We’re ready for the big match: Leander
Gopichand’s dream shattered
Two more found overage
Mishra is sole leader
Santosh Trophy likely to be revamped
Vijay leads after Round II
Bangalore Races/ Anagram for Stewards Cup

Calcutta, June 8: 
Like his junior partner, Leander Paes is totally focussed on tomorrow’s men’s doubles final at Roland Garros. And the confidence level is sky-high.

“We’re ready for the big match. We should win provided we play our normal game as we have been doing this fortnight,” Paes announced when The Telegraph contacted him in Paris this afternoon.

They haven’t faced their final opponents — Czechs Petr Pala and Pavel Vizner — before, but that’s no problem for Paes. “We have played several Czech teams in the past including two here (third seeds Jiri Novak-David Rikl in Round 3 and Tomas Cibulec-Leos Friedl in the quarters). They all have similar styles, we know what to expect,” remarked Paes.

In any case, Paes — like a true pro — did his ‘homework’ today by watching parts of the Pala-Vizner match against Arnaud Clement and Nicolas Escude. The 13th-seeded Czech duo won the semi-final — which was washed out yesterday — 7-5, 6-4.

Having played three solid matches after a shaky opening round, the Indians were again taken the full distance by Michael Hill and Jeff Tarango in the semis yesterday.

“They (Hill-Tarango) played really well, there wasn’t much difference between the two teams except for a few points in the deciding set,” Paes observed. “That’s when we rose to the occasion. That’s what we do well, raise our level when the chips are down.”

It was the same setting in Paris which had inspired them to their maiden Grand Slam breakthrough two years ago. What was the difference between then and now?

“That was our second Grand Slam final, this will be our fifth. The experience certainly helps. Also, there is the maturity factor. We both have matured as human beings and players. That’s a positive development too,” explained Paes, who will be celebrating his 28th birthday on June 17.

This time last year, the two lived in different poles — Paes playing with Jan Siemerink and Bhupathi with David Prinosil in Paris. Both combinations flopped, teaching the warring stars a lesson or two.

Now, as they stand on the threshold of a third Grand Slam crown, does he feel vindicated to have taken the initiative in reviving the partnership? “Yes, it does give me a lot of satisfaction. I’m happy Mahesh and I were able to overcome the obstacles, come back together and work hard in pursuit of our goal of becoming the best team once again.”

A victory tomorrow will be a giant step forward in that direction.


Seville, June 8: 
Pullela Gopichand’s dream of becoming the new world badminton champion lay shattered here today as he was defeated in the quarter finals by none other than Chen Hong, the Chinese player whom Gopichand had beaten in the All England final. The Indian lost the 43 minute-encounter 10-15, 10-15.

Gopichand’s loss had much to do with a huge blister which had swelled up on his left foot, causing considerable pain whenever he put pressure on it.

“I think I got this after the match against Kevin Han. It was a long match and the heat here has been too much. The friction must have caused this. Yesterday against Fung Permadi I was feeling slight pain and thought that by today I will be alright, but unfortunately it turned out worse,” Gopichand said. “I do not want to say that I lost because of this problem. I was slow and Chen Hong played faster and better on the net.”

Gopichand even had to change his shoes at the start of the first game itself after he had taken a big 6-1 lead, as the Yonex shoe had its sole torn. But immediately after that, Hong came charging back with deft net play and some blazing smashes on both sides of the flank to equalise at 6-6 and then move ahead at 9-7.

Chinese coach Li Yong Bo said through an interpreter that they had a strategy to fight the Indian.

“At the All England Chen Hong had played a very long match in semi-finals and was tired. Today he was fresh. That made the difference. We also had told him not to allow Gopichand to dominate the net.”

From a 11-7 lead, Hong never looked back, winning the first game in 20 minutes at 15-10.

The Chinese’s tactic was clear all the way. On Gopichand’s serve, he would push flat on the backhand, get an easy opening to finish or if the shuttle came at the net, Hong dribbled first to get mid-court opportunities.

In the second game too, it was Gopichand who took the first two points, but Hong, with no expressions on his face, served out again the same tactics to catch a slower Gopichand either directly on the net or first push him on the backhand.

Gopichand came close to 5-6 in this game, but bowed down to the superior firepower of the Chinese and was down 8-14. At this stage a late rally saw him get two more to it 10-14 as Hong lost two match point serves.

On his next low serve it was all over for the 27 year-old Indian, who has had a great year so far.

Gopichand, however, has taken the defeat in his stride. “I am going to Germany to try meet my Guru Sri Ravi Shankarji and then I will be back in India by June 16. I will not dwell on this defeat any more.”

Taufique Hidayat of Indonesia moved into the semis with a 15-12, 4-15, 15-5 win over Lee Hyun Il of Korea, while Mia Tjiptawan Audina lost the ladies singles to Gong Ruina of China 11-6, 8-11, 8-11.


Calcutta, June 8: 
Bengal’s national under-19 soccer campaign suffered another setback today when the All India Football Federation functionaries declared that two more players from this state were overage.

Bengal play their first match in the nationals versus Assam in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu tomorrow, and already the strength of the Bengal squad is down to 18 from the 23 that went there, according to reports reaching here.

