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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Arena Football: New 16-team league plans April kickoff

Creators of a new 16-team arena football league were short on answers during Monday's press conference from Tulsa, Okla., site of the league offices, other than to say competition is scheduled to begin in April.

Dave Affleck, owner of the Utah Valley Thunder, now part of the new Arena Football 1, was confident that the league will provide "the highest level of arena football."

League members include teams from the defunct Arena Football League and its minor league affiliate, AF2. Jerry Kurz, former AF2 commissioner, is the AF1 commissioner.

"This is a brand-new league," Kurz said. "This isn't any previous league. It isn't a combination of leagues. It's a brand-new league."

Kurz deflected questions about potential player and coach salaries and a player draft, as well as the league's financial structure. Player and coach signings will begin Nov. 1. Kurz said more information will be announced Oct. 9.

Included among the 16 cities are Boise, Idaho; Fresno, Calif.; Spokane, Wash.; and the Kennewick, Wash.

"It will be the same game that was in Salt Lake City when the [AFL's Utah] Blaze played," said Affleck, who will move his team to West Valley City. "It won't be anything like the AFL had for salaries. It will be more like an AF2 type of salary structure."

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Jack Kramer: Tennis's most important person

The life of the most important person in tennis history was celebrated this past Saturday. Fittingly, Jack Kramer's memorial service was held on the tennis courts at UCLA, the location of the Los Angeles Tennis Open, an ATP tournament run by his son Bobby for more than 25 years and an event Kramer had won, run and at times even funded right out of his pocket. But that one event was only a single jewel in a massive crown.

The lowdown on Kramer, who died two weeks ago at age 88, is quite simple: He was Michael Jordan and David Stern. That's right -- a champion player and the pre-eminent business presence. And for many years he held the two posts simultaneously.

Although Kramer would become the consummate tennis insider, his background belied the game's country club origins. His father worked for the railroad. Kramer was born in Las Vegas and moved soon after to the dusty Southern California town of San Bernardino, 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

And then he saw everything he wanted to be. The 1935 Los Angeles County Fair was held in Pomona, another dusty burg not too far from "San Berdoo." Amid the squealing pigs and the baked goods, 13-year-old Jack and his father came across a tennis exhibition. The participants were right out of central casting, two lanky, handsome stars, former world No. 1 Ellsworth Vines and Les Stoefen. Each wore long, white flannels, and each was exquisitely elegant -- Vines a wonderfully powerful player, Stoefen so smooth his service motion became the model for tennis trophies. Having begun to dabble a bit in tennis when he wasn't playing baseball, Kramer was instantly captivated. His baseball mitt was shelved. From then on, Kramer would live, breathe, eat and drink nothing but tennis.

He was fortunate to come of age at a time when Southern California tennis was head and shoulders the center of the tennis universe. Perry T. Jones was the head of the section, a czarlike figure who took a shine to ambitious, hardworking, well-behaved boys like Kramer. Jack was given the chance to join the Los Angeles Tennis Club, where he could practice with the likes of Vines, the aging Bill Tilden, another street-smart boy 2 years older than Kramer named Bobby Riggs, Ted Schroeder and countless others.

Jones' dictatorial order determined dress codes and expense budgets for players headed to national tournaments. Kramer's cause was aided by his father's railroad job, one of the perks being deeply discounted travel rates.

The seminal on-the-court moment came when Kramer, along with Schroeder, began to work with Cliff Roche. A former automotive engineer, Roche had broken the court like an automotive chassis. In the days of fast hard courts and grass, Roche believed that a serve-and-volley attack could overtake the baseline styles that dominated tennis well into the '30s. He delineated to Kramer and Schroeder all the nuances of what eventually would be called percentage tennis -- rally crosscourt from the baseline, hit forehand approach shots down the line to the backhand, vary the placement of your serve like a pitcher and, most of all, force the opponent to hit one passing shot after another.

Said notable coach Vic Braden, who worked on Kramer's tour for several years and later ran his club, "Jack so understood how to see over the long term of a match. He was a big-picture thinker and just kept applying that pressure."

It wasn't an easy path to the top, though. There would be ups and downs in the '30s and early '40s. "I wasn't always as dedicated as I should have been," Kramer said a few years ago. "But when the war ended, and I was 24, I felt a greater sense of urgency."

Throughout 1946 and '47, Kramer lost but three matches, winning two U.S. titles, the precious Wimbledon crown and the chance to take on Riggs in a pro tour. Although he earned $89,000 in 1948 -- toppling Riggs and all others until he retired at the end of 1954 -- Kramer bristled at the way pros were treated like lepers, banned from prestigious events such as Wimbledon and Forest Hills.

"We wanted to make a legitimate living from tennis," he said. So it was that Kramer commenced what was probably his most significant work -- leading the pro tour, a step that would keep the candle burning for Open tennis. Here's how Barry MacKay, one of Kramer's players and current tennis analyst who spoke at this past Saturday's service, recalls a typical 24-hour period:

"Friday night we'd play at the Fort Worth Arena, a canvas court laid over smoothed-out dirt. We start at 8 a.m. and finish at nearly 1 in the morning.

"Kevin Sullivan, our court guy, rolls up the court and heads on a 321-mile drive to Little Rock, Ark.

"We jump in our two station wagons and drive to Texarkana [Texas], halfway to Little Rock and check into a Howard Johnsons. We sleep from 3:30 a.m. to 8 a.m., then get back on the road and arrive in Little Rock at noon. "Since we start at 2 there's barely time to practice. This time, the court's laid out on a high school basketball court. Just over three hours later, we're through and headed to St. Louis -- where we have to play the next night at 7 o'clock.

"In the meantime, Jack's taking care of business -- making sure the guy in Fort Worth has given him his share of the money, checking the box office in Little Rock, talking with the program seller in St. Louis, making sure we're not cheated out of any money, arranging one tour stop after another."

Tracy Austin knew Kramer her entire life. Her mother, Jeanne, was the first person to run the pro shop at his club, planting her infant daughter behind the counter in her bassinet.

"Jack was always thinking big," Austin said. "He and Vic created this incredible atmosphere. They brought in great players like Rod Laver and Pancho Segura -- and that inspired all of us to aim high, too."

Nothing more eloquently symbolized Kramer's vision than his trademark logo -- a king's crown that adorned his rackets and clothes and remains the signature mark of his club. In large part, that logo was the Nike swoosh of its day -- compelling, authentic, regal. Said Braden, "Jack didn't want to read about kings and queens. He wanted to meet them."

And in the republic of tennis, he became one.

Joel Drucker is based in Oakland, Calif., and writes for Tennis Magazine and Tennis Channel.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Clijsters, Henin: Next year will be like old times

U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters and newly un-retired Justine Henin have doubled up to make sure that tennis talk includes the word "Belgian" again.

"And don't forget Yanina," Clijsters said of Yanina Wickmayer, a teenager who seemingly came out of nowhere to reach the semifinals of the U.S. Open. "The hype of Belgian tennis was created a little bit again."

Winning the U.S. Open barely three tournaments into her comeback has shot Clijsters up to No. 17 in the rankings, with Wickmayer racing up to No. 22. If Henin, who announced her return Tuesday after a 16-month retirement, plays somewhat to the form that made her a seven-time Grand Slam champion, she'll also be heading toward No. 1 soon enough.

"It'd be great to have three Belgian girls in the top 20," Clijsters said in an interview with The Associated Press.

And the groundswell of support is there again. Once Clijsters retired in 2007, and Henin followed one year later, tennis fell back to its typical place in Belgium , way behind soccer and cycling in the hearts of fans.

"It is absolutely super. All this is alive again," said Billie Hernalsteens, a recreational player in Buizingen who was often glued to the television set when Clijsters and Henin dominated Grand Slam events over the past decade. "Those are the kind of matches I would not miss for the world. When the Belgians play, I'll watch again."

With Henin at 27 and Clijsters only 26, the rivalry could last for years to come.

Henin's announcement to return had been anticipated for weeks, and took hold of the front pages as more rumors surfaced that she had started training hard again, much harder than for the exhibition matches she was ostensibly preparing for.

Then, Henin found her tongue tied early this month, when Clijsters and Wickmayer kept on winning in Flushing Meadows.

"I decided to postpone everything when I saw the results of Kim and Yanina coming in," she said, preferring not to take the spotlight during their moment of glory.

Now that everything is official, Clijsters only has one message for Henin: "Bring it on, I would say. She is obviously a great player and I think for women's tennis and for Belgian tennis, it is great."

Even though Henin leads 12-10 in their head-to-heads overall, when it comes to Grand Slams, Henin dominates 5-2 and has won the last five. And before Clijsters made her successful Grand Slam return in New York, Henin led 7-1 in Grand Slam titles won.

"Just too bad she was often the better when it came to Grand Slams," Clijsters said.

Clijsters' former coach Marc Dehous is convinced their rivalry might be renewed as soon as the Jan. 18-30 Australian Open, telling VRT network "the fans can look forward toward another golden era. ... And why not start with a final during the Australian Open."

Clijsters realizes Henin might have recovered her touch and stamina as quickly as she has.

"I don't think she will need months to find her groove," Clijsters added. "She'll produce great tennis again when she gets to Australia."

An all-Belgian Grand Slam final would have sounded preposterous earlier this year, when both players were still slumbering in retirement. Now, the rivalry between these ever-so-different personalities is heating up again.

It all started a decade ago when Henin won the first one between rookie teenagers. Soon, they were playing in the 2001 French Open semifinals.

"It was as if a bomb had exploded," Clijsters said of the massive media and fan interest, as Belgian flags swarmed the stands in Paris. Two years later, even King Albert II traveled to Paris when Henin beat Clijsters in the final at Roland Garros.

Clijsters was always the happy-go-lucky player, a mix of mirth and mastery whose smile was just as wide after losing a final as winning one. Henin was always the complicated one, having to recover from losing her mother at an early age and single-mindedly pursuing victory at almost any cost.

The same traits still come through so many years later. Happy in motherhood, Clijsters said she would now take her career "one season at a time." Henin, meanwhile, is already looking at the 2012 Olympics with a determination that has marked her entire career.

