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Manika, Sharath to lead India's six-member TT squad at Paris Olympics

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New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) Ace women’s table tennis star Manika Batra and Commonwealth Games medallist Sharath Kamal will spearhead the team events of Indian women and men’s challenges, respectively, at the Paris Olympics in what will be the first-ever participation of our squads at the Games.

“The senior selection committee of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), which met here on Thursday, picked a six-member squad (three in each section) as per the Olympics norms, besides naming the individuals who would compete in the singles events,” the TTFI said in a statement.

Achanta Sharath Kamal, Harmeet Desai, and Manav Thakkar will form the three-member men’s team, while Manika Batra, Sreeja Akula and Archana Kamath will be squad members in the women’s category.

The “Alternate Player” in each section would be G. Sathiyan and Ayhika Mukherjee, it said.

In the men’s singles, Sharath and Harmeet will compete and it will be Manika and Sreeja in the women’s event.

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Since the selection of the squads and the individuals were as per the already pronounced TTFI criteria, three players “got selected themselves” because of their consistent performances over time and world rankings.

“However, there was a debate over the third player for the women’s squad. After Manika and Sreeja Akula walked in on the back of their higher world rankings (top 50), Archana Kamath made it to the team as the third player. The Bengaluru paddler edged Ayhika Mukherjee out as the former scored over the latter on several counts, including her world ranking (No.103), 33 places ahead of Ayhika.

“As for the men, Sharath picked himself as the top-ranked Indian at No. 40, while Hareemt (No. 63) and Manav (No. 62) were separated by one slot in WR. Though both made it to the team composition, National champion Harmeet got the selectors’ nod based on his international (better win-loss proportion to his participation) and national performances,” the statement further read.

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Incidentally, Massimo Costantini’s presence as a special invitee at the meeting also added teeth as the foreign expert’s inputs proved handy in the selection of the squads, it added.

Teams:

Men: A. Sharath Kamal, Harmeet Desai, and Manav Thakkar

Alternate Player: G. Sathiyan

Women: Manika Batra, Sreeja Akula, and Archana Kamath

Alternate Player: Ayhika Mukherjee

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Canada, Namibia, Oman win warm-up matches

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Dallas (USA), May 29 (IANS) Canada, Oman, and Namibia won their respective warm-up matches ahead of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024, gaining some advantage in their buildup to the mega event to be played in the USA and Caribbean. Canada defeated Nepal by 63 runs at the Grand Prairie Cricket Stadium, Dallas; Oman handed Papua New Guinea a 3-wicket win while Namibia got the better of fellow African side Uganda by five wickets at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, Tarouba.

Electing to bat first, Canada rode on a half-century by Nicholas Kirton and a blazing unbeaten 41 off 17 balls as Canada posted 183/7 in 20 overs on Tuesday. Opener Navneet Dhaliwal gave them a decent start with 32 off 27 balls, hitting four boundaries while Kirton struck a 39-ball 52, studded with four boundaries and two sixes. Ravinderpal Singh hammered one four and four maximums as he contributed a vital 17-ball 41 to help Canada post a challenging total.

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In response, Nepal were bundled out for 120 runs in 19.3 overs with Dilon Heyliger claiming 4-20 in 2.3 overs. Jeremy Gordon and Saad Bin Zafar both claimed identical 2-25 each for Canada. For Nepal Kushal Malla scored a 30-ball 37 while Aasif Sheikh and Anil Sah contributed 22 and 24 runs respectively. Six Nepalese batters were out for single figures.

Electing to field first, Oman restricted Papua New Guinea (PNG) to 137/9 in 20 overs thanks to a three-fer by Aqib Ilyas (3-22) and 2-20 by Bilal Khan. Lega Siaka top-scored with 28 runs off 24 balls, hitting three boundaries.

Chasing 138, Oman rode on a 42-ball 45 by Zeeshan Maqsood, who blasted four boundaries and one six, while Khalid Kail (27 off 26 balls) as they reached 141/7 in 19.1 overs.

In another match played at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, Tarouba, Uranda could manage only 134 in 20 overs despite a half-century by Roger Mukasa, who struck six boundaries and one six off 41 balls.

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Robinson Obuya scored 38 off 27 balls, hitting five boundaries and two sixes, and shared a 34-run partnership for the third wicket. Namibia rode on a 34-ball 54 by opener Nikolaas Davin, who struck three boundaries and five maximums to mount a successful chase. Davin added 85 runs for the second wicket partnership with Jean-Pierre Kotze (29 off 31 balls) as they virtually put Namibia on course to victory.

–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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