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Cosmic’s tennis tournament

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Dec 21: It was a day that brought beautiful smile on the faces of proud children and equally proud parents. The reason was that all the young players of the Cosmic Sports Centre received certificates and trophies of having participated in the one month long “in-house” tournament.

The trophies were given away by Wing Cdr (Retd) Karan Rai, Director of the Cosmic Tennis Academy.

Cosmic Sports Centre conducted “in-house” tennis tournament every year. This year over 60 children participated in the tournament that was conducted over a period of one month from November 15 to December 15, 2006.

Wing Cdr Rai informed that the players were paired into separate groups according to their standard of play. The tournament was based on “Round Robin” pattern, where everyone played everyone else.

The tournament saw some spectacular tennis with “tops seeds” being toppled at early stages. All the participants were awarded certificates and trophies, said M J Charan, Director (Coaching).

Charan is one of the finest coaches of the country having International Tennis Federation Level-2 rating and being part of Professional Tennis Registry of the US.

Thursday evening was also a proud movement for coaches Amar Singh, Mumtaz, Umesh, Devinder, Bhagchand, Navin and Sunny as the young players achieved the next level of professional excellence.

Tennis tournament Pix

Cosmic Tennis Academy Karan Rai and Noyanika Arora
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Karan Rai and M J Charan Cosmic Tennis Academy Coaches
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Cosmic Tennis Academy


S Africa wins 2nd test match; level 3 match series 1:1

Dec 30: Unable to chase the score of 354 for a win, India was all out at 179 in their second innings on the fifth and final day of the second cricket Test against South Africa at Kingsmead ground in Durban.

Brief Scores:
South Africa: 328 and 265 for 8 decl.
India: 240 and 179 all out

India register historic Test triumph

WANDERERS, Dec 18: India recorded their maiden Test victory on South African soil by winning the first cricket Test by a comprehensive 123-run margin with more than a day and a half to spare at the Wanderers in Johannesburg.

The Indians sliced through South Africa's lower order with ease this morning to complete a rare overseas triumph which also marked a remarkable turnaround from a disastrous one-day series earlier on the tour.

Resuming at 163 for five and needing another 239 for a win, the South African innings lasted only 28.5 more overs before they were all out for 278.

After Zaheer Khan (3-79) dismissed wicketkeeper-batsman Mark Boucher (23) in the fourth over of the day, leg-spinner Anil Kumble ransacked the tail to end up with figures of 3-54.
S Sreesanth had done the early damage by claiming 3 for 59 yesterday to lay the foundation for the win. Shaun Pollock made a defiant 40 off 41 balls and added 67 runs with the other overnight batsman Ashwell Prince (97).

But with two days left, it was never going to be enough to resist India who have now taken a 1-0 lead in the three-Test rubber. Pollock's rearguard action eventually proved to be flickers of a dying lamp and his innings, that consisted six fours and a six, came to an end when he was bowled by Kumble.

The 35-year-old Bangalorean then trapped Andre Nel lbw, before he broke the resistance of Prince who faced 223 balls and struck 11 boundaries. India have lost four and drawn five of the nine Tests on their three previous visits to South Africa. This is also only their 27th win from 194 matches abroad, a measly 13.47 win percentage.

Federer wins US Open

NEW YORK, Sept 11: Switzerland's Roger Federer has won the US Open men's singles title for the third consecutive year on Sunday defeating American Andy Roddick 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the final. Federer also became the first player to win back-to-back Wimbledon and US Open titles for three years in a row.

The 25-year-old Swiss captured his ninth Grand Slam and third major title of 2006 and he did it in superb fashion by dropping only two sets in the tournament. "I am happy it all worked out," Federer said. "It was difficult against Andy. I am happy to see him back at the top."

His latest major title follows earlier victories at this year's Australian Open and at Wimbledon.

Federer had his full arsenal of weapons on display Sunday serving brilliantly against Roddick and barely breaking a sweat in getting three breaks in the first set in front of a crowd of 23,000 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

After Roddick took the second set in 37 minutes, Federer won the third set 7-5 with the only break coming in the final game. Federer got two more early breaks in the fourth set against a deflated-looking Roddick, taking the final eight of nine games of the 2hr, 27mins match.

In picking up his ninth Grand Slam title Federer takes sole possession of sixth place on the all-time list passing Andre Agassi, who is retiring and played his final match in New York last Sunday.

Paes ends title drought, wins US Open with Damm

NEW YORK, Sept 10: Leander Paes won his first Men's doubles title at a grand slam in five years by wresting the US Open crown with Martin Damm of the Czech republic here on Saturday.

Paes and Damm scored a shock 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-3 victory over second seeds Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden and Max Mirnyi of Belarus in the final at the Flushing Meadows. Paes, 33, last registered a grand slam triumph in 2001 at the French Open with Mahesh Bhupathi, with whom he also won the French Open and the Wimbledon in 1999.

