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"The point was to make people start talking': Osaka wins emotional US Open

Naomi Osaka returned to the fore in women's tennis Saturday by coming back to defeat Victoria Azarenka and win her second U.S. Open.

Osaka's 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory capped a run of powerful play and political activism in New York. She wore seven different masks with different names for each of her matches to honour Black victims of violence. She walked on court Saturday with a mask bearing the name of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy shot and killed in Cleveland by a white police officer in 2014.

"The point was to make people start talking," Osaka said at the awards ceremony.

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Naomi Osaka of Japan lays down in celebration after winning her Women's Singles final match against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus on Day Thirteen of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. Getty Images

Osaka's win Saturday came in radically different conditions than her first title run in New York in 2018.

In that final, she defeated Serena Williams in a tumultuous straight-set match that turned ugly when Williams clashed in Arthur Ashe Stadium with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who called three code-of-conduct violations against Williams.

The crowd, unclear on the rules and upset at the treatment of Williams, booed during the awards ceremony, leaving Osaka in tears shortly after her first Grand Slam singles title.

But Ashe Stadium was nearly empty Saturday, as it has been throughout this unusual U.S. Open where fans were not permitted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What little crowd there was in attendance never became a factor, and though Osaka started very slowly against Azarenka, she gradually found her range and became the first player in 26 years to win a U.S. women's singles final after losing the first set.

The last player to manage it was Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, who rallied to defeat Steffi Graf in 1994.

Osaka, 22, who represents Japan and is based in the U.S., is 3-0 in Grand Slam singles finals. With her huge serve, powerful groundstrokes and improved fitness, she appeared ready to take command of the women's game when she won the 2018 U.S. Open and 2019 Australian Open.

But she surprisingly split with her coach Sascha Bajin shortly after that victory in Australia and struggled to recapture the same sparkling form.

Last year, as she defended her U.S. Open title, Osaka was beaten in the fourth round by Belinda Bencic. At the Australian Open in January, she played an error-filled match and was upset in the third round by Coco Gauff, then 15, an American whom Osaka had beaten in straightforward fashion at the 2019 U.S. Open.

Osaka was in evident disarray, but then came the five-month tour hiatus because of the pandemic. Osaka, the biracial daughter of a Haitian father and Japanese mother, became deeply involved in the social justice movement, attending a rally in Minneapolis and speaking out on social networks and elsewhere.

When she returned to the tour for a two-tournament double header in New York, with the players in a controlled environment, she continued her activism. She initially declined to play her semifinal match in the Western & Southern Open the week before the U.S. Open, in solidarity with athletes in professional basketball, baseball and soccer who were protesting systemic racism and police violence.

Tour officials responded by cancelling the entire day of play, and Osaka went on to reach the final, withdrawing with a left hamstring injury before facing Azarenka.

The hamstring was still strapped Saturday as she came back to beat Azarenka in the final.

Azarenka, 31, from Belarus, lost to Williams in classic U.S. Open finals in 2012 and 2013 but rallied to defeat the 38-year-old Williams in a ferociously contested semifinal Thursday and started just as convincingly Saturday.

Azarenka was unseeded but hardly a tennis outsider. She was No. 1 for 51 weeks in 2012 and 2013 and won two Australian Open singles titles before Williams reasserted herself at the top of the women's game and Azarenka dropped back.

She had injuries, painful breakups with boyfriends and coaches and, most traumatically, a lengthy and bitter custody dispute over her now 3-year-old son, Leo, who stayed with Azarenka and her mother and team at a private home she rented near the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for the tournament.

She would have been the first mother to win a Grand Slam singles title since Kim Clijsters won the Australian Open in 2011. As Azarenka dominated the opening set, hitting nearly every first serve in play and controlling the rallies, it appeared she might win in a hurry. Osaka threw her racket at one stage in frustration as her unforced errors piled up.

"I just thought it would be very embarrassing to lose this in under an hour," Osaka said, explaining that she told herself to "stop having a really bad attitude."

