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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sachin Tendulkar wants fans to react with responsibility

Sachin Tendulkar shares an average fan's disappointment after Team India's early exit from the Twenty20 World Cup but he strongly disapproves of the backlash it has generated back home.

Tendulkar said he was disappointed with India's failed title defence but at the same time felt the fans back home needed to show more "responsibility and balance" in their reaction.

"I feel there are very high emotions among the people when they react. But do these reactions help us to play better? not really. These actually put more pressure on the players. We have got to be mature and be with the team," Tendulkar said.

"No one can change the past but always can learn from it and do better in future. I think, We should react to the success and failures with lot of responsibility and balance. If we do that it becomes easier for everyone," he told news channel Times Now.

Tendulkar was here, along with his family, to cheer the Indian team. But the side under Mahendra Singh Dhoni could not win a single Super Eight match and crashed out of the tournament, which triggered a backlash in India with fans questioning Dhoni's leadership and team selection.

Even Dhoni's apology to the nation after crashing out of the event could not placate the agitated fans who burnt his effigy in his home town Ranchi.

Tendulkar said he could understand the nation's feelings but could not fault the team, for they had tried their best.

"I am also disappointed along with the nation. I am sure that the guys planned and tried well, but things sometimes don't click," Tendulkar said.

"Disappointment will be there. But I am sure the team will put the best step forward to get the rhythm again. If everyone back home stands behind them, the team may become a formidable one," he added.

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni booed by Indian fans

Criticised by former cricketers for his tactical blunders against England, Mahendra Singh Dhoni faced the wrath of angry fans as he was booed after India's 12-run defeat to South Africa in their final Twenty20 World Cup Super Eight match here.

Dhoni was booed at the presentation ceremony after the match but the beleaguered Indian captain said it didn't affect him.

"I was told by a senior a few years ago. He said if somebody is appreciating you, don't hit seventh heaven. If you fall on floor, it wouldn't be good for you. So adopt a central path. I try to do so," Dhoni added.

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Wooing women with the magic of football

When Noel Wilson learnt how a poor boycalled Diego Maradona played in the slum streets of Villa Fiorito in Buenos Aires, he secretly wished, "God, if only I could play like that..." He kicked a football for the first time when he was five, as one of the 60 boys of class one at St Antony's School in the city. And that was the beginning of a dalliance with the ball which propelled Wilson, born to a poor Anglo-Indian family at Austin Town in Bangalore, into the international soccer circuit.

Today, with more than 300 matches and 40 goals in his pocket, this young, stylish midfielder is back in his one-room shanty in Austin Town. The boy whose mother cried in fear of her only son getting hurt in the "ruffian game," is today the pride star of the family of five, and he adds with a simper, "by Lord's Grace."

Standing 5 ft 10, this stocky 28-year-old eligible bachelor now wears the jersey No 8 (his lucky number) for Mumbai FC.

What strikes a visitor most is his gangling hairstyle much like former Argentinian superstar Gabriel Batistula and several tattoos of the Virgin Mary and the Saviour in Cross on his body. "Because, I am a believer, and I also believe one has to be attractive on the field. After all, I'm an entertainer." His looks won him enough attention to model for Zee Sports as well.

"With his searing pace and excellent dribbling ability, Wilson gave the game a touch of class," observes a sportswriter from Goa, when the player was with Churchill Brothers, Goa. He was the find of the SAI coach Sampat, as an 11-year-old. "Books gave me a headache," Wilson smiles, "I stopped my studies after class 10, though my parents and my sisters wanted me to continue."

Wilson debunks the theory that one is born with a golden foot: "One could be born with certain facilities for a game but soccer playing is not something one can develop without love for the game and dedication."

His professional career began with FC Kochi. He later put on the spiked boots for Mohun Bagan, Churchill Brothers, and played for the country for four years. "My most memorable moment was in the final of the tournament to mark Sri Lanka's 50th year of Independence. My goal gave India the trophy." And, his last was the pre-qualifying World Cup match in 2002.

