INDEPENDENT 2024-05-11 10:04:20


Djokovic floored after being hit on head by fan’s drinks bottle

World No 1 Novak Djokovic collapsed to the ground after he was struck on the head by a bottle at the Italian Open.

Djokovic, still to win a title this year, recovered from a slow start to see off lucky loser Corentin Moutet and move into the third round in Rome.

But just moments after his victory, the 36-year-old suffered an “accidental” blow to his head as he made his way off the court.

Djokovic fell to the ground for more than half a minute before he returned to his feet, flanked by multiple officials, and then headed to the medical centre at the Foro Italico.

A statement from the Italian Open read: “Novak Djokovic has been accidentally hit by a bottle while signing autographs after his 6-3 6-1 win against France’s Corentin Moutet at the Italian Open.

“This is not being treated as a deliberate act, but as an accident. A boy was calling out to get an autograph and the bottle fell out of his bag. Novak has been taken to the medical centre.”

Organisers later issued an update which read: “He has undergone the necessary checks and has already left the Foro Italico to return to his hotel. His condition is not a cause for concern.”

Djokovic had made a nervy opening to the first set as Moutet broke twice to move 3-1 ahead.

The Serbian, though, fought back with two breaks of his own before serving out the opening set in 45 minutes.

There was a light-hearted moment at the start of the second set when the alarm on Moutet’s phone in his bag went off, with the Frenchman making a quick dash to his chair to hit the stop button.

With Djokovic 2-0 up after an early break, the world number one noticed a hole near the baseline on his side of the court, which was quickly patched up before extra clay was bedded in during the next change of ends.

After such a promising start, Moutet was beginning to lose his cool – and was warned by the umpire after kicking the net in frustration after sliding in for a forehand.

Djokovic – competing in his first match since the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo – kept the pressure on Moutet’s serve to bring up a match point, which he took at the first opportunity with a forehand volley to complete his 6-3 6-1 win.

Former champion Alexander Zverev, the world number three, defeated Aleksandar Vukic 6-0 6-4 while veteran Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov swept past Yoshihito Nishioka 7-5 6-4 on Court 12.

Fifth seed Casper Ruud, though, suffered a shock defeat as Miomir Kecmanovic came from behind to win 0-6 6-4 6-4 – the Serbian having recovered after leaving the court for a medical time-out late on in the first set.

Number 11 seed Taylor Fritz ended the hopes of home wildcard Fabio Fognini as the American came through 6-3 6-4.

Ben Shelton maintained his impressive clay-court form as the 21-year-old American came from behind to beat Pavel Kotov 4-6 6-3 6-4 and reach the third round in Rome for the first time.

Portugal’s Nuno Borges knocked out 15th seed Alexander Bublik 6-4 6-4 and Brazilian qualifier Thiago Monteiro was a 6-1 6-3 winner over Australian number 32 seed Jordan Thompson.

Luciano Darderi and qualifier Francesco Passaro delighted the home support with wins over seeds Mariano Navone and Tallon Griekspoor respectively.

King had private meeting with David Beckham while Harry visited UK

King Charles and Prince William will attend a joint engagement next week days after Harry visited the UK without seeing his father.

Buckingham Palace said the monarch would see his son on Monday to officially hand over the role of colonel-in-chief of the Army Corps.

Earlier this week the King held a private meeting with David Beckham earlier this week while Harry was in the UK.

The monarch met with the former England star to discuss his charity, the King’s Foundation, The Independent understands.

The Duke of Sussex is currently with his wife Meghan in Nigeria, where the couple were mobbed by fans after arriving in Abuja on Friday.

They posed for selfies, played with schoolchildren and joked with teachers as they kicked off their three-day tour of Africa.

Alastair Stewart shares first warning signs before dementia diagnosis

Alastair Stewart has shared the first warning signs he experienced before being diagnosed with dementia.

The veteran broadcaster, 72, announced he had early onset vascular dementia in September 2023 following his retirement after almost five decades on air.

Stewart, who was the face of ITV’s news segments from more than 35 years, said that, after seeing his GP, a scan revealed he had had a series of “minor strokes that are called infarct strokes”, which led to his diagnosis.

The former rewsreader has now opened up about his diagnosis in aid of Dementia Action Week, which begins on Monday (13 May), sharing the initial concerns that prompted him to see doctors.

Stewart said it is “utterly vital, not metaphorically — to get a diagnosis”, saying that the dementia he has may be “less likely to kill you”, but “is debilitating”.

He told The Times: “If you get a diagnosis, which I did, then a lot of things suddenly make sense. You realise why your short-term memory has gone to shot.

Stewart said that the first warning sign was highlighted by his wife, Sally, who he said his is “incredibly lucky to have”.