This is also Damm's first ever major title. Paes has also won three mixed doubles titles in grand slams. Paes and Damm pocketed $400,000 as winner's prize money. The lengthy opening set was a power struggle that stayed on serve to force a tiebreak.

Even then, Bjorkman and Mirnyi just barely slid by. The 6'5" Mirnyi, nicknamed "the beast," used his enormous reach to take care of some high overhead shots. While across the net, Paes clinched numerous points by poaching. Both teams were equally fierce on their serves, but Bjorkman and Mirnyi's 15 unforced errors and 9 double faults cost them the match. In the second set, the gap started to widen.

The expressive Paes, who was slamming down his racket in frustration in the first set, now pumped his fist, initiated chest pumps with Damm, and performed erratic dance moves as the two nudged their way ahead in the second set. In the third set, both teams fought it out until Paes and Damm, up 4-3, managed to snatch a break to serve for the match. When Damm pounded back an overhead for a sideline winner to secure the title, a jubilant Paes bounded into his arms.

Zidane 'sorry' for World Cup final headbutt

PARIS: French football icon Zinedine Zidane has said that he was sorry for headbutting Italian opponent, Marco Materazzi, during the World Cup final against Italy on Sunday. But he said in a French television interview that defender Marco Materazzi had deserved it for insulting him with some "very hard words" aimed at sullying his mother and sister.

"I want to ask for forgiveness from all the children who watched that. There was no excuse for it," he said. "I want to be open and honest about it because it was seen by two or three billion people watching on television and millions and millions of children were watching.

Asked what exactly Materazzi had said, Zidane would only offer that it was "very personal and concerned his mother and his sister. You hear those things once and you try to walk away. That's what I wanted to do because I am retiring. You hear it a second time and then a third time ..."

Zidane was not asked in the interview whether there was a racist tone to the insults. The French skipper was sent-off for the head-butt to Materazzi's chest in the second period of extra-time in Sunday's final in Berlin. Italy went on to win the World Cup on penalties after the match had finished tied at 1-1 after extra-time.

While Italians celebrated their fourth World Cup crown, France and the rest of the world wondered just what had made the 34-year-old skipper and footballing genius act in the violent way he did in what was the final game of his career.

Italy are world champs

BERLIN, July 10: Italy defeated France 5-3 on penalties in the World Cup final after the the two teams finished level at 1-1 after extra-time in a dramatic encounter in which French playmaker Zinedine Zidane was sent off.

David Trezeguet hit the bar with his spot kick and the decisive penalty was scored by Fabio Grosso. Zidane had given France the lead from the penalty spot as early as the seventh minute but Italian defender Marco Materazzi equalised with a header just 12 minutes later.

Zidane was shown the red card in the 111th minute after he head-butted Materazzi in the chest in an off-the-ball incident not seen by the referee. After fierce protests by the Italians, the referee consulted his linesman and sent Zidane off.

Mauresmo storms back to win Wimbledon title, Bryans complete career slam in doubles

LONDON, July 8: Amelie Mauresmo won her first Wimbledon singles title, recovering from a woeful start to beat third seed Justine Henin-Hardenne 2-6 6-3 6-4,while Americans Bob and Mike Bryan completed a career doubles grand slam.

The world number one, who also took this year's Australian Open when a sick Henin-Hardenne retired, is the first Frenchwoman to win here since Suzanne Lenglen in 1925.French Open champion Henin-Hardenne won the opening set in 31 minutes but Mauresmo shook off the nerves to win the second set with some eyecatching passing shots.

Mauresmo got the early break in the decider and held herself together, completing an emotional victory when Henin-Hardenne thrashed a forehand into the net on her first match point.

Americans Bob and Mike Bryan completed a career doubles grand slam when they beat Frenchman Fabrice Santoro and Serb partner Nenad Zimonjic to win their first Wimbledon title. The twins' 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-2 victory means they are only the third doubles team to win all four grand slam titles in the professional era. They join Dutch duo Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis and Australian pair Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge.

''This was the last one to get and the one we've dreamed about,'' said Mike Bryan. ''There's some legends on that board. Until now we could only say we lost in the final so it's gonna be sweet to say we're Wimbledon champions.''

The Bryans were surprisingly beaten in last year's final by qualifiers Wesley Moodie and Stephen Huss. They were also competing in their seventh successive grand slam final, having become the first men's doubles team in the professional era to reach six at this year's French Open.

France beats Portugal 1-0, to meet Italy in final

A lone goal via a penalty shot saw France setting up final showdown against Italy on Sunday in the FIFA World Cup beating Portugal 1-0 in the second semifinal. France was awarded a penalty kick in the 35th minute for a foul on Henry inside the French box.

Zinedine Zidane took the shot and made no mistake as the ball landed safely on the net much to the frustration of the Portuguese fans.

Earlier on Tuesday, Italy advanced to the final of the FIFA World Cup in style after two late goals in the dying minutes of extra-time saw hosts Germany going out the tournament. The first goal was scored by Fabio Grosso in the 119th minute while Alessandro Del Piero finished the match in style scoring the second goal.

