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Bengaluru ● Thursday ● 29 January 2009

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I Serena rallies to oust Kuznetsova to set up semifinal clash with Dementieva I

Spanish thriller at Melbourne BY MARTIN PARRY MELBOURNE

Jan 28: Rafael Nadal booked an all-Spanish Australian Open semifinal against Fernando Verdasco on Wednesday as Serena Williams clawed back from a set down in searing heat to keep her dreams alive. The world number one fought off a determined rear-guard action by battling French sixth seed Gilles Simon to win 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 as he goes in search of his first title here. The victory earns him a crack at Verdasco for a place in the final against Roger Federer or Andy Roddick after the left-hander sent French fifth seed and last year’s runner-up JoWilfried Tsonga packing 7-6 (7/2), 36, 6-3, 6-2. “For Spain it is incredible to have two of us in the semifinals. It means at least one Spaniard will be in the final and we have to be happy for that,” said Nadal. “But I know it will be a tough match against Fernando.” Verdasco, previously best known as Ana Ivanovic’s boyfriend, has shot from nowhere to join a long line of players to make a name for themselves at the year’s opening Grand Slam, powering into his first Major semi in 23 attempts. “What I’m thinking right now is that I’m playing good, I’m feeling good,” said Verdasco. “I just think that I can beat anyone. In contrast to Verdasco’s seven-year wait to make the business end of a Grand Slam, Serena booked her 15th Grand Slam semifinal as temperatures soared to 41 degrees Celsius (106 F). The roof was finally closed on the Rod Laver Arena and Serena was a beneficiary.

The three-time champion was a set down to Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova at the time but recovered her composure against the fuming eighth seed to run out a 5-7, 7-5, 61 winner. It earned the experienced American a shot at ice-cool Russian Elena Dementieva, who powered past unseeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-2. The other semifinal sees third seed Dinara Safina play her Russian compatriot Vera Zvonareva. Serena looked in serious trouble as she struggled in the first set of her match but was granted a reprieve when the stadium roof was closed early in the second set under the tournament’s extreme heat policy. The 28-year-old admitted the move made a huge difference. Kuznetsova handled the heat better but could not cope with the pressure generated by the nine-time Grand Slam champion, failing at crucial moments in the match. The Russian was angry that they were ordered off court for the roof to be shut while she had a grip on the match. “Yeah, I was definitely angry. Why should I not be? The game was going my way,” said the 2004 US Open champion. Dementieva, who is now on a 15-match unbeaten streak, was untroubled by giantkiller Suarez Navarro, who knocked out Venus Williams in the second round. She was nevertheless relieved to overcome the dangerous Suarez Navarro and set up a showdown with Serena. “You don’t know what to expect from her. All the matches that we play, all the last three matches, were completely different games,” she said. —AFP

results (quarterfinals)

Rafael Nadal leaps in joy after winning his quarterfinal match against Gilles Simon at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Wednesday. PHOTO: Reuters

Men’s singles: (x denotes seeding): Fernando Verdasco (ESP x14) bt Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA x5) 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2; Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) bt Gilles Simon (FRA x6) 6-2, 7-5, 7-5. Women’s singles: Elena Dementieva (RUS x4) bt Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) 6-2, 6-2; Serena Williams (USA x2) bt Svetlana Kuznetzova (RUS x8) 5-7, 7-5, 6-1 Men’s doubles: Leander Paes (IND)/Lukas Dlouhy (CZE x4) v Simone Bolelli/Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-1, 7-6 (5); Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan (USA x1) v Mardy Fish/John Isner (USA) 7-5, 7-6 (6) Mixed doubles: Sania Mirza/Mahesh Bhupathi

(IND) bt Aleksandra Wozniak/Daniel Nestor (CAN) 3-6, 6-4, 10-5 (match tiebreaker); Anabel Medina Garrigues/Tommy Robredo (ESP x7) bt Patty Schnyder (SUI)/Wesley Moodie (RSA) 5-7, 6-4, 1210 (match tiebreaker); Nathalie Dechy (FRA)/Andy Dam (ISR) bt Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)/Jurgen Melzer (AUT) 7-5, 6-1.

