Champions of clay
Kubica sets the pace
Jeev’s moment of glory
IN THE NEWS
The only major clay court event in tennis saw two glorious moments as Rafael Nadal helped himself to a record fourth win at Roland Garros while Ana Ivanovic won her first grand slam title, writes Vaibhav Sharma
Rafael Nadal’s addiction to the French Open has been well known. So when the Mallorcan won his record equaling fourth title at Roland Garros by annihilating world no. 1 Roger Federer, it seemed like an expected surprise. Rafa had been in sensational form throughout the French Open and such was his prowess that he did not drop even a single set on his way to the final.
Still his act of destruction in the final was a remarkable feat. The way he overwhelmed the top seed was, factually speaking, a once in a decade occurrence. It was the shortest final in terms of games played at the French Open and also Federer’s worst defeat since 1999.
Nadal had made light work of all his opponents in the previous rounds, including world no.3 Novak Djokovic in the semifinal. He was so focused at the clay court major this time that he didn't lose easy points even during practice.
On his way to the final Nadal also defeated fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro (6-1, 6-1, 6-1) who is definitely no mug while playing on clay.
Apart from his first round match and the semifnal against Djokovic, Nadal was never pushed to even a tie-break. In his entire campaign at the French Open this year Nadal only lost 41 games.
The way Rafa played has done more than just dent Federer’s confidence. For the past three years Rafa and Federer have been the two dominant forces in tennis. Rafa held fort at the clay-court major, while Federer defended his Wimbledon crown successfully.
But now the tables seem to be turning. The level of performance exhibited by Nadal has sown the seeds of uncertainty in the minds of everyone who doubted his ability to challenge on anything apart from clay.
Age is on his side and so is form. Although Federer will be still considered a favourite come the grass season, Nadal will definitely fancy his chances as he tightens his grip to improve his record over the world no. 1. Speaking tongue-in-cheek, this might be the year when Nadal starts scripting his own bit of history and moves for ‘greener pastures’.
Paris was invaded and hit by a Serbian storm at this year's French Open. The likes of Novak Djokovic, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic were bound to be title contenders all the way through. But in the end out of the strong Serbian brigade only one stood out.
The one who has dazzled the world with her power on the court and her charm of it. Ana Ivanovic won her first major title when she defeated Russia’s Dinara Safina (6-4, 6-3) in the final of the women’s singles event.
It had been the kind of a tournament for Ivanovic where she fought of major challengers without breaking her rhythm.
Her victory over Patty Schnyder in the semifinal was testimony of her ability to overwhelm her opponents with her powerful, yet precision laden game. Even last year Ivanovic had been a finalist at the French Open. She had been there and there abouts in all major tournaments, but it all came full circle when she met Safina in the final.
Her composure and grit were there for all to see and at times when the weather gods seemed hell bent on a downpour, even they decided against it, probably acknowledging the Serbian's relentless toil for glory.
Her win over Schnyder in the Semifinal pushed her to the no.1 spot in women’s rankings. With the Wimbledon coming up in a couple of weeks time, she has to be ready to expand her reign to the most coveted tournament in the tennis calender.
Robert Kubica won the Canadian Grand Prix from BMW team-mate Nick Heidfeld as Formula One history was made after Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen had to retire over a bizarre pit lane shunt.
The first career win for Kubica and his fifth podium finish will do a world of good to his confidence. It was also the first win for BMW-Sauber as an independent team in the sport 12 months after Kubica, the first Polish driver in the sport, miraculously escaped a horror crash on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve all but unharmed.
Kubica’s win over Heidfeld came just minutes ahead of another German-Polish duel, on the football pitch at Euro 2008 in Austria. If the victory wasn't good enough, Kubica also claimed the world championship lead from fourth place before the race with 42 points. Hamilton and Ferrari's Felipe Massa have 38 each and Raikkonen 35.
"This is fantastic for our team, for myself and my country. It is fantastic to win the first race for BMW. We grew up together," said Kubica, who came to BMW when the current team was formed in 2006. "It is sensational," said BMW motorsport chief Mario Theissen, whose team had named a race win the season goal.
It was the first win for BMW-Sauber, while Ralf Schumacher won in 2001 for a BMW-powered Williams on the same course. BMW made the most of a rookie mistake by the British McLaren-Mercedes driver Hamilton in the 18th lap with the one-two finish ahead of Scot David Coulthard in a Red Bull.
Hamilton, Ferrari driver Raikkonen, Kubica and several others went into the pits to refuel when the safety car was on the track in the 18th lap to allow Adrian Sutil's Force India car to be taken off the course.
Raikkonen and Kubica exited side by side but had to stop at the end of the pit lane in front of a red light because the safety car and other cars were passing on the track.