Her mood and game improved dramatically as the final progressed, while Azarenka failed to sustain her level of play. After losing the second set and falling behind 1-4 in the third, Azarenka made one more surge, battling through a five-deuce game to hold serve and then breaking Osaka's serve in the next game to close the gap to 3-4.

But at 30-30 on Azarenka's serve in the next game, the match turned for good as Osaka won a high-velocity rally to get a break point and then converted it as Azarenka lined up a forehand, went for an inside-out winner and missed just wide.

Osaka, who has yet to lose a major final, then closed out the victory by holding serve as Azarenka's last shot, a backhand, struck the net. Osaka tapped rackets with Azarenka at the net — another sign of these changed times — and then lay on her back on the court and took a moment to savor the moment.

"I always see everyone sort of collapse after match point, but I always think you may injure yourself, so I wanted to do it safely," she explained. That seemed an appropriate approach at a tournament where staying safe was the top priority, as players were tested for the virus regularly and restricted to their lodging and the tournament site.

"It's not easy times in the world right now," Azarenka said, holding back tears in her post-match speech in the near-empty stadium. "So I'm very grateful for the opportunity to play in front of millions of people watching on TV, unfortunately not here."

"I thought it would be embarrassing to lose this in under an hour," Osaka said in her victory speech. "I fought for every match."

(The New York Times)

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Pakistan gifts sports goods to Sri Lanka Rugby

The High Commissioner of Pakistan Major General (retd) Muhammad Saad Khattak on Tuesday held a meeting with President of Sri Lanka Rugby Lasitha Gunaratne at Old Sports Ministry Complex in Colombo.

The High Commissioner on behalf of the government of Pakistan gifted Pakistan made rugby balls and sports kits to the president of Sri Lanka Rugby.

The Sri Lanka Rugby president appreciated and thanked the government and people of Pakistan for this kind gesture.

During the meeting, the High Commissioner emphasized on the importance of enhanced collaboration between the two brotherly Countries for the uplift of our people.

He further said that Pakistan is committed to provide continued support to Sri Lanka in enhancing the younger generation’s nation-building capacities with better sports opportunities.

The two dignitaries noted that both Pakistan and Sri Lanka value this broad-based bilateral relationship due to their mutual benefits and which will hopefully continue to flourish in the years ahead.
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Moors Sports Club brings in Kapugedera as Head Coach

Moors Sports Club, steeped in rich history spanning over 110 years and situated in the heart of Colombo has now embarked on a course to position itself as the leading cricket playing club in the country. The Moors Sports Club committee is headed by Sajjad Mowzoon with the Hon. General Secretary being Dr. A.M. Mubarak. In addition to cricket, the club offers facilities for Billiards and Snooker, Tennis, a gymnasium, ground facilities and a pavilion.

SajadMoors SC President Sajjad Mowzoon

Cricket has been in the forefront for Moors SC’s sporting endeavors given the fact that cricket was played from the very inception of the club and it has brought much glory and fame to the club over the years. A vibrant and revamped cricket committee composed of leading sportsmen and administrators have now been entrusted the task of regaining the club’s former glory.

Accordingly, the Cricket Committee is as follows:

  1. Zuraish Hashim - Cricket Secretary
  2. Hisham Jamaldeen
  3. Reyaz Noor
  4. Jehan Mubarak
  5. Dinesh Schaffter

Chamara Kapugedera brought in as Head Coach

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Moors SC has appointed Sri Lankan national cricketer Chamara Kapugedera as the Head Coach. Kapugedera played for Sri Lanka from 2008 representing the country in 8 test and 102 ODIs plus 48 T20s. He has been given the clear mandate to position Moors SC as one of the top three clubs in the country for Cricket within the next three years.

Kapugedara will be ably assisted by former national player Jehan Mubarak and former first class player Dinesh Schaffter who will serve as the cricket advisors who will be tasked with managing the cricket affairs of the club.

In recent history a crop of players from Moors SC, namely Chamara Silva, Sajeewa Wijekoon and Kosala Kulasekera had the distinction of representing the national cricket team. Players in the ilk of Rangana Herath (National Player) and Chandika Hathurusingha (national player and coach) have also represented the Moors Sports Club. Up and coming youngster Ramesh Mendis has been identified by the administration as another clear hopeful in this regard.

