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Daily Archives: January 13, 2008

Sharapova believes women’s tennis never better

Maria Sharapova believes the standard of women's tennis has rarely been better, but the Russian starlet is confident she can raise her game to continue challenging for titles."Definitely, I think there's a huge depth in women's tennis at the moment," the 20-year-old said yesterday."I think apart from Justine (Henin), who has been pretty dominant, especially towards the end of last year, I think there are a few girls that last year was their first year that they had really good results.The Williams were "always dangerous", too, she said."And also you can never underestimate those that are hungry to be in the top 20 or to be in the top 10, that go out and play against someone that's top five in the world or even top 10, because they go into those matches having nothing to lose."Sometimes that's just as dangerous as someone who is a top player," she said.The quality of players coming through and the high standard of competition only motivates Sharapova to improve, and she believes her best tennis can topple any woman in the world."I've done it before. I don't think you can ever count me out," she said. "No matter how confident or not, no matter where my ranking is, you know, I'm one of the toughest competitors out there."I never leave the court without giving a hundred percent, and that's why I think I gain a lot of respect from my fans and, you know, from the tennis audience. It's what I love to do," she added.Going into the Australian Open, where she was humiliated in the final by Serena Williams last year, Sharapova is injury free, which has boosted her confidence following a long layoff last year due to a niggly shoulder problem."I had a really good off season. Injury free. You know, I worked really hard, I put a lot of dedication into it. Waking up every single morning, I was looking forward to practice, getting better," she said."It was really refreshing because after a pretty difficult year, you know, it was great to be able to play tennis for such a long period of time without feeling concerned or worried about getting injured."Mindful of the shoulder problem, Sharapova opted for a light lead-in to the Australian Open, playing exhibitions in Singapore and Hong Kong.The real work starts next week with a potential second round clash against comeback mum Lindsay Davenport, who has won three of the four tournaments she has played since giving birth to a son.If Sharapova beats the American, she could then face world number one Henin in the quarter-finals.The motivation to win a third Grand Slam title is not an issue following her 6-1, 6-2 loss to Williams in the final last year, which she said she would carry with her for the rest of her career as a motivational spur."Well, there always is (motivation as a losing finalist)," she said.

"Even if you come into a tournament as the defending champion you remember the moments of that tournament, what you did well, how much you want to repeat that and do even better than you did or maybe, you know, win it twice."

Sehwag blasts his way into Test contention

Explosive opener Virender Sehwag made a strong case for a Test recall with a typically swashbuckling century on the final day of India's three-day tour match against an Australian Capital Territory XI in Perth today.And the man Sehwag is likely to replace in the third Test at the WACA Ground, Yuvraj Singh, again failed to reach double figures as his form woes mounted.The match ended in a draw, India declaring its second innings at tea at 281 for four, an overall lead of 314, with the ACT 60 for 3 in reply when both teams agreed to an early stumps.After making a scratchy 24 in the first innings, Sehwag capitalised on a flat pitch and modest attack to reach his hundred in well under a session, facing just 73 balls in the process.Sehwag, who was considered close to a recall for the controversial second Test in Sydney but hasn't played at the top level for over a year, made his intentions clear when he opened the day by belting three boundaries from the first over.He continued in that vein before being caught behind just minutes before lunch for 113, ending a frenetic 158-run opening partnership with Dinesh Karthik, who narrowly missed a century.Sehwag hit 18 fours and two sixes and faced only 78 balls to finally give the Indians something to smile about at the end of a testing week on and off the field."It was good I spent quite some time in the middle," Sehwag said. "I just focused on being positive and wanted to perform well. I feel I am in good touch and timing the ball very well."I have got my rhythm back. I have got everything back," he added. "I think the Perth wicket is good for me and good for batsmen because the ball comes on (with) pace and bounce so you can play your shots."The 29-year-old brought up his century by flicking a ball to the fine leg boundary, and then celebrated by smashing a four and six from the final two deliveries of the over.Sehwag has played 52 Tests, with 12 centuries and an average of 49.46.The entertaining knock dramatically increased the pressure on Yuvraj, who later in the day failed again.He made just three after scoring only two in the first innings, and his spot in the side for the third Test, starting Wednesday, must be in grave doubt.Yuvraj has not only struggled with the bat, making just 17 runs at 4.25 in the first two Tests and offering some soft dismissals, he has been disappointing in the field and his attitude has been criticised.Opener Wasim Jaffer, also under pressure, fell cheaply for 21, but made 92 in the first innings.Karthik, dropped on 19, also put a case for Test selection by making a polished 97 from 152 balls, including 12 boundaries.The ACT declared its first innings at the overnight score of 292 for eight, young paceman Ishant Sharma the pick of the Indian bowlers on the second day with 26 for three.In the ACT's second innings, West Australian Test hopeful Chris Rogers missed another chance to impress when he made just 17, caught behind from the bowling of Irfan Pathan.With their threat to cancel their tour in the wake of Harbhajan Singh's three-match suspension still lingering, the Indians now head to Perth to prepare for the third Test.A date is yet to be set for the appeal against Singh's three-match suspension for racially abusing Andrew Symonds, while Indian captain Anil Kumble and Australian counterpart Ricky Ponting have both expressed a desire to clear the air with a meeting before the Perth match.

Australian spinner Brad Hogg's code of conduct hearing for allegedly calling Kumble a "bastard" will be heard in Perth tomorrow.