World Cup turns into all-European affair

BERLIN, July 2 : Germany's defeat of Argentina in the last eight and French slaying of defending champions Brazil a day later means that the FIFA World Cup semifinals would be all European affairs after a gap of 24 years.

Hosts Germany will face off against Italy while 1998 champions France will take on Portugal, who have made it to the semi-finals after a gap of 40 years.

One would have to go back to Spain, 1982 for the previous occasion when the last four stage had only European teams. Then, Italy, West Germany, Poland and France contested the semi-finals before the Azzuri defeated the Germans in the final to win the World Cup for a third time.

The semi-final line-up would be a bitter pill to swallow for South Americans as either Brazil or Argentina have been in the final on every occasion since 1982, the Selecao being in the title round on the previous three World Cups.

But with the decline of two-time world champions Uruguay - they did not even qualify for the tournament - the South American aspirations at the business end of the World Cup have largely rested on Brazilian and Argentine shoulders.

This can be contrasted with the fact that apart from the four European sides that made it to the last four, other continental powerhouses such as Spain, the Netherlands and England, fell by the wayside. One can safely argue that these three sides could have made it to the semi-finals and possibly lifted the title in Berlin on July 9.

The final stages of the 2006 World Cup has a familiar feel with the traditional powerhouses of the game making it to the elite bracket. This is in stark contrast to the line up four years ago when rank outsiders like South Korea and Turkey made it to the last four.

Add to it the fact that teams like the United States and Senegal made it to the quarterfinals, giving the final stages of the World Cup a distinct international flavour.

One can argue that the tournament being held in the heart of the continent gives a distinct advantage to the European teams as they are accustomed to the climate and other conditions. It is also a much shorter distance for their supporters to travel as compared to those from other parts of the world.

No European team has ever managed to win the World Cup outside their continent and Brazil is the only South American team to win the ultimate prize in Europe when inspired by a 17-year-old Pele, they claimed the Jules Rimet Trophy for the first time in Sweden in 1958.

The South American giants also won the first World Cup held outside Europe and the Americas when it emerged victorious in Japan and South Korea four years ago.

Ronaldo breaks all-time scoring record at World Cup

BERLIN, June 27: Ronaldo said he hoped he had given his countrymen and women cause to start partying after his goal in a 3-0 canter over Ghana made him the top scorer in World Cup history.

The Brazil striker scored in the fifth minute of his team's match against Ghana in the second round of the World Cup. He touched the ball past the goalkeeper after receiving a perfect through pass from midfielder Kaka and then scored with the outside of his right foot.

Ronaldo came into the match even with Gerd Mueller of Germany with 14 goals. He had scored twice in Brazil's 4-1 win over Japan last week, surpassing Pele as Brazil's career leading scorer in the competition. Tuesday's goal was Ronaldo's 67th in 103 matches withBrazil. Pele scored 95 goals in 114 matches.

The goal came in one of Ronaldo's first plays of the match. He broke through the offside trap, then rounded goalkeeper Richard Kingson with a neat move before shooting into the open net.

The Real Madrid striker had disappointing performances in Brazil's first two matches against Croatia and Australia,being held scoreless and twice being substituted. The striker had been bothered by a series of distractions, including a weight controversy and a string of minor health problems.

At his fourth World Cup, Ronaldo arrived for the tournament overweight after enduring a series of injuries with Real Madrid during the season, having to work separately from his teammates to regain his form.

Ronaldo was crucial in Brazil's fifth world title in South Korea and Japan in 2002, scoring eight goals in seven matches. He scored twice in the final against Germany.

6 Indians to get Australian fellowships

NEW DELHI, June 27: Six Indian professors and research scholars have been chosen for the Australian Studies Fellowships (ASF) for 2006-07. The Australian Embassy in New Delhi announced in a statement on Tuesday the names of the six recipients of the fellowship under the Australia-India Council (AIC) programme.

The recipients are Deb Narayan Bandopadhyay from Burdwan University in West Bengal, Kamala Kanta Dash from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, Angshuman Kar (Burdwan University), Professor Kapil Kumar from Indira Gandhi Open University, Nabeel Ajmal (JNU) and Amita Singh (JNU).

Earlier this month, the AIC had announced the winners of the 2006 Border-Gavaskar Scholarship, under which three young and promising Indian cricketers are currently training at the Commonwealth Bank Centre of Excellence (CBCE) in Brisbane.

This year's winners are Mumbai's Kshemal Vaingankar, a right-arm pace bowler, Karnataka's Gaurav Dhiman, a right-hand opener, and Vadodara wicket keeper Pinal Shah. An Indian cricket board committee, headed by Gavaskar, had picked them. They reached Australia June 19 for a six-week stint and they will have access to all CBCE coaches and facilities.

Congratulating the studies scholarship recipients, the AIC chairman Darren Gribble said that the fellowships were aimed at consolidating the education and research relationship between the two countries. "I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome the addition of the Australian National University the university of New South Wales and the University of South Australia (through the Hawke Institute) to the consortium of universities," he said.

