England end losing streak
Spotlight on Okolie as Churchill face JCT
Jarkhar, Kila Raipur lads in final
Melbourne, January 16
Sania, ranked 53 in the world, showed maturity in capitalising on her rival’s numerous double-faults and unforced errors to emerge 6-3, 7-5 winner from an hour-and-a-half battle.
In the second round, she will play Aiko Nakamura of Japan who defeated Eleni Daniilidou 6-4, 6-0. In their only encounter in the past, Sania had beaten Nakamura in Japan Open in 2005.
After the victory, Sania said she had a better game now than when she enjoyed her best singles ranking of 31 in her debut season of 2005.
“I’m a more complete player these days. I believe I have more than when I was 30 in the world. I am 53 now but I play much better tennis today than I did then,” said the 20-year-old player.
“I feel a lot fitter, I’m moving a lot better. Probably the serve is my weakest point right now, but it’s not exactly a weakness ... It’s just a matter of consolidating on that and playing some quality matches,” she said.
Olga helped Sania’s cause in the first set by committing as many as six double faults.
The Hyderabadi girl held onto her serves and she also benefited from frequent approaches to the net.
After bagging the first set in 44 minutes, Sania came under pressure as the 102-ranked Olga cut down on her errors and began to match the Indian stroke for stroke. Unforced errors, however, returned to haunt the Ukrainian.
Olga broke Sania twice but was dropped her serve equal number of time to let her opponent off the hook.
Sania had a sensational first year on the seniors’ circuit when she reached the third round of the calendar’s first Grand Slam before going on to become the first Indian woman to win a WTA Tour title and break into top-50 in rankings.
But the second year proved to be a ruthless test and injuries to her ankle, lower back and serving wrist saw her finish 2006 at 66.
Yet, despite the regular success of her male compatriots, to Sania goes the credit of creating a tennis revolution in India, which has largely been a cricket-dominated country.
“Tennis is really growing in India as a sport. I got so many messages today from people saying they were going to sleep early so they could get up early in the morning to see my match on TV. I’ve never seen or heard of that before, people following tennis in such a big way,” Sania said.
Sania has had to deal with off-field issues like in 2005 when Muslim clerics issued a fatwa on her for wearing skirts while playing. That, however, is in the past now and Sania is able to put things in perspective.
“It is a good feeling (being a role model) and everything has its pros and cons. But it’s great when someone comes up and says I picked up a tennis racquet because of you.”
“You need a role model to look up to and when you look at someone doing it from your own country you start believing that you can do it too,” said Sania. — PTI
Hobart, January 16
Andy Flintoff made an unbeaten 72 at Bellerive Oval to guide England to 206 for seven in reply to New Zealand’s 205 for nine and a nail-biting victory.
England had previously suffered five straight losses in its Ashes Test series against Australia, an eight-wicket loss to Australia in the first tri-series match and seven assorted losses against state or composite sides.
New Zealand’s total, compiled after it had won the toss and batted on a slow wicket, seemed unlikely to test England but it became a stern challenge for a side that seemed to have forgotten how to win.
England stumbled rather than strode towards victory, reaching the final over needing four runs to win with three wickets in hand, and took five balls and a series of scrambled singles to reach their target.
Innings of 28 at the top of the order by Andrew Strauss and 45 by Ian Bell put England on the path to victory but it was Flintoff whose grit and experience carried them home.
He came to the wicket when England was 98 for four, with the match already evenly balanced, and stayed at the crease till the end, shielding England’s vulnerable tail.
England lost Paul Nixon for 15 and Jamie Dalrymple for one in the dying stages of its innings but with Flintoff at the wicket, joined at the end by Jon Lewis (2 not out), they were able to creep to a last-gasp win.
Their Barmy Army of supporters, who have sung their way through a series of defeats in Australia, finally gave voice to a victory song as Flintoff took a single from the fifth ball of the 50th over to seal the win.
Extras (w-10, lb-9) 19
Extras (b-1, w-2, nb-8) 11
Melbourne, January 16
Second seed Rafael Nadal, drawn to face world number one Roger Federer in this year's final, didn't concede a break point as he put away 90th-ranked American Robert Kendrick 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 6-2 in 2hr 7min.
They played with the centre court stadium roof closed because of the enforcement of the tournament's extreme heat rule.
Nadal was taken to five sets in his only previous meeting with Kendrick in the second round on grass at last year's Wimbledon, but the Spanish left-hander had no problems this time.
American James Blake and Argentina's David Nalbandian won their mental battles against their opponents and the fierce elements to advance to the second round.
Fifth seed Blake overcame former Australian finalist Carlos Moya for the second time in four days for a big pyschological victory.
Blake followed up his Sydney International title win over the experienced Spaniard last Saturday with a 7-6 (10/8), 6-2, 6-4 win in 1hour 50 min on the enclosed Vodafone Arena.
