Paes, Black fall to wild-card shuffle
Giant-killer Tabara shown the door
Black out to knock partner Paes off perch
Mahesh Bhupathi ready for commentators’ box
Winning start for Bengal
Hattrick by Chakraborty
The Kid trounces rivals
Chieftan may be hard to toss

 
 
PAES, BLACK FALL TO WILD-CARD SHUFFLE 
 
 
FROM AMITAVA DAS GUPTA
 
Chennai, Jan. 5 
Wild card entrants Julien Boutter and Christophe Rochus dealt a severe body blow to the already gasping Gold Flake Open by knocking out top seeds Leander Paes and Byron Black in the doubles quarter finals at Nungambakkam Stadium this evening.

The French-Belgian duo, which very few had heard of in this country, won 6-3, 6-4 to stop the Indian’s unbeaten run at this four-year-old tournament here.

Pairing up for only the second time, that, too, after a gap of six years, Paes and Black discovered just numbers and reputation aren’t good enough to see one through even against an unheralded pair.

They had problems in the opening round against Sander Groen and Laurence Tieleman, too, but escaped unscathed.

Today, they came up against an inspired team which capitalised on the chances that came their way.

Boutter, the tall Frenchman who bowed to Paes yesterday, provided the firepower. Rochus, the slightly built Belgian, lent the team solidity. They singled out Black’s serve for the telling assault, breaking the Zimbabwean in both sets. Boutter’s forehand return did a lot of damage as Paes and Black searched for the right understanding so very essential in doubles.

“They played a really good match,” admitted Paes, who won the first three editions of the Gold Flake Open with Mahesh Bhupathi. “Boutter, specially, was hitting some big serves and swinging his returns. Against guys like that, it’s difficult to get a rhythm.”

The world No. 1 felt his playing on the ad-court after several years affected his quality of returns. “It will take me some time to get my returns going. I’ll need a lot of practice,” admitted Paes.

Black said he and Paes had some chances early, against Rochus’ serve. “We should have converted those 0-30, 15-30 situations,” said the former world No. 1. “They didn’t have anything to lose and once they got the confidence, they were on a roll.”

All eyes are now on the Paes versus Cedric Pioline second-round shootout tomorrow. In their only previous meeting, in the ‘97 US Open third round, the Indian led by two sets to one before losing in five. If only the two of them can reproduce some of the tennis they played at Flushing Meadow, the crowd would have finally got something to cheer about.    


 
 
GIANT-KILLER TABARA SHOWN THE DOOR 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Chennai, Jan. 5 
Less than 24 hours after scaling seventh heaven, young Czech Michal Tabara crash-landed to the cruel reality of men’s tennis. The 20-year-old’s joy of scalping world No. 2 and second seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov quickly evaporated as Swiss beanpole Lorenzo Manta inflicted a 6-4, 6-3 defeat on him in the second round of the Gold Flake Open.

Another Czech, the experienced Martin Damm, gathered his wits in time to see off seventh seed Ronald Agenor 4-6, 6-2, 6-1. Manta and Damm thus set up a quarter final showdown in a rather impoverished draw which has now lost five of the eight seeded players.

Finn Tuomas Ketola joined Manta and Damm in the quarter finals, outlasting Czech Jiri Vanek 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a battle of lucky losers. This was Ketola’s second successive three-set verdict, coming as it did after a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 shutout of Uzbek Oleg Ogorodov in the final match last night.

Kafelnikov may not have been anywhere near his prime form yesterday, but to be fair to Tabara he took his chances well. The ability to remain error-free for most of the match helped the confident Czech embrace glory on Centre Court. Today, it was a different story as he lost six games in a row from being 4-0 up in the first set to set in the rot.

Playing on Court One against a big-serving opponent, Tabara’s return was tested to the hilt. Not only did he struggle with Manta’s hot pace, Tabara committed far too many mistakes with his usually reliable forehand. A back spasm in the second set, which forced him to ask for medical attention, slowed him down further.

Swiss No. 4 Manta, fresh from his best year on Tour (he finished at a career-high No. 118), took some time to settle down in blustery conditions. He went two breaks down but clawed his way back as Tabara started missing the lines. Once Manta was warmed up, there was no stopping him. The 25-year-old from Winterthur gave ample evidence of his sharp serve-and-volley game which helped him qualify for Wimbledon ‘99 and shock Richard Krajicek en route to the pre-quarters.

Agenor overpowered

The 35-year-old Agenor, in his 16th year on the Tour, prides on his longevity. He has every right to do so as it’s no mean achievement for a short-structured African to have survived so long at a time when hugely-built youngsters from Europe and US were pumping in power to the men’s game. Today, however, he was caught short on adrenaline and energy after some smart play fetched him the first set.

