SPORTS TRIBUNE
 


After a dream run in 2006 when Jeev Milkha Singh lifted four titles and finished on top of the UBS Asian Tour Order of Merit, it’s time for him to prove a point at home.The Indian fairway
It will be a tough contest between the country’s top golfer Jeev Milkha Singh and defending champion Jyoti Randhawa, writes M.S. Unnikrishnan
J
eev Milkha Singh may have been on a roll elsewhere, but he will have to prove a point or two when he tees off in the Hero Honda Indian Golf Championship at the spruced-up Delhi Golf Club course next week. This is one crown the ace Chandigarh golfer has never won, and he is keen to correct that flaw.
After a dream run in 2006 when Jeev Milkha Singh lifted four titles and finished on top of the UBS Asian Tour Order of Merit, it’s time for him to prove a point at home.

German players celebrate with president of the German Football Association D.F.B. Theo Zwanziger after winning the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup football final against Brazil.Taking giant strides
S
ublime individual talent and entertaining matches drawing big crowds —women’s football has come a long way from the World Cup four years ago in the United States. While they are never going to rival the likes of David Beckham, Ronaldinho, and Thierry Henry in the popularity stakes, the best women footballers on the planet proved over the past three weeks that the game has taken giant steps.
BASKING IN GLORY: German players celebrate with president of the German Football Association D.F.B. Theo Zwanziger after winning the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup football final against Brazil. — AFP

France’s Richard Gasquet annexed his first hardcourt title by winning the Kingfisher Open.IN THE NEWS
Clinical display
R
ichard Gasquet of France won his first title outside Europe beating Olivier Rochus of Belgium in straight sets and now he aims for getting back into the top 10 and winning a Grand Slam. He won the Kingfisher Airlines Open tennis tournament without dropping a set throughout the tourney and by clinching first hardcourt title, and that too in tough humid conditions that the youngster is used to, he has proved that his game was suited to all surfaces.





France’s Richard Gasquet annexed his first hardcourt title by winning the Kingfisher Open. — AFP

Skeet shooter Sorab Singh will represent India in the Asian Shooting Championship to be held at Kuwait in December.Sharp shooter
Akash Ghai
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youngster has made his presence felt in the shooting arena hitting the bull’s eye whenever he got an opportunity. The selectors have now picked up this youngster, 20-year-old Sorab Singh Gill, for the Asian Shooting Championship after his exploits at the World Championship in Cyprus last month. Elated over his selection for the Asian meet, to be held at Kuwait from December 3 to 13, the Delhi-based shooter said: “In Cyprus, I got 109 out of 125 and during selection trials for the Asian championship my performance got better (111/125).”
Skeet shooter Sorab Singh will represent India in the Asian Shooting Championship to be held at Kuwait in December. — Tribune photo by Vicky Gharu

Lewis Hamilton has a chance to become the first rookie to take the F1 title.A chequered flag away
Alan Baldwin
M
cLaren’s Lewis Hamilton could be just one race away from becoming the first rookie to win the Formula One world championship, but the party will have to wait. The 22-year-old Briton’s father Anthony, a constant presence in the paddock, will see to that. But the next few days will be more about early bedtimes and hard work than champagne and celebration.


Lewis Hamilton has a chance to become the first rookie to take the F1 title. — AFP

   

 

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The Indian fairway
It will be a tough contest between the country’s top golfer Jeev Milkha Singh and defending champion Jyoti Randhawa, writes M.S. Unnikrishnan

Jeev Milkha Singh may have been on a roll elsewhere, but he will have to prove a point or two when he tees off in the Hero Honda Indian Golf Championship at the spruced-up Delhi Golf Club course next week. This is one crown the ace Chandigarh golfer has never won, and he is keen to correct that flaw. Jeev will be playing in India after a four-year interval and fans will be looking forward to his improved game after a phenomenal season last year.

On the other hand, Jyoti Randhawa will be striving to play his best to retain the title, which he had won last year after beating SSP Chowrasia and Vijay Kumar in a thrilling sudden-death play-off. It was the second time Randhawa had won the title.

The field for the 44-year-old Indian Open, to be played at the lengthened course of the Delhi Golf Club from October 11 to 14, will be very tough, but Jeev has declared that he was game for the challenge. Jeev, after a seven-year title drought, had a dream run in 2006 when he lifted four titles and finished on top of the UBS Asian Tour Order of Merit, while rising to No. 37 in the world. He was also in title contention in another half a dozen events, and figured among the top 10 frequently.

