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Djokovic battles past Khachanov in first real test at French Open

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Top seed Novak Djokovic passed his first real test at this year’s French Open with flying colours as he battled past Russia’s Karen Khachanov 6-4 6-3 6-3 on Monday

The win helped him to reach the quarter-finals for the 14th time.

But it was far from plain sailing for the 33-year-old Serb though.

There was an anxious moment when a ball flew off his racket during the first set and hit a line judge in the head, reviving memories of his default at the U.S. Open.

Djokovic had conceded no sets and only 15 games in his first three rounds.

But the powerful 15th seed Khachanov provided a much better barometer of his form in his quest for a second French Open and 18th major title.

“It was definitely closer than the score suggests,” Djokovic, who has bounced back strongly from the ignominy of being defaulted at the U.S. Open for inadvertently striking a female line judge in the throat with a ball, said.

“It was quite even all three sets and I managed to break his resistance towards the end of each set, but it was a close one definitely. I’m happy the way I closed it out.”

Djokovic is through to his 47th Grand Slam quarter-final and 11th in succession at Roland Garros.

He will face either German qualifier Daniel Altmaier or 17th seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain.

Carreno Busta was the player who benefitted from Djokovic’s indiscretion in the U.S. Open fourth round.

Djokovic faced stiff resistance in the first set and it was while pushing for a break in the eighth game that he stretched to return a wide serve and the ball flew off his frame.

It went into the temple of a line judge from close range.

This time it was a completely innocent accident and Djokovic apologised and moments later broke serve after a gruelling 10-minute game.

Russian Khachanov broke back though immediately, with a dipping forehand, before tamely handing Djokovic the set in the next game with a double-fault.

Djokovic relied heavily on his drop shot again as he moved 4-2 ahead in the second.

But Khachanov then had four break-points, even though he failed to convert any of them.

Khachanov survived four set-points at 2-5 before Djokovic calmly held to move two sets clear.

Djokovic could never totally relax though and, from 2-0 ahead in the third set, he lost three consecutive games and saved two break-points to avoid going 4-2 down.

The Serb is never more dangerous than when his back is against the wall though and he regained control to ease home and claim a 35th win in 36 matches this season.

The one blot on his record is his default in New York.

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I have not resigned as Super Eagles coach, but will hand over to Poseiro– Eguavoen

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Super Eagles Interim coach, Augustine Eguavoen has denied resignation rumour about leaving his position, but will instead hand over to incoming technical adviser, Jose Poseiro.

Nigeria’s exit from the ongoing Cameroon 2021 Africa Cup of Nations after losing 0-1 to Tunisia in the Round of 16, ending Eguavoen’s hopes of keeping the job permanently.

Speaking after Sunday’s loss to Tunisia, Eguavoen announced that he would return to his job as Nigeria Football Federation’s (NFF) Technical Director, adding that he would leave the decision of who becomes the coach of the team to the Federation.

He said: “I am the interim coach and Technical Director of the NFF, I will go back to my position and allow the Federation to make a decision on the way forward.”

In a chat with The Guardian on Monday, shortly before the team left Garoua for Abuja, Eguavoen said he felt bad that the Super Eagles crashed out of the tournament at such level despite the support from Nigerians.

“I became emotional just like the players at the end of the match, but that is football for you. We tried our best to win, even after Alex Iwobi was given a red card.

“Before then, we had a big chance to change the game, but things didn’t work for us. In the second half, we knew that Kelechi Iheanacho was on yellow and we did not want to risk him. Our game plan then, was to go through the middle and that was why we brought in Alex Iwobi and Sidiq Umar. But the red card to Iwobi affected the plan. I have spoken with the players. I have told Iwobi to move on. He is a young boy and needs to be encouraged.”

On if he resigned immediately after the match as reported in the media, Eguavoen said: “I did not resign. Some people are mischievous. I never said so. I know that you can’t be everybody’s favourite. Such report coming from a journalist is not good.”

Eguavoen also defended President Muhammadu Buhari after he was blamed for the loss after he had called the players and officials of the team before the match.

“Mr. President has been our number one supporter. And like a father, his call to his children was to motivate us. I commend him for the step he took. We appreciate his support for the team.

“It was unfortunate we couldn’t go past the round of 16 in this tournament. We have to put this disappointment behind us as quickly as possible and face the task ahead, which is the qualification for Qatar 2022 World Cup,” he stated.

Eguavoen also went to defend goalkeeper Maduka Okoye in Sunday’s defeat by Tunisia.

“We cannot hold Okoye responsible for the defeat. That will be unfair. The ball came through bodies, and it became difficult for Okoye to see it. I still rate Okoye as one of our best goalkeepers,” Eguavoen said.

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AFCON: Eguavoen no longer Super Eagles coach after knockout defeat

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Augustine Eguavoen has stepped down as the interim coach of the Nigeria national team.

This follows the Super Eagles’ 1-0 defeat to Tunisia in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 clash on Sunday.

Eguavoen had led the three-time champions to three straight wins against Egypt, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau.

However, they fell short against a Covid-stricken Tunisian team in the knockout stages.

“What happens next is that I’m the interim coach and Technical Director of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

“I will go back to my position and allow the NFF (to) make a decision on the way forward,” Eguavoen said after the match.

Eguavoen stepped in after Gernot Rohr was sacked last month. However, the NFF announced Jose Peseiro as the new permanent coach before the AFCON kicked off.

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Austin Eguavoen reveals he was a master tactician before AFCON (Video)

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Newly trending video posted on ATHLST’s YouTube channel shows Super Eagles coach Austin Eguavoen breakdown Nigeria’s football philosophy and his preferred playing style while looking back at some of Nigeria’s most historic teams.

It’s a much watch.

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