Bhupathi, Fazaluddin first round casualties
Tennis no more a one-man show: Norman
TN bowled out for 270
Bengal women reach final
Irina Brar in 70-strong field
Tanmoyee , Arup champions
New Year's Day Racing/ Vijay bags Gold Cup and 4 more
Calcutta Racing/ Highest ever tote turnover

 
 
BHUPATHI, FAZALUDDIN FIRST ROUND CASUALTIES 
 
 
FROM AMITAVA DAS GUPTA
 
Chennai, Jan. 1: 
Mahesh Bhupathi’s journey into self-exploration was as dramatic as it was revealing on the first night of the fifth Gold Flake Open here at the Nungambakkam Stadium. The bottomline wasn’t the right one for the Indian wild card, but there still were many positives for the doubles expert.

If Andrei Stoliarov, a blue-eyed Russian, stole Bhupathi’s thunder in a dramatic final set, it was because he was the fitter man after two pulsating hours of energy-sapping tennis. The 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) victory was an extremely creditable one for the 23-year-old from Sochi.

It was a soft draw for Bhupathi alright, but few had expected a cakewalk for a man who had played no more than a solitary singles match last year. His service no longer the weapon it was after the shoulder surgery and his fitness still an area of concern, Bhupathi played superb tennis for a set and a half before running out of steam to let his younger rival back into the match.

Serving aces at the hint of a crisis and firing on all cylinders off his favourite double-fisted backhand, the Bangalorean wrapped up the first set in 35 minutes. It was touch-and-go till the fifth game of the second set before, ironically, a series of backhand errors from Bhupathi gave Stoliarov the second set with two service-breaks.

The tense decider saw four breaks and a plethora of missed chances at the end of which Bhupathi was literally breathless. The tie-break brought out the worst in him and it was again three faulty backhand shots which brought about his demise. Having lost to three different Australians (Pat Cash, Todd Woodbridge and Richard Fromberg) on his three previous appearances here, this was Bhupathi’s chance to break the Chennai singles jinx. Alas!

But at least he would have realised that there was still some singles play left in him and, maybe, the decision to avoid singles matches in Davis Cup could be up for review.

The New Year had started even more dismally for another Indian wild-carder, Syed Fazaluddin.

After four trying years on the circuit, Fazal finally got a taste of main draw action at a Tour-level meet here this evening. It turned out to be a bitter experience for the Indian Davis Cupper as he went down 4-6, 2-6 to Romanian Adrian Voinea in the opening match on Centre Court.

To be fair to Fazal, he tried every trick in his book but still came far too short against the experienced Voinea.The tall Calcuttan came out in an aggressive frame of mind, determined to rule the net — be it on his serve or his opponent’s.

It seemed to work for a while, as the 26-year-old Voinea was taken by surprise. Fazal held comfortably in his first two service games, conceding a solitary point. He also had the Romanian staring at 0-30 in the second game, thanks to his chip-and-charge tactic. It all changed in the fifth game, as Voinea saw through the Indian’s intentions.

A backhand approach shot landed in the net to give Voinea break-point. Then, Fazal came up even on a second serve and managed a weak first volley which Voinea pounced on to drill a forehand pass.

A series of aces (he had seven in all) helped Fazal stay in the set, but he made no further headway with the service returns. Voinea, a quarter finalist at the ‘95 French Open who has beaten the likes of Carlos Moya and Marat Safin in the last couple of years, was hardly troubled in pocketing the first set.

Resembling a schoolboy appearing for his college entrance test, Fazal needed to hit the ball rather than chip and slice the returns. But before he knew what was happening, he had dropped serve in the second set. A Voinea service-return had too much punch, pushing Fazal to 30-40. And then, a drop volley meant to catch the Romanian off guard spun back to the Indian’s court.

Fazal escaped thrice before eventually going down double-break of serve in the seventh game as he drove a forehand long.

It was all over for the Indian as Voinea held to love to close out the match. The gulf in class between a Satellite and Futures-level player and a regular Tour player was all too evident. It wasn’t Fazal’s fault that he got outclassed, he can blame it on the system he has grown up in.

On the outside courts, two European journeymen celebrated New Year’s Day by scalping seeded men in contrasting fashion. David Sanchez, a 20-year-old Spaniard who idolises Ben Johnson, saw off seventh seed and last year’s losing finalist Markus Hantschk 6-3, 6-3. Dutchman Edwin Kempes fought hard to throw out eighth seed Jiri Vanek 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-3.

