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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sri Lanka postpones IPL-style tournament

The inaugural Sri Lanka Premier League has been postponed to next year following the withdrawal of the Indian cricketers, the island nation's sports minister told

"The company which is organising (the tournament) said financially they are not in a shape to organise this without the Indian players," sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said.

Twelve Indian players were set to participate in the July 19-August 4 event modelled on the successful Indian Premier League (IPL) but were denied permission by the Indian cricket board (BCCI) that eventually led to the tournament's postponement less than a fortnight before the proposed start.

Aluthgamage had earlier said the BCCI's opposition stemmed from their suspicion that former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi, who was sacked on financial irregularity charges, was behind the tournament.

Sri Lanka Cricket's media manager Brian Thomas said once the Indian players had withdrawn, it was difficult to go ahead with the event.

"We thought we can't do a tournament of this magnitude (in absence of the Indian players). It is not a financial issue, it's a logistical problem."

Aluthgamage said the league would be replaced by a domestic tournament.

"The board is meeting today to discuss this and they will have the tournament without the foreign players, similar to the one held last year."

West Indian Kieron Pollard, Pakistan's Shahid Afridi and New Zealand's Daniel Vettori were among the foreign players recruited for the Twenty20 tournament.

Courtesy : Reuters

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Lionel Messi match will take place: AIFF

The All India Football Federation today tried to put an end to confusion surrounding the high profile International friendly between Argentina and Venezuela to be played here, saying a few decks needed to be cleared so that Lionel Messi could be seen in action on September 2.

AIFF general secretary Kushal Das said that the FIFA made a 'mistake' by posting the details of the match on its website since the friendly was yet to be sanctioned by the world governing body.

"There is no reason why the match would not be held. But FIFA has done a mistake by putting the details on the website, something they have admitted," Das said.

"Event manager Celebrity Management Group (CMG) will write us a letter about the match highlighting the details about the progress and then we will officially invite the Argentine and Venezuelan federations. Only then an official sanction from FIFA will be granted.

"For the first time we are hosting a match at such a big scale. We want to examine everything so that it's conducted smoothly. The right process has to be followed," he added.

After a prolonged meeting with CMG and Indian Football Association (IFA) officials, Das also expressed concerns over the sorry state of affairs at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan that needed to be revamped urgently.

The AIFF general secretary also pointed out that the artificial turf at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan, where the match would be held, have to be improved on an urgent basis.

"Improving the turf is a priority. But at the same time there are some other areas like the logistical support, ground condition, security, crowd and media management, which will also be our concern," he said.

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Spain's Fernando Alonso wins British GP for Ferrari

Spain's Fernando Alonso won the British Grand Prix on Sunday for Ferrari's first victory of the season on the 60th anniversary of their first success in Formula One.

The win, gifted to him by Red Bull after world champion Sebastian Vettel was slowed by a wheelnut problem at his second pitstop, was the 27th of Alonso's career and lifted him level with the great Jackie Stewart in fifth position in the all-time lists.

Australian Mark Webber, who had started on pole position, finished third for Red Bull after trying to pass his team mate on the penultimate lap and then being told to maintain his position.

"I had two laps today with that (1951) car before the parade," said Alonso of Argentine Jose Froilan Gonzalez's historic Ferrari.

"Now 60 years later in the same circuit, with the same atmosphere and the same passion, winning again. I'm very made a special day."

Vettel had hoped to chalk up a seventh win in nine races but still extended his overall lead over Webber, last year's winner at Silverstone who has yet to lead a lap this season, to 80 points from a previous 77.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton entertained the fans by roaring from 10th on the grid to fourth, banging bodywork in a furious battle with Ferrari's Felipe Massa -- who was forced wide -- at the final corner.

Alonso took the lead on the 28th of the 52 laps when he pitted right behind Vettel, who had grabbed the lead off the grid. As the German's crew battled with the wheelgun, the Spaniard slipped past and was gone.

"It's hard to say how much we lost but surely we lost the lead. I think we had quite a cushion at that stage," said Vettel, who has still dropped only 21 points out of a possible 225, of the pitstop drama.

"I think you have to accept fair and square that Ferrari beat us today...I think it shows us that we have to keep working and pushing very hard."

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner recognised afterwards that "obviously Mark disagreed" with the order not to pass Vettel.

McLaren's Jenson Button's home-race jinx continued with the 31-year-old's hopes also wrecked by a wheelgun when he was waved away before the right front nut had been secured 12 laps from the end.

With the wheel wobbling wildly, he parked up at the pit lane exit and walked back to the garages without speaking to reporters.

The Briton has never yet stood on the F1 podium at Silverstone in 12 attempts.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pankaj Advani, Geet Sethi & Alok Kumar for world billiards

Pankaj Advani, Alok Kumar and Geet Sethi will represent India at the World Billiards Championship which will commence in Carlow, Ireland, from August 23.

The trio was selected following the overall ranking of three camps, which were held in Pune, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. Advani ended his campaign with a top billing, while Alok and Sethi finished second and third respectively.

On the final day of the Z Camp held here at KSBA Hall, Advani beat Dhruv Sitwala 3-1, while Sethi overcame a deficit of losing the first frame 29-151 to beat Alok 3-1 in a crucial game. The experienced Sethi was on top of his game in his second game on Tuesday where he fought Sitwala’s challenge with brilliant potting to win 3-1.

The match was fought intensely and it could have gone either way with Sitwala gaining his momentum in the second frame by winning the frame 151-123, which included a break of 77. But Sethi battled it out relentlessly to win the following frames 152-32, 150-64 to qualify.

