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French Open: Bopanna/Ebden lose to Italian pair, crash out in semis

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Paris, June 6 (IANS) India’s Rohan Bopanna and his Australian partner Matthew Ebden crashed out of the French Open, losing to the Italian pair of Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori in a three-set semifinal at Court Simonne-Mathieu here on Thursday. Australian Open champions Bopanna/Ebden, the second seeds here, went down to Bolelli/Vavassori, seeded 11th in the tournament, 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 in the men’s doubles encounter.

In the semifinal encounter, the 44-year-old Bopanna and 36-year-old Ebden got off to a good start but lost the first set. They earned a break in the fourth game and went ahead but the Italian pair responded with two breaks — the second and decisive one in the 11th game with a forcing shot helping them take the first set in 48 minutes. Bopanna/Ebden started the second set on a positive note and raced to a 3-0 lead breaking their opponents’ in the second game. They held on to all of their serves and took the contest into the decider with the second break in the eighth game.

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While Bopanna seemed on song in the decider, Ebden took multiple medical timeouts and looked in discomfort. The Italian duo broke Ebden’s service twice to seal their places in the final of the French Open. Bopanna and Ebden had reached the semifinals at the French Open on Wednesday, beating last year’s finalists Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen of Belgium in three sets.

Bopanna/Ebden beat Gille/Vliegen 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-1. The Indo-Australian pair had lost to the Belgian pair, seeded 10th in this event, at Indian Wells earlier this season.

–IANS

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Tennis: Nadal, Alcaraz to team up in doubles for Spain at Paris Olympics

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Madrid, June 12 (IANS) The Spaniards Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal are set to join forces as doubles partners at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, to be held on the storied clay courts of Roland Garros.

Carlos Alcaraz, the 21-year-old prodigy who recently captured his third Grand Slam title at the French Open, will be back at the site of his latest triumph with a burgeoning legacy and the confidence of a champion. On the other side, Rafael Nadal’s return, with clay court dominance and an unparalleled record of 14 French Open titles and 22 major wins overall, at the Roland Garros is always met with reverence.

Nadal’s participation was uncertain earlier this year due to a series of injuries, but his tenacity saw him return to the clay courts in April, determined to give one last memorable performance.

David Ferrer, Spain’s national team coach and a former top player himself, couldn’t contain his excitement as he confirmed the dream pairing. “One pair, which I think everyone knows and was hoping for, is Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal,” Ferrer announced. “Rafa and Carlos will be playing together in Paris.”

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Nadal won his first and only Olympic gold medal in singles at the Beijing Games in 2008, a crowning achievement in his illustrious career. Now, with the Paris Games potentially marking his swan song, the opportunity to mentor and compete alongside Alcaraz adds a layer of significance to his participation.

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Monank Patel out with injury as unchanged India elect to bowl against USA

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New York, June 12 (IANS) India won the toss and elected to bowl first against the USA in a Group A match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium here on Wednesday. The USA captain Monank Patel is out due to a left shoulder injury and the host will be led by Aaron Jones.

Shayan Jahangir replaces Patel while Shadley van Schalkwyk replaces Noshtush Kenjige as India remain unchanged.

Both the teams are coming after a win and the one which will win Wednesday’s game will qualify for the Super Eight stage from Group A.

India captain Rohit Sharma said, “We will bowl first. It has played better in the last two games, but you need to assess the conditions quickly and then let the game take over. It’s all about constantly getting better and keeping the momentum going. It’s important to do the right things. That was a great game to play, we didn’t have enough runs on the board, but the bowlers came to the party and won the game for us. We’re playing the same team.”

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USA captain Aaron Jones said, “We would have bowled first as well, there’s some help for the bowlers early. He’s (Monank Patel) having a niggle and should be back quickly. It should be a good game and we’re looking to play well. The camp is very positive, just looking to play some good cricket. Shayan Jahangir replaces Monank and Shadley is in for Nosthush.”

Playing XIs:

United States: Steven Taylor, Shayan Jahangir, Andries Gous (wk), Aaron Jones (c), Nitish Kumar, Corey Anderson, Harmeet Singh, Shadley van Schalkwyk, Jasdeep Singh, Saurabh Netravalkar, Ali Khan.

India: Rohit Sharma (c), Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Shivam Dube, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh, Mohammed Siraj

— IANS

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Have to be at our best to beat a world-class Indian team, says South Africa skipper Wolvaardt

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Bengaluru, June 12 (IANS) South Africa skipper Laura Wolvaardt insisted her team will have to be at their best if they are to beat a ‘world-class’ Indian team in the upcoming multi-format series, ahead of their warm-up match against Board’s President XI on Thursday. South Africa will begin their tour of India with three ODIs at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on June 16, 19 and 23, followed by a one-off Test and three T20Is at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. The last time South Africa toured India; they won the five-match ODI series 4-1 in March 2021.

