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Sports Shorts: Murray, Nadal taste defeat on grass

Last updated on: June 12, 2014 23:47 IST

Sports Shorts: Murray, Nadal taste defeat on grass

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Andy Murray was left to rue eight set points that went begging in the first set as he slumped to a shock 7-6(10), 6-2 defeat by Czech veteran Radek Stepanek in the third round of the Aegon Championships on Thursday.

A year after completing a Queen's Club-Wimbledon grasscourt double, the British number one was strangely off colour as he allowed Stepanek to steal the opening set with a delightful crosscourt volley.

Any hopes of a Murray revival fell flat early in the second set when the British number one surrendered the opening game with a forehand error and Stepanek made sure he made the most of his chances.

The wily Czech, who at times gave Murray the run-around, sealed an impressive victory when his opponent sliced a backhand into the net on match point leaving the crowd stunned and the home favourite frustrated.

"When you play the best ones in the world, you have to come up with the best.... they bring the best out of you and it was a great win for me," Stepanek said courtside after setting up a quarter-final with South African Kevin Anderson.

Murray had beaten Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu on Wednesday in his first match under the gaze of new coach Amelie Mauresmo - stretching his winning sequence on grass to 19 matches - a sequence which started on his way to Olympic gold at Wimbledon.

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Image: Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic reacts after defeating Andy Murray of Great Britain during their men's singles match of the Aegon Championships at Queens Club
Photographs: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

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Nadal's grasscourt return ends prematurely

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The switch from clay to grass did not go according to plan for Rafael Nadal on Thursday.

The Spaniard was jettisoned from the Gerry Webber Open with a 6-4, 6-1 second-round defeat by maverick German Dustin Brown.

A player who is almost unbeatable on clay, having won the French Open in nine of the past 10 years, proved to be more vulnerable on grass. He has now lost his last three matches on the slicker surface dating back to 2012.

 

Instead of chalking up his 700th tour win with victory over Brown, Nadal suffered a setback in his hopes of getting some much-needed grasscourt practice before he heads to Wimbledon.

 

The Spaniard, who beat Novak Djokovic to continue his Roland Garros domination on Sunday, had been practising hard on the Halle lawns since arriving on Monday and was eager to get matches under his belt ahead of Wimbledon.

"Each training session and each match on grass is very, very important for me," Nadal told the tournament website on Wednesday.

"It's such a tough transition. You've got to give it all you've got to get into an ideal shape for the matches."

Nadal suffered early losses at Wimbledon on his last two visits, to Lukas Rosol in 2012 and Steve Darcis last year and is leaving nothing to chance.

"In 2012, I had physical problems and last year I wasn't at full strength," the Mallorcan said. "Now I've got to and I want to show good form and get some self-confidence."

Dreadlocked Brown proved by reaching the Wimbledon third round last year that he is a force on grass.

"You never know what to expect with him. He plays with a lot of inspiration, very aggressively," said Nadal, before playing the 29-year-old for the first time.

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Image: Rafael Nadal
Photographs: Clive Rose/Getty Images

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Federer overcomes first-set hiccup to advance in Halle

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Roger Federer also suffered some grasscourt jitters at the Gerry Webber Open on Thursday.

The Swiss began his first match on the lush green surface this year with a 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-2 second-round win over Portugal's Joao Sousa.

The seven-times Wimbledon champion owns more grasscourt titles (13) than any other player since tennis turned professional in 1968 but that expertise could not prevent him from dropping the first set against an opponent who has no proven track record on the surface.

The second seed, chasing a seventh title in Halle, squandered five break-points in the first set against the 47-ranked Sousa.

But Federer, who was beaten in the fourth round of the French Open by Ernests Gulbis, ran out a comfortable victor after easily winning the next two sets.

Federer will face either towering Croat Ivo Karlovic or Lu Yen-hsun of Taiwan for a place in the semi-finals.

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Image: Roger Federer celebrates after beating Joao Sousa of Portugal on Day 4 of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany.
Photographs: Thomas Starke/Bongarts/Getty Images

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Indian shuttlers bow out of Japan Open

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It was curtains for Indian shuttlers at the Japan Open as young Tanvi Lad and the women's doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa suffered defeats in the second round of the $ 250,000 Super Series tournament in Tokyo, on Thursday.

After notching an upset win over world No 18 Kirsty Gilmour of Scotland in the opening round, Tanvi suffered a 18-21, 12-21 loss to China's Xin Liu in the women's singles.

The Commonwealth Games gold medallist pair of Gutta and Ponnappa went down 12-21, 23-21, 19-21 to sixth seeded Koreans Kyung Eun Jung and Ha Na Kim in the women's doubles.

Sourabh Varma surrendered against fourth seeded Kenichi Tago of Japan 9-21, 6-21 in a lop-sided men's singles match that lasted 33 minutes.