And while the stars fight it out, Wickmayer will be able to develop in their shadows with none of the media hype Clijsters and Henin had to endure.

"It is perhaps a positive thing for her," Clijsters said. "There is only talk about me and Justine, but Yanina has performed great."

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England escape one-day whitewash

England avoided a 7-0 one-day series whitewash with a four-wicket win over Australia at the Riverside.

Graeme Swann was England's star performer, taking 5-28 as Australia were dismissed for 176 despite an innings of 53 by Ricky Ponting.

Andrew Strauss (46) and Joe Denly (53) gave England a solid platform with a 106-run opening partnership.

A middle-order collapse gave Australia hope but Paul Collingwood and Tim Bresnan saw England home on 177-6.

Although the victory ensured England escaped an unprecedented 7-0 series drubbing, another sub-standard batting performance - Strauss and Denly excepted - gave them little cause for optimism ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy, which starts on Tuesday.

After an impressive bowling display, when Swann became only the fifth England spin bowler to take five wickets in a one-day innings, the hosts almost contrived to throw away a match which was there for the taking.

From 106-0, when an injudicious reverse sweep cost Strauss his wicket, England slumped to 141-5 and although they reached their target with 10 overs to spare, it was somehow fitting that they should finally stumble over the line courtesy of a no-ball.

Despite the disappointment of missing out on a series whitewash, and dropping to third in the one-day rankings as a consequence, Australia will travel to South Africa for the Champions Trophy confident of repeating their 2006 victory.

With the sun belting down on a glorious morning in Chester-le-Street, Ponting once again lost the toss - his sixth from seven - as Strauss opted to utilise the favourable overhead conditions and bowl first.

The hosts welcomed back Collingwood from a three-game hiatus and gave another local favourite, Graham Onions, his one-day debut at the ground where he recently helped Durham win the County Championship for the second successive year.

On a track offering assistance for both seamers and spinners, England bowled with the control and aggression so often missing in their previous six performances in the series.

Anderson reaped instant success as Shane Watson edged a simple catch to Swann at first slip and Tim Paine, fresh from a maiden one-day ton at Trent Bridge in the previous match, followed suit to give Onions his first one-day wicket for England.

With Australia teetering for the first time in the series at 17-2, the experience of Ponting and Clarke steered the tourists away from immediate danger.

Ponting, in particular, was cutting, pulling and driving with consummate ease and a booming front-foot drive saw the Tasmanian surpass Inzamam-ul-Haq and move to third in the all-time leading one-day run scorers, with only Sanath Jayasuriya and Sachin Tendulkar now in front of him.

But soon after reaching his 68th one-day half century, Ponting was beaten in the flight by Swann and looped a catch to Collingwood, who was stationed at mid-on, a dismissal which sparked a seven-wicket collapse for just 80 runs.

The breakthrough provided fresh impetus for England and Clarke followed soon after for 38, run out by a smart piece of fielding from Eoin Morgan.

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Sri Lanka cruise to opening win

Tillakaratne Dilshan's 106 inspired Sri Lanka to a 55-run rain-affected win over South Africa in the opening match of the Champions Trophy in Centurion.

The opener put on 158 with captain Kumar Sangakkara (54), while a brutal 77 from Mahela Jaywardene took Sri Lanka to 319-8 in their Group B game.

Graeme Smith's 58 gave the hosts a strong start, but a devastating Ajantha Mendis spell ended their victory hopes.

Mendis' 3-30 left the hosts at 206-7, well behind the Duckworth/Lewis target.

The thumping victory made a mockery of South Africa's ranking as the world's best one-day team as they were dismantled by the match-winning abilities of Mendis and Dilshan.

The result means the hosts will need to win their next match against New Zealand on Thursday to stand any chance of qualifying for the semi-finals of the tournament.

With Sri Lanka in total control at 70-1 after 10 overs, captain Smith must have questioned his decision to bowl first on a good batting wicket as Dilshan launched an astonishing aerial assault in the mandatory powerplay overs.

Despite losing Sanath Jayasuriya, lbw to Steyn in the third over, the opener meted out punishment to South Africa's fast bowlers, including the first "Dilscoop" of the tournament, shovelling the ball high over wicketkeeper Mark Boucher's head for four off Wayne Parnell.

Batting serenely with Sangakkara, Dilshan brought up his 17th one-day half century off just 38 deliveries.

A crunching cover drive and a fine cut allowed Dilshan to record his third one-day century in the 28th over, but he lost Sangakkara almost immediately after when he chipped a return catch to off-spinner JP Duminy.

Dilshan's epic innings was eventually brought to an end in the 30th over when a rank long-hop outside off stump from Steyn was upper cut into the hands of the relieved Albie Morkel at third man.

But an intelligent fourth-wicket partnership of 116 between ex-captain Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera gave Sri Lanka the impetus to set a daunting target of 320 under the floodlights.

"We batted very well by doing the basics properly and building partnerships," said Sangakkara.

The hosts' riposte began in the worst possible fashion when a thick inside edge off the bat of Hashim Amla dislodged his leg stump at 9-1.

But Smith and new batsman Jacques Kallis punched boundaries on both sides of the wicket, with the Proteas captain bringing up his 50 in just 40 deliveries with a deft glance for his eighth boundary.

But his innings was brought to a close when a beautiful delivery in Mendis' first over totally bamboozled him.

The spinner quickly dispatched Kallis (41) and Duminy for a golden duck, while the dismissal of AB de Villiers (24), caught top-edging and attempting to pull a Lasith Malinga short delivery, effectively ended the run chase.

"Ajantha is a big challenge for anyone playing him for the first time," Sangakkara added.

"With him, Muttiah Muralitharan and Malinga, we have a lot of unorthodox match-winners in our side."

Late hitting from Johan Botha and Morkel took South Africa beyond 200 but a heavy storm forced the game to be abandoned in the 38th over with South Africa comfortably short of their Duckworth/Lewis target of 261.

"We never got our basics right and we've got to improve very quickly," said Smith, whose side had not played an international match since the World Twenty20 semi-final in June.

"The number of extras we gave away is a problem, and we've got to think better on our feet."

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The ‘Other’ Armstrong Is Bowing Out of Cycling in Style

Kristin Armstrong was thinking this on Wednesday as she stood on the podium in Mendrisio, Switzerland, and watched the American flag being hoisted in her honor. Go out on top. Go out with the anthem being played.

Armstrong, 36, is the accidental champion, the late bloomer who took to the sport because running in triathlons caused osteoarthritis in her hips and her doctor advised her to do something healthier, like cycle full time. She took him seriously.

On Wednesday she won the time trial at the world championship of cycling, to go with her gold medal in Beijing last year. Now, as planned, she will retire after the world championship road race on Saturday.

“There are already people who are talking about my comeback for 2012 in London,” Armstrong said, alluding to the next Summer Olympics.

If she did come back, she would be following the pattern set by her illustrious namesake, Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France seven times from 1999 through 2005, then retired, only to come back to finish an impressive third in the Tour this year, at 37. Kristin Armstrong has her own reasons for retiring now.

“Being female, it’s important for me to have a family,” she said in a telephone interview. She and her husband, Joe Savola, have planned this retirement, which was announced weeks ago.

While there is still time, the American public can get to know this champion who burst into prominence so belatedly.

First of all, she is not related to Lance Armstrong, or to his former wife, Kristin Richard Armstrong. She did not go into cycling to emulate her namesake. She just happened to discover she was very good at this sport, once she concentrated on it.

In 2004, Kristin Armstrong finished eighth in the road race at the Olympics in Athens but was not used in the time trial. On Wednesday, a day made for crowing, she refused to say the American coaches were wrong in 2004. She had already followed that by winning the world time trial in Italy in 2006 before taking that gold in Beijing.

Lance Armstrong has not won an Olympic gold medal — well, at least not yet. He won a bronze in 2000, while recovering from a fractured vertebra in his neck, from a collision with a car. There is always drama surrounding Mr. Lance.

“Lance lives a life I’m not at all familiar with,” Armstrong said in 2008. “No movie stars or million-dollar bank accounts for me.”

On the only day the two Armstrongs have ever met, he displayed a major sense of collegial gallantry.

“I really admire him for the work he does against cancer,” Kristin Armstrong said Wednesday.

“I met him after a criterium at Ojai in 2005,” she added, referring to a race in California.

She and a female friend joined the autograph mob around Armstrong, and her friend persisted in saying, “Lance, Lance, Kristin Armstrong is here.” Armstrong picked up his head and quickly volunteered that he had heard a lot about her. And this was before her world championship or her gold medal.

Kristin Armstrong grew up in a military family, lived 10 years abroad, attended high school in Japan. She thinks she learned adaptability — in language, customs and food — that serve her well on the cycling circuit.

After graduating from the University of Idaho, she was working in an advertising agency in Boise when her doctor said her triathlon days were over. But she did so well on the bike that T-Mobile stunned her by offering her a two-year contact to join its touring team.

“When she became a cyclist, I thought it was cool,” her husband said in 2008. “When she became one of the best, I thought to myself, ‘There’s something special in this woman.’ But never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this.”

On Wednesday, Armstrong finished in 35 minutes 26.09 seconds over two laps of the 16.65-mile (26.8-kilometer) course, defeating Noemi Cantele of Italy by 55.01 seconds.

“Over all, this has been my best season,” Armstrong said recently. “I haven’t put as much stress on myself. Sometimes we do that and it takes a lot of the fun out of the sport. This year I really just enjoyed the sport and my team.”

She has everything planned. She will represent Idaho Potatoes, Blue Cross and United Dairymen — “three products I use and believe in,” she said. She appears to be as adept as her namesake at sticking to her talking points. Now, just as her country discovers her, she is going out, as a world champion.

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Roger Federer pulls out of Japan Open, Shanghai Masters

Roger Federer withdrew from the Japan Open and Shanghai ATP Masters 1000 on Friday, citing the need to rest after a physically challenging year.

The Japan Tennis Association said the top-ranked Federer was withdrawing from the Oct. 5-11 Japan Open, along with the Shanghai tournament the following week.

