Canas may walk tall in talent-drought
Decent draw for Indians
Utpal puts Bengal on top
Ancheri is Player of Year
ARMS clinch a close contest
Limba aims for sheer survival
Dola, Nagesia claim titles
EB humble Rajasthan
Mumbai Racing/ Top Gun Strikes
Calcutta Racing/ Track trials

Chennai, Dec. 30: 
Gone are the red-and-yellow patterned hoardings which adorned every nook and corner of the plush Nungambakkam Stadium the past five years. Instead, the huge complex is engulfed in a sea of blue. Goodbye, Gold Flake Open. Enter, the Tata Open.

Even as tennis pros the world over gear up for a season full of hope and dreams, the ATP and IMG are set to launch India’s biggest annual sporting event in a brand new package. The name’s changed, so have the surroundings. But it’s basically the same wine in a new bottle.

It’s still a World Series event with a 32-man field offering total prize-money of $ 400,000. It’s again one of three events — along with Adelaide and Doha — kicking off a new ATP season. And, for sure, it remains India’s only mainstream ATP meet.

There is one major qualitative difference, though. And it hits the eye the moment one scans the singles draw — the field is bereft of a single big name. For a tournament which has hosted the likes of Boris Becker, Patrick Rafter, Richard Krajicek, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Carlos Moya down the years, there is not one name even remotely comparable to such high standards in this year’s draw.

Actually the trend started last year when, for the first time in the history of this championship, not a single reigning Grand Slam winner had shown up. Still, French Open runner-up Magnus Norman was there and he was a big enough draw.

Two-time French Open champion Sergi Bruguera would have been the saving grace in this year’s championship. And though the 31-year-old Spaniard is all but a spent force, his presence would surely have lent that edge of glamour to this prestigious event. But he pulled out yesterday, citing health problems.

Of course, the absence of a sure-shot crowd-puller does not make this year’s edition an impoverished one. As Vijay Amritraj pointed out, “this is by far the strongest field this championship has ever seen.”

The cut-off for the main draw of the singles competition is 119, easily the lowest in seven years. “There may not be big names here this time, but there are some players who are capable of winning a Grand Slam in the next year or two,” observed the local legend who was instrumental in bringing this event to the country in 1996.

The top six seeds were all inside the top-40 in the 2001 Champions Race, but none of them finished among the top 10. Leading the pack this year is a relatively anonymous Argentine who answers to the name of Guillermo Canas.

At 24, Canas is no spring chicken. He’s been around for six years but it was only last season that he made a mark. Besides winning his maiden title, the six-footer from Buenos Aires had a string of impressive results including two Grand Slam pre-quarter final efforts (French Open and Wimbledon).

Canas, the world No. 14, is placed in a comfortable section of the draw and may not be tested till the quarter finals where he is due to face the dangerous Max Mirnyi. The Argentine, though, would be aware that no top seed, save Rafter in 1998, has gone on to lift the winner’s trophy in this tournament.

Thomas Johannsson, the second seed who closed the 2001 Race at No. 18, has better credentials. Twice a quarter-finalist at the US Open and twice pre-quarter finalist at Wimbledon, the 26-year-old Swede won back-to-back titles on grass last season and is certainly a threat to anyone on fast surfaces.

His first visit here, three years ago, was anything but memorable. The extreme humidity of April — the tournament was shifted to January from 2000 — got to the Swede and he had to concede his first-round match to Sargis Sargsian after a set and a half. “The weather’s much better now and I hope to put up a better show this time,” he said.

Seed No. 3 is an experienced Frenchman who is an accomplished doubles player but by no means a novice in singles. Fabrice Santoro, who with Cedric Pioline won the pivotal doubles rubber in France’s famous Davis Cup win in Melbourne last month, is an all-court player who can beat anyone on his day.

He scalped the likes of Andre Agassi, Marat Safin, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski in different events last year but failed to add to his one career title (Doha, 2000). Due to open here against Dutch journeyman Peter Wessels, Santoro could go a long way if he gets into his hard-hitting rhythm.