The mixed doubles combo of Tarun Kona and Ashwini Ponnappa capped off a disastrous campaign after they went down 17-21, 11-21 to Japanese pair of Misaki Matsutomo and Kenichi Hayakawa in a 27-minute match.

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Image: India's Ashwini Ponappa, left, and Jwala Gutta


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Badminton Rankings: Kashyap back in top-20; Saina static at 8

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Young Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth slipped down the ladder, losing 10 positions, and is placed at No 23 in the latest Badminton World Federation rankings, released in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

The 21-year-old, who reached his career-best ranking of No 13 two weeks ago, had lost two out of three matches during India's Thomas Cup campaign at the Siri Fort Sports Complex.

The 2013 Thailand Grand Prix Gold champion, Srikanth lost to Germany's Marc Zweibler in the opening round of the $250,000 Japan Open Super Series on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, senior shuttler Parupalli Kashyap rose a place to No 20 in the men's singles list, which is headed by Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei.

Interestingly, Kashyap also lost in the first round against a lesser-known Riichi Takeshita of Japan in the Tokyo Open.

Anand Pawar, who was runners-up at Sri Lanka Open, rose five places to 44th place.

In the women's singles, Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu, who skipped the Japan Open after a hectic Uber Cup tournament, held on to their No 8 and No 10 positions respectively.

P C Thulasi, who just won the Sri Lanka Open International Badminton Challenge title in Colombo, rose seven places to be ranked 53.

No Indian figures in the top-25 of the men's, women's and mixed doubles rankings.

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Image: India's Kashyap Parupalli
Photographs: Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters

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Duval unhurt after huge Le Mans practice crash

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Audi's Le Mans winner Loic Duval emerged unscathed from a huge high-speed crash that halted practice for the 24 Hours sportscar race on Wednesday.

The Frenchman, a first time winner last year who shares his car with Denmark's nine-time champion Tom Kristensen and Brazilian Lucas Di Grassi, was extracted from the mangled wreckage and taken to hospital in Le Mans.

Audi Sport reported on their official Twitter feed that the driver, whose car was destroyed in the impact after leaving the track at the Porsche Curves, was "unhurt apart from two grazes to the skin".

The team added that they would do all they could to get the number one car ready for qualifying.

Last year's race was marred by tragedy when Kristensen's compatriot Allan Simonsen, who was driving an Aston Martin, died in an accident only minutes after the start.

Audi will be chasing their 13th Le Mans victory this weekend since their debut in 1999, and fifth in a row.

They face a tough challenge from Toyota and Porsche, returning as a full works team for the first time in 16 years with Australian former F1 driver Mark Webber.

The 82nd edition of the race, to be waved away by Ferrari's double Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso, starts at the Sarthe circuit in western France on Saturday.

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Image: Loic Duval of France
Photographs: Stephane Mahe/Reuters

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Azarenka to make return from injury at Eastbourne

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Former World No 1 Victoria Azarenka will return from a long injury lay-off at Eastbourne next week after receiving a wildcard for the Aegon International grasscourt tournament.

The Belarusian has been out since March after suffering a left foot injury that forced her to miss the French Open.

"I've worked hard to rehabilitate my injury and to get fit for my return," the twice Australian Open told the tournament's website on Wednesday.

"I've played at Eastbourne three times and always enjoyed it. The grass courts are world class which will give me the best possible start to the second half of the season, and the perfect preparation for Wimbledon."

World No 8 Azarenka has twice made the semi-finals at Wimbledon but her run ended early last year when she pulled out before her second round match with a knee injury.

She will be joined on the Devonshire Park lawns by five of the world's top 10 including former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska.

"The draw is incredibly strong as usual, and I am very excited to be a part of that," Azarenka said.

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Image: Victoria Azarenka
Photographs: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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Mancini leaves Galatasaray after less than a year

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Italian coach Roberto Mancini has left Turkish giants Galatasaray by mutual agreement after less than a season in charge, the club announced on Wednesday.

Mancini had joined the Istanbul-based side on a three-year deal at the end of September, having being sacked by Manchester City at the end of the 2012-13 campaign and a year after leading the club to their first Premier League title in 44 years.

He left City after a shock FA Cup final loss to Wigan Athletic and a poor defense of their title, as well as another failure to progress out of the Champions League group stage.

The stylish 49-year-old was appointed Galatasaray coach following the dismissal of Fatih Terim, taking charge only two days before a Champions League match with Juventus.

Having recently said he wanted to remain in Turkey, he has left after what appears to be a difference of opinion about the direction of the team.

"As a coach I understand the demands of the club. However, when I accepted the coaching post, Gala’s aims were different," Mancini told Gazzetta dello Sport.

Former Italy forward Mancini has also coached Fiorentina, Lazio and Inter Milan, winning four Italian Cups and three Serie A titles in total, with recent speculation linking him with a return to Italy.


Image: Roberto Mancini
Photographs: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

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