Saina gets a Super Six in Denmark
Thaworn is Thai delight, Kapur finishes fourth
Delhi beat Perth to stay alive
Messi treble powers Barca
Laxman to lead Hyderabad against Punjab
D-Day looms for Armstrong
More events needed for talent to flower
Odense (Denmark), Oct 21
The 22-year-old Saina, who was competing in her first tournament after the London Games, won 21-17, 21-8 in 35 minutes to notch up her second Super Series Premier title which fetched her $30,000 from a total purse of $400,000.
“I thank Denmark and the Indian fans here for supporting me. I never expected to win this tournament,” an elated Saina said after the win which took her overall lead against Schenk to 6-3.
The match began a few minutes past the scheduled time as a false fire alarm went off at the venue.
Both players waited at their respective ends of the court with Schenk seemingly restless, even as the Indian stood next to the umpire with a confident smile on her face.
Playing in her fourth final of the year, Saina made a resounding start reeling off four straight points with a mix of her trademark crosscourt smashes to which Schenk had no response.
“There were a lot of things which I did after Olympics which made me fresh but every tournament is tough. My right knee was not really in perfect shape but I thank god for giving me the energy to win the title,” said Saina who had beaten world number one Yihan Wang in the semifinals.
Saina was ahead 8-2 just three minutes into the match, which included five smash winners. But Schenk clawed her way back to make it 9-9 with Saina being guilty of being a shade slow in her returns. Schenk’s ploy was to draw Saina close to the net to neutralise her trademark power-game and it worked as the German grabbed a 10-9 lead. The third seeded Indian, however, relied on her fine baseline game to be 15-12 ahead. She also began to outfox Schenk at the net.
To her credit, the world number seven Schenk, seeded sixth in the tournament, showed a lot of commitment in retrieving whatever Saina threw at her in the engaging rallies.
The gap was not too huge between the two players but Saina took the early advantage as her ninth smash winner fetched her the opening game in 19 minutes.
In the second game, fortunes fluctuated as Schenk also improved her baseline game. Saina was still ahead 11-7 at the break but was guilty of committing quite a few errors.
But the Indian got her act together after wiping off the sweat and even though Schenk tested her in rallies with her fighting spirit. The German was, in fact, left exasperated as she struggled to get a grip of the pace of the game.
Leading 20-8, Saina won it rather easy as Schenk did not even return the Indian’s serve on the championship point. The victory was sweet revenge for Saina who had lost in straight games to Schenk last year.
The triumph marked another high for the Indian shuttle queen who had successfully defended her Swiss Open title by defeating world number two Wang Shixian of China a day after she turned 22 in March.
In June, Saina lifted the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold title before winning the Indonesia Open Super Series Premier by defeating world number three Li Xuerui of China. It was her third Indonesia Open title.
China’s Chen Xu and Jin Ma won the mixed-doubles title with a 23-21, 24-26, 21-11 win over Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Nasir of Indonesia. Baek Choel Shin and Yeon Seong Yoo of South Korea won the men’s doubles title when they beat Kien Keat Koo and Boon Heong Tan of Malaysia 19-21, 21-11, 21-19. — PTI
Bangalore, October 21
Thaworn, playing one flight in front of Ramsay, birdied the last hole in regulation play when his seven-iron approach shot landed about one foot from the hole as he closed with a five-under-par 66.
Ramsay, the overnight leader, needed a par putt on the last for victory but made a three-putt bogey for a 68 as the pair returned to the par four 18th hole at the Karnataka Golf Association course.
The Scot then blasted his tee shot into a creek and was penalised. His third shot landed in the back of the green and he chipped to about 10 feet past the hole as he two-putted for double bogey.
Thaworn, who won the Indian Open in 2005, made a two-putt bogey for victory after hitting his second shot into the greenside bunker. His win pushed him to the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
The Thai finished with a 14-under-par 270 and won $198,125. Thaworn, who was two shots off the lead at the start of the day, struggled with his driver but rallied with acute iron play and a sharp short game in a round of six birdies against one bogey.
“I think I only found two fairways in regulation and I didn’t see where Richie was on the 18th hole until the crowd started shouting. It was a huge surprise to me but I’m glad I won,” he said.
Ramsay rued an unlucky break in the play-off as his remarkable third shot, which he hit over the trees, landed in a pitch mark just after the green. Rising Thai star Panuphol Pittayarat bogeyed the last hole to finish one shot from the play-off.
Shiv Kapur was the best Indian as he shot a 66 for fourth place on 272. Anirban Lahiri of India, Arnond Vongvanij of Thailand and Jaakko Makitalo of Finland were a further two shots back in fifth place. — Agencies
Cape Town, October 21
After Delhi’s pace duo of Morne Morkel and man of the match Agarkar restricted Scorchers to 121 for five in 20 overs, the Daredevils struggled despite Sehwag’s half century but reached the target in 19.3 overs.
The win took Delhi to 10 points from three matches and gave them a good chance of qualifying while the defeat meant end of the road for Scorchers.