A consortium of universities on behalf of the AIC manages the Australian Studies Fellowships programme. Led by Curtin University, the consortium includes the Monash University and the University of Queensland.

The fellowships cover a wide range of areas, including Australian literature, politics and history, environment and health, film, media communications and performing arts, issues relating to indigenous Australians, ethnicities and multiculturalism, and tourism and gender studies.

Saina Nehwal wins Philippines Open

PASIG CITY, May 28: Saina Nehwal became the first Indian woman to win a four-star badminton event when she clinched the Philippines Open in Pasig City on Sunday. The Hyderabadi teenager, ranked 86, defeated Julia Xian Pei Wong of Malaysia 21-15, 22-20 to win the women's singles title.

Her win has brought her as a new teenage sporting sensation in Indian sports. After all their 16-year-old daughter has done what no Indian has done till now.

"Saina was was a very different kind of child. At the age of seven-eight months we were worried about her because she was very serious and would never smile. One day, I took her to the badminton court and when she saw a game, she started laughing," her father Harivir Singh says.

Saina's talent was noticed when she was just nine and former all England champion P Gopichand took her under his wing when she was 13. "I think her achievement is phenomenal because no Indian woman has done it so far. Also to do so when she is just 16 is great. She has got many tournaments to play in future. It is remarkable not only for her but also for Indian badminton," Gopichand says.

Saina's game is simple as she relies on power to subdue her opponents. It was on display at the 2006 Commonwealth Games when she was part of the team which won the team bronze. At 16 Saina's best is yet to come. She celebrated her birthday just 10 days back and her parents could not have asked for a better gift from her.

Asia wins bid to host 2011 cricket World Cup

DUBAI, May 1: Asia on Sunday won the bid to host the 2011 cricket World Cup, defeating a joint bid by Australia and New Zealand. The Asian Test playing nations - India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - bagged 10 out of the 13 votes, well above the required majority of 7, at the ICC Executive Board meeting in Dubai.

"We did a great job, the four countries put together an impressive presentation and we got 10 out of 13 votes," BCCI Vice President Lalit Modi said. "We are looking forward to it. A lot of work has to go in. The four countries will jointly sit down along with ICC to chalk out plans for hosting the 2011 World Cup," he said. "A lot of infrastructure needs to be put in place. We are mentally geared up for it. We will do the task at hand," he said.

Jung claims third gold as Indian shooters rule the ranges

MELBOURNE, March 20: Indian marksman Samaresh Jung clinched his third gold medal of the Commonwealth Games when he teamed with Jaspal Rana to win the men's 25-meter center-fire pistol event Monday. Joining Jung in the multiple gold-winners' list were three more Indians -- Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang and Tejaswini Sawant -- as India extended its supremacy at the ranges, increasing its gold tally to nine.

Bindra overcame a malfunctioning weapon at the start and paired up with Narang for their second gold medal, winning the men's 50-meter rifle three-prone. Cyprus won its first gold medal of the games, winning the final event of the day Monday -- the men's skeet pairs. George Achilleos and Antonis Nikolaides finished first with 190 points, four ahead of silver medalists Clive Bramley and Richard Brickell of England, with Australia's Clive Barton and George Barton taking bronze.

Sawant also clinched her second gold, emerging best in women's 10-meter air rifle event where Avneet Kaur Sidhu's silver gave India a 1-2 finish. Jung teamed with Rana, who had the flu for the past three days, to retain India's supremacy in the center fire pairs event, which Rana had won with another partner four years ago. Jung (577) and Rana (573) fired 1,150 to end with a 12-point lead over England's silver medalists Peter Flippant and Simon Lucas on 1,138.

Competing in eight events in these games, pistol shooter Jung has already won two gold medals and a silver, while his wife, Anuja Jung, bolstered the family medal total by taking a silver Sunday. ``I don't want too much pressure by thinking of the entire bouquet,'' said Jung, who was disappointed with his score in rapid where he shot last. ``There was pressure on me as Jaspal wasn't feeling well in the morning.''

Sachin creates history, hits 35th Test century

NEW DELHI, Dec 10: Sachin Tendulkar created history by becoming the highest century-getter as India laid the foundation for a mammoth first innings total in the second cricket Test against Sri Lanka at the Feroze Shah Kotla ground here on Saturday.

Tendulkar cracked an unbeaten 100 for his record 35th hundred, the most in Test cricket, as India reached a strong 245 for three at stumps on the opening day. Tendulkar's seventh ton against the visitors saw him surpass former captain and compatriot Sunil Gavaskar's tally of 34 for most number of hundreds in the all-time centurions list.

It was also Tendulkar's 125th Test appearance, again matching Gavaskar and the second highest for an Indian. Only Kapil Dev had played in more Tests, 131.