"After consultation with my team and doctors, I decided to take the difficult decision to withdraw from both tournaments," Federer said in a statement. "This will allow me a chance to give my body a chance to rest, rehabilitate and recover from a physically challenging year."

Federer reached the final of all four Grand Slams this year, winning the French Open for the first time in his career, then breaking Pete Sampras' record with his 15th major title at Wimbledon.

He also earned two points for Switzerland last weekend during a 3-2 victory over Italy in the playoffs to remain in the top-tier World Group of the Davis Cup.

It is the second time Federer has pulled out of the Japan Open just before the start of the tournament. He also cited fatigue as his reason for withdrawing from the 2007 event.

"I'm disappointed that I have to withdraw from Tokyo and Shanghai as they are two of my favorite cities," Federer said. "The fans have been great to me over the years."

U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro and third-ranked Andy Murray are scheduled to take part in the Japan Open.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cricket set for Champions Trophy

Cricket's second biggest 50-over event, the biennial Champions Trophy, begins in South Africa on Tuesday, as the sport's top eight teams vie for glory.

The tournament was to have been held in Pakistan last year but was postponed and moved because of security concerns.

Two teams from two groups of four will form the semi-finals, with the final to be staged in Centurion on 5 October.

England face South Africa, New Zealand and Sri Lanka but are without star men Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen.

Group A consists of holders Australia, India, Pakistan and the West Indies.

The England team were thrashed in the recent 50-over series against Australia, with only a narrow victory in the final match preventing them from becoming the first team to lose a series 7-0.

Without Flintoff and Pietersen their chances appear remote, and they begin with a daunting day/night contest against the talented Sri Lankans in Johannesburg on Friday.

Kumar Sangakkara's highly-regarded Sri Lanka side begin the competition against the hosts in Centurion (1330 BST start).

South Africa, the world's number one side, have not been in competitive action since the ICC World Twenty20 in England in June but skipper Graeme Smith said his side were ready to make an impact.

He said: "One of our major challenges as a team going into this tournament is our lack of games, but we have really focused hard in the last three weeks to train as well as we can by making it as competitive as possible.

"We have created a lot of scenarios and challenges which will best enhance our abilities.

"The guys are motivated and excited and I think we can use the freshness to our advantage by getting in and playing good cricket up front."

Counterpart Sangakkara was in optimistic mood as his team look to win the trophy for the first time outright, having shared the title in 2002 when the final and the reserve day against India was washed out.

In the last two months they have won a five-match series against Pakistan and won triangular series games with New Zealand and India, before losing in the final to Mahendra Dhoni's side.

"Everyone here is a professional unit and whether they have played recently or not won't matter because you are always in training and up to the challenge of playing," Sangakkara said.

"It is nice to have had a bit of cricket, but the only advantage of that is that we have been competing under pressure.

"Everyone in our team is confident, but our recent wins are not going to count for anything."

The popularity of the 50-over format of the game has waned since the introduction of Twenty20 and speculation about its future is rife, with a general air of apathy surrounding a second world tournament in the space of three months, following the ICC World Twenty20 won by Pakistan.

Lessons have been learned from the torturous 2007 World Cup, which comprised 16 teams and took more than six weeks to complete its 51 matches, with only 15 games over a far more sensible two-week period in this competition.

The loss of crowd-pullers such as Flintoff and Pietersen, plus India's cavalier opening batsman Virender Sehwag, is unfortunate, however, and some big-hitting, action-packed close contests are urgently needed if the event is to continue in the long term.

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Medal joy for GB Paralympic crews

Britain clinched two silver medals in the Paralympic classes at the Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth.

John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas were second in the three-person Sonar class behind the United States.

But the result was enough to give the experienced GB trio victory in the overall ISAF World Cup series.

Niki Birrell and Alex Rickham were also second in the Skud-18 class behind the US's Scott Whittman and Julia Dorsett, who won five of the seven races.

Rickham admitted: "We're happy, but at the same time we're slightly disappointed because we had the chance to win gold not silver. It just didn't go our way.

"All in all I think we're in a really good position though. We just need to make sure we are as close to the top as we are now and make sure we're still there in two and a half years.

"Nothing would be nicer to qualify for 2012 and win a medal here at home, considering our disappointment in Beijing."

Thierry Schmitter of the Netherlands, who was a bronze medallist at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, secured gold in the solo 2.4mR class ahead of France's Damien Seguin after finishing first and second in the last two races of the series.

Britain's Megan Pascoe was pipped for bronze by another Dutch sailor Andre Rademaker, but Pascoe's fourth place was enough to give her the overall World Cup series by two points from Schmitter.

"I did my best," said Pascoe. "I could have got into third today, so I was a little bit disappointed. I would have liked to have medalled here, but it's a nice silver lining to win the World Cup series."

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Gay clocks stunning 100m in China

Tyson Gay equalled the second fastest time ever over 100m with 9.69 seconds at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix.

The American has struggled with a groin injury of late but still won a Worlds silver medal behind Usain Bolt.

At China's end-of-season meet, Gay, 27, equalled the world record Bolt set when he won Olympic gold last year before he reduced it to 9.58 secs in Berlin.

American Carmelita Jeter ran 10.64 secs to overtake Marion Jones as the world's second fastest woman over 100m.

Only the late Florence Griffith-Joyner has run faster having run 10.49s.

Gay, who has been suffering from a strained groin and is set to have an operation, admitted at the start of the month he had been "running on one leg".

After running the third-fastest 100m in history, 9.71, at the World Championships, where he had to pull out of the 200m, Gay beat Jamaican Asafa Powell by 0.16s in China with American Darvis Patton in third (9.89).

Gay revealed afterwards he intends to challenge Bolt's world record when he returns to full fitness.

"I'm not too motivated because I've not been fully healthy," he said. "I ran my run so well, even though my groin hurts."

The Chinese crowd saved their biggest cheer for former world and Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang as he returned to action for the first time since limping out of the Beijing Bird's Nest last year.

"Being back on the track is a pivotal step for me," Liu said ahead of the 110m hurdles race.

The 26-year-old 2004 Olympic gold medallist had an operation in the United States in December to repair the Achilles tendon that forced his agonising Olympic withdrawal during qualifying.

However, the local superstar was pipped on the line by American Terrence Trammell with both men clocking 13.15s.

"I didn't expect I could run so fast, but once I stepped on the track I could not hold back," Liu said.

Meanwhile, Russian Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva failed in three attempts to improve her own pole vault world record of 5.06m.

There were other victories for Wallace Spearmon in the 200m, while Britain's Rob Tobin impressed in second place behind Lashawn Merritt in the 400m.

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ECB backs world Test championship

The England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) says it supports the idea of introducing a world Test championship.

Haroon Lorgat, chief executive of the International Cricket Council (ICC), had claimed that England and India were blocking the initiative.

But the ECB's only reservations are believed to be over the event's format.

"We are fully engaged with the ICC over proposals for a world Test championship and are supportive in principle," an ECB spokesman said.

Cricket's governing body has been looking into ways of increasing the popularity of Test cricket, whose future is threatened by the rise of the Twenty20 game.

In July, the MCC's world cricket committee recommended the introduction of a world Test championship, involving teams playing each other over a four-year cycle, culminating in semi-finals and a final.

The ECB are believed to be concerned about spreading the tournament over such a long period, during which the strength of the teams would vary enormously.

The plans could also lead to lucrative series against the likes of Australia, India and South Africa being shortened to accommodate matches against lesser Test nations like Bangladesh and New Zealand.

The proposed starting date of 2012 could clash with the London Olympics.

But the ICC is determined to push the plan through in order to give greater importance to every Test series.

"I would like to convince people that the way to ensure Test cricket survives is through a championship model," Lorgat told the Guardian.

"The only two countries who do not see the argument are India and England, but debate is growing all the time.

"The MCC seem to have come out in favour but when I met the ECB recently it was the wrong time to tackle them in detail. They were too high on the Ashes."

While Test matches in England regularly attract full houses, attendances in most other Test-playing nations have been falling.

There is also concern about the increasing ambivalence towards Test cricket among players from certain nations.

An MCC survey among professional cricketers around the world revealed players coveted a lucrative Twenty20 deal with an Indian Premier League team above any other achievement.

All-rounder Andrew Flintoff recently retired from Test cricket, and rejected an England central contract in a bid to maximise his earnings from limited-overs cricket around the world.

"There's no doubt a Test championship would be of great benefit," added Lorgat.

"Let's say you and your mate are South African and Australian - and India are about to play Sri Lanka. If the result impacts on your team's championship standing you are bound to be more interested."

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Twelve Brits to contest Shrewsbury

Tara Moore and Lisa Whybourn have both qualified for the $75k event in Shrewsbury, bringing the total number of British players contesting the title to 12.

Whybourne defeated fellow Brit Nicola George 6-3 6-3 in her second round of qualifying, score, to progress to a first round main draw contest against British wildcard recipient, Stephanie Cornish.

Moore (Yorks) defeated qualifying No.2 seed Claudine Schaul (LUX), 5-7 6-3 6-3 to reach the main draw, where she will face her doubles partner Angelique Kerber, seeded No.4.

Moore was delighted to have qualified for the main draw of a $75k for the first time in her career. “I didn’t look at the rankings before I went on court so I didn’t realise that she was ranked more than 200 places higher than me,” said the 17-year-old.

“I went out and played my normal game and now I’m hoping to carry on the momentum from qualifying.”

Lucie Hradecka (CZE) and Kristina Barrois (GER) top the seedings with Elena Baltacha the highest-seeded British player at No.5, followed by Katie O’Brien at No.6.

Melanie South, Naomi Cavaday, Anna Smith, Georgie Stoop, Jocelyn Rae, Jade Curtis and Jade Windley also represent Great Britain in the main draw which kicks off at the Welti Tennis Centre on Tuesday.

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Guernsey's Heather Watson into main draw in Canada

Watson won the US Junior Open at Flushing Meadows

Guernsey's Heather Watson won through to the main draw of the $50,000 Saguenay event in Canada by winning her qualifier on a tie-break on Monday.

