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CCI Billiards Classic: Sitwala, Kothari and Jagdale to challenge Champion Advani

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Mumbai, March 17 (IANS) Defending champion Pankaj Advani will be leading a talented group of Indian and international billiards players, who will be vying for victory in the prestigious CCI Billiards Classic 2024, which offers a prize purse of Rs 10.15 lakh. The tournament, organized by the Cricket Club of India, will start at the CCI’s Sir Wilson Jones Billiards Hall on March 21.

Advani, India’s most successful cueist of all time with 27 World Championship titles to his name, has been in stellar form with three consecutive wins at CCI in the past year. He secured the CCI Classic Snooker title in January 2023 and successfully defended the earlier this month. Additionally, he claimed the CCI Classic Billiards championship last April, demonstrating his dominance at the venue.

Challenging Advani are top Indian players such as National Champion Dhruv Sitwala, National runner-up Sourav Kothari, and Maharashtra No. 1 Mahesh Jagdale, along with several other talented contenders. The tournament has also attracted five international players, including Peter Gilchrist of Singapore and Englishmen David Causier, Peter Sheehan, Chris Taylor, and last year’s runner-up Rob Hall.

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Former world champions like Rupesh Shah, Ashok Shandilya, and Devendra Joshi will also be in contention, adding to the competitive field. The tournament format includes 24 seeded players in the main draw, who will be joined by eight qualifiers. The players will compete in round-robin league matches, with the top two from each group advancing to the knockout stage.

The championship winner will receive a prize of Rs 2,50,000 along with a trophy, while the runner-up will be awarded Rs 1,50,000. Prize money will be distributed to losing semifinalists, quarterfinalists, pre-quarterfinalists, and players who do not qualify for the knockout phase. Additionally, a prize of Rs 50,000 will be given to the player with the highest break, the organisers informed in a release on Sunday.

The tournament promises high-quality billiards action and fierce competition as players vie for the prestigious title and cash prizes.

The 24 players seeded in the main draw: Peter Gilchrist (Singapore), David Causier, Peter Sheehan, Chris Taylor, Rob Hall (all England), Pankaj Advani, Dhruv Sitwala, S. Srikrishna, Rupesh Shah, Alok Kumar, Siddharth Parikh, Kamal Chawla, Rohan Jambusaria, Aaditya Agarwal, Rayaan Razmi, Dhavaj Haria, Shahyan Razmi, Loukic Pathare, Vishal Madan, Sourav Kothari, Devendra Joshi, Ashok Shandilya, Arun Agarwal, V. Subramanian.

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–IANS

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ATP Tour: Jack Draper stuns defending champion Alcaraz at Queen's Club to reach quarters

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London, June 20 (IANS) British player Jack Draper earned the biggest win of his career Thursday in the Queen’s Club Championships, stunning top seed and defending champion Carlos Alcaraz in straight sets and reaching the quarterfinals here. Draper won 7-6(3), 6-3 against Alcaraz, who recently won his third French Open title at Stade Roland Garros in Paris.

Both men entered the match on winning streaks. Alcaraz had won eight consecutive matches thanks to his victory in the French Open in Paris, but Draper snapped that streak by claiming his seventh straight win after earning his first ATP Tour title last week in Stuttgart.

Draper, the big-serving lefty, thrilled his home fans with a dominant serving performance in which he did not lose a service game. The No. 31 player in the ATP Rankings made good use of his wide serve on both courts to win 76 percent of his service points according to Infosys ATP Stats and triumphed in one hour and 39 minutes.

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There was not much to differentiate the players in the first set when neither man earned a breakpoint. But Draper made a quick start to the tie-break when Alcaraz missed a forehand long, and the Briton never relinquished his advantage, closing out the set with a curling wide serve in the Ad court.

Alcaraz enjoyed his typical highlight reel moments in the match, including a point during which he guessed right on an attempted Draper putaway and laced a passing shot into the open court. But for the most part, the Spaniard was not able to dominate play as much as he usually does.