Byron Black stopped the seeds’ exodus with a three-set shutout of Russian qualifier Nikolay Davydenko. The fourth seed, who claimed the title here in 1999, saw off his teenaged opponent 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Hantschk, who was the revelation of the 2000 tourney, cut a sorry figure against the little-known Sanchez. He lost serve twice in each set, pulling back just one in the first, to be ousted in an hour and a quarter. “I had hoped to at least make the quarters,” Hantschk said later.

Sanchez, who broke through to the top-100 last season with his first-ever Tour quarter final (at Umag) and a string of wins in Challengers, said: “It’s my first big meet on a hardcourt, so the win’s quite special. I served like a dream and that was crucial.”

Sanchez, who next runs into the winner of the Leander Paes versus Tommy Robredo match, felt the turning point was in the sixth game of the second set. “I was 0-40 down serving at 3-2, but managed to hold serve. Had he got the break back then, you never know what could have happened.”

For eighth seed Vanek, it was a story of missed chances. Coming off his most successful year on the circuit, when he had a win over Andre Agassi in Atlanta, the 22-year-old Prague resident had nine break-points of which he converted only three.

Vanek was also outserved by Kempes in a clash of two hard-hitters. While Kempes hit 14 aces, Vanek served 10. Magnus Norman’s doubles expedition in Chennai came unstuck on his very opening attempt. The Swede, partnering Uzbekistani Oleg Ogorodov, lost 7-5, 4-6, 5-7 in the opening round to Jason Weir Smith and Paul Rosner — the fourth seeds from South Africa.

Indian wild cards Vishal Uppal and Mustafa Ghouse went down without much ado to Czech pair Ota Fukarek and Frantisek Cermak.

RESULTS

SINGLES, 1st round: Adrian Voinea (Rom) bt Syed Fazaluddin 6-4, 6-2; Edwin Kempes (Net) bt Jiri Vanek (8, Czech Rep) 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-3; Michal Tabara (Czech Rep) bt Fernando Gonzalez (Chi) 6-3, 6-3; David Sanchez (Spa) bt Markus Hantschk (Ger) 6-3, 6-3; Byron Black (4, Zim) bt Nikolay Davydenko (Rus) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3; Cyril Saulnier (Fra) bt Emilio Alvarez (Spa) 6-4, 6-2; Andrei Stoliarov (Rus) bt Mahesh Bhupathi (Ind) 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-2).

DOUBLES, 1st round: Paul Rosner & Jason Weir Smith (SA) bt Magnus Norman (Swe) & Oleg Ogorodov (Uzb) 5-7, 6-4, 7-5; Ota Fukarek & Frantisek Cermak (Czech Rep) bt Vishal Uppal & Mustafa Ghouse 6-2, 6-4.

   

 
 
TENNIS NO MORE A ONE-MAN SHOW: NORMAN 
 
 
FROM AMITAVA DAS GUPTA
 
Chennai, Jan. 1: 
Magnus Norman’s maiden visit to India, as world No. 119, ended in a first-round defeat at the McDowell Indian Open in 1996. A year later, the gangling Swede had broken into the top-100 and was seeded No. 7 for the Gold Flake Open in Chennai. He progressed to the quarter finals before losing tamely in straight sets.

A handful of newsmen, who had followed Norman’s matches, were taken aback by his 0-6, 2-6 spanking from unseeded Andrei Pavel and asked him what went wrong on that humid April evening. The answer was shocking, to say the least.

A recurrence of a heart problem had prevented him from playing his natural free-stroking game, Norman explained. He felt breathless on court — a legacy of an irregular heart rate which had been bothering him for some years. His mother Leena, a Swedish international swimmer, had a similar ailment, but he wasn’t sure whether it was hereditary.

The youngster from Filipstad was in the midst of a breakthrough year, but his heart refused to behave at a couple of other tournaments as well, including the French Open. Sensing something was seriously amiss, Norman consulted a specialist and underwent a five-hour operation that December.

The operation was difficult but successful. Only, it took Norman a long time to regain prime form. From a career-high world No. 22 at the end of ’97, the genial Swede plunged 30 spots in a span of 12 months.

“It was a difficult period, before and after the operation, and there was a time when I thought I’d have to give up the game,” Norman said in response to a query from The Telegraph during a media conference this afternoon. “But I loved tennis too much and somehow managed to stick in there. It was sort of a second life for me,” recalled the man who is the cynosure at this week’s fifth Gold Flake Open.

Came 1999, and Norman’s fortunes took a dramatic upswing. He won five titles and followed it up with five more in 2000 for an unprecedented 10 triumphs during a two-year period. The year just gone by was especially satisfying, as he made the semi-finals of the Australian Open, final of French Open and achieved his first-ever top-10 year-end finish (he’s world No. 4).