He has been playing mostly on the European and US Tours this season, besides making an appearance in all four Majors, though he has not been able to replicate his wins of last year.

Understandably, the Chandigarh pro is excited about playing in the Indian Open, which carries a record purse of $500,000, a $100,000 hike from last year. Jeev had recently said playing in the Majors was a “great experience” and he was particularly proud of the way he played at the Masters and the US Open.

Jeev had always relished playing at the Delhi Golf Club, dotted with monuments and an enticing fairway, though a major title has eluded him here. He came pretty close to winning the Hero Honda Masters in 1998, but faltered at the home stretch to finish second.

With Hero Honda being the sponsors of the Indian Open, though this is the final year of their three-year sponsorship deal, Jeev hopes to hit the pay dirt this time around.

But the going will not be easy for Jeev as defending champion Jyoti Randhawa, 2005 winner Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, who also won the Midea China Classic in September for his ninth Asian Tour title, 2004 champion Mardan Mamat from Singapore and China’s Liang Wenchong, who was the leader of the Asian Tour Order of Merit title for most of this year, will also be in the ray.

The 35-year-old Jeev has not played in Asia since the Singapore Masters in February, and that’s why he “jumped at the chance” when he was invited to compete on the Asian Tour and play in the Indian Open.

After his tryst with the Indian Open, Jeev plans to move back to Europe to defend his Volvo Masters of Europe title and then he will play in Asia and Japan, as he has two titles to defend in Japan, which he had won back-to-back in a fortnight last year.

Jyoti ended a two-year winless run when he lifted the title last year. He then went on to comfortably retain his European Tour card after a solid rookie season last year where he finished 68th on the Order of Merit with three top10s. In 2004, he had won the Volvo Masters of Asia in Kuala Lumpur, which helped him get the coveted Arjuna Award. And he is looking forward to giving Jeev and co a hard run.

The Indian Open, which started with a modest purse, has grown to become a half a million-dollar event, and Delhi has been playing host to this prestigious tournament for the past five years. But the low scores last year has forced the club to extend the length of the course beyond its 7000-yard mark.

A series of changes on three of the crucial holes, including two par-4s, has taken it to 7014 yards. The course, renowned for its tricky layout and vicious rough and bushes, will throw a bigger challenge to the players as the distance has been stretched by 126 yards.

“The Indian Open boasts a wealth of great memories and with the tournament continuing to build in stature on the Asian Tour, we are looking forward to the event with great enthusiasm”, said General JJ Singh, president of the Indian Golf Union.

World Sports Group will promote the event for the third consecutive year as part of a six-year agreement with the Asian Tour, and an exciting golfing fiesta will be on the cards.

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Taking giant strides

Sublime individual talent and entertaining matches drawing big crowds —women’s football has come a long way from the World Cup four years ago in the United States.

While they are never going to rival the likes of David Beckham, Ronaldinho, and Thierry Henry in the popularity stakes, the best women footballers on the planet proved over the past three weeks that the game has taken giant steps.

With crowds averaging 38,000, the World Cup in China was a big success, so much so that the China Football Association said it was now mulling a bid to host the 2018 men’s tournament.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter was suitably impressed with what he saw from a tournament won by an experienced Germany who beat Brazil 2-0 in the final. The United States took third place and Norway fourth.

“Generally speaking, it is a big improvement by all teams from four years ago in the United States. It’s clear that women at this level are now able to deal with principles of good professional football. The only thing we are missing is professional leagues,” said Blatter.

The championship produced 111 goals, some edge-of-the-seat thrillers and just two red cards. Once again, the traditional powerhouses were battling at the bitter end, but there were some turn-ups.

While Africa’s representatives — Nigeria and Ghana — failed to get beyond the group stages, Asian teams continued making progress with China, North Korea and Australia all getting to the quarterfinals, although Japan missed out.

South American champions Argentina were the biggest disappointment, with Germany beating them by a record 11-0 in the opening game of the tournament.

But the biggest surprise was Brazil, who made it to the final for the first time and won an army of fans in China with their silky skills, epitomised by 2006 World Player of the Year Marta.

Remarkably, no coaches were fired or walked away from the job although China’s Swedish coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors is considering her position.

