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Malaysia Masters: Sindhu falters in thrilling final against China's Wang Zhi Yi (Ld)

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Kuala Lumpur, May 26 (IANS) Two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu came close to winning the Malaysia Masters women’s singles title but fell short to China’s Wang Zhi Yi in a thrilling three-game final 21-16, 5-21, 16-21, here on Sunday.

It was Sindhu’s first BWF World Tour Final since Spain Masters in April 2023. Overall, it was her seventh tournament of the year. She has returned from injury at the Badminton Asia Team Championships in February.

The 28-year-old Indian had been on a roll throughout the tournament. She displayed her aggressive style and exceptional movement in the semifinal, where she pulled off a dramatic comeback against Thailand’s Busanan Ongbamrungphan after losing the opening game. She had earlier defeated top seed Chinese shuttler Han Yue in the quarterfinals.

However, against the world no. 7 Wang, things were different. The first game started brightly for Sindhu. Intercepting shuttles with impressive anticipation, she dominated the net and secured a comfortable 21-16 win.

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The second game, however, turned into a nightmare. Sindhu struggled with the drift on the court, committing uncharacteristic errors and losing 5-21.

Determined to bounce back, Sindhu began the third game with a fiery display. Her aggressive net play pushed Wang on the back foot, building a commanding 11-3 lead. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be sustained. The Chinese shuttler, showing resilience, capitalised on Sindhu’s fatigue and clawed her way back into the game.

A series of long rallies and Sindhu’s mounting frustration ultimately allowed Wang to complete a stunning turnaround, winning the final game 21-16 and claiming the title.

The loss in the final means Sindhu’s two-year title drought continues after she last won a major title at the Singapore Open in 2022.

–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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T20 World Cup: Indian team wears black armbands in memory of former fast-bowler David Johnson

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Bridgetown, June 20 (IANS) The Indian team is wearing black armbands in memory of former fast-bowler David Johnson, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 52, during the Super Eight match against Afghanistan in the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup at the Kensington Oval.

“Team India will wear black armbands today in memory of former India fast bowler David Johnson, who passed away on Thursday,” said a statement from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), shortly after the toss was done.

Johnson was a fast bowler who played two Tests for India in 1996, taking three wickets. In domestic cricket, he picked up 125 wickets for Karnataka in 39 first-class appearances. The highlight of Johnson’s career was clocking a speed of 157.8 km/h during a Test match against Australia.

Former Indian cricketer Anil Kumble stated on X, “Saddened to hear of the passing of my cricketing colleague David Johnson. Heartfelt condolences to his family. Gone too soon, ‘Benny’!”

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“Deeply saddened by the passing of my former teammate, David Johnson. He was full of life and never gave up on the field. My thoughts are with his friends and family,” tweeted legendary India batter Sachin Tendulkar.

“Saddened by the passing away of David Johnson. May god give strength to his family and loved ones,” wrote former India opener Gautam Gambhir wrote on X.

“Deepest condolences to the family and friends of our former Indian fast bowler David Johnson. His contributions to the game will always be remembered,” tweeted BCCI Secretary Jay Shah.

–IANS

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