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Wednesday,26-January-2022

International

Novak is No. 1 for a record seventh year; to clash with Medvedev for Paris title

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 Novak Djokovic of Serbia made history by securing the year-end No. 1 ATP ranking for a record seventh time, breaking the tie with American legend Pete Sampras.

Djokovic, who has won three majors this year – Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, though he missed out on the US Open title after losing to Russian Daniil Medvedev in the final – defeated Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz in Saturday’s Rolex Paris Masters semifinals to eclipse Sampras’s record.

Djokovic rallied from a set down, and a shock final-set fadeout, to defeat Hurkacz 3-6, 6-0, 7-6(5) to power into his seventh Paris Masters final. The Serb will meet Medvedev in the final here after the reigning champion powered into his second consecutive Paris Masters final, snapping Germany’s Alexander Zverev’s eight-match winning streak with a 6-2, 6-2 win.

Djokovic broke a tie with Sampras, who completed six straight year-end No. 1 finishes between 1993 and 98. The Serbian has now achieved the feat in seven of the past 11 seasons (also 2011-12, 2014-15, 2018 and 2020).

“Just proud and extremely happy. Obviously that was one of the biggest goals and it’s always one of the biggest goals, to try to be No. 1 and end the season as No. 1,” Djokovic told atptour.com. “To do it for the record seventh time and surpass my childhood idol and role model, Pete, is incredible. Very grateful, very blessed to be in this position.”

The 34-year-old, who extended his record as the oldest man to finish year-end No. 1, came within one victory of completing the calendar Grand Slam in 2021. He went 27-1 at the four major championships with trophies at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon. Djokovic’s bid to match the feat of Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) ended in the US Open final where he lost to world No.2 Medvedev.

It marks the 17th time in the past 18 seasons — barring Great Britain’s Andy Murray in 2016 — that the year-end No. 1 has been held by Djokovic, Spain’s Rafael Nadal (five times: 2008, 2010, 2013, 2017, 2019) or Roger Federer (five times: 2004-07, 2009).

Djokovic eclipsed Federer’s all-time mark of 310 weeks at No. 1 on March 8 and will finish 2021 having held the top ranking for 348 weeks (as of 22 November). The Serbian’s fifth stint in the top spot began the week of February 3, 2020.

In addition to his three major titles, Djokovic also triumphed on home soil at the Belgrade Open in May. He became the first man since Laver to win each major twice at Roland Garros in June and earned a sixth Wimbledon title in July, drawing him level on a record 20 majors with Federer and Nadal. Djokovic’s career trophy haul stands at 85, which is fifth in the Open Era.

Djokovic will attempt to secure a record-equalling sixth ATP Finals trophy at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from November 14-21. He will be making his 14th appearance at the season finale, where he will officially receive the year-end ATP Tour No. 1 trophy.

Earlier, Medvedev put himself in a position to lift the Paris Masters trophy again as he dictated the terms against Zverev with his powerful groundstrokes to set up a summit clash with Djokovic after 80 minutes.

“We had a tough match,” Medvedev said. “Sometimes the score doesn’t show exactly what happened on the court. I am happy to have this score, but he (Zverev) had 2-1, 15/40 in the first set on my serve. I think this first break of serve when you play Sascha (Zverev) is really important because he gains confidence. I am really happy I managed to raise my level throughout the match and I didn’t make too many unforced errors,” said Zverev after the match.

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Malinga set to take over as Sri Lanka’s fast bowling consultant: Report

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Lasith-Malinga

Former Sri Lankan pace bowler Lasith Malinga is set to become the fast bowling consultant coach of the national cricket team after the high-profile Cricket Advisory Committee recommended his name to Sri Lanka Cricket’s (SLC) Executive Committee.

The 38-year-old Malinga, who played for more than a decade for Indian Premier League (IPL) side Mumbai Indians, will oversee the Sri Lankan team’s preparations for the upcoming T20I tour of Australia, where the side will play five matches, a report in the The Island said on Wednesday.

While Malinga is one of the most successful T20 bowlers in the world due to his sling-shot action and is a Sri Lankan icon, his appointment has reportedly not gone down well with several stakeholders of the game in the country.

