World No.2 tennis player, Daniil Medvedev of Russia, was ruthless in his decimation of Henri Laaksonen, defeating the Swiss player 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(3) in his opening match of the Australian Open at the Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday.
With a 13-1 record across the Australian Open and US Open in 2021, the Russian dropped just three sets in those 13 victories, and would be looking for a second consecutive Grand Slam after his triumph at the Flushing Meadows.
World No. 6 and four-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Andrey Rublev of Russia also began his march towards another Grand Slam second week with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Italy’s Gianluca Mager in his 2022 debut.
Medvedev dropped serve in the opening game and then surrendered little else over the one-hour, 54-minute contest. The 2021 Australian Open finalist did not face a break point in sets two and three, though Laaksonen allowed just one break point on his own serve in that period.
“He started playing better. He was touching a lot of the lines,” Medvedev told atptour.com of his opponent’s third-set surge. “He was controlling the game, was hitting full power every shot he had.”
However, Medvedev’s patience paid off at crucial moments. Despite some visible frustration late in the third set, the Russian waited for his opponent to commit unforced errors to win the match’s last four points.
“I like pressure. It’s a really important tournament for me always in Australia. I like to play here, I like hard courts. So I always want to do better than I did last year, but it’s not going to be easy.”
Medvedev could face home favourite Nick Kyrgios in the second round on January 20. The Aussie faces British qualifier Liam Broady, who is making his Australian Open debut, later on Tuesday.
Should Medvedev win at Melbourne Park, he would become the first man in the Open Era to follow up his maiden Grand Slam title with another title in his next major appearance. This feat has been accomplished five times on the WTA, most recently by Naomi Osaka (2018 US Open, 2019 Australian Open).
Rublev was off to a near-perfect start, as the clean hitter produced 31 winners to just 13 errors in the one-hour, 24-minute contest against Mager.
After winning the ATP Cup and Davis Cup with the Russian Tennis Federation in 2021, Rublev was set to begin his 2022 campaign at this year’s ATP Cup before a positive COVID-19 test ruled him out. He said he felt “a bit tired” before Tuesday’s match due to the layoff, but was pleased with his performance on the day.
“Of course I would have preferred to play ATP Cup, to feel already these emotions, the nerves during the match, to feel this winning feeling,” he explained in his on-court interview. “It’s not easy when you’re not playing for a couple of weeks and you go straight into one of the best tournaments.
“You feel a bit double pressure because you don’t know how it’s going to be. But this is life, you cannot control it.”
Rublev now awaits the winner of the match between Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania and Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain.
Making his first appearance at the Australian Open since 2018, Richard Gasquet returned with a bang in a four-set comeback upset against fellow Frenchman Ugo Humbert. The 35-year-old Gasquet, 12 years his countryman’s elder, knocked off the No. 29 seed with a 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(3), 6-3 result on Tuesday.
Indian men’s football team faces Jordan in last preparatory game before Asian Cup Qualifiers
The Indian men’s football team is all set to take on Jordan in a friendly match on Saturday (May 28) in Doha, their last preparatory game ahead of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers, which kicks off in Kolkata on June 8, 2022.
The match against Jordan will be played at the Qatar Sports Club.
“Another game against a stronger team will always help,” head coach Igor Stimac said. “It’s our last friendly game prior to the qualifiers, and we need to get final answers to certain questions,” the coach added. “Some of our youngsters will have a great opportunity to gain more experience at the international level.”
The squad has been in the preparatory camp for over a month, first in Bellary, and then in Kolkata, and the coach said that the “fitness levels are quite good”.
“The fitness levels are quite good. We have another 10 days in front of us, and it should be perfect. The boys have done a great job, and they need to be rewarded with some good results in the Qualifiers,” Stimac, who was part of the Croatian World Cup team which finished third in FIFA World Cup France 98, added.
Referring to Jordan as an opposition, the coach felt, “Jordan (FIFA Ranking 91) are ranked better than Belarus (FIFA Ranking 93) but are not as physical as Belarus. S,o for us, it should be a bit easier in regards to the build-up, and ball possession.”
India are currently ranked 106 on the FIFA ladder, and had played Belarus in an official match in the FIFA international window in March 2022, a match where they went down 0-3.
Meanwhile, the Indian squad has been bolstered by the joining of the ATK Mohun Bagan players, all of whom have missed the preparatory camp so far owing to their club commitments in the AFC Cup. “They came very late (on May 26, 2022 morning) after playing three games in seven days, and hence, we need to be careful with them. We still have over 36 hours ahead for them to recover, and I will be making a decision whether to field them or not on 28th morning,” Stimac added.
The 25-member squad:
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Laxmikanth Kattimani, Amrinder Singh.
Defenders: Rahul Bheke, Pritam Kotal, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Anwar Ali, Sandesh Jhingan, Subhashish Bose, Roshan Singh, Akash Mishra.
Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Jeakson Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Glan Martins, Brandon Fernandes, Ritwik Das, Yasir Mohammad, Sahal Abdul Samad, Suresh Wangjam, Ashique Kuruniyan, Liston Colaco.
Forwards: Ishan Pandita, Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh.
KL Rahul’s conservative approach in Eliminator piques Manjrekar, Shastri
KL Rahul’s conservative approach and the Lucknow Super Giants’ skipper batting till the 19th over of the Eliminator against Royal Challengers Bangalore has prompted the likes of former India chief coach Ravi Shastri, Sanjay Manjrekar and New Zealand legend Daniel Vettori to say that the cricketer seriously erred in the must-win game at the Eden Gardens.