Alok, on the other hand, mostly known for his heroics in pool, has shown tremendous growth in his game in all forms including billiards. He had shocked Advani in the National Championship as well as Asian Billiards

Championship to win the title and since then he has continued to stay in lethal form. Despite losing both his matches to Sethi and Advani, Alok stayed in contention thanks to his performance in the previous camps. Meanwhile, though, Rupesh Shah showcased a determined game throughout camp Z to finish second, it was not sufficient to earn the World Championship berth as he is placed fifth in the overall ranking.

“I was quite optimistic of qualifying but it was hard luck I guess because I played good games here,” stated Shah.
KSBA will host the snooker camp starting July 6 between Advani, Kamal Chawla, IH Manudev and Manan Chandra.

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Sourav Ganguly appointed vice-chairman of WB Sports Council

The West Bengal government on Wednesday reconstituted the Sports Council by inducting former India captain Sourav Ganguly as one of its its vice-chairmen.

Ganguly will work alongside former footballers Gouranga Banerjee, Compton Dutta, international paddler Poulami Ghatak and GM Dibyendu Barua.

"We are trying to bring everybody from all disciplines to revive the sports in Bengal," sports minister Madan Mitra told reporters while announcing the reconstitution of the Sports Council.

It was also decided to divide the council into two committees -- advisory board and working committee. Both would be headed by Mitra.

The advisory board will have eight vice-chairmen including hockey Olympians Gurbux Singh and Dr Vece Paes, football Olympian Chuni Goswami and Dronacharya awardee Syed Nayeemuddin.

The advisory board will also have former Test cricketer Arun Lal, footballers Shyam Thapa and Subrata Bhattacharya.

Former Indian football captain P K Banerjee and Leslie Claudius will be members in the working committee which will have representation from various sports

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tiger Woods injured and ruled out of Open Championship

Former world number one Tiger Woods has confirmed he will miss this month's Open Championship at Sandwich because of his troublesome left leg injury.

The 35-year-old has not played competitively since suffering a recurrence of the injury at the Players Championship in mid-May.

"Unfortunately, I've been advised that I should not play in the British Open," Woods said on his official website.

Woods has 14 major titles, four short of the record held by Jack Nicklaus.

Despite slipping to 17th in the current world rankings, Woods insisted: "I think my best years are still ahead of me and I'm very confident and optimistic about the future.

"I am only going to come back when I'm 100% ready. I do not want to risk further injury.

"In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have competed at the Players, but it's a big event and I wanted to be there to support the tour. I've got to learn from what I did there and do it right this time and not come back until I'm ready."

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Sanya Richards-Ross setting sights high for Birmingham

World 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross is looking to use her appearance at the Birmingham Grand Prix to prepare for her World title defence in August.

The 26-year-old American lost the whole of the 2010 season to injury after taking gold in Berlin the year before.

After appearing in Birmingham on 10 July, she will travel to South Korea for the World Championships in August.

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Sanya Richards-Ross setting sights high for Birmingham

World 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross is looking to use her appearance at the Birmingham Grand Prix to prepare for her World title defence in August.

The 26-year-old American lost the whole of the 2010 season to injury after taking gold in Berlin the year before.

After appearing in Birmingham on 10 July, she will travel to South Korea for the World Championships in August.

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David Lloyd wants improved Andy Murray image

Former Davis Cup captain David Lloyd believes Andy Murray's chances of winning a major will improve if he works on his serve and his image.

The Englishman also says Murray should prioritise participation in the Davis Cup to build a sense of achievement.

"If you look at Nadal, Djokovic and Federer when they come on the court, they have a demeanour," said Lloyd.

"They are exceptionally well-dressed and clean-shaven. Andy doesn't come on like that."

Murray lost out in this year's Wimbledon semi-final to Rafael Nadal and was runner-up in the Australian Open final, but Lloyd felt the criticism of the British number one was unjustified.

He pointed to Murray's serve as a weakness in his game but refused to concede that the Scotsman had let the nation down.

"I think the criticism is unfair," said Lloyd. "Andy is a very good tennis player.

"He is definitely the third or fourth best in the world, but he's not quite as good as those three guys really.

"It's not that he played badly - I think what happened was his serve, his first serve, when that goes in, he can beat Nadal.

"If Andy is going to become that slightly better player - number two or number one in the world - he has to get more percentage of first serves. Then he can win a major. Otherwise, he's not quite good enough.

"He hasn't let us down - he played to the best of his ability - and it's a pretty good thing."

Lloyd also feels Murray's image sends the wrong message to his opponents and makes him seem weaker in crunch matches - and he should seek out a coach that is equal to the Scotsman's stoical personality.

"I know it's a silly thing, but mental stuff in tennis is so important," said the former Wimbledon doubles semi-finalist.

"It's a one-to-one game. If he could change his image a ilttle bit and go on with a little bit more fight. When players get to the third of fourth set of a five-setter, he's not going to be as tough mentally as them.

"He has great shots in him - one of the best back-hands in the world.

"I think he just needs a mental change and a change in his attitude. I would concentrate on finding a coach of real power who is not going to bow down to Andy and stand up to him."

Ahead of Friday's Davis Cup match against Luxembourg in Glasgow's Braehead Arena, Lloyd feels Murray should place a bigger emphasis on the premier international men's team event in the way Wimbledon champion Djokovic did as he inspired Serbia to a 3-2 win against France.

He also rejected any notion that Luxembourg would be an easy tie for Britain.

"If you would have thought of Luxembourg a year ago, it would have seemed easy," said Lloyd.

"But they've got Gilles Muller, who is a good player. It's not a slam-dunk.

"I think the Davis Cup should be one of the top things on Andy's list to play the Davis Cup. Put it up the calendar.

"If you ask Djokovic what his second-best moment was, I think you'll find it was winning the Davis Cup for his country.