The report said that while he was adored by millions of fans, “he wasn’t the most likeable person in the dressing room with a host of Sri Lankan captains having concerns about his conduct”.

“It is alleged that Malinga deliberately slowed down the over rate with the intention of suspending the captain, an allegation that SLC has not investigated. Cricket’s playing conditions at one point dictated that slow over rates would result in fines for players and suspension for the captain. Since then, the International Cricket Council has amended the playing conditions and the captain is no longer suspended,” the report added.

Sri Lanka lifted the ICC T20 World Cup in 2014 under Malinga’s captaincy, as he was filling in for the suspended Dinesh Chandimal, but his overall record as skipper is abysmal. He led the country in nine One-day Internationals and all nine ended in losses. Under his leadership, Sri Lanka lost 15 of the 24 T20Is it played.

The report said that the Cricket Advisory Committee, comprising of stalwarts such as Kumar Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva and Muttiah Muralitharan among others, had their reservations on endorsing Malinga as fast bowling consultant coach. However, since the recommendation reportedly came from former skipper and consultant coach Mahela Jayawardene, it could not be denied, the report said.

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Afghanistan complete whitewash to grab crucial Cricket World Cup Super League points

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Afghanistan completed a 3-0 series victory over the Netherlands to grab 30 crucial World Cup Super League points, here on Tuesday.

Half-centuries from Najibullah Zadran and debutant Riaz Hassan and a three-wicket haul from another debutant Qais Ahmad helped Afghanistan to a 75-run win, setting up a 3-0 series victory in the ODI series.

After deciding to bat first, Afghanistan were driven by 19-year old opener Riaz on debut. The Netherlands managed to send back the centurion from the last game, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, for 12, but Riaz and Rahmat Shah put on an 86-run partnership to revive the innings.

Once Saqib Zulfiqar broke the partnership by sending back Riaz, the Netherlands managed another wicket soon with Rahmat dismissed in the 33rd over. Najibullah Zadran compiled a fine half-century with aid from the lower middle-order. Najibullah finished on 71 off 59 balls as Afghanistan made 254/5 in their 50 overs.

In reply, the Netherlands made a strong start with Scott Edwards once again leading the charge. Colin Ackermann gave him solid company and the duo thwarted Afghanistan’s new ball plans. Their 50 came up in 10 overs with the openers laying a solid platform.

They carried on in the same vein, putting on 103 for the opening wicket before Afghanistan’s debutant Qais broke the stand with his maiden ODI wicket, that of Edwards, trapped in front by the leg-spinner. Fareed Ahmad sent back skipper Pieter Seelaar for a duck and Afghanistan had the opportunity to put a leash on the chase.

The spinners worked in tandem and soon the Netherlands went from 103/0 to 153/5 with Boris Gorlee, Bas de Leede and the well-set Colin Ackermann, who made 81 off 96 balls, also back in the hut. The tables had turned around at this stage and Afghanistan were right on top in the game. They went on to bowl out the Netherlands for 179 to seal a 75-run victory and secure a series whitewash.

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Australia to tour Pakistan with a full-strength squad, says George Bailey

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Chief selector George Bailey on Tuesday confirmed that no Australian player has asked to be left out of the squad that is set to embark on their first tour of Pakistan since 1999.

Bailey added that the selection will be solely based on managing their workload.

“I believe the boards are still working through some of the minor details around that tour, so once that gets the formal tick of approval then we’ll announce the squad post that, but we’re reasonably well down the track,” Bailey was quoted as saying by Cricket Australia’s website.

“The two (security) briefings that I’ve sat in on, the security sounds very, very robust.”

The tour is set to start on March 3. It will consist of three Test matches to be played in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore and will be followed by a three-match ODI series from March 29 to April 2. A lone T20I will be played on April 5.

The last time Pakistan had an ICC event on its soil was when it co-hosted the 1996 World Cup along with India and Sri Lanka. The terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009 ensured Test cricket remained out of bounds until 2019.

In 2020, before the T20 World Cup, New Zealand and England had pulled out of the tour of Pakistan citing security concerns.

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