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Monte Carlo Masters: China's Zhang makes history to reach second round

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Paris, April 9 (IANS) China’s Zhang Zhizhen made history by advancing to the second round of the 2024 Monte Carlo Masters after defeating the American player Marcos Giron 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

The victory propelled Zhang to become the first player from the Chinese mainland to reach this stage in the event, reports Xinhua.

The Monte Carlo Masters, the first ATP 1000 event of the clay season, had never had a player from the Chinese mainland in its main draw before Zhang. This year, Zhang was able to enter the main draw as a replacement following Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal due to injury.

Zhang’s first-round opponent was Giron, who is ranked one place higher in the world rankings. The match, initially scheduled for 11 am, was delayed by approximately two hours due to the rain.

Zhang went into the match aggressively in the opening set, breaking Giron’s first service game and taking the set 6-4. The second set saw Zhang breaking early again in the third game, but Giron immediately broke back, levelling the score at 2-2. Zhang then lost his rhythm, allowing Giron to take a 4-2 lead with two consecutive love games. Despite attempts to recover, Zhang could not break back and lost the second set 6-3.

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In the deciding set, both players held their serves until Zhang broke through in the sixth game to lead 4-2, before eventually winning the set 6-3.

Next for Zhang is France’s Ugo Humbert, who has been in excellent form this season, winning titles in Marseille and Dubai, and is currently ranked 15th in the world.

The 27-year-old Zhang seems to be finding his footing on clay courts. Last season, he made a significant breakthrough in his career on the red dirt, reaching the quarterfinals at the Madrid Masters and the third round at the French Open.

–IANS

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Looking forward to competing in the WR Chess Masters Cup: Viswanathan Anand

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New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Former five-time World champion Viswanathan Anand is all set to compete in the WR Chess Masters Cup, scheduled to take place in London from October 14 to 18.

The tournament features the best 16 players across four intense rounds.

“I am looking forward to competing in the WR Chess Masters Cup, taking place from October 14th to 18th. Looking forward to see some great games,” Vishy Anand wrote on X.

The WR Chess Masters Cup have recently been officially included in the FIDE Circuit.

It will be an intense elimination tournament with a K.O. System of best-of-two games with the time control of 60 minutes for the first 30 moves, 30 minutes for the next 20 moves and 30 minutes for the rest of the game.

In case of tiebreaks, there will be a bidding rapid armageddon game.

–IANS

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Babar Azam slams batters for not ‘finishing well’ in second T20I against England

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Birmingham (UK), May 26 (IANS) Pakistan captain Babar Azam said his team didn’t finish well and faltered in the batting department after a 23-run loss against England in the second T20I here on Saturday.

England took a 1-0 lead in the four-match series after the first fixture was washed out due to rain in Leeds.

Chasing 184, Fakhar Zaman looked in great touch as he slammed 45 off 21 runs including five fours and three sixes but failed to take the side over the line. Babar, who scored 32 runs, said they lacked in building partnerships in the middle overs and ended on a losing side.

“It was a par score, our bowlers bowled very well. In the batting, there were moments, but we didn’t finish well. Small partnership between me and Fakhar and later on, there was no big partnership. If someone got 40s and 50s, it could have been different. We are flexible, everyone knows their role. We have decided each player’s role. If you are not in good form, we are flexible,” Babar said in the post-match presentation.

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He heaped praise on Fakhar for his blistering knock despite the fall of wickets at regular intervals on the other end.

“The way Fakhar dominated after wickets fell … if me and Fakhar had batted for three more overs, it would have been a different ball game,” Babar added.

Earlier, Jos Buttler’s 84 off 51 balls decorated with eight fours and three sixes guided England to 183/7 in 20 overs after being asked to bat first.

For Pakistan, Shaheen Shah Afridi bagged three wickets while Iman Wasim and Haris Rauf added two scalps each to their tally.

Imad remained economical in his four-over spell and just leaked 19 runs including wickets of Phil Salt (13) and Harry Brook (1). With the bat, he contributed 22 in 13 balls to keep Pakistan’s hopes alive in the match.

Commenting on his performance, Babaar said, “He is experienced, he knows how to bowl at different situations and how read the batsman. He’s a very clever bowler. In the batting, he has improved a lot, so good for us.

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“Shadab is one of the best players, batting, bowling and especially fielding. He’ll come back. We announced the team (for WC), we are giving confidence,” he added.

The third T20I between England and Pakistan will be played in Cardiff on Tuesday, May 28.

–IANS

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ECB missed trick, playing in IPL better preparation than facing Pak: Vaughan

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New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Former England captain Michael Vaughan opined that playing in IPL would have served English players “better preparations for the T20 World Cup than playing against Pakistan” after the hoast of players returned home from the cash-rich league.

Will Jacks, Phil Salt, and Jos Butler were among the players who ended their IPL campaign before the playoffs and returned home to participate in the four-match home series against Pakistan.

“I think you’re going to miss the trick by sending all their players home. You know, I think Will Jacks, Phil Salt, Jos Butler, in particular, playing in the IPL in the eliminators, pressure, crowd, expectation. I would argue that playing here is better preparation than playing a T20 game against Pakistan,” said Vaughan on the Club Praire Fire Podcast.

After the culmination of the series against Pakistan, England will head for the T20 pinnacle in the West Indies and the USA, starting on June 1 (local time). The defending champions will not play any warm-up match and will take on Scotland in their opening match on June 4.

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The first game of the series was called off due to rain while in the second match, England sealed a 23-run win in Edgbaston on Saturday to take a 1-0 lead.

Pakistan won the toss and invited the hosts to bat first. England skipper Jos Buttler gave his side a great start to the game scoring 84 runs while Will Jacks hit 37 as the two batters propelled their side’s total to 183 in 20 overs.

Reece Topley grabbed three wickets in the second innings with Moeen Ali and Jofra Archer chipped in with two scalps each to restrict Pakistan to 160/9.

England will now square up against Pakistan in the third game, scheduled to be played at the Sophia Gardens, Cardiff on Tuesday, May 28.

–IANS

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IPL is better preparation for England than T20 games against Pakistan: Vaughan ahead of T20 WC

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New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Former England captain Michael Vaughan opined that playing in IPL would have served English players “better preparations for the T20 World Cup than playing against Pakistan” after the hoast of players returned home from the cash-rich league.

Will Jacks, Phil Salt, and Jos Butler were among the players who ended their IPL campaign before the playoffs and returned home to participate in the four-match home series against Pakistan.

“I think you’re going to miss the trick by sending all their players home. You know, I think Will Jacks, Phil Salt, Jos Butler, in particular, playing in the IPL in the eliminators, pressure, crowd, expectation. I would argue that playing here is better preparation than playing a T20 game against Pakistan,” said Vaughan on the Club Praire Fire Podcast.

After the culmination of the series against Pakistan, England will head for the T20 pinnacle in the West Indies and the USA, starting on June 1 (local time). The defending champions will not play any warm-up match and will take on Scotland in their opening match on June 4.

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The first game of the series was called off due to rain while in the second match, England sealed a 23-run win in Edgbaston on Saturday to take a 1-0 lead.

Pakistan won the toss and invited the hosts to bat first. England skipper Jos Buttler gave his side a great start to the game scoring 84 runs while Will Jacks hit 37 as the two batters propelled their side’s total to 183 in 20 overs.

Reece Topley grabbed three wickets in the second innings with Moeen Ali and Jofra Archer chipped in with two scalps each to restrict Pakistan to 160/9.

England will now square up against Pakistan in the third game, scheduled to be played at the Sophia Gardens, Cardiff on Tuesday, May 28.

–IANS

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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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