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Roger Federer’s Last Match is Doubles Loss With Rafael Nadal

This day, this match, had to come, of course, for Roger Federer, and for tennis, just as it inevitably must for every athlete in every sport.

Federer bid adieu Friday night with one last contest before he heads into retirement at age 41 after a superlative career that included 20 Grand Slam titles and a statesman’s role. He wrapped up his days as a professional player with a loss in doubles alongside his longtime rival Rafael Nadal for Team Europe in the Laver Cup against Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock of Team World.

The truth is that the victors, the statistics and the score (OK, for the record it was 4-6, 7-6 (2), 11-9) did not matter, and were all so entirely beside the point. The occasion was, after all, about the farewell itself. Or, better, the farewells, plural: Federer’s to tennis, to the fans, to his competitors and colleagues. And, naturally, each of those entities’ farewells to Federer.

“It’s been a perfect journey,” Federer said. “I would do it all over again.”

When the match, and with it, his time in professional tennis, ended, Federer hugged Nadal, then Tiafoe and Sock. And then Federer began crying. As cascades of clapping and yells of affection came from the stands, Federer put his hands on his hips, his chest heaving. Then he mouthed, “Thank you,” while applauding right back toward the spectators who had chanted, “Let’s go, Roger! Let’s go!” during the concluding moments of a match that lasted more than two hours and ended at about 12:30 a.m.

The Swiss star announced last week that the three-day team event, which was founded by his management company, would be his final event before retirement, then made clear the doubles outing would be his last match. His surgically repaired right knee — the last of three operations came shortly after a loss in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in July 2021, which will go down as his final official singles match — is in no shape to allow him to continue.

“For me, just personally, (it was) sad in the first moment, when I came to the conclusion it’s the best decision,” Federer said in an interview with The Associated Press this week about his emotions when realizing it was time to go. “I kind of held it in at first, then fought it off. But I could feel the pain.”

A couple of hours before Friday’s match, Federer tweeted: “I’ve done this thousands of times, but this one feels different. Thank you to everybody who’s coming tonight.”

He had said he wanted this to feel more like a party than a funeral, and the crowd obliged, rising for a loud and lengthy standing ovation when Federer and Nadal — each wearing a white bandanna, blue shirt and white shorts — emerged together from a tunnel leading out to the black court for the last match on Day 1 at the O2 Arena. The spectators remained on their feet for nearly 10 minutes, through the pre-match warmup, holding aloft phone cameras to capture the moment.

They came ready to roar for him, some with Swiss flags, some with homemade signs, and they made themselves heard with a wall of sound when Federer delivered a forehand volley winner on the match’s second point. Similar reactions arrived merely at the chair umpire’s announcement before the third game of “Roger Federer to serve,” and again when he closed that game with a 117 mph service winner.

Doubles requires far less movement and court coverage, of course, so the stress on his knee was limited Friday. Federer showed touches of his old flair, to be sure, and of rust, as to be expected.

As his parents and wife sat in front-row seats behind a baseline, there were a couple of early forehands that sailed several feet too long. There also was a forehand that slid right between Sock and Tiafoe and seemed too good to be true — and, it turned out, was: The ball traveled through a gap below the net tape and so the point was taken away from Federer and Nadal.

Although it amounted to, essentially, a glorified exhibition, all four doubles participants played as if they wanted to win. That was clear when Sock leaped and screamed after one particularly terrific volley or when Tiafoe sent a couple of shots right at Federer and Nadal.

But the circumstances did allow for moments of levity.

Federer and Nadal were able to laugh after a bit of confusion over which should go for a ball on a point they lost. After Nadal somehow flicked one back-to-the-net shot around the post, only for it to land barely wide, Tiafoe crossed over to extend a hand with congratulations for the effort.

In the first set, the two greats of the game couldn’t quite hear each other between points, so Federer trotted from the net back to the baseline to consult with Nadal, then pointed to his ear to signal to the fans what the issue was.

Before Federer, the men’s mark for most major tennis championships was 14 by Pete Sampras. Federer blew past that, accumulating eight at Wimbledon, six at the Australian Open, five at the U.S. Open and one at the French Open, setting a new standard that Nadal, now with 22, and Novak Djokovic, with 21, equaled, then surpassed, as part of a golden era for the sport.

Federer’s substantial resume includes 310 weeks at No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a Davis Cup title and Olympic medals. Beyond the elegance and effectiveness while wielding a racket, his persona made Federer an ambassador for tennis, someone whose immense popularity helped attract fans.

