A summary of sports events and persons who made news on Thursday.
India’s shuttlers were handed a tricky draw at next month's US $1000,000 All-England Badminton Championships.
Saina Nehwal will meet her nemesis Tai Tzu Ying in the first round while P V Sindhu has an easy opener against Thailand's Pornpawee Chochuwong.
World No. 11 Saina, who had made the final of the 2015 All England Championships and lost to Taiwan’s world No. 1 Tai Tzu at the Indonesia Open last month, gets a chance to avenge her loss and better her dismal head-to-head record against the defending champion.
Sindhu is expected to cross the first hurdle without much of a problem and, in that case, may get a chance to settle scores with American Beiwen Zhang Zhang in a likely second round clash.
Zhang had defeated Sindhu at the India Open final.
World No. 3 Kidambi Srikanth, also seeded third, had a rampaging run last season, winning four titles and will meet Frenchman Brice Leverdez in the opening round of the BWF World Tour Super 1000 tournament, slated for March 14-18.
However, B Sai Praneeth and HS Prannoy will face tougher opponents in the opening round in men's singles.
Singapore Open champion Praneeth will square off against former world number one Korean Son Wan Ho, while world No. 11 Prannoy, who is still recovering from the foot infection that saw him struggle at the India Open, will clash with eighth seed Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei, who finished runner-up twice at the India Open.
In doubles, Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, who reached the semi-finals of the Indonesia Open, will meet Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi of Japan, while India Open semi-finalists Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy will take on Germany's Marvin Emil Seidel and Linda Efler in the opening round.
Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will meet the England pair of Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge, while Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki fight it out against the second seeded Japanese combo of Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi.
Rising women's doubles pair of Jakkampudi Meghana and Poorvisha S Ram will face fifth seeded Japanese pair of Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto.
Guru, Sameer reach quarters of Swiss Open
Commonwealth Games bronze medallist RMV Gurusaidutt and Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold winner Sameer Verma entered the quarter-finals of the Swiss Open World Super 300 tournament after registering contrasting wins in men's singles, in Basel on Thursday.
On a comeback trail after recovering from an ankle injury, Gurusaidutt defeated compatriot Sourabh Verma 21-18, 21-14, while second seed Sameer eked out a 11-21, 21-18, 21-16 win over Japan's Yu Igarashi in another match.
Guru faces Thailand's Kantaphon Wangcharoen, while Sameer takes on Japan's Kento Momota next.
Sai Uttejitha Rao Chukka, however, suffered a 8-21, 13-21 loss to second seeded Japanese Minatsu Mitani.
On Wednesday, men's doubles pair of Arjun MR and Ramchandran Shlok defeated Chinese Taipei's Po Li-Wei and Yang Ming-Tse 21-17, 14-21, 21-15 to reach the second round.
But Anura Prabhudesai lost 12-21, 12-21 to top seeded Japanese Sayaka Takahashi to bow out of the competition.
Mary, Sarita in semis of Strandja Memorial boxing
The seasoned duo of M C Mary Kom (48kg) and L Sarita Devi (60kg) were assured of their third successive international medals after they entered the semifinals, along with two male boxers, in the 69th Strandja Memorial Boxing Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The 35-year-old Mary Kom, who came here on the back of gold medals at the Asian Championships and the India Open, defeated old nemesis Steluta Duta of Romania in her quarter-final contest.
Sarita, a bronze and silver winner at the Asian Championships and India Open respectively, got the better of China's Qi Yawen in her last-eight stage bout.
In the men's draw, India Open gold-medallist Amit Panghal (49kg) also made the semifinal stage along with last edition's silver-medallist Mohammed Hussamuddin (56kg).
Amit defeated China's Zhonglin Wu in a draining contest, while Hussamuddin pulled off a comprehensive triumph over American Raymond Ford during the evening session.
Mary Kom relied on her sharper reflexes to outwit Steluta, who is a three-time world championships silver-medallist and a four-time gold-winner at the European Championships.