But the Golden Boy bowed to crass politics of Indian football in 2003, when four Bangalorean boys who had performed well were dumped and four others were inducted for the England tour.
Wilson's dream is to launch an initiative for his native Bangalore through a "football appreciation club": "Today, it's all a man's game, and women feel left out. We can make the game eve-friendly with a separate enclosure for them and a club that makes them familiar with the nuances of the game."

MLA Derrick Fullinfaw, a mentor of Wilson and a fan of football, has offered Rs5 lakhs from his MLA fund to start one for Bangalore.
Today, Wilson has one more passion in life besides football--Goa. He loves the state where "the game is enjoyed for the game's sake," and shyly admits, given a choice, he'd go for a Goan life-partner.

Making room for the sport
Wilson says playing football boosts one's concentration and self-confidence. In a city like Bangalore, where bricks and cement have taken over every inch of spare space, how will children play
football? Here are his suggestions:

Learn to control the ball with your foot and head. This does not warrant a playground. During the day, when vehicles are taken out your parking lot or basement, the space can serve your kids.

Play in parks, except during the peak walkers' time

Blind alleys make for good practice spots, where traffic is rare
In the backyard, if you are lucky to have an independent house

Even in the living room, if your room does not have much glassware

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India grouped with US in U-21 World Volleyball

Hosts India, ranked tenth in the world, have been drawn in Pool A along with with the mighty United States of America, Tunisia and Belarus in the 16-nation fifth FIVB Mens Under 21 World Volleyball Championships to be held at Pune from July 31 to August 9.

The hosts were among the eight seeded teams for the tournament, which is to be held at the Shiv Chatrapati Sports City in Balewadi.

The other seeded teams in the fray are three-time winners (1993, 2001 and 2007) and defending champions Brazil, currently ranked third, their arch-rivals from South America Argentina (rank 2), top-ranked Iran, last editions losing finalists Russia (rank 4), France (rank 5), China (rank 6) and USA (rank 7).

The draw of lots assigning the preliminary groups were held here last night by the international volleyball federations technical delegate Shanrit Wongprasert in the presence of organising committee chairman and Maharashtra's Finance Minister, DilipValse Patil.

K Murugan, Secretary-General of the Volleyball Federation of India, assured the international volleyball federation (FIVB) representatives that top-class facilities would be offered to the teams during the championship.

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It's official, KKR and Buchanan part ways

Kolkata Knight Riders on Thursday made a formal announcement of sacking its controversial Australian coach John Buchanan, claiming it was an amicable parting of ways by both the parties.

KKR co-owner Jay Mehta said in a statement that the Aussie has been released with "immediate effect".

"(John) Buchanan has informed Knight Riders that despite his hard work over the past two seasons, he has not achieved everything that he set out to and has not been able take the franchise into the future as per his vision for this team. We have amicably agreed that Knight Riders will release him from his contract with immediate effect," Mehta said.

The KKR management refrained from using any harsh words and instead, wished Buchanan success in his future endeavours.

"I would like to state that John is a great coach. He had a vision for Knight Riders and did not waver from this vision.

Unfortunately, it has not brought the results that are so necessary to this franchise. Knight Riders would like to wish him every success in his future wherever that may take him," Mehta said.

Buchanan, on his part, said his thoughts were no more "aligning" with the team management and he was "very disappointed in not being able to continue with the Knight Riders and complete the work I started some 18 months."

"I think we have the makings of a very good IPL franchise, and the foundations are there for 2010. I would like to thank everyone who supported me at Knight Riders, and I wish the team every success in 2010," Buchanan was quoted as saying in the release.

With Buchanan out, names of former Sri Lankan and Bangladesh coach Dav Whatmore was doing round for the vacant coach's job even though the NCA chief maintained that he was "employed with BCCI".