“Sally spotted that suddenly I couldn’t tell the time on an analogue clock any more,” he explained. “I just couldn’t figure out what it was telling me. So I now have a digital watch.”

Stewart said he also “couldn’t do up my shoelaces accurately”, as well as his belt. He added: “That is worrying and the more you worry, the worse, potentially, it becomes.”

The retired broadcaster said his colleagues “were brilliant and very supportive”, but also noticed something was wrong.

“They said, ‘Look, something’s amiss. You’ve come in very early.’ Or, ‘You don’t look great. You’re a bit dishevelled,’ or whatever it might be. So in the end, I took a deep breath and went to see the GP who said, ‘Well, maybe you’re just getting older. We don’t know. There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to have an MRI scan.’

“And thank goodness and three cheers to the NHS, I didn’t have to wait.”

Speaking about receiving the diagnosis, Stewart said: “I genuinely think it was a huge relief for me and for Sally in the sense that she’d half-guessed anyway, but we could then look each other in the eyes and say, ‘OK, we now know what the problem is and we can do certain things that will hopefully stop it getting any worse, and we know that there are people that we can talk to.’ “

Alzheimer’s Research UK found in 2023 that one in 10 deaths in the UK were due to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The charity, which has a goal of finding a cure for the illnesses, has asked for any drugs “deemed safe and effective” to treat the disease to be made available on the NHS as soon as possible.

If you have aorries about yourself or someone close to you, visit the Alzheimer’s Society (alzheimers.org.uk) or call the Dementia support line on 0333 150 3456

The cost of living crisis has ruined our love lives

I’ll get these,” I told my date cheerily, indicating the two glasses of wine we’d ordered at the bar. Medium glasses, I should add. Of house wine. From a standard – not gastro – pub. I would quickly come to regret making such a recklessly generous offer.

“That’ll be £21,” said the barman – without the merest hint of a smile to suggest that this was his idea of a rather tasteless joke. It took every ounce of self-restraint not to gasp, hand fluttering to my chest, and shriek “I beg your pardon?” in a tone shrill enough to shatter glass. It was, after all, a first date. We were at least four rendezvous away from me feeling comfortable enough to become the physical manifestation of my mother.

“Sure – £21? Of course. Right you are. No problem.”

It was the week before payday. My brain stirred into action, firing off rapid strings of mental arithmetic: he would buy me back a drink, presumably, so we could stay for one more after this, but I probably couldn’t stretch to another round. I was supposed to be seeing an old friend for dinner the next night and was due to go on another first date the night after that. Should I cancel the other date? Or just put it all on the credit card? I could transfer some money from my savings, but I’d already done that the previous month, and the month before…

Talk about a buzz kill. Here I was, preoccupied by my bank balance, when I should have been focusing on making eye contact and charmingly frivolous conversation – laying down the romantic groundwork that would make dragging myself across town mid-week a genuinely worthwhile activity.

This situation is perhaps indicative of just how much spiralling costs across the board are impacting every facet of life – including in the realm of romance and relationships. It’s not just me who’s feeling the pinch: according to a new study, 54 per cent of single Brits have said they’re not currently dating because of rising prices. Nearly a third of the women surveyed by credit-building card provider Aqua even said they were planning to stop dating altogether – because it was, quite simply, too bloody expensive.

Inflation in the UK has meant that a number of industries, including the food and beverage and fashion sectors, have been hit with startling price hikes. In the year leading up to January 2024, restaurants and cafes saw an 8.2 per cent increase; clothing and footwear prices rose by 3.9 per cent in the year up to March 2024.

“The cost of living crisis has had a huge effect on people in a multitude of ways, including how we spend our leisure time, and yes, even how we date,” says Thimbl’s financial expert, Alex Kosuth-Phillips​​​​. “People are more budget-savvy than ever, with more than half of UK adults admitting to spending less on non-essentials as a direct result of the increased cost of living.”

Another survey from 2023 crunched the numbers on modern-day trysts to find that the majority of UK singles spent £60 per date – though for 13 per cent of respondents this could shoot up to over £100 for a first meeting. The research from Novuna Personal Finance revealed that the average person splashes a whopping £1,652 in total before finding a special someone, after an average of 15 dates. Despite the fact that, as per the Aqua research, people reported they could only afford an average of £38 per date. The numbers don’t add up.