"But I think he'll do great. It's great to be playing in Scotland, but it's not an easy match."

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Paul Collingwood joins Perth Stormers in new T20 league

All-rounder Paul Collingwood has become the first English player signed by Australia's expanded Twenty20 Big Bash League after joining Perth Scorchers.

The Durham man, 35, led England to the World Twenty20 title in 2010.

He retired from Tests after England's Ashes success in January, remaining available for limited-overs games, but was dropped during the World Cup and has not played for England since March.

He also recently lost the England Twenty20 captaincy to Stuart Broad.

Collingwood, a right-handed batsman, right-arm medium pace bowler and an outstanding fielder, is England's most-capped player in one-day internationals (197) and Twenty20 internationals (35).

He had knee surgery after returning from the World Cup, but was overlooked for the current one-day series against Sri Lanka.

"Paul is a brilliant leader of men who helped mould his country's T20 side into an exciting and ruthless combination, which culminated in their triumph in the final of last year's World T20," said Stormers coach Mickey Arthur, who has also coached South Africa.

"Being the first skipper to lead England to victory at an ICC men's event was a massive feather in his cap. He is a gutsy and determined batsman, a proven wicket-taker and is first class in the field."

The Big Bash League, which will begin in the 2011/12 Australian summer, will be contested by eight city-based franchises - including two each from Melbourne and Sydney.

It succeeds Australia's previous Twenty20 Big Bash which ran from 2005, featured the traditional six state teams - New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia - with occasional participation from overseas players, such as Hampshire's Michael Lumb and Lancashire's Sajid Mahmood in 2010/11.

However, the new franchises are able to sign players from any state, and field two international players per team.

Along with Collingwood, the other foreign players signed up so far include big-hitting West Indian opener Chris Gayle (Sydney Thunder) and former Pakistan all-rounder Rana Naved-ul-Hasan (Hobart Hurricanes), while veteran South African batsman Herschelle Gibbs will be a team-mate of Collingwood's at Perth.

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Tour de France 2011: Cadel Evans pips Alberto Contador to stage four win

Cadel Evans edged out Alberto Contador in a dramatic sprint for the line to win stage four of the Tour de France.

Evans triumphed in a photo finish at the end of the 172.5km rain-affected ride from Lorient to Mur-de-Bretagne.

The Australian withstood a late charge from defending champion Contador of Spain to pick up a second Tour stage win, with Alexandre Vinokourov third.

Thor Hushovd retained the race leader's yellow jersey as Bradley Wiggins finished 11th and Mark Cavendish 150th.

"I'm pretty happy," said Wiggins, who moves up from 10th to sixth in the overall standings.

"It's still early days - these stages are about staying safe and not giving too much away. The real stuff is still to come."

David Millar crossed in 22nd and drops from second to fourth overall, while Geraint Thomas was 29th and falls from fourth to seventh but retains the white jersey for best young rider.

"Those last 500m were hurting, I just had to hold the wheel in front of me," said Thomas. "It was a decent day for the team.

"This stage goes up, down, left right and there was a lot of stress in the bunch, a lot of fighting and it was a hard day with weather.

"I feel good. I've just been getting stuck in every day and doing my job. I'm enjoying it."

The stage came to life when a five-man breakaway began after 9km, with Johnny Hoogerland of the Netherlands leading the escapees over the intermediate sprint.

Cavendish took ninth place as Tyler Farrar - the winner of stage three - led the peloton over the line to take 10 points in the race for the green jersey.

BMC Racing and Omega Pharma-Lotto, riding for Evans and Philippe Gilbert respectively, were leading at the front of the peloton for much of the day, with Garmin-Cervelo - working for Norway's Hushovd - doing a turn in the final 30km.

Evans, like Wiggins earlier in the day, suffered a mechanical problem and had to be paced back to the bunch - an extra effort which may have affected the finale.

The breakaway was caught with little more than 4km remaining before the squads then battled for position at the foot of the final ascent out of Mur-de-Bretagne.

Contador attacked with 1.3km remaining and accelerated again in the finishing straight, but Evans overtook him to snatch victory on the line.

Contador punched the air in celebration, only for the still image of the finish to show it was his rival's success.

"It was so close I couldn't see who won it myself," stated Evans. "It was a really calm start considering the conditions and course. Towards the end it became really nervous.

"I had to change bikes with about 15km to go but my team carried me through and I managed to finish off the job. It was the other guys who won the stage today.

"My job here is to do classification but I'll take this very gladly. I'm so happy with the guys today."

Hushovd added: "I really had to fight, I dug so deep to stay with the climbers. I'm really happy I managed to keep the yellow jersey.

"What the team has done until now is incredible. It's a dream start and it's not stopping. We have to keep on going."

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Manchester City in no panic over selling Carlos Tevez

Manchester City are in no rush to meet striker Carlos Tevez's demand to leave Eastlands and are likely to ask in excess of £40m to consider selling.

BBC Sport understands Tevez's latest request to leave City has left chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak "sanguine" about developments.

The club believe they are in a position of strength over any potential Tevez transfer and are in no mood to plead with the striker to stay.

Tevez is contracted at City until 2014.

A spokesman said: "Carlos is a contracted player to Manchester City for another three years and we have had no offers for him."

Tevez, 27, asked City for a transfer in December and while it now seems inevitable he will eventually move on, City are relaxed about the latest twist and are determined he will only leave when the time and price is right for them.

City boss Roberto Mancini insisted recently that Tevez would stay after a proposed swap deal with Inter Milan for striker Samuel Eto'o fell through - but there is still no great shock inside Eastlands after Tevez made his desire to leave public once again.