Instead, it was Draper who rallied the crowd to his side, crushing a backhand return winner to break for 4-2 in the second set. That proved the lone service break of the match.

Having lost his first two tour-level meetings against reigning Wimbledon champion Alcaraz, Draper let slip his first three match points on return at 5-3. But in the next game, the lefty rallied from 0/30 to close out his third Top 10 win (3-11) and his first victory against the elite group since the 2022 US Open, where he ousted then-World No. 8 Felix Auger-Aliassime.

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By ending Alcaraz’s grass-court winning streak at 13, Draper climbed to a career-high No. 28 in the ATP Live Rankings.

Draper will next play fifth seed Tommy Paul, who eliminated Alejandro Tabilo 6-3, 6-4. Draper leads Paul 3-1 in their ATP head-to-head series, including a 2-1 record this year. The Briton emerged victorious in Adelaide and Acapulco, while Paul won in four sets at the Australian Open.

–IANS

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Euro 2024: Jovic's last-gasp goal helps Serbia hold Slovenia to draw, recover from defeat to England

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Munich, June 20 (IANS) Luka Jovic scored a stoppage-time equalizer as Serbia salvaged a draw against Slovenia in an entertaining Group C clash in the UEFA Euro 2024 in Munich on Thursday. Jovic scored a last-gasp equalizer in the fifth minute of the second half added time for a 1-1 draw that salvaged a point for Serbia. Serbia had lost their opening match to England on June 17 and with this draw opened their account in Euro 2024.

Unchanged from the 1-1 draw with Denmark, Slovenia registered the game’s first chance when Adam Gnezda Cerin shot straight at Predrag Rajkovic from just outside the area. The Serbia goalkeeper was called into action again soon after, blocking Jan Mlakar’s low effort after the Slovenia wide man had broken clear inside the box.

Dragan Stojkovic’s side improved as the first half progressed, Dusan Vlahovic flicking a header straight at keeper Jan Oblak before Aleksandar Mitrovic failed to make proper contact with a teasing ball towards the far post.

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However, Serbia were fortunate not to fall behind late in the half when Timi Elsnik sent a fierce strike against the post, with Benjamin Sesko directing the rebound high over the bar. Oblak produced a fine save at the feet of Mitrovic moments later as the teams went into half-time on level terms.

Mitrovic was denied by another superb Oblak stop within minutes of the restart as Serbia began the second period on the front foot. Slovenia remained a threat on the counterattack, though, and Rajkovic pulled a leaf out of Oblak’s book with a diving save to tip a curling Sesko drive over the woodwork.

The deadlock was finally broken after the hour mark. Karnicnik regained possession deep inside his own half before laying the ball off to Elsnik, whose low cross was slotted home at the far post by the Slovenia right-back.

The 29-year-old was also in the right place at the right time moments later to deflect Mitrovic’s shot onto the bar. Yet there was little that he or his team-mates could do about Jovic’s thumping header past Oblak from a last-gasp Ivan Ilic corner, which denied Matjaz Kek’s men a valuable three points.

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–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Suryakumar Yadav top-scores with 53 as India post 181/8 against Afghanistan

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Bridgetown, June 20 (IANS) Top-ranked batter Suryakumar Yadav combined attacking shots with immaculate timing to make an impressive 53 off 28 balls as India posted a competitive 181/8 in 20 overs against Afghanistan in the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup Super Eight match at the Kensington Oval here on Thursday.

With the pitch being damp and slow, Suryakumar hit five fours and three sixes at a strike rate of 189 and was mighty effective with his sweep shots to put Afghanistan under pressure.

His 60-run stand with Hardik Pandya (32) and a late cameo of 12 from Axar Patel helped India raise the tempo as 56 runs came in the last five overs. Captain Rashid Khan and left-arm pacer Fazalhaq Farooqi took three wickets each for Afghanistan.

With the ball holding onto the pitch, it meant the deliveries weren’t coming nicely on to the bat. Rohit Sharma was kept quiet by Farooqi despite getting a streaky four off him. He also survived an lbw appeal off Farooqi on review, as replays showed that the ball had pitched outside leg-stump.

