Azarenka to face Williams in final
After defeat, Maria heads for ice cream
One hell of a shocker! Oz rank below Ireland in T20
‘Easier to captain India than IPL team’
Pakistan trump Oz in Super Over
Irani Trophy match shifted from Jaipur
Yuvraj ready and all set to fire, but first T20 match against NZ is washed out
Young guns get a chance to impress
Hamilton gets team third pole in a row
New York, September 8
World number one Azarenka of Belarus has a chance to claim her second Grand Slam title after winning her first at the Australian Open over Sharapova in January.
Williams, who crushed French Open finalist Sara Errani 6-1, 6-2, has beaten Azarenka in nine of 10 meeting, with the European winning only in 2009. Williams is looking for a fourth New York title after winning her last in 2008.
The powerful American fourth seed rolled Errani in one hour, with the overpowered Italian saving a match point and passing to hold for 2-5 in the second set.
Williams, winner of 14 Grand Slam singles titles, advanced a game later after firing her ninth ace in a match where she struck 38 winners.
“I definitely played better today, than I played in my other matches," said Williams. "I did make some errors, but I was more consistent than I felt I was in the past." Azarenka trailed 1-5 in the opening set as Sharapova got off to a flying start on a sunny afternoon. The top seed was able to fight back to 2-5 before Sharapova lifted the 40-minute opener with an ace.
The pair traded heavy groundstokes in the second set, Azarenka recovering from a break in the opening game and then breaking the Sharapova serve twice in succession for 3-1.Azaranka held her margin to level the sets on her second opportunity with a smash.
The third set was equally tense for both women, with Sharapova winning a tight and lengthy fourth game comprising five deuces and three break points as she held for 2-2 with her sixth ace.
But Azarenka got the last word with a break of Sharapova in the final game after the Russian third seed had come from 0-30 down and saved a match point. Azarenka won the battle of notable tennis shriekers on her second chance as her opponent sent a forehand return long over the baseline after just under two and a half hours. "In the first set, I was just trying to grab every opportunity," said Azarenka, who started the WTA season with a 26-match winning streak. "Maria is such a great player, she came out firing.
"She was placing the ball well, I had no chance to get into the match. But I just kept trying to find my rhythm and fighting hard.
“I wasn't focussing on the score, I was just trying to give whatever it took. She was playing hard and I had to do the same. I gave my all, I guess that helped me to finally pull it out." No matter what the outcome of the Saturday night final, Azarenka will maintain her spot atop the WTA rankings. The Belarus player is into her seventh final of 2012 as she aims for a fifth trophy of the season.
Sharapova ended with eight aces among her 44 winners. Azarenka broke five times and was evenly balanced on 19 winners and 19 unforced errors.
“It's frustrating, but it's the game of tennis," said the Russian. "There were a lot of swings in the match today. I certainly had the lead and the advantage.
“In the third I think a lot of it had to do with the returns. I didn't do much on her service games. She was winning them pretty easy." — Reuters
New York, September 8
The Russian insists her casual response to failing yet again to make the final of a tournament she last conquered in 2006 is an indication of a new, mature Maria, one learning to take defeat, as well as victory, in her stride.
"I'm looking forward to checking out the ice cream truck that's around the corner from my hotel. Vanilla with rainbow sprinkles. It has been haunting me," said Sharapova. "I'm telling the driver, like, 'Get out of here. I can't look at you anymore.' So I'll have time for that."
Sharapova believes her new, easy-come, easy-go attitude is a legacy of her battles with a career-threatening shoulder injury. — Reuters
Dubai, September 8
Bailey, however, questioned the rankings system in which minnows Ireland are a place above them. "That does not look good but I am still not sure how the rankings work," said Bailey of the Twenty20 rankings introduced last year and currently topped by South Africa.
“So Ireland goes past us when we haven't played Ireland in a T20. If Ireland is a better side than us then I guess it will show in a couple of weeks in Sri Lanka," said Bailey of the World Twenty20 championship starting on September 18.
Australia are in Group B of the 12-team competition and open their campaign against Ireland in Colombo on September 19. Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez, whose team jumped to fourth from sixth in the Twenty20 rankings, said victory will give his team more confidence.
“It's a great sign as captain. I am happy in the way players are responding to me as captain. Everyone is confident and this is a great sign for the team ahead of the World Twenty20," said Hafeez. — Reuters
Mumbai, September 8
While he discussed several issues, including the vexing question of whether Sachin Tendulkar should retire, his most interesting observations concerned the IPL. Replying to questions, he said it was much more difficult to lead an IPL team than the Indian team.
Excerpts from the question and answer session:
The difference in captaining India and an IPL team
When I was captaining India, nobody asked me and I didn't have to answer somebody at the end of the day's play. But when I captained an IPL team, I had to answer the owner before and after the game. There is enormous pressure. 'Why didn't Ashok Dinda bowl the slower ball at that particular moment?' I was standing at midwicket, and I could not run up and tell him to bowl the slower ball at that moment. It is much, much easier to captain India. I have captained India for six years. I have never had the board president or chairman of the selection committee telling me you should have done this at this time.