The Argentina international wants to be reunited with his family - with Milan believed to be a favoured destination - but there is unlikely to be a swift resolution with City determined not to be railroaded into a deal by the player and his advisors.

City's stance on Tevez is hardened by the fact that he is on a contract reportedly worth in excess of £200,000-a-week, while there is no pressing need for cash to flow into Eastlands given the vast wealth of the club's Abu Dhabi owners.

The cost of any Tevez transfer will limit the market, with Inter Milan sporting director Marco Branca recently insisting the Serie A club would not make a move because they were unable to afford the wage packet he was receiving at City.

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Kevin Pietersen gives backing to skipper Alastair Cook

Kevin Pietersen has said Alastair Cook has his backing despite a shaky start to his time as England one-day skipper.

England trail 2-1 with two to play in their series against Sri Lanka going into Wednesday's match at Trent Bridge.

Pietersen said: "Cooky is in charge [and] it's vital that whatever decisions he makes, we back. That's got to be good for his confidence.

"To become a successful and confident captain, you want to have the backing of your players."

Cook began his tenure as Andrew Strauss's successor with a 110-run Duckworth-Lewis victory over Sri Lanka at The Oval.

But consecutive defeats have followed, by significant margins, at Headingley and Lord's.

Critics have questioned Cook's suitability as an ODI opening batsman - notwithstanding his century at Lord's on Sunday - with some insisting he and Jonathan Trott cannot co-exist in the same 50-over team at one and three in the batting order.

Their measured styles put the onus on the likes of number four Pietersen, Cook's fellow opener Craig Kieswetter and Eoin Morgan to score quickly.

But former England captain Pietersen said: "I have kept well out of it.

"Cook is a new captain, and the last thing you want to be doing is putting yourself out there saying 'this is what we need to do'.

"Decisions have to be made. I don't make any decisions; I'm one of the soldiers.
"I'm just happy to be playing and I want to be doing my own role better."

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Rangers close in on signing of Juan Manuel Ortiz

Rangers are hoping to complete the signing of Juan Manuel Ortiz from Spanish club Almeria on Tuesday.

The Spanish midfielder is in Glasgow for talks and should sign on the dotted line in the next 24 hours after a deal was agreed between the two clubs.

Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp has offered Rangers two players on loan.

Bongani Khumalo is a 24-year-old South Africa central defender and Jake Livermore is a 21-year-old midfielder.

The offer followed talks between Redknapp and Rangers owner Craig Whyte.

But it is 29-year-old Ortiz who looks poised to become Ally McCoist's first signing since he took over as Rangers manager from Walter Smith at the end of last season.

Ortiz, who arrived at Rangers' Murray Park training base on Monday, has spent four years at Almeria.

However, the Andalusian club's four-year spell in Spain's top flight came to an end last season when they finished 20th and were relegated from La Liga.

Ortiz was a graduate of Atletico Madrid's youth system but spent loan spells with Osasuna and Poli Ejido before heading to Almeria.

While at Juegos Mediterraneos stadium, the player also known as Juanma not only played in midfield but on both flanks of defence.

McCoist has so far been thwarted in efforts to sign Dundee United striker David Goodwillie, winger Craig Conroy, who joined Cardiff City from United, Aston Villa defender Carlos Cuellar and midfielder Neil Danns, who left Crystal Palace for Leicester City.

However, he has been able to secure several key first-team players on extended contracts.

Northern Ireland midfielder Steven Davis, who is entering the final year of his current deal, is the latest to be offered a five-year contract extension.

That was the length of deal signed on Monday by defender Steven Whittaker, while Scotland colleague Allan McGregor agreed a six-year extension to remain the number one goalkeeper at Ibrox.

Forward David Healy, utility man Andrew Little, left-back Sasa Papac and winger Salim Kerkar had already signed new one-year deals at Ibrox this summer.

Meanwhile, negotiations continue with veteran defender and captain David Weir.

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Novak Djokovic ends seven year Roger Federer- Rafael Nadal domination at the top

Novak Djokovic ends seven year Roger Federer- Rafael Nadal domination at the top

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Sania leapfrogs to doubles world number 2

The semifinal appearance in the Wimbledon women's doubles on Monday catapulted Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina to number two slot in the WTA Race to the year-end Championships.

Sania-Elena now have 4506 points in the list, headed by Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik, who have 6865 points. The top-four pairs compete in the prestigious year-end championship.

"The partnership with Elena has been great in the last four months, specially the Slams. When we started playing together last year at Dubai, and had somebody said that we will be number two after Wimbledon, we would have laughed," Sania told PTI from Dubai.

Sania has taken a three-week break from the circuit to recover from the injury in the left knee.

"It's (knee) sore since I am off the pain killers. I am recovering. Hopefully it will be okay after 10 days rest," she said.

Sania's first tournament after the break will be the WTA event in Washington from July 25.

The good show at the Wimbledon also resulted in Sania achieving the career-best doubles rank of 11, an improvement of three slots. In the singles though Sania slid to 63, a loss of three position, after a first round exit.

In the ATP rankings, Somdev Devvarman rose to career-best 63 in the singles. Leander Paes also improved his doubles rankings by getting back into the top-10.

He is placed eighth while his partner Mahesh Bhupathi is highest ranked Indian in the list at number five. Rohan Bopanna is at number 10, just behind his Pakistani partner Aisam-ul-haq Qureshi.

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Doping shame: Two more athletes fail test

The doping scandal in Indian athletics grew in proportion today with two more athletes, including the country's new golden girl Ashwini Akkunji, testing positive for anabolic steroids hours before the departure for Japan for the Asian Championships.

Apart from Akkunji, quartermiler Priyanka Panwar also returned positive for anabolic steroids in the dope tests conducted on June 27 by National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) at NIS Patiala, taking the tally of dope offenders to eight in the last few days.