The fact that he performed miserably at the fag end of the year, losing all three round-robin league matches in the Lisbon Masters Cup, didn’t upset him. “I could have ended the season better, but I would like to remember the good things that happened to me, and there were many which made it a great year. I think I was a bit tired mentally and physically after a long year,” Norman explained.

Life on the fast lane has taken some adjusting for Magnus Norman. By his own admission, the man with the boy-next-door looks didn’t know how to handle fame initially. “When I first got to No. 1 (in May last year after winning the Rome Masters Series title), I didn’t know how to cope. Then I realised it takes time to get used to it. As the year progressed, I’ve got better and better.”

Having risen like a meteor, Norman intends staying up there with the best for some time to come. And that’s why his goal for 2001 is to stay healthy. “Of course I want to win a Grand Slam, having come so close last year. But more importantly, I have to stay healthy and work on my game. As long as I can keep improving my tennis, the results will come.”

By improvement, Norman is looking at his serve-and-volley routines. “I will be playing more doubles this year as it sharpens your serve-and-volley game and improves your singles,” said Norman, who has teamed up with Uzbekistan’s Oleg Ogorodov for this week’s event.

The Swede, who feels he turned the tide after hiring countryman Fredrik Rosengren as coach in ’99, is confident that the young brigade which has invaded men’s tennis will carry on the good work next season too. “See, there are 15-20 guys like me in their early 20s who can be No. 1. It won’t be easy for anyone to dominate. I’m really looking forward to one of the most interesting seasons in recent times.”

On his chances in this tournament, Norman observed it was a very strong field with a good mix of young and experienced players. “It’s not always easy in the first week of the year but I came here four days in advance to get myself acclimatised,” said Norman who travels with his Swedish girlfriend now after his long-distance romance with Martina Hingis failed.

Describing his first-round opponent Taylor Dent as “tough”, Norman felt he had to play his best tennis to beat the young American. “He’s a tough guy, got a huge serve. I’ll really have to return well,” analysed Norman, who is part-owner of a racehorse back home.

Very much aware that no top seed, save Patrick Rafter in ’98, has lifted the winner’s trophy here, Norman said he had prepared in such a way so as to steer clear of the jinx.

That should be an ominous warning for the other contenders.

   

 
 
TN BOWLED OUT FOR 270 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 1: 
Riding skipper K. Srivasudeva Das’ unbeaten 105, Tamil Nadu made 270 in their first innings against Bengal, who were two without loss at close on the opening day of the Vijay Merchant Trophy pre-quarter final tie at Narendrapur Ramkrishna Mission ground today.

Avik Chowdhury (three for 56) was the most successful bowler, while Ajoy Garai took two wickets for just eight runs. Bengal wicketkeeper Siddhartha Mukherjee claimed seven victims, including a couple of stumpings.

Srivasudeva Das’ knock was studded with 15 hits to the fence. Opener D. Pramod Das made 53 with the help of eight fours after the visitors won the toss and decided to make first use of what appears to a flat wicket.

In another pre-quarter final match at ECDSC, Delhi were 13 for no loss after Orissa were bundled out for 231.

SUMMARISED SCORES

At Narendrapur: Tamil Nadu 270 (K. Srivasudeva Das 105 n.o., D. Pramod Das 53; Avik Chowdhury 3/56, Ajoy Garai 2/8, Anirban Gupta 2/27). Bengal 2/0.

At ECDSC: Orissa 231 (S.P. Priyadarshan 74, Rajkumar Agasti 42; Prithpal Singh 3/51, Avishek Sharma 3/72, Raman Chowdhury 2/19). Delhi 13/0.

BGHS- St Xavier’s final

Defending champions Ballygunge Govt High School (BGHS) will meet St Xavier’s Collegiate School in the final of the Pepsi youth cricket series. In the semi-finals today BGHS thrashed St James’ by eight wickets. In the other match, St Xavier’s overcame New Alipore Multipurpose School by 68 runs.

SUMMARISED SCORES

St Xavier’s 188 in 38.2 ovs (Rahul Roy 40, Baninder Singh 31 n.o., Anindya Mukherjee 30; Sujoy Dutta 4/26, Srijit Das 3/43). New Alipore MS 120 in 34.1 ovs (Sayan Dutta 43; Kanishka Bajaria 4/19, Samrat Ghosh 2/5, Baninder Singh 2/30). St Xavier’s won by 68 runs.