Indian millionaire creates new hot air balloon record

MUMBAI, Nov 27: An Indian business tycoon with a penchant for adventure created a new hot-air balloon altitude record on Saturday, touching the edge of space in a climb to nearly 70,000 feet.

Vijaypat Singhania, an amateur aviator whose family controls the JK Group, broke the 17-year-old world record of 64,997 feet set by British-based Swede Per Lindstrand by ascending to approximately 69,852 feet, the edge of space. Singhania, 67, had originally aimed for 70,000 feet, but decided against it towards the end of the journey.

"I was only about a 100 feet short," he said after landing. "I encountered problems with the burners. I could have stayed back, burnt a little fuel, maybe for an hour and tried again. Above 45,000 feet it is dangerous territory. If something goes wrong, you have nobody to blame. So better get the hell out of there as quickly as possible."

The Federation Aeronautique International (FAI) says an aviator must achieve at least a 3 percent improvement on an existing record to qualify for recognition as a new record. Singhania's record awaits formal ratification.

"Representatives of the Aeronautical Club of India, who are here, will submit a report to the FAI," Colin Prescot, who designed the balloon with Andy Elson, told reporters.

Singhania took off at dawn in a specially designed nylon balloon -- powered by 18 burners, fuelled by kerosene and propane -- from a polo ground in India's commercial hub of Mumbai. He rode the rising warm air west and then moved north before landing at 1130 am near Nasik, 185 km from Mumbai.

An avid flyer, Singhania flew solo a microlight aircraft from Britain to India in a record 23 days in 1988. He also won the International Around the World Air Race in 1994.

Sania regains 31st spot in WTO rankings

NEW DELHI, Nov 8: Sania Mirza's meteoric rise in international tennis continued as she reached a career-high 31st in the latest WTA rankings despite being out of action for the last three weeks. The Indian tennis ace moved up three places in the women's singles rankings with 929.75 points.

Sania, recovering from a back injury that forced her to concede her second round match at the $200,000 Thailand Open last month, moved ahead at the expense of Pen Shuai of China and Russian Vera Zvonareva while Italian Silvia Farina Elia retired from the circuit. Vera Zvonareva, who was defeated by Sania at the Japan Open, slipped 13 places and is currently ranked 40th. Peng Shuai lost four places to reach 33. Al Sugiyama of Japan (994.50 points) is still the highest ranking Asian on the circuit at number 30. Lindsay Davenport continued atop the singles rankings ahead of Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova.

In the men's doubles ranking, Mahesh Bhupathi slipped three spots to 19th place while Leander Paes held on to 12th spot despite his first round loss at the Paris Masters. American Bob Bryan continues to be the top doubles player in the world.

All-India Junior Tennis Series Tournament concludes

By Deepak Arora

Pix by Noyanika

NEW DELHI, Oct 13: Hardarshan Singh of Jaipur and Manya Nagpal of Delhi bagged the Boys and Girls Under 12 titles respectively at the All-India Junior Tennis Series tournament, which concluded here on Thursday at Cosmic Sports Centre, Rao Tula Ram College, South Delhi campus. Disha Sehgal beat Vaniya Dangwal (6-4, 6-2) to bag the Girls Under 14 title.

Wing Cdr Karan Rai, Managing Director of Cosmic Sports, gave away the prizes. He said the six-day Talent Series commenced on October 8.

Wing Cdr Rai said Mohan Meakin Limited was the main sponsor of the event. Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO) was also among the sponsors.

The tournament had four events - Boys Under 12 and 14 and Girls Under 12 and 14 and was well attended by more than 200 children.

The tournament witnessed some interesting moments with "ranked players" being toppled by lower ranked players. Mallika Saharia beat Manya Nagpal (ranked 2) under 14 years girls to enter the semi finals.

In girls under 12 years, Manya Nagpal beat Abhilasha Ahuja 4-6, 6-2 and 6-1 to lift the trophy. The match started well with both players holding their serves and rallying well.

Abhilasha Ahuja's powerful groundstrokes saw her through the first set with 6-4 win. But the crafty Manya Nagpal used excellent court coverage and strategy to beat Abilasha Ahuja.

In Boys Under 12 years, Hardarshan Singh of Jaipur beat Yuvraj of Delhi 6-2 and 7-6. The match saw some good aggressive tennis with both the players exchanging good ground strokes and volleys. But the strategy used by Hardarshan Singh saw him through tough times as he beat gritty Yuvraj.

In Girls Under 14 category, Disha Sehgal of Delhi beat Vaniya Dangwal also of Delhi by 6-4 and 6-2. Both the players exchanged controlled rallies and moved each other "well on court".

But Disha Sehgal with her accurate groundstrokes and placement overcame the challenge of top seed Vaniya Dangwal and beat her in straight sets.

In Boys Under 14 category, top seeded Shantanu Rajput, using his powerful ground strokes and serves, beat Abishek Phore 6-2, 6-4.

Shantanu, playing his last year Under 14, is more interested in concentrating in the Under 16 and above events. He is ranked No. 48 in the country.