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Farooqi struck in the third over when Rohit tried to take on his off-cutter holding off the pitch, but miscued off the toe-end to mid-on. Rishabh Pant took the attack to Afghanistan by stylishly flicking Farooqi for four, followed by reverse-sweeping, slog-sweeping (dropped by Naveen-ul-Haq on 11) and driving through cover to take three fours off Mohammed Nabi in the final over of Power-play, which yielded 13 runs.

But in an attempt to reverse-sweep against Rashid, Pant, he was beaten by the leg-break delivery and was trapped plumb lbw, with the review showing it would have hit the stumps. Rashid struck again in his next over by having Virat Kohli loft straight to long-off.

Suryakumar kept India going with his variety of sweeps fetching him three boundaries, even as Rashid trapped Shivam Dube lbw with a quicker leg-break which went past his attempted jab, with the review showing it hit flap of pad first in front of off-stump.

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Suryakumar left everyone in awe by moving across and whipping a low full toss from Azmatullah Omarzai for four, followed by driving him through mid-off for another boundary. With Pandya timing his drives for boundaries, Suryakumar proceeded to smack a drive from Omarzai down the ground for six.

Pandya tore into Noor Ahmad by going inside-out beautifully over extra cover for four, followed by smashing a six straight down the ground. Suryakumar smacked Farooqi high over long-on for six and flicked a four through mid-wicket to get his fifty in 27 balls before the batter holed out to long-off.

Pandya smacked Naveen for a 98-m six clubbed over the terrace of the stadium, before holing out to deep point off the pacer. India’s plans for a big finish were given another big dent when Ravindra Jadeja uppercut to short third man and become Farooqi’s third scalp. Axar picked his gaps well to take two boundaries off Naveen and take India past 180.

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Brief scores:

India 181/8 in 20 overs (Suryakumar Yadav 53, Hardik Pandya 32; Rashid Khan 3-26, Fazalhaq Farooqi 3-33) against Afghanistan

–IANS

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WTA Tour: Wimbledon champion Vondrousova retires with injury in Berlin; Rybakina sets up clash with Azarenka

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Berlin, June 20 (IANS) Reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova had to retire from her second-round match at the Berlin Ladies Open with a right hip injury. The World No.6 was leading Anna Kalinskaya 5-3 in the first set when she slipped and fell after a split-step on the first point of the ninth game.

Holding her right hip area, Vondrousova walked to her bench under her own power and received off-court medical treatment. She returned to play two games before retiring with the set tied at 5-5.

Vondrousova will have less than two weeks to recover ahead of her title defense at Wimbledon title defense, which begins on July 1.

Kalinskaya advanced to the quarterfinals and will face either No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka or Daria Kasatkina.

The 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina enjoyed a more fortunate day. The No.3 seed came from a break down in the second set to defeat Veronika Kudermetova 6-4, 7-5 in her tournament opener.

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Into her 10th quarterfinal of the season, Rybakina will face former No.1 Victoria Azarenka on Friday. A win would boost her into her first grass-court semifinal since her Wimbledon title. Rybakina kept consistent pressure on Kudermetova throughout the 1-hour and 33-minute match, generating 11 break points while seeing just three on her own serve. Rybakina broke first for a 2-0 lead but was broken when she served for the set at 5-3. She responded with her second break of the match to close the opening set.

Kudermetova built a 3-1 lead early in the second set but buckled under Rybakina’s return pressure. Rybakina closed out the win by leveling the set and then, with Kudermetova serving to force a tiebreak, broke serve for a fourth and final time to seal a spot in her first Berlin quarterfinal.

Rybakina finished with 18 winners, including five aces, to 16 unforced errors.

The victory improved Rybakina’s unbeaten record against Kudermetova to 5-0. She will face a similar task against Azarenka, against whom she is undefeated at 4-0.