Former Australian captain Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan's names are also said to be in contention.

The KKR management, meanwhile, announced that they would take a fresh approach to the 2010 season.

"While the 2009 IPL season was an exciting and successful event, the Kolkata Knight Riders regretfully did not achieve what was required of them during the tournament, failing to fulfill both their own and their fans' expectations," the franchisee said.

"The Knight Riders management and owners have reviewed the strengths and weaknesses of the team with all parties involved and are pro-actively looking for a new approach to ensure Knight Riders are well prepared for the 2010 season of IPL and beyond," it added.

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KKR to get rid of Buchanan

The Kolkata Knight Riders are set to dump their coach John Buchanan. Sources in Kolkata, Mumbai and England say the controversial Aussie is being shown the door. It was always on the cards. The most high profile team had finished at the bottom of the IPL II in South Africa.

Even as the KKR top brass refused to confirm the development, reports said the Shah Rukh Khan-owned side informed this to the former Australian coach. Buchanan had a three year contract with the Kolkata franchisee.

Former Australian captain Steve Waugh is considered a possible candidate to succeed his one-time coach. Waugh, incidentally, was in Mumbai but it could not be confirmed if he had met KKR officials. The other names doing the rounds are those of former current National Cricket Academy coach Dav Whatmore and former India coach Lalchand Rajput.

When contacted, team CEO Joy Bhattacharya said he was not in a position to comment on this episode right now. "At the moment, I cannot confirm the development,"

Bhattacharya said and refused to elaborate further. Shah Rukh's media manager too
declined to comment saying, "We don't have any such reports. Both Shah Rukh Khan and (co-owner) Jay Mehta are out of station, so it's difficult to comment right now. Whenever, we get any confirmation, we will let you know."

However, the source said the Buchanan chapter was closed soon after the Australian landed a role with English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

"He (Buchanan) is joining the Englishmen for their Ashes preparation on June 28 in a short-term consultancy role with the ECB, which could develop into a full-time post," the insider said. "Buchanan was never in Shah Rukh's good books, especially after the team's disastrous show in South Africa. In fact, he (SRK) refused to meet the coach and refused him an appointment at his bungalow in Mumbai," claimed the source.

But Buchanan himself has hinted that his role in Kolkata will be ending soon. Whatmore, meanwhile, dismissed said he was not being approached for the job. "I am not in talks with anyone," the former Sri Lankan coach told a news agency.
--With inputs from agencies

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Abhishek Nayar does Shardashram proud

Mumbai's Shardashram Vidya Mandir has given many cricketers to the Indian team, including Sachin Tendulkar. The latest entrant in the team from the school is all-rounder Abhishek Nayar.

The 25-year-old was picked in the 15-member squad of the Indian team that is to tour West Indies later this month for a four-match one-day international (ODI) series. "It was a big surprise. Srikkanth sir called me up and said that I've been picked in the squad. I am still unable to digest it. My phone hasn't stopped ringing and I have received almost 400 calls," Nayar told.

The southpaw says he feels proud to continue his school's tradition of producing cricketers. "It is a great feeling to be a part of the school which has produced so many cricketers and I am happy that I have continued the tradition," he said. "I am thankful to all of them, my parents, my coaches -- Praveen Amre, Naresh Churi -- friends for all the support they have given me all the time," he said.

Shardashram coach Naresh Churi praised his protégée, saying, "He was a stubborn guy and would never give up. He always wanted to succeed. If he wasn't picked for a match he would work very hard in the next and score good runs. So that next time there was no way he could be dropped," said Churi. "The best thing is that he has continued the tradition of Shardashram. It was said that the school is finished and is not a cricketing power anymore but he proved everyone wrong," he added.

Nayar said it was sheer hard work that got him through. "I have always believed in my self. My hard work has paid off finally." Nayar has been a vital cog in the Mumbai as well as IPL's Mumbai Indians side. He was one of the heroes in Mumbai's Ranji Trophy win this year. "It is not only because of the way I performed in T20 but my Ranji Trophy performances have helped me," Nayar said.