Interestingly, all of Steluta’s world championship silver medals are courtesy losses to Mary Kom in the finals (2006, 2008 and 2010).
Clashing after a considerable gap, the two boxers were locked in a fierce exchange of blows, but Mary Kom managed to edge past by keeping her distance and not allowing the Romanian a clear shot for most of the bout.
The competitiveness, however, did not come in the way of mutual respect as the two embraced each other warmly at the end of the contest.
Sarita, on the other hand, hardly broke a sweat to sail past her overtly defensive rival, who spent most of her time trying to either back-paddle or take evasive action.
In the men’s competition, Dheeraj Rangi (64kg) bowed out of the competition, after losing his opening bout to Louis Colin Richarno.
India are now assured of seven medals in the tournament, five of them courtesy women boxers -- Seema Punia (+81kg), Saweety Boora (75kg), Mena Kumari Devi (54kg) and Bhagyabati Kachari (81kg) being the others in semi-final apart from Mary Kom and Sarita.
While Saweety and Meena won their quarter-final contests, Seema and Bhagyabati got byes.
Sock, Isner, Raonic out of Delray Beach Open
Top seed Jack Sock was "served off the court" while John Isner and Milos Raonic also exited on a day of upsets at the Delray Beach Open in Florida on Wednesday.
Two months after clinching his first Masters 1000 title in Paris, Sock was in less stellar form, beaten 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 by fellow American Reilly Opelka in the second round.
The 6-foot-11-inch Opelka used his height and power to fire down 17 aces, though the 20-year-old was not really happy with his biggest weapon.
"I didn’t serve as well as I’d have liked to or as well as I usually do," the world number 228 said after the biggest win of his career.
"I was really pleased with how I played from the baseline though. I thought I hit my forehand great and made it really tough for him to be offensive, which is his game."
World number eight Sock spoke of the difficulty of playing against someone of Opelka's height.
"You’re not really ever in control against a seven-foot guy who can serve you off the court," he said.
"Even after winning the first set it’s still 50-50 with his style of play."
Isner came out on the wrong end of three consecutive tie-breaks against German Peter Gojowczyk, who prevailed 7-6(3), 6-7(4), 7-6(5).
Thirty aces were not enough for Isner in a match that did not feature a service break.
Raonic was beaten more comprehensively, outplayed 6-2, 6-4 by American Steve Johnson, who earned his first ever victory over the Canadian.
Raonic was nonplussed by his own performance.
"I’ve got to definitely review it, think about it, because that was a pretty poor level I put out there today," he said.
"Not much to be happy with. I had a tough time with a lot of things today."
Honda-powered Toro Rosso makes trouble-free debut
Honda's partnership with the Toro Rosso Formula One team got off to a positive start on Wednesday with a seemingly smooth track debut of their new car on a limited mileage filming day in Italy.
"Trouble-free day!! No joke," commented French driver Pierre Gasly on Twitter.
New Zealander Brendon Hartley, who was at the wheel of the TR13 car at the wet Misano circuit, reported on Instagram that "the new girl ran super smooth."
Honda are starting over with the Red Bull-owned team this season after three seasons of failure with former champions McLaren left the Japanese engine manufacturer's reputation in tatters.
A behind-the-scenes documentary, 'Grand Prix Driver', released on Amazon recently shone a spotlight on the tension between McLaren and Honda that eventually led to the relationship tearing apart.
It also revealed how the troubles had started before the launch of the car and were fully exposed once testing in Barcelona started when the car broke down repeatedly due to engine failures.
McLaren, who finished ninth out of the 10 teams last season, are now using Renault engines and hoping to be far more competitive.
How Toro Rosso, and McLaren, fare this season will be among the intriguing sub-plots to the 21-race season that starts in Australia on March 25, with Mercedes and Ferrari again expected to be the frontrunners.