Sports Shorts: India ninth in latest hockey rankings
Eight-time Olympic champions India find itself in a lowly ninth position among men's teams in the recently-released FIH World Hockey Rankings.
The Indians, with 1458 rating points, occupy the ninth spot by virtue of their disappointing ninth place finish in the World Cup held at The Hague, Netherlands earlier this month.
Even though the Sardar Singh-led side defeated Asian champions South Korea 3-0 in the ninth-10th place play-off match in the World Cup, the Koreans (8th spot) are a rung ahead of India in the latest rankings with 1490 points.
World champion Australia's dominant 6-1 victory in the final of the quadrennial event keeps them in the top three of the men's rankings for the 11th consecutive year.
The Netherlands, who finished runners-up in the World Cup, are in the second position while Argentina's men's team, who claimed third place in the World Cup after beating England 2-0, climb up four places to the seventh spot.
Both Germany (3rd) and England (5th) have dropped one place. Belgium is in the fourth spot, while New Zealand is sixth.
Spain complete the top 10 rankings in the men's category.
Meanwhile, in the women's rankings, India are languishing at the 13th position.
The Netherlands consolidated their place at the top of the world following their 2-0 win over Australia in final of the women's World Cup, held along side the men's event.
Australia are placed second ahead of Argentina in the women's chart.
USA women's team has climbed up two spots to eight having reached the semi-finals this year.
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Image: India Hockey players celebrate a goal
Photographs: Hockey India/Facebook
Shuttlers Praneeth, Thulasi advance to second round of Australia Open
Young shuttlers B Sai Praneeth and P C Thulasi crossed the firs hurdle without breaking any sweat but it was curtains for five Indian doubles pairs in the $750,000 Star Australian Super Series in Sydney on Wednesday.
World no. 77 Praneeth brushed aside local shuttler Hoe Keat Oon 21-7, 21-11 in a men's singles match, while Thulashi got the better off USA's Jamie Subandhi 21-16, 21-18 in the women's singles competition.
Praneeth will next take on Chinese sixth seed Zhengming Wang, while Thulasi might clash with compatriot Saina Nehwal if ace Indian shuttler can prevail in the opening round clash against Sun Yu of China later in the day.
It was a bad day for the Indian doubles pairs as three of them became first round victims.
While local combination of Ross Smith and Renuga Veeran edged out Arun Vishnu and Aparna Balan 23-21, 20-22, 24-22 in a 46-minute mixed doubles match, second seeded Chinese pair of Chen Xu and Jin Ma defeated Manu Attri and Siki Reddy 21-17, 21-16 in another match.
In another mixed doubles clash, Akshay Dewalkar and Pradnya Gadre were shown the door after a 16-21, 14-21 loss by Hong Kong combination of Yun Lung Chan and Ying Suet Tse.
Indian women's doubles pair of Pradnya Gadre and Siki Reddy too failed to cross the first round after going down 17-21, 21-19, 10-21 to eighth seeds Pia Zebadiah Bernadeth and Rizki Amelia Pradipta of Indonesia.
In men's doubles the results were no different as India's Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy B were thrashed 17-21, 11-21 by seventh seeds Haifeng Fu and Nan Zhang of China.
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Image: B Sai Praneeth
NBA: LeBron opts out of Heat contract to become free agent
LeBron James told the Miami Heat that he will exercise an early termination option in his contract and become an unrestricted free agent in a move the team said was "fully expected."
Opting out of the final two years of his contract does not necessarily mean the four-time league Most Valuable Player is leaving the star-studded Heat team he led to NBA championships in 2012 and 2013.
"We fully expected LeBron to opt-out and exercise his free agent rights, so this does not come as a surprise," Heat President Pat Riley, who said he was informed of James's decision earlier on Tuesday, said in a statement.
"We look forward to sitting down with LeBron and his representatives and talking about our future together."
James, who was due to earn $20 million next season, had until June 30 to decide whether to head back to free agency.
By joining the free agent pool that is open for business starting July 1, James created a level of intrigue over his future plans.
The decision allows James to explore other options besides negotiating a new deal with the Heat team he led to four successive NBA Finals appearances since joining them as a free agent in 2010 after seven seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"Being able to have flexibility as a professional, anyone, that's what we all would like," James said last week. "That's in any sport, for a football player, a baseball player, a basketball player, to have flexibility and be able to control your future or your present."
James's wife, Savannah, caused a stir on Sunday when she posted an Instagram photo of a map of Ohio with "Akron" written across it and a star indicating the couple's hometown location.
"Home sweet home!! The countdown is real! #330" read the caption, referencing the telephone area code of the James's Akron home where they spend summers, leading some Cavaliers fans to envision a return to the Cleveland hardcourt by James.
The James family later said they were just excited about getting back home after another grueling NBA campaign.
James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who formed Miami's 'Big Three' when they joined forces as free agents in 2010, are coming off a one-sided defeat to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals earlier this month.
The opt-out decision by James came one day after fellow All-Star Carmelo Anthony opted out of the final year of his deal with the New York Knicks to test free agency.
Anthony was due to earn $23.5 million with the Knicks.
In contrast, San Antonio's evergreen power forward Tim Duncan, 38, decided late on Monday to continue for an 18th campaign with the Spurs by exercising his $10.3 million option for next season.
Wade and Bosh, who also have early termination options, have not yet told the Heat or publicly revealed whether they will join James as free agents.
Image: LeBron James of the Miami Heat
Photographs: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images