Damm, a solid six-footer with a bald pate, made a nervous start. He had all the shots but didn’t use them as he got caught in Agenor’s trap of long rallies. Driven to frustration, the Czech made a pair of unforced errors in the ninth game to drop serve and lose the first set.

Waking up from his slumber, Damm altered the pace of the match early in the second set and attacked Agenor. The Haitian, who doesn’t have any big weapon, succumbed slowly but surely.

“I came four days before the tournament started and prepared well,” Damm said. “In the first set I was a bit nervous but then played my natural game.”

With the draw having opened up, Damm fancies his chances of making the final. “It’s still too early, but if I play well I can do really well.”

Sure he can, with Jerome Golmard being the only seed remaining in his half of the draw.    


 
 
BLACK OUT TO KNOCK PARTNER PAES OFF PERCH 
 
 
FROM AMITAVA DAS GUPTA
 
Chennai, Jan. 5 
They shared the same court and a common dream this week. Come January 17, their paths will cross as they pursue Grand Slam glory with different partners. That’s the story of Byron Black and Leander Paes, top seeds at the Gold Flake Open — one a former world No. 1 and the other the current topper in the world of doubles.

It’s not a one-off case of being friends one day, foes the next. Rather, it’s a sign of the times we live in. You live for the day, keeping your best interest in mind. Otherwise, you get left behind in an age where cut-throat professionalism forces you to be self-centred.

The Zimbabwean hadn’t quite made up his mind on playing doubles this week as his chosen partner, Jonas Bjorkman, wasn’t going to be here.

“That’s when I got a call from Leander asking whether I’d play with him in Chennai. I said yes, but informed him that for the rest of the year I had already committed to Jonas,” Black told The Telegraph last night. “It suited both of us as his new partner Sebastien Lareau wasn’t playing the Gold Flake Open.”

Black didn’t have to think twice when Paes’ proposal came. “He is a fine player and just the type I like as a partner. He has got a lot of fire inside him, his aggression suits me,” Black explained, adding the circumstances were such that he couldn’t possibly have signed up with the Indian on a long-term basis.

“Leander would have continued playing with Mahesh (Bhupathi) had he not got the shoulder injury. By the time Mahesh’s surgery happened, I had already decided to continue my partnership with Jonas,” Black said. And why not.

Last year, Black and Bjorkman were quite successful in the last three months they played together — winning two titles (Cincinnati and Stuttgart Indoor) and making the US Open semis.

Those three good results actually helped Black resurrect his doubles car-eer.

Winner of the 1994 French Open with Jonathan Stark, the articulate man from a Harare tennis family scaled the doubles summit that very year.

The versatile 30-year-old tasted success with a range of partners — making the 1996 Wimbledon final with Grant Connell, winning titles with Wayne Ferreira, Brian Talbot and Jared Palmer.

Having established himself as a premier doubles player, Black’s fortunes took a nosedive in 1998 as he slipped to a pedestrian No. 84.

“I was suddenly lacking in confidence. Also, I was giving my singles more importance at that time,” Black explained.

Now, he’s back in the top 10 of doubles even as his singles ranking has gone down from the 20s to 65. “I am happy to have rediscovered my doubles form and my aim this year is to regain my No. 1 position,” Black announced.

Beware Leander Paes, your present partner is gunning for your scalp!

For a man who has had so much success with so many partners, the thought of playing with his younger brother Wayne has never crossed his mind.

“Wayne is a good doubles player too, but both of us have similar styles. We return well, don’t serve big. Ideally, the two partners should complement each other on a doubles court,” said Black.

“Also, it’s difficult to play with your brother week after week... You don’t want to get on each other’s nerves,” Black quipped, a hint of a smile breaking through his serious visage.

What about the Olympics... Surely, that’s one event where the Black brothers can pair up to try and bring glory for Zimbabwe?

“I don’t know whether that’ll happen. Apart from the two of us, there is another good doubles player from our country — Kevin Ullyett. I guess the two top-ranked players at the time of the cut-off will represent the country,” Black observed, hinting that he’d prefer Ullyett, not his brother, as his partner in Sydney.

That’s hardcore professionalism for you. There’s no room for any sentimentalism there.    


 
 
MAHESH BHUPATHI READY FOR COMMENTATORS’ BOX 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Chennai, Jan. 5 
If Mahesh Bhupathi is in India, how can he stay away from Chennai at a time when the Gold Flake Open is on.

So what if his arm is in a sling following a shoulder surgery six weeks ago. The co-owner of three doubles titles at India’s only ATP Tour meet will be here tomorrow as part of Star TV’s commentary team.