Watson beat Latvian Alina Jerjomina 7-5 2-6 7-6, taking the third-set tie-break 7-5 in the final qualifying round.

In the main draw she will meet 21-year-old Canadian Valerie Tetreault, who is the tournament second seed and world number 133.

The hard-court surface they will play on is a favourite with both players.

Watson received a bye in the first round of qualifying and defeated 17-year-old Canadian Priscila Nunez 6-0 6-1 to reach the third and final round.

The Guernsey teenage is on a great run of form after winning the US Junior Open at Flushing Meadows.

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Spain and Czechs through to final

Spain will host the Czech Republic in the Davis Cup final in December after both countries won their semi-finals.

Tommy Robredo and Feliciano Lopez beat Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram 7-6 6-7 6-4 6-2 to put Cup holders Spain 3-0 up against Israel in the best-of-five tie.

Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych sealed the Czech Republic's win over Croatia with a 6-1 6-3 6-4 victory over Marin Cilic and Lovro Zovko on Saturday.

And Roger Federer helped Switzerland beat Italy in the World Group play-off.

Stepanek and Berdych's triumph came on the back of singles victories for the pair on Friday when the Czech Republic opened up a 2-0 first-day lead in the semi-final, despite Ivo Karlovic firing a record 78 aces.

Karlovic broke his previous ATP record, but still lost in a gruelling five-set match to Stepanek.

In the second singles rubber, Berdych beat Cilic in four sets.

Earlier, champions Spain had secured a 2-0 lead over Israel thanks to convincing singles wins by Juan Carlos Ferrero and David Ferrer.

Ferrero thumped Dudi Sela 6-4 6-2 6-0 after Ferrer thrashed Harel Levy.

Spain went into their semi-final without injured top-10 pair Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco but that mattered little with Ferrer and Ferrero both impressing.

"It certainly wasn't as comfortable a win as it might have looked," said Ferrer, a 6-1 6-4 6-3 winner.

While Spain eased to a 2-0 lead, the Czech Republic only opened up their lead after a marathon day's play.

In total, Stepanek and Karlovic played out 81 games before the first break of serve at 14-14 in the decider.

During that time, Karlovic had sent down 78 aces, 23 more than his previous record in losing in this year's French Open first round to Lleyton Hewitt.

"I did my best, but Stepanek was there all the way," Karlovic said.m "After the loss, the serve record means little."

After sealing the decisive break and serving out for a match that lasted just six minutes shy of six hours, Stepanek said: "Everything is known about Karlovic. He really has a phenomenal serve."

In the second rubber, Cilic - who beat Andy Murray in the US Open - went down 6-3 6-3 3-6 4-6 6-3 to world number 18 Berdych.

Meanwhile, Federer helped Switzerland to a 3-2 win over Italy in Genoa to ensure World Group status for another year.

Federer had only just flown back to Europe following his five-set defeat by Juan Martin Del Potro in Monday's US Open final, but beat Simone Bolelli on Friday and then secured the decisive third point with a 6-3 6-0 6-4 win over Potito Starace on Sunday.

"It was a tough weekend for us and I'm happy I could help Switzerland win," said Federer. "I was able to play very well.

"I have to go on holiday badly. I have a problem with my leg, I have a problem with my arm - everything is hurting."

Other World Group play-off winners were Belgium, Chile, Ecuador, France, India, Serbia and Sweden.

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Andy Murray given leeway on Davis Cup

Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Roger Draper is happy for Andy Murray to miss future Davis Cup matches as the Scot focuses on winning Grand Slams.

Murray hinted after Great Britain's relegation to Europe/Africa Zone Group II that it might be time to give other players an opportunity.

The British number one won both his singles rubbers but could not prevent a 3-2 defeat by Poland last weekend, which relegated Great Britain to the Davis Cup third tier.

And after the contest, the 22-year-old Scot said: "If I'm fit I'll play in the matches if the captain or the coach really, really wants me to play.

"If not they could be looking to the future to try to give these guys an opportunity.

"It's not a huge amount of progress if I win my matches and then we come into this level again and go straight back down.

"We need to make sure the guys who come in are ready and experienced enough to deal with these sort of matches. Right now they aren't."

World number three Murray played in the tie despite carrying a wrist injury but it was rookie Dan Evans who contested the decisive fifth rubber against Poland's Michal Przysiezny and the 19-year-old looked out of his depth as he lost 6-2 6-1 7-5.

And Draper added of Murray's suggestion that he might not play in Europe/Africa Zone Group II: "I'd completely understand why he'd be making those decisions because at the end of the day Andy should be focusing his attentions on winning Grand Slams.

"The choice is down to Andy Murray. Of course we'd love him to play for his country, but the reality is that Andy is at a different level now and it may be a fantastic opportunity to start blooding some of these players.

"Now may be the time to get some of these youngsters battle-hardened in tougher environments but you always want to open the door for Andy to play."

The second highest ranked British male player is James Ward (189), followed by Josh Goodall (235), Alex Bogdanovic (247) and Evans (303).

And team captain John Lloyd has already stated that more determination is required to develop a winning mentality.

"Do we need more hunger and steel out there? Yes we do," he said. "And maybe going down, we're going to be more ruthless with who we cut out of things.

"We can get tougher no doubt about it. I think if we do it the right way and dump some guys who should not, and will not be involved in teams if I'm around, I think we can get a good spirit going."

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Nadal pulls out of Thailand Open

World number two Rafael Nadal has pulled out of next week's Thailand Open as he continues to recover from an abdominal injury.

The Spaniard, 23, suffered a heavy defeat by Juan Martin del Potro in his last outing in the US Open semi-finals.

Nadal was hampered by the injury at Flushing Meadows and withdrew from the Spanish squad that beat Israel to reach the Davis Cup final.

"The injury needs to be taken care of," said Nadal who must rest for 10 days.

An ultrasound found Nadal has an "acute rupture of his right abdominal muscle".

"I'm very disappointed not to be able to play in Bangkok," added Nadal.

"I'm really looking forward to playing next year in Thailand where I have a very loyal and big fan base."

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

India wins Compaq Cup - Cricket

Sachin Tendulkar’s century, Harbhajan Singh’s five-wicket haul and the magnitude of the target (320 in 50 overs) ensured that India won the Compaq Cup final against Sri Lanka here on Monday night.

Although India was given a fright by Sri Lanka, M.S. Dhoni’s men had but to hold their nerve; this they managed, and, despite fielding incompetently, dispelled the memory of Saturday’s mortifying defeat.

The memory hovered, however, for much of Sri Lanka’s innings. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Sanath Jayasuriya, both of whom are ever open to adventure, began Sri Lanka’s chase in a flurry of boundaries.

Harbhajan, introduced in the eighth over, provided the opening, quickening his pace to puncture Dilshan’s attempted stroke to off. The off-spinner then tricked Mahela Jayawardene in flight to procure a return catch.

When Ashish Nehra, unsteady under the high ball, kept his head to catch Jayasuriya off Yusuf Pathan, India had the whip hand. But Sri Lanka didn’t give up.

Although neither Thilan Thushara nor Angelo Mathews stayed long, Sri Lanka remained close to the required run rate thanks to its start. And with Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Kandamby batting sensibly, the host wasn’t out of it.
Freak dismissal

A freak dismissal appeared to alter matters: Sangakkara lost hold of his bat, which descended in a gentle parabola on the stumps. India had an opportunity to seal the contest, but Yusuf dropped Kandamby (37) off Yuvraj Singh. The left-hander allied again with Chamara Kapugedera, raising 70 for the seventh wicket, heightening India’s anxiety with every run.

But the batsmen couldn’t sustain the partnership. Suresh Raina had Kapugedera caught behind, Harbhajan bowled Kandamby, and India’s breathing grew easy. Harbhajan soon had his fifth: Ajantha Mendis stumped by country mile.


India: (for five wkts. in 50 overs) 319.

Fall of wickets: 1-95 (Dravid), 2-205 (Dhoni), 3-276 (Tendulkar), 4-277 (Yusuf), 5-302 (Raina).

Power Plays: One (overs 1-10): 52/0; Bowling (11-15): 24/0; Batting (35-39): 33/1.

Sri Lanka bowling: Kulasekara 8-0-38-0, Thushara 10-0-71-2, Malinga 10-0-81-1, Mendis 10-0-70-1, Jayasuriya 9-0-43-1, Mathews 3-0-15-0.

Sri Lanka: T. Dilshan b Harbhajan 42 (29b, 9x4), S. Jayasuriya c Nehra b Yusuf 36 (29b, 7x4), M. Jayawardene c & b Harbhajan 1 (5b), K. Sangakkara ht wkt b R.P. Singh 33 (37b), T. Thushara b Ishant 15 (14b, 3x4), A. Mathews c Raina b Yuvraj 14 (11b, 1x4, 1x6), T. Kandamby b Harbhajan 66 (94b, 4x4), C. Kapugedera c Dhoni b Raina 35 (42b, 3x4), N. Kulasekara (not out) 9 (9b, 1x4), L. Malinga c & b Harbhajan 0 (1b), A. Mendis st Dhoni b Harbhajan 7 (10b); Extras: (lb-3, nb-1, w-11) 15; Total; (in 46.4 overs) 273.

Fall of wickets: 1-64 (Dilshan), 2-76 (Jayawardene), 3-85 (Jayasuriya), 4-108 (Thushara), 5-131 (Mathews), 6-182 (Sangakkara), 7-252 (Kapugedera), 8-264 (Kandamby), 9-264 (Malinga).

Power Plays: One (overs 1-10): 79/2; Bowling (11-15): 35/2; Batting (45-46.4): 11/3.

India bowling: Nehra 7-0-43-0, Ishant 7-0-51-1, R.P. Singh 5-0-34-1, Harbhajan 9.4-0-56-5, Yusuf 4-0-36-1, Yuvraj 6-0-24-1, Raina 8-0-26-1.

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Sachin Tendulkar returns to top 10 in ODI rankings

Riding on his fantastic performance in the tri-series in Sri Lanka, veteran Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar today returned to the top-10 of ICC one-day rankings, rising five places to seventh.

