I-League: Gokulam favourites against Kenkre FC
After a sluggish start to its I-League campaign, Gokulam Kerala is beginning to look like a side capable of giving a decent shot at defending the title it won for the last two seasons in a row.
The convincing 2-0 win, a little over a week ago, against a strong Real Kashmir, must have given the Gokulam men a lot of confidence. They should be keen to take that form to the match against Mumbai’s Kenkre FC here on Sunday. Gokulam will be favourites against a side that is languishing in second place from the bottom, with 13 points.
Gokulam is placed fourth on the table with 21 points. A win will take the team closer to the leader, RoundGlass (29 points).
Gokulam, which is now sporting a considerably different look after all the new signings up front, has made a conscious effort to play a more attacking game, under the new coach Francesc Bonet.
-P. K. Ajith Kumar
HCL PSA Challenger squash tournament: Abhay Singh beat Guhan Senthilkumar in first round
Top seed Abhay Singh got off to a smooth start as he beat Guhan Senthilkumar 11-7, 11-2, 11-9 in the first round of the HCL PSA Challenger squash tournament at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium here on Saturday.
Having won six titles, the 70th ranked Abhay Singh would be keen to sustain his good work in the new season, and climb further in the world rank to be able to compete in higher level events.
With matches thoughtfully scheduled after 12 noon to help players overcome the chill of the Capital, the international event got off to a vibrant start.
In another match, Yusuf Elsherif of Egypt overcame stiff resistance from Aarav Gill 11-7, 5-11, 11-4, 11-6.
With the top eight seeds including world No.1 junior Amina Orfi of Egypt getting a bye in the first round, it was a smooth ride for the rest, in the women’s section.
Tatjana Maria wins NECC $40,000 ITF women’s tennis title; Ankita-Prarthana clinch doubles honour
Wimbledon semifinalist Tatjana Maria of Germany asserted her class as she outplayed second seed Nigina Abduraimova of Uzbekistan 6-1, 6-1 in the final of the NECC $40,000 ITF women’s tennis tournament at the Deccan Gymkhana on Saturday.
It was the 19th singles title in the professional circuit for the 35-year-old Maria who dropped only 17 games in all in winning her five matches.
In the doubles final, Ankita Raina and Prarthana Thombare beat the Kazakhs, Gozal Ainitdinova and Zhibek Kulambayeva 4-6, 7-5, [10-8].
It was the 26th doubles title for Ankita, and the second with Prarthana, who won her 25th title.
ITF Masters: Arti Ganesh lost to Priyanka Mehta
Priyanka Mehta beats Arti Ganesh 6-4, 7-6(4) in the over-35 women’s final of the ITF Masters tennis tournament at the DLTA Complex on Saturday.
In the men’s over-55 event, Rashid Malik of Pakistan cruised to the title, dropping nine games in all four matches.
ITF men’s: Prajnesh Gunneswaran storms into final
Prajnesh Gunneswaran beat second seed Benjamin Hassan of Germany 6 4, 2-6, 6-0 to reach the final of the $25,000 ITF men’s tennis tournament in Al Zahra, Kuwait, on Saturday.
In the final, Prajnesh will play Khumoyun Sultanov of Uzbekistan.
In the $15,000 ITF men’s tournament in Jakarta, Sidharth Rawat made the singles final, while Rithvik Bollipalli and Niki Poonacha won the doubles title.
Sharma fights hard but misses cut; 3-way lead at Dubai Desert Classic
A fighting Shubhankar Sharma failed to make the cut after falling short by one stroke at the weather-hit Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament on Saturday.
After not being able to hit a single shot on the opening day, Sharma played 21 holes on Friday and another 15 on Saturday, but he missed a 3-footer for par on his 36th hole at the Emirates Golf Club to miss the cut.
“That’s golf. But I will take some positives as I was Top-10 and played well last week in Abu Dhabi and here I played well in spells,” said Sharma, now in his 11th year as a pro.
Though all pros are used to start-stop-start, it never helps and the rhythm suffers. That took its toll on Sharma.
The lead at 10-under at the top was shared by three stars, so different from each other.
Richard Bland, who won his first DP World Tour title well into his mid-40s and was the runner-up last year, shot a second straight 67 a week ahead of his 50th birthday to take the top position.
Thomas Pieters (67-67), who missed the cut in Abu Dhabi last week, after a two-over front nine, played a stunning back nine with seven birdies in nine holes, to also be at 10-under.
With them was a 21-year-old American amateur Michael Thorbjornsen (70-64), who last year was tied for fourth in a PGA Tour event, the Travelers Championships.
The World No. 2 amateur is co-leading the event a round after World Amateur No 1, Ludvig Aberg (65-73) led the field after the first round.
Rory McIlroy said there were “definitely more negatives than positives,” in his second round after adding 70 to his first 66.
McIlroy, looking for his third win at the Dubai Classic, was tied seventh, and at 8-under he was two shots off the lead.
Sharma, after a fine four-under in his first nine on the back stretch of the Emirates Golf Club, was unable to keep the momentum going.
On the tougher front nine, the Indian bogeyed the second, birdied the fourth and again bogeyed the seventh. He hit a great chip-in birdie on eighth from 10 yards to get to 2-under but then missed a 3-foot par putt after getting out of the rough and hitting his third shot to three feet.
“I fought hard and played well on the back nine, my first nine. Then (on 8th) I had a perfect chip, which I knew was going in from the moment I hit it. (On 9th) It was disappointing to miss the small (3-footer) par putt. But that’s golf,” he said.
McIlroy had mixed feelings as he lay tied seventh at 8-under and two shots off the lead.
“I chipped and putted it well, and I got myself around the golf course okay. Being able to post a couple of decent scores and at least have a chance going into the last two days.”