and Nadal poised for Wimbledon epic
(AFP) - Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, tennis’s glittering
top of the bill double act, clash in a third successive
Wimbledon final on Sunday to determine who is the world’s best
The final will be the sixth time the elegant Swiss and the
muscular Spaniard have met in a Grand Slam final, bettering the
five played by Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl, and then Pete
Sampras and Andre Agassi in the 1980s and 1990s.
Federer has won two on the grass of the All England Club in 2006
and 2007; Nadal has claimed three on his beloved Roland Garros
clay in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Never have the stakes been higher.
A victory for Federer will make him the first man since the 19th
century to win six Wimbledons in a row.
A win for Nadal, on the other hand, will take him alongside Rod
Laver and Bjorn Borg as the only man to win the French Open and
Wimbledon in the same season. He would also become the first
Spanish men’s champion since Manuel Santana in 1966.
It’s hardly surprising that the 26-year-old Federer and Nadal,
just 22, are keen to stress that the pressure is on the other.
“For me, Roger is the best in history,” said Nadal who stormed
to a fourth successive French Open title a month ago destroying
Federer in a brutally one-sided final where the world number one
won just four games.
That Paris annihilation, coupled with Nadal taking Federer to an
epic five-set final here in 2007, has led many to suggest that
the era of the Swiss superstar’s dominance is at an end.
He may have been world number one for 231 weeks, and can lay
claim to 12 Grand Slam titles compared to Nadal’s four, but many
argue that Nadal, especially with a first grasscourt title from
Queen’s tucked under his belt, is really the world’s preeminent
“If I have the title on Sunday, then on Monday I’ll continue to
be the number two but I’ll have more chances to become the
number one in the next months,” said a cautious Nadal.
He may boast 11 wins in 17 meetings with Federer, but nine of
those have come on clay.
Furthermore, Federer insists that the trauma of Paris is now a
distant memory even if the media revel in reminding him of his
latest failed French Open campaign.
“That final is out of the picture. I hardly remember it. It went
so quickly,” said Federer who remains fulsome in his praise of
“I’m not going to draw anything out of that match because Rafa
plays so different on clay and grass. He plays so much closer to
the baseline that I have to draw from my two previous Wimbledon
“I enjoy the challenge. Rafa is a great competitor. He’s got a
winning record over me. Every time I play him I want to try to
beat him. The thing is, I’ve played him so often on clay, it’s
more of an advantage for him in the head-to-heads.
“At the same time, he’s now become so good on all other surfaces
as well that he’s a real threat on anything.”
Federer has waltzed into his sixth final virtually untroubled.
He has been detained on court for over two hours only once in
his six matches and has yet to drop a set. But he only met one
That run has allowed him to take his grasscourt winning streak
to 65 matches, a run stretching back to 2002.
Nadal’s route was slightly tougher having to see off three
seeded players but dropping serve just once against the
promising Latvian Ernests Gulbis in the second round.
“My way to the final’s been great,” said Federer. “I’ve just
been playing consistently well. I wasn’t pushed to the degree
where I have to say I played my best tennis ever. If I were to
win on Sunday, then maybe I can say I’ve been playing my best
By Samiddha Rathnayake
Tennis rarely takes the limelight in the local sports circle.
But when it comes to wheelchair tennis the story differs.
Though, it hardly receives any publicity and the public interest
is minimal, wheelchair tennis players have achieved a large
measure of success and have brought much fame to the island.
One may not know that Sri Lanka’s wheelchair tennis is rated
quite high in the world and our players have shown remarkable
improvement during the short history of the game. Upali
Rajakaruna is one such player who has shown his colours to his
true capabilities. Attached to the Singha Regiment of the Sri
Lanka Army, Rajakaruna’s military services came to an end in
1997 during operation Jayasikuru. He lost his left leg ruining
his whole life leaving him confined to a wheel chair.
But it wasn’t the end of the road for this gutsy soldier. He
went on to take up sports to take his mind off his tragic
calamity. Initially he took up almost every sport - athletics,
badminton and table tennis. It didn’t really make a difference
to him as sports became a consolation in his shattered life.
But his fate took a turn in the year 2002 when a group of
disabled soldiers along with him were taken to the Sri Lanka
Tennis Association (SLTA) for a wheelchair tennis training
programme conducted by Mark Bullock. “Finally there were about
fifteen of us getting trained by the SLTA coaches. During the
same year we took part in a tournament in Thailand and it was my
first experience at a foreign tournament,” Rajakaruna said
recalling his past.
It was just the beginning of a bright future for this determined
player. His swift improvement in the tennis field was clearly
shown in the world ranking list. It was not more than six months
ago that he was seeded 365 in the rankings and now he has
brought himself up to 85. What more is needed to judge his
capabilities and courage.
“I feel like I’m experiencing a totally new dimension in my
life. I’m a disabled soldier but my heart and soul tends to deny
it. Life in the army taught me some great lessons and if I
gained some sort of success as a tennis player it is greatly due
to that toughness I experienced in the army,” he said.