For the first time in 10 months, Tendulkar is among the world’s top 10 after scoring his 44th one-day century for India, earning his team a 46-run victory over Sri Lanka in the final of the tri-series in Colombo on Monday. Tendulkar scored 138 to lay the foundation of India’s winning total of 320.

Tendulkar, also the leading run-scorer in the series with 211 runs, had slipped out of the top-10 after the home series against England in November 2008 and had rested for the first three ODIs of the five-match series which India won 5—0.

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni leads the batting table from his vice-captain Yuvraj Singh who has achieved his career-best second place in the rankings for ODI all-rounders.

Yuvraj leapfrogged Jacques Kallis of South Africa, Jacob Oram of New Zealand and Andrew Flintoff of England into second place after scoring 80 runs with the bat and taking four wickets with the ball.

Indian openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have dropped two places each after both missed the series due to injuries. A player loses one per cent of his rating for every match he misses.

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Sachin dedicates 44th ODI ton to Dungarpur

Sachin Tendulkar plays a shot during the final tri-nation cricket series between India and Sri Lanka in Colombo on Monday. Tendulkar has dedicated his match-winning 44th ODI ton to Raj Singh Dungarpur, who headed the National Selection Committee, which selected the ace batsman for the tour of Pakistan, twenty years ago.

Sachin Tendulkar has dedicated his match-winning 44th one-day international century to Raj Singh Dungarpur.

Tendulkar made 138 in the final of the Compaq Cup against Sri Lanka at the Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, on Sunday. He was also declared the ‘Man of the Match’ and ‘Man of the Series.’

Twenty years ago, Tendulkar was selected in the Indian team for the tour of Pakistan by Raj Singh Dungarpur, the then chairman of the National Selection Committee.

“His (Tendulkar’s) selection went like a shot,” had said Raj Singh.

In a text message Tendulkar said: “I would like to dedicate this century (138, 133b, 10x 4s, 1 x 6) to Mr. Raj Singh. It’s (his passing away) terrible for us to recover from.”

Raj Singh, who held many positions in the BCCI, died last Saturday.

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Tulane and LSU end football series

Tulane and LSU have mutually agreed to end their football series after this season, Tulane University director of athletics Rick Dickson announced Tuesday.

The teams will play the fourth of what was to be a 10-game series on Oct. 31 at Tiger Stadium. The teams also agreed to play one final game in New Orleans on a future, undetermined date.

The Tulane-LSU series dates back to 1893, the first year of varsity football for both schools. LSU leads the series 68-22-7 and Tulane hasn’t defeated the Tigers since 1982. Tulane has suffered 17 consecutive losses since that time.

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For Serena Wiliams, the Pique of a Fine Career

If Serena Williams is genuinely contrite, she won't fight further disciplinary action from tennis authorities, even a six-figure fine or a suspension. The integrity of the sport demands a heavier penalty, and her acceptance of that fact would show that the code of conduct means something to her. For years, Williams has treated the game as a means to an end, but whether she actually gives a four-letter word about the greater good of it remains in question. This is her chance to answer.

It's sometimes hard to know what Williams believes in between her public facetiousness and canny media manipulations. She can seem to be just passing through tennis on her way to more fascinating things, such as clothing design or acting or MTV. She comes on like a bad Audrey Hepburn pose, batting her eyes and feigning vapidity as she chatters shop-til-you-drop sound bite nonsense. The awful irony of her threat to shove a ball down a lineswoman's throat in the U.S. Open was that at least it was a sincere expression of who she really is: a competitor of roaring fury. It was far more genuine than her tardy apology and offer to give the lineswoman "a big old hug" or her continual rationalizations that the lineswoman had it coming for making a bad call.

The only word we need to hear from Williams is "inexcusable." The only gesture we need from her is acquiescence to a suspension, the standard punishment in any sport for menacing an official. The International Tennis Federation is currently "reviewing" the tirade, but what is there to review? This isn't the Zapruder film, her lips were readable and her words were audible over the courtside microphones: She cursed and threatened physical violence. Thus far she has suffered a mere $10,000 fine. She has handbags that cost more. Williams should help the ITF out: She should call Bill Babcock, the man in charge of her review, and volunteer for a suspension because she wishes not just to apologize, but to atone, in the best interest of the game.

You don't win nearly a dozen Grand Slam titles without some kind of fierce commitment. But it's unclear whether Williams's commitment extends beyond herself. Does she subscribe to the underlying values of tennis? Does she care about the overall health of the game, does she wish for it to grow, recommend that others play it, and respect its admittedly hushed, old-fashioned standards of civility?

Williams and her defenders argue her conduct was no worse than that of some the sport's infamous others. But John McEnroe at his worst never crossed the line that she did, though he came close at the 1987 U.S. Open when he intimidated and cussed officials -- after which he was rightly suspended for two months -- and at the 1990 Australian Open, when he was tossed for similar offenses. As McEnroe himself said of such behavior, "I can't defend the indefensible."

There is a lot of dry-rotted old junk in tennis, and it's been a pleasure to watch Williams invigorate it. She has challenged its bigotry and conventional way of doing things and poked a finger in the eye of its stuffier pretensions, particularly its dress code.

But its code of conduct is not outdated junk. To the people who love it, tennis is an ethic. The relationship between muscles and morality in the sport is very clear, and it fosters exemplary sportsmanship, despite the occasional presence of a John McEnroe. That's because personal responsibility and culpability are part and parcel of the game. Junior players call their own lines "in" or "out" and act as their own judges. This grassroots honor system relies on the good behavior of stars such as Williams.

The game teaches command of yourself -- and it teaches that self-control is not just about you but about respect for others. It's why those words from Rudyard Kipling's poem "If" are engraved above the door at Wimbledon, about treating "triumph and disaster just the same." There are even better lines in the poem. How about, "If you can keep your head when all about you/are losing theirs and blaming it on you" Or, "If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue."

Williams has always played the game on her own terms, and for the most part admirably. She gives her all on the court, which is the ultimate form of respect. At times she's lost her focus, but that's because she insists on maintaining her outside interests and cultivating a career beyond tennis. You have to respect that too. There is something deeply interesting about her refusal to buy into the traditional myopia of a tennis champ. She declines to be obliged to the game. Her tennis ambition comes and goes like a huge gust of weather. That's just who she is. She's like a hurricane season.

The only trouble with Williams's fierce individuality is that it can come perilously close to selfishness. Her Open tantrum occurred in the heat of the moment, but it took her two days to properly apologize to the woman she humiliated. If you really care about the game beyond your own self-interest, shouldn't you watch the women's final and help promote it? Instead of doing a cameo at a music awards show, and Twittering your fans to tune in?

Anyone who struggles with his or her temper -- and you're talking to someone who's thrown her share of profane tantrums -- sympathizes with what happened to Williams and knows that her meltdown was an aberration, a brief personal failure in what Kipling calls "the unforgiving minute." But anyone with a temper also knows that it was a failure based in a kind of selfishness. People who lose their temper let their emotions, their urgency, their needs, trump everyone else's.

No one mattered in that moment to Williams -- not the lineswoman, not her opponent. It was an act of self-absorption. Williams is not wholly selfish -- her charitable efforts prove that -- and the episode was surely not a total reflection of who she is. But up to this point, she has seemed to think that what happened at the Open was all about her. This is a perfect opportunity for her to show she understands it's about others, too, and to give something back to the game.

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Del Potro's Open win a new chapter for tennis

Twenty-year-old Argentinean Juan Martin del Potro, aka "The Tower of Tandil," won his first major title on Monday at the U.S. Open, where he defeated Roger Federer in five sets. Here are five reasons why his victory changes the tennis landscape more than any win since Rafael Nadal's first French Open title in 2005.

1. He wasn't in awe of Federer. Most of Federer's opponents can't handle the pressure of playing a tennis legend. Pretty much every player on the ATP Tour considers Federer the greatest player of all time, and he's a nice guy, too. Everyone likes him and looks up to him. Not many players, unfortunately, seem to think they are worthy of beating him (Nadal being the exception). Del Potro looked feeble against Federer at the Australian Open earlier this year, when he lost two love sets to him in the quarterfinals, and he started out in similar fashion in the U.S. Open final. By the middle of the match, though, del Potro was playing with confidence and aggressiveness. Few men have been able to do this against Federer, never mind at the U.S. Open, which Federer had won five years in a row.

2. He came from behind. The last man to defeat Federer in a major tournament after trailing two sets to one was Marat Safin in the 2005 Australian Open semifinals. Only two other men have done this against Federer, according to Tommy Haas at the 2002 Australian Open and Jiri Novak at Wimbledon in 1999, when the 17-year-old Federer was ranked outside the Top 100. To do it on a stage this large shows how tough del Potro can be.

3. He won without his A-game. The U.S. Open final is the toughest major final in the sport. It's held the day after the semifinals, so the players are a bit more tired than usual. It begins in late-afternoon shadows, and often ends under the lights. This year, the wind was strong. Del Potro hadn't played at night the entire tournament and he plays a riskier game than Federer, which is more dangerous in difficult conditions. He missed far more easy shots in this match than he did against Nadal in the semifinals or, for that matter, in any other round of the tournament. Yet he kept his composure and made adjustments to his tactics when necessary. That's the sign of a champion.

4. He showed off a new weapon. Great players introduce something new to the sport. John McEnroe reinvented touch. Pete Sampras redefined the serve. Ivan Lendl brought fitness to a new level. Federer has super-charged the all-court game of yesteryear; Nadal makes the topspin of the 1980s look like slice. Del Potro's contribution is the hardest forehand in the history of the game (one was clocked at 110 mph). I've never seen a player who could consistently hit winners from four feet behind the baseline and wide of the doubles alley. If del Potro can continue to hit that shot, and even improve it, he'll be a threat to win every tournament he plays.

5. He can get a lot better. Del Potro is 20 years old and hardly in extraordinary condition. He can add muscle to his lanky frame and improve his stamina. He can refine his volley technique and his slice backhand. If he has the desire to do these things, he's going to be a great player for years to come.