LSG, chasing a mammoth 207, were eliminated from IPL 2022 after losing to RCB by 14 runs.
Manjrekar was the most scathing of the former cricketers, saying that Rahul is “temperamentally not suited to take this kind of a responsibility (captaincy)”.
“We have seen enough of KL Rahul to now know that when he becomes the captain, the key player of the side… Virat Kohli loved that kind of responsibility, (MS) Dhoni loved it, Rohit Sharma, barring this season, generally likes that kind of responsibility. Maybe, KL Rahul temperamentally is not suited to take this kind of a responsibility, where he is the man who has got to get the job done. They (captains) are made of different mettle, and maybe KL Rahul isn’t,” opined Manjrekar on Espncricinfo’s T20 Time:Out.
Rahul opened the innings and was out at the fag end of the 19th over but could manage just 79 runs off 58 balls at at strike rate of 136.20. Till the 16th over, his strike rate was a dismal 120, which really did not go down well with Manjrekar.
“So as a coach, I would drill that into his head and tell him that I am not expecting you to win the game (bat all through). You just go and have fun, and funnily enough you will see the results start coming. I believe, he has a much better strike rate at the international level than at the IPL level, because he is just one of the many batters playing alongside Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and the others… so he just goes out there and expresses himself. His strike rate of 120 until the 16th over, that’s dangerous; that’s leaving too much even for a player like himself,” added Manjrekar.
“Every time (in the Eliminator) he decided to play the big shots it came off. He played a couple of terrific shots against (Josh) Hazlewood, and he can do it when he wants to. But he just has this very deep-rooted belief or an attitude or approach that he wants to bat longer rather than quicker. And if I were his coach, I would take that decision out of his hand even if he is captain,” added Manjrekar.
Former New Zealand skipper Vettori said that the conservative approach in IPL is fraught with risks.
“The conservative approach leans to having to be ultra-risky at the end, and so when you have a player of that skill, and we have seen KL Rahul take down teams time and again, you always wonder ‘why don’t you go earlier… you sort of de-risk the back-end in chasing. 14-15 (runs) can be done on this (Eden) ground.
“So, a couple of risks through the powerplay and that 60 off 42 looks so much better, and it takes so much pressure off the deep end,” opined Vettori.
Former India chief coach Ravi Shastri too was unimpressed with Rahul’s approach in the Eliminator.
“They should have gone a little earlier. Sometimes, you wait too long but here, between the ninth and the 14th over, there should have been someone who should have been targeted, especially in that partnership,” Shastri said on Star Sports.
“When (Deepak) Hooda and Rahul were going, I think even though he did as well as he did, KL could have taken a little more chances there because Hooda was going. Take a little more chances, and he could have targeted someone between the ninth and the 13th over because Harshal Patel was going to come back in the end with his full quota of overs. If they had got the required rate down at the stage, that would have made RCB a little nervous,” added Shastri.
Babar Azam can become world No. 1 batter in all three formats, feels Dinesh Karthik
India wicketkeeper-batter Dinesh Karthik feels Pakistan skipper Babar Azam has it in him to become the world No. 1 batter in all three formats of the game, which will be a unique first in the annals of the game.
The 27-year-old Azam already has the top ICC billing in both white-ball formats, but is ranked fifth in the longest format behind the likes of Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and prolific England run-getter Joe Root.
But Karthik, who has played a key role in Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) securing a Qualifier 2 berth in IPL 2022, is quite confident that the Pakistan captain will soon be topping the ICC Test batting charts as well.
“One-hundred per cent (he is capable of achieving that),” Karthik told The ICC Review on Friday. “He is a high-quality player who is at the peak of his batting prowess and he has got some Test matches coming up.
“He has been phenomenal in all three formats of the game and he has done well in different batting positions too. I wish him all the best and think he has the potential. He has got all the following of Pakistan helping him in abundance to go on and do special things for his country,” added Karthik.
Azam is close to achieving 3,000 Test runs and has so far played 40 matches, with a highest of 196. He has smashed six centuries and averages a healthy 45.98, besides scoring 21 half-centuries.
Australia batter Labuschagne is currently ranked first in the Test batting ranks, but it’s been the ‘Big Four’ of India’s Virat Kohli, England’s Joe Root, Australia’s Steve Smith and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson that have dominated red-ball cricket for the past decade.
While Babar still has much to do to match the feats of the ‘Big Four’, Karthik thinks it’s only a matter of time before the Pakistan right-hander joins the group.
“It is a very strong ‘Fab Four’ that we are talking about and they have obviously been there for much longer, but there is no doubt that Babar has all the credentials and he is going to make it a ‘Fab Five’,” said Karthik.
“There is no doubt he is there or thereabouts… he is a very special player.”
Karthik noted that Azam had made subtle changes in his batting technique of late, which had helped him become a better cricketer.
“The two things that struck me when I watched him bat is his balance and his striking point when he plays a ball. Whether it is on the front foot or the back foot, his ability to strike the ball more often than not under his eyes, has been phenomenal. He strikes the ball at the point where it is optimum power for where the ball is pitched and that makes him a very special player.”
Karthik, who recently made a re-entry into the India national side being selected in the squad for the five match-T20I series at home against South Africa, added that he was confident the Pakistan cricketer would develop further.
“When you play international cricket you have got to keep changing a little bit here and there to keep improving your technique. Sometimes just by one per cent a lot of the time so that so you can go on and achieve success in that particular tour you are on, so I think he has definitely tweaked his technique a bit here and there over a period of time,” added Karthik.
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