Abhishek Phore, who has been playing for just two years, has shown tremendous improvement and has done good by reaching the finals of the Boys U-14 event.

'Sania will change the world'

LONDON, Oct 18: After making it to the cover of Time magazine, Sania Mirza finds herself listed as one of the ten people capable of changing the world by London's intellectual weekly 'New Statesman' published on Monday.

In a 742-word article by Jason Cowley, the weekly says it is difficult to believe that "a slender 18-year-old Muslim tennis player from India has the potential to change the world, but it is equally difficult to overestimate the effect Mumbai-born Sania Mirza, currently No.37 in the WTA singles rankings, is having on millions of young men and women, and especially women.

"She is the first female Indian tennis player to be ranked in the world's top 40, indeed, she is the first significant female athlete of any kind, in a country where women have been typically discouraged from taking up sport," the article says.

It notes that Sania has the discipline, tenacity, flamboyance and, above all, the talent to go much higher in the rankings and, in so doing, inspire a whole new generation of Indian girls to express their hopes and ambitions through sport.

Sania is bracketed with the likes of Emir of Qatar, who is showing the Middle East a different route to modernity, Barack Obama, America's fastest-rising political star, current US senator for Illinois, Anton Zeilinger and Physicist and co-director, institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information, Vienna, Samira Makhmalbaf.

Recalling her recent tiff with Muslim clerics over her dress code, the article says, "at home, in India, Mirza is a role model and an icon, her fame locating her somewhere between Bollywood and the mass adulation that surrounds the Indian cricket team. She is celebrated as much for her attitude and fashion sense (she wears a nose-ring and librarian glasses) as she is for her talent

"She evidently enjoys the attention and delights in confounding expectations of exactly how a young Muslim woman from the subcontinent should behave.

At Wimbledon, she wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan: 'Well-behaved women rarely make history'; at the US Open in September, where she lost in the quarter-final to the Russian sensation Maria Sharapova, her T-shirt read: 'You can either agree with me, or be wrong'.

"All this means that Mirza is in ceaseless demand for interviews, billboard advertising, endorsements (her fee is reported to be second only to the great batsman Sachin Tendulkar's) and television appearances.

Recalling the threats from a Muslim cleric, Cowley writes: "The cleric is correct in identifying the world-transforming potential of a young, attractive, articulate and media-smart teenage Muslim tennis star, but wrong in his assessment of that influence. "He understands how sport has become a common language for the global tribe, as well as an engine of change, an aggressive symbol of meritocracy and the mirror in which we see reflected back at us the competitive, style-driven, money-and celebrity-fixated world in which we live."

Posing the question can Sania have a similarly transformative effect like Muhammad Ali and Pele, not only in India but also throughout the world, the writer says, "she may not have won a major tournament, yet already she occupies a role through which flow many of the most significant intellectual and cultural currents of our times: the clash between secularism and political Islam, the emancipation of women in the Muslim world, the dominance of celebrity, the tyranny of the image, the emergency of India as a world power."

Referring to her recent complaint that "every word I speak, every skirt I wear, is discussed and analysed," on return to India from the United States, Cowley concludes: "If she continues to improve as rapidly as she has over the past six months, Sania Mirza will simply have to get used to such obsessive scrutiny. There is no turning back now."

Another ace: Sania Mirza features on Time cover

NEW DELHI, Oct 3: In another ace for teenage tennis icon, Sania Mirza, she became the first Indian sportswoman to feature on the cover of Time magazine and is being included in its 2005 list of Asia's heroes.

In the list of heroes, Sania shares the space with Chinese actress Zhang Jingchu, South Korean footballer Park Ji Sung and Japan's Ken Watanbe. The tennis star, who has been described by the magazine as a role model for women in the country and the fastest rising star in the sport this year, features on the cover of the special issue of the magazine, which would hit the stands on Monday.

Though the list is led by people who saved lives and rebuild families and communities after last year's devastating tsunami, it also includes inspirational figures in the field of arts and sports. Sania is creating history in Indian tennis by becoming the first ever Indian to break into the top-50 WTA rankings. She also became the first Indian woman to win a WTA tourney when she lifted the Hyderabad Open trophy in February 2005. The Wimbledon junior champion also beat several top-10 players and became the first Indian to reach the third round of Australian Open and the pre-quarters of the US Open.

On its spotlight on tsunami, the Executive Editor of Time Asia says "the tsunami, which left 250,000 dead or missing across Asia, was almost unimaginably destructive...Yet amid the grief and loss and mortal dangers, ordinary individuals proved themselves capable of extraordinary courage and selflessness - the very essence of heroism."

On the tsunami front, a 14-year-old girl from Maldives who took charge of her family to hold them together and help heal their trauma after the tsunami is on the list.

A group of Acehnese women who lost their families and homes in the tsunami and banded together to rebuild their wrecked village and start over again, have also been honoured in the list.