“We’ve had a couple of good tours before this where we sort of tried different combinations. In the T20Is against Sri Lanka, we definitely gave a bunch of youngsters some opportunity to try and put up their hand. If everyone is healthy and fit, we’ll be looking to play our best 11. We won’t be experimenting too much or taking this Indian side too lightly.”

“They’re a world-class side and we’re going to have to be at our best to beat them. So, trying to get everyone settled into their roles before the T20 World Cup is pretty important as well, with it being some of our last cricket that we’re going to be playing before then,” said Laura in a pre-series press conference.

The tour to India is South Africa’s last international assignment before the Women’s T20 World Cup happens in Bangladesh from October 3-20. The three ODIs hold huge importance as they carry ICC Women’s Championship points, where South Africa are placed in the third spot and are in line for automatic qualification for the 2025 Women’s ODI World Cup in India.

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“There’s a lot that we’re focusing on at the moment, obviously, with the ODIs having points up for grabs, the T20Is being in prep for the World Cup and then the Test match being pretty special too. We’ve tried to sort of cover everything and there isn’t really one that’s massively more important than the other. So, we’d like to do well all around and there isn’t any format that we’re taking lightly,” added Laura.

Asked what South Africa are aiming to achieve from the lone warm-up game, Laura remarked, “Warm-up games are always a tricky one. You don’t want to do too well and get overconfident. But you always don’t want to do too bad and start on the back foot. But I think tomorrow is mainly about conditions for us.”

“We’re lucky to be playing on the ground where our games will be as well. That doesn’t happen too often for a warm-up game. So conditions will be crucial to see how much it turns and bounces. It’ll be more about that and making sure that the whole squad sort of gets a chance on the conditions and has a look of it.”

India are coming off after winning the T20I series in Bangladesh 5-0 and played in WPL 2024 in March, where Laura and her Proteas team-mates like Marizanne Kapp, and Nadine de Klerk featured in the five-team competition. Laura thinks the experience of playing in Bengaluru via WPL will come in handy in the ODI leg of the tour.

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“The WPL was absolutely amazing and the amount of cricket that the Indian girls get to play over here is really cool. Luckily a few of us were able to play in the tournament as well. With myself being able to get a few games, I got used to the conditions and playing over here, which was nice.”

“They obviously have world-class players. So we’ve done a lot of sort of homework and discussion on that. So, hopefully, we have our plans sorted out by the first game. When I was here, it was a very nice wicket to bat on. So I’m not sure if it’ll be similar at this time of year.”

Last year in November, Laura was confirmed as South Africa’s full-time captain after taking the job on a temporary basis. Quizzed about the impact of leading South Africa as a batter and human being, Laura admitted there has been a lot to learn for her.

“Firstly, there’s been obviously on-field stuff – being just a batter before and having to learn a lot about bowlers and bowling plans has been quite a big eye-opener for me cricket-wise. It’s helped me as a batter as well, as I’m starting to see the game more from a bowler’s perspective and that sort of helps me when I’m out there in the middle.”

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“Then in general life as well, I think it’s helped me by forcing me to come out of my comfort zone a little bit. Usually, I’m quite a quiet reserved person and would sort of stick to myself. But you can’t really do that when you’re captain. So I have to sort of mingle and check in with people and be a bit more sociable than I used to be. So it’s helped me grow as a person and as a cricketer as well, and it’s been good so far.”

Importantly, the trip to India is South Africa’s first series post the departure of long-serving coach Hilton Moreeng, who left after more than 11 years in charge. For now, Dillon du Preez is the interim coach.

“It’s obviously been a bit different for us. Hilton was on every single tour for the past 11 years. So to not have him here is a bit weird. But luckily Dillon was in the setup and the environment for about four or five years. So nothing has really changed too much from sort of an operational point of view.”

“We still try to keep things as much the same as before, just so that it’s not completely new and fresh. But then at the same time, the new additions that we have in the group have brought a lot of outside energy and some outside knowledge as well. So it’s been good and I’ve really enjoyed the new, fresh people,” concluded Laura.

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Paine urges Marsh & team to ‘manipulate Scotland’ match to eliminate England

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New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) Former Australia Test captain Tim Paine has urged Mitchell Marsh and the Australian team to manipulate their final group game against Scotland to eliminate defending champions England from the ongoing T20 World Cup. With Australia already securing their spot in the Super Eights, Paine believes the team should focus on keeping Scotland’s Net Run Rate (NRR) high enough to prevent England from advancing.

Paine expressed his views on SEN Radio, stating, “Absolutely they should [manipulate the result], and I’m not even joking. I’ve spoken to people about this in the last few days. I’m dead serious.”

He emphasized that Australia doesn’t need to lose the game but should aim to keep the match close enough to maintain Scotland’s favourable NRR.

