After revolt by top stars, AITA picks second-string for Davis Cup


After revolt by top stars, AITA picks second-string for Davis Cup

BANGALORE: The All India Tennis Association was forced to make an unprecedented decision on Friday afternoon. The national body's selection committee named a severely depleted four-member team - comprising Leander Paes(ranked no. 3 in doubles), VM Ranjeet, (517 in singles), Vijayant Malik (542 in singles) and Purav Raja (155 in doubles and 916 in singles) - for the country's Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group One opener against South Korea to be played in New Delhi from February 1 to 3.

This dramatic development came in the wake of country's eight top players, excluding Paes, submitting a list of demands to the AITA with a threat to stay away from the Davis Cup. The AITA agreed to some of the demands but it was not enough to convince the disgruntled players, including Mahesh Bhupathi,Somdev Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna.

AITA chief executive Hironmoy Chatterjee said the federation had extended the Thursday deadline to Friday noon but the players did not relent. "We gave them the opportunity to reconsider their stand. We tried everything, what more could we do?" Chatterjee told a news agency.

It may be recalled that late on Thursday, when the national body's deadline loomed large, Chatterjee stated that two of the eight `rebel' players had written to the national federation, making themselves available for selection.

In a statement to the media on Friday, AITA stated, "Officials were in touch with some players till late last night (Thursday) and further concessions were made and the deadline was extended till noon on Friday." 

However, it seems no player got in touch with AITA. The rebel group - Somdev Devvarman, Yuki Bhambri, Vishnu Vardhan, Sanam Singh, Divij Sharan, Saketh Myneni, Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna, Sriram Balaji, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Vijay Sundar Prashanth reacted strongly to AITA's claims.

The players noted: "AITA's position reiterates and reaffirms our stand, and we are constrained to state that, unfortunately, we will be unavailable to represent the country until such time that the AITA engages with us in good faith."

The new-look India side, with Paes at the helm, may still beat the South Korean outfit whose top three singles players - Suk-Young Jeong, Yong-Kyu Lim and Ji-Sung Nam - are ranked between 338 and 485 in the ATP rankings. But that is hardly the point.
Novak Djokovic bids for Australian Open hat-trick


Novak Djokovic bids for Australian Open hat-trick

SYDNEY: Novak Djokovic will grapple with his growing rivalry with Andy Murray and the enduring powers of Roger Federer as he bids for the first Australian Open hat-trick of the professional era. 

Rafael Nadal's withdrawal through illness has robbed Melbourne Park of a repeat of last year's epic final, when Djokovic finally tamed the Spaniard at 1:40 am after a record, 5hr 53min final which left him with bleeding toes. 

But the Serbian world number one will face a stiff challenge from the newly assertive Andy Murray, fresh from his first Grand Slam win and keen to avenge his final and semifinal defeats to Djokovic in Melbourne in 2011 and 2012. 

Also pressing hard will be Federer, holder of an unmatched 17 Grand Slams and still hungry for more even though, at the age of 31, he is conceding six years to his younger rivals. 

Murray, the world number three, was thrashed by Djokovic in the 2011 Australian Open decider, and narrowly lost out in their thrillingfive-set semifinal last year. 

But the Scot then beat Djokovic on his way to London Olympics gold, and again in the US Open final as he became Britain's first male Grand Slam singles winner since Fred Perry in 1936. 

Despite Nadal's absence because of a stomach virus, after a knee injury ruled him out for much of last year, the competing claims of the top three men leave the year's opening Grand Slam unpredictable. 

"I have high ambitions for myself, but I am absolutely aware it is going to be very difficult, because today's men's tennis is very competitive," Djokovic said. 

"Andy Murray winning his first Grand Slam title last year has also got him to this group of players that are serious candidates to win the Australian Open." 

Djokovic tuned up for the Open playing for Serbia in the mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth, and he said he relished the battles to come at Melbourne Park, where he has won three of his five Grand Slam titles. 

No one has won more than two consecutive Australian Open titles since Roy Emerson completed his run of five in a row in 1967, two years before the advent of professional tennis. 

"It is a huge challenge. I love the Australian Open, that court brings out the best memories of my career, the great support I always get there, the night sessions, the day sessions, it is always interesting to play," Djokovic said. 

"Every Grand Slam brings something special to it. The Australian Open is by far my most successful one so I am really looking forward to it. 

"I like the hard court, I like the conditions and I am going to go for the trophy." 

Murray, coached by Ivan Lendl and relaxed and confident after breaking his Grand Slam jinx, comes into the Open on the back of his 25th career singles title at the Brisbane International. 

"I hope that the Australian Open goes a bit better for me than it did last year," said the two-time finalist. 

"I played some very good tennis there. I lost a set in the first round, and then won the next four matches in straight sets, until the (semifinal) match with Novak which I played very well." 

Murray, who survived some uncomfortable moments to beat Grigor Dimitrov in the Brisbane final, acknowledged he has developed a greater mental edge following his successes in the last half of 2012. 

"It's a change of mentality really, and that doesn't happen in a few weeks. It's taken time to believe that that's the right thing to do, to be aggressive," he said. 

Meanwhile four-time winner Federer, keen to extend his long stay at the top of men's tennis, has unusually opted out of playing a warm-up tournament. The Swiss has not reached the Melbourne final since his last win in 2010. 

"I want to try and make this last as long as I can... I don't want to fizzle out," the world number two said. 

"I hope to keep on playing for many years, because I love it. I love the pressure of playing with a new generation coming up, who are improving quickly. 

"It's part of the puzzle that makes me motivated, trying to play against the likes of Novak, Andy and Rafa." 

