boost to India’s hopes
IN THE NEWS
American Jennifer Capriati summed up the latest tennis phenomenon with a shrug of the shoulders and a resigned expression after her semifinal defeat by Elena Dementieva.
''I think you had better get used to having at least one Russian girl in the semifinals from now on,'' the 28-year-old Capriati said, and nobody present disagreed with her. The year's final Grand Slam provided irrefutable evidence that top players are being rolled out of Moscow's tennis clubs.
Svetlana Kuznetsova arrived at Flushing Meadows as her country's fourth-best woman player behind French Open champion Anastasia Myskina, Dementieva and the queen of Wimbledon, Maria Sharapova.
But the 19-year-old from St Petersburg blasted through the draw, dropping only one set on her way to the final where she overpowered a gallant Dementieva, who was still recovering from her thrilling battle with Capriati.
It is the first year since 1979 that three women from the same country have won the top prizes in tennis, but that only tells half the story.
A review of the women's tournament here makes scary reading for those hoping the Russian express might run out of steam.
Of the top 10 seeds at the US Open, five were Russian, while eight of the 15 Russians who started out reached the third round.
Myskina, the first Russian to capture a Grand Slam at Roland Garros in June, lost in the second round, to 17-year-old fellow countrywoman Anna Chakvetadze.
Defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne was outplayed in the quarterfinal by Russian 14th seed Nadia Petrova.
The strength in depth is astonishing.
Kuznetsova, who also reached the doubles final with compatriot Elena Likhovtseva, said the competition between the top Russians was fuelling the trend.
''You see Myskina winning (the French Open) and you think, 'I liked that so much','' said the new US Open champion.
''The same about Sharapova, the same for all of us. (Vera) Zvonareva spoke to me and said, 'I'm ranked top 10 or top 12 (in the world) but I feel like nothing because I'm only ranked six in Russia'.
''We want to play for our country, we want to be No 1 in Russia.''
Chakvetadze, who plays at the brand new Valeri club in Moscow, said tennis had taken over from the traditional ambitions of young Russian girls.
''I was learning to be a pianist at first, then my parents suggested I take up tennis,'' she said. ''It's really just gone from there, the clubs in Moscow are very strong and you can train with top players like (Dinara) Safina and Myskina.''
Dementieva, who has now lost two Grand Slam finals this year, said public interest in women's tennis went through the roof in Russia after the French Open.
''It was huge to have two Russian women in the final of a Grand Slam, when we got back we were like super heroes.'' I think that really gave the other Russian girls a lot of self confidence.''
Shamil Tarpishchev, President of the Russian Tennis Federation, warned after Myskina's French victory ''this is just the beginning, every other country is scared of us, afraid of Russians taking over the game''. Many laughed off his comments but as Henin-Hardenne said after losing to Petrova, ''the Russians are definitely coming, everybody knows that now''. — Reuters
Timely boost to India’s hopes
With key players of
the Indian team coming back to form, chances of a semifinal berth seem
bright when India meet Pakistan tomorrow in the ICC Champions Trophy,
writes Gopal Sharma
Things seem to be falling in place for India. Harbhajan Singh, after an eight-month lay-off due to injury, is back with a bang. Irfan Pathan, Ashish Nehra, skipper Sourav Ganguly, VVSLaxman, Mohammed Kaif and Rahul Dravid have regained their touch which has given a timely boost to India's campaign in the ICC Champions Trophy.
The last two victories — first against England and the second against Kenya — have helped the team gain momentum ahead of the quarterfinal clash against arch-rivals Pakistan on September 19.
Having recovered from injury to his spinning finger, Harbhajan has been a revelation. He was at his best in the second one-dayer of the NatWest Challenger.
Harbhajan, with a nice loop to the ball, foxed batsmen into committing mistakes. Varying pace admirably, he kept the batsmen guessing and reaped rich rewards.
Though India lost the match, Harbhajan was at his best. Next, he kept Kenya batsmen on the tenterhooks with a variety of deliveries and scalped three wickets. With this form, Harbhajan would be a threat to batsmen in the matches to come. Ganguly said Harbhajan's form was a big gain.