Surely, there are those who would have found it particularly apt to see Federer finish across the net from Nadal, often an on-court nemesis but eventually an off-court friend. Maybe it could have taken place about 15 miles away at Centre Court of the All England Club, say, or in Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros, or Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park, or even Arthur Ashe Stadium, the centerpiece of the U.S. Open, the lone Grand Slam tournament at which they never faced off, somehow.

Perhaps they could have provided everyone with one final installment of a head-to-head matchup as memorable as any in the long history of their sport — or, indeed, any other.

Roger vs. Rafa — just one name apiece required — belongs up there with McEnroe vs. Borg (as it happens, the two Laver Cup team captains, John and Bjorn), Evert vs. Navratilova, Sampras vs. Agassi, Ali vs. Frazier, Magic vs. Bird, Brady vs. Manning, and so on.

Over the years, Federer and Nadal showed off individual greatness and compelling contrasts across their 40 matches, 14 at Grand Slam tournaments, nine in major finals: righty vs. lefty, attacker vs. grinder, seeming effortlessness vs. relentless intensity.

And yet, there was an unmistakable element of poetry with these two men who challenged each other and elevated each other performing as partners, slapping palms and sharing smiles.

“Two of the ‘GOATs’ playing together,” said Sock, using the popular acronym for “Greatest of All-Time.”

This goodbye follows that of Serena Williams, the owner of 23 major singles championships, at the U.S. Open three weeks ago after a third-round loss. It leaves questions about the future of a game he and she dominated, and transcended, for decades.

One key difference: Each time Williams took the court in New York, the looming question was how long her stay would endure — a “win or this is it” prospect. Friday WAS it for Federer, no matter the result.

“All the players will miss him,” said Casper Ruud, who beat Sock in singles 6-4, 5-7, 10-7.

The other results, which left Team Europe and Team World tied at 2-2: Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 6-1 in a match interrupted briefly when an environmental protester lit a portion of the court and his own arm on fire, and Alex de Minaur got past Andy Murray 5-7, 6-3, 10-7.

Due to begin playing shortly after the end of Murray’s loss, Federer and Nadal first provided him with some coaching tips, then watched part of that one on TV together in a room at the arena, waiting for their turn. When Federer and Nadal were in action, it was Djokovic’s turn to suggest strategic advice.

The last hurrah came after a total of 103 career singles trophies and 1,251 wins in singles matches for Federer, both second only to Jimmy Connors in the Open era, which began in 1968.

At the height of his powers, Federer appeared in a record 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals, winning eight, from 2005-07. Extend that to 2010, and he reached 18 of 19 major finals.

More than those numbers, folks will remember the powerful forehand, the one-handed backhand, the flawless footwork, the spectacularly effective serve and eagerness to get to the net, the willingness to reinvent aspects of his game and — the part of which he’s proudest — unusual longevity.

“I don’t think we’ll see another guy like Roger,” Tiafoe said. “The way he played, and the grace he did it with, and who he is as an individual.”

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‘The Woman King’ Film With All-Black, Mostly Female Cast Draws Praise, Criticism

A movie portraying an all-female warrior unit that centuries ago defended the West African kingdom of Dahomey, what is today the country of Benin, is drawing both praise and criticism. VOA’s Penelope Poulou reports, “The Woman King” has an all-black and mostly female cast, a first for a major Hollywood motion picture. But some critics note it had little African involvement.
Produced by: Penelope Poulou

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Australia Probes Industrial Threat to Ancient Indigenous Rock Art

Australia is investigating claims by First Nations groups that mining and manufacturing industries are threatening significant cultural sites.   

Indigenous settlement of Australia dates back an estimated 65,000 years.

This vast history is documented in ancient songs, stories, dance and art, but development threatens part of the culture.

The federal government has appointed an independent investigator to gauge the threat of industrial expansion to 40,000-year-old Indigenous rock art in Western Australia.

It is a controversy that has been brewing for months. 

In August, the government rejected Aboriginal groups’ application for a 60-day moratorium to stop Perdaman, the multinational operator of a fertilizer plant, from relocating sacred rock art.  However, authorities in Canberra have now agreed to appoint an expert to assess whether the art is at risk, and whether it must be protected by a ministerial declaration. 

The site at the remote Burrup Peninsula, 1,500 kilometers north of Perth, has been recommended for a United Nation’s World Heritage listing. It is considered to be one of the world’s most significant collections of ancient rock carvings. 

