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The most wanted, at 46

Gold Coast: Swiss star Patty Schnyder is likely to be top seed but tennis legend Martina Navratilova is the one fans will come to see when the Australian women’s hardcourt tournament gets underway on Sunday.

Navratilova, 46, will partner 17-year-old former world junior champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia in doubles. Navratilova, who became the oldest player to win a WTA Tour doubles title earlier this year in Madrid, has told organisers to expect her to still be playing on finals day.

“To have one of the greatest ever players competing in this tournament is a huge coup,” tournament director Liz Smylie said Thursday. The arrival of Navratilova goes some way to alleviating a weakened event. Last year’s singles winner Venus Williams will not be returning and neither will 2001 champion Justine Henin of Belgium.

Aarthie eyes men’s IM norm

Chennai: The country’s third Woman Grandmaster, Aarthie Ramaswamy, on Thursday said her next aim was to acquire the men’s International Master norm. Aarthie, who emerged the world’s new Woman Grandmaster after completing her final WGM norm with a ninth round draw against Zeev Dub of Israel in Budapest recently, told a press conference that she would have to concentrate on improving her overall performance if she were to achieve the norm. Her immediate challenge was to win the Asian women’s tournament, she said.

Vijayalakshmi of Tamil Nadu and Koneru Humpy of Andhra Pradesh are the other two Woman Grandmasters from India. Aarthie’s coach B.P. Ramesh said she was very good at calculations, but would have to improve her opening moves.

Hefty bill for Israel

Tel Aviv: The Israeli FA could end up footing a bill of over $1 million if the country is forced to host all their home Euro 2004 qualifying matches at foreign venues, chairman Gavri Levi said on Wednesday.

At present, a Uefa ruling forbids Israel from hosting home internationals in the country.

An English venue almost certainly ruled out after the police in Watford said last week that the IFA would have to pay £300,000 for staging the qualifying group one match against France at Vicarage Road on April 2 has left the association looking at other options.

Farinos Spain bound

Castellon: Inter Milan midfielder Javier Farinos heads the list of players being targeted by struggling Spanish first division side Villarreal during the January transfer window, club president Fernando Roig said on Thursday. The Spanish midfielder, who left Villarreal’s neighbours Valencia to sign for Inter in June 2000 for $17million, has failed to establish himself as a regular first team player at the Serie A club and has been linked with a return to Spain in recent weeks.

“Farinos is a great player,” Roig told Spanish sports daily Marca on Thursday.

n Cricket, South Africa vs Pakistan 1st Test, Day II, live from 1.25 pm n Cricket, Australia vs England 4th Ashes Test Day III session 2 live from 8am on STAR Sports n Soccer, Premier League — Middlesbrough vs Manchester United from 2.30pm on ESPN


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