Blake rated the 41st-ranked Moya the dangerous unseeded floater in the men's draw, but he had few problems breaking his serve three times and fighting off one break point against him for a comprehensive win.
Blake, who has yet to progress past the fourth round in five previous attempts at the Australian Open, will now face either Australian Peter Luczak or American Alex Kuznetsov.
Eighth seed Nalbandian said he disguised how he was feeling from his melting Serbian opponent Jank Tipsarevic before fighting back from two sets and a break down to lead 6-7 (5/7) 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-0, 2-1 at the time of Tipsarevic's heat-induced retirement.
Andy Murray missed a chance to inflict a rare straights sets whitewash as he cruised effortlessly into the second round.
The top-ranked British player, seeded 15, crushed hapless Spaniard Alberto Martin, 6-0, 6-0, 6-1 in just 70 minutes.
Russian third seed Nikolay Davydenko strolled to a straight sets victory over Argentine Sergio Roitman to set up a match with Gilles Muller of Luxembourg.
Home favourite Lleyton Hewitt fought back from two sets down to beat American Michael Russell 3-6 2-6 6-3 6-3 6-3 in the Australian Open first round on Tuesday.
Home favourite Lleyton Hewitt fought back from two sets down to beat American Michael Russell 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
Top seed Maria Sharapova's Australian Open dream almost evaporated in the furnace of Melbourne's centre court today as Kim Clijsters showed the form that has made her a favourite for the title. Three-time Australian Open champion Martina Hingis also reinforced her credentials with a crushing win, as the main matches of the tournament's first round concluded in scorching conditions. US Open holder and world number two Sharapova did not look a champion-in-waiting as she dragged herself around the court to post a 6-3, 4-6, 9-7 win over Frenchwoman Camille Pin. The tour's 19-year-old glamour drawcard was red-faced, struggling for breath and looked poised to vomit on occasions, admitting she felt "delusional" in court temperatures she estimated at 47 Celsius. After receiving medical treatment, Sharapova insisted her draining opening round would not affect the rest of her tournament. Fourth seed Clijsters swept aside Russian Vasilisa Bardina 6-0, 6-0, saying she felt "in the zone" and in similar form to when she claimed the 2005 US Open, her sole Grand Slam title.
Top seed Maria Sharapova's Australian Open dream almost evaporated in the furnace of Melbourne's centre court today as Kim Clijsters showed the form that has made her a favourite for the title.
Three-time Australian Open champion Martina Hingis also reinforced her credentials with a crushing win, as the main matches of the tournament's first round concluded in scorching conditions.
US Open holder and world number two Sharapova did not look a champion-in-waiting as she dragged herself around the court to post a 6-3, 4-6, 9-7 win over Frenchwoman Camille Pin.
The tour's 19-year-old glamour drawcard was red-faced, struggling for breath and looked poised to vomit on occasions, admitting she felt "delusional" in court temperatures she estimated at 47 Celsius.
After receiving medical treatment, Sharapova insisted her draining opening round would not affect the rest of her tournament.
Fourth seed Clijsters swept aside Russian Vasilisa Bardina 6-0, 6-0, saying she felt "in the zone" and in similar form to when she claimed the 2005 US Open, her sole Grand Slam title. — AFP
Spotlight on Okolie as Churchill face JCT
Chandigarh, January 16
On the eve of the Goans’ third round clash with JCT in the 11th National Football League at Ludhiana’s Guru Nanak Stadium tomorrow, Okolie’s presence has added to Churchill Brothers’ confidence.
As one of the leading scorers in the NFL so far, the Nigerian, formerly of Dhaka’s Muktijodha club, has already demonstrated his prowess with three goals from two matches. In Churchill Brothers’ 2-0 victory over Sporting Clube de Goa on January 7, Okolie scored both the goals.
In their second match against Mahindra United at Mumbai on January 11, Okolie’s late equaliser enabled his team to snatch a valuable point from the defending champions. Besides, over a dozen goals netted by him in the Goa Professional League last year only reaffirms his unique striking ability. In the Durand Cup qualifiers, he caught the attention of the spectators with two goals through spectacular angular shots against MEG, Bangalore.
Coached by Karim Bencherifa of Morocco, Churchill Brothers are back in the NFL after a year’s break, having qualified through the second division with 10 points last season. Although the Goan outfit do not have much to boast of this season, they are certainly no pushovers.
In the Durand Cup, Churchill Brothers bowed out in the qualifying stage, losing 3-4 in the tie-breaker to Army Green. In the Federation Cup, they failed to enter the semis, losing to Mohun Bagan 3-5 in the penalty shootout after holding the green and maroon brigade 2-2 in regulation time at Kolkata on Dec 24, 2006.
Earlier, they entered the Federation Cup quarterfinals with a 3-0 win over Air-India with goals through George Ekeh (2) and Okolie. In the NFL, Churchill Brothers’ best showing has been the second position in the inaugural edition.