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Stanford lobbied for Cubans to play in tournament

Financier R. Allen Stanford, who is awaiting trial on charges he orchestrated a massive Ponzi scheme, spent a half-million dollars in a lobbying effort to gain U.S. approval for Cuba to participate in his international cricket tournament.

According to Stanford's lobbyists, the Treasury Department turned him down. Treasury refused to confirm that, saying it does not comment on specific cases.

Interviews and documents obtained by The Press show that Stanford, a huge cricket aficionado, lobbied the Treasury and State Departments to approve his plan to include Cuba in last year's Stanford Twenty-20 Caribbean Cricket Tournament held in Antigua.

Stanford, a Texas native who lived in the Caribbean for many years, pleaded not guilty in June to charges of swindling investors out of $7 billion as part of an investment scam.

"Cricket is to the Caribbean as football was to the state of Texas when I was growing up," Stanford wrote in a 2007 letter to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces the trade embargo against Cuba.

For the sport of cricket to prosper, Stanford wrote, "we need to provide an environment for young, talented, up-and-coming players that will keep them motivated and interested in developing their careers."

He promised that the Cuban team and its players would receive any prizes on an in-kind basis, rather than in cash, "as we are mindful of the restrictions on any direct cash payments that possibly would be received by the government of Cuba."

Stanford pointed to Cuba's participation in the World Baseball Classic as a precedent. In 2006 the Bush administration reversed course and granted a special license required for Cuba to compete in the tournament, after Cuba promised to donate any winnings to victims of Hurricane Katrina. In Cuba, as in the U.S., baseball is huge but its bat-and-ball cousin cricket doesn't have much of a following.

Stanford, who has been knighted by the government of Antigua and Barbuda, signed the letter "Sir Allen Stanford."

Patsy Thomasson, who lobbied on behalf of the effort from the Washington office of the Ben Barnes Group, said U.S. permission was needed because of restrictions on Americans doing business with Cuba.

Thomasson said she knew the effort was a long shot.

"When somebody asked me to get involved with this, I thought this was never going to happen," recalled Thomasson, a former Clinton administration official. "I'm not a foreign policy guru, but I just know — I thought had there been a different administration it might have flown."

A lobbying report shows that Stanford's now-defunct company, Stanford Financial Group, paid the Ben Barnes Group of Austin, Texas, $500,000 over six months on "matters related to international cricket tournament" and for "economic development in the Caribbean, specifically the Virgin Islands." The firm is headed by former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes.

Kent Caperton, a partner with the firm who lobbied for Stanford, said the economic development component was aimed at fostering U.S. businesses investment in the Caribbean.

In December 2007, Stanford announced that the U.S. had blocked his request to allow Cuba to participate.

"We have been anxious to include the entire Caribbean in the Stanford Twenty-20 Cricket Tournament and I am extremely disappointed that Cuba will not be able to play," Stanford said at the time.

Recalled Caperton: "It was mostly reflective of the Bush administration's attitude toward Cuba. We never sensed anything other than that." The firm's relationship with Stanford ended this spring due to "Mr. Stanford's legal difficulties," Caperton said.

Trinidad and Tobago wound up winning the Stanford Twenty-20 tournament in February 2008. Then, in June, Stanford arrived in London to hype his upcoming $20 million winner-takes-all match in Antigua between England and his West Indies all-star team, the Stanford Superstars — which the Superstars went on to win that fall. Stanford, whose worth had been estimated at $2 billion by Forbes magazine, landed flamboyantly in England by helicopter, bringing millions of dollars in cash.

"This has a more charitable streak to it," he said. "I'm doing things with cricket in the Caribbean that I would not ever do in any other business, marketing or branding of the Stanford Financial name."

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Andrew Flintoff's rejection threatens test cricket

Andrew Flintoff may have unwittingly incited the break-up of international cricket. In the wake of his audacious decision to refuse an England contract and become a freelance player roaming the world in search of a game, it began to seem certain yesterday that other players would soon follow.

This will cause the dilution of Test and one-day cricket between countries if top players are unavailable, which would in turn lead to a slow, lingering but inevitable death as fans and sponsors turn away. The grim scenario has suddenly heightened the significance of two conferences in Johannesburg later this month n one for players, the others for administrators - and there will be serious talking which needs to yield swift verdicts on how cricket and its leading players are to be run.

Flintoff himself issued assurances that his rejection of an England increment contract, a second tier deal offered to him because of his retirement from Test cricket, did not lessen his commitment to England. The all-rounder, who is Dubai undergoing rehabilitation after knee surgery, made it clear that he has no intention of missing any England games should they clash with matches in the various Twenty20 franchise competitions he also hopes to be part of.

Although Flintoff has put all negotiations on hold while he recovers he is known to have been in preliminary talks with teams in Australia, where their revamped Twenty20 competition is to be called the Big Bash and South Africa, where the Pro20 is easily the most popular professional cricket in the country.

Sean Morris, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, said yesterday that other players would join Flintoff in rejecting national deals and that there may be a rash of early retirements from international cricket.

"I think there will be a lot of serious discussion in Johannesburg later this month among the parties and between the parties," he said.

"I can't overestimate its importance. In the space of a few weeks we have had two leading players withdrawing from components of the international game, Andrew Flintoff from tests and Ricky Ponting, from Twenty20 internationals.

"I think other players will, like Flintoff, reject contracts from their boards, not necessarily from England but from New Zealand, Sri Lanka and West Indies where the rewards are not nearly so great. If that happens then the teams they put out will not be representative. This can be overcome if windows are made for franchise Twenty20 competitions. We're only surprised that it has not been done before now and if it doesn't get done then the consequences down the line will be huge."

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Cricket to offer new unlimited plans with taxes and fees included in the advertised price

Cricket Wireless claims that its services will become available at 1,000 new distribution points at four of the largest U.S. "big box" electronic retailers before the holiday season, though the company has not revealed the names of the retailers at this point.

In conjunction with the deal, Cricket will offer two new $40 and $45 unlimited wireless plans, called PAYGo, exclusively at the retail locations. The $40 plan includes unlimited talk, long distance, and text/picture messaging. The $45 plan adds unlimited mobile web. Both plan prices include all taxes and fees, something that typically adds $5 of more to the cost of many monthly plans. The company will also launch an unlimited $50 Cricket Broadband plan for use with PCs, as well.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro dethrones Roger Federer in US

Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro ended Roger Federer's five-year unbeaten reign at the US Open in five dramatic sets to win his first Grand Slam title.

The 20-year-old sixth seed twice fought back from a set down to win 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.

Del Potro is the first man other than Rafael Nadal to beat Federer in the final of a Grand Slam tournament.

Swiss star Federer, 28, had been going for a record-equalling sixth consecutive title at Flushing Meadows.

American Bill Tilden achieved the feat in 1925.

But Federer found Del Potro, in a Grand Slam final for the first time, in determined mood as he became the second Argentine to win the US title after Guillermo Vilas, who was in the Arthur Ashes Stadium to witness his compatriot's victory.

"I had two dreams this week," said Del Potro. "One was to win the US Open and the other one is to be like Roger.

"One is done, but I need to improve a lot to be like you," he said, looking at the five-time champion.

"You fought until the final point. You are a great champion. I'm very happy to be here with this crown, with these people, on this court. This will be in my mind forever."

After a final that lasted four hours and six minutes, Federer said: "I would like to congratulate Juan Martin on an unbelievable tournament. I had a great one but he was the best.

"I would have never believed I could win five in a row here. It has been an amazing run for me."

He added: "I was two points from the match today. That's the way it goes sometimes. But I've had an unbelievable run this year. Being in all major finals and winning two of those.

"Sure, I would have loved to win those two as well. But the year has been amazing already. Got married and had kids, don't know how much more I want."

Federer went into the match on a 40-match unbeaten run in New York, his last defeat coming against another Argentine, David Nalbandian, in the fourth round in 2003.

He also held a 6-0 career record against Del Potro and was playing in his 22nd Grand Slam final, targeting a 16th major win.

However, Del Potro has rocketed up the rankings over the last year and pushed Federer desperately close over five sets in the French Open semi-finals in June.

His 6-2 6-2 6-2 demolition of Nadal in the semi-finals also left no-one in any doubt that he posed a real threat to Federer.

The question was whether he could handle the weight of expectation in a final that Federer has dominated since 2004.

The signs were not good early on as Federer converted his fifth break point of a lengthy second game with a beautiful forehand pass and went on to serve out the set.

Del Potro then double-faulted twice in succession at the start of the second set to hand over another break, and the 23,000 spectators groaned as one as it appeared the younger man was crumbling under the pressure.

It was not until the fourth game of the second set that Del Potro finally made some impression, but Federer saved three break points and looked poised for a two-set lead when serving at 5-4.

The match turned at 30-30 when Del Potro hit a magnificent forehand down the line that was called 'out' but overturned by Hawkeye.

A furious Federer protested to the umpire but there was to be no overruling the computer, and Del Potro then cracked another forehand winner to break back.

From 3-3 in the tie-break, Federer mishit a forehand return before Del Potro came up with two blistering winners and converted his third set point with another.

The sixth seed was now hitting the ball as he had done in his semi-final against Nadal, the power and depth constantly troubling Federer, but after breaking in game seven he allowed his opponent to level at 4-4 by dropping his own serve.

Federer served his way out of trouble in game nine, despite an angry exchange with the umpire over how long Del Potro was taking to challenge with Hawkeye.

Del Potro then appeared to hand the match to Federer in game 10, serving two double-faults in a row to give the world number one a two-sets-to-one lead.

Del Potro's fitness and ability to last five sets at the highest level had remained about the only question mark hanging over his game going into the final, and he was about to dismiss it for good.

Staring down the barrel at 15-40 early in the fourth set, he found two huge forehand winners to save, then broke to love for a 3-2 lead, only to see Federer level at 4-4 with some brave attacking play.

Federer was just two points away from the title in game 10 before Del Potro came storming back to earn break points in game 11.

But a pulsating encounter would require another tie-break.

There was more bad feeling over the use of Hawkeye but it was two missed forehands from Federer that allowed Del Potro to take the match into a fifth set.

