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Novak Djokovic toils, will face Rafael Nadal in French semis

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It took three and half hours, a cut on his hand and a delay to remove fans, but world No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated Matteo Berrettini in the quarter-finals of the French Open on Wednesday to set up another date with Rafael Nadal.

The top-seeded Serbian defeated the ninth-seeded Italian 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in three hours, 28 minutes in a match that was interrupted when the 5,000 fans at Roland Garros refused to leave Court Philippe Chatrier in adherence of a curfew that was put in place. Djokovic and Berrettini were asked to leave the court in the middle of the fourth set while the fans were cleared.

Djokovic lost his footing and cut his hand after play resumed.

“This match had it all: falls, crowd, break. It was a lot of intensity,” said Djokovic, who let out a roar when the match was completed. “I just felt under tension the entire time. It was just super, super stressful to constantly be under pressure on my service games, because his service games were quite smooth with the big serve.

Berrettini, 25, had 55 winners compared to 44 for Djokovic, but the Italian’s 51 unforced errors were the difference. Djokovic committed only 19.

“I’m really proud of myself, really proud of my team, what we achieved,” Berrettini said. “I’m really happy, but at the same time I don’t want to stop here. I’m still young. This is my second quarter-finals in a Slam. I don’t want to stop here.”

In the first quarter-final, third-seeded Nadal defeated 10th-seeded Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 in two hours, 45 minutes.

Nadal’s 36-set winning streak came to an end, but the Spaniard made it to his 14th semi-final at Roland Garros.

“I started badly in the second set, then I was able to come back,” Nadal said. “But at 4-4, returning with the wind, I played a bad game and hit a double fault in the next game. I needed to play more aggressively and I did so throughout the rest of the match. I won an important match today against a tough opponent. I was able to find a way to play my best tennis in the moments that I really needed to.”

Nadal won 108 total points compared to 77 for Schwartzman. Nadal converted on seven of 14 break points. Schwartzman was outdone by 39 unforced errors as Nadal committed 29.

Djokovic leads Nadal 29-28 overall, but Nadal is 10-6 vs. Djokovic in Grand Slam events, including a 7-1 mark at Roland Garros. The upcoming match will be their first semi-final meeting since Wimbledon 2018.

“Each time we face each other, there’s this extra tension, expectations and just vibes are different walking on the court with him,” Djokovic said after his match. “That’s why our rivalry has been historic for this sport and I’ve been privileged to play him so many times.

“Rivalries with him and Roger (Federer) have made me a stronger player and allowed me to understand how I need to improve my game to get to the level where they were when I actually started playing professional tennis. I’ll probably pick Raffa as the biggest rival that I’ve ever had in my career. The anticipation for the match against him, any match on any surface on any occasion is always different from any other.”



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Karatekas of the Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society win third place

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The medal winning karatekas with Chief Instructor Sensei Lakshman Saparamadu.

 

Karatekas of the Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society won 33 medals at the E – Kata International Karate Tournament recently.

This team were placed third at the tournament organized by the United Universal Shotokan Karate Association. The event was conducted using video technology. Some thirty counties participated in this tournament.

Karatekas fielded by Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society won twelve gold, eleven silver and ten bronze medals. They were trained by Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society’s Chief Instructor, Sensei , Lakshman Saparamadu. (Text and pic by W.D. Vithana Delgoda Corr.)

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Yupun within required world ranking to earn Olympic ticket

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Local athletes suffer due to absence of top competitions

by Reemus Fernando

Italy based athlete Yupun Abeykoon could become the first Sri Lankan sprinter since 1996 to compete in the men’s 100 metres at an Olympics after improving his world ranking to be among the top 50 athletes in the world.

According to the World Athletics’ world rankings updated on Wednesday Yupun has climbed 34 places up to be ranked 48th in the world. The fourth place performance produced at the last week’s Diamond League meet in Rome has stood in good stead for him to secure the top position. He was ranked 82nd in the world prior to last week’s meet.

Competing against a solid field Yupun clocked 10.16 seconds to finish ahead of American veteran Mike Rodgers and Ivorian Arthur Cissé.