JCT, who shocked Federation Cup champions Mohun Bagan 2-0 in the second round at Ludhiana last week after losing narrowly to Kolkata’s Mohammedan Sporting in New Delhi in the opening match, appear more balanced as compared to the previous year.
In fact many of the JCT players like Baldeep Singh and Daljit Singh also represented Punjab in the Santosh Trophy at Gurgaon a few months back which Punjab won after a long gap.
JCT’s firepower can be gauged from the fact that the mill men trounced East Bengal 4-0 in the Durand Cup quarterfinal league on November 22 last. With goalkeeper Karanjit Singh’s flawless ball collection and a stout defence comprising Anwar, Jaspal, Harpreet and Daljit to bank upon, coach Sukhwinder Singh’s worries have been considerably reduced.
The midfield and forward line are also functioning effectively. International Rennedy Singh’s moves on the left flank and the Sunil Chhetri-Edeh Chidi combination can spell disaster for any outfit. Chidi’s superb ball control is a treat to watch but another foreigner, Adebayo Tokunbo, is yet to make an impact although he did make some close calls against Mohun Bagan.
Forward Parveen Kumar also has the ability to strike when it matters the most. Youngsters like Mandeep Singh, who incidentally scored the equaliser against Dempo in the Durand Cup quarterfinal league, and Rakinderjit Singh add strength to the bench.
Churchill Brothers’ attack to be spearheaded by Okolie, will be strengthened with the induction of George Ekeh. Incidentally, like Okolie, George Ekeh is also a prolific scorer. In the Federation Cup quarterfinals, Ekeh scored two goals against Air-India to complete their 3-0 rout.
The other players to watch are Zenith Genius Masmangva, international Bungo Singh, veteran Khantang Paite, Drupesh Desai, Joseph Martins Louis, Wilroy D’Cruz, Chandan Singh, and Nicolas Muyoti. Churchill Brothers, who arrived in Ludhiana on January 12, had a feel of the ground immediately thereafter.
On the whole, JCT enjoy an edge over the rivals going by their recent showing. If Okolie and Ekeh are effectively tackled, JCT’s task is half accomplished.
The kick-off is at 2 pm.
The unsaid tale of an ultra-marathoner
Chandigarh, January 16
Ultra-marathon is a long distance race in which a runner has to run more than marathon distance, which is 42 km 195 metres. But in the multi-day races, the rules do not allow ultra-marathoners to sleep more than six hours a day and participant has to cover minimum 65 km a day to remain in the race.
The Upper Division Clerk in the Planning Commission, New Delhi, started his journey to fame in 2000, when he accompanied ‘kanwadias’ to bring ‘Gangajal’ from Hardwar to Baghpat. For the purpose he covered 180 kms for the first time. The act changed his life as covering long distances in minimum time has become his passion. There was no looking back. Arun attracted all the attentions just after two years. In 2003, he became the first Asian to participate in three six-day ultra marathon races in a year. He brought laurels to the country by setting a South Asian record of running 558 km in six-day in the Cliff Young Australian six-Day Race in Colac, Australia in 2005.
Besides these achievements, Arun also took part in several six-day ultra-marathon events held at Taiwan (2002), Australia (2002), New York (2003), Copenhagen (2003), Mexico and Germany (2004), Australia (2005). During the New York race, he became the first Indian to cross 500-km mark as he covered 516 kms there despite suffering from pelvic dislocation.
Arun, who is habitual of braving all the difficulties during the tough events, also struggles hard in life to make both ends meet along with pursuing his passion. He has to look after his wife, three children and old parents. The family lives in Bharthal village, located on the outskirts of New Delhi.
“Despite such enormous accomplishments, no government agency has come forward to give me any award as well as financial assistance till date. My department gives me some support during the trips. So far I have spent over two lakh from my own pocket. The only biggest support I have, is the love and encouragement from my family,” rued Arun.
But such adversaries could not deviate this determined man from his goal. Telling about his immediate target, Arun, a 26th ranked in the world ultra-marathon, said, “My dream is to cover 1000 km in a six-day race. To get it, I have been running 25 kms daily and 50 kms within five hours on Sundays. Besides this, I don’t sleep once a week as a part of practice.
Arun, who has entered his name in Limca Book of Records as national record holder by covering 550 kms distance (Delhi-Chandigarh-Delhi) in 122 hours, 45 minutes in 2004, will run from Delhi to Shimla on February 1.
Ludhiana, January 16
In the first semifinal, Jarkhar lads edged out Khusropur Academy, Jalandhar, 3-2 in a penalty shoot out as both the teams were tied goalless at the end of the stipulated period.
In the second semifinal, Grewal Academy, Kila Raipur, scored a stunning 2-1 win over Amloh Academy. This was Amloh Academy's first defeat in the tournament. Navjot Singh scored the both goals for Kila Raipur while Gurdeep Singh reduced the margin for Amloh Academy. The final will be played tomorrow at 12 noon. — OSR
Paes-Damm seeded fifth