Speaking to our paper, Hisham Jamaldeen, member of the cricket committee and treasurer of the club said, “We are bringing new life and energy to our club. With the new committee being put in place, coupled with the hiring of former national cricketer Chamara Kapugedera as Head Coach for the next three years, we are extremely confident of achieving our mandate. We want to revamp the club cricket structure and put in place all systems to produce many more national players. We have done reasonably well in the recent club cricket season being able to win the Plate Championship, but we yearn for more."

"With the plans that have been clearly drawn up by Moors SC for Cricket and the in-house desire for pro-active implementation, we can expect the club to create positive waves in the cricketing sphere in the not so distant future," he added.

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Sony sole bidder for the rights; Sri Lanka cricket ready to accept the ‘low offer’

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has entered in a separate and exclusive negotiation with Sony Picture Network (SPN) for the long pending tender for the media rights. As reported by InsideSport, SPN was the only interested party to submit its bid for the SLC rights.
 
None of the other companies including a leading Sports media rights marketing company from India submitted their bid. According to InsideSport, Star India, Discovery and others stayed away from the tender which has got postponed multiple times over the last 4 months.

According to SLC sources, Sony had earlier submitted a bid for all media rights (Television – Digital combine) for $22.5 Mn and that stays their final bid amount.

The sources further inform InsideSport that the offer by SPN is way below the expectations of SLC. But owing to the limited interest by the other parties, SLC are not left with any option but to accept the offer. Though SLC according to the source will attempt one last time to negotiate with the broadcaster.

“Market has not responded to our rights favorably. Coronavirus has taken its toll. The board will try one last time to negotiate with Sony to increase the price and we are confident that they being our long term partner will understand our situation”, said one of the SLC board members following the bid process closely.

Low offers are not the only thing which is worrying SLC. The sources say that SPN’S offer is conditional. In case the postponed tour of the Indian cricket team to Sri Lanka does not materialize in the contract period, the offered values will be eroded by almost 40-45%.

“We are confident, BCCI will reschedule the series soon. It is a committed series in the FTP and cannot be cancelled. It is just a matter of rescheduling the series but this is true that Sony’s offer to us will reduce considerably if, God forbid, the tour gets cancelled for some reasons”, added the SLC board member.

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World No.1 Novak Djokovic defaulted from US Open for hitting lineswoman in throat

Novak Djokovic has been defaulted from the US Open for hitting and felling a lineswoman with a ball.

The world No.1 fled Flushing Meadows without facing the press but just issued a statement on social media, saying he felt "sad and empty".

"I checked on the lines person and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling ok," Djokovic wrote.

"I'm extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong.

"I apologise to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behaviour."

The tournament favourite, who was trying to add to his haul of 17 Grand Slams, pleaded his case with officials for 10 minutes but was kicked out of the New York major.

Djokovic whacked a ball towards the back of the court in a moment of frustration, without looking where it was going, after dropping serve in the first set to trail 5-6 in his fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta.

The ball hit the lineswoman in the head/neck area, dropping her to the ground. The lineswoman grabbed her throat after falling. Djokovic quickly ran to her aid but the damage.

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Cycling Federation slams Sports Ministry over double standards

The Cycling Federation has alleged that the Sports Ministry is treating it differently over an inquiry against them following incidents that took place at the South Asian Games held last December.

An official of the Cycling Federation told the Sunday Observer that the Ministry had treated them not in the same manner as they have treated other sports bodies.

“Sports like cricket, rugby, football or athletics have been given due regards by the Sports Ministry. How did they solve the match fixing allegation on the Cricket World Cup 2011 so quickly,” said the official who did not want to be quoted as he is not authorised to make public comments.

“We have been accused of wrong-doing in one event at the South Asian Games last year. We have submitted our explanation to this allegation which the ministry is yet to take up.

“The cricket allegation was solved within three days but our issue has not even begun. Every sports federation must be treated the same way and this is the responsibility of the Sports Ministry,” he added.
 