In the ‘Road to Olympic Rankings’ he was in the 65th position but after the Diamond League feat he has climbed 15 positions to be in the 50th position.

World Athletics set tough qualifying standards for Tokyo Olympic qualification. For a direct qualification Yupun needs to clock 10.05 seconds and athletics officials said that the national record holder has often expressed confidence in achieving the mark.

While 39 athletes will be selected through qualifying standards, the rest of the athletes will be selected according to their placing in the world rankings. The Tokyo Olympic men’s 100 metres will feature 56 athletes.

No Sri Lankan male athlete has featured in an Olympics 100 metres sprint since Chinthaka de Zoysa competed at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

Since Yupun has reached the top 50 now, it will be a matter of maintaining that position for him to realize the Olympic dream. According to Sri Lanka Athletics, Yupun is set to compete in another meet over the weekend.

In contrast the absence of quality competitions has hampered the progress of local track and field athletes. Steeplechase runner Nilani Ratnayake, who is the only female athlete within the required world rankings to book an Olympic berth, has slipped five places to be ranked 41st now. She had a better world rank (35th in the world) couple of months back. Her participation in Olympics will be in jeopardy if she drops below the 45th position as only the 45 top ranked athletes are chosen for Tokyo Olympics for this discipline.

Some of the top ranked athletes who were looking forward to compete in Kazakhstan with the hope of improving their world rankings over the weekend had to abandon their plans yesterday after authorities’ last ditch attempt to secure visas for them found futile.

Middle distance runner Nimali Liyanarachchi (Road to Olympic Rank– 55), 400 metres sprinter Nadeesha Ramanayake (56), javelin thrower Sumeda Ranasinghe (46) and high jumper Ushan Thivanka (52) are the other athletes closer to earning Olympic berths. But unavailability of competitions has hindered their chances.

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Arthur encourages Sri Lankans to take up County Cricket

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by Rex Clementine

England’s County Cricket is not the most attractive form of domestic cricket any longer as the IPL has taken over. What you end up earning after six months of County Cricket, the IPL pays five times of that for six weeks of work. But County Cricket remains the ultimate test of players’ skill. So many Sri Lankans reinvented themselves after a season of County Cricket be it Aravinda de Silva in 1995 with Kent, Kumar Sangakkara in 2007 with Warwickshire, Muttiah Muralitharan in 1999 with Lancashire or Chaminda Vaas in 2004 with Worcestershire.

Sri Lanka’s Head Coach Mickey Arthur agreed on the values of County Cricket and urged his players to take up stints in England if possible. “I would love our players to get involved in County Cricket. It’s a great breeding ground and you find out about your technique there when you play cricket day in and day out. If there’s room in our calendar, it would be superb for our players to be involved.”

The national cricket team is in Manchester at the moment and having finished their quarantine the team has started training at Old Trafford. The venue has a superb facility with rooms inside the ground. According to Arthur, one set of balconies of the hotel room are facing the Old Trafford cricket ground while the other set are facing the Old Trafford football ground, home for the famous Manchester United. Arthur said that his players have got ‘the best of both worlds.’

Sri Lanka were initially supposed to play warm-up games in Canterbury and Hove against Kent and Sussex but those were scrapped with the players supposed to remain in a bio-secure bubble. Arthur wasn’t overly bothered that the warm-up games had been called off and was happy with the training the team was getting in ahead of the series.

One of the areas that Arthur wanted his batsmen to improve on from the Bangladesh series is the middle overs batting. “There was lot of learning from Bangladesh series. We changed our brand a little bit. We got caught in the middle overs a bit. We worked on it during our training and we want to have intensity in the middle overs. We were getting only 130 to 135 runs in that period. That is an area we need to improve on.”

With the return of Avishka Fernando to the side, the Sri Lankans have so many batting options when it comes to the opening combination with Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera and Danushka Gunathilaka all able to partner him. Arthur was keen on having a settled batting line-up.

“We have got to settle down on a batting order as soon as we can. We cannot be having so many players batting in different positions. It creates confusion. What we have tried to do is to nail down guys’ roles during our training,” Arthur explained.

 The first T-20 International takes place in the Welsh capital of Cardiff next Wednesday (June 23).

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