Romanian Andrei Pavel, Slovakian Dominik Hrbaty and Belarussian Max Mirnyi are the others with strong chances to lift the title next Sunday. The dark horses would have to be Spain’s Alex Calatrava and last year’s champion Michal Tabara.

Of course, someone else could spring a surprise or two over the next seven days. After all, this has been a tournament of the underdogs — illustrated no better than last year when all semi-finalists were unseeded.


1. Guillermo Canas (Arg); 2. Thomas Johansson (Swe); 3. Fabrice Santoro (Fra); 4. Andrei Pavel (Rom); 5. Max Mirnyi (Blr); 6. Dominik Hrbaty (Svk); 7. Michal Tabara (Cze); 8. Kristian Pless (Den).


Chennai, Dec. 30: 
For the two superstars of Indian tennis, 2002 represents a new beginning. Doubles specialists Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi are both going into the new season determined to improve their singles rankings.

Their singles activities having been minimized by a heavy doubles schedule the previous season, neither had the ranking or points to get into the main draw directly. While Paes played nine singles matches, Bhupathi managed just two.

Both have been granted wild cards to the Tata Open and going by the look of the draw, neither has got a raw deal. Paes opens against Russian Stoliarov, runner-up here last time but by no means unbeatable. Bhupathi comes up against Czech Jiri Vanek, who won just 11 of his 33 matches last season.

“I am going into the new season with a positive frame of mind,” Paes remarked. “I played some really good tennis in the Davis Cup tie against the US and am confident that there is still some good singles left in me. I’ll give it my best shot… let’s see the results.”

His father, though, is not very optimistic. “Very frankly, neither Leander nor Mahesh is ready for singles yet. It won’t be prudent to expect too much from them here,” said Vece Paes, who happens to be the tournament doctor here.

In doubles, Paes and Bhupathi are seeded No. 1 but have a difficult first assignment — against Johansson and Pavel. “Yes, it’s a tough match first up… both those guys can play some good doubles,” observed Bhupathi.

The three-time Grand Slam winners, who were beaten for the first time at this tournament in the semis last time, will meet seasoned Czech duo Petr Luxa-Franisek Cermak in the semis and Byron Black-Santoro in the final, if the seedings hold.

Mustafa Ghouse and Vijay Amritraj’s son Prakash have been granted one of the wild cards. The other two have gone to Prahlad Srinath-Ajay Ramaswami and Rohan Bopanna-Carlos Cuadrado.


Jamshedpur, Dec. 30: 
After doing the rescue act with the willow yesterday, Utpal Chatterjee caught hold of the ball to snare five wickets and helped Bengal dismiss Bihar for 113 on Day 2 of the East Zone Ranji Trophy tie at Keenan Stadium today.

Bengal reached 118 for four in the second innings, for a lead of 228, with skipper Rohan Gavaskar and Subhamoy Das holding fort.

Resuming at seven for one, Bihar initially struggled against Ranadeb Bose. The lanky seamer evicted Manish Kumar with one which came back to rattle the stumps and then had Tariq-ur Rehman caught behind for a first-ball duck. The left-hander, in form this season, failed to take his bat away from one moving away. Ranadeb was impressive early in the day.

Nikhilesh Ranjan and skipper Rajiv Kumar tried to steady the boat with a 48-run stand but Utpal had the former stumped for 27. The veteran left-arm spinner dismissed Sourav Shukla soon, caught at gully.

The skipper used his feet well to smother the spin from Utpal and did not hesitate to dance down the track against him or off-spinner Sourashish Lahiri. Sunil Kumar, however, looked all at sea at the other end. With the former skipper looking shaky, Rajiv lost patience and edged Rohan to first slip.

Mahender Singh Dhoni, with 96 against Orissa, also didn’t last long and departed playing half-cock against Utpal, the catch going to forward short-leg off the inner edge. Sunil followed suit and the tail didn’t wag.

Utpal took his season tally to 26 after two matches and just the first innings of the on-going one. The wily left-armer looks set for more. He made 69 in Bengal’s first-innings total of 223.

