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Boxing World Qualifiers: Sachin Siwach dominates Alex Mukuka, gives India a winning start 

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New Delhi, May 24 (IANS) A formidable punch by National Champion Sachin Siwach on the opening day of the 2nd Boxing World Qualifiers for the Paris Olympics in Bangkok on Friday ensured a decisive victory against New Zealand’s Alex Mukuka in the Round of 64 bout in the 57kg category.

The 2024 Strandja Memorial gold medallist dominated his opponent, Mukuka, from the start and kept up the pressure throughout the bout to ensure he received a unanimous 5-0 verdict from the judges and gave the 10-member Indian contingent a winning start.

Siwach made his intentions clear in the very first round as he went on the offensive early and took control of the bout with a couple of left-right combinations. If Mukuka was hoping for a breakthrough in the second round, his hopes were quickly dashed as the Indian was relentless in his attacks.

With the first two rounds comfortably in his pocket, Siwach ensured that there was no chance of a fightback from his opponent and wrapped up the proceedings.

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India has fielded seven men and three women in the second world qualifiers and all boxers will have to at least make it to the semifinals to stand a chance to book their berths for Paris Olympics.

On Saturday, Abhimanyu Loura, a bronze medallist in senior nationals, will take on Bulgaria’s Kristiyan Nikolov in the opening round of the 80kg weight category.

The 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Amit Panghal (51kg) and 2022 Asian Games bronze medallist Narendra Berwal (+92kg) have already got a bye in the opening round of their respective weight categories.

–IANS

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Mewar Premier League trophy unveiled in Udaipur

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Udaipur, June 16 (IANS) The much-anticipated trophy for the Mewar Premier League, which is set to begin from June 19, was unveiled on Friday in a grand ceremony at the Wonder Cricket Academy, Shikarbadi Cricket Ground

The Mewar Premier League is scheduled to take place from June 19 to June 28. The District Franchise League, held at the Wonder Cricket Academy Shikarbadi Cricket Ground, will feature day and night matches.

The unveiling of the trophy has set the stage for a thrilling series of matches in the heart of Udaipur, generating immense excitement and anticipation. The Mewar Premier League aims to promote cricketing talent and also to unite communities through the universal love for the sport, creating lasting memories and inspiring future generations of cricketers.

The event was graced by Gautam Ji Dak, cooperative and civil aviation minister, Government of Rajasthan. The ceremony saw the presence of several prominent figures, including the chairman of Mewar Premier League, Manoj Choudary, and the Founder of 100 Sports, Ravindra Bhati, along with other members of the Udaipur District Cricket Association (UDCA).

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Speaking about the Mewar Premier League, Gautam Ji Dak, said, “There is a new environment of sports in the country. UDCA has been working well for the game of cricket and I wish them well for the future. 100 Sports is also doing a good job under the guidance of Ravindra Bhati and I want everyone to come together and promote the game both at the national and international level. My message for fans is the City of Lakes might become the city of players after the Mewar Premier League.”

Jointly organised by the Udaipur District Cricket Association and 100 Sports, the League will feature, six formidable teams representing various districts of Mewar. Players such as Ashok Sharma, Shubham Garhwal, Mohit Jain, Aditya Garhwal will feature in the tournament.

–IANS

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Archery: Bhajan Kaur claims gold, secures Olympic quota for India

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Antalya, June 16 (IANS) 18-year-old archer Bhajan Kaur clinched a gold medal in the recurve women’s individual event, securing India a coveted quota place for the Paris 2024 Olympics at the Final Olympic Qualifier on Sunday.

Kaur’s triumph comes as a beacon of hope for Indian archery, especially after seasoned archer Deepika Kumari’s unexpected early exit.

Despite the early setback when second-ranked Deepika Kumari, who received two byes, was defeated 6-4 by Azerbaijan’s Yaylagul Ramazanova in her first match, Kaur and Ankita Bhakat carried the torch forward. The competition allowed only one individual quota per country, and Kaur’s exceptional performance ensured India claimed this spot.

Ranked third in the tournament, Kaur showcased her prowess throughout the event. After receiving two byes, she overcame Mongolia’s Urantungalag Bishindee 6-2, Slovakia’s Ursa Cavic 7-3, and Poland’s Wioleta Myszor 6-0 to secure her place in the quarterfinals. Her winning streak continued as she defeated Moldova’s Alexandra Mirca 6-2 in the semifinals and Iran’s Mobina Fallah 6-2 in the final, earning her the gold medal and an Olympic berth for India.