With no men’s World Cup or youth World Cup next year, the women’s game has the chance to keep itself in the spotlight and build on the momentum. — AFP

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IN THE NEWS
Clinical display

Richard Gasquet of France won his first title outside Europe beating Olivier Rochus of Belgium in straight sets and now he aims for getting back into the top 10 and winning a Grand Slam.

He won the Kingfisher Airlines Open tennis tournament without dropping a set throughout the tourney and by clinching first hardcourt title, and that too in tough humid conditions that the youngster is used to, he has proved that his game was suited to all surfaces.

World No. 14 and Wimbledon semifinalist, Gasquet carried his devastating form right through the tournament into the title-contest to carve out an impressive victory over his 66th-ranked rival.

The 21-year-old Gasquet, nicknamed “Baby Federer”, took home $65,850 and 175 ATP points for his superb run in the tournament which ended with his fifth career title and first this year after having lost in the final at Estoril in Portugal in May against Serb Novak Djokovic.

It has been a breakthrough year for the French youngster having moved into the top 10 after his Wimbledon heroics and staying there for five weeks before dropping out, and he showed how good he’s right through the event by getting his way past F. Fognini (Italy), sixth seed Stefan Koubek (Austria) and veteran compatriot Fabrice Santoro to reach his second final this year. — Agencies


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Sharp shooter
Akash Ghai

A youngster has made his presence felt in the shooting arena hitting the bull’s eye whenever he got an opportunity. The selectors have now picked up this youngster, 20-year-old Sorab Singh Gill, for the Asian Shooting Championship after his exploits at the World Championship in Cyprus last month.

Elated over his selection for the Asian meet, to be held at Kuwait from December 3 to 13, the Delhi-based shooter said: “In Cyprus, I got 109 out of 125 and during selection trials for the Asian championship my performance got better (111/125).”

Apart from this, this skeet shooter has represented the country in the Junior World Cup held in Germany in May this year and the World Universities Games in June.

“This international exposure has helped me improve my skills. In Cyprus, I competed with big Indian names like Olympic medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, world champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu, Mansher Singh and Zorawar Singh. I learned a lot of new techniques of the sport from my senior fellows”, said Sorab at the Mohali shooting range, where he came to participate in the Punjab state shooting championship last week.

A B.Com-II student of the Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi, Sorab got inspiration to take on the sport from international shooter Raja K.S. Sidhu and started honing his skills at Mohali range in 10m air rifle. But soon he lost interest into piercing the fixed targets. So he switched over to skeet shooting two years ago under the hawk eyes of former international shooter and national coach P.S. Sodhi.

Hard work started paying dividends to this budding shooter when he became national bronze medallist in 2006. In February this year, he again bagged a bronze in Masters Shooting Meet in Jaipur.

On India’s chances in Beijing Olympics, Sorab says that more than 10 shooters have already qualified. “With top class performers like Rajyavardhan Rathore, Manvjit Sandhu, Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang, we stand a good chance to win medals there. And I hope that the way Indian shooters are performing at the international level, it will surely encourage more and more youngsters to take up this game,” said Sorab.

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A chequered flag away
Alan Baldwin

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton could be just one race away from becoming the first rookie to win the Formula One world championship, but the party will have to wait. The 22-year-old Briton’s father Anthony, a constant presence in the paddock, will see to that. But the next few days will be more about early bedtimes and hard work than champagne and celebration.

Hamilton’s fourth win in 15 races left the youngster 12 points clear of team-mate and title rival Fernando Alonso, Spain’s double world champion, with two races remaining.

At its simplest, Hamilton will be champion in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai if he wins. Failing that, he only need to stay ahead of Alonso and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to prevent the title race remaining open until the final race in Brazil.

It seems like an age since Hamilton made his debut in Melbourne in March amid suggestions that perhaps he had been brought in too soon, perhaps the reality would not live up to the hype. That notion seems laughable now.

“It’s a funny thing that word hype,” mused Hamilton senior. “That word has followed us around ever since he was seven years of age. People say can you believe the hype?

“But at every stage we have proved that the word doesn’t ever actually apply to us. It applies to others. We come along, we try to do an honest job, we go away and rebuild and try again. There is no hype around Lewis,” he added.

The statistics are remarkable: A run of nine podiums in a row at the start of the season, four wins, five pole positions and back-to-back wins in Canada and the United States. He has been off the podium only three times in total.

Hamilton, as Formula One’s first black driver, has already shown that he can take the sport to new audiences much as Tiger Woods did in golf. — Reuters

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