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Nadal wins 21st Grand Slam title



Rafael Nadal took all-time ownership of the record for men’s Grand Slam singles titles as the Spaniard earned his record 21st major crown with an extraordinary 2-6, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 come-from-behind victory over Daniil Medvedev at the Australian Open men’s singles final at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday.

Nadal looked down and out after dropping the opening two sets, but steeled himself to snap a three-way tie with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on 20 major singles titles, winning the match in five hours and 24 minutes.

Thirteen years since he denied Federer on Rod Laver Arena, the 35-year-old became just the fourth man in the open era to capture every major twice following a remarkable 2-6 6-7(5) 6-4 6-4 7-5 victory.

It was his first comeback from two sets down in a major final and first at any stage of a Grand Slam since the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2007.

“I know it’s a tough moment, Daniil. You’re an amazing champion. I’ve been in this position a couple of times trying to have the trophy with me,” Nadal said. “It has been one of the most emotional nights in my tennis career, and to share the court with you is just an honour.

“For me it’s just amazing. A month-and-a-half ago I didn’t know if I’d be back and today I’m back here with you holding this trophy.”

Nadal admitted serious conversations had been held within his team about whether he could ever compete at the highest level again following a chronic footy injury.

An unprecedented 21st major, his first since Roland-Garros in 2020, gave the Spaniard the outright lead over his great rivals Federer and Djokovic for the first time.

“What you did today I was amazed. During the match I tried to play tennis but after the match I asked him ‘Are you tired?’,” Medvedev said. “You raised your level after two sets for the 21st Grand Slam… you’re an amazing champion. Congrats. It was unbelievable.

“I’m going to try to be better next time.”

Three years ago, Medvedev played up to the role as the Flushing Meadows villain, but won over a new legion of fans when he surged back from a two-set deficit only to fall narrowly short to Nadal.

Medvedev was under no illusion he would have it easy winning over a crowd intent on seeing one of the greats stand triumphant for the first time since 2009 on the final Sunday at Melbourne Park.

He cared not for sentiment though and a 136km/h backhand winner down the line was a warning sign he was taking the early initiative.

Sweat-soaked in the heat of battle on a humid summer’s night, the Spaniard was desperate to stem the flow when he rushed the net only to push a forehand volley wide.

It handed the Russian a 5-2 lead and he landed the set in 42 minutes.

Where Nadal’s heavy, higher-kicking blows typically proved so effective at wearing down challengers, Medvedev represented the modern prototype, a 1.98m tormentor with seamless movement and exceptional baseline consistency.

He was a formidable prospect, particularly on hard courts, and the sixth seed was under the pump.

Despite landing little more than half his first deliveries and spending more than twice as long on serve, Nadal was hanging tough.

His first break point arrived via a punishing 40-shot rally, ended on a backhand drop-shot winner, and he brought the crowd to its feet two points later when he opened up a 3-1 lead.

A set point slid by in a 12-minute battle on serve and, having survived Felix Auger-Aliassime from match point down in in a four-hour-plus quarterfinal, Medvedev was emboldened.

Thirty minutes later, he held a two-set advantage.

It was a sizeable summit for Nadal from here.

Not since a round of 16 clash against Mikhail Youzhny at the All England Club 15 years ago had he recovered from two sets down in a major.

With the pair locked at 4-all in the fourth, a first sniff of a chance arose.

A bold attempt off a poor drop shot backfired badly on Medvedev when it caught the net cord.

It proved pivotal as Nadal capitalised and after three hours and 12 minutes, Rod Laver Arena erupted when the 35-year-old landed the third set.

Medvedev’s woes were only mounting.

As the match passed the four-hour mark, Nadal appeared physically fresher of the two and 14 minutes later, the contest was all square.

A forehand winner to break at two-all in the decider came as a telling blow to his opponent’s fading hopes.

Twice before Nadal had led a break in the deciding set of an Australian Open final only to lose with victory in sight – to Djokovic in 2012 and to Federer in 2017.

It was an ominous sign when he failed to serve out the match at the first time of asking.

But Medvedev was unable to carry the fleeting momentum any further.