St James’ School 98 in 32.3 ovs (Rohitasya Ghosh 15; Kunal Biswas 2/14, Debajyoti Bhadra 2/18, Saumik Roy 2/24). Ballygunge Govt 101/2 in 19.2 ovs (Hirak Bhattacharjee 38 n.o., Kunal Biswas 24). Ballygunge Govt won by 8 wkts.

   

 
 
BENGAL WOMEN REACH FINAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 1: 
Bengal women reached the final of East Zone volleyball meet being played at WBVA, when they beat Orissa today 25-15, 25-11, 25-13 —their second win on the trot. The hosts defeated Assam in their first match.

In men’s section, the hosts sweated it out to overcome gritty Orissa in a 115-minute long encounter. The final scores read 23-25, 30-28, 20-25, 25-19, 15-11 in favour of Bengal.

Junior tennis meet

Fourth seed Richa Valecha in under-12 (girls) and Snigdha Tyagi, bearing the same seed number in boys and girls mixed under-10 categories were the only upsets on an otherwise happy day for otherseeds in both groups in the Ad-Out junior tennis meet at Calcutta South Club today. Moumita Bhattacharya shocked Richa 7-3, while Ayush Dharewal beat Snigdha 7-1.

State basketball

S. Chatterjee and R. Chowdhury will lead a 12-member Bengal basketball squad, for men and women respectively in the 51st national championship, to be held in Bangalore from January 5 to 12.

SQUADS

MEN: S. Chatterjee (capt), S. Bhattacharjee, S. Dey, M. Dey, S. Swarnakar, M. Mahato, N. Tiwari, R. Mondal, S. Mondal, H. Ram, D. Saha, A. Singh. Coach: S. Chatterjee.

WOMEN: R. Chowdhury (capt), P. Shanta Rao, R. Barua, K. Rudra, U. Mazumder, A. Pal, A. Nair, K. Ghosh, Linda T.S., S. Mathew, R. Rakshit, M. Parthana. Coach: D. Dey.

   

 
 
IRINA BRAR IN 70-STRONG FIELD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 1: 
The latest edition of the Bengal Ladies’ Amateur Golf Championship, which gets underway at the Royal tomorrow, has attracted around 70 entries.

The four-day (medal-round) event, being hosted by the Calcutta Ladies’ Golf Club (CLGC), will see about 20 outstation golfers, including Chandigarh’s Irina Brar, who recently won the East India meet.

According to Ms Anuka Datta-Kanungoe, the CLGC president, the local challenge will be led by Vandana Agarwal, while Priyanka Dey and Manavi Halwasiya are also in the fray.

Besides Irina, the outstation golfers include Anjali Chopra, Shruti Khanna and Guneet Rekhi.

   

 
 
TANMOYEE , ARUP CHAMPIONS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 1: 
Arup Baidya and Tanmoyee Nandy won the men’s and women’s singles in the Chatterjeehat Yuba Sangathani-organised invitional badminton meet.

In men’s doubles final, Hirak Sengupta-Sanjay Bose beat Arup Baidya-Amandeep Sekhari duo in 6-15, 15-12, 15-10.

State marathon

State marathon and 20 km walking race for men and 10 km walking race for women will be held at Narayanpur in South 24 Parganas on January 7.    

 
 
NEW YEAR'S DAY RACING/ VIJAY BAGS GOLD CUP AND 4 MORE 
 
 
BY STAR RACER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 1: 
It turned out to be a very happy New Year for trainer Vijay Singh. The champion schooler not only led-in Fa+me Star, the upset winner of the prized event, the Eveready Calcutta Gold Cup, he saddled four more winners in an eight-event all-trophy race-card sponsored chiefly by Eveready Industires. Incidentally, Fame Star is jointly owned by his wife, Sharon, and Mrs. Anne Wright.

The visiting jockey C. Rajendra, who partnered the Gaswar-Damcing Flame filly to victory, finished the day with a fine treble. The crafty jockey had earlier in the afternoon claimed The India Automobile Opel Trophy through H. S. Bath-trainee, Alkido, and followed it up with the smart win on Alsheim in The Telegraph Cup — the two co-sponsored events.

Fame Star had it easy. The five-in-a-row winner revealed her true potential when she accounted for two champion horses — Alternator (not Anticipator as headlined in these columns in yesterday’s edition) and Artwork. Rajendra had Fame Star settled behind a runaway Bountiful Gesture until 300m from home and made his bid when the leader started wobbling under pressure thus drifting out badly. Alternator, on the hand, was ridden in a check — his customary style. The top-weight came with a good run in the home-stretch but fell shy by three parts of a length at the wire.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA RACING/ HIGHEST EVER TOTE TURNOVER 
 
 
BY OUR TURF CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Jan. 1: 
The noticeable change at the New Year’s Day races was the high percentage of the young and trendy crowd. The generation next came in flocks and constituted over one third of the total 22,000-plus attendance. The Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC) bosses were happy. “We expect the trend to continue,” said Vineet Verma, CEO and secretary of the turf. Verma had other reasons to smile as well. The RCTC totalisator had recorded the highest ever collection of over a whopping Rs 81 lakh. The last New Year’s tote takings were mere Rs 70 lakh.

