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He is keeping and batting in the nets: NZ coach gives update on injured Conway's recovery

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New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) New Zealand head coach Gary Stead provided an update on injured Devon Conway, who had to miss the IPL 2024 due to thumb injury, and said “he’s fine and doing wicket keeping drills” ahead of the T20 World Cup.

Injured Conway has missed his time with the Chennai Super Kings, but he is still training with the team. The first-choice wicket-keeper for New Zealand, Conway and Finn Allen, haven’t played since February because of thumb and back ailments, respectively.

Allen was still feeling a little sore, according to Stead, and he would be training harder during the team camp at Mount Maunganui.

When Conway gets back from India next week, the medical staff will evaluate him. “(He) is tracking nicely. He’s been wicketkeeping and batting in the nets on a regular basis,” Stead was quoted by ESPNcricinfo.

Stead, however, remained confident in preparations ahead of facing Afghanistan. “We’ve only got two players who haven’t been to a T20 World Cup that are in this squad. That shows our group is experienced and they can lean back on those past experiences,” he said.

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Opting out of official warm-up matches due to logistical hurdles, New Zealand instead focused on intensive training sessions, drawing strength from the diverse experiences of their players.

Stead also acknowledged the difficulties of assembling the squad in the Caribbean but expressed confidence in their preparation despite the absence of warm-up fixtures.

“West Indies is a tough place to get to for a start, so it’s not easy to get everyone to Trinidad and Tobago at the same time. For us, we don’t have warm-up games. There’s a number of guys who have been in the IPL for the last two months and we’ve also recently come off the tour to Pakistan.

“There’s a lot of experience in the group who have played in the CPL before, so we’ll be leaning on those guys and making sure the trainings we get prior to the first game puts us in a position of where we want to be,” Stead said.

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The 52-year-old further emphasised the importance of thorough planning in facing both familiar foes and lesser-known teams in the tournament. “Certainly looking forward to the challenge ahead and also the unknown of some of these new teams as well, the difference they might bring that we have to be really complete with our planning,” he concluded.

–IANS

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French Open: De Minaur, and Fritz advance to second round; Navone too wins first-round clash

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Paris, May 28 (IANS) Australian Alex de Minaur, American Taylor Fritz, Mariano Navone, and Jaume Munar won their respective men’s singles matches and reached the second round of the French Open 2024 in the French capital on Tuesday.

Alex de Minaur kick-started his Roland Garros campaign in style, despite a few hours of rain interruption which did not do anything to prevent him from advancing on Tuesday afternoon. After play finally got underway on Court Simonne-Mathieu in around afternoon, the 11th-seeded Australian raced past #NextGenATP Alex Michelsen 6-1, 6-0, 6-2 to seal his second-round spot at the clay-court major.

De Minaur converted eight of 13 break points he earned, according to Infosys Stats, to advance to face Jaume Munar or Roberto Bautista Agut. De Minaur saved two break points in the opening game of the match but barely looked back from then on, ultimately wrapping victory in just one hour and 48 minutes against Roland Garros debutant Michelsen.

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With his win, the No. 11 in the ATP Rankings avenged his loss to Michelsen in February in Los Cabos and tied the pair’s ATP head-to-head series at 1-1.

Taylor Fritz too reached the second round, taking the tally of Americans in the second round to six by rallying past Federico Coria 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-1. The 12th seed put together an impressive display full of clean baseline hitting to down Argentina’s Coria in two hours, and 28 minutes on Court 9.

Navone will take on Tomas Machac in the second round. The Geneva finalist overcame Nuno Borges 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-3 for his maiden Roland Garros win.

Spaniard Jaume Munar defeated Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 while 28th seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina fought back from defeat in the first set to beat Arthur Cazaux of France 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.

–IANS

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German paddler Boll to retire from international stage after Paris Olympics

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Berlin (Germany), May 28 (IANS) As Timo Boll boarded the Air China flight CA932 this Monday evening, the 43-year-old might have started his trip to the WTT Champions tournament in Chongqing with mixed feelings. Shortly before his departure, the two-time Olympic silver medallist announced that the Paris Olympic Games, his seventh Olympics, would be his last international appearance.