Others in the list include Japanese actor Ken Watanabe, who, with roles in The Last Samurai and the upcoming Memoris of a Giesha, is now the face of Japan to Hollywood, the International Crisis Group, an NGO headquartered in Brussels, which undertakes the task of predicting and resolving deadly conflicts worldwide before they erupt by transforming exhausting reports into erudite reports.

Henin back in top 10, Nadal up to third in rankings

PARIS, June 6: Spaniard Rafael Nadal climbed to third in the men's rankings after winning the French Open singles title while women's champion Justine Henin-Hardenne has returned to the top 10. Nadal ascended two places following his victory over Argentine Mariano Puerta 6-7 6-3 6-1 7-5 in Sunday's final.

Only world number one Roger Federer, beaten by Nadal in the French Open semis, and Lleyton Hewitt, absent from Paris because of injury, now separate the 19-year-old from the summit of world tennis. Puerta, unseeded at the French Open, rises 26 places to 11th in the rankings released on Monday.

Belgium's Henin-Hardenne thrashed Mary Pierce 6-1 6-1 in Saturday's women's singles final and has risen to seventh in the rankings from 12th. The former world number one dropped out of the top 10 after January's Australian Open which Henin-Hardenne missed through a knee injury after a virus disrupted her performances in late 2004. Pierce rises to 13th from 23rd.

Live Tennis at French embassy in India

Chappell is India's new cricket coach

NEW DELHI, May 20: India's new cricket coach Greg Chappell on Friday gave a "commitment to excellence" and demanded the same from the players in their desire to succeed and move forward. Chappell, who was appointed by the cricket board's six-member committee in New Delhi on Friday, termed his new job as "exciting and challenging" and said he would bring in his own philosophies and plans to take the Indian team further up the ladder.

"It is going to be exciting. There are going to be lot of challenges, a number of priority issues... My job will be to maintain and improve the quality of the team," the 57-year old former Australian captain told a press conference. "I give my commitment to excellence to Indian cricket on and off the field... It will be a full time commitment, 24 hours, seven days a week," he said.

Chappell, a world-class batsman of the 1970s and 80s with 7,110 runs from 87 Tests, said talent would not bring success to the Indian team.
"I have my own plans but if the 16 or 18 players don't find playing for India enough to get them motivated, then it will be hard on me and them as well," he said.

"There are certain things that are non-negotiable. Commitment, preparation, discipline from players and myself, and then the talent."
Assessing the past and recent performances of Sourav Ganguly's men, Chappell said the team that reached a World Cup final must have it in them to be the champion side but sometimes mere desire was not enough.

"I suppose it is the will, determination and discipline and the talent," he listed as characteristics of a world beating team. "The preparation has to be spot on. We can't have players working harder for the sake of working harder. We need people who work harder and smarter.

"It has to be a combination of both, we have to get the correct balance and it is going to be a man management process. I can't guarantee that I will always get it right, but will get it right more often than not. Playing has its own challenge and idiosyncrasies. Coach cannot have a direct impact... But what is needed is consistent effort and commitment."

Off court too, Sania volleys with power

NEW DELHI, Feb 18: Sania Mirza is on a power trip now - meeting the who's who of the country's politicos. The teen sensation, who arrived in the Capital on Friday, began the day by meeting minister of sports and youth affairs, Sunil Dutt; she then went on to call on President APJ Abdul Kalam, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and finally Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"It was an unforgettable day. I was overawed meeting all these great people. I didn't want to let go of an opportunity like this. I'm sure even you wouldn't like to give up a chance to meet the Prime Minister," Sania, who was accompanied by her parents, Imran and Naseem, sister Anum and a family friend, said. "They all had expressed a desire to meet Sania and our daughter was also very keen to meet them. So it was by mutual consent that we set up these meetings," Nassem Mirza, Sania's mother, said.

But the rendezvous that Sania was most looking forward to was with Congress leader, Sonia Gandhi. "She sent me a great letter and she spoke to me personally after the Australian Open. I have been very, very keen to meet her since then," expressed Sania, who also attended an awards function on Friday night. "She told me that she's proud of me," Sania said of her meeting with Sonia Gandhi.

Her ankles have also been attracting attention but the 18-year-old sounded upbeat about a quick recovery. "Everything is coming off very well. Better than we expected. I should start playing by Monday," she said, hoping to play in the Dubai Open, which will be her first tournament after winning the Hyderabad title. Sania, ranked 99 in the world presently, was gifted two books written by former Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and though she's not really fond of reading, the teenager promised to make an effort.

"I will try and read them," Sania said, laughing. "Actually I just picked up a book three days ago - Success vs Joy by Geet Sethi," she added.
An apt read looking at how her life has changed within six weeks?

"I'm enjoying as normal a life as I can. It's only when I go out that I've a lot of people coming up to me. Nothing untoward has happened but the guards are there to avoid that," the teen icon, who has just signed on three more deals, said. So how is life with protection round the clock? "It's a little weird but it's something you've to learn to live with," the teenager, responded, making no big deal of the issue.