Bhupathi, who arrived in in India from New York on December 29, spent four days in Mumbai before moving to Bangalore to spend some time with his family.

Next Monday, he will be flying back to New York directly from Chennai for his rehab programme.

According to his doctors, Bhupathi can start practising sometime in March and should be ready for competitive tennis in May.

Bhupathi’s presence in the TV box will add further weight to the glamorous line-up.

Vijay Amritraj, one of the best tennis commentators in business today, is a permanent fixture while his elder brother Anand is making his debut.

Nirupama Vaidyanathan, the country’s top woman player, is the other ‘star’ attraction. Like Anand, she is a first-timer.    


 
 
WINNING START FOR BENGAL 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Midnapore, Jan. 5 
Bengal erased a 1-2 deficit to beat Manipur 4-2 in the inaugural match of the 22nd national sub-junior football tournament for the Mir Iqbal Hossain Trophy at the Aurobindo Stadium here today.

Bengal midfielder Dinesh Swar scored a brace with Abdul Rauf Khan and Supratik Aind completing the tally. S. Jatin Singh got both goals for Manipur.

Dinesh put Bengal ahead and the hosts led 1-0 at half time but a couple of goals in a span of seven minutes put them in arrears.

Jatin scored the equaliser in the 53rd minute when he dribbled past two defenders before driving home from close and put his team ahead seven minutes later.

Stung by the reverse, Bengal pressed hard for the equaliser and it was Dinesh again who did the needful.

Dinesh received a pass from Syed Rahim Nabi and lobbed the ball over an advancing Manipur goalkeeper.

Bengal regained lead through Abdul Rauf in the 67th minute before Supratik got the insurance goal one minute from time.

Tamil Nadu will meet Assam in Contai and Meghalaya will face Bihar here tomorrow.    


 
 
HATTRICK BY CHAKRABORTY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 5 
Buoyed by Shyamal Chakraborty’s hattrick, Milan Samity trounced Benubina 7-0 in a South Zone Nursery League match today. Ganesh Saha scored a brace with Kanai Majumdar and Bhola Das scoring one each.

Also in South Zone, Avenue Sammilani edged past Dhakuria CCC 1-0, Shankar Oraon netting the match-winner. Both Avenue and Milan Samity have qualified to the knock-out phase of this Indian Football Association organised tournament.

In a North Zone match, Belgharia Sporting shut out Duttabagan Satadal 4-1. The goals came from Shyamal Roy (2), Surajit Das and Abhijit Das. Sunil Kumar Kurmi got Duttabagan’s goal. Abasar rode Suman Mukherjee’s double strike to beat P.A.J. Sporting 2-0.    


 
 
THE KID TROUNCES RIVALS 
 
 
BY STAR RACER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 5 
Favourites had a larger say at the finish winning four of the six events in today’s race-card. It would have been a clean sweep for them had the odds of the ante-post favourite, Kargil Soldier in the KIng’s Counsel Handicap, not alarmingly expanded in the betting ring. The Soldier beat the favourite, Gul, in a close finish.

The course-favourite, Aldebro, too looked set to win the 2,200m Beresford Cup but his jockey, Nic Connorton, came a cropper following the fall of a fellow-rider Abdul Razzak from Coalbrookdale who was galloping in close proximity. The two falls were purely accidental as Coalbrookdale had broken her left hind hock during the course of running. The horse was destroyed on humanitarian grounds. The race was won by a quietly fancied Acadameus, partnered by Md Amil.

If Acadameus’ was chance victory, Amil had an armchair ride on the Javed Khan-trained Comeback Kid in the INS Hooghly Cup. Known to be a bleeder, Amil nursed the four-year-old behind Work Order till the half-way mark before shooting into a winning lead which the even-money favourite went on increasing with every stride. Finest Hour, the second favourite, finished last. RESULTS

1. Irma La Douce Plate 1,100m: (5-7-4-3) Queen’s Logic (C. Alford) 1; Scarlet Raider (Merchant) 2; Allaying (Connorton) 3; Crucible (Rabani) 4. Won by: 1-1/4; 2; 5; (1-7.5). Tote: Win Rs 15; Place: 10; 13; 20; Quinella: 19; Tanala: 75. Fav: Queen’s Logic (5). Winner trained by Bharath S.

2. Kempion Handicap 1,400m: (6-3-5-4) Single Dawn (Merchant) 1; Diplomatic Gesture (Connorton) 2; Carabineer (Saran) 3; Sixteen Sixtyfour (C. Alford) 4. Won by: 1/2; 1-1/2; 2-1/4; (1-28.4). Tote: Win Rs 51; Place: 15; 13; 20; Quinella: 57; Tanala: 547. Fav: Diplomatic Gesture (3). Winner trained by R. Alford.

