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Tuesday,09-March-2021

International

Steve Smith now with most Test tons against India

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Australia’s Steve Smith on Friday became the batsman to score the maximum number of hundreds against India in Test cricket.

Smith achieved the feat on the second day of the ongoing third Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at the Sydney Cricket Ground. He played a brilliant knock of 131 before getting run out.

The right-handed batsman has scored eight hundreds in just 25 innings against India that he has played so far.

Gary Sobers (30 innings), Vivian Richards (41 innings) and Ricky Ponting (51 innings) also had scored eight centuries against India.

Smith, currently ranked third in ICC Test rankings, has now scored 27 Test hundreds, equalling Virat Kohli, Graeme Smith and Allan Border.

With his Friday’s inning, Smith also ended Australia’s near four-year drought of centuries against India. The 31-year-old was, in fact, the last Australian to score a hundred for his country against India back in 2017 when he made 111 in the first innings of the Dharamsala Test.

Since then the Aussies went 11 completed innings, all in Australia, without a century before Smith himself broke the jinx.

Prior to Australia’s first innings in the ongoing Test at the SCG which ended at 338, the individual highest score by an Australian batsman was 79 by Marcus Harris during the last series in 2018-19. Harris is sitting on the bench in this series.

International

Bajrang Punia and Vinesh take back top spot after winning in Rome

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India’s Bajrang Punia got back to the No. 1 spot in the 65 kg wrestling world rankings after winning gold at the Matteo Pelicone Ranking Series in Rome. Earlier, Vinesh Phogat took back the top spot in the 53 kg rankings after winning gold in her weight category at the ranking series.

Both wrestlers, who have qualified for this year’s Tokyo Olympics, had slipped off the top of the rankings during the lengthy breaks they had to take in 2020 on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While Punia came into the tournament ranked second, Vinesh was third. Punia, 27, defended his title in Rome on Sunday after beating Mongolia’s Tulga Tumur Ochir 2-2. He was trailing 2-0 for much of the bout but managed to take two points in the last 30 seconds. Since Punia was the last to score a point, he was declared winner on criteria.

Vinesh, meanwhile, won gold without dropping a single point throughout the tournament, beating Canada’s Diana Weicker 4-0 in the final. This is the 26-year-old Asian Games champion’s second gold medal in two weeks, having earlier won the 53 kg title in the Outstanding Ukrainian Wrestlers and Coaches Memorial tournament in Kiev, Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Sumit Malik won bronze in the 125 kg category and jumped to fourth in the rankings. He gained nine points after coming into the tournament ranked 44. Naveen Mor rose to fourth in the Greco-Roman 130 kg category after winning bronze in Rome.

Sarita Mor rose to 2nd in the women’s 57 kg rankings after winning silver while Anshu Malik got up to fifth from eighth in the same weight class.

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International

WTT Star Contender: Manika Batra and Sathiyan in 2nd round

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India’s Manika Batra and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran on Monday went through to the second round of the WTT Star Contender table tennis tournament in Doha.

Manika, ranked 63 in women’s singles, beat Chinese Taipei’s Hsien-Tzy Cheng 3-0. Manika held her own to beat her opponent in straight sets 11-5, 11-9, 11-9. The 2018 Asian Games bronze medallist will face Japanese world No. 3 Mima Ito in her round of 16 match on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, world No. 37 Gnanasekaran had a more tricky encounter against France’s 40th ranked Emmanuel Lebesson, winning the match 3-2. Gnanasekaran lost the first two games but then came back to take the match 9-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-4. He will face Japanese world No. 5 Harimoto Tomokazu in the round of 16 on Tuesday.

Later, four-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Achanta Sharath Kamal faces Puerto Rico’s Brian Afanador in his first round match. Kamal and Manika had earlier fallen short of qualification to the Doha event in the mixed doubles category, losing their second-round qualifier against Mexico’s Marcos Madrid and Yadira Silva.

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Novak Djokovic breaks Federer’s record for most weeks as world No. 1

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Serbian tennis great Novak Djokovic on Monday set a record for most weeks at No. 1 in the 48-year history of the ATP rankings. Djokovic entered his 311th week at the top of the rankings, one week longer than Swiss 20-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer’s record.

18-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic grabbed his ninth Australian Open title last month. Federer had set the record in July 2012, surpassing American Pete Sampras’ record of 286 weeks.

Djokovic, 33, had fallen to No. 22 in May 2018 amid a series of injuries and downturn in form. However, he stormed back into the top five after winning Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 and following that up with a win at the 2019 Australian Open and 2019 Wimbledon.

Federer, Djokovic and Spain’s Rafael Nadal have dominated men’s singles tennis, particularly the Grand Slams, for nearly two decades.

From the 2003 Wimbledon to the 2021 Australian Open, the three players have won 58 out of 70 Grand Slams. They won 18 consecutive slams from the 2005 French Open to Wimbledon in 2009, and 13 consecutive slams from the 2017 Australian Open to the 2020 Australian Open.

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