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–IANS

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Golf: Diksha Dagar to defend her LET title in Czech Republic

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Beroun (Czech Rep), June 20 (IANS) India’s top star on the Ladies European Tour, Diksha Dagar, will defend her title this week at the Tipsport Czech Ladies Open. Last year, her win at the event was her second career win. The Indian star secured a three-shot victory at Royal Beroun Golf Club to win her second title, five years after her first.

Being back in Beroun is special for Dagar, who will have her father Narinder on her bag once again, and she is relishing the opportunity to defend and potentially retain her crown. Apart from Diksha the other Indians in the field are rookies Pranavi Urs, Tvesa Malik and Vani Kapoor, and Ridhima Dilawari.

“It’s always amazing to be back here as a defending champion because it is a very rare opportunity to defend your title and it’s a new challenge for me,” she said. “I would love to win again. If I can do that, it will be a mark off my bucket list. I remember on the second day I played seven-under; I remember every shot and every hole because it was very precious to me.

“It is always a special moment having your parent in your bag, especially your family. This year he will be my caddie and he also knows about the course well, it’s going to be so exciting for us.”

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After her victory, the two-time LET winner recorded a further five top-10 finishes that season as she finished third in the 2023 Race to Costa del Sol.

It’s been a good start to the 2024 season for Dagar, who has had four top-10 finishes to date on the LET and sits 10th in the Order of Merit.

Coming off the back of a T6 at last week’s Ladies Italian Open, the 23-year-old believes she is in good form and is hoping to carry some positive vibes.

She continued: “This golf course is in the same condition as last year. The greens are smaller, I love smaller greens on the golf course. The greens are a bit different from last week in Italy, I have to read carefully because it will be more challenging.

“I feel I am keeping up my game and going in a very good momentum. I’m super excited to play in this tournament.

“I played in the Pro-Am and put really well, made lots of birdies. I feel there are going to be some positive vibes coming in and I’m sure I can do well and finish in the top 10 again.”

Having been successful around this golf course previously alongside her form, Dagar is hopeful that her third LET title is just around the corner.

She added: “I always enjoy here. Before winning in Czech last year, I was playing well, I was in the leading group in Germany and also Belgium.

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“I was hoping that I was very close to winning and finally it happened, after a long gap of five years. This year is the same, I finished in the top ten last week, so I feel I am getting closer to the win.”

The 2023 champion gets her title defence underway at 1.14 pm (local time) on June 21 alongside Czechia’s Klara Davison Spilkova and Spain’s Nuria Iturrioz.

The Indian star secured a three-shot victory at Royal Beroun Golf Club to win her second title, five years after her first.

Being back in Beroun is special for Dagar, who will have her father Narinder on her bag once again, and she is relishing the opportunity to defend and potentially retain her crown. “It’s always amazing to be back here as a defending champion because it is a very rare opportunity to defend your title and it’s a new challenge for me,” she said.

“I would love to win again. If I can do that, it will be a mark off my bucket list. I remember on the second day I played seven-under; I remember every shot and every hole because it was very precious to me.

“It is always a special moment having your parent in your bag, especially your family. This year he will be my caddie and he also knows about the course well, it’s going to be so exciting for us.”

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After her victory, the two-time LET winner recorded a further five top-10 finishes that season as she finished third in the 2023 Race to Costa del Sol. It’s been a good start to the 2024 season for Dagar, who has had four top-10 finishes to date on the LET and sits 10th in the Order of Merit.

Coming off the back of a T6 at last week’s Ladies Italian Open, the 23-year-old believes she is in good form and is hoping to carry some positive vibes.

She continued: “This golf course is in the same condition as last year. The greens are smaller, I love smaller greens on the golf course. The greens are a bit different from last week in Italy, I have to read carefully because it will be more challenging.

“I feel I am keeping up my game and going in a very good momentum. I’m super excited to play in this tournament.

“I played in the Pro-Am and putted really well, made lots of birdies. I feel there are going to be some positive vibes coming in and I’m sure I can do well and finish in the top 10 again.”

–IANS

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