After five hours and 28 minutes Nadal had completed one of his greatest triumphs against extraordinary odds.

That number, 21, had never seemed further but had a sounded pretty sweet as it rang around Rod Laver Arena.

“All the support I have received since I arrived here, you are just amazing,” Nadal said. “Without a doubt, probably one of the most emotional ones in my tennis career.

“Having the huge support I received in those three weeks will stay in my heart the rest of my life.”

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Naseem, bowlers take Pakistan to series win against Sri Lanka



Pakistan survived an early wobble with the bat to ease to a seven-wicket victory over Sri Lanka, wrapping up a series win with a game to spare. In a game that almost felt like a carbon copy of the first, Sri Lanka won the toss and batted first, only for a tight, disciplined bowling performance from the hosts, limiting them to a sub-par 102. Just like the first game, there was a touch of circumspection about Pakistan’s chase to begin with, losing three early wickets. But a classy partnership between Ayesha Naseem and Bismah Maroof took control of the proceedings, their unbeaten stand yielding 70 runs off 58 balls, and a game that looked like it would get bogged down finished in a hurry.

As in the first game, Sri Lanka lacked intent at the start, and Pakistan were all over them in the powerplay. The first five overs saw just 14 runs scored, and Anam Amin removed Chamari Athapaththu once more. Nida Dar struck soon after to dismiss Oshadi Ranasinghe, leaving Sri Lanka to try and regroup while they were well behind the asking rate.

Last match’s star Tuba Hassan was responsible for the removal of Sri Lanka’s top scorer Hasini Perera, and was the pick of the bowlers once more, allowing just 13 runs in her four overs. As each of the Pakistan bowlers chipped in with a wicket, the Sri Lankan batting began to fall away. In a somewhat insipid, uninspiring innings, the visitors stumbled to 102.

Pakistan lost Gull Feroza early, thanks to a sensational diving catch from Nilakshi De Silva, and for a while, it looked like that might charge Sri Lanka to a spirited defence of a low total. Muneeba Ali, who wasn’t quite able to find her timing, fell trying to sweep Inoka Ranaweera to fine leg, and soon after, the belligerent Iram Javed got a leading edge of Ranasinghe, leaving Pakistan tottering at 34 for 3. The asking rate, too, had begun to flirt with a run a ball, meaning Maroof and Naseem, two new batters, had significant pressure on their shoulders.

They, too, began with caution, aware that taking the game deep would only help the hosts. Once they got their eye in, the pair seemed to have set defined roles for themselves, with Maroof taking a back seat while Naseem took the attack to Sri Lanka. It was after the 15th over that Pakistan really began to move through the gears, a stunning back-foot six by Naseem setting the tone for what was to come. Sloppiness crept into the Sri Lankans’ game, too, epitomised by five careless overthrow runs that brought Pakistan to within ten runs of victory.

The win was sealed with an aerial slap off Ranasinghe by Naseem that landed just inside the rope as she finished with an unbeaten 45 off 31 balls, with the last 28 runs coming off just ten balls. The result means Pakistan have the chance to seal a clean sweep when the sides meet again for the final T20 on Saturday.

Brief scores: Sri Lanka Women 102 for 6 (Hasini Perera 35, Tuba Hassan 1-13) lost to Pakistan Women 104 for 3 (Ayesha Naseem 45*, Bismah Maroof 22*, Achini Kulasuriya 1-11) by seven wickets

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Asitha rips through Bangladesh as Sri Lanka win Test series



Asitha Fernando finished with a career-best six for 51 as Sri Lanka thrashed hosts Bangladesh by ten wickets in the second Test yesterday to win the two match series 1-0.The visitors bowled out Bangladesh for 169 runs in their second innings with 24-year-old Asitha playing a starring role at the National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka.

“We knew we needed a couple of wickets to go our way,” said Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne.

“The fast bowlers did the job for us, both in the first innings as well as the second.”

Sri Lanka made 506 runs in the first innings after bowling out Bangladesh for 365.