3. INS Hooghly Cup 1,200m: (7-3-4-1) Comeback Kid (Amil) 1; Amanda (Merchant) 2; Silver Raising (Gowli) 3; Arizona Star (Engineer) 4. Won by: Dist; 2-1/2; 2; (1-12.5). Tote: Win Rs 16; Place: 12; 18; 27; Quinella: 46; Tanala: 225. Fav: Comeback Kid (7). Winner trained by Javed K.

4. Beresford Cup 2,200m: (4-3-1) Acadameus (Amil) 1; Master Charlie (Shanker) 2; Milano (C. Alford) 3. Won by: 3-1/2; 7; (2-21.4). Tote: Win Rs 37; Place: 18; 49; Quinella: 219; Tanala: 981. Fav: Aldebro (2). Winner trained by Vijay S.

5. King’s Counsel Handicap 1,100m: (2-1-5-4) Kargil Soldier (Engineer) 1; Gul (Locke) 2; Knight Charmer (Saran) 3; Tableaux (Merchant) 4. Won by: Nk; 1-1/4; Hd; (1-7.4). Tote: Win Rs 64; Place: 20; 16; 16; Quinella: 66; Tanala: 571. Fav: Kargil Soldier (2). Winner trained by S. Ahmed.

6. Easter Parade Handicap 1,400m: (10-3-1-2) Celtic Bleu (Merchant) 1; Mikado (C. Alford) 2; Volcano Top (Manohar) 3; Storm Centre (Locke) 4. Won by: 4; 5-1/2; 2-1/4; (1-26.1). Tote: Win Rs 19; Place: 13; 17; 79; Quinella: 36; Tanala: 962. Fav: Celtic Bleu (10). Winner trained by R. Alford.

Jackpot: Rs 5,544; (C) Rs 907.

Treble: (i) Rs 138; (ii) Rs 496.

Barrier trial after the last race

1,200m: The Cigar (Salam), Solid Gold (Saran S.) Flying Power (Engineer); Atason (Rb) and What An Angel (Siddiqui) in 1-16 2/5s; (400m) 26s. They finished in the order named and were separated by 1; 1; 8 ls. The last named was left at the start.

Today’s track trials

Outer Sand track

2,200 pm: Alameda (C. Alford) in 2-46 1/5s; (1,600m) 1-58 2/5s; (1,000m) 1-14s; (600m) 44 2/5s; (400m) 29s. Moved well.

800m: Too Soon To Tell (Manohar) in 55s; (400m) 28s. Easy. Bathsheba (Locke) in 59s; (400m) 30 1/5s.

600m: Global Harmony (Amil) and Sky Hawk (Salim K.) in 42s; (400m) 28s. Former 3 ls better.

Sand track

1,400m: Remember Me (Gowli) in 1-33s; (400m) 23 3/5s. Impressed.

800m: Heaven’s Blessing (Yasin) and Soft Ware (Manohar) in 50 1/5s; (400m) 24s. Both level and moved well. Chicarica (Rb) in 55s; (400m) 27s. Easy. State Treasure (Merchant) in 59s; (400m) 27 3/5s.

600m: Gallant Heights (Merchant) in 39s; (400m) 25s. Austin (Manohar) and Golden Heart (Yasin) in 39s; (400m) 25 1/5s. Former a head better.    


 
 
CHIEFTAN MAY BE HARD TO TOSS 
 
 
BY HONKY DORY
 
 
An impressive winner of the McDowell Indian 2,000 Guineas last month, the Placerville-Stunning four-year-old gelding, Smart Chieftan, is unlikely to disappoint in the 2,000m the Dawn Ramniwas Ramnarain Ruia Gold Cup in Mumbai on Thursday. Richard Hughes partners the Karan Singh-trainee.

SELECTIONS

1.30 pm: Silver Dust 1. Mae West 2. Monte Picaieo 3.

2 pm: Kahini 1. Sleepyhead 2. Golden Gossip 3.

2.30 pm: Gold Buck 1. Foretell 2. Time To Gamble 3.

3 pm: Squan Lake 1. Great Emperor 2. Double Impact 3.

3.30 pm: La Primavera 1. Hidden Agenda 2. Wolf Mountain 3.

4 pm: Silver Sea 1. Moment Of Truth 2. Exhilarating 3.

4.30 pm: Smart Chieftan Secret Treasure 2. Run Forest Run 3.

5 pm: St. Vincent 1. Bonaparte 2. Classy Missy 3.

5.30 pm: Dhanadal 1. Smash For Cash 2. Mama Mia 3.

Day’s Best: Smart Chieftan Double: Squan Lake & Dhanadal    

 

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