It was the first time since Andre Agassi beat Todd Martin 10 years ago that the US Open final had gone to a decider, and the experience and fitness of Federer suggested he would start favourite.

However, the Swiss paid the price for playing to Del Potro's fearsome forehand too often, the Argentine breaking for 2-0 with yet another huge winner.

Federer had one chance in the next game to get back on serve but put a backhand long, and from then on Del Potro played nervelessly.

He reached two championship points on the Federer serve in game eight, converting the second when Federer hit a backhand long.

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Watson similar to Hingis - Sears

British teenager Heather Watson has been compared to former world number one Martina Hingis following her triumph in the US Open girls' singles.

The 17-year-old beat Yana Buchina to win her first junior Grand Slam title.

"Heather reminds me of Martina Hingis at that age," said head coach of women's tennis Nigel Sears.

"She is a well-balanced player who anticipates well, has great footwork and instinct for the game. She's a very complete, all-round player."

Although Hingis had already won four Grand Slam singles titles by the time she was the age Watson is now, the Swiss was considered a rare exception and Watson looks capable of going far in the women's game.

The British number one reached the last eight at the Australian Open junior event in January and won her first senior title at a $10k tournament in Frinton in July.

Watson, seeded 11th at Flushing Meadows, claimed a 6-4 6-1 victory over Germany's Buchina in one hour and 25 minutes, breaking serve on six occasions and making 58% of first serves en route to a commanding triumph.

She also beat number two seed Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand, the 2009 Wimbledon girls' singles champion, in the quarter-finals.

"I'm so pleased for Heather, she's been a good player for a while," said Sears. "This win - and the $10,000 event she won in the summer - will really help her to believe that she has so much more success to come."

Sears has overseen a steady rise in British women's tennis since joining the Lawn Tennis Association in 2006.

Anne Keothavong climbed to number 48 in the world before dropping back to 70th, Elena Baltatcha and Katie O'Brien sit on the cusp of the top 100 and Mel South is 151st.

Meanwhile, 15-year-old Laura Robson won the Wimbledon girls' singles in 2008 and is widely regarded as one of the most promising young female players around.

Watson's victory makes her the third British player in the last five years to hold a junior Grand Slam title after Andy Murray lifted the US Open boys' singles title in 2004 and Robson - a beaten semi-finalist in New York on Saturday - triumphed at the All England Club.

The right-hander from Guernsey has developed her game at the renowned Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida, which has produced world number ones such as Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Boris Becker, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova.

"At 12 I decided, because I live on a small island and there aren't many places to train, that I'd go to a tennis school, and we started to look around in England and France and Spain, and also we went to Bollettieri," stated Watson.

"When we went there, I decided that's where I wanted to go. The weather is very convenient. I like that there were a lot of people, a lot of competition, and just the structure of how things worked."

Watson is sure to now attract growing expectations, particularly given that at the age of 17 she will be expected to make an impact on the WTA Tour before long, even though she is presently ranked outside the world's top 700.

Watson's said she plans to play "mainly women's tournaments and maybe a couple of juniors", with a tournament in Canada first on her agenda before she returns to the UK for a $50,000 event in Barnstaple, starting on 5 October.

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Clijsters seals dream US Open win

Kim Clijsters completed an incredible return to Grand Slam tennis with a 7-5 6-3 win over Dane Caroline Wozniacki to claim her second US Open title.

The Belgian, 26, was a wildcard into her first Grand Slam tournament since 2007 after coming out of a two-and-a-half year retirement in August.

In that time she gave birth to a daughter, and so becomes the first mother since 1980 to win a Grand Slam.

She is also the first woman to win a major as a wildcard.

"This has been so exciting for me," said Clijsters. "This was not really our plan.

"I just wanted to start three tournaments just to get back into the rhythm of playing tennis and get used to the surroundings. So I have to thank the USTA for giving me the wild card to come back here."

Clijsters was playing only her 14th match and third tournament since ending her 27-month retirement.

As players need to have competed in three tournaments to gain a world ranking, the new US Open champion is without a ranking until Monday when she is expected to arrive inside the world's top 20.

And the fairytale nature of her victory was compounded when her 18-month old daughter, Jada, was brought down to the court to see her mother lift the trophy.

Not since Evonne Goolagong Cawley beat Chris Evert to win Wimbledon in 1980 has a mother won one of the sport's four major titles.

The match itself was an entertaining contest despite windy conditions that led to more errors than either player would have expected.

Clijsters' story had overshadowed her opponent, especially as the Belgian had beaten American hopes Venus and Serena Williams on her way to the final, but it was also a landmark day for Wozniacki.

The teenager, seeded ninth, was playing in her first Grand Slam final, having never previously been past the fourth round, and hoped to become Denmark's first major winner.

And after dropping her first service game it was the Dane who had the edge in the first set, twice moving a break clear as her measured retrieving game proved more effective in the wind.

Clijsters struggled to control her attacking instincts, making regular errors, and looked in trouble when she slipped 5-4 down, throwing a ball away in disgust as she did so.

But the 2005 champion, playing at Flushing Meadows this year for the first time since that triumph, managed to claw back the deficit and broke to love in game 12 to win the opening set.

That seemed to calm any nerves in a player who had lost four of her five previous Grand Slam finals, and Clijsters got the decisive break with a brilliant returning game to lead 4-2 in the second set.

The Belgian had suffered from nerves in big moments during the early part of her career but this time around she remained steady, battling back from 0-30 down in both her remaining service games before taking the win with a smash at the net.

A tearful Clijsters sank to her knees in celebration before heading into the stands moments later to celebrate with family and friends.

"I don't have words for how I'm feeling - I'm just glad I got to come back to defend my title from 2005!" she said afterwards.

"It's been so exciting for me, I just wanted to get back to playing tennis. The support I've received has been crazy.

"Even from the first round, how warmly everyone welcomed and embraced me. It helped me keep fighting and stay focused."

And she added: "We tried to plan Jada's nap time a little bit later today so she could be here. It's the greatest joy in the world.

"I can't wait to spend the next few weeks with her."

Wozniacki said: "She's such a great girl and I'm so excited that she came back.

"Unfortunately she beat me today but she played a great match and deserved this trophy."

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Andy Murray slips to third in rankings

Britain's Andy Murray has fallen one place in the world rankings to third after being overtaken by Rafael Nadal following the results at the US Open.

Murray was beaten by Marin Cilic in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, while Nadal reached the semi-finals.

The Spaniard was knocked out by Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro, who went on to win his first Grand Slam.

But Nadal's performance ensured he regained his world number two spot, behind beaten finalist Roger Federer.

Del Potro moved up one place to fifth in the rankings after his victory against Federer.

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Motherhood: a boon for the body?

Kim Clijsters made a fairytale comeback by winning the US Open on her return to Grand Slam tennis after giving birth to her daughter. Could child bearing actually be good for both body and mind, and should all new mothers be reaching for their rackets?

Clijsters' success has been seen as adding fresh credence to the theory that pregnancy can in fact enhance sporting prowess, at least among those who had some to start with.

She joins a short, but growing list of elite sportswomen who have pulled off impressive athletic feats not long after becoming mothers.

Few doubt that the demands of motherhood focus the mind as priorities are juggled.

But there is an increasing body of evidence that the biological changes of pregnancy may improve both physical and mental performance.

Blood supply

Pregnancy is itself a physical test.

Almost every organ of the mother's body works harder to accommodate the needs of the growing baby, and blood volume increases dramatically to carry oxygen to the womb.

Once the baby is born, the red blood cells created - rich in haemoglobin - remain in the woman's body for some time, potentially improving oxygen flow to the muscles.

This, in theory, could improve her stamina and the ability to train for longer.

At the same time, the hormone relaxin loosens the hips in preparation for childbirth, but may also give the athlete added flexibility, according to Dr James Pivarnik of Michigan University, who has studied pregnant athletes.

While the exact mechanisms and their impact are still the subject of investigation, the suggestion that pregnancy may have this effect is not new.

In 1988, the First Permanent World Conference on Anti-Doping in Sport included 'abortion doping' on its agenda.

This followed allegations - never substantiated - that East European athletes were being encouraged to get pregnant and abort their foetuses to improve their performance.

The ethics and anti-doping section of UK sport has also raised the issue of pregnancy as a means to legally increase the level of performance-enhancing hormones.

Mental manouevres

There is also the suggestion that the agony of childbirth increases the pain threshold, boosting the mind's ability to cope amid intense physical adversity.

This sounds plausible, although the jury is still very much out in this area. Some research has found that while the threshold may increase dramatically during labour, it returns to original levels in the aftermath.

A study from Bath University found women were wimpier than men when it came to pain. Females felt it sooner, and were able to withstand it for a shorter period.

Indeed it has even been suggested that it may be motherhood itself which makes women more attuned to pain, acutely conscious of any impending problem which could compromise their ability to care.

But on a similar note, it has been suggested that motherhood sharpens mental agility, making a woman more vigilant and alert - key skills on the court.

'Baby brain' or 'preg head' may be a convenient excuse for forgetting names and numbers, but in fact the hormone fluctuations during birth and breastfeeding appear to increase the size of cells in some areas of the brain.

Becoming Kim

For some new mothers feeling fatigued and fat, the suggestion that their bodies are now supercharged may seem risible.

A major review of studies published this summer found - at least when it came to losing weight - sensible eating rather than regular jogging was the key to getting back into shape.

But the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation says it hopes all mothers can draw some inspiration from Ms Clijsters.

"Our research shows that it's time pressures that stop women taking the exercise they want to," said Harriet Foxwell.

"At one level we need more sports facilities to provide child care. But we also need to find more activities to do with our children - swimming for instance is a good example.

"What was particularly moving was seeing Kim on court with her daughter. Exercise is something we should be able to do together."

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Aussie champ coming for 2009 Coast 2 Coast

Australian Multi-Sport champion Jarad Kohla

Australian Multi-Sport champion Jarad Kohlar will be skipping the defence of his title in that race in order to attend the 2009 Coast 2 Coast in Trinidad on October 17-18.

