Gaurav Kalra (for Info only, not official)

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Gaurav Kalra

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    ...27,000 delirious home fans had packed into the stadium in Lille over the weekend as a valiant Belgium extended the tie into the deciding fifth match. “There are no words needed, just look at the atmosphere and hear the emotion right now,” exclaimed world No 18 Pouille. “This is when his career is really going to start,” added French captain Yannick Noah. “He was fantastic.” (French players celebrate after winning the Davis Cup final. Photo source: AFP) The summit clash between these neighbouring countries was a nerve-tingling affair. The first two singles matches were shared on day one, France clinched the doubles with a scratch team on day two, Belgium leveled it up with their marquee player David Goffin on day three before 23-year old Pouille delivered the triumph. As the crescendo arrived, every point became an occasion in itself, creating a football-like atmosphere of cacophony inside the arena. ...

    TOI on Nov. 28, 2017, 10:35 p.m.

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    ...Dimitrov ended the year with four titles and at a career-high world ranking of three. His rise from “Baby Fed” to a force in his own right was among the highlights of a year that will linger in memory. WOUNDED WARRIORS STUMBLE AND FALL The fate of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray was in stark contrast to the other two men that have come to be called the “Big Four.” They started the year at the top of the rankings tree but patchy form and injury has meant Djokovic has slid to 12 and Murray to 16. Murray is hopeful of returning at the start of 2018 after a hip injury laid him low for the latter half of the year. Djokovic, who ended his season with an elbow problem after Wimbledon, is also primed for a return in the new year. Stan Wawrinka was the other notable absentee to injury in the second half of the year and if this troika returns healthy and healed, expect some fireworks. ...

    TOI on Nov. 22, 2017, 1:04 a.m.

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    ...“Ever?,” he incredulously asked when told by a reporter. “Yes. In history.” “Really?” Yet, Nadal sat glum-faced after being forced to pull the plug on his campaign at the Paris Masters. He’d won two matches in straight sets, but ahead of his quarter-final clash against Filip Krajinovic, his knee just hurt too much. The quest for a seventh title of the year had to be aborted. “Pulling out from any event is tough, but especially from here, from Paris,” he mumbled. “As I said a lot of times, it’s the most important city in my career, without a doubt.” To reclaim his pedestal, Nadal has tortured his often-rebellious body over the course of the year. He has played an incredible 77 matches, winning 67 and conceding just 10. In contrast, his great rival Roger Federer, with whom Nadal has jousted for supremacy all year, has played just 53. ...

    TOI on Nov. 6, 2017, 1:14 a.m.

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    ...Wozniacki’s surge was a just-in-time reminder that the 27-year old, who is yet to capture a Grand slam title, is among a clutch of players scrambling for their place in among the elite. With the four Grand slams producing four different winners including two first-timers and one second-timer, 2017 has been a manic year, when women’s tennis served up a storyline a minute. VENUS: I’M STILL HERE Injury, ill-health and the persistent push from a stream of exciting players had meant Venus Williams had been consigned to the sidelines in the last few years. At 37, Venus rediscovered the verve in her play and produced enthralling performances all year. ...

    TOI on Oct. 30, 2017, 11:19 p.m.

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    ...Nadal, after all, has won 23 of the 38 matches in their storied rivalry. However, in 2017, Nadal’s grip has considerably loosened. Their latest clash, in the final at Shanghai last week, was Federer’s fourth win of the year over Nadal. He’s triumphed in straight sets in their last three matches and is now in fact on a five-match winning streak against Nadal for the first time in his career. After succumbing in Shanghai, Nadal conceded Federer had been “too good” for him and had played “very fast.” When Federer was asked what explained this extended run of success against Nadal, he smiled before answering – “Not playing him on clay.” Each of Federer’s four wins over Nadal this year have been secured on hard courts. Having decided to miss the clay court season altogether to preserve his body from the rigour the surface demands, Federer avoided a clash against Nadal on his least favoured surface. ...

    TOI on Oct. 23, 2017, 1:03 a.m.

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    ...Sharapova has now lost 5 of 15 matches on her comeback trail and continues to languish outside the top-100 in the rankings. She in fact needed a wild card to play in China. It has undoubtedly been a stumbling return for the former world No. 1 after a 15-month hiatus. In her first tournament back, in Stuttgart in April, where the organisers bent over backwards to open the door for her to compete, Sharapova constructed a run of three wins, all in straight sets, before succumbing in a tight three-setter to Kristina Mladenovic of France in the semifinal. The early signs suggested a smooth passage back among the elite would only be a matter of time. However, subsequent results haven’t been quite as impressive. Muscle and arm injuries have got in the way too, forcing her out in the qualifying stages at Wimbledon and a couple of hard court events. ...

    TOI on Oct. 9, 2017, 1:37 a.m.

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    ...When Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal combined to play doubles for Team Europe at the inaugural Laver Cup in Prague this week, the internet went into a swooning meltdown. Understandably so of course. Between them, these men have captured an astonishing 35 Grand Slam singles titles. The four majors of the year were shared in a symmetry ordained by the gods – Federer. Nadal. Federer. Now, on the final stretch of this scarcely believable season, this was an unprecedented treat. For the record, they won their match and also contributed to Team Europe’s title run. However, beyond the bonhomie, high-fives, fist pumps and generous tweeting at each other, Federer and Nadal remain the game’s foremost combatants. Any suggestions of a more regular partnership on the circuit were quickly dismissed because these men realise they must return to the business of squaring up against each other — for the big titles, on the big courts, on the big days. ...

    TOI on Sept. 28, 2017, 12:34 a.m.

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    ...“Did you see that check that lady handed me? If that doesn’t make you want to play tennis, I don’t know what will.” At the start of the year, Stephens underwent foot surgery. She lost in the first round at Wimbledon in her return tournament and suffered yet another first round defeat in her next at Washington. Her ranking sank to 957. Sport has a habit of providing scarcely believable stories, but by any measure, Stephens’ run to the title in New York is deserving of place in the hall of fame of the unreal. “There are no words to describe how I got here, the process it took or anything like that, because if you told someone this story, they’d be, like, that’s insane,” she said. ...

    TOI on Sept. 10, 2017, 11:12 p.m.