Mumbai coach Praveen Amre knew that he would make sooner or later. "He has always been a hardworking cricketer and I am happy that he made it. People have misconceptions about his batting, that he is a shorter version player but he has proved everyone wrong by performing in all forms of the game," Amre said.

Nayar's aim is to cement his place in the side. "I've got the opportunity and I would like to seal the berth," he said.

India batsman Rohit Sharma is his friend and he is looking forward to playing with him. "He is a close friend. We have a lot of fun and I am keen to play with him," Nayar said.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sampras leads tributes to Federer

Pete Sampras hailed Roger Federer as the best player of all time after the Swiss matched his record of 14 Grand Slam titles at the French Open.

Federer beat Robin Soderling 6-1 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 to win his first Paris title.

"What he's done over the past five years has never, ever been done - and probably will never, ever happen again," said Sampras.

"Regardless if he won there or not, he goes down as the greatest ever. This just confirms it."

Federer joins Fred Perry, Don Budge, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver and Andre Agassi as the only men to have won all four Grand Slam titles.

The 27-year-old, who lost to Rafael Nadal in the last three French Open finals, was presented with the Coupe des Mousquetaires by Agassi.

The Las Vegan, who won eight Grand Slam titles in his 20-year career, says Federer's statistics are unmatched.

"We're watching two guys in the prime of their years compete against each other - and Nadal has an answer for Federer. But what criteria do you use to judge best ever?" stated Agassi.

"Roger's numbers - it's hard to disagree with. His domination on different surfaces - hard to disagree with."

Sampras won 14 Grand Slam titles but never made it past the semi-finals at Roland Garros.

The American is convinced that Federer has not only surpassed his own achievements but those of Australian Rod Laver, who twice won all four Grand Slams in the same year.

"Now that he's won in Paris, I think it just more solidifies his place in history as the greatest player that played the game, in my opinion," he added.

"I'm a huge Laver fan and he had a few years in there where he didn't have an opportunity to win majors. But you can't compare the eras and in this era the competition is much more fierce than Rod's."

Laver completed the coveted Grand Slam for the first time in 1961, but he turned professional in 1962 and was banned from competing in the major tournaments until the open era began in 1968.

He won his second Grand Slam in 1969, although three of the four tournaments were then played on grass.

The Australian, now 70, says it is impossible to compare players from different eras but he told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Federer is the greatest player in his era.

"He's a great champion and a credit to the game with the way he competes on and off the court."

Federer, who matched Ivan Lendl's record in reaching his 19th Grand Slam final, believes he should be judged when his career is over.

"I don't know if we'll ever know who was the greatest of all time but I'm definitely happy to be right up there," said Federer, who plans to play into his 30s.

"I think it should be judged at the very end. I don't know. It's for other people to decide."

After a tense five-set win over Juan Martin del Potro in Friday's semi-final, Federer outclassed surprise finalist Soderling on Sunday.

"He's a great player," conceded the beaten Swede.

"He doesn't have any weaknesses at all. He really deserves to be called the best player of all time."

Former British number one Tim Henman, who played against both Federer and Sampras in their prime, also believes Federer has the edge.

"What puts Federer ahead is that his game is complete," Henman told BBC Sport.

"Sampras was a phenomenal player and his record speaks for itself but you always felt there were aspects of his game that you could target.

"Winning in Paris just emphasises that Federer is the ultimate all-court player."

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Federer never doubted Paris win

French Open champion Roger Federer said he was always confident of eventually winning at Roland Garros - provided Rafael Nadal failed to reach the final.

Federer, who lost the last three finals to Nadal, completed the career Grand Slam on his 11th appearance in Paris with victory over Robin Soderling.

"I knew that the day Rafa wasn't in the final I would be there and I would win," said world number two Federer.