On his first Test tour
When I started my Test career, I shared a room with the great Dilip Vengsarkar [who was in the audience today] in Australia in 1991 for a month. It was a terrific experience watching him prepare for a Test in Australia. Dilip was in the last stage of his career. Towards the end of our stint, I still remember getting up in the morning and getting a cup of tea from him. So I thought I must have done something good in the past one month if the great man wakes up and says, do you want to share a cup of tea with me?
On taking off his shirt and waving it at the Lord's balcony in 2002
I didn't enjoy it. It is like you make mistakes in life. I will be honest. I still don't enjoy it when I see it on TV. I have got Test and ODI hundreds, why can't they put that on rather than this one? I don't know why I did it. — TNS
Dubai, September 8
Australia, through David Warner, Shane Watson and captain George Bailey, scored 11 from an Umar Gul over before Umar Akmal and Abdul Razzaq took 12 from the bowling of Patrick Cummins to seal the three-match series with a game in hand.
The thrilling climax followed an equally dramatic run-chase by Australia as they replied to Pakistan's 151 for four. Australia required 31 from three overs, 21 from two and 10 in the last over, bowled by Razzaq. The all-rounder dismissed Bailey with the first delivery, brilliantly caught by substitute fielder Yasir Arafat at deep midwicket, and conceded only three runs from his next three.
With seven required from two deliveries Cummins on-drove a six to tie the scores and put his side in charge.
But off the final ball Cummins got a leading edge to a full-toss and Imran Nazir held on to a steepling catch at mid-off to send the capacity crowd of 25,000, the first sell-out in the history of the Dubai International Stadium, into raptures.
"I was always very confident and all the time I had belief in the boys that we would win," Pakistan captain Mohammed Hafeez told reporters.
"It's a great sign for me that everyone is responding so well, especially under pressure, and it's very pleasing for me as captain. Everyone's getting confidence and I'm very proud."
Bailey said Australia should take heart. "Whenever it's so close you run things through your mind and there are a lot of what-ifs," he said. "We can take a lot of positives from the match and in terms of a spectacle it was a terrific match."
Bailey, on his 30th birthday, appeared to be piloting his side to victory as he top-scored with 42 from 27 balls.
Pakistan opted to bat after winning the toss and their total was built around a solid second-wicket partnership of 76 in 11 overs between Hafeez (45) and Nasir Jamshed (45) before Kamran Akmal smashed an unbeaten 43 from just 26 balls.Australia started positively as Warner made 31 from 19 balls. With Watson scoring 33 and Mike Hussey 27, they were 79 for one at the halfway stage and looked set to level the series following their seven-wicket loss on Wednesday.
Their momentum was stalled by Ajmal, however, as he removed Warner and Watson and finished with two for 20 from four overs. The one sour note for Pakistan was that Ajmal left the field after completing his spell, complaining of a sore left shoulder. He will be assessed before a decision is made on his fitness for the final match of the series, also in Dubai, on Monday. — Reuters
Jaipur, September 8
Sundaram inspected the pitch today and later announced that the match would be shifted to another venue, which will be decided by the BCCI.
"It was saddening to note that the Sawai Man Singh stadium ground, which was voted the best in the IPL, has deteriorated. There was a lot of moisture in the pitch and the outfield too was in a bad shape," Sundaram said.
"With the Met department forecasting more showers in coming days it was not worth taking risks for such an important match like the Irani Trophy tie. I will have to intimate the BCCI that the match should be shifted to some alternative venue," said Sundaram. The preparation of the pitch was hit hard by the war of egos between the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) and the Rajasthan State Sports Council which reportedly handed the ground late to the RCA. "I was told that the ground was not in possession of the RCA and the sports council handed the ground only a few days back. Despite all efforts from Taposh Chatterjee, who was adjudged best curator, it appears that the ground needs at least six to eight weeks to get back in shape," Sundaram said.
“We can't take the risk for the Irani Trophy which is the opener for the coming season. In fact, Rajasthan would be fortunate if the ground is ready in time for the Ranji season, it would need work done vigorously," he added.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the RCA and RSCC regarding the use of the stadium had expired last month and it was not renewed. The RSCC was reluctant to renew the MoU in the present form and the RCA was not willing to relent either. The officials of the RSCC, however, claimed that it was the RCA's fault which led to the shifting of the match by making a mess of the MoU. “We had asked the RCA to apply for the ground and stage the match. They did no pay any heed and even then we handed over the ground on September 3.” — PTI
New Delhi, September 8
However, Yuvraj will still have to wait a bit more to return to action for India as the first Twenty20 match at Visakhapatnam was washed out without a ball being bowled due to persistent rain.
Yuvraj tweeted, “sory to the fans nd spectators who wer inside and watchin on tv gues have to wait 3 mor days electrfyin atmsphere and thnk u for so mch lov.”
