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Aus Open: Shelton gets better of Popyrin and ‘rowdy’ crowd to roar into last 16 | Tennis News

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American Ben Shelton put on a masterclass in powerhouse hitting to down local favourite Alexei Popyrin 6-3 7-6(4) 6-4 in the Australian Open on Saturday to move into the last 16 of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career.

Shelton had never travelled on Tour outside the United States until this year and barely turned heads in the warm-up tournaments in Adelaide and Auckland before bursting onto the scene in Melbourne.

Also Read | Australian Open: Novak Djokovic surges past Grigor Dimitrov to reach fourth round

The 20-year-old was virtually unstoppable on serve as he slammed the door shut on every opportunity Popyrin had to break while the American also fired 34 winners in front of a partisan crowd that had hoped to see another Australian advance. “I know I came from college tennis and I really thought it was rowdy there, but this stadium is something special,” a grinning Shelton said.

“I know that you guys were going for your hometown boy today and I didn’t have most of the crowd on my side,” he added, even as the fans roared their approval.

Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were in action at the same time on Rod Laver Arena and Margaret Court Arena but the John Cain Arena still had a healthy turnout after a helping hand from Alex de Minaur, who had urged the locals to get behind ‘Popeye’. “Us Aussies, we stick together,” De Minaur had said in a post-match interview after the home fans watched him beat Benjamin Bonzi at Rod Laver Arena.

A colourful crowd got in on the act, even attempting a Mexican wave at one point, but they were quickly subdued when Shelton broke midway through the opening set as the American’s celebratory scream echoed around the arena.

The fans found their voice again in the second set when Popyrin took it to a tiebreak but Shelton was undeterred, silencing them again with both his firepower and finesse, closing out the set with another roar. They could only look on in dismay as Popyrin soon lost his range and his unforced error count climbed, gifting Shelton the advantage before finding the net on match point to give the young American the win in exactly two hours.

A year ago, Shelton was ranked 570 but has now climbed into the top 100 and could even break into the top 50 with a deep run at the tournament – a phenomenal achievement for someone who did not want to play tennis until he was a teenager. “For the first 12 or 13 years of my life, I swore that I would never play tennis. That was my dad’s thing and I was going to let him have it,” he said, referring to his father Bryan who reached a career-high ranking of 55 in the 1990s.

“But yeah, I kind of fell in love with the sport and here we are. So hopefully I can make a career out of it.”

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A ₹724 crore boost in union sports budget

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In the year of the Asian Games and qualifications for the 2024 Paris Olympics, the union sports budget saw a significant jump in allocation on Wednesday. The sports ministry has been allocated 3397.32 crore for 2023-24 – an increase of 723.97 crore from the previous fiscal. The budget for the previous financial year was 3062.60 crore (revised: 2673.35cr).

The Asian Games, postponed last year due to Covid, are due to be held in Hangzhou, China from September 23-October 8. India’s elite athletes have also started preparing for various Olympic qualification events.

Also Read | Sai Praneeth, Kiran George in men’s singles second round in Thailand Open

The allocation for National Sports Federations (NSFs) and Sports Authority of India (SAI) have gone up. Assistance to NSFs has been increased to 325 crore from 280 crore in 2022-23.

SAI has been allocated 785.5 crore, an increase from last year’s revised budget of 749.43 crore. It was originally allocated 653 crore in the last financial year. SAI oversees the preparation of national teams, manages national camps, provides infrastructure and other facilities to athletes besides appointing coaches, including foreign experts.

A big chunk of the sports budget will go for government’s flagship programme, Khelo India. It gets 1,000 crore, an increase of 400 crore from the revised allocation of 600 crore set aside for it in the previous budget. Under the scheme, Khelo India Youth Games and Khelo India University Games are organised. It has become the platform for talent identification and nurturing through its various schemes. The budget for Khelo India has steadily risen since its inception in 2018.

A major allocation of 107.84 crore has been made for the National Sports University in Imphal. Set up in 2018, NSU is a first-of-its-kind institution which imparts studies in sports science and medicine, coaching, sports management and technology.

The National Centre of Sports Science and Research, under which financial assistance is given to medical colleges and Universities to develop centres of sports science and research, has been allocated 13 crore.

There has been a 10 crore dip in incentives to athletes, from 55 crore last year. To fight the doping menace, the National Anti Doping Agency has been allocated 21.73 crore. The National Dope Testing Laboratory in Delhi, whose accreditation was restored by the World Anti-Doping Agency in December, 2021, gets 19.50 crore. A National Anti-Doping Bill was passed last year to create a statutory body for regulating anti-doping activities in sports.

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Sai Praneeth, Kiran George in men’s singles second round in Thailand Open

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Indian shuttlers B Sai Praneeth and Kiran George advanced to the second round of the Thailand Open Super 300 badminton tournament with contrasting wins over their respective opponents on Wednesday.

Praneeth beat Mads Christophersen of Denmark 21-13 21-14 in a battle lasting 31 minutes. He faces Hyeok Jin Jeon of South Korea in second round.

George, on the other hand, staved off a tough challenge from Lee Chia Hao of Chinese Taipei before emerging 21-17 19-21 23-21 victorious. He is up against third seed Cheuk Yiu Lee of Hong Kong in the second round.

However, Sameer Verma, Priyanshu Rajawat and Mithun Manjunath lost their first round matches. While Verma suffered 14-21 16-21 defeat against sixth seeded Chinese Shi Feng Li, Rajawat lost to Kwang Hee Heo of South Korea 21-14 19-21 25-27 and Manjunath was beaten 18-21 12-21 by fifth seeded Kenta Nishimoto of Japan.

In women’s singles, Ashmita Chaliha beat compatriot Anupama Upadhyaya 21-16 21-19 to reach the second round where she will face sixth seed Line Hojmark Kjaersfeldt of Denmark.

The pair of Simran Singhi and Ritika Thaker lost to sixth seeded Sheng Shu and Shu Xian Zhang of China 8-21 10-21 in the women’s doubles.

In mixed doubles, Rohan Kapoor and Sikki Reddy beat Canadian pair of Ty Alexander Lindeman and Josephine Wu 21-11 21-16 to enter the second round. But the pair of B Sumeeth Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa lost to fourth seeded Indonesian pair of Rehan Naufal Kusharjanto and Lisa Ayu Kusumawati 11-21 17-21.

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Djokovic played Australian Open with 3cm tear in hamstring, says Tiley | Tennis News

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Novak Djokovic played with a three-centimetre (1.2 inches) tear in his hamstring during his run to a record-extending 10th Australian Open title, tournament director Craig Tiley said on Wednesday.

The Serbian, who suffered the hamstring injury en route to winning the warm-up title in Adelaide, won the season-opening major after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final for a men’s record 22nd Grand Slam title, matching Rafa Nadal’s haul.

“This guy I did see, he had a three-centimetre tear in his hammy,” Tiley told SEN Sportsday. “Absolutely (I saw the scans), the doctors are going to tell you the truth.

“There was a lot of speculation about whether it was true or not, it’s hard to believe that they can do what they do with those kinds of injuries.

“He’s remarkable, to deal with it extremely professionally.”

Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic said after the final that the world number one battled the injury, which would have forced most players to quit.

“He’s so focused on everything he does, with every single minute of the day,” Tiley added. “That’s what he eats, what he drinks, when he does it, how he does it.

“There’s no breakdown or mental breakdown in anything that he does. He’s been through a lot and to win 10 Australian Opens, I don’t think that’s ever going to be repeated… He’ll hold a significant place in the history of the Australian Open.”

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