"That's exactly what happened. I didn't hope for it but I believed in it."

Federer added: "It's maybe my greatest victory, or certainly the one that removes the most pressure off my shoulders.

"I think that now and until the end of my career, I can really play with my mind at peace, and no longer hear that I've never won Roland Garros."

Federer's triumph sees him equal Pete Sampras's record of 14 Grand Slam titles and he joins Fred Perry, Don Budge, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver and Andre Agassi as the only men to have won all four Grand Slam events.

The 27-year-old has contested every French Open since 1999 but it was the one major title missing from his CV.

"I had the feeling I gave myself too many opportunities over the years at the French Open," said the former world number one.

"I think Pete was in the semis once. Other players were maybe in the final once. I was in the final three times, and the semis once previously.

"I was able to win Hamburg four times and reach the final of Monaco and Rome."

Federer has now won five Wimbledon titles, five US Opens, three Australian Opens and one French Open but, despite how long he was made to wait for glory at Roland Garros, the Swiss was not prepared to hail it as his greatest achievement.

"I don't want to say it means the most to me, but it's an incredible feeling reaching 14 and not being derailed by losing Grand Slam finals to Rafa (at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2008 and the 2009 Australian Open)," he said.

"That I took my time and was able to regroup and equal Pete's record here in Paris is unbelievable.

"Getting the trophy from Andre, who was the last man to win all four majors, seems very fitting."

Sampras won his first Grand Slam title in 1990 and his last in 2002 while Federer, whose first came at Wimbledon in 2003, has equalled the America's tally in half the time.

At 27 he could potentially have several more years at the top level and, in an ominous warning to his rivals, he insisted retirement had not even entered his thoughts.

Having been disrupted by illness and injury in 2008, Federer is now well on the way to silencing the doubters who claimed his career was on the slide.

"It hasn't appeared in my mind once yet that I want to retire," said Federer, whose wife Mirka is pregnant with the couple's first child.

"Tennis is not for ever, I know that, but I'll try to enjoy it as long as I can.

"I think I still have many more tournaments to go and many more Grand Slams. I'll give it my best shot to have the best possible career.

"I hope I can maintain the records I have going at the moment and break some other ones along the way.

"I hope to stay healthy because motivation and drive is not a problem for me.

"With the changes in my life - getting married and having a baby - it's going to be a very exciting few years."

Federer admitted he went through an "emotional rollercoaster" as he closed in on victory against Soderling.

After being outclassed in a one-sided first set, the Swede put up more of a fight in the second and third sets but never came close to reproducing the kind of form he displayed in beating reigning champion Nadal in round four.

Federer took the second set on a tie-break but, after breaking in game one, was forced to save break points in game four and 10 - when he was serving for the match.

"My good start relaxed me," said Federer. "It was key to stay with him in the second set and not give him any opportunities with my serve. Then I played one of the greatest tie-breaks in my career.

"It was very hard mentally for me to stay in the match. I was very nervous at the beginning of the third set because I realised how close I was and the last game was almost unplayable.

"I was just hoping to serve some good serves and hoping he was going to make four errors. It was that bad. It was an emotional rollercoaster for me."

Soderling has now lost all 10 of his meetings with Federer and admitted he could do little to stop the rot.

The 24-year-old stunned Nadal in round four but claimed Federer was a much tougher opponent.

"Roger's game does not suit my game at all, he does not allow me to be aggressive and he always had me on the run today," said Soderling.

"With Rafa, it's easier to be aggressive. In all my matches against Rafa I think I dictated the game, I dictated the play.

"But against Roger so far it's been impossible to do that."

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Roger Federer claims historic Paris win

Roger Federer beat Robin Soderling in straight sets to win his first French Open and equal Pete Sampras's record of 14 Grand Slam titles.

World number two Federer becomes only the sixth man to have won each of the four Grand Slam tournaments.