With a lead of 110, Bengal started their second innings 35 minutes after lunch. Their plans suffered early blows as openers Arindam Das and Deep Dasgupta returned to the pavilion with just 16 on the board. Both perished against some lively seam bowling by Mihir Diwakar. Nikhil Haldipur’s dismissal made it 24 for three.

Devang Gandhi looked confident and drove and pulled elegantly. Bengal reached 59 for three at tea and lost Devang soon after when his uppish drive was held by a diving Diwakar at point.

With an overall lead of 228, Bengal are well placed. And, with the Bihar batsmen showing poor form, the hosts are on the back foot.

Meanwhile, Laxmi Ratan Shukla was injured while fielding. He dashed against the railing while trying to stop a ball near deep point. According to manager Dipen Rudra, Shukla received a cut under his left eye. He was taken to the hospital for first aid. Rudra said the injury is minor.


New Delhi, Dec. 30: 
The AIFF today named East Bengal’s Jo Paul Ancheri as Footballer of the Year. O. Bem Bem, the 27-year-old international from Manipur was named female footballer of year. She is the first footballer to be honoured so.

AIFF secretary Alberto Colaco said Mahindra United midfielder Jules Alberto was also considered for the best player award, but Ancheri went through as top-scorer in India’s pre-World Cup campaign with four goals and for his domestic contributions.

The AIFF general body today also decided that a different set of transfer rule will apply to professional players and that transfers will be now in May and in November.

Colaco also said that the second division National League — starting February 15 — has been expanded to 45 teams and will last for nearly two months. The league will be in three stages — a zonal league, then six zonal champions advance to the second phase, where two pools will be formed with four more seeded teams. The top two move into the third phase in which the two relegated teams from the 5th NFL, State Bank of Travancore and Air India and Dempo and Indian Bank will be seeded. Two will be promoted from here.

Bengal, Goa, Kerala, Maharashtra and Karnataka will be allowed two teams in the second division. Bengal’s Bhratri Sangha and Port Trust will be seeded to the second phase.

Asian meet in India

India will stage the Asian under-17 years preliminary tournament from May 5. Others in the group are the Maldives and Bhutan. The Asian U-20 years group phase will also be staged in India in July 2002. India are grouped with Kyrgystan, Tajikitsan and Bhutan. India have also been invited to play in a four team invitational tournament in South Africa in May.

The women’s nationals will be in Bangalore in February.


Calcutta, Dec. 30: 
The 8th Oindrilla Kundu Memorial bridge championship organised by South Kolkata Bridge Unit, which concluded at DKS today, witnessed a close finish with two teams tied for the top honours.

The champions had to be decided via a tie-breaker and ARMS comprising Manas Mukherjee, Rana Roy, Amarnath Bannerjee, Subir Majumdar, Sukomal Das and Robi Poddar were declared winners.

SNDMC, Howrah comprising Prabir Bera, Badal Das, Shibnath Sarkar, Prabir Paul, Pranab Bardhan and Swapan Ghosh emerged runners-up by aggregating 200VPs out of a possible 225VPs in the last nine sessions.

The best performance by a Non-Master team was won by Hillary Institute who were awarded the Dr S.K. Guha Memorial trophy.

Bardhaman & DKS -Green also performed creditably to finish among the top ten teams.

RESULTS: ARMS-228 VP; SNDMC-228 VP; Nandu’s-214 VP; Trambak Rubber-208 VP; I.K.Kejriwal’s IV-204 VP; .Chandannagar Bridge Club 203 VP.


Calcutta, Dec. 30: 
India’s international Limba Ram, he who put the country’s archers in the international limelight, is today in a sorry state, badly needing a job for sheer sustenance. After his contract ended with the Tatas about five years back, this star has been sans a job and little to go by at home either.

“I badly need a job to continue with the game. Competition in archery has become too high nowadays and so has the price of modern equipment. I’m now kind of in a desperate attempt to make ends meet — at my home as well as game, and without job, you simply can’t survive such pressure,” Limba told The Telegraph.