Hamilton seemingly realised too late that the others had stopped and drove into Raikkonen's car.
The incident forced both
to retire and prompted a post-race investigation by race stewards. Both
Hamilton and Rosberg will be forced to start back 10 places in the next
race in Magny-Cours, France,
Kubica, who was lucky that Hamilton hit Raikkonen instead of him, said, "We were pitting together and the red light was still on. I just heard a big shunt and saw Kimi moving. Then I saw Lewis."
BMW reacted quickly and let Heidfeld race on a one-stop strategy, the German refuelling in the 29th of 70 laps. Kubica remained on a two-stop strategy as had he had already been to the pits just before the Hamilton incident.
Kubica crossed the finish line after 70 laps and 305.270 kilometres in 1 hour 36 minutes 24.447 seconds. The F1 season continues with the French Grand Prix in Magny Cours on June 22. — DPA
Jeev’s moment of glory
Chiranjeev Milkha Singh played according to a gameplan to record his first European Tour victory this season winning the Bank Austria Golf Open title in Vienna by just one stroke.This triumph saw him equal the record of Arjun Atwal of winning three titles on the European Tour.
But here the Chandigarh golf icon remains the only Indian to have tasted victory on European soil. Jeev’s two earlier victories in 2006 were recorded in China and Spain. Thus his triumph at Vienna gave him his second title on European soil.
When Jeev walked into the greens on the final day with a comfortable lead of four strokes, his gameplan was not to be too aggressive or too defensive. This gameplan saw Jeev emulating European Ryder Cup Captain Nick Faldo’s final round of 18 consecutive pars.
Jeev carded a par 71 on the final day for a three-round winning total of 15 under par total of 198, after the first day’s play was washed out, to win by a stroke against England’s Simon Wakefield.
Jeev did survive some anxious moments although he was never less than two ahead until the final hole. With Wakefield sinking a birdie on the last hole, Jeev managed his 18th par to claim the first prize of 2,16,660 European dollars.
Jeev who sits ninth on the European Tour order of merit, said, "Shooting even par on the last day it’s tough to win and Simon put up a great fight.
"I think the golfing Gods were looking out for me. They did not want a play-off with the bad weather forecast! I didn’t hit my last putt hard enough but it caught the edge of the hole and went in.
"I had no idea about matching Nick Faldo. I was trying to make birdies but they just weren’t going in. When you have a lead you don’t want to be too aggressive or too defensive, you just play ‘mediocre’ golf and hit fairways and greens.
"It’s great to win, it’s always a feather in your cap. I’ve knocked on the door a few times this season and at last the door has opened for me. I’m pretty excited about that."
It has been a much awaited moment for the Chandigarh professional as his last win came at the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup in Tokyo, Japan, in December, 2006. Jeev has been at the top of his game this year but has been unlucky not to have bagged a title.
His previous good performances this year include runner-up finishes at the Enjoy Jakarta Astro Indonesia Open and the Ballantines Championship, tied 11th place at the Johnnie Walker Classic in India, tied 25th at the US Masters (his best at a Major), tied seventh at the Crowns Tournament in Japan and tied 10th at the Celtic Manor Wales Open on June 1.
An elated Milkha Singh congratulated Jeev with the words, "The nation is proud of you, son, just keep it up".
Jeev had said when he was in Chandigarh last month he would be aiming for at least the top 50 world ranking so that he could have another go at the Augusta Masters next year.
A controversial goal from Ruud van Nistelrooy, a superbly executed volley by birthday boy Wesley Sneijder and a breakaway third from the head of Giovanni van Bronckhorst late in the game produced the first major upset of this year’s Euro finals.
“To win 3-0 against Italy, a team with so much experience and quality in their team, we didn't expect that," said Netherlands coach Marco van Basten. "It was a truly good performance from the whole team.” The win was the first by the Dutch over Italy since the 1978 World Cup finals and put them top of Group C after France and Romania drew 0-0 in the first game in Zurich.
It was the biggest margin of victory by Netherlands over Italy as they consigned their devastated opponents to their worst loss at a European Championship finals. Italy’s shocked coach Roberto Donadoni just wanted to look ahead. “I don’t want to say that it’s the worst Italy performance of my time in charge,” he said. “We let in two goals by making mistakes. We haven't started well but we must look forward.” The match in Berne turned in five dramatic minutes in the first half when Marco van Basten's side scored twice, although the first should not have been allowed to stand.
It began when a corner by Andrea Pirlo at the other end of the field took a deflection off a Dutch player before being cleared off the line by Giovanni van Bronckhorst. He then ran 50 metres to continue the move after Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart had taken it out of the Dutch defence.
Van Bronckhorst sent a huge cross-field pass to Dirk Kuyt who headed the ball back for Sneijder to volley home brilliantly. — Reuters