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Courier hopes for fit Roddick in Chile
Thursday 24 February 2011, 03:07AM
Jim Courier hopes to have a healthy Andy Roddick in his squad when he makes his debut as the US Davis Cup captain when the Americans face Chile on outdoor clay in Santiago from March 4-6. Eighth-ranked Roddick, who withdrew from the Delray Beach ATP event this week because of flu, was named to the US team on Tuesday along with John Isner and Bob and Mike Bryan, the world's top doubles squad. "Hopefully Andy is going to get healthy. He's got a little bit of the flu," Courier said Tuesday. "But these guys are tough and we're not excuse makers. We will be ready to play and ready to battle when we get down there." Taking a rest before facing extended rallies, potential five-set matches and a hostile crowd was a wise move for Roddick, Courier said. "Certainly he's not feeling as well as he would like to, but it seemed to be flu symptoms, which shouldn't be too severe," Courier said. "He should be back on the court here probably by midweek and get some kind of buildup for the Davis Cup. "So for him to get rested and ready to go, I think that makes sense. But his confidence should be very high." Sam Querrey is having a doctor examine a shoulder but is playing this week at Delray Beach, as is Mardy Fish, who is not planning to play in Chile due to thyroid problems. Querrey, ranked 22nd, is planning on travelling to Chile and could be substituted into the US lineup by March 3. "We're going to get down there and the intent certainly is to bring the best team forward," Courier said. "At the moment that's what we've nominated." Roddick, who had taken a break from Davis Cup play to focus on his individual career, has been upbeat about coming back under Courier, who replaced Patrick McEnroe. "Andy is definitely excited about Davis Cup," Courier said. "Andy has always been passionate about it, and he was very straightforward with Patrick last year that it just wasn't going to work based on how he was feeling and what he was looking to achieve. "Davis Cup was something that he wasn't ruling out long-term, it was just something that he looks at it on a year-by-year basis. And the second that I was named captain and called him, he said, 'I'm in and let's go to battle.' "His leadership from within will be exceptional and certainly something I'll lean on." Courier feels some jitters as his Davis Cup captaincy begins. "I'm certainly anxious and excited," he said. "Anything worth doing is going to give you a little bit of tension and a little bit of nerves and you're going to wonder how you're going to do and how you're going to deal with it. "I've never done this before as captain so it's not many chances to do things for the first time within the tennis world for me. I've been around the game a long time, but this is one of them, and this is new and it's exciting."
Rugby World Cup games should still proceed in quake-hit city
Thursday 24 February 2011, 03:01AM
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said Wednesday he wanted Rugby World Cup games to proceed in Christchurch this year, but local rugby officials had reservations following a devastating earthquake. The ability of New Zealand's second largest city to host seven games, including two quarter-finals, during rugby's showcase tournament has been thrown into doubt after Tuesday's 6.3 quake that killed at least 75 people. Key said there had been no formal discussions on shifting games from Christchurch but he believed holding them there would be a powerful symbol of the city's resilience after two major earthquakes in the past six months. "If we can host the Rugby World Cup as we intended to in Christchurch, I'd like to do that," Key told reporters. "It's some way into the future. It's a very important city in New Zealand and it would be a demonstration that Christchurch is back up on its feet." However, Canterbury Rugby Union chief executive Hamish Riach told Television New Zealand he has doubts about whether Christchurch would be able to host World Cup matches. "Right now it doesn't feel like we could host very much at all," Riach said, but added it was too early to make any decision. "Everyone is in the immediacy of this traumatic event and we're not quite getting our heads around that space just yet, but gosh I hope so -- but who knows?" Christchurch's AMI stadium, which will be boosted to 45,000 seats for the tournament beginning on September 10, suffered only minor damage when a 7.0-magnitude quake hit the city last September. Tuesday's tremor, though lower in magnitude, has caused more damage in the South Island city because its epicentre was shallower and closer to the city centre. Stadium operator Vbase said it was too early to assess whether the stadium had been weakened structurally as all efforts in the city were focused on the human toll of the disaster. "It's not a priority, we're focused on people at the moment, we don't really have any interest at all in the stadium and whether it can continue to host matches at the Rugby World Cup," Vbase chief executive Bryan Pearson told AFP. Rugby World Cup organisers in New Zealand said it would be premature to discuss the quake's impact on the event. "At this time RWC 2011 must take a back seat while Christchurch deals with the aftermath of this tragedy," a tournament spokesman said. "Our thoughts are very much with the people of the region. It is too early to talk about any implications for the tournament and any assessment must wait while the rescue and recovery efforts take priority." The International Rugby Board has set up a crisis unit to monitor the situation, according to French Rugby Federation president Pierre Camou. "I do not think that the World Cup is in any danger. For the moment, the tremors are localised. I think that if it comes down to it New Zealand will have fallback positions in place," Camou said Tuesday. "But for the moment for us and for world rugby, what matters is helping anyone still trapped underneath the rubble."