The development is all the more shocking as Akkunji, who had won gold in Commonwealth and Asian Games last year, and Panwar were to leave for Japan for July 7-11 Asian Championships by an 11.30pm flight from Delhi along with 35 other athletes.

Athletics Federation of India has provisionally suspended both the athletes pending a hearing by a NADA disciplinary panel.

"It is sad to announce that two more athletes -- Ashwini Akkunji and Priyanka Panwar -- tested positive for anabolic steroids. We have provisionally suspended them. Next, they will be called for 'B' sample tests and then the necessary procedure will be followed," Dogra told reporters.

Akkunji and Panwar were named in the 4x400m relay team for the Asian Championships and Dogra said two other athletes in the 37-member team will take their places.

"We cannot send any replacement of the two athletes now but we will field a relay team in Japan. Two other athletes (besides Tintu Luka and Mrudula Korada) from the team will run in the relay," he said.

Ashwini was a member of the 400m relay quartet that won gold in the Commonwealth Games. She had returned with two gold in the Asian Games, winning the yellow metal in 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay.

Panwar's best international result was the bronze she won in the South Asian Federation Games in Dhaka last year. She had won a bronze in the 100m sprint in the National Games in Ranchi in February. She made it to the relay team after finishing fourth in the National Inter-state meet in Bangalore.

The same methandienone had been found in the samples of other CWG and Asian Games gold-winning relay quartet members Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose as well another qaurtermiler Jauna Murmu.

Another qaurtermiler Tiana Mary Thomas had tested positive for anabolic steroid epimethandiol.

Long Jumper Hari Krishnan Muralidharan and shot putter Sonia were the other athletes who have tested positive in the last few days.

With the dope flunk of Akkunji, three members of the Indian 4x400m relay quartet that won gold in the Commonwealth and Asian Games last year have tested positive.

Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose had returned positive for the anabolic substances in the tests conducted by IAAF on May 25 and by NADA during the National Inter-state Meet in Bangalore this month respectively. Only Manjeet Kaur remained out of the dope net.

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Somdev Devvarman reaches career-high 63 in ATP rankings

India's Somdev Devvarman reached a career-high 63 in the ATP singles rankings released Monday.

Devvarman, who reached the second round of Wimbledon where he lost to Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, gained five places.

In the doubles, Mahesh Bhupathi was steady at fifth position while his partner Leander Paes climbed three places to eighth.

The Indian pair, who reunited at the start of the year after playing with different partners for nine years, were upset in Wimbleon's second round by Arnaud Clement of France and Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic.

Pakistan's Aisam-Ul-Haq and India's Rohan Bopanna, who lost in the first round of Wimbledon, dropped one place each to occupy ninth and 10th positions.

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F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone declares Sebastian Vett

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has declared Sebastian Vettel as the best driver in the sport.

Ecclestone heaped praise on the 24-year-old, who just won the Valencia Grand Prix and compared him with F1 legend Michael Schumacher, The Mirror reports.

"Sebastian is in a position similar to Michael (Schumacher). He is the best right now. Each race weekend starts with a big question - who will be able to beat Vettel," Ecclestone was quoted as saying.
Ecclestone's remarks have come as blow to Vettel's archrival, Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton has already seen the Red Bull racer steal his records as youngest pole sitter, youngest winner and youngest champion. And at the last race in Valencia he scored his 16th victory to move ahead of the McLaren ace on that score as well.

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Liverpool appoint Kevin Keen as first team coach

Liverpool appointed Kevin Keen as first team coach on Sunday as part of manager Kenny Dalglish's reorganisation of his backroom staff.

The arrival of the 44-year-old former West Ham United first team coach comes after assistant manager Sammy Lee's departure from Anfield by mutual consent on Friday.

Keen spent his playing days with West Ham, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Stoke City, Macclesfield Town and Wycombe Wanderers before going into coaching.

He was caretaker manager at West Ham in their final match of last season following Avram Grant's sacking after their relegation from the Premier League.

"I'm delighted that Kevin is joining us to work alongside Steve Clarke coaching the first team squad. He has previously worked with Steve at West Ham and has a good reputation and a good manner about him," Dalglish said on the club's website (

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Hockey coach Michael Jack Nobbs gets down to business

He is here and all set to get down to business. India’s new national coach of the men’s hockey team, Michael Jack Nobbs, landed here on Sunday evening. He went straight to the Sports Authority of India Southern Centre, where he is said to have had discussions with the other coaches and Hockey India officials. HI director of coaching SS Grewal has also arrived and so has Walter Joseph.

Joseph, who flew in from Australia on Sunday, will detail out the training programme for the team and fly back after a fortnight or so.

Nobbs will get down to the job on Monday morning and address them. He is also expected to speak to the players individually later. As of now, the plan is to divide the players into three groups and subject them to speed and strength tests.

“We will see a lot of hockey in the next few days,” said Grewal, who is the camp coordinator and in-charge. “The coach wants the players to get down to action so that they can be assessed and given roles. We are waiting for exercise physiologist David John to come. When he comes, there will be more tests. We are looking at an eight-month plan to tell us how well the boys can peak during the Olympic qualifiers next year.

“After that, we will see about the formation etc and it should all be done in the next two weeks,” Grewal added. Meanwhile, Dhananjay Mahadik will probably go back from the camp for rehabilitation as he is also injured. Shivendra Singh and Bharat Chikkara will not attend the camp as they too are injured. It is reliably learnt that Shivendra had a shoulder surgery a few days back and will be out of action for a few months.