David Ferrer, who won the most matches (76) and titles (seven) last year, is the fourth seed in Nadal's absence and has a chance to climb above the fourth-ranked fellow Spaniard for the first time in his career.
Federer wins seventh Wimbledon title

Roger Federer


LONDON: Roger Federer won a record-equalling seventh Wimbledon title and 17th Grand Slam crown on Sunday, shattering Andy Murray's dream of ending Britain's 76-year wait for an All England Club men's champion.


Federer, playing in his eighth Wimbledon final and 24th Grand Slam championship match, won 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to join Pete Sampras and William Renshaw as a seven-time champion.


The Swiss great, who has also regained the world number one ranking, is just the third man over 30 to win Wimbledon following Rod Laver in 1969 and Arthur Ashe in 1975.


Murray, 25, bidding to be the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win Wimbledon, has now lost all four Grand Slam finals in which he has appeared.


But in the opening exchanges of this eagerly-anticipated final, he was the stronger player, making the most of his five-year advantage as Federer looked fatigued and ragged.


However, once the £80 million roof was shut in the early stages of the third set, as torrential rain bucketed down outside, the momentum shifted and Federer stormed into the ascendancy.


With the Duchess of Cambridge, sister Pippa Middleton, Australian great Rod Laver, British Prime Minister David Cameron and even the Beckhams looking on from the Royal Box, it was the Briton who started the stronger.


Murray, defeated by Federer in the 2008 US Open and 2010 Australian Open finals without winning a set, broke in the first game when an uncharacteristic nervy Swiss ballooned a drive volley and that break was backed up by a hold.


Federer held and retrieved the break, shrugging off the boozy call of 'I love you, Roger' from a male fan in the 15,000 crowd.


Murray survived two break points in the eighth game and made the most of the reprieve when he broke to lead 5-4 as Federer netted a forehand having had to take evasive action to avoid a Murray forehand missile.


The Scot then wrapped up the opener on an unreturned serve -- it was the first set Murray had won in his three Grand Slam finals, with Federer's 16 unforced errors to his opponent's five proving key.


Murray saved a break point in the second game of the second set while Federer, the first 30-year-old in the final since Jimmy Connors in 1984, saved two in the fifth.


The two men served a pair of love games as Federer led 4-3 while Murray wasted two break points in the ninth game as the six-time champion clung on for a 5-4 advantage.


The Briton again served a love game for 5-5.


But Federer held and suddenly carved out a set point with a magical drop volley in the 12th game which caused Murray to push a lob long.


Another immaculate drop volley off his toes gave him the set 7-5.


At 1-1 and 40-0 for Federer in the third, heavy rain drove the players off court for 40 minutes and the roof was closed.


In a dramatic sixth game, which lasted 20 minutes and went to 10 deuces, Murray took three tumbles to the ground, surrendered a 40-0 lead and Federer broke on a sixth break point for a 4-2 lead.


A ninth ace of the contest in the ninth game gave Federer the set 6-3 and a two sets to one lead.


Suddenly, the life and vibrancy seeped out of Murray.


He felt his lower back, Victoria Beckham looked even more sombre, and the Scot slipped 3-2 down off a killer, crosscourt backhand drive.


A 12th ace in the 10th game took Federer to two match points, the first of which was saved but Murray went wide on a forehand to hand Federer victory.

Wimbledon: Paes-Vesnina in mixed-doubles semifinals


Wimbledon: Paes-Vesnina in mixed-doubles semifinals

LONDON: Wimbledon's fourth seeds in the mixed-doubles - India's Leander Paes and Russian Elena Vesnina powered into the semifinals with a straight sets win over Aussie Paul Hanley and Russian Alla Kudryavtseva on Friday. 

Paes and Venina, playing on Court No. 2, won 6-2, 6-2 in 57-minutes. 

The Indo-Russian pairing, who made the final of the Australian Open and the semifinals of the French Open, struck early in the match breaking Kudryavtseva in the third game to march ahead. 

In the second set, they broke Aussie Hanley in the first game and Kudryavtseva in the third to take a 4-0 lead after Paes held serve. There was no looking back there after. 

Next up for Paes and Vesnina is the winner of the quarterfinal clash between the top seeded American pair of Bob Bryan and Liezel Huber and the Canadian German combine of Daniel Nestor and Julia Georges. 

Bopanna and Zheng, the tenth seeds, playing their first tournament together, started poorly falling behind 0-5 in the first set. Even though the Indo-Chinese pairing came back to break the Bryan serve, it was too little too late. Bopanna and Zheng competed well in the second set, but the American pairing played the bigger points better to close out the match.



Williams sisters reach Wimbledon doubles final
Williams sisters reach Wimbledon doubles final
WIMBLEDON (England): Serena Williams will be playing for two Wimbledon titles on Saturday after she and sister Venus rallied from a set down Friday to reach the doubles final.

The Williams sisters struggled with their serves in the first set but recovered to beat American duo Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. They won seven straight games to take the second set and grab a 3-0 lead in the third.

They broke Raymond's serve again in the final game, with Venus hitting a volley winner on their first match point.

Serena will play Agnieszka Radwanska in the singles final as she looks for her fifth Wimbledon title. A few hours after that, the Williams sisters are scheduled to go for their fifth title in doubles as well. They will be playing Czech duo Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, who beat Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone of Italy in the other semifinal.

Serena said her busy schedule shouldn't affect her chances against Radwanska.

"It would be good to have a day off," she said, "but also it's good to practice in doubles because I get a lot of match play, practice some returns, some serves."

In the men's tournament, defending champions Bob and Mike Bryan were knocked out byJonathan Marray of Britain and Frederik Nielsen of Denmark, who staved off a comeback attempt to win 6-4, 7-6 (9), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5).

They'll play Robert Lindstedt of Sweden and Horia Tecau of Romania, who lost in the final the last two years.