Whether it’s £100, £60 or £38, it’s still a hell of a lot to shell out on what is, let’s face it, more likely to be a letdown than a triumph. In simpler – read, cheaper – times, it was easy to chalk up a bad date to experience. Oh well. Better luck next time. These days, it’s hard not to start actively resenting them. It’s hard not to start calculating whether the conversational enjoyment to monetary spend ratio stacks up, at a point when you should be getting lost in the moment and losing track of time (an endeavour made all but impossible by the constant “ping” of banking app notifications informing you that the last round tipped you back into an unarranged overdraft). It’s hard not to start listening to the cynical voice in your head arguing, rather compellingly, that you’d probably have a much better evening hanging out with your mates. At least then the financial worries would be partially offset by a riotously enjoyable evening.

Then there are the costs incurred before you even get to the date part: the hundreds of pounds invested in prep, from new threads to haircuts, perfume and cologne to makeup. All of it splurged in the vain hope that, in time, this initial outlay might lead to you spending more money still – on lingerie. All these pre-date expenses can add another £40 per date, according to the Novuna survey.

In this economy? It’s enough to make you give up on the whole sorry business, take Hamlet’s advice and “get thee to a nunnery”.

“Finances are at the forefront of people’s minds at the moment, and this is forcing people to be more thoughtful about how they connect with potential partners,” relationship expert and co-founder of dating app So Syncd, Jessica Alderson, agrees. “For some, this means being more selective about who they date, and for others, this involves finding more creative, affordable ways to spend time with someone.”

She also highlights that the cost of living crisis is “impacting people’s mental health and overall wellbeing. Some people don’t have the emotional energy or motivation to date in the midst of financial stress. It’s just not always a priority when you’re struggling to make ends meet.”

What’s particularly unfair about all this is that being single itself comes at a price – there are strong financial incentives to date purely so you can get coupled up and cut costs. Single people are forced to spend an average of £9,298 more per year when they live alone. Dubbed the “singles tax”, this massive extra financial burden is, according to research from UK Debt Expert, comprised of paying for rent and bills, plus annual lifestyle outgoings such as weddings, car insurance, streaming services, Christmas, holidays and takeaways, all without a partner to share the load. With the average UK salary coming in at £34,963, the total singles tax could equal about 30 per cent of your take-home pay.

“This premium that singles are having to pay leaves far less disposable income for other costs, like dating, socialising, owning a pet or attending a wedding; parts of modern life no one should feel they need to miss because of costs,” says Maxine McCreadie, personal finance expert at UK Debt Expert.

Under such circumstances, it perhaps makes sense that one in three couples are only staying together because they fear “not being able to afford to live alone”, according to Experian research. I don’t blame them, in all honesty. An extra £9k a year; a further £60 per date. When J Lo sang “My love don’t cost a thing”, she clearly wasn’t weathering an economic downturn.

So has the cost of living crisis killed romance stone dead? Not necessarily, but you might have to get a bit more creative with how you go about it. One of Alderson’s tips is to plan dates that involve free activities, such as visiting a local park or museum. “These types of activities not only save money but can also allow for more meaningful conversations,” she says. “A lot of people actually like simple dates such as going for a walk because it’s a low-pressure way to connect. Particularly if it’s a first date, and you’re not sure if you like each other yet, it can be refreshing to do something that doesn’t involve a major time or financial commitment.”

Another “hack” is to look for deals online, advises Kosuth-Phillips: “There’s absolutely no shame in using cinema and restaurant discount codes to help towards the cost of an evening out. Additionally, don’t feel obliged to foot the entire bill. Regardless of your gender, you’re under no obligation to fund the whole outing.” One 2024 survey revealed that just 19 per cent of women believe that men should pay on a date. It is 2024, after all.

And, if you’re later on in the dating journey with somebody, consider cooking a meal together at home instead of going out to eat. Not only is it more affordable, “it can also be a fun and intimate way to spend time together”, says Alderson. “Adding special touches like candles can make it feel like even more of an event than going out, but at a fraction of the cost. A movie night at home with homemade popcorn is another budget-friendly and cosy date idea.”

But she warns that there can be safety concerns about having at-home dates too early on – make sure “you’re comfortable and trust the person before going on this type of date”.

At the end of the day, the question of whether or not to court when you’re strapped for cash is a personal one. “If you aren’t in the right headspace to date due to financial stress, then taking a break may be the best option,” suggests Alderson. But, equally, if you are still motivated to date, don’t let a precarious bank balance put you off; “You shouldn’t let finances stop you from finding love,” she adds. Whether it’s being more selective about who you go out with or finding creative alternatives to wallet-stretching dinners and drinks, there are ways to stay in the black. If the course of true love never did run smooth, we can surely afford to weather a few ominous banking app notifications.

Off the beaten track in Costa Dorada

Blessed with swathes of golden sandy beaches between sea and mountains, Costa Dorada has an abundance of landscape to explore.