Currently, England are in a precarious position, sitting fourth in Group B with only one point and an NRR of -1.800. They have two remaining games and need not only to win both by large margins but also to hope for a significant loss for Scotland against Australia to have any chance of advancing. In contrast, Scotland have five points with a healthy NRR of +2.164.

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Paine suggests a scenario where Australia, while still winning, can manipulate the outcome to favour Scotland.

“Say Scotland batted first and got to 140, and we chased it off 19.5 overs to make sure they don’t suffer a big net run rate loss,” Paine proposed. This approach would make it difficult for England to surpass Scotland’s NRR even with large-margin victories in their remaining matches.

The former wicketkeeper-batsman sees this tactic as a “smart, calculated” move that could benefit Australia later in the competition. “You got to go into these tournaments trying to win a World Cup. Who could certainly pose a threat in the latter rounds? That is England,” he explained. Paine stressed that eliminating a strong team like England early would ease Australia’s path to the knockout stages.

Despite England’s rough start, Paine acknowledges their potential to turn things around. “There’s no doubt they are still one of the best teams in the world,” he said, noting that England could still pose a significant threat if they advance. Thus, strategically ensuring England’s early exit could be a decisive advantage for Australia.

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Paine concluded by reiterating the importance of strategic play in tournament settings. “You’re manipulating the net run rates a little bit… you can say whatever you want to say, but to me, it is smart, calculated, tournament play.” He emphasized that Australia’s primary goal is to win the World Cup, and avoiding a formidable opponent like England in the semifinals could be crucial to achieving that aim.

–IANS

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Shooting: Gagan Narang credits systematic selection trials as India fields strong contingent for Paris Olympics

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New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) Gagan Narang, who won a bronze medal in shooting in the 2010 London Olympics, on Wednesday praised the national shooting federation for completing a successful selection trials process, allowing India to field a strong 15-member contingent for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The former Indian athlete expressed his delight over the rise of the country’s overall performance in the sport over the past few years and credited the same for the development of shooting infrastructure and support from the government.

“We saw an incredible show of talent and grit in the recently held shooting trials for Paris 2024. There were some very good performances. The trials were also held in a very systematic way, using the marking system, providing equal opportunity for the participants to showcase their true potential. The close competition shows how much the sport has grown in the country over the past decade, with more emerging talent from across the country,” said Narang.

He credited the steady growth of the sport to the development of infrastructure pan-India and a well-equipped coaching staff with in-depth knowledge of international standards.

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“The Indian shooters have made a mark across global competitions, particularly in this Olympic cycle. Just a few years ago, the shooting scenario was dominated by other nations. But now Indian shooters are finishing in the top ranking across all major events, which is the biggest sign of our growth in the sport. This stark improvement is a result of government investing in infrastructure that is on par with international standards, and leading a scientific approach and methodology adopted by Khelo India Scheme at the grassroots stage,” said Narang.

The Padma Shri awardee who is also a member of the Mission Olympic Cell (MOC), Narang appreciated the effort made by the MOC and Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) department to provide support on vital areas like equipment and ammunition, foreign exposure, support staff/sports science staff which plays a very important role in the high performance of the athletes.

Narang’s Gun For Glory, with 11 centres established across seven states, has also played a significant role in aiding aspiring shooters with systematic training and scientific approach with dedicated physios and mental trainers apart from the highly experienced coaching staff on the ground.

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The shooters from here have dominated in the air rifle event with six out of the 10 participants at the recent Olympic Trials from the Gun For Glory Shooting Academy. There were a total of four in the women’s category and two in the men’s category.

Elavenil Valarivan and Ramita named in the contingent for the Paris Olympics 2024 are from GNSPF. The two shooters will compete in the 10m Women’s Air Rifle event along with the 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team event, continuing the academy’s legacy of producing some of the best rifle shooters in the country.

With only two Olympic quotas available per event, it was a tough road for both Ramita and Elavenil. The top five shooters across each event competed in the four Olympic Selection Trials that were held at Delhi and Bhopal last month. Elavenil, with a score of 254.3 (633.0), and Ramita, with a score of 253.3 (636.4), consolidated their position by finishing first and second, respectively, at the shooting trials that concluded at the Madhya Pradesh Academy in May.

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“In our endeavour towards the development of the sport, I am happy that six out of 10 rifle shooters who participated at the trails were from Gun For Glory Shooting Academy. Each one of them showed great spirit and performed to their potential. I feel those who did not make the qualification should draw inspiration from their performances at the trials and strive to achieve good results going forward.”

Now that the shooting contingent is finally announced, Narang rallied behind the participants who will be going through final preparations ahead of their departure for the much-anticipated Paris Olympics where shooting will be among the medal-winning disciplines for India.

“These are exciting times for the sport. I am delighted to see a strong contingent selected by the federation and without putting any pressure on our shooters, I am confident they will put up a good show and add to the overall medal tally for India at the Olympics. My best wishes to the entire shooting contingent,” Narang signed off.

–IANS

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