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Thursday,29-July-2021

International

Novak Djokovic falls, Nadal beats Dimitrov at Monte Carlo Masters

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Novak Djokovic admitted he played an “awful” match against Dan Evans at the Monte Carlo Masters as Rafael Nadal advanced with ease to the quarter-finals.

World number one Djokovic, playing in his first tournament since winning a ninth Australian Open in February, suffered his first defeat of 2021 on Thursday, DPA reported.

Evans, who had never before reached the last eight of a Masters 1000 tournament, won 6-4 7-5 with a performance that belied his relative lack of success on clay.

The 30-year-old Briton will now meet David Goffin, who surprised fifth seed Alexander Zverev 6-4 7-6 (9-7).

“To be honest, this has been probably one of the worst matches and performances from my side I can recall in the last years,” said Djokovic. “I don’t want to take anything away from his win, but from my side, I just felt awful on the court overall. Just nothing worked. It’s one of those days.”

Saying he felt “completely the opposite” to Wednesday’s win over Jannik Sinner, Djokovic added: “Just was obviously very, very windy, tough to play in these kinds of conditions against a guy like Evans who makes you move. He’s very unpredictable with his shots. He dismantled my game.”

Eleven-time Monte Carlo champion Nadal had no such problems in his match as he dismissed Grigor Dimitrov 6-1 6-1 in 55 minutes.

Nadal, who boasts a 14-1 career record against the Bulgarian, did not face a break point in either set against his off-colour opponent.

Dimitrov started the match with three double faults in his opening service game and was 4-0 down in each set.

“(I am) sorry for him. He played a bad match. That is the truth,” said Spaniard Nadal. “He made a lot of mistakes. I was there. I was doing the right thing, but it is true that today was more his fault than my good tennis.”

Nadal will face Andrey Rublev after the Russian battled past Roberto Bautista-Agut 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 6-3.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat Cristian Garin 6-3 6-4, will face Alejandro Davidovich Fokina next, while Fabio Fognini’s straight-sets win over Filip Krajinovic set up a meeting with Casper Ruud.

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2nd T20I: Depleted India go down to Sri Lanka by 4 wickets

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A below-strength India, who were forced to make seven changes in the XI after nine players were ruled out due to Covid-related issues, stretched Sri Lanka before losing by four wickets in the last over of the second T20 International here on Wednesday night.

India, who were asked to bat, had made 132/5 wickets at the R Premadasa Stadium as the batting line-up, which included only four specialist batsmen and wicketkeeper-batsman Sanju Samson, couldn’t set a total in excess of 150 which they had managed in the first T20I (164).

Sri Lanka, riding on Dhananjaya de Silva’s 40 off 34 balls, won with two balls to spare after a few hiccups.

India skipper Shikhar Dhawan grafted 40 off 42 deliveries with five fours on a pitch that was difficult to bat on and shared an opening stand of 49 in seven overs with Ruturaj Gaikwad (21 off 18 balls). Debutant Devdutt Padikkal grafted 29 off 21 deliveries.

India were coasting at 81/1 after 12 overs before Dhawan fell. Soon Padikkal and Samson were bowled while trying to increase the scoring rate, with the former missing the line during a sweep and the latter letting the ball sneak past bat and pad and on to the stumps.

From then on, India lost track and could not make use of the last few overs.

The Sri Lankans, in reply, got off to a decent start, making 36/1 in the powerplay phase. However, a few wickets brought India back.

Over the seven overs after powerplay, India conceded only 36 runs and picked three wickets. But 15 runs off Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav’s (2/30) fourth over brought the Sri Lankans back. Kuldeep had earlier picked two wickets to peg the home side back.

With 46 required off 36 balls and six wickets in hand, the odds were in Sri Lanka’s favour. India picked a couple of more wickets but de Silva and Chamika Karunaratne (12 off 6), who hit a six off Bhuvneshwar, saw the host through.

Due to nine players in isolation, India were forced to hand T20 International debut to four players — Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Nitish Rana, and Chetan Sakariya. Padikkal and Gaikwad made their international debuts.

The Covid-affected Krunal Pandya was among those who missed the match.

Earlier, before the match started, the Board of Control for Cricket in India had drafted the five net bowlers – Ishan Porel, Sandeep Warrier, Arshdeep Singh, R Sai Kishore and Simarjeet Singh – into the squad for T20Is on Wednesday and Thursday.

None of these reserve players, however, played the second game on Wednesday.

