crowned as prime minister.

However, 5-Star and the opposition Democratic Party (PD) have stalled any debate of the motion and many of their politicians are now openly discussing forming a coalition among themselves to sideline Salvini.

League Cabinet Undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti, Salvini’s closest aide, acknowledged in an interview in La Repubblica daily on Thursday that the party could now end up in opposition, but said it would do so “with our heads high.”

“We could have held on to our government posts and now we risk looking stupid, but we posed a political issue,” Giorgetti said, referring to the policy gridlock which had bogged down the government amid constant bickering between the two parties.

With the prospect of a 5-Star/PD government looking increasingly plausible, the League’s Agriculture Minister Gian Marco Centinaio said on Wednesday he did not rule out trying to patch things up with 5-Star.

“I would never close the door completely,” he said in a radio interview.

Salvini said in Genoa on Wednesday the League “will do whatever we can to prevent a trickster’s deal between 5-Star and the PD.”

Francesco Galietti, founder of political risk consultancy Policy Sonar, said in a note that the possibility of the government continuing with a cabinet reshuffle was “more than just plausible.”

However, many 5-Star politicians now seem more tempted by a deal with the PD. Lower house deputy Giuseppe Brescia told La Repubblica on Thursday it would be “absurd” to try to resurrect the coalition after the League had unilaterally tried to sink it.

The 5-Star Movement has been hurt by its tie-up with the League, halving its voter support since the two parties joined forces in June last year, according to opinion polls. The League has overtaken it to become Italy’s most popular party.

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