Earlier, he had written, “I guess this wud be my biggest day aftr w cup final I'm really overwhelmed with the love and support of everyone who have send me wishes. Few hours to go till I wear my fav jersey To my mom my friends my fans this wud not bin pos thnks for ur lov nd courage."
Sending a message to those suffering from cancer, Yuvraj, who last played for India in November last year, said, "Is that if yuvi can u can fight cancer and come back wher u belong ! So shout youwecan today all those who u survivors and r goin to survive.
"For the cancer society! See u on the field and I hope it On the field! I just expect to enjoy the moment and hopefully lot of awerness will spread thru youwecan today! The msg I want to send today," he wrote.
He thanked his doctor who treated him in the United States, the BCCI and the National Cricket Academy for the support he got while recovering from the disease.
"Thru various chanels from dr ianhorn to a layman every one has bin an imp person in my comeback ! Thnks to bcci and nca for getting me bak," he said.
The cricketing fraternity also wished Yuvraj luck on his comeback with his India team-mate Zaheer Khan welcoming him back to the national side. "Its been a great, long journey together. Excited to finally have you back on the field," said the veteran pacer on his twitter page.
Out-of-favour England batsman Kevin Pietersen said he was proud of Yuvraj coming back into international cricket after fighting cancer successfully.
"... so proud of you buddy! Doing what you've done gives my best mate @JCEtrust so much belief! Enjoy the day pal..," Pietersen wrote. Ajinkya Rahane, who was in the India Test squad in the just-concluded series against New Zealand, wrote, "Historic day today. Looking forward to see @yuvstrong12 on the field. All the best Yuvi pa, excited to see u." — PTI
Young guns get a chance to impress
Chandigarh, September 8
As a few members of the Indian squad arrived in the city, the non-playing captain gave a vote of confidence to the young side and assured that the team would perform well in the absence of the experienced players.
The Davis Cup play-off tie in the Asia/Oceania zone is scheduled from September 14 to 16 at the CLTA courts in Sector 10 here.
Debutant Saketh Myneni accompanied the non-playing contingent and underwent a light practise session at the venue.
“It’s the right time for the young players to exhibit their wares. Indian tennis has witnessed many ups and downs in the recent past. Hopefully, these lads will contradict everything and will give this game a new edge,” non-playing captain SP Misra said. “They have the best option to make a comeback and shine their name in the world of tennis. The Indian squad has performed very well in the Davis Cup and hopefully will perform well this time also.”
The other team members including Divij Sharan, Yuki Bhambhari and Sanam Singh are currently playing in China while N Sriram Balaji is participating in an event in Iran. The final team for both doubles and singles event will announced after the entire team arrives.
“Our boys are ranked better than the Kiwis and this will be an advantage. The lads are playing well in other tournaments and once they are back, the final standing will be announced. Being the home ground of Sanam, we are expecting a good show from him. For the first time, best-of-five matches will be played and hopefully the team will have a big win,” added Misra.
Myneni was also seen all pumped about the tournament. “I will try to give my best in the upcoming tie. I am expecting other members soon, so that the team can practise together and play well. We are hoping for a positive result and this platform is the best to prove our talent,” he said. “The players are in good form and are looking to have a great tournament.”
Monza, September 8
It was McLaren's third successive pole, and 23rd of Hamilton's career, and left the two Britons perfectly placed for a third win in a row after their third one-two in qualifying this season.
"I think practice was a lot better for me," said Hamilton, who was fastest in the morning's final practice, of what he called a 'half-decent' lap at the end of the session.
Button has finished runner-up at Monza for the past three years in a row but knows only too well that the driver on pole has also ended up the winner in six of the last 10 races there.
"The last few races have really shown our strength," said Button. "Qualifying both of us on the front row is great...but even being on the front row it's not going to be an easy race."
Ferrari's Brazilian Felipe Massa qualified third but teammate and championship leader Fernando Alonso, who has a 24-point lead over Red Bull's champion Sebastian Vettel, could manage only 10th place on the grid for his team's home race.
"I think he had a problem," said Massa, whose future at Ferrari looks shakier than ever after he scored just 35 points in 12 races. "He had a problem on Q3 (the third phase) and was not able to complete his lap."
Force India’s Paul Di Resta qualified fourth fastest but has a five-place grid penalty due to an unscheduled gearbox change.
That meant Michael Schumacher, still adored by the Ferrari fans for his golden past with the team, will start on the second row instead for Mercedes.
Vettel will share the third row with the Mercedes of compatriot Nico Rosberg with former Ferrari champion Kimi Raikkonen seventh for Lotus and alongside Japan's Kamui Kobayashi for Sauber.
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg will start last after he failed to set a time in qualifying after slowing and stopping on the escape road next to the first chicane.
His problems allowed Belgian Jerome D'Ambrosio, replacing the banned Romain Grosjean at Lotus, to go through to the second phase. He will start 15th because Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado has a 10-place grid penalty for jumping the start at the last race. — Reuters