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Ankita Bhakat, seeded ninth, also delivered a commendable performance. She received two byes and then defeated Israel’s Shelley Hilton 6-4, Mikaella Moshe 7-3, and the Philippines’ Gabrielle Monica Bidaure 6-0 to reach the quarterfinals. However, Bhakat’s journey ended in the quarters with a close 6-4 loss to Iran’s Mobina Fallah.

Despite the successes of Kaur and Bhakat, the Indian men’s and women’s recurve teams faced early exits, missing out on the team quotas which would have allowed India to field three men and three women at the Olympics. However, hope remains as both teams are positioned at the top among the countries that have yet to secure team quotas. Their standings in the world rankings offer another route to qualification.

–IANS

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Smriti, Deepti & Pooja did the work of contributing for the team: Harmanpreet Kaur

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Bengaluru, June 16 (IANS) After decimating South Africa by 143 in the ODI series opener at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur appreciated vice-captain Smriti Mandhana, as well as all-rounders Deepti Sharma and Pooja Vastrakar for contributing to team’s victory.

On a slightly sluggish pitch, Smriti smashed a fantastic 117, her sixth ODI century, to take India to 265/8. She was well-supported by knocks from Deepti (37) and Pooja (31 not out), followed by the duo taking two wickets and one scalp respectively to bowl out South Africa for 122 in 37.4 overs. The result has meant India have gone 1-0 up in the three-game series.

“It’s definitely a good start, and it was a great team performance. The message was very clear: just be there and keep backing yourself. We have a long batting line-up; we have at least six batters who can bat for 50 overs.”

“I know in a game everyone can’t contribute; only two or three players are going to take the team ahead. I think today Smriti, Deepti, and Pooja did that work,” said Harmanpreet after the match ended.

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Talking about the bowling combination and Pooja’s left leg injury scare, Harmanpreet said, “We already discussed that we are going with five bowlers, and maybe myself, Hemalatha, or Shafali might come and bowl a few overs when required. I hope (Pooja) she’s fine and not that bad. It was great for me that I got a few overs to bowl for the team.”

Smriti, named Player of the Match for her composed knock in tough situations for India laced with 12 fours and a six, said she was elated to have played a huge role in the hosts’ win. “We won the match so really happy that I could contribute, important to start the tournament well, we got 100+ win, nothing better than that.”

“As I said earlier, it was really a task not to go aerial and go for the grounded shots, we have played a lot of T20 cricket, today the need was for partnerships, credit to Deepti and Pooja for getting those. It was playing the situation.”

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“In one-day cricket and white-ball cricket, there will be days when one or two batters will carry the team. My role was to take it deep, once I was set, having got to 30-40. I don’t think anyone got out after getting set and that was the role given to me.”

Leg-spinner Asha Sobhana, who took 4-21 on her ODI debut, said her plan was to keep things as simple as possible, due to the pitch offering help for bowlers. “I just kept it simple, I wanted to bowl in the right areas, I was in a good rhythm, I wanted to continue. I have been practising this for years, I did not want to do anything extraordinary, wanted to focus on the basics.”

“There was a lot for turn on the wicket, did not want to give space to the batters, wanted to vary the pace so that the batters don’t pick my variations. This stadium is very special for me, by the grace of god everything went well. Pitch is amazing and a little bit of my effort as well.”

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“I woke up in the morning today and prayed to God that everything should go well, glad that it went well. They (team management) just told me to enjoy, they had lot of confidence in my skills, they wanted me to go out and explore. I’m happy that my nation won.”

South Africa skipper said she was disappointed over her batting line-up never being in the hunt to chase down the total posted by India. “Obviously, this is not the ideal way to start the series. I think there are a few positives, however. I thought it was a very decent score.”

“I thought one person needed to bat through; was a very chaseable target. I think the bowlers did pretty well; as I said, 265 was not too bad. We just lost our way with the bat. We had the batting line up to fix whatever had gone wrong earlier. But being 30 for 3 was not ideal.”