In the international arena our wheelchair tennis players are
rated quite high and in most cases they easily bag a few medals
in every international tournament. “I think it all depends on
our mindset. Most of us were soldiers and got directly exposed
to war situations. So, matters like handling pressure and the
ability to quickly grasp the opponent’s tactics are nothing new
to us. Coaches only have to teach us the way to play. So it is
only a matter of time to nurture a good player,” Rajakaruna said
with a smile. His comment is confirmed by the fact that the
national pool currently consists of 15 disabled army personnel
and two navy personnel.
A big event is at hand for Rajakaruna. The 2008 Para Olympics
that will be held in China this September is the immediate goal
for Rajakaruna. “I’m going for a medal, what should I target
other than that. I know that it won’t be an easy task but
without trying no one can achieve anything. Players who are
seeded beyond 50 will not cause that much problems, but games
will be tougher when I meet the top ranked players,” he said.
Before winding up Rajakaruna thanked his coach, Jagath Welikala,
physical trainer, Ranil Harshana, his family, all the SLTA staff
and particularly the support rendered from the his senior army
officers to continue his game. “I will continue in the sport as
long as I keep my fitness. And losing my fitness won’t happen
soon,” he said smiling.
Australia takes 4-0 lead with
BASSETERRE, St Kitts, (AFP) - Shane
Watson kept his nerve, and the seventh-wicket pair of Denesh
Ramdin and Darren Sammy failed to carry West Indies over the
threshold, as Australia completed a thrilling one-run victory in
the fourth One-day International on Friday.
Australia had set West Indies 283 for victory from 50 overs, and
successfully defended the target score, when Watson - with the
home team needing eight runs from the last over - conceded six
runs from the final six balls. The victory handed Australia a
4-0 lead in the five-match series
It also set the Aussies up to make a swing at a rare ODI series
sweep in the Caribbean. Only South Africa (5-0 in 2005) and
Pakistan (3-0 in the same year) have achieved this in the
Australia looked set to suffer their first defeat in the series,
as West Indies captain Chris Gayle marched to a run-a-ball 92,
Ramnaresh Sarwan coasted to 63 from 79 balls, and Shivnarine
Chanderpaul gathered 53 from 71 balls. But Australia responded
with a crucial wicket every time West Indies appeared to be
getting into the swing of things.
Brett Lee was the most successful Australia bowler with three
wickets for 64 runs from 10 overs.
Earlier, Andrew Symonds hit the top score of 87 and David Hussey
supported with 50, as Australia, sent in to bat, reached 282 for
eight from their allocation of 50 overs on a hard, true pitch.
Australia made just one change, bringing David Hussey in for his
ODI debut for injured captain Ricky Ponting, whose stiff right
wrist has precipitated his early departure from the Caribbean,
so that Clarke led Australia to victory for the first time in an
Scores: Australia 282-8 (50) (S Watson 20, M Hussey 37, M
Clarke 36, A Symonds 87, D Hussey 50, F Edwards 2/53, D Powell
West Indies 281-6 (50) (C Gayle 92, R Sarwan 63, S Chanderpaul
53, D Bravo 31, B Lee 3/64).
Sir Alec Bedser turns 90
LONDON: Sir Alec Bedser, one of England’s
greatest cricketers and one of the best fast-medium bowlers of
all time, celebrated his 90th birthday with a special lunch at
his Oval home ground here on Friday.
Former Australia cricketers Richie Benaud, Arthur Morris, Ken
Archer, Neil Harvey and Alan Davidson, who all played Test
cricket against Surrey legend Bedser, were among those
Few men have given as much to English cricket as Bedser, who
took 236 wickets in 51 Tests, including 39 at an average of just
17.48 during England’s 1953 Ashes triumph at home to Australia.
Then, after his retirement as a player in 1960, Bedser served as
an England selector for 23 years and was chairman of selectors
from 1969 to 1981, as well as manging the team on two tours of
He also had the distinction, according to Sir Donald Bradman
himself, of bowling the best ball cricket’s greatest batsman
ever faced when dismissing the Australian for nought in an Ashes
Test at Adelaide during the 1946-47 series.
Bedser, known for his mastery of the leg-cutter, told the Daily
Telegraph: “The ball was swinging in a little bit.
“With my ninth ball I held it with that new wider grip. It swung
in and pitched leg, cut away and hit off. He (Bradman) said
afterwards that it was the best ball that had ever got him out.”
In all Bedser took Bradman’s wicket eight times and dismissed
him in five consecutive Test innings.
While helping Surrey win seven County Championship titles in a
row during the 1950s, Bedser became a boyhood hero of the future
British Prime Minister John Major, who was also due to attend
Looking forward to the event, Bedser said he was particularly
keen to meet up with the five Australians.
“It will be really nice to see them all again,” Bedser said in a
Surrey statement. “The interesting thing about the five is that
I played in all of their debut Test matches against England,
which I suppose is an unusual feat.”
Surrey chief executive Paul Sheldon added: “Sir Alec is one of
the most revered and respected names in the history of our
“He has dedicated his whole life to the game and it is a thrill
for us to be celebrating this special landmark with him.”
Former Surrey wicket-keeper, Arthur McIntyre, a team-mate of
Bedser’s, is the only living England Test cricketer older than
McIntyre, whose England career was restricted to three Tests by
Kent’s Godfrey Evans, celebrated his 90th birthday in May.
Bedser’s identical twin brother Eric, an off-spinner and batsman
who also played for Surrey, died two years ago. [Bureau