Brief scores:

India 132/5 in 20 overs (S Dhawan 40, D Padikkal 29, A Dananjaya 2/29, R Gaikwad 21) lost to Sri Lanka 133/6 in 19.4 overs (D de Silva 40 not out, M Bhanuka 36, K Yadav 2/30) by four wickets.

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Olympics: PV Sindhu storms into women’s singles quarterfinals

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Midway through the first game against Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt in the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday, coach Park Tae-sang told India’s PV Sindhu that she was rushing with her defence and should be more patient.

Sindhu, silver medallist at the Rio Olympics five years ago, changed her tactics and scored points at will as she has reached the women’s singles quarterfinals, beating her Danish opponent 21-15, 21-13 at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday.

Playing aggressive and deceptive shots that kept her opponent on the run throughout the match, Sindhu outplayed Mia in just 41 minutes.

“I started off well. In the first game, I was rushing in defence a bit but my coach told me that I was playing the wrong way and I was able to change how I played. And then in the second game I think it was fine, I maintained the lead and was under control,” said Sindhu after the match.

Mia, who was ranked 11th in the world a couple of years back, had sent Sindhu packing from the Thailand Open in January this year though the Indian had won their last encounter, found the Indian star, gunning for gold here, too strong on Thursday and could not play her usual game as Sindhu took control from the start.

Sindhu will next play the winner of the match between Kim Gaeun of South Korea and Akane Yamaguchi of Japan.

Sindhu, playing solid and steady throughout the match, came into her own in the middle of the first game as she opened up a handy lead and went out to win it 25-15.

She was more dominant in the second game as she surged ahead to a 7-2 lead. Playing with the stadium drift behind her, the Indian could unleash her smashes and mixed them with deceptive drop shots that had Mia shaking her head in frustration.

Though Mia tried to fight back, Sindhu built on her five-point advantage to reach 20-11 and had nine match points, capitalising on some unforced errors by her opponent.

Mia saved two match points but Sindhu could not be denied on Thursday and sealed a well-deserved victory.

Sindhu has always done well in the big tournaments, which is evident in the silver medal she won in Rio de Janeiro five years back and her performance in the World Championships, in which she had a full set of medals, having won gold in 2019; silver in 2017 and �18, and bronze medals in 2013 and 2014.

The 26-year-old said she does not think of the importance of the tournament when playing and takes it match-by-match.

“A lot of people have told me that. I will take that as a compliment. But for me each and every game is important. It’s important to focus on every point, and not the match,” Sindhu told the BWF, the sport’s world governing body, after the match.

When the draw was made, everyone thought that the match against Mia would be the first big challenge for Sindhu in the knoclout stages. But the way she played on Thursday, it appears she is very focused and it will take a lot of effort to stop her.

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This is what I’m meant to do for the team: Dhananjaya de Silva

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Sri Lankan all-rounder Dhananjaya de Silva has said that staying till the end of the innings was the role he is meant to do for the team. De Silva played an unbeaten match-winning knock of 40 off 34 balls in giving Sri Lanka a four-wicket win against India on Wednesday, their first win in six T20Is.

“This is what I’m meant to do for the team. In the previous match as well, what I’d been told was to bat 20 overs from one side. I wasn’t able to do that in the previous game. Today was my day and I did that. If I can bat at a run-a-ball until the final overs, letting others attack around me, I can raise my strike rate towards the finish as well. That was the coach, captain and selectors’ plan,” said de Silva after the match ended.

The 29-year-old also said that they knew the pitch for the second T20I will be slow, adding that the target for the hosts was to restrict India to a low score.

“We knew it was a slow pitch, so our target while bowling was to restrict them to 125 or 130. Our bowlers did well and we were able to manage that. When it came to our innings, we knew that it would be tough to bat as well, but if we dragged the game out to the 20th over, the equation becomes simple and we know what we have to do. I think even a T20 match, that’s the way to do it.”

De Silva spoke about the belief he had in his team-mates in the lower order while chasing 133.

“We know that in the last four or five batters we have a few that can hit a six. Chamika, Wanindu Hasaranga, Isuru Udana and even Dushmantha Chameera can hit a big shot. What I’d wanted to do was to take the game deep, thinking that Wanindu or Chamika would be there with me to finish it off. Thankfully, Chamika was there at the end.”

With the series locked at 1-1, the final T20I between India and Sri Lanka is a winner-takes-it-all affair on Thursday.

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