The region has more than a million petroglyphs, or art carved, scratched or scoured from rock, spread over 37,000 hectares. First Nations elders have said the depictions are all connected, and that moving some of the carvings would damage their spiritual connection to the sites that tell stories of creation. 

Indigenous leader Raelene Cooper told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that sacred sites need to be shielded from industrial development.

“It is appalling that at this day and age we are still, as First Nations people, being told to sit in the back sit and that ain’t [is not] me,” Cooper said. “If there is anything that I could, I guess, advise for all of my country mob all over this continent we have a right and we have a story and we have a history here and our government needs to start acknowledging it.” 

The independent investigation could take months.  However, Perdaman already has official permission to start work on its Burrup Peninsula project. The fertilizer manufacturer has consulted with local Indigenous communities about its plans to relocate some rock carvings. It has not yet commented publicly on its operations. 

The Western Australian government supports the development, saying it has the appropriate environmental and heritage approvals.

The state government has also set up an extensive program to monitor the impact of emissions from local gas production on ancient petroglyphs in the area.  

A parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters by resources giant Rio Tinto in 2020 recommended new laws to protect thousands of sacred sites across Australia.

However, some legal experts believe not enough has been done and that economic interests continue to be placed ahead of First Nations culture.  

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said in July the new Labor government would implement new cultural heritage legislation, but a timeframe has yet to be set.

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Biden Meets with Families of Whelan, Griner at White House

President Joe Biden met Friday with family members of WNBA star Brittney Griner and another American detained in Russia, Paul Whelan, the first face-to-face encounter that the president has had with the relatives.

In a statement after the meetings, which were held separately, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden stressed to the families his “continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely.”

“He asked after the well-being of Elizabeth and Cherelle and their respective families during this painful time,” Jean-Pierre said. “The president appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Brittney and Paul from those who love them most, and acknowledged that every minute they are being held is a minute too long.”

Still, administration officials have said the meetings were not an indication that negotiations with Russia for their release have reached a breakthrough.

Earlier Friday, John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said that Russia has not responded to what administration officials have called a substantial and serious offer to secure Griner and Whelan’s release.

“The president is not going to let up,” Kirby told reporters. “He’s confident that this is going to remain in the forefront of his mind and his team’s mind, and they’re going to continue to work as hard as they can.”

Griner has been held in Russia since February on drug-related charges. She was sentenced last month to nine years in prison after pleading guilty and has appealed the punishment. Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence on espionage-related charges that he and his family say are false. The U.S. government regards both as wrongfully detained, placing their cases with the office of its top hostage negotiator.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the unusual step of announcing two months ago that the administration had made a substantial proposal to Russia. Though he did not elaborate on the proposal, a person familiar with the matter has said the U.S. has offered to release convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

The administration carried out a prisoner swap last April, with Moscow releasing Marine veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for the U.S. releasing a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko, convicted in a drug trafficking conspiracy.

Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, participated in both meetings. Biden sat down with Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan. Then the president met with Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner, as well as the player’s agent, Lindsay Colas, according to the White House.

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R. Kelly Convicted on Many Counts, Acquitted of Trial Fixing

A federal jury on Wednesday convicted R. Kelly of several child pornography and sex abuse charges in his hometown of Chicago, delivering another legal blow to a singer who used to be one of the biggest R&B stars in the world.

Kelly, 55, was found guilty on three counts of child pornography and three counts of child enticement.

But the jury acquitted him on a fourth pornography count, as well as a conspiracy to obstruct justice charge accusing him of fixing his state child pornography trial in 2008. He was found not guilty on all three counts of conspiring to receive child pornography and for two further enticement charges.

His two co-defendants were found not guilty on all charges.

Jurors, who deliberated for 11 hours over two days, wrote several questions to the judge on Wednesday, at least one indicating the panelists were grappling with some of the case’s legal complexities.

One asked if they had to find Kelly both enticed and coerced minors, or that he either enticed or coerced them. Over objections from Kelly’s lawyer, the judge said they only need to find one.

At trial, prosecutors sought to paint a picture of Kelly as a master manipulator who used his fame and wealth to reel in star-stuck fans, some of them minors, to sexually abuse then discard them.

Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, was desperate to recover child pornographic videos he made and lugged around in a gym bag, witnesses said. They said he offered up to $1 million to recover missing videos before his 2008 trial, knowing they would land him in legal peril. The conspiracy to hide his abuse ran from 2000 to 2020, prosecutors said.