Oshada Fernando sealed the devastating win with an unbeaten 21 in three overs.Play had resumed on the fifth and final day with the hosts at a precarious 34-4 and Sri Lanka upped the pressure when Kasun Rajitha bowled Mushfiqur Rahim for 23 in the eighth over.Shakib Al Hasan and Liton Das both hit fifties in a 110-run stand and held on through the first session with a mix of caution and aggression.

Shakib’s counter-attack saw him hit Rajitha for three fours in one over, forcing Sri Lanka to widen their field set-up, while Liton played an anchor role after resuming on one overnight.Liton was given out caught behind off Rajitha on nine as he attempted to flick a ball going down the leg, but survived on review.It was the fourth caught behind decision overturned in the match, all given by West Indies umpire Joel Wilson.

A counter-punching Shakib brought his 27th Test fifty in the last ball before lunch with a boundary off Dhananjaya de Silva, before Asitha drove the hosts’ collapse after lunch.He took the scalps of both Liton and Shakib soon after the break, claiming four of the last five wickets after dispatching openers Mahmudul Hasan Joy and Tamim Iqbal the previous day.Ramesh Mendis trapped Mosaddek Hossain for nine before Asitha wrapped up the Bangladesh innings with the wickets of Taijul Islam and Khaled Ahmed in successive deliveries.

“A disappointing performance,” said Bangladesh captain Mominul Haque.

“They put us under pressure with the new ball, we’ll have to handle it better next time,” he added.

Asitha conceded 144 runs for his first 10-wicket Test match haul, with 4-93 in the first innings.He and Rajitha had Bangladesh reduced to a pitiful 24 for five at the start of the first day before Mushfiqur (175 not out) and Das (141) staged a recovery.But Sri Lanka rode on man of the series Angelo Mathews (145 not out) and Dinesh Chandimal’s 124 to take a commanding 141-run first-innings lead.

Bangladesh collapsed again at the start of their second innings, losing the first four wickets for 23 runs to leave Sri Lanka in full control.The first Test in Chittagong ended in a draw.Bangladesh will now tour West Indies for two Tests, three Twenty20 internationals and three one-day internationals starting in June.Sri Lanka host Australia next month — despite anxieties about the island nation’s protracted economic crisis — for three T20Is, five ODIs and two Tests.

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Yupun continues record-breaking spree  



Yupun Abeykoon improved the men’s 100metres national record at a championship held in Germany on Wednesday.

Sri Lankan is the Asian leader

by Reemus Fernando  

Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon continued his record-breaking spree at a championship in Dessau, Germany as he clocked the fastest time in the men’s 100 metres in Asia this year to win ahead of Kenyan world leader Ferdinand Omanyala on Wednesday.

Abeykoon, who is also the South Asian record holder in the 100 metres clocked 10.06 seconds to win as he took a good chunk of 0.09 seconds off his previous national record.

It is the third time that the 27-year-old has improved the national record in 100 metres.

Abeykoon first took the national record of the 100 metres (10.16 secs) in 2020 before improving it to 10.15 seconds last year.

Abeykoon’s 10.06 seconds is the fastest time in Asia this year as he overtook Abdullah Abkar Mohammed (10.14) of Saudi Arabia and Abdul Hakim Sani Brown (10.15) of Japan who had both produced their seasonal best in March.

With Abeykoon winning the 100 metres against a quality field inclusive of Ferdinand Omanyala, who had clocked a world-leading time of 9.85 seconds early this month, it is expected that the South Asian Games medallist would produce the tough qualifying standard of 10.05 seconds for the World Championship soon rather than later.

Athletes are selected for the World Championship through direct qualifying standards and through the world rankings. Of the 48 slots allocated for the track’s showpiece discipline, 27 are selected from those who achieve the tough qualifying standard of 10.05 seconds, for which Abeykoon is just a millisecond behind.

The remaining slots are filled according to the ‘Road to Oregon 2022’ list in which Abeykoon is placed in the 58th position at present. That ranking is set to improve when stats are updated next week.

Abeykoon’s remarkable achievements have come at a time when some of the country’s promising athletes struggle to improve their rankings due to lack of quality competitions here in Sri Lanka.

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