Cricket champions confident
Tuesday 22 February 2011, 06:42AM
Australia take on Zimbabwe on February 21 as they launch their campaign for a fourth successive World Cup amid fallout over the humiliating defeats handed out to minnows Kenya and Canada. The defending champions - who have not lost a single match in the past two World Cups - start the tournament without their usual favourites tag, but that does not bother skipper Ricky Ponting. Despite losing a clutch of star players since they lifted the trophy in the Caribbean four years ago including Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, they remain the top-ranked side in one-day cricket. And they come into the match in Ahmedabad after a confidence-boosting 6-1 ODI series win over England following their Ashes humiliation. "We have maintained high standards in the past few years whether at home or abroad and managed to win one-day games. We are proud of that. We know how to play in the sub-continent in different stages of the tournament," Ponting said. Australia's attack has been strengthened with the return of paceman Brett Lee, who played a crucial role in the one-day series win over England after a long injury lay-off. Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher said he would be happy to throw the new ball to a spinner, aware his opponents have struggled against spin on slow pitches, losing both of their warm-up matches against India and South Africa. Zimbabwe have a clutch of spinners, Raymond Price, Prosper Utseya and Graeme Cremer, who are capable of exerting pressure. "We know spinners are our best bowlers. That is going to be our strategy and the Australians also know it. There is a chance of a spinner opening the bowling, but we have to bowl well," said Butcher. Australia have won 25 of their 27 one-day internationals against Zimbabwe. Their lone defeat came in the first game played between the two sides in the 1983 World Cup in England while one match was abandoned due to rain. Meanwhile the Australian skipper joined the debate on the future of the so-called minnows at cricket's showpiece on a day that Kenya and Canada slumped to embarrassingly one-sided defeats. Sri Lanka plundered 332-7 off the Canadian attack, winning by 210 runs, while Kenya crashed to a 10-wicket defeat at the hands of the Black Caps. The next World Cup in 2015 will feature just 10 teams, down from the current 14, meaning it will almost certainly be the preserve of the Test sides and the smaller associate nations will be muscled out. -AFP
Olympic archers won't target Lord's wicket
Saturday 19 February 2011, 12:08AM
The London 2012 Olympic archery competition will see stands built on the Lord's pitch and arrows fired over the wicket but the Games organisers have pledged to protect cricket's hallowed turf. They have switched their plans so that the archers will now fire from the Pavilion End, requiring the construction of two temporary stands on the home of cricket's grass, in front of the Pavilion. England are due to host a Test match against South Africa at the north London venue within two weeks of the archery medals being won, meaning there can be no slip-ups in returning cricket's sacred ground to normal. The original plans had the archers shooting on a north-south line, from the corner between the Pavilion and the Tavern Stand. However, it has been moved to a northeast-southwest line running directly over the wicket between the famous pavilion and the futuristic Media Centre. Sports facility designer Jeff Keas, from the London 2012 organisers' venues team, said they didn't feel the old line showcased Lord's enough. "We really went back to first principles: what makes Lord's Lord's? The Pavilion, the Media Centre -- these are the things that make it Lord's," he told AFP. He said the International Archery Federation and the Marylebone Cricket Club which owns the ground were both thrilled with the new plan. "The real positive thing that happens there is that it does showcase the sport, it brings the spectators right in nice and close on the athletes, it gives them that good energy, that good vibe." Lord's has seen some quick deliveries from the Pavilion End before, but nothing this fast or deadly. Keas insisted that firing arrows over the wicket presented no threat to the precious square -- the world's best archers were not going to miss the target that badly. "We're going to be in the outfield. The hallowed ground of the wicket will not be touched," he said. "We're only shooting arrows over it and the volunteers who retrieve those arrows actually walk around it." The weight of the temporary stands will be spread out to protect everything beneath the surface. The stands will kill the grass they cover but replacement turf is already being grown at the same farm Lord's uses for its regular re-turfs. The archery competition takes place between July 28 and August 3, with 64 men and 64 women taking part in two team events and two individual events. During the Olympics and the stands' construction, Middlesex will play their county home fixtures at their other grounds, Southgate and Uxbridge. "The Test match is 11 days after the last archery event," Keas said. "We've already scheduled very closely. We know exactly how long it takes to tear down these two stands and get the turf replaced, so this is all in place, we'll be perfectly fine for the Test match."
Rooney's redemption
Friday 18 February 2011, 11:08PM
Wayne Rooney dedicated his wonder goal this week to Manchester United fans and said it was the least they deserved after what he put them through. Rooney hailed his sensational overhead kick, which gave United a 2-1 win this week over local rivals Manchester City, as the finest goal of his career. And after a season in which he has scored just six goals and threatened to walk out on United before eventually signing a new deal, Rooney admitted he owed the fans something special. "It was a special feeling for the United fans because they deserved that from me," said Rooney. After his unseemly contract stand-off with United was eventually resolved last October, Rooney admitted he faced a fight to win back the trust and support of the club’s fans. And although there are many who still find it hard to forgive his perceived disloyalty, Rooney knows his stunning strike was a massive step on the road to redemption. "To get that goal and see the joy in the crowd, amongst the players, management and staff, was a fantastic moment," said Rooney. "I scored one like that in school, but not professionally. "It was always going in and it’s definitely the best goal I’ve ever scored. Sir Alex Ferguson cut through the euphoria by demanding his star striker raise his game away from home. "What we need to get is performances like those away from home," said Fergie. It was typical Fergie. While the rest of the world was eulogising over Rooney’s early contender for Goal of the Decade, the United boss was demanding more from his front men. For as Rooney himself admitted, up until his moment of magic he had been a peripheral figure – full of commitment, but lacking the sharpness and cutting edge to make any kind of impact. But any criticism of another laboured, below-par Rooney display was dispelled the moment he hoisted himself into the air to execute the goal of a lifetime. The 75,322 punters present at Old Trafford are unlikely to ever witness a better goal. Despite his demand for more from Rooney, Fergie did marvel at the brilliance of his strike, hailing it as the best he had seen in the Theatre of Dreams in a quarter of a century in charge of United. "I don’t think I’ve seen a better goal at Old Trafford. "In terms of execution, you will never see better. It was absolutely stunning." Rooney’s sublime strike all but ended City’s slim title hopes and kept United on course for a record-breaking 19th title triumph.