(Prakash Irugalbanadara)
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Jayantha Dharmadasa appointed as VP at SLC

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) on Wednesday appointed Dr Jayantha Dharmadasa as the new vice president after K Mathivanan resigned from his post.

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Aravinda on match fixing claims: Can't let people get away with lies!

Sri Lanka batting legend Aravinda de Silva has said that the claims made by former Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage that the 2011 World Cup final was fixed are "lies". He, however, urged the International Cricket Council (ICC), the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) to launch an investigation. "We cannot let people get away all the time with lies. I request everyone, ICC, BCCI, and SLC to investigate this immediately," Silva told Sri Lankan newspaper Sunday Times.

The former SLC chairman of selectors said legends like Sachin Tendulkar, who won his maiden World Cup in 2011, deserve the respect and that's why it's the duty of the Indian government and BCCI to initiate an impartial probe.

"Just like we cherished our World Cup victory, players like Sachin (Tendulkar) cherish these moments for the rest of their lives. I think in the interest of Sachin and the millions of cricket fans across India, it's the duty of the Indian government and their cricket board to initiate an impartial inquiry to see whether they have won a fixed World Cup," de Silva said.

 "When serious allegations like these are being made, it affects a lot of people. In this case not only us, the selectors, the players, and the team management but Indian cricketers who deservingly won the world title. We need to clear this once and for all for the greater good of the game we love," he added.

Aluthgamage had earlier stated in an interview that the match, which India won at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai in 2011, was "fixed."

"The 2011 Cricket World Cup final was fixed. I stand by what I say. It took place when I was the minister of sports," Aluthgamage told Sri Lankan outlet newsfirst.lk.

"However, I do not wish to expose details for the sake of the country. The game against India in 2011, the game we could have won, was fixed.

"I say this with a responsibility and I can come forward for a debate. The people are concerned about it. I would not involve the cricketers in this.

"However, certain groups were definitely involved in fixing the game," he added.

 Former Sri Lankan captains Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene both responded to Aluthgame's comments, saying the allegations were not true and also demanded evidence.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's Sports Ministry has also launched an inquiry into match-fixing allegations with regard to 2011 World Cup final. The Special Investigations Unit of the ministry would be looking into the matter.

On April 2, 2011, India had won their second ODI World Cup title riding on the heroics of Gautam Gambhir and then skipper MS Dhoni. Batting first, Sri Lanka posted a commanding total of 274/6 in 50 overs with Mahela Jayawardene (103*) slamming an unbeaten ton.

Chasing the target, half-centuries from Gambhir (97) and Dhoni (91*) helped the team get over the line with 10 balls to spare.

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Bangladesh tour of Sri lanka could be rescheduled to October

Bangladesh is planning to tour Sri Lanka in October for its rescheduled three-Test series, following the postponement of this year’s ICC T20 World Cup because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a report in ESPNcricinfo, the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) is currently in talks with its Sri Lankan counterparts (SLC) and if everything falls into place “Bangladesh men’s pending three-Test series against hosts Sri Lanka could be rescheduled to October.”

The three-Test series, which is part of the ICC World Test Championship, was earlier scheduled to be held between July and August but was deferred due to the pandemic.

The ICC on Monday postponed the T20 World Cup which was scheduled to be held in Australia between October-November.

The report said that both "boards are keen on having the Test series squeezed into the earliest possible window."

“The ICC’s announcement of the three major tournaments has provided what window we can work with, as now that we know that the tournament dates are fixed, we can work around with our schedule,” BCB CEO Nizamuddin Chowdhury told the website.

“Both boards are positive about the Test series going ahead later this year. We are in talks with SLC. Sri Lanka is in a better condition (in terms of COVID-19 caseload) than any of the other sub-continent countries at the moment, and since the situation is not favourable here, we are more keen on the away matches.” (PTI)

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India's tour of Sri Lanka postponed due to COVID-19 fears

India have postponed their limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka scheduled later this month over COVID-19 fears, cricket boards of both the countries said on Thursday.

Virat Kohli and his men were scheduled to play three one-day matches and an equal number of Twenty20 internationals but the Indian board (BCCI) has informed Sri Lanka Cricket that the tour “will not be feasible”.