“In the past, I often talked about being a little afraid of the decision to end my international career, despite it was inevitable that this day would come,” the former World No. 1 said. “Now the time has come for my farewell on the world stage of active sport.”

Boll also announced he will play another season for his club Borussia Dusseldorf in the national league and the Champions League. The veteran paddler is said to be around as an advisor for his German club after his last season, reports Xinhua. “Table tennis has been my life, and I will be around in whatever function,” he said.

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Boll noted that he will “pay special attention to China and its people. There are so many ideas of what to do. I am sure my life will stay active and thrilling.” Boll said he is thankful for his career. “But it seems enough now. My career has left its marks,” he stated, referring to various injuries over the years.

“You start to extend your recovery time, find ways to explore new treatment measures, you reduce your training times to be at a competitive level when in tournaments,” he told Xinhua in a recent interview. “I have reached an age that is affecting my performance. It has been a constant fight against the pain over the past years. That’s far from satisfying, and you are aware you more and more lose the fight against the pain.”

The first German paddler to become the world No. 1 in 2003, Boll has also clinched two silvers at Beijing 2008 and Tokyo 2020, and two bronzes at London 2012 and Rio 2016, all in the men’s team event. “To be here is like coming home, as China has become my second home over the years,” Boll said of his relationship with China. “I know many players and people have a big fan base. It’s always a pleasure for me to be here or play tournaments in China.”

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The prospect of attending his seventh Olympics made him continue despite “the past years hasn’t been overwhelmingly joyful.”

Before stepping down, one of his sport’s greatest is heading for a last big goal. “It would be a perfect farewell if we manage to win a team medal at the Olympics in Paris,” said the eight-times European Champion who has a 25-year career.

–IANS

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Football: Italian coach Maresca to leave Leicester City for Chelsea

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London, May 28 (IANS) Chelsea are set to name Enzo Maresca as their new first-team coach after the 44-year-old announced intentions to leave Leicester City on Tuesday. Maresca confirmed his departure from the club he led to promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt in a post on social media.

“It’s with great emotion that I write to you today to say goodbye. In less than a year at the club, I’m proud to say we archived exactly what was needed which is coming back to the Premier League,” wrote the Italian.

Maresca was a cultured central midfielder who represented a host of teams, including Juventus, Sevilla, Malaga, Fiorentina, and Sampdoria, before moving into coaching, reports Xinhua.

He picked up valuable experience in the Manchester City youth system and had a brief spell with Parma before spending a year as Pep Guardiola’s assistant.

Last season saw him appointed to Leicester City with the task of taking the recently relegated side back to the Premier League. Maresca did that at the first attempt, with the team finishing top of the Championship.

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Chelsea had asked Leicester for permission to speak to the coach about the vacancy after the departure of Mauricio Pochettino at the end of the season. The Italian is expected to sign a five-year contract.

–IANS

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MotoGP 2024: Joan Mir, Luca Marini bullish as Honda Team get straight back to work in Mugello

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Italy, May 28 (IANS) Team Honda riders Joan Mir and Luca Marini will get back into action soon after an intense burst of action with back-to-back races and a test as the 2024 MotoGP World Championship season gathers pace at the Gran Premio d’Italia in Mugello, Italy.

The first back-to-back weekend of the season sees the Honda Team travel from Barcelona to Mugello for another weekend of MotoGP action. A classic on the MotoGP calendar, the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello is known for its incredibly straight and fast, flowing corners. The layout of the circuit will give both teams and riders a great opportunity to continue collecting data and working towards the future.

Local hero Marini enters the weekend eager to embrace the boost from his home fans off the back of a weekend of progress in Barcelona. Recent upgrades and changes to the Honda RC213V have helped Marini to improve his feeling and close the distance to the other Honda riders, authoring a strong start to the Catalan GP where he challenged for top Honda honours.