Jet2holidays makes it even easier to land your perfect active trip to Costa Dorada. Flying from 10 UK airports in 2024 and 11 in 2025, they provide package holidays you can trust and look after you every step of the way, with hotel, flights, free return transfers, 22kg baggage and 10kg hand luggage included – giving plenty of space to pack in the hiking boots and water shoes.

Here, we round up some of the best ways to immerse yourself in the region’s grand nature.

With roads being smooth and often car-free, Costa Dorada is an ideal destination for biking. There’s the Serra del Montsant mountain range for pushing those uphill challenges or coastal paths for smooth-sailing along the rugged cliff edges and golden sand beaches. The route from Falset can take in the lush wineries and rolling vineyards the area is known for. Start from this mountainous village and follow the road to the village of Margalef near the mountain edge before heading back to Falset. Or to take in the sea and mountains, start in the coastal resort of Salou before winding up the steep hairpin bends of La Mussara mountain. Make your way back to the sea at the coastal resort of Cambrils – known as the gastronomic hub of this region – for some well-deserved tapas.

There’s an abundance of coastal paths that navigate around the more secluded parts of the shores here. Camino de Ronda in Salou stretches for 6.5 km, curving in a U-shape along rocky coast and over golden sand beaches. The route can be stretched out to around 9km to cover the coastal path of Salou by starting in Vila-seca, La Pineda. The route runs between sea and mountains, with 23 viewpoints dotted along the way. It passes by plenty of places to stop for a spot of lunch with views over the Mediterranean Sea, too. If you want active pit stops along your walk, there are places along the route that offer up water sports.

Take a day trip out to the coastal city of Tarragona to explore its Roman ruins. The city was once a popular destination for Roman emperors, with the Amphitheatre dating back almost 2,000 years. There are other ruins along the coast to explore, with Roman, Spanish, Arabic and Moorish history weaved into the architecture. While in the port city, check out the Roman tombs and walled Medieval Old Town, before strolling along the harbour with its small fishing boats and pastel-hued houses.

Costa Dorada has an impressive total of 26 Blue Flag beaches, recognised for their calm, safe waters, cleanliness and environmental management. They’re particularly family-friendly, with resorts Salou, Cambrils and La Pineda being ‘Certified Family Destinations’ with dedicated facilities for families during the summer. Yet there are still many beaches that remain quiet and more secluded. Playa de la Pineda Platja is the main beach in the coastal resort of Vila-seca, La Pineda, yet remains fairly quiet. It also benefits from being close to Aquopolis Water Park with its giant slides and pools. While not being Blue Flag-accredited, Playa Llarga in Salou is outside of the city centre (but close enough to attractions like PortAventura amusement park), surrounded by a small pine forest that immerses you in nature.

The towering peaks of Montserrat National Park are one of the greatest symbols of Catalonia. The mountainous landscape is peppered with grottos and caves, while birds of prey soar above in the sky. While offering untouched nature, it overlooks one of the best wine regions in the area, with vineyards and wine cellars to visit. Head here for a full day hike or visit one of the four mountain villages in the area for a gentle walk. Elsewhere closer to ground level, Parc Sama Botanical Gardens in the coastal resort of Cambrils has an abundance of forest and foliage, with 1,500 species of flora and fauna. There’s also a lake with a canal and waterfall to stroll around.

How might a Labour revival in Scotland affect politics more broadly?

The latest Savanta poll for The Scotsman marks a minor moment of history in that it’s the first time in decades that the Labour Party has outpolled the Scottish National Party (SNP) both for elections to Westminster and for the regional list section of the elections to the Holyrood parliament. A turning point, in other words.

The change comes at a time of transition within Scottish politics, with the fieldwork being undertaken during the process of John Swinney taking over from Humza Yousaf as SNP leader and first minister – a change that involved some speculation and a little turbulence along the way. It suggests that significant shifts in the balance of political power in Scotland, and across the UK as a whole, will be witnessed in the coming months and years…

Starmer has pledged to ‘stop the chaos’ – but can he ‘stop the boats’?

Can Labour “stop the boats”? Sir Keir Starmer is too cautious and too politically savvy to adopt Rishi Sunak’s foolishly overambitious slogan, and condemn himself to certain failure before he even moves into No 10.

Instead, the Labour leader pledges to “stop the chaos” in the British asylum system, by “stopping the criminal gangs”. Those pledges will also no doubt prove something of a stretch for him and for his colleagues if he does indeed become prime minister later his year. But his latest, thoughtful speech, delivered symbolically in Dover, suggests that some serious work and even imagination has gone into dealing with the problem.

It is, after all, one of the great benefits of the democratic system of government that when one party has run out of talent, energy and ideas, another one can at least try something new and reinvigorate the system. So it is now with the divided and exhausted Tory government, and its impatient Labour opposition.