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Dope-tainted athletes Mandeep Kaur & Sini Jose shown the door

Dope tainted athletes Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose got the axe as Athletics Federation of India on Sunday named a 37-strong team for the Asian Championships starting on July 7 in Kobe, Japan.
Mandeep and Sini, members of the Indian quartet that won 4x400m relay gold in Commonwealth and Asian Games last year, were caught for doping for anabolic steroids in the dope tests conducted by the IAAF. Four more athletes also tested positive for anabolic steroids in NADA tests.

Another member of the Commonwealth and Asian Games 4x400m relay squad Ashwini Akkunji, who also won gold in the 400m hurdles in Asian Games, has been named in the team.
In the absence of Mandeep, Sini and Manjeet, who has been also left out of the team, national record holder in 800m Tintu Luka has been named in the 4x400m relay squad besides being selected in her pet event.

Priyanka Panwar and Mrudula Korada were the other two named in the 4x400m relay squad. Ashwini will also run in the 400m and 400m hurdles.

Commonwealth Games gold medallist discus thrower Krishna Poonia, Asian Games gold medallist long distance runner Preeja Sreedharan and Kavita Raut also made it to the team.

Also in the team, which had 16 women, are Asian Games 3000m steeplechase gold winner Sudha Singh and the country’s top long and triple jumpers MA Prajusha and Mayookha Johny.
Asian Games 400m hurdle gold medallist Joseph Abraham, national record holder discus thrower Vikas Gowda, top shot putters Om Prakash and Saurabh Vij will lead the challenge among men.

Meanwhile, NADA director general Rahul Bhatnagar said that results of samples of a few athletes are yet to come, including that of Akkunji.

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Cristiano Ronaldo plans to stay at Real Madrid to win Champions League

Cristiano Ronaldo, who wishes to return to England and the Premier League, is not leaving Spain yet as he is determined to achieve his current sporting goal to win the Champions League with Real Madrid.

Ronaldo, who left Manchester United for Madrid in an £80 million transfer two years ago, was flattered by Manchester City's overtures to him earlier in the summer.

Ronaldo said: "I think if I went from Spain it would be to the Premier League - but not now. First we have to win the Champions League. If I went back to the ­Premier League it would have to be with a club in the north west. I don't like London."

The Sunday Mirror reported last month how Ronaldo was being wooed by relatives of the super-rich Abu Dhabi owners of Manchester City, with claims that the Sky Blues would pay him £350,000 a week to join them.

There was no suggestion that the club had made a direct approach but that a third party connected to Sheik Mansour had sounded out the player.

Ronaldo said: "It's flattering to be offered like £20m a year - it's very good, but I spoke to my agent and I think it's better to stay in ­Madrid because this year we're going to be the best.

"This ­season we are going to be a big force. Jose Mourhino is staying at Madrid so I stay. If he went to Chelsea then I would have left. I would have gone to Manchester City. But now he's staying, I'm ­staying."


Rayna Saldanha, Saumya Vora shine for Maharashtra

Rayna Saldanha and Saumya Vora from Mumbai helped the Maharashtra swimming team to bag the overall Championship with 360 points at the sub-junior nationals aquatic championshipsthat concluded on Thursday at Laxman Singh Taran Pushkar swimming pool in Indore.

Nine-year-old Saldanha won the girls’ group IV (under-10) championship with 29 points, while Vora finished on top of boys’ group III (under-12) with 23 points.

Both Saldanha and Vora are trained by Smita Divgikar who considered their feats commendable. “Rayna is just nine, according to the regulations 10-year-olds are allowed to participated in Group VI, so she was younger than most of the girls in the competition. Saumya is 12 but faced taller boys, who could have been overage. In Maharashtra, the boys are tested at the KEM and Sion hospitals but many states do not do that,” she said.

Saldanha, a student of Billabong High School, trains at the Otters Club in Bandra. She won medals in seven of the eight categories with five golds and two bronze. She won gold medals in 50 meters butterfly, 100 meters free, 200 IM, 4x50 free and medley relays events, and bronze in 50 meters back stroke and 50 meters freestyle events.

Vora, from Gopi Birla Memorial High School, trains at the NSCI. He bagged gold medals in the 50, 100 and 200 meters free style events and helped his teammates clinch the silver medals in 4x50 free style relay and 4x50 medley relay.

Other medalists from Mumbai: Aryan Makhija - 2silver; Ishaan Jaffer - 1 silver; Muskaan Tolani -1 gold, 2 silver; 1 bronze; Neel Roy - 1 gold, 1 silver, 3 bronze; Neha Prasad - 1 bronze; Prashant Gokhle - 1 silver;1Bronze and Teesta Rawal -1 silver.

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Wimbledon: Bryan brothers equal record with 11th grand slam title

American twins Bob and Mike Bryan claimed their 11th grand slam doubles title together at Wimbledon on Saturday after beating Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau 6-3 6-4 7-6.

The 33-year-olds are now the most prolific men's doubles duo in grand slams along with Australian double-act Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde.

"This is a Wimbledon title. This is as special as it gets," Mike told reporters. "I always thought we'd play our best at Wimbledon, and we've lost three heart-breaking finals.

"To get on that board again, to have two Wimbledon titles, is really special. And then to equal the Woodies, a team that we idolised, the greatest team in our mind, is unbelievable. I mean to get their title record and get the grand slam record, I mean, I'm trying to figure out what's left. I mean, we'd love to try to get to 12 and do that at the US Open. But those guys have been really gracious. They're the first to come up to us and congratulate us."

The Bryans, who have now won a record 73 doubles titles in tandem, were appearing in their fifth Wimbledon final having lost three of the previous four.

With doubles specialists generally able to play much longer than their singles counterparts, the Bryans have set no limits on how many trophies they can win together.