Kelly associates Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown were co-defendants at the Chicago trial. Jurors acquitted McDavid, a longtime Kelly business manager, who was accused of conspiring with Kelly to rig the 2008 trial. Brown, a Kelly associate for years, was acquitted of receiving child pornography.

Kelly has already been convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking in New York and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

In Chicago, a conviction of just one count of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, while receipt of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum of five years. Judges can order that defendants sentenced earlier in separate cases serve their new sentence simultaneously with or only after the first term is fully served. Federal inmates must serve at least 85% of their sentences.

During closing arguments Tuesday, Kelly attorney Jennifer Bonjean likened the government’s testimony and evidence to a cockroach and its case to a bowl of soup.

If a cockroach falls into soup, she said, “you don’t just pull out the cockroach and eat the rest of the soup. You throw out the whole soup,” said told jurors.

“There are just too many cockroaches,” she said of the prosecution’s case.

The three defendants called only a handful of witnesses over four days. McDavid, who was on the stand for three days, may have damaged Kelly’s hopes for acquittal by saying that he now doubts Kelly was truthful when he denied abusing anyone after hearing the superstar’s accusers testify.

In her closing rebuttal, prosecutor Jeannice Appenteng cited testimony that Kelly’s inner circle increasingly focused on doing what Kelly wanted as his fame boomed in the mid-1990s.

“And ladies and gentlemen, what R. Kelly wanted was to have sex with young girls,” she said.

Four Kelly accusers testified, all referred to by pseudonyms or their first names: Jane, Nia, Pauline and Tracy. Some cried when describing the abuse but otherwise spoke calmly and with confidence. A fifth accuser, Brittany, did not testify.

Sitting nearby in a suit and face mask, Kelly often averted his eyes and looked down as his accusers spoke.

Some dozen die-hard Kelly fans regularly attended the trial. On at least one occasion during a break, several made hand signs of a heart at Kelly. He smiled back.

Jane, 37, was the government’s star witness and pivotal to the fixing charge, which accused Kelly of using threats and payoffs to get her to lie to a grand jury before his 2008 trial and to ensure she and her parents wouldn’t testify.

A single video, which state prosecutors said was Kelly abusing a girl of around 14, was the focal point of that trial.

On the witness stand for two days at the end of August, Jane paused, tugged at a necklace and dabbed her eyes with a tissue when she said publicly for the first time that the girl in the video was her at 14 and that the man was Kelly, who would have been around 30.

Some jurors in the 2008 trial said they had to acquit Kelly because the girl in the video didn’t testify. At the federal trial in Chicago, Jane said she lied to a state grand jury in 2002 when she said it was not her in the video, saying part of her reason for lying was that she cared for Kelly and didn’t want to get him into trouble.

Jane told jurors she was 15 when they first had intercourse. Asked how many times they had sex before she turned 18, she answered quietly: “Uncountable times. … Hundreds.”

Jane, who belonged to a teenage singing group, first met Kelly in the late 1990s when she was in junior high school. She had visited Kelly’s Chicago recording studio with her aunt, a professional singer. Soon after that meeting, Jane told her parents Kelly was going to be her godfather.

Jane testified that when her parents confronted Kelly in the early 2000s, he dropped to his knees and begged them for forgiveness. She said she implored her parents not to take action against Kelly because she loved him.

Defense attorneys suggested a desire for money and fame drove some government witnesses to accuse Kelly, and they accused several people of trying to blackmail him. They also suggested that at least one of his accusers was 17 — the age of consent in Illinois — when Kelly began pursuing her for sex.

Bonjean implored jurors not to accept the prosecution’s portrayal of her client as “a monster,” saying Kelly was forced to rely on others because of intellectual challenges, and that he was sometimes led astray.

“Mr. Kelly can also be a victim,” she said in her opening statement.

Prosecutors played jurors excerpts from three videos that Jane said featured her. Court officials set up opaque screens around the jurors so journalists and spectators couldn’t see the videos or the jurors’ reactions.

But the sound was audible. In one video, the girl is heard repeatedly calling the man “daddy.” At one point she asks: “Daddy, do you still love me?” The man gives her sexually explicit instructions.

Prosecutors have said Kelly shot the video that was also evidence in the 2008 trial in a log cabin-themed room at his North Side Chicago home around 1998.

Another accuser, Pauline, said Jane introduced her to Kelly when they were 14-year-old middle school classmates in 1998. At Kelly’s Chicago home later that year, Pauline described her shock when she said she first walked in on Kelly and a naked Jane. She said Kelly told her that everyone has secrets. “This is our secret,” she testified he said.