Sania, first Indian to win WTA title

HYDERABAD, Feb 12: Sania Mirza oscillated between occasional brilliance and erratic shot selection but raised her game when it mattered most to create history and become the first Indian woman ever to win a WTA tour title in the US$ 140,000 Hyderabad Open tennis on Saturday. The unseeded 18-year-old, backed by a vociferous crowd, held her nerve in a scintillating final match to beat ninth seed Alyona Bondarenko of Ukraine 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 at the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh complex in Hyderabad.

It turned out to be a battle of nerves for both Sania and Bondarenko, both of whom were playing in their maiden WTA tour final, as they looked more than anxious to finish off the points and committed too many unforced errors in the bargain. And Sania, two years younger to her 102-ranked opponent, handled the pressure better in the two-hour encounter to send her thousands of supporters in to wild celebrations.

It was the third and final set which proved that the Hyderabadi lass has nerves of steel as she broke her opponent in the first, third and fifth games to race to a 5-1 lead and then managed to ward off tremendous pressure after dropping one match point and a service game to clinch the title.

But the Indian then came back strongly in the next game after being 0-40 down to break her opponent and then raced to a 4-2 lead by winning the next three games.

But, with the set almost there for her to win, Sania seemed to get a bit over anxious to finish it off quickly and committed a number of unforced errors to put herself under pressure. In fact, the local favourite wasted as many as nine set points and had to save three break points on her serve in the 10th game before wrapping up the set.

The second set began on a promising note for Sania as she got the break of serve in the very first game. But it was struggle with herself thereafter as Sania lost her rhythm completely and had problems even in sending in her first serves, the barrage of unforced errors not helping her cause.
Sania lost her serve in the second and sixth games to trail 2-5 and it was a spate of unforced errors by Bondarenko which helped her to hold serve in the eighth.

The rising star, who had earlier created history by becoming the first Indian woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam at the Australian Open last month, made full use of the opportunity by saving three set points in the next game to break the Ukrainian and then held her own to level the game score at 5-5.

The problems with shot selection once again surfaced at this stage as Sania wasted three game points to lose the set 5-7 and take the match to the decider.

Earlier, third seed Zi Yan and Jie Zheng of China stunned Olympic gold medallists and compatriots Ting Li and Tian Tian Sun to lift the doubles title.

Yan and Zheng, who became the first Chinese women to reach a grand slam singles fourth round at Roland Garros last year, were in total control and never really threatened by their fancied opponents, cruising to a 6-4, 6-1 victory.

Seeded third, Yan and Zheng seemed a confident lot from the word go and took a 2-0 lead in the opener and 3-0 in the second set to assert their supremacy. After a fairly well-contested first set, Yan and Zheng tightened their grip and overwhelmed the doubles title winners at Athens Olympics, who were second seeded here but appeared to be struggling to get their act together.

Sania Mirza wins, makes history

NEW DELHI, Jan 17: Sania Mirza rewrote Indian tennis history as she registered her first Grand Slam win and stormed into the second round of the women's singles at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Monday. Sania overcame a first set loss to down Australia's Cindy Watson 3-6 6-3 6-0 in the first round to become only the second Indian woman to win a grand slam match. Nirupama Sanjeev was the first to accomplish the feat in 1998 and she too scored her only grand slam win at the Australian Open.

It was not exactly flawless tennis from the 18-year old Hyderabadi girl who entered the main draw as a wild card which she earned after reaching the women's singles final of the Asian Tennis Championships last year. Sania hit only 32 winners and had 43 unforced errors including three double faults. She was broken in her very first serve of the match and dropped serves three more times. But the teenager put it down to nervousness on the big stage and said there was no worries about her form as such.

"I was quite tight in the first set and was also down a break in the second set ... But I was hitting the net and not long or wide," Sania said. "Then I concentrated on making her play, and it worked," said the former Wimbledon girls doubles champion.

From the moment she was down 2-3 in the second set, Sania began to tighten her game. She kept the ball in play, and to her luck, Watson began to make mistakes. The Indian went up 5-3 with her third break of the set in the eighth game, and from there on there was no stopping Sania as she reeled off 10 games in a row. In all, Sania converted seven out of 12 break points as against four out of 13 by Watson, another wild card herself.

The local girl, nine years elder to the Indian and appearing in her home grand glam fifth time, wilted under pressure. The set times began to shrink as Sania stepped on the gas, the decider lasting only 26 minutes. She also served the only ace of the match in the last game.

Sania got 34 WTA points for her first round win and moved into the sub-150 in world rankings, another milestone in her fledgling career. Nirupama, again, was the last Indian woman to be ranked above 150 which was almost eight years ago.

Sania's second round tie is on Wednesday when she plays Petra Mandula of Hungary. A win there would most probably pit her against American Serena Williams in the third round, but the Indian is not looking too far ahead. "I know that. But I can't afford to think about it. I am happy that I won the first round and want to give my best in the next match," she said.




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