That is not a surprise, considering that even world champions today are hard pressed to find a sponsor of any worth. The situation is that much more piquant in India.

There is a mirage of a ‘job’ now, with the Central Industrial Security Force, but nothing has solidified, because it is the SAI which is making this approach. The impediments, of course are Limba’s education and height. Limba, who came to the city to take part in the 22nd senior nationals, looks forward, tentatively, to this thin line of survival. And that is possibly why he is desperate to carry on with the sport “even till I am 45.”

Recently, as a desperate measure, he has tried to become a SAI coach, but it is learnt that the SAI has stopped such recruitment.

There is also this talk about Limba figuring in an Army project for developing sports talent with the 2004 and 2008 Olympics in mind. The project is likely to get underway in Pune in the middle of the year. It is a distant possibility, but Limba’s age (he is now well over 30) just might come in the way.

Limba has not taken all this lying down, though. He has been trying in his own small way to reach a new destination, at one of his “unfulfilled dreams” — an academy in his home state Rajasthan. “Talks are on and an MP from Dugurpur, Rajasthan, has promised to help out.” His aim is to get to the tribals of the state who feed on this sport. “My academy will aim at begetting more Limba Rams but I’ll ensure they do not meet my fate,” he said.


Calcutta, Dec. 30: 
Dola Banerjee of Jharkhand continued to hold sway in national archery, claiming the title in individual championship of the Olympic round for women today.

She convincingly beat her statemate Chakravelu Swaro by six points in the final.

In men’s individual championship, Uttar Pradesh’s Shivnath Nagesia won the gold, brushing aside SSCB’s W. Ranjan Singh 101-95 on the concluding day of the meet at the Gun and Shell Factory, Cossipore.

In the team championship, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand emerged champions for men and women respectively.

Dola faced a strong challenge from Chakravelu in the first round, both being tied on 25. But the 20-year old from Baranagar opened up a six-point lead in the next two, twice scoring 28 against Chakravelu’s 26 and 24.

RESULTS (Olympic round): Individual — MEN: 1. Shivnath Nagesia (UP, 101), 2. W. Ranjan Singh (SSCB, 95), 3. Prabhat Kumar (UP, 105).

WOMEN: 1. Dola Banerjee (Jha, 108), 2. Chakravelu Swaro (Jha, 102), 3. Bansaralin Dhar (Jha, 94).

Team Championship — MEN: 1. Uttar Pradesh (Satyadev Prasad, Kailash, Prabhat Kumar, 233), 2. SSCB (M.R. Tirkey, Santosh Pradhan, Gurucharan Basra, 226), 3. Rajasthan (Limba Ram, Lal Singh Minama, Jayantilal Ninoma, 217).

WOMEN: 1. Jharkhand (Dola Banerjee, C. Swaro, Bansaralin Dhar, 219), 2. Manipur (Angela Devi, Girija Devi, Bhagyabati, 201), 3. Bengal (Sujata Das, Sangita Samanta, Rina Dutta Roy, 191).


Calcutta, Dec. 30: 
Ajay Verma’s allround performance helped East Bengal beat Rajasthan Club by 50 runs in the CAB senior division league today. Verma missed his century by nine runs and then claimed four Rajasthan wickets for 31.


East Bengal 292 (Ajay Verma 91, Avijit Ganguly 97; Soumya Dey 3/52). Rajasthan Club 242 (Nilashish Ghosh 61; Ajay Verma 4/31). East Bengal won by 50 runs.

Barisha Sporting 274. CPT 242/8 (Sanjay Pandey 72, Indranil Chakraborty 76 n.o.; Prabir Acharya 6/75). Match drawn.

BNR 332/7. Netaji Subhas Institute 244/8 (Biswanath Bose 61; Arindam Bhattacharya 5/88). Match drawn.

Burnpur CC 240. Suburban Club 210/9 (Rajesh Patel 6/71). Match drawn.

Customs 398/6 (Prasenjit Ganguly 77). Sporting Union 163 (Anup Das 4/33). Customs won by 235 runs.