"We'll keep going," Bob said. "We see our time out here as I think five or six more years. You look at (Daniel) Nestor.He's 39, almost turning 40. The guy's just having a great time still and he's playing well. I think we're going to milk it as long as we can."

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Maria Sharapova's seven-year wait to wimbledon 2011final

Seven years after a surprise victory at Wimbledon at age 17, Maria Sharapova is back in the final, this time as a three-time winner in grand slams and the heavy favourite on Saturday.

Petra Kvitova is preparing for her first slam final. The 21-year-old Czech might be dreaming of a debut like that of her Russian rival, who overpowered the top-seeded Serena Williams 6-1, 6-4 in 2004 to establish herself as a precocious star of the women's game.

The seven-year gap between Wimbledon finals might surprise some, but it is not something that troubles Sharapova.

"You obviously hope that you can be in the final stages every single year, but I guess it's just not meant to happen," she said yesterday. This is the year I'm supposed to be back in the final. I don't know why. I'm not going to question it."

Since 2004, Sharapova has added the 2006 US Open and the 2008 Australian Open titles.

She also has recovered from shoulder surgery in October 2008 that took her off the singles court for nearly 10 months and necessitated a change in her service motion when she returned to action.

Her first slam final since the surgery is the sort of moment Sharapova visualised while nursing her shoulder back to health.

"I had time to reflect on my career and things that I've achieved," she said.

"But I think I was always looking towards the future more than anything than in the past because that's where I was trying to envision myself at some point, to be getting back out there."

Looking back to the 2004 final, Sharapova said she spent the day trying to recover from illness.

As she looked ahead to the biggest match of her career, Kvitova dismissed talk of nerves.

"No, I'm not nervous," she said. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow, for sure. I slept well. It's OK."

If Kvitova can hold her nerve, the final could come down to her serve. The left-handed Kvitova has hit 35 aces in her six matches so far and it was her serve that was a determining factor in her semi-final win over the fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka.

Sharapova managed to beat Sabine Lisicki despite 13 double faults and a first-serve percentage of 48.

Martina Navratilova, the last left-handed women's champion at Wimbledon, in 1990, said Kvitova "matches up well" against Sharapova.

"It's such a toss-up. It basically comes down to who serves better," Navratilova said. "Once the ball is in play, Sharapova has an edge with Petra. I think Petra will return better [than did Lisicki] and it will be easier for her to hold serve."

Kvitova has described the nine-time Wimbledon winner Navratilova as her idol.

"She's very sweet," Navratilova said. "It's funny because I haven't had that many players that said, 'You're my hero.' It's nice. I thought she was too young for that."

Kvitova had not won a match on grass before her run to the semifinals at the All England Club last year where she was beaten by Serena Williams.

Since then, she has won three WTA Tour titles and surged into the top 10.

She trained at the same club in the city of Prostejov as 2010 Wimbledon men's finalist Tomas Berdych. Martina Hingis, the 1997 women's champion, also practised there.

Kvitova said her parents are flying over from Prostejov to watch her attempt to become the first Czech woman to win Wimbledon since Jana Novotna in 1998.

Sharapova will again be supported by her fiance, the New Jersey Nets basketball player Sasha Vujacic, who has been at the championships throughout.

Seven years on from her 2004 victory, when she played like a carefree teenager, the 24-year-old Sharapova will go into the final with a far more nuanced perspective.

"I'm a few years older, more mature. I hope so at least," she said, smiling.

"You develop, not only as a player, but as a person as well.

"Obviously, a big part of my life is tennis, but at the end of the day I'm not going to be playing for my whole life. Next page

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Chennai and Mumbai in same Champions League group

The Chennai Super Kings, led by MS Dhoni, the India captain, have been grouped with Sachin Tendulkar's Mumbai Indians for the Champions League Twenty20 (T20) tournament.

The September 23 to October 9 competition, which will feature 10 of the world's top T20 sides, will be played in two groups of five with the top two teams from each group advancing to the semi-finals.

The tournament will be played in the southern Indian cities of Chennai and Bangalore, as well as Kolkata in the east.

Chennai will host the final and a semi-final, while Bangalore will host the other semi-final.

Seven teams from India, Australia and South Africa have earned given direct entries, while six others will play off for the remaining three spots in a qualifying tournament at Hyderabad from September 19-21.

The qualifying event will have two pools of three teams with the top side from both advancing, along with the next best qualifier.

The Kolkata Knight Riders, Trinidad and Tobago of the West Indies and the Auckland Aces of New Zealand will be joined by two teams from England and one from Sri Lanka in qualifying.

The Super Kings are the defending champions.

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal reach Sunday's Wimbledon final

There is no end in sight to Britain's wait at Wimbledon, not with Rafael Nadal of Spain smothering Andy Murray on his home turf once more.

But Novak Djokovic's wait to get to No. 1 in the world is certain to end when next week's computer rankings are released.

Djokovic's deeply convincing, deeply entertaining victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Friday's first semifinal means that for the first time in more than seven years, someone other than Nadal or Roger Federer of Switzerland will hold the top spot.

"They don't give you a lot of chances to become number one," said Djokovic, a 24-year-old from Serbia who is 47-1 this season. "So I guess you need to lose only one match in seven months to get there. If you can do that, then well done."

Well done then to Djokovic for absorbing all of Tsonga's power, showmanship and momentum on Centre Court and answering with plenty of his own to win 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-7 (9-11), 6-3.

"I can beat everybody today, but not Djokovic," No. 12 seed Tsonga said. "He was everywhere."

Djokovic and Nadal will meet in Sunday's final.

Djokovic has defeated Nadal four straight times, but top-ranked Nadal has won 20 consecutive matches at Wimbledon.

Though they have not met each other on grass since 2008, Djokovic is 0-2 on the surface against Nadal, who has won two Wimbledon titles.

