World No 1 Carlos Alcaraz is back at the Miami Masters, the event which first launched his rapid rise last year. Meanwhile, tennis legend Martina Navratilova announced that she is officially ‘cancer-free.’

In football, European giants and defending champions Italy prepare to take on England in their first qualification match for Euro 2024. But head coach Roberto Mancini, in a phase of rebuilding the squad, is lamenting a lack of depth.

Here’s a look at the key stories from international sporting events through the day for 22 March, 2023:

Ozil retires

World Cup winner Mesut Ozil announced his retirement from football on Wednesday after an illustrious international career with Germany and club spells with Real Madrid and Arsenal.

The 34-year-old helped Germany to glory in Brazil in 2014 but bitterly quit the international scene after the Germans crashed out of the 2018 tournament in Russia.

“After thoughtful consideration, I’m announcing my immediate retirement from professional football,” the attacking midfielder said.

“I’ve had the privilege to be an international footballer for almost 17 years now and I feel incredibly thankful for the opportunity.

“But in recent weeks and months, having also suffered some injuries, it’s become more and more clear that it’s time to leave the big stage of football.”

His club career blossomed when his deft passing and vision helped secure his move from the Bundesliga to Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid side in 2010.

He soon led La Liga in assists while helping the Spanish club to their 32nd league title in 2012.

His big-money move to Arsenal in 2013 helped the London club end their FA Cup drought the following year.

In 2014, Ozil started the final as Germany beat Lionel Messi’s Argentina 1-0 in the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro thanks to Mario Goetze’s extra-time goal.

Ozil, born in the German city of Gelsenkirchen but of Turkish descent, played on some of football’s biggest stages but also became embroiled in international politics and accusations of racism.

When Germany were knocked out of the 2018 World Cup at the group stage, a wounded Ozil accused the German public of “racist” attacks.

Ozil was repeatedly shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or but the later stages of his career were troubled by disputes over playing time and his close personal friendship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan was the best man at Ozil’s Istanbul wedding to former Miss Turkey and actress Amine in 2019.

But it was Ozil’s decision to be pictured with Erdogan on the eve of Turkey’s 2018 presidential election that caused particular controversy during that summer’s World Cup.

Erdogan was then unleashing a sweeping political crackdown that followed a failed coup attempt against his government.

Ozil’s picture with the Turkish leader was widely interpreted as his political endorsement of Erdogan in the 2018 election campaign.

He ended his international career before moving to Fenerbahce and most recently Istanbul Basaksehir.

Alcaraz back to defend Miami title

World No 1 Carlos Alcaraz heads into this week’s Miami Open looking to defend both his title and top ranking and admitting even he has been surprised by his dizzying rise to the top of the sport.

A year ago, the 19-year-old came to Miami on the back of wins on clay in Croatia and Brazil and hoping to make his mark on the hard courts. His victory in South Florida launched a remarkable year.

The highlight was his US Open triumph which made him the youngest player to become world number one and he returns to Miami after last week’s win in Indian Wells, achieved without dropping a set in the tournament.

“It’s all been very fast, when I got to Miami last year I was around number 20 and a year later I am coming in with the number one ranking. That is something very special. I fulfilled my dreams quicker than I expected,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Because of his victory in Miami last year, Alcaraz must win at the Florida event again if he is to hold on to his number one spot, but he says he feels no pressure in that regard or to meet newly raised expectations.

“I don’t feel the pressure too much. I know the things I have to do. I need to play relaxed and not mind if I lose or if I play well or not,” he said.

“My goal is always the same. To feel comfortable on court. To enjoy playing tennis and try to have great thoughts when playing. That is why I am playing at a good level. I am enjoying every single second and playing relaxed. That is what I am thinking about on court,” he added.

Navratilova defeats cancer

Martina Navratilova has revealed she is now “cancer-free” after the tennis great feared she “may not see next Christmas” following a devastating double diagnosis.

The former world number one, who won 18 Grand Slam singles titles during her long career, revealed in January she had been diagnosed with throat and breast cancer.

The 66-year-old is due to undergo further preventative radiation treatment but said in an interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV she should then “be good to go”.

“As far as they know I’m cancer-free,” she said in the interview aired on Tuesday.

Navratilova, winner of 59 Grand Slam titles in singles and doubles, revealed her diagnosis had left her fearing the worst.

“I was in a total panic for three days thinking I may not see next Christmas,” she said.

“The bucket list came into my mind of all the things I wanted to do. And this may sound really shallow, but I was like, ‘OK, which kick-ass car do I really want to drive if I live like a year’?’”

Navratilova, who previously underwent treatment for early-stage breast cancer in 2010, sought medical help after noticing an enlarged lymph node in her neck, with tests subsequently confirming she had cancer.

Italy in rebuilding phase

Roberto Mancini is wondering where the next generation of Italian talent is going to come from as the Azzurri begin their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign on Thursday with the visit of England.

Italy coach Mancini is in the process of another rebuild after the European champions missed out last year’s World Cup following a second straight disastrous play-off defeat.

The euphoria of beating England at Wembley in the Euro 2020 final had well and truly dissipated by the time North Macedonia stunned Italy last year.

And while the rest of the world’s top teams prepared for Qatar, Italian football was again pondering its place in the world, with Mancini lamenting a lack of young players in a country which used to be a conveyor belt of world class talent.

Italy has three clubs in the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2006, with three more in the last eight for Europe’s other two competitions, but Mancini is not hailing a rare continental success story for Serie A.

“They (Napoli, AC Milan and Inter Milan) have seven or eight Italians in the team between them... This is the reality and we need to do something different,” Mancini told reporters on Monday.

“Italian football hasn’t been reborn... If there were 33 Italians on the pitch, maybe, even half of them being Italian would be enough.”

Meanwhile, Mancini’s opposite number on Thursday, England manager Gareth Southgate too has said he is concerned about strength in depth despite a host of talented young players coming through to England’s senior squad in recent years, echoing a similar sentiment expressed by Rudi Voeller when he was made the new director of Germany’s national side in January.

With text inputs from AFP

Updated through the day