Firstpost Spodcast Episode 208: F1 legend Niki Lauda passes away, Pakistan make three changes to World Cup Squad and more
In this episode of Firstpost Spodcast, we talk about Former F1 champion Niki Lauda's passing away, changes to Pakistan's World Cup squad and more
Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, at 70 passed away on Monday. He won the F1 drivers' championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and again in 1984 with McLaren. Niki Lauda famously won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns. In 1976, he was badly burned when he crashed during the German Grand Prix but made an astonishingly fast return to racing just six weeks later. He also went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry.
The Austria Press Agency reported that Lauda's family said in a statement he "passed away peacefully" on Monday. Walter Klepetko, a doctor who performed a lung transplant on Lauda last year, said, "Niki Lauda has died. I have to confirm that."
In badminton, Japan took a gamble on Monday by resting top-ranked Kento Momota and nearly paid the price, suffering a huge scare before battling back to beat Russia 3-2 in their Sudirman Cup opening tie.
Japan are top seeds in the tournament and are looking to win the mixed-team world championships for the first time, but received a major shock when they fell behind 2-1 against Russia. The unfancied Russians scored surprise victories in the men's singles and men's doubles, before the Japanese clawed their way back into the contest. Vladimir Malkov, ranked 62 in the world, defeated Momota's replacement Kenta Nishimoto, no 10 in the world. It was Japan’s women that saved the day - world number two Nozomi Okuhara thrashed Natalia Perminova in the women's singles to make it 2-2 in the tie. Later, the duo of Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota defeated Ekaterina Bolotova and Alina Davletova to save Japan from embarrassment.
Japan, along with the hosts China, are the favourites to win this year’s edition.
In tennis, Serena Williams returned to the top 10 after playing her first match since March in Italy. She broke into the top 10 despite pulling out before her second-round match against her sister Venus.
Karolina Pliskova, who won the Italian Open, climbed five places in WTA rankings on Monday to second place. Naomi Osaka's world number one spot is now within reaching distance for the Czech player. She will be the second seed at the French Open, which starts on Sunday, as she looks to improve on her previous best Roland Garros performance -- a semi-final appearance in 2017. Osaka's lead in the rankings continues to remain under threat, although main challenger Simona Halep dropped down to third rank this week.
In the men’s rankings, rising star Stefanos Tsitsipas reached a career-high ranking of six on Monday after his run to the Italian Open semi-finals. The 20-year-old Greek failed to repeat his Madrid last-four win over Rafael Nadal, as the 17-time Grand Slam champion went on to lift his ninth Rome title. Nadal remains second in the rankings, a long way adrift of Novak Djokovic, with the pair facing a possible final clash at Roland Garros in three weeks' time. Roger Federer is still ranked third Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev round off the top five.
Hockey news now. The Indian women's hockey team defeated hosts South Korea 2-1 in the first game of a three-match bilateral series to begin their short tour on a confident note on Monday.
Young striker Lalremsiami and Navneet Kaur scored goals for India while Shin Hyejeong scored the solitary goal for South Korea.
India are high on confidence after their impressive outings in Spain and Malaysia earlier this year and made a strong start against the hosts. After missing out on an opportunity to score from a penalty corner early in the first quarter, India scored a splendid field goal through Lalremsiami while the second came 20 minutes later. South Korea won five penalty corners in the course of the match, and a penalty stroke in the last quarter, but they managed to convert only one set piece in the 48th minute through Shin Hyejeong.
India's chief coach Sjoerd Marijne said after the game, “Considering this was our first match, I think the result was good but the performance can be better. We tried some new things in the match and it was interesting to see how we handled the change...We must bring our technical skills to a higher level in order to play faster and that will be one of our priorities for the next match.”
In cricket news, Pakistan made some big last-minute changes to their World Cup squad after the conclusion of the five-match ODI series against England.
Pacer Wahab Riaz earned a surprise recall into the squad two years after he last played a game in the 50-over format. Wahab, who produced a famous spell against Shane Watson in the 2015 World Cup quarterfinal against Australia, was included alongside Mohammad Amir and Asif Ali, according to a report on ESPN.
Pakistan Cricket Board's selection panel, led by batting legend Inzamam-ul-Haq, dropped Faheem Ashraf, Abid Ali and Junaid Khan from the squad. Chief selector Inzamam was quoted as saying, “Wahab's ability to reverse swing the ball got him selected. Nobody expected the pitches in the UK will play flat even in the early season there.”
Wahab’s last ODI appearance was in the 124-run defeat to India at Birmingham in the group stage match in the 2017 Champions Trophy,
Mohammad Amir had a lean patch with the ball recently, with a poor run of form resulting in the selectors deciding against naming him in the preliminary squad. Amir's destructive spell was a major reason behind Pakistan's famous win over India in the 2017 Champions Trophy final, and the left-arm pacer will hope to make a similar contribution in what will be his first-ever World Cup appearance. Asif Ali, who suffered the tragic loss of his daughter to cancer on Monday, managed to impress the selectors with his two half-centuries in four innings.
Ruud has joined top-ranked Novak Djokovic, No 2 Daniil Medvedev and No 3 Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals of the elite season-ending event
World number three Zverev claimed a spot in the semis behind already-qualified Daniil Medvedev in just over an hour and will face Djokovic on Saturday for a place in the final in Turin.
ATP Finals 2021: Daniil Medvedev edges Alexander Zverev in thriller, Jannik Sinner beats Hubert Hurkacz
Sinner replaced fellow home hope Matteo Berrettini in the draw who pulled out due to abdominal injury.