Djokovic is playing in his first Wimbledon final.

"I think every child has a dream to become something in his life," he said. "We live from those dreams. Obviously I had a big support of my family and people around me that allowed me to have the opportunity to reach that dream, to reach the life goal."

Murray has yet to reach his major goals. Although he seems increasingly comfortable as the annual focal point of Wimbledon — cracking wry comments — he has not been able to give Britain its first men's finalist here since 1938, let alone its first men's champion since 1936.

Nadal beat No. 4 seed Murray 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.

Nadal said he was even feeling for Murray during the match.

"I'm not a robot when I'm playing; I think," Nadal said.

"He's the best player without a title of Grand Slam that I ever see."

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Sharapova's off day good enough for final return

Maria Sharapova, the glamour girl of women's tennis, showed she is not averse to winning ugly as she overcame some jitters to set up a Wimbledon final against Petra Kvitova on Thursday.

The 24-year-old Russian served 13 double faults on her way to a 6-4 6-3 defeat of Germany's Sabine Lisicki to reach the final for the first time since she burst into the spotlight by winning the 2004 title as a carefree 17-year-old.

Eighth seed Kvitova silenced the wailing Victoria Azarenka 6-1 3-6 6-2 to reach her first grand slam final.

Neither match will live long in the memory though after a day that did little to alter the perception that the women's game is struggling without the rivalries that have fuelled interest in the men's game.

Not that Sharapova was too concerned.

"It's a great feeling. It's been many years, but it's a really great feeling," said Sharapova, who has filled the vacuum left by the fourth-round exits of champion Serena Williams, five-times winner Venus Williams and top seed Caroline Wozniacki.

"Today wasn't my best match of the championships so I was real happy to get through in two sets. So yeah, it's pretty amazing to be back on that stage."

Czech Kvitova and Belarussian fourth seed Azarenka thrashed around for an hour and 44 minutes on the hallowed turf but their "heavy metal" variety of tennis hardly captivated a Centre Court liberally sprinkled with empty green seats.

The famous arena was still not full either when Sharapova, the only genuine A-lister to survive until the semis, strode out under cloudy skies to take on wildcard Lisicki.

For three games the fifth seed could hardly get the ball in court, struggling on serve, lashing forehands into the net and shooting panicky glances to fiance Sasha Vujacic as he tried his best to offer encouragement from the players' box.

She improved steadily but her progress to the final was helped by an opponent whose belief drained away as quickly as Sharapova ramped up the volume on the "grunt-o-meter".

When the ninth service break ended the contest, the long-limbed Russian blew kisses to all four stands and added an extra one for her boyfriend before aiming another at the sky in gratitude for the looming rain clouds staying away.

After storming through the draw without losing a set to reach her first grand slam final since her career was threatened by shoulder surgery in 2008, Sharapova will be odds-on favourite to collect her fourth major title.

"But the next match starts from scratch. Everything that kind of went before, that doesn't really matter," said the Florida-based Russian, who gets to enjoy a few of the perks of being a member of the All England Club.

Azarenka's defeat will at least help keep the volume down on Saturday as left-handed Kvitova is relatively quiet when she smites the ball over the net.

The Belarussian, whose sound effects again brought giggles from the crowd, was briefly drowned out by an alarm blaring across Centre Court at one point of the match but it was Kvitova's accuracy that was the real danger.

The first set whizzed by in 27 minutes with hardly a rally to speak of but Azarenka got a foothold with an early break in the second and went on to level the contest.

With similar playing styles, both smashing the felt off the ball from the baseline, there was a muted atmosphere in the stands as Kvitova pulled away again in the decider.

Kvitova completed victory on her second match point when Azarenka served a double fault.

"I think it was a nervous match for sure," Kvitova, the first left-hander to reach the women's final since Czech-born American Martina Navratilova in 1994, told reporters.

"It was tough mentally but it's something unbelievable to be in the final at Wimbledon."

Andy Murray's quest to become the first British man to win Wimbledon for 75 years takes centre stage on Friday when he takes on world number one and holder Rafa Nadal in the men's semis after Novak Djokovic plays Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

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Djokovic into Wimbledon final; to get No.1 ranking

Novak Djokovic cut down Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 6-2 6-7 6-3 on Friday to reach his first Wimbledon final and guarantee becoming world number one next week.

The Serbian second seed looked to be cruising to a straight-sets victory but Tsonga suddenly sprung to life in the third set, breaking Djokovic's serve to force a tiebreak which the 12-seeded Frenchman won 11-9.

But Djokovic held his nerve to secure an early break in the fourth set and Tsonga, who fought back from two sets down to beat six-times champion Roger Federer in the quarter-finals, could not respond.

Djokovic, now certain to knock Rafa Nadal off the top of the rankings, will play top seed Nadal or Briton Andy Murray in the final on Sunday.

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Sharmila Nicollet misses cut at Finnair Masters

Sharmila Nicollet missed the cut at the Finnair Masters, but said she learnt a lot in her maiden appearance this season on the Ladies European Tour.

The tall Indian pro shot rounds of 78 and 79 and her final nine proved to be her best with just one bogey.

Nicollet, who has been very successful on the domestic WGAI Tour where she topped the Order of Merit last year, said it was a great experience to play an event of such a high level.

Thailand's Titiya Plucksataporn, a top-10 finisher at the Hero Honda Women's Indian Open last year, and Anne-Lise Caudal of France set the pace with six-under par 65 on the first day.

Plucksataporn, 28, from Bangkok, established the clubhouse lead with an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys on a warm opening morning at Helsinki Golf Club.

Plucksataporn had a career best finish of fifth at the 2007 Ladies Masters in India.

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