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On the other side of the Honda Team garage, Mir is targeting a return to his early-year form. Despite taking points and fighting for top Honda honours in Barcelona, Mir is hungry for more around the Italian track. His best premier class result at the track came in 2021 when he finished third.

Marini said he is looking forward to his home grand prix.

“Your home GP is always something nice and I am really excited to go there as a factory Honda rider for the first time. I really want to enjoy the weekend with the Italian fans and enjoy their support. We made progress in Barcelona and I know that we can keep building on what we found during our private Mugello test for this coming weekend,” said Marini.

“It’s all about making this progress at each round and continuing to feel better and better. You can understand a lot about a bike around Mugello so the weekend, and post-race test, will be very useful for us,” he added.

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Mir said, “We have this race and a test before a bit of a break in the calendar. I want to extract the maximum possible from this weekend to recover from the tricky weekend we had in Barcelona. Everyone in the team and HRC are working hard to make improvements and continue development. We have some ideas already from the test we had here, so let’s keep on going and enjoy riding.”

–IANS

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French Open: Sabalenka, Rybakina, Qinwen advance as Kerber is sent packing

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Paris, May 28 (IANS) Top stars including second seed Aryna Sabalenka, fourth seed Elena Rybakina, and No.7 seed Zheng Qinwen of China advanced to the second round of women’s singles at the French Open here on Tuesday. Three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber failed to reach the next round of the clay-court grand slam as she went down to Dutch player Arantxa Rus, who won 6-4, 6-3.

Sabalenka cruised into the second round of the French Open with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Erika Andreeva on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The two-time reigning Australian Open champion needed just 1 hour and 8 minutes to move through to the second round and drop the elder of the two Andreeva sisters to 0-3 in Grand Slam main draws in her career.

Already 2-0 against the younger of the two, top 40-ranked Mirra Andreeva, Sabalenka broke the World No.100’s serve five times, and tripled her opponent’s total of winners, to win her first-ever match against 19-year-old Erika. Sabalenka hit 27 winners to just 16 unforced errors in the 15 games that the two played.

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Rybakina started slowly but was near-untouchable as she defeated Greet Minnen 6-2, 6-3 in the first round of Roland Garros.

The former Wimbledon champion was playing her first match in over three weeks, since her defeat in the semifinals in Madrid to Sabalenka, after illness forced her to withdraw from Rome.

There was some rust in her game at the start of the match as she began with eight straight unforced errors, including a double fault to drop serve in the opening game.

In the end, she squandered her first match point at 5-1 with a netted drop shot attempt and needed a second chance to serve out victory.

But for the majority of the match, Rybakina was in dazzling form. From 2-0 down, she rattled off 10 successive games, raining winners down on Minnen from all parts of the court. The Kazakhstan player’s forehand was the bedrock of her run, but she also deployed successful drop shots repeatedly and was quick to swarm the net when the opportunity presented itself. In total, she fired 36 winners to 21 unforced errors and won 14 out of 21 points at the net.

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Chinese star Zheng Qinwen ended the final French Open tournament of the chequered career of Alizé Cornet as the No.7 seed romped to a 6-2, 6-1 victory in the first round. Cornet is participating in the final tournament of her storied career and a lot of people expected her to cause a huge upset one last time.

Cornet owns 25 Top 10 wins, spanning multiple generations of players and nearly two decades. Zheng, however, was in no mood to become the 26th. The Australian Open finalist dealt with the occasion coolly to end Cornet’s career in 1 hour and 23 minutes.

The Philippe-Chatrier stands greeted Cornet’s last dance before even the first point had been played, but it was Zheng who controlled the tempo of the match throughout. The 21-year-old struck 25 winners to 19 unforced errors, successfully using her raw power to keep Cornet at bay.

The Frenchwoman roused local hopes briefly in the first set as she pulled back from 4-0 down to 4-2, and was able to show off her array of defensive spins and angles as she dragged Zheng into some excellent exchanges.

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–IANS

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