The domination of favourites may have much to do with the high tote collection. Four favourites and two strongly fancied winners had made it to the winning-post. The two outsiders — Fame Star and Colonial, a long-priced winner of the Nepal Gold Cup — must have helped the bookmakers’ cause. Jockey Aslam Kader, too, broke a jinx after five luckless weeks.

RESULTS

1. India Automobiles Opel Trophy 1,600m: (3-6-2-5) Alkido (C. Rajendra) 1; Actress (C. Alford) 2; Cool Quest (Ruzaan) 3; Royal Ruler (P. Alford) 4. Won by: 1/2; 3-1/4; 1-3/4; (1-39.4). Tote: Win Rs 50; Place: 18; 12; 17; Quinella: 44; Tanala: 291. Fav: Actress (6). Winner trained by Bath.

2. The Telegraph Trophy 1,200m: (9-7-3-5) Alsheim (C. Rajendra) 1; Princelene (Rabani) 2; Quickdraw McGraw (M. Reuben) 3; Best In Show (A. Imran) 4. Won by: 1/2; 3-1/4; SH; (1-13). Tote: Win Rs 17; Place: 12; 22; 53; Quinella: 54; Tanala: 1,104. Fav: Alsheim (9). Winner trained by Vijay S.

3. Tez Tea Calcutta Sprinters’ Trophy 1,200m: (4-2-1-3) Soviet Song (Ruzaan) 1; Annella (Kader) 2; Almond Rock (A. Imran) 3; Aracruz (C. Alford) 4. Won by: 3; 3-1/2; Dist; (1-11.4). Tote: Win Rs 14; Place: 11; 15; Quinella: 16; Tanala: 59. Fav: Soviet Song (4). Winner trained by D. Byramji.

4. Britannia Cup 1,400m: (6-5-2-4) Master Bold (C. Alford) 1; Ballard Lady (A. Imran) 2; Global Harmony (Ruzaan) 3; American (Rutherford) 4. Won by: 3/4; 4-3/4; 3/4; (1-26.7). Tote: Win Rs 20; Place: 12; 16; 19; Quinella: 25; Tanala: 106. Fav: Master Bold (6). Winner trained by Vijay S.

5. Nepal Gold Cup 2,200m: (6-7-1-3) Colonial (Rajesh) 1; Surfside (Ruzaan) 2; Illustrious Reign (A. Imran) 3; Allosaki (Amil) 4. Won by: 2-3/4; 4; 3-3/4; (2-18.2). Tote: Win Rs 90; Place: 21; 12; 17; Quinella: 203; Tanala: 1,359. Fav: Jeweller (5). Winner trained by Asfand.

6. Eveready Calcutta Gold Cup 1,600m: (3-1-2-6) Fame Star (C. Rajendra) 1; Alternator (Kader) 2; Artwork (Rajesh) 3; Bountiful Gesture (Appu) 4. Won by: 3/4; 3-1/4; 3/4; (1-37.2). Tote: Win Rs 37; Place: 18; 13; Quinella: 22; Tanala: 232. Fav: Alternator (1). Winner trained by Vijay S.

7. George Williamson Indian Produce Stakes 1,200m: (3-1-6-5) Ansbach (Kader) 1; Angeles (C. Rajendra) 2; Alegria (C. Alford) 3; The Archer (Connorton) 4. Won by: Dist; Hd; 1/2; (1-11.3). Tote: Win Rs 16; Place: 11; 19; 52; Quinella: 46; Tanala: 504. Fav: Ansbach (3). Winner trained by Vijay S.

8. Eveready Heavy Duty Cup 1,100m: (12-11-15-9) Annalee (C. Alford) 1; Arctic Fancy (A. Imran) 2; Constantine (Kujur) 3; Staffordshire (M. Reuben) 4. Won by: 3-3/4; 1-1/2; 1-3/4; (1-5.2). Tote: Win Rs 28; Place: 14; 12; 108; Quinella: 21; Tanala: 1,419. Fav: Arctic Fancy (11). Winner trained by Vijay S.

Jackpot: Rs 2,102; (C) Rs 266.

Treble: (i) Rs 115; (ii) Rs 198; (iii) Rs 159.
   
 

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