Pauline told jurors she still cares for Kelly. But as a 37-year-old mom, she said she now has a different perspective.

“If somebody did something to my kids,” she said, “I’m killing ’em. Period.”

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‘Squid Game,’ ‘Succession,’ ‘Ted Lasso’ vie for Emmy Awards

Emmy Awards host Kenan Thompson and the ceremony’s producers are promising a feel-good event — a phrase not applicable to several of the top nominated shows.

The best drama contenders include the violently dystopian “Squid Game,” bleak workplace satire “Severance” and “Succession,” about a powerful and cutthroat family. Even comedy nominee “Ted Lasso,” the defending champ, took a storytelling dark turn.

But after several pandemic-constrained awards seasons, Monday’s 74th Primetime Emmy Awards (airing 8 p.m. EDT on NBC, streaming on Peacock) will be big and festive, executive producers Reginald Hudlin and Ian Stewart said.

They’re actually taking a page from last year’s scaled-down ceremony and its club-style table seating for nominees.

“They had a ball. They had a party. They celebrated themselves,” Stewart said, recalling a comment made by actor Sophia Bush at the evening’s end: “Oh, my God, I actually had fun at the Emmys.”

The tables will be back and again reserved for nominees and their “significants,” Stewart said, but there will be some 3,000 other guests seated traditionally in the temporarily reconfigured 7,000-seat Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles.

“When the nominees are having a great time that translates on screen,” Hudlin said, citing the “passionate, touching” speeches delivered by winners.

Thompson, the veteran “Saturday Night Live” cast member taking his first turn as Emmys host, said he wants to enjoy the ceremony and make sure others do.

“This should be a night of appreciating artistry and creativity and removing the stress of it all out. I get it — it sucks to lose, and everybody’s picking outfits and trying to do the red carpet thing,” Thompson said. “But at the same time, it’s an awesome thing to be in the room on Emmys night, and I don’t want that to get lost in the stress.”

He doesn’t expect anything mirroring the Will Smith-Chris Rock confrontation that cast a shadow over the Oscars earlier this year, Thompson said.

Although HBO’s “Succession,” which won the best drama series award in 2020, and “Ted Lasso” from Apple TV+ are considered the front-runners for top series honors, there’s potential for surprises. Netflix’s “Squid Game,” a global sensation, would be the first non-English language drama series to win an Emmy.

On the comedy side, ABC’s acclaimed newcomer “Abbott Elementary” could become the first broadcast show to win the best comedy award since the network’s “Modern Family” in 2014. It’s also among the few contenders this year, along with “Squid Game,” to field a substantial number of nominees of color.

At the Emmy creative arts ceremonies held earlier this month, the mockumentary-style show about educators in an underfunded Philadelphia school, won the trophy for outstanding comedy series casting. “Succession” won the drama series casting award.

“The Crown,” last year’s big winner, wasn’t in the running this time because it sat out the Emmys eligibility period. The dramatized account of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and family life will return for its fifth season in November, as Britain mourns the loss of its longest-serving monarch who died Thursday at age 96.

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Carlos Alcaraz Wins US Open for 1st Slam Title, Top Ranking

Carlos Alcaraz used his combination of moxie and maturity to beat Casper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3 in the U.S. Open final on Sunday to earn his first Grand Slam title at age 19 and become the youngest man to be ranked No. 1.

Alcaraz is a Spaniard who was appearing in his eighth major tournament and second at Flushing Meadows but already has attracted plenty of attention as someone considered the Next Big Thing in men’s tennis.

He was serenaded by choruses of “Olé, Olé, Olé! Carlos!” that reverberated off the closed roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium — and Alcaraz often motioned to the supportive spectators to get louder.

He only briefly showed signs of fatigue from having to get through three consecutive five-setters to reach the title match, something no one had done in New York in 30 years.

Alcaraz dropped the second set and faced a pair of set points while down 6-5 in the third. But he erased each of those point-from-the-set opportunities for Ruud with the sorts of quick-reflect, soft-hand volleys he repeatedly displayed.

And with help from a series of shanked shots by a tight-looking Ruud in the ensuing tiebreaker, Alcaraz surged to the end of that set.

One break in the fourth was all it took for Alcaraz to seal the victory in the only Grand Slam final between two players seeking both a first major championship and the top spot in the ATP’s computerized rankings, which date to 1973.

Ruud is a 23-year-old from Norway who is now 0-2 in Slam finals. He was the runner-up to Rafael Nadal at the French Open in June.

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