Sehwag played an innings of 52 off 44 balls where he was restrained and ready to wait for the loose deliveries as he hit only four boundaries and a six.
The shot which brought up his half century was a lucky shot when his upper cut slipped from Nathan Rimmington’s hands to go for a six.
However, Rimmington made amends as he came on to bowl in the next over, removing both Irfan Pathan (14) and Sehwag to reduce Delhi from a relatively comfortable 94 for four to 96 for six.
Agarkar, who bowled beautifully, then came to the party and hit a couple of boundaries under pressure and his 11 not out proved to be priceless in the end.
Needing 8 off the final over, Agarkar hit a cover drive off Rimmington and then took a single as Negi took the strike.
Needing three from four balls, young Negi blasted Rimmington through the mid-wicket for a four much to the delight of his dug-out.
Earlier, a fine performance by Morkel, and Agarkar helped Delhi restrict Scorchers to 121 for five.
While Morkel had the best figures of three for 19 in his four overs, credit should be given to Agarkar who bowled splendidly in the middle overs, getting two wickets and giving away only 14 runs in the process. — PTI
Madrid, October 21
Messi’s latest masterclass overshadowed Real Madrid’s drab 2-0 triumph at home to promoted Celta Vigo. Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo (penalty) scored the goals that lifted Jose Mourinho’s team to fourth place, eight points behind arch rivals Barca.
World Player of the Year Messi, who is expecting the imminent birth of his first child, has notched 71 goals for club and country in 2012. That leaves him only four short of the record set by Brazilian great Pele in 1959.
The Argentine has 11 goals in eight La Liga outings this season, two more than Ronaldo. Unbeaten Barca have 22 points, three ahead of Atletico Madrid who play their game in hand at Real Sociedad on Sunday (8:30 p.m. British time).
“He (Messi) is off to the hospital now for a happy occasion as his son is on the way,” Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta told Spanish television.
Malaga are third on 17 points after Joaquin made amends for fluffing a penalty by grabbing the winner in a 2-1 victory at home to Real Valladolid.
On a day full of late drama, Valencia got their stuttering season back on track when they snatched a 3-2 win over Athletic Bilbao, who were leading 2-1 when they had Ander Herrera sent off midway through the second half.
Barca looked to be cruising to a seventh win of the campaign when they raced into a three-goal lead after 18 minutes at Depor’s Riazor Stadium. Jordi Alba sped on to a Cesc Fabregas pass to score in the third minute, Cristian Tello added a second and then Messi smashed in his first of the night after Fabregas’s clever back heel.
The home side pulled two goals back against the run of play through Pizzi (penalty) and Alex Bergantinos before Messi made the most of another Fabregas assist to make it 4-2 at the break.
In a frenetic start to the second half Depor midfielder Pizzi curled in a stunning 47th-minute free kick and Mascherano was harshly shown a second yellow card two minutes later. Barca coach Tito Vilanova reacted by replacing Fabregas with Xavi before Messi, who also struck a free kick against the post, appeared to have killed the game when he made it 5-3 with a trademark run and clinical finish in the 77th minute.
A bizarre own goal from Barca full back Jordi Alba, when he lobbed keeper Victor Valdes from inside his own penalty area, gave Depor fresh hope but they were unable to make some late pressure count.
“We could have killed off the game in the first half but Deportivo are strong when they are playing at home and their fans get behind them,” said Barca playmaker Andres Iniesta. “We are going away with the feeling of having got through a tough match and we will learn from that.”
Real, who are clawing their way up the table after a poor start to the defence of their title, took an 11th-minute lead at the Bernabeu thanks to a Higuain cross-shot from the left that looped over Celta goalkeeper Sergio and into the net.
The home team struggled to break through Celta’s well-drilled defence and needed a 67th-minute Ronaldo penalty, awarded for a foul on Mesut Ozil, to double the lead. The visitors came close to scoring late on but Real keeper Iker Casillas produced a fine save to keep out South Korea striker Park Chu-young’s header.
“We need to stay on this path and try to reduce the gap to the leaders,” said Real’s Sergio Ramos. “Our confidence is huge and the league is very long. Until there is no mathematical champion, which won’t be for a long time, Madrid will be up there fighting.” — Reuters
Laxman to lead Hyderabad against Punjab
Hyderabad, October 21 The 27-year-old had announced retirement from international cricket in August this year ahead of the home series against New Zealand despite being selected to play. While announcing his retirement from international cricket, the stylish batsman had indicated that he would continue to play for Hyderabad in the Ranji matches. Laxman represented India in 134 Tests, scoring 8781 runs at 45.97. He made his debut against South Africa in the home series in 1996. His greatest achievement was a 281 at Eden Gardens in Kolkata in 2001, against Australia, then the highest score by an Indian batsman in Tests. Part of a record stand with Rahul Dravid, it set up a stunning victory for the home team after following on and ended Australia's consecutive 16-match winning streak. Laxman last played an ODI in 2006 but had, by then, become a regular in the Test side and played his 100th Test in 2008, against Australia in Nagpur. Laxman made six of his 17 Test centuries against Australia, with an average of 49.67 in 29 Tests and success both home and abroad. Hyderabad team: VVS Laxman, DB Ravi Teja, P Akshat Reddy, GH Vihari, N Arjun Yadav, Ahmed Quadri, B Sandeep, Ibraheem Khalil (wk), Pragyan Ojha, MA Khader, Anwar Ahmed Khan, P Kaneshkk Naidu, Abhinav Kumar, Vishal Sharma. — PTI
Hyderabad, October 21
The 27-year-old had announced retirement from international cricket in August this year ahead of the home series against New Zealand despite being selected to play.