The 27-year-old Swiss produced a near-faultless display in testing conditions to dominate Sweden's Soderling, a shock finalist, from start to finish.

He wrapped up a 6-1 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 victory in one hour and 55 minutes.

Federer joins Fred Perry, Don Budge, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver and Andre Agassi as the only men to have won all four Grand Slam titles and was presented the Coupe des Mousquetaires by Agassi.

"It was probably my greatest victory, I was under big pressure," said Federer. "I did it and it's phenomenal. It was great to be on the podium as a winner for a change.

"Andre said it was my destiny to win this and that I deserved it."
Roger Federer

Soderling admitted: "Roger was too good for me today, he played much better. He is a worthy winner and for me he is the best player in history. He gave me a lesson in how to play tennis."

Federer has now won five Wimbledon titles, five US Opens, three Australian Opens and one French Open, a triumph that will go some way to silencing those who claimed his career was on the slide amid the rise of world number one Rafael Nadal.

The former world number one was appearing in a record-equalling 19th Grand Slam final, his fifth in succession and, remarkably, his 15th in the last 16 Grand Slam tournaments.

Federer had lost each of the last three finals to Nadal and the Spaniard's shock defeat by Soderling in round four suggested another huge upset was possible.

But the Swiss looked a picture of calm from the moment he set foot on Court Phillipe Chatrier and, cheered on by large sections of the crowd, made a blistering start.

An understandably nervous-looking Soderling, contesting his first Grand Slam final, went wide once and long twice before double-faulting to give his opponent an effortless break of serve in game one.

Federer backed that up with a majestic service game, which he held to love with one booming ace and the most delightful sliced backhand which died as soon as it touched the red dirt.

A second break was swift in its arrival - Soderling netted a backhand to give Federer two break points and then left a forehand that landed on the baseline to fall 3-0 behind.

With Soderling's unforced error-count rising sharply, Federer eased through another service game and, while not needing to find top gear, he was already oozing confidence.

A morale-boosting hold kept Soderling in contention at 4-1 but the Swede was showing none of the aggression that saw him defeat several top class clay-courters, including Nadal, en route to his first tour level outdoor final.

Another hold to love put Federer within a game of the 23-minute opening set and he took it at the second time of asking by unleashing a rasping cross-court backhand to pass Soderling at the net.

With many of the ebullient spectators chanting Federer's name at the changeover, it was easy to understand why Soderling had his head buried in a towel.

Federer opened the second set with a double-fault but normal service was quickly resumed and a thumping ace down the 'T' helped him take game one with little reason for concern.

Soderling's disappointing movement and shot selection meant he was only rarely likely to get the better of Federer from the baseline, so it was fortunate for the 24-year-old that he found some rhythm on serve and was able to level at 1-1.

After Federer moved 2-1 ahead, Soderling powered his way to 2-2 by holding to love.

But the Swiss's concentration seemed to be affected at the beginning of that game when he was confronted by a spectator, who breached the security and appeared to wave a flag in Federer's face before belatedly being wrestled to the ground.

By this point the sunshine in which the match started had given way to cloudy skies, a fairly strong wind and gentle rainfall, and break-point opportunities were few and far between.

At 4-3 up, Federer cranked up the pressure and although Soderling held serve with a thunderous inside-out forehand winner, the 6ft 4in right-hander was barely given a sniff in game nine.

Soderling twice kept his composure when serving to stay in the set but Federer was in a class of his own during the tie-break.

He gained the first of three mini-breaks at 1-1 and, aided by four magnificent aces, left Soderling to chase shadows.

The third set was essentially decided when Soderling double-faulted to gift Federer a break in game one.

Soderling, who has now lost all of his 10 matches against Federer, had nothing to lose and engineered break points in games four and 10.

The second of those came as Federer was serving for the match but Soderling failed to capitalise and when the Swede netted a forehand return, Federer's long wait for the Roland Garros title was over.

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