Three Bengal had already been declared overage when today’s further declaration put the Bengal comtingent in a bad way.

The latest on this blacklist are Anupam Sarkar and Mohammed Ali.

The Indian Football Association, though, insisted that there was no problem, especially with the age of Sarkar. “All papers of Sarkar are in order,” said an official of the association.

The Bengal under-21 team is playing in the nationals in Dhuliajan. Bengal play Madhya Pradesh first, tomorrow.

CAB Year’s Best

The Cricket Association of Bengal will decide on its Year’s Best players for the season 2000-2001 at a meeting tomorrow afternoon. The prizes wil be given away at a function later.

NCC expedition

The NCC’s 55-member expedition (including 40 senior division Naval cadets, 12 PI staff and three officers), today completed here their 480km journey from Farakka.

An NCC release says that during the period, the cadets were trained in boat pulling, sailing and seamen ship evolutions. Cdr S. Biswas was overall in-charge.


Bhubaneswar, June 8: 
At the end of eighth round of The Telegraph Schools’ Chess Championship, being held in association with Horlicks at the gymnasium-cum-indoor hall in Sahidnagar here, Nishikanta Mishra of BJB English Medium School, Bhubaneswar has emerged sole leader with 7.5 points.

Mishra, the current Bhubaneswar schools chess champion, looks good to emerge leader of the Bhubaneswar leg and win the Rs 1500 prize money if he does not lose tomorrow.

On the second board the third-seeded Mishra beat fourth seed Abinash Das of DAV School, Bhubaneswar. Abinash, playing black, adopted the Slav Defence, but failed to protect his position and conceded defeat in the 40th move.

In a seventh round match earlier, Mishra had drawn with secodn-seeded Piyush Roy after he adopted Caro-Kann Defence in reply to 1e4 of Roy. The game ended in a draw on the 23rd move.

On top board in eighth round, top seed Byomkesh Nayak opened with his favourite d4 against Piyush Roy, who adopted the Dutch Defence. Both players failed to find loopholes in each other’s position and finally settled for a draw on move 23. In his seventh round game against Kiran Manisha Mohanty today, Nayak beat her in 42 moves.

On the third board, Radharani Ray of Ispat Vidyalaya, Rourkela beat Lipsa Mahasuara of Vani Vidya Mandir in 34th move.

At the end of eight round, those following Mishra are Nayak, Piyush Roy, Radharani Ray, Abhishikta Pattnaik and Ayushi Roy Choudhury (all 7 points).

Tomorrow, the ninth and final round will be played. Only the top five players from the Bhubaneswar leg will be eligible to travel to Calcutta for the Grand Finals in July.


New Delhi, June 8: 
Several routine and some revolutionary schemes will be discussed at the AIFF executive committee meeting here tomorrow. The major issues are the revamping of the Santosh Trophy and sponsorship bids for 11 tournaments.

Issues to be discussed are drafting of a national calendar, the TFA’s proposed under-19 meet, youth development programmes like the start of an under-19 national league.

AIFF secretary Alberto Colaco has proposed new eligibility rules to make the Santosh Trophy more competitive. According to him, players should represent the states of their birth in the Santosh Trophy and not where they are registered.

This will mean that Ratan Singh, James Singh and Rennedy Singh will play for Manipur, R.C. Prakash for Karnataka and R.P. Singh for Orissa in the next Santosh Trophy.


Calcutta, June 8: 
Vijay Kumar went into the sole lead after Round II with an aggregate of three-under 133 at the Rs 5.5 lakh Leela Palace- BCG Open today.

Mukesh Kumar and Delhi’s Vinod Kumar were joint second one stroke behind with a tally of two-under 134, while city golfer Feroz Ali was in fourth place with an aggregate one-under 135.

Feroz hit a one-under 67, missing a four foot par putt on the very first hole, and bogeying the 5th. However, a birdie on the 13th and an eagle on the final hole undid all the bad work.

Tarun Sardesai was at joint sixth with D.S. Raghuvanshi at par 136. Overnight joint leader Devendra Patel slipped to joint-15th courtesy a second round score of eight-over 76.


Bangalore, June 8: 
Maintaining her Mumbai season consistency, Anagram gets the first call in the 1,800m Stewards Cup, tomorrow’s feature event.

The Steinbeck-Ideas And Trends filly, hailing from Imtiaz Sait’s yard, will be partnered by Aslam Kader.


2 pm: Ampersand 1. Tasman 2. Shakhtar 3.
2.30 pm: Crown Of Gold 1. Lake Baikal 2. Royal Hunter 3.
3 pm: Autobahn 1. Black Ocean 2. National Crown 3.
3.30 pm: Winelight 1. Carnival Craze 2. Breaking News 3.
4 pm: Anagram 1. Aerobee 2. Astronautics 3.
4.30 pm: Air Strike 1. Minstrel Star 2. Misty Charms 3.
5 pm: Royal Debut 1. Marcus Aurelius 2. Royal Glare 3.
5.30 pm: Money Spinner 1. Carnival Crown 2. Scenic Song 3.
Day’s Best: Anagram
Double: Autobahn & Air Strike

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