While announcing his retirement from international cricket, the stylish batsman had indicated that he would continue to play for Hyderabad in the Ranji matches.
Laxman represented India in 134 Tests, scoring 8781 runs at 45.97. He made his debut against South Africa in the home series in 1996.
His greatest achievement was a 281 at Eden Gardens in Kolkata in 2001, against Australia, then the highest score by an Indian batsman in Tests. Part of a record stand with Rahul Dravid, it set up a stunning victory for the home team after following on and ended Australia's consecutive 16-match winning streak. Laxman last played an ODI in 2006 but had, by then, become a regular in the Test side and played his 100th Test in 2008, against Australia in Nagpur. Laxman made six of his 17 Test centuries against Australia, with an average of 49.67 in 29 Tests and success both home and abroad.
Hyderabad team: VVS Laxman, DB Ravi Teja, P Akshat Reddy, GH Vihari, N Arjun Yadav, Ahmed Quadri, B Sandeep, Ibraheem Khalil (wk), Pragyan Ojha, MA Khader, Anwar Ahmed Khan, P Kaneshkk Naidu, Abhinav Kumar, Vishal Sharma. — PTI
Paris, October 21
International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid will hold a news conference at 11.00 a.m. British time on Monday at which he is widely expected to confirm that Armstrong, 41, is banned for life and loses his record seven Tour de France titles.
Last month, McQuaid said the UCI had no reason to appeal against the USADA decision, adding that the ruling body was waiting to read the reasoned decision and case file published after Armstrong elected not to fight the charges.
The USADA report, released last week, is a 1,000 page document which shows, the Agency says, that Armstrong took part in a doping scheme on his way to his unrivalled success on the Tour from 1999-2005.
The report accused Armstrong, as head of the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team, of running "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
It included sworn testimony from 26 people, including 15 riders, who described years of performance drug use. — Reuters
More events needed for talent to flower
New Delhi, October 21
Those were the days when a large number of boys and girls from Punjab and Chandigarh participated in the national championship. Though Sunil went on to represent the country in Davis Cup, he could not realise his full tennis potential as he did not have anyone with deep pockets and strategy to back him to the hilt.
Sure enough, Sunil faded out within a few years. Since then, no player from Punjab has won the national title. So much so, this year, no player from Punjab or Chandigarh featured among the top eight seeds even in the junior section of the 18th Fenesta Open National Tennis Championship. In the 32-player men’s and women’s singles main draw, not a single player from Punjab could gain entry!
But there were a few from Punjab and Chandigarh in the junior events, but here too, none could reach the title round. Fourth seeded Paramveer Singh Bajwa lost in the semifinal of the under-14 boys singles while Fatehdeep Singh fell in the quarterfinal to eventual champion Garvit Batra in the under-16 boys singles.
Why are Punjab players, despite their initial promise, fail to graduate to a higher level? “Parents and players take interest up to the age of 12-14 years, when they learn only the basics. After that, parents put thrust on education, and the players lose their focus and fade out,” observed Nar Singh, seasoned tennis coach and chief of coaching at DLTA.
Most of the talent now emerges from Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Pune or Kolkata as these centres host most national tournaments, giving the players a great opportunity to hone their skills against better-ranked players from across the country. “A state like Punjab, though rich in potential, holds only zonal tournaments, which pit their players only against each other, giving them limited exposure. Punjab needs to host more and more national tournaments if players from the State want to graduate to a higher level,” added Nar Singh.
Delhi has now become a focal point for emerging talent, who want to pursue tennis on a serious scale, on account of the good coaches and excellent facilities available in the Capital. “The coaches and parents here are better educated, and the days of coaches alone shaping up a player are over. Now a good player needs the help and support of parents, coaches and physical trainers for him to go up,” noted Nar Singh.
He said good coaches look for talented players in the age-bracket of 15-16 as this is the time when the body of a player develops and gains strength, and this is the time to impart scientific coaching to a talented player. “At this stage, the parental involvement becomes crucial. This is the time when players need to play tournaments at a higher category, and travel around to play matches. But most parents back out, or cannot afford, when education of their wards become their first priority,” explained the coach.
The tennis facility at Chandigarh should throw up more talent at the national level than is the present case. But for that to happen, more involved parents, coaches and officials are required. If the hundreds of entries received for the National Championship were an indication, then the game is alive and thriving in the country!
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