Kalighat Club 380/7. City AC 233 (Santadip Pal 72; Murtaza Lodhgar 4/82). Kaligha won by 147 runs.

YMCA (College) 298. Aryan Club 299/6 (Samrat Bhowmick 67; Suman Chakraborty 4/59). Aryan won by 4 wkts.

High Court 349/8. Tollygunge Agragami 320/8 (Md. Ariz 102, Abkash Khatua 78). Match drawn.    

Mumbai, Dec. 30: 
Ridden by Aslam Kader, the Sorab Sunderji-trained Top Gun claimed the Ranjit V. Bhat Memorial Gold Trophy in Mumbai on Sunday.


(With inter-state dividends)

1. Gay Time Plate 1,100m: (8-1-3) Baba’s Gift (Ruzaan) 1; Clever Talk 2; Anchors Aweigh 3. Won by: Hd; Nk; (1-9.1). Tote: Win Rs 66; Place: 18; 15; 18; Quinella: 108; Tanala: 516. Fav: Anchors Aweigh (3).

2. Noble Fighter Plate, Div-II 1,400m: (7-2-5) Begonia (Aadesh) 1; Devasva 2; Crackdown 3. Won by: Nk; 2-1/4; (1-28.9). Tote: Win Rs 117; Place: 23; 12; 21; Quinella: 64; Tanala: 918. Fav: Devasva (2).

3. N. M. Irani Trophy 1,400m: (5-3-1) Star Councillor (Prakash) 1; Mandalay Bay 2; Absolute Dominance 3. Won by: 3-3/4; 2-3/4; (1-28.3). Tote: Win Rs 48; Place: 18; 14; 13; Quinella: 70; Tanala: 408. Fav: Absolute Dominance (1).

4. H. R. Shantidas Trophy 1,800m (1-7-3) Victory March (Rajendra) 1; Aureus 2; Amazing Dream 3. Won by: 1-3/4; 5-1/2; (1-53.6). Tote: Win Rs 26; Place: 13; 11; 13; Quinella: 18; Tanala: 118. Fav: Aureus (7).

5. Viscol Plate 1,400m: (6-9-3) Destiny Calling (Gallagher) 1; Dhanasri 2; Soviet Fire 3. Won by: 3/4; 1-1/2; (1-26.6). Tote: Win Rs 38; Place: 16; 19; 30; Quinella: 100; Tanala: 1,151. Fav: Dazzling Gold (10).

6. Ranjit V. Bhat Memorial Gold Trophy 1,000m: (5-2-6) Top Gun (Kader) 1; Green Paradise 2; Days of Glory 3. Won by: Nk; 4-1/2; (1-0). Tote: Win Rs 14; Place: 10; 29; Quinella: 28; Tanala: 41. Fav: Top Gun (5).

7. Gulamhusein Essaji Trophy 1,600m: (3-7-5) Salt Lake (Shroff) 1; Quick Decision 2; Cacophony 3. Won by: 1/2; SH; (1-40.9). Tote: Win Rs 17; Place: 13; 21; 13; Quinella: 74; Tanala: 211. Fav: Salt Lake (3).

8. Ashoka Plate 1,200m: (3-8-7) Adam’s Touch (Lemaire) 1; Courtesan 2; Accademia 3. Won by: 1-1/2; 2; (1-14.6). Tote: Win Rs 45; Place: 17; 17; 14; Quinella: 103; Tanala: 527. Fav: Accademia (7).

9. Noble Fighter Plate, Div-I 1,400m: (4-7-1) Green Star (McCullagh) 1; Dance With Me 2; Mystic Lady 3. Won by: SH; 1/2; (1-28.8). Tote: Win Rs 48; Place: 18; 41; 14; Quinella: 752; Tanala: 3,259. Fav: Cape Merino (5).

Jackpot: Rs1,488; (C) Rs 117.

Treble: (i) Rs 1,150; (ii) Rs 153; (iii) Rs 315.