The Indian cricketers, who have not even started training, will follow advice from the Indian government health regulatory authorities before resuming cricket, the SLC has been told.

BCCI treasurer Arun Singh Dhumal said India remained committed to the Future Tours Programme (FTP) and would tour Sri Lanka at a more opportune time.

“We're committed to FTP, but given the current situation, it's not possible for the team to travel, it's not safe,” Dhumal told Reuters by telephone.

“So we'll see whenever there is an opportunity, we'll try and make up for this series.”

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Lankan cagers to take part in Women's Cup in Hungary

Sri Lanka Basketball Federation (SLBF) resumed their activities after obtaining the necessary approval from the Ministry of Sports under strict health  guidelines recently, said its general secretary, Dr. Chula Senaratne speaking to the Daily News yesterday.

The SLBF has circulated these guidelines to their 34 affiliated associations including schools, clubs and mercantile sector to adhere strictly to the health guidelines and commence their activities.

According to the secretary it is likely that it will require some time for these stakeholders to get their act together before commencement of practices.

The governing body is closely monitoring their progress and no sooner they obtain the clearance to resume the tournaments.

They will start playing all the stipulated competitions listed in their calendar. All their activities were halted with the corona virus outbreak way back in mid March.

The progress of the Corona pandemic will play a vital role in continuation of the game in the future.

Meanwhile the SLBF is in the process of making adequate arrangements to prepare a women’s team (3x3) to represent the country in the under-18 Women’s Cup to be held in Hungary from 26 to 31 August. Twelve countries are scheduled to participate in this tournament. This squad is training under the watchful eyes of Ajith Kuruppu who is the senior National basketball coach. Four players and two stand-byes have been selected for this tour. The reopening date of Bandaranaike International Airport will be a key factor before taking part in this tourney.

The men’s under-23 teams too are gearing for their World Cup to be held from October 9 to12 for which the venue is yet to be decided. Coinciding the under-23 Asian League Championship is finalized to be staged in Sanya, China in December. SLBF is to form a pool of 39 players this weekend for trials before selecting the teams to participate in these tournaments. Apart from this another tournament is lined up which is the men’s and women’s Asian Championship to be held in Chandsha, China from September 15 to 25 for which the SLBF is also keen to take part in.

“We have got the go ahead from the concerned authorities including the Sports Ministry and instructed our affiliates to act accordingly. After the Corona pandemic it takes time to resume the activities. We are gradually building up this process with our stakeholders including schools, clubs and mercantile sector. Once we get the final clearance we will start the competition,” said the secretary.

(Althaf Nawaz)

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Sri Lanka to host Asia Cup 2020

The Asian Cricket Council (ACC) has offered Sri Lanka the rights to host the upcoming Asia cup. Pakistan was originally scheduled to host this year’s Asia cup in September. Despite that, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) agreed to the proposal of ACC for giving Sri Lanka the hosting rights of the Asia Cup 2020.

The event had an uncertain future after India refused to tour Pakistan. Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) chief Shammi Silva discussed the hosting rights with PCB to which they agreed due to the current situation because of COVID-19. The two cricket boards in an online meeting talked about the event and it is now almost certain that Sri Lanka would host the Asia Cup this year.

“We discussed with Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and they have already agreed to our hosting this edition due to the present world situation. We had an online ACC meeting and they basically gave us the green light to host the tournament”, Shammi Silva was quoted as saying by ”Ceylon Today’.

The ACC will wait for ICC’s decision on whether Australia will host the T20 world cup in October and November. The ACC also discussed possible venues for the Asia Cup that would provide a safe environment for the players.

 
The final decision of the Asia cup could be taken soon with Sri Lanka bagging the hosting rights. Another topic that was discussed in the online meeting was ACC’s involvement in the 2022 Asia cup games in China.

“The Cricket Boards emphasized the importance of holding the Asia Cup 2020. In light of the impact and consequences of the asiaCOVID-19 pandemic, possible venue options for the Asia Cup 2020 were discussed and it was decided to take the final decision in due course,” an ACC press release stated after the meeting.

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