Semifinal line-up: On Thursday: Women: Vera Zvonareva (RUS x7) v Dinara Safina (RUS x3); Elena Dementieva (RUS x4) v Serena Williams (USA x2). Men: Andy Roddick (USA x7) v Roger Federer (SUI x2). On Friday: Fernando Verdasco (ESP x14) v Rafael Nadal (ESP x1)

Padma slight not a concern for Saina BY MAXIN MATHEW BENGALURU

Jan. 28: A stupendous 2008 with colossal performances on the international badminton circuit saw ace shuttler Saina Nehwal rocket to the top 10 in the world. Despite her memorable run, the 18-year-old was overlooked for the Padma Shri awards announced recently. However, refreshingly, Saina took the slight in her stride. “There’s nothing to feel bad about as its part of life. I have still many more years left in badminton and once I’m among the top-3 or achieved more, maybe my contribution will be noticed. I only feel bad for Sushil Kumar and Vijender Singh who were not recognised for their Olympic achievements,” she said. Saina was in the news recently after she said she wanted to be world No. 1 by 2010. However, the softspoken Hyderabadi denied the reports and said she had been misquoted. “During the PSPB tournament in Pune, I had said I want to be among the top-5 by the end

of 2009 and be world No. 1 someday. It’s really tough and takes time to break into the top league and that’s my aim right now. The next goal would be the No. 1 position,” Saina reiterated. Billed as the “face of the youth”, the Saina was in the city as the brand ambassador for Herbalife, a health and nutrition based multinational company. Excerpts: How is your preparation for the All-England Championships and the Swiss and Korea Opens that follow? The All-England tourney is important for me and I am leaving no stone unturned to do well. We have two Indonesian coaches, along with Gopi sir, who have been excellent in improving my gameplay. I can say I am perfectly fit now and I’m using this break to relax, take up meditation to improve my focus and concentration. From World Juniors you will be playing the World Championships later this year. Moving on from juniors to the World Championships is a big thing. But it’s too early

Robinho arrested for sexual assault Manchester, Jan. 28: Manchester City and Brazil striker Robinho has been arrested and bailed over allegations of a serious sexual assault in a British nightclub, police said Wednesday. A spokesman for 25-yearold Robinho, Britain’s most expensive player, confirmed he had been interviewed by police on Tuesday but

“strenuously denied” the allegations. “We can confirm that Robinho met the police today (Tuesday), as prearranged and as part of a criminal investigation,” spokesman Chris Nathaniel said in a statement on Robinho’s official website. City declined to comment on the arrest. — AFP

Regd. No. SDHO/8/2006-08 Published by Raja Vishnu Mohan on behalf of Deccan Chronicle Holdings Limited from 22, Campbell Road, Austin Town, Bangalore-560 047 and Printed by him at Deccan Chronicle Press at 177/178/179, Jigani Link Road, Bommasandra Industrial Area, Anekal Taluk, Bangalore-560 099. Editor: A.T. Jayanti RNI Registration No.KARENG/2008/24762

quote-unquote “I want to be in the top-five by the end of this year and be world No. 1 someday. It’s really tough to break into the top league but that’s my aim right now.”

Saina Nehwal is confident of a good show in the forthcoming All-England championships. PHOTO: R Samuel

for me to say anything about it. I have been playing my best badminton from the

past few months and I surely hope that I can keep the momentum going.

Do you think you have a home advantage when you play the India Open and the Worlds at Hyderabad? Crowd support in India has been phenomenal. I was awe-struck with the jampacked stadium during the Commonwealth Youth Games. I must say that it really motivates a player to go all the way when he or she is backed by a fantastic crowd and I hope we get the same support in Hyderabad too.

Have you considered training abroad? With the current training that I am getting, I have no reason to look for a training base abroad. I am extremely happy being here. There are shuttlers who are coming to India to train so you can guess the influence that Indian badminton has in the world. What do you think of the current crop of young shuttlers? We are surely coming up with good shuttlers such as Guru Sai Dutt, Sikki Reddy and Aditya Prakash among others. They did very well in the CYG and the Nationals. They need to play in more international events so that they can build on their exposure. Which city has better facilities, Bengaluru or Hyderabad? (Smiles) Both are the best for me. Tata Padukone Academy and Gopi sir’s academy have excellent facilities and both Gopi sir and Prakash sir are excellent coaches. Both academies are churning talented youngsters for the future. So both cities are at par.

Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi came through a tough three-setter in the quarters. PHOTO: Reuters

Sania-Bhupathi pair enter semis Melbourne, Jan. 28: Indian players had a great day at the Australian Open amid soaring temperatures with Leander Paes advancing to the men’s doubles semifinal and Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza making it the last four stage of the mixed doubles event on Wednesday. Fourth seeds Paes and Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic, quelled a late challenge from unseeded Italians Simone Bolelli and Andreas Seppi 6-1, 7-6 (5) in the quarterfinals. They will now square off against second seeded

Bryan brothers Bob and Mike Bryan, who defeated Mardy Fish and John Isner 7-5, 7-6 (6). Sania and Mahesh rallied to beat Canadians Aleksandra Wozniak and Daniel Nestor 3-6, 6-4, 10-5 to seal a semifinal berth in the mixed doubles event. Sania and Bhupathi were the runners-up last year. They next face the Czech pair of Iveta Benesova and Lukas Dlouhy. Among the juniors, top seed Yuki Bhambri entered the quarterfinals defeating 13th seed Croatian Dino Marcan 6-3, 6-1. —PTI

Laver, Dementieva slam heat rule Melbourne, Jan 28: The Australian Open heat policy came under fire from top players and Australian great Rod Laver on Wednesday as organisers finally closed the roof on the main arena after days of scorching temperatures. Laver and Russia’s Elena Dementieva both questioned why the Open’s “extreme heat policy” was not enacted sooner, while three-time champion Serena Williams said she was having an “out-of-body” experience before the roof was closed. “It was really an out-ofbody experience. I felt I was watching someone play in a blue dress, and it wasn’t me, because it was so hot out there,” said Williams, who was playing a semifinal with Svetlana Kuznetsova. “And I kept trying to tell myself that it’s not hot, but it got hotter.” The main Rod Laver Arena’s electronic roof was closed at around 2:30 pm and play stopped on outside courts as temperatures rocketed to 41 celsius, with forecasters predicting the worst heatwave this week since 1908. Laver and Dementieva both questioned why the roof was not closed earlier, with men’s champion Novak Djokovic sensationally withdrawing in severe heat on Tuesday

and Victoria Azarenka forced out ill a day earlier. “The mechanics say we’re going to have this sort of heat for the next three days, why not just close it right now and leave it closed?” Laver said. “You’re going to see your best tennis. It’s going to be hot anyway. I imagine they can air-condition it. It’s just wonderful that they have a roof they can close, so take advantage of it.” Dementieva said few players understood the heat policy, introduced after a series of complaints in 2007, which relies on a so-called “Wet Bulb Globe Temperature” combining heat, humidity and solar radiation. Tournament director Craig Tiley said the heat policy was explained on entry forms and in the players’ guide, but conceded the measures may be revised. “This is something we do take seriously,” Tiley said. “We are one of the only tournaments around the world that has an extreme heat policy that’s actually been implemented. Fans on Laver Arena fanned themselves, sucked ice lollies and held up signs saying “Thank you for closing the roof!” as the policy came into effect. —AFP

Record-breaking Man United romp home London, Jan. 28: Manchester United set a new Premier League record with an 11th consecutive clean sheet and maintained their grip on top place in the table with a 5-0 demolition of bottom side West Brom on Tuesday. The stroll at The Hawthorns left United three points clear of Liverpool, who play at Wigan on Wednesday evening, and Aston Villa, who moved up to joint second place with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Portsmouth. It was also a good night for Tottenham, 3-1 winners over fellow strugglers Stoke, and Sunderland, who beat Fulham 1-0. United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was delighted with what he described as a “ruthless” display that enabled his side to signifi-

cantly improve their goal difference, which he feels could prove decisive in what is a very tight title battle. United’s kick-off was delayed by half an hour because of traffic congestion but the champions wasted no time in seizing control of the match. With 21 minutes gone, Dimitar Berbatov played a one-two with Michael Carrick before slotting the ball past Scott Carson for his 11th goal of the season. The Baggies then had defender Paul Robinson sent off for what was — perhaps harshly — adjudged to be a dangerous challenge on Park Ji-Sung before Carlos Tevez doubled United’s lead just before half-time, firing in from close range after Carson dropped a Ryan Giggs freekick.

Cristiano Ronaldo scores his second goal in Manchester United’s 5-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the English Premier League on Tuesday. PHOTO: AFP

A Giggs corner enabled Nemanja Vidic to head in

United’s third on the hour mark and a Cristiano Ronal-

do double rounded off a performance that enabled Unit-

ed to eclipse Chelsea’s Premier League clean sheet record. Emile Heskey marked his debut for Aston Villa with the only goal of the game at Portsmouth as Martin O’Neill’s men again displayed their ability to grind out results in their pursuit of a top-four finish and a place in next season’s Champions League. Heskey latched on to Gabriel Agbonlahor’s flickon from goalkeeper Brad Friedel’s clearance and fired past David James from just outside the area to start paying back the 3.5 million pounds it cost Villa to sign him from Wigan. Tottenham pulled three points clear of the relegation zone with a convincing 3-1 win over fellow strugglers Stoke at White Hart Lane. — AFP

Saina Nehwal  

Saina Nehwal's signing up with Herbalife