–IANS

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Draper clinches first ATP Tour title in thrilling victory over Berrettini

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Stuttgart, June 16 (IANS) British No. 1 Jack Draper secured his maiden ATP Tour title with a resilient comeback against Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, winning 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 at Stuttgart Open, here on Sunday.

The match, played on Sunday, began with Berrettini displaying his formidable serving power, which earned him the first set 6-3.

Draper struggled to find his rhythm against the Italian’s consistent baseline play and powerful serves. However, the second set saw a different Draper, one who matched Berrettini’s intensity and refused to back down.

The second set was a nail-biter, with both players holding serve throughout. Draper had two opportunities to take the set at 5-4 but was unable to capitalize. Berrettini then had two break points at 5-5, but Draper dug deep, fending off the Italian’s advances to force a tiebreak. In the tiebreak, Draper showcased his mental fortitude, clinching it 7-5 to level the match and push it into a deciding set.

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The third set was equally competitive, with both players battling hard. The turning point came at 3-3 when Draper managed to secure a crucial break of serve. Holding his nerve, Draper served out the match, winning the set 6-4 and with it, his first ATP title.

“It is incredible. Thanks for all the support. It was a really tough match and I am really happy to win my first title. It means so much to me,” Draper said after his victory. “There has been a lot of hard work and a lot of tough moments. It’s been up and down but I’m really glad with the way I played, and it’s a testament to the work I have been doing.”

Draper’s journey to this point has not been without its challenges. He previously reached two ATP 250 event finals, losing to Adrian Mannarino at the Sofia Open in November 2023 and to Jiri Lehecka at the Adelaide International in January. This victory, however, signifies a breakthrough, highlighting his growth and potential on the professional circuit.

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Berrettini, a seasoned player with eight ATP Tour titles to his name, including two at the Stuttgart Open and five on grass, was gracious in defeat. “Congratulations to Jack – an unbelievable week, an unbelievable match. I am sure this guy is going to lift more trophies,” the Italian said. “I got close and this will hurt for a bit, but that is tennis. Hopefully this is the first step on the grass-court season.”

For Draper, the celebration will be short-lived as he prepares to play in London on Tuesday. “In tennis, there is not a lot of time to celebrate,” he noted, already looking ahead to his next challenge.

–IANS

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Euro 2024: Weghorst strikes late to secure Netherlands' 2-1 Victory Over Poland

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Hamburg (Germany), June 16 (IANS) The Netherlands overcame an early setback to defeat Poland 2-1 in Hamburg, with former Manchester United striker Wout Weghorst coming off the bench to score a decisive late winner in Group D opener, here on Sunday.

Poland, missing their star striker Robert Lewandowski due to a hamstring injury, found an early hero in Adam Buksa. Buksa, stepping in for Lewandowski, capitalized on a Piotr Zielinski corner to head Poland into the lead in the 16th minute. The goal stunned the Dutch side, who had already squandered good chances through Tijjani Reijnders and Xavi Simons.

The Netherlands, however, quickly sought redemption. Memphis Depay, having missed a golden opportunity by lifting his shot over the bar just minutes earlier, saw his team level the score when Cody Gakpo’s deflected shot wrong-footed Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the 29th minute. This goal marked the beginning of an intense offensive display from Gakpo, who registered five attempts in the first half, the joint-most on record for a Dutch player in the first half of a match at the Euros since 1980.

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Poland, needing to regroup, showed renewed vigor after the halftime break. Jakub Kiwior’s shot deflected off Nathan Ake, forced a save from Dutch goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen. Piotr Zielinski then tested Verbruggen again with a long-range effort, highlighting Poland’s determination to regain the lead.

The Dutch responded with equal intensity. Denzel Dumfries came close, sweeping an attempt wide of the far post. The breakthrough for the Netherlands came in the 84th minute when substitute Wout Weghorst, still on Burnley’s roster, latched onto a clever through ball from Nathan Ake.

Weghorst coolly guided the ball into the net, marking his seventh goal in his last 11 appearances for the Oranje and securing a late lead.

Poland refused to bow out quietly. Substitute Karol Swiderski nearly equalized when he met Jakub Piotrowski’s cross, firing a low shot that forced Verbruggen into a full-stretch save. Piotrowski’s follow-up, however, was sent into the side-netting, sealing Poland’s fate.

The victory places the Netherlands at the top of Group D, with the next match featuring France and Austria set to take place in Dusseldorf on Monday.

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–IANS

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