Calcutta, Dec. 30: 
Star Cavalier, Antequera and Alicyclic were when the following horses worked yesterday:

Outer sand track

2,000m: Star Cavalier (Upadhya) 2-26s; (400m) 30s. Good. Antequera (C. Alford) and Leading Conquest (Amil) in 2-13s; (400m) 29s. Former far better.

1,600m: Mack The Knife (Rut-herford) in 2-8s; (400m) 31s.

1,400m: Acceptor (C. Alford) in 1-41s; (400m) 32s. Easying up. Alsheim (Surender) and Master Bold (Domingo) in 1-41s; (400m) 31s. Level. Aldebro (Amil) and Calculate (Surender) in 1-42s; (400m) 29s. Former far better.

1,200m: Altenburg (C. Alford) in 1-29; (400m) 27s. Fit. Network (C. Alford) and Inside Story (Surender) in 1-27s; (400m) 32s. Former 2 ls better. Acklins (Rb) in 1-27s; (400m) 29s. Fit.

1,000m: Sea Royale (C. Alford) and Automatic (Domingo) in 1-9s; (400m) 26s. Level. Romantic Notes (C. Alford) and Announcer (Shanker) 1-10s; (400m) 28s. Level. Cup of Life (Bird) and Wakamba Warrior late Peter Pepper (Rutherford) in 1-15s; (400m) 25s. Former 3 ls better. Splendid King (Connorton) and Rich Dominion (Yasin) in 1-12s; (400m) 29s. Former 6 ls better. Alicyclic (C. Alford) and Anolini (Amil) in 1-8s; (400m) 26s. Former far better. Amber Dancer (Connorton) and Touch of Silver (Upadhya) in 1-22s; (400m) 32s. Former 3 ls better. Royal Command (Connorton) and Smart Ruler (Upadhya) in 1-12s; (400m) 28s. Former a length better.

800m: Common Spirit (Yasin) and Soviet Ride (Connorton) in 55s; (400m) 27s. Level. Don Vittorio (Shanker) and Jeypore (G. Singh) in 57s; (400m) 29s. Level. Carbon Copy (Gajender) and Arches of Gold (Amil) in 56s; (400m) 29s. Former far better. Tuscaloosa (Amil) and Sparkling Diamond (Bird) in 55s; (400m) 28s. Former 6 ls better. Flamebird (Gowli) and Winning Hand (Rb) in 54s; (400m) 28s. Former 4 ls better. Ardency (Rabani) and Musician (Islam) in 57s; (400m) 28s. Former a length better. Ancheta (C. Alford) and Annella (Amil) in 56s; (400m) 27s. Level. Tsavo (Amjad) in 54s; (400m) 27s. Was Pushed. Cat Storm (Amjad) in 57s; (400m) 29s. Easy. Pearl Dragon (Connorton) and Grecian Prince (A. P. Singh) in 55s; (400m) 27s. Former 3 ls better.

Sand track

1,400m: Sagittarian (Rutherford) in 1-41s; (400m) 32s.

1,000m: Spanish Drum’s (Rb) in 1-14s; (400m) 30s.

800m: Cupid’s Arrow (Rb) and Cupola (Brij S.) in 58s; (400m) 27s. Level. Regency Times (Connoton) and Bird’s Empire (Upadhya) in 50s; (400m) 24s. Former a length better. Arian (Tamang) and Makhika’s Pet (Brij S.) in 53s; (400m) 25s. Level. Flying Power (Amjad) in 52s; (400m) 25s. Anokato (Connorton) in 58s; (400m) 31s. Crest Star (Yasin) in 58s; (400m) 29s. Fly By Alibi (Ruth-erford) in 51s; (400m) 27s. Peppy Mistress (Gowli) in 49s; (400m) 25s. Fit. Sky Command (Rutherford) in 49s; (400m) 23s. Note.Rid Trident (Tamang) in 54s; (400m) 27s.

600m: (Gate practice from 2,000m to 1,400m: Breakfastattiffany (Maseyk) and Racing Rhythm (Shanker), Heaven’s Blessing (G. Singh) and Aby-ssinia (Rabani) in 43s. All four jumped out well. A distance; 4 ls; 4 ls spearated them.


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