In the absence of injured Sachin Tendulkar, Ganguly has shouldered the additional responsibility well. The uncharacteristic slow start to his recent innings points to his resolve to spend more time at the wicket. He has missed out on two successive centuries in the last two games. The skipper, in full flow, is the best timer of ball in contemporary cricket besides having the uncanny ability to clear the in-field with lofted strokes.
Having wasted a couple of promising starts ( 12, 37, 29, 33 and 9 ) early on, Laxman looks to have regained his form. The stylish Hyderabad batsman, who had struck five ODI centuries during the previous year, came into his own with authoritative 79 versus Kenya.
After a couple of half centuries against England, Kaif played a scintillating cameo. The live wire fielder, effected the stunning run out of opener Kennedy Otieno.
Irfan Pathan has proved that he deserved the ICC's Emerging Player of the Year award. It was a great to see seamers Irfan Pathan and Ashish Nehra bowl in tandem, plotting the downfall of the rivals. If the duo can bowl with same verve and control in the coming matches, India would benefit immensely.
It was, however, unfortunate to see Ajit Agarkar beat the bat repeatedly but go wicketless. Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh, both proven match winners, can come good any moment.
The form of key players augurs well for India's chances in the crucial contests ahead.
Pakistan, under new coach Bob Woolmer, have already started producing results. Former skipper Wasim Akram feels that Pakistan could go all the way in the 12-nation event billed as the mini-World Cup. Skipper Inzamam-ul Haq has said that India is a tough opposition even without Sachin Tendulkar.
Having been beaten twice in succession by Pakistan, India would be itching for revenge victory. A cracker of a contest in the offing when the two sides meet on September 19 for a semifinal berth. Besides, being the finalists of the two previous editions in 2000 and 2002, India would go all out to keep their impressive record intact.
IN THE NEWS
Roger Federer, the new US Open champion, has an envious record which many past champions would have desired to own. The gentle Swiss has a 100 per cent record in the finals. Before him no player in the Open era had won their first four Grand Slam finals.
"Actually, honestly, I couldn't have hoped for more. I had a strange feeling going into the final, with all the talk, nobody has ever won four in a row, but now that I did it, it's great."
Federer also managed to do what the great Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi have not accomplished. Federer became the first man since Sweden's Mats Wilander in 1988 to capture three Grand Slams in one year.
"Not in my wildest dreams did I think that I would win the US Open, it's still tough to believe. At the end of the year I'll probably look back and think 'how in the world did I do that?'."
At 23 Federer already has four Grand Slam titles. After winning the Wimbledon last year, he has added the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles to his kitty this year. He has been the most dominant player on the tour, winning nine titles in all this year. He made up for the disappointment at Athens by cracking the big apple. Federer now tops the rankings with 6,760 points, a lead of 2,990 points over No 2 Andy Roddick of the USA.
India’s performance at the Olympics was highly disappointing and disheartening. Once again we may hear the excuse that inadequate infrastructure was the reason for the poor performance.
There was a time when the Indian hockey team proved their mettle by winning six gold in a row. Legendary athlete Milkha Singh won laurels almost five decades back. He never wore Nike or Adidas shoes. Khushabo Jadev (1952) and Sir Dhyan Chand also performed wonders. Dhyan Chand never carried a big bag of equipment. Competitions are not won by quality equipment alone but though mental strength and commitment.
NAVDEEP S. BHULLAR
The Olympic Games at Athens have finally come to an end. India were defeated even in their favourite game hockey. There were faint hopes of winning a few medals which were dashed to the ground in the end. Then came the final insult as some of our athletes tested positive. Major RS Rathore was the only saving grace after he won a silver medal in shooting.
Though India could not perform well and won only one silver medal in the Olympic Games, yet we had one consolation, that Pakistan could not win even a single medal!
Lack of coordination was the bane of Indian hockey recently. The recent comments of the IHF president, Mr KPS Gill, in favour of foreign coaches may not please the Indian players. No one should be made a scapegoat for failures. In cricket, the captain has a good say in team selection along with the coach and selection committee, which is not the case with Indian hockey.