With just about six weeks to go to the event, local and international athletes are in training for the Caribbean's premier multi-sport contest and Kohlar is this year's top international entry.

The race, celebrating its fifth anniversary, will take place with a combination of stages that include trail running, cycling and kayaking, attracting athletes from all disciplines, with an expected increase in the number of cyclists and marathoners.

The course begins at the Toco Lighthouse on Trinidad's East Coast and ends at Williams Bay, Chaguaramas, on the western peninsula.

Local participants will test their mettle against regional and international racers. Competitors have the choice of entering either as an individual or a member of a relay team and for the second time, novices can enter single, shorter stages of the race without being intimidated by trying to finish the entire course.

For the last three years, Multi-Sport world champion, New Zealander Richard Ussher, has taken top honours in the race, beating out local athletes like diligent duathlete Diane Henderson, seasoned marathoners Clarence Tobias and Cantius Thomas and strong cyclists like Sean de Freitas, as well as other international athletes such as American Mitchell Figueroa, who has participated in the Ironman European Championship in Germany, and South African paddler Martin Dreyer, who has had experience racing in New Zealand's Speight's Coast to Coast-the most elite race on the international multi-sport racing calendar.

Prizes for this year's event include more than US$10,500 in cash for the winners in various categories. Those interested in taking part in the Tropical Power Coast 2 Coast 2009 can log on to to register.

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Weary Bolt looking forward to some rest

He swayed to the music of "Zorba the Greek" before his race, and afterward took time to sign autographs for a swarm of children at Kaftanzoglio stadium.

Now that his record-breaking season is over, Usain Bolt said yesterday he has one remaining priority: "Sleep!"

The Jamaican is looking forward to six weeks of quiet after he flies home to Jamaica today - following a season that saw the 23-year-old smash his own 100 and 200-metre records at the world championships last month.

Yesterday, Bolt added another easy win at the World Athletics Final, taking the 200 in 19.68 seconds. Wallace Spearmon of the United States was second in 20.21, and Brendan Christian of Antigua third in 20.65.

"I was running on fumes. That was the last race this year. ... It was the last energy I had," Bolt said. "I'm just happy the season is over ... I was really tired. Hopefully I'll get lots of rest. I'm not looking forward to any one thing. I just want to go home."

In Greece, Bolt skipped the 100 race on Saturday, but still did his best to be a crowd-pleaser. He visited a local school and ran onto the track at Kaftanzoglio Saturday just to make an appearance.

This week, he pulled out of meets in China and South Korea because of fatigue, stretching his break to six weeks.

"I usually get a month, so six weeks is even better," he said. "When you run 10 and a half months out of 12 months, you don't really miss running. ... When it's coming close to a race you think, 'Ah, here we go again."'

Instead of training, Bolt said he's hoping to enjoy doing ordinary things.

"I'm looking forward to playing video games, going to the club, that's pretty much it," he said. "I'm the kind of guy who stays home, plays music and chills out."

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Eric Murphy returns for Tobago Classic

Former three-time runner-up Eric Murphy is coming back to Tobago for the 2009 edition of the Tobago International Cycling Classic.

Murphy, who suffered a serious crash in the 2005 edition of the race, will again team up with local favourite and seven-time winner Emile Abraham.

Both will ride for Team BarCode in Division One. Also scheduled to ride for BarCode are Englishmen Pete Williams and James Sampson and Canadians  Danille Defrancheschi and Jean-Michel Lachance.

So far, eight other teams from Europe and the Caribbean have registered for the five-stage race which will be contested from September 30 to October 4. However, not yet certain to take part is last year's winner, Keith Blackgrove of New Zealand.

In addition to the international race, there will again be competition  in the juniors, masters and ladies categories.

Following are the confirmed riders and teams  in Division One:

Team Racing Students (Germany)- Christoph Kindle, Andreas Feistel, Michael Schweizer, Florian Geyer, Valentin Holtz, Benjamin Diemer, Jonathan Obländer.

Team SVL Sportassekuranz (Sweden)- Karsten Gerhard, Karsten Eggert, Jan Van Puifelde, Jorg Scherf, Axel Hauschke, Sebastien Mensebach.

 Austrian National Team (Austria)- Werner Riebenbauer, Franz Grasmann, Andreas Graf, Georg Tazreiter, Andreas Muller, Christian Lademann.

Team Saxony (Germany)-Erik Mohs, Sasha Damrow, Julian Rammler, Timo Scholz, Roland Wenz.Â

Team BarCode (Composite lnternational)-Emile Abraham- Trinidad and Tobago, Eric Murphy-US, Pete Williams-England, James Sampson-England, Danille Defrancheschi-Canada, Jean-Michel Lachance - Canada.

 Windward Islands (Caribbean)-Tyron Thomas-Grenada, Sydney-Grenada, Kurt Maraj-St Lucia, Sammy Joseph-St Lucia, Sydney Charles-St Lucia, Winston Williams-St Lucia.

Team Heatwave (Caribbean)-Guy Costa-Trinidad and Tobago, Marloe Rodman -Jamaica, Jude Bentley- Guyana, Steve McEwen- Scotland, Atze Dijkhuis- Holland.

 Team Trek (Caribbean)-Colin Wilson- Trinidad and Tobago, Linford Blackwood -Jamaica, Dean Martin- Jamaica, Oneil Samuel- Jamaica, Phillip Clarke- Barbados, Jason Perryman-Barbados.

Team Foundation (USA)-Joshua Alexander-Trinidad and Tobago, Adam Alexander-Trinidad and Tobago.

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WICB appoint new CEO

The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) confirmed Ernest Hilaire as its new chief executive officer (CEO) yesterday.

The WICB said in a press release that Hilaire's appointment becomes effective October 1, confirming an early September CMC story.

Hilaire replaces Donald Peters, who departed the post in July, and he will immediately confront the contractual crisis between the WICB and the players' union that has crippled West Indies cricket.

"The WICB is facing an extremely difficult challenge as it seeks to establish a new framework for the development of cricket in the region and Dr Hilaire is expected to be pivotal in shaping and managing the transformation which is required," WICB President Julian Hunte stated in yesterday's press release.

Hilaire becomes the fifth CEO of the regional cricket board in the last nine years, after Gregory Shillingford, Roger Brathwaite, Bruce Aanensen, and Peters.

"The Board of Directors is pleased to welcome Dr. Hilaire as CEO and looks forward to a period of stability and organisational growth and development under his leadership," Hunte added.

Hilaire has had a very close relationship with West Indies cricket, particularly in the last few years, when he served as CEO of World Cup St Lucia.

He had played an important role in the development and presentation of St Lucia's bid to host matches in the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup and was previously appointed tournament director of next year's Twenty20 World Cup to be staged in the Caribbean.

He was also a former Permanent Secretary of Youth and Sports in St. Lucia, under the Kenny Anthony Administration, during whose tenure the Beausejour Cricket Ground in Gros-Islet and the George Odlum Stadium in Vieux Fort were constructed.

Hilaire is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and possesses an MPhil. (Master of Philosophy) in International Relations from the University of Cambridge, and a PhD from the London School of Economics.

The post was reported to have attracted more than 30 applicants from the Caribbean, the United States, and from as far way as New Zealand.

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Paraguay coach wary of U-20s

Paraguay's national Under-20 team head coach Adrian Coria says he will not make the mistake and underestimate Trinidad and Tobago when both teams clash in Cairo at the FIFA Under 20 World Championship on October 1.

In a recent interview, Coria spoke of his team's readiness for the upcoming tournament, noting that his team had already beaten T&T 4-1 in an invitational tournament in Venezuela some weeks ago. But he changed his assessment of the junior "Soca Warriors" following their narrow 3-2 loss to Brazil a few days later after being ahead 2-0.

"We played them (T&T) in a six-team tournament in Venezuela and won 4-1," said the Argentina-born Coria. Â

"I didn't think much of their football that day, but they were a totally different side against Brazil a few days later. They played with a lot of skill and created a lot of chances."

Commenting further on his team, Coria added: "We had to go and look for players in the lower leagues because there weren't any in the first division. Then, when we went to Venezuela, we had very little idea how we would respond in a competition like that. Even so, things worked out well for us and we managed to qualify for Egypt and finish runners-up, something we really deserved."

Thanks to their performances at the continental championship, several of Coria's charges have opened up exciting new career horizons.

"It was amazing because quite a few of the players went off to Europe, Argentina and Mexico after the tournament," Coria continued.

When T&T and Paraguay faced each other, Germany-based striker Jamal Gay was not in the line-up. But the big striker along with Belgium-based midfielder Khaleem Hyland have joined up, giving a boost to Zoran Vranes' squad. And Gay says he wants to help T&T try and erase some of the disappointment of not advancing to South Africa 2010.

"That was a big disappointment for me, finding out while we were in Turkey that we lost out on qualifying for South Africa," Gay told TTFF Media after a double session with T&T in Lanarca yesterday.

"I was part of that team last year and it hurt but now I am really happy that I have the chance to go on and represent us at the Under 20 World Cup. It's a great opportunity to move on from here."

He added: "I've settled in easily because I have been around some of the guys before. We have a good chance of doing well but we have to play and work hard on the day of the games. We have to avoid silly mistakes.

"I have scored three goals in games since I joined the team but I have to work harder because it's going to be really tough in Egypt. We can create history and there is a massive opportunity out there for us to take our game to a higher level. Everyone from across the world will be looking at the opening game so we have to make it count" Gay added.

Commenting on his experience in Germany, Gay added that it has been no easy sailing with Second Division club Rot Weiss Oberhausen.

"It's good to be training and playing among and against very good players. There are better strikers at the club, so it means I have to work harder and score more goals to get a start. I'm making good use of my opportunities and I score whenever I get a chance in the training games but there are better strikers who start ahead of me in the League games."

Gay noted that he will be missing a Cup encounter against German giants Bayern Munich this coming week.

"I scored four goals in a practice game before I came to join the national team. The coach was happy but he still preferred the other strikers. We play Bayern Munich in the German Cup second round next week but for me, being with my national team is more important," Gay said

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